HL Deb 22 February 1886 vol 302 cc849-66

, in rising to move— That Her Majesty having directed a military expedition of Her forces charged upon Indian revenues to be despatched against the King of Ava, this House consents that the revenues of India shall be applied to defray the expenses of the military operations which may be carried on beyond the external frontiers of Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, said: My Lords, in moving the Resolution I will point out the clauses in the Act of Parliament which require that this Resolution should be moved. In the Government of India Act, 1858, there are two provisions on the subject of the employment of troops outside Indian territory. The 54th section provides that when any military operations are being carried on beyond Indian territory the fact shall be communicated to Parliament within three months if it be sitting, and within one month if Parliament be not sitting. The other, the 55th, has an immediate bearing on the Resolution which I have to propose. It provides that except for preventing or repelling actual invasion on our Indian Possessions, or for sudden and urgent necessity, the Revenues of India shall not, without the consent of both Houses of Parliament, be applicable to defray the expenses of any military operations carried on beyond the external frontier of Her Majesty's Indian Possessions. The interpretation of this section has given rise to considerable controversy, the points of which will be found fully stated in the Papers relating to the Abyssinian War of 1867, and more especially in those connected with the war in Afghanistan in 1878–9. Some high authorities have contended that this section requires that the sanction of Parliament should be obtained before the commencement of operations. On the other hand, there is the fact that in several cases this Resolution has been moved after the actual operations have commenced. I do not propose to go into the arguments on either side, because, at all events, I feel certain that Her Majesty's present Government cannot be charged with having neglected their duty. It is perfectly clear that I am proposing the Resolution on the first occasion that it was practicable for me to do so. And I have another reason for not discussing the matter, which is that it is the intention of the Government to propose an inquiry into the operation of the India Act in accordance with the intention of the late Government as announced in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. As these ambiguities have arisen, it is, I think, desirable that the point should be considered by the Joint Committee of both Houses which it is my intention to move for. Therefore I will not pursue the argument further. The House will not expect from me at this time any narrative of the circumstances which led to the war with Burmah, or of the steps which followed it. All this has been placed fully before Parliament in the Blue Book which has been laid on the Table. It will be enough for me to say that there has been no doubt in the mind of any man who is acquainted with the course of our relations with the late King of Burmah that they were so unsatisfactory that it was impossible they should be allowed to continue. That unsatisfactory state of affairs had lasted for some considerable time. The causes of complaint were various. Efforts which had been made by the Indian Government to bring about a better state of things bad failed; and it was merely a question of time when some step would become necessary to place our relations upon a more satisfactory footing. During the term of Office of Mr. Gladstone's former Government the question was never approached with any nearness, because the Government were occupied with difficulties relating to the North-West Frontier, and, except upon urgent necessity, it would have been clearly unwise to have entered upon any important operation on another frontier of India. The matter came to a head during the tenure of Office by our immediate Predecessors. The Viceroy of India and Her Majesty's late Government were of opinion that it was necessary that a strong step should be taken as regarded the conduct of the King of Burmah. I have been surprised to see that the defence of the late Government has sometimes been placed on this ground—that we were justified in undertaking a war for the purpose of extending British trade. I have no hesitation in saying that a war undertaken simply for that purpose would be an unjustifiable war; but I do not understand—although, no doubt, the advantage of increased trade may result—that it was on that ground that the Viceroy acted. The ground on which he acted was the very unsatisfactory conduct of the King towards the Indian Government, and certain injuries which he had inflicted upon British subjects for which no redress could be obtained. Above all—and this is fully disclosed in the Papers—the King of Burmah had been endeavouring to establish such relations with Foreign Powers as could not fail to produce for us great embarrassment hereafter, and might have an injurious effect upon the peace and security of Her Majesty's Indian Dominions. It seems to me that, taking all the circumstances together, there certainly existed good causes for the war, and I can quite understand why the