§ Debate on the Motion of Earl Curzon of Kedleston "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the removal of the capital of India to Delhi, and other connected matters" resumed (according to Order).
THE EARL OF MINTO
My Lords, this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships since I returned from India, and I confess that in many ways I should have preferred not to have taken part in this debate at all. Indeed, I wish, for reasons which are no doubt patent to your Lordships, that it had been possible to avoid altogether the discussion of the points which were raised yesterday by the noble Earl, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, but at the same time I do feel very strongly that it would have been quite unjustifiable to refrain from the discussion of the policy of His Majesty's Government, affecting vast changes of momentous Imperial importance. I also feel that as the last member of your Lordships' House who has had the honour to hold the high position of Viceroy of India, and who has been so lately intimately connected with her public affairs, I am not entitled to keep silent.
Unfortunately, my Lords, any criticism on the policy we are considering, which was quite unknown to us until it was divulged in His Majesty's pronouncement at the Durbar at Delhi, runs the risk of being mistaken in India as a criticism of His Majesty's personal action, and indirectly of their Majesties' visit to India, than which I am sure nothing could be further from your Lordships' intention. Therefore the position is a very delicate one. His Majesty's Government are answerable for it, and I venture to think that it ought never to have arisen. It would be a calamity if anything said in this House should in the slightest degree mar the magnificent results of their Majesties' visit to India. The greatness of the Imperial idea which prompted that 190 visit, the determination with which the King persisted in it in the face of great difficulties, the courage with which their Majesties faced much hard work and exertion and not a little personal risk, has certainly won our admiration, whilst the magnificent reception they everywhere received from their Indian subjects of every nationality, of every religion, and of every caste, bears ample testimony to the loyal devotion of India to the Throne which their Majesties' sympathetic personality has done so much to confirm.
It was my lot, my Lords, to serve for five anxious years in India. They were years of political unrest, when the political atmosphere was dangerously electric. My noble friend the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Morley, knows well the stress of those times, and I shall always be grateful to him for the spirited support he was ever ready to give me. But before I sailed from home great administrative reforms had been introduced and many of the just claims of India had been recognised. Much had already been done to restore public confidence in the justice of British rule, and a dangerous smouldering discontent was everywhere giving way to a more friendly feeling. It was one of the most marvellous changes I ever saw. I can assure you that one could feel the differ once in one's work every day; one knew that everything was on a more friendly and happier footing. But, my Lords, something more was wanted, something that would impress upon the people of India that they, together with their British fellow-subjects, owed allegiance to the same great King, that they were together secure of his constant sympathy, and that they together shared in the interests of one great Empire; and I earnestly hope that the visit of their Majesties to India will have stamped the relations of British and Indian populations with the seal of a lasting friendship.
In The Times of February 5 there was published a "Message from the Princes and people of India to the people of Great Britain and Ireland." The noble Marquess opposite alluded to it yesterday, but to me it seems that it has scarcely attracted the public attention it deserves, and if your Lordships will allow me I will read a few lines from the Message. After conveying "to the great English nation an 191 expression of their cordial goodwill and fellowship," the Message continued—Their Imperial Majesties, by their gracious demeanour, their unfailing sympathy, and their deep solicitude for the welfare of all classes, have drawn closer the bonds that unite England and India, and have deepened and intensified the traditional feeling of loyalty and devotion to the Throne and Person of the Sovereign which has always characterised the Indian people.And the Message concluded with these weighty words—They are confident that this great and historic event marks the beginning of a new era ensuring greater happiness, prosperity, and progress to the people of India under the aegis of the Crown.In the face of such welcome evidence of so much good work one cannot be too cautious in approaching the policy of His Majesty's Government pronounced by the King at Delhi—a policy involving the removal of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi and other connected matters to which the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, drew attention yesterday.
I have no intention of attempting to deal in detail with the points under discussion. I would rather confine myself to a very few remarks as to the manner in which any previous knowledge of this great 6cheme was withheld from the British and Indian public until it had been announced as an accepted policy, which, without any opportunity whatever of considering it, they were expected to approve. I readily admit that there is much that is attractive in the removal of the seat of Government from Calcutta to Delhi. Delhi is the capital of the old Mogul Empire, and its history is replete with traditions of the past—Hindu, Mahomedan, and British. I have often discussed the possibility of such a change. I have no doubt other Viceroys have done the same. 1 was well aware of the cordial welcome any such suggestion would receive from the great Chiefs of Central India and of Rajputana, and it is impossible to disregard the advantages of removing the enlarged Legislative Councils from the political surroundings of Calcutta. But, on the other hand, the interests of Calcutta cannot with justice be ignored—the interests of great mercantile houses and of tradesmen. There is also the question of expense, which is bound to be enormous, for I altogether disregard the estimate of the Government of India. There were sanitary considerations to be thought of, 192 sanitary considerations which appear only lately to have dawned on the Government of India and His Majesty's Government. There are also strategical considerations as to the best locality for the capital of India from a military point of view, as to which the best military expert opinion was an Imperial necessity; whilst surely the fact that Calcutta has been for 150 years the capital of our Eastern Empire, and that her history is gloriously associated with the deeds of Clive and Warren Hastings and with the names of many great British administrators since those times—surely considerations such as these entitle Calcutta to more serious consideration. His Majesty's Government seem ready enough to recognise Bengali sentiment. Surely British historical sentiment has a claim not to be disregarded. Throughout the meagre correspondence which has so far been submitted to us between the Government of India and His Majesty's Government I am sorry to say I find very little trace of a due appreciation of the grave issues involved in any removal of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
The same secrecy has been maintained in respect to the reorganisation of the Province of Bengal. Lord Curzon's partition of Bengal had become law before I arrived in India, and I do not think I am called upon in any way to deal with its merits or its demerits. I listened yesterday with the greatest interest to what the noble Earl told us of the careful study which preceded the introduction of his partition legislation, of the thought which was devoted to it, and of his apprehensions in regard to the future results of a reconsideration of that partition. I am bound to say, my Lords, that I agree with all the history he told us of that legislation, and I share with him in the apprehension that he expressed as to future results of its reconsideration. But, though I had nothing to do with the legislation effecting the partition, I did see a great deal of the aftermath—the aftermath of unrest, dangerous unrest—that followed in its wake. And during those years of unrest I naturally had peculiar opportunities of knowing what was going on behind the scenes and of forming some judgment as to the genuineness of the so-called national agitation which was in many ways encouraged to rally to the cry of partition. And notwith- 193 standing the extraordinary and belated discovery of the Government of India as to the resentment about the partition which they tell us is still as strong as ever in both the Bengals, I unhesitatingly assert that there was hardly any genuine national feeling whatever in the Bengal movement. The original agitation in Bengal really was in close touch with a subterranean and dangerous agitation which had been in existence for some years in India, and which had not had the opportunity of showing itself above ground before Lord Curzon's partition legislation was introduced. When that was introduced it became a very useful cry to party agitators.
LORD MAC DONNELL of SWINFORD
Will the noble Earl mention the date from which this subterranean agitation took its rise?
THE EARL OF MINTO
Roughly it was three or four years before the partition, which became a useful peg upon which political agitators could hang their grievances. I can assure your Lordships that when I left India the agitation against partition was stone dead. I do not believe that there was a political agitator in Bengal, of whatever influence, who could have collected a representative gathering on the question. I feel bound, in justice to what I know of Lord Curzon's partition, to say what I have.
Throughout my term of office the Government of India warmly supported Lord Curzon's policy in the Bengals. We were told from home that "partition" was a "settled fact." We over and over again asserted that it must continue to be so. We assured the Mahomedan population of Eastern Bengal of our appreciation of their loyalty and our determination to safeguard their interests. I should think there is scarcely a Civil servant in India who has not declared that it would be impossible for any British Government to reverse the decision it had come to. Only last summer during the Coronation festivities 1 was approached by a distinguished Bengali leader, who asked if, in view of the King's visit to India, there was no possibility of a reversal of Lord Curzon's partition, and I told him that no Government of India could ever entertain the idea of such a thing. And now the declarations of the Government 194 of India, repeated over and over again since 1905. have been disowned, with no opportunity for any expression of opinion from the public in India or at home. Such a policy can but depreciate the reputation of British rule in India.
I should like to say a word about one particular point in the changes that are to be made, and that is as regards the gift of presidency government to Bengal. With due respect to the members of this House who have so ably administered the affairs of great presidencies, I confess that it is a form of government of which I am not enamoured. I have always disliked the right it possesses to communicate direct with the Secretary of State, which I do not think conducive to the authority of the paramount power in India. Bengal is full of advanced political thought and of political ramifications which the greatest Indian expert would find difficulty in unravelling. Owing to the great increase of postal and telegraph communication, it has now become possible for correspondence to be carried on between Bengali politicians and politicians in this country, and I can assure your Lordships that in the anxious times with which I had to deal this correspondence was one of my greatest difficulties. The opinions sent home by this. I do not like to call it back-stair correspondence, but unofficial correspondence, carried on between Bengali agitators of very doubtful reputation and politicians in this country, were taken far above their value here, and were accepted as representing the views of the Indian populations as a whole, which they were very far from doing. This correspondence became, as I have said, one of the greatest difficulties with which we had to deal. And if an English statesman with no knowledge of Indian affairs is sent to Bengal, however broad-minded he may be, with the power of corresponding directly with the Secretary of State, whilst at the same time the communication between political parties in Bengal and this country, to which I have alluded continues, I apprehend that as years go on the result will be the administration of Bengal from home instead of by the Viceroy and the Government of India, than which I cannot conceive any greater danger. I can find only one explanation for what has been clone. A sop has been given to a certain faction in Bengal as a recompense for the removal of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
195 The key to the position created by His Majesty's Government appears to be contained in a few lines of Paragraph 24 in the Government of India's Despatch of August 25. They say—In the event of these far-reaching proposals being sanctioned by His Majesty's Government, as we trust may be the case, we are of opinion that the presence of His Majesty the King-Emperor at Delhi would offer a unique opportunity for a pronouncement of one of the most weighty decisions ever taken since the establishment of British rule in India.One of the most weighty decisions since the establishment of British rule in India was to be taken without consultation with a single soul in India outside the Viceroy's Council, and without the advice of a single public man in this country, no matter how specially qualified he might be to give it. For the sake of a unique opportunity the Government of India and His Majesty's Government decided to ignore their responsibility to the public in India and at home. That is the position His Majesty's Government appear to me so unfortunately to have brought about. I have not attempted to deal in any detail with their scheme. I have endeavoured to limit myself to a criticism of the secrecy—the unconstitutional secrecy—with which they have withheld from the public all possible consideration of it. Much as I regret the necessity for this debate, I cannot see how on public grounds your Lordships could justifiably have refrained from any discussion of such momentous decisions affecting our Indian Empire.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, after the very interesting speech which we have heard from my noble friend on the Cross Benches, perhaps the House will allow me to express rather a different view of the policy of His Majesty's Government. The transfer of the capital to Delhi seems to me to be completely justified. I need hardly tell the noble Earl opposite that I have no "sneaking satisfaction" at the so-called dethronement of Calcutta. I never noticed while I was in Bombay the slightest rivalry between Calcutta and Bombay. A central residence for the Imperial. Government, detached from any Local Government, has always been considered desirable by the advocates of decentralisation in India. To restrict the interference of the Central Government with Local Governments, to limit it to questions of general policy as distinct from mere administrative detail, has always been the aim of experienced 196 Indian administrators whom I have known. If proper attention is to be given to the growing needs of Indian agriculture, Indian industries, Indian education, Indian finance, decentralisation is essential. The main lines of administrative policy must be laid down by the Central Government, but in order to carry it out in accordance with local traditions it must be left to the Local Governments. You must leave them as much latitude as you can, and that is what I understand is aimed at in the Despatch of the Government of India when they state that their policy is in the direction of autonomy—autonomy restricted, as mentioned in the Despatch, to provincial affairs. The transfer of the capital to Delhi will undoubtedly promote this tendency of making the local administrations more autonomous in all provincial affairs. From some important parts of the country the Government of India will be more accessible, as for instance from Bombay and Karachi. I do not think that at Delhi the Government of India will take a less interest in the great commercial an I industrial questions which ought to engage its attention. The Imperial Legislative Council, which, of course, will meet at Delhi, will certainly keep the Government in touch with Indian public opinion.
