§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, that since he gave notice of his intention to ask "Her Majesty's Government what measures they intended to pursue during this Session for the purpose of affording to Parliament the necessary information previous to the termination of the existing interest of the East India Company in the territory and revenues of India," he had found, from the Votes of the House of Commons, that notice had been given by Ministers of a Motion for a Select Committee on that subject on Friday next in that House. All, therefore, that he should ask of the noble Marquess now was on what day they would move for a similar Committee in the House of Lords? When he had the honour of moving for a similar Committee in the year 1830, he had prepared, after a labour of six months, a mass of information which was ready to be laid on the table of both Houses of Parliament at the time, in order that their Lordships in that House, and hon. Members in the other, might have before them in a compact shape all the information in possession of the Government relative to the financial condition of India, and relative to the working of the measure for the internal administration of that country for twenty years before. He wished to know whether Her Majesty's present Ministers had taken the same pains themselves, and whether they were ready to lay on the table the same information with regard to the action of the Government in India, and to the present condition of that country? he begged leave to express his earnest hope that that information, which he concluded would be laid before Parliament, would comprise all the papers necessary to throw 535 light on his (the Earl of Ellenborough's) recall from the Government of India some years ago. Whatever might be the reasons which induced the late Sir Robert Peel and others to decline laying before Parliament the papers for which on his return he (the Earl of Ellenborough) most earnestly pressed, those reasons could not exist at present. Eight years had now elapsed since his recall, and those papers came now within the legitimate domain of history. The matters to which they referred had in no respect any character of secrecy. It was to be hoped that, after the lapse of so long a time, they could now be discussed calmly and dispassionately. He thought, however, that at all events it was essential, previous to the determination of Parliament as to the terms on which the future government of India was to be conducted, that there should be laid before it every document which could by any possibility throw light on the relations existing between the Governor General of India and the body from which alone, under the law, his orders and instructions as to measures could originate. He assured their Lordships that he desired the production of these documents not so much from personal motives and interests—being secure as to the judgment which posterity would form regarding the matters in controversy between himself and the Court of Directors—as from thinking that their production was essential to the establishment of the truth of history, more particularly as to two measures of great importance, he meant the combined movements of the two armies on Cabul and Ghuznee towards the end of the year 1842, and the policy and conduct of the campaign of Gwalior. There were also other important matters most materially essential to the future government of India touched upon in his letter of the 4th of July, 1844, and in the documents enclosed in that letter; and he must once more repeat his conviction that it was essential to the proper consideration of the great measure which must shortly be submited to Parliament, that all the documents should be produced which were calculated to throw light upon it.
As to the other question to which he had intended to draw their Lordships' attention that evening, namely, the grounds and objects of the expedition recently sent to Rangoon, it so happened, that in waiting for the return of the new President of the Board of Control (Mr. Fox Made) to 536 the House of Commons, their Lordships had been practically waiting for the arrival of the mail from India, and that mail seemed to have brought information of some importance. He confessed, however, that he himself did not take the same sanguine view of the character of that information which had generally been taken by others. He did not consider the matter as yet to be entirely settled. What he had heard amounted to this, that the King of Ava had been advised—and he thought wisely and properly advised—to adopt towards us a very diplomatic and a very civilised course of proceeding. He had answered the requisition for indemnity which had been sent him by the Governor General by expressing great regret that any misunderstanding should have taken place between his Government and ours; he had recalled or dismissed the Governor of Rangoon, and had sent to that place two persons who were to hear all the several complaints which had been made against the late Governor, and to give an indemnity to the sufferers, wherever an indemnity was justly required. From that mode of proceeding on the part of the King of Ava, it was inferred that the matter was perfectly settled. At the same time he saw that the advisers of the