§ On Motion, "That this House at its rising do adjourn till Monday next,"
§ MR. BRIGHT
rose and said: Sir, I gave notice the other day of my intention to put a question to the noble Lord as to the course Ministers proposed to take in reference to the future government of India; and in doing so, while speaking to the Motion of the adjournment of the House till Monday, I am quite aware that it is not desirable to occupy any long time even on a subject so important, the more especially as another question, also of great importance, is to be brought before us to-night; and I will endeavour, therefore, to confine my observations within the smallest possible compass. I believe the House will feel, with me, that at this particular juncture there is scarcely a question of greater importance can come before it; and I feel fully justified in alluding to it as one of the representatives of that constituency which, of all the constituencies in the Kingdom, is probably the most deeply interested in circumstances connected with the question of the future government of India. Another ground why I feel myself justified in calling attention to this subject is, that, in the year 1848, I obtained and presided over a Committee to inquire into the obstacles which existed to the cultivation and growth of cotton in India, and that subsequently I brought before this House a pro- 38 position to send a Royal Commission out to that country, to investigate on the spot what were the obstacles which existed to the extensive cultivation in India of the raw material of the chief article of the manufactures of this country. That Commission was refused by the Government of the day, though it was approved by many distinguished men in the House. It was approved strongly by the late Sir Robert Peel, who spoke to me on the subject both before the Motion was brought on, and afterwards. It was approved also by the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham). It was approved by the late Lord George Bentinck; and I believe I may say that the noble Lord now at the head of the Government in this House was not unfavourable to it; but it was opposed by the then President of the Board of Control and the representatives of the East India Company. Having made these various efforts to obtain inquiry, I consider that I am justified in asking the Government not to be precipitate in any legislation on this important question. But though the inquiry was then refused, it has since been thought necessary, by three successive Governments, that some inquiry should take place. Two years ago, the Government of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) proposed that a Select Committee should be appointed; but afterwards, when the Committee was about to be nominated, the noble Lord's Government went out of office, and on the accession of the Earl of Derby it was nominated by his Government in the course of the last Session, and sat. And again, in the present Parliament this Session, the Ministry of the Earl of Aberdeen, considering that the inquiry was necessary, reappointed the Committee, and its labours have been resumed. Now, it is an unfortunate thing for India, that the Indian Government, as represented in this House, is always of a fluctuating, uncertain, and, I fear, incapable character. It is incapable, not from the character of the individuals composing it, but front the peculiar circumstances of its constitution. The House may not have observed, that within the ten months since the early part of the year 1852, the Supreme Governor of India (for it is admitted that the President of the Board of Control is the absolute ruler of India, so far as any individual in this country can be so)—has been changed no less than four times. At the beginning of last year, in February, the President of the 39 Board of Control was Lord Broughton, formerly Sir John Hobhouse. I will say nothing of his government, or of the manner in which he administered Indian affairs, except that he was one of the most contented and somnolent of statesmen that ever filled that or any other office. After Lord Broughton, we had Mr. Fox Maule, now Lord Panmure, in February also, as President of the Board of Control, and he remained in office about three weeks, I believe. On the abolition of the Government of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Henries), was appointed President of the Board of Control, and he remained in office until the change of Government took place about Christmas, when that right hon. Gentleman was succeeded by another right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood). Now, I have no doubt all these were well-meaning men; but nobody will believe that they knew more about Indian affairs than their neighbours—nobody ever discovered that they had paid any particular attention to Indian questions; yet whether a man has been Secretary at War for several years, or Chancellor of the Exchequer, or anything else, if he be of the official and routine party, he is quite fit for the government of India, or any other office to which it may suit the views of those who were making the Cabinet to appoint him. But not only have we had four different Presidents of the Board of Control within ten months, but we have also had as many as six different Secretaries to the Board of Control: most of them, I believe, were Members of this House, one of whom (Mr. Layard) has left the country, and another will, I suppose, be appointed in his place. The House will thus see that there is nothing like a continuous government in the Board of Control, and there is naturally a great indisposition on the part of any person coming casually and for a short period into the office to attempt to grapple with a great question like the government of India. But we have some inquiry of some kind—we have a Committee—with many eminent men sitting as Members upon it—and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) at the commencement of the proceedings of that Committee divided the subject of the inquiry into eight branches or heads, and placed at the beginning of them—as that to be taken first 40 —the circumstances and method of the Home Government of India. Now I am not a member of that Committee, and speak, therefore, merely from hearsay; but I am given to understand that that branch has already been pretty much gone into, though I think the House will agree with me that that is precisely the branch that was the least important to make inquiry upon. For there is no one in this House, I believe, who is not already fully acquainted with the position of the Home Government, of its theory, and its method of action. We all know the constant underground wrangle which is kept up between Leadenhall-street and Cannon-row, and of the ingenious schemes which are resorted to to prevent open squabbling, so consequently inquiry into that part of the case was therefore the least important. Yet that was put first on the list, and the inquiry was pressed on that point, and I am told it is concluded, so far as it was necessary to inquire for the purposes of legislation. Now I venture to say that that which most of all will describe or indicate the true character of the Government, is to be found in the condition of the people who are governed. And yet, so far as the inquiry goes, the whole case of the condition of the native population of India is left untouched. If there be any truth in rumour, so far as the Committee has gone this Session, and judging from the evidence that has transpired, there has been perhaps, with one exception, nothing in the shape of adverse evidence produced before the Committee. There is, however, adverse testimony to be obtained, and adverse witnesses to be examined; and whether the East India Company or the Board of Control may be in their constitution good or bad, it is at least essential to form a fair judgment, that unbiassed and impartial witnesses should be examined, and that the evidence should not be confined to persons connected with the Government of India, or who have been the greater part of their lives in the service of the East India Company. I will refer shortly to the petitions which have been presented to this House from various parties in India—some from European and Christian inhabitants, and some from the native inhabitants, to show what the feeling of the people of India is in the matter. But it may be said that the witnesses examined before the Committee impugn this evidence, and say the natives know nothing of the case, and their opinion is not there- 41 fore to be taken. But I am afraid if you act upon that principle you may hereafter find that you have made a fatal mistake, and one that it may then be too late to remedy. I have here a petition from the British and Christian inhabitants of the province of Bengal. I will not go into the particulars of the statements of the petition, further than to read three or four lines from it. After referring to the internal policy and government of India, they say—That adverting to the inadequate manner in which the objects of the last Charter Act have been carried out, and to the several facts above stated, your petitioners suggest the expediency of making the new arrangements of the Government for a shorter term of years, and at first only for one year.And they pray the House to take the matters stated by them into its fullest and most serious consideration. This shows that the opinion is not an isolated one. I will now read a paragraph from the petition of the native inhabitants of Madras. This petition is one of great length, is very ably drawn up, and I may say I have seen several private letters from very influential persons in Madras, stating that if a Commission of Inquiry be sent out to the Presidency they are prepared to establish every fact stated in the petition. This is the paragraph:—That while your petitioners extremely regret that, owing to want of sufficient time, and to the insuperable difficulty of obtaining access to official documents, they have been unable to exhibit so amply and definitely as they could