HL Deb 29 July 1861 vol 164 cc1727-31

Bill read 3a (according to Order).


complained that this Bill had been brought up to their Lordships at a period of the Session when it was impossible it should receive proper consideration. It was a Bill which ought to have been introduced at an earlier period of the Session, and in their Lordships' House, when and where it could have been more properly discussed. This, and other Bills referring to India, had been needlessly postponed to a period of the Session when it was impossible they could be considered with that weight which their importance demanded. He protested against this mode of transacting public business. By this Bill the pledge which the Government had given to encourage the employment of the Natives was indirectly broken, inasmuch as they had introduced such conditions preliminary to their employment as to render them, generally speaking, ineligible for those offices which it had been intended to open to them. He referred in especial to the grievance which would be inflicted on the Natives of India by their being practically debarred from the army medical service. It was true that there was no express change in the law making them ineligible for these appointments; it was the indirect effect of the amalgamation of the Queen's and the Indian local armies. The ground alleged was their physical incapacity; but in a letter which he had received from a most intelligent Native gentleman the writer said the true cause of this retrograde step was to be found, no doubt, in the foolish prejudice against men of colour. The present measure was, he felt sure, introduced in a kind and friendly spirit towards the Natives, but he wished to insure, if possible, that the spirit of the law—namely, that the Civil Service should be open to the Natives of India, should be properly carried out. He, therefore, proposed a clause which would not give to the Natives any new right whatever, but only secured them against the loss of any right which they at present enjoyed, and enacted that the provisions already in force on this subject should he taken to be part of the present Bill, and should be construed with it as confirming the Natives in the rights, privileges, and immunities already granted to them, The noble Lord moved a clause embodying the views he had expressed— That in page 2, line 19, after ('India') to insert the following Clause:— Whereas by Section Eighty-seven of an Act of the Third and Fourth of King William the Fourth, Chapter Eighty-five, it was enacted that 'no Native of the Territories of India, nor any natural-born Subject of His Majesty resident therein, shall by reason only of his Religion, Place of Birth, Descent, Colour, or any of them, be dis- abled from holding any Place, Office, or Employment under the said Company:' Now be it enacted, That the said Eighty-seventh Section shall be deemed and taken to be Part of this present Act, and shall be construed therewith in all respects as re-enacted and continued therein, and as assuring to the Natives of India and all natural-born Subjects of Her Majesty resident therein all the Rights, Privileges, and Immunities granted to and conferred on them by the said Eighty-seventh Section.


said, that the reason why these Bills were not introduced earlier was that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India had decided to wait for the latest and fullest information before the views of the Government were formed. The noble Lord must remember that his words were addressed not to that House only, but to the world at large; it was, therefore, imperatively necessary that the most accurate strictness and the most correct language possible should be employed. The noble Lord had addressed himself to the consideration of two questions which had no connection with each other, except that they related to the Natives of India. Some time ago a question was put by the noble Lord with reference to the non-admission of Native gentlemen to compete for assistant-surgeoncies. On that occasion his noble Friend the late Secretary of War (Lord Herbert) was present in the House, whose continued absence their Lordships must so deeply regret. He (Earl De Grey) could add nothing to what was then stated by his noble Friend. The noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) said a new construction had been put on the Act of 1833 by the Government regarding the admission of Natives to the Civil Service, and he stated that this had given rise to the greatest discontent in India. Now, the simple fact was that the only branch of the Service from competition for which Native gentlemen had been excluded was that of assistant-surgeons, not to the Native, but to the general army. They were not excluded from the Native army; but it was believed that their constitutions would not fit them for those changes of climate to which the British soldier was exposed, and that they would not if attached to British regiments attract that respect and obedience which it was so important the medical officers of the army should receive. He thought the interests of those gentlemen who had been excluded from this competition might be very safely left in the hands of Lord Canning. This and other Bills would open up for the Natives of India entirely new sources of employment. They were about to be made eligible for seats at the Governor General's Council, and to places on the bench in the highest court of justice in India, and yet this was the time chosen by the noble Lord for asserting that they were limiting the privileges of the Natives of India. The whole object of the Bill was to open to the Natives opportunities of employment under the Crown, and to legalize appointments hitherto made in contravention of law. If the Indians were discontented after the present debate, it certainly would not be in consequence of any provisions of the Bill. Her Majesty's Government cordially accepted the enactment of 1833, and had done more than any previous Government to carry out its spirit, but they did not think it advisable to re-enact it, in the terms of the noble Lord's Amendment, as it might lead to a belief among the Natives on the one hand that the Bill contained some secret and insidious attack upon their rights; or, on the other, that it was intended to do more than the Bill professed, and to open to them all competitive examinations in this country, and to sweep away all the restrictions of the covenanted service. No more unwise course could be taken than to add to a Bill conferring substantial benefits on the Natives of India the vague and general clause suggested by the noble Lord.


acquiesced in the view taken by the noble Earl (Earl De Grey), whose services had been given with such advantage to India since his appointment to the office which he was now about to vacate; but he maintained that since 1833 the Natives had been systematically misled, as they never practically were admitted into the Civil Service. If Natives were deemed inadmissible they ought to be told so, but it was a mockery to admit them in name, when not a single instance had occurred of their actual appointment.


said, that it was true that the Civil Service was, by the letter of the law, now open to the Natives of India, but in practice no Native had ever been admitted to that service. It was, therefore, desirable to reinform and reassure the people of India that we adhere to the sentiments which we had previously expressed, and were anxious that they should be treated as on a perfect equality with Europeans.


having said a few words in reply,

Amendment negatived.


moved an Amendment to the effect that the Governor General should have power to give appointments to persons after a residence of five, instead of seven years, as provided in the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Bill passed.