HL Deb 12 February 1872 vol 209 cc192-4

rose and said,—My Lords, it grieves me to say that I have a most painful communication to make to your Lordships' House. This afternoon, at half-past 1 o'cock, a telegraphic message was received at the India Office from Mr. Ellis, a Member of the Indian Council. It is dated Saugor Island, February 12, and was, I believe, sent this morning. This is the message— I have to announce with the deepest regret that the Viceroy was assassinated by a convict at Port Blair on the 8th inst., at 7 in the evening. The Viceroy had inspected the several stations of the settlement, and had reached the pier on his way to the boat to return to the man-of-war Glasgow, when a convict, under cover of darkness, suddenly broke through the guard surrounding the Viceroy, and stabbed him twice in the back. The Viceroy expired shortly afterwards. The assassin was arrested at once, and is being tried. His name is Sher Ali, a resident in foreign territory beyond the Peshawur frontier. He was convicted of murder by the Commissioner of Peshawur in 1867, and sentenced to transportation for life. He was received in the Settlement in May, 1869. My Lords, it is my duty, on behalf of the Government, to express, in the first place, the deep sympathy which we feel with the family of Lord Mayo in a calamity and an affliction so unlooked for and so overwhelming. As regards the friends of Lord Mayo, this House is full of his personal friends. I believe no man ever had more friends than he, and I believe no man ever deserved better to have them. For myself, I regret to say that I never even had the honour of Lord Mayo's personal acquaintance; but we came into office at almost the same time, and I am happy to say that from that time our communications have been most friendly, and I may say most cordial. I think I may go further and say that there has not been one very serious difference of opinion between us on any question connected with the government of India. I hope, my Lords, it will not be thought out of place, considering my official position, if, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I express our opinion that the conduct of Lord Mayo in his great office—the greatest in my opinion which can be held by a subject of the Crown—amply justifies the choice made by our predecessors. Lord Mayo's Governor Generalship did not fall in a time of great trial or great difficulty from foreign war or domestic insurrection, but he had to labour under constant difficulties and great anxieties which are inseparable from the government of that mighty Empire. This I may say, I believe with perfect truth, that no Governor General who ever ruled India was more energetic in the discharge of his duties and more assiduous in performing the functions of his great office; and, above all, no Viceroy that ever ruled India had more at heart the good of the people of that vast Empire. My Lords, I think it may be said further that Lord Mayo has fallen a victim to an almost excessive discharge of his public duties. If Lord Mayo had a fault it was that he would leave nothing to others—he desired to see everything for himself. On his way to Burmah he thought it his duty to visit the Andaman Islands, to inspect the convict establishments and see in what manner the rules and discipline of a convict prison were carried out there. My Lords, it was in the discharge of that duty he met his death. I believe his death will be a calamity to India, and that it will be sincerely mourned not only in England and in his native country—Ireland—but by the well-affected millions of Her Majesty's subjects in India. [The address of the noble Duke was heard with marked emotion and sympathy.]


My Lords, I cannot remain silent on the present occasion. If Her Majesty's Government feel deep sympathy with the family and relatives of Lord Mayo, how much more must I feel, who have lived on the most intimate terms of friendship and affection with him and all those belonging to him? It will be gratifying, at all events, to Lord Mayo's family to hear from the lips of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India that Her Majesty's Government have appreciated his conduct during the time he has been Governor General of India. He has, I believe, amply justified the anticipations and hopes formed of him by Her Majesty's late Government when they selected him for that important office. I feel that he leaves behind him a name second to none of those illustrious names who have gone before him; and though it is difficult to talk of consolation, however small, under such circumstances, I believe that this must be some consolation to those who now mourn for him. My Lords, I feel too much to say more on this subject, but I could not remain altogether silent.