HL Deb 15 May 1860 vol 158 cc1263-83

presented two Petitions from India, which had been some time in his hands; but he the less regretted the delay that had occurred in their presentation, because the events which had taken place since the petitions had been in England would secure for them a greater degree of attention. One of the petitions emanated from Madras, and the other from Bombay, and they adverted to various subjects well deserving attention, and which must meet with attention from the Government in this country and the Government in India if it were desired to retain the Empire of India, Their Lordships had seen into what a condition India had been brought, and if they reflected on what had taken place within the last few years, they would acknowledge that no misfortune had occurred in that country which had not been clearly predicted both in India and in England; and that it was owing to their neglect to take those steps which were necessary for the reform of the Indian government and administration, that much that had happened was due. The first petition he had to present came from Bombay, and he regretted the rule of their Lordships' House which prevented any petition from being printed, because he should have been glad if the sentiments expressed by these Natives could have been read by their Lordships in their own words. He would shortly mention the heads of the matters to which the petitioners prayed attention. They prayed for a reduction and reform of the public expenditure; for a settlement of the relations between the Imperial Government and the Native Principalities; the settlement of claims relating to the tenure of land; the construction of public works; for the promotion of education; an improved administration of justice; a re-construction of the Legislative Council; and the appointment of non-official and independent Members, with separate Councils for each Presidency. The petitioners also prayed that a Royal Commission should be sent out to India to investigate these subjects and report thereon. The other petition, from Madras, related more exclusively to two subjects, and to those he should chiefly confine his observations. The Madras petition adverted first to the question of finance, and next to the administration of justice and the composition of the Legislative Council. The plan they recommended for the legislative body of India was not one to which he could give his entire support; but, as the statement came from Natives of India, it well deserved their Lordships' consideration. They proposed that each Presidency should have one Executive Council and Legislative Council, consisting of the Governor and his Cabinet, the Chief Justice, and a certain number of non-official Members, nominated by the Governor, but not removable, except on the unanimous vote of the Council. The petitioners suggested that there should he a Supreme Council for Imperial measures, while the local Governments should apply themselves to what might be properly termed local questions. He did not entirely concur in that suggestion, but, as it proceeded from a body of highly intelligent Natives, it well deserved their Lordships' consideration. The matters to which he wished particularly to direct their Lordships' attention were connected with the administration of justice and the formation of the Legislative Council. The conviction of the necessity of an efficient administration of justice in India had been forced on the mind of every one by events which had latterly taken place in connection with the indigo cultivators. The state of the local courts in the country parts of India and the total absence of anything that deserved the name of administration of justice were not new matters, but had been repeatedly forced on the attention of Parliament. These courts had been described by the late Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. Halliday, as the terror of honest and well-disposed people. The cultivation of indigo was very valuable, and had always been encouraged by the Government of India, and by the authorities connected with that country; and these occurrences, to which he should call attention, had not taken place in any remote or semi-barbarous district, but from within 40, 50, and 100 miles from Calcutta. These things could not have happened if the Government, at home and in India, instead of seeking to extend their possessions, had attended to the proper administration of the countries under their control. As it was, they were a disgrace to the Indian and the English Government. The indigo planters having invested their capital in the cultivation, deserved protection; but everything was not to be sacrificed to their interests. The Natives in many instances had been treated like slaves; while, on the other hand, the planters had not received proper protection. The time had now arrived when the condition of both should be thoroughly investigated, and when a permanent remedy should be applied. The possessors of factories in India could derive very large profits from these establishments, provided they were assured of a sufficient supply of indigo at certain prices. But the Natives were averse to the cultivation of indigo, which they found very troublesome, and not profitable to themselves. Nevertheless, they were in some sort compelled to enter into contracts for the production of a certain amount of indigo at a certain price. Of course, the Englishman endeavoured to drive a good bargain for himself; but, on the other hand, the Native was excessively cunning, and anxious to evade as much of the contract as he could. The result was that hardly a single indigo contract was carried out fairly on both sides. Under these circumstances the European planter, unable to enforce his rights in a court of justice, frequently had recourse to the most violent and unjustifiable measures. He