§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, that when he presented the petition of the Protestant missionaries on the state of the lower provinces of Bengal the House had exacted from him a pledge to found a Motion on that petition. He was now about to redeem that promise. He was well convinced that in very many respects our government in India, taken as a whole, had been productive of much good to that country; but he claimed the attention of the House while he endeavoured to set before them, as briefly and as faithfully as he could, the present condition of the Lower provinces of Bengal, as a signal exception to that fact, if they were to believe the testimony of residents in that country. He did this, because undoubtedly on that House rested the responsibility of securing for the people of India the best attainable government. He disclaimed all feelings of hostility to the Government or to the East India Company, of which the proof was that he had supported them generally with reference to India when the last charter was passed; but he was now painfully convinced that hitherto they had failed to secure to the Natives of the Lower Provinces of Bengal those blessings for which Governments exist. It was his desire to impress upon the 1588 House the tremendous magnitude of the claims of their Indian empire—an empire he might almost say the greatest that had ever been committed to the care of a civilized country. The age in which they lived was an age of wonders, but certainly not one of the least was the almost utter indifference that had hitherto been manifested in that House to those claims, and to the interests of this mighty empire—committed to them, as was once so well said by the late President of the Board of Control, not for the selfish purpose of their own aggrandisement, but that they might raise it to the participation of the same privileges which they themselves nationally enjoyed. He felt that they had neglected their duty to India, and that they ought to repair that neglect, and at least to give some earnest and constant attention to its claims for the future. When the interests of 30,000 of the gallant soldiers in the Crimea were thought to be neglected, how wide-spread was the sympathy! When the 7,000,000 of Ireland were afflicted by a sore famine, how generous the response to the cries of distress! But these numbers sank into absolute insignificance in comparison with the numbers on whose behalf he felt it his duty to plead that night. In India 150,000,000 or 160,000,000 of human beings, a sixth of the population of the world, were under the sway of the British Crown,—a population greater in number than the combined populations of European Russia, of Austria, of France, and of Great Britain, and six times greater than the population of all the other British colonies taken together. But he intended to confine his observations to the state of the Lower Provinces of Bengal, the country referred to in the petition, which of themselves formed an area of nearly 290,000 square miles, and contained a population of from 40,000,000 to 45,000,000. These provinces had been for nearly a century, more or less, under the dominion of England, and, having been their first possession, there had been committed, he apprehended, their greatest mistakes in government, and mistakes of such a nature that it was exceedingly difficult to rectify them. It was only since the renewal of the East India Company's charter in 1853 that Bengal had even had a separate Governor. Again, the system of landed tenure established by Lord Cornwallis in 1792 had been a source of boundless misery. Good in theory, and if honestly carried 1589 out, all those provisions in it calculated to protect the poor had been practically lost sight of. It was known by the name of the Perpetual Settlement and the Zemindaree System, It was founded with the most benevolent intentions, praised by Pitt and Dundas at home, and approved by Lord Wellesley (Lord Cornwallis's successor) in India; while the Court of Directors congratulated themselves on having at length done their duty by the establishment of institutions so admirably adapted to promote the welfare of the people of Bengal. Consequently, he imputed blame to no one with regard to its adoption; all he said was that, as it had been carried out, its results had been most disastrous. If they compared the state of the Lower Provinces with the North-west Provinces, which had more recently come under their sway, they would see in the latter the beneficial results of good government, and in the former the evils of grinding oppression. In eight years that talented nobleman Lord Dalhousie, whose state of health they all deplored, in the Punjab, which came into their possession in 1848, devised and created a system of government said to be free from all the defects developed in the older provinces, and, with due allowance for the weakness of the Native character, a perfect model of excellence, and that district was now prosperous. But in Bengal their institutions were pronounced a failure, and some who knew the country felt that they were on the eve of a crisis; for not only were things bad, but in very important respects they were growing worse. Let the House just consider that the Europeans, who were the governing class in India, were but a handful compared with the Natives, less than 100,000 against 150,000,000, and they would at once perceive that their power rested on prestige. Destroy that prestige by any violent shock, and their power was gone. The Hindoos wore no doubt a patient people, but there was a limit to human endurance, and if they overpassed that limit who could predict the consequence? The petition of the missionaries which he had had the honour to present to that House at the close of the last Session had had its origin in their personal knowledge of the miseries of the people. They had first addressed themselves to the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal (Mr. Halliday) and the Governor General in Council; but the petition which they presented for inquiry into the social condition 1590 of the people of Bengal was dismissed with the usual official assurances that inquiry was useless; that the evils, though great, were exaggerated; and that remedies would be applied which inquiry would only delay: though the Lieutenant Governor and even Mr. Grant himself, in their answers, practically admitted the truth of nearly all their representations. He felt persuaded, judging from his former policy, that had Lord Dalhousie been Governor General, he would have granted the inquiry. As it was, having failed to obtain a satisfactory reply from those quarters, they had had no resource but to address themselves to the Parliament of England, with the hope that they would listen to the cry of distress, which, whether they heeded it or not, was rising from the millions of Bengal. That they were justified—nay, much more than justified—in the course they had taken he unhesitatingly maintained, and that their testimony was of the greatest value and deserving the highest credit he conscientiously believed. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control would tell him, no doubt, that the missionaries ought to confine themselves to their own sacred calling and not interfere with the grievances of the people. But he (Mr. Kinnaird) begged to take issue with his right hon. Friend on that point. Of no one party, but connected with various Christian denominations, conversant with the every-day lives of the people, unconnected with the Government and the civil service, gentlemen of British birth and liberal education, with English ideas of justice, what one body in India was there so well calculated as they to take a just view of the social condition of the people? They were, in fact, the only body in India who had no class interests to serve. These were not days when men could discredit the testimony of missionaries. They were too well known and appreciated. The name of Livingstone alone would forbid it. And Dr. Duff and Mr. Mullens, who signed the petition, were themselves members of the University Council. He was the more induced to bring this question under the notice of the House because on the renewal of the charter in 1853 the Parliamentary inquiry had terminated before this question of the social condition of the people had been mooted. This House would agree with him that a Government that did its duty should at least secure to the subjects of that Government these 1591 four things:—1, the administration of justice; 2, security to life and property; 3, protection to all classes, poor as well as rich; 4, and lastly, exemption from excessive taxation. It became, therefore, his duty, in submitting these Resolutions to the House, to give them such information as was within his power on these several points; and if he succeeded in showing that on all our administration had been radically and grievously defective, he must believe that they would take some effectual steps to secure for these their fellow-subjects those rights to which they were as much entitled as themselves. He claimed the indulgence of the House while he read some extracts giving an account of the present social condition of Bengal, written by men who knew the country and whose statements might be relied on. He wished to say at the outset that it was his aim rather to understate than to overstate the case, which, in truth, needed no colouring of his to make the picture more gloomy. It was gloomy enough of itself. He should have dwelt at some length on the system of landed tenure, but there was hardly any one present who was not acquainted with the zemindary system. Although that system was founded with the most benevolent intentions, and there were provisions for the protection of the poor in their rights, he was sorry to say that those provisions had been entirely neglected. As an example, if a Zemindar, on account of the loss of his crops, obtained a remission of the tax, he still exacted the tax from the ryot, or held it over till the next year as a debt to himself, thus rendering the ryot thenceforth practically a slave. The simple fact was that Lord Cornwallis provided a series of measures to protect the cultivator, but those measures had been utterly disregarded. The cultivator experienced no benefit from one of them. He could get no lease, no receipts, no protection from arbitrary extortion. A regulation was passed in 1797 under which nearly every Zemindar had his own bludgeon men, his own courts, his own prisons, aye, it was universally believed, his own modes of torture, to extract money from the ryots. This law and the regulation No. 5 of 1812 together constituted the most severe laws of distraint in the world. It was stated that—Bengal had been neglected in a most extraordinary manner. The condition of the people had not been made a matter of parliamentary in- 1592 quiry. The real state of the case is known only to a few civil servants, who all these years have done nothing. In fact, in Bengal there is an amount of suffering and debasement which probably you would not find exceeded in the slave states of America.In answer to a question put as to whether the Lower provinces were deteriorating, the answer was that they were not, inasmuch as the produce and exports had so wonderfully increased; but yet, with all the elements of prosperity developed, the ryot alone languished, and his condition had deteriorated, and was deteriorating. Then it was stated that the laws were oppressively severe, enabling the Zemindar or landlord at any time to sell up and ruin his unfortunate tenant; while by the arts of bribery and intrigue the Zemindars acquired an influence in the Courts of Justice which practically precluded all hope of redress for the unhappy ryots. For a few shillings any number of false witnesses could easily be procured, and the police always took the strongest side. The Zemindars were also in the habit of treating their ryots not as their tenants, but their servants; they set themselves up as petty kings, and exacted tribute from the poor cultivator every time a birth, marriage, or death occurred in the family. Not only did the Zemindary system grind the ryots to the dust, but it operated as one of the most powerful obstacles to the spread of Christianity in India. He was not surprised that before Lord Dalhousie left India a memorial was presented to him, in which he found these words—The conviction we have that your Lordship will always endeavour to promote the welfare of India encourages us to give expression to our wishes that your attention will be directed to the lamentable condition of the peasantry of Bengal, the causes of it, and the best means of alleviating it. We take the liberty of addressing you on the subject because we know that the present working of the Zemindary system is one of the most powerful obstacles not only to the spread of Christianity but also that it is a growing evil.Another petition said—Your petitioners view with alarm as well as sorrow the continuance of the evils which they have so long deplored, and the effects of which are seen in the sufferings of the people. They believe that measures of relief can with safety be delayed no longer, as they believe that a bitter feeling of hatred is engendered in the minds of the population.He believed that that point was disputed, which was only a reason for inquiry. Then there was another evil of great magnitude—he meant the frequent removal from place to place, and from one office to 1593 another, of the servants of the Company, rendering it impossible that they could acquire either a knowledge of their duties or an acquaintance with their districts. The average duration of a magistrate's term of office in the Deccan for a series of years past was not more than ten months. It was stated that thousands of square miles are inhabited by millions of people who enjoyed neither justice nor protection. The magistrate's court was often sixty miles distant from certain districts; and so wide was one man's jurisdiction that a judge had had to go 140 miles to try a case of murder. It occasionally happened that a Native population of 2,000,000 were governed by two solitary Europeans; and this, too, it must be remembered, in a country without roads. It was further stated that no man in his senses resorted to a court of law in Bengal. [Mr. Vernon SMITH asked the hon. Member (Mr. Kinnaird) his authority for those statements.] He was glad that his right hon. Friend had put this question to him; for it gave him an opportunity of stating that Mr. Halliday's Minute corroborated the statements which he (Mr. Kinnaird) had been making. And here he should observe, that though that document had been moved for, it had never been laid on the table of the House. However, it had been at the India House for a month, and there was, he believed, a copy of it in the hands of his right hon. Friend. Mr. Halliday, to whom the missionary Report was first addressed, was a great authority on India. He had been brought over to this country and examined before the Committee of 1852. And what did that gentleman say in his Minute? Why, that for a long series of years complaints had been handed from administration to administration with regard to the Mofussil police in Bengal, and that yet very little had been done to remedy that which was complained of. Again, Mr. Halliday gave it as his opinion that beyond all doubt they would fail to establish a good system of government unless they had such a vigorous and effective administration of justice as would give the weak ready access to the law, in order to insure them protection against the oppression of the strong. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, Mr. Halliday stated, that the strong preyed almost universally upon the weak. Of the vast importance of the rural police, he added, and the necessity of improving their character and position, 1594 there was only one opinion; but it was an unquestionable fact that the rural police had deteriorated in character and position in the lower provinces during the last twenty years. But this was not all. The great difficulty, with regard to the police was, that they were inadequately paid, and kept in a permanent state of starvation. That was what he said about the village police, the foundation of all possible police in the country, and upon the renovation, improvement, and stability of which depended the ultimate success of all our measures for the benefit of Bengal and the prevention, detection, and punishment of crime. The late Mr. Bethune, a Member of Council, came to the conclusion that the Bengal police were worse than the rest of the population; and it appeared that convictions for heinous crimes committed by the police were, in proportion to their numbers, greater by one quarter than the convictions of the rest of the population for all offences of every kind. Whilst the average of crime among the general population was stated to amount to 981 yearly, that amongst the whole number of police amounted to 1,130 cases, some of them of the most violent kind, as murder, thuggee, and robbery. Then what was his evidence as to the inexperience and inefficiency of the magistrates? "Even if the tribunals were all they could wish," observed Mr. Halliday, "and the police fully reformed, what would it avail so long as the superintending magistrates were for the most part inexperienced, and, therefore, unqualified young men?" The average standing of the magistrates of the twenty-five districts which had separate magistrates, was, in 1850, nine years and eight months. The average in 1856 was only six years and ten months. In 1850 there were only two magistrates below a seven years' standing; whereas in 1856, there were fifteen. The youngest in 1850 was of five years' standing; whilst the youngest in 1856 was under three years. On the whole, the magistracy was losing character and credit, and our administration growing perceptibly weaker; yet Mr. Halliday grieved to be obliged to affirm that the evil would infallibly increase within the next three years, unless an early remedy were applied. It was necessary, therefore, that the magistracy should be increased, for without it he doubted if any measures would be successful. Now Mr. Halliday admitted quite as much as he 1595 (Mr. Kinnaird) wished, and quite enough, he was satisfied, to justify inquiry. The Governor General, in his reply to the missionaries, very truly said that he could not adduce in support of his opinions on the subject experience derived from personal intercourse with the Natives. Having been but a short time in India he naturally turned to the Members of Council, and amongst them to Mr. Dorin, who seemed to take a very different view indeed of the state of affairs, and that a very original view. Mr. Dorin said that there could be little question as to the unsatisfactory condition of the rural population of Bengal proper; but he doubted if it arose from circumstances over which the Government had control, and attributed it in a great degree to the physical structure of the people and the nature of the climate, and complained of the Bengalee because he did not resist violent oppression. It would, therefore, seem that that gentleman's opinion was that Bengal could only hope for an improvement in the administration of her affairs from the peaceably disposed part of the population imitating the violent conduct of the robbers and murderers who were the curse of the country. Really the climate seemed to have had a remarkable effect upon Mr. Dorin. On his own showing he ought to approve of Dacoitee, for the Dacoits were the only Bengalese who possessed any energy of character, or had any idea of standing up for their rights. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith) might, in opposing this Motion, rely a good deal on the evidence of Mr. Grant; but that Gentleman knew very little of the interior of Bengal, whereas he (Mr. Kinnaird) had mentioned positive facts—facts which had been testified to by the missionaries who had not gone to Calcutta for the purpose of making fortunes, but with the single object of devoting their lives to benefit the souls of their fellowmen. If, however, there was nothing more than Mr. Halliday's Minute to rest his case upon, he could not conceive that his right hon. Friend would refuse his assent to the Resolutions he (Mr. Kinnaird) now proposed for the adoption of the House. He thought the House must be convinced from the statements he had brought before them that the whole subject demanded a thorough investigation, not an investigation that was to stop any measure now in progress for the amelioration of these evils; not an investigation which was to array class against class and 1596 promote discord, but a calm, patient investigation such as English gentlemen were capable of making, and the result of which ought to be submitted to that House. If he was asked what object would be attained by inquiry into facts which were admitted to a great extent, to say the least, by the authorities in Bengal, he would say there were three objects. First, it would put all men, who cared to know, in possession of the facts which some men only now knew. He should like to know whether the Governor General himself was acquainted with the facts, and he doubted very much if he was; whether this House without inquiry could know of the facts; and whether the Court of Directors here knew anything about them, and this he was inclined to doubt also; for he remembered that when in the last Parliament the hon. Member for Poole stated in his place in this House that torture was practised in India, the two hon. Members who represented the Court of Directors in this House steadily denied the charge. If those hon. Gentlemen were unaware of the facts in that case it afforded strong presumption that they were equally ignorant of the facts in the present case also; and hence there was the greater necessity for inquiry. Secondly, it would put the stamp of the Government authority on the authenticity of the facts, so that it would be impossible to have official denials of those facts from interested parties either in India or at home. Thirdly, and lastly, the knowledge of the publicity given to the existence of the evils must, in the nature of things, quicken the activity both of the Legislative Council of India and of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal to devise and to push forward measures of fundamental reform; so that they should have no more such answers as Mr. Dorin's to the petitions of missionaries; and, on the other hand, they would cease to have obstructions put in the way of such measures as the one lately introduced into the Legislative Council by Mr. Grant respecting the sale of land for arrears, as he understood from a letter he received from Calcutta only last week was now the case. And, to refer to another most important subject, they would perhaps cease to hear of such a fact as this, that when the Indian authorities were themselves desirous of putting down the cruel swinging festivals in Bengal, as had been done in Madras and Bombay, they had been prevented doing so by a despatch from the Court of Directors at 1597 home. Nothing, he thought, could give a better illustration of the importance of such a public and special inquiry than what had just occurred with reference to the pauper lunatics in Scotland. A few weeks ago, who would have credited the statement of the hon. Member for St. Andrews with regard to the condition of lunatics in Scotland? In fact, when Lord Rutherfurd proposed a remedy, it was rejected, because nobody would believe in the existence of the evils complained of; but after the inquiry which the energy of the Home-office had instituted, no hesitation was any longer felt in applying that remedy. He said that that House was responsible in the matter, and they had a right to know whose statement was correct—the missionaries who said that there was widespread disaffection as the consequence of misrule, or the Government authorities, who deny the statement. There was a higher power than all the authorities in India and than the Court of Directors at home, and that was, the Ministers of the Crown, and those Ministers were responsible Ministers; and if we would hold up our heads among the nations as the defenders of right and justice, we must see that our own rule in India is just and pure. What availed their representations to Turkey, their indignation at the corrupt officials there for not carrying out the more enlightened views of the Sultan, if they allowed the Native officials in India to take bribes, to oppress, to defraud, and, for the sake of a miserable economy, gave such a small staff of efficient magistrates that they could not, if they would, control their subordinates? Let them wipe their own hands of guilt. He said, "miserable economy." And why did he say so? Why, but because he believed that one great cause of misgovernment in India was, that for a long time it had been governed, not so much for the good of the people as for the selfish purpose of enriching themselves; and, even now, what did the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal say, on the point of expense? He said these three things:—1. If ten more lacs of rupees (£100,000) were annually spent on the magistracy and police of Bengal, the police charges would still be only a little more than those of the North-west provinces.2. That the diminution of expenditure at present, in consequence of the diminished numbers of junior civil servants, as compared with 1850, was more than a lac and a half of rupees (£15,000).3. He, last year, submitted to the Govern- 1598 ment of India, an earnest recommendation for an increase to the salaries of Darogahs, &c., by a system of gradation; and, unless financial difficulties interposed, he could not doubt that this measure must ultimately be honoured by the approval of the Governor General in Council. But, if this were not granted, all thought for the improvement of the police would, he feared, be but thought thrown away.He felt confident that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control desired to do justice to the people of India, and he could not doubt that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would be more than willing to promote the welfare of all the subjects of the British Crown, whether black or white; and what could he wish better for him, than that he who had been the tried friend of the African black, the supporter all over the world of liberty and humanity against oppression and misrule, who had stopped diplomatic intercourse with a European ruler, because he used his authority to oppress his subjects, should be known also as the maintainer of the rights of the millions of Hindostan? If his right hon. Friend answered in reply to what he had said, that measures of reform were in progress, then he claimed his support for his second Resolution. And if any one demurred to the truth of his statements, he could only see in this a fresh reason for inquiry, as both could not be right. If he was right, then he had asked the very least that could be asked. He had purposely abstained from asking for a Royal Commission to be sent out from England lest it should weaken the hands of the Indian authorities in the eyes of the Natives, who did not understand constitutional government; but he could not believe that any evils that could result from an inquiry instituted by the Indian Government, for the sake of giving them the information they required, would at all counterbalance the advantages that would result from it. During the siege of Sebastopol, who were right in their statements of wants and grievances—the public or the private authorities? He considered that the present Government of India was on its trial. Four years had passed away since it had assumed its present form, and nothing to alleviate these evils had been done for Bengal, whatever had been talked about. The North-west provinces might be enjoying a good system of government. The Punjab, thanks to that distinguished nobleman who had so ably presided for many years over the Government of India, 1599 might be under a still more perfect system; but what was this to the 35,000,000 of Bengal? It was for them he pleaded. He wished to do full justice to the Government of India. They had undoubtedly wrought many important and beneficial changes, and no man was more ready to recognize them than himself. They had abolished the government connection with idolatry. They had put an end to sutteeism, infanticide, thuggism, and human sacrifices. They had also instituted, though it had not yet made much progress, an advantageous system of education; and last, but not least, had recognized as legal the marriage of Hindoo widows. But did these benefits, after all, alleviate the present miserable social condition of the people of Bengal? He had not willingly overstated a single fact, but was content to rest his case on the admissions of Mr. Halliday. He hoped, therefore, that this country would not refuse the means of carrying out a necessary reform; recognizing as they did the authority of Him who said—"Thou shalt not pervert judgment; thou shalt not respect persons; thou shalt not take a gift; but that which is altogether just thou shalt follow." The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the following Resolutions:—1. That, from representations made to this House, there is reason to believe that the present administration of the lower provinces of Bengal does not secure to the population the advantages of good government, but that the mass of the people suffer grievous oppression from the police, and the want of a proper administration of justice.2. That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should take immediate steps with a view to the institution of special inquiries into the social condition of the people; and to ascertain what measures have been adopted in consequence of the oppression under which a large proportion of the inhabitants of the lower provinces are now said to be suffering, more especially with reference to the system of landed tenures, the state of the police, and the administration of justice; and also that such Report be laid upon the table of the House.