King of Ava had given an example not unworthy of consideration by other States which considered themselves wise, enlightened, and civilised. They had advised him, pending this discussion, and with a view to all possible contingencies, to put his people under arms; and thus it was said that not less than 100,000 men—probably, that was an exaggeration, and that there were not more than half that number—were now collected in the neighbourhood of Rangoon. The King of Ava could not have adopted a course of policy more advisable for himself, whatever course he might hereafter intend to pursue. But, in the meantime, what were we, on our part, about with regard to the possible contingency of hostilities? for when a requisition was sent to a half-civilised State like that of Ava, hostility, he supposed, was a possible contingency. Now, viewing the possible contingency of hostilities with Ava, he thought it would have been advisable to reinforce our posts on the frontiers of Tenasserim, Assam, Arracan, and Chittagong; for when once our requisition was sent to the King of Ava, it was not in our power to tell in what way or on what point the war might break out. If it did break out, it was quite as possible 537 that the King of Ava would take the initiative, as that the initiative should be taken by the British Government in India; and on our long common frontier, especially in Tenasserim, and on the side of Assam, Arracan, and Chittagong, it was open to the Burmese to make, at any time or place, an irruption which would be excessively embarrassing to the Government of India. To any person acquainted with the history of the last war in Ava, it would appear that it was not safe for ships to remain near Rangoon without occupying the point of Kemendine above it, and that with a force of 2,000 or 3,000 men, for the fire-rafts would unquestionably be sent against them, unless that point was occupied. He thought that great risk would be incurred if such a precaution were neglected; and if war should break out without it, it might be an unfortunate affair for the Government of India. He also wished to know whether, before any requisition was sent to the King of Ava for reparation for the injuries inflicted on British subjects in Rangoon, any trustworthy officer of ours was sent there to ascertain the truth of our representations, and the extent of the injuries inflicted? he could recollect—it was not so distant an era—he could recollect the circumstances of a complaint which had been brought under the notice of the British Government by a certain Don Pacifico. Athens rejoiced in one Don Pacifico; but he could assure their Lordships that there were dozens of Don Pacificoes at Rangoon. If there were not the grossest ignorance of, or the strangest misrepresentations about Rangoon, on the part of those who have written about it, Rangoon was the sink of Asia—the Alsatia to which all men went who could not keep a footing elsewhere. Persons of European origin, who had discovered that Asia was too hot to hold them, lived in Ava, and generally went to Rangoon, and there, under the same, or perhaps some other name, endeavoured to gain a new reputation and a new fortune. He should not wish the Government to take any political measures with regard to Ava, without sending an officer there to inquire into circumstances. He regretted that this had not been done in the first instance; for it was reported that when the Commodore went to Rangoon with his fleet, he found circumstances very different from those which had been represented to him. The Don Pacificoes pushed off their boats, and went on board with representations of the damage which they said they had sus- 538 tained. The amount of the damage so stated to have been sustained, appeared to Commodore Lambert so enormous, that he sent—very properly, as he (the Earl of Ellen-borough) thought—to Calcutta for further instructions. Now, this was a state of things rather alarming. Taking into view what had been done by the King of Ava, they had a right to suppose that he would do justice, but that he would do nothing more than justice; that he would not pay any sum unless his commissioners awarded it. In regard to this point, then, he asked Her Majesty's Ministers, on what grounds an expedition was sent in the first instance against the King of Ava, and whether any attempt had been previously made to ascertain the truth of the representations on which it was sent? he also wished to know, if the noble Marquess could state it without injury to the public service, what was the object of the Government in sending out that expedition, and to what extent they intend to press on the King of Ava, compliance with the requisitions that had been made to him?