§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of calling attention to the cultivation of the poppy in India, and the manufacture and trade in opium by the Government of India; and of moving—That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the Indian Government should take measures to terminate graduallay its direct connection with the cultivation of the poppy, and the manufacture of and trade in opium, and that it should use the powers that it possesses to prohibit in British India the cultivation of the poppy, except to supply the legitimate demand of opium for medical purposes.I have been very anxious to bring before Parliament a question in reference to which I have laboured for some years past, and as to which I think I may venture to say that those who have co-operated with me have not altogether laboured in vain. In dealing with the Opium Question to-night, I desire to lay down two propositions which I intend to try to prove. The first is, that cultivating the poppy and dealing in this trade by the Indian Government is contrary to those moral rules which ought to govern 279 civilized nations—that it is contrary to the laws which ought to influence the feelings of mankind, one towards the other; and that upon economical grounds it is contrary to the financial interests of the great country over which Providence has placed us. On former occasions I have brought before the House the question of the great quantity of opium which we were sending to China, and I have endeavoured to show what the effect of the trade was upon the people of that country, and how demoralizing it was to them. But the ground upon which I endeavoured to argue was, that we had no right whatever to force that opium into China against the wishes of the Chinese people, and that we were bound to treat China as we should treat Germany or France or any other independent Power on a footing of equality with ourselves. Her Majesty's Government have, to some degree, accepted the view which I and those who have supported me entertained, because while many of us have been compelled to find fault with the manner in which various Governments have previously refused to recognize the Chefoo Convention, that Convention has now, after having been in abeyance from 1876 until 1885, at last been ratified, and a Treaty has been made with the Chinese for five years. With that Treaty the Chinese Government are, I believe, content. China has, I think, taken the Treaty as the best she could get, rather than all she deserves to have. The Treaty itself was delayed from the 12th of March, 1883, to the 18th of July, 1885, and it was only last year that the English Government consented to ratify it. The Chefoo Convention had in the meantime been kept in suspense since 1876. I now ask the House to say whether we are justified in the course we have followed in the cultivation of the poppy, and the manufacture of Indian opium? The Indian opium revenue is derived from two sources. As is well known, the main source of the Indian Revenue is the cultivation of the poppy, principally in the Province of Bengal, by means of money granted from time to time to the cultivators, in a manner which has been well described by Sir Cecil Beadon in evidence given to this House before the East India Committee. Sir Cecil Beadon was asked— 280If there is any regulation by which the Government limit the extension of land cultivated, or do they always accede to every request?His reply was—It is limited according to the financial needs of the Government; it is limited entirely upon Imperial considerations.The second source of Revenue is the pass duty from Malwa. I do not attack the Malwa duty; but it is the opium revenue from Bengal which I propose to attack to-night. I have no desire to attack in any way the revenue derived from opium produced in the Native States of India, which passes through India on its way to China. Upon such opium a very considerable import duty is levied, and according to a Return presented to Parliament by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), when at the India Office, the Indian Government received a net duty, from that source, on an average of 10 years ending 1880–1, of £2,694,000. It is quite plain that whenever more money is wanted in India—whenever the Indian Revenue fails—stress is put on the Department charged with the cultivation of the poppy; and just in proportion as they want money, so they go on adding to the misery of mankind. In a Minute written by the hon. Baronet now sitting opposite—the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple)—on the 27th of April, 1869, the hon. Gentleman said—I am clear for extending the cultivation, and for insuring a plentiful supply. If we do not do this, the Chinese will do it for themselves. They had better have our good opium than their own indifferent opium. There is really no moral objection to our conduct in this respect.If somebody is to be poisoned, we had better do it. If somebody is to be robbed, I suppose we had better do it. That is the entire argument of the hon. Baronet's Minute, and the same argument has been used by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). The hon. Member has admitted that the drug does a great deal of harm; but he argues that if the Chinese are to be poisoned in this way, it is better that we should do it than let anybody else profit by the operation. I do not understand that this forms part of the moral government of a people for whom we are trying to do the best we can. But I think, Sir, that the strongest part of my case 281 as against the Indian Government is the case of Burmah. In regard to that case, I hold in my hand the Report of Mr. C. U. Aitchison, now Sir Charles Aitchison, late Chief Commissioner of British Burmah. When we first took possession of British Burmah no opium was consumed in that country. In the interests of the Indian Government we brought opium into Burmah, and we have had to do our very best to turn it out again, which, however, we have not yet succeeded in doing. We have, however, succeeded in this—in demoralizing the people of Burmah in a way which the Report I am about to quote shows to have been of the most serious character. Sir Charles Aitchison says—The Papers now submitted for consideration present a painful picture of the demoralization, misery, and ruin produced among the Burmese by opium smoking. Responsible officers in all divisions and districts of the Province and Natives everywhere bear testimony to it. To facilitate examination of the evidence on this point, I have thrown some extracts from the Reports into an Appendix to this Memorandum. These show that, among the Burmans, the habitual use of the drug saps the physical and mental energies, destroys the nerves, emaciates the body, predisposes to disease, induces indolent and filthy habits of life, destroys self - respect, is one of the most fertile sources of misery, destitution, and crime, fills the gaols with men of relaxed frame predisposed to dysentry and cholera, prevents the due extension of cultivation and the devolopment of the land revenue, checks the natural growth of the population, and enfeebles the constitution of succeeding generations.If hon. Members will turn to the Appendix to the Report they will find language used there almost stronger than the Report itself. Colonel H. Browne, Commissioner of the Pegu Division, writing on the 27th of May, 1879, says—By adopting some effective measures for curtailing the consumption of opium we should, at any rate, have the satisfaction of saving many thousands of the rising generation of Burmans from leading lives which are not only useless, but positively injurious to themselves, their families, and the State, and should convert them into respectable and wealth-producing subjects.Then I have here a long Memorial from the upper classes of Burmah protesting against the use and consumption of opium in that Province, and speaking of it as the greatest possible curse. So recently as 1883–4. Mr. Hodgkinson, Commissioner of the Irrawaddy District, in his Excise Report, said— 282A large revenue is secured to the Government by the present system, but it is secured by sapping the very heart's blood of the people, the better classes of whom most bitterly reproach us, and in my opinion very justly, for our apathy and misgovernment in this matter. No material improvement can be looked for until opium shops are licensed for sale in the premises only, and the possession of opium outside the shops in any quantity, however small, is rendered penal.Mr. Commissioner Copleston writes in his Report for 1884–5—The real question seems to be, first, whether it is to be accepted as an admitted fact, and there can be no doubt that a vast majority of officers do consider it to be so, that opium eating and smoking are most injurious to the well-being both of individuals and of society in British Burmah; and, secondly, whether the evil is to be stopped at all hazards, and regardless of the loss of revenue which must be incurred?The Indian Government has attempted, and I think in a praiseworthy manner, to put down the opium trade in British Burmah. It has lessened the number of opium shops by at least two-thirds; but the revenue, owing to the habits of the people, has been kept up, although the price has been raised 30 per cent. The population still go on using the drug; and the whole character of the Report I have read is to show that in British Burmah the opium shops have become a more important matter than ever. Now that we have practically taken Upper Burmah into our hands, with its long frontier upon one of the most extensive opium producing districts of China, the question will arise—"What are you going to do in Upper Burmah? Are you going to allow opium to go through Upper Burmah to India? Are you going to send Indian opium through Burmah to China, or are you going to prohibit the trade altogether?" Our policy hitherto has been that if we do not do it somebody else will. It is alleged that some of us take an exaggerated view of the damage done by the use of the drug; and I am afraid that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) and others interested in the government of India, have already to some extent sanctioned that view of the case. Well, Sir, if the drug is a harmless drug, if it is not damaging to mankind and the cause of human misery, I have no case whatever. If it is not a drug which is pernicious, I have no right to object to the use of it. I am told that the effects 283 of opium smoking in India or China are no worse than those of spirit drinking in this country; but in England it is well known that we have long been trying to put that spirit drinking down. There are many of us who have laboured hard in the cause of temperance, and I think that our labours in this country have not altogether been in vain. But every man whose opinion is worth having tells us that the effects of opium smoking in India and China are far worse than those of the consumption of spirits in England.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