Viceroy should have advised that active steps should be taken against Burmah, and that Her Majesty's Government should have approved of them. These, however, are past affairs; and I mention them only in order that the House may not suppose that I wish to pass them over, or that I wish to pass any censure upon the late Government for the course they have taken. I now glance at the success of the operations themselves, because it would be very unjust to the Forces who were employed not to acknowledge the manner in which those operations were conducted. There has been already a gracious acknowledgment of the services of Her Majesty's Forces in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech; and on behalf of the Government, this being the first opportunity I have had of speaking on the subject, I have to state that much credit is due both to those who planned the Expedition, and to all the troops, naval and military, who were engaged in the operations. The extreme promptitude with which the operations were conducted prevented much effusion of blood that otherwise might have occurred; and this is a point that ought to be carefully borne in mind in estimating the services rendered. If the difficulties of the Expedition were not greater it is because they were anticipated by promptitude of action. On that point I wish to pay a tribute not only to the military, but also to the civil authorities, for the great activity they displayed in making the preparations. I think that the House will feel that our thanks are fully and completely due to all those who were engaged in those operations, and who brought them to so successful an issue. Burmah having been thus rapidly conquered, the question, of course, arose as to the next step to be taken. The Papers presented show that a Proclamation was issued stating that Burmah had become a part of Her Majesty's Dominions; and in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech the following passage occurs:— I have decided that the most certain method of insuring peace and order in those regions is to be found in the permanent incorporation of the Kingdom of Ava with my Empire. At that time Lord Dufferin had not been at Mandalay, and had not had the opportunity which he has since had of examining into the state of affairs on the spot. Since we have acceded to Office, Lord Dufferin has sent home a Report stating fully the views he had formed after examining for himself the state of affairs in Upper Burmah. He informs Her Majesty's Government that having himself felt disposed at first rather towards the formation of Upper Burmah into a Native State under British protection, yet, after a careful examination of all the circumstances on the spot, he was convinced that such a course was inexpedient and impracticable. Having received that opinion in unmistakable terms from the Viceroy, in whom, in common with Her Majesty's late Government, we placed the highest confidence—having regard to the fact that Her Majesty's late Government have already announced in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that the Kingdom of Ava would be permanently incorporated in the British Empire, and looking also to the Proclamation which by their instructions had been issued in Burmah—taking all those things into consideration, we have decided without hesitation that the proper course to be pursued—and that course the Viceroy has been instructed to pursue—is to maintain Burmah under the direct administration of the British Grown. As regards the further arrangements to be made, the House will not be surprised when I say that at so early a period, the Viceroy having just, after a few days' sojourn in Mandalay, left that capital, we have not been able to mature the details of administration, and they are at this moment being carefully considered by us in communication with the Viceroy. While we are entirely agreed in our decision, looking to all the circumstances of the case, I do not pretend to look with unmixed satisfaction upon an addition to our responsibilities in India; but I believe the necessity has been forced upon us. I doubt whether those who speak lightly of these accessions to our Empire duly weigh all that is involved. There may be advantages in our possession of Burmah; but, on the other hand, there are drawbacks. Forces will have to be employed there which might be usefully employed elsewhere. Of late years we have wisely made it our policy to avoid as much as possible the annexation of Native States, and not to give rise to the feeling that we were desirous of swallowing up those States. Do not, however, suppose that in making these remarks I am passing any censure upon those who have been engaged in the operations in Burmah, or that the Government are not desirous of making the best of the present position of affairs. The necessity is forced upon us, and the position is one in which the present and the late Government concur in accepting. My hope and belief is, that we shall so govern this addition to Her Majesty's Empire that it will conduce to the happiness and prosperity of the inhabitants of the country, and result in an increase of our trade with China, which may become ultimately very great. As I have mentioned China, it would not be inopportune to say—and I know in what I am about to state I