§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
My Lords, it has been my almost invariable rule to abstain from interfering in any political questions which are brought under your consideration. From that rule I depart on the present occasion with the very greatest reluctance; first, because the observance of that rule is more consistent with my own comfort and capacity; and secondly, because whatever political sympathies I possess have ever been, and still are, with that great party which is represented by Her Majesty's present Government. But the gravity of this subject, the long and deep interest I have felt in the affairs of India, and my conscientious conviction that something must be said or done upon the present occasion have been, I may call God to witness, the object and motives of my now coming forward for the purpose of submitting these Resolutions to the consideration and the decision of your Lordships. I felt too, that on an occasion of this kind it was, perhaps, better that, if any proposition were to be submitted here, it should proceed from some one independent of and 580 unconnected with party,—from some one who never has been, and who, in all probability, never will be, a Cabinet Minister.
My Lords, I regretted very much to hear the other night the noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control express his opinion that the whole of this movement was actuated by personal feeling against a particular individual, that personality now seemed the pervading principle of political contests, and that he considered himself to be the object aimed at both in the general movement and in the specific Resolutions. Now, my Lords—I am not empowered to answer for others—I may state my most conscientious belief that such are not the feelings of any who sit on this (the Opposition) side of the House. For myself, at all events, I can most distinctly say that I have not been, and I believe I shall not be, guided by any personal feeling towards the noble Earl. I have ventured on some occasions to differ from him; but there never has been shown by him towards me or by me towards him the slightest personal animosity. On the present occasion I cannot consider the noble Earl in any degree more culpable than the rest of his colleagues. I cannot consider that what he has written and published has not been equally written and published by them, and I cannot, therefore consider any degree of personal, distinct, and undivided responsibility as belonging to him. I maintain that the responsibility is aggregate, common, and that it extends over the whole of Her Majesty's Ministers. The feeling expressed by the noble Earl, connected with the step he has taken by retirement from office, makes it essentially necessary that some observations should be made on that part of the question. The merits of the question itself are so large and so important that they could not possibly be set aside; but they now acquire additional value from the step taken by the noble Earl and from the construction put upon that step; it being assumed that because he has retired from the Administration, that therefore no responsibility rests with the Administration for that publicity which the noble Earl gave to the despatch; and also because he must consider what will be the consequences of accepting that proposition on the future responsibility of Ministers, and on the future working of the constitution. That question, which was politically important, has, I affirm, become both politically and constitutionally important from a 581 consideration of the course taken by the noble Earl. Since these Resolutions were laid before the House this event of great importance has occurred, that the noble Earl—an important member of the Administration—has withdrawn from the service of the Crown, stating that he did so with a view of taking the responsibility of a certain act upon himself. We are required to believe that that step taken by the noble Earl makes the whole difference in respect to the responsibility of the Cabinet. I think it makes no difference at all, except that it makes the matter a very great deal worse. Logically and morally the question remains precisely as it was. No doubt that by many minds it may be viewed in different lights, and may be followed by different consequences; but the question, I maintain, remains as it was. You can no more separate the responsibility of the noble Earl from the responsibility of Government than you can separate the identity of the human body, merely because the left or the right arm may be struck off. The body still remains the same, though deprived of one of its members. This is a very important proposition, and the principle in the working of our constitution is so important that at the very outset it must be considered under some preliminary observations. The working of our constitution ever since the Revolution has been by ministerial Cabinets presenting a uniform responsibility. I believe you will find that from 1696 down to the present time it is the uniform principle pervading the whole system of Administrations that the responsibility of the Cabinet is one and undivided. This is most emphatically laid down by various writers, told by no cite more emphatically than by Lord Macaulay, who states in his History that "in Parliament the Ministers are bound to act as one man on all questions relating to the executive Government." Mr. Hallam gives precisely the same opinion; he says "that the uniform and undivided responsibility of the Cabinet may have this effect, that on some occasions it may shelter a peccant individual from impeachment," but he adds these emphatic words—"the uniform responsibility of the Cabinet must have, and ever will have, a decided influence on the reputation and on the tenure of office by the members of the Administration." It is perfectly clear that this principle must be observed in a Government such as that which exists in this country, where responsibility is required in the Executive. It is 582 perfectly clear that this principle is necessary to compel, as it ought to compel, the First Minister of the Crown to be careful in the selection of those whom he intrusts with the various departments of the administration of affairs. It is necessary to regulate the conduct and diligence of each member of the Administration, who, without interfering in the details of the departments of the other Ministers, would take care and watch that nothing was done by any one Minister calculated in any degree to affect the responsibility of the whole. Moreover, it is required by the people of this country, who are fully resolved to have united councils and united responsibility, and who will not have that responsibility evaded by having it said, when a great difficulty has occurred, that it was not the Cabinet who did the act, but that it was done by this man or that man, who might be held up to public indignation and made a victim for the general escape of the whole body. I remember very well that this doctrine was laid down most emphatically by the late Sir Robert Peel on the occasion when Lord Glenelg, then Chief Secretary for the Colonies, had done something—I forget what it was—but which those who were then in Opposition thought they might make a fitting point of attack. I remember Sir Robert Peel then calling together a number of his friends and laying down the law most precisely. He said that the whole Cabinet must be held responsible for that act—that he never would consent that any one individual Member of the Cabinet should be held distinctly responsible; that he never would allow one man to be selected from the whole body to bear the brunt and responsibility which ought to attach to the whole. He said that he would rather submit to anything than be guilty of what he considered the abominable meanness of selecting one person to bear the responsibity of the whole, when it ought to be borne by all. ["Hear, hear!"] I am exceedingly glad to hear that the noble End at the head of the Government assents to that proposition—consequently, I have no doubt he will vote in concurrence with my Resolution, and that there will be presented to the people of this country and of India the happy aspect of an united Legislature. I must, however, say that the conduct of the late President of the Board of Control very strongly confirms the proposition I lay down—namely, the necessity of a deep sense pervading the members of the Cabinet that their respon- 583 sibility is entire, uniform, and not distinct; for depend upon it, if the noble Earl had been convinced when he wrote and published that despatch that the responsibility he brought on himself would entail responsibility and removal from office upon all the rest of the Cabinet, he would never have given publicity to it without consulting his colleagues. But from a chivalrous and high minded spirit, and from an anxiety to give to the world his opinions on this matter, and believing that he could take on himself the whole responsibility without implicating his colleagues, he performed the act he did, and which he never would have performed if he had been convinced that he would bring down upon the whole Cabinet either dismissal from office or resignation.
So much, my Lords, for the principle, and now let us look to the facts of the case. Is the noble Earl the most culpable, or the only one culpable, with respect to the publication of the despatch? I think that in the House of Commons there is another Member of the Government, whose replies and statement constitute as much a publication of the despatch as anything which the noble Earl did. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked a question—("Order!")—as the noble Peer compels me to resort to a fiction, I will say that in an imaginary place, at no great distance from this House, there were some imaginary functionaries, and one of those imaginary functionaries, whom the noble Peer may be able to embrace in his conception, may be called in terms of mere romance the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This shadowy financial officer, in answer to a question put by another fancied gentleman, said that a certain despatch had been written, and "I think it right to take this opportunity of stating—
rose to order. He wished to know whether the noble Earl was quoting from a report, for if so, he was out of order.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
The noble Earl, strictly speaking, is out of order; but I should be sorry to see any impediment put in his way, and I hope the fullest latitude will be given to him on the present occasion.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
I deny that I have been guilty of any breach of order, or that it was at all proper or necessary to interrupt me. However, I shall merely say that I believe it was stated by a certain person in "another place" that im- 584 mediately upon receiving the Proclamation from India the Government took the subject into their consideration, and sent out a despatch disapproving the policy of the Governor General in every sense. Was that a publication or not of the contents of the despatch? It was not, I grant, a publication of the minute and detailed contents of the despatch; but I question whether it was not in some respects more prejudicial than even the despatch itself. The despatch is comprised within certain limits, but the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer goes to an almost indefinite extent, and I doubt whether the publication of that answer in India, if unaccompanied by information of a different kind, would not have led to the most serious and the most irreparable consequences. Well, if that be so, it proves that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was as much concerned in the publication of the despatch as the late President of the Board of Control himself, and I cannot understand why, when the resignation of the one was accepted, the surrender of the other was not demanded. They bore one and the same responsibility; and I must say, moreover, that seeing the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was given on Thursday night—seeing that the documents were laid before both Houses on Friday, and seeing that language has since been held here by Ministers of the Crown quite as strong, prejudicial, and disparaging as the terms of the despatch itself, the responsibility, so far from resting with the late President of the Board of Control alone, is fully shared by the whole body of the present Administration.
My Lords, the despatch has now been in your hands for several days. I shall not detain you at any length upon the Proclamation; but it is necessary to make some reference to it with the view of throwing light upon the subject matter of the despatch. A Proclamation appears in the papers presented by Government, which is called an "intended" Proclamation; but a copy has been published in The Times of what no doubt was the Proclamation really issued. We find no account of the "intended" Proclamation having appeared; but we do find in The Times the Proclamation as, I have no doubt, it was issued, for we are told by the correspondent of that journal that the latter Proclamation had been published at Lucknow. The two Proclamations, with one exception, are identical. The difference is, that the second Proclamation 585 contains a restraining clause which is not in the first. In both, the following words occur—The Governor General further proclaims to the people of Oude that, with the above-mentioned exceptions, the proprietary right in the soil of the province is confiscated to the British Government, which will dispose of that right in such manner as to it may seem fitting.You will remember that, in a previous part of the Proclamation certain exceptions had been made in favour of those who had remained faithful to the British Government. But in the Proclamation which appeared in The Times we find the following restraining clause, which is nut inserted in the Proclamation published by the Government—To those among them who shall promptly come forward and give to the Chief Commissioner their support in the restoration of peace and order this indulgence will be large, and the Governor General will be ready to view liberally the claims which they may thus acquire to a restitution of their former rights.That is so important an addition—the late President of the Board of Control has called it a "material modification"—that I have no doubt if the noble Earl had been aware of it the terms of his despatch would have been considerably altered. Observe, however, there is a great difference of opinion as to the proper interpretation of what may be called the enacting, as distinguished from the restraining, clause of the Proclamation. That clause is to the effect that the proprietary right in the soil of the province shall be confiscated to the British Government. One interpretation is that given to the clause by the late President of the Board of Control, who assumes that it means a general confiscation of the whole soil of the province, a disherison in favour of the State of every cultivator, every ryot, every human being possessed of an acre of land in Oude. I do not say that is a wrong interpretation. [Laughter.] It seems to me as if the noble Lords opposite could do nothing but laugh. The subject may he a very pleasant one to them; but, notwithstanding their laughter, I shall proceed to the end of what I have to say. If the interpretation given to the enacting clause by the noble Earl had been the true one, I should certainly have gone heartily with him; but there is another interpretation given by persons of the greatest experience, of the most mature judgment, and of the most perfect acquaintance with the affairs of India. It has been stated to me by gentlemen who have resided in India for many 586 years, and among others by one who told me that he had lived for twenty-five years in India, and had himself made no fewer than 2,000 land settlements. This interpretation is that the enacting clause of the Proclamation simply contains an assertion on the part of the Government that they assume the proprietary right hitherto exercised by certain persons called talookdars, zemindars, and others, over the soil of the province and over the vast body of the cultivators and possessors. According to the first interpretation the enacting clause would apply to more than 2,000,000 of men; but according to the second it would not apply to more than about 600; many of whom, moreover, have been guilty of the greatest disloyalty to the Crown of England, and of whose cruelty and brutality the most ample and authentic accounts may be found in the works of Colonel Sleeman. But, whichever may be the correct interpretation, the enacting clause is equally affected by the restraining clause, which virtually says that all who submit themselves to our authority and show that they are prepared to become good subjects shall be treated with the utmost consideration. I am inclined to think, for my own part, that the second interpretation is the true one. In the first place, I find that the expression relative to the confiscation of the proprietary right in the soil of the province is almost the same as that used by the Marquess of Dalhousie in his Proclamation annexing Dude. The language of that Proclamation was as follows—If any officer of the durbar—jageerdar, zemindar, or other person—shall refuse to render such obedience—if he shall withhold the payment of revenue, or shall otherwise dispute or defy the authority of the British Government, he shall be declared a rebel, his person shall be seized, and his jageers or lands confiscated to the State.It appears, then, that Lord Canning has done no more than carry into effect the terms of that Proclamation, and seeing that as the Marquess of Dalhousie announced that in case of resistance the proprietary right in the soil should be confiscated to the State, so he declared in like manner that all who held out against the Government should forfeit their right in the soil of the province. The Marquess of Dalhousie then proceeded with his restraining clause, which you will see is expressed in almost the same language as that of Lord Canning—To those who shall, immediately and quiet submit themselves to the authority of the British Government—whether amils or public officers, 587 jageerdars, zemindars, or other inhabitants of Oude—full assurance is hereby given of protection, consideration, and favour.But I think there is some further light thrown upon the purport and object of the Proclamation by the letter of Mr. Edmonstone to the Chief Commissioner of Oude. Mr. Edmonstone says—The Governor General has not considered it desirable that this Proclamation should appear until the capital is either actually in our hands or lying at our mercy. He believes that any Proclamation put forth in Oude in a liberal and forgiving spirit would be open to misconstruction, and capable of perversion, if not preceded by a manifestation of our power; and that this would be especially the case at Lucknow, which, although it has recently been the scene of unparalleled heroism and daring, and of one of the most brilliant and successful feats of arms which British India has ever witnessed, is still sedulously represented by the rebels as being beyond our power to take or to hold.He then goes on to state how very large is the relief about to be given, amounting almost to an amnesty, and says:—If an exemption, almost general, from the penalties of death, transportation, and imprisonment, such as is now about to be offered to men who have been in rebellion, had been publicly proclaimed, before a heavy blow had been struck, it is at least as likely that resistance would have been encouraged by the seeming exhibition of weakness as that it would have been disarmed by a generous forbearance,This seems to me to explain the whole purport of the Proclamation. The Governor-General intended that Proclamation to be a declaration of power. He intended it to say, "Your rights have been confiscated to the State, but come in and profess yourselves loyal subjects, and you shall be dealt with, with the utmost consideration." There is a declaration of power. Asiatics we know will yield to power when they will yield to no other consideration, and without the exhibition of power it is absolutely impossible to carry on the Government of any Asiatic State whatsoever.
