§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, he rose to move a Resolution declaring the expediency of promoting the settlement of waste lands, and the redemption of a portion of the land tax of India. The question involved in his Motion was really the turning point between the old and new systems of finance in India. When the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn was Secretary of State for India, he wrote a despatch 1611 to the Government of that country to inaugurate a new system, similar to that followed in European countries. But in the following year the present Secretary for India wrote other despatches, reverting to the old system, and declaring his opinion that it ought to be unaltered. The noble Lord in his despatch encouraged the settlement of Europeans in that country. The present Secretary for India in words indeed admitted the expediency of such a course; but in deeds he placed the greatest obstacles in the way of the settlement of Europeans in that country, and he had thereby diminished the products which otherwise would have been sent to this country, and had prevented the transfer of English capital to that country. In primitive countries, where there was little accumulated wealth, the Government was usually supported by a heavy charge on the soil. Such was the case in India, not that the rulers of that country disclaimed other modes of taxation; far from it. Personal property was taxed from very early times, and he remembered the right hon. Gentleman bringing forward, when defending the income tax in India, the law of Menu, to show that even the income tax was included in the old Hindoo law. In this country also, up to the time of William III., the land tax furnished the principal portion of the revenue; but on the rise of commerce the land tax assumed less and less importance in our financial system, until at last it almost disappeared. And in almost all the civilized countries of the world the same result was going on. In all prosperous countries the land tax was comparatively insignificant, while in poor countries, such as Turkey and China, it was esteemed of great importance. Our Colonies in America and Australia never thought of having recourse to a land tax, because new communities, having the laws proper to civilized States, possessed credit which enabled them to obtain advances from the accumulated capital of this country for the purpose of developing their own resources. He maintained that India was in precisely the same relation towards this country that the American and Australian Colonies were, and that it would be easy gradually to extinguish the land tax in India. The latter country had an advantage which our Colonies did not possess, of a numerous and industrious native population. The heavy rent-charge upon the soil was a check to the accumulation of capital, and consequently to the prosperity of India, render- 1612 ing land an unmarketable security. Thus, at Calcutta the rate of interest did not exceed 5 per cent, but up the country it ranged from 12 to 20 per cent. The Government, however, had borrowed money at 3½ and 4 per cent, which was an unnatural state of things in such a country, and not a matter for congratulation. In Naples under the Bourbons money was very low in the public funds, but the reason was that the Bourbons discouraged those enterprises which would have caused money to be laid out in developing the rich resources of Southern Italy. In 1849 Earl Russell introduced into Parliament a plan for enfranchising the church lands, leaving them subject to a heavy rent charge. The Bill went to the House of Lords, and was referred by them to a Select Committee; but the land agents and others who were examined showed that the effect of that rent charge would be to make the land unmarketable as a security, and therefore to depreciate its value. The plan was consequently abandoned. India was suffering from such a rent charge, varying from 25 to 60 per cent, and the results were the same as were foreseen in the case of this country. The land tax of India produced £21,500,000; while the Customs only brought in £2,400,000, the total revenue being.£43,000,000, or an average of about 2s. 6d. per head of the population. In our Australian Colonies, with a population of 1,300,000, the amount of taxation was between £4 and £5 per head. The expenditure on the army and navy was calculated at £13,000,000; law and justice, £2,500,000; the interest on the debt, £3,500,000; and the public works at £2,500,000. He submitted that the land tax was excessive in amount, and that it was more than was sanctioned by the Hindoo law. The old Hindoo law said the land tax might amount to 8 or 10, or even 15 per cent, and in case of invasion it might be justifiable to levy even 50 or 60 per cent. The heavy tax dried up all the other sources of revenue, checked improvements, and necessitated an enormous expenditure upon public works, which, as at present conducted, was an evil to the country. Nor did he believe that the revenue would suffer by a change of system. Mr. Laing had made a calculation between Bengal, where the land tax was permanently settled, and Madras, where it was at a very high rate, and settled from year to year. In Bengal, where the settlement was seventy years old, the tax produced 2s. 1613 per head, while in Madras it produced 3s. 7d.; but then the produce from other taxes was in Bengal 2s. 9d. per head, while in Madras it was only 1s. 9d. That proved that a diminution in the land tax would not necessarily injure the revenue. If the redemption of the land tax were allowed, there would be no need of a large military expenditure in India, owing to the increased contentment of the people, and a revolution in Indian finance would be the consequence. The general opinion of our able Indian administrators was, that they had not gained the hearts of the people, but that nothing would accomplish that object so effectually as by giving them the possession of the soil. To such advice as that no Minister responsible for the lives of his countrymen in India, and for the large amount of British capital invested there, ought to turn a deaf ear. The attention of Indian officers was called to that subject by the Colonization Commission of 1857 and 1858, and in that very year the first step in this direction was taken by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Mr. Halliday, who in a remarkable Minute showed that the light had dawned upon him, and that there was no just ground for treating India exceptionally from any other portion of the British Empire. Mr. Halliday's Minute alluded to the feeling of insecurity which attached to the present system in India, and recommended that the lands should be sold at an upset price on conditions similar to those which had worked so well in Ceylon. Mr. Halliday also undertook, on his own responsibility, to order the sale of lands in fee simple in Darjeeling; but the Government soon put a stop to the extension of this system. On the other side of India Mr. Rogers, who held a high position in the Bombay service, in a remarkable Minute which was duly forwarded to England, insisted on the importance of selling to the peasantry the soil they cultivated, a thing that might be regarded as the summum bonum of a ryot's ambition; and that would be sure to bring into circulation great masses of wealth at present hidden in the ground or worn in the shape of ornaments. Mr. Rogers also contended that it would not entail much loss on the revenue. He (Mr. H. Seymour) could multiply extracts showing the great benefit that would arise from the redemption of the land tax. In India there were two great social evils. One was female infanticide, which was due to the expense occasioned to families if they al- 1614 lowed their daughters to grow up and be married. The other was the habit of hoarding. Mr. Rogers thought that the proposed reform would tend greatly to diminish the former practice, far more rapidly than could be hoped by any probable spread of popular enlightenment. As to the other custom, the natives had now but two modes of saving money—keeping it in hoards or laying it out in the purchase of jewels for their women. India and Ireland were, in fact, the only countries in which the practice of hoarding still prevailed; and neither was in a very satisfactory state. It was one of the most remarkable achievements of the Emperor of the French that he had prevailed on the people to bring out their hoards and invest their money in small amounts in Government securities; and if the Indian Government could in the same way induce the Indian people to bring out their hidden treasure and invest it in the soil, they would do more than anything else to strengthen our empire in India, and to promote the welfare of that country. While he was at the Board of Control in 1857, several gentlemen interested in the growth of cotton applied to him to bring the subject under the consideration of the Government. The result of the efforts then made was, that an official despatch was sent out from this country; but it contained so many "ifs" that it was at once seen in India public opinion here was one way and the opinion of the Court of Directors another; and nothing was done. But, soon after, the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn was appointed Secretary of State for India, to the great satisfaction, he believed, of every friend of that country. It was his conviction that in the few months during which the noble Lord filled the office he did more for the real good of India than any Indian minister that had preceded or succeeded him, no matter how long his tenure of office. He wrote a despatch which would prove to be the initiative of the new system of finance which must be adopted in India. The noble Lord, on assuming office, possessed the great advantage of having travelled in the country, and become acquainted with the wants of the people from personal inspection. He came to his work with a matured judgment, and he did not hesitate to adopt a very important step. The Indian Council clung to the land tax; but when the noble Lord prepared his despatch, they seemed not to have a word to say against his argument, though it would ap- 1615 pear they had given utterance to their opinions on the subject since the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) assumed office. When the noble Lord wrote his despatch, the Sepoy war was just over; but the American war did not commence for eighteen months after. The price of Surat cotton at Liverpool was from 3½d. to 4d. per lb., and the price of New Orleans cotton at Liverpool 7d, In the opening paragraph of the despatch the noble Lord said there had been many applications from individuals and companies to grow cotton in India. Suppose the policy then inaugurated by the noble Lord had been continued from that time, what might not have been the result? Should they not have had cotton at a much cheaper price than that at which it was selling? The noble Lord gave instructions for grants in perpetuity in cases in which there had been grants on rent charge. He described how easily the new process of a redemption of the land tax could be carried out in certain parts of India, where the Zemindar might pay into the Treasury an amount which would produce the same sum as his rent. He pointed out the political advantages of a system which, by attaching the Zemindars to the government of the country, would counterbalance any inconveniences of detail. The noble Lord and the present Secretary of State were of one mind in thinking that there ought to be a permanent settlement; but the noble Lord would effect it by permitting a redemption of the land tax, while the right hon. Gentleman would bring it about by a Government valuation, which might be asked for during a period of half a century before there was a proper adjustment. The Indian Government, seeing that the noble Lord was in earnest, treated his despatch in a very different manner from that in which they had dealt with the court of directors. Scarcely a week elapsed before they sent out circulars requesting information to every part of India, and by the following autumn they were in a position to answer the Home Government. The Government of Madras were not favourable to the plan, but they stated that in their Presidency there were 11,000,000 acres of land not irrigated, and 2,000,000 of irrigated land, which was assessed to an amount of £1,500,000 sterling. Why should not that land be devoted to the most useful purposes? He did not accept the dictum of the Government of Madras. He believed, if the opinions of the persons holding official positions at that place had been 1616 given, they would be found to be more favourable than those which appeared in the papers laid before the House. Coming to Bombay, they found a series of able opinions all entirely coinciding with the views of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley). There was Mr. Rogers, who declared the measure to be the most beneficial which had ever been proposed since our connection with India had commenced—beneficial to the Government as highly as to the rulers. Mr. Seaton Kerr endorsed the opinion of Mr. West; Mr. Turquand expressed similar sentiments. Mr. Fawcett quoted the words of Sir Charles Metcalfe, that it would conduce to the stability of our rule and the welfare of our Indian subjects. Captain Anderson, the head of the revenue survey in Bombay, wrote strongly in favour of it; and he was the person whose opinion Lord Elphinstone said he would take in preference to any other in India. Lord Elphinstone, whom the Government of the Earl of Derby and the former Government of the noble Viscount had selected to be Governor General of India, in case anything happened to Earl Canning, recommended it as the true policy to encourage the redemption of the land tax on every ground, financial, agricultural, and political. Coming to the North West Provinces, he found Mr. Hume, another gentleman of great experience whose attention the question had engaged for many years, giving a similar opinion. Almost every collector in these parts of India gave his opinion in favour of the redemption of the land tax. The Lieutenant Governor of the North West Provinces, said of it, that if practicable, no more politic measure could be carried out. A similar opinion was given by the financial commissioners of the Punjab, and by the Governor of the Punjab; there was, in fact, a remarkable concurrence of opinion on the subject. In November 1860 Mr. Fergusson, the Secretary of the British Land Association, made various suggestions with the same view. After that a whole year passed away in India, and nothing was done. At last, in October 1861, Earl Canning issued his celebrated Regulations, so much criticised by the Government at home. Earl Canning said that he had found a general concurrence of opinion among all the officers whom he had consulted as to the great benefit which would accrue both to England and India from the measure. He allowed settlers to receive waste lands in the shortest