§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
rose to call attention to the state of affairs on the frontier and in the interior of India; to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he could give the House any information on the subject; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper has not been put down in opposition to the wishes of the Secretary of State, but in concurrence with them. It it not, therefore, in any unfriendly, and still less in any partisan spirit that I now move it. India is far too serious a subject to admit of partisan discussion on this or on any occasion. Like foreign affairs and Colonial affairs, it ought, in my judgment, to be lifted outside the squalid atmosphere of party contention. It is unfortunate for India if it is made the subject of party dissension even in the House of Commons in this country, but it is doubly unfortunate in its effect in India, where there are plenty of people always ready to take advantage of any apparent disagreement between the two parties at home, and where it is of paramount importance that the Government should represent a continuous tradition and should present a united front. I 499 think that is a proposition which is true at any time, and especially at the present moment, when we are confronted with a state of affairs in India which challenges the very principles upon which the Government itself exists.
There is much in the treatment of this question by the Secretary of State during the past two years which has excited our sympathy and admiration. We know the difficulties with which he has been confronted; we have an idea of the cross-fires to which he has been exposed. He will, I think, be the first to acknowledge that he has received the not ungenerous sympathy and support of the Party to which I belong, and if there are some things on which we disagree with him, or which we think might have been done differently, and if we say so, I am sure that he will also be the last to object. There are, I think, special reasons for this discussion at the present moment. Since the noble Viscount entered this House he has found no opportunity of making a full and detailed statement to Parliament of the condition of affairs in India. I believe he will welcome such an opportunity himself this afternoon, and I am sure that it will be welcomed by the country at large.
There are some of us, also, who have an interest in India who have something to say, and it is not, perhaps, unnatural that I should feel that desire in a particular degree. A man who has administered the government of India for nearly seven years cannot lose his interest in that great country. In my case, indeed, it is coterminous with my life. Still less will he endeavour to divest himself of any responsibility which may properly be his. During the two and a half years since I came back from India I have not, I hope, said one word to embarrass the administration of the noble Viscount or to render his difficult task more difficult. I hold strongly the view that the actual holders of office, and particularly of Imperial office, ought to be left to develop their policy. Theirs is the knowledge—in the case of a remote country like India almost the exclusive knowledge—and theirs is the responsibility; and I should shrink from interfering prematurely with the development of any scheme of action to which an administrator of the character 500 and calibre of the noble Viscount had set his hand. I cannot truthfully say that a similar reserve has been shown by many members of the Party to which he belongs. Many shameful calumnies and misrepresentations have been uttered on this subject, to which I shall have occasion to allude in the course of my remarks.
This Motion combines in a single formula frontier affairs and the internal condition of India. I do not thereby mean to assert or to imply that there is any connection between frontier troubles and the internal unrest in India. I have seen that connection asserted, and it is not inherently improbable; but I have coupled the two subjects in the same Motion solely in order to comprise them in a single discussion and to enable the noble Viscount to deal with both. I shall, therefore, deal with them this afternoon as entirely different subjects.
First, I will deal with the frontier. Your Lordships will remember that a few months ago we had a short discussion on the expedition against the Zakka Khel Afridis which was then proceeding on the frontier. That expedition was conducted with great rapidity and success by the military, and its result was, I think, a conclusive vindication of the wisdom of the policy which has been pursued by both Governments now for some years. When we hoped that all was quiet, suddenly, without any warning, and, apparently, without any provocation, we heard that the Mohmand tribe, a considerable aggregation upon the frontier, were bearing down in large numbers upon our border. I say without any apparent provocation, though I have observed that in certain quarters the railway to which the military authorities attach very great importance and which was being pushed, for strategical reasons, through the country lying to the south of the Kabul river is supposed to have had something to do with the feeling of unrest. Whether that was so or not I cannot say. Perhaps the Secretary of State can inform us. The railway did not threaten or go through their country, and I do not myself quite see why they should have been offended.
Here, again, in the matter of the Mohmands, owing to a really brilliant feat of arms on the part of our troops. 501 the action of the Government was speedy and effective, and the frontier policy of which I have spoken again met with a triumphant vindication. Our fear has always been, with regard to that policy, that, right though it was universally admitted to be in principle, it was exposed to the danger of a possible breakdown under the temptations of religious fanaticism or the contagion of a general conflagration on the border. However, when the Mohmands advanced, no one came to their help. They appealed to the Zakka Khel, who would have none of it. They turned to the Afridis, who remained silent. They looked further north to Bajaur and Swat, and Bajaur and Swat, to use a familiar phrase, "abode in their breaches." Accordingly, this threatened trouble on the frontier subsided almost as quickly as it had arisen.
I congratulate the Government upon the success of their movement. And I think, if anybody had been disposed to doubt the success of the scheme of frontier policy which has been in existence for nearly ten years, his doubts must really have been dispelled by this occasion; and I hope we shall now hear no more of the wild-cat schemes for advancing into the tribal territory, annexing up to the border, driving roads through the tribal country and administering up to the Durand line.
But, in the course of this Mohmand affair, there occurred, at one moment, a very serious development. We suddenly heard that there was launched against the upper end of the Khaibar, a force emanating from Afghan territory, supplied with Afghan arms, largely consisting of Afghan subjects, its commissariat derived from Afghanistan, crossing the frontier by the Pad of Afghan officials, and led by fanatical mullahs, one of whom was, I believe, the confidential confessor of the Ameer himself. When the Government of India, who appear to the to have shown extraordinary patience and forbearance in the matter, addressed the Ameer, there was a long and ominous delay before he replied. Finally, when he issued a proclamation recalling his subjects, the movement had already spent its force and come to an end.
This raises a very momentous question. I am as strongly in favour as any man 502 in this House of the policy of a strong and powerful and friendly Afghanistan, The less we interfere with that country the better; and the idea of forcing on the Ameer any institutions or inventions either of peace or war distasteful to him would, I think, be a public mistake. But it is equally important—and this is the point to which I directed the whole of my aims while I was in India—that there should be an absolutely clear understanding between him and us as to our respective obligations and a faithful fulfilment on both sides of the engagements into which we have entered. We subsidise the Ameer. We allow the unrestricted importation of arms into his country. We demarcated the tribal boundary between our territory and his with his father, and each party then accepted responsibility for the tribes on his side of the border.
In the case of the present Ameer we have gone even further. We have made to him a remarkable, and, as I think, not altogether called-for concession. When the Dane Mission went to Kabul the Ameer was allowed to dictate to us the form of treaty. We conceded the recognition of a title which had never been asked for by or given to his father. When he came down to India he was permitted to claim, and he received, a salute greater than would be given to the Tsar of Russia or the German Emperor if they visited our Indian Empire. He was permitted to lay down the condition that during his tour in India no business of any sort should be talked. He was feted in every way; and when he returned to his country the noble Lord the Secretary of State congratulated himself and the country upon the success of the policy that had been pursued. So far, so good.
But it was rather a disquieting thing that within a few months of that return we had an expedition largely composed of Afghan subjects let loose upon our border, and that the restraining word that might and ought to have been spoken by him was so long delayed. An alliance is not in an altogether wholesome condition when the subjects of one party are permitted to make raid on the territories of the other; nor, again, is it an altogether reassuring 503 thing that we should admit the unrestricted importation of arms into Afghanistan with the melancholy prospect that they may, perhaps, be turned against ourselves in the future. I recognise the Ameer's difficult position. I have, personally, great confidence in his loyalty; but he is in a difficult position. There is always a strong anti-British party at his capital, and he is surrounded with domestic intrigue. But, while making full allowance for all that, the situation, as far as it is known to the public, has not been a satisfactory one; and I am certain the House will welcome any reassuring statement that the noble Lord is in a position to make.
One other observation on this branch of the subject. I refer to the Anglo-Russian Agreement. In February last we had a discussion on that Agreement, and the noble Marquess Lord Ripon told us then that the Afghan part of the Convention had been referred to the Ameer for his approval, and that without his assent that portion of the Convention would fall to the ground. The noble Marquess explained to us on that occasion that he attributed the delay in receiving a reply to the customary dilatoriness of Oriental procedure. Under existing arrangements it is possible to get a communication to the Ameer and to receive a reply from him in two or three days. But since the official communication was addressed to the Ameer containing the treaty in September last, nine months have elapsed, and it is notorious that no reply has yet been received. The Ameer is a very attentive follower of English politics, and he must be perfectly familiar with the views of His Majesty's Government. Whatever may be the result, it is impossible to believe that he can have regarded the Afghan portion of the Convention with any great enthusiasm. Indeed, I think anyone who knows anything of him or of Afghanistan would easily have foreseen that his sentiments would probably be of another description.
I do not think we can very well congratulate His Majesty's Government upon their diplomacy in this respect. They conclude an important international agreement which they frequently refer to as one of the most beneficial achievements 504 of their administration. It involves important arrangements about the territory and the relations of a potentate whose foreign affairs are in their hands and who is handsomely subsidised by them. They do not consult this potentate in advance, though it is to me quite inconceivable that the Government of India should not have advised them in that direction. There is such a desperate hurry to conclude that treaty that the consent of the Ameer is taken for granted, and thus they subject themselves to the rebuff—for I really cannot call it otherwise—of having to wait for the best part of a year for a reply, while in the interval no human being knows whether the Convention is in operation or not. Nobody would be better pleased than myself if the noble Viscount is able to tell us that success has already attended, or is likely soon to attend, his efforts. I earnestly hope, for the sake of the relations between ourselves and Russia at St. Petersburg, and the relations between ourselves and the Ameer, that a favourable reply will be received. Though I have no great admiration for the treaty, though I have criticised it, not for its spirit, which is admirable, but for its terms, which I think were bad, I should think it a deplorable thing if it were to founder on such a rock as this. But my point is that this rock ought to have been foreseen; that anybody who had even a passing acquaintance with the Ameer or with Afghan affairs could have foreseen the issue. If the noble Viscount had taken the trouble to search the records in the India Office he would have found that when similar arrangements were under discussion in the time of the noble Marquess Lord Lansdowne, and when the Government of India were consulted on the matter, they laid down as an essential condition that the assent of the Ameer should not be assumed, but that the ordinary compliment and courtesy should be paid him of asking his views in advance. The only other observation I have to make on this question is that my Question concludes with a Motion for Papers. It is now some time since we had any Papers laid on the Table on the subject of Afghanistan, and I think it would be a matter of interest and advantage to many Members of this House and to the 505 public if the noble Lord were able to tell us this afternoon that he would lay on the Table Papers on the subject.
I now turn to the internal condition of India, which is a subject of much greater anxiety and which will be much less easily composed. Events have been moving very rapidly during the past few months in India. It is a mistake, however, to regard the movement as a new thing. For years there has been a party in India implacably opposed to British rule in that country. We have had to endure chronic abuse and vituperation from a certain section of the native Press, and from time to time there have been explosions of racial violence inciting to disorder and to crime. There was such an explosion in the days of Lord Lytton, and there was another in the time of Lord Sandhurst, when he was Governor of Bombay. But lately these symptoms of unrest have developed with really alarming rapidity until finally they have culminated in what cannot be otherwise described than as a menace, not merely to Government, but to the very structure on which society itself is based in India.