But, my Lords, be that so, or be it not, I think you will allow that the contradiction by persons of high authority—that the various interpretations which may be given to this Proclamation would have been sufficient reasons for care, consideration, and caution before rushing with rashness and precipitancy into the composition of the despatch which has been sent out. The noble Earl rushed at once into composition, and from composition to publication, and has thus involved us and the country in the difficulties by which we are now surrounded. Where was the necessity for such haste? Where 588 was the necessity for so speedily issuing such a despatch as that? If you had apprehended that the Governor General was about to proceed with undue severity, what could have been easier than to send out a despatch, saying, "We have received your Proclamation. It is not at present intelligible to us, nor will it be without further information, but we do enjoin upon you mercy, forbearance, and consideration towards those who are now subjected to your arms." That would have accomplished the whole purpose, and would not only have saved the Governor General from the cruel position in which he will be placed by the receipt of this despatch, but would have carried with it the whole of India and the whole of England. I do not believe that there is a single human being in this country (God knows I can answer for myself) who would not have rejoiced if the noble Earl had penned such a passage as that. For my own part, I fully believe that it is not only our best policy, but our most solemn Christian duty, that, this rebellion being put down, and the specific insurgents being duly punished, everything should be done that can be done by the intelligence, power and principles of this country for the moral and physical welfare, both now and for all time of the many millions of people who inhabit that great continent of India. I deeply regret that the noble Earl did not take the course I have mentioned. It would have completely answered every purpose; it would have stayed the hand of the Governor-General if he had been disposed to be too severe, and would have saved us from the dilemma in which we now find ourselves, and it would have combined all parties in the State. But what was the course taken? The course taken was to issue that despatch;—and I wonder whether in the history of this or any other country such a remarkable document was ever before issued for the Government of a great empire! Look at the details of this despatch, I will touch upon only two or three, but they are of such vital importance that I must request your Lordships' attention to them, The first clause of any importance is this:—We cannot but express to you our apprehension that this decree, pronouncing the disinherison of a people, will throw difficulties almost insurmountable in the way of the re-establishment of peace.I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the noble Earl has given the correct 589 interpretation of the Proclamation,—that its effect was to disinherit a people; and I still maintain that such an opinion as that ought not to have been put into a despatch and promulgated in India. I still maintain that publicity ought not to have been given to such a feeling. I still maintain that the noble Earl might have compassed his ends in other ways, and without holding language which must give to the Natives of Oude the impression that they have been cruelly and brutally treated, that they have been oppressed by the Governor General; but that against the Governor General they may set the Cabinet, the Queen, and the Parliament of this country. But, my Lords, if it were injurious, supposing the noble Earl's to be the correct interpretation of the Proclamation, what must we say if it turns out that that interpretation is completely erroneous; that it is a total mistake; that there is no disinherison of the people whatsoever, and that the true interpretation is that it applies only to talookdars, zemindars, and persons having official rights?" Which will throw difficulties almost insurmountable in the way of the re-establishment of peace." But what will those difficulties be when this despatch is promulgated in India, and spread over the whole of Asia? Why, they will be not "almost" but absolutely insurmountable. Will it be possible for any force or authority to restore peace to the country so long as the people are under the impression that they have been disinherited, that the Governor General is the cause of their loss, and that he is not supported by the Government at home? The despatch then goes on:—We are under the impression that the war in Oude has derived much of its popular character from the rigorous manner in which, without regard to what the chief landholders had become accustomed to consider as their rights the summary settlement had, in a large portion of the province, been carried out by your officers.That would have been all perfectly sound and good if it had been for the private ear of the Governor General. [A noble LORD: So it was.] So it was! Why, my Lords, to-night seems to be a night of fictions, and we are now to go upon the fiction that this was a secret despatch, intended only for the Governor General. ["Hear, hear!"] How is that possible? How can that be a secret despatch, although sent through the Secret Committee, which was sent to the Governor General on the 19th of April, and laid on the table of the House of Commons on the 7th of May. Why, it must 590 have been laid on the table long before the Governor General could have read a line of it; and how, then, can it be considered a secret despatch? I cannot think that it either was, or was intended to be, a secret despatch, and for this reason:—if it had been intended to be a secret despatch, and if the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) had been as deeply impressed with its importance as his noble colleague the First Minister was, he never would have consented to give it so easily upon the first interrogation. The noble Earl would have pointed out the immense difficulties and perils of the situation; and I am convinced that the House of Commons would not have insisted upon the production of the despatch, if it had been stated by the representative of the President of the Board of Control that it could not be made public without serious injury to the public service. Therefore, from these two facts—the time at which it was written and laid upon the table, and the facility with which it was produced—I must conclude that neither was it in fact, nor was it intended to be, a secret despatch. The despatch then goes on—and this might have been very safe and just in a secret despatch, but becomes serious in a public document—The landholders of India are as much attached to the soil occupied by their ancestors, and are as sensitive with respect to their rights in the soil they deem themselves to possess, as the occupiers of land in any country of which we have a knowledge.Whatever may be your ultimate and undisclosed intentions, your Proclamation will appear to deprive the great body of the people of all hope upon the subject most dear to them as individuals; while the substitution of our rule, for that of their Native Sovereign, has naturally excited against us whatever they may have of national feeling.Here is a declaration to go out to all India, addressed to the Governor General, that his conduct has deprived the people of all hope of that which is most dear to them! Is that a thing which ought to be proclaimed to the people of India? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the scene was transferred to this country, what punishment would be inflicted upon a man who appeared at Charing Cross, and publicly announced that the conduct of the Queen and the Government was such as to deprive every individual in this empire of rights which were most dear to him? It would be reckoned little less than sedition; and, although such a statement might fall harmless in this country, could such language fall harmless among a sensitive, excitable, and suspicious people like the 591 natives of India? Then there was this passage:—We cannot but in justice consider, that those who resist our authority in Oude are under very different circumstances from those who have acted against us in Provinces which have been long under our Government.I am not prepared to say that I should not accede to that proposition, if it were contained in a secret despatch for the private guidance of the Governor General; but I am prepared to say that I think it a most indiscreet announcement to publish to the people of Oude at a moment when the large majority of them are still in arms, resisting the legitimate authority of the Governor General. And here, my Lords, come what may be considered the point and pith of the whole despatch:—We dethroned the King of Oude, and took possession of his kingdom, by virtue of a treaty which had been subsequently modified by another treaty, under which, had it been held to be in force, the course we adopted could not have been lawfully pursued; but we held that it was not in force; although the fact of its not having been ratified in England, as regarded the provision on which we rely for our justification, had not been previously made known to the King of Oude.Ought not the President of the Board of Control and the Cabinet of which he formed a part—whatever might have been their private opinions some time ago as to the fact itself—to have regarded the annexation of Oude as a fait accompli? They might have thought it originally impolitic, and even unjust; but, having once taken place, it was the duty of the Government to conform to the principle of that annexation—it was the duty of the Governor General to proceed upon it as a thing that was passed, and as forming part and parcel of Her Majesty's rule and dominion in India. But, by a despatch at this moment, to rip up the whole of that question—to treat it as a matter to be discussed—to show that it stood on a most insecure and almost fraudulent basis—that it was a thing which, although done, was most shamefully done—that it had not been completed, but perpetrated, is a proceeding so fearful, when it shall be announced to the people of India, that I cannot venture to anticipate what may be its consequences on their minds—whether those consequences be exhibited in the present crisis, or lie smouldering ready to burst forth at some future period. My Lords, it will be impossible to carry on the Government of the country if every succeeding Administration is to unsettle the definitive decisions of its predecessors, and to de- 592 nounce the policy of those who have gone before. The noble Earl should be the last man to endeavour to retrace the policy and rip up the acts of his predecessors. He should bear in mind that, when Governor General of India himself, he annexed to our empire a considerable dominion—the whole territories of the Ameers of Scinde. He cannot suppose that that was regarded by everybody at home as a just, righteous, and becoming act. I myself was one of those who shared the opinion then entertained by many, that it was most impolitic and even unjust; and my right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Control (Mr. Vernon Smith) on those grounds voted with me on a Motion which I made in the other House. I did not, however, make that Motion except for the purpose of obtaining an allowance for the Ameers, to save them from poverty. We moved an Address that those Princes should be restored to liberty, without, however, being permitted to approach nearer to their former territory than 150 miles; but we never attempted to reverse a policy which had been deliberately taken; and when Mr. Vernon Smith came into office he never dreamt of seeking to reinstate the dispossessed Sovereigns of Scinde in their ancient rights, but treated Scinde as in all respects part and parcel of the British dominions. But, apart from the pernicious nature of the general principle against which I am contending, what is to be thought of its being embodied in a despatch to the Governor General, and proclaimed at a time of insurrection throughout the length and breadth of Oude? What must be the effect produced on the many discontented and armed men in that country when they have put into their hands such a document, telling them that the annexation of that country was a proceeding so questionable that it cannot be sustained? How, under such circumstances, will it be possible for the Governor General to maintain his precarious authority when it has been re-established, to say nothing of the difficulty he must experience in extending that authority over the districts still in revolt? But how will it operate in respect of the deposed King? He is now in captivity at Calcutta; and for what? He is charged with complicity in certain plots against the British Crown. How is it possible, after this despatch is made known, in which you say that the King of Oude was almost deceived, the treaty on which we relied not having been made 593 known to him—how is it possible that a Sovereign so dethroned can be held any longer under cocercion in Calcutta? But another serious difficulty that arises is this,—In what position does your despatch place the Sovereign of these realms? In the month of December, 1856, there went out from this country a despatch in the name of the Crown ratifying the annexation of Oude. The terms in which that ratification was conveyed were these:We cannot conclude this despatch without expressing our high approbation of the wisdom and energy which have distinguished the proceedings of your Government throughout the whole of these momentous transactions, and of the judgment and vigour which have been displayed by your agents.Now, mark the terms in which in 1858 the Minister of the Crown writes in respect of that same annexation:—We dethroned the King of Oude, and took possession of his kingdom, by virtue of a treaty which had been subsequently modified by another treaty, under which, had it been held to be in force, the course we adopted could not have been lawfully pursued; but we held that it was not in force, although the fact of its not having been ratified in England, as regarded the provision on which we rely for our justification, had not been previously made known to the King of Oude.Governments may shift from time to time, but the Sovereign of these realms is unchanged; and in what an aspect will that Sovereign be held out to the people of Oude by the paragraph which I have last read, denouncing the very act which by the despatch of 1856 she had ratified and confirmed? But this document goes on:—Suddenly the people saw their King taken from among them, and our administration substituted for his, which, however bad, was at least Native.What inflammatory language is this to send forth among the many Princes of India! Of all the fifty provinces under the sway of the Governor General where is there one that at one time had not a Native Government? And when they are told that their former rulers, however bad they might have been, "were at least Native," you are appealing to their strongest feelings, affections, and perhaps tastes, and holding out a direct incentive to them to re-assert their independence. Such is the natural effect of your Proclamation. [A noble EARL here remarked that it was not a Proclamation.] No, but it is tantamount to one, and will be read by ten times as many people. Rely upon it the moment such a missive is promulgated in India, 594 bearing the sanction of the Queen's authority, it will be eagerly circulated in every province, town, and village of that empire. My Lord's, make the case your own. Suppose that during the disturbances in Ireland in 1848 the exhortation had been addressed to the Lord Lieutenant, "Deal gently with the disaffected, because you must bear in mind that, though their own ancient Governments were bad, they were at least Native!" Such a proceeding, to my mind, surpasses in rashness any Proclamation that ever was issued. The despatch says:—Suddenly the people saw their King taken from amongst them, and our administration substituted for his, which, however bad, was at least Native, and this sudden change of government was immediately followed by a summary settlement of the revenue, Which in a very considerable portion of the province deprived the most influential landholders of what they deemed to be their property—of what certainly had given wealth and distinction and power to their families. We must admit, that under the circumstances, the hostilities which have been carried on in Oude have rather the character of legitimate war than that of rebellion, and that the people of Oude should rather be regarded with indulgent consideration than made the objects of a penalty exceeding in extent and in severity almost any which has been recorded in history as inflicted upon a subdued nation.Is it wise thus to announce to a people actually in arms against you that they are not rebels, however much the Governor General may say to the contrary, but legitimate warriors, fighting for their own country and their own rights? Was it wise to say so if you intend to retain that Province? If you intend to surrender the Province, well and good, then such language might be used; but if you do not intend to do so is it wise to tell persons who are in arms against your authority that they are not rebels, although they have been called so; that they are legitimate warriors and patriots in arms for the defence of their hearths, their country, and their religion The despatch says, "You are inflicting a penalty exceeding in extent and severity almost any recorded in history." Now, reverting again to what I have said with regard to whether the interpretation of the noble Earl be correct or not, I cannot but say that even if his interpretation be a just one, it is unwise to make such a declaration public at the present crisis. At a time when the Governor General is struggling against every species of difficulty, is he to be met with the declaration that he has inflicted a penalty exceeding in severity 595 any recorded in history? Even if the interpretation of the noble Earl be right, nothing could, I think, be more wild or more mad than to employ such an expression to an armed and infuriated people. But, suppose that the interpretation of the noble Earl be not correct—and it is just possible that the opinions of gentlemen who have been longer in India than the noble Earl, and who have been more minutely engaged in the details of administration, may be sounder upon the subject than those of the noble Earl—then I say that nothing could be more reprehensible—nothing more mad than such a declaration in a public despatch; for such an assertion is enough to infuriate even a people who were not in arms and not already exasperated against our Government. I must say also that I feel very much the effect which may be produced by such a declaration upon the hearts and feeling—not, of course, upon the conduct—of the officers and soldiers of Her Majesty's service engaged in the war. The troops and officers employed in the war have believed that they were called upon to subdue a rebellious province, to maintain the legitimate rights of the Sovereign, and to re-erect the Queen's standard, which has been ruthlessly cast down. What will their feeling be at being informed that they are only employed to invade the rights of others—to deprive the owners and cultivators of the soil of their possessions? I have no doubt, my Lords, that although their conduct and discipline will remain the same, the hearts of many of those gallant men will be grievously afflicted at the thought of being employed in such a service.
The despatch goes on to say—and be it recollected that the words are an open and avowed rebuke of the Governor General—You have acted upon a different principle; you have reserved a few as deserving of especial favour, and have visited with what they will feel to be a most severe punishment, the mass of the inhabitants of the country.Here, again, arises the possibility of a misinterpretation upon the part of the noble Earl as to the meaning of Lord Canning's Proclamation. But, assuming that the interpretation of the noble Earl be the correct one, I think that the greatest consideration should have been employed before such a declaration was published. It is further stated in the despatch—We cannot but think that the precedents from which you have departed will appear to have been conceived in a spirit of wisdom superior to that which appears in the precedent you have made,596 Now, my Lords, I think that this is one of the most cruel and most terrible rebukes ever administered to any functionary; and it is the more terrible and the more cruel as having been administered to a functionary holding so remarkable and eminent a station as that of Governor General of India. I can conceive nothing more painful to the mind of Lord Canning, supposing and believing as I do that that Proclamation was issued in a spirit of mercy, and that Lord Canning has throughout been actuated by a spirit of clemency and mercy, by a desire to conciliate, and by the desire of doing nothing which was not actually required by the severest justice. I think that Lord Canning has been acting all along in a spirit of kindness, mercy, and patriotism, and, believing all this, I cannot believe that anything could be more painful or grinding to his heart than the reception of such a document, even if he knew it were to remain for ever in the archives of the East India Company. But when Lord Canning knows that that document has been read throughout England, and will be read throughout India, his feelings must be past any power of description. And yet all this has been in positive ignorance as to the real meaning of the Proclamation. You yourself admit that information is wanting to explain the Proclamation. [The Earl of ELLENBOROUGH made a gesture of dissent]. Well, perhaps the noble Earl is not in want of information, but the great proportion of the community is so; and think the despatch was written in ignorance:—and I do not think that the noble Earl himself is able to decide between the contradictory interpretations of the Proclamation which had been given by the noble Earl and by many learned and experienced men.
My Lords, I now come to what I must consider the grievance of the whole case, and that is—that this despatch was written and published in this country before Lord Canning had any opportunity of making any remarks either upon the Proclamation or upon the despatch. This despatch, containing a severe censure upon the Governor General, was written upon the 10th of April, and published on the 7th of May, so that it appeared before the country without Lord Canning having had the smallest chance of offering any explanation, and thus a most fatal effect was produced upon the reputation of that good man. This despatch, no doubt, also will be translated into ten or twelve Native languages, 597 and in the course of a very few days after its arrival in India it will be circulated throughout the whole of Her Majesty's Asiatic dominions, and will be the subject of talk in every town, province, and bazaar throughout the empire; and that without a single word of explanation to show the right meaning of the Proclamation. What must be the effect? Why, it will be regarded as a declaration on the part of the Government that the Governor General had been totally deprived of all their confidence, and that his administration is worthless; his powers and energies will be entirely enervated by what will be regarded in India as a declaration that he does not enjoy the confidence of the Queen or of the Parliament of this country. And this, too, at a time when nearly all India is in a state of disturbance! Why, my Lords, to publish such a despatch at such a time was little better than madness. I believe that it may have the effect of encouraging those already in arms against us to a protracted resistance, if even it may not excite others to rebel; for many, seeing the terms in which their rights are spoken of, may think that the time has arrived for them to make a vigorous effort to recover what they are told are their rights. With what consistency can you retain the government of Oude after this despatch? and if you restore it, then you unsettle and disturb every other province in India, and you will be compelled to rule India, not with the sword in the sheath, but with tile sword in full exercise. I confess, too, my Lords, that I feel very much the effect which will be produced by this despatch upon the opinions mid sentiments of continental nations. It is heart-rending to read the comments in the principal foreign journals—I mean those which exercise a material influence abroad—and to think that my country appear before Europe hr so disgraceful a light. Now at last we have discovered the policy whereby your Indian empire has been obtained. With these papers they may exclaim, "Now at last we have discovered the various modes to which you have resorted, and the fraud and violence that have characterized all your operations." Was there ever such a thing known before, as for a Cabinet to draw up such a statement of the policy of this country—to exhibit, as it were, a bill of indictment against the whole policy, by which we obtained possession of the empire of India (for it is nothing less, if you judge by anything set forth in these 598 papers) and the manner in which we have administered it? Did any Government ever before hold up to execration the conduct of all the great and good men by whom that empire was added to the British empire, and among whom are to be found some of the greatest ornaments and supports of the British nation?
But we must also consider—and consider seriously—another very material point—the effect of this despatch upon the Governor General. I do not speak simply of my Lord Canning, although of all the gentlemen that I ever read of, I think he is among the most ill-used and most wronged, not only by the publication of the despatch, but by the sentiments therein recorded. Lord Canning, by his courage, wisdom, and energy, particularly during the latter part of this most arduous war, has, I believe, saved the great Indian empire to the British Crown. I do not here speak of Lord Canning as being materially affected by the remarks that have been made in this despatch, because Lord Canning has the means of vindicating his conduct. The Queen has still honours to give. If Lord Canning should return to this country, we know in what way the British people would express their hearty admiration of the man who has served them faithfully. You say that you do not wish for his recall. Why, then, do you use such language as renders it almost impossible for him to stay in India? But I do hope that Lord Canning will take a large and profound view of the whole matter. I trust he will demur to this despatch, and that he will appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober—from the Government of the country to the country itself. If he does so, I have no doubt that his decision will be ratified by the almost unanimous approval of the whole people of these realms. But I speak, not of the Governor General himself, but of the office of Governor General. That office cannot be touched in the least degree by rebuke or censure publicly, without losing some of that respect that essentially belongs to it. It was regarded, hitherto, by the people of India, as the absolute and supreme authority—the uncontrolled arbiter of many provinces. Suddenly this despatch—this verbosa et grandis epistola is published, and the Natives discover that this mighty fabric of power can be completely subverted by a slight conversation between two gentlemen across the table of the House of Commons. I must say that if you have 599 reason to find real fault with the Governor General, it is your duty to recall him, but not to degrade the office. If my Lord Canning had been as guilty as Warren Hastings, you ought to have recalled him to this country to answer for high crimes and misdemeanours, and to have sent out some other person to institute a better system, according to your notions of government. But what folly can there be greater than to throw a slur upon this great office, to deprive it of all real importance, to reduce it to the condition of something like a popinjay, the only value of which is its being showy and lofty? You cannot govern India henceforth as you have governed it hitherto. Depend upon it that the state of the Indian mind is vastly different from what it was a few years ago. India has now the advantages of a press. By the circulation of that press, the Natives become speedily acquainted with everything affecting the interests of India. They no longer take things for granted as they used to do. They inquire, form their own judgments, and come to their own conclusions on Indian questions. You cannot now call upon the people of every nation and language in India to fall down and worship the golden image that you have set up. By publishing this despatch, you have left to the Governor General the externals of power, but you have taken away from him the whole essence of power. You must not wonder, if these same people turn round and refuse to reverence that puppet that you yourselves have taught them to insult. Something must be done, and that speedily, to restore the dignity and position of Her Majesty's representative in India. And that which must be done is this—without the least delay there must go out a manifestation to the Governor General and to the people of India, that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government is not sanctioned by the voice of Parliament any more than it is sanctioned by the voice or approbation of a generous and grateful people. The noble Earl concluded by moving:—
- 1. That it appears from Papers laid upon the Table of this House, that a Despatch has been addressed by the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors to the Governor General of India, disapproving a Proclamation which the Governor General had informed the Court he intended to issue after the fall of Lucknow:
- 2. That it is known only from intelligence that bas reached this country by correspondence published in newspapers, that the intended Proclamation has been issued, and with an important modification, no official account of this Proceeding
600 having yet been received; that this House is therefore still without full information as to the grounds on which Lord Canning has acted, and his answer to the objections made to his intended Proclamation in the Despatch of the Secret Committee cannot be received for several weeks:
- 3. That under these circumstances this House is unable to form a judgment on the Proclamation issued by Lord Canning, but thinks it right to express its disapprobation of the premature publication by Her Majesty's Ministers of the Despatch addressed to the Governor General, since this public condemnation of his conduct is calculated to weaken the authority of the Governor General of India, and to encourage those who are now in arms against this country.
§ Motion objected to; and a Question being stated thereupon;
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I so lately received your Lordships' indulgence when I stated shortly and clearly the circumstances under which I resigned my office, that I think I should trespass most unwarrantably upon your attention if I were, although invited by the noble Earl, now to repeat what I theta addressed to your Lordships. I distinctly said that, in common sense, I alone was responsible for the publication of this letter, because I alone knew that it was about to be published. There is not a common jury in the United Kingdom which would not scout as absurd, a charge against any man for an act of which he necessarily knew nothing. The noble Earl has had the goodness to read, for your Lordships' information, a considerable portion of that letter itself, commenting as he went on. I shall not follow the noble Earl through those details. With respect to much of what the noble Earl said I shall only observe this—that all the facts stated are in the blue-books before Parliament, and are as accessible to all the world as anything that is known to the public of this country. All that is not in the blue-book is equally known to the whole people of Oude. This letter states the ground on which I—and I believe all the world came to this conclusion—was of opinion that the war in Oude bears more the character of legitimate war than of rebellion. But I must be allowed to read two passages in the letter which the noble Earl has abstained from reading. They are these—not unimportant:—We desire to see British authority in India rest upon the willing obedience of a contented people. There cannot be contentment where there is general confiscation. Government cannot long be maintained by any force in a country where the whole people is rendered hostile by a sense of wrong; and, if it were possible so to maintain it, it would not be a consummation to be desired.601 Those are the principles by which I stand. Those are the principles upon which I say the Government of India should be conducted. And I feel, indeed, that the question before your Lordships to-night is one far more important than anything affecting merely the existence of an Administration. It is practically this:—Shall the Government of India be conducted on the principles of justice and clemency, or shall it be conducted on the principles of severity which appear in that Proclamation of Lord Canning? I hoped, when I wrote that letter, that the Proclamation never would be promulgated. I had every reason to believe that the strongest representations had been made to Lord Canning against its promulgation by persons the most entitled to know the effect which it would produce. I was in hopes that these representations would prevail. But this, at any rate, I know—that if that Proclamation were published it was absolutely necessary that immediately there should appear a letter to undo the mischief, to mitigate the danger which must arise from the pro-mitigation of principles of such excessive severity. No one can doubt that the act of Lord Canning is confiscation. Your Lordships have been referred to the restraining clause in the Proclamation. What does that clause set forth? It says that persons who support the Government shall obtain the restitution of their property. Why, that is because the confiscation took the whole of it away. Now, there is the greatest possible difference between the confiscation in Lord Dalhousie's Proclamation and confiscation in that of Lord Canning. The former was prospective; it was denounced against those who should hereafter become rebels. The confiscation in Lord Canning's Proclamation is retrospective, and it strikes a whole people. I have been informed, and I have no doubt of the fact, that, however strong this expression of "the proprietary right" may appear to your Lordships, when it is transferred into the languages of India its strength must be greatly increased by any possible translation. But, my Lords, consider what is confiscation. It has not been known in Europe to this extent for 800 years. The only example of anything resembling it is in the time of William the Conqueror. True, we have had confiscation in Ireland. It is said that large portions of that country have been confiscated three times over. But has the result been peace? Has the result in Ireland been 602 prosperity? Do not all those who have considered the subject trace to confiscation all the disasters which have occurred in that country? In India, however, confiscation is unknown. No Mohamedan conqueror has ever perpetrated that which is perpetrated through Lord Canning's Proclamation. Whatever have been the changes of dynasty, the storm of war has swept over village communities, and the property of individuals from the lowest to the highest has always been respected. The wise conquerors of India changed little but the Ruler—they left everything standing—and on that account it is that they were enabled to establish a permanent Government. The noble Earl has thought fit to allude to what I did in Scinde. My Lords, in Scinde I struck the rulers to the ground because they had been guilty of treachery against the British Crown—because they had attacked the British Resident Minister immediately after the conclusion of a treaty of peace. But I confirmed to every man his property; and that was the secret of our strength in Scinde and of the permanent tranquillity of that country. There has not been one hand raised against the British Government since the battle which destroyed the last of the Ameers who were contending for the sovereignty. In two months that country was subdued; and at the present moment there is not a portion of the British empire in India which is more faithful than Scinde. Why? It is faithful because their property has been respected.