maltreated the Natives in a way paralleled only by the, most barbarous treatment of slaves. On the other hand, the Natives sometimes attacked the factories of their oppressors, and in these conflicts much property and some lives had been destroyed. While the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was on a recent visit to the indigo districts petitions were addressed to him by the Natives, setting forth the tyranny and oppression to which they were subjected, and praying for redress. The Lieutenant Governor ordered a Report to be made to him on the subject, and the result was the publication of a notification in the shape of an instruction to the police of the district which had since been made the excuse for all the occurrences that had taken place, but there seemed nothing objectionable in that document. It was to the effect that persons should not be forced to enter into contracts against their will; that when a Native failed in his contract the other party should not seize his land, far less injure his person, but take civil action against him; and in short that both parties were entitled to the protection of the law. Upon this, so little used were the Natives to the fair administration of justice, there arose a rumour that the Government were in favour of the non-cultivation of indigo, and, under the idea that they would not be punished for non-performance of contract they attacked the factories of the planters, who had had recourse to violence, destroying a considerable amount of property. The consequence was, that the Legislative Council in Calcutta hastily enacted a law whereby any man guilty of breach of contract was declared punishable as for a criminal offence—a law quite unparalleled in its nature, especially since it was to be put in force by the magistrates upon the mere deposition of a planter. Last autumn a case was brought under the notice of the Lieutenant Governor in which a planter, having made a descent upon a Native village, drove the inhabitants into his factory and there flogged them with his own hand. But this was not the worst feature of the case. Complaint was thereupon made to a Native magistrate—one of those officials whom we would not allow to have jurisdiction over our own countrymen—who punished those of his own countrymen who had been engaged in the outrage, and ordered that the planter should pay the damage done to the sacked village. But his sentence was reversed by a European magistrate. This was not a question of peasants refusing to fulfil a contract, but one of the peasants refusing to enter into a contract, and an outrage committed upon them in consequence. An individual who had been subjected to the ill-treatment he had just narrated was not forthcoming on the trial, the reason was the poor creature was dead. The whole punishment inflicted on the man that had in fact murdered him was a fine of £30. It was said in a public document that the peasants were inclined to evade the fulfilment of the contracts, and that if a pressure were not put upon them they would ruin the planters. The indigo contracts were very numerous. Mr. Furlong, the agent of a large London company, held no fewer than 1,900, which under the present existing law might have to be enforced in courts notoriously corrupt. So bad, indeed, were those courts that Europeans had almost risen to insurrection whenever it had been proposed to subject them to their jurisdiction. The consequence was, that at this an European, who was charged with committing perjury in the interior of the country, had to be taken to Calcutta for examination, and it was stated that the cost of his trial would be no less than £3,000! Considering the difference between the treatment of Natives and Europeans he was not surprised that under extraordinary circumstances the Legislative Council should have passed such an exceptional law with regard to contracts made with the ryots. Nor was it only the lower classes of Natives who were exposed to this oppression. Even the highest zemindars and rajahs who were subject to our jurisdiction suffered from the maladministration of the law, as was shown by the numerous appeals which were brought to this country, and which invariably terminated in favour of the Native suitor. In one of these cases Lord Kingsdown, in giving judgment, charged the Indian Government with having suppressed documents, and with having, with a view to obtaining a judgment in its favour, brought the case before fresh Judge snominated by the Government in the same court after former Judges, who were removed, had decided against it. Yet we were the people whose sense of justice was so great, and our practice of it so evident, that we pretended to be justified in excluding the Natives from the judicial bench, and that all men ought to receive the decrees of our Courts without a murmur! The petition also prayed for an alteration of the legislative body. Although he was himself of opinion that more depended upon the administration of the law than upon its enactments, yet he thought that the state of our finances in India, and the differences which had recently arisen between the authorities there, showed that an improvement was required in the composition and working of the Legislative Council. Their Lordships were aware that Mr. Wilson had produced a plan for improving the financial condition of our Indian empire, and that both the inferior Governments more or less objected to it. One of the Lieutenant Governors had risen in insubordination, and had not only pointed out to the Governor General and to the Legislative Council in Calcutta, but had pleaded coram populo against his Superiors, and had stated that the plan of taxation which was proposed would he both impracticable and mischievous. It seemed to be impossible that after this Mr. Wilson's plan should be adopted without some modifications; and