§ MR. DUNLOP
rose to second the Resolution, and expressed his surprise that such an attempt should have been made to prevent this important and interesting subject being urged upon the attention of the Government. He felt the subject to be one so momentous that, notwithstanding the repugnance he had to address a reluctant and indifferent audience, be could not refrain from adding a few observations to those made by the hon. Member for Perth. He believed that the permanence of our 1600 empire in India could never be maintained solely by what was termed our prestige. It was not by prestige or force of arms that we could continue to govern that country. We must enlist on our side its population, of whom our army there must always chiefly be composed. We must create a conviction in their minds that our dynasty was connected with their happiness, security, and good government; and without that, all our prestige and all the force we could send from this country would be utterly and absolutely in vain. It was not enough that the people of India had escaped from the horrors of native rule. True, that was the case; but it was generations since that rule was felt, and the existing population of India could no more realise the exact position of their forefathers than we could realise the situation of the villains who groaned in this country under the oppression of the feudal barons centuries ago. They would form their judgments by their condition now whether the results of good government were secured to them or not, and according as they felt their present actual position would they either remain willingly under our rule or be discontented and disaffected. Some prejudices might be excited by the fact that it was the missionaries who had brought this matter before the House; but considering that the only mouthpiece the unfortunate people of India—these miserable and oppressed ryots—could have were missionaries, he thought the House ought rather to be thankful and rejoice that there was such a body of men to represent their case to them. The Government of India was all powerful there, and bad many representatives here. When Europeans in India had any cause of complaint they could through their numerous connexions easily make their voice heard before Parliament and the country. But the poor oppressed ryots had no one to speak for them if the missionaries did not. And who were those missionaries? Men of the highest character and of every denomination, who had conferred benefits greater far than many of the civilians who had gone out and returned to this country with large fortunes. His dear friend Dr. Duff, for example, had done more for the inhabitants of India than many of the gentlemen who, having come home with great wealth, had afterwards taken their seats, first in the Court of Directors, and subsequently in this House. Substan- 1601 tially, however, as his hon. Friend (Mr. Kinnaird) had shown, the statements of the missionaries were admitted in the answers which had been returned to their memorial to the Indian Government, except in regard to the single allegation of discontent. Lieutenant Governor Halliday said he saw no discontent; but it was not to be expected that he could have the same opportunities of making himself acquainted with the feelings of the Natives as the missionaries who were in daily intercourse with them. Indeed, it was not possible, considering the oppressions under which these poor people suffered, that there should not be discontent; it was not in human nature that they should be satisfied and quiescent. Mr. Halliday observes—Great stress is laid by the memorialists on the inefficient condition of the police and the defects of the judicial system. They call, first and foremost, for inquiry into these, in preference to all other subjects of investigation; and they designate them, and with perfect truth, the radical cause of the social evils, of which I am far from denying the existence, though I am not disposed to look on them as so dark and deplorable as they appear in the painting of the memorialists.Mr. Grant, too, also a Member of Council, had substantially acknowledged all the worst of the cases set forth by the missionaries. He stated in the Parliamentary paper, No. 51 of last Session, that the memorial of the missionaries mentioned the following as evils existing in Bengal, "which it fell within the scope of the Government to meet and control, and which, they said, appeared to be on the increase—first, insecurity of life and property in many districts; secondly, numerous gang robberies perpetrated with impunity; thirdly, constant scenes of violence and contentions as to disputed boundaries between the owners of adjoining estates; and the memorialists maintained that the radical cause of these evils was the inefficiency of the police and of the judicial system." Mr. Grant then went on to "record his most complete concurrence with the memorialists, both as to the, existence and extent of the evils and the nature of the remedy." Another member of the Council, indeed, Mr. Dorin, attributes the evils existing, not to the judicial system and state of the police, but to the physical conformation of the people, and asks "what could be done for a people like this, who would do nothing for themselves; and what Government interference could supply that foundation of moral im- 1602 provement and self-reliance which nature itself seemed to hare denied them. It was almost a law of nature," he adds, "that cowards should be slaves or tyrants," "and I fear this describes but too truly the general condition of the population of this fertile province." No doubt, these poor people were timid by nature, but the conclusion to be drawn from that was, not that the Government should not interfere for their protection with an effective police, but that they should so interfere all the more. Mr. Halliday takes a sounder view, stating that "this is a country in which, owing to imperfect civilization, scanty knowledge, and a low standard of morality, to habits of selfish domination in one part of the population and of slavish submission in another part, might is at all times very apt to be made right. It is a country, therefore (he adds), where the poor greatly needed for their protection against the rich a strong and incorrupt police, and a pure and easily accessible judicial system." But so far from that being the case the state of things was very way the reverse. From the village watchman, "the foundation of all possible police," to the criminal tribunal, all was inefficient. As to the watchman, Mr. Halliday, in his Minute, says, "that when anyone is robbed in a village it is probable that the first man suspected will be the village watchman," and the Commissioners of Police describe the establishment "as a curse instead of a blessing to the country," adding "it is even a question whether an order issued throughout the country to apprehend and confine them, would not do more to put a stop to theft and robbery than any other measure that could be adopted." With the materials which alone exist for a police force an efficient superintendence is essential; but it is wretchedly inadequate. Mr. Halliday considers "no provision for superintendence adequate which does not at least supply one capable and trustworthy magistrate for every two, or, at most, every three thannahs;" but the actual provision is, on the average, one for every seven and a quarter thannahs. The magistrates, too, are inexperienced, and too frequently unqualified; and the result of the whole is the popular conviction, as stated by Mr. Halliday, "that dacoity is bad enough, but that the subsequent police inquiry is much worse." Matters, too, so far from improving, are getting worse. Mr. Halliday admits it to be "a lamentable but unquestioned fact, 1603 that the rural police, its position, character, and stability, as a public institution, have in the lower provinces deteriorated during the last thirty years; and that our magistracy is losing credit and character, and our administration is growing weaker," adding, "and I grieve to be obliged to affirm that the evil will infallibly increase within the next three years unless an early remedy be applied." The first duty of the country was to supply justice; but he had no hope that the Indian Government would agree to the requisite expenditure for adequately doing so, unless upon a declaration of the House of Commons. It was a most discouraging circumstance which had been stated by his hon. Friend (Mr. Kinnaird), that Mr. Grant's Bill had been stopped. By the present law, when the Government sold a zemindar's lands for arrears of his tax or rent, the whole leases granted by him became void; and it was not unusual for a zemindar to allow arrears to be incurred, in order to bring about a sale at which the lands were bought back for himself, in another name, to get rid of his own obligations and annihilate the rights of the tenants. Mr. Grant's Bill was to secure the leases of the tenants notwithstanding a Government sale; and it was this simple act of justice, in doing away an atrocious iniquity, that the Government had interfered to prevent being passed. He did not look upon the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Perry) as hostile, but simply as supplementary to the present Motion. For himself, he owned that without the declaration of the House of Commons he had no hopes of an amendment in the present system, and he therefore trusted that the House would raise its voice on the present occasion and accede to the Resolution of his hon. Friend.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, from representations made to this House, there is reason to believe, that the present administration of the Lower Provinces of Bengal does not secure to the population the advantages of good government, but that the mass of the people suffers grievous oppression from the Police, and the want of proper administration of justice."
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, his hon. Friend who began this discussion had observed that it was desirable for this House to interfere occasionally in the affairs of India, were it but to exhibit some tokens of sympathy with the Natives. In that opinion he entirely concurred. He concurred in it, not only because he was anxious that such sympathy should be ex- 1604 pressed, but for his own sake, and that of any person who might hold the office which he filled, because he conceived that some expression of public opinion in this country, and some assistance from the House of Commons, might be necessary in many cases to redress grievances, and enforce remedies which otherwise, from want of motive power, they might not be able to carry into execution. In all that his hon. Friend said in this respect, therefore, he entirely concurred; but when his hon. Friend (Mr. Dunlop) expressed his surprise at the apathy of the House of Commons on this question, adding that the indifference of hon. Members had nearly led to a count-out, he must say that he could not entirely coincide in this view. He owned that it was sometimes difficult to secure that attention to the concerns of India which the importance of the subject demanded; but he believed that that attention would be secured by Motions brought forward carefully and deliberately upon specific questions upon which the House was called upon to legislate and to act; and he must say that the present did not contain Resolutions of that character. It might reasonably occur to hon. Gentlemen that a Motion calling for inquiry after inquiry had been carried to the utmost, and when everything that could be known was already known, not only to this House, but to the country, was not a proposal of that practical nature to call for their attention. What had taken place that evening? The speech of the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) consisted of one continued series of extracts from papers now before the House, and the hon. Gentleman who followed him, thinking he had omitted one or two passages from those papers, said he would supply the deficiency. The supporters of this Motion, therefore, themselves proved that all the information which could be asked for was already in the possession of the House. His hon. Friend appeared to have felt the difficulty attending his Resolutions, for he had altered them two or three times. His original proposition was, to call the attention of the House to the petition of the missionaries in Bengal, and for an Address to the Crown, praying it to issue a Commission, as suggested by those gentlemen, to inquire into the grievances of which they complained; but he had since altered the Resolutions repeatedly, until at last they assumed their present form. Now, in his (Mr. Vernon 1605 Smith's) opinion, the Resolutions were such as, though they might be considered very harmless, the House ought by no means to adopt. His hon. Friend was for an entire change in the constitution of the Indian Government, finding fault with everything done in India, and among other things, with the zemindary system in the Bengal provinces; yet his hon. Friend was obliged to acknowledge that that system was founded by Lord Cornwallis, the fact being also that it was coincided in by everybody here, and was considered very beneficial to the people of India. That system, moreover, was a permanent one, and could not be disarranged without a complete convulsion in the system of tenure in India. No such result, however, would ensue from the vague Resolutions submitted to the House, nor had his hon. Friend ventured to suggest that this system should be abolished. With respect to the land tenures of India generally, it must be remembered that there were two other systems there besides the zemindary, and he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had heard fault found with all of them; and so it must ever be in countries where a land tenure obtained. Was the tenure of the soil agreeable to both landlord and tenant in Ireland? Could we even point to a perfect system as existing in our own country? His hon. Friend seemed to think that perfection was compatible with government in India. All he (Mr. Vernon Smith) could say on this subject was, not that there was perfection in India, but the government was progressive, and that the land tenures there had not led to many of the evils which in some other countries had arisen. His hon. Friend asserted that Lord Dalhousie, had he still been Governor General, would have consented to the appointment of this Commission. Now, unless his hon. Friend spoke authoritatively, and after personal communication With Lord Dalhousie, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) ventured to deny that statement, and to express his belief that his Lordship would have been the last man in the world to issue such a Commission. Lord Dalhousie was a man of very determined character, and not likely to allow his functions as Governor General to be superseded by any Commission whatever. But then his hon. Friend compared this with the Torture Commission, and with the Commission issued to inquire into the treatment of lunatics in Scotland. He was happy to hear his hon. Friend acknowledge that there 1606 were some grievances to be redressed in his own country, but Commissions of the kind he had mentioned differed very much from a commission to inquire into the administration of justice, of police, taxation, and every question which could concern the Government in India. How would his hon. Friend, if Governor General, like to have a Commission issued which would supersede all the executive functions with which he had been, invested? He repeated his certain belief that Lord Dalhousie was the last man to have allowed the appointment of such a Commission. But his hon. Friend stated that the missionaries had applied to the Government, and that they had received the usual official answer. If his hon. Friend meant to imply by that that they obtained nothing definite in reply, all that he could say was that they received a detailed and reasoned answer upon every part of their statement, and that they were informed that inquiries were then going forward under the eye of the Government. The best answer, however, to his hon. Friend's proposal was that his hon. Friend had been forced that evening, in support of his case, to quote from the Minute of Mr. Halliday, who was not an independent or nameless individual supposed to know nothing of the matter, but the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Mr. Halliday admitted many things which his hon. Friend urged; and bow could his hon. Friend say that further inquiry was needed when all the facts which be had presented were derived from a paper furnished by a high official of the Bengal Government who was perfectly cognizant of the whole question? He believed that no man knew more of the native character than Mr. Halliday; he was intimately acquainted with all the languages, and he had had opportunities of intercourse and information which few men possessed. With respect to the general assertions of his hon. Friend, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) was bound to say that having watched them closely to ascertain if he could derive any practical suggestion from them, they consisted, he was sorry to find, of vague declamation on the persecution of the ryots and the distress of the peasantry, without any specific facts. Mr. Halliday's Minute was dated April, 1856, and upon one point only of