My Lords, we are told that we ought to form no opinion with respect to this Proclamation until we have explanations. I ask, why have we not explanations? Explanations should precede, or at least accompany, a measure of this great importance, and not follow it—if they do follow it at all—at the interval of a month. But what time had Lord Canning to communicate to the Government here respecting the policy he intended to adopt? Lord Canning directed the Commander in Chief, when he retired from Lucknow, to leave a garrison in the Alumbagh. He then, intended, as soon as he could get together a sufficient force, to attack and take Luck-now. Upon that measure he determined entirely on political, not on military grounds: he took upon himself the whole responsibility of that measure. A General, acting on purely military grounds, would first have obtained full possession of his own country—would have cleared Rohil- 603 cund, have pacified Bareilly, have restored tranquillity to Berar. Lord Canning, on the contrary, overruling all stratagetical considerations, and in search of what civilians call prestige, which had nearly been our ruin in the course of the last year, insisted on the concentration of all our forces for the attack on Lucknow. He knew he would have Lucknow. The movement on that place commenced on the 4th of March. Sir Colin Campbell had arrived at Cawnpore, and had completed his victory there three months before that time. Why did not Lord Canning communicate meanwhile to his friends here? Is it possible that he should not have thought over what he should do when he got possession of the place? I say he ought to have communicated his then prevailing intentions, and to have sought the opinion of the Government, so as to act with their approval on such an important measure. But since then a month has alapsed. Why have we not now an explanation? My Lords, there is no explanation. There are some things which cannot be explained. Confiscation is one of these. It is incapable of explanation. It stands in all its naked deformity—the most cruel infliction which can ever be passed upon a country. If there were to be confiscation, however, surely it should have applied only to the guilty. Who ever heard of inflicting a punishment so universal as to strike every man in a country, innocent as well as guilty? My Lords, we have in India now twenty-one regiments of disarmed Sepoys. We have three regiments of Native cavalry and three of Irregular cavalry disarmed—altogether twenty-seven regiments. The position of these disarmed regiments has justly been a subject of the deepest anxiety to the Government of India. It is necessary to keep British troops to watch them. There are 2,000 or 3,000 of them within ft night's march of Calcutta, where quite recently a panic was actually occasioned by them. Of these troops one-half are Natives of Oude. They cannot have been engaged in the rebellion. They have been almost maddened by the attacks made on them in the course of the mutiny, and which they have learned from the newspapers. They have been threatened with hanging, with being blown from guns, with transportation; and they are now under a panic, hardly knowing what they are to do. But imagine the position in which they will be placed if they read the Proclamation. What must 604 be their feelings when, while disarmed and incapable of committing any act against the Government, however indignant they might be at the dishonour they had sustained—what must be their feelings, I say, when they find that all their property is at once confiscated, and that they have not a home to go to? More than this—the Mahomedan mosques, the Hindoo temples, all are supported by the land of the country. The Mahomedans and the Hindo conquerors have alike respected the rights to this property. The whole of this, however, is confiscated; the whole means of maintaining both religions are unwisely, rashly taken away. All the provision for objects of charity, for orphans and widows, is swept away. Not one single exception is made, save only in the case of the six individuals mentioned in the Proclamation. Such things, my Lords, are enough to madden every man throughout the country, therefore I thought to myself—"I will write, and at the earliest possible moment after that Proclamation is published, I will send my letter as an antidote, that the people may know they are to be ruled with justice and clemency."
My Lords, consider now what is our actual position. We have taken Lucknow. The hot weather is coming on; when we heard last, the most severe, the most dangerous period of the year had commenced. Are we occupying Oude? We have not a man to occupy any part of the country. The Proclamation is a nullity, except as to the effect produced on the minds of the people. The Commander in Chief has now marched on Bareilly with half of his troops—one brigade is gone to Azimghur, to relieve the detachment under Colonel Milman, which is shut up there; the Ghoorkas are gone home; another brigade remains at Lucknow. Between the right and the left of our position there is an interval of 400 miles; and the centre of that position, Oude, in which we hold only this large garrison—the brigade at Lucknow—has, I firmly believe, been converted into a sea of fire by Lord Canning's Proclamation. Surely it was necessary for me, whose duty it was to do what I could to preserve the tranquillity of India, to repair, if possible, these great evils, and to send out a message of peace and mercy to the people of that country. I am told that in so doing I am weakening the authority of the Governor General. My Lords, my despatch weakens his authority for evil; it strengthens him greatly for all 605 purposes of good. I trust, when he receives it, he will think it better to part with evil counsellors. I do not believe Lord Canning himself was the author of this Proclamation. It is contrary to what I have ever heard of his conduct and of his feelings. I believe it to have proceeded from other sources. I believe that he has placed himself in dangerous hands—in the hands of men who have learned nothing, and have forgotten nothing—who imagine that after this dreadful convulsion they can re-establish, as it stood, civilian authority in India. This, my Lords, is a great error, and it is of the utmost importance that Lord Canning should feel that justice and clemency, and consideration for the people of India, are the governing principles of those who are at the head of affairs here, and are also the principles which it is absolutely necessary he should adopt. But I am told that this despatch will tend to encourage resistance on the part of the people now in arms against us. My Lords, I should meet such a charge with an indignation I could hardly express did I not feel its utter absurdity. Why, I was the first in this Douse ho warned your Lordships that the danger was coming, who advised you to prepare for it, to place the country under arms, and to be ready to engage in a great and a perilous war. Was it probable, having given you that advice a year ago, that when I became in a measure responsible Minister for the conduct of the war in India, I should do any act which would encourage the resistance of the very men I had to oppose? But consider for a moment what is the position of these armed men in Oude who are under the condemnation of this Proclamation and the measures which it will render necessary. They were men who had been fighting with the rope round their necks. My object with to remove that rope. They were men who had been fighting without hope. I wished to give them hope. The Proclamation left them without homes—without land which would enable them to subsist. I gave them the hope of returning to their homes, to their villages, to all the comforts of their families. That was the object of my letter. Was that to encourage resistance, or to give the only hope of salvation to the people? In a previous letter which was published I distinctly used the word "amnesty." It is my firm belief—and I have beard it of many and from many in India—that there is no hope of ultimate success 606 but by an amnesty. My Lords, the son of a great and noble Friend of mine—the late Duke of Wellington—has had the goodness to put into my hands this evening an unpublished leaf from sonic additional letters of that noble Duke, in which I find these words, which, although referring to a comparatively unimportant matter, show distinctly the mind with which he regarded subjects of this nature. Speaking on the matter of Noojee Gouru Patul he says:—But I acknowledge that unless there is reason to believe that this man is employed in intrigues for Canojee I would rather take no notice of them. I am for the principle of amnesty, as referable to all inferior agents; I have recommended it strongly to the Peshwah's durbar, and I am convinced that if it had been adopted at an early period the critical circumstances of the present moment would not exist. It is the principle upon which we have settled Mysore and the ceded districts, and that upon which we have made our way to this place. Eternal enmity against every petty agent concerned against us or our allies will never answer.MY Lords, that is true wisdom. I followed the noble Duke's advice when I acted as I have told you I acted in Scinde. The result has been the tranquillity of that country. I know, toy Lords, from history and from observation, that there is no part of the world in which—perhaps from their rarity—justice and clemency when united with power have so much influence as in India. They have been the really effective weapons of all the great conquerors in the East. It has not been by striking down their enemies in the field, but by wise and prudent provisions for the maintenance of property and of all the ancient rights of the people, that they have established and continued their power. They claimed nothing but to rule; they maintained the people as they found them.
And now, my Lords, allow me very shortly to observe upon the position in which we stand at present. During the last twelve months we have thrown upon India the whole of our disposable force, We have—I will not say run great risk—but we have gone to the utmost possible extent in despatching to India a military force. I have said, not in this House only, but I also took occasion to say in a paper which I published, that it is impossible for us with our present military institutions to furnish a sufficient force for carrying on a lengthened and dangerous war in India. But, there are, my Lords, other dangers which have always been found ultimately more fatal to a State. I allude to the dangers of a financial difficulty. At the pre- 607 sent moment the expense connected with the British troops we have in India is equal to the expense of the whole Native army we had at the commencement of the mutiny, and your Lordships may be surprised to hear, but it really is the fact, that, notwithstanding the great reduction in the number of the Native troops in Bengal, the additions to the army in the Punjab, to the army of Madras, and to the army of Bombay, have raised the numerical strength of the Native army almost to the level at which it stood when the war commenced. My Lords, how are these expenses to be met? We have this year borrowed very nearly £10,000,000. We have been fortunate in the receipts from some items of the revenue; there was a large balance in the Treasury; and with all these advantages we have for this one year been enabled to go forward; but what have we to expect for the future? Your Lordships know well that there is nothing so delicate or so sensitive as financial credit. I feel absolutely convinced, unless the Government of this country should impose upon the Government of India the principle of clemency as that which is to guide it towards Natives who may be in what is called rebellion against them, that the war will last for a period the end of which I cannot foresee; financial credit must fail if that war should so continue; and I beg your Lordships to bear in mind what would be the position of this country if we were unable to provide, on the security of India, the funds absolutely necessary for carrying on the war. It is with a view to these great questions—the future amount of force required, and the future means of carrying on the war—that I earnestly desire and entreat your Lordships to consider upon what principle we shall act towards the people of India. I am satisfied that in the two passages I read to your Lordships I stated the true principles upon which alone you can proceed; and I feel assured that if your Lordships or the other House of Parliament should by your votes upon the Resolutions now proposed to you and to the House of Commons induce, as you would, the people of India to believe that you approve the policy of the Proclamation, and disapprove the policy announced in the letter, you will occasion in India a war of a social character. You may have succeeded in wars purely political against Princes; but I speak the language of all those who know India best when I tell you that in a social war you 608 must fail, for you will unite all men of all creeds against you. I earnestly adjure your Lordships to avoid that great danger; and when I urge upon you clemency as the rule of the conduct of your government, I only adopt the advice I have myself derived from all the greatest men who before our appearance in India dominated in that country and of all the greatest men who have illustrated our own history.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, some persons are accustomed to regard this House as a cold and unimpassioned assembly—and so, perhaps, for the most part it is; but those who have been present during the progress of this debate, and who have listened to the discussions which have taken place during the last week, must feel that there are at least some occasions on which the House of Lords can be deeply moved. I know, my Lords, the explanation of this circumstance which is given out of doors. It is said by many, who do not understand the character of this House, that the question before us is one of a personal nature, and that the reason why so deep a feeling has been exhibited with reference to the despatch is because the Governor General of India is a Member of the aristocracy and of this House, and has on both sides of the House many personal friends. I believe, my Lords, that this is not the case; but, on the contrary, I should be disposed to congratulate my noble Friend Lord Canning upon the position in which be now stands. There was a time, a few months ago, when Lord Canning did need support in this House and in the country. Although his character had long been known among public men, yet., from his somewhat retiring habits, I believe his character and capacity were not fully understood by the public out of doors. I, for one, was not surprised to find that during the tremendous convulsion of our Indian empire—when every post brought us accounts of the most horrible atrocities committed against our countrymen—there should have been some doubt and distrust as to the character and capacity of the man who was charged with the government of India. That time has, however, passed, and I would congratulate those who have been—as I had not the honour of being—the early friends and associates of Lord Canning, upon the complete triumph he has gained, and the complete contradiction which has been given to the predictions we formerly heard. I congratulate my noble Friends—some of 609 whom I see on both sides of the House—that the high qualities which they know Lord Canning to possess in private life and in public council have been applied with success to the administration of our eastern empire; and, although we are not always able to estimate accurately the importance of contemporary events, I will venture to say that nothing the present Government can do can affect in future time the character or reputation of Lord Canning, and that it will be remembered to his immortal honour, that in the midst of the tempest which swept over India he was the first man who raised his voice in favour of justice and mercy. He has, by his wisdom, prudence, resolution, and moderation, left it reputation which nothing can affect; and I will venture to predict that in future times the administration of India by Lord Canning will be remembered when the administration of the English Government by noble Lords opposite will be utterly forgotten.
My Lords, my noble Friend who introduced this subject in an eloquent and exhausting speech has most truly repudiated, on the part of himself and my noble Friends near me, any personal feeling towards the noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control; and I can say with confidence that there is no man who has taken such a prominent part in public affairs, and who has been accustomed to use such strong, I might almost say such violent language sometimes, towards his political opponents—there is no man, I repeat, against whom there is less of personal feeling. We all respect his character and admire his abilities, and I must say that during the time we occupied the Ministerial benches, though that noble Earl employed the most potent batteries against the Government, yet if any one of his late colleagues ventured to attack the Government we were sure to have his voice against them. It has been said also that, although this may not be a personal matter, the present Motion is a party move. Now, I do not in the slightest degree wish to depreciate political organization. I only wish we had more of it at the present moment in both Houses, for then we might have, what otherwise we never shall have, an honest Government—an efficient Opposition. But I believe that the general feeling of this House is a conservative feeling in favour of ail existing Governments; but the feeling now, instead of being in favour of the present Government, is against them, be- 610 cause we all feel that in reference to Indian matters and the details of Indian administration the Government we are bound to support is not the Government here, but the Government in India. We all feel that upon the action of the Indian Government the welfare of the Indian empire must depend, and that in the maintenance of its authority, especially in a time of great difficulty, its security and existence are involved. We have been all moved on the present occasion into this degree of comparative excitement, because we are convinced that the Government of India will be materially weakened, not only by the publication, but by the tenor of the despatch itself. The matter is not confined to the question of publication, though with respect to that I am at a loss to understand the explanation which has been given. What are the facts? It was on Thursday last week that the announcement was made in "another place" that this despatch would be produced, and its general character was given. There was, I believe, a Council on the following day; and the Ministers were all fully aware during Thursday night and the whole of Friday that the production of the despatch had been promised. Therefore, if at that time they had foreseen that its publication would be attended with such ruinous consequences or prejudicial effects, to use the expression of the noble Earl opposite, to the Indian empire, why did they not come down to Parliament and explain that a question had been suddenly asked and imprudently answered, but that on consideration they found that the despatch ought not to be produced, and on their responsibility state that its production would be prejudicial? Do you suppose that ally one Member of this, or of the other House of Parliament would not have been glad, under the circumstances, to accept that excuse and to allow the Government to withdraw their promise? But, after having had use twenty-four hours to consider the matter, they came down to the House, and having apparently made up their minds at the last moment that certain passages should be left out, they allowed, with that exception, the despatch to be produced. Now, I venture to say that, among the passages produced there are some, which have been quoted by my noble Friend, calculated to have almost as prejudicial an effect as any that have been omitted. The truth is, that the Government thought that the despatch would be popular in this country, 611 and expected to make political capital out of its publication; and yet they now turn round on their colleague, who is generous enough to sacrifice himself for them by declaring that he is solely responsible for the publication. I maintain that from this narrative of facts it is plain that the whole Cabinet is responsible for the publication of the despatch, at all events in its shorter state, if not to its extent. That responsibility is entire, and cannot be separated. Indeed, you cannot look at the despatch without seeing in every line that it was intended for publication. "Blue-book" is written in every line. If it had been written only for the private eye of the Governor General, and had not been intended to produce an effect in India, do you suppose it would have been written in such sententious paragraphs, and in the form and style in which it is drawn up? Indeed, the colleagues of the noble Earl have confessed that it was written for publication, and was a proclamation to the people of India. I think, however, that the feeling raised in this House has not been raised solely on account of the publication, but also on account of the tone and temper of the despatch. Let your Lordships consider the paragraph quoted by my noble Friend near me. No one would have blamed the Government for expressing a disapprobation of the policy of the Indian Administration, and for sending out orders to change that policy; but if they were determined to change that policy they ought so to manage, that the people of India should receive the change from the local Government and not from an overruling power in England: yet they have taken care to publish to the world that they have overruled the Governor General? In what a position will that leave him! The noble Lord who last spoke, has read two paragraphs from the despatch which he says contain his policy. They are maxims adopted by every man civil, or military—they are mere truisms, which, though couched in very sonorous language, are really very common-place. The noble Earl says that all the statements in the despatch are to be verified by the bluebooks; but in reference to a most important paragraph about the annexation of Oude, I venture to say that there is not one statement in that paragraph which is correct. I refer to paragraph 10. The noble Earl, a few nights ago, told another noble Lord that if he came forward to attack the policy of annexation, he ought to 612 state it in the words of Lord Dalhousie. The noble Earl should have taken his own lesson. I must say that for the annexation of Oude, Lord Dalhousie is not alone responsible; the Government of Lord Palmerston cannot separate themselves from him, for they had interfered more than is usual for the home Government. One of the assertions of the 10th paragraph is that the Government of India in India, in annexing Oude, professed to proceed upon the provisions of the treaty of 1801. That is not correct, but is directly opposite to the fact, inasmuch as Lord Dalhousie distinctly declared that a necessarily preliminary step to his proceedings was that the treaty of 1801 should be declared to be at an end. I say, then, that the first assertion of the noble Earl is not correct. The second is that the treaty of 1801, in respect to the right which it gave us to interfere in the affairs of Oude, was modified or limited by the subsequent treaty of 1837. That, also, is not true, for the treaty of 1837 increased our power of interference, and made it more definite. I do not clearly understand the third assertion, but as far as I can make it out it means that the fact of the treaty of 1837 not having been ratified in England was not made known to the King of Oude as regarded the provision which empowered us to interfere with his government. I believe that assertion to be incorrect. The treaty of 1801 bound the King of Oude to govern his territories according to our advice, but it specially provided that the Government should be conducted by his own officers. There was no remedy provided in case of an infraction of the treaty; there was simply a general promise. Lord Dalhousie declared that treaty to be at an end. But the treaty of 1837 went further, for it not only provided that the King of Oude should govern his territories according to our advice, but it empowered us, in case he did not do so, to take the administration into our own hands and to retain it for such time as we might think necessary. That was not limiting, but increasing our power as compared with the treaty of 1801. Upon the non-ratification of the treaty of 1837 I shall only say that, as regarded the only obligation which it imposed upon the King of Oude, the disallowance of the treaty was intimated to him, but, unfortunately, no such intimation was made with respect to the disallowance of the other provisions. The non-ratification left him precisely in the 613 same position in which he stood before. It made his situation no worse and ours no better. Seeing, then, that the 10th paragraph of the despatch contains an erroneous statement of the whole facts of the case, and involves a charge of treachery and deceit against former Parliaments and former Governments, I submit that the Cabinet as a whole are responsible for the injurious effects which will flow from it both in England and in India. If the despatch is to go forth sanctioned, with respect to substance as well as publication, by the English Government, the most disastrous consequences will arise—I believe, indeed, they have actually arisen—as regards our reputation in foreign countries. The other day I heard a distinguished foreigner say that he had been accustomed abroad, especially in France, to defend our rule in India, but that if the despatch of the 19th of April was to be acknowledged and vindicated by the Government he would not for the future have a word to say in our behalf. I cannot help coupling all these facts with another somewhat ominous reference to the conduct of the present Government. Shortly before they came to office, a noble Lord, for whose character I have the highest respect, expressed in "another place" that opinion relative to the annexation of Oude which we find virtually embodied in the despatch, and even went the length of declaring that he, for one, was prepared to restore Oude to the King. Now, I do say that such statements coming from members of the Government, backed by an official despatch from the Board of Control, place the Governor General, in regard to one of the most important theatres of war, in a very difficult and embarrassing position. I do not wish to detain your Lordships by entering into any discussion upon the annexation of Oude; that is a question upon which, both as regards policy and justice, two different opinions may fairly be held; but I am sure you will all admit that it is now the duty of every English Government to accept the annexation of Oude as un fait accompli, and not to raise any discussion upon it, except so far as it may affect the policy to be adopted towards other Native States. Upon that subject I shall not enter on the present occasion; but I do regard it as a most dangerous circumstance that the Government of England should not merely have published, but should have committed the authority of the English Crown to a despatch which uses such dis- 614 creditable language towards the Governor General of India, and throws by implication such grave charges against the honour and reputation of our country.