this and the other House of Parliament had a right to know what the Home authorities as well as those of India thought upon the subject, what were the opinions of the Indian Council, and what was that of the Secretary of State, and they were bound to express their judgment upon this most important and vital question which had been brought before the British public and the British Legislature, He need make no condemnatory remarks upon the conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan in publishing his Minute. His conduct had already been condemned by the Government, and he had been recalled; nor did he think it was possible, whatever might be the view taken of the opinions expressed in that most able paper, that the Ministry could have taken any other course. But, looking to the organization and action of the Legislative Council, there was some excuse to be made for the course which had been pursued. Mr. Wilson published both his speech and his plan, and invited discussion upon it, and said he rejoiced that there was a public press in India. The whole tenour of his speech, indeed, was that of a man who courted public discussion. That being so, what was Sir Charles Trevelyan to do under the circumstances? In point of fact he had no locus standi in the Council, although certainly there was in that body what was called a Member for Madras — namely, a European gentleman who, as far as his connection with that Presidency was concerned, might as well sit for Manchester as for Madras. It would have been competent for that gentleman to have made an answer to Mr. Wilson's speech on the spot, if he differed from him in opinion, and in that way to have proclaimed the existence of dissensions, not, indeed, between Members of the Government, but in the much more decent form of differences of opinion in the Legislature, Nevertheless, it was quite clear that Mr. Wilson invited controversy, and so far it was open to Sir Charles Trevelyan to enter into it. Sir Charles had, however, adopted controversy in a shape which all must condemn. The anomaly of the Governor of a subordinate Presidency appealing to public opinion against the proposals of the Supreme Government could only have occurred under the absurd system of Government which prevailed in India, There was no parallel for it in the history of any other country. But Sir Charles Trevelyan said the scheme would not only create discontent among the people of Madras, but would put an end to all the improvements now in progress in that Presidency. Sir Charles Trevelyan had dealt with great ability as an administrator with one of the subjects mentioned in these petitions—namely, the tenure of land free from taxation, and had attempted improvements in relation to it, which, he now alleged, would be much prejudiced by Mr. Wilson's scheme, and especially by the proposed income tax. Whether that assertion was well or ill-founded, he knew not; but the matter having been ventilated in India, it ought to be taken up and discussed by Parliament, instead of being loft to be settled by the Indian Legislature alone. These extraordinary circumstances and unparalleled events told strongly in favour of a proposition contained in one of the petitions that he had presented to their Lordships. The petitioners laid great stress upon having local Legislatures and to a certain degree representative Government. In that opinion he himself to some extent concurred. To think of attaining that object by means of the debating society of a few gentlemen who composed the Legislative Council was quite preposterous. Our greatest mistake had been the attempt to legislate through such a body for India as a whole. To attempt to do so was to attempt to deal with an empire of the vastest extent and of endless diversity of circumstances in the same way as they might legislate for the Isle of Man or some other of our smallest possessions. It might or might not be desirable to establish an income tax in India, but that they would be able to introduce it all at once over the whole of that country, and to carry it out effectively, he gravely questioned. All authorities agreed in thinking that the expense of collection would render it comparatively and at first unproductive. The Correspondence for which he had now to move would, he believed, throw considerable light on matters which deserved their Lordships' serious attention. He was convinced that our Indian Empire was in very serious jeopardy. It was impossible to continue, as we had hitherto done, in a system by which the Natives were excluded from the higher offices of every kind. There was no example in history of any nation having been so ruled. We might send out our Governors, Pro Consuls, and Viceroys, but to attempt to govern upwards of 160,000,000 of people without admitting any individual among them to have a share, either here or in that country, in their own government, was an experiment which had yet to be tried, and which he was sure would never succeed. The noble Marquess concluded by presenting a Petition from Inhabitants of Madras praying for Alterations in the present Scheme of Indian Government, and that each Presidency may have its own Legislative Council; another from Native Inhabitants of the Town and Island of Bombay for Inquiry into the system of Taxation and Finance in India, with a view to its Amendment; and by moving, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Despatch from Mr. E. H. Lushington to the Commissioner of the Nuddea District, dated 23rd October, 1859, and relating to the treatment of Natives by European Planters in India: Also, Report of Mr. Reid to the Lieutenant Governor, referred to in the above-mentioned Despatch: And to present a Petition from certain Natives of India, praying for legal Reforms and for their admission into higher offices of Government than are now opened to them.