I do not think that we ought to minimise this unrest any more than we ought to exaggerate it. In relation to the whole continent of India it is inconsiderable and almost insignificant. I suppose if we had any means of making a referendum to the 300 millions of the people of India, we should find that the enormous bulk of them were wholly unaware of the existence of this unrest. Moreover, there are powerful and valuable elements on our side. The princes of India, owing to the wise policy pursued for fifty years, are, I believe, unanimously and enthusiastically on the side of Government. Although attempts of the most sinister description have been made to tamper with the loyalty of the Army—attempts certain to be renewed—they have been so far, I believe, unsuccessful. The better classes of the people, the men who have a stake in the country, are also loyal—although noble Lords can scarcely have an idea of the degree of timidity by which these persons are actuated, or the degree to which they are frightened by the pressure, the threats, and the blackmail of the native Press of India. Though these are the favourable sym- 506 toms, from another point of view we cannot deny the seriousness of the situation.
When we read of attacks being made on Europeans in the great military station of Rawalpindi, of serious agitation among the peasants of the Punjab, of disgraceful riots in the remote and hitherto entirely peaceful corners of Madras, of prominent citizens being arrested for sedition in Bombay, and of the whole chapter of events in Bengal, it is evident that there is a movement in existence in India which has wide ramifications, which is backed by a powerful and unscrupulous organisation, which is supported by large funds, which does not spring from any local or isolated cause, but which is part of a deliberate campaign conducted against British government in that country. Moreover, my Lords, we must remember that, though the classes which propagate sedition may be numerically small, they are the classes which have almost the monopoly of education and the influence which education gives. They have a perfect command both in speech and in writing of the two languages—English and the vernacular—and they possess an influence with their countrymen greatly in excess either of their numbers or of their social standing in the country. I do not think, therefore, that we ought to underrate the seriousness of this movement. I hope very much that its dangerous symptoms will abate; but I think we must count upon the chronic continuance of unrest in India for the reason that the causes which are at the bottom of it are not ephemeral, but in some respects almost permanent in their operation.
There is not time, nor am I sure that this would be the occasion, for entering into any detailed analysis of the causes of this movement. All of them are complex, and some of them are very obscure. But among those causes a few lie on the surface. It will, I think, be admitted by every one that first and foremost among these is the education we have given to the people of the country. For years—indeed, ever since the days of Lord Macaulay, who may be said in a sense to be the author of much that has happened since then—we have 507 been giving to the people of India an education which, however admirably suited to a country which has centuries of constitutional development behind it, is profoundly ill-adapted to a country where the traditions, the social customs, and the state of intellectual evolution are what we see in India. It has taught the people of India the catchwords of Western civilisation without inspiring them with its spirit or inculcating its sobriety. It has sharpened their intellect without forming their character. When we read the other day that in the personal property of one of these miserable bomb-throwers who was arrested there was found "Mill on Liberty" and "Burke on the French Revolution," we can detect the remote spark which led to the ultimate conflagration.
The second and very potent cause of unrest is, I believe, the ferment which is going on in every part of Asia at this moment, and which has been greatly, almost immeasurably, aggravated by the success of Japan over Russia in the last war. This is the first occasion for centuries in which in an open conflict between East and West, between Asia and Europe, Asia has triumphed. The reverberations of that victory have, echoed like a thunderclap through the whispering galleries of the East. They have produced the progressive movement in China, the constitutional movement in Persia, the revolutionary movement in Russia, and almost the whole of the activity that has been manifested in different parts of Central Asia. In India, I can certify, because it occurred in my time, that they gave an immense impetus to the racial feeling in that country. They lent shape and confidence to the aspirations long formed in the native mind, and they led agitators to think that the time had arrived when the policy of deeds might be substituted for the policy of words.
There is one alleged cause of this unrest to which I hope you will allow me, in justice to our own countrymen in India, to refer. It is the charge often made that there is a change in the temper of Englishmen in that country, that there is a progressive loss of sympathy and a hardening of spirit and tone in our relations with the natives. It is sug- 508 gested that there was once a time, 100 years or less ago, when we were truly in touch with them, but that at some period since we have grown arrogant and stiff, and are now incapable of entering into any relations of amity or regard with them. I do not think it is ever true that national character pursues these sharp or sudden zigzags, and I believe it to be quite untrue of our fellow-subjects in that country. If you look at the books that were written a hundred years ago—which is the Saturnian epoch to which the critics now refer—such a work as the "Journal" of Bishop Heber, who travelled in many parts of India a century ago—you will find in his writings precisely the same complaints about the unsympathetic character of our countrymen. But these charges, in so far as they were true, were true then of a minority only of our countrymen, and if they are true now, they are equally true of a minority only, and I believe a minority which has grown steadily smaller.
What has changed in India is, not the character of the Englishman, but the system under which the Englishman works. It is scarcely possible to describe the degree to which the official Englishman in India is the victim of a system more rigid than himself. The increase of population, the enormous rise in the standards of administration, the demands of education, of sanitation, and public works, the spread of railways bringing constant visits from inspectors and officers coming to see how he is getting on, the diffusion of the electric telegraph calling from him for information and reports, for answers to fantastic and ignorant questions put in the British House of Commons—all these constitute an overwhelming burden on the time of the district official in India, and leave him little or no time for that social intercourse with the natives, which is supposed to have been in days gone by the source of their confidence and of his strength. The British official in India is now surrounded by native clerks, by Baboos who talk English as well as himself; and that, of course, leads to a disinclination on his part to make himself familiar with the vernacular of the country. In these ways a gap is growing between, the English and the natives in 509 India which is a most regrettable thing, but which is inevitable because it is in part the result of the operations of the Parliamentary system in this country.
There is another and very different respect in which Englishmen, or, at any rate, a small knot of Englishmen, have incurred responsibility for the condition of affairs in India. I am referring to the utterances, sometimes ignorant and irresponsible, sometimes deliberate and malignant, of a small knot of Englishmen who have been preaching the doctrines of self-government for years to the Indians, denouncing the British Government which they very likely have themselves served, and pouring contempt on the race from which they themselves are sprung. Some of these men have been members of the Civil Service, which they have left under conditions producing a sense of personal grievance in their minds. Some of them are English Members of Parliament, some of them are journalists, some of them are itinerant orators of the emotional type who pay visits of a few weeks to India to tell the people there what they ought to do, and then come back here and tell us what we ought to do. Nearly all of them belong to the extreme wing of the Radical Party. A good deal of their ammunition is, I believe, derived from the earlier writings of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India, although I fancy that they are very much disappointed with his more recent action.
These persons, particularly if they have M.P. added to their name, have a valuation in India greatly in excess of that which they enjoy here; and when they go to India and tell the people there that they are ruled by a Russian despotism or that the methods of their Government are worse than Armenian atrocities, it is supposed that they know something about Russia and Armenia, and are talking truth. It is possible to show that some of the utterances of which I am speaking have been directly responsible for some of the consequences that have ensued; and when we tabulate as I am endeavouring to do, the causes of this movement, let us not deny a prominent place to the pernicious action and inflammatory writings of some of our own countrymen.
510 I come to a question which has excited a great deal of attention—I allude to the so-called partition of Bengal. More exaggerated nonsense has been talked about this question than almost any other question of contemporary Indian politics. We are told that it is the main cause of the unrest throughout India. If the unrest were confined to Bengal there might be some plausibility in that plea; but do the peasants of the Punjab or the people of Tuticorin care twopence about the partition of Bengal? They have not the slightest idea what it means. You might just as well say that the rejection of the Scottish Land Bill by this House was responsible for the agitation in Macedonia or the outrages at Lisbon. We are also told that there was a sinister design on the part of the Government of India to create a race feud between Hindus and Mahomedans, and in particular that the partition of Bengal was an attempt on my part to avenge myself on the Bengalis for their hostility to some of the measures passed when I was in India. It is a calumny so preposterous that it scarcely seems worthy of notice. It certainly was an advantage of the measure of which I am speaking that the Mahomedans in Bengal, who represent a down-trodden and backward element of the population, should be gathered together in a province where there would be greater scope for their intellectual development and for their employment in the future. But the credit for that, if credit it be, was not mine. The ultimate form which the partition took, and which differed very materially from the proposals I put forward in the first place, was conceived when the Government of India was in the hands of my noble friend Lord Ampthill. When I returned to India, I found that he had courteously reserved the matter for my decision, and, knowing the sincerity and the thoroughness with which the matter had been discussed by his Government, I readily acquiesced in their views.
Now, what were the objects of the so-called partition of Bengal? Partition, I think, is in itself an inapt and undesirable phrase. It suggests a forcible dismemberment of the country, much as Poland was torn to pieces by its avaricious neighbours. The partition of Bengal 511 was merely the readjustment of the administrative boundaries of that province effected by a duplication of the machinery of Government. It was as if the Home Office or the Local Government Board in this country were to take some county whose population had grown to such an extent that one county council could not well manage its affairs, and say that therefore it should have two councils in future. There were two factors with which we were confronted. The first was this. On the eastern side of Bengal lay the remote and rather backward province of Assam, with no outlet to the sea for its industries, and with only a service borrowed from Bengal. It was from every point of view desirable that Assam should be extended to give it the outlet of which I speak, and to enable it to have a Commission of its own. Then, what was more, I found from the reports of the officers and from my own inquiries that, owing to the enormous burden resting on the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, who had to administer a province of 80,000,000 people, there was worse administration and a greater chasm between the Government and the people in the east of Bengal than in any other part of India. We therefore decided to duplicate the machinery of Government, and instead of having one Lieutenant-Governor, one Board of Revenue, one Legislative Council, to give them in each case two.
That measure was received with gratitude by the majority of the inhabitants not of the old province but of the new province, and I venture to say it has turned out a great administrative advantage to the people. But it excited fierce resentment among a certain section of the people. It struck athwart the social and material interests of a number of individuals and communities to whom it was a matter of importance that everything should be centralised at Calcutta, and it also cut athwart the political ambitions of those extreme persons and agitators who looked in the future to an occasion when they might bring the undivided force of the whole Bengali race to bear upon the British Government in their struggle for political concessions.