shall have the concurrence of noble Lords opposite—that in considering the relations between Upper Burmah and China there is the utmost desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to treat all matters that may arise in a most friendly spirit with regard to China. I believe also that China is most friendly disposed towards Her Majesty's Government; and where there exists a friendly disposition on both sides and strong common interests, I think we may anticipate that we shall bring any discussion which we may have with the Chinese Government with regard to the frontier to a satisfactory conclusion. We should be on the most cordial terms with China; and I think everyone will see that China, on her part, can have no jealousy of us in that quarter. It is for the interests of both Empires that they should act towards each other on the frontier in such a way that a close and cordial friendship may be formed. Your Lordships may also I desire that I should give some information as to the present condition of Burmah. With regard to that I will I say, in the first place, that there has, no doubt, been a great deal of dacoity since our occupation of the country; but it must be remembered that dacoits have always been there. The Viceroy informs me that dacoity has been exceptionally rife owing to Theebaw's misgovernment, and that the proceedings of the dacoits have been very cruel and barbarous. These proceedings, however, have not, the Viceroy says, been directed against Her Majesty's Government, but against innocent villagers. It is the duty of the authority we have set up to protect the innocent villagers against these men, who have been guilty of murder and plundering of the very worst kind. My noble Friend the Viceroy assures me that in the execution of this duty there has been no unnecessary severity. He says that the general pacification of the country is proceeding as rapidly as can be reasonably expected. The country, however, is largo and overspread with jungle, and it would be unreasonable to expect the immediate establishment of peace. Then, with regard to what is called indiscriminate punishment on the part of the military officers, the Viceroy says in one of his most recent telegrams— It is certainly not true that prisoners are indiscriminately shot by troops. Executions at Mandalay by military during past six weeks have been cases of convicted offenders sentenced by civil officers. Elsewhere, when troops take marauders red-handed, leaders are occasionally shot; in each case all act upon advice of civil officers who accompany columns. It is difficult to discriminate between insurgents and dacoits; both classes plunder and kill innocent villagers, and compel peaceable people to join them. It must be understood that these bands have not come into existence since our arrival, but that dacoity has been long rife in the country. This is the latest information I have from the Viceroy as to the present condition of affairs in Burmah. I have no reason to think that any additional force will be required beyond that now employed. On the contrary, I have heard from the Viceroy that there is even a possibility already of some reduction being made in the force. As to the probable cost of the operations, the Viceroy informs me that it will not ex- change that would be £400,000; at the present rate it is about £300,000 sterling. The able Commissioner of Lower Burmah, Mr. Bernard, thinks it probable that the deficit for the first two, three, or four years will not exceed £20,000 or £30,000. It is very probable that after that period the Expenditure of the country will be balanced by the Revenue, and that eventually there will be a surplus. There is this to be said with regard to those estimates—that since Lower Burmah has been occupied by us its progress has been remarkable as to trade and all other elements of prosperity. No other portion of Her Majesty's Dominions has made greater progress than Lower Burmah. Whether or not Upper Burmah will make equally rapid progress, we may reasonably hope that the administration of the country which the Viceroy intends shall be conducted cheaply will result before long in the Revenue surpassing the Expenditure. The expenditure of the Expedition is calculated as not amounting to more than £300,000 up to 31st of March, which cannot be regarded as a large sum; and it can hardly be contended that this is not a case in which the Indian Revenues may fairly be charged with it. In conclusion, his Lordship moved the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Moved to resolve— That Her Majesty having directed a military expedition of Her forces charged upon Indian revenues to be despatched against the King of Ava, this House consents that the revenues of India shall he applied to defray the expenses of the military operations which may be carried on beyond the external frontiers of Her Majesty's Indian Possessions."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)


