§ Lord Archibald Hamilton
rose, in consequence of the notice which he had previously given, of a motion for a paper containing the opinion of the court of directors relative to the transactions in India, during the administration of lord Wellesley. Before he proceeded to make his motion, he hoped the house would allow him to preface it by a few preliminary observations. He first apologised for himself in taking up this business, but he was placed in this situation by the hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Huddlestone) having abandoned his original intention of moving for this paper. He disclaimed all idea of moving for it with a view to its being made aground of charge or a point of evidence against lord Wellesley. Much as he disapproved of the system upon which that noble lord acted, he had no intention of this kind. There would be sufficient opportunity afterwards for his declaring his opinion on that subject. His object moving for this paper then 811 was, to make it a ground of charge against the late board of controul, and the noble lord (Castlereagh) who presided there. If it appeared afterwards that the proceedings of that board had been just and proper, nobody could be more ready to acknowledge his error than he would be; but, unless he was very much mistaken indeed, it would turn out that there were good grounds of charge against them. The noble lord had, year after year, gone on stating that the affairs of India were in a condition of the highest prosperity. The directors now said that they were on the brink of ruin. One or other must be mistaken, and his object was, to ascertain which statement was correct, and to whom the evils that had fallen upon India were to be attributed, supposing that the opinion of the directors was well founded. This he considered as a very proper subject of deliberation for the house. The dispatch of the court of directors to the government of Bengal, disapproving of the system that had been pursued, had been submitted to the late board of controul, and was withheld by them. The directors were at the same time obliged to sign a dispatch contradicting their real sentiments, and approving those very measures which they considered as pernicious. Was the noble lord prepared to own himself the author of the awkward and unpleasant situation in which the directors were thus placed? What share of such a measure would he take upon himself, and what would he ascribe to others? He called the attention of the house to the state of the unfortunate directors, who had a dispatch forced upon them, contradictory to what was their real opinion, and this a dispatch which was afterwards laid before the house as a statement of their real sentiments. This was the effect of that system for the government of India which had been so much opposed by his right hon. friend(Mr.Fox), and which, had his bill been adopted, would never have taken place. The court of directors were without power, and the board of controul without responsibility. He would ask any gent. what would be his feelings, were he called upon in his private capacity to approve of what was contrary to his real sentiments? It was not for him to criticise the conduct of the directors, or to examine how far they were culpable in their compliance. Probably it was not in their power to have acted otherwise than they did. He confessed he had reason, on 812 this occasion, to fear the opposition of some of those friends with whom he usually acted; but he was not conscious of having expressed any opinion contrary to those which they had been in the habit of maintaining. He should, at least, have the satisfaction of thinking that the sentiments he had delivered respecting the inefficacy and absurdity of the present system for the government of India were similar to theirs. The noble lord then replied to several objections which he thought might be made to his motion, and concluded with moving, "That there be laid before the house a Dispatch approved by the court of directors, dated 3d April, 1805, to the governor general in council; the answer from the Board of controul refusing to transmit the same; and a Reply from the court of directors to that answer."
§ Mr. Hudleston
Sir, as I had given repeated notice of intending to move for papers which would have included an extract from the most important of those now moved for by the noble lord, I should have felt it necessary to offer a few words on the present occasion, even if I had not been particularly alluded to by the noble lord, lest my silence now, should be as much misconstrued, as I find the motive has been which induced me to relinquish my intention of bringing forward those motions. The noble lord, by way of distinguishing his own object from mine, has stated, that his is not to criminate lord Wellesley. Whenever an investigation may take place on the important subject of the state of our affairs in India, I trust I shall not shrink from the discussion. But, in respect to my motive for wishing the papers in question to be before the house, the facts are briefly and simply these. A discussion in this house near the close of the last session, had given an impression, both here and without doors, that the executive body of the East-India Co. had approved of certain treaties concluded at Oude, and transactions connected with them. A paper certainly very favourable to that idea, had been moved for, and ordered to be laid before the house, in which approbation of those transactions is expressed under the hands of the secret committee of the court of directors. Now, sir, knowing that the court of directors had not even been made acquainted with those transactions until two years after the date of that letter, and that, on their becoming acquainted with them, they had recorded 813 their disapprobation of them; I felt anxious to remove the impression which the production of that letter had occasioned. This was my sole object, and I therefore determined to move for certain papers, which if produced, I knew would accomplish it, and which had reference to no other subject, than to the affairs of Oude, and Furruckabad.—But, from circumstances which must be fresh in the recollection of the house, and to which it became me to yield every attention, I was induced to postpone my motions three several times: until at length the document, an extract from which was the most material of the papers I had intended to move for, was demanded by the East-India board, and after some days laid before them. The production of it here, therefore, was no longer necessary for the only object I had in view. I consequently determined to relinquish my intention to move for the papers; and I did so the more readily, from the consideration that persons to whose judgments I feel, and ought to feel deference, saw objections to the production of that paper; and also because, although the paper in question expresses the general sentiments of the court of directors, I might, in moving for it, appear to commit that body with regard to the necessity of its production here, which I had no authority to do.