512 All these causes operated when the measure was introduced, and, further, those feelings were enhanced by the manner in which the question was dealt with by the then Secretary of State for India. The noble Lord, Lord Midleton, the Secretary of State at that time, made a reference to the partition of Bengal in one of his telegrams, which undoubtedly led to the inference in that country that that measure had been thrown as a sop to soothe my wounded feelings rather than on grounds of political propriety or expediency.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes. These were the words of the noble Lord. It was a telegram connected with my resignation, which, as the House knows, had reference to a question of military administration, and had nothing whatever to do with Bengal. The telegram was dated August 16th, 1905, and was as follows—Throughout your administration my colleagues and I have endeavoured to give you constant support in the many measures of administrative reform you have initiated, including the partition of Bengal, upon which we recently adopted your proposals.That sentence was universally read in India, and the noble Lord will see it by referring to the papers, to mean—especially when taken in conjunction, with the tone of the noble Lord's own despatch about the partition of Bengal—that he had, so to speak, thrown the partition of Bengal to me in order to make matters as easy as possible for me in consequence of my injured feelings arising out of the manner in which he had treated me over my resignation. I do not say the inference was just or unjust, but that it was universally held is known by everyone in India, and can be demonstrated by reference to many sources. Those feelings have been enhanced by proceedings which have taken place under the present Administration. There have been more answers than one given in the House of Commons, notably an answer by the late Prime Minister, which have suggested the possibility that the Government are not unwilling to hear new facts 513 or new arguments which might conceivably lead to a reconsideration of the case. The terms of these answers, although I believe quite innocent in themselves—I am not complaining of them—were undoubtedly read in India as suggesting the possibility that the Government might reconsider this question. Even now there are certain Members of the House of Commons, and a large section in India, who believe that if persistent pressure is applied to the Government they may yet yield on the matter. If the noble Lord in his speech to which we are presently to listen will state that the Government adhere absolutely to the policy which they have supported for the last two-and-a-half years, it will, I believe, do more than anything else to crush the agitation which is still proceeding on the matter in India. For my own part I can only say that any revocation or modification of the partition of Bengal—a measure accepted by two Secretaries of State, two Governments, two India Councils, of undoubted administrative advantage, inflicting injury upon no class or community, made a test case between the extremist party in India and the Government—would place a premium upon disloyal agitation in India in future, and render the government of India well-nigh impossible; and future Secretaries of State would rue the day and would not forgive the man by whom that concession had been made.
Then we are sometimes told that the unrest is due to the harsh and oppressive measures of the British Government, and particularly to the reactionary policy of recent years. I always suspect these cant phrases when I hear them. When a Conservative dislikes any measure he calls it revolutionary, and when a Radical dislikes any measure he calls it reactionary. I have never myself been able to ascertain what the reactionary measures were to which reference was made. There are several noble Lords in this House with whom I had the honour of being associated in the government of India, and I think I shall carry them with me when I say that in the years in which we worked together we carried a very considerable programme of administrative reform in the interests of the people of that country. We reduced taxation on three occasions; 514 we gave large sums to irrigation; we reformed the police; we endeavoured to purge education of some of its worst blemishes and to supply it with funds; we organised agriculture and created agricultural banks. These measures were received with acclamation at the time, and I should be glad to hear from the Secretary of State what are the oppressive or reactionary measures of which the Government of India in my time were guilty, or if, indeed, he can find any trace of them.
I pass to the methods with which the noble Lord is dealing with the situation in India. Those methods have met so far with our cordial support. We applauded him when he ordered the deportation of two principal authors of sedition last year, and when he released them we accepted his judgment. We were glad when the Government of India issued a circular to suppress misconduct in colleges and schools, and when they passed a law to prohibit seditious meetings. When the noble Lord put two Indian gentlemen on his council in London, we thought it a most reasonable concession, and I am sure we are all prepared to give favourable consideration to the proposal as to advisory councils or the expansion of legislative councils which he may shortly put before us. So far so good. But these measures have been, perhaps, better in their intentions than in their execution. Certainly they have not altogether succeeded in their results. So far as I can ascertain the school circular has been almost a dead letter. I have carefully studied the newspapers, and seditious meetings seem to me still to nourish unchecked.
Then there was the calamitous action about which it is my duty to say a word—the acceptance of the resignation of Sir Bampfylde Fuller. He was an officer of great ability and courage and notorious for his sympathies with the natives, and he was engaged in the face of much obloquy and difficulty in carrying out the extremely arduous task of introducing the new administration in the province of Eastern Bengal. He disagreed with the Government of India on a point of importance, and was allowed to resign. I think the acceptance of his resignation was most unfortunate, 515 because it gave a great impetus to the agitation and led agitators to think that, having got rid of the Lieutenant-Governor, they could also destroy the province. What was worse still, it was a matter of great discouragement to British officers throughout the country. It took the heart out of them; it lowered their morale. If, they said to themselves, the most conspicuous and able of our number, who is in the forefront of the battle, has been deserted, how can smaller or weaker men presume to hold the fort?
I daresay the Secretary of State will say that it is improper by means of a threat of resignation to hold a pistol at the head of the Government. I am perhaps entitled to speak on the ethics of resignation. To proffer your resignation is not necessarily to hold a pistol at the head of the Government; it is often the sole resort which is open to an honourable man who has strong convictions. That was the case with Sir Bampfylde Fuller. Did the Government of India invite him to reconsider his position? Did they give him an opportunity of explaining his views or withdrawing his threat? If they had done so, and he had declined to take it, I should not have stood up in this House to say a word in his defence. No such opportunity was given. He was sacrificed in the mistaken belief that it would pacify the agitators, whereas, as I believe, an entirely opposite result has ensued. If he had remained in Eastern Bengal. I believe it would have been pacified long before now.
During the last few months events in India have taken a more dangerous form. We have read with great horror of the attempts made on the lives of British officers and other persons, and these have culminated in the discovery of a conspiracy which has behind it all the diabolical resources and is animated by all the fiendish motives of the worst anarchist societies in history. With fearful rapidity we have seen the state of affairs in India pass from calumny and misrepresentation to sedition, from sedition to crime, and from crime to bloody anarchy. This shows. I think, that the treatment so far adopted has not been altogether successful.
516 During the past few weeks the Government of India have dealt with the subject by two measures. They have passed an Explosives Act which is a duplicate of a measure that was carried with great rapidity in both Houses of Parliament here in 1883. None of us has a word to say against that. They have also introduced and carried a Press Act. I wonder if the people in this country have any idea of the appalling licence, the shameless violence which characterises much of the writing of the native Press in India. There is a section of that Press which exists only for the vituperation of the British Government and the stirring up of race hatred between the two peoples. I might easily read you sheaves of extracts to illustrate my point, but it is sufficient for me to quote the words of the Viceroy, who, in a debate on this Bill the other day in India, spoke of a system of seditious writing and seditious speaking of unparalleled virulence as existing throughout India. There is not a country in Europe, there is not even a Republic in South America, where writing of this sort would be tolerated. In India it is peculiarly perilous, because there you have an alien Government conducting the government with only a scanty force behind it, and dependent to a large extent upon its personal prestige, and you are also dealing with perhaps the most credulous and impressionable people on the face of the globe. Every day they see the officers of the Government vilified, the Government traduced, and British rule represented as a harsh and infamous oppression. I noticed the other day that a bomb-thrower, who killed two poor innocent women, turned out to be a young man who had been had up for distributing seditious literature in 1906, and had been let out because of his youth by the Government of Bengal; and he stated himself that his mind had been inflamed by the poison of the vernacular Press.
Twice before now has special Press legislation had to be introduced in India for the purpose of dealing with this state of affairs. The first case was in the time of the Mutiny, and the second in the time of Lord Lytton. He introduced a measure intended not to punish that sort of 517 crime, but to prevent it. In 1880, the Liberal Government came in, and the noble Marquess opposite arrived in India, and in deference to what are called Liberal principles, that Act was repealed, and ever since we have had to rely upon the indifferent protection of the penal code. I say the indifferent protection of the penal code because, although the penal code has been strengthened since that date, there is almost always a doubt as to the inter pretation of the law. The law officers in India are usually averse to prosecution It is attended by all the publicity and advertisement of public trial, and with native juries it is extremely doubtful what will be the nature of the verdict.
The Government of India have now passed a Press Act which deals with incitements to murder and violence. If I may presume to criticise it, it seems to me not altogether adequate. In the first place it sets up a rather cumbrous and dilatory machinery, inasmuch as the intervention of the local government is required. Then it provides for a conditional order of forfeiture of the offending Press, with a public inquiry and the advertisement that ensues, whereas, in my judgment, a summary procedure is better suited to the circumstances of the case. Thirdly, it allows an appeal to the High Court, with again the opportunity of a sensational trial, and possibly the overruling, on a technical ground, of the Executive. Surely when we are dealing with a conspiracy directed against the main principles of government and against human life, when the question at stake is the preservation of law and order, we ought not to regard this as a question of a judicial tribunal at all; it is a question as to which the Executive possess the sole responsibility. But it is my chief objection to this measure that it is confined exclusively to incitements to murder and violence, and that, being so confined, the great torrent of ordinary everyday incitements to sedition and attack on the British Government will continue. I feel additional confidence in holding these views because they have been publicly expressed by the Viceroy himself. 518 In a debate upon this Bill at Simla the other day he spoke as follows—It is quite possible that our Bills may not be strong enough. In that case we shall not fail to amend them; but the Newspaper Bill in no way takes the place of a general Press Act, and in no way ties our hands as to the future introduction of such an Act. In my opinion, a further general control of the Press in India is imperatively necessary.It is scarcely possible to believe that the Viceroy of India should have spoken in that sense without the assent of the Secretary of State; and when he commits himself to the opinion, as the responsible head of the Government in India, that a further general control of the Press in India is imperatively necessary, I suppose we may assume that that control will shortly be assumed. In my view it is most urgently required. I do not think our action ought to be confined to incitements to murder and violence. I think we ought to deal with the whole range of seditious writing and speech in India, and I hope the Secretary of State will be able to give us reassuring information on that point.
I need hardly say that in urging action of this description I am not pressing on the Secretary of State any policy of panic or repression. There is surely no repression in suppressing seditious acts or speeches, or ensuring the protection of your fellow-countrymen in India. I have many correspondents in India, and they look to the Secretary of State with hope, not perhaps untinged with anxiety, for what he may say to them on this subject. He has stated that it is the first duty of government to maintain law and order. They want that promise to be carried out effectually, and not in instalments. It has needed the murder of several innocent people to give us the Explosives Act, and two years of incitement to give us the Press Act. Are we now to have a further torrent of sedition of the class I have been describing before the next stage is reached, and the noble Lord comes to ask for fresh powers? The point of view of the native and that of the European in India are different; I do not think either can be ignored. When the native 519 sees the Government of India subjected to daily vilification, it is no good to tell him that this is a necessary safety valve, and that these dangerous sentiments will otherwise be driven underground. He draws the conclusion, if the Government fail to act, that they are afraid. The European's point of view is different. He, whether he be an official or a private person, looks to the Government for the protection in the discharge of his duties or his business to which he thinks he is justly entitled, and officials in India are looking to the Secretary of State at the present moment to give them fresh spirit to grapple with the serious and difficult problems before them—not in order to maintain their own selfish interests, but to uphold the cause of Government and society in that country.
The other day I had an interesting communication from one of the most powerful and intelligent of the native chiefs of India, and he gave me his views. He said—If the Secretary of State at this moment, without in any degree abating his generous intentions with regard to the future, were to hold up for a period of twelve months, or even of six months, the carrying out of those intensions, and if in the interval, as a condition of granting them, he were to insist on the restoration of order and tranquility and harmony between the races, he would do more to reestablish confidence than by any other individual act. On the other hand, if he were now to announce the concessions he has in mind, the announcement would be attributed not to generosity, but to fear.I believe those opinions are widely held, not only among Indians, but also among Europeans.