said, it was gratifying to the Members of the late Government to find that their undertaking in Burmah met with the approval of Her Majesty's present Advisers. He thought that the noble Earl would perhaps now admit that the paragraph in the Speech from the Throne referring to this matter was not too long, or inserted by way of excuse for the operations in Burmah. He was glad to hear that the Commission which the late Government had thought of moving for with regard to India was to be appointed; and he trusted that one result would be that those who differed on the clauses of the Act of Parliament would come to some satisfactory conclu- sion. He did not gather that it was necessary that the Resolution of the noble Earl should be brought forward within a month after the meeting of Parliament. But it had been out of the power of the present Government to bring it forward within the month. They were, however, to be credited with the desire to bring the Resolution forward as soon after the month as possible. It was not necessary for him to go into the reasons why the late Government thought it right that the country should be annexed; but he might say that the Expedition and annexation were not undertaken solely with the idea of extending our mercantile enterprize. They had responsibilities extending to the people of Lower Burmah. In judging of the matter, all the circumstances which led up to the Expedition must be taken into consideration. The various acts of interference with Her Majesty's subjects on the part of the Burmese Government; their indifference to the Treaties entered into in 1856, 1862, and 1867; their relations with other Powers as well as England—all these matters had to be considered. As the noble Earl had mentioned the civil officials at Madras, who were so active in forwarding the Expedition, he might add a word for the Madras troops, who had not had many opportunities of meeting an enemy in the field, but had on recent occasions shown themselves most conspicuous in actual warfare. He was glad that the course which Her Majesty's late Government thought it most advisable to pursue with regard to the annexation of Upper Burmah would be followed by Her Majesty's present Government. He was entirely unable to agree with the remarks which the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Ripon) made in a speech he delivered in the autumn, that from among the Royal Princes of Burmah could be found one capable of ascending the Throne. No doubt, the noble Marquess would have had ample choice, for King Theebaw's father left over 70 children; but he should not have had envied him the task of selection, for, from what he heard, he should doubt any one of them being fitted for so onerous a position. The noble Earl referred to the annexation of Native States. He entirely agreed with the remarks of the noble Earl on that point. Great stress had been laid on the fact that the Native Princes of India might be under the impression that a policy of annexation would be pursued in India also. He could not understand the reasons for such an apprehension. It was not the policy of Her Majesty's Government nor of late Governments. Quite the contrary. Only the other day the fortress of Gwalior was restored to the Prince; not very long since the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Rajah of Mysore were restored to power; and the Maharajah Holkar had, on several occasions, received very considerable honours. On all those occasions the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been quite different from a policy of annexation of the Native States; and as long as the Native Princes governed their territories with justice and moderation so long might they be assured that they would be continued in the government. He believed that there was the greatest hope for the peace of the world in the proximity of China and Great Britain. The neighbourhood of two such trading nations argued well for the prospect of peace in that part of the world. When the late Government were in power frequent reports of acts of dacoity in Upper Burmah came to this country. He was afraid that dacoity was the normal state of things in Upper Burmah; and it was not wonderful that those who felt their occupation going should endeavour to strike one last blow for it. He was glad to hear from the noble Lord that there were great hopes of the country being brought into a peaceable condition without much delay; and he trusted that in a very short time the people might be able to settle down to their business, and that we should find, as in the Lower Province, that the Revenue, business, and trade of the country had increased at an enormous rate. He would not go into all the circumstances which led Her Majesty's late Government to think that annexation was the proper course, but would only say that they acted solely from a feeling of the responsibility attaching to them in governing British India, and recognized it to be their duty to the people of Lower Burmah as well as of India to insist that the Treaties to which Theebaw was a party should be recognized by him, that justice and honest treatment should be dealt out to those who were trading in that country, and that no exclusive influence should be allowed to any other nation.


On the part of the Army I desire to say that I entirely agree with what has been said on both sides of the House as to the manner in which the military operations have been conducted. I entirely endorse the statement of the Secretary of State for India that the fact that this has been a very bloodless and a very short Expedition adds to the credit of those engaged in it.