With regard to the Partition of Bengal, I think we ought to accept the statement in the Despatch of the Government of India to this effect—Every one with any true desire for the peace and prosperity of the country must wish to find some manner of appeasement if it is in any way possible to do so.This appeasement, I think, has been found by the decision of the Government in redistributing the partition. I have heard those who were not prepared for the redistribution admit that if it had been done originally on the lines on which it has now been reconstituted, they would have preferred it. There is no doubt that this new redistribution has given general satisfaction in India. I am not at all apprehensive as regards the interests of the Mahomedans in the new province of Bengal. The Mahomedan community in India is fully alive to the importance of educating members of their community, and I have no doubt that the Government of Bengal will look after their interests and meet their wishes as far as possible. I do not think there will be any difficulty in transferring the seat of Government to 197 Dacca for part of the year. The fact is, the Bengal Governor will be in the same position as the Governor of Bombay, who resides part of the year in Bombay, part of the year at Poona. and part of the year at Mahablishwar. The situation in Bengal will be identical.
As to the constitution of a Governor in Council for the new Province in Bengal, it was clearly always an anomaly that Bombay and Madras should have a Governor in Council, and that with regard to the Province which is, perhaps, the most difficult to administer in India, you should be satisfied with a Lieutenant-Governor. That anomaly was intensified when you gave to the Lieutenant-Governor a Council. It seems to me an advantage to appoint to the office of Governor men who have been in touch with public opinion here. They bring another element into the administration. Taking into account the complexity of the problems which arise in the government of millions of His Majesty's subjects in India, it seems very desirable to introduce that extraneous influence, and I have heard it admitted by very experienced Civil servants of the Crown in India that they looked upon this element as one which was very useful. Especially now that you have introduced into the Legislative Councils a more representative element there is always a certain risk of difference of opinion between the official and the non-official members, and it is obvious that a man who has been trained in public life here will in such circumstances exercise a beneficial influence. Then I would lay stress on another matter of the greatest importance, and that is in connection with the social intercourse between the representatives of the British and of the native communities. There is an advantage in having in India carefully selected administrators with experience of affairs gained here.
Now I must say a word on a matter on which, much to my surprise, nothing has been said up to now. I wish to say how pleased I was to see, among the announcements made at the Durbar at Delhi, that loyal native officers, men, and reservists of His Majesty's Indian Army are henceforth to be eligible for the Victoria Cross. This recognition of the meritorious services rendered by the Native Army was thoroughly deserved, and will, I have no doubt, be keenly appreciated throughout 198 India. The fact that 50 lacs are to be spent on truly popular education is a very salient admission of the great need, especially in the rural districts of India, of more schools and better remuneration of the teachers. That is a measure which will be generally welcomed in India.
With regard to the method of the announcement of these very important reforms, I think His Majesty's Government were absolutely justified in giving to that announcement its solemn character on a very solemn occasion. In India and here the all-pervading sentiment has been one of recognition of the great service rendered to the Empire by the King-Emperor in giving such a signal proof of his personal interest in the welfare of his Indian subjects. [t was a statesmanlike conception that the King-Emperor should himself announce to his Indian subjects measures so well calculated to impress them with his solicitude for their welfare. The outburst of loyalty which everywhere in India hailed their Majesties was spontaneous and sincere, and it certainly strengthened the constitution and foundations of British rule in India. A statement from the Throne of a policy for which the Government accepts the full responsibility is in every respect Constitutional, whether delivered at Delhi or here in His Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne in opening Parliament. In both cases there is no departure from strictly Constitutional practice. Parliament retains the power of criticising the Government's policy, and will not be prevented from doing so when the Bill for the constitution of the new Provinces is submitted for its consideration. The Government seem to me to have given to the ceremony at Delhi a high and exceptional significance. It was an unprecedented event in the brilliant annals of India, and I think that my noble friend the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy and their advisers are sincerely to be congratulated on a policy which was so well conceived and so admirably carried out, and which I think will have effects- of lasting value for the benefit of India.
My Lords, I rise with some hesitation to address your Lordships on this highly important subject. We are some way on into t he second night of this debate, and, with the exception of my noble friend opposite, your Lordships have heard this subject discussed by ex-Viceroys 199 and Secretaries of State alone, and there are other high officials who have filled the same position to follow. It may therefore seem somewhat presumptuous in one who has not attained that conspicuous position to venture to offer any remarks, especially as I am one of that batch of officials whom the Government of India has, by unearthing a dry-as-dust description, labelled as persons of no conspicuous ability. But having had a hereditary connection with India in official life for four consecutive generations and for over 120 years, perhaps I may venture to ask your Lordships to listen to my views for a few moments.
The noble Earl who initiated this debate divided the subject into several heads, and on one or two of those I should not offer any remark at all except from the attitude of a layman. I know India too well to venture to offer any criticism about a part of India with which I am not personally acquainted, and therefore on the subject of the wisdom of the divisions into which Bengal and Assam have now been parted and were parted in the time of the noble Earl I do not venture to offer any serious criticism. But it did seem to me that the noble Earl, in his speech last night, did step very delicately over a series of incidents which I think must have had some effect on the minds of the Government of India and the Secretary of State—incidents which not only attracted attention in this country but caused a great deal of the most serious apprehension. After all, it is not for the best that your Chief Magistrate in the country, a person upon whom a huge responsibility rests, should, I will not say be under any apprehension or anxiety, but that he should be in doubt, when he goes out for his morning ride or his evening drive, whether he will be able to take it without incidents which at any rate are offensive if they are nothing worse, and the state of Calcutta's streets for some time was such that I doubt very much whether the Viceroy could take his exercise in the open or without a considerable addition to that restriction which, of course, must always limit the activities of persons of very high position. And therefore I am not surprised that the Government of India eventually made up their minds that the occasional residence, for, after all, it is only that, for two or three months in the year of the Viceroy in Calcutta was no longer necessary. It was not an essential part of the successful government of India, and 200 it was very possible that in another part of India he might be able to do quite as much, if not more, good than he could do by this occasional residence in Calcutta. I do not dwell upon that part of the case, because I have not any experience of Bengal.
As regards Calcutta itself as the seat of the offices of Government, or what in India is called the Secretariat, I do not imagine that it will make very much difference whether the Secretariat is at Calcutta or at. Delhi. For a large part of the year a considerable number of the officials must be at Simla, and if they can be for a longer time outside Simla and more get-at-able than they are at Simla, I do not. think anybody will be any the worse. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, that in anything I may say as regards Calcutta as the seat of the Viceroy and his Council I am no more actuated by any sneaking satisfaction at those offices leaving Calcutta than he has been, I am sure, by any feeling of chagrin that the scheme which has always been attributed to him, whether rightly or wrongly, has been, after a few years' experience, altered. Calcutta is not, on the whole, going to be injured by this change. I dare say there are a few people who will be injured in pocket, as the noble Earl said. Owners of ground rents, I dare say, will not receive as fine returns as they have been doing of late, but the commerce of Calcutta is not going to be upset by the change of the seat of Government. The same goods and produce will flow into Calcutta and will flow out of it as before. There will be no attraction away from Calcutta by reason of the seat of Government being in Delhi, and I assure the noble Earl, if it is suggested that anything one may say on those lines is actuated by satisfaction, that I have never heard any real jealousy of Calcutta expressed by the merchants of Bombay. They are perfectly capable of looking after themselves and will continue to do their best to get trade to flow into Bombay and not to Calcutta or Karachi, just the same as the merchants of Calcutta and Karachi will continue to do their best for Calcutta and Karachi respectively, but there is no trade jealousy other than that ordinary trade jealousy which exists and always will exist between commercial cities. Therefore from the two points of view which I have ventured to touch upon, 1 confess to some slight amusement that so much 201 should have been made of the change. The noble Earl laid stress on the question of whether Delhi occupied a good strategical position, and it certainly did not seem to me that he strengthened his argument by being able to find no authority for that opinion nearer than the Duke of Wellington.
The noble Earl did not quote them. The one he quoted goes a long way back—to pre-railway, pre-telegraph, and pre-telephone days. I can imagine that some strategists might hold the opinion that a place which is about equidistant from the three principal ports, Bombay. Calcutta, and Karachi, is by no means a hid strategical position from whatever point of view you regard a strategical position. It seems to me it is a good strategical position in that at Delhi India is able to turn either to the East or to the West to important ports close to which those Fleets can lie which are her real protection except from the extreme North or North-east. And I do think that the noble Earl has overlooked this possibility, that the Government of India will not be so long seated upon those heights at Simla, but will for a longer period of the year be in more immediate touch with the Presidencies and Provinces of India, and it may be possible, therefore, for the Viceroy to see rather more of the Presidencies and Provinces than he has of late. I know all the difficulties of getting away from the office, from those masses of papers which flow in in consequence of the inquisitiveness of the British Parliament. I quite appreciate all that difficulty, but no one can be more conscious of the great factor of personal influence than the noble Earl himself, and I do believe that the Government of India would be all the better and difficulties would be simplified if the chief person in the country moved about the country rather more actively than he is able to do when for so many months of the year lie is lodged on the heights at Simla.. It is possible that he may be able to do that if for the greater part of the year he. is resident in a place like Delhi, which is so well served by the railway,
Turning back for one moment to the point of making a Presidency in Bengal, I am not surprised at the noble Earl who has addressed your Lordships to-night 202 preferring the system of a Provincial Government. He sat alongside it for five years, and if he and the noble Earl will forgive me, I assure them that there is an opinion outside of Bengal that the Viceroy of India would be very much better if he was not constantly so close to the Government of Bengal. There is quite a strong opinion in India that the Viceroy and his councillors and the opinions come to are largely affected by the fact of their being too much in Bengal and too much liable to the opinions of those who govern Bengal. Which is the better system of Government—a Presidency or a Provincial Government—is very largely a matter of opinion, but at any rate I may congratulate that unfortunate band who have been dealt with by the Government of India as I have already described upon the fact that Sir Henry Mayne acknowledged that they had done their work, which was the administration of those Provinces, fairly well, and, indeed, better than in the case of the Provinces which had been administered by those Indian civilians who had been promoted.
I quite agree with my noble friend opposite that you want occasionally some fresh blood let into the system of the Government of India. I do not think any one can admire a service more than I admire the Indian Civil Service. I think they are magnificent. Their readiness to take responsibility is unequalled in any part of the world, and their ability is unquestioned. Their capacity for argument is unlimited, and they are, without exception I should say, the most obstinate men that any official can come across. I do think that they want that obstinacy occasionally qualified by somebody who does not belong to the Indian Civil Service, and that is obtained by the introduction of fresh blood from England, the introduction of men who frequently have had some official experience which may, perhaps, not be as long as that of the colleagues whom they find there but is more varied, and therefore I am afraid I cannot agree with the noble Earl on the Cross-Benches as to this change, which is one of the many things he has so emphatically condemned. I am afraid also that I am not able to take the gloomy view of these important decisions which the noble Earl on the Front Opposition Bench does. He spoke in sepulchral tones of some of these alterations, and occasionally with bated 203 breath. I was in India when they were announced, and for some little time afterwards, and making every cautious allowance for the glamour and the success of all the ceremonies which surrounded the announcement, I confess, after many conversations with Europeans and civilians, that I did not find any one possessing the fear and apprehensions that the noble Earl possesses.