My Lords, I cannot but feel that a strong expression of the opinion of Parliament is necessary to reinstate the Governor General in that position of authority from which he has to a certain extent been removed by the conduct of the Government. It is true that great political or party contests are not now decided in this House. The fate of a Cabinet seldom depends upon any vote come to by your Lordships. But the opinion of the House of Lords carries great weight with it both at home and abroad, and I confess I do not think that the mere retirement of the noble Earl from the Board of Control, so long as the sentiments expressed in his despatch receive the sanction of the existing Government, is sufficient to restore to the Government of India that authority of which it has been so recklessly deprived. The present Government have committed a number of the gravest errors which can be charged against any Ministry. There has been a most dangerous attempt to make political capital out of one of the most difficult and delicate questions of Indian administration. There has been a want of due respect to the Governor General, who has ruled your empire during a period of extreme peril with extraordinary ability and success. There has been a violation of those conditions which ought to regulate the relations between the Imperial Government at home and the local Government of India. There has been a still more flagrant violation of the rules which ought to regulate the conduct of every Government, with reference to the acts and proceedings of their predecessors. Lastly, in order to damage the reputation of a former Governor General—the Marquess of Dalhousie—language has been used which casts discredit upon the character of the English Government and indirectly upon the honour of the Crown itself.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he would not follow the example of the noble Duke by questioning the honesty of this or that party, or by characterizing the present Motion as he had characterized the despatch as an attempt to gain political capital, nor would he entangle himself in any discussion upon the annexation of Oude; but he would leave to his noble Friend the late President of the Board oh Control the task, if he thought it worth while, of defending his 615 despatch and the terms in which it was expressed. There were three Resolutions before them, but they raised but one question—they amounted in point of fact to a vote of censure on the Government for the publication of the despatch; but the noble Lords opposite, wisely he thought, had not confined themselves to that charge. During the course of the discussion the objections urged against the Government resolved themselves into three points—the publication of the despatch, the policy of the despatch, and the haste with which it was written and sent out, without waiting for explanations from the Governor General. With respect to the first point, he might recall to the recollection of their Lordships that at a most momentous and critical period, before the proclamation of the war with Russia, the Government of the day produced, without reluctance and without censure, letters and reports of a far more confidential and secret nature than any which the present Administration had laid before Parliament. They did not hesitate to produce the accounts written by Sir Hamilton Seymour of the confidential conversations between him and the late Emperor of Russia, and they would have treated with indignation any attempt which might have been made to impugn their conduct upon that occasion. There might occasionally be a despatch of so peculiar a nature that its contents ought not to be made public; but as a general rule it was a condition of Parliamentary and public life in England that there should be full publication of writings as there was full freedom of debate. It was to the advantage of the country and of public servants themselves that every word that they spoke and every syllable that they wrote should be exposed to full scrutiny and examination. He was therefore somewhat surprised to find the publication of this despatch objected to by those who on most questions loved to represent themselves as the friends and advocates of publicity. Did noble Lords complain of the publication in India, or the publication in England? If of the former, let him remind them that the Governor General could, with a single word, stop the circulation of the letter; and the press in India was at this moment almost silent; if of the latter, he must say that the objection came with an ill grace from those who had always been the advocates of the influence of public opinion, of full freedom of debate, and of complete scrutiny of all public acts. 616 Both the noble Lords who had addressed the House from the opposite benches had commented at considerable length upon the despatch, but they had sedulously abstained from making a single remark upon another paper which was part and parcel of the same transaction—the Proclamation of the Governor General. The despatch was the correlative and sequel of the Proclamation. Looking at this matter in the calmest manner possible, he must say that he thought that the Government had more reason to complain of the conduct of noble Lords opposite than they had to complain of the Government. There was a vast difference between these papers. The despatch was in its very essence a private document, and was intended to be secret, except in a particular contingency. It was an accident that it ever became public. The mischief, if mischief there was, under ordinary circumstances, was confined to that despatch. The Proclamation, on the contrary, was from its very nature a public document, which must necessarily circulate far and wide the mischief with which it was impregnated. The evil in one case might be greater than in the other. But putting all this aside, and granting that the publication was as criminal as it was said to be, his noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control had admitted that the publication of this despatch was his own act and deed, of which the other members of the Government were not cognizant and to which they were not parties; and the ground was therefore swept from under the feet of noble Lords opposite. The whole point of the complaint was the publication of the despatch. When it was stated, ex confesso, that the Government was not liable for that publication, the whole matter resolved itself into a combined attack upon a single individual. That individual had admitted his responsibility; and, therefore, to agree to these Resolutions would be neither, fair, generous, nor just. He had no wish to paint the case against Lord Canning in too strong colours. He was quite ready to believe that when Lord Canning issued the proclamation he intended to mitigate in practice the rigour of its provisions; for the conduct of Lord Canning during the earlier periods of the revolt was not such as to warrant the belief that he was inclined to adopt an intemperate and violent line of action; and the restraining clause in the copy of the Proclamation which had appeared in the newspapers showed that it was Lord Can- 617 ning's intention not to act up to the letter of the manifesto. But in dealing with this subject the Government had to consider not what was in the breast of Lord Canning, but what was contained in the Proclamation, and what effect it was likely to have upon the people of India and of Oude, and they would judge the Governor General by his published words and his overt declarations. And what would be the interpretation, what alone could be the interpretation which could be put upon this Proclamation by the people of Oude. Let their Lordships remember that those to whom it was addressed were men who for the last six mouths had been engaged in a desperate and bloody struggle, in which—he was not complaining of that—they had received no quarter or mercy of any kind. They were now bowed down and crushed beneath the force of our arms, and what other construction could they put on this Proclamation, but that it was published with the full determination to carry it out in all its rigour? They would look upon it as the last act in the great drama. It was said that there were in the Proclamation certain exceptions; but in his opinion the presence of those exceptions would render the Proclamation all the more terrible to those not included in them. Had the Proclamation denounced general confiscation without any exceptions, the Natives would have known that some persons who were innocent of all rebellion, or who had remained passive, must in practice be excepted from its operation, and each man would have hoped that he might be one of these. The exception of six persons mentioned from the rigours of the Proclamation, however, would convey to the Native mind an idea of a close weighing and balancing of merits and circumstances, and all the other proprietors would conceive that it was to be rigorously enforced against them. He need hardly dwell upon the effects which would follow such an interpretation, because they had already been described by the noble Earl. At the same time he might remind their Lordships that this Proclamation referred to three classes of persons—those with whom no terms were to be held; those who at great risk to life and property, and in spite of great temptations, had remained true to their allegiance, and who were to be rewarded by being allowed to enjoy what they already possessed; and the remainder of the population, who were subjected to this sweeping confiscation. That 618 population doubtless comprehended two great classes—on the one hand men who had at heart been opposed to and wished to overthrow our rule, but who, as there had been no quarter in battle, would now think that there was to be no pardon after victory—and, on the other hand, the disbanded Sepoy regiments, and a very numerous body of men who, carried away by impulse or by some mistaken sense of loyalty to the Royal family of Oude, or influenced by the contagions example of friends and relations, had, almost before they were aware of it, been swept away by the tide of rebellion, and had unknowingly been committed to this strife with us. Between these two bread classes the Proclamation drew no difference. It threw the whole Onus probandi on the population; it assumed their guilt, instead of, as would usually be done, assuming their innocence. That Proclamation must either be acted upon wholly, partially, or not at all. If acted upon wholly, it would be monstrous and impolitic; if acted upon in part, where would be the justice of confiscating the property of one man and abstaining from confiscating that of another equally guilty? If it was not meant to be acted upon at all, would not its issue, as a mere threat and brutum fulmen, be an undignified proceeding on the part of the Indian Government? As to the allegation that it was unwise to send out the despatch without waiting for an explanation of the Proclamation from the Governor General, the fault did not lie with Her Majesty's Government, but with the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control (Mr. Vernon Smith), who, receiving a private letter from Lord Canning referring to the subject, did not think it of sufficient importance to communicate it to the noble Earl who had succeeded him in his office, but did think it of sufficient importance to communicate it to the noble Viscount late at the head of the Government. The Government had been asked why they had been in such a hurry to send out their despatch when they might easily have delayed it. Was it a time to talk of delay when the House was on fire, when the whole country was convulsed, and civil war raged throughout India? To have procrastinated at such a juncture would have been to compliment away the highest interests on a paltry point a official etiquette. He rejoiced that this despatch 619 had gone forth, to use the words of his noble Friend, "as a message of pardon and peace" to the people of Oude. The noble Duke who had last spoken would remember that, after the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 in Scotland, the Governments of those days, although they disarmed the people and destroyed the power of the chieftains, sedulously respected the rights of property. In Ireland, even under the iron rule of Cromwell, confiscation had never been carried to such a length, and where there had been confiscations, the result was misery and calamity to the people. In England, in Europe, anything like a wholesale confiscation of a country was unprecedented, and hitherto unknown. He hoped their Lordships would not sanction the notion that they were to have one standard of justice for the East and another for the West; that they were to have one law for England and a different one for India. The existence of this or that Government was comparatively a matter of minor importance, but it was of the greatest importance that in laying anew the foundations of our Indian empire, we should decide whether that empire should be based on clemency, mercy, and justice, or on severity, injustice, and the lust of power.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, the noble Earl who had just sat down admitted that the publication of the despatch of the noble Earl was highly injurious.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
understood the noble Earl to speak in that sense; but he would fly at higher game than the Under Secretary of the Colonies. The House would recollect what the noble Earl at the head of the Government did when a question was asked as to how the despatch came to be published. At first it was said to be a mistake—that a question was put suddenly in the other House of Parliament, and that the Government were obliged to answer that question. Now, he could not think that the Government were so easily caught as that. He did not believe it was so easy to get a Government to say what they did not like. But now came a different story, and they were told that it was not by accident at all that the despatch was published—that it was the act of the noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control. If that were so, he could only say that if a Cabinet Minister, without consulting his colleagues, determined to send 620 out to India on his own responsibility, at a critical time, a public document in the nature of an anti-proclamation to that of the Governor General, he took upon himself a very serious responsibility. The noble Earl at the head of the Government the other evening defended the late President of the Board of Control with so much spirit—so heartily approved, apparently, of everything he had done—that no one would have supposed he intended to sacrifice his colleague the very next day; but having first thrown over his India Bill, he had next thrown over his Indian Minister with it, and now his decks were clear. He now admitted that, whatever opinion might be entertained of the Proclamation, it was most unwise to publish to the world the severe censure and criticism which had been passed on the Governor General of India. He never knew any one so ready to stand by his Friends as the noble Earl, and so clever in dressing up a case; and when he was obliged to throw his noble Friend overboard, the case must be very bad indeed. They never should have had the admission that the publication of the despatch was inexpedient were it not for the notice of Motion which had been given on this subject. The noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control commenced his despatch by condemning the annexation of Oude in the strongest and distinctest terms. Everything was said by it that could be said on behalf of the Native rulers of Oude, while everything in favour of the Crown of England was wholly omitted. Former Proclamations issued by our Government had charged the Sovereign of Oude and his ancestors with deliberate and systematic violation of treaties; but this despatch gave them credit for having been uniformly faithful to all their engagements. But was it not a part of the treaty that the King of Oude should preserve good order within his dominions? They guaranteed the King of Oude against external aggression; and this being so, were they to permit tyranny and profligacy to run riot within that kingdom? It was not easy to determine the precise moment when the Sovereign authority should interfere, but unless they were to sanction any amount of tyranny, devastation, and profligacy, there must be some period when it would be their duty to interfere, and put an end to such a state of things. He would not on that occasion, however, go into the question as to whether it was right or wrong to annex Oude; but the noble Earl 621 the late President of the Board of Control ought to have remembered that the annexation had been confirmed by two Governments, and it was therefore, in his opinion, a great error to send out a vague despatch calling that policy into question. On one occasion the noble Earl at the head of the Government had told them that all his sympathies were with the troops, but now they appeared to be all enlisted on behalf of the Natives. ["No, no!"] Well, on a few evenings before the noble Earl rather seemed to sympathize with them, and even spoke of their "loyalty" when he wanted to excite sympathy in their behalf. He certainly had been surprised to hear the arguments which had been used by the noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control, although they would not have astonished him if they had been used by another person and in another place; for, if the Attorney General, who he believed was retained in the case of the King of Oude, had used them before a legal tribunal, no one could have helped admitting that he had made the best of his case. For his own part, he thought that, some how or another, it was the desire of every Governor General to acquire territory, and nothing could be more dangerous. As regarded the conduct of Lord Canning, a few months ago it was the fashion to say that he wanted spirit and energy, and to upbraid him with showing too great clemency; but Lord Canning, actuated by a sense of right, paid no attention to those upbraidings, and he believed that when all the circumstances connected with this Proclamation were known, it would be found that he had been guided by a spirit of justice, and not by a spirit of vengeance. He believed that, if Her Majesty's Government had sent out a letter to Lord Canning explaining to him their views, and that they wished him to act in a spirit of clemency, it would have answered every purpose. He regretted the course which had been adopted, the more especially as it had been adopted towards a Governor General, who deserved anything but the ungenerous treatment which had been exhibited towards him. It was unworthy of the Government, and he much doubted whether it would have had the sanction of the noble Earl at the head of the Government if he had been made aware of all the circumstances. At present it was impossible, from want of information, to form any opinion as to the wisdom of the Proclamation; in fact, he did not think that 622 any one knew who the six gentlemen were whose names were mentioned in it. He was neither for one party nor the other. Why, to look at the noble Earl at the head of the Government, it was evident there was no pleasure in being in office; and he had no such ambition. As regarded the despatch itself, it contained several truisms, but not very closely connected with each other or with the subject; and he should have expected a better composition from the experience of the noble Earl, whose beautiful Somnauth despatch would be in their Lordships' recollection. The noble Duke then proceeded to read parts of the despatch accompanying the passages with criticisms which were inaudible, but which caused much laughter from the noble Lords who were within hearing.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, we are very much indebted to the noble Duke for enlivening the debate with a little pleasantry, but he must forgive me for saying that I think he has not added very much to our instruction. Any one who had come into this House and listened to our debate with that attention which its very interesting character deserves, would have supposed that my noble Friend who has proposed these Resolutions to your Lordships had called upon you to decide upon the policy of the Proclamation and the propriety of the despatch; and he would be astonished to find that the noble Earl had submitted to your Lordships a point of the very narrowest description, and had called upon you merely to express your disapprobation of a premature publication of a despatch addressed to the Governor General. My Lords, I cannot help observing in the outset upon the peculiar wording of the Resolutions of my noble Friend. He does not condemn, nor does he call upon your Lordships to condemn, the publication altogether; what he complains of is the premature publication of the despatch. So that be appears to consider that a period might arrive when the publication would be desirable. I cannot help thinking that my noble Friend believes there is a possibility of such an explanation being given by Lord Canning of the nature and character of the Proclamation as might render the publication of the despatch desirable. My noble Friend was perfectly justified in presenting these Resolutions to your Lordships, under the impression that the publication of this despatch had been an act of Her Majesty's Government, and that it was liable to cen- 623 sure; but I should have thought that after the manly and noble declaration of my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control the other night, in which he assumed to himself any blame which might attach to that publication, and in which he, for the first time, announced to his colleagues the generous sacrifice which he had made of himself, my noble Friend, under one of those generous impulses which characterize him, would instantly have risen to abandon the Motion of which he had given notice. My noble Friend, on the contrary, has endeavoured, under the altered state of circumstances, to justify himself for persevering in his Motion, and has suggested a metaphysical analogy of personal identity, and insisted upon that which nobody ever disputed—the unity and combination of a Cabinet, and its responsibility for all the acts of all its Members. I should appeal from the metaphysics of my noble Friend to common sense, to which my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control also appealed. With respect to the responsibility of a Cabinet for the acts of each of its Members, I apprehend that responsibility must cease when a particular Member of a Cabinet assumes to himself the blame of any acts, and quits the Cabinet in consequence. ["No, no!"] Some noble Lords seem to intimate some dissent. I should like to know whether the noble Lords on the Opposition benches would like their Governments to be tried upon a different principle—whether they think that any error of an individual Member should attach to the whole of the Cabinet, and that the whole of it should be visited with the punishment of resignation. I cannot think that the principle of responsibility can be pushed to this inconvenient and absurd extent; because to hold that any person who selects the Members of a Cabinet is to be so thoroughly responsible for every act which they may perform, to be so bound up with them, that if they commit an error in any respect he must justify and adopt it, and in consequence resign, it appears to me to be a principle which would be productive of the greatest possible inconvenience to the public, and which could not be carried out without rendering united government impossible.