My hon. and gallant Friend beside me says that he never saw it; but I can assure him that many of my friends who have been in China make a very different statement. What do the Government of Bombay say about it? The Government of Bombay ordered the following letter to be addressed to the Government of India:—With reference to the Correspondence ending with Mr. Under Secretary Sinkinson's letter, No. 3990, dated 11th December, 1880, I am directed to forward the accompanying Reports of the Commissioner in Scinde and the Commissioner of Customs, Opium, and Akbari, on the question of the expediency of permitting the cultivation of the poppy in Scinde. I am at the same time to state that this Government consider there are very strong objections to the introduction of an industry so demoralizing in its tendency as opium cultivation and manufacture into a Province where at present it is unknown, and, so far as His Excellency in Council is aware, not asked for by the people. If opium cultivation were allowed in Scinde, it could not with consistency be prohibited in the rest of the Presidency. It has already been tried in Gujarat, and the result was widespread corruption and demoralization. At present the consumption of opium in this Presidency is very limited; but if the cultivation of opium and manufacture of opium were permitted every village might have its opium shop, and every cultivator might contract the habit of eating a drug which is said to degrade and demoralize those who become addicted to it. On the ground of public morality, therefore, His Excellency the Governor in Council would strongly deprecate the grant of permission to cultivate the poppy in Scinde or in any other part of this Presidency.That, Sir, is not a document issued by the Anti-Opium Society, but an authentic document from the Government of Bombay, sent to the Government of India, asking them not to allow the cultivation of this drug in the Province of Scinde. I hardly care to enter upon the same ground which I have travelled over before—[Ironical cheers.]—but I think it 284 is necessary to do so, to some extent, in consequence of the ironical cheers which have proceeded from my hon. and gallant Friend now sitting beside me (Sir George Balfour). Let me give the case of California. Opium introduced into California from China was introduced by the Chinese; but the trade had been established then, to a great extent, by the exertions of English speaking merchants in China. Dr. Kane, in his work upon Opium Smoking in America and China, says—The first white man who smoked opium in America is said to have been a sporting character, named Clendenyn. This was in California in 1868. The second, induced to try it by the first, smoked in 1871. The practice spread rapidly and quietly among this class of gamblers and prostitutes until the latter part of 1875, at which time the authorities became cognizant of the fact, and finding, upon investigation, that many women and young girls, as also young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise, a City Ordinance was passed forbidding the practice under penalty of a heavy fine or imprisonment, or both. Many arrests were made, and the punishment was prompt and thorough. Men and women, young girls—virtuous, or just commencing a downward career—hardened prostitutes, representatives of the 'hoodhun' element, young clerks, and errand boys who could ill afford the waste of time and money, and young men who had no work to do, were to be found smoking together in the back rooms of laundries in the low, pestilential dens of Chinatown, reeking with filth and overrun with vermin, in the cellars of drinking saloons, and in the houses of prostitution. No one can question the fascination of a vice, the strength of a habit, that will lead people into such degradation for the gratification of the abnormal appetite. No one can question the certainty of moral ruin, the charring and obliteration of every honest impulse and honourable sentiment, the sweeping away of every vestment of modesty by such associations and such surroundings. It needs no signboard to mark the terminus of this road.The American Senate have lately passed a law upon the subject. Exactly the same difficulty exists in Australia, complaints being made that the Chinese labourers are introducing the drug among the civilized white inhabitants. My hon. and gallant Friend cheered when I said that, in the opinion of some people, opium smoking was no worse than spirit drinking. I hold in my hand authority after authority declaring that the evils which arise from the use of opium are far worse than those produced by the consumption of drink at home. If, however, it were simply as bad as the effects of drinking spirits at home, I 285 think I should have a right to appeal to this House to say that the Government of India should, if possible, get out of a trade which only tends to debase and demoralize instead of elevate mankind. But I believe that there has never been any difference of opinion upon this question. No statesman has ever risen from this Bench, or from that, to speak upon this subject who has ever spoken a word in favour of the trade in India except from a financial point of view. Sir Thomas Wade, who certainly has some knowledge of the effects produced by the use of opium in China, in writing in 1877 upon the Treaty of Cheefoo, said—The evil of opium smoking in China I do not contest. I do not abate it by a parallel between it and the abuse of spirits even among hard-drinking nations. The smoker to whom his pipe has become a periodical requirement is, more or less, on a par with the dram-drinker; but the Chinese constitution, moral or physical, appears to me to be more insidiously invaded in the case of the first. The confirmed smoker is not, or is seldom, at all events, outwardly committed, like the drunkard, to indecorum. The indulgence appears, at the same time, to present a special attraction to the Chinese as compared with other people. The use of it, in my experience, has become more general in the class above that in earlier times addicted to it.The Marquess of Salisbury, addressing one of the deputations which I attended in 1876, said—The Government does not view with any favour an extension of the system, and there is no project of the kind in existence. Without taking the view as to its moral condemnation which is held by many persons present, I feel that there are inconveniences of principle"—these are the Marquess of Salisbury's words—connected with it which would have prevented any Government in the present day from introducing it. I entirely disclaim any intention to push the Bengal system farther.Surely, Sir, there is a great deal to be said against a system which the late Prime Minister declares that no Government ought, in the present day, to introduce. My hon. Friend (Mr. Grant Duff), the present Governor of Madras, when Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, said, on May 10, 1870—There was a great deal to be said against this Bengal monopoly on politico-economical grounds. He supposed no one would invent such a system nowadays; but we did not invent the system; we inherited it from the East India Company, and carried it on in the same way.Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice used very much the same language on April 3, 1883, and the right hon. Gentleman the 286 Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke), the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said—The Opium Question had often been debated in the House; but he had never heard anyone say aught in favour of the traffic from a moral point of view.It will be seen from the debates which have taken place time after time in this House that no Minister or leading speaker has ever been able to say a word in favour of the character of this revenue. All that has been said has been—"Money we want, money we must have, and we will get that money how we can and when we can, even if it comes from a drug which we say demoralizes our own people, and does a great deal of harm to mankind." And what has been the view of Christian ministers of religion? Surely their authority ought to have some weight. It has been denounced by Christian Churches of every denomination. The Church of England, the Wesleyans, and the Baptists, the Churches of Scotland, and many others, have passed unanimous resolutions against it; and with regard to the Roman Catholic Church, the question was taken up by the very highest authorities of that Church in this country. Years before I touched the question, it was taken up in this House by a noble Earl only lately deceased (the Earl of Shaftesbury), who condemned the traffic, and there were Papers written upon it from Rome of an extremely able character 100 years ago, asking that those who were engaged in promulgating the Christian religion in China to do all they could to put a stop to it. But, in spite of these denunciations, what has been the conduct of the Indian Government? Instead of decreasing, they have always been endeavouring to increase, the revenue derived from the cultivation of the poppy. In 1884, in the Financial Statement, reference was made to the cultivation of opium, and the purchase of the Malwa drug, and an increase in the cultivation having been recommended in that Statement, the system was commenced of purchasing the Malwa drug from the Native Princes and substituting it for Bengal opium for manufacture into Excise opium, in order that there might be a larger quantity for exportation to China. Now, I think it was a monstrous thing that India should not be content with cultivating 287 vating the drug at home, but that it should become the buyer of it from Native States, in order that the manufactured article might be handed over to China for the corruption of the people of that country. The Financial Statement for 1884–5 says—The Government is indebted to Mr. H. Rivett Carnac, opium agent at Benares, for strengthening its opium revenue during the year 1883, and in a lesser degree in the previous year, by the manufacture and preparation of Malwa opium into a form suited"—what for?—for local consumption.Therefore, in order that our revenue might be strengthened, we were to corrupt our own people by buying this drug from Malwa, and endeavouring to get it into a State in which it could be consumed. The Statement adds—It is calculated, so long as the cost of the Malwa drug at 90 degrees consistence, does not exceed Rs.413 per maund, and the selling price of provision opium is not less than Rs.1,202 for Patna, and Rs.1,142 for Benares opium, the scheme for substituting Malwa for Bengal opium for manufacture into Excise opium is, financially speaking, likely to prove successful.The argument against the abolition of this odious revenue has always been that India cannot afford to lose it. If there were no loss of money involved in the proposals we have made, I dare say the Resolutions we have moved from time to time in this House would have been carried long ago; but as money was likely to be lost by carrying them, they have been effectually resisted. That has been the sound doctrine preached by every Indian Secretary from time immemorial; and I dare say that upon this occasion we shall have a few sympathetic words from my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. Stafford Howard), and then be told that we cannot dispense with the revenue derived from opium. My hon. Friend the late Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross), last year, told us that we were really proposing to deprive India of a revenue of £9,000,000 sterling. But it is nothing of the sort. We are going to deprive the Indian Government of nothing of the kind; and if my hon. Friend the present Under Secretary of State will give me his kind attention for a few minutes, I think I can prove what the net opium revenue in India has been during the 10 years ending 1880–1. 288 According to the Report presented to the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), instead of being £9,000,000, it was only £7,000,000 sterling, and of that £2,694,000 came from the Malwa opium, and £4,357,000 net from Bengal opium. Therefore, instead of looking at it as a proposal to get rid of a revenue of £9,000,000 sterling, the question is only, taking 10 years ending 1882–3, one of £4,445,000, so far as the Bengal opium is concerned. It will be seen that the figures varied very little in the 10 years ending 1881–2 and the 10 years ending 1882–3; but prior to those dates the revenue derived was very much less. I attack the Bengal average — namely, £4,445,000; but in 1874–5, £3,264,000 was all that was got net from Bengal opium by the Indian Treasury, and in 1884–5 it was £3,300,000; and the estimate for 1885–6 was £6,547,300, which, deducting £2,650,000 for Malwa opium, leaves for Bengal opium, £3,896,300. I have stated that it is the Bengal revenue which I now propose to attack; and I wish the House to master the fact that in 1884–5 it was £3,300,000 sterling, and not £9,000,000, as has been paraded from time to time. When people say both indoors and out-of-doors that we cannot give up the opium trade because it brings in a sum of £9,000,000 to the Revenue of India, I wish them to understand clearly that during the last two years the surplus annual revenue from the Bengal opium only amounted to £3,300,000. I am reminded by my hon. and gallant Friend beside me (Sir George Balfour) that, as we have often been told, the cultivation of the poppy is a matter of some importance to the cultivator; but I think that that theory was altogether exploded long ago. When the Indian Government proposed to reduce the amount granted to the cultivators of the poppy from five rupees to four and a-half rupees per seer, I believe that at that time the Indian Government found that they required the five rupees instead of four and a-half rupees in order to secure the cultivation. We are, therefore, confined within very narrow limits indeed so far as any advantage the cultivator receives. We have been told over and over again that there is a great deal of difficulty experienced in keeping up the 289 Revenue from opium; and this is one point to which I wish particularly to call the attention of the House. There is a great deal to be said in favour of substituting other crops. Opium has not only the disadvantage of