§ MAJOR ANSON
said, he rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the case of Sir Theophilus John Metcalfe, C.B., as set forth in his Petition of the 24th day of February, and printed in the Appendix to the Fifth Report on Public Petitions on the 7th day of March, 1868. The petitioner was joint magistrate at Delhi when the mutiny broke out. He had inherited a large property from his father, who had been in the service of 1269 the East India Company for forty years. Acting up to the spirit of the policy of the East India Company, who wished their civil servants as far as possible to make India their home, Sir John's father had, in the course of his long service, accumulated at Delhi a very large amount of property, with a residence, and a valuable library. On the breaking out of the mutiny, the property fell into the hands of the Natives, and was either plundered or destroyed. That was a calamity which had overtaken many European proprietors at the same period; and in such cases the ordinary course in India was to proceed against the district or village in which the property was situate; and this mode of procedure after the mutiny was over had been approved by the Government of the North West Provinces and the Punjab, and in several cases civilians, officers of the Government, independent planters, missionaries, and others had obtained full compensation for their losses during the mutiny by proceeding in ordinary course of law against the district in which their property had been plundered. But when Delhi was handed over to the Punjab Government, it was made an exception to the general rule, and it was said that the losses there would be dealt with under a special arrangement to be proposed by the Government at Calcutta. Sir John Metcalfe, therefore, waived his legal claims and took no steps to obtain redress by the ordinary course of law, trusting that the Government would provide him with sufficient means to obtain compensation for the loss of his valuable property. Owing to the press of business in 1858–9, no answer was returned from Calcutta to his application, and no means were afforded for obtaining redress. Sir John Metcalfe had to leave India on sick leave; but, on his return, in 1862, he renewed his application, and received a letter from the Punjab Government in which the sum of £500 was awarded to him. In 1864, he applied again to the Punjab Government, and the answer he received stated that the award had been made with full knowledge of all the facts of the case. He next applied to the Supreme Government of India at Calcutta, and the financial letter he received in reply, dated Simla, July 15, 1864, mentioned his conspicuous bravery at the final assault, and other special grounds, entitling him to liberal consideration, and recommended that 50,000 rupees, or £5,000, should be granted to Sir John in full of all 1270 claims. Such was the recommendation of the Governor General of India in Council to the Supreme Council at home. But it entirely overlooked the circumstance that by the action of the Government he had been absolutely deprived of the means of obtaining redress by prosecuting the Delhi district. No action having been taken by the Council of India, and no compensation having been awarded, he was fully justified in his appeal to that House, the only tribunal to which he could address himself. The question of compensation for losses during the Indian Mutiny had never come before the House. Certain compensation rules were laid down in 1859 and 1860, but it so happened they had never been submitted to the House, although Sir Charles Wood, then Secretary of State for India, in answer to a question, stated that the subject of compensation for losses should be considered, but that no action would be taken until the whole question had been placed before the House and discussed. Under these circumstances, the question ought to have come before the House, and he thought it was perfectly legitimate to bring it forward on the present occasion. It might be said it would be dangerous to grant this appeal for a Committee to inquire into the subject, because it would encourage other claims. Now, that was not a very fair argument. He believed there were very few claims now outstanding. But, even if full compensation were granted, the case would form no precedent, because the Supreme Council at home had already established a precedent for full compensation to be given. That was in the case of the Mirza Ilahee Buksh of Delhi, by whom a claim for compensation had been made to the amount of 114,000 rupees. A sum of 5,000 rupees had been at first awarded upon that demand; but that amount had afterwards been raised to 35,000 rupees; and the Secretary of State for India decided upon appeal that even that latter award was not sufficient to meet the justice of the case, and directed that he should receive the full amount of any losses he could prove before the Commissioners. The daughter of the Mirza married the son of the King of Delhi, and when the mutiny broke out the Mirza joined the party of the King against the English; but soon finding out that that was a losing cause, he sent word during the siege of Delhi that he would give the English information of what was going on. He (Major Anson) was not aware whether the 1271 information furnished was of any value, but here was a case of a rebel who was allowed full compensation for the losses which he had sustained in consequence of a rebellion in which he himself took part. Therefore, it appeared only just that a civil officer of the Indian Government, who had nobly done his duty, and who, in the execution of that duty had lost the whole of the property accumulated by his family in three generations, should be fairly compensated. All that was asked was that a Committee of that House should inquire whether Sir John Metcalfe was entitled to that compensation.