I will not attempt to argue the Constitutional side of the question. The noble Marquess and his colleague have to defend themselves on the point of whether it was a grave Constitutional departure. I do not know that it was anything worse than when Mr. Disraeli, as he then was, brought Indian troops to the Mediterranean. That was a very bold departure from precedent, and perhaps from Constitutional usage, but it seemed to me last night that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State brought forward one or two cases in which my noble friend below me was concerned which were almost, if not quite, parallel to this case. My Lords, I should be inclined to describe the action of the Secretary of State in authorising what has been done as a very magnificent piece of presumption which has been justified by results. In fact, judging by the results, I think one might almost describe it as a stroke of genius. At any rate, to judge by what we hear from India, and by what I saw in India, I cannot escape the conclusion that the whole scheme was received there with considerable gratification—I am not alluding to one particular part of the scheme more than another—and that there was a sense of greater comfort than there had been before the announcement was made.
My Lords, India is advancing very fast, particularly in the social relations of nationalities and of sexes. The changes that I observed were quite remarkable after an absence of sixteen years, and showed that there was a far greater interchange of opinion between castes, between sexes, and between nationalities than was possible at the time when I was officially connected with that country. And I do think that if these important changes had really been of the disastrous character which the noble Earl would have your Lordships believe, there must have been some manifestation of it, if not publicly at any rate privately when there was an interchange of the most confidential dis- 204 cussions between old friends. India is not unaccustomed to changes of capital; indeed, one would be safer in saying that India is accustomed to changes of capital; and, curiously enough, when a change takes place there always is and always has been for many centuries a tendency to drift back to the neighbourhood of Delhi. That has to some extent engrained itself, I believe, in the minds of the people of India, and I do not think that the idea of the Viceroy going to Delhi is in any way an unpopular thing there. On the contrary, it seemed to me from what I heard on all sides that it was an extremely popular move in almost all parts of India; and certainly not only from people on the western side of India but from people coming from Bengal I heard the most confident statements that this was going to be made a success. That sounded to me very much as if there was sentiment at the bottom of such a confident statement, and we know that with Oriental races sentiment is a very important factor.
I believe that the whole of the incidents of the visit of their Majesties—the magnificence of the ceremonies, seen by millions of people who will go back to their villages and tell other millions more that they have been almost within touching distance of their Majesties; the evidence of the profound reverence for authority which was displayed after the Durbar, when thousands of humble spectators, after their Majesties had withdrawn and after the troops had withdrawn, raced across the arena and threw themselves in humble prostration before the Throne; the magnificent organisation and respect shown at the fete held by their Majesties afterwards when they sat in their robes upon the ramparts of the Fort—all those incidents seen by millions of people and described by them to other millions have permeated through the whole of India. And I believe that the various incidents connected with this ceremony—the transfer to that scene of the Government and the Viceroy; the alterations in the outline of Bengal, which, after all, one must admit have been received with satisfaction by prominent persons in Bengal whose opinion is of importance—I believe that all these incidents are grouped together in the minds of the people of India as one great act of the Sovereign, and have created a profound sentiment of reverence for their Majesties. I believe that these changes need not be 205 regarded by your Lordships with the apprehension with which the noble Earl would wish you to regard them, but, on the contrary, may be confidently looked forward to as beneficial changes in our system of government in India. The peoples of that country honestly believe that these changes have been made in accordance with their sentiments and their respect and reverence for the authority of England has been increased.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, speaking yesterday with that eloquence and force which he has taught your Lordships' House always to expect from him, stated that he would discuss his Motion under four heads. The first head he raised was the Constitutional question. He next dealt with the question of the Partition of Bengal, defending his policy in regard to that business. He passed on, in the third place, to a condemnation of the present arrangements in Bengal; and he ended his speech with an attack upon the removal of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. I propose, my Lords, as briefly as I can, to follow the noble Earl through these four heads, and I am sorry to say that I shall have to express opinions at variance with his upon every point. I do so with the most unfeigned regret, because I regard and always have regarded with the utmost admiration and respect the noble Earl's commanding intellectual gifts and his lofty ideals of Government.
On the Constitutional question, my Lords, I will say but little. 1 am not an expert on Constitutional matters, and I desire to hasten on to the points of which I have special knowledge. But this I may say, that I am in full agreement with the remarks which have fallen from the noble Lord opposite, Lord Harris, in connection with the Durbar at Delhi, and with the necessity of the pronouncement which was then made. There cannot be any doubt that a pronouncement of a far-reaching and unique character was expected from His Majesty's presence in India. I will go so far as to say that the great Durbar at Delhi would have missed its object if some pronouncement., far beyond the common, coming home to the feelings of every person in India, from Prince to peasant., had not been made by His Majesty. Such a pronouncement was made, and it has changed the whole current of thought in 206 India from unrest and discontent to peace and loyalty.
As to the secrecy which, in the noble Earl's opinion, attended the procedure of the Government of India, 1 must say that I myself cannot understand how any other procedure would have been suitable or appropriate to the circumstances. If a charge of secrecy of procedure is to be levelled at anybody in connection with these transactions, it is to be levelled against the Government of India in regard to the original partition of Bengal. I have examined these Papers with great care, and I find that the first intimation given of an impending partition of Bengal was made in the letter of the Government of India of 3rd December, 1903. There the earlier policy and objects of the Government of India were clearly set forth for the information of all concerned. They met with the utmost opposition from every class and from every section of the community. European, Mahomedan, Hindu, all combined to say, "This is not the policy which we want; this is a policy which divides us; it is a policy which will lead to constant friction and to the deterioration of the country." The noble Earl made a tour through the Province of East Bengal; he was influenced by some. of the arguments addressed to him during his tour, and he indicated an intention of taking into consideration a revised and much enlarged Partition. That was in February, 1904. But, so far as I can see, from that date until the revised Partition was completed and sanctioned by the Secretary of State in August, 1905, no statement of the enlarged programme and no statement of revised policy was ever issued by the Government of India or made public in Bengal. If I am correct in that statement, and I have endeavoured to inform myself, it is not against the existing Government of India that any charge of secrecy can lie. If a charge of secrecy is to be made at all, it should be made in reference to the circumstances to which I have now referred.
I pass on, my Lords, to the question of the Partition of Bengal. The noble Earl's reasons for the partition of Bengal, as stated by him, were, first, the relief of Bengal from an overwhelming burden of work, a burden more than any individual could bear; and, secondly, the enlargement of the Chief Commissionership of Assam, the better recruitment of its Civil 207 Service, and the improvement of its commercial and industrial conditions. The relief of Bengal was a long-standing question of administrative reform, as the noble Earl has stated. It is obvious to everyone that it was impossible for any single individual to deal with the official work arising in a country of 190,000 square miles and over 78,000,000 of people. Relief was necessary, and I think it is to the honour of the noble Earl that he, first of any Governor-General of India, did take up in a practical and thorough-going spirit this question of administrative relief to Bengal. But, if he will pardon my frank language, I would say that he went the wrong way to work. He began with Assam. Now, my Lords, 1 would ask the question, What is Assam? I have listened to this debate and have heard statements made regarding this Province and regarding that, but I have heard no attempt made to come to the concrete facts and to see whether the facts of each Province did really call for the great administrative changes which the noble Earl carried through in 1905.
My Lords, what is Assam? Assam is that territory of about 56,000 square miles in extent, with a population of about six millions, which lies in the extreme northeastern corner of India between Thibet on the north, China on the east, Burma on the south, and Bengal on the west. Until 1874 that Province formed part of Bengal. In that year it was created into an independent Chief Commissionership, partly because of the tea industry which had arisen there, and partly with the object of giving some relief to the Bengal Government. That Province consists of 28,000 square miles of forests and hills inhabited by less than 1,000,000 people, many of whom within my own memory were headhunting savages. The rest of Assam consists of two river valleys, the Surmah Valley and the Brahmaputra Valley. The Brahmaputra Valley is to a large extent a malaria-stricken region affected by a peculiar kind of fever which has up to the present baffled the efforts of medical science to control it. The population of the Brahmaputra. Valley to the extent of nearly one-half is composed of aborigines, the pariahs of exclusive Hinduism, scarcely more civilised than the inhabitants of the hills whom I have just described. One district, Sylhet, really a Bengali district, contains over two millions of people, the only homogeneous part of the population.
208 I That is the country—primeval forests, sparsely-inhabited hills, malaria-stricken river regions where British industry has not introduced sanitary arrangements on the tea plantations—that is the country for whose improvement, administrative, industrial, and commercial, the noble Earl proposed the dismemberment of Bengal.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
With all respect to my noble friend that was not the genesis of the movement. I was only too glad to give relief to Assam and ally it to a higher form of administration, but nobody knows better than the noble Lord that we started, not from Assam, but from Bengal itself, and that my main object, as I stated yesterday, was the relief of the palpable and admitted misgovernment of Bengal.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I am coming to that point, but I think I am justified in saying that the enlargement of Assam by the transfer of districts from Bengal to Assam was one part of the noble Earl's policy. That is clear, and I venture to say that where you have such a Province as that, so circumstanced as regards population and as regards territory, the proper policy for the Government of India to adopt was to treat it as what it is—a non-regulation Province; to separate it off from the other portions of the country which require more complex law and more detailed administration; to concentrate your efforts upon it alone in the well-known manner adopted in similar backward parts of India, and not add on to it settled Bengal districts which must necessarily deteriorate by their amalgamation with Assam, nor add Assam on to the settled districts, whereby it would inevitably come to be regarded as an outlying portion of the larger Province and suffer the neglect which outlying regions usually do. My point is that the noble Earl's policy with regard to Assam was not such a policy as was called for by the conditions of Assam. The question of Assam as a frontier Province calls for particular consideration having regard to the progress of China towards our frontiers. We have learnt quite recently that the Chinese are already advancing towards that portion of our Indian Empire. They have, I believe, occupied the Chumbi Valley quite close to our Darjeeling district, and we know that they have established a military post at Rima, some three days' march from the 209 frontier near Sadya. If Assam is dealt with as a frontier Province the question of recruitment would naturally solve itself. You would not recruit for it from the Indian Civil Service, at all events not wholly; you would naturally look for young military officers willing to take service in such a place—men of the stamp of those who have pioneered our way in other parts of India.
My Lords, I now come to the other part of the scheme connected with Bengal. The noble Earl said yesterday, or at least I understood him to say, that his policy in regard to Eastern Bengal was determined by two considerations—the consideration of giving to the Mahomedans a unity which they had not had since Mahomedan rule, and naturally and consequently predominance in that part of the country; and, next, the consideration that it was necessary, to remove the scandal of ineffective administration of Eastern Bengal. I hope I do not mistake the two points of the noble Earl's policy. The Partition of Bengal as carried out by the noble Earl conferred political predominance on the Mahomedans in Eastern Bengal. That, my Lords, was the first time in the history of Anglo-Indian Civil administration, so far as I know, in which—I trust the noble Earl will pardon the word; I use it in no offensive sense—partisanship has been manifested by the Government of India in dealing with our subject races. My Lords, the manifestation of that spirit by the Government of India is, in my opinion, very dangerous. Antagonism between Mahomedans and Hindus is one of the most fundamental and serious difficulties we have to contend with in India, and the creation of a Province with the special object of giving therein predominance to the Mahomedans in a country which was essentially a Hindu country, in which the great landholders are nearly all Hindus, was calculated to produce throughout the whole of Eastern Bengal that particular difficulty which Indian Governments are most desirous to avoid. In view of these considerations I am not surprised that now the Government of India, in their Despatch of August, speak of "the growing estrangement, which has now, unfortunately, assumed a very serious character in many parts of the country, between Mahomedans and Hindus."