As regards remedial measures, let me say in conclusion that although we do not know what form they will assume, I hope they will be somewhat different from those which were published last year. Yet if the noble Viscount can devise measures for associating the people of India with our Government, in wider and more responsible functions than are now open to them, I am sure those proposals will not be received in a critical or ungenerous spirit on this side of the House. He will, after all, only be carrying out the traditional policy of the British in India. No one, either now or in the future, would wish to cry halt to constitutional progress in that country. We all recognise that 520 it is the act of a wise statesman to broaden the basis of government, just as it is the act of the prudent financier to broaden the basis of taxation.
Any concessions which the noble Viscount is disposed to make should, however, be subject to three conditions. The first is that they have not the appearance of being wrung from him by fear. Let them be measures which, agitation or no agitation, he will be prepared to justify on the ground of their conformity with the best and permanent interests of India. The second condition is, I think, that British rule, which needs as much strengthening and support as we can give it, should not be weakened by them. To enlarge the Legislative Councils in India to a point at which the risk might be incurred of placing the British Government—which is the only possible Government in that country and to which no alternative is capable of being suggested—in a position where they might conceivably find themselves in a minority, would be an act of almost suicidal folly. It would not placate the enemies of the Government, it would alienate the friends of the Government, and it would embarrass the Executive to a dangerous and fatal degree. The third condition is that the concessions should be preceded by a resolute vindication of the authority of the Government, by the stern repression of those vile incitements to outrage and disorder of which I have been speaking, and by the encouragement of all the loyal forces in India which are waiting for the signal to come forward so soon as they can feel confidence that the Government are strong and will not be afraid. I venture to think that a very grave and serious responsibility rests at this juncture on the shoulders of His Majesty's advisers, and it is our earnest hope and belief that they will be equal to it.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers respecting the state of affairs on the frontier and in the interior of India."— (The Lord Curzon of Kedleston.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Viscount MORLEY of BLACKBURN)
My Lords, I feel that the noble Lord has in many parts of his speech 521 said nothing from which I could in the slightest degree differ. His knowledge of India and the active and prominent part which he played in its administration for six or seven years give him a title to speak on India which, if it were not for my office, I could hardly claim. But I do not see why the noble Lord should have wound up with an appeal to me as Secretary of State to be quite sure to resist sedition and to preserve order. Anyone who is familiar with the history of Indian administration in the two and a half years during which I have been in this country responsible for it will do me the justice to say that I have never allowed anything, either popularity in the House of Commons or popularity among my own friends outside the House of Commons, to divert me for one moment by a hair's breadth from any action or policy that I thought order required.
The noble Lord has said that the introduction of this Motion has my entire concurrence. That is quite true, but at the same time I am seriously disappointed at the tone adopted by the noble Lord on one or two points. To them I will come by-and-bye. I will only say now that I think the noble Lord has not been quite careful to remember that we who are here to-night are not the only participants in the debate. There are keen and vigilant listeners in many quarters. There are, of course, the officers of His Majesty's Government in Simla, there are the political parties in India, those who are called the Moderates and the Extremists, and the European community in India. They are all listeners. There are also persons who listen in the fastnesses of Kabul, and every word spoken to-night by the noble Lord will find its way by this day week to Kabul. I think the noble Lord has forgotten those things—I think he has forgotten that we are a responsible Government and that we have to consider whether the language used or the measures adopted by us tend to play into the hands of those opponents of all possible or serious reform who are looking on our Government with a sinister gleam in their eyes and infatuated dreams in their hearts. Much of the language used by the noble Lord will be thought by 522 those men to be helpful to them against their moderate rivals.
I always speak with the utmost respect of the noble Lord when he is upon Indian ground—his knowledge is so enormous, so sure-footed, so acute. I agree with him that this is one of the foremost questions that can engage the attention of the British Parliament. In my view, after considerable experience of responsibility, the question of India stands in the very front rank, along with two or three other questions, such as national defence, the relations with the Colonies, and financial matters. You can name no front rank question with which India is not on a perfect level in its claim to vigilant and serious attention. I know your Lordships entirely agree with that. I do not go as far as the noble Lord who once said that he was more proud, or as proud, of being a citizen of the country which had done the greatest thing ever done—that is, had established English rule in India—as he was of being a citizen of the country that defeated the Spanish Armada and produced Hampden and Pitt. I cannot read history in that light.
What does it mean? This is not an entirely idle or theoretical digression. It means that to have beaten back the dark and bigoted power of Spain in the 16th century from our shores and in the 17th century to have founded institutions and laid down principles which are not only the glory of our own country, but which have been made the model and example for the whole civilised world; and, thirdly, to have established the supremacy of England, as Pitt did, over France, in North America, with all the tremendous issues involved in that transaction. While I have every desire to think well of heroic shades, I think it indicates defects in the noble Lord's point of view when he places those achievements on a level with the achievements, grand as they were, of Clive and Warren Hastings and Lord Wellesley. That shows that the noble Lord is not sensible of the duty of this country to keep alive those great traditions and achievements.
When the noble Lord began by saying that India ought to be outside all party considerations, I began to be suspicious, 523 because I have always observed in my political experience that when Gentlemen begin by disclaiming the possibility of a party attitude they very soon find themselves in a severely party attitude. I am bound to say that I see no difference whatever in the tone and spirit and method and tactics of the noble Lord on this most grave subject from the spirit and method of any ordinary party debate.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am in the recollection of the House. I made no sort of party or debating attack on the noble Viscount at any point. I rendered him the most cordial and sincere recognition of his services as Secretary of State and his attitude on all Indian questions. I promised, as far as my support is worth anything, my most sympathetic consideration, of any proposals that he may make. Really, to hear that my speech was animated by a party attitude is just as great a travesty of my position as is the account of my views of the Armada and the Government of India which the noble Viscount has given.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Well, the House must, of course, judge what is and what is not party criticism; and, after all, I am not at all surprised, because the greatest party struggles in all our history have taken place on Indian subjects within comparatively recent date. Now, my Lords, the noble Lord, in talking of the sources of mischief to which Indian peace is exposed and the sources of annoyance and trouble to which Indian officers are exposed, mentioned Questions in the House of Commons, and he made the very remarkable statement that such Questions were fatal or deleterious. Nobody now living has more reason than myself to dislike the questioning which has gone on for the last two and a half years, but it has not had the slightest significance or importance. It has taken 524 up a certain amount of my time, and of the time of some of my officers, but not a very great amount; but does anybody suppose that democracy is going to be without its simpletons? Perhaps not even an aristocracy is without its simpletons. When the noble Lord lays down the tremendous proposition that the Parliamentary system is incompatible with the maintenance of our power in India——
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am very sorry to interrupt, but I did not lay down anything so absurd as that. So far from deprecating Parliamentary Questions, the noble Lord will remember that I used to revel in them myself in the House of Commons. All I did say was that the duty of answering them often imposed a heavy and unreasonable burden on the district officers in India.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The noble Lord used some expression about the Parliamentary system which implied that it was incompatible with the maintenance of order in India.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am glad I was mistaken. However, I was going to ask him, and I do ask him, if he dislikes Parliamentary action, whether in another place or in this House, what are you going to do with your Parliamentary system? It is all very well for the noble Lord sitting there, now free from all responsibility; but if he was sitting on this side of the House he would feel that he had to carry on with a Parliamentary system in one way or another. I rather think he indulged in cheap and, if I may say so, unworthy irony as to the literary sources of these questioners, and some of their friends in England—Mill and Burke, and some contemporary writers. What are you going to do? Are you going to prevent them reading Mill and even contemporary writers? The noble Lord does not seem to see that we are face to face with an immensely difficult problem, and that the conditions are fixed on us. I agree that Macaulay and those other 525 great men who made education in India what it was are responsible for a great deal of what has happened since. What the noble Lord's achievements were in the field of education I cannot accurately criticise; but I feel this assuredly, that any Government or Viceroy who takes in hand at the roots the present condition of unrest will devote all the powers of his mind to the revision of the education system.
The noble Lord spoke of the partition of Bengal. Now, I have never for my own part indulged in any of the accusations of which he has complained, and the refutation of which appears to have been his main object in bringing forward this not very fruitful discussion. The partition of Bengal was a proceeding I thought mistaken in its methods, but no language has ever fallen from my lips that has in any way shaken the conclusion that the partition of Bengal was a settled fact so far as I am concerned. I will say without any danger of being misunderstood that, when I consider all the circumstances under which the partition was made—it was a matter of adjusting boundaries and operations of that kind—I could never see why it should have been regarded as so sacrosanct. It may be it is so, and for me it is so because it has become a test, and by that test I mean to abide so far as I am concerned. But the noble Lord rather surprised me, and I am sure he surprised Lord Ampthill, when he said that he returned to India from his stay in England in 1904–5 and accepted without question what he found. I have been informed, and I believe rightly, that, while Lord Ampthill and Sir A. Fraser, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, were hammering out the final scheme of readjustment of boundaries, at every stage the noble Lord had communications made to him on every single particular from time to time.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Here I am in a position of tertius gaudens. I must leave the noble Lord and the noble Lord behind him to settle that between them, and I hope that they will be able to do so. Now, as to 526 Sir Bampfylde Fuller, the acceptance of whose resignation by the Government with regard to the partition of Bengal the noble Lord has so severely criticised—I have the pleasure of knowing Sir Bampfylde Fuller; I have had more than one conversation with him, and have a great opinion of his many gifts; but I am bound to say that I read with surprise a letter published by him the other day in The Times newspaper headed "J'accuse," and attacking Lord Minto and, in a lesser degree, and with a good deal of innuendo, myself. Now, Sir Bampfylde Fuller is a clever and distinguished man who has held high office in Indian Government. What does he do? He takes this moment of all others, when there is a Viceroy at Simla manfully struggling with enormous difficulties which nobody is better able to measure than the noble Lord opposite, to pour into the columns of the English Press what I cannot but call a vitriolic attack on that great officer. The noble Lord may defend him as he likes. I rather wonder that he should.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The noble Lord says we were wrong in accepting his resignation. Were we wrong? Is it really to be submitted to this House that, whenever a Lieutenant-Governor or anybody else cannot have his own way, he is to threaten the Viceroy with resignation? I do not think that there has ever been a man who has occupied the position of Viceroy who would more stubbornly resist any such action than the noble Lord himself. If I had been in the position of a Lieutenant-Governor I would never have sent in my resignation to him, because I am perfectly certain it would have been immediately accepted. I can only say for my part that, so long as I am concerned with the Indian Government, if anybody tenders his resignation because he cannot have his own way against the deliberately formed views of his superior authorities, that resignation will be promptly and peremptorily accepted.
The noble Lord says that disastrous effects followed the acceptance of Sir 527 Bampfylde Fuller's resignation. That is entirely opposed to the facts. I do not think I can publicly name my authority, but if I tell the noble Lord privately he will agree that better authority there could not be. This is what I understand to have been the result on the spot of the acceptance of the resignation—There was great jubilation in certain journalistic quarters in Calcutta, but no increased violence followed. As to insolence to Europeans, it almost entirely ceased, and when Sir A. Fraser, his successor, went to Decca some three months later, nothing of the kind took place. Nor has anything been heard of any recrudescence.It is not, perhaps, particularly wise in me to say that, because I shall be told by-and-bye that my words are an inducement to violence. It is quite untrue to say that the resignation caused any violence. The measure was an act of most salutary discipline, and in similar circumstances I should take the same course.
