HC Deb 14 March 1859 vol 153 cc146-60

said, he rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the destruction of the 26th Native Infantry at Ujnalla on the 1st of August, 1857, as detailed in a work entitled The Crisis in the Punjab, by Frederick Cooper, Esq., Deputy Commissioner of Umritzur. In calling their attention to the massacre of those unhappy men, he (Mr. Gilpin) believed that he was calling attention to almost the very blackest page in the emphatically black book of the Indian rebellion. He was as unwilling as any hon. Member to call in question the conduct of any absent man, or to pass a condemnation upon an individual who had not had an opportunity of speaking for himself; but in this case there would be, he believed, no dispute as to the facts, because he intended to confine his account of this terrible affair to the report which appeared in Mr. Cooper's own boob. He might say by way of preface that it was not now his intention to call in question the conduct of any of the Military authorities, or remarking on a Military execution. As a civilian he was about to call in question the acts of a civilian, as an Englishman he felt himself called upon to blush for the shame which had been brought upon the character of his country. He had just received a long letter, dated from the United Service Club, from a gentleman who appeared to think that he was going to find fault with the doings of the military in India; but he did not feel himself competent, and it was not his intention to undertake any task of the kind. In order that there might be no mistake he repeated that he would quote as briefly as he could from Mr. Cooper's own account, in order that he might not be accused of misrepresenting circumstances which he regarded as atrocious, but which Mr. Cooper justified, and not only justified, he had placed himself at the bar of public opinion, jauntily claiming for his acts the approbation of the public and the sacred sanction of the Highest. The regiment to whose annihilation he was calling attention had, according to Mr. Cooper, "served with great distinction at Arracan, Cabul, Moodkee, Ferozeshah, and Sobraon, and was disarmed at Lahore on May 1st. 1857." The men of this regiment were disarmed in the month of May, 1857. He did not find that they had previously been charged with any overt act of rebellion. The disarmament had taken place, as he understood, as a measure of precaution, and in the then state of India he had no complaint to make of such an act. They fled from their cantonments on the 21st of July, after having killed two of their officers. They had themselves, however, been first fired upon by the Sikhs levies. They were, as he understood, engaged at that time in cooking a meal; a storm of dust arose which darkened the light of the sun, and under these circumstances the Sikhs fired on the regiment amounting to upwards of 500 men. Two officers, one of them a Major Spencer, a man he believed of unusual humanity, and the other a sergeant-major, had rushed in among the Sepoys, who supposed they were in some way connected with the firing, and who then killed them. It was not wonderful that such a panic had arisen among the Sepoys; and Mr. Cooper mentioned in his book cases of panics having taken place among the English during the rebellion. The murderer of Major Spencer was well known. He (Mr. Gilpin) respectfully asked the attention of the House to that fact. Mr. Cooper gave his name, and stated that he was a fanatic. The regiment, consisting of 500, fled; they were first of all attacked by the Sikh villagers, who were, as it were, natural enemies of the Sepoys; and those villagers were further stimulated by the promise of large rewards for the bodies of the Sepoys, dead or alive. The result was that 150 of the fugitives were destroyed by the villagers, and the remainder of the body escaped across the river to an island, to which they were pursued by Mr. Cooper with a very inferior force. Under the impression, if not with the promise, of a fair trial, they gave themselves up without any resistance, as many as sixty-six stalwart Sepoys having allowed their hands to be tied by a single man. Without a trial of any kind 237 of them were shot by the direction of Mr. Cooper, forty-five were stifled, 41 were subsequently blown from guns; and thus within forty-eight hours 500 human beings, without any trial, were ruthlessly and mercilessly butchered. Those were the facts he had to lay before the House; and he believed he could prove that they had taken place from Mr. Cooper's own book. According to the narrative of that Gentleman: The 26th Native Infantry, stationed under surveillance at Meean Meer, was disarmed on the 13th of May last. Whether there had been any preconcerted scheme among the disarmed regiments for a general attempt to escape from their unpleasant position, is not known; though it has been generally understood that lots had actually been drawn, and that had the 26th succeeded in. any measure the 10th Grenadiers had engaged to follow in their wake. Some say that the noonday gun was to be the signal of a general rise. Society, on the 30th of July, was, however, shocked to hear of another foul murder of a commanding officer, Major Spencer, and the rise of the 26th regiment. Lieutenant Montague White narrowly escaped, he was enticed into the lines by some Sepoys, who affected sorrow at the murder, and was about to dismount, when a warning voice in his ear told him to beware. He galloped off; but not