possible 1617 time, and in order to prevent jobbing he fixed a certain limit, and required that a certain portion of the price should be paid down in ready money. He allowed, too, the redemption of the land tax on certain terms. These Regulations of Lord Canning were received both in India and England with great acclamation, and for nine months they were supposed to be the law of the land. Land was bought and sold under them, and passed through various hands, nobody ever supposing that it was the intention of the Secretary of State not to confirm them. The right hon. Gentleman received a deputation from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in the spring which congratulated him on the liberality of the policy. The right hon. Gentleman never let out that he meant to veto the Regulations; he received their congratulations, shook hands warmly with them on parting, and expressed his pleasure that at last there was a subject on which they could congratulate him. Almost immediately after receiving that deputation the right hon. Gentleman sent out his despatch, which certainly was not so able a one as that of the noble Lord opposite. It was very confused and illogical, and seemed more like the production of some gentleman who had been connected with the old East India Company than of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The only way in which the right hon. Gentleman treated the question, was by describing the evils which would flow from the adoption of the system prescribed by the noble Lord's despatch. The first paragraph which he seized upon was that in which the operation of the despatch was limited. He said he was glad to find that the rights of the natives were not to be violated. Those who had had much to do with India knew that that was the very plea which had been used for the last half century by the directors of the East India Company, first to keep Europeans out of India altogether, and then to keep the land tenure from them. The right hon. Gentleman then cancelled at once the despatch of the noble Lord opposite by saying that under no circumstances would be allow the redemption of the land tax, and he went on to use words which must have been put into his mouth by one of the eminent gentlemen of former days, Mr. Ross Donnelly Mangles, or some other old East Indian, to the effect that the land tax was the pillar of the Indian Government; and so on. He repeated all that had been said and written 1618 on the subject fifty years ago, and in fact signified his intention to keep to the old Oriential despotic system. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the deplorable occurrences that had recently taken place in New Zealand. But if the Government were to mismanage their affairs in India as they had done in New Zealand, the same results would follow. Then the Secretary of State laid it down that it should be entirely at the discretion of the local authorities to fix a price on the land. But what principle had been laid down in the despatch of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and in the proclamation of the late Earl Canning? Why, that it was most important to have the question of price so regulated that a person in London might know how much he should have to pay for land upon his arrival in India. He should like to know whether it was the custom at the India Office, as it was under the noble Lord opposite, to give every information that might be required to persons intending to proceed to India. The right hon. Gentleman also said it was an outrageous proposition to talk of dividing the assessed and unassessed lands of India into two portions; and he argued most unfairly against Earl Canning's Regulations. He (Mr. H. Seymour) asked how it was, except through some mismanagement on the part of the Government, that there were any waste lands in the neighourhood of the canals? The object of the late Secretary of State was to make the European settlers independent of the local authorities, whilst the right hon. Baronet sought to restore the old system. There was another very important point to which he would draw attention, and it was this. The Secretary of State insisted that every piece of land should be set up to auction, whether there was more than one applicant or not; Earl Canning's poclamation provided that auction should take place only when there was more than one applicant. His hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury, in an able pamphlet which he had written upon the question of land in Australia, said the auction of land was the curse of the country, and that the only object of such, a system appeared to be to prevent the poor man from getting land, and to throw it into the hands of speculators and landsharks. Mr. Fergusson, secretary to the Landowners' Association, in a pamphlet which he had written, expressed himself in this way:—That no man would waste his time, his labour, and his 1619 money in seeking for land which, under the auction system, might be taken from him by a speculator; and that while, under Earl Canning's Rules, hundreds of thousands of acres had been applied for, under Sir Charles Wood's Rules there had not been an application for a single acre. It stood to reason, that with the auction system, a man with money had a great advantage over a man who had knowledge and but little money, for he might allow the latter to go into the country and select a piece of land, and then come and buy it over his head. The evils which had arisen from the system had brought about its abolition in Australia; a fixed upset pi-ice was laid down, and a man living in London could know the price he should have to pay for land in Victoria. As for the survey, which the right hon. Baronet required, he did not approve it. Nothing could be better than the system adopted in America, and which he understood had been adopted in Australia. He had seen in Minnesota the whole country dotted over with what were called "claims;" a man who wished to settle there had a right to 160 acres around his hut, a right of pre-emption, and he became owner upon paying a dollar and a quarter when the surveying party arrived. He was aware that many hon. Gentlemen differed from him on the subject of survey, but on that of auction he apprehended very little difference of opinion existed. Since the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman, a totally different spirit seemed to have been infused into the officials in India. Instead of the liberal spirit by which they were pervaded under the guidance of Earl Canning, and the noble Lord the late Secretary for India, the spirit of obstruction was now in the ascendant. It appeared from some despatches which had been laid before the House, that in Central India there was a tract of 16,000 acres, which was let for £5, or 50 rupees a year; but the farmer threw it up, because, as he said, he could not pay the rent. Mr. Meek, and other gentlemen of high commercial standing in this country, wished to raise some capital with the view of devoting it to the cultivation of the soil of India. Mr. Meek applied to the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces for that land, and the latter assented to his having it at about 6d. per acre. An advertisement of that was put into the public papers, when down came a letter from Colonel Durand, Secretary to the Government of India, censuring the proposal to give that large tract of land, as 1620 being contrary to the rules. The Chief Commissioner excused himself by saying that he thought he had power to do it under the Rules of Earl Canning; that, moreover, the case was a special one; that natives could not be induced to take the land, and that unless some European took it, it must lie waste. That, however, did not satisfy the Government of India, and a severe reprimand was addressed to the Chief Commissioner for going contrary to the right hon. Gentleman's Rules. [Sir CHARLES WOOD: No.] Then, he would say, for going contrary to the Rules of Earl Canning on the 17th of October, although, he must add, he could not believe that without a despatch from the Secretary of State such a "wigging" would have been given to the Chief Commissioner. Mr. Temple stated that there were but two alternatives before them—namely, either to leave the whole tract in an utterly unproductive condition, or make over at least a portion of it, to European capitalists; in the former of which cases it would be a source of evil, and in the latter a source of benefit to the country round about it, as well as of ultimate profit to the State. The same gentleman also said that there were boundless tracts of country with no pre-existing rights and without owners, and that the valleys of the Godavery, the Mahanuddy, and other rivers, might, with skill and capital, be turned into great cotton-producing districts; that sugar, indigo, and other products, might also be grown there, in which case a demand would spring up for their exportation. He then proposed some rules and an upset price, which, he thought, might induce British settlers to come into those provinces. Those Rules, however, were sharply disallowed by the Government of India, and higher prices and more restrictive conditions enforced in their stead. But the Secretary of State would, perhaps, tell him, there were no waste lands in India. A glance at the map of India, with its vast unsurveyed and unexplored regions, would prove the contrary. Mr. Temple, the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces, and his subordinate officers, bore testimony that such lands existed in abundance. Much of this land was most suitable for the European settler, because it gradually rose in height as it receded from the coast, until it came upon a vast plateau, edged by the Godavery, which had its source in Bombay, and flowed across to the Gulf of Bengal. Mr. Temple spoke of one 1621 district alone of this country as extending over 25,000 square miles. Mr. Laing was of opinion that one-third of India was waste. Besides the 25,000 square miles above alluded to, there were other tracts of surpassing fertility, the cultivation of which had been neglected. In the Terai, at the foot of the Himalayas, there were 400 or 500 miles of the richest land in all India, and hearing traces of ancient cultivation. No doubt it was insalubrious, but its fertility was very remarkable. A gentleman who applied to the India Board on the subject of irrigation works in Scinde, and who went to the country to make his calculcations, estimated that 20,000,000 acres in Scinde might be irrigated at 1s. per acre if proper works were erected. In the Punjab, also, he calculated that there were 47,000,000 acres, only 14,000,000 of which were assessed. He thought he had said enough to show that there was quite a sufficient extent of waste land in India to afford a field to any number of European settlers who might go to that country. Another unfortunate result, he might add, which had flowed from sending out the despatch to which he referred was that it tended to destroy in a great degree the prestige of the Government of India by upsetting the Regulations that had been come to by that Government. The tendency of that despatch was to induce the people of India to look to the Home Government for instructions rather than to the Governor General. A short time ago a meeting was held in Calcutta, which was presided over by an eminent Queen's counsel, and at that meeting speeches were made and resolutions passed condemnatory of the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman on the grounds he had stated, and expressing the opinion, that if the views contained in that document were persevered in, the reputation of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India would be sadly impaired. It was unnecessary to show that India was a great cotton-growing country. Forty years since a far larger quantity of cotton was exported from India than at the present day, and it was quite clear, therefore, that there was no good reason why it should not again produce that commodity to a considerable extent if the necessary steps were taken for the purpose. He should like to know, however, what had been done by the Secretary of State for India for the promotion there of the cultivation of cotton. Its production had last year been increased a thousand-fold by the action of the Turkish 1622 Government, which had taken pains to spread the information that the price of the article had increased in England, and had urged the expediency of growing it; but he should like to know what information and advice of the same kind had been circulated among the native population of India. He believed that not a single despatch had been written by the right hon. Gentleman on that subject. How different was the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman to that of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) when he was Secretary for India. The noble Lord took the most prompt steps when in office to encourage the growth of cotton in India; but during the whole time the right hon. Gentleman had been in office it did not appear that he had made a single effort in that direction. It took the Southern States of America a great many years and great expenditure in the shape of bounties to bring the old Indian plant to the improved pitch of the present staple; and if they wished to improve on the Indian staple, they must, he maintained, adopt a similar course. Sir George Bowen, the Governor of Queensland, had offered 1,000 acres free to those who would go out to that colony and cultivate cottan; and he was sorry to see that there was so wide a discrepancy in the matter between the action of the Secretary for India and the head of the Colonial Office. The only remedy proposed by the right hon. Gentleman was a permanent settlement in India; the probable cost of a permanent settlement in Madras alone being, in his opinion, likely to be three-quarters of a million. If that were so, it was quite clear it would cost several millions for the whole of India, while it would take twenty or thirty years to accomplish such an assessment as the right hon. Gentleman proposed. From what he had stated it would appear that the opinions of the chief authorities in India were favourable to the proposal of Earl Canning and the noble Lord opposite, while they were unfavourable in the main to that of the right hon. Gentleman. His object in making the Motion was, not to lay before the House a Bill of indictment against the right hon. Gentleman, but simply to show what the state of things was in reality. Was the right hon. Gentleman going to leave the ordinary supporters of the Government in the false position of having to wait for liberal measures until the Conservative party came into power? No one could believe that the existing system could survive the right 1623 hon. Gentleman. Surely, then, it would be better for him to make the necessary alterations rather than to allow the credit of them to be taken by a political opponent? He earnestly hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give a further consideration to the subject, adopting such measures as would relieve the distressed districts at home, and unite in closer ties to this country that great empire of India which their forefathers conquered by their courage and energy, but which they could retain only by establishing enlightened laws and institutions suited to the present age.