§ MR. GORST
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to a Petition presented to Her Majesty by inhabitants of the Colony of Ceylon, and to a Despatch of the Governor of Ceylon enclosing the same. The Papers would disclose a very depressed state of things in the colony and a very angry feeling against the Government; a refusal of redress by the Government, and an apparent determination on the part of the Governor and other persons to misunderstand the precise complaint of the colonists. Now, considering the great commercial importance of Ceylon, and its position in what some persons called the most central point of our Eastern Empire, discontent there was extremely inconvenient, if not dangerous. He did not ask the House to come to any formal Resolution on the subject, but rather to act as mediators between the colonists and the Government, inducing the colonists, on the one hand, to withdraw any demand which they considered unreasonable, and, on the other hand, inducing the Government to accede to those moderate requests which met with the approval of the House. The grievances of the colonists had arisen out of the military expenditure in Ceylon. Discussions had taken place as to the number of troops which should be maintained there, the number that was necessary for local and Imperial purposes, the proportion of charge which should be borne by the colonial and Imperial Governments respectively, and the question whether the revenue of the colony could bear the burden put upon it without serious injury. He would not ask the House to enter into these questions, which, indeed, they had not the requisite local knowledge to follow and discuss. The whole question might be settled in ten minutes by two or three reasonable men on each side in the colony; but here it might be discussed for days without any satisfactory result being arrived at. For the present, however, it was settled, although not in the best way, and the colonists were less concerned about that settlement than about the way it had been arrived at. The original question had developed into the wider one of, whether the colony was to be governed in Downing Street or at Ceylon? The hon. Member, having traced the colonial Government of Ceylon from the year 1833, when a Legislative Council was ap- 2022 pointed consisting of ten official and six non-official members, down to the year 1848, proceeded to give an account of the rise and progress of the quarrel between the Government and the colonists, with the view of asking whether the demands of the colonists were in themselves reasonable or unreasonable. He referred to the despatch of Earl Grey in that year, in which the noble Earl said—I consider that the time has now come when it would be advisable to extend the control of the Legislative Council to the whole annual expenditure.But the subsequent conduct of the Home Government had been quite at variance with the spirit of the despatch, and the control of the Council was reduced to a nullity. What he should like to know was whether the present Government endorsed Earl Grey's views or not? The despatch was sent out by Earl Grey, as Colonial Secretary, in 1848. His successor, the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) in 1859, directed the passing of an Ordinance permanently charging upon the revenue of the colony fixed expenses which had been incurred, without having been sanctioned by the Legislative Council. In accordance with the doctrines thus laid down, a sum of £15,000 was first applied, by order of the Secretary of State, and without having been brought under the notice of the Legislative Council, to the increase of the military allowances. In 1862 the Committee on Colonial Military Expenditure drew the distinction between what should be considered Imperial and what colonial items of expenditure; but in 1864, without previous communication or inquiry, an order was sent out to the Legislative Council to increase their contribution to the military expenditure from £30,000 to £54,000. Ten of the sixteen members of Council, being officials, considered it their duty to vote according to orders, and that sum, which the Colonial Legislature had actually allocated to the improvement of public works, was arbitrarily diverted into another channel. For the sake of testing the question, however, an item of £1,000 was not voted. Peremptory orders were then received from England that the decision of the Legislative Council was to be reversed and the money paid, and it was paid, the official Members themselves protesting that the Legislative Council was unnecessarily compelled to eat dirt, seeing that the Governor might have made the payment on his own authority. The hon. Member 2023 proceeded to quote numerous passages from a Memorandum written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) at the time he held the office of Colonial Secretary. It had been stated that the regulations for the future payments by the Ceylon Legislature had been prepared in the office in Downing Street; and this was the very