desire, the vast number of major and minor grievances to which they are subject, under the operation of the existing system of Government; they earnestly entreat that those which they have thus imperfectly touched upon may meet with the patient consideration of your honourable House, as well as that the opportunity may be afforded of substantiating the facts they have submitted before an impartial commission of investigation and inquiry assembled in India, composed of persons both in and out of public employ, and of Europeans and natives conjointly, chosen partly in Europe and partly in this country, as the sole means by which the real state of these territories, and the true condition of their population, can be elicited; and that, for the accomplishment of this object, the present charter of the East India Company may be annually renewed till the investigation is completed.First we have the petition of the European and Christian inhabitants of Bengal, then we have the petition of the native inhabitants of the Presidency of Madras, both concurring in their prayer, and making in effect the same statements. I have now another petition to call your attention to, 42 namely, one from the native merchants, shipowners, bankers, and other inhabitants of the Presidency of Bombay, and these petitioners, after detailing many particulars, conclude in these words:—That your petitioners further pray, that the Act now existing be re-enacted for one year only, so as to permit time for those minute and important investigations which seem so indispensable in the construction of a new constitution for India, especially as patient care and attention are not likely to be bestowed upon them if immediately or hastily gone into under the political excitement now prevailing in England.This, I apprehend, refers to the change of Government last year. Here is another petition, also, from the Bombay Association and other native inhabitants of the Bombay Presidency. They say—Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray your honourable House to embody in any measure of legislation which may come before you for the future government of India the principles herein-before set forth, and that your honourable House will not rest content, but adjourn the final settlement of the plan of the Indian Government until all available information from trustworthy, competent, and disinterested sources has been laid before you; and your petitioners venture to hope that your honourable House will limit the period of existence for any future government of India to ten years, in order that the interests of so many millions of British subjects may be more frequently brought under the consideration of Parliament.These petitioners ask for inquiry in the same way as the others, but they do not pray that the new Charter shall be limited to one year, but that the system established shall be such as to be frequently brought under the notice of Parliament. Then, the almost unanimous opinions of the press of India is in favour of further inquiry, and for an alteration in the form of government in that country. The grievances of which they complain are, that the law is administered in the Company's Courts under circumstances which are productive of great delay and expense, and which eventually amount to an effectual denial of justice—that the police of India is such as to afford little security for life or property—that the police themselves are in many cases little better than dacoits or gangs of robbers that infest the country—and that the taxes levied on the people are not levied in such a manner as to inflict the minimum amount of injury to the industry of the country, but that they are besides extremely onerous. They say that a thorough inquiry and reform are necessary; and they treat the question of material improvement as every man does 43 who has investigated the subject, namely, as a matter only to be spoken of with astonishment and contempt. They show that there are virtually no roads in the country; that within thirty-five miles of Calcutta, on the high road to the north, bridges which were washed down in 1847 have never been permanently repaired; and they describe the impossibility of introducing articles from abroad into the interior, or of conveying the products of the interior to the ports by reason of the absence of the ordinary means of communication. The petitioners also complain that the railroads which have been authorised to be made are proceeding with a dilatoriness, a want of energy, and a complexity and inefficiency of management and hopelessness of results, unequalled and unparalleled in regard to any other railways in the world. And with regard to irrigation, they say it is now in an infinitely less satisfactory state than it was under the old Governments of India. The canals and reservoirs, or tanks, have been allowed to go out of repair, the river banks have been neglected, and multitudes of lives have been lost by famine which might have been prevented had the Government paid ordinary attention to the work of irrigation, by securing the vast mass of water which falls in the rainy season, and applying it in a way to sustain the productiveness of the soil during the whole year. They all ask for inquiry, and join in condemning anything like permanent legislation on the system that has hitherto existed. It may be said that everything is conducted in all open manner in India—that we have all the information on the subject already in our possession; and that inquiry there is unnecessary. Now this is not the case. I have here a copy of the Bombay Gazette of the 24th November, 1852, in which there is a letter from Surat, describing the measures taken by the officers of the Government to prevent their native servants from giving any information to the British public; and, from other circumstances that have come to my knowledge, I believe the truth of the statement here made. That letter states that every attempt made to communicate information as to the actual condition of the ryots, on the part of the native servants of the Company, was met by threats of instant dismissal. This shows that there is reason for the Government using great caution, seeing that they are proceeding on the evidence of one side 44 only, for I should be sorry to see the Earl of Aberdeen's Government in the position of the celebrated Welsh Judge who always thought it convenient to decide when he had heard one side only, knowing that he was unable to grapple with the difficulties of the case when he heard both sides. I have stated that the condition of the people may be always looked upon as a true index of the character of the Government, and upon that point I will read an extract from the Bombay Times on the 14th April, 1852. If it be said that these are but newspaper statements, I ask if we had such statements made by any newspapers of credit with regard to the condition of any county in England, they would not be regarded as substantially true, or, if not, whether instant means would not be taken to obtain such an exposure as should prevent the repetition of such statements for the future. The article in question described the misery and degradation in which the ryots lived, adding that matters were growing worse every day, and concluded by remarking that when the revenue failed, and the Government became crippled in consequence, then possibly some attention might be paid to the condition of these people, but it might then be found too late. I have stated that in 1848 I moved for and obtained a Committee of Inquiry into the reasons why cotton could not be grown more extensively in India fur the supply of the home market. I will now refer to the Report which that Committee—on which three East India directors sat—unanimously agreed to. In reference to the general condition of the people, they reported, and the House must bear in mind that our witnesses, like the witnesses before the present Committee, were almost all servants of the Government, but it is only due to them to say, that they gave their evidence honestly and honourably. That Committee reported—That it appears from the testimony of almost every witness that the condition of the cultivating population of India is one of extreme poverty, especially those engaged in the cultivation of cotton in the presidencies of Bombay and Madras—Bengal yielding but a small amount of cotton. The great mass of the cultivators are without capital, or the means by which capital alone can be improved and extended. They are indebted to the money lenders for the means of purchasing the seed, and are compelled to give them security on the growing crop, the price of which they frequently fix, while they charge 40 to 50 per cent for their loans.But whence has this power of the moneylender arisen? The money-lending power is 45 the effect in the first place, though afterwards a contributing cause, of the misery of the people. If it were not for the extreme poverty of the people, the result of bad government in the first place, money-lending could not be carried on in this usurious and ruinous manner. This, then, is but a secondary cause by which the people are reduced to the degraded condition in which they are now placed, the main cause being, as I believe, the unaccountable neglect of the Government. I will give another fact from an authority which I believe no East India Director or President of the Board of Control can question—the authority of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) who was examined for two days before the Committee of 1848. I put a question to the hon. Gentleman as to the amount the East India Company had expended in the fourteen years, from 1814 to 1848, in substantial improvements for the good of the people they governed, as bridges, canals, banks, roads, or similar works. No doubt the hon. Gentleman had good information, obtained from the India House, for notice was given of the question the day before it was put, and the reply was, that the sum expended in such works during the fourteen years had been 1,400,000l., or at