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the occupation of Waste Lands in India by settlers, and the redemption of a portion of the Land Tax of India, are desirable objects, especially with a view to the present state of the Cotton industry in this Country; and that it is expedient that Her Majesty's Government take further steps to carry them out.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, he was glad that the hon. Member for Poole had brought the subject forward. The House always rejoiced to hear a racy attack upon the India Office by a Gentleman who was once connected with that Department, and who, if he had an opportunity, would doubtless be very glad to connect himself with it again. He was also glad that the Motion had been brought forward, because it would give the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for India an opportunity of defending the conduct of his office in the House, instead of going down to Halifax, as he was obliged to do last winter. The Resolution itself was harmless enough, and as the Parliamentary termination of an agitation out of doors, in the course of which the impeachment of the right hon. Baronet was demanded, it was somewhat ludicrous. During the whole of last winter a great outcry was kept up against the right hon. Baronet, who was accused of ignorance, incapacity, and breach of faith, for the course he had pursued with respect to the sale of waste lands in India, and he and those who entertained similar opinions were said by the press in India, which favoured the agitation, to have made cowardly attacks upon the memory of a great statesman. It now suited the purpose of some gentlemen, and was part of the tactics of the scurrilous press of India, to speak of Earl Canning as a great statesman whose attempts to wrest the land of India from the grasp of the despots of the India Office had been foiled and thwarted. He was not about to attack the memory of Earl Canning. He served in 1624 India during the mutiny, and had witnessed with admiration the calmness and composure which that noble Lord displayed in times of great peril and at periods of unmanly panic. But it should not be forgotten that those who now spoke of Earl Canning in terms of fulsome adulation then attacked him with the utmost bitterness, pursued him with rancour, and for years endeavoured to drive him from the high position which he then occupied, and which they said, most untruly, he had discredited. It was only at the eleventh hour, when he lent his reputation to some acts of a questionable nature, that he was described as a great statesman. The organ of the agitation in this country was Mr. Laing, who, in his speeches at Manchester and Glasgow, as well as in his written addresses to sympathizing friends in India, had been constantly in the habit of asserting that the cherished policy of his noble Friend Earl Canning had been altogether subverted by the Secretary of State. He did not pretend to be acquainted with Earl Canning's cherished policy, but this he did know, that it formed no part of the original programme of his administration to promote the sale of waste lands in fee simple or to permit the redemption of the land tax. These measures were suggested by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, in a despatch of the 31st of December 1858, in which the difficulties and dangers which were supposed to surround these questions were largely discussed, information was asked for, and a report was ordered to be sent to this country in order that the matters might be sifted, discussed, and determined here by the Secretary of State in Council. The years 1859, 1860, and the greater part of 1861 were consumed in inquiries, and no report was sent to this country. Suddenly, on the 17th of October 1861, there appeared in the Calcutta Government Gazette a proclamation which set forth the rules and regulations under which persons might purchase waste hinds in India in fee simple and these rules and regulations did not appear to have been much read by the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate. They were for the most part suggested to Earl Canning by an irresponsible association in Calcutta, called the Landowners' Association, the Secretary of which was as much surprised as any one to find that the crude suggestions which he had made had been almost literally adopted without any inquiry. That proclamation was sent to England. It 1625 received a long and dispassionate consideration at the hands of the Secretary of Stale and the Indian Council; and on the 9th of July 1862 a despatch was sent to India of which he would say that the amendments which it made in Earl Canning's proclamation were conceived in a just and liberal spirit, and that its tone and language were quite unexceptionable, What was it that Earl Canning proposed to do? He proposed to give to every one the fullest permission to purchase waste lands in British India. There was, indeed, a restriction that the grants should not in the first instance exceed 3,000 acres; but that was set aside and treated as a nullity by the officials. There was no reservation of mines, minerals, or the rights of the Crown to forests. The Government did not even reserve the right to make roads through the country which they were about to give away. Each person was to be served in the order of his application. There was to be no preliminary survey, but only some superficial survey after the sale, in order to fix the boundaries. If after possession had been taken, some party should spring up, claiming rights in the soil or ownership in the land, the Government undertook to eject him and put the allottee in possession, making, as they said, compensation to the owner, but how that was to be done did not appear. The proclamation went even further than that. It stated that no authority, nor any court of law, was to entertain any claims connected with the ownership of these lands unless they were made within twelve months after the time of allotment; and, as if to prevent the real owners from knowing anything about what was going on, it was provided that those who obtained allotments should not be required to exercise any right of ownership. It was to be left to their discretion to do anything or nothing with that for which they had given the Government a fair price. That fair price was fixed at 5s. an acre all over India, allowing, however, a deduction of one-fourth, on the theory that in grants of 3,000 or 4,000 acres one-fourth would be found to be useless and valueless to the purchaser. What was the action of the Secretary of State upon this proclamation? It had been stated over and over again that the whole policy of Earl Canning was subverted. There was no truth whatever in that statement. The policy of Earl Canning, which was to sell the land in fee simple, was confirmed in the fullest manner; but the Secretary 1626 of State required that considerable alterations should be made in the details of the rules by which effect was given to that policy. In the first place, he disapproved of the uniform price fixed by the proclamation, and, observing that the land must necessarily vary in value according to its situation, the facilities for its cultivation and irrigation, and its natural fertility, he directed that the lands which were considered salable should be classified, that a minimum price of each class should be fixed in the districts by the local officers, and that when application was made for the purchase of any land, it should be put up for sale by auction at that minimum price. He could not see the force of the objections which had been taken to that mode of proceeding. Much of the land of India was not worth, and would not be valued at, 5s. an acre. The Secretary of State also directed that the survey should precede instead of following the sale. That was an alteration which would be recommended by common sense, if for no other reason, on account of the propriety of ascertaining before the land was sold that it was really unoccupied, and that there were no persons who claimed a beneficial interest in the soil. The Secretary of State disallowed so much of Earl Canning's proclamation as altered and over-rode the law of the land. The Secretary of State insisted, and with great propriety, if an alteration was needed in the law of limitation connected with the occupation of land, that the law should be altered by an Act introduced and discussed in the Legislative Council, and not by means of a Proclamation issued without notice. The illegality of this course of action by the Viceroy was sufficiently clear. The redemption of the land tax was a measure impossible to be carried out under present circumstances in India, particularly in districts where the individual settlement system prevailed, for there the purchase of small plots of land piecemeal would, in his opinion, be an unmitigated nuisance. The measures originated by the Secretary of State were conceived in a spirit of equity; but immediately on their promulgation a great outcry was raised by a set of land jobbers, who fancied that under the regulations which Earl Canning had hastily adopted they would be able to obtain large tracts of country at wholly inadequate prices. One large estate, the extent of which was unascertained, but was supposed to contain 16,000 acres, was sold, not at 1627 5s. an acre, the maximum fixed by Earl Canning, but at about 6d. an, acre. That was done without the knowledge of the Governor General or of any other person except a subordinate in one of the offices of the Chief Commissioner in the Central Provinces of India; it was a transaction fraught with the greatest jobbery and with every imaginable irregularity. On the other hand, it was mentioned in one of the recent overland mails, that under the rules made by the Secretary of State, a large tract upon one of the spurs of the Himalayas, forty thousand acres in the whole, had been sold by auction, and had produced 30s. an acre. So far from the Secretary of State deserving censure for his amended rules, he thought him entitled to credit on that account, and he hoped some assurance would be given that his administration in that spirit, which had given great satisfaction to the native population, would be carried still further. And here he might pause, and allow the right hon. Gentleman to defend his policy from the attacks of his political friends behind him, if it were not that he wished to consider another phase of the question, whether the sale of lands in fee simple in India was a great and comprehensive measure or the reverse. To the opinions which he had last year expressed on that branch of the subject he deliberately adhered. Although the proclamation of the Governor General had been received by all the accredited organs of public opinion in this country with exultation; although it was said to be the greatest measure which had originated in India during the present century; that now, for the first time, India was thrown open unreservedly to British enterprise and capital, and that the grants had been wisely limited to 3,000 acres to prevent jobbers from acquiring provinces as large as Yorkshire, with a view to making fortunes by retailing them; and although it was said that the Governor General had acquired enduring fame for himself, and by an unpretending proclamation had created a social revolution, he was still of opinion that it was a small and fragmentary measure, utterly unworthy of the encomiums passed upon it. In newly-discovered or newly-established colonies, like British Columbia or Australia, inhabited only by tribes destined to become extinct, the sale of lands was absolutely necessary, but the case of India was widely different. There were 150,000,000 of inhabitants in the British Provinces, of whom three-fourths 1628 were engaged in tillage operations, and had been probably for 1,000 years. The land in the plains was held by the Government as landlord, collecting the rents of their farms, in India called villages, from the tenantry by establishments organized for that purpose. The boundaries of these farms were as clearly defined and as well known as were the limits of any farm in Great Britain. Nine-tenths of the good land was included within these village limits, the rest being proved by experience to be either unwholesome or unfitted for cultivation. There were, no doubt, considerable tracts of land among the hills capable of being made to produce coffee, pepper, &c.; these tracts were held on leasehold tenure for a long number of years, and it might be advantageous to the occupiers, or to their successors, to exchange these leaseholds for tenures in fee. But nobody expected to obtain great revenues from the sale of waste lands or jungles in the plains; and those who anticipated that immigration would take place to a great extent, or that cotton would be grown upon the wastes of India in quantity sufficient to relieve the suffering manufacturers of Yorkshire and Lancashire were labouring under great misapprehension, if not under a total delusion. He repudiated the idea that he was opposed to colonization or to the sale of lands. On the contrary, when in India, in upholding those principles he was opposed to the officials under whom he served, and he had suffered accordingly. He was for the freest possible immigration, consistently with the rights of the natives. But if colonization were to be carried out to a great extent, Government must be denuded of its existing rights as landlord, and a middle class, which at that time had no existence, must be created, to stand between the cultivating tenant and the Government officer. In point of fact, there must be an assimilation to the permanent settlement introduced into the three provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, by Lord Cornwallis. The advantages which had sprung from Lord Cornwallis's Act had been immense, in a social, moral, and political point of view. But the scheme of Earl Canning for the sale of waste land in fee simple was a small measure, and to dignify it by the name of a great and comprehensive system was not only opposed to truth, but an outrage on common sense. To sum up, he had endeavoured to establish three or four principles; first, that the 1629 sale of jungle land in fee simple was a small measure, unworthy of the commendations put upon it; that the regulations of Earl Canning were hastily adopted and incapable of being properly carried out; that the amendments of the Government in July 1862 were just and salutary; and lastly, he had expressed his contempt of the outcry which had been raised against the policy of the Secretary of State by an agitation which was, in his opinion, at once ignorant and selfish.