Nobody admires the true Indian Mahomedan more than I do. Those 210 Mahomedans who came from Central Asia and established themselves in Upper India have left behind them memorials which the modern world regard with wonder and admiration. Among the men of that race are to be found the most loyal subjects and the staunchest supporters of our rule in India. For the last six years of my official life I lived among them and was on friendly terms with nearly all of them of any importance in my Province. They are men with whom the European may be on terms of social intercourse, whom you may invite to your table and from whom you may accept invitations to theirs. To this day I am in friendly correspondence with many Mahomedan gentlemen of that class. But who are the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal? Are they the descendants of the invaders who came into Upper India under a Mahmud, a Zenghis or Timour? By no means. They are the aboriginal inhabitants of Eastern Bengal who, after the Mahomedan invasion in the thirteenth century, willingly accepted the Mahomedan creed which, proclaiming the Unity of God and the equality of man, had peculiar attractions to people outside the pale of Hinduism. From that time up to our conquest of Bengal these men lived among their Hindu neighbours, undistinguishable from them so far as historical records show. At all events, when we took possession of Bengal towards the end of the eighteenth century we found them but little distinguished from their Bengali neighbours except for formal profession of creed. Then came that wave of Wahabi puritanism from Arabia, which in time was spread in Eastern Bengal by emissaries preaching that India was the country of the Infidel and not of the true believer and that the Holy War was obligatory. The loyalty of the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal was undermined, and in time it became a prolific recruiting ground for the rebel colonies of Mulka and Sitana which were established on the North-Western frontier. It took three campaigns to reduce them, as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the Cross Benches can tell you. Those campaigns were followed by long drawn-out prosecutions, which I myself remember, in the seventies of the last century.
My Lords, I lived among the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal for three years and got to like them, for although they are fanatical they are a fine body of men, a hardworking, independent race, but among the 211 most ignorant people of this class I met with in the whole of my Indian career. I agree with the noble Earl that education has not been extended among these people as much as it ought to have been. After the prosecutions to which I have referred, that great man Sir Syud Ahmad Khan, of Aligarh, devoted himself to promoting Mahomedan education, and the college at Aligarh has been the result. It will, I am glad to say, soon be expanded into a Mahomedan University, from which there is a great hope for Mahomedan progress. But it will not operate on the Feraizis of East Bengal. Yet these are the men who were given political predominance over the clever and intellectual Hindus by the Partition. 1 think that such a policy if it had not been reversed was destined to be productive of the most injurious consequences to our rule in India.
The noble Earl says that the second reason why he introduced this policy was that the administration in Eastern Bengal was a scandal. I take it. from the noble Earl that the standard of administration in many of these Eastern Bengal districts had fallen below the normal standard of districts nearer the seat of Government, but, with all deference to the noble Earl, the cause of this falling off did not, in my opinion, lie in the direction that he supposed. The true explanation involves—I desire to speak with carefulness upon this point—considerations of the gravest import to our Indian Governments, because upon it hinges the relative efficiency of European and native administrative agencies. I have examined the Civil List of the Bengal services for the first quarter of 1904—the time at which the noble Earl made his tour in the Eastern districts; and I find that the following state of things then existed in connection with the administrative staff. Excluding from consideration the three divisional headquarters of Chittagong, Dacca, and Rajshahye, and also the district of Darjeeling, which, as the noble Earl knows, always have a strong European Staff, the remaining eleven Bengali districts forming the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam showed the following conditions in January, 1904. In two districts the administrative and Judicial staff was exclusively native; in two other districts the district magistrate was a native; in another district the district and sessions judge and the assistant magistrate were natives; another district 212 had a native district superintendent of police. Finally, in two other districts the European staff was abnormally weak and was supplemented by subordinate native officers. Thus, in eight of these eleven districts of East Bengal the European element in the administration was either altogether wanting or below the normal level.
Now I do not find—and I have examined into the point—that these conditions prevailed to nearly the same extent in West Bengal, while in Behar they are non-existent. My Lords, Indian experience has almost invariably shown that, with European controlling agencies, a firmer grip is kept on the administration, and there is more executive virility than when the controlling agency is native. Crime is held in greater check, greater energy is infused into the executive departments, and greater attention is paid to the instructions which the Indian Government has prescribed for the maintenance of a high standard of efficiency. I would therefore submit that the deterioration from the standard which the noble Earl had observed in Eastern Bengal in 1904, and on which he based one of his arguments for the establishment of a Local Government, were due to circumstances inherent, in the conditions of the case, which the creation of a Local Government at Dacca could not remove. The tendency of our administration in India lies in the direction of a larger employment of native agency in these administrative posts, and this is as it should be. But the country must, make up its mind that the standard of efficiency hitherto demanded by Indian Governments cannot be maintained under native officers until the native officer learns from his British comrade the secret of British administrative success. Personally I am not prepared to deny that a lowering of the standard may not be unacceptable to native public opinion. In some matters I think it would be acceptable. In our administration of India we have aimed at the highest standard of efficiency, and it is difficult to know what aim one could have unless the highest. But, however that may be, I think the circumstances which I have now related to your Lordships will satisfy you that neither on the ground of giving predominance to the Mahomedans of East Bengal nor on the ground that a deterioration had taken place in East Bengal from the administrative standard 213 of the Province as a whole was there any justification for the kind of Partition which the noble Earl carried through.
In the Government of India's Despatch of the 25th of August last we are told that the noble Earl's Partition was working out to the loss by the Hindus in East Bengal of their previous political status owing to the predominance of the Mahomedan element in the councils, and that a similar loss was impending in West Bengal owing to the majority in the councils secured by the Provinces of Behar and Orissa. The ultimate effect of the noble Earl's policy, then, would be the destruction of the Bengal Hindus as a political unit in the Indian Empire. There is reason to believe that the Bengal mind was growing to regard that possible consummation as a fact certain to occur, and the conviction thereby produced was exciting among them the bitterest feelings of animosity and revenge, and these feelings found expression in the outrages and assassinations which have taken place. It is my firm belief that that state of things would have increased and grown worse as the effects of the policy of Partition became more fully realised; and therefore, in my opinion, no more happy event has ever occurred in our Indian history than His gracious Majesty's declaration in Durbar, by which the current of thought of an entire people has been changed from discontent to loyalty.
Now, my Lords, I pass on to the third part of the noble Earl's speech—his condemnation of the Partition as effected. So far as regards Assam, I need say no more. As to Bengal, I would only say that no statutory obligation need be placed upon the Governor to live part of the time at Dacca and part of the time at Calcutta. As my noble friend Lord Rear pointed out, the migration of the Governor from Bombay to Poonah and elsewhere is an annual occurrence. In the Upper Provinces I may tell you from my own experience that the migration of the Lieutenant-Governor from Allahabad to Lucknow and from Lucknow to Naini Tal are yearly occurrences. The Lieutenant-Governor of a Province may well be trusted to visit those parts of his charge which demand his attention.
Turning now to Behar and Orissa, which the noble Earl called "a bundle of odds 214 and ends thrown together," I would point out to the House that from the earliest times at which this question of the relief of Bengal has been under notice the official mind has always looked to the west for relief. The need for relief first came to official knowledge during the inquiry into the catastrophe of the Orissa famine in 1865. It was taken up by Lord Lawrence, who, in addition to the creation of a Chief Commissionership of Assam, suggested as a possible further relief the creation of a Chief Commissionership of Behar and certain adjacent districts. It was pressed again by Sir George Campbell in 1874. I had long service in Behar as well as in Bengal, and it always seemed to me that it was through Behar that the problem of relief to Bengal could best be solved. The old Province Bengal, less Assam, was, roughly speaking, a square, and Behar with Chota Nagpur might be regarded, if your Lordships will picture it in your mind's eye, as a slice of that square, 450 miles long by 250 miles broad. It comprises a territory of 100,000 odd square miles and a population of 31,000,000. That is much larger than the Central Provinces, much larger than the Punjab. If a Province of that sort had been created it would have ranked among the great Provinces of India. It would have a perfect frontier on its east—a frontier distinguished by geographical, by ethnical, and by linguistic attributes. It would have a race of people entirely different from the Bengalis and speaking an entirely different language. There would have been no difficulty about recruitment, as the noble Earl seemed to think in his references to a similar proposal which was put before him, because it would be larger and much more populous than the Central Provinces, which has its independent recruitment. The relief afforded to Bengal would have been most ample, because the population under the Government of Bengal would have been reduced from 78,000,000 to something under 48,000,000. No feeling of sentiment would have been outraged. The thing would have passed through without the least difficulty. But this, the obvious plan of meeting the situation, was not adopted. The noble Earl had fixed upon a policy depending on the alteration of the Assam boundary and on the division of the Bengali-speaking people involving Mahomedan predominance. Neither policy, taken individually, ought I think to commend itself to your 215 Lordships' approval; but both policies taken together were, in my humble judgment, pernicious.
In the Partition which has now been made the only difference from the plan I have just described is that Orissa has been tacked on to Behar and Chota Nagpur. This is a good arrangement. It is a mistake to fancy that greater similarity exists between Orissa and Bengal than between Orissa and Behar. I have been in communication with the greatest. linguistic and ethnological authority of India, Dr. Grier-son, and he tells me that the language of Orissa is more like the language of Behar than of Bengal, so there would be less difficulty in transferring officers from Behar to Orissa than from Bengal. The arrangement that has now been made is, in the circumstances, the best that could be made. The only regret I have, and it is an inevitable one, is that the Lieutenant-Governor of Behar and Orissa should be given a Council. I know no part of India in which a Council would be more out of place than in such a Province as that. What is a Council to do with the uncivilised tribes of Chota Nagpur? You want personal government there, as you want it in Assam. However, part of Bengal had a Council under previous arrangements, and the Council must now remain.
My Lords, I now come to the last part of my remarks—namely, as to the transfer of the capital. If I were disposed to look for reasons in favour of the transfer of the capital, not to official sources but to the speeches of public men, I should find one in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Minto. He tells you that Bengal is seamed with subterranean intrigues. He finds Bengali politicians are corresponding with politicians in England. Political life and spirit is in great activity in Bengal, and it is to be expected that if the Government of India were located in Calcutta this political activity would operate upon it and embroil it in Bengal politics. If we can accept that description and there was no other reason for the removal of the capital from Calcutta, I should find an adequate reason in that. But the discussions between the members of the Government of India in Lord Lawrence's time give you ampler reasons for the policy now adopted. Lord Lawrence, as everybody knows, objected to removing the Government of India from Calcutta.
216 He had an equal objection to creating a Governor in Council for Bengal, and his Minute of January, 1868, was directed to showing the difficulties the Government of India experience in Calcutta if a Governor in Council were created for Bengal. With my own experience of Bengal I think that Lord Lawrence's arguments on this point are conclusive. He refers to particular instances in which the presence of the Government of India in Bengal with a Governor in Council would be productive of friction. He says that "in ordinary times it would cause friction, and in times of difficulty it would produce grave inconvenience. If any difference of opinion arose between the Government of India and the Government of Bengal, both being in the same place, what would become of the former if the latter were in direct official correspondence with the Home Government? Not to go too far back, what would have been the effect as regards the Government of India if, during the disturbances of 1861 or of 1865 and 1866, the Bengal Government had been in direct communication with the Secretary of State." These, my Lords, are references to old-world incidents in the political history of Bengal, of which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal will probably have some recollection as I have, and if he speaks to-night he will be able to inform your Lordships whether he agrees with Lord Lawrence or not.