§ MR. ARTHUR PEEL
, in seconding the Motion, said, he wished to state the peculiar circumstances under which the loss sustained by the petitioner was incurred, and also to quote some instances of the high testimony which distinguished officials in India had borne to the character and service of Sir John Metcalfe. The first he would mention was the testimony of the Secretary of the Government in India, who, after recognizing the eminent services of Sir John Metcalfe, stated that he believed Sir John had been the greatest sufferer of any in India in respect to the loss of property by the mutiny. The Governor General himself had recommended compensation, but for some cause or other it had not hitherto been granted. It might be urged that it was a large claim to make on the part of a civil servant of the Crown, but the case was a peculiar one. For three generations the family had occupied that property. It was the policy of the Indian Government to disassociate their servants as much as possible from connection with the mother country, as it was considered that they would be better servants if they confined themselves entirely to Indian interests. The father of the present baronet, Sir Thomas Metcalfe, made his home in Delhi, and collected around him all that a refined taste and great intelligence would lead a gentleman in his position to gather together. He built an elegant mansion, and furnished it luxuriously with valuable pictures and statues. The house was sacked by the rebels, and subsequently our troops made use of the very property on which the house was situated, in order to enable them effectually to combat the rebels, cutting down the valuable woods, and availing themselves of all the advantages which the place possessed to conduct their operations; so that while, on the one hand, the house was despoiled by the enemy, on 1272 the other the grounds were destroyed by our own troops, and all the property which had been accumulated by Sir John Metcalfe's family for forty years had been entirely destroyed. Our army in India had the very highest appreciation of the personal services of Sir John Metcalfe, and there were many letters from high officials strongly commenting on the distinguished services rendered by the petitioner. Major-General Showers stated in a letter written at Fort William on the 24th of April, 1864, that Sir John Metcalfe was always at hand when there was anything to be done during the mutiny, and that he volunteered to lead the troops through his estate by such a route as enabled them to fall unawares on the cavalry, and the consequence was that the mutinous cavalry were obliged to retire with such precipitation that the artillery was left behind and fell into our hands, and we were enabled at once to march on Delhi; and he concluded by saying that, for his personal services, no one was more entitled to honour and credit at the hands of the British Government than the petitioner. Sir George Clark had also written home much to the same effect, and the reply he received was that his letter, bearing testimony to the valuable services of Sir John Metcalfe at the siege of Delhi, had been laid before the Secretary in Council, and then followed a few words of cold commendation to the effect that the writer was instructed by Sir Charles Wood to say that he had received with much gratification the record of the valuable services performed. Again, Colonel North in a letter dated from Calcutta in April, 1864, stated that, under the guidance of Sir John Metcalfe, the troops were enabled to advance by a circuitous route upon the Indian cavalry, and the consequence was that they sustained so thorough and complete a discomfiture that it was impossible for them to carry off the guns. He regretted to find that an officer who had rendered such valuable services was obliged to importune the Government for justice, and he earnestly trusted that the case would meet with a generous consideration at the hands of the Government, and that no difficulty would be thrown in the way of granting this Committee.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the case of Sir Theophilus John Metcalfe, C.B., as set
forth in his Petition of the 24th day of February, and printed in the Appendix to the Fifth Report on Public Petitions on the 7th day of March 1868,"—(Major Anson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD WILLIAM HAY
said, that having been in India during the mutiny, it would be unfair in him not to testify to the general accuracy of the statements made with respect to the losses sustained by Sir John Metcalfe, and to his gallant conduct during the mutiny. He (Lord William Hay) visited Delhi as a traveller in 1848, and went over the house and estate of the petitioner's father, because it was regarded as one of the "lions" of the place, valuables of all kinds being collected there. He again visited the place in 1858, three months after the war, and it was the literal fact that not one stone of the mansion was Standing on another. He could bear testimony to the personal bravery of, and the invaluable services rendered by the petitioner during the mutiny, when he proved himself a worthy successor of his distinguished uncle Lord Metcalfe, who led a storming party at the siege of Bhurtpore. His services were publicly recognized by General Campbell, and, in a private conversation, that gallant officer had told him of the intrepid coolness with which Sir John Metcalfe at the siege of Delhi pioneered the troops through the intricate streets from the Cashmere Gate to the principal mosque, a distance of about two miles, marching in advance of the troops with a double-barrelled gun in his band as coolly and composedly as if he had been walking in his own grounds. So sensible were the army of the value of Sir John's services that they unanimously voted to him a share of the prize money derived from the capture of Delhi; but as he was a civilian, the generous wish of the army could not be carried into execution. Sir John Lawrence—to his honour be it said—was an austere man in respect to rewards and to questions of compensation; yet he had recommended that a payment of £5,000 should be made to Sir John Metcalfe, on the ground that his case was an exceptional one. That being the case, the House might depend upon it the claim was well worthy of consideration. It might be said that the appointment of a Committee in this case would establish a bad precedent; but he hoped there was not much danger of 1274 any similar case arising in the future. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for India had said on the previous night that he was sure the Council who had the control of the finances of India would always yield to the authority of the Secretary of State. It was impossible to imagine, then, that the Council would refuse to accede to an opinion deliberately arrived at by the House of Commons. At all events every one would be glad to learn that before a decision was pronounced against this claim it would be completely inquired into.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, it was painful to say anything apparently in opposition to the claim of a gentleman of high character who had rendered distinguished services, and who certainly had been a very great sufferer. It was, therefore, with very great reluctance that he found himself compelled to object to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member, he found himself in a somewhat embarassing position. This claim arose out of events which had occurred ten years ago. The compensation which had been awarded to Sir John Metcalfe had been awarded in consequence of a despatch written by Sir Charles Wood in 1859, which allowed a certain scale of compensation to sufferers by the mutiny. The case of Sir John Metcalfe had afterwards been brought forward as a peculiar one; it had been considered by the Government of India, and recommended to the notice of the Secretary of State for India in 1864. From that time to the present it had not been officially brought before any Indian authority, and this Motion had come upon him (Sir Stafford Northcote) quite unexpectedly. The hon. and gallant Member had certainly given notice of his Motion some time ago; but never having heard of Sir John Metcalfe, and not knowing that it was in any way connected with his Department, he (Sir Stafford Northcote) had not given his attention to the matter till the day before yesterday, when Sir John Metcalfe called upon him, and expressed a hope that he would not object to the Motion. He then asked what the circumstances were, and for the first time he heard the history of the case. The House were aware that if he were ever so well inclined to make a grant it would not be in his power to do so without the assent of the majority of his Council. He had not had an opportunity of consulting them yet; and as it was only on that morning he looked into the Papers, be was speaking under 1275 circumstances of difficulty. He must, however, observe, that no Resolution which might be passed by a Committee, or even by the House itself, would be legally binding on the Council of India; because Parliament had decided on general grounds, and he thought wisely, to remove from itself the duty of administering the finances of India, and had referred that duty to another body. As long as that arrangement remained he did not think Parliament would desire to render it an absurd one by interfering in individual cases with the decision of the Council. He did not, of course, object to the Council receiving any information from a Committee in a case where information so furnished might be deemed desirable. Neither did he object to the comments of hon. Members who desired to point out what they might conceive to be errors in decisions of the Council. On the contrary, he thought that in such ways that House might exercise a very salutary influence. But he thought that in this case the facts were not in dispute. They were correctly stated by the hon. and gallant Member—more correctly than by Sir John Metcalfe in his petition. Sir John was obviously under an erroneous impression as to the source from which the funds for awarding those compensations were derived. He seemed to think that they had been voted by that House, and that a very large sum had been granted for the purpose, and had not vet been exhausted. Had that been so, that House would of course have been the right judge whether its intentions had been carried into effect. But it was not so, and the hon. and gallant Member had not put forward the case on that ground. He should be most happy to lay the whole of the Correspondence on the table in order that the House might see exactly how the case stood. Having looked over the Papers—without, however, having had an opportunity of consulting his Council—he would now state how in his opinion the case presented itself. In the first place it should be borne in mind that the compensation awarded to Sir John Metcalfe was granted, not upon any special award confined to his case, but in application of the general rule laid down by Sir Charles Wood, the Secretary of State in Council in 1859. He was not prepared to go into an argument as to the legal rights which the sufferers by the mutiny might have had to recover the full amount of their losses from the inhabitants of the districts in which those losses were incurred. That, 1276 however, was a point on which he would institute inquiries, as it might possibly have