§ MR. BUXTON
said, he hoped that the strong feeling, which formerly prevailed among those who had passed their lives in India, against the colonization of that country by English settlers was dying away. Every reasonable man at that day wished to see India colonized by those who would bring capital, skill, and enterprise into that country. A belief prevailed in some quarters that a contest was going on between a body of spirited Englishmen, who wished to colonize India, and some narrow-minded and hard-hearted official in the India Office, who was determined not to stir out of the usual official routine. A little study of the subject would, however, soon dissipate that notion. A few capitalists had seen a sudden chance of making great profits; while, on the other hand, it was the duty of the Secretary of State to look to the interests of the 130,000,000 who were consigned to his charge. He believed that such was the nature of the contest between the Secretary of State for India and those who were so strongly opposed to him on the question. There were, he thought, solid reasons for some of the modifications which the Secretary of State had introduced into the plan proposed by Earl Canning. It was, however, supposed that there was some insecurity of tenure in the scheme which would not have been there if the plan proposed by Earl Canning had been adopted. It was, however, inaccurate, to represent, as was sometimes done, that under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Wood) a settler who had bought land in India might be disturbed in the possession of his estate. The difference was, that under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the survey was to begin the process. There was a fear in some quarters that the settler would lose a great deal of time before he got the survey made; and it was, no doubt, important that he should get into the possession of his land at once. But all that was want- 1630 ed was that the boundaries of his piece of land should be marked out before the sale. In order to obviate delay, why should not the Government have a staff of young surveyors at Calcutta, the expense of their operations being defrayed by the settler? He saw no reason why an even less expensive process should not be adopted. Why should not the collector of the district send one of the native officials to go with the settler and mark out the ground? He quite concurred in the opinion that the survey should precede, and not follow the sale. A printed advertisement might not be a sufficient notice to the natives; but if they saw an official going over the ground and marking it out, and if any previous proprietor had any claims upon the land, he would know what was going on, and could put in an appearance. The difficulty of persons coming in at the last moment and purchasing lands, marked out by first settlers, over their heads, occurred in New South Wales, because the auctions were held in the metropolis; but these auctions would be local, and there would be no probability of its happening in India. As to selling by auction instead of at a fixed price, the Government, acting on behalf of the Indian community, was bound to get the real market value of the land, and to apply the produce to the diminution of taxation. With regard to the redemption of the land tax, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State refused to assent to Earl Canning's proposal to allow of a general redemption, because it involved an immediate permanent settlement; and in some parts, which were rapidly improving, the present assessment was too low. But if, on the one hand, the contingent advantage of an increased assessment would be lost by a present permanent settlement; on the other, the redemption at 5 per cent would enable the Government to extinguish a part of the present debt, on which the interest was 6 per cent; would save the cost of collecting the land tax, which amounted to 20 per cent; would render unnecessary the immense expense of a future new assessment; and would diminish the cost of managing so much of the debt as would be extinguished. Moreover, the abolition of the land tax would greatly enhance the wealth of the people, by getting rid of the extortion of native collectors, and encouraging the people to improve the cultivation of the soil; and, in a political point of view, would 1631 make them more attached to our rule, by the knowledge that their rulers were desirous to protect them in their possessions, and to deal with them in fairness and justice. With sincere diffidence he ventured to express an opinion that the right hon. Gentleman might have taken a bolder course; but he heartily thanked him for having adopted a scheme for the sale of waste lands, and still more for the assent which he had given to the permanent settlement of the land tax wherever the assesment was a fair one.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, he was surprised that the hon. Member for Poole should have stated that the Hindoo princes exacted only 25 per cent of the land tax. He had been a redemption officer in India, and he could state from his own experience that every dynasty, whether Hiodoo or Mohammedan, had exacted from the population the uttermost farthing, and had not scrupled to take possession of large estates, and, baring alienated them, to confer them in perpetuity on worthless favourites and parasites. After the prolonged debate which took place last Session on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire, which embraced all the points raised by the hon. Member for Poole, he had hoped that the question would be permitted to slumber. The practice of reviving old stale questions Session after Session in order to afford certain hon. Members an opportunity of making a speech was much to be deprecated, and was calculated to create a feeling of uneasiness in the minds of their European and native fellow-subjects in India. For his own part, he was bound to say that the views he expressed in the previous Session remained totally and entirely unchanged—nay, more, that the correctness of them had been fully confirmed by conversations which he had held with many eminent Indian authorities —namely, that the terms held out by the Secretary of State for India and his Council were sufficiently liberal to attain the objects in view. Independently of there being no available waste lands—except on the hilly ranges and in the Sunderbunds— from the fact that all lands, whether described as being under cultivation or culturable, assessed or assessable, had been subjected to the keen eye and supervision of the settlement officer, and his settlement had been made accordingly, it was absurd to suppose that Government had the power to isolate large blocks of land, and convey them in perpetuity to separate proprietors. 1632 But assuming for the moment that the Government possessed that power, surely land without tenants was useless and valueless, and the tenants in India had positive rights of occupancy which could be neither ignored nor annihilated. It therefore would be sheer madness were that House to tamper with the land or land-marks of a village simply because the pressure came from a small section of the community, ever ready to think that the natives and their land were made for them to despoil. Referring to his past experience as a magistrate and collector of a district, he could assure the House that the worst and most aggravated cases of affrays which took place in India were those connected with the land, and that the villagers would defend their claim over a strip of land, which might be waste and valueless, with their lives. He might quote a case which came under his own observation on the occasion of a strip of alluvial land appearing in the middle of the Ganges between two villages. On the villagers of one of them attempting to plough it those of the other village crossed over armed with bludgeons and tulwars, and before his police could interfere a most desperate conflict ensued. Under these circumstances, he ventured to say, that when that House departed from the traditionary obligation which had been placed upon the honour of the British Empire to respect the religion and property of the native subjects in India, the seeds of such discontent would be sown, which would sooner or later ripen into a great national insurrection, in which proprietors and peasants would be found cordially and heartily banded together in order to shake off the British yoke. With regard to the Law of Contract, which had provoked so much criticism both in this country and in India, and which was so closely wrapped up with the question before the House, he thought the interference of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for India was unnecessary, uncalled-for, and mischievous. It should be borne in mind that in legislating upon it the late Earl Canning and his Council—composed of such practical men as Mr. Beadon, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal; Sir Bartle Frere, the Governor of Bombay; Mr. Drummond, the Lieutenant Governor of the North Western Provinces; Sir Robert Napier, and Mr. Laing—distinctly laid down that it was not to have retrospective effect, but that it was simply an Act to extend the provisions of Section 5, Regulation 8 of 1859—a Regulation to provide for the 1633 punishment of breaches of contract by artificers, workmen, and labourers in certain cases. ["Question!"] He begged to inform the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets that lie was speaking to the Question. It also appeared that the provisions of that Act were already enforced against those who entered into engagements for the cultivation of opium and the manufacture of salt under our close monopoly system. Again, that the adulteration of cotton was treated as a criminal offence, for by late advices from India it was known that a cotton broker had been sentenced to nine months' imprisonment with hard labour by the authorities in Bombay for this offence. That being the case, he must confess that he was not disposed to attach any importance to the elaborate address which was presented to the right hon. Baronet a short time since, eulogizing his proceedings so highly in the matter. On the contrary, he quite agreed with that ill-used, indefatigable public servant Mr. Laing, as expressed in a letter which appeared a few months since in the leading journal of the day, namely—The signers of this address represent a party who have always taken the side of the debtor against the creditor, and of the workman against the master, especially when the former has a dark face, and the latter, to the offence of being rich, adds that of having English blood in his veins.Mr. Laing continued—No one doubts their benevolence, but many doubt their judgment, and point to the present aspect of the slavery question as a proof that philanthropy, unrestrained by common sense, is often the surest means of defeating is objects.He found a confirmation of these remarkable words in a pungent extract of a letter of the late Lord Redesdale, in that interesting work, The Diary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester.
§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, he rose to order. He would submit that the law of contracts had nothing to do with the question he had proposed to the House.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he would take that opportunity of stating that he had not interrupted the hon. Member for Windsor by calling out "Question!" for he thought the hon. Member's observations pertinent to the question.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, in that case he had to apologize to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets for the mistake he made. The extract from Lord Redesdale's letter, to which he referred, was as follows:—The philanthropists are the bane of the age 1634 from one end of the world to the other. Their supposed philanthropy is mere weakness; it springs from an indolent yielding to sensations, implanted in us for wise purposes, but which, if indulged beyond the line of wisdom, will lead to the same excesses as the indulgence of any other passion.Approving, therefore, as he did, of the modifications which had been made by the Secretary of State for India and his Council in regard to the question of waste lands, he thought with regard to the law of contract, it was much to be regretted that the right hon. Baronet, instead of relying upon his own by no means perfect information and rather crude judgment, had not paid greater deference to the experience of those eminent local authorities to whom he had referred, and who had been always actuated by feelings of the strictest impartiality and justice in their administration of that distant country, where the interests of the different inhabitants and races were so conflicting.