the rate of 100,000l. a year. Why, Manchester, with its population of 400,000, had expended double that sum within the same period for improvements for the benefit of the people. And when I asked the hon. Gentleman afterwards what was the revenue taken from the people of India during those fourteen years, he stated in effect—the precise answer, I do not now recollect—that the Indian Government had extracted from the population of India in that time no less than 316,000,000l. sterling. If any one can contradict this statement, it is open to their contradiction; but if it is a fact, it affords ground for doubts whether any conclusion should be come to for the permanent Government, without a more rigid inquiry than has yet been established. With regard to the revenue, Sir Robert Peel, when he introduced his Budget, and when he proposed the Income Tax, referred to the revenue of India, and said—I am quite aware that there may appear to be no direct and immediate connexion between the finances of India and those of this country; but that would be a superficial view of our relations with India which should omit the consideration of this subject. Depend upon it if the credit of India should become disordered, if some great exertion should become necessary, then the credit 46 of England must be brought forward to its support, and the collateral and indirect effect of disorders in Indian finances would be felt extensively in this country.I have not got the returns of the revenue for the last two or three years, but only those as late as 1849; but I believe that the returns of the period since that year afford no relief to the gloomy picture I am about to present to the House. I find that the deficiencies of the revenue have been in round numbers in 1840, 2,400,000l.; in 1841, 1,700,000l.; in 1842, 1,700,000l.; in 1843, 1,300,000l.; in 1844, 770,000l.; in 1845, 740,000l.; in 1846, 1,500,000l.; in 1847, 970,000l.; in 1848, 1,900,000l.; and in 1849, 2,300,000l.; making a deficiency of 15,280,000l., from 1840 to 1849, inclusive; and circumstances are now occurring in India which hold out no prospect of an abundant revenue or any surplus in the present year. The House will, perhaps, permit me now to offer a few observations on a subject of great importance to my constituency and the part of the country with which I am connected; I allude to the cultivation of cotton in India. For years it has been promised by the Indian Government that they could and would supply a large amount of cotton to this country; but will the House believe that, during the years 1817, 1818, and 1819, or thirty-five years ago, there was imported from India on an average a far greater number of bales of cotton than in the three years from 1849 to 1852. The average number of bales imported in the three years, 1817, 1818, and 1819, was 184,000; while the average number in the three years from 1849 to 1852 was only 142,000 bales, being a decrease of 42,000 bales. The hon Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) has made some observations with regard to the price; but is not the price of cotton in India and America subject to the same fluctuations; and yet, in 1818, there was imported from India a much larger number of bales of cotton than from the United States; but since that time there has been a great diminution in the quantity imported from India, while the quantity imported from the United States has increased from 200,000 bales in that year to 1,719,000 bales. In 1852 I wished to call the attention of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) especially to the manufacture of that article of cotton, on the importation of which an enormous sum is annually expended, besides not 47 less than 45,000,000l., in wages, and other accompaniments of that manufacture. The exports of cotton fabrics in 1852 amounted to 30,000,000l. Am I not, therefore, justified in asking that the question of the Government of India shall not be summarily disposed of to suit the convenience of some of those who are connected with India, or the convenience of the President of the Board of Control, or the Members of a Cabinet which do not yet sufficiently understand each other; while there might be a scandalous sacrifice of the interests of the district in this country with which I am connected, or, even of the interests of India herself, if this question was settled on any other principle than this—having conquered India it is the duty of this country to give the best form of government to her 100,000,000 of inhabitants? I will read a letter I have received from a gentleman of the highest character in India, and which is dated 4th October. He said—In India we were all expecting a sweeping alteration in the Charter, when, to our horror and dismay, we find that the Act of 1833 is to be renewed without any alteration. Whigs, Derbyites, Peelites, and Russellites seem all of opinion that India is a bore, and the sooner her affairs are dismissed, the better.What I want of the Government is, to tell the House if they have made up their minds on this question. I hope they have not, and that that will be the answer of the noble Lord. I understand that there is an impression abroad that there will be great danger in the renewal of the present form of government for two or three years only, with a view to its establishment on a permanent basis. There are people about Cannon-row who say it will be dangerous to take such a course, and that it will lead to agitation in India; and the cant phrase is used about our holding our dominion in India by so extraordinary a tenure that if it is rudely touched the whole thing may crumble into dust. A Government that has ruled the people of India for one hundred years in one part of that empire, and for fifty years in another part, ought to make itself such an anchor in the affections of the people, that no agitation ought for a moment to endanger it. I consider that the best way to prevent agitation will be to let it go out by the next mail that it is not intended permanently to continue the present Administration of India, but that the present Act will be renewed for two or three years, with a view to the establish- 48 ment of a permanent Administration. The result will be a conviction in the minds of the people of India that Parliament and this country are alive to the awful responsibility of this question; and then they will not agitate for the overthrow of anything: the most enlightened and intelligent of the inhabitants of India will come forward with suggestions and advice, in such a spirit of kindness and with such a desire for united action, as will enable the Government here, in the next few years, to frame such a system of government for India as I wish to see conferred upon her. The noble Lord will perhaps object, that I have gone further on this subject than I ought in simply asking a question; but I hope the noble Lord will appreciate the magnitude of the question, and in candour give me credit for having such an object as to induce the noble Lord to forbear from making such a retort. I am importunate on this subject, knowing, as I do, its magnitude. No one out of office has paid so much attention to this question as I have done. I have twice brought it before the House, and I have long been associated with those who had, by means of private subscriptions, sent out a gentleman of great intelligence and ability, the late Mr. Alexander Mackay, to India for purposes of inquiry; and although it pleased Providence not to permit that gentleman to return, yet the information he had gathered was such as only to confirm and deepen the conviction which I have long entertained, that Parliament should thoroughly investigate the subject before it resolved on acting. I take the liberty of asking the noble Lord (not with the view of embarrassing the Government, although I candidly confess that any proposition verging on a permanent renewal of the present system will meet with my opposition to the utmost, but I wish to ask the noble Lord if the Government have come to any decision, and, if they have, whether it is proposed that the measure they intend to bring forward will be of a temporary or a permanent nature? If it is of a temporary nature, for how many years it is proposed to renew the present Government of India, and when the measure which is to be brought forward will be laid before the House?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I cannot, in spite of the disavowal of the hon. Gentleman, help complaining of his conduct this evening. He has taken the opportunity of a formal Motion, that this House adjourn until Monday, not for the 49 purpose of asking a certain question of which he has given notice—not for the purpose of even stating facts and making explanations which might be introductory to this question—but he has taken the opportunity of making a speech of an hour's length in utter condemnation of the Government which, for the last seventy years, has ruled over the territory of India. It is obvious that such was the hon. Gentleman's intention. Without saying whether that condemnation was deserved or not, I say it is obvious that his purpose was to say that that Government was to be utterly condemned, and that something new was to be put in its place; for if a regular Motion expressing that purpose had been made, the hon. Gentleman would no doubt have been met by those hon. Members who take a different view of this question, and who would have expressed their sentiments upon it at as great length as he has now done to the House. I must confess that the statement of the hon. Gentleman does not at all convince me of the wisdom of the views which he has propounded. Neither, Sir, does the tone in which he undertakes this question induce me to think that he does approach it in that spirit in which a question of such grave importance ought to be approached. He is ready to say that he expects from my candour such an interpretation of his motives that I am to believe that nothing but the purest desire for the welfare of India and the good of his country