I pass from this, to approach more nearly to the consideration of the question which is immediately before your Lordships. My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Duke near me into any consideration of the propriety 624 or impropriety of the annexation of the territory of Oude to the British dominion; but there are certain circumstances connected with the population of Oude which appear to me to have a most important bearing upon the consideration of the policy of this Proclamation. Your Lordships are aware that the principal part of the Indian army was recruited from the population of Oude; that they constituted the best part of our Sepoy force; that the greater part of those persons were hereditary landholders in the territory of Oude; that they generally left their wives and children, in their native country when they joined our ranks; that they served us with apparent fidelity, but at the same time with a constant reference to the end of all their labours and all their dangers—namely, when their service was past to return home, and to settle themselves again upon their native soil. Persons who had these local attachments and early associations connected with the soil of their country were likely also to feel an attachment to Native rule, even although it might not have been such as a European might desire; and there was nothing so likely, not merely to shock their feelings, but to irritate their minds, as to transfer the sovereignty of their country from the Native rulers to the British dominion. With these feelings, the act of annexation took place. Their country was forcibly taken away from its rulers, and transferred to British dominion. All their early attachments, all their local associations were rudely invaded, and they were driven into that revolt which has brought so much misery with it and desolated so many of the fairest provinces of India. They fell before the irresistible power of the British arms. They were subdued, and they lay humbled and prostrate before us. The principal question, then was, how we were to deal with a people thus circumstanced—how they were to be treated in a manner consistent with justice, humanity, and policy. Justice, unhappily, required a few terrible examples—a wholesome severity within certain limits. But with regard to the mass of the people, I am not afraid to confess that I think great allowance ought to have been made for men who were driven into revolt by some of the strongest motives which actuate the human breast. I believe that this opinion is shared by every member of the Cabinet. Under these circumstances, a Proclamation was brought to their attention, which Proclamation appeared to them 625 to violate every principle upon which they thought the Governor General ought to act. That Proclamation was, as my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control has described it, a Proclamation of wholesale, sweeping, indiscriminate confiscation. It may be easy to criticise the terms of this Proclamation, and to assume that it only applied to a limited extent, or to a limited number of persons. But let any one read the Proclamation, and see if any mistake can be made about it. It declares most distinctly that, with only five or six exceptions, the proprietary right in the soil, not merely of a portion, but of the whole of the province of Oude, is confiscated to the British Government, which will dispose of that right in such a manner as it may see fit. Can anybody doubt that to the person to whom it was addressed this will go forth as a measure of indiscriminate confiscation? Even your Lordships, with all your ingenuity, can put no other certain interpretation upon it than that I have stated; and could those persons have received any other impression than that they lay entirely at the mercy of the British Government—that they were not merely exposed to confiscation, but that the sentence had actually gone forth against them? The restraining clause adverted to by the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) shows, as my noble Friend (the late President of the Board of Control) distinctly explained, that the confiscation must have taken place, because it speaks of restitution. What, then, was to be done under these circumstances? Here was a Proclamation violating every principle upon which Her Majesty's Government were disposed to act with regard to the Natives of India. Were they to remain silent? Were they to allow this Proclamation to go forth, and patiently wait for explanations of which they had not the slightest intimation? I quite admit that if at the time the Proclamation was sent over, or shortly afterwards, Lord Canning had intimated that it required an interpreter—that some explanation was necessary, and that he would furnish it at the earliest opportunity—the Government would have been much to blame if they had not waited for such explanation before they sent out the despatch. But no suggestion of this kind being received from any quarter, it seemed necessary to the Government to prevent immediately the mischievous consequences which they believed would result from the issue of such a Proclama- 626 tion; and, accordingly, the despatch which has been so much criticised, but to which I subscribe in every part, was, on the 26th of April, sent out by my noble Friend. Now, the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) is extremely humorous on certain passages of that despatch. I can only assure him, however, that his light opinions on this subject are not shared in by the public. I believe it is the particular part of the despatch which he most severely criticised, which it has been said ought to be written in letters of gold. At the risk of exposing myself to the censure of the noble Duke, I will read those two passages again, and ask your Lordships whether they deserve the character he has affixed to them:—We desire to see British authority in India rest upon the willing obedience of a contented people. There cannot be contentment where there is general confiscation. Government cannot long be maintained by any force in a country where the whole people is rendered hostile by a sense of wrong; and if it were possible so to maintain it, it would not be a consummation to be desired.These are the sentiments which actuated the Government in the despatch so severely criticised or ridiculed by the noble Duke. But, my Lords, I think a fallacy has run through the whole of the discussion this evening. The Resolutions condemn the publication of this despatch. But my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) has generously, and in the most manly and straightforward manner, assumed the whole blame of that publication. Surely, then, if the Government are exonerated from the publication, common sense, and fairness, and justice, require that the Government, as a Government, should be exonerated from responsibility. If this is so, then it must be assumed that they did not intend to publish the document, and that it was to be a secret despatch. Yet the whole argument of my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has turned upon the mischief which would arise from its publication in India in weakening the authority of the Governor General; whereas, if it were intended as a secret despatch, it was not open to criticism at all. Of course some of your Lordships, if the duty had devolved upon you, might have written the letter with a great deal more mildness and forbearance. Many who did not feel the danger of this Proclamation so strongly as my noble Friend might have expressed themselves in more guarded language. But my noble Friend felt the necessity of immediate action, and he expressed himself in the manly 627 and honest manner which characterizes him. I have admitted that the Government would have been to blame if, expecting any explanation from Lord Canning, they had not paused until they had ascertained his real intentions with regard to the Proclamation; and the noble Earl who has proposed this Motion seems to consider that the only fault in the publication is that it was premature. But the whole world was not in ignorance as to the intentions of the Governor General in regard to the explanation he proposed to send. There was one individual, at least, in this country who had received notice of his Lordship's intention to furnish such an explanation, but who most unhappily did not think it part of his duty to communicate it to the Government. My noble Friend the Foreign Secretary made the other evening a graceful acknowledgment of the readiness of the noble Earl near me (the Earl of Clarendon) in communicating any public letters received by him after his retirement from office. My Lords, this is not an Act which calls for gratitude, but it is, I apprehend, the duty of a Minister to present to his successor all the information which he thus receives in connection with his department. The conduct of Mr. Vernon Smith, however, to my noble Friend (his successor at the Board of Control) certainly presents a remarkable contrast to what seems to be the practice in these cases. A noble Marquess not now in his place (the Marquess of Lansdowne) explained to your Lordships the circumstances under which the communication of this important passage in the letter may have escaped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Making every sort of allowance, however, for the domestic affairs in which he was engaged, it appears that the right hon. Gentleman actually communicated with Lord Palmerston as to the propriety of transmitting this particular passage to the President of the Board of Control. [Earl GRANVILLE here interposed an observation.] The noble Earl says that the right hon. Gentleman stated nothing of the kind.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am quite content with "something of the kind." Just let us see what is the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman. He had a letter which contained these words:— 628I intend to issue a proclamation to the talookdars and great landowners of Oude, which will reach you by the mail. I did hope to have accompanied it with a full explanatory despatch, but more urgent business has prevented my doing so from hour to hour.And then, it appears, he consulted Lord Palmerston, or "something of the kind," as to the propriety of communicating this passage to my noble Friend. See, then, the situation in which he places himself. It was not through forgetfulness or inadvertence that he failed to communicate it, but through deliberate purpose and intention. He took counsel on the subject—[Earl GRANVILLE: "No, no!"] At any rate the right hon. Gentleman took his own counsel; he consulted himself and he considered it not at all necessary to communicate this passage to his successor in office. Now, I cannot help thinking that even the noble Lords near me must feel that in acting thus the right hon. Gentleman failed in his duty. What, then, was the situation in which my noble Friend was placed? That despatch was not sent to Lord Canning until the 26th of April. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith) had received the letter eight days before; he had therefore ample time for bringing it under the notice of my noble Friend; and, no doubt, had my noble Friend heard that any explanation was expected from Lord Canning, he would have withheld his despatch. Who, then, is answerable for the sending out of that despatch? My noble Friend, who objected to the Proclamation, who thought it was dangerous, who had no idea that any explanation of it was to be given, and who therefore sent out his despatch to arrest the progress of the mischief which he anticipated; or the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith), who might have prevented all the difficulty which has ensued by a timely communication of the important fact that an explanation would be furnished, for such a statement would undoubtedly have prevented the despatch being sent out? What, then, is the situation of your Lordships under these circumstances, when you are called upon to decide, not whether the publication of the despatch is to be disapproved, but whether its premature publication by Her Majesty's Ministers is a matter which you ought to reprobate? Your Lordships have it before you distinctly that Her Majesty's Government were not as a body responsible for such publication. Is it not, then, a most surprising thing that this distinguished as- 629 sembly should be debating during a whole night a matter which has been conceded by the regret expressed by my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) that the despatch has been published? Are we not placed in a most extraordinary position by the Resolutions of my noble Friend, which call upon your Lordships to consider whether you will condemn a supposed act of Her Majesty's Government which is now admitted on all hands not to have been an act of that Government? I feel, my Lords, that a most unfortunate course has been adopted in this instance. I had hoped, as I have already said, that after the manly delaration of my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control, the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) would have felt it his duty, not merely to himself but to your Lordships, to abstain from pressing his Resolutions. I believe this discussion is wholly unnecessary, and I think the best mode of meeting the Motion is by moving the Previous Question.
§ Previous Question moved.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
said, he entertained the highest opinion of the ability and he might add the loyalty of his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor), but he must say he thought seine of the sentiments he had expressed would have come with an ill grace from any of their Lordships, and that they were peculiarly inappropriate, coming from one occupying so high and distinguished a position. His noble and learned Friend had complained that the debate had taken a course which was not in strict conformity with the terms of the Resolutions; but no one had departed more flagrantly from the question actually before the House than his noble and learned Friend himself. He regretted to say—but truth compelled him to do so—that the speech of his noble and learned Friend seemed to be a covert defence of the rebel army of Oude. It was well known that one half of our Sepoy army have been enlisted in Oude, and it was those men whom—whether intentionally or net he could not say—his noble and learned Friend had been justifying. He must be allowed to say that such sentiments came with peculiarly ill-grace from one who filled with so much ability the high and important position occupied by his noble and learned Friend. His noble and learned Friend complained that the Motion was unnecessary, because the only delinquent had made himself a voluntary sacrifice, and the rest 630 of Her Majesty's Government were not responsible for what had been done. He (Lord Cranworth) did not mean to enter into any abstract discussion as to whether cases might not occur in which faults committed by a single member of a Government might be sufficiently atoned for by the sacrifice of such an individual, because he thought it was clear that in this instance the act was not that of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) alone, but the act of the whole Government. In establishing that point he must claim the right to allude somewhat in detail to what had taken place in the course of the last three weeks in the other House. He claimed that right because, although he was not in general entitled to refer to debates in the other House, yet if Her Majesty's Government chose to make use of the other House as the place in which the organ of the party announced their policy, he maintained that there was no rule which would prevent him from alluding to what took place there. He would undertake to show that the noble Earl was not the person who was solely, or even, as he thought, mainly responsible for what had been done. On the 23rd of April—the Friday intervening between the 19th of April, when the despatch was written, and the 26th of April, when it was sent off—a number of questions were put to the leader of Her Majesty's Government in the House of Commons on the Motion that the House should adjourn to the following Monday. An hon. Member made some inquiries with reference to the instructions to be sent to Lord Canning in reference to the treatment of the mutineers, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that instructions had already been sent out, or were prepared and were ready to be sent out, to the Governor General, recommending him to act with justice, but at the same time with elemency and moderation. After some discussion had taken place upon other matters his right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Control (Mr. Vernon Smith) rose and said he could not allow the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pass without saying that in the instructions sent out to Lord Canning Her Majesty's Government had not directed him to do anything which he would not do without such instructions, for that the noble Lord had been directed to act upon principles of clemency and toleration so far as was consistent with the demands of justice. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Vernon Smith) complained of obser- 631 vations derogatory to Lord Canning which had been made in the House of Commons, referring, as he (Lord Cranworth) supposed, to something that had fallen from the First Lord of the Admiralty. Upon that the First Lord of the Admiralty said that any condemnation on his part of Lord Canning had been merely hypothetical, and there the matter dropped. Subsequently, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that, although it was true that such instructions had been sent out to Lord Canning, they implied no censure whatsoever upon the noble Lord. This circumstance proved that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was fully alive to the grave impropriety of allowing Mr. Vernon Smith's suggestion that a censure has been cast upon Lord Canning to go uncontradicted. He felt how improper it would be to state publicly that any such censure had been expressed. On Thursday last, in reply to a question, the Secretary to the Board of Control said the despatch should be produced; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, knowing what the contents of that despatch were, not only said that it should be produced, but, in reply to a question as to its nature, stated that it was a despatch which disapproved Lord Canning's policy "in every sense." [A noble LORD interposed a remark]. He (Lord Cranworth) only spoke on the authority of the ordinary sources of information. It had been so stated in all the public journals. The right hon. Gentleman thus made himself a party to a statement which rendered the production of the despatch inevitable. But he (Lord Cranworth) was prepared further to express his opinion that the despatch was one which nothing would justify. He would assume, for the sake of argument, that the annexation of Oude was a most disastrous and unjust act, and that Lord Canning's Proclamation was in every respect unjustifiable. But what was the course which the Government should pursue in that case to an officer removed by the distance of half the globe? If they disapproved of his policy but continued him in office they might have sent out a remonstrance to him, written in such a tone that one gentleman might receive from another; or if they thought that he indicated a policy disastrous to the interests of the country, they might have required his recall. But there was one course never open to any Cabinet, acting with any regard to their own honour or to the honour of those who served under them, and that was to send out a despatch 632 couched in words which he disliked to call insulting, though that word was nearest the truth, but which made it difficult for the public officer abroad to decide which he should allow to prevail—his own sense of personal honour, or his sense of public duty. The string of truisms which was sent out was as insulting as the rest—such as "we desire to see the British authority in India rest upon the willing obedience of a contented people;" for the only rations explanation of such a paragraph was that the Government did not think that Lord Canning thought so; and when the despatch said "there cannot be contentment where there is general confiscation," it was as much as an assertion to the effect that Lord Canning was acting in such a way as to create a general discontentment. The noble Earl at the head of the Government said the other night that the despatch merely expressed the anxious hope of the Government that, in carrying into effect the doctrines put forth in the Proclamation, Lord Canning would find it proper to mitigate their severity. If such had been the tone and temper of the despatch it would have been perfectly fair to make such a communication, if they so thought fit, to Lord Canning; but he thought it had been established that the leader at least of the House of Commons was an accessary to the publication of the despatch, and that all the Government adopted the publication the next day—as, indeed, they could not then help doing, for concealment after what had occurred would have been worse than publication. The complicity, therefore, of the whole Cabinet was established in acts which nothing could justify—namely, both in the publication and the writing of the despatch. With respect to the Proclamation he maintained that their Lordships had not before them all the data on which to form an opinion, though he did not believe that a correct interpretation had been put upon the Proclamation. It was, however, unfair to Lord Canning to say that it confiscated all the property of the people of Oude. The Proclamation stated that the first care of the Governor General would be to reward those who have been steadfast in their allegiance, and, therefore, he declared that six persons were henceforth the sole hereditary proprietors of the lands which they held when Oude came under British rule. That might not mean that they were to be the only hereditary proprietors, but merely that their tenure was to be absolute or allodial, as contradistinguished 633 from feudal. The Governor General went on to say that a proportionate measure of reward and honour, according to their deserts, would be conferred upon others in whose favour like claims might be established; and that, with the foregoing exceptions, which included both the classes mentioned, the proprietary right in the soil of the province would be confiscated to the British Government. He firmly believed that this much-abused Proclamation would turn out to be a wise and just and politic proceeding, and that it was what might be termed the suzerainty that was attacked and not the actual possession. These talookdars were a sort of feudal chiefs who held their territories, some by gift from the Crown, but the greater number by usurpation. Each of them kept from 3000 to 4000 armed followers, and wasted the land at their pleasure. It was the right of these men, and these only, that Lord Canning's Proclamation attacked. The noble Earl in his despatch assumed that the property of the great mass of the community was confiscated; but that was an error, all that was stated being that those who resisted the Government should be put down with a strong arm, while those who had remained faithful should have their land, and the rest should be dealt with as justice and policy required.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
expressed his opinion that this was a most unfair and uncalled-for Motion, and not-withstanding all the disclaimers of the other side of the House, he felt it originated entirely in party feeling. He conceived that the noble and learned Lord who lost spoke had found what in vulgar language was called a mare's nest, for in referring to what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer he had mixed up two despatches, written on two different occasions. The Resolutions now before the House condemned the Government for only one thing, and that was the premature publication of the despatch; but, in the speeches of the noble Lords opposite there was expressed a distinct approval of the Proclamation itself, which announced the policy of confiscation. If noble Lords opposite were of that opinion, why did they not call upon the House distinctly to approve the policy of the Proclamation and condemn that of the despatch? Instead of taking that straight forward course they asked their Lordships to blame the Government for an act of which the late President of the Board of 634 Control had assumed the entire responsibility. He was glad, however, that they had gone into the question of policy, for he admitted that the Government were responsible for the principles laid down in the despatch, and he was ready to defend those principles. As to the interpretation of the Proclamation, any one who understood English must come to the conclusion that the confiscation extended to the whole soil of the province of Oude, and was directed pee inst the entire people. That interpretation was borne out by the letter of Mr. Edmonstone to the Chief Commissioner, from which it appeared that some of the rebels who submitted themselves at once were to be disarmed and sent to their homes, but were to be told that their lands could not be restored. It was a significant fact that in those parts of India where the least interference had taken place with the proprietary rights of the people—in Bengal Proper, for example, in Scinde, and in the Punjab—there had been little or no disturbance of the peace. Wholesale confiscation was unknown in modern history. The rebellions in Poland and Hungary were not followed by confiscation of property, nor did those in Scotland entail any such consequence except to a few of the leaders. He believed it was the memory of the confiscations in Ireland which made it so difficult to attach the Irish people to the British Crown. He could not sit down without saying one word with respect to the treatment which the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) had received from noble Lords opposite. He had been made the subject of all sorts of jibes and sneering observations. Noble Lords seemed to forget who it was of whom they were speaking, and what important service he had performed in India. He would tell them, in 1842 Lord Auckland, who had been appointed Governor General by a Liberal Ministry, left India a prey to danger and disturbance; the bones of our soldiers were whitening in the Koord Cabul Pass; one portion of our army was besieged in Jellalabad, another detachment had been put to the sword at the gates of Ghusnee, and Nott was retiring from Candahar; such was the position of affairs when his noble Friend assumed the Government of our Indian empire. How did he leave it? He avenged the slaughter of our army, replaced and re-established our frontiers, in one short campaign added to our empire one of its most noble and fairest provinces, and left India with peace at home 635 and security abroad. This was the man whose opinion upon Indian subjects noble Lords opposite had treated with so little respect, but who had shown by his acts how thoroughly he understood our position in India and the policy which we must pursue in order to maintain and preserve it.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down commenced his speech by characterizing this as a merely party Motion. I think that, considering the manner in which it was brought forward by my noble Friend near me, and considering the character which he bears in this House and in the country, that accusation might well have been spared. For myself, as a supporter of the Motion, I must disclaim being actuated by any party motives. Since the Whig party was virtually dissolved in the year 1852, I have sedulously kept myself free from all party ties. I was no partisan of the late Administration. I never professed a confidence which I found it impossible to place in them. I disapproved their policy upon many most important subjects, and your Lordships can bear witness that when I did so I did not shrink from plainly stating my opinions. I was glad to support them whenever I could conscientiously do so; but when I thought them wrong, I never in any instance failed to express the opinions which I entertained. When that Administration fell, and was succeeded by that of the noble Earl opposite, I was so far from having any feeling of opposition to the new Government that my earnest desire was that they might be able to conduct the affairs of the country with credit to themselves and with advantage to the public. I believe that frequent changes of Government are attended with great national evils, and therefore it was my earnest desire that they should so conduct affairs that it might be in my power to give them an independent support. These were my feelings with respect to the party generally; and most certainly I was very far indeed front having any hostile feeling towards the noble Earl whose conduct is the subject of this discussion. I differed widely from the views of that noble Earl on some points, and therefore it was natural that I should expect that it would happen to me to disapprove the judgment which he might form upon various matters; but at the same time I admired the noble Earl's talents, I had a high opinion of his knowledge of the affairs of India, and I admired even more than his talent 636 the sincere desire to promote the public advantage and the superiority to all personal and selfish considerations for which I gave him credit. These were my feelings; and, therefore, when I was last week informed of what had taken place in the House of Commons, I felt deep regret, not only from my apprehensions as to what might be the consequences in India of these proceedings, but also because I foresaw, with concern, what must be their effect upon the stability of the Government. I say the effect which I foresaw these disclosures must have upon the stability of the Government, because, from the first moment that I heard of the declaration which had been made in the other House of Parliament, it seemed to me to be absolutely impossible that the matter should be allowed to rest where it was; and that, however inconvenient it might be to risk another change of Government, still greater evils would ensue if the two Houses of Parliament should be content to pass by without notice what had taken place. What I object to, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, is the publication—the premature publication—of this despatch. The noble Earl who has just sat down has asked why do not we raise a larger issue—why have not my noble Friends near me called upon the House to approve the Proclamation or to disapprove the despatch? For this very simple reason—We are not in possession of information which will enable me at least to form any decided judgment on these points. If the Proclamation were to be understood in the sense which the noble Earl has put upon it—if it were indeed the announcement of a general confiscation of the lands of a great mass of the population of Oude, I should say with the noble Earl that a policy like that would deserve serious reprobation; and, if I believed that that was the effect of the Proclamation, my disapprobation of the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government would be, not that they had censured such a Proclamation, but that, in sending out a censure of such a measure, they had not also recalled the Governor General. But, my Lords, after all that has taken place, I totally disbelieve that that is the proper interpretation of the Proclamation. We are told that it is plain English, and that it says as distinctly as possible that it confiscates the proprietary right of these persons; and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, applying, as is very natural to a person of his 637 great legal knowledge, English notions of landed property to Indian affairs, has, as it appears to me, fallen into a great error. I profess very little acquaintance with India. It is a branch of our policy to which, occupied with other matters, I have hitherto paid comparatively little attention; but I do find that men of the greatest talents and of the greatest experience in Indian matters explain this Proclamation in a very different sense. If I understand them, what they say is, that what we are used to call the proprietary right to the soil rests, in India, universally in the Government, that the Government is the general landowner, and under the Government the land is held by the occupiers and cultivators. Now, it has happened in many parts of India, and particularly, I believe, in Oude, that these proprietary rights of the Government or of the Crown have been partly given to and partly usurped by various persons; and these persons stand towards the cultivators in the position generally occupied by the Crown; they receive from them a sort of rent or tribute, and either pay a small proportion to the Government or retain the whole for themselves. In some cases