said, he thought the military operations in Burmah were justified by all the circumstances of the case. He also thought, having read with attention the Blue Book which had been circulated among their Lordships, that the greatest moderation had been exercised by successive Administrations in dealing with the affairs of Burmah. It had been shown by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Cranbrook), by Lord Hartington, and by his noble Friend, now Secretary of State for India (the Earl of Kimberley), by his noble Friend below him (the Marquess of Ripon) and by the present Viceroy of India. The particular persons who might have to deal with questions of that kind as they arose formed an important element in the conclusion at which a Government might arrive. Two of the officers concerned, Sir Charles Aitchison and Mr. Bernard, were well known for their high character and great moderation of opinions. He quite agreed that in forming a judgment in this matter they must look to all the circumstances of the case, and also to circumstances extending over many years; for difficulties with Burmah arose before the year 1879. He would not like it to be supposed that the war had followed in consequence of any troubles connected with a British Company trading in Burmah, or of any matters of that kind. The causes which had produced this war were far more important, extending over many years, and involving circumstances of far greater moment than any trading difficulties. There was no doubt, whatever the cause of the war might be, that the operations had been admirably organized and successfully carried out; and he was glad to hear the noble Lord opposite (Lord Harris) pay a tribute to the conduct of the Madras Army, which came from him with peculiar grace in consequence of his hereditary connection with that Presidency. It was a great advantage to that Army to have an opportunity of showing what they could do. As to the question of annexation, he looked upon it as one of the very highest importance; and he would certainly have preferred if it had been found possible to have avoided the annexation of Burmah. But he was, at the same time, fully aware of the great difficulties attending any other arrangement, and he was prepared to accept with confidence the deliberate opinion expressed by Lord Dufferin on the subject, that the only course that could be taken with a proper regard to the interests of Her Majesty's Dominions in India was to incorporate Burmah in Her Majesty's Empire. He must, however, express his regret that neither in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, nor in what had fallen from his noble Friend the Secretary of State, nor in the speech of the noble Lord opposite, had there been any mention whatever made of the most important announcement that was ever made by the English Government since the time of its first connection with India—he referred to the Proclamation of the year 1858, in which it was announced that Her Majesty did not desire any extension of Her Dominions in India. That was one of the most solemn steps ever taken by any Government; and he would have liked to see, at the same time that the necessity for annexation was announced, some words used at any rate to show that the great principle that except under imperative circumstances annexation should not be resorted to, would be adhered to. He did not, however, attribute the omission of any notice of that Proclamation to anything more than accident, and certainly not to any disposition on the other side of the House to depart from the great principle that it announced, for the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had shown by his conduct, in respect to the Mysore State and upon other occasions, that he accepted and adopted the policy announced in the Proclamation. With regard to the question of the interpretation of the 55th section of the Government of India Act, this was an occasion, if ever there was one, on which it was necessary to refer to it. It was well known that the object and intention of that section was to place a check on the Prerogative of the Crown with respect to the declaration of war in India. That was the explanation which was given by the Earl of Derby and by Lord Beaconsfield (Mr. Disraeli) at the time. The latter, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, said, in the House of Commons, on July 6, 1858— The power of declaring peace and war might he left to the Sovereign under the Constitution of this country, and with a House of Commons that voted the Supplies and had a legitimate and constitutional mode of expressing its opinion. But if the power of declaring war and peace was left entirely in the hands of the Sovereign in India there were not the means of controlling its exercise that existed in this country, and a policy might be pursued extremely injurious to the national interests."—(3 Hansard, [151] 1014) And he called it a "salutary and politic provision." The present Prime Minister was the originator of that section; and he had expressed the opinion more than once, with the greatest deliberation, that it was the distinct intention of the section that the consent of both Houses of Parliament should precede warlike operations in India, except in the case of invasion or of urgent necessity. In the present case there was no dispute that the war was necessary, neither was there any dispute, he (the Earl of Northbrook) presumed, that there was no great urgency in the case. But, supposing in the opinion of both Houses of Parliament this war were an unjust one. What possible remedy would there be? The war was over and the country had been annexed. He thought their Lordships would see that the provision in the Act which was deliberately intended by both Houses of Parliament to place a check on the exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown had unfortunately become a dead letter, and that matters remained precisely in the condition they were before the Government of India Act was passed. Whatever opinion they might hold on the subject, there could be no doubt that that was the practical result; and he confessed that he was somewhat astonished to hear his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India say that this matter