before some hand had aimed a felon stroke at him, and wounded his horse. The sergeant-major was also killed, and the regiment precipitately fled; a dust-storm (as was the case at Jullundur when the mutiny arose) raging at the time, favouring their immediate escape, and concealing its exact direction. They were not, however, unmolested; and it is feared that the ardour of the Sikh levies, in firing when the first outbreak occurred, precipitated the murders and frightened all, good, bad, or indifferently disposed, to flight, From subsequent statements, since taken down, it is concurrently admitted that a fanatic of the name of Prakash Singh, alias Prakash Pandy, rushed out of his but brandishing a sword, and bawling out to his comrades to rise and kill the Feringees, selected as his own victim the kind-hearted Major." … "Another panic arose at Anarkullee, and the thundering of cannon at Meean Meer into the then empty lines of the fugitives spread the utmost alarm. It was taken for granted that the fugitives must flee southwards, and accordingly Captain Blagrave proceeded with a strong party from Lahore to the Hurriki ghat (near to which Sobraon "was fought): and from Umritzur was detached in the same direction, a force (150 Punjab Infantry and some Tawana Horse) under Lieutenant Boswell, a rough and ready soldier, superior to all hardships. They had to march in a drenching rain, the country nearly Hooded. Sanguine hopes warmed their hearts amid the wretched weather. But, alas for their hopes! Intelligence reached the Deputy Commissioner that the mutineers had made almost due north; perhaps in hopes of getting to Cashmere, perhaps to try their luck, and by preconcerted plan to run the gauntlet of those districts in which Hindostanee regiments, some with arms, some without arms, still existed. Suffice it to say, that it was reported at midday, on the 31st of July, that they were trying to skirt the left bank of the Ravee, but had met with unexpected and determined opposition from the Tehseeldar, with a posse of police, aided by a swarm of sturdy villagers at a that twenty-six miles from the station. A rapid pursuit was at once organized. At four o'clock, when the district officer arrived with some eighty or ninety horsemen, he found a great struggle had taken place; the gore, the marks of the trampling of hundreds of feet, and the broken banks of the river, which, augmented with the late rains, was sweeping in a vast volume, all testified to it. Some 150 had been shot, mobbed back into the river and drowned inevitably, too weakened and famished as they must, have been after their forty miles' flight to battle with the flood. The main body had fled upwards and swum over on pieces of wood, or floated on to an island about a mile from the shore, where they might be descried crouching like a brood of wild fowl. It remained to capture this body, and, having done so, to execute condign punishment at once." …. "There were but two bouts, both ricketty, and the boatmen unskilled. The presence of a good number of Hindostanees among the sowars might lead to embarrassment and 'accidental' escapes. The point was first how to cross this large body to the main land, if they allowed themselves to be captured at all (after the model of the fox, the geese, and the peek of oats). This was not to be done under two or three trips, without leaving two-thirds of the mutineers on the island, under too scanty a protection, and able to escape, while the first batch was being conveyed to the main bank; nor also without launching the first batch, when they did arrive, into the jaws of the Hindostanee party, who in the first trip were to be left ostensibly 'to take care of the horses' on the main land. From the desperate conflict which had already taken place, a considerable struggle was anticipated before these plans could be brought into operation. The translation of the above fable to the aged Sikh Sirdar, who accompanied, and to the other heads of the pursuing party, caused intense mirth, and the plan of operations after this formula elicited general approval. So the boats put off with about thirty sowars (dismounted of course) in high spirits; most of the Hindostanee sowars being left on the bank. The boats straggled a little, but managed to reach the island in about twenty minutes. It was a long inhospitable patch, with tall grass; a. most undesirable place to bivouac on for the night, with a rising tide; especially if wet, dispirited, hungry, without food, fire, or dry clothing. The sun was setting in golden splendour, and as the doomed men with joined palms crowded down to the shore on the approach of the boats, one side of which bristled with about sixty muskets, besides sundry revolvers and pistols, their long shadows were flung far athwart the gleaming waters. In utter despair forty or fifty dashed into the stream and disappeared, rose at a distance, and were borne away into the increasing gloom. Some thirty or forty sowars with matchlocks (subsequently discovered to be of very precarious value) jumped into shallow water, and invested the lower side of the island, and being seen on the point of taking pot-shots at the heads of the swimmers, orders were given 'not to fire.' This accidental instruction produced an instantaneous effect on the mutineers. They evidently were possessed of a sudden and insane idea that they were going to be tried by court-martial, after some luxurious refreshment. In consequence of which sixty-six stalwart Sepoys submitted to be