circumstance which had caused so much dissatisfaction in the colony, because it was deemed that a matter of that kind ought to be settled in the colony itself, and not in this country. It appeared that the Secretary of State had decided that the colony should pay nothing towards the maintenance of the military establishments; but, in more recent times, an attempt had been made to station troops at Galle, in the hope that the colony might build a barrack. Three Secretaries of State had expressed as many different opinions upon the subject, and the present Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, said that to build works at an outlying station like Galle, whilst the central point of Colombo was left undefended, would be an act of reckless folly. The fast was, the question ought to have been settled, not now in the office at home, but in the year 1864 in the colony itself. With regard to Trincomalee, the opinion expressed by a Commission which sat on the subject was at direct variance with that of the Colonial Secretary. The intention of the Government, as he gathered from the various Memorandums on the subject, was to discover the utmost possible amount which could be screwed out of the Cingalese; and this was fixed at £170,000. There were serious complaints against the police, the administration of justice, and the state of education in the colony. An official Report on the affairs of Ceylon stated that the amount sacrificed through incompetent management of public works was from 5 to 10 per cent of the total amount expended upon them. The Crown had relinquished nothing at all. At the present moment the Council was composed of ten official members against six unofficial, the ten officials being obliged to vote strictly in accordance with instructions from the Secretary of State. This, in fact, amounted to a re-instatement of the prerogative of the Secretary of State in administrative matters, which was formally abandoned in the year 1864. The consequence was that a Ceylon league had been formed, and the people of Ceylon now appealed to the Imperial Parliament. The hon. Member 2024 for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) had given notice of a Motion for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into their grievances. Therefore, whether he (Mr. Gorst) was or was not wrong as to the grounds of complaint, there could be no doubt that discontent did exist. A Committee of the House had laid down the principle that the Imperial Revenues should be charged with all expenditure not incurred for purely colonial purposes. How did Her Majesty's Government give effect to that principle in the case of Ceylon? They stated in the Memorandum that no expenditure had been incurred in Ceylon for years except for colonial purposes. But what was stated by the General Officer in command in the colony? Writing on the subject in 1865, he pointed out that Ceylon might be regarded as a central part of the British Colonial Empire, as from thence troops could be readily despatched to India, to Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, the Mediterranean, and so on; and further it was stated, and could not be denied, that the harbour which had been constructed was most important to Imperial interests. The expense of its maintenance and of its defence by troops was, therefore, not a matter of purely local, but of Imperial, import. The colonists were, however, ready to pay the £170,000 a year which they were required to pay towards the military expenditure of the colony. They did not ask, as was stated by the Governor in forwarding their memorials, for a representative Government. There was not a word in any of their petitions that could be construed into conveying such a demand, while, on the other hand, they had repeatedly repudiated the idea that they made it. All they asked was that they might have in the Council as many non-official as official members, and it appeared that this was the single colony in the whole list which had so large a proportion of officials in its council. The existence of a Legislative Council in the colony induced people to think that the Governor and the Secretary of State were checked in the civil expenditure. But it was no such thing. The officials on the Legislative Council were instructed from Downing Street; they were told how they were to vote; and the result was that the Governor and the Secretary of State might do as they liked in regard of the civil expenditure. He quite admitted that the Government should reserve to itself a power in the last resort; 2025 but it was one thing to have the votes of a Legislative Council under the direct control of the Government, and another and quite a different thing to have independent action in the first instance, a power being reserved to the Government to act independently of the Council if it appeared to the Executive that it was necessary to do so. He wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether the Government will not do something to meet the wishes of the people of Ceylon?
