§ (1.) £500,000, Persian Expedition.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Although the debate of last night related to the proceeding of the Government on the subject of the Persian war, and did not relate directly to the policy of that war, yet before the debate closed that subject received so much discussion that the whole evening was devoted to it. The Committee, therefore, will perhaps hardly wish me to ask their attention to any de- 1731 tailed exposition of the accounts upon which I ask for this Vote. I will then merely state that the view which Her Majesty's Government have taken of the Persian war has been that it was mainly a war to maintain the independence of the town of Herat. That was not merely the opinion of the present Government, but the same view was entertained by a succession of previous Governments, who regarded it as a recognised principle, and treated it as a cardinal object of Asiatic or Oriental policy. Seeing, then, that the independence of Herat was threatened, and that the town was actually occupied by Persian troops, we felt justified in instructing the Indian Government to send an expedition to the Gulf of Persia, following in that respect a course which had previously been rewarded with success in a like state of circumstances. I will not trouble the House by re-discussing the policy of this war. I will merely say that were it not for the existence of our Indian possessions the occupation of Herat by Persia would be a matter wholly unimportant and insignificant to this country. It would not more directly concern English interests than a conquest effected in the centre of Africa by the Kingdom of Timbuctoo or of Dahomey. It is only in consequence of our possessions in India that the town of Heart is of importance to us. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, would have been justified in following the precedent of the former war in Affghanistan by imposing the whole expense of that war upon the Indian treasury. Looking, however, to the general policy of Asia and to the circumstances of general interest which characterize the expedition to the Persian Gulf, the Government felt justified in undertaking to repay to the Indian Government one half of the extraordinary expenses of the war, in the event of Parliament sanctioning that arrangement. I need scarcely say that the undertaking of the Government could only be conditional upon the assent of Parliament being subsequently obtained. Therefore, of course, with regard to the financial part of the subject, the view which was taken was this, that the war should be carried on by an expedition from Bombay, and that the expense of that expedition should be defrayed by the Indian treasury. It now becomes our duty, if the House should be prepared to ratify the engagement entered into on behalf of the Government, to repay to the Indian treasury one-half of the extraordi- 1732 nary expenses of the war. No time is fixed for repayments of that sort to take place. And I may here observe that at this moment there is a considerable unsettled account between Her Majesty's Government and the East India Company, arising out of the last Chinese war, which was concluded many years ago; and I may add that it will be the duty of my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, before this Committee is closed, to ask this House to agree to a vote for the remaining account with respect to the old China war. I am happy, however, to say that that merely involves an adjustment of accounts, inasmuch as the East India Company owes the Government a sum equal to the money due on that account. Nevertheless, it is a fact that that account has not been finally adjusted, and can only be brought to a conclusion by a Vote of this House. Early in the Session, before I was able to obtain any precise view of the probable cost of the war, I stated that I thought it would be sufficient to repay to the East India Company a sum of, I think, £365,000 for the expenses of the war in the Persian Gulf, up to the 1st of April last. At that time I was unable to anticipate the probable duration of the war, and the estimate was taken at that low amount. Subsequently we have been enabled to obtain from the East India Company the probable estimate of the ultimate total expenses of the war. But I may state to the House that that is still only an estimate, and must not be regarded as a final settlement, inasmuch as the accounts have not been made out, and the Company is not yet in possession of the final cost of the war. A short time ago I received from the East India Company an assurance that if the sum of £500,000 were paid in the course of this Session that would be as much as would be needed for the wants of the treasury of the Company, and accordingly I have laid upon the table an Estimate to that amount. The total sum which will ultimately be due to the East India Company on this account will, however, exceed £500,000. The estimate on the table exhibits a total of £1,865,000, one-half of which, according to the present engagement, is due by our Exchequer to the East India Company, making, therefore, a sum somewhat exceeding £900,000. The amount which I proposed to vote to the East India Company this Session was £500,000, leaving a balance, according to this Estimate, of about £400,000. But since this Estimate was 1733 laid on the table I have had a communication from the Chairman of the East India Company, stating that the late advices received from India, with regard to the loss of money from their treasuries, together with the probable interruption which the collection of the revenue may sustain, will render it convenient that a larger sum should, with the consent of the House, be voted on this account in the present Session. Therefore, I merely mention that all I ask the Committee to grant this evening on this account is a sum of £500,000. But I think it not improbable that I may feel it my duty to present a supplementary Estimate to the extent of £300,000 or £400,000, in order to repay to the East India Company the whole of the money they have advanced on this account. It may be convenient that I should explain to the Committee at the same time the other Vote which I have to propose—viz., a Vote of credit for the military and naval operations in China. The House has already been informed that orders have been sent out to Singapore to divert from their destination, Hong Kong, a portion of the regiments despatched to that station, and, indeed, that Viscount Canning had anticipated the intentions of the Government by addressing a letter to Lord Elgin on that subject. We therefore expect that a considerable part of the military force destined for China will now be diverted to India; and under these circumstances a portion of the expenses of those regiments will fall not upon the English, but upon the Indian Treasury. The Committee are aware that when the Queen's troops are required by the East India Company for service in India their expense is defrayed by the finances of that country. Therefore, I shall not find it necessary to ask the Committee to agree to so large a sum as £500,000 as a Vote of credit for the China service. I shall ask only for £400,000, which I believe will be sufficient both for the extraordinary naval and military services upon that station; and instead of asking for that £100,000 for the China service, my right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty has laid on the table a supplementary Vote of £98,000 for the navy. So that the £100,000 which will be taken from the China Vote will appear in the shape of a supplementary Estimate for the naval service; but the total sum for the two Votes will not be exceeded. Having explained these two Votes to the Committee, I may now be permitted to remark that exagge- 1734 rated apprehensions seem to exist as to the probable pressure upon the English Exchequer from the recent occurrences in India. It would, of course, now be premature to anticipate the consequences of those events, either in a political or in a financial point of view; but, whatever additional military force may be furnished to India is a burden upon the Indian Treasury, and its cost will not be borne by England. As at present advised, we do not look forward to the necessity of calling upon this House to incur any additional expenditure on account of the military reinforcements sent to India. I understand it is supposed that it may be requisite to make great demands on the English Exchequer for this purpose; but at present I do not anticipate any such necessity. It would, of course, now be vain to speculate as to the future; but as now advised, Her Majesty's Government do not contemplate the probability of asking the House this Session to agree to any additional Estimates beyond what I have just stated—viz., £500,000 for the repayment to the East India Company of the expenses of the Persian war; possibly a further grant of £300,000 or £400,000 for the same service; a vote of credit for the China service of £400,000; and a supplementary naval Estimate of £100,000. I do not apprehend that beyond these charges there will be any occasion to call on this House for increased funds on account of the late occurrences in India. Having given these explanations with respect to the charges upon the Exchequer of this country, it is now my duty to show that there are ways and means to meet those additional charges, inasmuch as the expenditure which I am asking the House to sanction is considerably in excess of the estimate of revenue made by me, at the beginning of last Session, in the month of February last. I think I can satisfy the Committee that the Exchequer will furnish ample provision for these additional charges. The estimate which I gave of the expenditure, for the financial year ending on the 1st of April last, exceeded what turned out to be the actual expenditure by no less a sum than £1,860,000. That is to say, taking the excess of the receipts of last year, together with the decrease of the actual expenditure below the amount I had anticipated, there was a gain to the public beyond my calculations of £1,860,000. This includes both the excess in the revenue and the diminution in the expenditure. In addition to this sum there has been a gain 1735 upon tea, coffee, and sugar in the last quarter, beyond the amount at which I estimated these branches of the revenue, of about £500,000. The fall in the duties which took place on the 1st of April last caused the holders of those articles to retain them in bond until the reduced scale came into operation. This has thrown a receipt of about half a million more than I reckoned upon into the returns for the last quarter. Since that period the malt duty has likewise been more productive than the Revenue Department estimated it, to the extent of half a million. Therefore, up to the present time the Exchequer is richer than I calculated it would be when I made my financial statement in February last by the sum of £2,860,000. Against this sum there are certain charges by way of set-off which were not estimated by me in the beginning of last Session. Those charges are:—The Sound Dues Redemption, £1,135,000; the addition to my Estimate for the Persian expedition, £235,000; the naval and military operations in China, £400,000; the supplementary Vote for the navy, £100,000; and the Princess Royal's dowry, which was not estimated, £40,000. These sums added together make £1,910,000, to which I add a further sum of £300,000 for the remaining expenses of the Persian expedition. This gives a total of £2,210,000, against a gain of £2,860,000. The Committee will therefore see that the Exchequer is in a condition to meet the charges for which I ask them now to provide. I would also call attention to the fact that the state of things which I have indicated is actually realised. It does not depend upon estimate. And it would not be unreasonable to expect a gain upon some branches of the revenue beyond that which I have estimated for the remaining portion of the year. Under these circumstances I trust that the Committee will agree to the vote which I now place in the Chairman's hands.