There is one way of looking at the removal to Delhi which has not yet been noticed either in this House or in the Press. I am informed by a member of your Lordships' House who is listening to me that he has heard from an officer of high position in India that the removal to Delhi has been widely taken by the native public as a wiping out of the evil memories of the Indian Mutiny and the establishment of the British Raj upon a fresher basis. That indicates the trend of native thought, and is of importance. As to the loss of touch with non-official opinion in Calcutta, I ask your Lordships to consider what is the non-official opinion you have in Calcutta. You have European and you have native opinion. Will you lose anything by being relieved of touch with that native opinion which has been described to you by the noble Earl, Lord Minto—that element which he regarded with suspicion as apt to enter into those proceedings and correspondence of which he did not always approve? But apart 217 from such considerations, nothing but good will, in my opinion, come from the removal of the Government of India from subjection to the local opinion of Calcutta. Of Calcutta Sir Henry Mayne said forty years ago—That place cannot be the best capital for the Empire to which the vast majority of the people governed from it refuse to come.It is well known that no native of Upper India will come to Calcutta unless under the stress of necessity, and he gets away from Calcutta as soon as he can. In Calcutta you lose all native opinion except that of Bengal. By leaving it, you will bring yourself into touch with the thought of the more virile native society in India, and you will get out of the enervating influences of the coast fringe. As for European thought, you have in Calcutta no leisured class, no people, as you have in this country, who make politics the business of their life without having an axe to grind. The European merchants and professional men of Calcutta are engaged in making money, and they regard the questions, when they pay any attention to them, that come up before the Government of India from the standpoint of private interest or the interests of their class. I do not blame them for that. I suppose that in every country in the world the primary factor in the consideration of public questions by commercial or professional men is how will they affect themselves or their class. The Government of India will lose nothing by leaving Calcutta either from the point of view of the native or European society, for they will at Simla and Delhi and during the Viceroy's yearly visits to Calcutta have sufficient opportunity of hearing its views without being oppressed by them.
As for the danger of emergencies to which the noble Earl referred, the difficulties of preservation of documents and so on, it is well known to the noble Earl that the Government of India nowadays has all its proceedings printed; duplicates are to be had in any number; and, further, there is no reason why all the valuable and more important documents should not be retained in Calcutta as they are now, and sent, as they are now sent to Simla, to Delhi whenever they are wanted. The Viceroy will go to Delhi and probably will not stay there more than four months in the year. He will travel about for some time; he will pay his yearly visit to 218 Calcutta, and will only take the touring staff and the documents connected with current work. I see no difficulty whatever.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I hope the noble Lord will excuse me for again interrupting. The Government of India pledged themselves in December to stay at Delhi from the 1st of October until the 1st of May.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
As I understand, the Government of India consists of the Viceroy anti his Council. The Viceroy, as a matter of course, will have to pay his visits to other parts of India, and he will decide what his movements should be. He will be able to stay at Delhi far longer than at Calcutta. He now stays at Calcutta for three months of the year, but at Delhi he will certainly be able to stay for four months if not longer. I think it will work out that the Government in its corporate capacity will stay there for about five months. I think it will also come to pass that the native Princes of India will have their houses in Delhi; they could not live in Calcutta—they will come and pay their respects to the Viceroy at Delhi, and he will be able to consult them whenever any question for consultation arises, so that the necessity for the extended tour of the Viceroy will no longer exist to the same extent. I understand that the proposed arrangement is that the Viceroy will always pay a visit of at least a month to Calcutta, and that he will be able to live at Delhi, unless some particular reason takes him elsewhere, for four months of the year. That will be a great advantage to the Viceroy and the Government of India as bringing them more into touch with native thought.
I have to apologise to your Lordships for trespassing so long upon your time. There is only one more remark that I wish to make. In my reading of the history of India we have committed many mistakes, some great, many little. But of the great mistakes that were made, three mistakes, in my opinion, stand prominent. The first of these was the mistake made by Lord Cornwallis when he made permanent the settlement of the land revenue in Bengal. I do not say it had no counterbalancing advantages, but by the permanent settlement Lord Cornwallis inflicted an injury upon the cultivators of the soil which has only of recent years been corrected. He 219 deprived the Government of India of a great source of revenue, and thereby imposed upon them the necessity of taxation; and, worst of all, he kept the Government out of touch with the people. The next great mistake, in my reading of history, was Lord Dalhousie's cancelment of the native Chiefs' and Princes' right of adoption on failure of heirs. In that mistake Lord Dalhousie sowed the wind, or helped to sow it, and the Empire reaped the whirlwind in the Mutiny. The last mistake—and I say it with deep regret—is the mistake of the noble Earl, which would have had immeasurably worse consequences than either of those other two had it not been corrected in time. The noble Earl has spoken of broken promises. A promise was given in the Proclamation by which Queen Victoria took over the direct Government of India by the Crown. Her words were—In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security, and in their gratitude our best reward.My Lords, the people of Bengal, 50,000,000 nearly, regarded the noble Earl's partition as a breach of that promise. Happy Bengal, fortunate England, now that the breach has been restored from the Throne!
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I am afraid your Lordships must be getting weary of this debate, but I trust that you will allow me to say a few words as I have a sense of duty in the matter. This sense of duty arises partly from the fact that. the opinions which I hold are very different from those of my noble friend who initiated the debate, and partly from the circumstance that special responsibility has been on a former occasion attributed to me in the matter which is being discussed. I regret profoundly that this debate has taken place. I was deeply impressed by what was said by the noble Marquess who leads this side of the House on December 12 last, when the King's Proclamation was first announced. He said—Nothing which this House may say or do can alter what has been announced by His Majesty the King this morning. The word of the King-Emperor has been passed, and that word is irrevocable.It seems to me that if we acted in the spirit of those words we ought to refrain from criticism until time and circumstances bring about a situation in which we might have a responsibility which is not ours at the present time. That that is the view 220 of the House as a whole there can be no manner of doubt seeing how very few members felt it their duty to attend the debate yesterday and how still fewer felt it incumbent upon them to sit through the two important speeches which were made.
What, then, is the object of this discussion? What useful purpose can it serve? Is it to blame Ministers for their part in the matter? I am all for blaming Ministers when the blame is deserved and when that blame can be made effective. But I conceive that that is not so in this case. Nothing, as the noble 'Marquess told us, that we can say or do can alter what was announced by His Majesty at Delhi. And do we wish to alter it? Is there any one of us who wishes to alter it I venture to say there is no one present here who entertains such a wish. The people of India have assented—I might say cheerfully assented—to the changes which have been announced, and it is their opinion which really matters. The privileges of Parliament cannot, in my humble judgment, be weighed for one moment against the contentment of India in a case so unique, so impossible of constituting a precedent for the ordinary governance of India, as this one. But if your object is to prevent by your protests the course followed by the Government of India being established as a precedent, I fail to see how anything we may say in these present circumstances can affect the judgment, discretion, and responsibility of statesmen of future generations. I am not persuaded, for my own part., that anything unconstitutional has been done. Which of the unwritten laws of the Constitution has been violated No attempt has been made to show that any such violation has taken place. How far can the ancient laws of our Constitution be applied to India? There has been no demonstration of that part of the case. The changes are administrative changes, and nothing that has been done has in any way impaired the authority or responsibility of the Imperial Parliament.
There are times when exceptions to any rules are justifiable, and no circumstances could possibly be more unique than those of His Majesty's visit to India. There is an old maxim, Inter arma silent leges, and I submit that that maxim may be applied to the victories of peace no less than to those of war, for "peace bath her victories no less renowned than those of 221 War." Such a victory of peace was His Majesty's conquest of the hearts of the peoples of India. I confess that I admire the courage of those who made themselves responsible for this new policy, for it was a. courageous act. I believe that the people of India admire courage and particularly courage on the part of the Sovereign, to whom they attribute superhuman inspiration. In my view this scheme appeals to the imagination, and, as my noble friend behind me said, it is a great act of Imperial statesmanship. It has already been justified by success, in so far as it has been received with general acquiescence in India. Let us share in that acquiescence, and let us hope that that success may prove enduring.
The noble Earl who raised this debate had not one single good word to say for any part of the scheme, for there was no detail of it to which he did not apply that criticism for which he has so wonderful a talent. But can your Lordships really believe that the proposals made by the responsible authorities, the men on the spot in India, are quite so unsound and short sighted as the noble Earl has tried to make out? Personally, I was not shaken in my opinion by any one of his arguments. There was not one of them to which, so it seemed to me, there was not a fairly obvious reply. But I am not going to attempt any such exercise at the present moment, as your Lordships are, of course, anxious to get on to the hearing of views less insignificant than my own. I shall content myself with referring to two or three points only, and that exceedingly briefly. We are told that a dangerous precedent has been established. My own view is that the exercise of the King's authority, with results which so far as any one can judge at the present time are most felicitous and satisfactory, is a most fortunate precedent, and one which we can most safely leave to the discretion of the statesmen of future generations. My noble friend poured ridicule from every point of view on the idea of Delhi as the capital of India. But was it not the case—or is it merely my imagination—that there was a time when the noble Earl himself fondly cherished that idea and did not reject it as altogether out of the question?
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Then I am mistaken. But certainly the late Viceroy said this afternoon that he had seriously considered the possibility, and I think he suggested that it was a possibility not altogether displeasing to him.
THE EARL OF MINTO
No; I said that I had often talked it over, as no doubt other Viceroys before me had, but I never expressed any opinion as to whether it was good or bad.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
All I can say is that if this is a matter which has been discussed by the late Viceroy and by former Viceroys, it cannot, at any rate, have been held at any time to be a thing that was either out of the question or unreasonable. As to the suggestion that Delhi is dangerous from a strategical point of view, I would ask, Where then is the justification for the residence of the Government of India at Simla for seven out of the twelve months of the year? If Delhi is dangerous strategically, then surely on every possible military consideration Simla must be still more so. I will not labour that point. I merely throw out the suggestion that if Delhi is a dangerous place strategically Simla must he more so, and it is legitimate to ask why that danger has not been considered.
Then the noble Earl said that he had never heard it suggested that it was a disadvantage to the Government of Bengal to be overshadowed, as the expression goes, by the Government of India. Although I cannot say that I was long on the spot, my experience is altogether different, for even in remote Madras it was a commonplace of conversation that the Government of Bengal was so overshadowed; and I know that there were many people in Bengal, judging by what I constantly read in the Press and heard from other sources, who did wish for the comparative independence of Presidency Government. I disagree entirely with the views expressed by the late Viceroy (Lord Minto) on the comparative advantages and disadvantages of Presidency Government and Government by a Lieutenant-Governor, but I am not going to take up your Lordships' time with that:, as it does not seem to me to be relevant. But the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, said that the "weight of authority" was always against such a form 223 of Government—that is to say, Presidency Government—for Bengal. But what about the "weight of public opinion"? He did not say anything about that, but my own view is that there was always a considerable body of public opinion in favour of such a change. The noble Earl went on to say that if it were a valid argument that the Government of Bengal was overshadowed in Calcutta by the Government of India, it would apply also to Simla, and he said that that had not even been suggested. But it does apply to Simla. So much so that during the very time the noble Earl was Viceroy a scheme was being discussed for the purposes of withdrawing the Government of the Punjab from Simla, because, I understood, the Government of the Punjab was so overshadowed by the Government of India.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Then as regards the new form of partition, I cannot admit that there has been any betrayal of Mahomedan interests. The present arrangement seems to me fair, as there will be no decisive preponderance of numbers, either of Hindus or of Mahomedans. They will compete so far as there is competition on equal terms—that is to say, as regards numbers —in a sphere which will not only be wider but will also afford larger opportunities to the Mahomedans than the present arrangement.