bound by a single man deputed for the purpose from the boats, and stacked liked slaves in a hold into one of the two boats emptied for the purpose. Leaving some forty armed sowars on the island, and feeling certain that after the peaceful submission of the first batch (or peck of oats) the rest would follow suit and suit, orders were given to push off. On reaching the shore, one by one, as they stepped out of the boats, all were tightly hound; their decorations and necklaces ignominiously cut off; and under a guard of a posse of villagers, who had begun to assemble, and some Sikh Horse, they were ordered to proceed slowly on their journey hack, six miles to the police-station at Ujnalla. Meanwhile the Hindostanees (the geese) had been despatched to the island back in the boats with an overawing number of Tawana sowars; and it was gratifying to see the next detachment put off safely; though at one time the escorting boat got at a great distance from the escorted, and fears were entertained that escape had been premeditated. However, by dint of hallowing, with threats of a volley of musketry, the next invoice came safely to land, and were subjected to the same process of spoliation, disrobement and pinioning. At any moment, had they made an attempt to escape, a bloody struggle must have ensued. But Providence ordered otherwise, and nothing on the side of the pursuing party seemed to go wrong. Some begged that their women and children might be spared, and were informed that the British Government did not condescend to war with women and children. The last batch having arrived, the long, straggling party were safely, but slowly, escorted back to the police-station, almost all the road being knee-deep in water. Even this accident, by making the ground so heavy—not to mention the gracious moon, which came out through the clouds and reflected herself in myriad pools and streams, as if to 1ight the prisoners to their fate—aided in preventing a single escape. It was near midnight before all were safely lodged in the police station. A driz- zling rain coming on prevented the commencement of the execution; so a rest until daybreak was announced. Before dawn another batch of sixty-six was brought in, and as the police station was then nearly full, they were ushered into a largo round tower or bastion. Previously to his departure with the pursuing party from Umritzur, the Deputy Commissioner had ordered out a large supply of rope, in case the numbers captured were law enough for hanging (trees being scarce), and also a reserve of fifty Sikh levies for a firing party, in case of the numbers demanding wholesale execution, as also to be of use as a reserve in case of a fight on the island. So eager were the Sikhs that they marched straight on end, and he met them half-way, twenty-three miles between the river and the police station, on his journey back in charge of the prisoners, the total number of which when the execution commenced amounted to 282 of all ranks, besides numbers of camp followers, who were left to be taken care of by the villagers. As fortune would have it, again favouring audacity, a deep dry well was discovered within 100 yards of the police station, and its presence furnished a convenient solution as to the one remaining difficulty which was of a sanitary consideration—the disposal of the corpses of the dishonoured soldiers. The climax of fortunate coincidences seemed to have arrived when it was remembered that the 1st of August was the anniversary of the great Mahomedan sacrificial festival of the Bukra Eed. A capital excuse was thus afforded to permit the Hindostanee Mussulman horsemen to return to celebrate it at Umritzur, while the single Christian, unembarrassed by their presence, and aided by the faithful Sikhs, might perform a ceremonial sacrifice of a different nature (and the nature of which they had not been made aware of) on the same morrow. When that morrow dawned sentries were placed round the town to prevent the egress of sightseers. The officials were called; and they were made aware of the character of the spectacle they were about to witness. Mr. Cooper, it would be observed, called himself "the single Christian." He (Mr. Gilpin) would ask the House to look at the representative of Christianity as described by himself. Mr. Cooper went on to sav.— Ten by ten the Sepoys were called forth. Their names having been taken down in succession, they were pinioned, linked together, and marched to execution; a firing party being in readiness. Every phase of deportment was manifested by the doomed men, after the sullen firing of volleys of distant musketry forced the conviction of inevitable death; astonishment, rage, frantic despair, the most stoic calmness. One detachment, as they passed, yelled to the solitary Anglo-Saxon magistrate, as he sat under the shade of the police station performing his solemn duty, with his Native officials around him, that he, the Christian, would meet the same fate; then, as they passed the reserve of young Sikh soldiery who were to relieve the executioners after a certain period, they danced, though pinioned, insulted the Sikh religion, and called on Gungajee to aid them; but they only in one instance provoked a reply, which was instantaneously checked. Others again petitioned to be allowed to make one last 'salaam' to the Sahib. About 150 having been thus executed, one of the executioners swooned away (he was the oldest of the firing party), and a little respite was allowed. Then proceeding, the