§ Mr. WALPOLE
Before any Vote is taken on this question, there are one or two points to which I desire to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Last night I noticed the fact that the sum of £265,000 was the amount which, according to the estimate of the Government, was to be borne by the British Treasury during the present year for the expedition to Persia. I doubted then whether that estimate would not be exceeded, and now it appears that the probable estimate of the expense to be borne by this country 1736 is £900,000. These, then, are important facts which ought to have been ascertained by communication with the East India Company before the Estimate was laid upon the table, or a statement made to the House. But notwithstanding this correction, I confess I am puzzled to make out the exact computation upon which either he East India Company or Her Majesty's Government have proceeded. I hold in my hand the accounts of the East India company, which were laid on the table of the House on the 18th of last month. The second of those accounts is headed, "An Estimate of the Receipts and Expenditure of the Home Treasury of the East India Company, from the 1st of May, 1857, to the 30th of April, 1858;" and under this heading, I find the East India Company taking credit on account of what is coming due to them from the British Government for the expenses of the expedition to Persia, for the sum of—what? Not £900,000, or even £500,000, but only £250,000. This account was laid upon the table on the 18th of June, 1857; and it shows that the East India Company computed the money coming due to them from the British Government at the low figure of £250,000. The first account is an estimate of the disbursements of the home treasury of the East India Company from the 1st of May, 1856, to the 30th of April, 1857, and no credit is taken there for any money paid to the East India Company on the part of the British Government on account of the Persian war. But when I come to the second account of all the money paid by the British Government to the East India Company on account of the Persian expedition, from the 1st of May, 1857, to the 30th of April, 1858, I find no larger sums taken credit for than £250,000. I am far from saying that this is not capable of explanation, but I say that these papers having been laid upon the table of the House, and what is something like an inaccurate statement appearing in them, some explanation ought to be given to the Committee. In the course of the other observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think he a little, more or less, mixed up two Votes together. The Estimate for the China war, which was laid upon the table only last week, was £500,000. Now, if the Chinese war is to be prosecuted for the purpose of obtaining the satisfaction which the Government think is due to the country, and if they 1737 thought that £500,000 was necessary for that purpose last week, I should be extremely sorry if they hampered themselves by taking a smaller sum than that now, merely because they want the other £100,000 to pay some expenses on account of India. Whether that £500,000 is, or is not required, of course Government can better explain than I can. If it is wanted, all I can say is that I hope you will not cripple yourselves in the endeavour to get that satisfaction which you think is due to this country. For although I entirely disagree in the policy of all this Chinese business, yet once embarked in it, the credit and honour of the country are at stake unless you get the reparation to which you think you are entitled. With regard to the £100,000 which is to go to pay part of the expenses of the naval force you propose to send to India, on that part of the question the observations I am about to make do not so much affect the British Treasury as the charges to be borne by the East India Company. One million of money will have to be borne for the Persian expedition. In addition to that, there will be a great expenditure necessary to be borne for putting down the unfortunate revolt which has taken place in India. If I recollect rightly, the East India Company at this moment has got an expenditure higher than the receipts by very nearly £2,000,000 of money; according to these figures, therefore, there will be somewhere between three and four millions charged upon the finances of the East India Company over and above the probable receipts which that Company will have to meet those charges. Now, the right hon. Gentleman observed that he thought there would be no further demand upon the Treasury of England for those expenses which will necessarily have to be incurred in India; and I think before we assent to this Vote we ought to be safe in our calculations upon that point; for unless I am very much mistaken, you will find that you must allow something more for these great operations, which are necessarily going on, and which you will have to meet, for the East India Company will not be able to bear them. In calling attention to these points, I do not wish to raise any great controversial questions; still less do I wish to cripple the hands of the Government. On the contrary, I wish to strengthen them. But I do think, having pointed out these seeming in- 1738 accuracies in the Estimates hitherto propounded to us, we ought to be sure, as sure as we can be, what further expenditure is likely to be borne by this country; for, I do not think, if I am right in my observations, that the sum the right hon. Gentleman requires will be sufficient for the purposes for which they are intended, and that he will have to ask for further Votes of credit or Votes of money.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it did not appear to him that there was necessarily any inaccuracy in the returns presented by the East Indian Company, of the existence of which he was not previously aware. No doubt their estimate was founded upon the announcement which they received at the beginning of the year, that the sum to be repaid to them on account of the expenses of the Persian war before a certain day would be £250,000. But since that time an arrangement had been made upon which the estimate on the table was founded to repay a sum of half a million; and that would have been the total demand which the Government would have made on Parliament during the present Session if it were not for the recent unhappy occurrences in India. This had altered the financial position of the East India Company, and would probably make it desirable that the Government should lay upon the table a supplementary Estimate on the subject. He was not aware that the term "inaccuracy" was deserved. It appeared to him that the circumstance to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was merely an evidence of a change of intention.
§ SIR ERSKINE PERRY
said, that the independence of Herat was the cause of the Affghan war, which cost the country £20,000,000, and inflicted upon us much disaster and disgrace. The Persian war of 1856 was founded upon the same policy; but although the Government upheld this view, he did not believe that it was a sound policy to pursue, or that the opinion of the Government had been entertained by the greatest Indian Statesmen. Herat had been called the gate of India, but it was many hundred miles from our frontier, and it was separated from our territory by a tract of country of the strongest possible character, containing amongst other obstacles the Bolan and Khyber passes, the military strength and importance of which we knew too well. It should be remembered in justice to Persia that the importance of the City of Herat was very 1739 great to that power, and he thought that if the Committee were to suppose that we could maintain an independent Government or an independent chief at Herat, they would be giving way to a delusion. That city was now occupied by Persia, and if the report were correct the Shah had applied for a reinforcement of British soldiers, in order to aid him in turning out his own troops. The Affghans were the most untrustworthy of men. In his opinion, the policy which ought to be adopted towards Persia by this country had been admirably shadowed forth by Lord Cowley to Ferukh Khan in February last, when he had stated that we desired to see Persia strong, flourishing, and independent. Let that policy, then, be pursued, and let them not by continual interference with her mar the good effect which such a course was calculated to produce. If it were true that the Sadir Azim were the Lord Palmerston of Persia, then his authority should not be weakened, and now that we had ended our second war with that Power, he trusted we should not be over solicitous to plunge into a war to uphold the independence in the insignificant town of Herat of an Affghan cutthroat.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
expressed his satisfaction at the circumstance that the Treasury of this country was about to bear some portion of the expense connected with the prosecution of the Persian war, inasmuch as some security would thereby be afforded against embarking in contests which in reality did not tend to the promotion of British interests. As to the occupation of Herat by Persia, he could only say that, in his opinion, that city was too far removed from India to give rise to any well-founded apprehension in reference to the safety of our possessions in the East. It was, however, but natural that considerable jealousy should prevail in this country upon that point, inasmuch as no sooner had Herat become subject to Persia than Russia would by treaty possess a right to have an agent there, and would thus be afforded an opportunity of pushing her intrigues, and carrying out those designs against India which she was supposed to entertain. But while we looked with suspicion upon Russia, why was it that our policy tended to break down every barrier between that country and India? We had, by our conduct in Affghanistan, earned for ourselves the hatred and detestation of the Affghan chiefs, and the wild tribes by 1740 which that region was inhabited. We had done our utmost, too, to destroy the military power of Persia, and to lay her more prostrate than ever at the feet of Russian aggression. The course which we had in those respects pursued he could not help regarding as unfortunate. He was strongly of opinion that we should have acted more wisely if, instead of weakening, we had strengthened the resources of the Persian empire, and if we had not exhibited that extreme jealousy with respect to the occupation of a position of so much importance to her as Herat which we had displayed. But, to pass from the consideration of our relations with Persia to the position of India, he felt bound to say that in the sanguine expectations which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to entertain with respect to the state of that empire, he, for one, could by no means participate. The intelligence which had lately been received from that country had filled him with anxiety, and he feared that even the fall of Delhi, of which we might expect to hear by the next mail, would not be sufficient to justify the hope that the mutiny among the native troops had been completely extinguished. It had spread much too far to be so easily put down. It extended from the Punjab to Rohilcund, Oude, and throughout the whole of Central India; and, with that fact before them, bearing in mind, too, the season of the year, and the circumstance that there was but a mere handful of British troops upon the spot, the utmost we could reasonably expect was that those troops should be able to maintain their line of communications through the wide range of territory lying between Calcutta and the north-western frontier, a distance of 1,500 miles, until the reinforcements came to their aid. With the cooler season they might be able to strike a determined blow. Meanwhile, the greatest difficulty would be experienced in the collection of the revenue, in consequence of the want of trustworthy native soldiers; the revenue derived from opium would be greatly diminished, owing to the present unhappy state of affairs; and, under these circumstances, from what quarter the Governor General was to obtain his necessary supplies, unless the Government at home were to come to his assistance, he (Sir E. Colebrooke) could not understand. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Ministers would be prepared to take that course; and he felt assured that in doing so they would be manfully 1741 supported by that House and by the country.