—But these considerations without the more material one of the paper having been produced elsewhere, would have given place to the anxiety I felt, to exempt even the limited share and space which I occupy in the court of directors, from that proportion of the merit or demerit which may be thought hereafter to attach to the transactions in question. I trust I have shewn, that, there was no inconsistency in my relinquishing my intention of moving for those papers, and now that the paper in question, and others, are moved for by the noble lord, I certainly shall vote for their production, though I cannot vote for it exactly on the grounds stated by the noble lord; for I am unable to perceive, how the production of the paper in question, can be considered as furnishing ground of accusation against any party, against the board of commissioners, any more than against the court of directors. For, surely, if the proceedings at Oude, and any other proceedings animadverted upon in that document, have been just and right, the court of directors will be open to censure for the disappro- 814 bation expressed of them on that account, and the board of commissioners will be entitled to commendation for having rejected it. To consider, therefore, the paper as furnishing a ground of accusation against either party, seems to me, would be like prejudging that question. But I shall support the motion on what appears to me to be broader ground—that every paper on Indian affairs, that has been called for since the attention of this house and the public has been drawn to the late transactions in India, has been granted indiscriminately. And in respect to the Oude transactions, there is this additional argument for the production at least of so much of the document in question, as relates to them; namely, that the house has already ordered the production, of a paper, expressing the approbation entertained of those transactions by the board of India commissioners. That paper of course has made its own impression on the house. The paper in question on the other hand, expresses the disapprobation entertained by the court of directors of the same transactions: and as the former has been granted, there seems an obvious principle in favour of not withholding the other; or at least of so much of it as relates to those affairs which are before the house; namely, those of Oude and Furruckabad. At the same time I am aware, that the production of that particular paper is liable to the objection, that it is a proposed letter or dispatch only, which was not transmitted, and of course no opportunity of answering it given to the government, to which it was meant to be addressed. This objection I should feel to be decisive against the production of the paper now, if the late governor-general were still absent in India; but, as he is on the spot, it is open to him to have a copy of the paper to answer it, and to have a copy of his answer also moved for, and laid before this house: it may be said also, that in effect the paper has been answered in the reasons which the board of commissioners gave for rejecting it. But a stronger answer to the objection may be found in the fact, that a paper under the same circumstances has been moved for, and ordered without objection or discussion. The case was this: the court of directors imagined that the act of the 33d of the king, in the whole of the spirit of it, but more literally and expressly in the 57th clause, rendered it for a governor, 815 to appoint to any civil office under the crown, any person not a covenanted servant of the company, and that even of those servants, no one who had not been 12 years actually resident in India, could be appointed to any place of which the emoluments exceeded 4,000l. per annum. Proceeding on this idea, the court of directors framed a dispatch, censuring and annulling as illegal, the appointment of a gentleman not in the service, to be deputy governor of Oude. The board of controul rejected the dispatch, and wrote letter to the court of directors, justifying the appointment as legal and proper. Copies both of the rejected dispatch, and of the answer from the board of commissioners, were moved for in this house, and I think by a member of the late board of commissioners, and were ordered without any objection I am not aware of any objection to the production of the paper now moved for, that was not applicable to the production of the other. On these grounds, sir, I think it right to support the present motion for papers, as I have done every former motion made for India papers when I have been present in the house, in order that every information that can be derived from papers relating to transactions, in the consequences of which the public is deeply interested, may be fully and impartially before the house.
Mr. Secretary Fox
declared that it was with regret he heard that such a motion as the present was to be made; and more especially that it was to be made by two persons for whom he had a great respect (Mr. Huddlestone and Mr. R. Thornton). But the pain which he felt was not a little increased when he found it was to be made by the noble lord near him (Hamilton) for whom he had the highest esteem, whose personal regard he would wish to conciliate, and with whom he would always desire to cultivate a political connection; for to him that noble lord's ideas respecting the constitution, and his sentiments on political subjects in general, appeared to rest on principles so just, and well founded, that it gave him the greatest concern to differ from him, even in the application of those principles to any particular point. But he thought that the present question ought to be considered with a view to the judicial enquiry about to come before the house, and therefore our attention ought to be directed to justice alone. Now, viewing the matter in this light, he could not reconcile 816 it to his mind that the papers called for by his noble friend were not manifestly and grossly unjust. His noble friend seemed to admit that it would be improper to produce them as a ground of crimination against lord Wellesley, and he was glad that he coincided with him even thus far; but let us consider whether they would not operate against him in an unjust and oppressive manner. First, he might contend that these papers were not strictly official: but suppose they were, was the character of a man, under accusation, to be weighed down even by official papers? Look at the common judicial proceedings of the country, with which every person must be more or less acquainted; would it be endured that the general opinion should be stated as a ground of crimination against a person on trial? Nay, would not the publication of any thing like this against his character be a reason for putting off the trial, instead of being admitted as evidence before a jury? Now to apply this to the present case; whose opinions were they calling for? those of the court of directors. But they, by law, could only communicate their opinions to the board of controul; though, certainly, he did not mean to say that this was a good law. This, however, was at present the only way in which they could give their opinion; and when they were obliged to sign a thing which they strongly disapproved, their only remedy was,that which was open to all in such a situation, namely, an application to parliament. But, besides, what were these directors? They were the persons supposed to be most conversant with the affairs of India; and, both on account of their knowledge of the subject, and their respectability as a body, justly considered as a high authority. But the higher their authority, so much the worse would it be to produce these papers when a man was under accusation. This was so clear, on every well founded principle of jurisprudence, that he was amazed that it could escape the attention of any person. Now, in this case, there were some particular circumstances. The first was, the anomalous situation of the directors. They were bound to execute the commands of others. In every other department, when any thing was proposed to a person which appeared to him of the most mischievous tendency, he might refuse to sign it; but they were by law bound to sign, whether they approved or not, and 817 their condition was more anomalous than that of any class of men in Europe, even under the most despotic government. The only remedy they had, when they found that the board of controul insisted upon measures, which to them appeared of the most dangerous tendency, was to come and state their case to the house. Last session, a motion was made for a letter of the secret committee, which could properly be considered only as a letter of the board of controul. It was fairly moved for,because an individual,when his conduct was called in question might justly enough call for such documents