said, that they had been dealing that night with two important questions, and he regretted that they had not had an opportunity of discussing them separately. The one was the redemption of the land tax and the other was the sale of waste land in India. Both those questions were of enormous magnitude and very complicated, but he was afraid those who had witnessed the aspect of that House for the last two or three hours would come to the conclusion that they did not materially interest either Parliament or the general public of this country. He wished to say a few words on the larger question of the two—namely, the manner in which it was proposed by Earl Canning and by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India to deal with the land tax. It was unnecessary that he should go into any lengthened argument on the subject, because, though the manner in which he proposed to deal with that matter and the form of proceedings were different from that adopted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, still the difference was rather in the form and manner of proceeding than in the principle laid down. If he rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, he had initiated a change far more considerable than he (Lord Stanley) had proposed. The Government of Lord Derby did not propose, in the despatch of December 1858, to deal with the tax generally, or to make it perpetual over the whole of India, but to allow a certain number of persons, if they desired 1635 to do so, to redeem their land for ever from the tax by the payment of twenty years' purchase down. Of course, that could only be done in cases where the burdens had been fully ascertained and assessments placed on a permanent footing. To that plan of redemption there was a very obvious objection. It was said that it would be treating capital as income, and that they were sacrificing their future income for present advantage. No doubt that would have been a sound objection if it had been proposed to apply the money to the current expenditure of the year; but when the sums derived from that source were to be applied, not to the general purposes of the Government or even to the carrying on of reproductive public works, but to pay off the capital of the debt, then it was clear that if, on the one hand, there was no gain, so, on the other, there could be no loss. Assuming the whole of the debt to be paid off, it would become a question what should be done with the remaining proceeds of the redemption but that was a contingency so utterly remote and apart from all practical considerations that it was scarcely worth while to trouble themselves about it at present. He was satisfied, that even if a power of redemption were allowed, the number of persons who would avail themselves of it would be comparatively small. The cultivator or tenant was not usually wealthy, and had no command of capital. Moreover, any one who knew anything of Indian affairs must be aware that in that country money applied to purposes of business would bring a larger return than 5 per cent. As a general rule, then, he did not think it would be found profitable, in a pecuniary point of view, to apply capital, especially when borrowed, to the redemption of the land tax. He had never contemplated that a great many persons would make use of the power of redemption; but it seemed to him most important to encourage such transactions, and to raise up a class who, being owners of the soil, would be likely to undertake improvements of permanent value upon it. Such a class would be attached to the British rule by the strongest ties (for it could not be expected that the exemption enjoyed by them would be recognised by any Government that might succeed ours), and would be as much interested in the welfare and tranquillity of India as fundholders were interested in the prosperity of England and the peace of Europe.
There was only one objection to the 1636 proposal in which there was any force. In every civilized and improving country, as the area of land was a fixed quantity, and as the amount of capital was gradually increasing, it was found that as a general rule land had a tendency to rise in value, and money relatively to fall. To some extent that was the case in India, and therefore, in taking land at its present value, the Government would be accepting in exchange for it, an amount smaller than they might obtain a quarter of a century hence. On the other hand, however, it was but fair to remember that the increased value of the property would be very much due to the redemption of the tax, because no one would expend large sums on the improvement of an estate who was merely a tenant at will or on a short lease. He would, then, compare his plan with that of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman did not go so far in one direction, but he went further in another. If he rightly comprehended his plan, the right hon. Gentleman desired to make, at the earliest opportunity, not simply a permanent, but a perpetual settlement similar to that in Bengal, applicable to the whole of India, but did not think it necessary to establish a freehold tenure. Now, in that respect, both he and the right hon. Gentleman were working to the same end, although in somewhat different ways. If a man had a piece of land, and paid a land tax of, say £100 a year to the Government, receiving in return an absolute pledge that under no possible circumstances and at no future time should a larger sum be required from him, his security was as complete as if he had paid down at once the price of the land and held it as a freehold. It was only a matter of convenience whether a man would pay £1,000 down and thus rid himself of all Government claims for land tax, or would pay an amount equivalent to the interest on £1,000 year by year with absolute security against having that amount raised. All a man, in the latter event, had to do was to put his capital into the Government funds and receive as interest, on the one hand, what he paid as land tax on the other. While the two propositions, as far as their practical results were concerned, were identical, there was some advantage in the plan of freehold tenure which he originally proposed. In all countries it was the tenure preferred by the actual holders; and they would give more for it than as a matter of pecuniary calculation it was worth. He did not, however, lay much stress on that, because 1637 wherever the system of perpetual settlement came into operation the loss on account of granting freehold tenure would henceforth be nothing, and the former ought to lead directly to the latter. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman had better have begun with freehold tenure at once, but as matters stood, he bad paved the way to it.
As to waste lands, some doubts had been raised concerning their extent, value, and general importance. He had never been altogether able to satisfy his mind on that point. He had never seen, and did not believe that there existed, any calculation showing the quantity of lands in India which might fairly be deemed waste. There could be no question, however, that it was at present practically unlimited. In the Neilgherries, in some parts of Bengal, Oude, Burmah, on the slopes of the Himalayas, and in parts of the interior, which, so far from being surveyed, had not yet been explored, the amount of uncultivated land was infinitely greater than any number of settlers were likely to require. There was, however, a great diversity of soil and climate. It had been said it was very improbable that there was a large quantity of waste lands in India, because that country had been so long civilized and was so densely populated that all the ground worth anything must have been cultivated long ago. Those who took that view forgot the large tracts of land in many English counties which were suitable for tillage, but which, after centuries of civilization, still remained wild. The amount of land in India being practically unlimited, the question was how best to open it to Europeans and natives respecting all native rights, reserving all claims of the State, and remembering that time was money, and that indefinite delay was a great mischief. It might, perhaps, be proper policy for an individual not to sell what he could not use, and to hold on in expectation of a better price, but that was a bad policy for the Government, whose interest as a seller was quite subordinate to its interests in other capacities. The question raised that night was, whether the object in view could be obtained more effectually by the plan of Lord Canning or by the revised plan of the Secretary of State. He had not the credit of being the author of either plan; but it was his fortune when holding office to open up the inquiry by inviting the Governor General to report his views upon the subject. Lord Canning did not send him a report, but he took the matter into consideration in 1638 India, and after a lapse of between two and three years there was published in India, by the authority of the Governor General, without, as he believed, any communication with the Secretary of State, that set of Rules, which had been often referred to in the course of the debate. There was then an interval of about nine months, upon the expiry of which the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to modify those Rules. He did not blame the Secretary of State for choosing, with the advice of his Council, to exercise his right of passing judgment upon those Regulations. He was not only justified in so doing, but he was bound to do so; because if the Government of India was to be responsible to the House and to the country, it could only be so through the Secretary of State. But he thought the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in one respect. There was, as he had said, an interval of about nine months between the publication of those Regulations in India and their revision in this country. If changes were to be made, they should have been made at the very earliest opportunity, and not a mail should have been allowed to go out without at least instructions being sent that those rules should not be considered to be in force until the opinion of the Home Government had been pronounced upon them. Nothing could be worse, especially in India, than the reversal of Regulations which were actually in force, and upon the faith of which contracts had been made. When he looked at the Rules themselves, as revised, he found that they agreed with those issued by Lord Canning in most respects, but they differed in some important particulars. They both agreed in giving a freehold tenure to the land when the purchase was complete. The difference was mainly upon two points—one relating to the granting of an indefeasible title, and the other to the manner of sale, which, according to Lord Canning's Rule, was to be at a fixed minimum price. With respect to the indefeasible title, under Lord Canning's Rules, if no prior claim was registered, and if the collector knew of no objection to a grant of land, he was to advertise the application for a term of thirty days, at the end of which the applicant entered into possession of the land; and if within twelve months no prior claim was established, he received an indefeasible title. In one respect that Regulation was defective. He agreed with the Secretary of State in thinking that the term of thirty days 1639 was far too short to protect original claimants, and generally there was not sufficient notice to guard against the risk of injustice being done. India was a very large country; the owner or the claimant might be absent from home, and might not know anything about the application for his land until he found it in the possession of some one else. There was another serious blot, which was hit by the Home Government, that a mere declaration of the executive Government could not bind judicial tribunals; and if the original orders had remained in force, they would certainly not have been respected by the courts of law. So far he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, but there his argument ended. What ought to have been done was simple. It was agreed that the term of thirty days was too short, and it ought to be extended to six or twelve months, and the Government of Calcutta should be called upon to pass a law giving legislative sanction to indefeasible titles at the end of six or twelve months. Some machinery ought also to be provided for a cheap and speedy tribunal to settle disputed claims. If these things had been done, he believed that all difficulties between the natives and the settlers would, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, be removed. But the right hon. Gentleman had gone further, and had laid down a rule that land was to be sold subject to any claim that might be hereafter made upon it. That rule would operate as a prohibition against any settlement of these waste lands, because no one would buy a piece of land merely on the assurance of the Government authorities that they did not know of any claim upon it, but leaving him subject to any litigation that might arise. He (Lord Stanley) agreed in all that could be said as to the necessity of caution in dealing with waste lands in India, as there was often great difficulty in ascertaining native claims. He had heard of instances where for a hundred years hind had been left uncultivated, the population having removed or been driven away by some former war; and yet there were families and even villages which maintained their titles over the unsettled tracts. He admitted that the Government was bound to protect the rights of the natives, but he thought it was also bound to protect the settlers and the public, who were interested in those unsettled tracts not remaining uncultivated an unnecessarily long time. The Government had a right to say to the natives, "Here is 1640 land for which a demand exists. Bring it into cultivation yourselves, or, if you have a doubt as to your title, bring forward your claim, and we will furnish you with an easy means of deciding it; but if you do not come forward after a sufficient lapse of time, all claim will be barred." In that respect he thought the instructions of the right hon. Gentleman had been very defective, and it was a vital point. He did not wish to go back to the rough-and-ready plan of Lord Canning; but if a reasonable time for making claims was allowed, and a cheap and speedy tribunal for deciding them were provided, then he thought an indefeasible title might safely be given.