§ MR. WATKIN
said, he had no personal interest in Ceylon; but he knew several persons who had invested their money there, and were committed to the industry of the colony. These persons would thank the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Gorst) for the manner in which he had brought forward this question, and stated one portion of their grievances. He should not trouble the House with many remarks upon the present occasion, as he had given Notice to move for the appointment of a Committee to consider the whole question of Ceylon, and when he brought forward his Motion, he should show cause why the present state of things should be altered seriously, and at a very early period. The question of his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge really came to this: whether the Memorial presented from Ceylon made statement of a substantial grievance, and whether the grievance had received the respectful and anxious attention, which statements of grievances ought to receive when they came from distant possessions at the hands of the House and of the Government? He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies a Question last year as to this Memorial, which the hon. Member for Cambridge had stated was signed by the representatives of the wealth, respectability, industry, and indeed all that was worthy of consideration in the island of Ceylon. The right hon. Gentleman in reply said that a Memorial had been received, signed by certain native Cingalese, requesting that Ceylon might be changed to a Crown colony, with representative institutions, and a reply had been sent to the effect that such a request was wholly inadmissible, for the reason that Ceylon was much more Indian than colonial. The right hon. Gentleman also said he believed a league had been formed in the colony, in order to secure to local people the spending of the whole of the revenues of the island, leaving it to English taxpayers to pay the 2026 whole expense of the military defences of Ceylon. He (Mr. Watkin) did not think the right hon. Gentleman would give the same answer that night; but that he would admit the fact that the Memorial was as represented by the hon. Member for Cambridge, and that it deserved every consideration. The House, in his opinion, ought to consider whether the time had not come when the Colonial Office should no longer retain in its own hands all the appointments in Ceylon and the entire control over the expenditure of the colony—now £1,000,000 annually—without giving an account to anyone or whether it should be left to people on the spot, who were much better able to deal with it, and who indeed had a right to deal with it. Earl Grey had promised the people of Ceylon that they should have some semblance of a representative Government; and the Council there must be altogether abolished or such a participation must be allowed it in the power of levying taxes and expending the money as would give confidence to the taxpayers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) was one of those who was disposed to consider Earl Grey a high authority on Colonial matters; but what was the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman when Secretary of State for the Colonies? The members of the Council of Ceylon, in the conscientious discharge of their duty, passed a vote which the right hon. Gentleman practically called upon them to reverse, not because their convictions on the subject had changed, but because, in his opinion, it was the interest of the Empire that their vote should be reversed. The Government must either dissolve the Council of Ceylon or give them such participation in the control over the affairs of the colony as would cause the taxpayers to have confidence that their interests would be protected. Under the present state of things, the Government of the Colony was eminently defective, the interests of the inhabitants were suffering, and altogether the state of things was such as to call for immediate and extensive reform. The result of the present system had been unsatisfactory. The question of education was going backward, public improvements were ceasing to be made, the police of the island was defective, and famine of a dreadful character had appeared at different times of which the House had received no official information. He believed that all these evils proceeded from the circumstance that the people on the spot were prevented from 2027 taking a moderate part in the administration of their own affairs.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, that the petition from Ceylon, to which the hon. Member for Cambridge referred, had not been described by him (Mr. Adderley) as the hon. Member stated. The Petition had 2,500 signatures attached to it, of which 2,000 were Cingalese, and 500 those of Dutchmen and other Europeans. Of course a petition of this kind, coming from any colony of this country, would carry with it great weight; but he might observe that it emanated chiefly from the body of planters who, though small in numbers, were powerful in influence, and who had recently formed themselves into a league for the purpose of obtaining for themselves a stronger control over the revenues of the colony. No doubt they were an important body, and their opinions deserved all consideration. It was remarkable that these persons distrusted the Cingalese who had signed the Petition in such large numbers, and in Mr. Miller's pamphlet representing their case, the Natives were described as wholly incapable of any rational view upon a subject of political interest. What the planters asked for was full control over the local revenues by their elected representatives, freed from all dictation of the Governor. They said that they did not, as yet, ask for what was usually called representative institutions; but, in effect, they asked for a degree of popular government, which he thought the House would consider was wholly irreconcilable with the condition of an Asiatic Crown colony like Ceylon. It was absolutely impossible that anything in the nature of a representative Constitution could be given to a country which by its position, condition, population, and character was, in fact, an isolated part of India; and he had always regretted that it had been disconnected in Government from the Presidency of Madras, and made a separate Crown colony. He had been labouring for more than twenty years to give representative institutions to all British communities; but it never entered his mind to suppose