animates him in his speech. I am not to utter a word—though no doubt imputations are easily enough made against a Government as against individuals; but, on the other hand, while he demands so much candour, while he lays down the ground for assuming that I am bound to be frank and candid on this subject, his own candour is very small in amount. He seems to take it for granted that we can propose no measure for the government of India, unless we are animated by some discreditable motive. Now I beg to say, without making any imputations upon him, that the view of the Government is, to do that which they conceive is the most fitting for the welfare of the 100,000,000 of people who are subject to the sway of this country. If we are persuaded of the propriety of any different course than that which we are about to pursue, we will be ready to undertake it; and I am not prepared to say that those who imputed to us any motives which they think will take away from the value of that which the Govern- 50 ment proposes are not themselves actuated by motives that reflect on them the highest credit. Now, I beg, before answering in any way the question of the hon. Gentleman, to state what has occurred of late. It is well known to the House that the Government of India—which has lasted, as I have said, very nearly seventy years—expires in April, 1854. Two years before that period—namely, in April, 1852—the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) now the Member for Stamford, and then President of the Board of Control, moved for the appointment of a Select Committee upon the subject of India. In making that Motion, the right hon. Gentleman took occasion to enter into the progress which had been made since the last Act of 1833, and produced facts which, as he stated, must be gratifying to the House. He said that, although there was a deficiency in the revenue at the present time owing to the recent wars, the revenue had increased from 18,000,000l. to 24,000,000l. He stated that the imports had increased from 6,000,000l. to 12,000,000l.; and the exports from 8,000,000l. to 18,000,000l.; and he went on stating various facts of a similarly gratifying character. He declared that the measures for the administration of justice had placed that administration in the hands of a great number of natives by whom justice was dispensed; that that administration had generally been found satisfactory, and that there had been a very small number of appeals from their decisions. He made various other statements with regard to education and with reference to the general state of India; and declared that since 1817 much had been done towards the improvement of India. The right hon. Gentleman ended with a statement of the plans in contemplation, some in the nature of public works, one of which was a great road which was to cost no less than 1,500,000l.; and having made those statements he moved for a Select Committee. He was opposed by an hon. and learned Gentleman no longer a Member of this House, the late Member for Youghal (Mr. Chisholm Anstey). But that hon. and learned Member was again met by a Gentleman who has not only had great experience of the Government in this country, but also considerable experience of the government of India—I mean my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume); and he declared that he was glad to hear that the Government had it in contemplation to renew the 51 Government of India on something like the same foundation on which it had hitherto rested, and he stated if that Government fell to the ground, it would be the ruin of England. He pointed out with great force, that if it had been truly said by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had opposed the Motion, that there was great poverty in India, the poverty must always be considered as comparative—that if he meant to compare certain districts in India with those of England, no doubt they were extremely poor, but if he compared districts in India under the British Government with those under the native princes, then the comparison would be totally different. He would see that the state and condition of the people under the British rule were far better than those of the people subject to the rule of native princes. That was a perfectly just and true observation; and I own I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) should say, upon the authority of a petition from an English county—
§ MR. BRIGHT
I said, if such statements had been made by any newspaper of credit with regard to the condition of an English county, they would not be regarded as substantially true; or, if not, whether instant means would not be taken to obtain such an exposure as would prevent the repetition of such statements for the future.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I understood the hon. Gentleman was comparing the people of the two countries. It amounted, therefore, to a statement founded on a newspaper paragraph. Well, these are matters that are comparative, and the state of the ryots in India must be considered in regard to what had been their former condition. In the course of that debate I stated that I trusted that the Government of this country did not forget their own responsibility on this subject—that, whatever might be the character of the Committee, you should not refer to a Select Committee a question of this importance for their decision—that you could only refer it to them for the purpose of information, and that upon the Parliament of this country must rest the responsibility of bringing forward and passing at the fitting time such a measure as they think best for the government of India. I am still of the same opinion. I still think it is incumbent on the Government of this country to bring forward at the fitting time the measure which they think best fitted for the government of India. The Committee proceeded to inquire; and there 52 was, at the same time, a Committee of the House of Lords appointed. Both Committees divided the subject of inquiry into eight heads. The first was with respect to the authorities and agency by which the Government was carried on both in England and in India; and the House of Lords stated, in reporting to their Lordships' House, that the general tendency of the evidence taken before them was in favour of continuing the present system of administering the affairs of India through the Board of Control and the Directors of the East India Company. The Commons' report was in nearly similar terms. So that with regard to that first point, which must be the main object of any Bill that may be introduced into Parliament, the two Committees gave their testimony as to the favourable tenor of their evidence; and be it remarked that there were many persons examined before those Committees, who were perfectly competent to give an opinion upon that subject. In so saying, I do not think a man is disqualified from giving an opinion upon this subject because he happens to have had considerable experience of India, and has held high office there. One person of high authority, namely, Lord Ellenborough, gave an opinion adverse to the constitution of the Government as it at present exists, and proposed a different mode of government. I think I am correct in saying that the opinion of the Committees generally went rather with Lord Hardinge, another Governor of India, than with Lord Ellenborough. At the commencement of the present Session the Committee was reappointed, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control (Sir C. Wood) stated that he had hopes that they would be able to go on with the remaining subjects of inquiry, and that it was indispensable that Parliament should legislate on the Government of India in the course of the present Session. Since that time the Committee have proceeded with their inquiry; but though many of those subjects are of the greatest importance, there is only one way in which they can deal with difficulties incident to the subject. If the Government of India had been totally different from what it has been for the last twenty years, totally different from the account given by the right hon. Gentleman—if we had found it was a Government like some of those we read of—that it had been a Government of the most cruel rapacity, that the people were suffering under the 53 yoke of oppression and corruption—then it would be a question with this House whether or not we should totally alter the nature of that Government; and the evidence in this respect is of the utmost importance, but I believe there is not the least possibility that that evidence will be of any such character. But there is no reason why the Committee should not proceed to consider all the points of inquiry, and with respect to the most important of them—the revenue, the judicial system, and the naval and military means of the Government of India—produce to this House all the evidence that is necessary for forming an opinion upon this subject. I do not at all find fault with the Committee for want of diligence. It is well known that the Committee sits twice a week, and three hours on each occasion; and if it was necessary to have further evidence immediately, without asking them to imitate the late Lord George Bentinck—who on one occasion of this kind gave an example which will never be forgotten—I think if they sat twelve hours in the course of a week—if they sat four days for three hours, or three days for four hours—that would not be asking too much of their attention on this important subject. It may be thought, however, by some that it is desirable that the convenience of the Committee should be consulted; but I think it would be far better that the Committee should suffer some inconvenience than that the welfare of India should be at all endangered by a regard to their convenience. But, Sir, after all, the question arises—is it, or is it not, for the benefit of India that, according to the hon. Gentleman's proposition, the renewal or the formation of a Government for India should be delayed for two or three years, and that