as shewed the subsequent approbation of his superiors,—he said of his superiors, because though you (the directors) remonstrated with the board of controul, you did not, it seems, think the matter of sufficient importance to come to the house and state your case, which, if you were aggrieved, was a plain and obvious course for you to pursue. Another point was, that the directors probably wished to defend themselves. This was not the stage for that. When the affair of the marquis Wellesley was decided upon, and when the papers now called for could have no influence on his case, then they might fairly be moved for. But it would be an intolerable hardship to an accused person, if you could say that you did not call for such papers to injure him, but to defend your own characters. The answer would be, that he had a great regard for your characters, but, in defending them, you were not entitled to injure him. There was another point to be considered, If the actions of lord Wellesley were such as they were represented to be, then the paper would operate against the board of controul, and their influence would be increased when it was found that the board had rejected the better counsel of the directors. But, till the conduct of that board came under consideration, the papers ought not to be produced. If, indeed, the directors had come at the time when the transaction took place, and stated their opinion to the house, and their situation, that would have been a different matter.—With regard to the point of information, the public had it, and it was of course impossible that it could be kept from members of parliament, who formed a part of that public. It was not, therefore, for information that the other papers were called for, but on account of the authority which they would have in the enquiry before the house. But 818 what was the difference, since they were already before the public? Truly the difference Was,that the commons were to pass judgment in this enquiry, and not the public. Now, as far as this argument had been used, it would weigh more the other way. If you only want information, you have that, and as to the authority, the greater that was, so much the worse for the argument and the person accused; for this dispatch contained a strong case against the marquis Wellesley. What convenience could result from its production? He saw none, but the contrary. Were the accusers to stand behind the East-India Co., or were the directors to support themselves at present by a case, of which they had not complained at the proper time? He hoped that neither of these things could be permitted. But then it was said that these papers were not intended to criminate lord Wellesley. One said that they were intended to criminate neither the board of controul, nor lord Wellesley, and his noble friend wanted them as a general piece of information. But then they would have that effect collaterally, if not directly, and therefore they ought not to be produced. We were not at present considering the situation of the finances, the fabric of the government of India. These might come under review, and then the papers might be produced. He knew that his noble friend, amongst all the excellent qualities he possessed, would regret to do a wrong thing, and he would ask him how he would feel, if afterwards these papers should, if now produced, be used in a manner which he would disapprove? Nothing at present Would be lost in point of information, and though these papers might be useful at another period, they would just now be attended withthe most injurious effects. Though it was not very usual to move the previous question on motion for papers, yet, as there was nothing in the forms of the house to prevent it, he would move it in the present instance.
§ Mr. Johnstone
said, that the degree of astonishment under which he rose to present himself to the house, after what had just fallen from the right hon. secretary, scarcely left him the power of utterance. When that right hon. gent. and his friends were on the opposition side of the house, he always understood them to be not only the warm friends, but the loud and strenuous advocates for investigation on Indian affairs. They had repeatedly asserted, and 819 urged, that unless a thorough and minute enquiry into the whole system was speedily adopted, India must be inevitably lost to this country; but now that they had changed places, they, it seemed, had totally changed their opinions also, and deprecated enquiry as useless and unnecessary. Had his majesty's ministers been called on to produce documents from a commander-in-chief, there might be some plea for withholding them as of a secret and confidential nature; but how they could argue that the letters or dispatches made up by the court of directors, for the purpose of being sent out to India, should be called unofficial and irrelevant upon an enquiry of this sort, he was wholly at a loss to account; but there was a precedent on the journals, of the 18th of June, 1801, in direct refutation of such a pretence; for on that occasion an order was made to lay before the house, copies of the paragraphs prepared by the court of directors and laid before the board of controul, in order to be by them considered, and inserted in the dispatches sent out to India. The right hon. gent., he thought, must admit, that this conclusive authority; and there was also another case in point upon a motion made by the right hon. gent. himself, in 1798. The only argument in which he could agree with the right hon. gent. was, that justice should not be violated; and if he could conceive that any such violation were likely to result from the production of the papers in question, he should be one of the last men to urge it; but seeing no such cause of apprehension he could conceive no reason why the house, in proceeding to an enquiry of so much importance, should debar itself from seeing what was the opinion of the court of directors, and of the board of controul, on the subjects of Indian affairs. Those were the officers to whom the government of India was entrusted, and surely, their opinions must be extremely important for the house to know. When the investigation relative to the conduct of Mr. Hastings, was proposed to parliament, and the house had agreed to proceed to the enquiry, if any man had held such language as that of the right hon. gent. this night, in resistance to the production of documents so necessary to the information of the house; if any man had said, "Don't let us weigh down a criminal by such a mass of unofficial evidence," he would have encountered the right hon. gent's strongest reprobation. 820 After the repeated assurances given to the house by the friends of that noble lord, of their readiness to give, upon every subject connected with his conduct, the fullest information to the house, the refusal in this instance was a strong reflection upon the character of that noble lord, and upon the conduct of the right hon. gent. If the noble lord's conduct was pure and unsullied, he could have nothing to fear from the production of these, or of any other opinions. He himself really had no idea that the noble lord was guilty of any intentional criminality, though, it was possible he might have fallen into errors but too incident to men in great power, by making an improper use of that power, and this was really the utmost he meant to impute to the noble lord. But if differences of opinion had existed between the court of directors, and the board of controul upon this subject, he owned, that it was somewhat singular that the India Co., and the public, should be put in possession of those differences, and parliament alone kept in the dark. In short, conceiving as he did, that the house, by being possessed of those papers, would have a much more accurate knowledge of the existing state of India, and be of course better capacitated to discuss the subject, he should persist in supporting the noble lord's motion.