being a very immoral, but a very uncertain Revenue. There is not one of our Indian financiers who has ever touched opium but who has made that admission. The Marquess of Ripon, Sir Edward Strachey, Sir Evelyn Baring, and others, in their despatches, speak of the difficulty of maintaining the cultivation, and the necessity which might be forced upon them of reducing the quantity of Bengal opium annually offered for sale, owing to the increase in the production and the improvement and the quality of the Persian and Chinese drugs. The Governor General and Council of India, in 1881, writing to the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), says:—The increase in the production and the improvement in the quality of the Persian and Chinese drugs render it doubtful whether a diminished supply of Bengal opium will enhance the price realized at the sales, and may, indeed, render it necessary to reduce the export duty on Malwa opium, and point to one conclusion—namely, that, although the total loss of the Opium Revenue does not appear imminent, it is by no means improbable that it may undergo a considerable diminution. Although the amount of Revenue derived during the last two or three years has been very large, it would be unwise to count upon its continuance at so high a figure.There is another point mentioned by Mr. Lionel Tennyson in a Paper on the progress and condition of India in 1881–2. Mr. Tennyson says—Fever was prevalent amongst the cultivators. The poppy is being slowly banished from the most fertile lands by the potato and the sugar cane, as the value of those crops is being gradually enhanced by improved communication and European machinery. The system of advances is reputed to be the chief inducement to the cultivator to grow so precarious and troublesome a crop as opium, and that system is now being adopted by firms interested in other crops.Therefore, there are other crops which those who are interested in the cultivation of opium find they can substitute for the growth of the poppy. Mr. Tennyson goes on to say further—The efforts of the sub-agent to extend poppy cultivation in Agra, Muttra, and Aligarh were not attended with success.290 Going on to the Finance Department of India, we find it stated in a letter from the Government of India in December, 1881—On the whole, the evidence goes to show that, although we may be able to retain the present area of cultivation in the Benares Agency, we cannot count with any certainty on being able to extend it. Moreover, in order to retain it, it is not at all improbable that we may be obliged to raise the price paid for crude opium even higher than Rs.5 the seer.Then, in the Correspondence with my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) it is said—The general conclusions at which we have arrived are, therefore, as follows:—The competition of other crops in Bengal, the difficulty of extending the cultivation of the poppy, and the increase of production and the improvement in the quality of the Chinese and Persian drugs, are all sources of danger to the Opium Revenue, which are more likely to increase than to diminish. There is no reason to anticipate any falling off in the Revenue during 1882–3, but in subsequent years it is not at all improbable that we may be obliged to diminish the number of chests of Bengal opium offered for sale. Any such diminution would probably involve a considerable loss of Revenue. The total loss of the Revenue at present derived from opium in Bengal would render the Government of India insolvent; and, on that account, any proposals which would involve the loss of so large a sum cannot be considered within the scope of practical politics.Sir, I will not detain the House with any further quotations of that kind; but I have an abundance of them with me to show not only that the crop is a very precarious one, and that Indian finance may be recouped by the cultivation of other crops, but further that the Indian Revenue may suffer hereafter, owing to the lowering of price by competition in China and other parts. There is, however, another point which I ought to mention. The Indian Revenue which I am now attacking—namely, that derived from Bengal opium, and which amounts to a sum of £3,300,000—is taken from the Indian Reports; and in the calculations which appear there the rupee is counted at 2s. sterling, whereas the rupee at the present moment is only worth, I believe, 1s. 5½d., and the Indian Government do not really obtain the amount of Revenue which it appears to obtain. There is a very considerable reduction on transmitting it to this country. I do not ask the Indian Government to do anything very rash or very sudden in the matter. I only ask, 291 in the Motion I submit to the House, that they shall gradually do their best to abandon this source of Revenue. I ask that the question shall have the serious attention of the Indian Government, and I ask that it should have that attention in this way. The Revenue of the Indian Government, I am glad to say, has been, within the last few years, in a thriving condition. A little while ago there was a surplus of £2,800,000 sterling, and what did the Indian Government do with it? Very much, I believe, against the views of hon. Members sitting around me, out of that Revenue they took off £216,000 for Patwari cess, and £1,219,000 sterling for Cotton and Import Duties, by which they let in the Manchester cotton to compete with the Native manufactures of India. No one in India asked for the Cotton Duties to be taken off, and it must not be forgotten that the £1,200,000 sterling got rid of in that way was nearly equal to one-third of the whole sum by which I am asking the Indian Government at the present moment to diminish the Revenue derived from this obnoxious drug. In the third place, £1,400,000 was taken off the Salt Duties. Now, I have never, in any speech I have made in this House, spoken against a reduction of the Salt Duties. I have always looked upon it as a most obnoxious tax, and one which it was very hard to levy upon the people of India. The Indian railways, I am glad to say, have also been prosperous. Some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and other hon. Members on the other side, tell us that, in view of the uncertainty of the present Indian Revenue, we should make a serious attempt to diminish the expenses of governing India. And I have here some very striking figures on the subject, with which, however, I will not trouble the House. One Governor of India after another has endeavoured to grapple with the subject, and the invariable conclusion arrived at has been that the expenses of Indian rule might be very much reduced without impairing the efficiency of the Government. That, therefore, is a subject which I would commend to the attention of my hon. Friend the present Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. Stafford Howard). If the necessary reforms are to be carried out, and we are not to depend 292 upon the Opium Revenue, it can only be by the general development of the country, and by retaining that assistance which we should require, and which we originally had in the surplus Revenue derived from the railways and from other sources. I ask the attention of the Indian Government to these questions, in order that little by little the country may be freed from the necessity of pandering to the vices of mankind. I have laboured for several years, in my humble way, to secure the suppression of the opium traffic, and I have been induced to do so because I believed that a participation in this trade is a disgrace to this country and a reproach to our laws. Even regarded as a question of sound finance, I believe that the Revenue of India will never be sound so long as it depends upon a source so demoralizing. In raising, as we do, in India a considerable revenue from China from this opium traffic, we are damaging the Revenue of this country from our ordinary trade with China to a much larger extent. I believe that if we fairly consider the question we shall see there is no excuse for this trade. It makes very little difference to me whether the use of opium in China is or is not equal in evil effects to spirit-drinking at home; I look upon that matter as of very little moment in considering the question. With regard to the use of spirituous liquors in this country, we endeavour at home to do our duty—every man in this House, I trust, endeavours to do his duty—fairly and wisely, whatever may be our views on the temperance question, because we feel that the excessive use of alcohol is demoralizing to our people, and adds enormously to the pauper and criminal population of the country. I trust that the Indian Government will be actuated by similar motives in dealing with the opium trade. We, at any rate, shall not relax our efforts to get the Indian Government to set about trying to get rid of a trade which can have but one result—which can only have a damaging and demoralizing result, and which I believe is fatal alike to our commercial interests and to our character as Christians and as moralists. I beg to move the Resolution.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
, in seconding the Motion, dwelt on the injurious physical 293 effects produced by opium on those who habitually consumed the drug. Many years ago, when he was in Her Majesty's Navy on the Chinese Coast, he saw a highly-educated Chinese gentleman who was brought by the use of opium to such a condition that he resembled a piece of parchment stretched over a skeleton. While we were pleading the cause of temperance at home we were poisoning millions of people in China by encouraging them to eat or smoke opium. The trade very much exasperated the feeling of the Chinese against us, so that they called us "Occidental devils." It was a very serious thing that the Chinese should regard us in this manner; for the trade of all the Eastern Coasts from California to China was passing into the hands of the Chinese, and by our helping to develop the habit of opium smoking amongst the Chinese we were helping to spread the habit all over the countries with which they traded. He remembered that when in Burmah, some 30 years ago, there was very little smoking, and they were a very fine race of people; but now the state of things was very different indeed, and the pernicious habit was fast running through the whole of Burmah. Besides, the evil consequences of using the drug were such that the Revenue of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 would shortly be eaten up by the expense for police, gaols, and for the general suppression of vice. How, he asked, could we, as a great Christian nation, make strenuous efforts to put down intemperance in our own territories, whilst, at the same time, we were encouraging the whole Chinese race to take this pernicious poison? It was said seriously—Liberal and Conservative Governments alike had told them—that this state of things could not be prevented, because the Indian Government would lose some £3,000,000 as Revenue if the trade were suppressed, and India could not afford to lose such a large proportion of her Revenue; but the House would remember that the country did not always take this low view of its duty as a great Christian nation. If that were so, this country should subscribe a sufficient sum to meet the deficiency and remove this disgrace from itself. How should we like to have ships lying off our Coasts carrying on a smuggling trade, corrupting our officials by bribery, and every night landing tons 294 of this horrible drug? There was only one parallel to the opium trade, and that was the slave trade in the West Indies. When there was a question of suppressing the slave trade, the House, with the cordial support of the country, voted £20,000,000 sterling in order to relieve the country of the stigma of supporting that trade; and yet the gross average Revenue in the present case was something like £3,000,000. He would ask them, if it were a fact that India could not afford to lose £3,000,000 of its Revenue, could not we at home do something to raise the necessary funds, and so relieve ourselves of complicity in this trade, which was inflicting so much moral degradation on the human race? The Asiatic nations thought that this traffic in opium was a disgrace to us.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the Indian Government should take measures to terminate gradually its direct connection with the cultivation of the poppy, and the manufacture of and trade in Opium, and that it should use the powers that it possesses to prohibit in British India the cultivation of the poppy, except to supply the legitimate demand of Opium for medical purposes."—(Sir Joseph Pease.)