his hon. Friend's remarks, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) admitted that there was no answer—namely, that it had not been sent home, and presented officially to the House. The usual course, in 1607 the case of a representation being made by a subordinate official, was to send it to the Governor General, who read and reported on it, and sent both home. That had not been done in this instance; but it happened, perhaps, because the, Governor General had thought it advisable to retain it, as the matters to which it referred were to be made, for the most part, the subject of legislation in the Council. For that omission the Government certainly was responsible. The chief allegations which his hon. Friend had brought forward were that there was a deficiency in the police and in the administration of justice in India, He conceived that the answer to those allegations was to be found in the papers already presented to the House. [Mr. KINNAIRD: No, no.] His hon. Friend denied that. Then he would call into court the paper which his hon. Friend himself had read—a despatch from the Court of Directors on the subject of police. It began in this way—Our attention has been directed on various occasions of late to the character and proceedings of the police in different parts of India; and the reports which from time to time have been laid before us have combined, with many incidental notices of failure or abuse, to deepen the conviction that an immediate and thorough reform of the police in all the old provinces of British India is loudly called for.What more complete admission could his hon. Friend have—what could he desire more than that? [Mr. KINNAIRD: Nothing has been done.] No, nothing has been done; but if his hon. Friend imagined that these things proceeded with greater speed in India than elsewhere he was very much mistaken. Let him look at home. Here we had agitations for reform, and questions mooted, discussed, introduced into Parliament, thrown out, reintroduced, and so on year after year; but when he compared such measures as those with the organization of a new system of police all over the enormous territory of India, equal in extent to the whole of Europe, he should like to know at what pace his hon. Friend was so desirous of travelling when he complained that measures were not yet carried into execution which had only been pointed out in a despatch from the Court of Directors dated September, 1856. They went on in that despatch to say—That the police in India has lamentably failed in accomplishing the ends for which it was established is a notorious fact; that it is all but useless for the prevention, and sadly inefficient for the detection, of crime is generally ad- 1608 mitted.They Further said it would be necessary to make material changes in the constitution and organization of the police, and, after remarking upon the satisfactory police establishments in the Punjab, they concluded as follows:—And we desire that you will take the subject into your early consideration, and, after communication with the other Presidencies, report fully to us your sentiments as to the expediency of the general re-organization of the police throughout India, upon some such system as that which obtains with respect to the police in the Punjab, or perhaps the constabulary of Ireland, and as to the mode and cost of the proposed reform.It would be impossible to frame a stronger despatch than that, even after hearing the speech of his hon. Friend. Mr. Halliday's Minute gave rise to the petition of the missionaries which his hon. Friend had presented; but what was Mr. Halliday's opinion of the petition itself? He said that it was a picture founded doubtless on some isolated facts which had occasionally come to the knowledge of missionaries in the Mofussil; but he added that it was not by any means an accurate representation of the state of the actual relations between landlord and tenant, and he expressed his absolute dissent from the statement that the people exhibited a spirit of sullen discontent on account of the miseries ascribed to them, and that there existed among them that bitter hatred to the Government which had filled the memorialists, as they declared, "with alarm as well as sorrow." Mr. Halliday then proceeded to say that he had under consideration means of improving the relations between the Zemindars and the ryots, and that a Bill upon the subject would shortly be placed before the Legislative Council. That was in September, 1856; and there was no doubt, when the Council met for the winter session, that they would take these subjects into consideration. So that there was a remedy proposed for the very grievance which his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock had so loudly and so justly complained of. The memorialists proposed that there should be a Commission appointed of men of independent minds, unbiased by official or local prejudices; but where, he asked, were they to find such men? Did they expect to find them in India? At the moment, however, that that Commission was prayed for by the missionaries, it was a curious fact that another and a different memorial was presented from the indigo planters and committee of the British Indian As- 1609 sociation. The prayer of the memorial was, that a Commission might be issued "for a searching, patient, and unbiased inquiry into the social evils of those provinces; namely, whether they be to any and what extent caused by the landed system, the planting interest, the Mahajunec dealings, the Foujdary and Dewanny administration; also, whether to any and what extent by the well-intended efforts and zeal of professional Christian missionaries." Did the hon. Member for Perth believe that it would conduce to the well-being or good government of British India that one Commission should be issued at the instance of the missionaries and another at the desire of the indigo planters? Such a course would excite dissension between landlord and tenant, would set class against class, injure the cause of religion, and make confusion worse confounded. That would be the inevitable result if the prayer of the missionaries were granted, which the hon. Member himself had shrunk from recommending, limiting himself to proposing Resolutions which were mere milk and water compared with the demands of his clients. The hon. Gentleman asked for inquiry. By whom was the inquiry to be instituted? The Government were already prosecuting inquiries, as he had shown in every instance, and were either acting, or would act, upon the result of those inquiries. Then came the question of the administration of justice in India, which was undoubtedly a question of great difficulty, which stood in this position in 1853, when the Act was altered, and before the Committee on Indian Territories of 1852 the whole question was fully discussed. The Committee had the advantage of hearing the evidence of the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir E. Perry), who had then just returned from India, and of many other gentlemen thoroughly conversant with the subject. Pending that discussion the right hon. Baronet now First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir C. Wood), who then presided over the Board of Control, appointed a Commission on the administration of justice in India, composed of men of the very highest ability. At the end of three years, for which it had been appointed, the Commission presented a Report expressing very definite opinions. He (Mr. Vernon Smith) regretted to say that a lamented personal friend, now no more, the late Lord Chief Justice Jervis, was rather offended because the recommendations of the Commissioners were not at once em- 1610 bodied in an Imperial Act, as was also the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir E. Perry), who was happily still alive. However, when those recommendations were known in India there came from that country a shout of disapprobation, and a gentleman had been sent over to England, commissioned by a numerous constituency, to impress upon him the necessity of not complying with those recommendations. He had foreseen this; and he had not, therefore, adopted all the recommendations of the Commission. The consequence was, that four Bills to carry out the law procedure propounded by the Commission, and four founded on the Report of Mr. Macaulay, which hung fire when first it came out, were before the Legislative Council, and under discussion. Those Bills had been read a second time, and were undergoing full consideration in India. For his own part, he could not regret the delay that had occurred. The whole government of India was founded upon the principle of acting cautiously and deliberately in everything. That might have been carried too far in some instances, but such had been the principle always acted upon. It was impossible, however, to say that there had not now been a sufficient consideration given to the subject; and he (Mr. Vernon Smith) hoped that by the end of the year the House would see the remedy for the evil which existed put into the form of a law by the Legislative Council, for adoption by Parliament. The Chairman of the Board of Directors had corrected the hon. Member for Perth during his observations respecting Mr. Grant's Act; and as to the question of putting an end to swinging and other horrible practices, it must be remembered that that was a very delicate matter. The hon. Member must be well aware that it was not possible for the Indian Government to put a violent end to all the objectionable practices which prevailed in India. Infanticide, however, and the practice of Meriah sacrifices had been stopped, and it was acknowledged that much had been done by degrees to repress the cruelties which disgraced society in India; but it had been done quietly and calmly, without offering violence to public opinion in that country. To make any open attack upon the prejudices of the, Natives would not fail to lead to very dangerous consequences, and so far from putting an end to such horrible practices, would only inflame the minds of the Natives, and cause them to adhere still more closely to 1611 their ancient customs. The hon. Member for Perth asked whether the Governor General and the Court of Directors were aware of those things which he had mentioned. It was quite certain that the Governor General must be aware of them, because it was obvious that he had read the Report of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The hon. Member for Perth appeared to doubt that fact, but he could not seriously want that confidence. That House must, also, have been fully aware of the state of affairs, because the papers which had been laid upon the table placed them in full possession of all the circumstances, and if any further information were required the Government would be quite ready to give it, if possible. He (Mr. Vernon Smith) was anxious to give the fullest information upon any point, whether as to the spread of education in India or any other matter. Those were practical questions, but the Resolutions submitted by the hon. Member would, if agreed to, end in nothing, containing, as they did, a simple declaration of facts which were known to all, and asking for inquiry, which was actually in progress. Such being the apparently harmless character of the Resolutions, he might be asked why he objected to their adoption. His answer was, that he did not wish to propagate in India a notion that there was to be any new Commission to supersede the Government in its functions, and thereby shake the confidence of the Natives in its power. He was bound to say, although he did so with regret, that he must object to the Resolutions, as tending to excite a belief in India that the gentlemen who had forwarded the memorial were the persons to whom the Government of that country should be intrusted. He had the very highest respect for those earnest and excellent gentlemen who were exercising their vocation quietly, and, he hoped, were gradually extending the blessings of their religion throughout India; but it would greatly interfere with the success of their religious efforts if it were to be supposed that they had power to direct the legislation of India, or to override the Government of that empire. He did not wish to alarm the House or the public, but he could not forget the circumstances which had recently occurred in India—circumstances which all must deeply regret. There had arisen a great agitation among the troops, not generally, but as he trusted among a few only, and speedily to be repressed. The discontent in some regi- 1612 ments had been already repressed with the consent of the Natives themselves, and he had pleasure in stating that a non-commissioned officer of the 34th Native Regiment, who confessed his crime on the gallows, was condemned by persons of his own religious persuasion, some of whom were officers in his own regiment. Still it could not be disguised that there did prevail considerable disaffection among the troops in consequence of a prevalent notion that a compulsory conversion of the Natives was intended. He would put it to the hon. Gentleman and all who had the interests of the country at heart, whether it was advisable, under the circumstances, that a notion should go abroad that missionaries who were engaged in their vocation in India were able to wrest the powers of the State from the Government, and exercise them just as they chose. To justify himself in what he had just said, he asked the House to listen to one or two sentences in the petition which the hon. Member had presented to the House. The petition stated—That your petitioners have reason to believe that there is a vast amount of social disorganization and of consequent suffering in the whole country. Much of this your petitioners can trace to the fearful superstitions of the people, to their ignorance, and to the debasing effects of a popular mythology, which presents examples of every vice, and which ascribes sanctity and divine honour to a priesthood which is the principal curse of India.Now, whether that was true or not, he asked the House whether it was fit to found a Commission of inquiry into the social condition of India on the request of persons with such language in their mouths? The missionaries said they were the mouth-pieces of the ryots; but were they the mouth-pieces of the ryots when they said that their deities were the degraded idols of every vice, and their priesthood the curse of the people? Nor was it necessary that they should be. There was a mouth-piece for the ryots in the Government of India, and he was prepared to show that that Government did make themselves their mouth-piece, and take into consideration every claim that came from them. He repudiated the notion that the Court of Directors or the Government of India would not be ready to speak on behalf of the ryots if they were in a state of degradation and social disorganization. That a great deal remained to be done, and ought to be done, he never meant, and would be the last to deny; but the Government of India was a 1613 very difficult problem. That Government had to throw their shield over the people, to advance them in every kind of civilization, and to endeavour to give them that happiness which they had not under their native chiefs, for he never would admit that they were less happy now than when under their native chiefs. If it could be said with truth that they were less happy, he should say that the Members of the Legislature should not sit in their present small conclave, but ought in full assembly to deliberate from day to day on the condition of India. But he did not believe such to be the case. He believed that the condition of the Natives of India had improved under the Government of the Court of Directors; but when the Court of Directors assumed that government they had for a long time to continue many of the institutions of the Native chiefs, and to endeavour to adapt them to new circumstances, and still the problem to be solved was how to awaken the desire in India for European institutions, and to adapt them to Oriental customs. That was a problem of the greatest difficulty, which he hoped to see solved. It would be the anxious care of the Indian Government to improve the condition of the people of India; but the House would not do well to allow them to be thwarted in their efforts to make that improvement by the interference of missionaries calling for Commissions of inquiry, but which he called commissions for delay. There was one expression of Mr. Halliday in the document referred to by the hon. Member which, strange to say, he had forgotten to quote. It was, "the time for investigation was over, and the time for action come." He agreed in that, and was therefore of opinion that if the House wished to do anything for the benefit of the people of India they should do it through the legitimate Government they had established, and not thus surreptitiously, at the instance of men, worthy and respectable, no doubt in their own way, but who were likely to create hostile feelings amongst different classes in India, and who might therefore unintentionally cause evils worse than those they desired to remove. By the action of that legitimate Government he earnestly hoped that all the evils complained of would shortly be remedied, and he trusted the hon. Member would not press his Motion to a division, for if he did, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) must oppose it.