Now about the frontier policy. We have had two large or considerable frontier enterprises. Both have been conducted with extraordinary military skill and efficiency and have been entirely successful. We have not had what the Government of Lord Elgin had some years ago—we have had no spread of conflagration along that dangerous and turbulent frontier, mainly because we adhered closely to the policy first laid down by Lord George Hamilton in 1898, and reiterated by Viscount Midleton in 1904, that we would not annex or occupy or plant posts or make roads in any portion of tribal territory. That, really, was the secret of the success of both those great expeditions. No policy could have been more loyally and faithfully followed by the generals in command, and by those who directed those generals, than was our policy in this case. When I remember what has been said about military autocracy, I am bound to say that there was in this case nothing of that kind. Lord Salisbury once said that one must beware of soldiers, for they would advise you to make a campaign in the moon lest we should be overrun from the planet Mars. For my part, I have found no menacing difficulty of that kind.
528 I must really ask your Lordships to pardon me if I do not follow the noble Lord closely, or, indeed, at all, through the Afghan portion of his speech. I wish he could have felt it consistent with his duty to leave the Afghan field as much alone as possible. There will be plenty of time by-and-bye to look around. Let us wait. The noble Lord talked of our reception of the Ameer in India last year. He implied that we ought to have taken advantage of that visit to strengthen our position with that ruler and to make him feel that we had conferred various favours on him—subsidies and the rest, enumerated by the noble Lord—and that these imposed upon him a corresponding duty. We did not say a word to the Ameer during his very joyful visit to India about reciprocal duties to us or any other duties; and when the Ameer went back from India he went without a single element of friction in his mind, and the good effects of our policy of leaving this powerful man to his own course was shown by what happened on the frontier. It is quite true that Afghans did engage in those expeditions, especially in the Mohmand expedition; but when things became dangerous the Ameer, to the best, of our knowledge and belief, from his correspondence with the Viceroy and in other ways, did his very best, especially in the later stage of the Mohmand expedition, to act in that spirit of friendship which we thought, and rightly thought, had been cemented during his stay in India.
The noble Lord alluded to the Ameer's assent to the Anglo-Russian Convention. I heard his language on that point with the greatest regret. The Viceroy wrote to the Ameer on 10th September of last year, and on 29th September the Ameer replied that he was away on tour in the North-West of Afghanistan, but he would be back in Kabul in November, and would then consider the question. Since then he has not replied. Of course we only hear indirectly of proceedings in Kabul. The Ameer has his durbar to consider, and I suppose that in a durbar, as in any other assembly, different points of view present themselves, and there are debates. Oriental debates, carried on without the assistance of guillotine or closure, are probably 529 more prolonged than our own. The noble Lord said he did not wonder that the Ameer feels no enthusiasm about the Convention. He used words implying that there are doubtful things in the interests of the Ameer in this Convention. These words are sure to reach Kabul. What is the noble Lord doing? He is actually leading the Ameer to think that, at the moment when we are on the eve of putting some pressure on him, there are those in England and in Parliament who do not at all wonder at his want of enthusiasm. Anyone who realises what a proceeding of that kind in this Chamber means must feel that the noble Lord has not shown a considerate spirit in relation to delicate negotiations, not only as to Eastern things, but as to some very important European things.
The noble Lord went into a very elaborate, careful, acute, and thoroughly-experienced analysis of the causes of unrest. I think I am able to accept and to follow him into almost if not the whole of those causes. I think his diagnosis about education, about the tremendous influence of Japanese victories, and the other elements which he mentioned is thoroughly sound; but he did not say a word, and I admit it was not his business to say a word, about the course which he would advise His Majesty's Government or the Government of India to pursue. Of course, one policy is very simple. It can be expressed in the pithy formula which I heard the other day—if I may be forgiven for using a profane expression—Martial law and no damned nonsense.Martial law and no nonsensical constitutional or other reforms—that is not the noble Lord's policy, I am perfectly sure; but I observe that everything that falls from him leads to the assumption that we must know and decide for ourselves, without overmuch reference to Indian demands and expectations, what form of so-called concessions we think fit to give them. I think the Viceroy himself was better inspired.
I cannot sufficiently admire the manful courage in India with which, without yielding to panic or exaggeration on one side or to disgust at their blind, reckless, aimless crimes on the other, the Viceroy 530 is ever persisting in the path which he and we have marked out for ourselves. I think we can all realise the position of the Viceroy, surrounded as he is by influences of an alarmist. kind. Lord Minto was appointed, not by my political friends, but by the Government of noble Lords opposite, and I can only say here, as I have said in another House, that between no two servants of the Crown is there a better understanding and a fuller confidence than there is between the present Viceroy and the present Secretary of State. I admire the manful courage with which, in the very speech in which he was bringing in his Explosives Act and his Press Act, Lord Minto said—No anarchical crime will deter me from endeavouring to meet, as best I can, the political aspirations of honest reformers.I think that is a very fine utterance—fine in itself and fine considering the occasion. We have no choice but to persevere in the path of reform. We I cannot get out of our own history. We cannot leave the course marked out for us by the conscience of this country in dealing with what I am sorry to call alien races. In these days we cannot leave that out. I, for my part, accept the maxim of the French statesman who said—In polities you ought to take nothing tragically, everything seriously.The House will not be surprised if I say that nobody in it views more seriously than I do the crisis—I do not believe that is too strong a word—by which we are now confronted. We can only surmount its dangers and difficulties by looking calmly and composedly, that is not to say without energy and force, at the problem which confronts us. We may postpone, but the longer you postpone, the greater will be the ulterior difficulties.
I shall be particularly glad if your Lordships will take this from me, that it is not merely Congress men, it is not merely Moderates or Extremists in Indian parties. I read some Anglo-Indian newspapers, and I find there, not as violent, certainly, but just as sincere, the expectation and hope for improvements in government and administration as I 531 find in the Press of a more angry complexion. I believe from all the evidence that reaches me—I do not work these things out in my own head—from the members of the Indian Civil Service whom I have the pleasure of seeing from time to time, that the Civil Service itself, the administrators great and small, will be as glad of an improvement, and are looking as anxiously for an improvement in administration as the ordinary politician. Therefore, if we were to take our hands from the plough now, I do not say to adhere to every word in the scheme which the noble Lord has criticised, because of bombs and operations of that species, we should be exposed not only to the fury, the blind fury if you please so to call it, of the Extremists, not only to the lamentations of the Moderates, but we should be disappointing a great mass of strong Anglo-Indian European opinion.
The noble Lord said nothing about what is called the Hobhouse Commission. It was a Royal Commission which we appointed a few months ago with a view to examining what improvements in administration were possible, and I believe that when that Commission reports two or three months hence a great mass of valuable evidence of the defects in the working of the Indian Government will be brought to light and suggestions of a fruitful kind made for their removal. There have been some complaints of excess of zeal in the Commission. That was inevitable, but I am confident that, when we get the Report of that Commission, when we get back from India the scheme of reform mentioned by the noble Lord, with the opinion of local Governments of that scheme, we shall have before us a body of material, not for the reconstruction of Indian government—I, for my part, have no such ambition—but for taking steps which shall do two or three very important or even momentous things. One is administration improvements, simplifying correspondence and appeals, and so on, simplifying the mass of writing which, as the noble Lord knows, is one of the curses of Indian procedure. Secondly, we shall, I hope, and I feel confident, do something to give the Indian population in all 532 their grades some formal and authorised opportunity of handling some of their own affairs. As at present advised, and subject to further consideration, I would hope they will be not only advisory, but, though perhaps modest, executive powers.
I will not detain the House any longer with a further exposition of what is at present inchoate and without final and definite shape. There will, I hope, be something to limit excessive official interference; something, I hope, to stimulate the formation of independent opinions in local governments and in district governments. Whether or not the scheme, which, I trust, we shall be able to frame in concert with the Council of India and in constant communication with and reference to the Viceroy of India, will necessitate legislation and a direct appeal to Parliament—the scheme is not in a shape to enable me to answer that question—of course it would be idle to pretend to frame any scheme for which we did not expect to get full approval of Parliamentary opinion. I do not despair of that, and the noble Lord promised, as far as he was concerned, that there would be no particular criticism of measures of that kind, though he and his friends would, as they are bound to, look very closely into policy.
Then there is the Indian party, or parties. They will make a great mistake if they give up the hope which they have hitherto always professed in the justice and good faith of this Parliament. I have heard that a friend of mine gruffly said to one of those who was talking of their faith in Parliament still remaining in spite of a Secretary of State who, as the noble Lord said, has greatly disappointed them by his falling away from his earlier compositions—You are worshipping a blind and deaf divinity.I do not agree. I do not believe that Parliament wishes either to be blind or deaf to any reasonable demands from India, provided those demands are made and pressed in a reasonable way and are kept clear of madness and of wicked crimes; and if they are backed by the responsible executive Government, I have no fear of those demands not being complied with.
533 One or two matters I have left out because I do not want to detain your Lordships. There was a certain passage between the noble Lord and Lord Midleton. In that passage I was tertius gaudens. I was sorry for it, because, if I may say so without impertinence, it is of great importance in the face of India that those leading public men who take part in Indian discussions should abstain, as far as they possibly can, whether in despatches or otherwise, from anything calculated to make the people believe that we look for a moment to any personal considerations of one kind or another in view of the tremendous issues by which we are confronted. I thank your Lordships for your consideration.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, I do not propose to deal at all with frontier affairs, or with the very delicate question of our relations with the Ameer of Afghanistan. My remarks also about the internal condition of India will be extremely brief, for I think, in dealing with Indian, and, indeed, with Eastern affairs generally, deeds rather than words are required. My only reason for intervening in the debate is that I am of opinion that, in the present condition of affairs in India, it is the duty of all those who have any Indian experience to rally round the authorities and give them whatever support is in their power in the very arduous and responsible task which devolves upon them.
Let me first deal with one point which is really one of detail. I allude to the retirement of Sir Bampfylde Fuller. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details of Sir Bampfylde Fuller's retirement to be able to speak about it with any degree of confidence. But I should like to tell your Lordships how the matter strikes me. Of course, no Government in the world can stand a subordinate official putting a pistol to its throat and enforcing his views at the risk of resignation. There is, however, another method of dealing with questions of this sort which are not very uncommon. I do not think that, in the course of my rather lengthy experience, in spite of the very numerous occasions on which it was my misfortune to disagree with the Government which I served, I ever 534 sent in my resignation; but I have known a great many cases of others doing so. I will tell your Lordships how I have seen affairs of this kind treated. The resignation was always accepted, but at the same time a firm but friendly private letter was written to the official pointing out that he was doing an unwise thing in his own interest and in the interests of the public service in insisting upon resigning. I have never known this procedure to fail, and it has the advantage of preventing a good deal of dirty linen from being washed in public.