§ Mr. Hiley Addington
declared that nothing ever astonished him more than the astonishment expressed by the hon. member in rising to answer the speech of his right hon. friend (Mr. Fox); and in the whole of what had fallen from that right hon. gent., his opinion so fully coincided, that he felt it unnecessary to add any thing further upon points so ably and so eloquently elucidated. The noble lord who brought forward this motion, had professed, that he had no intention thereby to criminate the conduct of marquis Wellesley. He was willing to give the noble lord full credit for sincerity in his declaration; but yet he thought it was impossible, if those papers were produced, but that they must give rise to opinions injurious to his character, and strongly tend to excite prejudices against him. The document alluded to certainly was laid upon the table of the court of proprietors, by an hon. gent. who certainly conceived it to be a confidential communication. It had, by some underhand means, he understood, found its way into print, and it contained a series of opinions in condemnation of the conduct of 821 lord Wellesley, from the time he first set foot in India, upon a variety of points totally unconnected with the matters now in charge, and consequently irrelevant, and going only to excite general prejudice, in order to influence any decision that might take place upon the particular points in question. The house, therefore, in acceding to the motion for such a paper, at this moment, would, in his opinion, do an act of the grossest injustice, for which they could make no reparation, but by directing that all the documents upon which the court of directors had founded thee opinions, should be laid before them. He therefore, should oppose the motion.
§ Mr. R. Thornton
having felt himself particularly alluded to in the course of the debate, thought himself called on to state his feelings and opinions. The house, in refusing to comply with the noble lord's motion, would voluntarily shut its own eyes and keep itself in darkness and ignorance when the fullest information was absolutely necessary. If he had been heretofore backward in moving to bring those documents forth, it was not because he thought them unimportant or unnecessary, but in deference to the opinions of the right hon. secretary (Mr. Fox), the weight of whose talents and influence he understood would be against him. But now that the motion was brought before the house, it placed him in quite a different situation. Notwithstanding the resistance given to the noble lord, he was convinced, if the house did but even suspect what were the contents of the documents moved for, and the importance of the question it would be so speedily called to discuss, it would be extremely anxious to have them produced. The embarrassed situation of the company's affairs in consequence of the wars in India, was well known to the house. It was equally well known, that differences of opinion had long subsided between the court of directors, and the board of controul, respecting Indian affairs; and that the directions forwarded to India by the court of directors had not been obeyed. But when the house was told that the Indian system was to be reformed, that the board of controul was to be changed, and that an entirely new system was to be adopted, was it not important the house should be put in possession of the opinions of the court of directors, as to what were the errors of the former system, in order to judge how India ought to be governed? Was it 822 not of high importance that a declaration on this subject, signed by 29 independent men, out of the 30 appointed under an act of parliament for the direction of Indian affairs, should be in possession of the house, in order to its guidance, on proceeding upon so important a topic? The affairs of India, both at home and abroad, had become extremely embarrassed, and those embarrassments might ultimately come home with claims upon that house. He hoped they would not; but it was known the company had not been able to pay the 500,000l. a year, to which they were pledged to the country, as the consideration of their charter. When papers were now called for to elucidate the affairs of the company, gentlemen were told they must not allude to the past. How then, except by recurring to the past, were ruinous errors to he avoided for the future? Would the house shut its eyes against all information, and proceed in the dark? Gentlemen exclaimed, "Do not set conveniency against justice." True, but justice looked two ways, and required as much the vindication of the directors as of the noble lord. The paper would be produced sooner or later; every member would read it, and it was better it should be read in an avowed and direct way: To attempt to check the perusal of it, would be as vain as to attempt to stop an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He had no private difference with lord Wellesley, though he disapproved of his administration of India; he had no wish to stigmatize any part of the administration of the great man, now no more; it was his intention, too, to support the present administration. He, therefore, could have no factious motive. The country was in the situation of a ship beset with storms and dangers, and in this situation he should say with a departed hero, "England expects every man to do his duty." Where there had been a perversion of talents and a waste of public money; where the India debt had been increased by lord Wellesley from 11 to 30 millions, investigation was due to the country.