this right has been given as a reward for past services; in others as a payment for services which have still to be performed; and in many, I believe, it has been usurped. This right is held by a comparatively small number of persons, and in Oude it is said that it has been usurped by men who grossly abuse it, and heavily oppress the great mass of the population; they withdraw from the Government the revenue on which it depends for its existence, and they grind the poor cultivator in the dust. It is this right, held by a few persons, and which upon general considerations of policy it would have been desirable to get rid of, in order to make a more equitable settlement between these middle men, if I may call them so, and the cultivators—it is this right and this right only, with which Lord Canning, according to this view of the subject, proposes to deal. I do not venture to assert that this is the correct view of the measure of Lord Canning, but I do say that it is the view taken of it by some very high Indian authorities, and which seems to derive at least an appearance of being right from the very terms of the Proclamation. The Proclamation speaks of bringing the persons to whom it applies, and who should fail to merit the indulgence of the Government, to 638 reside at Lucknow; and it is utterly impossible to suppose that the class of proprietors to whom this measure is to be applied, can be the great mass of the occupiers of the soil—the removal of so numerous a body to the capital would obviously be impracticable. The paragraph, then, seems clearly to refer to a comparatively small number of persons. But I do not venture to pronounce any opinion on this subject. I await Lord Canning's explanation, which, as the Resolution states, has not yet been received. The late President of the Board of Control has severely censured Lord Canning for not sending that explanation. Now, knowing as we do, how much the Governor General's time has been occupied, and how much he has been oppressed by the toils and anxieties of his position at such a crisis—believing, as all who are competent to judge of Indian affairs have long done, that the Government of India must mainly be carried on in that country, and that it is not the province of the home authorities to interfere constantly and vexatiously with the discretion of their chief representative—I think the Governor General, as long as he is permitted to hold his high and responsible office, is entitled to a generous confidence, and ought to be supported in carrying out the measures which he believes to be best. Until the reverse is proved, the Government are bound to assume that his measures are right. This being so, I say you ought to be in no hurry for an explanation of the grounds on which he has acted. But you have not received from Lord Canning the Proclamation in the form in which it was finally issued; and until that is the case, every man with the most ordinary acquaintance with the mode of transacting official business knows that you have no right to expect a full explanation from him. When I had the honour to hold the seals of the Colonial Office, I often received an intimation from a Governor that he proposed to take such and such measures. These I invariably treated as the mere expression of intentions, still liable to be changed; and I never looked for a full explanation of the views of a colonial Governor until I had been officially informed that the measures, which it was his duty to explain, had been actually adopted. Much has been made of the letter from Lord Canning to Mr. Vernon Smith. I do not deny that this letter ought to have been communicated by that gentleman to his successor, but far more has been made 639 of this omission than it deserves. There was a merely casual reference to the Proclamation in that letter; and, wholly irrespective of that communication, Her Majesty's Government were bound to expect that when they received the Proclamation as finally issued, it would be accompanied by a complete explanation of the grounds on which it was based. But I do not find fault with the Government for writing, with their then information, a despatch, or even a severe despatch. Far from it. I certainly take a different view from that of the noble Earl of the effect of this Proclamation; but I admit that, with his view of that document, it was not only his right, but his duty, at once, without waiting for an explanation, to write to Lord Canning conveying his opinion of what ought to be done. I think, indeed, that he should have adopted a different tone. I cannot approve the unqualified manner in which he assumed that the Governor General was wrong. The principles of the most ordinary justice, I should have thought, would have led him to treat the matter as one on which more information was required, and might be expected. But, be that as it may, I do not join in condemning the noble Earl for writing a despatch, even in the tone which he thought proper. The latter part of the despatch I think perfectly right and proper. He does not direct Lord Canning to recall his Proclamation, but tells him to act upon it in a certain spirit—a spirit which I entirely approve, and one perfectly consistent, I believe, with the Governor General's own feelings. But that which I disapprove, and which I think this House is bound to disapprove, unless it wishes to see the greatest mischief attend the future government of India, is that the noble Earl should unhappily have deemed it consistent with his duty to lay that despatch before Parliament. It is in my mind impossible to exaggerate the evils that must result from that proceeding. But my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has already dealt with this point in a manner which leaves nothing to be added by me. There is only one point further. When I say I do not condemn the writing the despatch, there is one part of the despatch which ought never to have been written. I allude to the passage relating to the annexation of Oude. I do not pretend to have studied with sufficient care the difficult question of the annexation of Oude; but I am bound to confess that, as far as I am 640 able to form an opinion from what I knew, the leaning of my judgment is unfavourable to the policy of that measure. But be that policy right or wrong, I concur with my noble Friend in saying that it was a dereliction of duty on the part of the Ministers of the Crown, with the high authority they possess, to brand in the face of Europe and of Asia the previous Government of their Royal Mistress with the stain of treachery and injustice. Anxious as I am for the honour of the country, I say the language in which that despatch is couched with regard to the annexation of Oude is utterly unjustifiable even were the facts as they are stated. I am persuaded, though the policy of that step may not, on the whole, have been such as I can approve, that the terms of censure applied to it in this document are as undeserved as, even if they had been deserved, they would have been unfitting as proceeding from the present ministers of the Crown. The publication of this despatch, before they received the explanation of Lord Canning was, then, the main fault committed by Her Majesty's Government. And it is a fault of which Parliament is bound to take serious notice. Look at the effect likely to be produced both in India and in Europe if we allow it to go forth that this despatch is published by Her Majesty's Government with the approval—or rather without the marked disapproval—of the British Parliament. The noble and learned Lord on the woolsack tells us that we ought not to express our disapprobation of the premature publication "by Her Majesty's Ministers." He says it is admitted that it was not published by "Her Majesty's Ministers," and that, after the chivalrous and self-devoted declaration of the noble Earl opposite, we have no right to fix the responsibility for this upon the whole Government. Now, my noble Friend who made the Motion has explained, in a manner which admits of no reply, the absolute necessity of treating Cabinets as a whole. They must be jointly responsible for the acts of the entire Government. If the contrary principle is once established, it is impossible to say what evil might result. We should have divided Governments, Ministers intriguing against each other, and all those mischiefs known to have existed in old times. There would be an end to everything like firm and settled Governments in the country. The noble and learned Lord then went on to appeal from what he called the metaphysics of my noble Friend 641 to Common sense, which pointed out that a Government could not be held responsible for the acts of a single colleague done without their knowlepge. Well, my Lords, I agree with the principle that a Government cannot be held responsible for the acts of a colleague of which they are unaware and of which they disapprove; but at the same time that rule is liable to this qualification, that if a Government do not mean to be responsible for the acts of a colleague, of which they were unaware, they must disavow those acts at the very first opportunity which offers itself, after they become acquainted with them. Their disapprobation must be signified to their colleague, not after the matter has become the subject of a Parliamentary discussion, but before; and I say that, after what passed in Parliament upon Thursday and Friday last, I cannot admit that the principle laid down by the noble and learned Lord is applicable to the present case. I say that by what took place then, the Government adopted the act of their colleague, and made themselves responsible for it. I go further still, my Lords, and I say that to draw any distinction between the noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control, and the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Government in the other House of Parliament is absolutely impossible. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Control (Mr. H. Baillie) merely said that the despatch should be produced; and if the matter had ended there, no great mischief would have been done, for upon reconsideration by the Cabinet, it might have been determined that the promise was a rash one, and an appeal might have been made to Parliament not to press for its production, on the ground of its being injurious to the public service. That appeal would, I have no doubt, been acceded to, and no mischief would have occurred. Such an appeal, however, was rendered absolutely impossible by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who expressed his disapproval of the Proclamation of Lord Canning in terms so strong that the production of the despatch from that moment became a matter of necessity. The mischief was done by the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for after it was made it became inevitable that the friends of Lord Canning would require to know in what terms the censure was conveyed to him. It appears to me, for these reasons, that your Lordships ought to adopt the Resolutions of my noble 642 Friend, and I, for one, shall give them my cordial support. I am more surprised, my Lords, than I can say at the manner in which these Resolutions have been met. I believe that in our Parliamentary history this is the first occasion upon which a Government has met a vote of censure by the Previous Question. In some cases it has been met by a direct negative, and in old times time method of meeting a vote of censure was by an Amendment converting the vote into one of approval; but I believe that there is no one instance in which a Government has been satisfied with the Previous Question. Nay, more, I may remind your Lordships that on different occasions the Previous Question has been moved by independent Members who were unwilling to agree to a direct vote of censure, but who have thought that the Government had rendered itself open to an indirect censure; and, indeed, the Previous Question has always been taken by a Government to imply a censure, and has been invariably resisted; and I think that to move the Previous Question on an occasion like the present is the most extraordinary course which could have been adopted.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, he would have been content to give a silent vote upon the question had it not been that he stood in a somewhat different position from many of their Lordships; for, having been engaged in other duties during the last ten days, he had not been present at any of the discussions which had taken place on this subject. He could assure noble Lords opposite that he had come up from the country that day with every disposition and anxiety to avoid giving a vote hostile to Her Majesty's Government, if he could conscientiously do so; because, like his noble Friend who spoke last, he had no desire to remove the present Government from office, or to reinstate that Administration which had lately occupied the Treasury bench. He deprecated constant changes of Government, and he had been as anxious to uphold, or at any rate not be compelled to oppose, the Government of his noble Friend opposite as he had ever been, to give a general support to the Ministry which preceded it. He did not agree with his noble Friend who spoke last in his entire approval of the form of that Motion, for he considered that the issue raised was too narrow a one, and it appeared to him at first sight to be framed to catch votes rather than to raise the real and substantial issue. He did not care about party 643 struggles in that House, for he had no concern with either one party or the other; but he had a much more important concern, and that was that the issue of that debate and of the struggle which was about to take place might not conduce to the injury of our Indian empire. He did not know what was likely to be the result of the division either in that or in the other House of Parliament; but, after what had passed, he thought that, if the Resolutions of his noble Friend were defeated by moving the Previous Question, it would produce an impression among the people of India that Parliament was at best indifferent upon the subject; and he therefore, for one, was not prepared to adopt that course. The noble Earl the Vice President of the Board of Trade (the Earl of Donoughmore) and the noble Earl the Under Secretary to the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon) had adopted the declaration which had been made by the noble Earl lately the President of the Board of Control—that the despatch was not written merely for the guidance of the Governor General, and to explain to him the views of the Government, but that it might serve as an antidote to the Proclamation of Lord Canning. Now, that could only mean that the noble Earl intended from the first that the despatch should be published and made known to the whole population of India. And he should have imagined—although now he was bound to accept the denial of Ministers upon the subject—that that motive must have been made known to his colleagues when the noble Earl explained his views and intentions to the Cabinet. Passing that by, however, he found that the two noble Earls to whom he had referred had now, to a great extent, confirmed the view of the noble Earl; for the noble Earl the Under Secretary for the Colonies distinctly said that he looked upon the despatch as a message of peace to the people of India, and in that sense he approved of it Now, how could the despatch be a message of peace to the people of India, if it were to remain shut up in one of the Governor General's red boxes? This, then, was the state of the debate when the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack rose and moved the Previous Question. The noble and learned Lord said that the Government disapproved the publication of the despatch, and he expressed, in distinct terms, his own disapproval of the despatch under existing circumstances as now developed; for, he added 644 that, if Mr. Vernon Smith had made known the letter which he received from Lord Canning, all the mischief would have been avoided. Under those circumstances, instead of moving the Previous Question, surely the noble and learned Lord ought to support the Resolutions, even if they contained a condemnation of the despatch itself, as well as of its publication. The noble Earl, the late President of the Board of Control, challenged those who disapproved the policy of the Government to bring forward a Resolution approving the Proclamation of Lord Canning. In the present state of information such a step would be absurd; but looking to the antecedents of Lord Canning, he had a right to expect that that noble Lord would be able to justify the Proclamation. The noble Earl the Vice President of the Board of Trade says, that any person who understood common English could only put one interpretation on the Proclamation. The noble Earl might be a very good judge of common English, but he apprehended that he was not a very good judge of the laws respecting the tenure of land in India. At any rate, he could assure him that several who had passed many of their years in India, and who were thoroughly conversant with Indian concerns, took a totally different view of the effect of the Proclamation. They said that it did not extend to the whole, but merely to a very small portion of the population of Oude; that it was a confiscation only of the territorial powers and privileges of what we might call in European language the great vassals, or tenants in capite, and that it did not affect the small proprietors and tillers of the soil of that country. This view might be wrong; but at present their Lordships ought not to be called upon to approve the Proclamation; nor did he think that they were entitled, on the other hand, to condemn it; but he did think that there was nothing to justify a despatch couched in such language, and that the publication of it was an offence against the empire as well as a public servant; and his vote in favour of the Motion would be given in the conscientious belief that it would somewhat lessen the mischief that he believed would be done by this despatch. And now he hoped he might be allowed to say one word on behalf of an absent friend, with whom he had been on terms of the closest intimacy for a great number of years, and who had, he believed, been as, sailed as cruelly as any man who had ever 645 served his country in circumstances of the greatest difficulty. If the censures upon the Governor General were deserved, notwithstanding his affection for his friend, he would bet stand up in his defence; but it was merely Upon hypothetical grounds that their Lordships were asked to condemn him; and therefore !et them recollect what his conduct had been, and how far they were entitled to anticipate that he had acted in the manner that had been charged against him. Lord Canning's conduct had not only been firm and decisive, but it had been characterised by other qualities equally rare and valuable. One of the greatest aggravations of his condition at the beginning of the mutiny was, that he was unsupported by the English population around him. Lord Canning was not driven to acts of undue severity by their threats, nor to acts of un-seemly concession by their fears. There were hours of great peril, in which fierce demands for blood surrounded him on every side; and what course did he take? He ventured in the face of those demands to speak of clemency. There were hours of despair at Calcutta, but he did not listen to the timid counsels of those around him. So far as we know at this moment, it was owing to Lord Canning that this miserable war had been confined within its present limits, wide as those limits unfortunately are, and had not become that most fatal and horrible of all wars—a war of religion and race. Under these circumstances he thought that the arm of the Governor General should be strengthened, and that it should not go forth that the Parliament of this country approved the rebellion in India or thought that the people of Oude were waging a legitimate war. The Resolutions proposed by the noble Earl might conduce to this result, and should have his support.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I am not disposed to complain of the tone or language either of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) or of the noble Duke who last addressed your Lordships, and I readily and freely admit that neither the noble Earl nor the noble Duke is actuated in the slightest degree by party feeling on this question. I believe that no one in this House is so free from any peculiar bias or party feeling as are the noble Earl and the noble Puke. Least of all do I feel disposed to complain of the closing observation of the noble Duke, in which, with a warmth of feeling which does him credit, he vindicated (as he supposed it 646 was necessary) the character of his absent friend. For my part, in endeavouring to deal with this question, I can assure the noble Duke and the numerous friends of Lord Canning,—and he has many on both sides of the House,—that nothing is further from my desire than to utter even a single expression against the character or conduct of that noble Lord, with the single exception of the Oude Proclamation, Lord Canning in his administration of Indian affairs, placed, as he was, in circumstances of great difficulty, has exhibited a great amount of firmness, and on former occasions a most laudable spirit of humanity, for which I give him infinite credit in the position in which he found himself. But, remembering this, the greater is my regret to find that a man who has acted on such principles has been led to issue what I consider so unfortunate and ill-timed a Proclamation. But while I entirely acquit the noble Earl and the noble Duke of any political or party motives, I cannot carry my complaisance so far as to assume that this question has been debated and will be decided purely and simply on its merits without reference to political or party considerations, It is true the noble Earl who opened this discussion announced that he came forward as one who stood in a sort of neutral position, and that no man could suspect him of party bias. "My sympathies," said the noble Earl, "are always on the side of those who sit on the opposite benches." Now, I do not dispute that his sympathies may be on this side, but I must say that his votes are more frequently given on the other. And when the noble Earl declares himself free from all party feeling, I cannot help having it suggested to my mind that if these Resolutions were to be proposed by a person uninfluenced in any way, it might have been better had they been brought forward by one not so closely connected with the noble Lord who was at the head of the late Administration. I do not know what were the noble Earl's motives when he gave this notice on Monday last. I don't know whether he attended it, but I presume he had communciated to him the result of that Sunday meeting which I am told was not entirely for religious purposes. I mention it merely as a singular coincidence. On Sunday last a meeting was held at the house of the noble Lord who was at the head of the late Government, at which it is supposed (and I believe on very good authority) that the subject of 647 this Motion was discussed; and it does so happen that the noble Earl, intimately and closely connected with the noble Viscount, gives on Monday in this House notice of his intention to submit a Resolution to a similar purport. Now, whether or not the noble Earl is so entirely uninfluenced as he is desirous of being considered, I must say this House is very greatly changed from what I ever knew it before if the attendance I see here on both sides does not indicate some little idea that a party question is at stake. If, however, 1 ever doubted whether any political or party question was involved, I should have been undeceived altogether by the tone of this debate, the whole tendency of which has been to convert the very simple and very innocent Motion of the noble Earl into one of censure upon the Government. This is put forward broadly, distinctly, clearly; and after that to tell me this is no political or party question passes even my belief.
My Lords, two subjects have been mixed up in this debate which ought to be kept separate. The one is the merits of the original Proclamation and of the secret despatch; and the other is the subsequent publication of that despatch, and the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government with regard to it. These are two perfectly distinct and separate questions. As to the substance of my noble Friend's despatch, I adopt it—I adhere to it—I stand by it. With regard to the publication of that despatch, I had no knowledge of it, I was not consulted about it, and I regret the fact.
To begin, then, with the Proclamation of the Governor General and my noble Friend's comments upon it. There is one thing which has given me unfeigned satisfaction in the course of this discussion. Several most valuable admissions have been made on the other side of the House. Setting apart certain expressions used by my noble Friend, the noble Earl who opened this discussion said he should not find much fault with this despatch had it been addressed to Lord Canning as a secret despatch for the purpose of guidance or even of reproof. Subsequently we have had more valuable admissions still; for I believe the noble Earl (Earl Grey) said that if the Proclamation was susceptible of the interpretation given to it by my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) no terms of censure could be too severe for it. This much, then, will at all events, result from the discussion. It will show that, setting 648 aside the meaning of Lord Canning's Proclamation, the unanimous opinion of this House is that wholesale confiscation in Oude would be an unjustifiable course of proceeding, and that clemency to the vanquished ought to be the rule adopted. That is the unanimous opinion expressed. Noble Lords on the other side of the House put themselves prominently forward to proclaim this doctrine, and declare that that is Lord Canning's meaning. The noble Earl who introduced the Motion said he was convinced that the Governor General of India did not mean what he was supposed to mean. With all my heart and soul do I desire it may turn out that that is so. Your Lordships are to recollect, however, that the despatch upon which so much criticism has been bestowed was one written by my noble Friend, and fully adopted by the Government, upon the receipt of a Proclamation which appeared to us to convey in no doubtful terms a doctrine very contrary to that which it is now declared to contain. We received that Proclamation. My noble Friend had, a month previously to its arrival, laid down in a despatch to Lord Canning what were his own views and the views of the Government as to the course which ought to be pursued. That despatch was dated the 24th of March, under the belief that before that time the city of Lucknow would be evacauated by the rebels, and that no considerable body would remain in arms against us throughout the country; and it proceeds to intimate the policy which the Government thought it desirable should be adopted:—To us it appears that, whenever open resistance shall have ceased, it would be prudent, in awarding punishment, rather to follow the practice which prevails after the conquest of a country which has defended itself to the last by desperate war, than that which may perhaps be lawfully adopted after the suppression of mutiny and rebellion,—such acts always being exempted from forgiveness or mitigation of punishment as have exceeded the licence of legitimate hostilities.After recommending a general disarmament, and as far as possible a general amnesty, it declares that "in every amnestied district the ordinary administration of the law should as soon as possible be restored." In order to show the animus of my noble Friend towards Lord Canning I beg your Lordships' attention to this passage:In carrying these views into execution you may meet with obstruction from those who, maddened by the scenes they have witnessed, 649 may desire to substitute their own policy for that of the Government; but persevere firmly in doing what you may think right; make those who would counteract you feel that you are resolved to rule, and that you will be served by none who will not obey. Acting in this spirit, you may rely upon our unqualified support.That was the language used by my noble Friend on the 24th of March; those were the principles laid down; and then, not of course in answer to this despatch, for it could not have been received, but following on its issue, came the Proclamation, which undoubtedly appeared to us to be couched in a very different spirit. There is no question that that Proclamation intimated to the Talookdars, the Chiefs, and the inhabitants of Oude, that, with a very few specified exceptions, the whole proprietary rights of the soil was confiscated to the Crown. Instructions certainly accompany it, addressed to the Chief Commissioner of Oude; but, as my noble Friend most justly remarked in his despatch, these instructions did not go to the people of Oude. They received the bare and naked Proclamation, and nothing more. Well, then it is said, "Oh, but this does not at all mean what you suppose it does; it only means that the Talookdars and great men will be divested of rights of lordship, which thereafter will be vested in the Crown, but it never crossed Lord Canning's mind to interfere with their private rights." I should like to know, however, what would be thought by the noble Earl or the noble Duke if Parliament should pass an Act in reference to their respective counties confiscating to the Crown all "the proprietary rights of the soil." Their tenure being thereafter that of copyholders under the Crown, with no guarantee for the future security of their possessions; I rather suspect they would imagine, seeing such a term in an Act of Parliament, that they must look sharply about them or else they would soon have not an acre left. There may be some abstruse, hidden meaning in this Proclamation, intelligible to the people of India; but my belief is that upon receiving this information they would deem it to be a notice to all the inhabitant of Oude, high and low, rich and poor, that, with the few exceptions there specified, every man should be deprived of the land on which alone he depends for subsistence. The naming of six persons—and six only—who were to be permitted to retain their inheritances, as they held them at the time of the annexation of Oude, seems to me, so far as those persons were concerned, hardly 650 a fair mode of proceeding. It appears to me that they were placed in a most invidious and, I think, hardly in a very safe position. You had scarcely conquered the country; you were surrounded by a population most hostile to you; and you select persons who have adhered to you faithfully—who, under great trials, have resisted all temptation to quit your cause—singling them out by name, and telling them that they alone of all their countrymen shall remain in possession of their lands, and that as a signal reward for their distinguished fidelity they shall be permitted to retain those lands, "subject only to such moderate assessment as may be imposed upon them." If this is the way in which you reward your friends, I must say I don't know what you mean to do with regard to your enemies. But it is said it was not intended to dispossess these persons of their lands. Now, my Lords, let us see—apart from the mere terms of the Proclamation itself—what was the gloss put upon it in the letter addressed to the Chief Commissioner in explanation. There are three classes of persons specified in the Proclamation, according to their different degrees of guilt and comparative innocence. With regard to the second class—that is to say persons who have taken up arms against the Government, but who "have done so less heartily, and upon whom for other causes the Chief Commissioner may not see reason to put restraint; these, after surrendering their arms, might be allowed to go to their homes, with such security for their peaceable conduct as the Chief Commissioner may think proper to require; and the letter goes on to say—I entreat the House to mark this—that "the permission to return to their homes must not be considered as a re-instatement of them in the possession of their lands, for the deliberate disposal of which the Government will preserve itself unfettered." Now, if there is any sense or meaning in language, this passage means that although these persons may be permitted to return home they are not to be re-instated,—not in their territorial rights, but in the possession of their lands. With regard, therefore, to the whole land of Oude, the Government holds itself at perfect liberty to dispose of that land as it may think fit. It was, I think, impossible in the face of the Proclamation, and of the language I have read, to suppose for a single moment that Her Majesty's Government could put upon it such an interpretation as has now, 651 by way of apology, been attached to it by noble Lords opposite.