§ MR. AYRTON
said that the right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee that Her Majesty's Government had sent directions to India to the effect that half of the expenses of the Persian war were to be borne by the Indian Treasury, and half by the British Government. Now, so far as he knew, the statutes relating to the Government of India expressly set forth the purposes for which the revenues of that country were vested in the East India Company, and made no provision whatever that those revenues should be placed at the disposal of the Government of this country; and he wished, therefore, to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer by what authority the Government could send out an order to India to apply the revenues of that empire to British purposes in anticipation of a Vote of Parliament? The question was one of great constitutional importance, inasmuch as it involved the consideration of enabling the Chancellor to avoid asking Parliament for a grant of money by drawing upon resources which it had never been intended by the Legislature to place at his disposal. He believed such an application to be wholly contrary to law; but if it were not, he thought the system of administration of the affairs of India ought to undergo a thorough revision.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, that though he believed there would be a deficiency in the Indian revenues, he did not think this the proper time to discuss the point. The question before the Committee was, whether they should vote half a million for the expenses of the Persian war, and we thought it would be very inconvenient to enter into the larger subjects which had been introduced. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, in proposing that Vote, had challenged observation upon the important question of the general state of the ways and means of this country, and had stated that he had £2,800,000 in hand undisposed of. He (Sir H. Willoughby) could not take the same sanguine view of the public finances as the right hon. Gentleman had done, and would remind the Committee that £9,000,000 of income-tax had fortunately come into receipt this year, but for which the surplus of £2,800,000 would have been a deficiency of £6,200,000. With respect to the Vote of £500,000, he thought that the Committee were placed 1742 in rather a painful position; because they must not fancy that they were about to vote supplies in the ordinary manner—they had not the grace of offering supplies to the Crown—but they had merely to pay a Bill and to ratify an expenditure already incurred. He complained that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the spring of this year, had stated that the amount required for this Vote would be £265,000, he must have known that a much larger estimate had been prepared, but that he had kept back that estimate until the last moment. Even now it was only by accident that the Committee had become aware that the whole expense would amount to £1,865,000; and he contended that it was not right to treat the Committee in such a manner when so large an item of expenditure was involved. Good faith, however, must be kept, and he felt that he had nothing to do upon the present occasion but to support the Vote for the £500,000. In conclusion, he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer from what source it was proposed to pay the armaments which were about to be sent to India. Was there to be an additional estimate for the expense of sending 10,000 or 12,000 men to India; was a debt to be incurred, or how was it to be provided for?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I will first answer the question of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), which he seemed to think was a very formidable one, but which I believe admits of a very simple answer. The hon. Member asked by what authority the English Government proposed a charge upon the Indian revenue, and he said that the statutes in force did not give them the power of making any such demand. I apprehend that the course taken is this:—The President of the Board of Control, by the authority vested in him by statute, has through the secret committee of the Court of Directors, the power of sending out instructions to the Indian Government, either to make war or for any other purpose. When he has sent those instructions to the Indian Government, they, by their authority, carry them into effect, and if those instructions involve any expense, then by their authority that expense is incurred. That, I believe, is the course adopted in this matter, which the constitution, established many years ago with respect to Indian affairs, altogether sanctions. In answer to the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir H.Willoughby), 1743 I have to state that according to law the East India Company have to bear the whole expense of sending troops from this country and of maintaining them in India. There is, however, a question under consideration, which is not yet determined, and that is whether it would be equitable with regard to those troops whose destination was originally China, but which have now been diverted to India, that the whole expense should fall on the East India Company?
§ MR. GLADSTONE
My right hon. Friend in the statement which he addressed to the Committee, did not confine himself to the particular Vote which we are called upon to give or to withhold this evening; but he added to his remarks upon the Persian Vote other particulars with respect to the China Vote, other most important particulars with respect to the disturbances in India, and, finally, a brief but important reference to the state of his own balances. Although some hon. Members have regretted that other matters should have been introduced into this discussion, I have no doubt that it is for the public convenience, at this period of the Session, that my right hon. Friend should have thus connected the several subjects together, and I shall follow his example, therefore, in the few observations that I have to make. With respect to the subject of Persia and the Persian Vote, I am afraid that few among us have been surprised at the announcement made to-night. We have seen the demand which, in March was £265,000, grow to £500,000, and we now find it advanced to £900,000. That is a tolerably rapid increment for a period of three months. When the £265,000 was first asked for, we were told by many hon. Members what the result would turn out to be, and their vaticinations have been only too accurately fulfilled. With respect to what fell from the hon. and learned Member for Devonport (Sir Erskine Perry), I would only take exception to one single word in the remarks which he made. I think that he made too large an admission when he stated, that the maintenance of the independence of Herat, and preserving it free from subjection to Persia, had been recognised as a cardinal matter of policy by every Government for the last twenty years. I agree with that observation to the extent that it has been recognized as an object to be desired, but having had the honour to be connected with two Governments which have subsisted during the last twenty 1744 years, I venture to say that I am not aware of any act that was done by the Governments of Sir Robert Peel or of the Earl of Aberdeen which implied that either of those Governments regarded the maintenance of the independence of Herat as an object which ought to be pursued by England, even to the extremity of war. It is, of course, vain now to dilate upon the subject of the policy of the Persian war. My right hon. Friend has, however, entered into some discussion upon that subject, and into some vindication of the policy of the Government in that respect; but he had one triumphant argument of which he has not availed himself, but which I think he might have adduced as the most conclusive which the case admits of—I mean the argument to be derived from the division which took place last night, when the House of Commons declared, by a majority of ten to one, either that it approved the policy of the Government, or else that, at any rate, it did not consider that that policy deserved an adverse vote. After that division, I do not think that it would be respectful to the Committee if the small and feeble band of dissentients were now to revive that discussion, and I, therefore, shall not attempt to do so, but will proceed to consider the Vote with respect to the Chinese war. We are told that a sum of £400,000 is about to be asked for, but that sum will, I fear, in all probability prove to be a very small fraction of the charge which we have undertaken. It is not often that I take exception to what falls in this House from my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), but I must most respectfully express my dissent from part of the language which he has this night used. My right hon. Friend has stated that, doubting and differing from the policy which led to the Chinese war, he thought that now we had entered upon it, that now we had, it was to be presumed, made certain demands, the honour and the credit of the country demanded that those demands should, at all hazards, be enforced. Now, Sir, entertaining the opinions which I do with respect to the policy which has been pursued in China, I could not hear those words without respectfully withholding my assent to them. I, Sir, wholly repudiate that policy. Since the meeting of the present Parliament, the transactions which have taken place in China have been characterized by my noble Friend the Member for London, if he has been correctly re- 1745 ported, and I have no reason to suppose otherwise, as flagitious. I entirely concur in that epithet, and I say, without hesitation or qualification, that believing as I do that that designation is a correct one, I cannot admit that because those proceedings have been commenced, therefore they ought to be carried to their natural termination. I must here, Sir, venture to advert to one circumstance upon which I think that it is material that this Committee should be accurately informed. At the time when the transactions which had occurred in China were discussed, it will be recollected that the vindication of the proceedings of the British authorities depended almost entirely upon a single assertion, and that assertion was, the British flag was flying on board the lorcha Arrow at the time she was boarded by the Chinese authorities. That assertion was contested at the time; it was denied by the Chinese authorities, and arguments were advanced in this House to show that there were grave reasons for doubting if such was the case. We