Whatever be the real feelings of my noble friend—and I know that in everything he is actuated by noble conceptions of duty and by lofty motives—I am afraid that a great many people will attribute his action to a sense of personal grievance. He regards these changes as a reversal of his policy. In fact, he said so last night. The noble Marquess who leads this side of the House unfortunately gave colour to that idea, which was then disseminated far and wide. The noble Marquess, speaking in this House on December 12 last, said—These proposals involve an abrupt reversal of the policy initiated by my noble friend behind me.The noble Marquess must have forgotten what took place in this House on June 30, 1908, when the noble Earl informed an astonished audience that I was the real culprit in the matter of the Partition of Bengal. Speaking of the Partition of 224 Bengal, and more particularly of the advantage it would be to Mahomedans, the noble Earl used these words—But the credit for that, if credit it be"—Your Lordships will note that qualification—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.A few days later, writing to The Times newspaper on the subject of that debate, Lord Curzon said that he had nothing to withdraw or qualify in what he had said on the subject. To the best of my belief he has never retracted those words, and he might therefore have left to me the blame for a defective policy which has needed a complete reversal as he regards it. I repeat what I said on a former occasion, that not the smallest share of credit is due to me for a policy which was described by Mr. Lovat Fraser, the great apologist of my noble friend, in his valuable and interesting book, as the "greatest and most beneficent of Lord Curzon's labours in India."
But if it were otherwise I can say, quite sincerely, that I should not feel aggrieved by the present changes, or regard them in any sense as a reversal of the former policy. They seem to me to be modifications of that policy which are not unnatural after some years of experience of a great administrative change, especially when new and unexpected circumstances which no human being could have foreseen have recently arisen. There has been no return whatever to the old state of things. Bengal is still partitioned, though partitioned in a different way, and it is partitioned for precisely the same reasons and with the same objects as those which actuated my noble friend when he made himself responsible for that policy. But, my Lords, since nothing that we can say or do can alter that which has been done, let us not set an example of discontent. There is no evidence and o no reason to believe that the people of India are discontented in this matter. On the contrary, so far as my information goes, there are many signs that the reverse is the case, and the contentment of India should, in my humble opinion, be sufficient to justify our contentment.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down has truly said that the discussion opened last night by the noble Earl opposite will be ineffectual, as the Motion of the noble Earl can produce no result in the way of a change of policy. But the Government, while not urging discussion, have never been in a position to deprecate it. It is impossible that they should, and they do not deny for a moment that the matters involved in the new policy are fairly topics for Parliamentary debate, and the taking, if necessary, of Parliamentary opinion. I confess, with all admiration for the noble Earl's great gifts and for his sure knowledge of the topics which he handles, that I do think the tone of his speech last night was not all that could have been desired from a man of his authority and antecedents in Indian policy and history. For example, I think we were all rather surprised, and I think somewhat shocked, that he should have thought it worth while to bring up that story about the Indian who had been invested with a ribbon, and made an offensive remark about it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
It is satisfactory to us to be able to say that that story is completely unfounded. Trouble has been taken to ascertain about it, and I can assure the noble Earl that he has been misinformed. The story is untrue, and even if it had been true I cannot but think that it is a kind of thing that, on reflection, the noble Earl will consider had better have been omitted. The debate this afternoon has in no way helped the object of the noble Earl. We have had speaker after speaker, four of them, all adverse to his views and propositions. The speeches of Lord Mac Donnell, a man of special competence on this subject, of Lord Harris, Lord Reay, and now Lord Ampthill, all deprecated the line taken by the noble Earl, and all approved, almost without reservation, of the new policy.
There was one exception which was particularly disagreeable to me, the speech of Lord Minto. It was particularly disagreeable to me because for five years he and I were good comrades in a rather stormy 226 voyage. He was good enough to say something about me, and I can cordially say the same of him. He dwells upon the point of what he calls secrecy. He thinks there ought to have been a much more ample discussion before those resolutions were finally adopted. Now what does he exactly mean? He says "Oh, there were Indian authorities in England who ought to have been consulted there were Lieutenant-Governors in India who ought to have been consulted," and so on. My noble friend and I have often groaned under the tendency of the officials of the Indian Government to multiply what are called files, and, as Lord Mac Donnell showed, to go back into history. What would have been gained by asking their opinion upon a point which depended, not upon old history, not upon old arguments threshed out, but upon the present actual situation? I was often reproached when I had the honour of being Secretary of State for not paying deference enough to the man on the spot. The noble Earl did not say that and would not say it, but it was said. But how does my noble friend suppose that any of the noble Lords who have been Viceroys of India or Governors of presidencies could have given point to questions like the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, which has been before the people of India, officials and others, for generation after generation? As for consulting Lieutenant-Governors, I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of them, but looking back upon my co-operation with my noble friend I am not sure that I can recall any particular reverence that was paid to them by my noble friend or myself. Therefore I think that is rather a factitious point. Then my noble friend expressed a very adverse opinion indeed to Presidency Government, and he made a point that Bengal is the worst place in which to have a government of that kind, and he implied among other reasons because there were communications between Bengal and people in England. My noble friend and I used to differ sometimes. He attached a good deal more importance to `the communications with gentlemen in the House of Commons and newspaper editors and so on than I ever did; and I suffered from them mach more than my noble friend did, because the result of those communications was a shower of questions to me in the House of Commons day after day. But let me put this point to him. I am sure he will recognise the aptness of it. Will 227 he say that there are more communications of that kind between Bengal and politicians in this country than between Bombay and Poona?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
My noble friend speaks not without authority and knowledge, and he says he thinks so. I wonder now whether there is much of a margin in favour of Bombay as compared with Bengal. I should have thought not; but as my noble friend differs, so be it. As for partition, though we began to consider that point, there was never between my noble friend and myself, so far as I recollect, one single atom of dissention, and everything I said in this House and elsewhere was exactly what my noble friend would have liked me to say. On that point the noble Earl referred last night, perfectly good naturedly, to the line taken by himself and by the Government represented in this House by myself at that time upon partition. I used to be questioned and blamed very much by persons who sympathised with Lord Mac Donnell, for example, for not reversing the partition right away. I said, as the noble Earl stated last night, that I did not like the method in which partition was carried. But there were other reasons. What were they?
My noble friend was made Viceroy in November, I became Secretary of State in December. We were therefore a new Government. I am sure the noble Earl would be the first person to admit that. a great Party sweep having taken place in Great Britain and a Government of a different tone and complexion having come into power, it was all-important that nothing should be done to lead people in India to suppose for a moment that there was going to be any great sweep or reversal of policy. There was another reason or argument which I am sure actuated both of us—namely, that it would be wrong, partition having only been in operation for six months or less—wrong and rash for us at once to reverse an operation the effects of which we had had no opportunity of forming a judgment upon. There was a third reason. My noble friend and I were engaged upon a project of Council reform. That was a project which was regarded by 228 a great many people as dangerous, as hazardous in the extreme, as opening the door to all kinds of mischief, and let me say that the Bill which I had the honour of introducing and carrying through the House was most thoroughly considered and fairly treated by the noble Marquess and by the noble Earl. That was a tremendous reform upon which we were engaged. It was a reform for the successful carrying out of which we were bound to have with us as far as ever we could the good opinion and the friendly aid of the Indian Civil Service and of Anglo-Indian public opinion. if they had seen that we were going to reverse Lord Curzon's policy, that we were then going to launch out on this difficult and arduous voyage, we should have run the risk of having our whole course and prospects seriously damaged. That is the whole story. I commend it to friends of mine, outside as well as here, who were very angry for many months with me especially for not taking immediate steps for reversing that policy. That, if you like, would have been a concession to clamour, if we had reversed partition in December, 1906. There was a well-known Member of Parliament who wrote a letter and said that if they would be tenacious in keeping up the clamour they would squeeze me into advising my noble friend opposite to give way. That is the story of the failure to reverse, and if there is any charge of inconsistency in abstaining from reversing partition in 1906, 1907, and onwards, and now accepting the policy, which is not a reversal but a modification of the policy of partition, my withers are at all events completely unwrung.
The noble Lord who has just spoken reminded your Lordships of a debate that took place on June 30, 1908. I am not going over that ground again, but I must say to the noble Earl that his accounts of his attitude and his motives in regard to partition are a little difficult to follow. In 1908 he gave the whole credit to Lord Ampthill. Last night he said that it was not the Viceroy at all who drew the partition line, that the particular line to be drawn was a matter, not for the Viceroy, but a matter to be settled by consultation and discussion between the local Governors and officials of the representative bodies, and so on, and that they agreed upon a line based upon ethnical and geographical considerations, the importance of which would not be denied.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I have been challenged on both sides, and perhaps the noble Viscount will not think it rude of me if I state in a sentence or two what are the facts of the matter. They arose in this way. In December, 1903, the first schemes of partition were put forward. They were published in papers in India and in a Blue-book in Parliament. The line first put forward on the advice of our officials was, I believe, a bad one. I went to Dacca and other places in Eastern Bengal and soon realised that the public was adverse to our proposals but that larger schemes would be favoured, and I indicated that such schemes would be considered. They were considered, and we sent the matter again to our local bodies and officials and to public bodies and asked their opinions with regard to it. The answers to the letters we wrote had not come in before I left India in April, 1904, for a six months' holiday. The noble Lord (Lord Ampthill) then took my place at Simla, and the answers came in while I was away. The whole matter was most carefully examined and discussed by the noble Lord and his councillors in my absence, and the line ultimately adopted was recommended by these various officials to whom I have referred in my absence. With perfect loyalty to me the noble Lord left the discussions on paper to be dealt with by me when I arrived at Calcutta. I took over from him in December. I read the whole of the discussions and the whole of the reports of the officials that had passed in the interim. I found that they had settled on a new line differing entirely from my original one, and even from the one proposed when I left India. I accepted the new line, and at the first meeting of the Council we agreed to send the proposals to the Secretary of State. For everything after that date I have accepted the sole responsibility.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
After what the noble Earl has said I am glad to think that we in this House—I, at all events—shall never again be bewildered, as we have been ever since June, 1908, down to the eve of the present statement by the noble Earl, as to the real history of this famous transaction. I hope that I, at all events, shall never have anything more to say upon it.
Now, my Lords, I am only going to make one or two remarks more upon the 230 Constitutional point. I think my noble friend Lord Minto said a word upon that. What is exactly the Constitutional point? The noble Earl I do not think put exactly what his point is. Lord Salisbury, speaking I suppose in this very place, said—I hold that the Monarchy should seem to be as little Constitutional as possible.I think I understand what Lord Salisbury who was not a rash talker, meant, but it is a doubtful proposition. It is true that we are now dealing with what is undoubtedly delicate Constitutional ground. A very admirable Constitutional writer once said—It would create great surprise if people were told how many things a Sovereign could do without consulting Parliament.It is quite true that the Sovereign can exercise Executive powers to an enormous extent within specified restrictions of law.