was to be referred to a Committee of both Houses of Parliament. If ever there was a case which did not require elucidation by a Committee this was it. Undoubtedly the highest authorities differed with respect to the interpretation of the clause; but there could be no doubt that the result of this dif- ference of opinion was that the intentions of Parliament had become illusory. He ventured to submit to Her Majesty's Government that it was hardly a case for inquiry. It was a case involving important considerations as to what limitations ought to be placed on the Prerogative of the Crown; and he thought it was too much to ask for a Committee consisting of both Houses of Parliament to help Her Majesty's Government to come to a conclusion as to what really ought to be done to remedy this state of things. The Prime Minister had admitted more than once that the law had been broken. This matter was one of grave importance, and he trusted that the Government would not make the announcement of their conclusion as final, but that they would give a deliberate conclusion on this matter, and announce it to their Lordships. Not only had this war been undertaken, but a territory, he believed as large as Prance, had been annexed to the British Empire without the cognizance by Parliament of the fact, and without any possibility that Parliament could interfere, if it had wished to do so, by an Address to the Crown, to retrace the steps which the Government had taken. This annexation was announced within a fortnight of the meeting of Parliament. The Proclamation was issued on the 31st of December, and Parliament met on the 12th of January. The final step was even taken before the late Government had time to receive a deliberate expression of opinion from the Viceroy of India. That expression of opinion had only been received since the late Government left Office; so they had, notwithstanding the attempt to place a check on the Prerogative of the Crown, made in 1858, a war for which there was really no urgency, which was entered into without the consent of Parliament; in addition to which a large territory was annexed without any possibility of the opinion of Parliament being expressed as to whether that annexation was right or wrong. He did not entertain the opinion that this matter could be left alone and handed over to a Committee of both Houses to inquire into. It was a question which the Government ought to take into their serious consideration, more especially after the strong expression of opinion on the part of the Prime Minister, and decide on their own responsibility what should or should not be the real power of the Houses of Parliament with respect to matters affecting in so serious a degree the interests—it might be, indeed, the safety—of the Indian Empire, and the best interests of this country.


I do not propose to discuss the question raised by the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) because Her Majesty's Government have adopted the course disputed by him. I wish, however, to say that the late Lord Derby in 1867 said, most distinctly, that it was never intended to control the Prerogative of the Sovereign, and the only thing intended was to put a check on the expenditure by Parliament. The present Prime Minister's statement was no doubt strong as to a particular case; but he admitted that, when there were special circumstances, it would be necessary to proceed without the consent of Parliament. I am one of those who think that one of the best courses connected with the proceedings in Burmah was that the blow followed the word, and that there was no time for getting up a contest which might have led to a large amount of bloodshed, disastrous to that country and injurious to this, and by acting promptly and decisively the affair was brought to an end. With respect to the Committee, it will not be charged with the interpretation of the clause, but whether the ambiguity of the clause is such as to need some legislation to put it right. I must warn my noble Friend that we must not interpret Statutes by those who may have brought them in, but by the Legal Authorities who have to construe them at the present day.


I am greatly obliged to my noble Friend for giving me this opportunity of saying that Her Majesty's Government attach the highest importance to the observance of the principles laid down in the famous Proclamation of 1858. Nothing has done more to form and strengthen Her Majesty's rule in India than the steady adherence to those principles; and the Native Princes of India will understand that, in the present case, the exception only proves the rule, and that there is no intention on the part of the present Government, and certainly no probability of any intention on the part of any Government which holds power in this country, to depart from the principles of that Pro- clamation. With regard to the second point, I have to point out that it is not a very unusual course to refer to a Committee the examination of the manner in which an Act of Parliament is worked, especially when two clauses of that Act have been declared to be ambiguous. It is not that the Committee will have to determine the meaning of the Act; but they have to consider whether, by the light of experience which we have obtained since the Act came into force, that portion of the Act, or any other portion of it, requires amendment. I think that such a course is more likely to lead to a satisfactory result than that this isolated subject should be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, I cannot entirely admit, what the late First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook) seems to assume, that the clause of the Act of Parliament is not carried out in its original interpretation. I do not venture to offer any interpretation myself as to what that clause may mean; but I have a very distinct recollection of the occasion when it was inserted, and I do not think that the intention of Parliament has been in the least degree frustrated. What was the circumstance which induced Parliament to insert that clause? It was the Persian War of 1857, a war that was undertaken by the Indian Government, paid for by the Indian Government, and concluded by them without the circumstance coming under