were then told that there was not the slightest foundation for any such doubt, that the British flag was flying at the time, and the whole case—such as that case was—depended upon that fact. I did not then consider that the flying of the British flag, even if it were flying, afforded a shade of justification for the proceedings which were adopted; but I am now in possession of new information upon the subject, which the Government, I dare say, can either affirm or correct. I do not say that my information is conclusive, but it has reached me from high authority, and from authority exclusively British, that the British flag was not flying at the time the lorcha was boarded; and that information is coupled with an unequivocal declaration that the British communities of Canton and Hong Kong were perfectly aware that such was the case; in fact, that it was a matter of notoriety that the flag was not flying at the time. I think that this is a subject upon which the Committee ought to receive the fullest information which the Government have it in their power to afford. As regards the charge for the Chinese war, I can only say that, although whenever I see an occasion which affords the slightest hope of stopping proceedings which I believe calculated to bring disgrace upon the country, I shall not be wanting in taking my humble part in endeavouring to effect that result, still, on the present 1746 occasion, withholding the money which we are asked to vote would have no effect, and I assume that the Committee is not prepared to adopt that course. I come now to a most important subject, which has been touched upon by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir H. Willoughby) has made some most just observations in pointing out the false position in which the Committee is placed by being asked in more than one instance to vote money for the expenses of war, not by way of estimate but by way of account, and my right hon. Friend has told us with great ingenuousness that, although this charge for the Persian war has been incurred, yet he would only have called upon us at present to pay some part of the whole charge, but that the financial necessities of the East India Company are so serious that possibly it may be necessary for him to present to the house another Estimate of £400,000. I mention this because it shows that the mind of my right hon. Friend is becoming habituated in the course of his transactions to incurring a bill to be paid by the people of this country without first asking the consent of their representatives, and then sending in that bill to be discharged at such times and in such proportions as will best square with the general state of the public accounts. Whether it be from the policy of the Government or the circumstances of the case, we are unhappily called upon, both in the case of Persia and China, to provide for hostilities undertaken without the concurrence of those whose duty it is to watch the expenditure of the country. I advert to this, because what has fallen from my right hon. Friend inspires my mind with some suspicion, and I wish to express a hope that it may not grow into an usual practice of Government. My right hon. Friend has dropped a few words full of meaning and full of warning. He has very properly referred to the unfortunate disturbances which have occurred in India, and he began by attempting to administer a little comfort, for he made some observations the effect of which was that the charge for the suppression of those disturbances would fall upon the Indian revenue. Now, for my own part, I do not derive so much comfort from that remark as some hon. Gentlemen may do, for I believe in the soundness of the doctrine which was laid down by the late Sir Robert Peel, who maintained that there was a virtual connection between Indian expendi- 1747 ture and British liability. That was a wise, a sound, and significant remark. My right hon. Friend, however, went a little further, and intimated that there was a likelihood—which, unless I am very much mistaken, will in due time grow into the proportion of a fact—of it being necessary to make a direct demand upon the House of Commons in connection with the expenditure necessary for the suppression of those disturbances in India. I do not think that I misunderstood my right hon. Friend, but if I did I shall he obliged to him if he will correct me. I am far from saying that my right hon. Friend would be wrong in making such a demand, but what I wish to point out to the Committee is that he has told us, by way of comfort, that it will not be necessary to make that demand during the present Session of Parliament. Now, from that statement, I for one am rather likely to gather matter for complaint than for comfort. If the Government thinks that the finances of the East India Company are in such a state as to require support, the wise and constitutional course—the course which practice and expedience dictated for them to pursue—would have been to come down at once to the House of Commons and ask for an advance. It would not have been necessary to settle the ultimate liability, for that question might have been reserved until we receive a more full information as to the cause of these disturbances. Prima facie there appears to be a connection between those disturbances and the measures of the Government with regard to sending troops from India to Persia and China, for, if a disposition to revolt did exist in the Bengal army prior to the withdrawal of those troops, no doubt their withdrawal afforded an opportunity for that disposition to display itself. What I say is this—that it is only fair to the House of Commons, if the Government anticipate that we are to be put to charge on account of these disturbances, that we should have that charge put before us, not by way of an account of charge, but by way of estimate; and I also say that it appears to me, that if we want to strengthen the hands of the East India Company and give vigour to their financial operations, the best course for the Government to pursue, in order to render that support with vigour and promptness, would be at once to ask from the House of Commons that which either my right hon. Friend or some successor in office will ulti- 1748 mately have to demand. I think that the most practical, the most expedient, and the most prudent course to pursue—and the subject is well worthy the attention of the Committee—would be for the Government, if they are of opinion upon the facts, so far as they are known to them, that British aid is necessary to Indian finance, to at once ask the House of Commons to grant that aid. I admit that it would not be convenient, so far as my right hon. Friend's balance for the year is concerned. I thought that there was inconvenience in the manner in which my right hon. Friend stated his account, because he did what I never recollect to have known done before in this House. He brought to the credit of his operations in the present year the surplus of his revenue in the last. Now, a Chancellor of the Exchequer who has a deficiency in any given year is not apt to charge himself with it, and to carry it on to his debt in the next; and, if he does not do that, neither ought he, having a surplus,—if it be a surplus, though it was made from borrowed money—to carry on that surplus, and consider it as part of his available means for the next year. On the contrary, all the surpluses of our annual revenue are, by the well-understood principle of Parliament, appropriated beforehand to the extinction of debt. When we determined to break up the old system of the sinking fund, we said, "We don't mean to give up the steady liquidation of the debt; we mean to trust to our surplus revenue for that purpose." Well, if the surplus revenue is to be applied to that object it must not be carried on and treated as available ways and means by Chancellors of the Exchequer in future years. As I understand the case of my right hon. Friend, however, he still has a surplus. In the month of March he showed that, as the amount then stood, he should probably have a surplus of £500,000 for the year 1857–58. He has told us to-night, and I heard the statement with great satisfaction, that he will have an improvement upon his estimated revenue—one moiety of it from malt, and the other from tea, sugar, and coffee—to the amount of another million. That gives him a million and a-half to make use of. I think, so far as I understood him, that putting out of view the redemption of the Sound Dues, which was an operation by itself, and for which he provided in a different manner, his extra expenses chargeable against the ways and means of the year come to between 1749 £1,100,000 and £1,200,000. There is £635,000 for Persia, £400,000 for China, £100,000 for the supplemental Naval Estimate, and £40,000 for the dowry of the Princess Royal: therefore, my right hon. Friend has still a surplus to show. Undoubtedly, if he were to adopt the suggestion that an advance of money should be asked from Parliament to strengthen the hands of the East India Company for putting down these disturbances, I am afraid that his surplus would go a very little way, and that it would be his duty to make to us in the month of July or August this year one of those disagreeable proposals which he will certainly have to make in the month of March or April in the next. No man likes to anticipate the evil day—my right hon. Friend, I dare say, no better than anybody else. Still I am quite sure that if he agrees with me as to the policy of the case, if he recognizes with me the right of this House to have the first information of coming public charges, and to have the earliest means of exercising its judgment with reference to the manner in which the resources of the country are to be wielded and applied for all purposes, whether military, political, or administrative, he will not be withheld by any motives of the nature which I have described from making such a proposal to the House. At any rate, I join entirely and cordially with my hon. Friend opposite (Sir H. Willoughby) in deprecating that which appears, I am afraid, to be growing rather into a system—viz., the presentation to the House of Commons of military expenditure involving high questions of policy by way of account after the fact, instead of by way of estimate before the fact; and as regards that portion of our proceedings of which the unhappy theatre has been the empire of China, I was unable to allow this Vote to pass without repeating, in however brief yet in emphatic words, the strong sentiments of pain and sorrow with which I must ever regard the transactions of the last few years.