Let us turn to the Indian system of government. The Indian system of government is a written Constitution resting on Statutes and instruments, warrants, and the like which are as good as Statutes. The ultimate responsibility for Indian government rests beyond all question with the Imperial Government, represented by a Secretary of State, and in the last resort, therefore, through the Secretary of State by Parliament. The Cabinet of the day, through a Secretary of State, has an indefeasible right, within limits laid down by law, to dictate policy, to initiate instructions, to reject proposals, to have the last word in every question that arises and the first word in every question that in their view they think ought to arise. There cannot be any doubt in the mind of any noble Lord that that is the final doctrine. It has been accepted by everybody, and how can you suppose that we should have tendered any advice to the Sovereign which would in any way have impaired that doctrine?
What has the Government of India to do? The Government of India and the home Government have to regard two sets of public opinion obviously—public opinion in India and public opinion here. That is what an ingenious man meant who said that the government of India under those double responsibilities was like a man trying to keep his watch in time in two different longitudes. That is the constant difficulty. In this case we avoided that 231 responsibility. Is it not clear—Lord Harris mentioned it to-night, and there is evidence in abundance from India—that we have satisfied public opinion in India, however you may define Indian public opinion, and we have satisfied opinion here. It is quite true that noble Lords may say—I hope they will not, for many reasons—"Wait, you do not know." But we do know that the step itself and the policy, including the making of the announcement by the King, have been received with warm approval in India both by the Anglo-Indian officials and by the Indian population, and here by organs of the Press and by both of our two great Parties. Here is the announcement of His Majesty the King which it was my duty to read to the House in December—We are pleased to announce to our people that upon the advice of our Ministers tendered after consultation with our Governor-General in Council we have decided,and so on. There is no more pedantic worshipper of the Constitution than I am. Is not that exactly what the Constitution demands? There are other expressions in these Papers which point the same way and from which the same moral is to be drawn. I could labour that very easily, but I do not think it is at all necessary. I did not hear from the noble Earl, and I certainly have not heard it from anybody else, since the general view of the House has been entirely the other way, anything to justify the language that has been used as to the unconstitutional nature of this proceeding and the method of it.
The noble Earl has predicted, among other things, that the finance will be nearer £12,000,000 than £4,000,000. I care as much about finance as 1 do about any Department in the Government of India. I think half of my time was spent in remonstrating about discrepancies between estimates sent from India and the actual expenditure when the bills came to be paid, and when you think of all the changes in fiscal policy that may result from overcharged or badly managed finance I regard this as the most serious element of all, and I should have been very jealous of the expenditure which might have been involved. But what my noble friend said last night ought, I think, to reassure all those who have nervous misgivings, which I confess in the early stage of these proceedings I myself had. I hope that that prediction of the noble Earl, which was quite a fair one for him to make if he had so 232 persuaded himself, may not come to pass, and I can only say that many predictions about India in the past have failed to come to pass. I have read a great many of them from the time of Pitt down to that of the noble Earl opposite, and it is astonishing how false predictions abound. I would also remind the noble Earl that when I brought the Indian Councils Bill before this House he and the noble Marquess, while they pressed their case with perfect fairness and Parliamentary judgment, both doubted whether those reforms would turn out so well as my noble friend and I hoped. They have turned out extremely well, and I hope that as that prediction as to the policy of 1909 has not been realised, so the misgivings which the noble Earl gave utterance to last night will also prove to be unfounded.
EARL CLTRZON OF KEDLESTON
May I say one word in reply to the noble Viscount, who rebuked me for having told a story yesterday? I dare say it was rather a trivial one and perhaps unworthy of being mentioned here. But with regard to my authority for it, since the noble Viscount denied the story explicitly, I may say that I told the story on high authority, and not upon gossip, with permission to use it in this House and with the assurance that it was absolutely true.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Perhaps I may be allowed to say one word on the point of this rather unfortunate story. I am informed that the story as told by the noble Earl has been telegraphed to India in this form, that the personage whom he reported as having received a high decoration and as having said that it must be regarded as a rope with which to hang himself, was actually invested with the decoration and made the observation at the time.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
As told by the noble Earl, the story, I suppose, was susceptible of that interpretation, although I am quite certain it was not the story the noble Earl intended to tell. I am very sorry that he thought his story worth telling at all, but told in that form it would mean that an insult of a most offensive kind was intended by this Indian gentleman with respect to an Order conferred by His Majesty; and naturally that 233 such a story should be believed in India would be most unfortunate from every point of view, and would be a grievous injury to the very loyal gentleman who was most obviously pointed at in the anecdote told by the noble Earl. My noble friend, therefore, drew attention to the facts in order to state that the story in the form in which it has been repeated is not a true one. It can easily be shown that it is impossible that the story could be true, because the particular gentleman in question, although he was at Delhi, was ill, and was never invested with a decoration. Therefore the story must obviously be untrue. As I said yesterday, I do not know on What authority the story, if it referred to a casual remark supposed to have been made by this gentleman, was told; but I consider that it is of the first importance to contradict it absolutely, in the form in which I understand it has been conveyed to India through the public Press; and I have no doubt that the noble Earl will be grateful to me for doing so.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am not responsible for the form in which it was sent to India. This is really most unfair. The story is apparently sent out to India in a mutilated, erroneous, and offensive form, but I have really no responsibility for that. I told it in the innocent form in which it was told to me. I regret, of course, that I ever told it, but for the consequences I am not responsible.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Your Lordships have heard speeches in the course of this debate from three exViceroys—for I have a right to count my noble friend on the Back Bench as one—and I confess that it is with a certain amount of reluctance that I offer a fourth contribution from a similar source. Eighteen years have passed since I left India, and I realise fully that circumstances have changed very much in that country, and that the impressions which I may have formed in those days may have become considerably out of date. There is another reason which renders me reluctant to intervene, and that is the reason which was so well expressed by my noble friend Lord Minto in the first speech which he has delivered in your Lordships' House since his return from India, a speech to which therefore we all listened with great interest and pleasure, when he expressed his earnest wish that nothing 234 might be said in the course of these discussions which might appear to detract from the brilliant and unbroken success of the recent visit of His Majesty to his Indian Empire. Whatever we may think about the questions which we are discussing tonight, we all feel how great a debt of gratitude we owe to His Majesty for the signal service which he has rendered to the Empire by his recent progress through India, and I therefore hope I shall say nothing which could lend itself to the interpretation of a desire to strike an inharmonious note. May however, say that this feeling of reluctance is very widely shared both here and in India, and that the noble Marquess opposite ought, perhaps, to take the existence of that feeling into account when he tells the House that public opinion is unanimous, or almost unanimous, either here or in India, in favour of the recently announced policy. It is within my knowledge, and that of many of your Lordships, that there are a number of people here and in India who have very grave doubts indeed as to the wisdom of the new policy, but who nevertheless, for the reasons which I gave a moment ago, are unwilling openly to express their misgivings or their disapprobation. For example, when we are told that the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal are likely to acquiesce in the changes which have been made we are perfectly certain in our minds that they are profoundly chagrined by those changes, but we know also that their well-known loyalty will render them very slow to take any action or use any language which might be considered as an indication of a desire to give further trouble to the Government.
It will scarcely be disputed by noble Lords opposite that we have an ample right to examine with freedom the new departure which is about to take place. I was glad to note that the noble Viscount who spoke just now readily admitted the existence of that right. For, my Lords, there are two propositions which I do not think any one will be courageous enough to dispute. The first is that these changes are of immense importance; and the second that they have been accomplished by methods entirely unusual. I will not labour the first point, because we have it on record in the words of the Government of India that this is one of the most weighty decisions ever taken since the establishment of British rule in India. There can be no doubt that in the history, of the 235 country the year of the departure of the Government from Calcutta will be an imperishable landmark. Nor, my Lords, is it likely that the visit of His Majesty would have been signalised in this manner had it not been for the consciousness of his advisers that these changes were indeed of the most momentous description. As to the unusual character of the procedure followed, the noble Marquess in the course of his long speech last night did not for an instant dispute that the methods were unusual. His defence was of a different kind. He did not deny that the utmost and most unusual secrecy had been observed, but his point was that the occasion itself was so entirely exceptional that unusual methods were justifiable. That, if I may be allowed to say so, was rather a different defence from that which we heard a moment ago from the noble Viscount, because the noble Viscount gave us a disquisition on the Constitutional rights of the Sovereign, and denied altogether that there was anything unconstitutional in his action on this occasion. I do not desire to raise the high Constitutional point. I am content to argue that this thing was done on the advice of His Majesty's Ministers in a manner wholly unprecedented and in a manner which, as I shall endeavour to show presently, does not form by any means a desirable precedent with regard to the future.
Let me say two or three words as to the merits of some of the changes which are about to be introduced, and first, one word about the Partition of Bengal. My noble friend Lord Ampthill took me to task for having spoken of this as a reversal of the policy of my noble friend behind me. I am willing to accept his correction. I think the word used by the noble Marquess opposite, who described it as the re-partition of Bengal, was perhaps the more correct expression, but I should have been equally correct if I had described it as an abrupt disturbance of the partition arrived at by my noble friend behind me. I think my noble friend behind me may well claim that, although his partition has been thus materially modified, the great principle for which he contended when he was concerned with these affairs has been respected. My noble friend's great point was that the Province of Bengal, owing to its enormous and unwieldy size, was of such an extent that good administration 236 was not possible within it. He addressed himself to that great problem and brought about, as we all know, the partition of the Province. Whether my noble friend's partition was indeed the only proper partition to make, whether ingenuity could have devised some partition, some territorial re-arrangement less open to objection, I have never felt competent to decide. The case clearly was one which only persons possessing expert knowledge could deal with adequately. But the fact remains that the question was dealt with, and dealt with deliberately, by those who had the expert knowledge in India; that, after all those who had a right to be consulted had been consulted; after the change had been approved by the Secretary of State in Council and by the Cabinet; after it had been discussed in Parliament; after it had been formally accepted more than once by the noble Viscount himself as a settled fact—that settlement is to be upset entirely and a territorial re-arrangement of a wholly different character put in its place.
The case which is made by my noble friend behind me is that whatever opposition his partition may have encountered at the first, that opposition had been overcome so that the country had entirely settled down. We had a most important contribution to our knowledge of this subject in the speech of my noble friend Lord Minto. He told us that he had become aware that the agitation was stone-dead—I think that was the expression which he used. That is really a very remarkable and authoritative statement, derived, not, of course, from my noble friend's own personal inspection of the Province, but from the reports of his advisers, who were familiar with the circumstances and who had the right to make him aware of their views. And to my mind much the more serious factor in this controversy is that during the years when my noble friend's partition was being bitterly and, I think, unscrupulously attacked, the officials of the Government of India had been constantly intimating to those who came to them for advice that the partition was a settled thing and that there was no prospect whatever of its being disturbed or altered. Information of that kind was given to men who had stood by us when times were bad and who have leaned upon us, and to them and to the officials who held this language to them 237 it cannot fail to have come as a most serious shock and disappointment that, all of a sudden, the arrangement of my noble friend is to be torn up by the roots. I am afraid there can be no doubt whatever that the impression left upon the minds of many of those most concerned is that, however excellent the motives may be for which this change is to be made, it does represent the triumph of a very persistent and a very dangerous agitation.