I am in entire concurrence with the noble Lord behind me (Lord Curzon) in thinking that by far the most important cause of all in producing the present unrest in India is the system of education. We are really only reaping the harvest which we have ourselves sown. We all agree with what Lord Macaulay, who was the father of that system, said, that it would be an ignoble policy to keep the natives of India ignorant in order that they should be submissive; but, at the same time, and without departing in any way from the main principles of Lord Macaulay's policy, it would have been possible to have adapted the whole of the system more skilfully to the special requirements of the country. The main defects of the educational system in India are twofold. In the first place, the education is far too literary; insufficient attention is paid to professional, technical and industrial education. Moreover, not enough attention has been paid to elementary education, with the result that nothing has been done to temper the ignorance of the masses. If we had tried we could not have succeeded better in producing the maximum amount of political inconvenience. On the one hand we turn out from our colleges a number of youths, highly but somewhat superficially educated, not nearly all of whom are able to find employment. Lord Stowell once said that, if the supply of educated talent largely exceeded the demand, the surplus was likely to turn sour. That is what has happened in India. Not content with this, however, not only have we adopted the best method possible to manufacture demagogues, but by not instituting any system of elementary education we have provided the best possible 535 field for the demagogues wherein to sow their pernicious and subversive doctrines. I was very glad, therefore, to hear from, the Secretary of State that one of the first articles in his programme of reform would be that of education. Let us, even at this late hour, endeavour to rectify our mistakes and encourage technical, professional, and industrial education, and do something also for elementary education.
But we have now to deal with the present, and not with the past or remote future. There can be no doubt that we have full reason for realising the truth of one of the declarations made by Lord Macaulay, namely, that—You cannot impart knowledge without stimulating ambition.We have imparted knowledge to some classes in India, and we have therefore stimulated their ambition. They wish to take a greater share in the government of India, and their aspirations are perfectly legitimate. I trust, therefore, that we shall continue to follow the policy which will increase their share in the government of the country.
I was glad to hear the Secretary of State say that nothing had occurred recently which should deter the Government from undertaking the execution of a wise and moderate policy of reform, although, of course, there can be no question of the rapid introduction of extreme Parliamentary institutions into India, which nobody except very great Extremists wish for. Even if the noble Viscount had not been able to give that assurance, his antecedents and the well-known opinion of the Viceroy—who recently delivered an admirable speech at Simla, and about whom the noble Viscount spoke in complimentary terms—would of themselves have provided a quite sufficient guarantee that no retrograde policy would be adopted. On the other hand, we should be under no delusion as to the results to be obtained by a policy of moderate reform. Because there are Extremists in India it is not a reason for deterring us from embarking on a policy of moderate reform, though it will not satisfy those holding extreme views. The Extremists will continue to exist.
536 I was glad, therefore, to hear that strong measures are being resorted to against those who disturb the public peace, that the law has been strengthened, and that an attempt is being made to curb the Indian Press. Twenty-five years ago, as a member of the Indian Legislative Council, I voted in favour of the repeal of Lord Lytton's Press Act. Since that time I have persistently refused to yield to the strong pressure put upon me in Egypt under similar circumstances to curb the native Press. The policy of complete freedom of the Press in India and in Egypt has not only had a prolonged trial, but it has had a fair and even a sympathetic trial. But I am bound most reluctantly to admit that I fear it has not proved successful. I am afraid that we have received another object-lesson of the enormous difficulties of applying Western ideas to Eastern facts.
The East, in fact, refuses to assimilate the notions which we, with the best intentions, but possibly with mistaken ideas, endeavour to force upon the people. I say that we have endeavoured to force ideas on the East because I have good reason for knowing that many of the best among Eastern authorities, and I should say that the majority of the most worthy portion of the community are not in favour of the freedom of the Press. I have over and over again had pressed upon me by Orientals of high character who could speak with authority on the subject the view that the vernacular Press did not represent any public opinion which existed, but that it created a spurious kind of opinion which would not have been called into existence at all had it not been for this Press, leading often to a tyrannous amount of blackmailing; and that the advantages derived from the system are incomparably less than the very great disadvantages. I do not say that in a matter of this kind we should be governed entirely by local opinion; we have to look at it from a different and rather wider point of view. At the same time, public opinion has to be taken into account, and I have no doubt whatever what the local or Oriental view of this question is.
537 I do not, of course, say for a moment that, even if my view of the question is accepted as correct, that is any reason for leaping from the extreme of licence to the extreme of oppression. I am aware that a Bill has been recently adopted in India dealing with certain Press offences, incitement to murder, and, I think, violence. I think it must be regarded as an experimental measure, and I believe that if the Viceroy and the noble Lord, in both of whom the country have the fullest confidence, after further experience think that further measures are necessary in the direction of placing more control on the Press, they will receive the cordial support, not only of Parliament, but of the world that stands outside Parliament. One of the great difficulties in dealing with the question up to the present time has been that public opinion in this country was not prepared to receive with favour a measure which ran strongly counter to our national traditions and ideas. But there are not wanting symptoms to show that in this respect there is a change in public opinion going on; so that, if the necessity arises, I hope that the Government will not hesitate to deal with the problem, even at the expense of some sacrifice of consistency.
I read in the newspapers a short time ago that steps had been taken by the Government of India designed to stop a native delivering seditious harangues. This measure might perhaps be advantageously adopted in the case of the classes to whom Lord Curzon alluded and who periodically visit India in order to associate themselves with the sedition-mongers in India. I do not attempt to argue with these gentlemen, because I am aware that they are impervious to argument. I do not want to impugn their motives or to use hard words about them. I refer to take the more charitable view, which consists in thinking that they are so little acquainted with the facts with which they have to deal that they are unaware of the extent to which they are playing with fire. But I do say that the classes to whom I allude are the very worst enemies of their own clients and of the moderate reformer. If, partly in consequence of the violent language used by the classes to which I refer, further outrages take place—and such a 538 contingency is by no means impossible—we may predict with certainty what will occur here. There will be a violent reaction and a demand for stronger repressive measures. Moreover, the whole of history is there to show that when once measures of that kind are taken under the influence of national excitement and under a cry for vengeance, as it is called, they are apt to go a great deal further than the requirements of the case demand. I should, therefore, very much like to see the Government of India armed with sufficient legal power to take action against those of our own countrymen who go to India and deliberately assume the role of Indian demagogues.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, when I came down to your Lordships House to-night I did not feel at all certain that it would be necessary for me to trouble you on this occasion. I am not clear that on a Motion of this character very much can be gained even by what we may say which supports the Government; while I am quite sure that almost every word of criticism will permeate throughout India, and is likely to do serious damage at a very critical moment. I should, therefore, have been very content, after the clear and outspoken language of the Secretary of State and the support which he has received from the noble Earl who has just sat down, to have abstained from any criticism of what has been said this evening. But language has been used which, quite apart from whether it was fair or not to the Government that preceded the one now in office, was certainly calculated to convey false impressions on two high questions of policy, on which it was at least reasonable that someone from this Bench should say a few words. I propose to confine what I have to say very strictly to those two points.
The noble Lord who introduced the Motion spoke in rather scathing terms of the conduct of both Governments in relation to the Ameer of Afghanistan. He said that the Ameer had been the subject of some not altogether called for concessions, and he described those concessions, as a sort of rake's progress, for which he attributed about an equal 539 measure of blame to the late Government and to the present Administration. The first of those remarks was that the Ameer was allowed to dictate to us the form of the treaty which was made by Sir Louis Dane. I altogether challenge that statement. I do not think there is any foundation for it at all. Your Lordships are probably aware of the conditions under which Sir Louis Dane went to Afghanistan to negotiate a treaty with the Ameer. We had had a treaty, negotiated, I think, first in the time of Lord Dufferin, with the father of the present Ameer. That treaty during twenty-two years secured to the British Government the control of the foreign policy of Afghanistan, and also ensured relations which remained friendly throughout that period, and which, on our side, were the subject of a subsidy which was subsequently increased after the Durand agreement.
Those agreements, without renewal by treaty, might have been held, and were held, to be personal to the preceding Ameer. They required to be confirmed with the present Ameer, and the situation when Sir Louis Dane went to Kabul in 1904 was this. No agreement had been come to with the Ameer; on the other hand, the Indian Government had, in certain cases, exercised the right, for which they had agreed with his father, of carrying on negotiations in a foreign matter on his behalf; but the Ameer had received no subsidy since the death of his father, except arrears which had been due to his father. The Ameer's statement from the very first was that he desired to renew fully the agreement as it had existed with his father, and he had this, at least, to urge—that he had observed the agreement with his father in leaving his foreign policy in our hands, while, of course, he had not received the subsidy.
A form of treaty was suggested to the Ameer, and he proposed a much shorter, and, in his opinion, simpler form of treaty which did convey precisely the recognition of the obligations which his father had entered into, and which, had preserved not merely peace between India and Afghanistan, but the peace of the frontier during twenty-two years. We examined both those treaties; we took the highest legal advice as to the effect 540 of the treaty proposed by the Ameer, and we decided that we were willing to accept that form of words which was subsequently presented to Parliament, and which, so far as I am aware, has never been made the subject of a single criticism in this country; nor could the noble Lord, with all his ability, I believe, show us a single particular in which, in the four years that have since passed, the acceptance of those words in preference to the more elaborate treaty put forward by the Indian Government has led to difficulty or trouble of any description. I cannot help feeling that it is unwise to represent the Ameer as having scored a heavy triumph, and as having dictated to the Indian Government under circumstances such as those which I have just detailed.
As regards the further matter connected with the negotiations with the Ameer, that has been fully dealt with by the noble Viscount opposite. The questions of title have not been touched. The conclusion of the noble Lord that our alliance is not in a wholesome condition is one which, I think, requires more to substantiate it than the mere fact that the Ameer's orders to his subjects to withdraw had not reached them at the time when they did withdraw. When the noble Lord talks of a rebuff administered by the Ameer to this country, I cannot help asking whether that is wise language, and whether it is desirable that it should go forth on such authority as his, in view of delicate negotiations which are still going on.
The noble Lord also touched on an internal question of great importance. The partition of Bengal is a subject on which a great deal has been written in reference to the present agitation, but we heard something about it to-night which was altogether new. When I went to the India Office in 1903, I found a large file of papers and I found also some most able and interesting memoranda by the noble Lord. In February, 1904, before the noble Lord came home on a holiday, he having, according to statute, resigned the office of Viceroy, the noble Lord made a progress in some of the districts affected, and by a number of speeches commended a change to the notice of the inhabitants. He returned 541 to England in May, 1904, and he was away from India until December. He put forward a fresh scheme, the previous scheme having been discussed during the period that he was in England. He put forward the fresh scheme in February, 1905. The noble Lord told us to-day, to my astonishment, that the responsibility for that scheme must really lie with the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who filled the office of Viceroy in his absence; and he made a further allegation to which I will allude in a moment. The noble Lord framed the first scheme before the period when he came to England——
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Certainly. The fresh scheme also came from his Government. I said he framed the scheme because responsibility is with the head of the Government. While he was in England the noble Lord was in continual correspondence with the acting Viceroy on public matters, and I have every reason to believe that he received papers from India about this scheme and a number of other matters. I know myself that he was supplied with information from the India Office on every paper which we thought might be material to him in taking up the duties which again awaited him when he returned to India, and the new scheme was put forward in February, 1905. That scheme also underwent some discussion, and I can only say—and I say it without fear of making any revelation because it has been mentioned in the Resolution of the Government of India which was presented to Parliament—other proposals were made, and the noble Lord most vehemently objected to the substitution of any proposal for the scheme which was finally submitted in 1905, and which he now attributes to the inspiration of Lord Ampthill.