said, that he had returned to the House without intending to address a single word to that Committee, and he laboured under the disadvantage of not having heard the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Notwithstanding this, he could not, after the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, remain altogether silent. The tone and temper in which the Com- 1750 mittee had received the demand made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for part of the amount which had been advanced by the East India Company for the Persian war, and many of the remarks which he had heard, reminded him very strongly of some lines which he learnt in his youth—It's a very good world we live in,To lend, or to spend, or to give in;But to beg or to borrow, or ask for our own,It's the very worst world that ever was known.Because the Committee must understand that this grasping East India Company, which came down upon them and made a demand for £500,000, and which had a further demand amounting to more than that sum, had in the first instance advanced the whole amount for them. They merely asked the nation to pay its debts, and the House had no right to treat them in formâ pauperis, and say that they gave the money because the East India Company was in such extreme distress, and on account of the recent disturbances. Whether India had been disturbed or not, they must, if they were honest men, have paid what they owed and what was advanced for a war which was theirs and not the Company's. [Cheers from the Opposition benches.] Let him not be misunderstood. He did not mean to say that the Persian war was not undertaken, and honestly undertaken, by the Government in a great measure for Indian purposes. He felt and had always felt, that the possession of Herat by Persia would be most injurious to the integrity and safety of India. He believed that as regarded the possession of Herat—he had nothing to do with Mr. Murray and his quarrel—this was an Indian question; but he maintained that they had no right to say, as had been said by the right hon. Gentleman, that India was, owing to the disturbances, in such a state of impoverishment that she came to England to ask—[Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no! It was the Chancellor of the Exchequer.] He did not hear the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This, however, he knew, that the East India Company was only asking for the payment of a debt honestly due for money advanced. They did not ask for interest. Hon. Gentlemen smiled at this, but if they had borrowed the money from any other persons they would have had to pay interest. If they had borrowed from the English public they would not have been let off without the payment of interest; but as they borrowed it from the East India Company, which, as he hoped, was 1751 part and parcel of the empire itself, it was advanced without interest, and the Company would be quite satisfied and only too glad when they got their principal returned. It was a great object with the East India Company to get this money now, because they annually required from India remittances to the amount of £4,000,000 for the expenses in this country, and at present they were anxious not to draw upon India for a rupee which they could avoid. It was, therefore, a great object to get repaid money which they had advanced in England, and thus diminish pro tanto the amount of their drafts upon India. Whether or not they came to Parliament again to ask the Government to repay the remainder of the sum which they had advanced, they came only as honest creditors, and it was the fault of the Government, not theirs, that this money was to be paid as a bill instead of an estimate. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had shadowed forth that if the disturbances continued the East India Company might ask for pecuniary assistance from the national Exchequer. Of course, after what had occurred, after the breaking down of the confidence which had, with partial exceptions, been entertained in these Sepoy troops, who from the time of Clive, just 100 years ago, had been universally and proverbially faithful—after that staff upon which we have leant for 100 years had proved a rotten reed in our hands, it was impossible for any man to be so presumptuous as to prophesy with regard to the future; but at present, so far as he could see, he did trust that matters would go no further, and that we should be able to stem the tide of destruction and disaffection—and he was happy to be able to say, in spite of what fell from the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Sir E. Colebrooke) that, with the most partial exceptions, the disaffection extended only to the troops. Many parts of the country were eminently loyal. It was greatly to the honour of that distinguished man, Sir John Lawrence, who had administered the Punjab since the date at which it fell into our hands, that the people of that country, so recently conquered and annexed to the British dominions, were, up to the date of our latest advices, eminently loyal and true to the British Government. So faithful were they that deserters from the Sepoy regiments who came from Hindostan were caught by the population of the Punjab, and delivered up to our authorities. In no instance had a 1752 native of the Punjab shown any disloyalty, or any want of allegiance to his standard or the military oath, and Sir John Lawrence was at this moment raising large levies among the population of that province to join our troops. It was, as he had said, impossible to foresee what might occur, but he hoped and trusted that the finances of India would be able to bear these expenses. So far was public credit in India from being shaken, that the 5 per cent. loan which was now being taken up had drawn more money during the last few weeks than it had done before. Whether the reason of this was that the people having confidence in the stability of the Government, but fearing instability elsewhere, brought their money to the public treasury, he could not say, but the fact was that between the 2nd and 16th of May £47,000 (he spoke from memory) was subscribed in Calcutta alone. The last letter which he received from Lord Elphinstone, not by the last but by a previous mail, stated that the subscriptions in Bombay, had reached £700,000, £30,000 having been subscribed within the last three or four days, and they were going on rapidly. The loan, which it must be remembered was not contracted as in England, but was an open loan, like that raised in France during the late war, had now risen to nearly £2,000,000. As for the losses sustained by the Indian Government, they did not exceed, up to the present moment, from £140,000 to £200,000. It was true that there would be great loss from the difficulty of collecting the revenue in certain districts, but two Presidencies were wholly unaffected and several of the richest districts of Bengal. At the recent sales of opium, too, the prices had been higher than on previous occasions. Therefore, as far as he could see, the Indian Government would not be obliged to make any requisition at present upon England, but if further disastrous events should occur, compelling that Government to apply to this country for money, he was sure the House of Commons would bear in mind that India was an integral and valuable part of the British empire, and would not refuse assistance to those who administered the Indian revenues.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
As I did not hear my right hon. Friend's former statement, I wish to mention some points in the statement of the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) which certainly deserve explanation; but I 1753 think there is some inconvenience in mixing up in this discussion three subjects of great importance. My hon. Friend who has just spoken, addressed himself exclusively to the subject of India, and what I have to say refers to the subject of China. I am not going to speak with respect to the justice or morality of the proceedings conducted there by the British authorities, they have been properly characterized by the right hon. Member for Oxford University; but what I now wish to learn is, the nature of the hostilities which we are to carry on. It is not pleasant to be engaged in a war which one does not consider just; still one wishes the reputation of this country to be maintained. It appears that our authorities in China, some time in October last, attempted hostilities against Canton. From October to the last accounts, some time in May, there has been nothing done which would impress the authorities at Canton with any sense that they must yield to our demands. On the contrary, we had retired from the positions we held some months ago. In letters from persons in that country it was said, that the naval force there was found to be insufficient—I do not mean in amount, but that it was not of a nature calculated to enforce our demands. In those letters it was generally said, that they must have land forces to enable them to get possession of the heights above Canton and Canton itself; to enable them, too, to hold those heights and the city, in order to induce the Chinese authorities there to comply with our demands. Now, two or three nights ago, my noble Friend at the head of the Government was asked what was to be done with the troops sent to China; and I understood him to reply that those troops would be immediately recalled for India, and that orders had been given to Lord Elgin that they should proceed immediately to Calcutta. No one would find fault with that disposition; but my noble