observed, that although the professed object of the motion of the noble lord was that of criminating the late board of controul, that certainly was not the whole object of it. He had no disposition to conceal any thing, and therefore as such he would have no objection to any document which could be called for; but it would give him more satisfaction, if these docu- 823 ments were brought altogether under the contemplation of parliament, and the whole made properly public; it would be improper to make this document so without other documents before that house. He knew it had been laid on the table of the India house, and somehow or other had found its way in print; but that was no rule for the house of commons. Its proceedings should be founded on regularity. He was persuaded that those who laid the dispatch in question on the table of the India house, considered it as a confidential document and fit to be produced, but he wished it had not found its way before the public, unless it had been accompanied by others, and the explanations of the reasons of the court of directors for their opinions should have appeared; without all which it was impossible for those who perused the document to understand it. He did not find it difficult to decide whether the affairs of Oude were properly subject to the board of controul, or to the court of directors, but these were points not now before the house. He concurred entirely with the opinion of the right hon. secretary, who had so ably spoken on this occasion, in the view he had taken of it. If the transactions of Oude were improper, the board of commissioners had made themselves parties to that act, by the approbation they gave of the conduct, and therefore a complaint ought long ago to have been made against them, but this was not the proper course to take for that purpose. This case had been stated to be similar to a case of a document being called for, and produced on the subject of the trial of Mr. Hastings. But a distinction was to be taken between the two cases; that was an act in itself legal, being a dispatch from government, and transmitted to India, and it became necessary to lay it before parliament in order to be decided upon; that which was now called for was only the opinion of a number of individuals, and, whatever weight that opinion might have, the house would form its own upon the facts, and not upon the opinion of others, as the right hon. secretary had justly stated; and, therefore, there was no ground laid for bringing this dispatch before the house. In saying this, he was not proposing to delay the remedy if there was any misconduct in the affairs of India; for the propriety or impropriety of the transaction or Oude did not decide the general merits of the affairs of India, or of the con- 824 duct of the board of controul; they must be decided on their own merits, and the opinion of individuals had nothing to do with the general view of the affairs of India. Nothing in the refusal of laying this dispatch before parliament would have the tendency of rendering the India board less amenable to parliament than they would be if the document was before the house. A great part of the speech of the noble lord went to impeach the conduct of the board of controul, mid to impeach the system of general policy acted upon in India; but if he had any disposition to censure that board, he apprehended the noble lord would find some difficulty in getting the support of the house, but the non-compliance with this motion would be no obstacle to him in that pursuit. The truth was, that although he was aware that considerable difficulties attached to the affairs of this country in India, they were not insuperable, neither was he disposed to take the same gloomy view of them that some did. Certainly the expenditure was very heavy at present, but that arose from the state of war in which it was engaged, and which he hoped would be of short duration; he was confident we should be able to struggle with those difficulties and to surmount them, and although gentlemen appeared to differ so much, yet he believed that on a close view of our condition in India, and a due consideration of all our circumstances, without which it would be impossible to form a correct opinion, the points of difference would not ultimately be so many as some gentlemen at present apprehended. There was one general observation to be made on this subject, and that was, that much of the conduct of the marquis of Wellesley, which some gentlemen appeared disposed to censure, was conduct in direct obedience to the direction of the legislature itself; so that, if these measures were wrong, no complaint should be made against any power except that of the legislature. As to the general merits of the transaction to which the document now called for referred, opportunities would be afforded of discussing them in due season, and that discussion would embrace many points besides those to which that dispatch related, and which were not now under the view of the house, without which the discussion must be partial; all which defects might be supplied hereafter by a full discussion of all the affairs of India, and nothing short of it could answer any good purpose.
§ Mr. Paull
said a few words expressive of his determination to lay before the house to-morrow, criminating charges against the marquis of Wellesley; and also of his surprise that Mr. Fox should not have supported the motion of the noble lord tonight, instead of moving the previous question upon it.
§ Lord H. Petty
was desirous of explaining the reason for his vote on this occasion, which should be for the previous question moved by his right hon. friend. With his noble friend who opened this debate, he had the happiness to concur on general and great constitutional principles; and he trusted he should long have that happiness uninterrupted by casual differences upon minor points. He thought it important to the public, that the paper now called for should, at some time or other, be introduced, and in voting for the previous question he should be sorry that any one should conceive him to alter his opinion on the subject of the publicity of all sorts of necessary documents for the information of the house. All he conceived to be the effect of the previous question was this, that the production of the paper moved for at this particular moment should be suspended until the accusation against the noble marquis should be disposed of one way or the other, that accusation being of a criminating nature, and the authority of this paper could not be made use of in the house in voting on that accusation. This paper contained the opinion of certain individuals on the conduct of that noble lord, and was a necessary piece of information for the house some time or other; but not so at present, for it was an authority which it would be unjust for the house to weigh when considering the conduct of the noble marquis. The house would form its judgment of that noble marquis from his actions, and not from the opinion of others. Although the house might hereafter possess itself of the information which the paper contained, the house, in voting for the previous question now, only suspended the production of the paper until the pending accusation against the noble marquis should be disposed of one way or other, and then the paper might very properly be called for in order to the general discussion of India affairs.