during all that time the people of India should be kept in total uncertainty as to the nature of the Government to be proposed. The hon. Gentleman read petitions, some of them asking for an inquiry in this country, and some of them for inquiry in India, and one of them asks for a sort of Committee of Inquiry in India, not for the purpose of renewing anything like the present Government—because that is put totally out of the question—but for the purpose of forming a totally new Government, which at the end of two or three years will, most probably, become temporary. I believe nothing will be so dangerous to the peace and welfare of India as that two or three years should be spent in 54 inquiry on this subject. I believe there is no people more attached to their institutions than the people of this country; but if you were to form some kind of a constituent assembly to discuss whether monarchy is a good thing, or whether the House of Lords is a good thing, and say that for two or three years you should make that a subject of inquiry, I am not quite sure that the confidence of the people in their institutions would not be to some extent shaken. With respect to the Government of India, the opinion of the Government is that they ought to introduce in the course of the present Session that measure which they think best calculated to provide for the permanent welfare and happiness of the people of India. They hope to frame such a measure, and to introduce it to this House at a period which will give sufficient time for its discussion. I should be departing from my duty if I were to say what is the nature of the measure, or the terms on which it is proposed to be enacted. I hold that it would be unwise and dangerous if I were to state the details of a measure, without at the same time giving all the reasons for it, and to ask this House, without a reasonable interval, to come to a decision upon it. And I think this course has this advantage—those who oppose the measure will be obliged to produce some definite plan as an alternative. So long as we go on leaving in doubt and darkness what is to be the future Government of India—one Committee framing one measure, and another Committee framing another, and some self-constituted association proposing a third scheme; all this tends, in the meantime, to destroy and impair that which has hitherto existed, without setting up any of those new schemes in its place. But if another plan is proposed, that plan can be proposed in contradiction to the plan of the Government; and this House, and the other House of Parliament, will have a fair opportunity of discussing and deciding what is the measure best fitted for the Government of India. To that test we are willing to come, and by that test we shall be glad to abide. There is no person, I should say, more capable of framing a scheme on this subject than the Earl of Ellenborough, whose experience at the Board of Control, whose great talents evinced as Governor General of India, whose remarkable abilities, and whose thoughts have been turned in an especial manner to this subject—all enable him to 55 frame a great and comprehensive scheme for the government of India. But let him, or let any Gentleman opposed to the Government on this question, produce that scheme, and we shall fully and fairly discuss those measures upon their merits. My own opinion is, that nothing would be more dangerous than to give the Crown the whole control of the thousands upon thousands of the population in that part of the British dominions. Then we should endeavour to avoid that danger, and to frame a Government upon principles more in conformity with, and more favourable to constitutional freedom. With respect to the Government that has existed—and existed for a period, as I have said, for seventy years—nothing, I should say, would be more likely to fail in theory than the Government of a Board of Directors controlled by a Board entirely dependent on them, and they, again, having their orders transmitted to a Governor General at a great distance from the mother country. But in framing that Government the experience of seventy years is not to be despised. The experience of those seventy years, from 1784 to 1854—when this Act will expire—must furnish material elements in every way worthy of the consideration of the House in reconstructing or renewing the system of administering the affairs of India. I will only now say that we shall be prepared to legislate on this important subject in the present Session; and when we think that all the information that has been obtained in reference to the question has been sufficiently long in the hands of the Government and the House to enable us to legislate on the subject, we shall bring forward the measure which we mean to propose; and in the meantime we shall deprecate as a great evil the postponement for two or three years, for purposes of agitation, a question of this kind.
said, he could not help expressing his deep regret at the nature of the answer which had been given by the noble Lord to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester; and he trusted, before this subject was pressed to a conclusion, the nohle Lord would see reason to come to a different opinion. When the Indian Charter was renewed for the first time in 1793, no one would deny that the public mind was far more familiar with the then state of India than it was at present. The proceedings against Warren Hastings had kept alive a continual feeling upon that subject. There had also been laid 56 before Parliament the results of the labours of the two Committees which first laid bare the state of Indian administration—that of Mr. Burke, and that of Mr. Dundas; and since that period the Charter had been twice renewed. Upon the first of those renewals, Mr. Fox declared his indignation at the attempt of Mr. Pitt to smuggle the Charter through the House. The Reports of those Committees were to this day perfect text books upon Indian administration. Previous to the charter being renewed in 1833, a Committee of that House was appointed; they were appointed in February 1830, and produced thirteen volumes, the sixth of which he recommended to the perusal of hon. Members, as a perfect history of India during the preceding twenty years; whilst the first volume contained the evidence of Mr. Hope Mackenzie, which was only equalled by the masterly and vigorous testimony of the Earl of Ellenborough, just given before the Committee now sitting. He recommended these papers to the attention of the House; and in doing so, he must again protest against the course which, he regretted to see, the Government had determined upon adopting.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he also must express great regret at the statement just made by the noble Lord, for whose character and public services he entertained the most unfeigned respect. It appeared to him impossible that the House could proceed, upon so short a notice, to the decision of a question, the importance of which could not be overrated, and which concerned the interests of 130,000,000 of our fellow subjects. Now, when the noble Lord appealed to the experience of seventy years' government of India, surely he (Mr. Phillimore) might remind the House that he appealed to a circumstance which beyond all others pronounced a full condemnation of the system which, up to twenty years ago, India had endured. If the noble Lord looked to the speeches of Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke upon this question, and, above all, to that magnificent speech delivered by Lord Grenville in 1812, in which he developed the wisdom of a statesman and the humanity of a philanthropist, he would find that even all the restraints of long official experience had not prevented those great men from expressing, in sentiments of loud and general reprobation, their condemnation of that very system to the merits of which the noble Lord now appealed. He (Mr. Phillimore) would state 57 three simple facts which nobody could possibly dispute, and which appeared to him to demand most serious and anxious consideration. One of the facts was, that in spite of the letter and spirit of the law last passed for regulating the affairs of India, no Indian native—with one or two exceptions—had been allowed to obtain any office of consideration and importance in his own country. What would be our own feelings as Englishmen under such treatment? Was the House to be told that 130,000,000 of God's creatures were so depressed below the level of our own civilisation, that no two of them were fit to hold situations of importance in their own land? Was such language to be addressed to the British House of Commons? Another of the facts to which he referred had reference to the question of the internal communication in India. So scandalous had been the neglect of internal communication, so reluctant had been the Indian Government to spend money upon public works in a country from which 8,000,000l. yearly were drained, that local famines had been the result, and that actually the native inhabitants lay down to perish when food was absolutely within their reach if proper means of sending it had been provided. The third was the cruel and oppressive tax on salt, which, like our corn laws, interfered with the support of millions—a tax which obliged the people to pay four, five, and, sometimes, ten times as much for a necessary of life as they did under their native rulers. These circumstances called strongly for the serious attention of that House, for they proved that the welfare of 130,000,000 of people, the inhabitants of India, had hitherto been only a secondary and subordinate subject on the part of their governors. Such facts pointed to one conclusion most distinctly—namely, that the Court of Directors ought to be discarded as an instrument for the government of India; and if that House, consented to be hurried into a precipitate measure upon a question of such vast and awful importance, he could only say they would, by it, stand condemned to the most remote posterity.