that the ignorant and uneducated native population of an Indian island could furnish any materials for representative institutions. It must remain a Crown colony; and the meaning of this term was that the Governor though aided and enlightened, but certainly not controlled, by his Council, should not be controlled and relieved of his full responsibility by them. If the Council should once get the control over 2028 the Governor the Crown Government would cease to exist; or rather the Crown would be assuming a responsibility which it could not fulfil. The Council was now liberally constituted; much more so than it was at first. At first it had no financial functions whatever; but their powers in this respect had been so enormously increased that they had more than once rejected votes and successfully resisted the policy of the Government. Now, what were the grievances that made them ask for a change of Constitution? They were that the civil service had been mal-administered; that the establishments had been starved and ill-conducted; and that the expense incurred for the forces was much larger than it should be. Now, he found that the police establishment, which was formerly very inefficient, had been within the last few years entirely re-modelled; directions had been sent out to remodel the Post Office; the Public Works Department had been largely increased, and pari passu with the increase of the Department there had been an increase of works; and the Judicial Establishment was allowed by the petitioners themselves to be satisfactory. The Fiscal Department had been remodelled. The Education Department had been greatly increased; and to the Surveyor General's Department thirteen surveyors had been added. In 1857 the whole Civil Service expenses were £187,000; and in 1867 they were £314,000. The revenue had enormously increased, and so had the surplus in hand. This showed that the demands made had been liberally met, and left the only ground of complaint remaining—namely, the contribution paid for the military. His opinion was they paid nothing more than was just in this respect. Sir Charles M'Carthy had managed the country so well, and got so large a surplus in hand, that he thought the colony might fairly be called upon to pay a military contribution. Formerly, we paid almost all the expenses of their defence; but after the Report of the Select Committee of 1861 on the Military Expenses of the Colonies, a very different system was adopted with regard to Ceylon as well as all our other colonies. India always had paid the whole of her civil and military expenses, and why should a different principle be applied to Ceylon? The time had gone by when the House would consent that this country should pay the legitimate expenses of the colonies; and, in our best colonial days, the colonies bore the whole cost of their government and defence. 2029 He believed that it was unprecedented in the history of any country that the metropolis of an Empire should render itself tributary to its possessions throughout the world, instead of what was much more common in history, its making those possessions tributary to its own strength and power. He did not think that the expenses of Trincomalee should be called Imperial in contradistinction to colonial because the port sheltered the British fleet. The British fleet gave gratuitous protection to British Colonies, and how could they have the face to say that the English taxpayers should also shelter them on their shores? An inquiry had been carried on by a Commission in the colony, and the conclusion they had come to was that the number of troops there could not be reduced with safety to the colony, and that therefore the contribution could not be reduced below the present requisition. From the moment that the Committee of 1861 on the military expenditure of the colonies had reported, that House had been of opinion that the colonies should be made much more largely to bear their own expenses, civil, ecclesiastical, and military. The Ceylon colonists said they did not like to be compared to India, but with the other colonies of England, and they asked to be treated by this country as her other colonies were. The other colonies were now paying for the troops sent them from England—not all, nor as much as they should, but increasingly. But when the late Colonial Secretary (Mr. Card well) asked the colony to advance somewhat beyond the half of their expenditure and to pay £100,000 a year—the whole being £200,000 a year—the unofficial members of the council resigned in a body. The proposition was put in the mildest way; but the greatest resentment was exhibited against this moderate demand. What they now asked for in the way of constitutional changes was greatly in advance of the demands they made a few years ago. At that time they requested that the appropriation of their money should be passed through the Legislative Council, and should not be directed simply by instructions from the Colonial Secretary at home; but what they asked now was that their Legislative Constitution should be changed; that the unofficial members should be at least equal in number to the official members; so that if the unofficial members held together the Governor would in every case have to exer- 2030 cise his casting vote. It was alleged that certain promises and pledges had been given to Ceylon, which, by withholding this reform, were unfulfilled. It was true that Lord Torrington, when Governor in 1847, recommended the nomination of that portion of the unofficial members of the Council which consisted of Europeans by the local Chamber of Commerce; and that Lord Grey, when Colonial Secretary in 1848, expressed a hope, which had been misrepresented as a promise, that the unofficial members should have a greater voice in the control of the revenues of the colony. But both those pledges had been kept, and it was only by their resignation in a body that the unofficial members deprived themselves of the benefit of the first. As to the control of the revenues, after the civil list, the fixed establishment, and the military expenditure—which did not amount together to the one-third of the total revenue of the colony—had been provided for, the rest was at the disposal of the colony. The largest part of the revenue was now expended without reference to the Secretary of State. The statement of the hon. Member who spoke last, as to £1,000,000 of revenue being spent at the mere discretion of the Secretary of State, was wholly at variance with facts.