§ SIR ERSKINE PERRY
agreed with nearly all the observations which had been 1614 made by the President of the Board of Control; but hon. Gentlemen must have remarked that those observations addressed themselves, not to the Resolution now before the House, but to the second Resolution, which had not yet been proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the main complaints of the missionaries were well founded, and had declared that Mr. Halliday in his Minute had admitted all the grounds upon which the hon. Member for Perth based his statement. Against the adoption of the first Resolution the right hon. Gentleman had advanced only one argument—namely, that it would appear to the Indian world as if Parliament and the Government were led by the missionaries. It was to be hoped the House would not be influenced by such an argument as that. If the missionaries had given a truthful description of evils which it was within the power of the Government to remedy, he trusted the House would not be deterred by innuendoes with respect to missionary influence from doing its duty. He, for one, had no connection with Exeter Hall, but he respected the missionaries for their earnest endeavours to civilize the inhabitants of India. He was bound to consider the question whether the statements in the petition were true, and whether the missionaries had enjoyed full opportunities of informing themselves upon the subject. He declared boldly, and in the presence of many hon. Gentlemen better acquainted with India than himself, that no Englishman could be compared to the missionary for opportunities of inquiring into the social condition of the peasantry in Bengal. The House had been told that Mr. Halliday had great knowledge of the country. He had the honour of knowing that gentleman very well, and he also knew what the life of a great official in India was. He was occupied all day in reading or writing long minutes. He lived in a palace at Calcutta or Bombay. He talked with persons who brought him official representations of the condition of the people, but he never came in contact with the great body of the inhabitants in such a manner as to elicit the truth from them. The missionary, on the contrary, visited the people in their huts and cottages, and by personal inquiry made himself acquainted with their wants and grievances. But the missionaries were not the only witnesses relied upon by the hon. Member for Perth. Their statements were confirmed by the Minute of Mr. Halliday and by the impor- 1615 tant body of indigo planters in the provinces of Bengal and Tirhoot. And it was important to remark that neither the missionaries nor the indigo planters were likely to make groundless complaints against the Government of India. The former, in carrying on their operations, depended a great deal upon the indirect assistance which they received from the Government. To be well received by the different official personages throughout the country, to have it seen that they were not pointed at with the finger of scorn, was so essential to the success of missionary enterprize that, as the House might well suppose, the missionaries would be the last to point out evils of administration which occurred under the government of their friends and hosts. So also with the indigo planters. There were not more than 312 of them located in India; they had been there for many years; they lived under the direct protection of the East India Company, and from 1813, when, having joined in the struggle against the East Indian trade monopoly they were reminded by Mr. Grant, the Chairman of that day, that they were in the enjoyment of certain remunerative monopolies of their own, down to the present day they had never once lifted their voice in favour of improvement in the administration of Indian affairs. At last, however, they had opened their mouths, and they confirmed every statement in the petition of the missionaries. They said that the police, instead of giving security, were the terror of the people and the instruments of cruelty and oppression; and that the district courts and magistrates were so inefficient that they were obliged to protect themselves and adopt a system of club law to maintain their rights and possessions. The House would remember that upon a former occasion he presented a petition from the wealthiest, most intelligent, and most influential native inhabitants of Calcutta, who stated that the Company's Courts were most unsatisfactory, the Judges being remarkable for their ignorance and want of legal training. But their evidence presented no new picture to those acquainted with India. During the inquiry which took place in 1853 competent witnesses were examined as to the administration of justice in that country, and their statements clearly proved that the native inhabitants were entirely satisfied with the Queen's courts. It was said that their proceedings, like those of English courts generally, were expensive; 1616 but he knew that the Court of Directors bad exercised their influence to prevent the Judges of those courts diminishing the cost of proceedings. He and his colleague, Sir Lawrence Peel, had tried to reduce those expenses at Calcutta, but they bad been thwarted in their attempts by the Company. The evidence given before the Committee with respect to the Queen's Courts in India was extremely favourable, but the evidence given as to the operation of the Company's Courts was quite the reverse, and showed that the Judges were incompetent, from want of legal training. When he stated before the House of Lords that young civilians of twenty two years of age heard appeals from the decisions of native Judges of double their age and experience he was not believed. The great complaint in Bombay was against boy Judges without legal knowledge or training, unchecked by the Bar or the public press, sitting on appeals and disposing of the rights of Native subjects. In Bengal, the defects in the judicial system were quite as great but of a different character. They were not so young, but equally untrained in judicial duties, and equally inefficient. They were taken, after twenty years' service, from the revenue and political departments, and their previous career entirely incapacitated them for judicial duties. It was admitted in 1853, as it was admitted now, that some action was necessary for the improvement of the administration of justice; but no improvement had taken place. It was admitted by Mr. Halliday himself that matters had even deteriorated since that period, He saw last year an account in an Indian newspaper of a gentleman, Mr. Raikes, being appointed to the Supreme Court of Agra, and yet he had never before been in the judicial service. Another appointment, that of Mr. Brown, was still more startling. That gentleman had been turned out by the Bengal Government from the office of Commissioner in the district where the Santhal insurrection took place. The despatch reinstating him was published in the Indian paper, and the writer of the despatch, Mr. Halliday, said, "he caused a letter to be written to Mr. Raikes, in which he recapitulated to him the occasions in which he had incurred censure on account of the exaggerated views he took of the danger, and the disturbed state of his mind." But the Bengal Government said, "He'll do to make a Judge of—he is not equal to any higher duty than that 1617 of a zillah Judge," which was equal to a judge of circuit in this country. Now could the House wonder, if such was the stuff their Indian Judges were made of, they should have missionaries and indigo planters loading the table of the House with petitions about such appointments. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control that the time for action was come. So thought the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in 1853, but his views had not been correctly described by the right hon. Gentleman. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, when he introduced the measure for the reform of the Indian Government, admitted the necessity of a complete reform, and intimated an intention to amalgamate the Company's and Queen's Courts—in other words, to place them under the authority of men trained in the law. But it was necessary that a code of procedure should first he drawn up; and in that task the Government were assisted by some of the most eminent men in this country, including the late Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the Master of the Rolls, and Sir E. Ryan. After patient and arduous exertion, they drew up the most simple and complete mode of procedure which, perhaps, the world had ever seen. He did not agree in all its details. One of its principles he entirely dissented from, namely, that which proposed to place the Judges of India under the control of the Governor General. The experience of a century had proved that the independence of the judicial bench of the Government of India was the main cause of the Judges possessing the confidence of the people. With that exception, he approved of all the propositions of the Commissioners. The present head of the Board of Control, instead of adopting that code, said he thought it best to refer to India for a Report; but it appeared that the right hon. Gentleman had referred to India, not for a Report, but for legislation. With great deference, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had committed a grave constitutional error in delegating to an inferior body, composed almost entirely of officials, a duty which it was the peculiar province of the Imperial Parliament to perform. Besides the fact that this small body could not for a moment be put in competition with the great legal authorities whose names he had mentioned, they were the very civilians in India against whom objection was made, 1618 and it could not be expected they would pass a self-denying ordinance, saying, "We are unfit, therefore turn us out." To prepare a code, the Commissioners were perfectly competent; but another duty which they could not perform was equally imperative on the Government, namely, to make a complete change in the class from which the judges were chosen. He was glad to observe the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leominster (Mr. J. P. Willoughby) in his place, and he could tell what line of argument the hon. Member would likely adopt if he addressed the House on this subject. The hon. Member would probably say that if English lawyers were to be sent to India to fill judicial offices, a great mischief would be done. That had been the cry of the Civil Service of India for years—indeed, ever since the Queen's Courts had been established. But he (Sir E. Perry) contended that they were not admissible witnesses on the question, because they spoke in their own case. The people entitled to speak and to be heard on that question were the Natives of India, who smarted under the one and profited by the other. He would make one remark before he concluded, and he thought it was a very pertinent one. It was that the House ought never to forget, in all their considerations as to the Government of India, the very few points of contact which existed between the Indian and the European races, and that there were prejudices on both sides which kept them asunder. There was only one field on which they could meet on a footing of perfect equality, and on which Europeans could be always benefactors to the Natives of India without the display of any arrogant superiority, and that was the field of justice. Before the majesty of the law there was, or ought to be, no respect of persons, and he was satisfied that the greatest boon which could be conferred by Parliament on the people of India would be the establishment of a system of judicature in which the Judges should be trained lawyers and experienced men.