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
Mr. Speaker—Sir, I beg leave at once to submit a reply to the Motion just proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Barnard Castle Division of Durham (Sir Joseph Pease), as I have personal and particular knowledge of the subject of opium in the East. Before doing so I wish to offer my tribute to the excellence of the motives which actuate the hon. Baronet, who, indeed, bears a name illustrious in the annals of British philanthropy.
In the first place, I seem to recognize in one of the quotations made by the hon. Baronet an extract from one of my own letters dated some years ago. [Sir JOSEPH PEASE assented.] Well, but he—no doubt with the best intentions—puts his own gloss on what I wrote. But he will forgive me for saying that, quite unintentionally, he has distorted my meaning. What I then meant to say, and do still say, is this — that as the Chinese insist on having opium, it is better that they should get first-class opium, highly-taxed from India, than obtain inferior opium from their own country or elsewhere untaxed. I trust that this House will see that this doctrine 295 is as consistent with true morality as it is with sound finance.
Before proceeding further I must notice another point in the hon. Baronet's speech. He adverts to certain recommendations made by the able opium agent at Benares (Mr. H. Rivett Carnac) regarding the use, in British Indian districts, of Malwa opium from the Native States, and seems to imply that the agent was endeavouring to superadd the Malwa opium to that already produced in the British territories. But, Sir, the use of this drug in British India is highly taxed, and severely restricted, as even the hon. Baronet could desire. Morally, it matters nothing whether the limited supply is produced in Malwa, or in the British districts. The question is purely one of fiscal detail. And if, under some local circumstances, Mr. Carnac preferred to supply the Malwa drug instead of that produced in his own districts, he is not to be blamed; for certainly no officer can be more anxious for the welfare of the people, or more zealous in the service of the State, than he is.
Further, Sir, the hon. Baronet, in the passages to which I have referred, spoke in the most pointed way of opium being poison, and of the Chinese being poisoned. But what right has he to say that the Chinese are thus poisoned? What are we that we should presume to say that? Are we the keepers of our Chinese brethren? Look at the condition of the Chinese. They form the most numerous population under any one dominion on earth. They sustain their numbers, despite famine from failure of rain, and despite bloody revolutions. Their agriculture, for elaboration, is not surpassed anywhere. Their internal trade and inland navigation are among the wonders of the world. Besides physical activity, they are capable of—indeed fond of—intense application mentally. They are distinguished for many domestic virtues. They adhere to a faith which has fundamental principles of pure morality. If they only had robust political institutions, or a good Government, such as India has, they would ascend fast in the scale of nations, and would form a potent addition to any organized Empire such as ours. Then, Sir, are these Chinese to be called a poisoned nation? Are they languishing under the influence of a poisonous drug?
296 Again, the hon. Baronet has drawn a moving picture of the evils of opium-smoking in China, the opium dens, and so on. With what force would he dilate on the gin-palaces and similar places in London or other European capitals! As to the evils, nobody denies the dreadful effects of excess in consumption of this drug, or of any other stimulant. But if he supposes that moderate consumption is deleterious, is he aware of the scientific evidence, based on medical experience, and submitted to the public through the London Press, some three years ago? It was then indicated that, in reasonable moderation, the use of opium for Orientals is as harmless as that of any known stimulant, and, under certain conditions, is even beneficial. That evidence has not, to this day, been rebutted.
The Seconder of the Motion to which I am replying, the hon. Baronet the Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire (Sir John Swinburne), gave the House an interesting account of a conversation he had some 30 years ago in China with a Chinese gentleman, through an interpreter. That gentleman, no doubt, was a temperance advocate, and vividly depicted the evils of intemperance among his countrymen. But let the procedure be reversed. Let a Chinese traveller now come to London, and converse through an interpreter with some temperance authority—such, for instance, as the hon. Baronet. What horrors he will hear of the lighted spirit shops attracting the poor people by the glare at night, and so on. Now, should we wish our Chinese visitor to infer from that that London is a doomed, a poisoned city, and that the only chance of salvation for Londoners is the suppression of wines and spirits?
Very likely the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Joseph Pease) would, if he could, deal with us English as strictly as he would with the Chinese. He would mete out even measure all round. Thus this House can appraise the value of his strictures. We can infer that his doctrines could not be practically applied to the Chinese; for we see that he could never apply them to us, with his views regarding temperance — wherein I heartily sympathize with him—and also with his extreme proposals regarding total abstinence and 297 absolute prohibition. [Sir JOSEPH PEASE: No, no!] Well, Sir, I surely cannot be mistaken in believing that he holds the strongest views on these points, which views he would enforce by all possible means. Be that as it may, I submit that the question of opium in China is one of temperance, and runs on all fours with the corresponding question of temperance in England.
There is yet one topic in the hon. Baronet's speech to which I must advert—namely, that of Burmah. He quoted official evidence to prove that opium consumption had been excessive among the Burmese under British rule. I admit that this must have been so at one time. Owing to some local failure, there was not that salutary restriction on opium consumption in British Burmah which has always existed in British India. But the fact that it was duly noticed by the authorities will afford assurance to this House that the evil will be fully remedied—indeed, it probably has been remedied already. In connection with this the hon. Baronet declared his fear that, with our new Chinese frontier consequent on the annexation of Burmah, there would be importation of Chinese opium into British territory. He has thus, perhaps unwittingly, reminded this House of the important fact that India is not the only opium-growing country in Asia; China itself is now the greatest producer by far. Very possibly he is right in fearing that there will be importation from China. I must respectfully warn this House against expecting too much from the British Authorities on that frontier, for the opium from China is most easily smuggled across the border. A man may carry in his waistcoat pocket, as it were, enough of this drug for the consumption of many persons.
And now, Sir, turning from these detached topics, I must proceed to the main topics of the hon. Baronet's Motion. He proposes, first, that the Indian Government should terminate gradually its connection with the cultivation of the poppy and the manufacture of opium; secondly, that it should cease from any concern in the trade in that drug; thirdly, that it should use the powers that it possesses to prohibit in British India the cultivation of the poppy. The sequence of the order of topics may not be quite logical; but I take them as they stand on the 298 Notice Paper. I must bespeak the patience of the House if, for a few moments, I touch on each of them.
Now, first, as to the connection of the Government with the cultivation of the poppy and the manufacture of the drug—this is done not for sustaining or encouraging the production, but for fiscal and administrative purposes of the most legitimate kind. The question at bottom is this—are we justified in highly taxing this drug? Surely, even the hon. Baronet will admit that we are. Then it is not only our right, but our duty, to render that taxation effective, to prevent smuggling, and to stop malpractices. Experience shows that the only way of doing all these desirable things effectually is to maintain the system existing in the British territories—that is, in Eastern India or the mid-Gangetic valley. And what is that system? It is briefly this. No man is allowed to grow the poppy save under Government supervision. Every grower is obliged to bring all his opium to a place appointed by Government. The Revenue officers see that the drug is made up pure and unadulterated; they then cause the drug supply to be made over en bloc to the trade at Calcutta—to the highest bidders—for exportation to China. A small quantity only is reserved for home consumption in India under severe restrictions. The money thus received from the highest bidders constitutes the opium tax. This system really prevents opium being illicitly consumed at home, or illicitly exported abroad. If any escapes taxation, it has to run the gauntlet of the strictest system that can be devised—namely, that which I have just sketched. To alter this system would have a bad effect morally; for any alteration would not only allow malpractices to creep into the trade, but would open the door for illicit consumption of a cheap untaxed drug among our British Indian subjects. The hon. Baronet himself should be the first to deprecate that. I happen to speak with knowledge on this point, for I have administered the opium revenue, not only in the British territory of Eastern India, but also in Western India, where it comes from the Native States of Malwa. Now, in Malwa the cultivator is under no particular restrictions; the drug intended for exportation is weighed locally before the fiscal officers, and then despatched to Bombay, where the British 299 export duty is levied. The supervision is not nearly so absolute as under the British system I have described. And what is the consequence? Why, just this—that untaxed and illicit opium filters and percolates from Malwa into the neighbouring British districts of Western India. This much I know; and I infer that the same thing happens still more within the Native States of Malwa itself. For the sake, then, of moderating in British India the consumption of a drug which is dangerous if taken immoderately, I entreat this House to let the Bengal system remain untouched.