Having received this Proclamation, not as being already issued, but as about to be issued, it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to consider what course they ought to pursue. We thought, my Lords, it was a matter of the utmost importance that not a moment should be lost in intimating our apprehensions as to the dangerous consequences which might be produced by the issue of such a Proclamation. We were not without hopes that our despatch, which was in strict unison with the principles we had before laid down, might by possibility reach Lord Canning in time to enable him to reconsider the terms of his proclamation, and to issue one which was not liable to the construction that might be placed upon it. We are told that we ought to have waited to receive explanations from Lord Canning. My Lords, if we had had the slightest idea that such explanations were coming—I do not say we should have waited, because it would have been our duty to notice the Proclamation—but we should very materially have modified the language of the despatch. We received the Proclamation officially; we received no private communication whatever—we were not likely to receive such a communication, because Lord Canning could not be aware of the change of Government; and if communications of that nature had been sent—as private communications are sent by every Minister and Governor explaining their public acts—it was not to us that such explanation would have come. But such an explanation did come, and it arrived at a period when its communication to Her Majesty's Government might have been of the utmost importance,—when, if it had been communicated to them it might have materially modified the tone and language of my noble Friend's despatch. Why was not that explanation communicated to us I should like to know? The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) said tile other night that Mr. Vernon Smith received the explanation at a very late period. Subsequently, I believe, the noble Marquess was satisfied that Mr. Vernon Smith received it at a period when it might have been communicated to us, and have had some effect; but we were told that Mr. Vernon Smith was in Ireland attending his son's wedding, which was of much more importance than any subject of this nature. That, however, is not Mr. Vernon Smith's 652 account of the transaction. He says, "I did receive a letter from Lord Canning; I know it was addressed to me as President of the Board of Control. I did not think it utterly unimportant, because the moment I received it I went"—to whom? To the Ministry by whom Lord Canning expected it would have been received? No; but to the head of the Government which had just been displaced, and who was in opposition to the existing Ministry. In the course of this evening it has been denied that Lord Palmerston was consulted on the subject of sending this extract of a private letter to Her Majesty's present Government. All I can say is that the report of what appears to have taken place elsewhere gives the following as the words used by Mr. Vernon Smith:—I may state, however, that I read it the moment I received it to my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton, to whom it did not appear, any more than to myself, that it was necessary to communicate it to the Government.Now, my Lords, Lord Palmerston may or may not have given any advice, but if we are to believe Mr. Vernon Smith—and I cannot hesitate to believe a statement which he makes so solemnly—the first thing he did was to communicate this passage to the head of the late Government, who did not think any more than himself that it was necessary to communicate it to the Minister to whose department it related. All I can say is that I think the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) must have very materially changed his views with regard to the expediency and necessity of communicating information bearing upon public matters which may be contained in private letters; because not long ago I had the honour of receiving a communication from the noble Viscount, enclosing a letter which he informed me had been rescued from the wreck of the Ava, and which, inasmuch as it related to public affairs, he thought it his duty to transmit to me. Now, that despatch, rescued from the wreck of the Ava, which the noble Viscount—anxious, as he always is, to discharge his duty to the public—forwarded to me, contained information that a petition for the recall of Lord Canning which had been sent to this country, and had been returned to India that it might be transmitted through Lord Canning, had been sent to the Governor General to be so transmitted. That was the sole information contained in the despatch; yet that piece of information, three months old, was 653 considered by the noble Viscount so important that he deemed it his duty not to lose a minute in communicating it to me as the head of Her Majesty's Government; but a statement of the Governor General, written as he supposed to a Minister of the Crown, intimating his intention to forward explanations respecting a very important official document appeared to the noble Viscount so utterly insignificant that neither he nor Mr. Vernon Smith thought it expedient to make any communication on the subject to Her Majesty's Ministers. Again, I say, this passes the limits of my credulity! I know not what other statements or letters may have been received by Mr. Vernon Smith; but this I will say, that although it is possible, I think it is barely probable, that in the course of two months and a half, or nearly three months, the Governor General of India should not have communicated one single private line with respect to public affairs to the Minister who immediately presided over the Indian department. He may have kept that extraordinary silence, but I very much doubt the fact, and I think it is almost incredible. Certain it is, however, that not one line have we ever seen, nor have we since we came into office had the slightest means of judging what, upon any one question, were Lord Canning's views of policy. Well, my Lords, in the absence of all such information, we were bound to act upon the Proclamation and the public documents we possessed; and reading that Proclamation in the sense in which we regarded it we thought not a moment was to be lost, and that language could hardly be too strong to express our apprehensions of its consequences and our disapproval of its tone and temper. I shall not quote the various passages to which reference has been made. I shall not quote the language held in the despatch with regard to the Proclamation as we understood it, and as we received it; but this I will venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that the tone and temper of that Proclamation were strongly disapproved by the highest and most competent authorities on India in England; that, from its tone, and the time at which it was issued, it was regarded as likely to lead to most alarming consequences—that I believe there were remonstrances against its publication, and that I know that many most eminent men have written home expressing their deep regret at the system of apparently wholesale confiscation which it would 654 establish. If I could mention the persons to whom I refer, their names would coin. mend the highest respect; but I am at liberty to name one gentleman with whom, until yesterday, I had not the slightest personal acquaintance. When I mention the name of Sir George Clerk it will, I think, be admitted that no one is more competent to form a judgment on this subject. I requested Sir George Clerk to forward me a copy of a despatch which was sent out by my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) only last Monday; and in doing so Sir George Clerk says—May I take the liberty to observe to your Lordship that, so far as I know those countries, I should say that the sentiments with which Her Majesty's Government have regarded it, if allowed to prevail, will right the ship; but if a different course should be persisted in British dominion over it can not be restored in any degree of security by means of all the European troops England can afford to send to such a climate or to such a distance.These are the deliberate opinions of a man who, more than any other, knows the circumstances and feelings of the people of India; and he interprets this Proclamation as we interpret it; he interprets "confiscation" as we interpret it, and he says that unless the recommendations of the Government should be attended to, and if this system of severity should be persisted in, no amount of force that you can send from this country will enable you permanently to maintain your authority in peace in India. Is not that a justification of the Government for having taken the earliest moment to protest against a course of proceedings which they thought would necessarily lead to the most fearful Consequences? Let us recollect what is the condition of Oude. There every landholder is a soldier and every soldier is a landholder; and a system of universal confiscation addressed to a population of armed men—many trained in your service, and many feudal proprietors, having numerous armed retainers—universal confiscation, I say, applied to such a population, with some exceptional indulgences of which no person could feel secure, was a certain means not to put an end to strife, but to protract this into a desultory and most embarrassing war, and to extinguish the hope of peace and security for months and perhaps years to come. We found it necessary to protest at the earliest period against the possibility of such lamentable results, and we thought it necessary to point out to the Governor General that 655 which appeared contrary to the spirit of his Proclamation, that the principle of mildness and forbearance with occasional instances of severity, instead of severity with occasional instances of clemency, was the only sound way of bringing back the population to allegiance and content. I will not use any expression likely to give offence to the noble Duke opposite, but I do not share in that laughing tone in which he treated the enunciation in the despatch of those great, sound, and holy principles which I believe it to be of the utmost importance should be made known to the people of India as the principles which guide the conduct of the British Government. I do not ridicule what the noble Duke was pleased to call plain truisms, nor do I think the country will be inclined to ridicule them.
My Lords, having expressed my entire concurrence in the statements contained in the despatch on the supposed, and I think naturally supposed, meaning and intention of the Proclamation, and having expressed that concurrence in them, not as a representation addressed to the people of India, but as a representation in a secret despatch to the Governor General, I now proceed to the further question respecting the publication of the despatch and the responsibility for its publication. But before I go further I must just advert to one argument which has been made—namely, that it is absolutely clear that this despatch was from the first intended for publication, otherwise there would not have been found in it what the noble Duke opposite was pleased to call such "sonorous phrases." Now, whatever may be the character of this despatch, I do not for a moment doubt that it was the intention and desire of my noble Friend that the despatch should remain on record. It was not a private letter, but a secret despatch; not at the time to be communicated, except to the Governor General, but to remain on record as an indication of the policy which my noble Friend and the Government were prepared to pursue. Therefore, of course, it did not take the form of a mere private and confidential letter, but of a recorded despatch, pointing out the views entertained by the Government. I come now to the question of publication, and I confess that I am there compelled to differ from the views of my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control. I stated at the very earliest opportunity afforded me that I regretted the premature publication 656 of the despatch. I think it was unfortunate that, without any previous notice, a question should have been asked by a Member of the other House, and answered by a subordinate Member of the Government without communication with any of the Cabinet Ministers, except, I presume, my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control, and that a declaration should have been made pledging the Government to produce the despatch. I will come presently to the question of the limited liability or joint responsibility of the Cabinet, but will now advert to what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cranworth). He said that, setting aside the question, whether all the Ministers were bound by one colleague, he would go further back than the Thursday of last week, and would revert to a previous Friday, in order to show that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to some question, announced that he would lay on the table a despatch which was by no means intended as a censure on the Governor General, and the noble and learned Lord inferred that that despatch, which cast no censure on the Governor General, was the despatch which he said censured that high officer. But the fact is, that it was a prior despatch. It was the despatch of the 24th of March, with respect to which the discussion took place on the 23rd of April, and which was ordered to be printed on the 26th; and the noble and learned Lord has confounded two separate occasions and two separate despatches. With respect to the despatch to which the present Motion referred, what happened was this:—a question was asked without notice, and the Secretary of the Board of Control hastily announced his intention of laying the despatch on the table. That question was followed by another question from another Gentleman, who asked whether the Government approved the policy of Lord Canning in issuing the Proclamation. Mind, at that time, the despatch had been promised to be produced; and whether the Government stated their approval or disapproval of the Proclamation, or left the fact to be disclosed when the despatch should be produced next day, was a matter of indifference. But what was the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He said, "The policy of confiscation intimated in that Proclamation we disapprove in every sense." Great stress has been placed on these words, "in every sense;" but he was re- 657 ferring to the policy of confiscation, and in every sense of justice and policy he meant that the Government disapproved of that policy. The same night the late President of the Council (Earl Granville) came over to me, and told me what had taken place in the House of Commons, and further than so hearing, that such question had been asked and answered, I had no knowledge on the subject. The noble Earl, the late President of the Council, however, expressed his hope that, as the production of the despatch had been promised, it would be laid on the table that night, because, otherwise, there would be no opportunity of discussing before the departure of the mail, which left on the Monday. We replied, that we could not lay it on the table that night, but would do so to-morrow, and that, for the convenience of the noble Earl and Lord Canning's friends, a copy should be sent to the noble Earl; and it was sent before the despatch was laid on the table of the House. On the following day there was a Council at the Palace, by which we were detained; but when we came to examine the despatch, we found in it some paragraphs which we thought it more for the public convenience should not be produced. The sole object of those paragraphs was to point out the circumstances of mitigation which separated the case of revolted subjects from that of mutineers, and, of course, in reasoning the point, all the extenuating circumstances were put forth with a plainness and openness with which they certainly would not have been stated if the document had been intended to meet the public eye. When we saw the character of those paragraphs, we desired to have them omitted from publication, and with that view we sent down to the House of Commons; but before the messenger arrived, the Secretary of the Board of Control, not having had any previous communication with us, had, in consequence of the promise of the night before, laid the whole despatch on the table of the House. I regret that the whole despatch was laid on the table, and upon the whole I regret that any part of the despatch should have been published at so early a period; but I cannot say that I regret the character or contents of the despatch. On the contrary, I think the policy indicated in it is a just, sound, and necessary policy, and we should have been neglectful of our duty if we had omitted to take the earliest opportunity of enforcing that policy on the Governor General, more especially at the moment. 658 when we thought he was going to abandon it.
Now, with respect to the liability of all the members of a Cabinet for the act of a single member, I wish to say that no man can put forth more distinctly or clearly than I do the constitutional doctrine that every member of the Government is responsible for the acts of every other member, whether those acts were previously known or not, provided the members of the Government continued to act together as a Government. Remaining in office and acting together, all the members of the Government take upon themselves a retrospective responsibility for what their colleague has dune, which they can in no way attempt to shake off. But the case is very different when the Government are charged with having done a certain act, and they say, "We did not do it; it was done without our knowledge by one of our colleagues." "Never mind," it is then said, "you are all responsible for the acts of your colleague." "But," we reply, "in consequence of the very act which you impugn, he has ceased to be one of our colleagues." "Never mind," it is said again, "you are still responsible; when you knew nothing about the act he was your colleague, and you were therefore responsible for that of which you knew nothing; and now that he has ceased to be your colleague, you continue responsible for an act of which you knew nothing when it was done, and which you condemned as soon as it was brought to your knowledge." My Lords, that may be constitutional law, but to me it appears to be the grossest and most absolute absurdity; and sure I am that if it is constitutional law, it is not, and never has been, constitutional practice. I need not go back a long way to place before your Lordships a circumstance which I think is somewhat parallel. But before proceeding further, I may notice a remark which fell from a noble Earl opposite. "That excuse," he said, "would have answered your purpose very well if upon the instant the promise of publication was made in the House of Commons you had jumped up and disclaimed it, and said to the President of the Board of Control, You are no longer a member of the Government.' But," continued the noble Earl, "it was not till forty-eight hours afterwards, and when a notice of Motion had been given in one if not both Houses of Parliament, that you bethought you of putting upon one of your number 659 alone the entire responsibility of what had taken place." Now, my Lords, in the first place, it was not the Government which placed upon the President of the Board of Control, but my noble Friend himself who, with characteristic straightforwardness, assumed the whole responsibility, which in truth and justice simply attached to himself. But may I ask noble Lords opposite to have the goodness to carry their recollection back to the month of June, 1855? If my memory does not greatly deceive me, at that time the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton was at the head of the Government, and the noble Lord the Member for London was Secretary of State for the Colonial Department. While Secretary of State for the Colonial Department the noble Lord was sent upon a special mission to Vienna. In his capacity as Plenipotentiary at Vienna, he entered into certain engagements for a treaty which he brought home, and reported to his Cabinet. His colleagues did not approve the arrangement which he had made, and I suppose they signified to the noble Lord that they did not so approve. Did they immediately insist upon his quitting office? No such thing. Time went on until notice was given of a Motion in Parliament charging the Government with the responsibility of the treaty which had been negotiated at Vienna. What followed? I ant not in the secrets of the late Government, but report at the time certainly stated that a "round robin" was sent to the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton insisting upon the retirement of Lord John Russell. In point of fact Lord John Russell ceased to be a Member of the Cabinet, and the Government then disavowed the treaty to which he had been a party a considerable time previous, repudiating in the face of a hostile Motion against the whole of them their joint responsibility, and throwing the entire blame upon their late colleague. The Opposition of that day, being somewhat more forbearing than the Opposition of the present, withdrew the hostile Motion against the Government in consequence of the retirement of the single Member. I have thus given the noble Lords opposite a precedent for not imposing the strict rule of joint and universal responsibility, not in reference to a matter of which all the Members of the Cabinet except one were ignorant, but with regard to a subject which, although it was well known to them, they did not disavow until a hostile Motion 660 was directed against them in the House of Commons.