May I pass from that for one moment to the question of Calcutta? I own that I am quite unconvinced by any of the arguments which I have heard as to the alleged unfitness of Calcutta to be the capital of the Empire. During the time which I spent in India, although I often heard murmurings as to what used to be called "the Simla exodus," I never heard murmurings at the residence of the Government of India in the city of Calcutta. Calcutta seems to me to possess all the attributes calculated to make the city a worthy capital. It has a very large population. It is a great emporium of trade. It has a large, varied, and representative community, native and European. The commercial element is strongly represented. You have the legal element, due to the presence of the High Court of Calcutta, and you have the official element, due to the presence, not only of the Government of India, but also of the Government of Bengal. I am somewhat distracted by the different arguments which have been used in reference to the alleged dangers supposed to be caused by the presence of the two Governments—the Bengal Government and the Imperial Government—in the city of Calcutta. The noble Marquess's apprehension was that in times of trouble friction might arise between the two Governments with obviously inconvenient results.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I did not say that friction might arise between the two Governments. What if said was that in times of trouble, and in dealing with matters connected with crime, the divided responsibility of the two Governments gave rise, and had actually given rise—I was not merely expressing a fear of what might happen—had actually given rise to inconvenient and serious consequences.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
That at any rate is a very different ground 238 of objection from that alleged by my noble friend Lord Harris. His rear was that the Government of Bengal and the Government of India at Calcutta would become too intimate—that the Government of India would be likely to overshadow, I think that was the expression he used, the Government of Bengal. And then there is the third and different reason which is alleged in the Despatch of the Government of India. In that Despatch, Lord Harding's fear is that, if Calcutta were to become a Presidency Government, there might not be room in the city for two such high officials as the Governor-General and a Governor sent out from England; that there might be, as he puts it, regrettable antagonism or rivalry between them. All these dangers seem to me to be a little farfetched. All I can say, speaking from personal experience, is that I never knew of any difficulty arising from the simultaneous presence of the two Governments. On the contrary, I think it was considerably to the advantage of the Government of India to be able to confer personally with the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal and with some of his highest officials. With regard to considerations of health, I do not think Calcutta leaves much to be desired. It has vast open spaces, its sanitary conditions have been greatly improved, it, has broad thoroughfares, and an abundant water supply. I cannot but think that it is a misfortune for the Government of India to lose its connection with Calcutta, and, to some extent, I think it is a misfortune for Calcutta to lose its connection with the Government of India, although I have no doubt that the men who have made Calcutta what it is will survive the passing disappointment occasioned by the severance of a tie which has lasted for a century and a-half.
My noble friend dealt so fully with the conditions which are found at Delhi that I need say very little about them. I am a little sceptical as to the immense sentiment in favour of Delhi as the capital which noble Lords opposite believe exists in the public mind in India. I think it may be taken as established that the sanitary conditions of Delhi are considerably inferior to those of Calcutta. I remember hearing, when this discussion began, of an ailment known as the Delhi boil. I was at first incredulous. I thought the story was the invention of some evil-disposed person, but, rather to my surprise, 239 two or three days ago I happened to notice in one of the newspapers a statement, apparently on high authority, that a great American investigator, Dr. Wright, has been devoting a considerable amount of attention to this mysterious complaint. It is described as an ulcer which sometimes reaches a diameter of three or tour inches, lasts for from five to ten months, and then gradually heals, fortunately leaving the Patient proof against further attacks. Let us hope that the members of the Government of India, in their first term of residence at Delhi will undergo a kind of seasoning, and escape all further tribulations from that source.
But the great point about Delhi is that you are going to move the Government of India from a city which has a great many of the best attributes of a capital city to a city which has not now, and is not in the least likely to have those attributes as time goes by. The present city of Delhi is a comparatively small walled city. You are going to create a new capital, probably at some distance, it may be some three or four miles, from the old city of Delhi. You are going to call into existence, not a great centre of national life and activity, but what will be very little better than a cantonment grouped around the official residences, with such bazaars and things as are necessary for the supply of those residences, but without any of that representative element, that mixture of society, which is to be found at Calcutta. There is a complaint now that the Government of India is too long shut up at Simla, away from outside influences. Under this arrangement the Government would spend part of the year shut up at Simla and the other part in an equally bureaucratic and remote society at some place adjoining the city of Delhi.
There is one argument against which my noble friend protested and in which protest I desire to join in regard to the movement to Delhi. We are told that the transfer to Delhi is to be regarded as an emphatic indication that the Government of India intend to remain in the country. I must raise my voice against that argument. Is it necessary to do anything to convince the people of India that we are going to stay in the country? If it has come to that we are in a bad pass indeed. And let me add that you will give a shock to confidence in the stability of your arrangements by upsetting the Partition of Bengal which 240 the transfer of the Government to Delhi will certainly not neutralise.
I do not think any one has taken up the point which was raised by my noble friend behind me when he called attention to that very remarkable third paragraph in the Despatch of the Government of India. In that paragraph it is intimated that what the Government of India have in their mind is an ultimate arrangement under which there would be a number of autonomous Governments with a Viceroy directing the whole system from some central point, where he would be cut off equally from all those autonomous Governments. That policy may be good or bad, but it certainly is not a policy into which we ought to be rushed in the manner in which we are being rushed into these other changes. If His Majesty's Government really carry out their craze for devolution to the extent that they are meditating—if they contemplate the introduction in India of some federal system of the kind which apparently they have in view for parts of the Empire nearer home—they raise a vast question of policy which ought surely to be fully discussed and examined before we are committed to it.
As to the question of cost, my noble friend was not successful in obtaining any information as to the data upon which the estimate of four millions was framed. The reason is not far to seek. You cannot have had a properly prepared estimate. If you had you would have been obliged to consult the different Departments, certainly your Public Works Department. You could not do so, because the seal of secrecy was set upon the whole of these proceedings. We have not been told whether the estimate includes all the consequential expenditure, nor whether it covers a sum of three-quarters of a million which has already been spent upon the creation of a new capital at Dacca. Does it include the cost of new headquarters at Patna, of hill stations, and of the barracks which will be required? We have asked for information but have failed to obtain any on this important point. I may say frankly that I have met no one who believes that the cost of all this will be kept within four millions or anything like it.
I o do not think I am putting it too high when I say there is room for doubt as to all these questions. There 241 may be answers to our criticisms and objections, but we have not had them. The reason we have not had them is that owing to your desire to introduce this new policy as a dramatic surprise you have precluded yourselves from seeking the kind of information and advice to which, in ordinary circumstalices, you would have been bound to resort. In. India all important proposals have to go through the official mill, which no doubt grinds rather slowly. The noble Viscount betrayed his impatience of the process in some remarks he made just now. He asked what would have been gained by consultation. He did not say as the noble Marquess his colleague said, that consultation was impossible because Otherwise the thing might mot have gone through. The noble Viscount is much more autocratic. Indeed, if you want autocratic sentiments you have only to go to a Liberal Minister. The noble Viscount avoided consultation because he did not want to be bored by the weighty files that the Indian Departments produce so freely. He has taken the short cut, and in this case it was a short cut indeed. Do not let me be understood as failing to understand the reasons for which His Majesty's advisers desired that there should be something dramatic in regard to the announcement to be made by His Majesty at the Delhi Durbar. I go further. I say the country would have allowed you without wincing to stretch a good many points in order that this desire for dramatic effect should not be disappointed. But in this case, was it really essential that you should dispense with the whole of the usual procedure and run the tremendous risks which, I believe, you are running in order that your dramatic effect should not fail of its impressiveness? I cannot help feeling considerable doubt when I am told that feeling Majesty's visit would have fallen short of the success we all desired for it if this new policy had not been announced in the manner in which it was. Lord Harris gave us an eloquent description of the way in which the great crowds rushed in to do homage to the empty Thrones on which their Majesties had been sitting. It was, no doubt, a most impressive spectacle. But, my Lords, when it is suggested that the people who did this were thinking either of the Partition of Bengal or of the change of capital I am profoundly incredulous.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
They could not have known, for the 242 announcement had only just been read out by the King-Emperor iii English.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
As my noble friend reminds me, they could not have known anything about it, because the Proclamation had only just been read. Of course, what created the enthusiasm on that and other occasions was the feeling of the people, with whom His Majesty Mind himself face to face, that their ruler was no longer "the King of some remote star," but a human ruler able to go among them and charm them by his own personality, and willing at the very outset of his reign to undertake the immense exertion and fatigues inseparable from so long and arduous a progress.
The reply and explanation of the noble Marquess is one which fills me with considerable alarm. He asked us last night what would have happened supposing instead of taking the country by surprise we had done all this in the usual manner. He said there would have been a marked and lively agitation, that we might have been obliged to enforce the Press Act against the newspapers, and that the Mahomedans might probably have given trouble. I think it quite possible that some of these things might have happened; indeed I think it quite probable, that if the speech delivered by my noble friend Lord Curzon last night had been delivered in this House or by sortie one, else the House of Commons or on public platform while His Majesty's Government Were still Uncommitted, public Opinion would have demanded that Ministers should hold their hand before committing themselves beyond recall, as they have, to this new policy. But observe what the legitimate deduction from the noble Marquess's explanation is. It is that when a new departure in policy is likely to Meet with an inconvenient reception you may rush the public into it and dispense with all the usual and timehonoured—I will not use the word Constitutional—processes which have always been resorted to in India and elsewhere when some great new departure takes place. What an argument for Liberal Ministers to use! They are supposed to welcome the free breeze of public discussion. The noble Viscount himself has introduced popular representation in India. All this is to be ignored whenever it suits the convenience of His Majesty's Government to do this, and they resort to what I can only describe 243 as something very like a coupďétat, because if they had not done so they might have found it difficult to get their proposals through at all.
I have said all that I desire to say. The changes are, beyond question, most momentous. S ome of them seem to me to be of a very doubtful character. At any rate, I venture to affirm in regard to them that they required an amount of examination which they did not receive, and that they have been accomplished under very unusual circumstances. We were bound to comment upon the action of His Majesty's Government. We should have been unworthy of our position if we had failed to do so. But, my Lords, let me end by saying that now that our protest has been made we shall say nothing and do nothing to interfere with the success of the new policy. Indeed I will go further and say that no one would be better pleased than we if the apprehensions which we have expressed should prove to be groundless; and that no one hopes more sincerely than we do that the bright page of history which His Majesty has been instrumental in inscribing upon the annals of the Empire will be followed by an unbroken record of prosperity, contentment, and good government.
§ THE MARQUESS CREWE
My Lords, may I, by the indulgence of the House, explain one point, not of course in answer to anything which the noble Marquess has said, because I am not entitled to do that, but with regard to a remark which fell from him and to one also which fell from the noble Earl yesterday with which I omitted to deal, for I am rather afraid that the absence of any observation from this side upon it might lead to misunderstanding in India. The point relates to the third paragraph in the Despatch of the Government of India. Unfortunately I had a great deal of ground to cover in the very long speech with which am afraid I wearied those who listened to it yesterday, and I did not reply to the noble Earl on that point. The point is this. He seemed to assume, and the noble Marquess who has just sat down also seemed to assume, that there was something approaching a settled policy on the part of the Government of India and, for all I know, of the Government at home, leading in the direction of something like a federal system in India. I wish to dispel altogether the idea that anything of the kind is intended. What my noble 244 friend the Viceroy in his Despatch did—and I think if the paragraph is carefully read it will be taken as doing nothing more—was to draw attention to the general trend and tendency of the form of Government in India, particularly as it now exists under the Councils Act of 1909 which is associated with my noble friend Lord Morley. Lord Hardinge was speaking of the general tendency which might be expected to continue towards a further decentralisation in all matters of a provincial kind, and he drew the conclusion which is to be found towards the close of the paragraph. But it would be unfortunate, and not in consonance with the facts, if a belief were held that we have or that the Government of India have any policy in view in the nature of a formal system of federation. I repeat that my noble friend Lord Hardinge was simply speaking of what he takes to be the inevitable trend and tendency of things in India.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.