some bearing on the case. But he might remark that if every sufferer from the mutiny had a legal right to recover all his losses from the inhabitants of the district, the cases of every loser by the mutiny, as well as that of Sir John Metcalfe, called for inquiry, with the exception of the comparatively few cases in which the losses were made good by the action of the Punjab Government, or other local authorities, on the spur of the moment. But when Delhi fell the Government had, instead of allowing prosecutions against districts and villages, made an arrangement under which compensation should be granted out of some general fund. With respect to Delhi, it was at first proposed that the compensation should be provided by contributions to be levied on the houses in that city. That plan, however, was abandoned, and the following plan was adopted by the Government of India. The claims, it appeared, amounted to about £2,000,000, and the Government laid down the following scale of compensation:—A distinction was drawn between real and personal property, it being provided that the losses in real property should up to a fixed amount be made good to the amount of one-half the loss sustained, but that beyond a certain point the compensation should be at the rate of one-third of the actual loss, while with respect to personalty the rule was laid down that one-third of the proved loss should be made good, but that no claimant should receive more than 5,000 rupees, or £500. It was obvious that under this peculiar arrangement, which however was deliberately adopted and applied in every case, a person who had lost property worth £1,500 would receive as much as a person whose losses amounted to £15,000. Now, the peculiarity of Sir John Metcalfe's case was simply that he was a large loser, and that, therefore, this scale of compensation, which was perhaps sufficient for those who lost but little, was in his case a very inadequate one. Still, he was compensated according to the scale laid down and applied in every instance. The money was to be derived from contributions out of the general funds of the Government of India, and whereas the losses were represented to amount to about £2,000,000, the total sum which the Government determined to grant by way of compensation was not to exceed £1,000,000. He believed Sir John Metcalfe made no complaint as to 1277 the amount awarded to him as compensation for his real property. In regard to his personal property, he was awarded the maximum that could be given under the rules—namely, 5,000 rupees. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) had alleged that Sir John ought to have received compensation on two distinct grounds, in respect of property in which he was interested under two distinct titles, and he confessed there seemed to be some force in that argument, although it was not admitted by the Government of India. But, subject to this exception (if it were one), Sir John Metcalfe was compensated at the same rate as everybody else under the rules. The hon. Gentlemen who brought forward and seconded the Motion now alleged that the compensation was insufficient, and said they asked not for favour but for justice. But in what respect had Sir John Metcalfe been treated unjustly? He had, it was true, suffered considerable loss, and had received compensation to a very inadequate extent. Was that what was meant? ["Hear!"] From the way in which his last remark had been received he inferred that the claim was rested on the ground of justice; and that, in fact, the justice of the system of rules under which the award was made was disputed, not only as they applied to Sir John Metcalfe, but to everybody else; because if rules were laid down and everybody were treated exactly in accordance with them, it was impossible to say that if the rules were just for one person they were unjust for another. To revise these rules and to set aside the basis of compensation which had been laid down when the facts were fresh would be a very serious undertaking. He was not responsible for them, nor did he stand up to defend them; but he was merely endeavouring to get at the real facts of a case which certainly awakened sympathy. It would, however, be extremely unwise to carry sympathy for an individual so far as to break down rules, without carefully considering what the consequences might be. The other ground on which Sir John Metcalfe's claim was based was that it had been recommended for special consideration by the Government of India. He held in his hand the despatch from the Government of India, in which that recommendation was made. They argued, in the first place, the question of the distinction between the two separate properties, and on this he confessed their argument was not at first 1278 sight very convincing. They then went on to say that under the rules for the distribution of compensation for losses of personal property a limitation was made to one-third of the loss, and that in no case could a larger amount than 5,000 rupees be allowed. They also stated that, in the present instance, the latter sum was disproportionate to the total loss, and that more liberal compensation was sought on special grounds. They went on to say that Sir John Metcalfe laid great stress on the fact that he had abstained from pressing his claim against certain districts, but they held that this plea was untenable after the formation of the Million Fund. [Major ANSON: What is the Million Fund?] The next paragraph of the despatch would answer the question of the hon. and gallant Member. For the reasons which they stated, they said that Sir John Metcalfe had no claim to more than 5,000 rupees under the rules, but that there were special grounds which entitled him to