said, he was quite aware that their Lordships could not generally be expected to follow the course of events in India; but, while everything in that vast empire was of the greatest importance, it could not but be a matter of the deepest interest to consider the formation of a Legislative Council:— the quarrels indeed between the indigo planters and the ryots raise questions of great interest but of far less Imperial importance. The first point in the speech of the noble Marquess related to the state of the Legislative Council. Their Lordships would recollect that before the Act of 1833, the whole Legislative authority resided in the Governor General in Council. In 1853 it was determined to establish a Legislative Council, to consist of the Governor General and the several Members of his Executive Council—including a legal gentleman, who was at the time a Member of Council, and whose place is now taken by a financial Gentleman, much, he thought, to the advantage of the Government; further, there were two Judges, and some gentlemen representing the subordinate Presidencies. The total number of Members was only twelve, of whom three were legal gentlemen; if the same proportion were observed in the composition of their Lordships' House they would have at least 100 noble and learned Lords to assist in their deliberations. But there was this peculiarity in the constitution of the Legislative Council in respect of these three Members, that unless one of them were present no business could be transacted; so that these legal Members practically had a negative over the whole legislation for India, because they had only to stay away and no law could be enacted. He admitted that the Members of the Legislative Council had been very fairly and properly selected, and that they were all personally very respectable Gentlemen. The Legislative Council carried on its discussions in public, and its debates were to some extent reported. But he could not conceal from himself—he thought no man at all acquainted with the subject could conceal from himself—that it had been altogether a failure—that it had not succeeded in acquiring the confidence of the public. Various propositions had been made for extending the Council by adding to it persons unconnected with the Government, and particularly from among the Natives. He had considered the subject, and after mature consideration he thought there were two principal points involved in the question, and which should be considered in any future arrangements. First, it was absolutely necessary in India that the Governor General and his Executive Council should have the power of passing instanter any Act of Parliament that was absolutely necessary at the time for the service and safety of the public—the whole of the responsibility resting on them. But the Governor General in Council was very greatly in want of a consultative Council, with whom he might communicate on any matter in connection with measures on which he desired to form an opinion, with a view to having any subject to be laid before the Legislature well canvassed, and discussed preparatory to legislation. He thought that nothing could be more desirable than to establish a consultative Council, to which, under all ordinary circumstances, every Bill should be submitted but that it should be made absolutely necessary, under all circumstances and on all occasions, to submit for the opinion and report of such Council, any measure in the slightest degree affecting the laws, customs, and religion of the people of India. He would also have that consultative Council composed, to a considerable extent, of Natives. Undoubtedly members of the Government should be members of the Consultative Council, which should also embrace the Secretaries of the Government To these, he thought, should be added ten or twelve European gentlemen of distinguished character, engaged in business in the country, and not having a salary, but attending as independent persons and giving their opinions; and he would have at least an equal number of Native gentlemen, of equal respectabilty, equally connected with business in the country, and whose presence in such a Council was, he thought, absolutely essential to the good Government of India. It was impossible for him to express himself too strongly on the matter, when he saw measures affecting in the highest degree the religious feelings and prejudices of the people had been submitted to a few Englishmen and decided according to English notions. He saw three great measures of taxation, all novel in themselves and involving most important points of political economy, submitted at once to the decision of a few English gentlemen whose judgment must be founded on English notions of taxation, although their decisions affected not only the interests but the peace and security of the country, and the permanence of our dominion—and that decision would be given in the absence of a single Native out of 120,000,000 of people. This was a monstrous inconsistency, and contrary to all views that we ought to entertain upon the subject of just and beneficial legislation for India. The noble Marquess had adverted to another subject of interest and importance, the disturbances in a considerable part of the Bengal Presidency, and the differences that existed between the planters and the ryots. The noble Marquess had spoken in terms of strong condemnation of the planters. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) had read both sides of the question. He had read a great deal written—it was said by the missionaries; how that might be he knew not—inveighing strongly against the planters. If all that was said on that side was to be believed the relations of the planters and the ryots resembled that of the Barons and the villains in the reign of Stephen. On the other side, he had read the newspapers in the interest of the planters, and to read them their Lordships might be led to believe that there was not a more beneficent class of persons—that they were a species of Providence to the people of India, and that they alone maintained the progress and prosperity of that empire. He did not intend to take part with either of these extreme parties. What he believed was, that there was as much variety among planters as there was among parties engaged in other pursuits. There were some gentlemen of considerable landed property, substantial gentlemen, who resided on their own estates and collected the product of their own lands, who made advances to the Natives by whom the indigo was cultivated, who lived as gentlemen did in England, amid their property and speculations, and who behaved as English gentlemen did. But many of the persons who carry on these speculations were not persons of property at all; they either carried on their operations with borrowed money, or were only the agents of others, who themselves were operating with money borrowed from bankers and others; who again held the money of their constituents, and who, while they paid considerable interest to their constituents, exacted larger interest from the speculators. Under these circumstances it was not a matter of surprise that there should be in some, perhaps in many cases, much violence on the part of the planters, as well as fraud on the part of the ryots. But this was clear, that if a ryot once received any advance whatever, it was a rare thing for him ever to get out of it—he was, comparatively speaking, a prisoner for life. And not only was it so with the unfortunate ryot, but the gentleman did the same thing, and he in his turn hardly ever got out of the hands of the man who first lent the money. There he remained to the termination of the service an indebted and miserable man. This he feared very much was the condition of the parties. But that of which both ryots and planters complained was that neither could get justice—Nulli negabimus, nulli differemus justitiam—was one of the great promises of Magna Charta. There was in fact a refusal of justice—or a delay of sixteen months, which was practically a refusal of justice. He had endeavoured to look round and ascertain in what way this difficulty could he dealt with. If the income-tax were established—but he believed that it would be perfectly impracticable even if passed by an Act of the Legislative Council to carry it into effect; but if it were established, he thought 1 per cent out of the four to be raised on the property of India would be much better employed in improving the administration of justice, than if it were placed in the hands of the municipal authorities to improve the comforts, convenience, and accommodation of the persons residing in particular municipalities. The first desideratum of all was to give justice; and how was justice to be given? He believed that in a country like India really strict justice was only to be given by means of circuit Judges, and that it was contrary to reason to expect that a man who lived on the most intimate terms with a gentleman who was to come before him as a plaintiff or a defendant, and who went from his table to the judgment seat —it was difficult to suppose that he would give equal justice between the ryots and that gentleman; but of this they might be quite sure, that the ryot never would believe that justice had been done. Thus, all confidence in the administration of justice was destroyed; and in the administration of justice confidence was almost of as much value as the bestowal of justice itself. He thought that in all possible cases the difference between the planters and the ryots should be decided by circuit Judges, going round frequently, and not by resident magistrates. There was another suggestion which he thought well worthy of the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. They would recollect that in former and not very distant times there were created protectors of slaves and afterwards of Coolies in the different colonies. He had always understood that the action of that system was productive of great benefit to those on whom its protection was conferred. He certainly thought it was most desirable that Her Majesty's Government should communicate with those Gentlemen who were acquainted with the state of those parts of India in which the indigo and other English speculations were carried on, and with those who had seen the system of protectors in the West Indies and else- where in practical operation, with a view to consider whether it was not possible to apply the system to India. He did not mean that they should have legal authority but that they should act under the instructions of the Government, and be the friends of the Natives, to advise them in their difficulties, and endeavour, when disputes arose between the planters and the cultivators, to bring about a compromise. There was another point to which he would refer with great regret; but as it had been mentioned, he would not decline to express his opinion on the subject. It was impossible for any one to feel deeper regret than he did at the loss to India of the services of Sir Charles Trevelyan. Of all the men who had been sent in recent times to India, he appeared better qualified than any for the position he filled. By his antecedents, by his long residence in India, and his long public services in that country, he had secured the highest confidence in the discharge of the most important functions. He was then, too, at a period of life when a man's feelings were warm, when he acquired attachment to those amongst whom he moved and lived, and when he had acquired a strong feeling of friendship and regard for the people. Since that time he has in this country, under successive Governments, exercised the highest functions, with the highest approbation, and has shown the greatest zeal, as well as the greatest executive ability and aptitude; combining with it a knowledge of India, and a regard for its people, with all that could be acquired for the purpose by European practice. With all these advantages combined, Sir Charles Trevelyan, of all men, he imagined, was the man most qualified to exercise the authority and to fill the position of Governor of Madras. Sir Charles appeared to him to have