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, I will not long stand in the way of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), who wishes, no doubt, to express the sentiments of the Court of Directors on the subject under consideration. I must express my satisfaction that the discussion has proceeded. I think it would have been a great misfortune if the very 1619 able statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird), founded, as it was, on documents so much entitled to respect, had been allowed to go forth to the world, with the accompanying announcement, that not forty Members were present in the House to give the subject their consideration. I cannot but consider the question in itself as one of the greatest importance; but I entirely concur in the argument of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control against the expediency of further inquiry. I believe, in common with my right hon. Friend, that the appointment of a Commission in reference to a subject so extensive, and involving so completely all the ordinary duties of a Government, would amount to a practical supercession of the executive in what might fairly be considered their own special functions. But, above all, I agree with my right hon. Friend that inquiry in this case has already, as stated by Mr. Halliday, been pushed to the utmost possible extent, and that the time has come, not for investigation, but for action. Mr. Halliday goes on to state that the only effect of inquiry will be to retard the application of those remedies which the existing state of things requires. While I agree with my right hon. Friend in that respect, I must also agree that it is not expedient for the House at the present moment, and in the present state of the House, to assent to a Resolution so broadly condemning the Government of India, and declaring that it does not secure to the population the advantages of good government. While I think there are serious faults in that government, I cannot say that a remedy would be secured by the adoption of so broad a Resolution. What, then, is the course to be adopted, which, as far as I can judge, the Government of India is not disinclined to adopt, although that is a point on which the House has not received that sufficient assurance from the President of the Board of Control which I could have desired. The evils are unquestionably of the greatest magnitude. Mr. Halliday, in a Minute which is not before the House, but, at the same time, to a great degree, a Minute which is upon the table, states, in the first place, that the police is defective to such an extent that the persons composing it are in a greater proportion criminals, and criminals guilty of some of the worst offences against society, than the rest of the inhabitants; and the 1620 result is that if a man does get this so-called protection of the police he becomes afterwards a marked object of revenge, and, instead of obtaining redress from injury, he is exposed to further injury by the very process to which he had recourse to procure redress. It was further stated, and not contradicted, that the people were willing to pay for the advantage of being relieved from the presence of the police. That is a very great evil with regard to the police. In the next place, Mr. Halliday states that the courts of justice are insufficient, and that, far from having been improved of late years, the time during which the Judges have received instruction, and have had some sort of probation, is a much smaller number of years than heretofore, and that from the great extent of territory over which each Judge is appointed there is no sufficient administration of justice. Now, these facts almost justified the Resolutions of his hon. Friend, since there is nothing more important to a people than to be protected in their lives and property, and there is no greater object in which a Government can be interested. A man cannot when his property is taken away from him or when his person suffers from injury obtain redress if there is no court which can afford him that redress. These, however, are matters which do not necessitate inquiry, but, according to Mr. Halliday, they admit of remedies which may in no very long time be applied; and with regard to the first evil—the police—the remedy seems to be to find persons more trustworthy, to give them higher salaries, and, by showing that their position shall be such that they will lose that salary by misconduct, they will have great inducements to good conduct and the regular performance of their duties. But, then, that which seems so simple a remedy, and one which we should probably adopt if the subject for the application of it was in London and not at Bengal, is objected to on the ground of imposing additional burdens on the finances. There is no subject on which the Government ought to be more cautious than that of increasing the burdens on the finances of India; but then this is an object so vital and important in itself that I cannot conceive that any man would say we cannot carry on the Government and cannot protect life and property, because we have not the means of doing it. Economy and retrenchment are very necessary in many things, but eco- 1621 nomy and retrenchment may be carried to the point of refusing justice, and of not affording protection to life and property; and a Government which refuses justice and protection by a proper police ventures upon a retrenchment which defeats its own object by impoverishing the subjects. Then comes Mr. Dorin, and he, differing from Mr. Halliday, says it is a law of nature, in such a population as this, that there should be nothing but tyrants and slaves; and he seems very tranquilly to make up his mind that there are tyrants and slaves in that community, and that tyrants and slaves there must ever be. I should say, no doubt, that the timid and unwarlike character of the population has been the great means by which we have been enabled to conquer that country, and establish over it the government of Great Britain, and that we have no right after that to turn round on them and reproach them with their timidity, and say, we do not mean to give you that full protection which is necessary and desirable. I cannot but hope, therefore, that the Government—willing as I believe they are to remedy these grievances, and agreeing as they probably will with the views expressed by Mr. Halliday—will not be induced by any financial considerations to hesitate to apply what seems a practical remedy. The question with regard to courts of justice appears to me to be attended with much greater difficulty. Young men, who are not even barristers of three years' standing, but who have been placed for three years under a particular course of education are placed in a very important position as Judges; and my hon. Friend who spoke last stated that he had frequently heard of instances in which talented men, possessing high qualifications, had been placed in the revenue departments, while the least qualified men received appointments in the department of justice. That may be so, but the most distinguished of the Governors of India have always been of opinion that the departments of revenue—involving, as it does, many considerations of justice, and to a great extent the good treatment of the people—is one which ought to be supplied with the best qualified servants who can be obtained. If that is the case, however, it is necessary to provide some means of supplying the deficiency with regard to men who are qualified to occupy the position of Judges. It has been proposed by some persons that the revenue 1622 and judicial offices should be combined. Another proposition, made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Davenport (Sir E. Perry), is, that Englishmen who possess a competent knowledge of the law should be sent out at once to fill the office of Judges in India. Another suggestion is, I believe, that there should be a considerable increase in the number of Judges. The evil is one of such magnitude that I think the Government ought to consider at once which of these various propositions would best tend to the satisfactory administration of justice in Bengal. I will not venture an opinion as to which of the suggestions it is most advisable to adopt. Undoubtedly, if you had a sufficient supply of men who to the other necessary qualifications, added a knowledge of the language of the people in the particular districts in which they were to administer justice, they would be far superior to the men who are generally sent out from England without that qualification; but if such a supply does not exist, and cannot be created for a number of years, I think the proposition of the hon. Member for Devonport is well worthy of consideration. If any other more efficient plan can be suggested, let the Government adopt it. The wrong is one which requires a remedy; that remedy is not so simple and easy as in the case of police; but I think the Government and the Court of Directors are bound to give their immediate attention to the subject. I cannot doubt that they will do so, and I am satisfied that when Mr. Halliday's Minute is received here, accompanied by the opinions of the Governor General and the Members of the Council, the question will be taken into immediate consideration. Upon the whole, I rejoice that my hon. Friend (Mr. Kinnaird) has brought this subject before the House, although I do not think the two Resolutions which he proposes will effect the object he wishes to attain. After the speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control and from what I know of the disposition of the Court of Directors, I do not believe there will be any unwillingness on their part to adopt the remedial measures which are necessary. Undoubtedly, with regard to India, and perhaps in the case of this country, we are slow in making requisite changes. One member of the Council of India—Mr. Grant, I believe—says he has known many good plans considered and afterwards thrown aside, owing 1623 to the desire to attain perfection. I think Mr. Grant is very right in saying that the better course would be to improve the system as far as you can at once, and to trust to the possibility of effecting further improvements by degrees. I certainly am not willing to vote for the Resolutions now before the House, but I trust the Chairman of the Court of Directors will add his assurance to that which we have received from the President of the Board of Control, that they regard this subject as one of paramount importance, and that, however strongly they may be disposed to introduce economy into other branches of the service, they will not deal with the department to which this discussion has referred in any parsimonious spirit; and turning to the Government, I would express a hope that they would be a little less prone to enter into quarrels with neighbouring powers, for I would rather that retrenchment and economy should be displayed in any other manner than in witholding from the people of India that justice to which, on every consideration of the duties we have undertaken, and the Acts of Parliament we have passed, they are fully entitled.