consideration from the Government, such as his own services at Delhi, and the fact that he belonged to a family which had rendered great services to India. Now, although there was no name more deservedly honoured in Indian history than that of Metcalfe, he was sure the House would feel that the circumstance was not a sufficient reason for laying out the money of the taxpayers of India for the purpose of compensating an individual on account of his family, however distinguished. As to the services which Sir John Metcalfe had rendered at Delhi, he was not prepared to say that they were not such as to entitle his case to special consideration. That was a question which would have to be measured by a comparison of those services with the services of some other officers; and the only statement he could make with respect to it at the present moment was that he must reserve his judgment upon it until he had an opportunity of considering it more fully upon its merits. He found that the case had already been decided some years ago; and although he by no means wished to contend that it should not be re-opened, yet he thought some caution should be exercised in doing so, particularly as no new facts had been adduced. He should, however, hold himself entirely at liberty to deal with the matter, should it be brought before him, on its merits after consultation with his Council, and after such reference as might be deemed necessary to the Government 1279 of India. It would, he might add, be in his opinion extremely difficult for a Select Committee to decide satisfactorily in the matter; indeed, he did not see in what way such a tribunal could well proceed in its investigation. They might, indeed, put questions to the members of the Council as to the grounds on which they had come to the conclusion at which they had arrived; but he was not at all sure that that they would ascertain the justice of the case at all more satisfactorily than could be done by the House itself in open debate with all the necessary information before it. He was perfectly ready to lay on the table the original Correspondence which had led to the establishment of the rules to which he had referred, as well as all the subsequent Correspondence which bore upon the case. He should also be prepared, if the case were properly brought under his notice by Sir John Metcalfe, to take it into consideration in Council, so that he might see how the thing really stood; but he must not be understood as in any way pledging his individual opinion or that of his Council as to what, on full investigation, might appear to them to be just. The noble Lord the Member for Taunton (Lord William Hay) had, in the course of his remarks, referred to some observations which he (Sir Stafford Northcote) had made the previous evening as to the right of the House of Commons to control the Council, but he seemed to have misunderstood his meaning. What he had said was that in the event of a difference of opinion arising between the Secretary of State and his Council upon a question of expenditure recommended by the Government of India, the Secretary of State had a remedy against the Council by being able to put a moral pressure upon them by bringing the matter before Parliament. It would, however, he thought, be a dangerous principle to establish, that the House of Commons, whenever a case of what it deemed to be individual hardship was brought before it, should, with comparatively little knowledge of the matter, interfere and try to over rule the decision of the Council of India. As to the present case, he did not mean to say that it was not a case which was in some respects a strong one; but he, at the same time, was of opinion that it would be injurious that it should be drawn into a precedent for making appeals from a better informed body to one which must necessarily from the absence of information be less qualified to pronounce an opinion upon it. He hoped, 1280 under the circumstances, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not press his Motion for a Select Committee, while he (Sir Stafford Northcote) would undertake to take care that if the case were brought before him by a memorial from Sir John Metcalfe, it should not be set aside with the ordinary answer that the question could not be re-opened.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
had heard with great satisfaction the decision at which the right hon. Baronet had arrived to take the case into his favourable consideration. He contended that, as the Council of India were a purely official body and not elected by the taxpayers of India to represent them, it was perfectly open to the House of Commons to review their action on financial questions, and maintained that, although the rules to which reference had been made might, generally speaking, operate fairly, yet that was no good reason why a particular instance in which they might operate harshly should not be dealt with on its own merits. The case was one entitled to consideration upon its own merits, and on grounds of abstract justice; and as it was, moreover, the claim of a man who had rendered important public services, and whose family also deserved the gratitude of the country, it was to be hoped that it would be dealt with in a favourable, an equitable, and even in a generous spirit.
§ MAJOR ANSON
said, that, after the speech of the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for India, he would not press his Motion to a division; but as the Indian Council had already expressed an opinion on the subject, if their decision upon it should be again adverse, be must hold himself at liberty to bring the case before the House at a future period.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.