number had arrived at 237, when the district officer was informed that the remainder refused to come out of the bastion, where they had been imprisoned temporarily a few hours before. Expecting a rush and resistance, preparations were made against escape; but little expectation was entertained of the real and awful fate which had fallen on the remainder of the mutineers; they had anticipated, by a few, short hours their doom. The doors were opened, and, behold! they were nearly all dead! Unconsciously, the tragedy of Holwell's Black hole had been re-enacted. No cries had been heard during the night, in consequence of the hubbub, tumult, and shouting of the crowds of horsemen, police, tehseel guards, and excited villagers. Forty-five bodies, dead from fright, exhaustion, fatigue, heat, and partial suffocation, were dragged into light, and consigned, in common with all other bodies, into one common pit, by the hands of the village sweepers. One Sepoy only was too much wounded in the conflict to suffer the agony of being taken to the scene of execution. He was accordingly reprieved for Queen's evidence, and forwarded to Lahore, with some forty-one subsequent captures, from Umritzur. There, in full parade before the other mutinously disposed regiments at Meean Meer, they all suffered death by being blown away from the cannon's mouth. The execution at Ujnalla commenced at daybreak, and the stern spectacle was over in a few hours. Thus, within, forty-eight hours from the date of the crime, there fell by the law nearly 500 men That was the statement he (Mr. Gilpin) had wished to bring before the House, and he thought it was one which would thrill the heart of every hon. Member who heard it. Be knew in the army the punishment for mutiny was death—a severe punishment, no doubt. He had spoken to not a few military men on the subject of this massacre—men who had seen a great amount of service, and whom he knew to be devoid of all cruelty, for the very reason that they were brave. One of them, a distinguished Polish officer, had written to him thus:— The execution of the 26th, as detailed by Mr. Cooper, is truly such a cannibal affair that I am relieved to find that it was not a military man who commanded the massacre. Such a deed would stain the escutcheon of any civilized army in the world with indelible disgrace. Taking the facts upon the perpetrator's own showing, the wholesale murder was wholly unnecessary, inhuman, and unjustifiable. I say this as a military man. There had been a recent war, in which rebellion and mutiny on the part of soldiers had occurred. In January, 1848, some soldiers in Hungary mutinied, cut their major to pieces, and threw his mutilated corpse to the dogs. After a trial a court-martial pardoned the men and ordered three officers to be shot. In the late war in Hungary, where the passions were inflamed to a terrible extent, and where as many atrocities were committed by the Austrians as had been committed by the Sepoys, a Wallachian regiment also broke out into passive mutiny. The regiment was brought to court-martial, who ordered them to be decimated, and one in ten to be shot. It was easy to see what Mr. Cooper would have done; he would have shot them all. When the decimation was about to be made, an officer arrived from the general, with a free pardon. These men remained brave and faithful throughout the war. Sir F. Currie, late Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors and now a member of the Council of India, spoke of this act as a "cruel massacre." He never heard of Mr. Cooper's name until his book was put into his hands. He now took his leave of him, recommending him before be left India to build a pyramid of human skulls in imitation of Tamerlane, and then, remembering his constant reference to Providence and his inclination to ascribe such events to Providence, he would no doubt inscribe upon the ghastly structure Non nobis Domine. He could not believe that the approval of Sir John Lawrence, as conveyed in the following letter, had been given to Mr. Cooper with a knowledge of all the facts of the case:— Lahore, August 2, 1857. My dear Cooper.—I congratulate you on your success against the 26th Native Infantry. You and your police acted with much energy and spirit, and deserve welt of the State. I trust the fate of these Sepoys will operate as a warning to others. Every effort should be exerted to glean up all who are yet at large. Roberts will, no doubt, leave the distribution of the rewards mainly to you. Pray sec that they are allotted with due regard to merit, and that every one gets what is intended for him. Yours sincerely, "JOHN LAWRENCE. Frederick Cooper, Esq., D.C., Umritzur. Another letter he had read with deep pain, for he felt that if a man who could write such a letter represented the British power in India, it ceased to be a matter of wonder that there should be a rebellion there. It was rather a subject of wonder that rebellion should ever abate. Mr. Robert Montgomery, Judicial Commissioner for the Punjab, wrote to Mr. Cooper as follows:— Sunday, 9 A.M. My dear Cooper,—All honour to you for what you have done, and right well you did it. There was no hesitation or delay, or drawing back. It will be a feather to your cap as long as you live. [It must be a bloody feather] Get out of the wounded man all you can and send him to Lahore, that he may himself proclaim what has been done. The people will not otherwise believe it. Better write an official report, and place the whole on