Mr. W. Smith
said, he had so great a sense of the importance of the paper that he would vote for the production of it even under the present circumstances, if it 826 could not be more properly produced at another time. The difficulties ministers had to contend with at present, were so great, that he was sorry to see their attention distracted by any Indian questions. When a virtual censure had been passed on lord Wellesley's administration by sending out the late noble governor, whom all lamented, to establish a contrary system; and when a noble lord, in whom there was every reason to confide, was about to be sent out to confirm the amended system, he thought the proposed investigation unnecessary and unwise. When investigation was once entered upon, there would be no end to it. There must be a general revisal. He was astonished that 29 out of 30 directors, had sat still when their opinions were so broadly departed from; that they submitted to sign a garbled and mutilated abstract of that opinion, and that they remained a whole year without coming to the house to remonstrate, under an insult that must have been most galling to their feelings.
§ Dr. Laurence
strenuously supported the original motion for the production of the dispatch in question, as a necessary piece of information. He did not think it wise to depend much on the personal character and qualities of individuals in the conduct of public affairs, although he had no exceptions to take to those who had been alluded to on this occasion. It was childish to say abuses should be suffered to go on because enquiry was inconvenient. To abstain from the production of a paper of the most useful general nature, because part of the information it contained might be applied to a particular question, he looked upon as foolish and absurd. The questions on the marquis Wellesley's conduct were so plain and direct, that they could be easily decided upon, without having recourse to collateral or remote matter, which nobody would think of connecting with them.
Mr. Grant (late chairman of the India Company)
said, that whatever his opinion might be of the system of measures pursued in India, in the latter years of lord Wellesley's administration, as indeed of many of those measures he could not help thinking very unfavourably, yet he was no way concerned in bringing forward the enquiries respecting them, which as hon. member (Mr. Paull) had agitated in that house. It was not the practice of the court of directors, to bring impeachments before parliament. They were not represented in 827 that house; concord between the different branches of the India administration, was in general important to the due management of affairs; and the situation of the court was a delicate one, when they had contend with persons of high rank and, connections, who filled the first situation in the India government, and supported probably, as they would be by the administration at home; under which circumstances, the mode of impeachment must be a very unpromising and inexpedient one for them to take. Even without proceeding to that extremity, they must in the circumstances described, sometimes find themselves under great difficulties in following what appeared to them to be the path of duty. Besides this general reason which weighed with him as a member of the Direction, he thought it evident that unless the leading talents and influence of that house supported a motion for impeachment, an attempt to introduce it, must prove a vain attempt; he moreover thought the present crisis, in which the safety of the nation called for the chief care and attention of the house, an unsuitable time for going into so intricate and tedious a business as the impeachment of an Indian governor would be found; and he avowed still another reason for being disinclined at the present moment to the agitation of such a measure, namely, the importance of preserving to the country in its actual situation, the union of all the talents and interests which formed the present administration, among the members of which, it was understood that a difference of sentiment respecting the conduct of the late government did exist, and that difference, if they were forced into the public assertion of it, perhaps upon various points, might have consequences prejudicial to the country. Influenced by these views, though he had at first approved of the intention of an hon. colleague of his Huddlestone) to move for an extract of the paper now in question, as calculated to elucidate a subject already before the house: yet, on further consideration, and on hearing the ground on which that motion would be resisted, he had avised his hon. colleague to drop his intention. But the present motion was a very different one. It did not call for an extract of the proposed dispatch of the court of directors, in order to throw light on the Oude negotiation of 1801; it called for the whole of that dispatch, not with any particular reference to 828 the charge respecting Oude, but for the purpose of bringing the general matter of it before the house. This was a new question; and to such a proposition he could not refuse his assent, because if he did, it might seem that he was unwilling to bring into public light, a dispatch in the framing of which, he had his share of responsibility, and to the contents of which, he still professed to adhere. It was true, he rather discouraged, and partly for some of the reasons already mentioned, the demand made by the proprietors of India stock, for the production of this document; and how the letter had got into print, as he perceived it now to be, he was utterly ignorant, having had no idea of any intention to print it, till he observed a gentleman reading it as pamphlet, in the course of that debate. But the letter being so far public, and a motion being made to bring it before that house, it was impossible for him to do otherwise than support such a Motion. The letter contained the deliberate sentiments of the court of directors, upon a review, not indeed of the whole of lord Wellesley's administration, but of various measures of that administration, upon which they had thought it their duty to animadvert. Considerable as the talents of marquis Wellesley were allowed to be, and happy as some parts of his administration were, the court had been necessitated to express their disapprobation of many things, and for his own part Mr. Grant said, he lamented the occasion given for it. In particular, the letter in question contained the opinion of the court upon some of the subjects, which an hon. gent. (Mr. Paull) had brought before the house; and, notwithstanding all the ingenuity, ability, and eloquence, with which a right hon. gent. (Mr. Fox) had opposed the production of the letter, because it was said to be the opinion of a third party on a cause at issue between the hon. gent. (Mr. Paull) and the late governor-general, yet he (Mr. Grant) could not reconcile it to justice, or indeed, to common sense, that in such a case the opinion of the