§ MR. WATKIN
said, that what he had stated was, that the Home Government might, if they chose, control the whole revenues of Ceylon, not that they did so practically.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, the control of the balance of the revenue, amounting to nearly £750,000 sterling, really rested with the Legislative Council of the colony. It should be borne in mind that four-fifths of the population of the colony were Cingalese, and he did not believe that there were more than a few hundred European planters and merchants. What was asked for, then, was, not to increase the representation of the great mass of the populalation, but to narrow the representation, and place it in the hands of the planters and merchants, whose interests were not always those of the Natives. The interests of the Natives were really under the protection of the Government. What these gentlemen asked for was a narrow and controlling influence to be exercised, apart from or avoiding the Governor, by themselves in the Legislative Council. Their tendency would be to carry out works advantageous to their particular mercantile speculations, and neglect the more homely 2031 matters of irrigation and the improvement of the soil, which were the great objects to be carried out in behalf of the Natives. In support of their proposal they cited the example of Jamaica; but Jamaica had receded from the position of a colony with a representative institution. They referred also to the Mauritius, where it is true that the unofficial Members of Council predominate; but would they say that its revenues were in the same state as the revenues of Ceylon, or that its interests were as well looked after under the Constitution it had as the interests of Ceylon had been looked after? If, however, he could see his way to giving to so influential and enlightened a body of men as the merchants and planters a greater voice in the Council, to assist the Governor in what must necessarily be, to a great extent, an autocratic Government, he should be glad to do so; but to give these gentlemen the controlling power, and to leave the Governor only a casting vote, would be unjust in itself to the great body of the people, and would place the Governor in a most invidious position. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) had declared his intention to move for a Committee upon the subject, but he (Mr. Adderley) could not see what further information was required. All the information which was necessary was in the possession of the House. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by denying the grievance which had been alleged as existing, and declaring that the remedy sought for was wholly inadmissible.