Friend went on to say that there would be still quite sufficient force at Canton to enforce compliance with our demands. Now, this raises a question in my mind which I think the Committee will deem of very considerable importance. I can understand very well that our land forces being in the occupation of Canton may make the Viceroy there yield to demands which otherwise he would not concede. The hostilities—because, mind, all the time it is not war;—some hon. Gentlemen on the hustings and elsewhere have declared themselves 1754 very vigorously for the prosecution of the war with China, but the Government never said that there was a war—the hostilities, then, would be with Canton, and Canton, no doubt, would fall into our possession; and we shall have a better prospect of obtaining the terms we demand, whatever they may be. But with a naval force, and a naval force alone, our proceedings must be different. I imagine that we may gain some advantage by means of the gunboats sent out there in the destruction of a number of junks which now conceal themselves in the rivers; but the destruction of any number of those worthless junks will probably make no alteration in the disposition of the authorities at Canton. Then, what other means are there of attaining the desired object? You have in the naval force the means of blockading the northern ports; but with them I must say that you have hitherto, notwithstanding the hostilities at Canton, been on terms of peace and amity. Every account shows that that there is no disturbance in those friendly relations, but that, on the contrary, trade is carried on very vigorously with Shanghai, Foochow, and other places, without regard to the hostilities existing between Commissioner Yeh and Sir J. Bowring. Then the question I wish to ask is, whether, having only a naval force and no power but that of blockading the northern ports with the view of obtaining compliance with the demands you made at Canton, you do not, if you take that course, turn the partial hostilities at Canton, into war with China; because in that case, no doubt, the Imperial Government must consider the empire attacked. If the ports generally are blockaded, there can be no resource but to make war with China, and to enforce your demands by means of war. The very remarkable phrase of my noble Friend, that though the troops would be diverted from China, still the Government had the means of obtaining all their demands there, appeared satisfactory to the House, but was unsatisfactory to me; for I cannot tell whether it meant that we were to transfer hostilities to the northern ports, and thereby make war with China, or whether it meant something else. I should like also to know what is the present object of these hostilities? We know that the first hostilities took place because the Chinese Commissioner refused to make an apology in writing and to restore the men, taken from the lorcha, on board the lorcha, when they had already been restored at the Con- 1755 sul's residence. Other demands were afterwards made about free entrance into Canton; and these demands were not being complied with. But what the present demands may be, I, for one, am totally ignorant of. When we are going to vote a large sum of money—probably only a prelude to another sum as large, if not greater—it is fit that we should know whether it is meant to go to war with China instead of carrying on hostilities at Canton; and if so, what are the demands we make on China?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
—My noble Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford retain their opinions as to the proceedings which have taken place in China. They are perfectly welcome to retain those opinions. The people of England have decided the question; and therefore, though my noble Friend thinks those proceedings flagitious, and though the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, shares that opinion, that is a matter of total indifference to her Majesty's Government. We rest upon the sanction which the people of the United Kingdom have given to these proceedings, and having made an appeal to the country, we are content with the result. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that on account of some wonderful information received from some authority he has not condescended to name, he is satisfied that the flag was not flying on board the lorcha at the time when she was boarded by the Chinese, and he is pleased to say that on the circumstance of the flag flying rested the whole of the Government justification. Now, in the first place, I beg to remind him that it was proved by the evidence of eye-witnesses, that not only was the British flag flying, but also the "Blue Peter," which was a signal that the lorcha was on the point of departure. I beg leave to say, however, that the case did not turn upon the fact of the flag flying, but upon the fact that the lorcha had been lying for several days in the port of Canton, and that the Cantonese new that she was a British vessel employed for British purposes, and therefore, even if the flag had not been flying, they committed a deliberate violation of international law. I thought my right hon. Friend had had enough of the Chinese question, without perpetually endeavouring to thrust it so unnecessarily into our debates. My noble Friend (Lord John Russell), however, has asked questions which relate much more directly to the subject we are discussing. My noble Friend misunder- 1756 stood in some degree what he supposes me to have said on a former occasion. I did not say that the troops were withdrawn from China. What I said was that troops which had not arrived in China, but had been despatched to Singapore to await further orders, had been diverted from their intended destination, which was originally China, and that they were to proceed to India. But no orders have been given to withdraw from Hong Kong any troops that have already arrived there, and the troops at that station are stated to be sufficiently numerous for the services which are required from them. The course which the Government are pursuing has already been explained so clearly, that I am surprised my noble Friend should ask for any explanation on the subject. It is well known that Lord Elgin was sent out for the purpose of entering into communications with the central Government at Pekin, and that until the result of those communications is ascertained by him, no further operations of any magnitude are to be undertaken at Canton. The season of the year, indeed, would render military operations by land upon any considerable scale undesirable until the commencement of the cool season, and in the interval the negotiations will have taken place. My right hon. Friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, as was stated the other evening, is about to send a force of marines to reinforce the squadron in the waters of Canton, and a number of gunboats were arriving at the time the last accounts were despatched. My noble Friend says that when these gunboats have arrived they will, perhaps, destroy a fleet of miserable junks. Why, these miserable junks are war junks of considerable magnitude, and in great numbers, which have materially interrupted our communications with Hong Kong; and when the gunboats shall have arrived, I don't think any doubt can be entertained that our admiral will give a very good account of those miserable junks—as my noble Friend is pleased to call them—which, as is well known, are formidable to merchant vessels, although they may not be able to cope with gunboats, which can follow them into shallow water. The course we are pursuing is this. We are not going to make war with the northern ports, which maintain the most friendly relations with British merchants. We are going in the first place to adopt a course which seems most consonant with international usages. Great outrages upon the British flag and upon British subjects have been committed 1757 by the local authorities of a port in China, we shall address ourselves to the Emperor of China for redress and satisfaction. We have sent a special mission from this country for the purpose of entering into negotiations with the Imperial Government, and making demands upon that Government. As my noble Friend properly stated, we are not at war with China at the present moment. There has been a collision between the local authorities, Chinese and British, and Canton and Hong Kong, but that does not of itself constitute war between England and China, and we may hope that the Imperial Government will take such a view of the transaction that it may be ready to afford that satisfaction and redress, which will render war unnecessary. But, at the same time, anticipating the possibility of a different issue, we are sending a military force to Canton, which will enable the commander of the British forces to act against the city of Canton, if the Imperial Government refuse or are unable to give us the satisfaction we demand. We did not think that a temporary diversion of the force which was directed to rendezvous at Singapore would essentially interfere with ultimate operations in China, if they should become necessary. In the present state of affairs, therefore, I can only say that we have taken measures for opening negotiations with the Imperial Government at Pekin; that we are not without hopes that those negotiations may render any further hostile proceedings unnecessary; but that if those hopes should not be be realized, we shall have the means of carrying on hostile operations in a manner which, I trust, will enable us to enforce the redress we demand.