India company, given in the most regular form in which it could be expressed, should be shut out. The company of whom the court of directors were the executive body, was an integral part of the system framed by the legislature, for the government of British India. It was the right and duty of the court to propose their opinions and orders upon all important subjects relating to the 829 government of our Eastern Empire; and to shut out the sentiments of that body in a parliamentary enquiry into any of those subjects, seemed to him contrary to the whole spirit and tenor of the constitution, given by the law to British India. He thought it no valid objection to the production of their opinions in parliament, that the board of controul had not sanctioned them. That reason might operate the other way. The Indian government as now framed, might be considered as a system of checks: the board of commissioners, controlled the court of directors; the court of directors, had to judge of the conduct of the government-general; the government-general in its turn, had always the power of representation respecting such orders from home, as it found to be inexpedient for the public interests; but the government-generalabroad,confederating with the board of controul at home, the one by originating measures there the other by upholding those measures here, might entirely exclude the court of directors from any part, either for or against those measures, and by means of the channel of the secret committee, even from the knowledge of them. Such, in fact, had been the case with respect to the Oude negociation in question. It was therefore but the more natural and necessary, that if parliament wished to have full information on this subject, which is now before the house, the opinion of the court of directors, as part of such information, should be received, not as a decision of they case, for then the objection of injustice urged by the right. hon. gent. might lie; but as throwing light upon it which would better enable the house to form its own judgment. Mr. Grant said, he did not support the motion for the reason assigned for it by the noble lord, that of founding a charge against the late board of controul. He was happy to agree with many of the other sentiments expressed by the noble lord, but he did not desire to bring forward any such charge. Between the departments of the India board, and the court of directors, diversities of opinion might be expected, and if there was not a conciliatory spirit maintained between them, every difference might be pushed to an extreme, that would interrupt the public business. Certainly, the court had differed widely from the late board of controul, concerning the conduct and measures of marquis Wellesley, and the court thought the proceeding of that 830 board in relation to these points wrong, but he was not prepared to accuse the board of acting contrary to its opinions, and in the general conduct of the late board, he was full as ready as if the noble lord (Castlereagh) who presided over it was still in place, to acknowledge the ability, clearness and intelligence, which he manifested in the business of it. Mr. Grant said, he could not hear without uneasiness, some observations which had been thrown out by the noble mover, and another speaker, concerning, the situation of the court of directors, in being obliged to sign dispatches dictated to them by the board of controul. It did happen that this power was sometimes exercised by the board, and in cases of great moment. The law had given them this power. But in the general currency of affairs, in the thousands of orders which were to be given upon all the various subjects relating to India, the court originated the dispatches, and those dispatches were seldom materially altered. To attempt a change now, would be a delicate, and might be a dangerous undertaking. Time and practice had consolidated, for the general purposes of practical utility, the different parts of the complex machine of Indian government; and on the whole, it had from habit acquired a facility of movement. If one piece was taken away, others might be weakened, and in short, the whole machine be destroyed. He therefore deprecated an attempt to make any change, the whole extent and effect of which should not be distinctly seen and proved to be beneficial. On the whole, he said, he should vote for the original motion.
said, it was necessary to explain, that this proposed dispatch, condemning the administration of lord Wellesley had not been prepared till 4 or 5 years of his government had expired. The authorities he had to look to for the guidance of his conduct had not till then expressed any dissatisfaction. It was at the request of the court of directors that lord Wellesley retained the government in 1802. This dispatch of disapprobation had not been proposed to the board of controul till the noble marquis was on the seas to return to this country, and had never reached him. He wished for the production of every paper tending to elucidate the case, but this did not bear on the case, and it went to excite prejudices of the most unjust nature.
§ Mr. Windham ,
though sorry to differ from certain right hon. friends of his upon the 831 present occasion, yet, feeling the question one of great importance, and himself therefore bound to express an opinion upon it, he must give an impartial one; and, therefore, keeping totally out of view all personal considerations, as with respect to lord Wellesley, and considering the question merely as between A.and B. he was clearly of opinion that the papers ought to be produced. For though the house was bound to maintain impartial justice with respect to the character and conduct of lord Wellesley, yet it was not bound to shut its eyes and ears to every thing else upon the great subject of Indian affairs. It would not be fair to give the authority of the court of directors against what had been done, neither would it be fair to give their sanction and opinion as an authority approving of that conduct which the house would be called upon to try. In the present instance, however, there was no great danger of the house being misled by the production of the papers, as the contents of them were already pretty well known. Thinking, therefore, that the production of those papers could be of no material advantage or disadvantage to the case of the noble lord, he was inclined to vote for their production, because he thought that the house had a right to be put in possession of the means of estimating and ascertaining the value of the authority of the court of directors. Although, perhaps, according to the strict rules of one of the courts of Westminster hall, those papers should not be granted, yet he conceived that parliament should not be fettered in the same manner. He could see no objection to the production of the papers in the shape they had been proposed, and as he thought they might convey much useful information to the house, he should support the original motion.