said, he hoped the House would extend to him its indulgence while he attempted to offer to it some explanation in reference to the observations which had fallen from the hon. Members by whom he had been preceded. He should, in the first place, state, in answer to an appeal made to him by the noble Lord, that he would willingly venture, on behalf of the Court of Directors, to give to the noble Lord and to the House the pledge which he asked,—that no considerations of economy should stand in the way of their affording to the people of Bengal—the presidency which was especially the subject of consideration—the best judicial and police systems which could be devised. He regretted that the hon. Member for Perth, who was not then in his place, had not been candid enough to refer to a despatch from the Court of Directors to the Governor General with reference to the police system in Bengal, which had been written before Mr. Halliday's Minute reached this country, and before it was known that the subject was under the consideration of the Indian Government. That despatch showed the answers of the Court of Directors in the matter of police reform. It stated that "the majority of the principal officers of the native police 1624 are much underpaid, in relation not merely to the importance of their functions, but even to the necessary expenses of their employment in the public service and of their social position," and added that their salaries must be placed upon such a footing as would "render the tenure of their respective situations an advantage not to be lightly risked for the sake either of factitious and temporary credit with their superiors or of illicit gain," He entertained the most unaffected respect for the whole body of missionaries in India, and especially for some of those gentlemen who had signed the petition, among whom was the Rev. Dr. Duff, a Christian minister of the greatest worth, and whose opinions were well entitled to consideration; but at the same time he must say he thought they had acted with singular want of judgment in this matter. He would tell the House why he entertained this opinion. He believed that for very many years to come the greatest difficulty of the Indian Government would be to hold the balance evenly and secure the safety of all classes while the great experiment of the attempt to convert the people to Christianity by the means of Missionary efforts was in progress. It might be presumptuous on the part of any man to attempt to define the designs of Providence, but he had no doubt whatever in his own mind that Providence had been pleased to place the magnificent Empire of India in our hands in order that in due time we might be the instruments of converting the inhabitants to Christianity. Mr. Macaulay had said in one of his able essays, that for a man to desire the propagation of Christianity in India it was not even necessary that he should be a Christian, it was sufficient that he should not be much below the ordinary level of European good sense and benevolence. In that opinion he entirely concurred, and he believed that the combined effects of good government, good education, and the labours of those excellent men to whom reference had been made, would be the gradual diffusion of Christianity. The great difficulty which the Government of India would have to contend with would be to keep the different classes of society from destroying each other while the great moral struggle was going on. No doubt, in the course of that struggle scenes of violence, such as those recorded in the Acts of the Apostles as having occurred upon the introduction of Christianity into the Roman empire, would 1625 take place, and he was sorry to be obliged to say that the line of conduct which the missionaries had taken up in placing themselves in a position of hostility towards the land-owners of Bengal, thereby enlisting against themselves the strongest secular feelings—the love of power and the love of money—as well as religious prejudices, had tended greatly to increase the difficulties of the Government. The House, must not suppose that this petition to the Government of Bengal was the first act of the drama. No; the petition was only the consequence of antecedent events. For a long period a most angry contreversy had been going on in the news papers, pamphlets, and magazines between the missionary body and the zemindars and planters. He believed that the Hindoo religion was a most tolerant religion, and the people always entertained a real respect for any one whom they believed to be a devout man, whatever creed he might profess, and who preached to them what he believed to be the truth. As long as missionaries were content to do that alone, and to preach the gospel without being in any way connected with the Government, they would always have a fair field open for their labours. That such was the case was proved by the Scotch mission, whose schools in Calcutta, Chinsurah, and other places were the best in India, and always the fullest of pupils, even of the highest castes; and in them not only was the Bible read, but the whole doctrine of Christianity was propounded. He deeply regretted, both for the sake of the missionaries themselves and the cause which they advocated, that they had placed themselves in the position of having taken up a political line. The best friends of missions were now, he believed, of opinion that the Government ought to hold itself altogether aloof from the work of conversion, and leave that great, work to the unaided efforts of the missionaries. And the converse of that position was equally true. The missionaries ought carefully to abstain from meddling with politics. Nothing was more dangerous than any interference with the religion of the people on the part of the Government. The unhappy spirit of disaffection which had manifested itself in certain regiments was, no doubt, based upon an ill-founded opinion that the Government had some intention of interfering with their religion. And, looking to those recent occurrences, he would venture humbly to suggest to the 1626 hon. Member for Perth that the present was a most inopportune moment, having regard to the missionaries themselves, for bringing forward such a motion. Primâ facie, no doubt, it wore very bad appearance that Bengal, which was the oldest province in the hands of the British, should at that moment be in the worst condition, as regarded its internal administration, of all our Indian provinces. He admitted it was so; nevertheless, he could assure the House that great pains had been taken to produce a different state of things. It was necessary, however, to consider the causes which had led to such a state of things. The first cause was the rashness with which Lord Cornwallis, in spite of the remonstrances of Sir J. Shore, made a permanent settlement. He had an idea that the creation of a large class of landowners would remove all the evils under which the country laboured. He unfortunately, though warned against it, handed over the ryots to the mercy of the zemindars without the protection and without the recognition of their rights. The second reason was, that during long centuries of tyranny and oppression to which the Bengalese had been subjected, at the hands of one conqueror after another, all village institutions had fallen into disuse, and all village organization had been destroyed. The third was the unsuitableness of their judicial institutions, as introduced by Lord Cornwallis, to the peculiar feelings and prejudices of an Asiatic people. The people of Asia required to be governed by a ruler in whom all power, judicial and political, should be concentrated. They could not understand a complex system of checks and counterchecks. But the fourth, and most potent reason of all (and in this he was ready to support the opinion of Mr. Dorin), was the natural timidity, the utter want of energy and courage which characterized the Bengalese. A people who have not the spirit to maintain their own rights, and were content to submit, to oppression from any one who chose to tyrannize over them, presented the greatest difficulties to good government. Mr. Marshman, who knew Bengal better, perhaps, than any man, described the task of governing the Bengalese as carving in rotten wood. You could not trust your instruments for a moment. The submissiveness of the people was a temptation for every person placed in authority over them to abuse his power, and, though you might remove one for 1627 doing so, his successor would be certain almost immediately to follow in the same course. Mr. Macaulay had described the inhabitants of Bengal as the most enervated race in India, and expressed a doubt if there were 100 genuine Bengalese in the whole Indian army. He (Mr. Mangles) doubted if there was a single one. Why, he did not believe that a robber had been resisted by a Bengalese from the commencement of history down to the present day. The whole population was prostrate with fear, and the East India Company would no more think of enlisting a Bengalese into their army than they would think of taking a monkey to make a soldier of. Such, then, was the material on which the Government of Bengal had to work, and he would appeal to the candour of the House whether they thought it an easy task to give good government to such a people? He had been that day in company with Sir F. Currie, who was secretary to Lord Hardinge during the expedition to the Punjab, and he told him that when the army was approaching the Sutlej and a battle was expected, the clerks who were attending the army—and who in common with most of the writers and clerks in the English service in India were Bengalese—sent a round robin to the Governor General entreating permission to go to the rear, and that they began their memorial with these words:—"It is well known to your Excellency's Lordship that the Bengalese are a cowardly people." He believed that the Bengalese were the only people, either in ancient or modern times, who would have admitted that cowardice was their national characteristic. Let him not, however, in making these remarks, be misunderstood. Notwithstanding the want of energy by which the Bengalese were characterized, it was our duty, he was ready to admit, to give them the best government in our power. But he did not look upon it only in the light of a bare duty; it ought to be a true gratification to provide for them the best scheme for the administration of justice, as well as the best system of police which it was possible to devise. And he could say that the earnest and anxious efforts of the Court of Directors were directed to the amelioration of the condition of India, and the extension among the people of that country of the blessings of civilization. Many improvements they had already introduced, and their attention was now turned to the redress of those evils 1628 that still remained. It had been admitted that something had been done towards the establishment of a better system of administering justice, and of reforming the police, and their best endeavours would continue to be directed to the introduction of similar measures of social progress. One word as to Mr. Halliday. No man was better acquainted with the Bengalese than that gentleman. He spoke their language like a Native, and knew the people, and was not a man, as the hon. and learned Member (Sir E. Perry) supposed, who was above going into the fields and conversing with the ryots while they were ploughing the ground. Mr. Grant, too, was one of the ablest Englishmen that adorned the civil service of India, but his hon. Friend, when quoting Mr. Halliday and Mr. Grant, ought to have quoted them fairly, and not confined himself to that which was in his favour, omitting everything that told against his own arguments, as showing what the Government had done and was doing for the amelioration of the condition of the people. He was astonished to hear his hon. Friend say that the missionaries were the only mouthpieces of the Indian people. When Mr. Halliday represented their grievances, as it had been shown that he had done by the hon. Gentleman himself, was he not one of their mouthpieces, and was not Mr. Grant, when he appealed to the Government at home to extend good government to them, was he not one of their mouthpieces? He would now address himself to the remarks of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir E. Perry) who said that the officials in India were not conversant with the native languages, as they were spoken. He would state what the Government of India had done in order to make sure that their officers should acquire the power of speaking the native languages. The young civilians who were to be employed in the service were taught the languages at college, which, of course, was not sufficient; but after they had entered on their appointments they had to go through two several examinations in the languages as spoken by the natives; and, at the last of these, as a test, they were given a report, written in that most illegible of hand-writing, the running hand of an Indian native, by a native policeman, which they were required to read, having then seen it for the first time, and to write a suitable order upon in the language as spoken by the Na- 1629 tives. A better test than that could not be applied to the colloquial knowledge of a language. His hon. and learned Friend had praised the administration of justice in India in the Supreme Courts by English Judges. In reply, he would read Mr. Macaulay's opinion on that question. [The hon. Gentleman then read an extract from a Minute of Mr. Macaulay, recorded in Calcutta in which he designated those courts as being utterly inefficient as a means of administering justice, because they were inaccessible, the expenses of judicial proceedings being five times as great as in England; and with respect to the officers connected with those courts he stated that in a short time they made larger fortunes than any of the civil servants could realise after thirty or forty years]. Mr. Macaulay spoke principally of Bengal, but added that the Supreme Court of Madras had fulfilled its mission; it had done its work so well as to be at a standstill, on account of all the suitors having been ruined—(fortunately for his hon. and learned Friend, Mr. Macaulay did not go so far as Bombay)—and he characterized these courts as the worst, and most full of abuses in the world. That was a description of the courts which his hon. and learned Friend wished to extend, and which he called the best in the world. [Sir E. PERRY: The Natives told me so]. Of course the Natives would tell his hon. and learned Friend so, and no doubt they also told him that he was the best judge in the world. His hon. and learned Friend had spoken of the collectors of the revenue. He begged to assure him that the functions of revenue collectors in India were not like those of a collector of assessed taxes in this country, but were in a very great measure judicial. Not only all suits for the recovery of rent, and complaints, on the other hand, of undue exaction of rent, but boundary disputes and other questions of great intricacy were frequently brought before them. In the case of the Commissioner, Mr. Brown, who had been referred to by his hon. and learned Friend for Devonport, the Government thought he had not shown sufficient presence of mind at the breaking out of the Santhal insurrection, and had consequently displaced him, but he would do him the justice to say that he thought he had been very hardly dealt with, since he had been for thirty years in the service of the Government and had shown an excellent judgment throughout his previous career, and was fully qualified for the office of a Judge, 1630 to which he had not, indeed, been appointed, but which had been offered to him. His hon. and learned Friend's infallible nostrum for the improvement of the Indian Courts seemed to be to send out a number of full-fledged barristers from this country, utterly ignorant of the language, the people, and the religion of the country, to sit upon the judgment-seat and administer justice. But with all deference to his hon. and learned Friend, there were some qualifications required for a Judge in India besides a knowledge of English law, and it was just possible for a man to acquire a sound knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence without having studied at the English bar. Sir Thomas Munro and other persons, well qualified to come to sound conclusions, were of opinion that a man was not fit to sit as a Judge in India unless he had passed through the offices of collector, knew the institutions of the people, had made settlements, bad studied the system of landed tenures, and was conversant with the manners, customs and religion of the country. The Directors were considering by what means they could improve the qualifications of the Judges, but he deprecated the system of sending grown men to India. It had been the salvation of our Indian empire that the system adopted by the Company had been not to send out grown men to India, but youths who entered their service as apprentices with the view of becoming for life the servants of the Company. It was said that when a zemindar got a remission of taxation, he did not make any corresponding remission to the ryot. But a remission of taxation by the Government in the permanently settled provinces was one of the most unfrequent things in the world, and only look place when there was an irruption of the sea, or of some tidal river, or when a famine or some other overwhelming calamity visited the country, and then the Government adopted the strictest measures to enable the ryots to participate in that remission. He would answer for it that the Court of Directors, with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control would do, and were doing, all that they could to reform the existing evils, and he felt confident that in the course of twenty years, by which time the railroads and other great measures would have come into operation, the progress of India would be a marvel to the world, and something without example in history.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, that when he was 1631 in India with Lord Frederick Fitzelarence he had an opportunity of seeing the way in which the Native army was conducted, and he became acquainted with the causes which produced mutinies among the Sepoys. Those mutinies, in his opinion, were in some degree referable to the withdrawal of European officers from native regiments to perform civil functions. Even when these regiments had their full complement of officers there were only one colonel, one major, seven captains, eleven lieutenants, and five ensigns, to a regiment of 1,000 men. There being only seven captains, five lieutenants were charged with the duties of captains, leaving only six lieutenants and five ensigns, or hall a lieutenant and half an ensign per company, to do regimental duty. From these numbers of officers must be deducted those who were employed in civil duties, and those who were on sick leave, or on furlough, which latter were in a much larger proportion than in an European climate. He had not mentioned the native officers, because he did not think they were of much value. They were promoted from the ranks by seniority, and, being frequently sixty or seventy years of age, were of about as much use as a superannuated Chelsea pensioner would be in a regiment of the line. It was true that in the Bombay army this state of things had been altered, and the native officers were now not appointed entirely by seniority.