§ Mr. DISRAELI
I am somewhat surprised at the tone of the noble Lord with regard to this subject. He says that the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) and the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) respecting our relations with China are to him a matter of perfect indifference. I will leave the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman to settle that question with the First Lord of the Treasury whenever they may choose to avail themselves of the opportunity, but I cannot help noticing the reason assigned by the noble Lord for regarding the opinions of these two hon. Members of this House as a matter of perfect indifference. It is, he says, because at the late general election the people of England expressed their opinion upon the subject of his Chinese policy. To that 1758 national opinion he appeals, and, supported by that opinion, he can afford to treat with perfect indifference the sentiments of two hon. Members of this House whose views have generally exercised some little influence upon our deliberations. But looking to the general verdict given by the people at the late election, to which the noble Lord has appealed, it was, as I understood, in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war in China, and I am not sure that the people of England will regard the present sentiments of the noble Lord on that subject with the perfect indifference which he extends to the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord. Is the noble Lord performing that contract into which, according to his own account, he entered with the people at the last election? Is this war with China vigorously prosecuted? Why, according to the noble Lord, it is no war at all. Are hostilities even carried on? According to the noble Lord there are no troops to prosecute them. Why, the very issue which was placed before the people of England, on which their opinion was demanded, and to obtain their verdict upon which Parliament was dissolved, no longer exists. The noble Lord is installed in power, and is proud of his position because he is not performing a contract which, according to his own account, he was bound to fulfil, and in the fulfilment of which this House was elected in order that he might have a powerful majority to support him. It is, then, most extraordinary that the noble Lord should now taunt hon. Members who disapprove his Chinese policy with the perfect indifference with which he regards their opinions, because he can appeal to the opinion of the people of England when upon this very subject he has left the people of England in the lurch. The question which this Parliament was elected to prosecute has absolutely become a matter of perfect indifference to the noble Lord. The noble Lord further assailed an hon. Member of this House, because he had unnecessarily dragged the subject of China into our deliberations. What have we before us. We are called upon to vote £400,000. to defray the expenses incurred in the Chinese waters, and the noble Lord will not allow the subject of China to be alluded to! The fact is, that these discussions are no doubt extremely inconvenient to the Government, because the people of this country must naturally ask themselves "Why are these hostilities with 1759 China not vigorously prosecuted? and why is that vindication of the honour of England, which we were told a few months ago from every hustings was so important and so necessary, delayed or forgotten?" and because the policy of the noble Lord has in our own possessions brought about a state of affairs that renders it necessary for us to devote all our energies—all those energies which are requisite to vindicate our honour in China and in Persia—to support in an important part of Her Majesty's empire our own rule, which has been distracted and may be destroyed, by the policy of the noble Lord.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I really must take leave to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the belligerent impatience he has manifested; and I count upon his entire support when the result of our operations shall crown the wishes he has so ardently expressed. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will not be disappointed, for we are pursuing in proper course the objects which the people of this country and the right hon. Gentleman so ardently desire—the redress of injuries and the vindication of our national honour; but we consider that the best mode of attaining those objects is by pursuing the course sanctioned by international usage—namely, by applying in the first instance to the Government of China for redress before proceeding to hostilities. Our intention to pursue that course was announced when Lord Elgin was first sent out. The right hon. Gentleman says I complained that the Chinese question had been introduced into this debate. Now, what I did complain of was that the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford should have gone back to the case of the lorcha, and I said my noble Friend appeared to me to have taken a juster view of the subject when he asked questions relating to our general policy with regard to China, to the conduct of the war, and to the objects we had in view. I could not of course complain that the Chinese question should have been introduced, because that is the very subject of the Vote we are considering.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said, he thought it was a pity those remonstrances to the Emperor of China were not made in the first instance, when we were supposed to have suffered wrong from China. If his recollection served him right, not even twelve hours were allowed to elapse before the admiral in command bombarded the de- 1760 fenceless city of Canton, when he destroyed several hundreds lives, and the property of a great number of individuals. ["No, no!"] It was such a bombardment as dropping a shell into the city every five minutes.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said that much had been said in the last Parliament of the wanton bombardment of that defenceless city. He had stated at the time that he did not believe that any bombardment had taken place; and within the last fortnight he had received a letter from Admiral Sir Michael Seymour informing him that he (Sir Charles Wood) had been quite right in the interpretation he had put on the account of what had occurred. In that letter Sir Michael Seymour declared that it was altogether untrue that he had bombarded the city of Canton, or ever thrown a shell against any portion of it.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said his statement was founded on the papers which had been furnished to the House, and if those papers did not bear him out he could only say that no trust was to be placed in the documents inserted in the blue-book.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
asked if the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood) had any objection to produce the letter to which he referred?
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said that the letter to which he referred was a private letter—it was a private letter from Sir M. Seymour to himself. He would, however, bring it down to the House on Monday evening, and he would then have no objection to read the passage to which he had referred. He could not lay it before the House as it was a private communication; but he would be prepared to show it to any person who might doubt its authenticity.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he did not suppose that any hon. Gentleman in that House doubted the word of any individual in it, and no one who had sat with the right hon. Gentleman in that House could for a moment suppose that he would state what was purposely an equivocation. But it was quite monstrous to suppose that a Minister should rise in his place, and on an occasion like the present make an important statement from a document not on the table of the House, and say it was private. It was the rule that a paper used by a Minister in that House became a State paper, even though it were a private letter. And it was monstrous that a gentleman in the position of the First Lord of the Admiralty should take offence because an hon. Member questioned the pro- 1761 priety of his appealing to a private letter for the purpose of influencing a debate. There should be no reference to any papers that were not on the table, or that were not meant to be laid on the table afterwards; for the moment a Minister referred even to a private letter it became a State document. That was a salutary principle that had always prevailed in their debates. Were it otherwise the opponents of the Minister could have no chance in debate, for he might always be referring to private papers in his portfolio to support his case. In the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), last night, the right hon. Gentleman opposite was about referring to a private letter when he was called in question. [Mr. VERNON SMITH: It was a public letter.] What! a public letter? Then that was a worse case still. It was a most flagrant case—a public document that was a secret from the House referred to in debate by the right hon. Gentleman to contradict a statement made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, and referred to for the purpose of conveying to the House what was the policy of a former Cabinet of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle was a Member. Neither a public nor a private letter ought to have been used if it could not be laid on the table. That was a principle which has ever been accepted in this house, and which he hoped would continue to be the guide in these matters. As regards the point in dispute itself he would only make this observation—before the dissolution of Parliament hon. Gentlemen opposite actually cheered because Canton had been bombarded, and now they vociferously cheered because they were told that Canton was not bombarded.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he apprehended that the principle which governed the reading of letters was this: If a Minister read in his place any document, whether public or private, he was bound to lay on the table that which he had read. If he read a portion of a private letter or despatch, and if the House should think that that which he had not read might in any degree alter the sense of that which he had read, he might justly be required to lay the whole on the table, but he could not admit the expediency of the principle which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to establish, that a Minister should, more than any other hon. Member, be precluded from repeating to the House information which he had 1762 received in a private communication. So little was that the rule that it often happened that Ministers were asked whether they had received such communications; and, in short, were they precluded from stating to the House information received from the private communications of officers and others, the House would be deprived of much information which it now obtained.
§ MR. JAMES WHITE
said, that as from a long residence there he had obtained a personal acquaintance with China and the Chinese, he trusted he should be pardoned for making a few observations on some of the points which had been raised in the course of the discussion. He thought that it was obvious that the differences of opinion which had arisen as to the bombardment of Canton had sprung up from a misunderstanding on both sides. Canton had not been, as he believed, bombarded in the sense in which military men and civilians understood that word. By bombardment he understood the firing of shot and shell indiscriminately into a town, to compel its surrender or evacuation, and he hesitated not to say that such a bombardment Canton had not undergone. A few shot and shell were sent into the Yamun, or Government offices, and the residence of the Viceroy in Canton (which occupied a large space), to show the authorities what we might do, if compelled; but this was not a bombardment in the ordinary sense of the term. As a commercial man, and as one of a class who deplored the stern necessity of coercive measures in China, besides having a deep personal interest in the early re-establishment of amicable relations with the South of China, he would take occasion to thank the noble Lord for the explanation he had given regarding the northern ports of China, for he felt the policy which had been adopted by the Government of localising this quarrel, was the best policy, and would conduce to a good understanding with the northern ports: and he was, in that House, glad to testify to the magnitude of the British interests involved in the most northern of those ports, in which he had passed so much of his life, viz., Shanghai. It was not alone British energy—British enterprise—which had raised that place (a few short years since not discoverable out the maps) to be a great entrepôt, but it was also the kindly feelings and thorough sympathies of the Chinese residents with us foreigners, which had made Shanghai rank as