The Master of the Rolls
observed, that nothing could be more widely different than the grounds which had been taken by the different gentlemen who were for the production of these papers. Some supported it as the means of exculpating the board of directors, and others as justifying the conduct of lord Wellesley; while another hon. gent. seemed to consider, that the great advantage in producing the papers would be to interest the house in the affairs of India, and combine them with the enquiries that were to be made. All parties, however, appeared to agree in this conclusion, that it would be most unjust and unfair that 832 those papers should have any operation against the noble lord, or create any prejudice which might be to his disadvantage. The general argument appeared to him to have been completely answered by the right hon. gent. who moved the previous question. But the manner the noble lord meant to apply the papers, if they should be granted, appeared to him in the highest degree unjust. Whatever might be the opinion or the conduct of the court of directors, or of the board of controul, nothing would be more unfair than that lord Wellesley should be judged of, or condemned, through their medium. With respect to that noble lord, the house should consider itself somewhat in the nature of a grand jury, and although it might not be fettered by the same rules which governed inferior jurisdictions, yet it was bound not to depart from the substantial principles of justice. He did not feel that the house was driven to the dilemma which had been stated by an hon. gent.; but if he had no other alternative but to chuse between permitting a false impression to remain, or to introduce a body of evidence which he considered contrary to the established principles of justice, he should prefer the former. He therefore felt himself obliged to oppose the production of the papers.
disapproved of the motion, and thought the house, in ordering the production moved for, would resemble a grand jury examining evidence, not for the purpose of trying the validity of the charge, but with a view to make new accusations. This practice he deprecated as illegal and unjust.
§ Mr. Fuller
thought it quite inconsistent to refuse the production of a document in that house, which had obtained such publicity out of doors, and which was so material to inform gentlemen upon the subject to which it referred.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
said, that on account of his long and private friendship with the marquis Wellesley, he had hitherto forborne to deliver his opinion on these subjects; but he could not see how the production of this paper could at all affect his case. The fact was, that the paper was substantially before the house, and already printed; but it was printed in a surreptitious manner, without the name of any bookseller prefixed to it, and circulated in an indirect way. He therefore thought it would be much better that it should come before them regularly and officially. The govern- 833 ment of India was, in many respects, an anomaly, and there were two parts that he thought should be kept distinct, namely, the political power and the patronage of India. As for the patronage, he thought it might be dangerous to the constitution; it such great additional patronage was to be given to the minister, and he therefore thought it would remain more safely in the hands of the court of directors. As for political measures, when there should be a difference of opinion between the court of directors and the board of controul, he thought the opinion of the latter should preponderate. It appeared to him, that the court of directors should, however, possess every means of elucidating their conduct, and manifesting the opinions they held on India affairs. For this purpose he should vote for the production of the paper.
§ Mr. Sheridan
said, he perfectly agreed with the right hon. gent. who spoke last, that the court of directors should certainly have an opportunity, at a proper time, of putting the house in possession of their sentiments upon the affairs of India; but it did not appear to him that the present was the proper time, when the production of the paper might have an effect on the question of impeachment, which the house were to decide on. It had been observed by every body, that the paper ought not to have any influence upon that question. It therefore appeared to him better, that it should not be produced until it was decided. He. concluded by suggesting a resolution, "that the altered dispatch of the 3d of April, 1805, had not the sanction of the court of directors."
§ The Speaker
suggested to the hon. gent. that it would be necessary first to put the previous question.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
shortly replied to the arguments that had been urged against his motion, and disclaimed the idea of having brought it forward with any view of prejudicing the case of the noble marquis.
§ Mr. Windham
observed, that one great objection to the resolution proposed by his right hon. friend was, that the house would thus adopt a resolution for which they had no authority before them.
in reply to a question put by Mr. Fox, stated, that the dispatch respecting the treaty of Oude, in 1803, had been first drawn up by the court of directors, and altered by the commissioners of the board of controul. In every thing that did not relate to questions of war or peace, 834 the dispatches originated with the court of directors.
§ Mr. Jervis
was of opinion that a period might arrive when it would be proper to produce this paper; but he thought it was not proper now. The house ought not to receive any thing against lord Wellesley that would not be received in a court of equity.
§ Mr. R. Thornton
said, the house appeared to him to be in a great error in matter of fact. The court of directors had first written a dispatch, which censured strongly some part of lord Wellesley's conduct. The board of controul altered that dispatch in a great many respects, and softened down several of the expressions; but still what remained was, as far as it went, the opinion of the court of directors. A right hon. gent. had conceived an improper opinion of the court of directors, if he supposed they could be absolutely forced to sign papers contrary to their opinion. If there were no other way of avoiding that, they had at least the liberty to resign their situations.—The question was then called for, and, on the house dividing, there appeared
List of the Minority.
For Lord A. Hamilton's motion 27 For the previous question 121 Majority for the previous question 94
Andover, Lord Moore, P. Babington, T. Paull, J. Fane,— Porcher, J. D. Fonblanque, J. Praed, W. Francis, P. Prinsep, J. Fuller, J. Robarts, J. Grant, C. Thellusson, G. W. Huddleston, J. Thornton, R. Hutchinson, C. H. Wilberforce, W. Inglis, sir H. Windham, W. Keck, A. TELLERS. Laurence, F. Hamilton, Lord A. Mills, C. Johnstone, G. Mills, W.