But, my Lords, I am asked by the noble Earl opposite, "If you mean to oppose the Resolutions, why do you do so by means of the Previous Question?" He never, it seems, knew an occasion on which a vote of censure upon the Government was met on the part of the Government by the Previous Question. My answer to that is, that although the debate has been a debate of censure upon the Government, the vote to which your Lordships are asked to come is not a vote censure upon the Members of the Government, but upon an Act which the Members of the Government disavow and repudiate. What was the Government to do in these circumstances? The last Resolution, which is the only one of any practical importance, asks the House of Lords to express its regret at the premature publication by the Government of the despatch of the 19th of April, which was calculated to weaken the authority of the Governor General, and to encourage those still in arms against us. To some of the phraseology of that Resolution I certainly must demur. I do not admit that the publication took place with the sanction or by the authority of the Government; on the contrary, I contend that it took place without their knowledge, and contrary to their wish or intention. Nor do I admit—although undoubtedly the publication—not the writing—of the despatch may put Lord Canning in a painful position, from which I sincerely hope that his explanations, when received, may have the effect of relieving him—that the premature promulgation of the despatch will produce any results such as those which have been ascribed to it. I regret, especially, the publication of that part which relates to the annexation of Oude, because it is liable to be misapprehended by the Natives of India; but I cannot regret that an intimation should go out in the most authoritative manner from the Crown—approved, as I hope, by the Parliament and people of England—that the system upon which hereafter the Government of India shall be conducted, when the present unhappy revolt has been suppressed, is not to be a system of general confiscation, but a system of general toleration and mercy, and that we hope the instances may be few and exceptional in which it may be necessary to make use of severity. But, my Lords, if I were to oppose the Resolu- 661 tions, it would appear as if I sanctioned and approved the publication of the despatch. My noble and learned Friend on the woolsack had no alternative, then, if he meant to express the feelings and wishes of the Government, and to avoid a vote which would be liable to misconstruction; but to move the Previous Question, which simply imports that upon a point on which your Lordships have not sufficient information you will not at the present moment undertake to pronounce a judgment. Such is the meaning of the Previous Question. It involves no censure upon Lord Canning or upon the character of his Proclamation; but it means that you will not express a hasty opinion upon imperfect evidence, or arrive at a decision which, whatever may be its effects here, will be liable to be mis-construed in India. The Motion of the noble Earl opposite is, and was announced to be, a vote against the Government. Carried in that sense, it will be construed by the people of India as meaning that the Government have been condemned for promulgating a policy of mercy and toleration. Although I am satisfied you would regret such an interpretation as much as we should, yet the inference is clear and obvious that your adoption of a vote of censure upon the Government, after a debate in which the question of toleration or confiscation had been the main subject of discussion, Would be held in India to be your adoption of the opposite principle to that maintained by the Government. It is upon these grounds, my Lords, while I cannot defend the premature publication of the despatch, while I nevertheless hope that the promulgation of some parts of it may not only be productive of no injury; but may go forth as a message of peace to India, announcing the kindly and beneficent intentions of the British Parliament with respect to the administration of Indian affairs, that I entreat your Lordships not, by affirming the Motion of the noble Earl opposite, which must be construed into a vote of censure, to place the Government in a most painful and embarrassing position, and at the same time produce in India an impression the very reverse of that which we all wish to create.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I certainly cannot hope to avoid the censure so liberally thrown out by the noble Earl as to those who intend to support these Resolutions being actuated by party and—which sounded odd as a matter of rebuke—by political motives. I should have 662 thought that the character of the noble Earl who has brought this question before us, his character, his position in the country, the independent course which he has taken with regard to politics, and the votes which he has given in this House, would have been a sufficient guarantee that he is actuated only by the purest motives. ["Oh! oh!"] A noble Lord, who has been very lavish in his cheers of those who have spoken from the opposite benches, says "Oh! oh!" but I take upon myself to appeal to those behind me to say, whether the noble Earl is justly liable to such an accusation as this. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), in order to throw some sort of reflection upon the course of my noble Friend, condescended to allude to certain private political meetings—as if political friends were not to meet at a most important crisis of the State. Nay, the noble Earl even went so low, as to insinuate that the course taken by the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) is owing to a family connection. Now, there were certain rumours afloat which might have been useful in exciting feeling in this house, to which I particularly refrained from alluding whims speaking the other day, although it came into my head to do so, because I thought that such penny-a-line gossip was unworthy of the debates of this House. I might have asked some question as to the truth of a report that a certain Member of the other House took a walk with a Cabinet Minister on the very day on which this despatch was produced; but I thought that allusions of that sort were unworthy of such a subject as that now under discussion. When reflecting on what was likely to pass in the course of this debate to-night, it seemed to me that our case lay in a nutshell; but I was at a loss to know what arguments would be adduced by the leading Members of the Government to induce your Lordships not to agree to these Resolutions, the perfect truth and accuracy of which it appears to me that no three sane men in the House can deny. I therefore listened with great attention to the speeches which have been addressed to your Lordships. I should extremely regret to appear in the slightest degree to attack anything which has fallen from the noble Earl the late President of the Board of Control. That noble Earl repeated his magnanimous declaration, taking upon himself all the responsibility of those who were with him. Now, I must say, I regret ex- 663 tremely that this Motion should bear the slightest appearance of being directed against him personally. I wish to protest in the strongest manner against being supposed to feel any personal hostility to the noble Earl. I never had any such feeling, and I trust that I shall continue to entertain for him that respect to which some great qualities both of mind and character which he possesses entitle him. But his speech absolutely avoided all the difficult part of the question. He did not defend one word of his despatch, except two sentences which nobody has attacked. He merely, in eloquent and energetic terms, placed it before the people of India as a remonstrance against the conduct of the Governor General. I also paid particular attention to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. It is one of the things—and, to tell the truth, I do not at the present moment remember many others—for which I am grateful to the present Government, that it has been the means of introducing the noble and learned Lord to this House. I believe that his character, his personal popularity, and his ability will always make him a valuable acquisition to this House, and a powerful addition to the strength of the party he espouses. But I must say that I never heard a speech which appeared to me to carry with it less weight and to contain less argument than did that of the noble and learned Lord. Under how great a difficulty he laboured was shown by his continually diverging to the left and to the right to get hold of something which would enable him to go on speaking for a minute or two. He gave us some lessons—not in politics, because we heard from him language defending the against in Oude against the Queen's authority. [The Earl of DONOUGHMORE interposed an observation.] I did not interrupt the Vice President of the Board of Trade in his very animated and eloquent speech, and I really think he might allow me to continue without denying what I believe are mere matters of fact. The noble and learned Lord did most undeniably defend the conduct of the rebels in Oude, and gave as a reason for his defence that they belong to a State legitimately at war with us. I may be mistaken, but such language appears to me to be something very nearly trenching upon treasonable matter.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I beg the noble Earl's pardon. I never said one word about the kingdom of Oude being legitimately at war with us, neither did I 664 defend the conduct of the rebels. I explained the circumstances under which it was likely that the Proclamation would be very injurious to the public interests.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Without wishing to question the recollection of the noble and learned Lord, I have a very strong impression that his observations went further than he has stated. The noble Earl at the head of the Government laid a good deal of stress upon the admission made by a noble Lord behind me, to the effect that if the Government supposed the Proclamation bore the interpretation they put upon it, they did right in sending a remonstrance to Lord Canning. If that admission can do them any good, I am quite ready to give them the benefit of it. Our case is this:—We do not go into the annexation of Oude, we do not discuss the matter of the Proclamation, although it has frequently been made the subject of remark this evening; but what we say is, that when the Proclamation arrived it was competent, nay, it was desirable, that the Government should send out to the Governor General such remarks as they thought fit; but that the letter which was sent was not at all such an one as ought to have been written, and that its publication was gross ill-treatment of the Governor General, and was calculated to weaken his authority and to produce great harm in India. The noble Earl defended certain portions of that despatch, but not one word did he say about the clauses relating to the kingdom of Oude. I therefore conclude that it is admitted that that portion of the letter is not defensible. He remonstrated with some noble Lords on this side for expressing some doubts as to this despatch being intended to be a secret one. As soon as the noble Earl states that it was so intended, I will admit that that doubt is unfounded; and yet there are circumstances which would lead we to the conclusion that that despatch was not intended to be a secret one, an impression which has been very much strengthened by the observations made by the noble Earl late the President of the Board of Control, who, twice in the course of his speech this evening, stated that he desired the publication of that despatch. Making allowances for certain exuberances of style, I do not believe that if that despatch had been meant merely as a warning to the Governor General to pursue a course of policy different from that which he seemed about to adopt, it would have been written in that magniloquent language which gives it the 665 appearance rather of a Proclamation than of a secret and confidential letter of instructions to a confidential officer. About twelve months ago the present Chancellor of the Exchequer made a long and eloquent speech "in another place," in the course of which, after condemning the annexation of Oude—having never taken any step to obtain a Parliamentary censure of that proceeding—he said:—You ought to issue a Royal Proclamation to the people of India, declaring that the Queen of England is not a Sovereign who will countenance the violation of treaties; that the Queen of England is not a Sovereign who will disturb the settlement of property; that the Queen of England is a Sovereign who will respect their laws, their usages, their customs, and, above all, their religion."—[3 Hansard, cxlvii. 479.]Whether that is right or wrong, it appears to me to be almost an abstract of the secret letter written nearly a year afterwards by the noble Earl. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, "Do this, and do this not in a corner, but in a mode and a manner which must attract universal attention." And I defy you to point out anything done in a more notable and extraordinary manner than the publication of this despatch. I do not say that it is wrong of Her Majesty's Ministers to entertain the opinion that the annexation of Oude was wrong; what I do say is, that if they condemn that policy, if they share the opinion of their colleague, who, two months ago recommended, and the ironical shouts of the House of Commons, that Oude should be restored to the King, the proper mode of carrying out those opinions would be by means of a formal Parliamentary Motion; and that they ought to have given instructions to Lord Canning indicating the policy which they meant to adopt with regard to that kingdom, instead of indirectly shadowing out that policy in a despatch conveying a severe censure upon that noble Lord. I am glad that the Proclamation has been discussed to-night, and I am glad that noble Lords have called the attention of the House and of the public to the opinions of some well-informed men upon this subject. The noble Earl tells us that several of the highest authorities in India disapproved this Proclamation. Will he lay on the table of this House the letters in which this disapproval is expressed?—for I need hardly remind your Lordships that there is nothing more unparliamentary than to refer to documents in proof of a statement when those documents are not regularly before us. Is he aware of the date at which the 666 objections of these high Indian authorities were taken?—because it makes a great difference whether they were taken to the original draught of the Proclamation, or to the modified form in which the Proclamation was subsequently issued, in order perhaps to obviate those very objections. Until the noble Earl gives us this information, his assertion as to the opinion of these high authorities in India is utterly idle and valueless. As to the despatch before us, I cannot conceive how your Lordships could think it a proper document to publish. The noble Earl opposite, having given up one portion of it without attempting to defend it, I do not think it necessary to enter into that point. As has been well observed, the despatch contains as eloquent a partisan statement of one side of the case, and that not the side of the Queen and Government of England, as could possibly be made. Passing now from the despatch, I come to the question of the responsibility of the Cabinet for its publication. A noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has laid down for us the doctrine of the joint liability of the Cabinet, indicating where it begins and ends. As the noble Earl said, down to a certain period in our history there was not such joint responsibility, and the want of it proved very mischievous. Since that time this principle has existed, and it is most desirable for every reason to maintain it. So clearly is this a constitutional doctrine that one of the most eloquent supporters of the noble Earl, on that very Motion to which he has referred, laid it down that there may be division of labour in a Cabinet, but no division of responsibility. I do not argue for a forced application of that maxim. It would have been perfectly childish, for example, to assert that if it had appeared that the noble Earl had Written this despatch without consulting his colleagues, and afterwards published it proprio motu, you could bring any charge of real complicity against those colleagues, who would have had no participation in and no cognizance of what he had done. I therefore hold that the case of Lord John Russell, which has been alluded to, does not present the slightest parallel to the present one, [A noble LORD dissented.] The noble Lord shakes his head, so that I must recount the leading circumstances of that case, to show that I am correct in my statement. Lord John Russell was accused of taking a certain line—an unpopular line, and one not concurred in by the Government—in regard to 667 the propositions discussed at the Vienna Conferences. After he returned to this country and resumed his place in Parliament, he made a speech that was construed as not being hi consonance with the course he had adopted at Vienna. That was purely a personal matter—the Government had absolutely nothing to do with it; and, more than this, no political consequences could possibly ensue from the question thus raised. I will say this, that the accusations made against that noble Lord were very unjust; and if his colleagues had had an opportunity of doing so, we should have stood by him; but my noble Friend resigned, as the noble Earl opposite has done. But it was impossible for us to assume the responsibility for a thing with which we had positively nothing to do. ["Hear, hear!"] Noble Lords may cheer; but I ask them, where is the parallel between that case and this? The noble Earl told us the other day that as soon as the Proclamation arrived he thought it necessary to express his views upon it, and that those views were sanctioned by the Government. The Cabinet agreed in condemning Lord Canning's Proclamation, and in sending out the despatch. There is surely complicity in that. Next, as to the publication. It is admitted that there was communication between the noble Earl and Mr. Baillie, and that both Mr. Baillie and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the sanction of the noble Earl for producing that despatch to the House of Commons. And here let me correct a misunderstanding which had gone abroad—that I asked in this House for the production of this despatch. The facts are, that on the evening that the question was put in an other place I came into this House in a great hurry, and stated that I had just heard, though I was not quite sure of its accuracy, that the leader of the Government elsewhere had avowed the disapproval by the Government in toto of the policy of the Proclamation. It row seems I was too classical in my rendering of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, and that what he said was, that they disapproved it "in every sense." I then asked the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) whether that answer was made with his cognizance and after communication with him. The noble Earl replied, that he had not had communication with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that the right hon. Gentleman was cognizant of the despatch in answer to the Proclamation. I did not ask him to pro- 668 duce the despatch, but I ventured to repeat the question. I was not, like Mr. Bright, perfectly acquainted beforehand with the policy of the Government on the subject; I merely asked whether it was true that the despatch conveyed so severe a censure of Lord Canning's Proclamation as had been reported. The noble Earl then observed, "The best answer I can give you is, that I will present the despatch to-morrow morning." Was the despatch then published? No, not until the next day. It is true that that evening I also went to the noble Earl, and said—"I understand you are going to present that despatch, which is likely to produce immense consequences; we have only a night left before the mail starts; could you not present it this evening?" The noble Earl said he had no objection if Lord Derby had none. The latter noble Earl, however, demurred, the course being unusual; and the President of the Board of Control then remarked, "I am going home; I will send you the despatch." I observed, "It will be of no use to me if I may not show it to some of my political friends." I received it on the understanding that there was to be no publication, and I can assure the noble Earl that his injunction was strictly carried out. But was it nothing for the Government to have twenty-four hours for reflection? When the noble Earls opposite became aware of the sensation produced in this and the other House by their announcement, did they not consider for a moment how the mischief could be best averted? Why did they not carefully read the despatch over again, and pause to ask themselves whether it was not calculated to weaken the authority of the Governor General, and entail great evil? I will not insult the understanding of their Lordships by supposing that they did not think it would do great evil. And if they saw that, why did they not come manfully down to the two Houses and say, "We are ready to encounter some criticism and even some obloquy; but for reasons of public policy which we cannot consistently specify, we cannot be parties to the publication of our despatch." I believe that they were bound to do this. Indeed, they did it to a certain degree. The late President of the Board of Control stated that he and the noble Earl opposite and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had consulted together, and thought it would be better to omit certain paragraphs. But surely that was assuming the whole responsibility 669 of the affair, unless you can show, which I utterly deny, that the publication of the remaining paragraphs was perfectly innocent and harmless. It may be said the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer created a difficulty; but that simple declaration of a censure of the Proclamation, mischievous as it might be, would not have been half so mischievous as the elaborate arguments of the despatch in favour of those whom it is the object of the Indian Government to reduce to submission. I say, then, that the Government participated fully in this act, and became accomplices in the publication of the despatch. No doubt, it would have been a drawback to have to deal a blow against the President of the Board of Control; but was that to be considered in a great question of this magnitude? What does the argument of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack amount to, in plain language, but this;—"The noble Earl has taken all our sins on his own back; for God's sake, on his back let them lie." This House must for several reasons stand in a false position if it agrees to the Previous Question—certainly an unprecedented Motion for a Government to meet a vote of censure with upon an important part of their policy. It will go forth that we support a Government which adopts the strange and paradoxical course of saying that they do not wish to recall, but to support the Governor General, and yet they take the most effectual step to weaken and undermine his authority. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) has, on this occasion, when we are called upon to come to a most serious decision, carefully avoided stating what course of policy the Government intend to pursue. We do not know if the Government have sent any despatch to Lord Canning, previous to the despatch of the noble Earl, telling Lord Canning that their policy with regard to India had changed. I myself do not know if the Government have any definite policy, or if they have prepared and matured any measures to carry out their somewhat vague and indefinite views. I trust that your Lordships will give an opinion upon these Resolutions, and I do not think any man in his senses can impugn their justice; and I trust that, however much we may be taunted with having been actuated by any party feeling, at the same time credit may be given to some of us for being actuated, not by mere party feeling alone, but by real indig- 670 nation at the treatment of the Governor General of India, and, still mere, by alarm and apprehension that if the mischief which has been produced be not checked, irreparable injury will be the result. For these reasons, my Lords, I shall most cordially support the Resolutions of my noble Friend.
§ Previous Question put, i.e., "Whether the said Question shall be now put;"—Contents 158; Not-Contents 167: Majority 9.
§ Resolved in the Negative.673
|Devonshire, D.||Chesham, L.|
|Newcastle, D.||Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)|
|Somerset, D.||Congleton, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Dacre, L.|
|Camden, M.||Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne)|
|Townshend, M.||De Mauley, L.|
|Westminster, M.||De Tabley, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Ebury, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Fisherwick, L. (M. Donegal.)|
|Carlisle, E.||Foley, L. [Teller.]|
|Cawdor, E.||Glenelg, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Hatherton, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)|
|Denbigh, E.||Keane, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Ellesmere, E.||Lilford, L.|
|Essex, E.||Lismore, L. (V. Lismore.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Meldrum, L.(M. Huntly.)|
|Granville, E.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Petre, L,.|
|Minto, E.||Poltimore, L.|
|Munster, E.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller.]|
|Saint Germans, E.||Rivers, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Sefton, L,. (E. Sefton.)|
|Skene, L. (E. Fife.)|
|Falmouth, V.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Torrington, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Stewart of Stewart's Court, L. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Derry and Raphoe, Bp.|
|London, Bp.||Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)|
|St. Asaph, Bp.||Sudeley, L.|
|St. David's, Bp.||Suffield, L.|
|Arundell of Wardour, L.||Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)|
|Audley, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Aveland, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Belper, L.||Truro, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Vivian, L.|
|Broughton, L.||Wensleydale, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Campbell, L.||Wycombe L. (E. Shelburne.)|
|York, Archbp.||Fitzgibbon, L. (E. Clare.)|
|Leeds, D.||Gardner, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Godolphin, L.|
|Portland, D.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Breadalbane, M.||Hamilton, L. (L. Belhaven and Stenton.)|
|Cottenham, E.||Holland, L.|
|Craven, E.||Howden, L.|
|De Grey, E.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Gainsborough, E.||Kenmare, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Leicester, E.||Londesborough, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Lovat, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Lurgan, L.|
|Morley, E.||Melros, L. (E. Haddington.)|
|Scarbrough, E.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Suffolk and Berkshire, E.||Monson, L.|
|Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Yarborough, E.||Mostyn, L.|
|Zetland, E.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)||Overstone, L.|
|Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.||Portman, L.|
|Manchester, Bp.||Stafford, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Stuart de Decies, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Dorchester, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Wonlock, L.|
|Erskine, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)|
|Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Carnarvon, E.|
|De La Warr, E.|
|Beaufort, D.||Derby, E.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Desart, E.|
|Doncaster, E.(D.of Buccleugh and Queensberry.)|
|Manchester, D. [Teller.]|
|Northumberland, D.||Ellenborough, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Erne, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)|
|Abercorn, M.||Hardwicke, E.|
|Ailsa, M.||Howe, E.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Lonsdale, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Lucan, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Macclesfield, E.|
|Winchester, M.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Mayo, E.|
|Bantry, E.||Nelson, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Pomfret, E.|
|Belmore, E.||Romney, E.|
|Bradford, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Seafield, E.|
|Cadogan, E.||Stamford and Warrington, E.|
|Stanhope, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Stradbroke, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Talbot, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Colville of Culcross, L. [Teller.]|
|Wilton, E.||Crofton, L.|
|Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.||Delamere, L.|
|De Ros, L.|
|Bolingbroke and St. John, V.||Dinevor, L.|
|Canterbury, V.||Downes, L.|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Feversham, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|De Vesci, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Doneraile, V.||Grantley, L.|
|Dungannon, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Exmouth, V.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Hardinge, V.||Kilmaine, L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Kingston, L. (E. Kingston.)|
|Lifford, V.||Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Strathallan, V.||Polwarth, L.|
|Bangor, Rp.||Raglan, L.|
|Cashel, &c., Bp.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Chichester, Bp.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Llandaff, Bp.||Redesdale, L.|
|Rochester, Bp.||Sandys, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)|
|Bateman, L.||Sondes, L.|
|Bayning, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Berners, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Braybrooke, L.||Saint Leonards, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Middleton.)||Tenterden, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)||Wynford, L.|
|Richmond, D.||Melville, V.|
|Bath, M||St. Vincent, V.|
|Abergavenny, E.||Ardrossan, L. (E. Eglintoun.)|
|Beverley, E.||Blayney, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Boston, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Guilford, E.||Cloncurry, L.|
|Hillsborough, E.(M. Downshire.)||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Dunsandle and Clancnal, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.|
|Manvers, E.||Farnham, L.|
|Mount Cashell, E.||Gray, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Heytesbury, L.|
|Orford, E.||Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.)|
|Poulett, E.||Howard de Walden, L.|
|Powis, E.||Middleton, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Moore, L.(M. Drogheda.)|
|Strathmore, E.||Plunket, L. (Bp.Tuam, &c.)|
|Vane, E.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Bangor, V.||Saltersford, L.(E. Courtoun.)|
|Scarsdale, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Templemore, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford and Balcarres.)|
§ House adjourned at One o'clock, A.M. (Saturday), to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.