remained to the last what he was from the first. He first distinguished himself by an investigation of a most important character, with respect to which it was his duty to pronounce an opinion for the consideration of the Government. And he did so without regard to his own personal interest, risking everything for the public service. He remained to the end the same; and seeing, as he thought, a great danger to the people committed to his charge, at every risk to himself he determined, if he could, to stay the pestilence, and save the people. Whatever they might think of official indiscretion and irregularity, it was impossible not to honour the feeling of the man, and be satisfied that to the last mo- ment of his life he would look back to that act as that of which he might be most proud; because it was the greatest personal sacrifice to himself, that enabled him, as he thought, to do the greatest service to his country. He desired to stay the plague and peril. It was not so much in what he said against the proposed system of taxation that there was danger, but in neglecting his advice with respect to it. By his advice, if attended to, the danger will be averted. As to what the noble Marquess has said of the Legislative Council, there was in that Council a Madras representative. Why was he there? For the sole purpose of explaining to the Supreme Government all the circumstances connected with his Presidency: of showing in what manner their legislation would act upon its inhabitants; and of upholding, not only his own views, but those of the Government which he represented. Now, had Sir Charles Trevelyan instructed the gentleman who occupied that position to read to the Legislative Council his own Minute, as well as the Minutes of the other Members of the Council of Madras, and had he, in obedience to those instructions, read these documents and moved for their production, and spoken in the censure of the Government he represented, he would, in taking that course, have been perfectly in order; and every word which had been written on the subject by Sir Charles Trevelyan, as well as by the other gentlemen to whom he had alluded, would have been published in the newspapers at Calcutta the next morning, in perfect accordance with the forms of the Legislature. The error which Sir Charles Trevelyan has committed, appears to me, therefore, to consist, not so much in the act of publication itself, as in the manner in which his discretion in the matter was exercised. He would now say no more on this subject. He had with Sir Charles Trevelyan no personal acquaintance. He had never even seen him, to his knowledge. Sir Charles became known to him (the Earl of Ellen-borough) through his official services in connection with a particular case some thirty years ago. As regards his career in this country, he had no further information than that which all their Lordships possess; but, so far as his knowledge of him extends, he entertained for his character, as well as for his ability, the highest respect. He would only add, that his last public act, however indiscreet it might be, had raised his character in his (the Earl of Ellenborough's) opinion, instead of producing in his sentiments towards him any change derogatory to the high estimation in which he had hitherto held him.


My Lords, the paper relating to the hardships suffered by certain ryots at the hands of European indigo planters in India, for which the noble Marquess has moved, had not, when I last saw my right hon. Friend the Secretary for India, arrived in England. I need, however, scarcely add that when it does reach this country there will not be upon the part of the Government the slightest objection to its production. But I apprehend my noble Friend referred to them principally for the purpose of introducing the subject generally, and thus enabling himself to offer certain observations to the House. In reference to the remarks of my noble Friend who has just sat down (the Earl of Ellenborough), I may observe that I have read several statements upon both sides of the question with respect to the system pursued by the indigo planters in Bengal; and while I believe that there are in that province many excellent planters who treat the ryots under their control in the most considerate manner, I am bound to say that, from official evidence, I have derived very painful impressions of the system under which the indigo planting is carried on in other districts, and in particular in the especial district referred to. There is a great variety as regards individual districts, and as regards individual men. I am, I may add, informed that those districts in which the cultivation of indigo is carried on with the greatest success are those in which no system of oppression whatever prevails, while, upon the other hand, the localities in which the greatest difficulty in the management of ryots is experienced are those in which the vices of the system are most extensively put into practice. The main evil of the system is that when once an advance is made to a ryot he rarely ever escapes from the thraldom of the planter, and practically he remains in a state of slavery after, unless some accidental circumstance should relieve him. The subject is one, however, which now seriously engages the attention of the Government of India, who have issued a Commission to inquire into and report upon all the evils connected with the system of indigo cultivation in Bengal. I need hardly inform the House that the measure which was lately passed, and to which allusion has been made, is one merely of a temporary character, and does not propose to effect a permanent settlement of the relations which subsist between the landlord and the ryot. There are, however, difficulties involved in the question which it is no easy matter to overcome; for while, on the one hand, it is inexpedient to maintain a vicious and oppressive system, it is on the other unwise to take any steps which may have the effect of discouraging the application of English capital to any part of India. I nevertheless trust that when the