As to the other question, whether the sale of land should be at a fixed minimum price, or by public auction, it was one upon which some doubts might fairly exist. A strong case might, no doubt, be made out for a sale by auction, as likely to secure the highest price that could be got for the land, as avoiding all questions of priority of application, and as avoiding ail suspicion of jobbery, while it would also allow to be recognised the difference existing between the values of land in different districts and under different circumstances. But, on the other hand, there were great objections which had been adverted to. Under the system of auction-sales, all inducement would be taken from the settler to seek for land himself. No man would search in remote districts at great personal trouble and expense for land which he thought valuable for his own purposes, if he knew that as soon as he had made his choice the land would be put up to general competition, and that a person who had taken no trouble in the matter, but who happened to possess a greater command of capital, might buy it over his head. The chief difficulty, however, was, that if land were sold by auction, it must be surveyed; and on that point he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would inform the House whether any calculation had been made as to the time which would be occupied, even if the present staff of surveyors were doubled or trebled, in going over all these lands with a view to a public sale. It seemed to him, that if a full and regular survey were insisted on before any sales took place, they would practically limit such sales to some few favoured districts, which might be selected by Government in the first instance; while, as regarded all the rest of India, the sale of waste lands was indefinitely 1641 postponed, At the same time, there were cases as in the neighbourhood of a newly-opened port, or railway station, where to sell lands at a low fixed price was really to give them away to the first applicant; and he thought the proper course would be not to lay down a uniform rule for all cases. If in a certain district there were European settlers, and water communication or railway communications, opened or in process of being opened, the auction principle might be fairly worked; but that would not apply to one-tenth of these lands; and with regard to the other nine-tenths, notwithstanding the disadvantages which certainly attended such a plan, lie thought it would, on the whole, be better that the first bidder should have them at a fixed low price. No doubt the first comer would then have an advantage; but, after all, he was the pioneer, he was the discoverer, and that advantage should hardly be grudged him. Then again, there was a certain loss to the Treasury in the lower price obtained for the lands if the first comer were allowed to take them at a fixed rate. But, it must be remembered, that the Treasury got the money very much sooner than it otherwise would; and when the low price, paid immediately, was contrasted with a higher price, paid perhaps twenty years afterwards, the loss of interest in the latter case considerably diminished the difference between the two amounts. Something had been said about opposition to these plans offered by the Council in England. Now, he was bound to say, that when in office he encountered no such opposition, and that when the question of the waste lands and of the redemption of the land tax was considered by him in Council, he found no disposition on the part of the Council to consider it otherwise than in the fairest and most impartial spirit. The general feeling of the Council was, he believed, in its favour, and the right hon. Gentleman would no doubt be able to tell a similar story. The obstacles, if any, lay not with the Council at home. It was not so much a question whether one set of Regulations or another should be adopted. The main point was to impress upon officials in India that the Government in England attached real importance to the carrying out of these plans. The best system might come to nothing if it were worked by persons who were not interested in bringing it to a successful issue; and if the Regulations adopted, whatever they might be, 1642 were not worked fairly and liberally, that which all desired to see, the introduction of European capital and enterprise into India would not he brought about. He did not deny that among a certain number of official persons a disinclination to the appearance of Europeans in India existed, though it was rather felt than expressed. Every civil officer in charge of a district felt that it was easier to manage 10,000 natives than ten Europeans, and they not unreasonably dreaded the collisions and disputes which sometimes arose when Europeans, who had not been before brought into contact with natives, settled in the interior. It was right to say so much in defence of men who might have prejudices, but who, he believed, were doing their duty, on the whole, honestly and fairly. There was only one way of overcoming the difficulties which sprang out of that state of things—namely, that the right hon. Gentleman, by his despatches to India, by his speeches here, and by his personal influence over those who practically administered the affairs of India, should show that he really attached importance to the Question, and that he regarded the influx of European capital and enterprise, which was likely to take place, not as a danger to India, but as a means of extending the resources of that empire to a higher point than they had ever reached before.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he approved the permanent settlement, and he approved of the sale of waste lands, but he disapproved the redemption of the land tax. By establishing a permanent settlement they would make the owners of the soil rich, by allowing them to reap the fruits of their industry. The waste lands were much more limited in extent than was supposed, for every village in India had its boundaries, within which the Government could not enter. He was engaged for six years in investigating the tenures of the Deccan, and he found that neither the Hindoo nor the Mohammedan Governments had questioned the proprietary rights of the soil in the people. It was England who had broken down these rights. As to the redemption of the land tax, it would be killing the goose which laid the golden egg, for in their time it was impossible that indirect taxes in India should support the Government.
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, that in considering whether the sales of lands should be by fixed price or by auction, the Go- 1643 vernment would do well to avail themselves of the experience of America. For seventy years the Americans had adopted a plan of first surveying the land, mapping it out, and then offering it by auction at an upset price to the best bidder. In America the plan was to survey the land to be sold in sections of 640 acres, which were then divided into sixteen parts of forty acres each. Two of these sections were reserved for purposes of education. It would be a good plan to reserve certain portions of land in India also for the same purposes. The right hon. Gentleman's doctrine of raising a middle class was rather inconsistent with his acts. In America they did not put up any larger portion at a time than forty acres; but the right hon. Gentleman proposed to sell 3,000 acres of land at a time. How could a poor ryot, who was desirous of raising himself by his own industry, purchase so large a quantity of land? It was only by the sale of small quantities of land that it was possible to raise a middle class. If land in America did not fetch the upset price when put up, any person might afterwards have it at that price, and any lot remaining unsold after it was first put up was sure to find purchasers subsequently, because its value was raised by a sale of the adjoining lots. The upset prices ought to be low in India, and the land should not be sold to speculators. In America a law had been passed, which came into operation in January of the present year, called the Homestead Act, which prevented any person from buying land from the Government who would not occupy and cultivate it. Perhaps the increased emigration to that country might be accounted for by the fact that every head of a family who went out there might have 160 acres of land for nothing provided he settled upon and cultivated the land. He was exempt from all taxation for five years, and had only to pay ten dollars, the cost of surveying the land, or about 3d. per acre. In America it was thought that the community was more benefited by giving away the land as a means of forcing its cultivation, than by any small revenue derived from its sale after lying waste for generations.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he wished to call attention to the suggestion that the Government of India had some sort of right in the land of that country which was occupied by the natives. If there was any principle clearer than another, it was that the occupiers of land in India were the 1644 owners in fee simple of the land which they occupied. The Government had no share whatever in the land so occupied. The Government was entitled to a land tax on every freehold, but there was a moral limitation to that land tax. He was satisfied with the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman in other respects. He could not help thinking that the Government had taken a most judicious course in checking the extraordinary proclamation which bad been issued in India; and he believed, if they could get at the truth, they would find that proclamation was not Earl Canning's. There was evidence on the face of it that it had been issued before it ought to have been issued in the due conduct of public business. It would have deprived the natives of India of their property, and left them to a precarious claim that must have been made within a very short period. He had seen such traces of the iniquity which took place during the early career of the English in India that be thought they ought to be startled at any proposition to give to subordinate officers in that country the right to deal with its land and property without reference to higher authority. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take care to prevent the rights of the native from being touched, when what might be called indefeasible titles were being given to European settlers. Two insurrections had grown up from ill-feeling among the natives, and in dealings with India they ought to use the utmost caution. He could not help thinking that there was great truth and force in some of the remarks which fell from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), that instead of proceeding in this wild and generalizing way in dealing with questions affecting one hundred and twenty millions of people, and with land of every kind and condition, varying from £100 to 6d. per acre, it would be far better that they should have regard to particular cases as they arose. It was absolutely necessary that the right hon. Gentleman should deal with the utmost caution. He commended the course he had already pursued, but great care must, be taken that rights of the natives of India were not sacrificed in order that a few Europeans might make enormous fortunes in that country. The Motion would only tend to mislead the public, because it was idle to say that the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman had prevented the growth of cotton in India. He should vote against the Motion of his hon. Friend if it were carried to a division.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
hoped the House would acquit him of any unnecessary delay in rising. He should have risen before, but he was anxious (and the noble Lord opposite said that it was only fair that he should do so) to hear the whole of the accusations that might be preferred against the course he had pursued. Certainly it had been some satisfaction to him to find that much of what was charged against him had never been done by him. Much that his hon. Friend had imputed to him had been done by others. Much had been done some time ago. The grave charge against him was, that he had prevented the growth of cotton in India and its coming to this country so as to relieve the distress in Lancashire, and his conduct had been denounced in no measured terms, where he could not answer. He was very glad now at last to meet his accuser face to to face, and he would endeavour to meet the charges fairly and fully. With all the unwillingness which his hon. Friend had so kindly professed to prefer an indictment against him, he must say, if his hon. Friend had taken the trouble to look a little further into the papers which were on the table, and to quote them a little more fairly, he would not have made many of the charges which he had urged to-night. Had he referred to the papers on the table, he must have seen that the Government of India had shown itself most anxious to promote the growth of cotton in India. He might have seen, in point of fact, that the Government of India had acted at the earliest moment, before any alarm had been excited in this country on the subject. In February 1861 they passed Resolutions, and acting upon them, at once, had actually and practically executed almost everything which had since been suggested as what ought to be done by the Government of India. With the view of extending the knowledge of the demand for cotton in this country, they sent Commissioners through the different districts to make known to the local officers, and through them to the people, what it was wished should be done by them. They offered to pay the expenses of commercial Commissioners to accompany their own officers, to show how the cultivation of cotton might be extended, and what facilities might be given for its conveyance; they gave prizes for the production of the best cotton, they distributed good seed, and 1646 made a considerable appropriation of money for the construction of cotton roads. One of the first despatches from the Secretary of State contained in this blue-book was entirely to approve the course which the Government of India had taken, in that respect. It would show the fairness of his hon. Friend, in quoting the despatches, that he had entirely omitted all reference to these and other despatches which showed what had been done on the general question. He only referred to one, in which objection had been taken to the remission of the land tax on ground occupied for experimental cultivation of cotton. He (Sir C. Wood) had objected to this remission for this simple reason, that it deprived the experiment of any practical value. What was essential was to know at what price cotton could be grown on land paying the ordinary charges. Upwards of £200,000 had been spent by the East India Company in introducing American seed into India; and it was ascertained that it would grow well in many-parts of India, and that the ryots cultivated it successfully. But it was necessary further to ascertain the price at which it could be profitably produced. This could not be ascertained by the Government, and it could only be determined by the cultivators practically raising the cotton on ground subject to the ordinary charge. To grow it on land exempted from such payment was for this purpose totally useless. His hon. Friend then accused him of being hostile to the settlement of Europeans in India. In