HL Deb 21 May 1874 vol 219 cc597-601

My Lords, I think it right to make an explanation with regard to some observations addressed to your Lordships on Tuesday evening by the noble Lord who sits at the Table (Lord Stanley of Alderley), and which were of a somewhat personal nature. The noble Lord, speaking of the Straits Settlements, made statements not only against myself, but also against my noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Kimberley), against the Duke of Buckingham, and against everyone who has held the seals of the Colonial Office in late years. His allusions to a Governor of the Straits Settlements were, however, more pointed. I quote from the noble Lord's speech— The noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) had the ill-luck to appoint this Governor, who disorganized the public service, squandered the revenues of the colony on building a house for himself—and for that purpose seized the bricks which the municipality had provided for waterworks and drainage, and on their remonstrating threatened to suppress them—a Governor who had left behind him a reputation which could only be compared to that of a Roman Proconsul of the time of Cicero. Now, my Lords, there is no doubt as to whom that sentence was pointed. There is no doubt that the noble Lord alluded to Sir Harry Ord, and to no one else. Now, my Lords, I do not think it necessary to trouble your Lordships at any length with reference to those charges. I will only say that I believe that charges of somewhat the same nature were made in a colonial newspaper, but on being investigated were found to be totally unworthy of credit. The paper containing them was sent to the Foreign Office during the time my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) held the Seals, and he came to the conclusion that there was no ground for them. I fully agree with my noble Friend, and therefore as regards those charges I think I should be only wasting the time of the House if I said anything more about those allegations. But the noble Lord (Lord Stanley of Alderley) went on to make this further charge—and, as it is rather more definite, I think it seems to require some explanation. The noble Lord said— The noble Earl had neglected to renew or enforce the salutary rule of the East India Company, forbidding their officials to accept presents. The consequence was, that the acceptance of presents by the Governor and other officials became so general as to be commented upon by the Singapore Press. Now, my Lords, if that means anything—if there is anything whatever in the words—it means this,—that Sir Harry Ord accepted presents in an illegitimate way, and was guilty of corruption. I ought to say why I did not notice this the other evening. The truth is, I failed to catch the noble Lord's words; but if I had heard him I should not have been in a position to contradict the charge categorically. Since, then, however, I have received an explanation from Sir Harry Ord, and I will state it to your Lordships. In 1868, the first year of his government, the King of Siam presented him with a dagger embellished with chasing, and he sent home a printed statement about that present. Subsequently one or two other arms were presented to him by independent Rajahs. It never entered into his mind at the time that he was guilty of any breach of rule in accepting them—in fact, he would have thought himself guilty of rather discourteous conduct if he had not accepted them. I beg your Lordships to observe that the persons from whom he received those presents were a King and independent Rajahs. It is quite true that before those territories became the Straits Settlements the Governor of them would have been subject to the Indian rule, and at the time when my noble Friend opposite left the Colonial Office he was extending that rule to the Colonies, and I am carrying out what he began. But when Sir Harry Ord was Governor he was acting under the rule then applying to the Colonies and under the Indian rule. The Colonial rule has hitherto been that no Governor shall accept presents, pecuniary or otherwise, from any inhabitant of a Colony over which he presides; and these presents having come from independent Rajahs, Sir Harry Ord has not committed any violation of the rules. I have further to state, my Lords, that there was not the slightest desire on the part of Sir Harry Ord for those presents. They are of no pecuniary value. He has several times exhibited them, and I believe they are now being exhibited among the Ashantee spoils. The noble Lord concluded with a censure not only on Sir Harry Ord, but on the Attorney General. He said— Under the auspices of the noble Earl, an Attorney General was appointed who had no knowledge of law, and who had been specially passed through Gray's Inn within one year, as he was only to practise in a colony. My Lords, the official antecedents of the learned Gentleman thus censured, date back to 1849, and it was in 1867 he was made Attorney General. I believe that, either as regards personal character or professional attainments, there is not a word to be said against him. I know him to be very able. In conclusion, I will venture to give this advice to the noble Lord. Everything that any Member of this House says in the course of our debates goes far and wide; and, therefore, if a noble Lord speaks of the character of another person—especially if that person is outside the walls of this House, and has no opportunity of replying—he incurs a grave responsibility. The character of Sir Harry Ord is as precious to him as the character of the noble Lord is to himself. I regret, therefore, that without warrant, but on a mere colouring of facts, the noble Lord should have made a statement which has deeply wounded Sir Harry Ord, and which will be read far and wide, and, perhaps, where the contradiction will not reach. I feel that I have only done my duty in vindicating an absent man from the effect of the ill-advised words of the noble Lord.


My Lords, as the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) has referred to something that occurred when I held the seals of the Colonial Office, I beg to express my concurrence in what he has said as to the facts. After an inquiry which I caused to be made in the Straits Settlements as to the allegations concerning the building of the house, I arrived at the conclusion that Sir Harry Ord was not open to any blame. I regret very much that my noble Friend (Lord Stanley of Alderley) should have made against Sir Harry Ord one of the most grave acccusations that can be put forward against a Governor—that he accepted gifts in a corrupt manner. The Colonial rule has been, as stated by my noble Friend opposite, that no Governor shall accept gifts from any of the inhabitants of the Colony. That did not quite meet the case of the Straits Settlements, and when I saw this case in the Colonial paper, I desired that the Indian rule should be acted on there. I did not lay down the Indian rules in terms, because I required some details with respect to it; but the noble Earl will have found, by papers which I left in the Colonial Office, that I was arranging for its adoption. However, that rule not being in operation in the Straits Settlements, Sir Harry Ord accepted two or three gifts under the circumstances stated by the noble Earl. But there was no imputation on him arising out of his acceptance of those gifts. Had there been, a grave imputation would have lain on me also, because, I ought to have taken serious steps in the matter. I did not do so because I did not think they were called for. I concur with my noble Friend opposite—nothing can be more unjust or more ungenerous than to make personal charges which have not been proved, except it be for the purpose of showing that there is ground for an investigation. Sir Harry Ord has served the Crown for many years. He was placed in a position of great difficulty when having to conduct the government of this Colony after it was handed over by the Government of India. If he did not succeed in giving complete satisfaction to every one, he did good service and managed the affairs of the Colony to the best of his ability. He does not deserve censure, because every one will admit that during his official career he faithfully discharged the duties which devolved upon him. As to the Attorney General, I must say that I never before heard a syllable disparaging to him. I never heard a question of his professional competency. I blame myself for not having replied to those accusations on Tuesday evening immediately after they were made; but I did not hear every word spoken by my noble Friend, and until I read his speech next morning I was not aware of the gravity of the charges.


said, he had not made those charges recklessly, and he would withdraw nothing that he had said. What the two noble Earls had just said had shifted the responsibility from the late Governor to the Colonial Office. The statement of the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) showed grounds for inquiry, and he thought that if the Colonial Office did not institute the fullest investigation they would neglect their duty. The speech just made by the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) would not promote purity of administration in the Colonies, and if the same state of things continued in the Straits Settlements Her Majesty's Government would receive petitions for the transfer of that Colony to the India Office.