record. Bring forward all persons who did well. Do this judiciously. I mean discriminate between the medium, the good, and the super-excellent. Primâ, facie, the Tehseeldar deserves apparently great praise. Were they baulked in getting the boats, and how? Had the Tehseel people knowledge that the 26th Native Infantry had broken our, or did they first ascertain it on seeing them? You will have abundant money to reward all, and the (executioners) Sikhs should have a good round sum given to them. I congratulate you very heartily on your success. There will be some stragglers; have them all picked up, and any you got send us now. You have had slaughter enough. We want a few for the troops here, and also for evidence. Believe me, yours sincerely, "R. MONTGOMERY.' F, Cooper, Esq., D.C. P.S. The other three regiments hero were very shaky yesterday, but I hardly think they will now go. I wish they would, as they are a nuisance; and not a man would escape if they do.—R. M. Now, if there was any meaning in language, Mr. Montgomery wished that 2,000 men would mutiny and fly, in order that he and his soldiers should have an opportunity of butchering them. His friends said that these atrocities were exceptional cases, and he had been asked, "Why bring them forward?" A noble Lord, not a Member of that House, but who had had much to do with India, had asked, "Why not let them rest?" and added, that the less said about them the better. But had they the power of commanding that an act of this kind should be buried in oblivion? It was written with a pen of iron upon the rock, and they could not bun the remembrance of such acts if they would. They ought to learn a lesson from these deeds. It was not that he claimed a character for humanity above that of other hon. Members; but he appealed to the Government, represented by the noble Lord, whoso head and heart were so full of Indian concerns, for an emphatic declaration that he had no sympathy with such atrocities, and such a declaration on the noble Lord's own part and that of the Government would do more to consolidate Her Majesty's power in India than a large addition to her troops. These 500 Sepoys relied for their safeguard on British honour. They might have resisted, but they believed they were promised a fair trial. They trusted to the honour of England, and they were deceived; and he called upon the noble Lord to say that such deception would receive no apology from him and those who acted with him. The House and the country felt just now a great interest in missions and in education for India, but one such atrocity as this would do more to excite burning hatred to our power and to our faith, everything multiplied a hundred fold, than the missionaries could eradicate in the next century. A throne could not be permanently established on injustice, nor could authority be perpetrated by wrong, and it was his earnest desire that the rule of our Queen should be in the hearts of her subjects in India as in England. He knew that the noble Lord the President of the Council for India and the Right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith) the late President of the Board of Control, would with himself deprecate such atrocities as those he had condemned, and desire with him that the throne of the Queen should be established on justice, and her power directed by the principles of truth, mercy, and humanity.


had been much conversant with public assemblies, and had been used to boast to himself that he could follow any man. But he could not follow the speech they had just heard, or add a word that would not weaken the effect of the statement their pacific Friend had made. He could not add to the colouring, but he might make some naked addition to the facts. Neither he nor his hon. Friend was present in India at these scenes; he wished they had, because then they could offer themselves as evidence. But the public papers would enable the House to form a judgment, and he would 'appeal to them as the best and only evidence they had. He gathered from them what had not been mentioned—namely, that this regiment had been disarmed, and it was boasted that any of the men who in small bodies attempted to escape were destroyed by the hostile population. Orders were despatched that these men should be sent off in small bodies, to take the fate it had been boasted must befall them. He did not blame the Governor General, and he did not blame the Indian Government; for neither Queen, nor Parliament, nor Governor General ruled in India, but the race of abandoned men who had usurped the powers of them all, and left upon record the blackest page that history could produce. No act of Pagan or mediaeval times could match it. He was once present where an armed populace broke in, and proposed to slaughter some prisoners—at Buenos Ayres—of whom he was one. A quartermaster of Horse Ar- tillery of the name of Hay—perhaps he was still alive—drew his sword, and cried—"Let us have one tussle for our lives!" That was what these Sepoys had done. They seized brickbats, staves, and such instruments as were within the reach of disarmed men, and tried their chance. It was what you, Mr. Speaker, would have done, and I, and every soul that hears me. They had therefore one tussle, and then came the massacre. He was ashamed of being an Englishman, and being obliged to own himself this man's countryman. The men were endeavouring to save their lives by the only means in their power, when the Sikhs were set to murder them. They had been