the review of Parliament in any way whatever. It was held that that was unconstitutional; that it gave the Queen a power in India which she did not possess in England; but I never understood then, and I do not believe it ever was the intention of making the consent of Parliament a condition precedent before the Government went to war. That is not the law of England, and it was not intended to make it the law in India. What was intended was that in the case of wars waged by the Indian Government, like those waged by England, the whole matter should necessarily come under the control and judgment of Parliament, so that the action of the Executive might be condemned or approved. In that sense, when you remember the precedent of the Persian War, I believe the clause has done its work, because each successive war undertaken from the Indian Revenues has been submitted to Parliament and approved. There is another matter which was referred to in the course of this debate of so much importance that I venture to add a word with respect to it—that is the bearing of this Burmese War upon the Proclamation of 1858. Of course, I entirely concur with the noble Lords when they say that nothing can be further from the minds of statesmen on either side of the House than to impair in the slightest degree the sacredness of the obligations undertaken by the Government in that Proclamation; but I do not believe that this Burmese War has even apparently effected them. That Proclamation was addressed to the Native Princes, who were the Queen's allies and feudatories in India at that time; and the King of Burmah never admitted that he stood in any such relation to the Queen. That Proclamation was no more addressed to the King of Burmah than to the Emperor of Russia, or the Ameer of Samarcand. It was addressed to those Native Princes who stood in a relation of allegiance to the paramount Power; and, therefore, what has occurred in Burmah is not an infraction of the Proclamation. I should be very sorry indeed if the slightest doubt were to be entertained as to the sanctity of that Proclamation. I would avoid even saying that the exception has proved the rule. There has been no exception, and the Proclamation remains in all its integrity. The course of this debate has been thoroughly satisfactory to the Members of the late Government, for it has been well established that this war was not undertaken through any greed of annexation, or through any desire to extend British trade. It has been recognized that it was actually forced upon us. The noble Earl has blamed us a little by implication because we did not wait for Parliament to assemble before giving orders for the commencement of hostile operations.


said, that what he had referred to was the annexation.


The noble Earl will remember that annexation is not a matter dealt with in the slightest degree in the Act of Parliament. It only deals with military operations. With respect to those operations, I do not wish to penetrate deeply into the question, which is a very delicate one. The subject came before me as Foreign Minister, and it was from the point of view of the Foreign Office that we determined that no delay should take place before action was taken. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India repudiated, and very justly, in his speech the idea that we had undertaken this war for the purpose of extending our trade, and showed that the question whether there should not be more interference in the affairs of Burmah has been under the attention of the India Office for a good many years. I myself remember asking Lord Lawrence in consultation 20 years ago; whether some measures could not be taken for bringing the Government of Burmah to a more reasonable frame of mind and stopping the misgovernment of the country; and I believe that it was nothing but a desire to avoid annexation, or any such breach of our ordinary practice, that induced the Government to tolerate the state of affairs in Burmah for so many years. It was only the necessity of their position which forced the Indian Government to break that reserve at last. I believe that no war has been more thoroughly justified; and in a year or two the change that has been made will result in advantage not only to the people in our Indian Empire, but also to the people whom we have now subjected to the beneficent rule of the Queen.


said, that no one who had read the Blue Book relating to our affair with Burmah, or was acquainted with the history of our earliest relations with that country, could attribute for a moment the motive of commercial advantage or the extension of trade as the incentive to war. No other nation in the world would have been so long-suffering and patient under the injuries and insults of the Burmese Government as the British nation. The Burmese had been from the beginning aggressive neighbours. They invaded Assam and Chittagong, and, but for our presence, would have conquered Lower Bengal. The action of the Burmese in endeavouring to form close relations with other European nations whose only means of approaching them would have been through our territory was likely to create serious complications with those nations. Taking into consideration the value of the mineral resources of Burmah and the routes which it supplied through Bhamo for trade with China, he believed the country would amply repay the expenses of its administration. The Punjab, which when first annexed was considered likely to be an unprofitable acquisition, afforded an apposite example. Sir John Lawrence had very anxious doubts regarding the Revenue of that country, which was also liable to the same disturbances as those now prevalent in Burmah. Bands of dacoits committed acts of violence and bloodshed, and the frontiers were disturbed. Sir John Lawrence, by very severe executions, put down acts of violence, and the frontiers were gradually reduced to order, as, no doubt, would be the case in Burmah in a short time. It was extremely gratifying to all who were connected with and interested in India to hear the thorough approval expressed on both sides of the House of the manner in which the Viceroy of India and the forces employed had conducted the conquest and annexation of that country.

Motion agreed to.