In regard to that system the hon. Baronet says that we give subsistence money to the poppy cultivators to encourage them. No; what we give is an advance of cash at the beginning of the season, in consideration of all the trouble to which they are put by reason of the strict system I have described. But it is only an advance on account, and they make good every farthing of it at the end of the season. [Sir JOSEPH PEASE: An advance is the same thing as subsistence money.] I contend that in this case an advance and subsistence money do not amount to the same thing. Why, these cultivators do not actually need subsistence money; they are not indigent; they do not live from hand to mouth; they are flourishing small farmers, or tenants, often with a status little short of peasant proprietorship. The cash advance is only a kind concession, which may just as well be continued, as it in no wise affects the general question.
Next, on the second part of the Motion, the hon. Baronet wishes that the Government should cease from any concern in the opium trade. But has the Government any such concern? Is it, in any true sense, a trader? Why, certainly not. There is a great private trade in opium, having its headquarters at Calcutta. The traders are eminent and wealthy persons of several nationalities. These famous firms have fleets of the swiftest ships that ply in Eastern waters. They are the enterprizing traders, and they justly reap the profits of the trade, after the Government has levied its revenue in the way I have described. There are so many hon. Members now sitting around who have resided in Calcutta, and who know all this so well, that I need not dilate further on the misapprehension 300 which dwells in this part of the hon. Baronet's proposal.
I may, therefore, go straight to the third and last of the topics—namely, the proposal that the Indian Government should use the powers it possesses to prohibit in British India the cultivation of the poppy. Pray, what are the powers which the Government possesses for such a purpose? I hope that the House will mark these words. Would such powers, if put forth, be lawful; could they be used without previous legislation; would any Legislature in India be induced to pass such a law? The Government, no doubt, has a giant's strength; but ought it to use such strength as a giant? Surely this House will bear in mind that the poppy cultivation is valuable, being worth millions sterling; that it helps tens of thousands of hard-working families to earn a comfortable livelihood. Are these people to be deprived of their profitable industry, because the hon. Baronet and his fellow-thinkers hold that the Chinese are better without the drug, forgetting that they, the Chinese, and not we, ought to be the judges of that? Hon. Gentlemen opposite, both above and below the Gangway, have always stood up for freedom. Surely they will see that this proposal involves the grossest interference with the liberty of the subject, and is about the most tyrannous proposal that ever was submitted to this House. Even if—what is to me incredible—such a thing were enacted, how is it to be carried out? There would have to be a vexatious field-to-field visitation throughout extensive districts; the visitation would almost be cottage-to-cottage; for the cultivators would grow the poppy in their backyards, and the gardens in the precincts of their cottages. A band of preventive watchmen would be required; and even then, when the motive of profit is so strong, there would be much evasion, and a train of demoralizing circumstances. I need not detain the House in adverting to the awkward claims for compensation which might arise. But more, the proposed prohibition would only apply to British Indian subjects in Eastern India. It could never be applied to the Native States in Malwa, or Western India, which are not under our civil jurisdiction internally, but only under our political control externally. 301 With what feelings would our British subjects, then, see their profitable cultivation stopped, while their fellow-cultivators in Native States went on, without let or hindrance, more merrily than ever? Surely such an injurious inequality would provoke discontent, perhaps even disloyalty.
Now, Sir, passing from the three main topics, I beg, before resuming my seat, to advert to the general argument which pervades the hon. Baronet's speech, inspired, as it is, with such benevolent sentiments. It is assumed, apparently, that the Chinese hate the drug, and would gladly be quit of it, were they not afraid of the British Government. I may assure the House that such notions are absurd. Why, the upper-class Chinese consume this Indian opium because it is the best. They are so fond of it that they are resolved to have it at any price. It is our taxation that makes that price so dear to them. The Indian opium, being of an unequalled quality, and being limited in quantity, stands towards all the other kinds of opium of China or elsewhere in the same relation that champagne stands towards the wines of Europe. If, apart from the upper classes, the Chinese people at all abhor opium, why do they grow the poppy to an extent unknown in India or any other country—an extent, too, which is constantly widening? And the opium they make therefrom is not at all for exportation, but for domestic consumption—that is, for themselves alone. There the Government is despotic to a degree not permissible in the British Empire. If it wished, it could hinder, if not suppress, the cultivation with some sort of success. But it does nothing of the sort. We cannot say, then, that either the Government or the people have any sincere dislike to the thing. As they enjoy its use, they must have actually a liking for it. Thus the catchword, that is often current, of opium being "forced" on them, is a contradiction in terms. Why, then, it will be asked, do Chinese authorities often complain about the Indian opium? Merely for this reason—that they are (not unnaturally) jealous of the Revenue which the British Government derives from the taxation levied on the Chinese people. They wheedle and entice as many Englishmen as they can into the belief that the drug is hated. Thus they throw dust in the eyes of 302 benevolent English people. They hope somehow to discredit the Indian Opium Revenue and to cause its abandonment. They trust that the money diverted thus from British coffers may flow into Chinese coffers. They would levy the tax for themselves if they could only persuade the English to give it up. I do not complain of this, their object—I merely expose it. Its intent, however, is not moral at all; it is only pecuniary. But I submit that India is entitled to this Revenue, as the drug is produced in her territories by her people, and financed by traders in her limits. She has got the hold of it, and she should keep that.
No doubt, as the hon. Baronet has said this evening, several religious communities in England for whom we entertain the highest respect animadvert upon the Indian Opium Revenue. What can I say except that they labour under misapprehension of the circumstances in India and of the realities in China? Indeed, the subject has become shrouded in unintentional misrepresentations.
I admit that the hon. Baronet shows that his particular proposals embrace little more than half the amount of the Indian Opium Revenue—say, £4,000,000, out of something less than £7,000,000, net, in round numbers. It remains for him to show how, if the Bengal or Eastern Revenue were sacrificed, the Western remainder could be saved. But be the exact amount of loss what it may, it would be, at the least, very considerable, and British Revenue is not to be trifled with in a light and airy way without due regard to weighty facts, especially as all Revenues received in India are expended for beneficent purposes.
Again, if I understood him rightly, the hon. Baronet seemed to imply that the Indian authorities hold that the money is wanted and must be had, the moral difficulty notwithstanding—quocunque modo rem. Now, I, for one, would scorn to use any such arguments in this House on behalf of the Opium Revenue. If it be really wrong morally, then let us, at any sacrifice, abjure it. But if it be right—as I say it is—then, and then only, let us retain it. Our taxation, instead of encouraging or stimulating, has the same effect of checking consumption as it has in all other cases. So far from being immoral, it actually sub-serves a moral purpose. What use would it be for us to give this up, except either to transfer the money to the 303 Chinese Treasury, or let the Chinese have the choicest opium untaxed? Even if, by a stretch of imagination, the hon. Baronet succeeded in stopping the Indian poppy culture, what would he have brought about? Why, merely this — an augmentation, corresponding to the Indian diminution, of the poppy culture in China, in Persia, in Turkey, and in other regions suited for its production.
After all, it is a question of temperance. The Indo-Chinese case is in consimili casu with the British or European case. The hon. Baronet begins at the wrong end. Let him, if he can, persuade the Chinese Mandarins that Indian opium is poison. Then the consumption, and with it the Revenue, would die a natural death. And the blessed end—in the hon. Baronet's estimation—would be consummated. But I fear that he might as well try to persuade the Parisians that champagne is poison. Why does he trouble us—what have we done, except to tax the drug? And such taxation is not evil. Meanwhile, if his present Motion were accepted by this House—as I hope and believe it will not be—then none of the moral benefits which he sighs for would be gained, and, per contra, many moral evils would be incurred of which he little dreams.