§ MR. H. D. SEYMOUR
said, he also regretted to have heard the speech of the noble Lord upon this subject. The noble Lord had denied the poverty and the misery of the people of India, and yet refused to receive before the Committee the evidence by which, it was alleged, the existence of those evils could be proved. Such a 58 course as this he (Mr. Seymour) could not but regret, respecting as he did the high character of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had chosen to bring into question the statements which appeared in the press upon these subjects; but he (Mr. Seymour) would remind the noble Lord that it was not the press only which produced the allegations by which the present system was condemned. Great statesmen, like the Marquess Wellesley and Lord Grenville, had condemned the system; and after the evidence which had been received, the House would be justified in condemning it also, certainly until it was clearly proved that India was not suffering from the measures to which reference had been made. Most hon. Gentlemen had probably read the Madras petition. In speaking on that petition, a very strong statement had been made by a high authority, Lord Campbell, who said, that having sat as a Judge in the Judicial, Committee of the Privy Council as a Court of Appeal on Indian Affairs, he could, from the enormous evils that had been brought before him, believe every word in that petition. It was useless, then, for the Government to shut their eyes to these matters, and say they did not know that misery and degradation were to be found in India, when, if they took the proper means, they might have it proved by evidence which could not be denied. The miserable condition of the people of India was not proved merely by newspaper reports; it had been admitted in the book of a gentleman who was the great apologist of the Court of Directors. Mr. Campbell, at page 360 of his work, called Modern India, said the Madras officers to whom he had talked, candidly admitted that at present the state of things there was most unsatisfactory; that the people were wretchedly poor; that their land was of little value; and that the difficulty was to get people to cultivate it upon any terms, and that cultivation was only kept up by forced and by Government advances. Mr. Campbell also alluded to the system of collection.Only imagine," he said, "one collector dealing with 150,000 separate tenants, not one of whom had a lease, and all of whom paid according to his cultivation, and according to the number of cattle, sheep, or children, for which he got a reduction if he could make out a good case.If, added Mr. Campbell, the collector were one of the prophets, and lived to the age of Methuselah, he would not be sufficient for the duty; but as he was only an 59 ordinary man, and a foreigner, and continually changed, it would be strange indeed if the native subordinates could not do as they liked, and, having power, if they did not abuse it. And he added, that it was generally agreed that the abuses of the whole system were something frightful, and that extravagance, peculation, chicanery, and intrigue, were unbounded. This was likewise the case under the Government of the Company in the years 1802 and 1811, when Sir Henry Strachey, one of their most distinguished servants, gave that evidence as to the condition of the people, which must be familiar to every student of Indian history. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said the Indian revenue had increased. But how? Mr. Campbell explained how. He said that the real revenue of the country had diminished, but that an apparent increase was kept up by the confiscation of the lands of the middle classes. And he (Mr. Seymour) believed it was unanimously acknowledged by almost every servant of the Company who came back to this country, privately at least, that we had, by our system, wholly destroyed all the middle class in India; and had left nothing but our collectors, of whom there was one to every 1,000,000 of inhabitants, and the miserable ryots, who had barely the necessaries of life. If you spoke to travellers who bad visited our dominions in India, they gave exactly similar accounts. Why should everybody, then, except official persons, be disbelieved? Who had hitherto been examined? Twenty-four gentlemen, all officials, and interested in keeping up the old system, had been examined as to the government of India, with a population of 150,000,000. Now it was most unfair for the noble Lord to allege that the objection to the examination of official persons was, because they were officials; for the unanswerable objection made by former speakers really was, that none but official persons were examined. If it were thought that all which was said on the other side of the question was untrue, and that what was alleged in the petitions from India was false, let the parties be asked to come forward to substantiate openly their statements. Allow them either to be substantiated or disproved. But if the Bill were framed before the inquiry was closed on the two most important subjects—the revenue and the judicial system—it would have been framed without sufficient evidence, and the responsibility of all the 60 evils which might be perpetrated by it would rest upon those who framed and who voted for it.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, as a member of the Indian Committee, he must entirely deny the statement that had just fallen from the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, to the effect that there was a difficulty thrown in the way of any person being heard before the Committee who was capable of giving important evidence. On the contrary, he believed he spoke the sentiments of every member of the Committee when he said that it was their wish to obtain, as far as it was practicable, all the evidence possible, so as to elucidate the great and important inquiry upon which they were engaged. Perhaps he might be permitted to say that if a suggestion which he had humbly made to that House in 1850 had been acted on, he thought they would not now be in the condition in which they found themselves. That suggestion was for the appointment of a Committee. If that course had been taken at that time, they should now be ripe for legislation on the subject, and all the information which they would then have received would be sufficient for their present purposes. He, however, acknowledged that, as far as his feeling went on the subject, it appeared to him that if the legislation proposed by the Government was such as merely affected the Home Government here, and the Indian authorities abroad, the information before them was sufficient. He must acknowledge, however, that he could not see how far the further inquiry they were about to make into the revenue and the judicial and other departments, would assist them in the consideration of such legislation. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had properly and rightly stated that it was the duty of the Government to legislate upon this subject; and it was, he considered, impossible for a Committee of the House of Commons to declare and determine what the future government of India should be. It appeared to him that the Committee, so far as obtaining information to enable the future Government of India to carry out and improve the internal administration of the country, would be performing a most important duty, inasmuch as it would be then seen where the real evils existed, and what ought to be done in the way of a remedy. That he took to be the great object of the Committee's inquiry, but he thought the Committee wholly incapable to determine the best mode of re- 61 medying the judicial grievances, or to decide what was the best revenue system—whether the ryotwar, mouzawar, or the zemindary. Those were questions for those whom Parliament in its wisdom thought fit to entrust with the administration of Indian affairs. Well, but had they evidence at present to justify them in their proposed legislation? He acknowledged he thought that they had, and he should like to see laid upon the table the propositions of the Government for remedying the admitted evils of the country. He thought that very great and very serious alterations were necessary both at home and abroad. He was not prepared to admit that the Government for the last seventy years had been such as was described by an hon. Member opposite. He denied the truth of that statement. He, however, thought far more might have been done, and ought to have been done, than had been done for that great empire. It appeared to him that it was no excuse for the Government to say that the revenue of the country had been swallowed up by an internal war. To his mind, one of the great sins committed by the East India Company was, that they had not encouraged the introduction of English capital and English capitalists. He believed that that was the only source from which internal improvement could be secured to India. Believing, as he did, that great alterations were required in the home department of India, in order to give vigour to the Government both here and in India, he trusted that the Government would not think of adopting any of those quack measures which he had seen recommended in some of the public papers. If they hoped to effect a sound cure of the evils complained of, the Government must go far deeper into those evils than any of those measures to which he had referred had gone. They must strike down at the root of those evils if they hoped to render their measure at all efficacious. There were many eminent men, no doubt, in the present Government—men of greater capacity for business than perhaps were ever assembled together for many years—men who were fully capable of looking well into the question, and of effectively legislating upon it. The question was well worthy of their legislation and their consideration, for it was a question in which there were 150,000,000 of people deeply interested, but in the settlement of which they had no voice whatever themselves. He said it was their 62 duty to look into the question, and if they believed that they were not prepared at that moment to legislate with vigour, let them postpone it until such time as they considered themselves competent to deal with it. Better to postpone for some time longer the consideration of the question, than to run the danger of legislating hastily and in error, and of handing over the government of India, for another period of twenty years, without any hope of that improvement which this country had a right to expect.