Report of the Commission to which I have referred arrives here we may be able to devise some means by which the evils of the system may be obviated without leading to a result which we should all desire to avert. I may now be permitted to refer to another subject to which the noble Marquess who introduced this subject has drawn our attention—I allude to the composition and powers of the Legislative Council. When it is said that the present constitution of that body has turned out to be a failure, I would beg those who entertain that opinion to bear in mind that it assumed its present form after very careful consideration in 1853, and was adopted, in a great degree, for the purpose of meeting existing complaints. It was then recommended that a representative of the minor Presidencies should have a seat in the Council, and the object with which that recommendation was made has, I believe, been pretty satisfactorily secured. I am, however, bound to admit that the impression appears to have gained ground both in India and in England that the constitution of the Legislative Council in India is not quite as good as it might be, and that some further changes in its case are required. My noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough), in dealing with this subject, did not, I regret to say, touch upon the most difficult portion of the question— namely, what should be the powers of the Council, and what should be the area over which its legislative action should extend. [THE EARL of ELLENBOROUGH: There should he no legislation at all.] I need hardly state to your Lordships that one great object which many Indian reformers have in view is to decentralize authority and to confer upon the minor Presidencies more extensive legislative as well as executive powers. I did not, however, gather from my noble Friend opposite that he desired this object to be carried into effect. He appears to wish that authority should be vested in the hands of the Governor Gene- ral and Government at Calcutta, assisted only by a consultative Council. Such a change as that would, however, I fear, be by no means satisfactory to the minor Presidencies, nor obviate the difficulties to which the noble Earl has attributed to the conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan.


I should have stated my wish in the matter to be that small Consultative Councils should be established for the other Presidencies, and that any Bills proposed by the Supreme Government for adoption should in the first instance be passed through those Consultative Councils.


I infer from what my noble Friend has stated that he is not in favour of a system of decentralization, and I am afraid his views, even if carried into effect, would not prove satisfactory to the greater portion of those who seek for a change in the constitution of the Indian Government. I must beg also to remind the House that if we were to determine to give to local legislatures any portion of that power which is now centralized at Calcutta, it would be absolutely necessary to define the subjects with which they could deal, as contra-distinguished from the Supreme Government. The difficulty of arriving at a satisfactory determination on this point is, I may add, exemplified in the case of questions of finance, in connection with which the unfortunate difference between Sir Charles Trevelyan and the Government at Calcutta has taken place; for if India is to continue one great Empire with one general system of taxation applicable to the whole, it is perfectly clear that the same difficulties that have hitherto existed would continue to exist; and, on the other hand, that it would be no easy matter to draw a definite line within which these local assemblies should be confined, and which should at the same time leave the Supreme Government free to exercise their judgment with respect to great questions of finance and taxation affecting the whole of our Indian Empire. With respect to the admission of the Native element into the consultative and legislative Councils, I am to a great extent disposed to agree with the sentiments on the subject to which the noble Earl has given expression. There are, for instance, individual Natives eminent in point of education and position whose association with the administration of affairs might tend to impart confidence in that administration to their fellow-subjects. The Governor Ge- neral, I believe, holds that view; and, I may add, that one mode of consulting the feelings of the Natives has been resorted to under the existing system, by providing that, except in cases of absolute necessity, time should be afforded for bringing to bear the influence of Native opinion on any measure introduced into the Legislative Council before it is passed into a law. I have now touched on the main topics to which the noble Earl has alluded; but I should wish before I sat down to say a few words with respect to that to which he more particularly adverted at the close of his speech. It was, I need hardly say, matter of infinite regret to the Government to be obliged to recall Sir Charles Trevelyan from Madras; but the step was one, my Lords, which they deemed to be as necessary as it was painful. For my own part, I entertain for Sir Charles Trevelyan the highest personal regard as well as the greatest admiration; but I cannot go the length of my noble Friend opposite in holding the opinion that the specific act to which his recall is attributable is one which is justly entitled to the praise either of this House or to that of the Executive Government. I have, however, no doubt that in adopting the course which he pursued, Sir Charles Trevelyan was actuated by the most honourable motives; and I may add that the action of the Government in his case did not proceed upon the ground of the merit or demerit of the particular views with respect to the income tax to which he gave publicity, but was based on the conviction of the absolute necessity which exists for upholding the authority of the Government of India, and enforcing due subordination on the part of its subordinates.