MR. MAC IVER (Devon, Torquay)
said, he was bound to say that, no matter how much he might, in other respects, disagree with the hon. Baronet who had introduced the Motion (Sir Joseph Pease) to the House, he could corroborate what he had stated in respect of one matter—that there had never been a more terrible experience than that of the effects of the consumption of opium upon the Burmese population. Both in the rural districts and in the towns, the condition of the Burmese who yielded to the use of opium was deplorable. The hon. Baronet, speaking to the general question, had stated that it had poisoned millions, whereas the hon. Baronet the Member for East Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple) gave it as his opinion that the drug had, on the whole, been beneficial to mankind. Well, he (Mr. Mac Iver), judging from his experience in Burmah, must say that he could not agree with the latter; and whatever might be the general view held as to the effects of opium, there could, at all events, be no 304 question that it was a source of great danger to the Burmese. Among the Chinese a great many consumed the drug in such moderate quantities that it was not very deleterious, while, on the other hand, a great many suffered from its abuse. But among the Burmese there was no such thing as moderation in the use of opium; and, whatever might be the case among the Chinese, among the Burmese, when a man began to smoke opium, he was a lost man, physically and morally. When a magistrate in Burmah, he had been asked to send men to prison for "dangerous livelihood" on no other evidence than they had taken to opium smoking. He did not suggest that as a new method of applying coercion; but when a man became the slave of opium, then he was a danger to society, and the authorities found it necessary to keep an eye on him. Having resided for some years in Burmah, he could tell them that the use of the drug in that country led to a large amount of dacoity. There was a mass of evidence from all officials of the terrible effects of the consumption of opium. The hon. Baronet had stated that there was no opium in Burmah until we—the English people — went there. [Sir JOSEPH PEASE: I said next to none.] The fact was that we had opened opium shops in Burmah in order to prevent smuggling and the consequent loss of Revenue. He believed, also, that if a law were passed to make it penal to consume opium in Burmah, it would meet with the moral approval of three-quarters of the population. It was not the case that we had poisoned and demoralized the whole people; but we had certainly put facilities and temptation in their way. With regard, however, to the Resolution of the hon. Baronet, there was a difference between looking after a population for which we were responsible, and endeavouring to look after the morality of a population of over 300,000,000 for which we were not responsible, and at the expense of a population for whom we were. As to the amount of Revenue we obtained out of the sale of opium in Burmah, it only amounted to £100,000. He denied that we forced opium upon the Chinese; the arrangement between them and the Indian Government was of their own making. In China the poorer classes consumed home-brewed opium, while 305 only the richer classes consumed the finer and more expensive drug from India. And if we discontinued permission to grow the poppy in British India, we should not prevent the consumption of the drug in China. The Chinese people would grow for themselves more of a worse article, doing probably far more harm. The result of this prohibition, if carried out, would simply be to make the situation analogous to the condition of England if France, in a fit of philanthropy and temperance, decided to forbid the exportation of its wines to England. The classes who now drank wine would have to fall back on beer and gin. The net Revenue derived in British India from the opium trade was £7,000,000. [Sir JOSEPH PEASE dissented.] That was so, undoubtedly. Whatever the amount immediately sacrificed, the proposal, if carried to its logical conclusion, involved the sacrifice of the whole Opium Revenue, and that averaged £700,000 net; and if the Opium Revenue was removed they would suffer the loss of this sum of £7,000,000. If, in the interests of the Christian religion and morality, they desired to show their nobility—and a cheap nobility it was, for it was at the expense of other people—let them do it at the cost of the British taxpayers, to whom they were responsible in that House. If they wished to carry out this theory fully, they would have to sacrifice a still larger sum than the £7,000,000. They would have to compensate the Native Princes. This would take £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 more. Then there were the cultivators in the Native States to be thought of; and if the House perpetrated this act of tyranny they would soon have to contemplate a very large sum indeed. Well, they were getting familiarized with offers of large amounts; he was afraid they were getting debauched by the talk of giving away millions counted by hundreds. If the House really wanted to be virtuous, let it be virtuous with its own money. Irrespective of the impossible expense involved in this matter at present, there were in India over 1,000,000 acres under opium cultivation. There were 2,000,000 men employed, and that meant, with their families, 10,000,000 people; and it was proposed, for the purpose of effecting no good that he could see, at one stroke to throw 10,000,000 people, our fellow-subjects, not represented in that House, out of 306 occupation and the means of living; and all that in order to gratify a theory and to prove a case, which might have been a good case once when opium was forced on the Chinese, but which now could only lead to increased cultivation in China, especially in Yunnan.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
said, it had been urged that the case as to opium was the same as the case as to spirits in this country, and that they were responsible in the same way. He did not admit that argument of his hon. Friend. He held that the two cases were entirely dissimilar. As to spirits, the whole course of their legislation had been repressive. Spirits were highly taxed, and Sir Wilfrid Lawson wished them to go further in that direction. His hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple) urged that they were doing the same as to opium; but, on the contrary, they had frequently urged forward the cultivation of opium. After the Minute which had been issued, if he recollected rightly, by his hon. Friend when he held Office at Calcutta, he did not see how it could be denied that the Indian Government had done all it could to introduce and encourage the growth of opium; and he could not but feel that the Government was responsible for a very great increase. He admitted that it was a very difficult subject. They were trustees for the Indian people, and they would not be justified in throwing away millions of Revenue.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. STAFFORD HOWARD) (Gloucester, Thornbury)
In rising to take part in the debate at this early stage, I do so because I think it is desirable that the House, as soon as possible, should know the views of the Government on the merits of the proposition submitted by my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend was good enough, in introducing the Resolution, to prophesy what I should say in answer to it. He told the House that I should do as my Predecessors have done on similar occasions — namely, treat him with a few words of sympathy, and then say that, upon account of financial considerations, the proposition submitted to the House is impracticable. I am afraid that I shall not disappoint my hon. Friend in that respect, although I may claim to have even greater sympathy with the objects and principles he has at heart 307 than some of those who have gone before. But, at the same time, I am no more insensible to the practical difficulties of the case than my hon. Friend would be if he stood in my place at this Table. I should like to draw the attention of the House, and especially of my hon. Friend, to the progress which this question has made since he first took it up and introduced the question to the House. The Motion which he has made to-night differs in some important respects from those of former occasions. Both in its omissions, and in the additions to it, it tells of a great deal of progress from the hon. Baronet's point of view. If hon. Members will refer to former discussions on the subject, they will see that our relations with China formed the chief topic on almost every occasion when this question has been debated. To-night the word "China" is not mentioned in the Resolution, and my hon. Friend has hardly mentioned it in his speech. When the hon. Baronet first introduced this Motion he prefaced it by deprecating the insistence of this country in importing opium into China against the wishes of the Chinese Government. On the second occasion, instead of deprecating the insistence of the country in importing opium into China, my hon. Friend insisted that the traffic was contrary to the principles of morality, and ought to be done away with at once; but, at the same time, he offered to pledge the revenues of this country to some undefined extent in order to assist the Revenues of India in the loss they would sustain, having been prompted to that, I believe, by the taunt levelled at him by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) that he was trying to be virtuous at other people's expense. In the following year my hon. Friend moved an Address to Her Majesty, asking that China might be treated as an independent State in the negotiations that were going on for some alterations in connection with the opium traffic. That has been conceded; and I understand my hon. Friend and those who act with him are satisfied with what has been done as to the importation of opium into China, so fer as the duty is concerned. My hon. Friend has said that he is not sure whether China had only got the best she could, or whether she has really got all she was entitled to. 308 In reply, I think I can show my hon. Friend that, at all events, China got everything she asked for; and therefore it may be inferred that she got all she thought she was entitled to. In the negotiations which took place between the Chinese Government and Earl Granville, the British Government proposed a settlement on the basis that a fixed rate should be imposed at the various ports. There had previously been, I understand, rates varying in amounts. The Chinese Government rejected that proposal, and proposed a uniform, rate of 80 taels at all the ports. Earl Granville accepted the basis of that proposal, but suggested the uniform rate of 70 instead of 80 taels. That was rejected by the Chinese Government, and Earl Granville gave way, acceding to the terms originally asked for. The Chinese Government, therefore, got all they asked for when they desired to make an alteration as to the levying of the duty in their own ports. I need not say anything more upon the question of China, except to notice what two or three Members have laid great stress upon—namely, that we are, to a great extent, still poisoning the people of China with opium, or doing the best we can to poison them. Sympathizing with the view of my hon. Friend, I would ask hon. Members to look through the evidence bearing on that point. It does seem to me that what has been brought forward by one or two hon. Members who have spoken against the Resolution is true, and that is that the opium which goes into China is consumed by the upper classes, who do not, as a rule, abuse it, and in no case finds its way to the lower classes, who consume what has been described as the "cheap and nasty" opium, grown in their own country. But, coming back to the general question of the trade itself and the relation of the Government to it, I observe that my hon. Friend has again made a considerable alteration in the demands which he made when he originally introduced the question. In the first Resolution submitted to the House, he desired that the Government of India should be encouraged to take steps gradually to withdraw from this trade. Now he has got as far as to ask the House to declare point blank that it is expedient that the Government of India should withdraw gradually from this trade; and, further, that it 309 should take steps to prohibit it altogether in British India. That is a considerable advance upon the original demands of the hon. Baronet; but I would venture to point out to him that, as the Motion is at present drawn, the second part is quite incompatible with the first; because I cannot understand—and my hon. Friend does not explain how, if we are going to prohibit the cultivation of the poppy altogether, we are to withdraw gradually afterwards. With regard to the larger question of the prohibition of the cultivation of the poppy, it has been asked whether such a thing is possible. Well, I suppose it would be possible if they were determined to do it regardless of consequences. But it is right to point out that those who are responsible for doing these things must have some regard to the consequences which would probably follow from such action. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. Mac Iver) told us that there were large numbers of persons who are dependent upon the cultivation of the poppy; and, if it were suddenly prohibited, surely that would give rise to dangerous discontent in certain parts of the country. Again, although the poppy might be prohibited, the demand for it would still exist, and there would be immense temptation to the evasion of the law and illicit dealing, which would create still further complications. Then there is the inevitable answer as to the loss of Revenue which the Indian Government would sustain, and my hon. Friend had some altercation with the hon. Member for Torquay as to the figures which that loss would represent. That loss, according to a calculation which I have made this morning, if the Government were to prohibit the cultivation of the poppy, would be something like £5,000,000. No doubt, in one sense, as my hon. Friend does not propose to interfere with the Malwa opium, and as I it is almost certain that, if we prohibit the cultivation of opium in British India, the Malwa opium would increase in exactly the same proportion as the decrease in the production of opium in our own districts, we would reap an increased Revenue from Malwa opium, so that we should not lose the whole of the Revenue now derived from opium produced in British India. That, I believe, would reduce the sum to something like £2,176,000. Even that sum, however, would be a serious thing for the Government 310 of India at the present time; and no suggestion has been made by my hon. Friend, as far as I can see, as to how it is to be replaced if it is given up. Then there is another argument against him; and that is the danger—for I believe it is a danger—of driving people from the consumption of opium to the consumption of something still worse, and that is the local spirits, the manufacture of which, by themselves, it would be almost impossible to prevent. There would be the danger of acquiring a taste for these things, and of jumping from the frying-pan into the fire, if you force them to give up opium. Then, in connection with the exportation to China, my hon. Friend's proposal would do very little good; because whatever the decrease might be on the one side it would be counterbalanced by an increase in the Malwa opium, which would still be transported to China, and the traffic would go on practically just the same as it does now. Perhaps my hon. Friend would be inclined to go further, and to say that we should take no half-measures in prohibiting the cultivation in India; that we must not stick at trifles when there are moral considerations to be thought of; and that, therefore, we must prohibit the cultivation throughout India altogether. Nor is it possible to stop the trade throughout India altogether. In certain districts, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. Mac Iver), the Native Chiefs carry on the cultivation under Treaty agreements with the Government of India, and these would have to be altered and re-arranged, if not superseded altogether; and if so, and if the traffic should be stopped, they would naturally and inevitably require to be compensated. You could not deprive them of their Treaty engagements unless you compensated them for their loss. The loss to the whole Revenue, Imperial and Provincial, with compensation added, as far as I can make out, would amount to at least £11,000,000 per annum. Therefore, if we are determined to stop the cultivation of the poppy altogether, we must be prepared to sacrifice the sum of at least £11,000,000 a-year. On one occasion my hon. Friend, when in a more generous mood, offered to pledge the House to make up any deficiency in the Revenues of India caused by his proposed action; but he has not done so on this occasion. He has progressed in his demands, but 311 gone back in his generosity. That is not the case with the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir Robert Fowler). He is always generous; I never knew him otherwise; and, at a meeting held some time ago at Bristol, the hon. Member said that, in his opinion, the only way of solving the difficulty was for this country to make good whatever loss might be sustained. [Sir ROBERT FOWLER: Hear, hear!] I should like to quote the language of the Government of India on this subject, contained in a very exhaustive despatch sent out by the Government of India in reply to inquiries made by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), when he was Secretary of State for India, in consequence of the Motion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) some years ago. On page 18 of that Correspondence, paragraph 59, the Government of India say—It cannot be too clearly understood that neither by any measure tending to develop the resources of the country, nor by any increase of taxation which is practically within the range of possibility, nor by any reduction of expenditure, could the Government of India, in any adequate way at present, hope to recoup the loss which would accrue from the suppression of the poppy cultivation in Bengal.Further on they say—But the difficulties of the problem have to be fairly faced. The hard facts of the case, whether from the Chinese or Indian point of view, have to be borne in mind. Those facts can neither be altered, nor can their significance be attenuated, by any enunciation of abstract principles. It is, therefore, essential that all who are interested in the question should have clearly before their eyes the opinion of those who, for the time being, are responsible for the conduct of the Indian finances. That opinion, as we venture to formulate it, is that the Government of India is at present quite unable to devise any means by which the loss of Revenue, consequent on the suppression of the poppy cultivation in Bengal, could be recouped, and that, until such means be devised, the loss of the Bengal Opium Revenue would result in the normal annual Expenditure of the Government being greater than its receipts that is to say, that India would be insolvent. We wish to state this fact, in language which admits of no misapprehension, in order that those who may have to deal with this matter should do so with a perfect knowledge of the facts of the case, and after due warning that any present attempt to abandon the Opium Revenue, whilst conferring a very doubtful benefit on the population of China, would do incalculable harm to the 250,000,000 of people over whom we rule in India.If that were true then, it is doubly true 312 now. The hon. Baronet stated that the Indian Revenue was in a flourishing condition some years ago, and he mentioned the mode in which the surplus was spent. But at the present time that is not the case, the Indian Government having had to incur serious expenditure on war charges and in regard to the operations lately carried out in Burmah. We had a debate in this House the other day as to whether the Indian Revenues should bear the expense of the operations in Burmah; and I must say that I observed on that occasion that the hon. Baronet did not vote in favour of imposing these charges upon the Home Government, so as to relieve the Revenue of India and render it less necessary to raise income by the Opium Duties. The hon. Baronet made a serious charge against the Government of India. He said it appeared to him that they had, whenever their Revenue fell off, increased the amount of opium exported so as to make up the deficiency. Well, I hope to be able to show the hon. Baronet that that is an absolutely unfounded charge. What are the facts of the case? Why, the localities in which the poppy is cultivated are the localities which are the most favourable for its cultivation, and are the localities in which it was grown before the introduction of British rule. The Government of India has always gone upon the principle of raising the maximum amount of Revenue from the minimum amount of production—a policy advocated by the hon. Baronet himself in one of the speeches he made in this House. The Indian Government, furthermore, has always induced Native States in which the poppy cultivation was unknown not to cultivate it; and, as a matter of fact, it is not cultivated in those States at the present moment. It is true that in spite of all this the Opium Revenue increased, and increased largely, up to a certain time; but I would call attention to the fact that that increase has now come to an end, and that, if anything, it has turned into a decrease; and it is fair, no doubt, that the hon. Baronet and those who are associated with him in this matter should take credit to themselves for having to some extent, through the manner in which they have acted on the Indian Government, brought about that result. I have here the figures showing the net Revenue from the export of opium to 313 China and of the area of land devoted to the cultivation of the poppy. These figures give the net Revenue and total areas for the years 1870–1 to the years 1884–5. In 1870–1 the net Revenue was £7,657,000—I should say that these statistics include Malwa opium. The Revenue increased with some ups and downs until, in 1880–1, it amounted to £8,451,000. Since then it has gone down almost every year until the amount received in 1884–5 was only £5,849,440. As to the exports, at one time they reached as much as 94,835 chests of opium—in 1879–80—but in 1880–1 the figure fell to 82,392 chests, and in 1884–5 to 75,391 chests, showing a very substantial decrease in the amount of exportation. As to the area of cultivation, in 1870–1 the total number of acres was 515,851; it increased in 1879–80 to 562,260 acres; and now, according to the last Return in 1883–4, it has been reduced to 505,845 acres. That again shows a regular and substantial decrease—there has been a substantial decrease under all the three heads that I have mentioned. I think those figures ought to satisfy my hon. Friend—at any rate, they are an answer to the charge he has made against the Government of India, that they have always increased their Opium Revenue when they have been in want of money. I believe they are in want of money now, and no doubt one of the reasons for that is the great decrease which has taken place in the amount of Revenue they derive from this source. There is a question as to whether the Government should not withdraw altogether from the opium monopoly, and have no direct dealing with the matter. If it could be shown that any good would result from the change the Government would not object to it; but we cannot see that any good would arise; on the contrary, we think that any change would do more harm than good, besides causing a loss to the Indian Government. The question formed the subject of serious discussion in 1878, and the decision arrived at was contrary to the view of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I did not raise that question in 1878. I only dealt with the question of the payment of money to the cultivators.