the very despatch to which so much objection was taken, he had expressed an opinion favourable to the settlement of English in India. He en-entirely agreed with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) on that point. It was a question on which many people took different views. He believed it was of great importance to India that English capital should go to India, and, as far as possible, that Englishmen should settle there. He had always been anxious to give every facility for the settlement of Europeans in India; and if his hon. Friend had taken the trouble to quote fairly, he must have given him credit for showing that wish in the despatch in question. His hon. Friend had no right to assume that he was adverse to that for which he professed himself to be most anxious. The noble Lord opposite had truly stated, that with regard to the sale of the waste lands he (Sir Charles Wood) had approved of nine- 1647 tenths, and more, of Lord Canning's Resolutions. By those Resolutions a fee simple was granted in the waste land to the person purchasing; all other rights were barred, and after thirty days from the sale he might gain an indefeasible title. He approved of the whole Resolutions proposed by Lord Canning with only two exceptions—he insisted that the survey should be made previously to the sale instead of after it; and whilst the Resolutions said, that if there was more than one applicant, the land should be put up to auction, he said that this should always be done. Upon these two changes, and upon these two changes only, it had been asserted over and over again during the autumn that he had rescinded Lord Canning's Resolutions, set them at nought, and rendered them utterly valueless. Besides this, he had certainly pointed out the objection to what was claimed by the Landholders' Association, that all land should be sold at a uniform price throughout India—10s. for cleared, 5s. for uncleared land. He did think that an uniform price for all waste lands was an absurdity. He thought so still. His hon. Friend (Mr. J. B. Smith), who had just sat down, concurred in that opinion. It was just as absurd as to suppose that an acre of ground on Clapham Common was of no more value than an acre in the wilds of Connemara. He had also pointed out that the Resolutions of the Government could not really bar the claims of other parties to land. This could only be done by legislative enactment. The Government of India proclaimed that the purchaser should be put in possession of the lands thirty days after the sale, with an indefeasible title. Supposing a suit brought in a court of law for the possession of that land subsequent to the thirty days, it would have been the duty of the court to decree possession of it to the former and rightful owner. And then the right to compensation was to cease at the end of a year. The statute of limitations in India at present was twelve years. The Government could not by Resolutions alter the law. It was not in their power to do so. The Government professed to do what they had no power to do, and what any court in India could set aside as of no value. Was it not his duty to point out to the Government of India that they were perfectly wrong in doing so? Nevertheless, it was for doing this that he had been censured as a promoter of litigation so as to de- 1648 feat the intention of selling land. His hon. Friend complained that Rule IX. in Bengal, which said that the claims of third parties on the land should not be barred, rendered the whole transaction nugatory, and that it was prescribed by him in his despatch of July. There was not a syllable of the kind in the despatch. If his hon. Friend had referred to the papers, he would have seen that four or five months before his despatch was written the Bengal Government had found out that the Resolutions of the Government of India had no legal validity in this respect, and they gave their reasons for omitting that part of them which purported to bar private rights in the following words:—The rule barring private rights, as wherever it acts at all it will act to defeat existing rights in private property, has been struck out, as such a rule could be of no force or effect, whilst it would pretend to have force and effect. Such a provision evidently requires a law; and not being yet enacted by law, its appearance in a formal set of rules would seem improper. When this provision is enacted by law, no rule will be necessary on the point.These reasons were given in a letter of January 1862, and appeared to him quite conclusive; but, at any rate, his hon. Friend might have seen that the course of the Bengal Government could not have been determined by his despatch, which was written five months afterwards. He agreed with the noble Lord that the proposed time of notice was too short to bar private rights, and he pointed this out in his despatch, though he did not prescribe what the limit should be. He left that to the Government of India to determine in the Act which he told them it would be necessary for them to pass. The noble Lord would find that the Government of India had, in fact, done all which he thought that they ought to have been directed to do. He (Sir Charles Wood) had left it to them to adopt proper measures—they had done so. Having thus disposed of these more general matters, he would refer to the two points on which he had been blamed so much—the previous survey of waste lands and the sale by auction. Before doing so, however, he must say a few words on what was meant by waste land. There were three descriptions of waste lands in India. There were waste lands properly so called, which had never been possessed or claimed by anybody, and which were entirely at the disposal of the Go- 1649 vernment; there were also waste lands in which, the Government, from forfeiture or other causes, had acquired proprietary rights; and there were the lands which were or had at some time been owned by some persons, but which were left lying uncultivated and waste. A large portion of the waste lands were of the last description, but still they might be sold under the Resolutions. He would, however, speak, in the first instance, of the first description of waste lands. A very small portion of this description of waste lands was of any immediate value for practical purposes. It was stated in the despatch of the noble Lord opposite that such lands are "extremely limited" in quantity; and the Governor General, in his despatch, said that the amount of unoccupied land ready at the disposal of Government was "so extremely small as to be of little practical importance in considering how the cotton production of India could be largely and rapidly increased." The Governor of Madras said that "only a small portion of the waste lands could be regarded as applicable to the purpose of settlers," and the Governor of Bombay said that the "land available was of the poorer sort, and where there were large tracts they were in a climate deadly to the European constitution." According to these testimonies from every part of India, the quantity of land immediately available for cultivation was extremely small. That much of it might be brought into cultivation in process of time he would not for a moment dispute. But that was a distant prospect, and for the immediate extension of cotton cultivation there was no use in looking to that kind of land. It was, however, in respect to the mode in which he had altered the Resolutions of the Government of India as regarded this land that his hon. Friend had attacked him to-night. Now, the only two changes he had made were that the survey should be made before the sale, and that the land should always be sold by auction. He had been accused of having ordered such an expensive and elaborate survey as would in practice make the whole thing nugatory; but the fact was that he had ordered no survey of that sort. In the Resolutions of the Government of India, it was said that the survey was to be such as clearly to define rights, and insure the ready identification of boundaries. He had not made any alteration in this, and it was clear that it 1650 was so understood in India. In an official letter from the North Western provinces it was said, "Every facility is given to applicants to indicate the position and limits of the grants they are desirous to obtain, and the survey and demarcation at that stage is an easy and inexpensive process." The Bengal rules stated that "the survey need only be in sufficient detail to insure the ready identification of the boundaries of the lot, and to ascertain its gross area." The Chief Commissioner of Oude said—Nothing more was meant or has been required in practice, than a rough skeleton survey, giving the boundaries and approximate area of the tracts —nor does such a survey necessitate the employment of an expensive European agency, or entail any sensible delay. Hundreds of native surveyors, trained in the Government schools and elsewhere, capable of performing the work, are available.Therefore, the whole of this bugbear of an expensive survey was a pure, invention, and no difficulty had ever been felt about it in India. He would now point out the advantage of a previous survey; and, in illustration of it, he would refer to the case to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, which he called the Sonachan case in Central India, but which he did not appear at all to understand. There the Commissioner had taken upon himself to do that which was contrary to the resolutions of Lord Canning. He disposed of a large tract of land at the price of 6d. an acre, and was blamed, by the Governor General, for what he had done. There was no reference to anything in his (Sir Charles Wood's) despatch. The evil, however, was that 16,000 acres were sold, and nobody knew at all where they were, or whether it was all in one lot or in sixteen different lots. The Government of India pointed out, and truly, that such a proceeding was indefensible. In an area of 160 square miles, a gentleman had bought 16,000 acres, without the slightest indication of where the land was. Could anything prove more clearly the advantage of a previous survey sufficient to determine the position and extent of the land sold? If Mr. Meek was at liberty to go and pick out 16,000 acres, in different lots of 1,000 acres each, wherever he pleased, it was obvious that nobody else could for some time buy an acre of land in that district. Therefore, it would be a clear gain in point of time that a previous survey should take place. He would refer to another case, which equally demonstrated the advantage of such a survey. A gentleman purchased some waste land 1651 in Oude, and being anxious to take possession of it, he sent his servant for that purpose; but after four or five months he discovered that he had put his servant upon land which he had not bought. Would it not have been better that the gentleman should have been able to ascertain beforehand precisely what land he had bought? Indeed, he could not conceive anything more unbusiness-like, more likely to lead to delay, confusion, and complaint, than buying a piece of land without knowing where it was. The hon. Gentleman had complained very much of the uniform sale by auction, but he (Sir Charles Wood) thought the arguments in favour of that mode of sale very conclusive. The hon. Member had put the case of a young man with little brains and with a great deal of money who might buy over the head of an intelligent man with little capital who had been at the trouble of searching out a tract of good land. But that might take place just as well under Lord Canning's Resolutions as under his (Sir Charles Wood's) despatch. Here was another case in which the hon. Gentleman, who said he was so anxious not to prefer a general indictment against the head of the Indian Office, had not taken the trouble to inquire what was in the despatch, but blamed him for what he had never done. The Government of India had a right to have a fair price for the land, and it was not imposing any hardship on anybody if the ordinary means of securing a fair price were adopted. The case of certain parties at Darjeeling had been mentioned, to whom the local officer, contrary to the instructions of the Government at Bengal, had promised land at 5s. an acre, but which the Government of Bengal had ordered to be sold by auction. The parties complained that they were not allowed to receive the land at the price of 5s. In this case there was no question of survey; all the land applied for was sold to the persons who had applied for it; there was no impediment to the settlement of Europeans. It was merely a question of price. The Government of Bengal refused to confirm the irregular and unauthorized proceedings of the local officer; but they said that as the whole of the land in question might have been bought for the last few years at £1 an acre, the complainants might have it at that price if they liked. That did not suit them, and the whole of the land was afterwards sold at an average of 35s. an acre. 1652 The difference between the price at 5s. per acre and at 35s. was £41,000. If the land had been bought at 5s., it clearly might have been sold the next day at 35s., and the only result of what had been done was to put £41,000 into the coffers of the Indian Government, instead of into the pockets of private speculators. His hon. Friend, as usual, blamed him for what had been done, though the Government of Bengal had acted without any reference to his despatch. He would refer to another case in the south of India. He would read an extract from an Indian newspaper—and it was to be observed that the Indian press was, with the exception of part of the Calcutta press, favourable to the new regulations—on the subject of the sale of certain lands in Neilgherry. The paper said—The first sale of waste lands under the new Rule took place on Monday last. We understand the price realized by Government on some forty-five acres was 1,310 rupees, which, with the assessment on the description sold at two rupees per acre, and the privilege of redeeming the tax at twenty-five years' purchase, gives a total of eighty rupees per acre.That was £8 per acre, and why land worth that price should have been sold to gentlemen for 5s. per acre was more than he could see. He believed that the course which he had taken, both as to the survey and as to the sale by auction, was perfectly right, and did not interfere in the least degree with the early extension of cotton cultivation. In reference to this subject he wished to call the attention of those Gentlemen who were disposed to believe the complaints that he had done so, to the character of the land the sale of which he was supposed to have checked. Mr. Saunders had published a letter attacking his conduct, in which he pointed out what he considered the injustice to the intended settler; and his account of what the settler had to undergo, in search of land, was as follows:—The settler desirous of purchasing lands may have hundreds of miles to travel, involving no inconsiderable expense, in search of the soil and climate he requires. In such search he will necessarily be exposed to great alternation of heat and cold; he will find no covering for his head beyond the light tent he may be able to transport along with him, and no protection from the burning rays of the sun by day, and the heavy chill and damp dew by night, save this most ineffectual covering, or the still less efficient one of the forest itself. In his search after