subjected previously to every kind of insult. A low reprobate, writing to the public prints about the Sepoys, said—"We have great fun in making faces at the Sepoys, and throwing things into their lines." Throwing things into their lines, meant throwing carrion and things supposed to convey ceremonial pollution. He (General Thompson) never knew an Irishman who was afraid to speak the truth when appealed to; and he would now ask every Irishman in the House whether, if the Con-naught Rangers had been in the position these Sepoys were, they would not have done the same; and then he would turn to the Scotch Members and ask them if they believed the 42nd would not have done so too. One chance there was. He had stood up in that House to speak of the murder under trust, of the Princes of Delhi. He had since fallen in with a glimpse of hope—a glimpse only, but which might at some time be valuable to the country—that the unhappy man who with his own hand had done that horrible deed, was labouring under that heaviest dispensation of Providence, constitutional insanity. He hoped the same might prove the case with the man who had inflicted this other deep dishonour on his country. It was a charitable hope, and he wished it might be fulfilled; for England, the world, and mankind, would be rid of a stigma, if it could be proved that this wretch—for so he could not but in conscience call him—had acted under a disease which made him free from moral responsibility. He could not believe that any man in that House would defend this horrible massacre. There was a massacre once which the world had never ceased to talk of—the massacre of St. Bartholomew. And there was a Frenchman and Catholic, who, when the order to continue that massacre was sent to him, replied, "Your Majesty has here brave soldiers, faithful subjects, but not one executioner." He (General Thompson), wished that a little of that spirit had been manifested in India. He wished it the more because he had worn epaulettes, and they had been worn by executioners. May I (continued the hon. and gallant General) make a clean breast of it? You, Sir, did me the honour of inviting me to your hospitalities. It would have been grief and pain to me to do anything that could be construed into insensibility to your kindness. But I could not don epaulettes that had been worn by hangmen. A beggar came to Mr. Wilberforce's door, and was given some remnants of vermicelli soup. The man said, "Indeed I am very hungry, but I cannot eat soup with maggots in it." So I, Sir, cannot wear epaulettes that have been worn by hangmen, without giving them at least some time to sweeten. Those Gentlemen who dislike the combination, will have plenty of opportunities of showing their zeal. Meantime, he left the ease to the good sense, the loyalty, and humanity of that Assembly.


Sir, I have no reason to complain of the course which the hon. Member who brought on this discussion has taken in using what is, no doubt, a fair opportunity of bringing before the House an important subject; but I cannot help regretting, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has followed him has thought fit to mix up with what is undoubtedly a serious and painful circumstance, some old stories from newspapers which are probably untrue, and which, if they were true, would be utterly unimportant. It is impossible to deny that these transactions to which reference has been made are such as cannot be heard or read, even at this distance of time and place, without great pain and regret. And I will go further, and say that that pain is greatly increased by the tone and the spirit in which these transactions have been described, both in the despatch written at the time and in the book subsequently published by the gentleman who gave instructions to the Sikhs engaged in this affair. There is a tone of flippancy, and an appearance of exultation at that great sacrifice of human life—a sacrifice of life made not in the heat of action, nor after a judicial process—which is utterly at variance with good taste and good feeling. Making all allowances—and we are bound to make the very largest allowances for the circumstances of time and place—it is impossible not to condemn the language in which. Mr. Cooper has written of these transactions. But what the House has to consider is, not the tone in which Mr. Cooper has written, but the circumstances which took place at Meean Meer. Now, what were the circumstances? The regiment in question—the 25th Native Infantry—was stationed at Meean Meer, and being strongly suspected of an intention to join in the mutiny, was placed under restraint. It remained under restraint for a period of about six weeks. I think it was on the 30th of July that the attempt to revolt was made. It has been said, in vindication of that attempt, that it was merely an effort on the part of these troops to escape, and that that effort was made because they were to be sent in small parties among a population that was hostile to them, which was tantamount to committing them to inevitable destruction. Now, I apprehend that that is simply a mistake in fact. It is quite true that at a later period regiments were disarmed and discharged in small parties, but no general disarmament of troops had taken place when this outbreak arose. Escape, then, is not the word to apply to such a transaction; and oven if it had been a movement of escape on the part of the troops, though a single fugitive may possibly avoid detection, when a large body of