said, the noble Marquess had presented petitions referring to the administration of justice in India, to the financial system, and to many other important questions; but the House had no materials for discussing those questions. Under the new system of Government for India they had received less information with regard to India than they did under the double Government. At the present moment they had not received copies of the Bills which were presented to the Legislative Council embodying Mr. Wilson's proposals. The practical question involved in the present discussion was the composition and powers of the Legislative Council; and he trusted that the noble Earl opposite would bring forward some definite Motion on that important subject. It was utterly impossible that the powers of the Legislative Council could remain as they were now. Those powers were given them by the Act of 1853, and they had become a totally independent body—an imperium in imperio. They arrogated to themselves powers utterly inconsistent with the Home Government. They contended that they were not liable to the orders of the Secretary of State; in fact, that he had no command over them, that they might pass any Act they pleased, that no alterations could be made in it, and that if any alterations were made, they might refuse to pass any Act at all. [The Earl of ELLENBOROUGH: That is the law.] It was impossible such a state of things could continue, and he trusted the Secretary of State for India would introduce some measure to define at least the powers of the Legislative Council. The remedy proposed in the petition presented by the noble Marquess was very vague and unsatisfactory, because the petitioners said, in effect, "Let us have, instead of one central debating society in India, a little debating society established in every Presidency." That was certainly not a way to get rid of the evil, and he was surprised that the noble Marquess should be the advocate of such a course. [The Marquess of CLANRICARDE: I did not advocate it.] With regard to the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan, he could only express his regret at that circumstance, in common with those who had spoken of his ability and energy. He should like to know from the noble Duke if the Members of the Council who wrote Minutes in corroboration of Sir Charles Trevelyan's Report would remain at their posts? A difficulty would arise if Members of considerable importance, disposed to resist the proposals of the Executive Government at Calcutta, remained; but if they were taken away, better men, he feared, could not be found. The noble Marquess had said that it was Sir Charles Trevelyan who had brought the land tenures of India into their present state, and that it was to him that the improved system was to be attributed; but in truth it was only due to a noble Lord (Lord Harris) who sat near him to say the system had been carried out by him and afterwards by Sir Charles Wood.


Let me say that the removal of the Members of Council would not only be a great loss but an act of most atrocious injustice. They only did their duty; they were obliged to state what they thought on the subject of this proposed legislation.


said, he had a petition to present from a very important body of persons who had formed a largo public meeting at Calcutta, which was presided over by the sheriff. This petition stated the apprehension entertained in reference to the present financial state of India, especially the difference between the receipts and the expenditure; and the petitioners deprecated the continuance of the system of open loans which had failed to a great extent in raising money on advantageous terms, and had seriously affected the credit of the Indian Government. They prayed that attention would be given to the construction of railroads and other modes of communication, and that freehold tenure would be introduced into India, as that would tend materially to attract British capital. They deprecated the Constitution of the Legislative Council, and they hoped that an alteration would be introduced to render those Councils more independent. Without entering upon the other questions which had been discussed, he (Lord Stanley of Alderley) would say that he hoped that some of the financial propositions before the Government would not be carried into effect without great consideration and examination. The income tax might not be objectionable if it could be levied; but the tax upon tobacco was open to great objections; and he deprecated the imposition of heavy import duties on British manufactures, which was at variance with the principles which had been recently advocated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as those which ought to govern the financial policy of the country. There was, indeed, one item of import duties — the duty of 10 per cent on cotton yarn, which was more peculiarly open to this objection, and to which he entertained the greatest objections. It, in fact, directly tended to establish a protected interest, by offering an inducement to the establishment of spinning mills in India, contrary to the principles of free trade, which would raise great difficulties in dealing with these protected interests hereafter, besides diverting capital from where it might be more advantageously employed in India—the improvement and cultivation of the land. With regard to the conduct which had been adopted by Sir Charles Trevelyan, and that had led to his recall, if, instead of publishing these Minutes, the Madras Member of the Council sitting in Calcutta had only communicated the views of Sir Charles Trevelyan in the Council of India at the time when Mr. Wilson made his first great speech in introducing his Budget—if his objections had been urged and fairly discussed in India, then the Government would have avoided the disagreeable position in which they were now placed, of either abandoning the project which they had carried through the Legislative Council, or prosecuting it in the face of the difficulties which had been occasioned by the promulgation of those despatches.

After a few words from the Marquess of CLANRICARDE,

Petition to lie on the table: Motion for Returns agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter-past Seven o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.