land the explorer will be subjected to many dangers incidental to the country, not the least of which are the deadly fevers prevalent at certain seasons of the year.1653 This did not hold out a tempting prospect to the cultivator of cotton. He would refer again to the district containing 16,000 acres in the Sonachan talook. In reference to this place the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces writes to Colonel Durand on the 22nd October 1862 as follows:—It is quite uncultivated, though, perhaps, one-third of the area may be cultivable, the remainder being hill, rock, or thick jungle. It is said to abound with wild beasts, and, without doubt, it is now very insalubrious, and will continue so until the jungle shall, to some extent, be cleared away. At present it could not safely be entered by an European from August to January.Now, did hon. Gentlemen really and seriously look to the early and rapid cultivation of cotton in such districts as those? It was utterly impossible to bring land of that description under cultivation without great labour or within the period of several years. Where were the labourers to come from? They were not to be found in the districts, and we have had experience enough of the fatal effects of fever in such districts as those even on Indian constitutions to give us little hope of bringing labourers from other districts. But even if they were brought, and could live there, for the first three or four years they could only grow food for themselves; and the notion of any early or large production of cotton in such districts was simply chimerical and absurd. But gentlemen anxious on this subject might nevertheless purchase land fit for the purpose. The Governor General stated that there was no question but that there was plenty of land under assessment fit to grow cotton upon, and such land could be easily bought, though perhaps not often in very large quantities. If hon. Gentlemen were disposed to invest their money in purchasing land for the cultivation of cotton in India, let them take land of that description, which was available at once, instead of seeking to reclaim wastes which would require five or six years to bring them into any sort of cultivation. In Mr. Ferguson's pamphlet that gentleman said he had been prepared to invest a large sum in purchasing 40,000 acres in Oude for growing cotton, but that his (Sir Charles Wood's) despatch had put an end to the scheme, and that it was impossible to attempt it, when he now found that he could only obtain 3,000 acres—an amount insufficient for his purpose. That limitation was, however, imposed by Lord Canning's Resolutions, and not by his despatch. 1654 Nor had his despatch prevented the sale of land to other persons, for the Chief Commissioner of Oude said that almost all the available land there was now sold, but that it was not suitable for growing cotton, which was an article of import in that province. The observations which he had made applied to that which was truly waste land, but the Resolutions of the Government of India applied also to a great deal of land which belonged to somebody or another, and which could not be fairly and properly disposed of without giving the claimants an opportunity of establishing their rights. He had been told that he was wrong in his opinion as to there being no great quantity of waste land in Bengal. Well, he had written to Lord Canning on the subject, and what was his reply? Writing on the 3rd of January 1862 Lord Canning said—I think it likely that you overrate the amount of waste land through which the railways pass —'waste,' that is, in the sense in which the word is used throughout the Resolution. Many lands pass through miles and miles of jungle, as does the Great Trunk road, but a very great part of such ground (on the Trunk Road the whole of it) is no more disposable by the Government as waste, is no more ownerless, than the highly-tilled fields of the Doab. It was one of the mistakes of the agent of the Cotton Supply Association to assume that the country which he saw from the road wild and unreclaimed was all 'waste land.'Everybody who knew India knew that there was a portion of almost every township left apparently waste, and on which the ryots turned out their cattle. Pasture for the cattle, employed in agriculture, was indispensably necessary, in order to provide for the means of cultivating the arable ground. The Zemindars also often left parts of their estates uncultivated for a time, but the Government had no power to take and dispose of that land, which was as much the property of the Zemindars, or the village communities, as any other land that belonged to them. It was exactly like the moors in Scotland, which might be called waste land, but which were the absolute property of somebody, and certainly could not be sold by Government. He must remark, however, that ever since 1853 there had been nothing to prevent the whole of this description of land in Bengal which was under permanent settlement, from being bought by Europeans. Any European settler, therefore, might have bought, not from the Government, but from the proprietor, any portion of the so-called waste land in Bengal, if the proprietor was willing to 1655 sell it. There was a Regulation providing for the division of the Zemindary estates, so that the purchaser of any part could be freed from the danger of having his land sold for non-payment of the Zemindar's rent He might acquire the property in absolute freehold, subject only to a fixed quit rent. So far therefore as related to land in Bengal, what was called waste land might have been purchased by any person for nearly thirty years, and might be bought now, if anybody thought it worth his while to do so. Yet it was almost exclusively from Calcutta, that the complaints came of its not being possible to buy this land.
But the Resolutions applied to waste land in other parts of India—where land belonging to the ryots was often left uncultivated for some years. In Mr. Saunders' pamphlet he spoke of land as waste land which had lain so for five years. This was salable under the terms of the Resolutions. In a country where manure was scarce, land was often left fallow for a few years. Natives often gave up the cultivation of their land, and went away to seek their fortune or employment at a distance. Some reasonable opportunity ought to be given to such persons of asserting their right to the land which it is proposed to sell. But that after an advertisement had been put out which many people could not see or read, a purchaser should be put in possession of a piece of land after thirty days' notice without the owner having had an opportunity of coming forward to claim his right to it, was a thing wholly unheard of. Under such a system a man might go away for six weeks, and when he returned find somebody in the enjoyment of his land with an indefeasible title. One great reason for insisting on having the boundaries roughly marked out, was that it would give notice to the neighbourhood of the intended sale. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Vansittart) was quite correct in his remarks as to the feeling of the people of India in regard to their land. Their love for it was something inconceivable, and for a piece hardly worth cultivating they were ready to fight to the death. Page after page of the minutes of Lord Metcalfe and Sir Thomas Munro proved that this was the case. The people clung to their rights of property with the utmost tenacity. In confirmation of this he would mention a circumstance which occurred to Sir John Lawrence in the Punjab. He objected to 1656 the proceeding of some chief who wished to turn some of his relations out of the possession of some land which had belonged to his family some thirty years before; and the chief answered that in the neighbouring district the grandson of a man who had been carried off nearly a hundred years before to Afghanistan, and had become a Mussulman, returned to the Punjab, and by common consent of the people who had in the mean time occupied the land and of the whole neighbourhood, the greater part of the inheritance of his family was restored to him. Could there be a stronger instance of the universal acknowledgment of the ancestral rights of property in land. If there was any single thing that would cause greater risk of insurrection than another and render our tenure of India insecure, it would be if a general feeling should be created among the people of that country that we were trifling with their rights of property in land. As to the suggestion of the noble Lord, with respect to what ought to have been stated in the despatch, he had left those points to the discretion of the Government of India. And no time had been lost in providing for them. An Act had been passed in which it was enacted that a three months' notice should be given, instead of one of thirty days; that within the three months any claim must be made, which would then be adjudicated upon by a tribunal on the spot; that compensation should be paid where the right to it was established within three years, such compensation to be paid, of course, by the Government which had sold the land.
He now came to the redemption of the land tax. The noble Lord had pointed out how little difference there was in most parts of the measure recommended by himself, and that of the measure prescribed in the despatch. In both the main points of security of tenure and of immunity from being deprived, by an enhanced demand on the part of Government, of the benefit of improvements, were assured to the occupier of land. For either measure, a revision of the assessment was necessary, in order to insure a fair receipt, either of purchase money or of rent, by the Government. His measure prescribed that a fixed rent, fixed in perpetuity, should be paid to Government. The proposal of the Government of India allowed one-tenth of this rent to be redeemed, and a capital sum paid for it to the Indian Treasury. This he had not 1657 allowed. He certainly had been surprised by the assertion of his hon. Friend that the land revenue was a curse to India. He had always believed that it was, perhaps, the most remarkable advantage of India that £20,000,000, or one-half of its revenue, was derived from the rent of the land. There could not be any source of income so little unpopular. The land tax was perhaps the only impost which was not obnoxious to the people of India, and, for his own part, he objected to sacrifice so large a portion of that safe and secure income, upon which we could always depend. All Oriental Governments derived a great part of their revenue from land, and he should be trifling with the resources of India if he were to act upon the advice of the hon. Member for Poole. In his recorded minutes Sir John Lawrence said—I deprecate the policy of redemption, because I feel certain that its effect would be to deprive the State gradually, it is true, but surely of a large portion of the one great source of income which the people have been immemorially accustomed to pay, and which has all the authority of prescription and tradition in its favour.Indeed, the great majority of the ablest officers in India were against the redemption of the land tax, and not one was in favour of the particular plan recommended by the Government of India. The hon. Member for Poole had quoted Mr. Hume in support of his proposition; but if he had read a little further, he would have found a frank admission by Mr. Hume that very few, if any, of the native landowners would be willing to redeem the land tax on any terms. Mr. Beadon was also against the redemption of the land tax, and in favour of a permanent settlement, Mr. Laing, in the Minute which the hon. Gentleman had quoted, said—I do not refer to the question of redemption of land revenue, for it is no necessary part of the question of permanent settlement. I doubt its advantage, except in the ease of waste lands in unoccupied districts, and would certainly not allow any extension of it that can be helped at such a low rate as twenty years' purchase, which involves a direct loss to the State.These, however, were the terms which the noble Lord opposite had just recommended. Sir Charles Trevelyan thought the redemption of the land tax would be an unjustifiable sacrifice of revenue. In fact, all the best authorities were in favour of continuing the tax, and, what was still more important, the people themselves were accustomed to it, did not consider it a hardship, but, on the contrary, were perfectly; content to pay it. There could be no 1658 doubt that rent for land would be paid by the occupier to somebody, and it was well that the Government should receive a portion of a payment which was cheerfully made by the occupiers. He certainly did not believe, that if the power of redemption was given, many persons would avail themselves of it. In the North Western Provinces and in Oude, six months after the publication of the Government Resolutions, not a single landowner had applied for it. In Chittagong, where it was allowed at ten years' purchase, very few persons had redeemed. But the most complete answer, so far as regarded Bengal at least, was the feet that any landowner might, at the present moment, practically redeem his land tax. It was admitted by everybody, that if the land tax were to be redeemed, it would be only fair that such a sum should be given for it as would, if invested in Government Securities, produce an interest equivalent to the amount of the tax itself. Practically, at this moment there was a power in the permanently settled districts of depositing in the hands of the collectors an amount of public securities, the interest of which was equal to the rent of the estate, and thenceforward no land tax was payable, and the estate could not be sold for arrears of rent. This, in fact, amounted to a redemption of the land tax, with the further advantage that the proprietor could at any time withdraw the securities from the collector, and re-possess himself of his capital. If, therefore, settlers in Bengal wished to redeem their land revenue on fair terms, there was no obstacle to their doing so. Yet it was from Bengal that the complaints of not being able to do so principally came. He would not detain the House longer; but, in his opinion, the great argument in favour; of a permanent settlement rather than of redemption was that very few people throughout India would avail themselves of the redemption, whereas the whole agricultural population, without exception, would benefit by the arrangement for a fixed perpetual rent charge. He believed that the course which the Government had taken would be productive of advantage to the great mass of the population of India, and it was to the improvement of the mass of the native population, and not to that of a few settlers only, that we must look for the development of the resources and the increase of the wealth of the country. In the benefits of the improvement of the condition and the in- 1659 creased power of consumption of the great body of the people of India, this country must necessarily very largely participate; and, independently of our moral obligation to govern India for the good of its population, we had the most direct pecuniary interest in their welfare.
§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, that he should rest satisfied with the debate to which his Motion had given rise, and would not press it to a division.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.