§ MR. STAFFORD HOWARD
Yes; the sustentation, or assistance money, as it was called. But that is one of the 314 chief elements in the system which connects the Government with this trade; and, if any alteration is to be made, it must be made so that we shall have the same relation with the trade in Bengal that we have with the trade in the Native Provinces. [Sir JOSEPH PEASE: No, no!] What does the hon. Baronet want, then? If the Government refuse to give money to the cultivators, perhaps he thinks no one else should, and that, in an indirect way, the cultivation of the poppy should be got rid of. It may be that, but the hon. Baronet did not say so in his speech. The Government believe that the system at present carried on is the best; they think that, under the system which prevails, they are able to control the cultivation of the poppy, and keep upon it those restrictions which are necessary in the interests of morality. That is the reason they decline to make the alteration. The Government of India are perfectly alive to the state of public opinion in regard to this matter. Moreover, they are perfectly alive—it is stated fairly enough in the despatch I referred to just now—to the insecurity of this Revenue from various causes which I need not go into. I think they have shown themselves determined to look to every source from which they can derive an income less precarious than that derivable from the opium trade. In 1880 the Prime Minister admitted that India must be in an insecure financial position so long as she relied so much upon this Opium Revenue. The danger, therefore, is known to the Indian Government, and, so far as they can, they will endeavour to find means to guard against it. There is another view of the subject which I must say a few words upon before I deal with the question of the opium trade with Burmah. Like others who oppose this Motion, the hon. Member opposite (Sir Richard Temple) has raised the objection that we have no right—seeing the large sum we raise on alcohol at home—to force our views upon other countries. I am bound to say that, strongly as I feel on the subject of temperance, there is a great deal in that argument. I think this kind of virtue, like charity, ought to begin at home; and if I am to draw a comparison between the effects produced by the consumption of alcohol and those produced by the consumption of opium in China or elsewhere, I am bound to come to the conclusion that the evil effects of alcohol 315 are, on the whole, greater than those of opium. I take the book which is circulated by the hon. Baronet (Sir Joseph Pease) and his Society, called Medical Testimonies as to the Effects of Opium Smoking; and in the preface, which is written by Sir James Risdon Bennett, I find he uses these words—That the moderate habitual use of opium, whether smoked or eaten, as of alcohol or tobacco, may be compatible with health and comfort is perfectly true; but it is not the less true that opium is a dangerous poison, and not the less pernicious because, when taken habitually, its action is very insidious.But exactly the same may be said of alcohol, and if I had time I could quote similar evidence of many leading medical men who were examined before the Lords' Committee on Intemperance to show that alcohol is a most "dangerous poison," and is most "pernicious" and "insidious." As to alcohol being insidious, I have heard its action humorously described by an American in this way—First the man takes a drink; then the drink takes another drink; then, last of all, the drink takes the man. If it is true of opium that it is insidious, it is equally true of alcohol. Then Sir James Risdon Bennett goes on to say—That drunkenness and the immoderate use of alcohol are the occasion of greater evils, whether physical and moral, or individual and social, than are those attendant on the free use of opium, however indulged in, I should be quite ready to concede.Then, I say, it would be Pharisaic virtue to insist upon a foreign country giving up the use of opium, or rather to insist upon India ceasing to derive income from the sale of opium, whilst we at home derive the income from something which is quite as bad, and, in my opinion, a great deal worse. Not long ago a Government was turned out of Office in this country on this very question—because it was suggested that the duties on alcoholic drinks should be raised to a slight degree. That did not look like a very virtuous country anxious to put a stop to the sale of these deleterious articles. The hon. Baronet referred to the Christian Churches as favouring his view upon the opium question, and upon that I would remark that these Churches do not feel a delicacy in accepting money for the building of cathedrals from those who have made their fortunes by the manufacture of 316 whisky and stout. I would make two practical suggestions to the hon. Baronet, the adoption of which, I believe, would be much more useful than the bringing forward of Motions such as that we are now discussing. Let the hon. Baronet and his friends agitate for the increase of the duties on alcohol in this country, and then, when we get sufficient money to spare, we can devote it to recouping India for the loss which she may sustain by the adoption of some drastic measure for the suppression of the opium trade. My second suggestion is more practical. I am told that the balance of trade as between India and China is very much against China—about £9,000,000 I think—owing to the vast quantity of produce going from India to China. As between China and this country the balance is against us, in consequence of the immense quantity of tea we import. It has even been said, and no doubt with truth, that China pays for her Indian opium with the income derived from Chinese tea sold in this country. I do not know whether the hon. Baronet or the hon. Gentleman who spoke just now have thought of this; but if they are in the habit of consuming Chinese tea, it must give them a start of horror when they reflect that in drinking Chinese tea they are encouraging Chinamen to consume opium. My suggestion, therefore, is that my hon. Friend, and others who agree with him, should use Indian tea, which, I believe, is very good, instead of Chinese tea. Even if the Indian tea is not very good, my hon. Friend should still drink it, sweetening it with the reflection that he is advancing the interests of morality in assisting to deprive the Chinese of the means of buying opium. In this way he can practise a virtue for the benefit of those in whose welfare he is so much interested. And now a word with regard to Burmah. I admit that the evidence against the abuse of opium in Burmah is stronger than that relating to any other place, and, from Reports I have read from Sir Charles Aitchison, it does seem that opium has a much worse effect on the Burmese than on anyone else; and I am afraid that we are more responsible for this traffic in Burmah than elsewhere. But there, again, improvement has taken place. Restrictions have been placed upon the use of the drug with very beneficial results. I hold in my hand an account of the seers 317 of opium sold in Burmah in each year from 1880–1 to 1884–5, and it seems that the total seers decreased between those years from 54,265 to 41,993. The Revenue, no doubt, has increased, but that is mainly because of the great enhancement of the price, which was one of the suggestions made in order to reduce the consumption, and which has been in the main successful. The Revenue has increased Rs.14,31,738 to Rs.15,56,008. The number of shops has been reduced from 67 in 1881 to 18 in 1884–5, so that great progress has been made in Burmah in the direction desired by the hon. Gentleman. Certain drastic proposals have been suggested in order to get rid of the use of the drug in Burmah; but those who are best qualified to give an opinion upon the matter do not think it desirable to proceed to the length proposed. But I am glad to say—for I entirely sympathize with the hon. Baronet in this matter—that the Chief Commissioner and those who assist him contemplate taking as soon as they can more drastic measures than those hitherto adopted to prevent the great evils which arise from the abuse of opium in Burmah. An inquiry has been set on foot, and a very interesting Report has been presented for the first year. Amongst other things recorded are the following facts:—that in the district of Arakan there are only two shops now, and the consumption has decreased to two-thirds of what it was in 1881. It is reported also that the consumption of opium has been reduced in the Province of Irrawaddy, and also in Tenasserim and Pegu. On the whole, the consumption has decreased by 22 per cent in four years, whilst the population is estimated to have increased by 16 per cent. Therefore, at all events as regards Burmah, the Government are on the right track. It has been objected that there has been an increase of smuggling, and that is used as an argument for an increase in the number of shops. It has been found, however, that with an increase in the number of shops there is an equal increase in the temptations to consumption. Therefore, I am glad to find that the Commissioner, in his Report, suggests that it would be better to use all the agencies at our disposal to prevent smuggling, rather than revert to the old system by increasing the number of shops. I do not wish to descend to that lowest level of morality, as the 318 Prime Minister once described it, referring to gentlemen in official positions—namely, "Promising what you cannot perform;" but I will tell the hon. Baronet that the Memorial which was sent to the Secretary of State for India some time ago on the subject of opium in Burmah, and the future treatment of the question in Upper Burmah, has been forwarded to the Viceroy; and I am quite sure from what I have seen of the attitude of the authorities in Burmah, and of the attitude of the Government of India, that this Memorial, which is very strong and striking, and with which I have great sympathy, will receive the consideration which it ought to receive, looking at the quarter from which it comes, and the principles and objects which it has in view. I cannot promise more than that; but I hope that after my statement the hon. Baronet will not put the House to the trouble of a division, but will be satisfied with the progress which has been made on the question, and will withdraw the Motion before the House.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
said that, however important the Opium Revenue might be to India, still, if it were wrong in itself, we were bound to carry on the Government of India by some other means. But, after all, this was not a matter of Indian Revenue. What he held was that if the Chinese did not get opium from India they would get it from some other place. He would point out that this Motion to put down the opium traffic was not for the benefit of the people of India, but for the benefit of third parties—the Chinese. It was not necessary on behalf of the people of India generally to prohibit the traffic in opium, because the people of India were not generally greatly addicted to the use of opium; but he admitted that the Indo-Chinese population of Burmah were, and if it were possible to stop smuggling there, then he thought the Government might go so far as to prohibit the opium traffic in Burmah. He was very much surprised to hear his hon. Friend who moved the Resolution (Sir Joseph Pease) say that he was not in favour of the total prohibition of the use of spirituous liquors, though he was for the total prohibition of the consumption of opium. If his hon. Friend were for the total prohibition of the use of spirituous liquors, then he might urge 319 with more force that the opium traffic should be totally prohibited, since both opium and drink were both exceedingly deleterious. The hon. Gentleman was proceeding to give an account of the condition of the people in the Province of Behar, where opium was accessible to every man, woman, and child, when——
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at Eight o'clock.