§ MR. A. MILLS
hoped that the hon. Member (Mr. Kinnaird), would be satisfied with this discussion, and would not press his Motion to a division. If he did so he should, after hearing the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control and of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), vote against it. Lord Canning, in a Minute dated October 6, 1856, thus characterised the question raised by the memorial of the missionaries—A wide and vague field of inquiry, inviting discussion and difference upon such subjects as rents, wages, fixity of tenure, and the relations of poor and rich; class made to testify openly against class; the weaker remanded when their task is done to the vindictiveness of the stronger, against which no interposition could effectually protect them; wild and extravagant expectations of immediate advantage raised in the minds of a whole people only to be disappointed; the examination of the share which the memorialists had in causing the social evils which they deplore, and the investigation of those delicate and dangerous questions confided to persons whose responsibility would cease with the inquiry. With every sincere respect and admiration for the character of the body from which this memorial proceeds, I can- 1632 not think that the advice which they have tendered to the Government of India is, in this instance, well judged, or that to adopt it would advance the end at which we all aim—the moral and social improvement of the Indian people.After such an expression of opinion, the House of Commons could not grant this inquiry without passing a vote of censure on the Governor General. At the same time he should be very sorry, and he thought it would be a matter of deep regret to all who were interested in the civilization and Christianization of India, that any proposition should be rejected on the supposed ground that it was promoted by the supporters of Christian missions in that country.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the hon. Member for Perth, carried away by feelings of religion, had adopted a course the most embarrassing with reference to the subject before the House. It was hardly possible to suggest a more inconvenient proceeding than to ask the House to come to a decision at the request of the missionaries of Bengal. Nothing was more likely to be injurious in the eyes of the Natives of India than a Resolution based on statements such as were contained in that petition, which prayed for inquiry on the ground of the ignorance and idolatry of the Natives, in order, as alleged in the petition, to promote the spread of Christianity in India. No one would be more pleased than himself to see every native of India embrace the Christian faith; but no one circumstance, at the present moment, tended more to retard the progress of Christianity in India than the disposition manifested by those engaged in its ministration, to intermeddle in political affairs. This petition was an evidence that these missionaries sought to add to the weight which they ought to derive from their spiritual office alone, the influence which sprang from secular power. On that ground he should feel it his duty to meet the hon. Gentleman's Motion by moving the previous question. No doubt the Resolutions stated facts to which no man could offer an unqualified denial. Nobody would dispute that numerous evils marked the system of administration in India; but, from what had fallen from the President of the Board of Control, the Government would appear to have become conscious of the existence of those evils, and to be taking measures for their redress. The defects requiring correction were not only those which lay upon the surface, but they were interwoven with the very basis of our power. If the 1633 natives of India were like any nation of Europeans, they could not be kept under the rule of some 30,000 or 40,000 Englishmen. The population of Bengal were a peculiar people, even in India, and incapable of either governing or taking care of themselves under any system of administration. The affairs of India turned upon an infinite mass of minute and complicated details, and could not be summarily dealt with upon any one general principle. The more he examined the complex machinery of the Indian Executive, the more he was overwhelmed with the difficulties which surrounded every step that could be taken for its improvement. The most perplexed question in English affairs was simplicity itself compared with the entangled web of Indian administration. In dealing with India we had to regard the interests, not of tribes of savages, or a race unaccustomed to any forms of law or government, but of a civilized and most religious people—a people far more religious, in fact, though mistaken in their creed, than Englishmen themselves. They had a venerable system of law which they respected, and manners and institutions which were ancient when the kingdom of England had no existence. It was a remark of Montesquieu that no tyranny could be worse than that which undertook to legislate for a people without regard to their customs, usages, feelings, and even their prejudices. We could not deal off-hand, according to some new idea of our own, with the various races of Hindostan. They had been referred to the opinions of Mr. Halliday, a high authority, and a man of superior intelligence; but when they examined his views, they would be found to resemble closely those expressed by Lord Dalhousie at the end of his Government; and, therefore, after much experience of Indian affairs, the remedy of Mr. Halliday was to sweep away the whole system of the Mofussil, or provincial administration, and to supplant it by a system more in keeping with Oriental notions. This plan proceeded on the consideration that the Asiatic did not understand the minute subdivision of our European polity; he could not comprehend why there should be more than one judge; and when he went before a judicial functionary, (whom he usually designated as "a father") whatever might be the nature of his grievance, whatever the position of his adversary, he expected that he would be capable of rendering him 1634 justice. He (Mr. Ayrton) might not entirely subscribe to these views, but they indicated what large questions had yet to be solved, and how much lay behind the subject which the hon. Member had only touched upon. The land tenure of Bengal was different from that of the rest of India. It was based on a fatal error—that of a permanent settlement, and a fixed payment from a given locality; but the same error had been almost simultaneously committed by the Government and Parliament of England in regard to the adjustment of the land tax under Mr. Pitt. The table of the House was covered with petitions from both natives and Europeans in all the three Presidencies, relative to the administration of justice, and if that question were remitted to the Legislative Council of India, without allowing the Imperial Parliament an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon it, the greatest dissatisfaction would be produced. He hoped that, when the President of the Board of Control should have determined on the course which he intended to pursue with regard to India, he would submit his scheme to the House, as well as all the documents bearing on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Legislature could reverse or alter any scheme which he might set up in India without their concurrence, if it should be found to work mischievously; but it was idle to say that, after expensive establishments had been set up in India to carry the new system into operation, Parliament could rescind or reform the laws by which the change had been effected. Partial discussion like the present would be unnecessary if the right hon. Gentleman would give a distinct assurance that, in the forthcoming recess, he would apply himself to the preparation of a scheme likely to meet the complaints of the, discontented in India; but, whatever improvements might be introduced into the system of government in India, he believed that no satisfactory result could be arrived at until there was also some improvement in the system of government in this country with reference to India. The time had come when that unintelligible absurdity—the East India Company—should be put an end to, and when the name of the Queen should be made to appear in the Government of India, for the people of that country were essentially loyal, and had for ages been accustomed to sovereign power. An opportunity should now be afforded them of manifesting their 1635 sense of loyalty to the Sovereign of the British Empire.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
After the appeal made to me by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, it is not my intention to divide the House. I do not think that I ought to put the House to the trouble of a division after the explicit statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control and the Chairman of the East India Company, and the assurances that have been given that attempts will be made to remove these grievances as speedily as possible. I do not, however, regret that I brought forward this Motion, because it has led to a very valuable discussion.
§ MR. HADFIELD
objected to the withdrawal of the Motion. The question was of far too great importance to be dealt with in that summary manner. He hoped that it would be adjourned with the view of being brought on again in conjunction with the intended Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport with respect to the financial affairs of India. The debate had taken a very extraordinary turn. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Kinnaird) had taken upon himself to say that the Motion ought not to be pressed, without having had the slightest consultation with those hon. Members who had been attending the debate all night, and who supported him in that critical moment when, but for their presence, the House would have been counted out, but who would now have no opportunity of recording their votes on the subject. The President of the Board of Control had said that he felt no surprize at the thinness of the House during this discussion; but did not the right hon. Gentleman recollect that when his predecessor addressed the House three years ago with respect to the finances of India for two hours, there were no more than fourteen Members present to listen to his statement. But how happened it that on the present occasion the House was so thin? Where were those honourable and valuable servants of Her Majesty, the whips of the House? What were they doing? He asked that question in the presence of Her Majesty's Government. Were they not employed in thinning the House? Was it not a fact that they were at the door keeping Members out? Were they not employed in seducing Members out of the House? Except the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control there was not a Member of the 1636 Government on the Ministerial bench, and even he walked out of the House. [Mr. VERNON SMITH: That is not the fact.] An hon. Gentleman said he saw him walk out, but after the right hon. Gentleman's denial, of course he (Mr. Hadfield) could say no more; and now he begged to recall the attention of the House to the great seriousness of the question which was under consideration, being no less than that of the administration of justice in a country containing a sixth of the entire population of the world. It had not been and could not be denied that the people of India had been most unjustly treated by their rulers. All that the President of the Board of Control and the hon. Member for Guildford had said amounted to nothing more than a plea of guilty. When an offence was committed in India, the first object of suspicion was the policeman; and, as that was the sad way in which justice was administered there, he should insist on a division being taken on the Motion. The time for mere inquiry had passed, and now was the time for the House to insist on justice being done to the down-trodden people of India, who were the worst governed nation on earth. Fifty Christian missionaries concurred in describing the manner in which the people of India were governed to be so barbarous and corrupt, that the people's minds had become slaves to the most appalling fatalism. They cared for nothing but a mere miserable subsistence, and looked upon moral and social improvement as not destined for them. Attempts had been made to asperse the missionaries. Who were they? Fifty clergymen of all denominations—not of the Church only, but of the Kirk of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, and various other classes of Christians. It was not until 1818 that missionaries were allowed to enter India; and he (Mr. Hadfield) was surprized to hear them spoken of as they had been. The advocates of the Company were obliged to plead guilty to the charge of injustice to the people of India, and he thought that the opinion of the House in reference to these statements ought to be placed on record, and he should therefore object to the Motion being withdrawn without a division.
§ MR. LIDDELL
thought it would be unwise, looking to the impression which the Vote might produce in India to press for the division, which could not now be taken under favourable circumstances,—more particularly after the statements of 1637 the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control and the Chairman of the Board of Directors, that they were prepared to do all they could to carry out the views of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
maintained that, after the inflammatory speeches of the President of the Board of Control and the Chairman of the Court of Directors, admitting the whole case stated in the petition, no further harm could be done by a Vote of the House of Commons. Indeed it might be rather advantageous in urging the Government forward in the fulfilment of the promises which they had made. The hon. Member for Sheffield, however, had intimated to him that he did not mean to press for a division.
§ MR. PULLER
said that, however much he might agree in the statement of facts contained in the petition of the missionaries, he was not prepared immediately to adopt a course of action as recommended in the second Resolution, and he should therefore move the Previous Question, as the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had promised to do, but had not done. He thought that the House was greatly indebted to the missionaries of Bengal for having brought the condition of the population of that province before them in such clear and strong language, and he had been very much surprized to hear the President of the Board of Control speak of them as heated enthusiasts who had stepped out of their proper functions to interfere with the province of the Government. The missionaries having obtained no satisfactory answer from the Government of India had no alternative but to appeal to this House, and he thought they deserved the thanks of the House for what they had done. At the same time, after the pledges which had been given on the part of the Government, he thought the hon. Member for Perth had exercised a wise discretion in withdrawing his Motion. He hoped that a division would not be insisted on by any Member. [An hon. MEMBER said the Motion had been withdrawn.] Then, it would not be necessary for him to move the Previous Question.
§ On the Question being again put, that leave be given to withdraw the Motion, an hon. MEMBER called out "No."
observed, that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) seemed to cast some slur upon those hon. Members who had sat through the whole debate. He did not agree with the 1638 hon. Member in thinking that this Resolution ought not to be withdrawn. He thought that no advantage would arise from pressing the Resolutions to a division, and therefore he should move the Previous Question.
§ Whereupon Previous Question put, "That that Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 18; Noes 119: Majority 101.