men attempt to escape they must be prepared to resist force by force, and the attempt, therefore, on the part of a regiment under these circumstances to escape from the place where they were kept under surveillance would, in fact, on their part, lead to the inference that they were prepared to meet any force that might resist them. It is said that at the time of this outbreak these troops were not armed, That is undoubtedly the case; but every one who knows India knows that arms are not difficult to be obtained there. They were then not fugitives, but insurgents. And when did they make the attempt? Why, at a time when Delhi was not taken. Every man of them, if they had escaped—and they were men for the most part belonging to Central India—would have gone to swell the ranks of the insurgents. At the time of the attempt there was already arrayed against the Imperial forces an enormously disproportionate force of Sepoys. I say, then, that whatever may have been their inspiring motive at the moment of this out break, it is impossible to treat it as anything but mutiny and an insurrection at a moat critical time. Then, it is said that the Sikhs fired upon these troops before the murders were committed. Now, we have not, and probably we never shall have, full and circumstantial evidence of what occurred at the time. But we know this—we know that an outbreak was expected for some days before. We know that an outbreak actually took place upon that day—the 30th of July, and it is only reasonable to suppose that as English officers were present, or, at least, at no great distance, any attack made upon them by the Sikhs was owing to a previous outbreak on their part. But was this outbreak a mere result of panic, and was it merely by way of self-defence? If that was the case, how came those attempts at the murder of two European officers to take place? It may be said that the murder of Major Spencer was the work of an individual only. We do not find that any attempt was made by these Sepoys to give up that guilty individual, or that they endeavoured to disconnect themselves in any way from the crime which he had committed. But, admitting that the murder of Major Spencer was the work of an individual only, what was the case as regards the attempt on the life of the second officer Lieutenant Montague White? A plan was laid to entice him within the lines, and when they had brought him there, an attempt was made on his life, with which he narrowly escaped. The object in this case could not be to get rid of an inconvenient witness, for the facts must have been public and notorious; nor was it any immediate danger to which the regiment was exposed. It appears to have been, as far as we can judge, a premeditated and treacherous murder, and this must be borne in mind in coming to any decision on the facts. It is unfortunately true that out of 700 men nearly 500 suffered death, some on the spot and some afterwards at Lahore. But all these facts were known, and are referred to in a despatch addressed by Viscount Canning to Sir J. Lawrence, in which the Governor General states that "great credit is due to Mr. Cooper for his exertions," We have evidence then, that every authority in India, regarded this punishment as necessary. Two officers had been murdered by these men without any purpose; the result of the escape of the regiment would have been that it would have joined the insurgent forces; and a severe example was doubtless considered to be necessary, to prevent similar risings elsewere. Reference has been made to a note addressed to Mr. Cooper by Mr. Montgomery. The note is couched in hasty language and such as could not have been deliberately employed, but I submit that whatever vindication the case allows of is furnished by its terms. In that note it appears (as indeed we know from other sources) that there was a largo force in the neighbourhood; they were troops of the same garrison; they were similary disarmed, but under the same temptation to rise and not unlikely to yield to it. Probably Sir J. Lawrence and those in command thought, if a severe punishment were inflicted on the first body, as an example, it might prevent a similar mutiny by other regiments, and, in the end, be the saving of many lives. I have now stated what I apprehend may fairly be urged in vindication or palliation of the course pursued; but I am bound in sincerity to add, I cannot but wish that an indiscriminate execution of these men had not taken place, that some selection had been made, that there had been some previous investigation, and that some punishment short of death had been inflicted on the great bulk concerned. But it is one thing to wish that an act of this kind had not been done and another thing to pass a formal censure upon it. Only by great exertions—by the employment of force, by making striking examples, and inspiring terror, could Sir J, Lawrence save the Punjab; and if the Punjab had been lost the whole of India would for the time have been lost with it. Sir J. Lawrence has declared this act was necessary; and the Governor General has confirmed the opinion. Taking all this into consideration, and remembering that we, at this distance of time and place, are hardly fair judges of the feelings of men engaged in such a conflict, I hope the House will—I do not say oppose—I cannot ask its approval of the act in question; but I hope it will pass over the transaction in that silence which is sometimes the most judicious comment.

Main Question, put and agreed to.