I confess that astonishment could hardly have gone further. But I was destined to a still further shock when the noble Lord, after having endeavoured to transfer, as I understand, the responsibility of this change to Lord Ampthill, put upon my shoulders the responsibility for the agitation in Bengal, because of the 542 inclusion in the Blue-book of a certain telegram, part of which at my instance he was good enough to read to your Lordships, and in which I alluded to the partition of Bengal as one of the great measures in respect of which His Majesty's Government had given the Viceroy their support. May I read the words again, in order that your Lordships may see how entirely the interpretation which the noble Lord put upon them is foreign to their general sense?
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I did not put that interpretation upon them. I said that public opinion in India had put it upon them.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Then may I ask this question? The noble Lord has great experience of public opinion in India. Why did not the noble Lord warn me, when he was discussing what telegrams should be published, that this was one which might have a sinister interpretation placed upon it? If it did not occur to the noble Lord that that was so, why am I to be censured for telling the noble Lord that I had given him my best support in that as in all other measures? I telegraphed on 16th August, 1905—I have learned your decision to resign with very deep regret. Throughout your administration since your appointment as Governor-General in 1898, my colleagues and I have endeavoured to give you constant support in the many measures of administrative reform which you have initiated, including the partition of Bengal, upon which we recently adopted your proposals.I do not think that anybody can rightly assert that those words could be read—and they evidently were not read by Lord Curzon—as likely in any way to impede the course of administration in India; because I particularly alluded to that telegram, amongst others which recapitulated at length the whole circumstances, and invited the noble Lord to express his opinion as to whether it should be made public; and, although in the case of several telegrams he expressed his opinion that they should not be made public, he specifically, three days afterwards, included that telegram as one which he desired should be put before the world.
543 I trust your Lordships will pardon me for having gone at this length into what may seem a personal matter, but I have done so only in order that I may show that the last thing which we desired was to say a word hostile to the Viceroy. I had the advantage at the India Office, as the noble Viscount opposite has, of seeing every week or fortnight a digest of the views of the leading Indian newspapers translated for our benefit. I may be wrong—three years have elapsed—but I never remember on any single occasion seeing an allusion to this telegram which has been brought before your Lordships to-night, as being the pivot of the agitation which we all deplore. And I will say this one word in leaving the subject. I had the misfortune to differ from the noble Lord, representing the unanimous opinion of my colleagues in that difference, but never on any occasion have I said one word in public in criticism of the noble Lord or his administration. I have spoken before and since his resignation with genuine admiration of the hard work done by the noble Lord, of the lucidity of his intellect, of the extent of his knowledge, and of the supreme importance of the reforms which in many cases he achieved. I should like to add that I never knew any man in my life who was less conscious how completely his personality dominated the whole Government of India, and how impossible it would have been for the Government at home, without risk of a serious breach, to impede his policy or infringe what was his legitimate province.
I do not desire to occupy your Lordships' attention any longer, except to say one thing in reference to the speech of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India. Our only desire on this side of the House is to fortify his hands, and the hands of the Viceroy. We hope that no amount of agitation and no amount of un wisdom will prevent the Government from proceeding on the course of reform sketched out for them and suggested by the noble Earl. At the same time we also trust that no amount of fear of consequences and of political trouble in this country will prevent their taking whatever measures are really necessary to secure the suppression—the early suppression—of this 544 agitation, and to make it clear that the Government of India is strong enough to make itself felt when occasion requires.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I am reluctantly obliged to ask for your attention for a few minutes. I should have been better pleased if this discussion had not gone further than was necessary to elicit from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India the extremely important, and, if I may say so, inspiring statement which he made with regard to affairs in that country. But my own name has been mentioned in the course of the discussion. My noble friend gave me credit for a share in that act of statesmanship which is known as the partition of Bengal, and the noble Viscount the Secretary of State rather challenged me to say if that was so or not.
My noble friend has on more than one public occasion been very generous in giving me a share of credit—more than I have deserved—for acts of administration in which I bore a small part under his Government. I have been grateful on those occasions, and I have been, and always shall be, ready to share with him, so far as it is due, any responsibility which can properly be placed upon me. But I am bound to say, challenged as I am, that no share of the credit for the partition of Bengal is due to me. I was, as your Lordships will believe, quite unprepared for this statement, and I can only rely upon my memory, but my memory is very clear on this subject. When it devolved upon me to act as locum tenens in the office of Governor-General it was an understood thing, and I think it was a very natural arrangement, that anything which could stand over until my noble friend's return should stand over, and one of those questions was obviously the partition of Bengal. It was a policy which did not at the time require immediate action, and the period of the noble Lord's absence was intended to be shorter than it actually became. Therefore, I have a very clear recollection that I left the question of the partition of Bengal severely alone. It was a policy for which I had no responsibility as regards the initiation, for the local governments were not taken into the 545 confidence of the Viceroy in this, matter when the policy was first devised.
So far as I can recollect—I am relying solely on memory—there was only a short ad interim reference to the local; government during my time at Simla. It was suggested that the actual boundaries should be altered—extended on one side, so as to include districts which were homogeneous and in order to get a boundary clearly defined by a river, and, I think, contracted on another side. It was merely an adjustment of the whole scheme. That was referred, by way of routine, to the Government of Bengal, who agreed that it would be an improvement in every way. No action was decided upon, this ad interim reference being reserved for the decision of my noble friend when he returned to India. I believe the Papers are in the Blue-books which were presented to Parliament, so that I speak subject to correction. That is all I have to say on that subject. But as I am speaking, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few further words which I venture to think will not be wholly inappropriate. I wish only to express my general agreement with the opinions and the policy of the Secretary of State. I think it is desirable, as has been suggested by more than one speaker, that people in India as well as people in this country should be made aware of the full measure of support which is given to the Government. I should like to say, first of all, that I am in entire accord with the diagnosis of the situation in India which has been made by the noble Viscount on more than one occasion. It is, I think, a matter of dark clouds obscuring the Indian skies rather the rumbling of an imminent earthquake. In other words, I think we stand upon firm ground, and that firm ground is the good sense and the good will of the vast majority of the people of India, whether they belong to the educated classes or to those classes who cannot reason or think upon these subjects. That being so, my Lords, we can guard ourselves against the dangers of a possible storm in a manner which would not be possible if I the earth were about to swallow us up, or at least to bring to ruin most of that which we have built up. I believe firmly that the strong measures which have 546 been undertaken by the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, and even stronger measures yet if they should be necessary, will be approved by that great majority in India.
A malignant growth has to be excised, from the body politic of India, and, like many a canker, it has grown unobserved for a very long time when it ought to have been cauterised long ago. Small wonder, then, that the poison has found its way even to such remote parts of the system as the southern districts of Madras. Of course, there is distemper and ill-humour while the patient is so gravely affected, and we cannot wonder that there should be that estrangement and alienation between the rulers and ruled in India to which the Secretary of State has made allusion. But I believe that when the cause of the disease is removed, those symptoms will disappear as quickly as the petulance of a sick man disappears with returning health. What is needed besides the surgeon's knife are those influences which give confidence and hope to the patient—confidence in the skill, the firmness, and the knowledge of the operator, and the hope of return to all the joys of vigorous and growing life. I agree, therefore, that a policy of pure repression is out of the question, and I agree that side by side with the maintenance of order there must go the satisfaction of those reasonable aspirations which we have not only taught but also encouraged. I think that my noble friend the Secretary of State will recollect that when I had the privilege of corresponding with him for a short time on his first assumption of office, I did urge upon him that reforms in the direction which he himself has under-taken were not only necessary but also overdue, and therefore the noble Viscount will recognise that I am sincere in the support which now I accord to him.
I must not detain your Lordships longer at this hour. There is much else which I should have liked to have said in support of my noble friend, with one slight exception, if time had permitted. That only exception is this. I am not quite sure whether it would not have been wiser if the Press Act had been introduced at an earlier period. My noble friend said that the Explosives 547 Act ought to have been passed into law twenty years ago. I think that the Press Act might similarly, have been passed into law twenty years ago. But Certainly, so far as the present Government and administration of India are concerned, I am strongly of opinion—I cannot resist it—that that Act might have been introduced, and ought to have been introduced, twenty months ago. I believe that if that had been done we should have had fewer of the outrages that have occurred, we should have had an earlier expression of the confidence of those classes who desire the maintenance of our rule, and we should have had an earlier opportunity of dispelling the notion that the Government of this country were afraid. There is no doubt that that notion existed, and the proof is to be found in the news which reaches us daily through the medium of the Press. We see that since the passing of those two Acts-the —Press Act and the Explosives Act—various important public bodies have been passing resolutions declaring their approval of the policy of the Government of India and their strong desire that order should be maintained. Well, my Lords, to conclude rapidly, I believe that my noble friend has discovered the germs of disease, and I only trust that the antitoxin which he has prepared will be sufficiently swift and certain in its fiction. I need hardly add that I regard with most cordial sympathy the calm and courageous attitude with which my noble friend has faced the immense difficulties with which he has had to deal.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, I feel that great indulgence is needed in attempting to address your Lordships even for a few moments on this subject, as I have not the justification which can be advanced in support of everyone who has yet addressed you, of having been intimately associated with the Government of India. I am a complete outsider, but I venture to ask your attention for a minute or two, chiefly for this reason. It seems to me that there is considerable danger that language used by those who have entered into this discussion may be interpreted in two different ways. Your Lordships will remember that a late distinguished 548 Member of this House said on a memorable occasion—Mr. Gladstone and I may use the same language, but we do not mean the same thing.My noble friend below me, the Secretary of State, speaking of the present situation in India, has used language which is sufficiently clear, and with which, I think, we are all ready to agree. He is firmly resolved to put down all disorder to use every weapon now in his hands for that purpose, and, if necessary, to adopt any further means that may be required to accomplish that object. He is also firmly resolved to persevere, and to persevere without delay—in that respect differing from the attitude of the noble Lord who initiated this discussion—in the programme of reform which he has sketched out. The action which my noble friend is taking is action for the repression of crime and incentives to crime. The noble Lord opposite has urged my noble friend to put down agitation. Criminal agitation, no doubt, my noble friend is prepared to put down; but I am quite sure he would; not go any further. It is most undesirable, I think, that any impression should go forth from this House into the country, and still more into India, that it is his intention to do anything which shall limit or repress genuine political agitation. It may be that there is agitation in India for things which cannot be achieved, which are dreams of a distant future; but, as long as that agitation is confined within the limits of law and order, I am persuaded that my noble friend has no intention of repressing it. It is criminal agitation, and that alone, which he is resolved to curb.