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he also felt regret at the statement of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). There could not be a doubt that the wants and the evils from which the people of India were suffering should be ascertained before that House proceeded to legislate. Now, who were the representatives of the people of India in this country? It would be idle to reply that the Court of Directors represented them, for the Court of Directors only represented 800 civilians, and a few officers employed in India. The Court of Directors had, in point of fact, no sympathy whatever with the people of India. It had been said by the noble Lord, that if rapacity and corruption could be alleged against the Government of India, there must be some reason for delaying legislation. Well, on this point he would meet the noble Lord; for if any Member had waded through those extraordinary and mystifying productions called the Outram papers, which had emanated from the India House, he could hardly fail to see that, if corruption did not actually exist, there was a belief in the corruptibility of the officials of the Government existing in the minds of the natives of that part of India. Colonel Outram, who was a most distinguished officer, he regretted to say, had been removed while engaged in the active investigation of corruption. He had brought his inquiries nearly to a successful issue, when he was removed from his office, as he (Mr. Otway) believed, in consequence of the vigour with which he had acted. He (Mr. Otway) had moved for certain papers which would throw greater light upon this matter, and he must respectfully urge the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control to expedite the production of those papers. They contained matters affecting the character of the administration of justice in India, and they affected the character in their corporate capacity of the Board of Directors. He hoped, under 63 such circumstances, that they would be laid on the table before the debate on the measure of the Government; but if the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood) could not extract them from the India House, he (Mr. Otway) would bring the case before that House, and found a Motion even upon the mutilated and mystifying documents which had been produced.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that being a member of the Committee on Indian Territories he felt it necessary to explain the grounds upon which he differed from the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Jocelyn). The noble Lord said he saw-no objection to the House proceeding to legislate upon what might be termed the machinery of the Indian Government, after the inquiry which had already been, made; and in so doing he treated the question in a way which required just a word or two of plain interpretation, Now, when they talked of the machinery of the Government of India, they talked of that to which they were afterwards to leave the administration of affairs in that country. If they said, "We are now only going to set up a Government, which is not a matter of so much consequence as affecting the Government in past times," it appeared to him they were dealing with words, and not with things. He would illustrate his meaning. If they were going to ascertain the value of a watch, they would not at once content themselves with counting the number of parts, or with seeing that the whole watch was entire, but they would inquire how it would go, how it kept time, and what would be its motions. In the same manner if they contented themselves with inquiring what was the machinery of the Government of India, and, because they found officials to tell them it was a good Government, they immediately renewed the charter which set up the machine for twenty years, it appeared to him that they had not instituted the kind of inquiry which would be satisfactory either to reason, to common sense, or even to ordinary justice. Before they proceeded with legislation they must ascertain how the machine had worked in India; and in order to ascertain that, they must hear evidence from some other persons than officials. Up to the present time, however, not a single person had been called before the Committee who was not employed either by the Honourable Company or by the India Board. Certainly there had been two 64 witnesses who had given rather adverse evidence; but one of those was the Earl of Ellenborough, who had been Governor General, and the other was a civil functionary. The fact, then, remained that the Committee had not had before them one single independent witness. They had not had one adverse witness from India. Now he thought the doors of the Committee room ought to be opened to all, and that the same course ought to be pursued in respect to witnesses from India as was adopted in reference to witnesses at home. At home, whenever any public inquiry was made by a Committee of the House of Commons, the expenses of the witnesses were paid; and, in the present case, so far from shrinking from inquiry, they should have before them the representatives of the malcontents in India, bring them over from India at the public expense, and examine them upstairs. He must add an observation with regard to this precipitate legislation. It was proposed to bring in a Bill to settle the Government of India when the Committee had not got through one quarter of the evidence which they proposed to themselves to take. Was there ever such a thing done before? Had the House ever before instituted a solemn inquiry before a Select Committee, and proposed to legislate upon it before it was one quarter finished? The noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn) said the Committee was not appointed to arrange or determine the Government of India; it was set up, according to his view, only to obtain information to enable the House to legislate. This was all he (Mr. Cobden) wanted. Wait until you had the evidence before you began to legislate. If there was danger of agitation and discontent because a provisional Act was passed for a temporary Government, what danger might not be apprehended from the fact that the Committee of Inquiry had been treated so little as a reality that the House would not wait to see what evidence they had collected? It might be an inferior and secondary question, but he would ask the noble Lord, as a member of the Committee, what he intended to do with the members of the Committee if he did not intend to avail himself of their inquiries? He said they might go on with their investigations. But, surely, in the present state of public business, they might be better employed than in making inquiry after the noble Lord and his Colleagues 65 had made up their minds as to what they were determined to do. There was one part of the evidence of the Earl of Ellenborough upon this subject which was of great importance. His Lordship distinctly said, "When you have set up a Government for India, that Government must govern for India. You cannot enter into details." If, therefore, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was going to take the matter out of the hands of the Committee, he (Mr. Cobden) entreated him to discharge the Members from their duties at once, and leave them to attend to other matters upon which they might possibly be of some use.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, he did not rise to continue this discussion. He believed, with his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), that nothing could be more unfair than incidental discussions of this kind without notice. [Mr. BRIGHT: I gave notice to the noble Lord.] The notice was not upon the paper for the day, and he was not aware, on coming down to the House, that a single word was about to be said on Indian affairs. He believed that nine-tenths of the hon. Members then present came down to the House with the full expectation of hearing a discussion on the Jew question. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) proposed to make a diversion on his (Sir H. Inglis's) side, he had succeeded; and he should claim his vote, and the vote of all hon. Members who had followed him. Pro tanto, so far as their eloquence had extended, they had prevented the Jews receiving that justice which was contended for on their behalf; but he did not wish to be confounded with young India or middle-aged India; he contended, with the noble Lord, that the question was ripe for decision whenever the Government introduced a measure on the subject. The question submitted to the Committee was, in popular phrase, the mechanism, the organisation, of the Government of India at home and abroad; and were they to consult master manufacturers on that subject, to the exclusion, or at least the supercession, of the witnesses whom the Committee had already examined, of a Governor General of India, of another Governor General, of another acting Governor General, and Governor of Bengal, of a Governor of Madras, of a Governor of Bombay, of two Commanders-in-Chief—hosts of men pre-eminent in the India service, than which no service could produce higher authorities? Were they to take those men's opinions as of no value? How could they have per- 66 sons to give evidence except those who had had personal experience? Had those men not had personal experience of the working of the Indian Government at home and abroad? Were they to take men from the manufacturing towns in England, and say they were higher authorities on Indian matters than those eminent persons? He did not say the hon. Member for Manchester contended that he and his friends were absolute and exclusive authorities; but were they equal to those he had referred to, or would their opinions be of anything like so much value as the opinions of those persons? The hon. Member said he did not give them as authorities. That was his (Sir R. H. Inglis's) complaint. He said that the hon. Gentleman, a man of Manchester, was not more competent to give an opinion upon the administration of India, than the eminent men whose opinions they had had, and that those opinions had been confirmed by the decision of the Committee of the House of Lords in very full words, and by the decision of the House of Commons in words which, if not quite so full, were at least substantially coincident with the general result. He was prepared then to go with his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) in introducing such a measure on the responsibility of the Government; and, maintaining as he did, that, upon a question incidentally arising like this, it was not fitting they should give further expression to their opinions, it was sufficient to say that he agreed with his noble Friend that there was ground—laid down for such a course; and the decision of the Committee upon whatever points remained would not affect their decision on the fundamental question what the future Government of British India should be.