it now did, 1763 the second port in Asia for the value of its imports and exports; and therefore, as regarded the general question of the war, he did not share in that feeling of detestation and abhorrence for the Chinese which had been so freely expressed in the course of these discussions. He deeply deplored that the high intelligence of the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) and the great constitutional knowledge of the noble Lord the Member for London, had not led them to address the full vigour of their faculties to this subject, in a calm dispassionate, and non-party spirit. Had they done so, they would have soon found that the quarrel at Canton did not hinge on the fact of whether the British flag was or was not flying on a paltry lorcha, but on the great consideration whether the perverse policy which the Cantonese had so consistently pursued for a long series of years towards the British—as well as other foreigners—was any longer to be tolerated. For himself, he (Mr. White) believed, and was there constrained to avow his belief, that the extravagant expenditure of successive Home Governments, and the impatience of every Chancellor of the Exchequer to secure the tea duties, had compelled the British merchants in Canton to submit to a long series of indignities which otherwise would have been long since suppressed by the power of the British Government. The very flattering reception he had, as a new Member, received, encouraged him to trouble the House with a few more observations; and he would now take the liberty of addressing himself directly to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It might be that the policy about to be pursued by the noble Lord was wholly consistent with the strict canons of international law, and conformable with the comity of nations; but in its results it must be a miserable failure as an initiative diplomatic proceeding. In appealing first to the Emperor of China, the reply from Pekin would be what it had always hitherto been. There would only be another reference of the appellants to Yeh, the Viceroy of Canton, and who, as directing all external relations, might be considered now as the Lord Palmerston of China. When he said this, he would not wish to be misunderstood. Yeh, was a man of great energy and talent, as well as high intelligence, and filled some of the highest offices in the empire. Besides, being the President of the Privy Council, and Guardian of the 1764 Heir Apparent, Yeh was also titular Commander in Chief, and he exercised sundry other important functions. But the main significance of this enumeration of offices was this—that he (Mr. White) would wish to impress on the noble Lord, and on the House, that, as regarded all foreign relations, Yeh was the alter ego of the Emperor of China, and the decision of Yeh would be that which would ultimately take effect, unless, indeed, as he (Mr. White) trusted would be the case, the noble Lord despatched instructions for the immediate occupation of Canton. In offering this advice to the noble Lord, he would add that he, and the class he represented, wanted an augmentation, not of territory, but of trade; and he should be well content with an occupation of Canton, in which England should be cordially united with France, America, and other Christian powers. In point of fact he only desired to see Canton held as a "material guarantee," until all our just requirements should be complied with. In conclusion, he would take occasion to tranquillize the apprehensions of the House, and gladden the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the financial part of the operations in China, by giving him and the House the assurance that the cost—whatever it might be—could, and no doubt would be reimbursed out of the abundant recources of the Chinese empire. Or if not, by the issue of debentures on the security of the duties now exigible from the foreign merchants on the export of native, and the import of foreign commodities into China. Thus, every charge for the coercive measures now necessitated in China would be very readily liquidated. And he would add, looking to the enormous augmentation of the mutual trade which must ensue from a revision of the existing treaty with China, that any consequent cost could then be easily reimbursed by the adoption of the plan he now recommended, without any real loss or pecuniary mulct to the Chinese.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said he wished to express his conviction that Sir M. Seymour must have used every effort in his power to obtain by peaceable means satisfaction for the outrage on the lorcha before he fired a single shot into Canton; and with respect to divulging the contents of private letters to the House on public affairs, to state that that was a power which the late First Lord of the Admiralty claimed to exercise when in office.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Oxford, who had contended that he was not entitled to take credit in the revenue of this year for the balance of last year beyond the Estimates he had made, because that balance was due to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, it was only in the case of excess of revenue over the expenditure that the balance was paid over to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt. Therefore the sum he had mentioned was really an addition to the revenue of this year. With respect to the probable demands of the Exchequer with reference to our proceedings in India, the Chairman of the East India Company had truly stated that Her Majesty's Government, as at present advised, saw no reason to anticipate any demand from Parliament this Session, in respect to advances for India.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, the Chairman of the East India Company had distinctly stated, after complaining of the mode in which the Company had been treated in asking for their own, that after this sum of £500,000 there would be another half million due to them by the Government, whereas the right hon. Gentleman had put it at £400,000.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, it was odd, although only an estimate, that the sum should be so different; besides, the estimate at first was for £250,000, then the House was asked for £500,000, and now there was a further sum of £400,000 or £500,000 to pay.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the sum originally stated was an estimate of the sum the Government proposed to pay in respect to what fell due on the 1st of April.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that seeing the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Company again in his place, he would repeat what he had stated in regard to the sum claimed from the Government. The hon. Gentleman should have made his complaint to the Government, because they had found fault with the Government in keeping them in ignorance of what was really owing. He wished an explanation of this matter from the hon. Gentleman. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said 1766 according to the estimates the debt was only £400,000 instead of half a million, alleged by the Chairman of the East India Company to be due.
said he spoke from memory when he stated the sum to be £500,000, and could not at that moment give the precise amount. There was, however, a sum which the Company believed the Government owed them, but which the Government, on the other hand, said they did not owe them.
§ MR. HENLEY
said it would be desirable to know whether the sum of £500,000 was a surplus over and above the Estimate now before the House. [Mr. MANGLES: No, no!] What, then, was the sum in dispute?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Estimate laid on the table contained the entire expense, as estimated by the East India Company, of the expedition to the Persian Gulf. That was all that the Government undertook to defray when they communicated with the East India Company, and the Treasury minute on that subject was perfectly explicit. Some additional expense was incurred by the East India Company overland, amounting to about £300,000, and if that item should eventually be decided to fall within the expenses of the war, one moiety of it would be due from the Exchequer; but at present the Government did not admit that that was so, and therefore he had not included the sum in the Estimate before the House.
said, this Estimate included the whole of the estimated expenditure for the expedition to the Persian Gulf. The other sum related to a matter upon which there was a dispute between the Government and the East India Company.
LORD JOHN MANNERS
remarked that he understood the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the Estimate for the war with China was reduced by £100,000 in consequence of the troops being transferred from Singapore to India, and that, as regarded the £100,000, it was a matter for consideration whether the East India Company should bear a share of that expenditure.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the noble Lord had entirely misunderstood his meaning. The hon. 1767 Member (Sir H. Willoughby) asked whether the expense of the transport of troops to India told upon the English or upon the Indian Treasury. In his answer he said that generally the rule had been that the expense of the transport of British troops sent to do service for the East India Company fell upon the Indian Treasury; but that with regard to those troops destined originally for China, but now ordered to stop at Singapore and diverted to India, it was a question whether it ought to fall upon the English or the Indian Treasury.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £400,000, China (Military Operations).
§ MR. PALK
said he wished to ask a question of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The House had been addressed by hon. Gentlemen who were considered its leaders, but yet he must confess his utter ignorance whether we were or were not at this moment at war with China. They were told that the war was confined to hostilities between Commissioner Yeh and Sir J. Bowring. The question was, whether the money they were now called on to vote was in aid of a war against China? Were we or were we not at war with China?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he thought that the condition of our relations with China was pretty well understood by this time. Hostilities of very serious magnitude had occurred between the local Government of Canton and our Authorities, naval and military, at Hong Kong. Those hostilities had led to considerable expense, but with regard to the empire of China we were not at war. We were in a state of perfectly good relations with the other four ports, and were not at war at present with the Emperor of China. We had sent a Commissioner to negotiate with the Emperor of China, in the hope that by his own authority he would give those orders which would prevent actual war with the empire. That was the actual state of things at present.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said that nearly the whole of the Vote was for the transport of troops. The Estimate was originally £500,000 for the transport and lodging of the troops. Having diverted the troops from Canton to India, they would not be lodged at Canton, and the Vote was reduced from £500,000 to £400,000.
said, that as they now 1768 distinctly understood we were not at war with the Emperor of China, he wished to know whether, in the event of Lord Elgin arranging the matters in dispute with Commissioner Yeh, Commissioner Yeh would be authorized to give us indemnity for the expenses incurred?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
had not stated that Lord Elgin would negotiate with Commissioner Yeh. Lord Elgin was gone to negotiate with the Government of Pekin.
said the noble Lord had not answered tho question. If he had understood the noble Lord correctly, the noble Lord stated that we were not at war with China. Therefore we had no cause of quarrel with the Emperor. The quarrel was with Yeh, and what he wanted to know was, whether there was any possibility of Yeh having power to indemnify us for what we had expended?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he had stated that we were not at war with China, but had great cause of complaint against a subordinate officer of the Emperor, and had demanded redress of the Emperor, seeing that the local authorities were not able to procure redress from the subordinate officer. The Emperor, of course, could do what he pleased as far as giving powers to indemnify us.
§ COLONEL BOLDERO
said, the number of men voted for the Colonies and for home service was 123,000. The Government was taking away 15,000 or 20,000 men. He wished to know whether the Government intended to raise the force of men up to the number voted by Parliament, and if so, how could it be done?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
was understood to say that by recruiting and withdrawing men from the Colonies the Government would replace the men sent to India, or a portion of them.
§ Vote agreed to.