In this connection I would refer to what has been said by more than one noble Lord with respect to education. The noble Lord who opened this debate and Lord Cromer referred to the system of education which we have given India as, perhaps, the primary cause of the political agitation which there prevails, and they suggested some change in the mode of education which should correct that evil in the future. That appears to me a very narrow view of the education we have given to India. That great system is bringing the educated Indian into contact with the ideas of the West. 549 The ideas of the West may be to the educated Bengali something like what the fire-water was to the Red Indian—it may lead him to extremes to his own destruction; but it is impossible that anything my noble friend can do will prevent the inter-communication of ideas between East and West, and it is vain to think of altering the scheme of education there so as to prevent that intercommunication.
The bringing of the educated Indian in contact with the ideas of the West has been going on through our mutual intercourse, through the literature which has gone from one country to the other, and when to that has been added the extraordinary spectacle of the Japanese contest with Russia it is not surprising that there should arise in the minds of the many educated Indians—relatively to the mass of the people extremely few—who direct the Press and have so large a share in the management of political agitation dreams of the possibility of an autonomous India. Those may be idle dreams—my view is that they are quite idle and that the attempt to put them into practical shape at once would be most ruinous to all that is orderly and well arranged in India itself; but I say you cannot hope to suppress them altogether. All you can do is to lead the people by the scheme of systematic reforms which my noble friend said he was bent upon pursuing, and in respect of which he quoted those noble words of Lord Minto which deserve to be carved in letters of gold. You must endeavour to meet the aspirations of the people by encouraging them to take part in the administration, in some degree, of their own affairs. It is necessary to emphasise this view.
Reference has been made several times to the partition of Bengal, and my noble friend the Secretary of State for India said of that partition that it was conceived by an unfortunate method, that it was prosecuted with a good deal of discussion; that it was proposed now in one form and now in another; and the outcome of his observations was that it was a matter upon the ordering of which there might be, as there had been, many opinions on the part of officials and others. But if it was conceived by an 550 erroneous method, why did my noble friend as soon as he took office declare that it was a closed matter which could not be re-examined? I venture to think that that is carrying the notion of continuous policy in respect to India far beyond what is necessary, or, indeed, what is consistent with his own principles. If the change was administratively incorrect, even if it only did that which the noble Lord who introduced this discussion admitted—namely, run counter to the political aspirations of many of those who were interested in the division, it was good ground for re-examining the proposal. My noble friend says he will not now dream of re-opening it, and that it must be treated as for ever closed. I own myself that I regret the conclusion at which my noble friend has arrived, and which I think is not consistent with his general attitude. It seems to me not consistent also with the right line of policy in dealing with Indian discontent. I hold that the only method of grappling with the problem and the only hope of a peaceful and orderly issue is to meet continually what is reasonable, defensible, legitimate, and natural in the national feeling.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, at this late hour I will make my remarks very brief. I can only speak from my acquaintance with one portion of the Indian Empire—that on the Bombay side. It has been generally allowed that our system of higher education has been the cause of unrest. Yet I do not think anyone who is at all acquainted with India would deny that education was more advanced in the Bombay Presidency than in any other part of India; yet it is very noticeable that during all these disquieting times there have been no outrages there such as have characterised the agitation that has taken place in Bengal. I agree with my noble friend Lord Ampthill's estimate of the present disaffection. I think it is not deep-seated, and that it will pass away in due course.
I do not agree with Lord Curzon as to education striking deep down in India. I consider that education in all its effects is rather lateral, and influences people of their own caste rather than as in this 551 country, where the pronouncement of any single great man or writer finds its way down through all classes of the people. There is a very numerous section of the educated class in Bombay who are absolutely loyal and devoted to our rule, and that is, I think, very largely owing to the nature of the education given in that Presidency. Far more advantage has been taken there of technical education than, perhaps, in other parts of India, and therefore we find the leaders of all branches of the community engaged in industrial enterprise and interested in the material development of the province. That, I believe, has been a great check and safeguard against disaffection taking the extreme form that it has taken in other parts of India.
Nobody would gainsay that the Brahmans, whose headquarters are at Poona, by a remembrance of their rule not a century ago and by their great intellectual power and capacity for framing a policy, are those who would be most likely to engage in constitutional reform, and they have done so, but upon lines of sense and with a certain regard to what is constitutional. If any further steps could be taken to keep agitation on constitutional lines, every attention should be paid to the development of primary education. It has been represented to me by several leaders in India that if we want to get the lower classes to understand the benefits of our rule and to become less susceptible to the wiles of the agitators, primary education should be increased. With regard to higher education, as Lord Curzon wisely said, students have been encouraged to take up higher education, but no regard has been paid to the development of their character. The result is that you have turned out these young men by the score without any sense of responsibility and without any knowledge of how to turn their education to the best advantage. I would suggest that, without in any degree limiting the facilities for higher education, it should be given to the public at its proper cost. Thereby you would not tend to check the education of those who really wished to take it up, but you would not give a fictitious encouragement; at the same time, you 552 would bring home to the young men a certain sense of responsibility.
One other remedy has been alluded to as meeting the present dissatisfaction—namely, the development of local self-government. The noble Viscount opposite indicated that through all the different spheres of administration he hoped something would be done in this direction. I believe that by encouraging a sense of responsibility among the different classes you will get a greater feeling of confidence and of interest in good government; but, at the same time, it must be remembered that even with existing local boards and municipalities, there are constant requests from those who live under their jurisdiction to have them removed as only a hindrance to the prosperity of the locality. Therefore it must not be expected that you are going to work wonders because you intend introducing an extended system of local self-government. Before I left Bombay we tried to encourage a system of decentralisation by allowing the Commissioners of various divisions to have wider and more extended powers, and not to be compelled to refer so constantly to headquarters. If you wish to en-encourage local self-government, it is essential that it must go pari passu with a certain amount of decentralisation, and you must not expect as high a standard of efficiency as in the past. The noble Vicount said we had rather sacrificed ourselves on the altar of efficiency; and it is so. We desire such a high standard of administration that we often run counter to the wishes and feelings of the people; and certainly it is a part of any enlarged system of local self-government that you should not require the same standard of efficiency and have the same amount of supervision of the district officials.
As regards the reforms that have been indicated in the Legislative Councils, I hope that these may soon bear fruit, for I agree with the noble Viscount that it would not do for the Government to be deterred from carrying out the reforms they think necessary by the agitation which is at present taking place. At the same time, I earnestly hope that there will be a more stringent Press law, 553 for these concessions must be accompanied by an assurance that order must be respected, and that those who week by week and mouth by month have fomented wild ideas in the mind of the people will not be allowed to do so in the future. I quite agree that Press prosecutions are generally undesirable. The best way that I can see to meeting the difficulty is that every newspaper should give a guarantee of good conduct. Thai view has been put before the public from time to time; and I think there is a general feeling that a system which would be far less resented would be to insist upon either the licensing of news papers or that every newspaper should give a guarantee for its proper management. As the noble Lord who initiated the discussion pointed out, what is really far more insidious and far more dangerous than incitement to murder is that week by week the mass of the people should be told that they are being ruined by out rule in India, that we are responsible for the introduction of plague and such other will and mendacious statements. I regard those statements as far more serious because they do appeal to the greater number; and, therefore, whatever concessions are given, I earnestly hope the Secretary of State will consider the desirability of having a more stringent Press law, such as has been indicated by the Viceroy in the speech referred to this evening.
There is no analogy to the freedom of the Press in this country, because it must be remembered that the Government of India are always at a disadvantage. There are no party newspapers, and only one side is ever heard. Here you can rely upon the Press of one Party challenging the statements of the other, but that is not so in India. I will conclude by saying that the remarks of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State tonight will give full confidence in India to our officials who at the present time are engaged in a very difficult and delicate task, and to the law-abiding and loyal people who do not understand apparent indifference towards what is being done to attack our rule. They do not understand apathy, but construe it into fear; and, therefore, it is desirable that steps should be taken and words spoken which will be an exhortation to 554 encourage those who are the bulk of the people and who are entirely faithful to the rule of our Government.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I will not, at this extremely late hour and before a House of such small dimensions, attempt to answer the noble Viscount. I own that I do not recognise the picture that he gave in some parts of his speech either of the substance or the spirit of my argument; but I shall be quite content that he should judge me from the text of my speech when it appears in the newspapers to-morrow. There was much less difference of opinion between us than he appeared to infer; and, for my own part, it certainly was my desire to give the noble Viscount the warmest support, so far as I was entitled to speak with any authority, to the policy he has pursued, and is pursuing, in India.
With regard to subsequent incidents of the debate, I am very sorry that Viscount Midleton felt it incumbent on him to devote so large a portion of his remarks to me. I have always deeply regretted the causes of the difference between us, but, if he will allow me to say so, I will not, though I think there was much provocation, allow them to be enhanced by anything he has said this evening. I will only say this on the points at issue. The first point was rather a question of language than of fact. The noble Viscount was indignant with me because I said that the Ameer had dictated to us the terms of the treaty. The facts can be stated in four sentences. The Government here sent out a treaty which we were instructed to conclude; the Ameer proposed an entirely different draft; the government of India was most reluctant to accept it; but the Government at home ordered the acceptance of the draft. That is the long and short of the whole thing.
With regard to the sentence in a telegram addressed by Viscount Midleton to myself, he was wrong in saying that I called those words the pivot of the agitation in India. My words were that the feelings excited in India had beer, enhanced by the inference drawn by the agitators from the terms of that telegram. 555 But the inference was widely, almost universally, drawn in India, as I think I could prove to the noble Lord from extracts from the newspapers. And undoubtedly the feelings thus excited were among the factors which produced unrest.
There is another small matter mentioned by some noble Lords on this side, and about which I am not certain that the memory of any of us is quite accurate. I speak of the partition of Bengal. I gave credit to Lord Ampthill for the particular form in which the partition was ultimately decided upon. I did so as an act of generosity which I thought was entirely deserved by the circumstances of the case. The noble Lord repudiates it. It fell to my lot to verify the facts only a few days ago in connection with another matter. When I left India in 1904 the partition had not taken definite shape, and in the hands of the noble Lord, who managed the affair with scrupulous regard to the Viceroy who was shortly to succeed him, changes were made in the proposals regarding Madras which I had made, certain of the proposals in regard to Bengal were knocked out because the Lieutenant-Governor did not like them, and the entire scheme as regards Bengal was remodelled and enlarged.
Viscount Midleton was right in saying that communications came from India and communications were made to me from the India Office while I was in this country; but being Viceroy temporarily functus officio, it was not my business to interfere, I left it in their hands; and when I went back to India and found the decision put before me, so satisfied was I with the discretion exercised that I sanctioned it and authorised a despatch to the Secretary of State. I apologise for making these few remarks of an explanatory character, but I think they have been called for. The only other point about which I would like to ask the Secretary of State is whether he can see his way to lay Papers as mentioned in my Motion.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am not quite able to reply positively, but I do not doubt I shall be able to lay Papers.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am in the hands of the noble Viscount. It is a matter within the discretion of the Government. We shall be glad to have Papers.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I will consider the matter, and certainly will be as liberal as I possibly can.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past Eight o'clock, till Tomorrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.