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, two opinions have been expressed in this discussion. The one, that we ought to conclude the investigation which the Committee on our Indian possessions has only partly entered upon, before we consider a measure of legislation upon the subject. The other, that, totally irrespective of that information which the Committee may yet obtain, and the conclusion to which the Committee may yet come, the House should at once proceed to legislate upon the future administration of the British possessions in India. Her Majesty's Government seem to be of opinion that this House ought, without waiting for the conclusion of the labours of the Committee, to legislate. I think it is to be regretted, if they 67 have adopted that opinion, that they have not taken the earliest opportunity of acquainting the House with the nature of the plan they mean to propose. If, for example, during the period that would yet elapse before Easter, we had an exposition of the intended policy of the Government in respect to India laid before the House, we should then have the advantage of a considerable interval that must necessarily take place before the introduction of the measure itself, of judging of its merits. And, therefore, we could approach the discussion of the measure itself when the period had actually arrived for its introduction with great advantage to ourselves, as well as to the important subject involved, and without any waste of time. Otherwise, it appears to me, from the present aspect of public business, a long period must elapse before we can enter into that debate. Now, I am not at present giving any opinion as to the propriety of legislating at all upon the question under present circumstances, for, as the hon. Baronet (Sir R. H. Inglis) has observed, this being an incidental discussion, I do not wish to give a decided opinion upon that point. I will not, then, enter into any discussion as to whether the Government is right or wrong when they propose to legislate without waiting for the conclusion of the inquiry before the Committee. But I say, if they are prepared to legislate upon the subject without waiting for the termination of such inquiry, they should have seized the earliest opportunity of making the House acquainted with the particular policy they propose to recommend for its adoption. On the contrary, instead of making such exposition of their policy, we have been informed that we are to have an adjournment for a period of very unusual duration, and more than a month must elapse before the Government, under any circumstances, can favour us with the nature of the project they intend to lay before us. But we must remember, too, that after the Easter recess we shall have to consider the financial state of the country, which the noble Lord the Member for London observed was a subject fertile of discussion, and therefore likely to occupy our attention for a considerable period. It appears, therefore, to me, taking a sanguine view of the position in which we are placed, that no discussion upon the question of the future government of India can be taken until the middle of May or the commencement of June. Well, now, I say that this is an unsatisfactory 68 state of things. When we have to consider a question of this vast importance at an interval of such long duration—a question extending itself over so many subjects-without the opportunity previously afforded us of considering the nature of the intended policy of the Government, or of thoroughly investigating the proposed scheme, I say I think it is highly impolitic that we should enter upon a subject of so much importance as the future and perhaps the permanent administration of India at the fag end of the Session. Yet it appears to me that the course chalked out by the Government will inevitably lead to that result, The present Act was passed under circumstances very unfavourable to a calm and full discussion of the subject. The subject was brought before the House and the country when it was excited and agitated by a domestic question of the greatest importance. The attention of the country and of Parliament at that time certainly was not directed to the question of Indian government in that full and unimpassioned manner that was intended. We are now proposing, although the House is favourable for discussion upon this subject, not to take such discussion until probably the end of the Session. I think, Sir, that the House should pause before it sanctions such a course. If, however, the Government would take advantage of the few days that must yet elapse before the holidays, to make an exposition of their intended policy, then I think the question would assume a different aspect; and perhaps it would not be impossible for us to enter into a discussion upon the whole question at that period when the Government would bring it forward.
said, he must protest against that part of the debate which attributed the waste and excesses in India to the East India Company. There had been no East India Company since 1830. The Government of India had been administered by a Minister of the Crown, and for all the expense and abuses that had taken place the Government were answerable. And, as to the poverty of the people, he could show Gentlemen that the House was answerable for a large proportion of it. For thirty-five years had the House prohibited the importation of the manufactures of India except at a penalty of 50 or 60 per cent, while they deluged India with the importation of goods from this country free of expense. Being also of opinion that they 69 had not yet received information sufficient to satisfy the people of India, he protested against proceeding so rapidly, and without more consideration, to pass measures for the millions who were to be governed in that country. If they would not do them justice, at any rate let them listen and hear their prayers. The natives of India had presented a petition, praying that they might be allowed to state their grievances, and their opinion of how the last charter had operated; and he submitted that their request could not in fairness be refused. Looking to the importance of the interests involved in this question, and bearing in mind how much of the present Session would, in all probability, be consumed in discussions regarding our system of taxation, he was confident there would not be time to consider the affairs of India; and he did hope the Government would yet be induced to postpone their measures for another year, or at least until the people of India had been heard. India would not suffer; and it would give time to consider the measures ultimately to be adopted.
SIR JOHN FITZGERALD
said, that having served for three years with the army in India, he was acquainted with the country, and felt an interest in its welfare. He entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) in thinking that an opportunity should be afforded to the native Indians of explaining their grievances. The Committee had heretofore been occupied with the evidence of the very persons who were themselves the authors of the evils which were now complained of. He hoped that the House would take care that justice was done, and that they would avoid hasty, precipitate, and ill-considered legislation.
§ SIR HERBERT MADDOCK
said, as one who had had considerable experience in the administration of Indian affairs, he must protest against the allegations made that night, impugning the Indian Government, as totally unfounded. In his opinion, the Government of India, as well as the Government at home, had invariably exerted itself for the benefit of the people; and it was not its fault if it had not accomplished all that was desired. He agreed with the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that, if the condition of the subjects of the British Government in India were compared with that of the subjects of the native princes, it would at once be seen whether the comfort and happiness of the people 70 had been promoted and increased by our form of government or not. He merely said this in justice to the Government of India, including the administration in India, and the authorities who were entrusted with control in this country. With regard to the subject which had more immediately led to this conversation, he must say it was with considerable regret that he found Her Majesty's Ministers prepared to bring in so soon a Bill for the general administration of India. He certainly thought it would be wise to continue the present Act for one year longer, and permit a Committee to enter upon the investigation of those very important and numerous topics which were connected with the subject. As to the convenience or inconvenience of taking such a course, all he could say was that he was convinced, from his knowledge of the people of India, that they would remain very contented, in anticipation of the improvements which they hoped and expected would result from the future administration of that country, provided they understood that the Committee were continuing their investigations, and if, as was most essential to enable the Committee to arrive at a fair and just conclusion on the subject, native witnesses were allowed to appear before them, or to send their evidence in some other shape for the benefit of the Members of that House. He did not think it would be fair to take only such evidence as was derived from the highest authorities who had been in India; it was absolutely necessary, if they wished to understand, not only the minute workings of the Government during the last seventy or eighty years, but the feelings of the people, and their wants and wishes as to any alteration in the present system before the House proceeded to legislate, that those natives should be heard in some way before the Committee. With regard to the plan of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), until he had seen its details, he would defer pronouncing a judgment upon it, and delivering an opinion as to whether it accorded with his ideas of what was most expedient for the better administration of India or not. He should be much more pleased, however, if Ministers would reconsider their measure, and postpone its introduction until the next Session of Parliament.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House at rising to adjourn till Monday next.