§ MR. CARDWELL
agreed with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Gorst) that all these questions about Ceylon derived their origin from the Select Committee of 1862, which reported that a much larger portion of the expenditure for the military defence of the colonies ought to be defrayed from local and not from Imperial resources. Not long afterwards an hon. Member brought forward a practical proposal that Ceylon should again become, what it originally was, a part of the Empire of India, which defrayed the whole of its own expenditure. When the news of this proposal reached Ceylon, it was received with the greatest consternation, and the strongest remonstrances were made against it. The hon. Member (Mr. Gorst) was probably not aware of the view taken by the inhabitants of the colony when they were asked to be transferred from the Colonial Office and to form part of the 2032 Government of India. Three years ago he (Mr. Cardwell) had laid the Papers on the table. They did not then describe themselves as subject to a tyrannical and unjust system of government; nor did they represent their condition in such dismal language as had been referred to by the hon. Member. The Governor of Ceylon did not think it became him to move in the matter; but an unofficial Member of the Council took up the subject—one of those, no doubt, who were parties to the present complaint, and an Address was agreed to by the Legislative Council, and sent to England. They said that any such change as had been proposed would impede the progress and disturb the peace and prosperity of the colony. They stated that they were well satisfied with the existing form of government, which secured a fair representation of the various interests of the colony. They spoke of the marked progress of the colony, and of the peace and good order which prevailed, and which strongly contrasted with its former troubled state. This change, they said, could only be attributed to the wise and liberal measures of the Home Government, and to the judicious measures of the local administration, whereby enterprize had been stimulated, and Ceylon had been raised to the rank of one of Her Majesty's most important colonies. It was not, however, possible for the House to disregard the Report of its own Committee, and not to enter upon the question how much of the military expenditure of the colony was to be defrayed by the Imperial Government, and how much by the colony itself. A correspondence had been going on between the Colonial Office and the War Office on this subject when he came into office, and a few days afterwards Sir Charles M'Carthy, who then arrived at home on sick leave, told him that a settlement acceptable to the colony could, in his opinion, easily be made. The principle having been laid down that Ceylon, like our other Indian colony, should defray the whole of its expenditure, it was met by the immediate resignation of the whole body of the unofficial members. The Colonial Office accepted their resignations, and found no difficulty in re-constituting the Legislative Council. A Military Commission of Inquiry had since been sitting, and, although its Report was not yet laid on the table, he believed that an arrangement had been made, in conformity with the demand made upon the colony to support its own establishments, which would 2033 be satisfactory to the island, and form a by no means oppressive burden upon its growing and improving revenue. If he had yielded to the request made to him, and in deference to the Councillors of Ceylon had abstained from transferring to the revenues of the island the cost of its defence, he would have allowed these gentlemen to control not only the expenditure of Ceylon, but also that of the United Kingdom. And who were those who made this request? Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor, stated in his despatch that the native population of Ceylon amounted to 2,336,000 persons. The Europeans only numbered 3,000. The constituents of the European population, wives and families included, were:—Military and civil servants, 1,750; planters, professional men, merchants, and their employés, tradesmen, artizans, &c., 1,250. And by how many of these Europeans had the petition been signed? By 186 persons, comprising among them only 11 merchants and 53 proprietors of coffee estates. They had much better ask to form part of the Indian Government than to continue a colony, under a responsible Minister, who had no power to carry into effect the measures necessary for the government of the island. He believed that the re-constitution of the Legislative Council as proposed in the Petition was not desired by the great majority of the residents possessing property and intelligence, and would not tend to the better government of the colony. These people, to do them justice, expressly disclaimed asking for representative institutions. Well, what did they want? They wanted a return to the system of Lord Torrington, by which the unofficial Members of the Council were selected on the recommendation of the Chamber of Commerce at Colombo, and the Planters' Association at Kandy. He thought that the question as to what the Legislative Council should be might fairly be considered by the Government at home, with the assistance of the very able Governor of Ceylon. The use—and it was a very important use—of a Legislative Council was, that the people whose property and capital constituted the wealth of Ceylon should be entitled to have every item of the colonial expenditure fully discussed, and that they should have the right of appealing to the House of Commons if wrong decisions were arrived at with regard to that expenditure. But it would not be just to the numerous native population if an absolute control over 2034 them and their revenues were given to a body which it was impossible for them to consider as representing them. He certainly thought it would be right for the Government, in conjunction with Sir Hercules Robinson, to popularize that body as far as they thought judicious; but while the Government retained responsibility it was absolutely necessary that they should also retain power. The hon. Member for Stockport was mistaken in supposing that while he (Mr. Cardwell) was at the Colonial Office he compelled the Members of the Legislative Council to reverse their votes. He required that the accustomed payment should be made to those who were entitled to expect it; but left it to the discretion of the Council whether the charge should be imposed by their vote, or by the direction of the Secretary of State.