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that he would first answer the first question of the noble Earl—a question which it was not surprising that the noble Earl should put, considering that the period was approaching when Parliament must consider the propriety of renewing the charter of the East India Company. Not only was it correct that a Committee was to be moved for in the House of Commons, on Friday next, for the investigation of this important question, but it was his intention in that House also to propose a Committee for a similar purpose. When he moved for that Committee, as he should do on an early day, he should be most happy if the noble Earl would give him his attention and the Committee his attendance. It was the wish of Her Majesty's Government to afford Parliament all the information which they deemed expedient to enable it to form a sound judgment on that important question, involving as it did the fate of so many millions of persons, and of so valuable a portion of the interests of England. If the papers which he should then produce did not meet the views of the noble Earl opposite, it would be in his power to propose, either in the House or in the Select Committee, the production of such additional information as would throw light on the subject to which he (the Earl of Ellenborough) had alluded. As to the peculiar papers con- 539 nected with the noble Earl's recall from the Government of India—which took place at a period when he had not the honour of being in Her Majesty's councils—it was impossible for him to state on what grounds the late Sir Robert Peel acted when he declined to make a communication of them to Parliament. Whether it was expedient to renew the discussion upon those papers now, and whether they were necessary to enable the country to form a right, judgment on the whole of this great question, would be a point for that Committee and for Parliament to determine. As he had only had an opportunity of seeing and perusing those papers within the last few hours, he would give no opinion on them at present. He would say no more on the appointment of the Select Committee; but the noble Lord had proceeded to advert to a notice which he had given a week ago, and which he had courteously postponed till the return of the President of the Board of Control to Parliament. The noble Earl had truly stated that it had accidentally happened—and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was not sorry for it—that, simultaneously with his return, despatches had been received from India giving satisfactory information that a settlement of the dispute with Ava had been obtained by the means which had been promptly, speedily, and efficaciously taken by the Government of India. It was not for him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) to state whether it was in the power of the King of Ava to give or to withhold the redress which he had promised. In the despatches he had seen, there was a primâ facie case which led him to think that there was insincerity in the proceedings of the King of Ava. The state of the misunderstanding between us was this—and in describing it he should best answer the peculiar question put to him by the noble Earl. In the month of June last, a distinguished officer, Colonel Ogle, being then employed as the superintendent of our nearest settlement to Rangoon, reported to the Governor General and Council of India, that a merchant of high character and responsibility had satisfied him that he had suffered a gross act of injustice from the authorities at Rangoon. Many of their Lordships might perhaps be aware of the class of persons who usually resorted to Rangoon. The merchant in question reported to the Colonel that in (Consequence of some accident which hap- 540 pened to his vessel, it was taken, through the ignorance of his pilot, into the port of Rangoon; that on his finding fault with this pilot, the man threw himself overboard, and that this circumstance had led to a charge against him of having endeavoured to murder the man. The object of this charge was to obtain from the merchant a compensation which he was not bound to pay. He refused compliance with the demand, and the consequence was that he and his crew underwent a vexatious prosecution. The Governor of Rangoon ordered a court of arbitration to be held on this demand. A court of arbitration was accordingly empannelled, and, after it had pronounced a sentence favourable to the merchant, its sentence was set aside by the Governor, who ordered him to pay a considerable sum for the benefit of the relations of the pilot, and a considerable sum also for the benefit of the Governor himself. Another merchant had also undergone a similar persecution in consequence of his having refused to pay the wages of a certain portion of his crew who had deserted from his vessel. He was also accused of having murdered one of his men, who died of sickness; but no proof of murder was produced against him. In short, the cases of complaint for injuries like these appeared to the gallant officer to be so enormous, that he submitted to the Governor General and Council in India the necessity of obtaining redress for them. It was on these grounds—it was on the responsibility of Colonel Ogle—that the Governor General, being then in communication with him, suggested it as his opinion that Commodore Lambert should be sent to Rangoon with a sufficient force to demand reparation and compensation for these specific injuries. When the Commodore arrived at Rangoon, he was assailed, as the noble Earl had stated, by a number of Don Pacificoes, but also by many persons who had been sufferers from these exactions. They came to him and stated their grievances, which the Commodore found to exceed greatly those for which he had been sent to demand redress. Under these circumstances the Commodore exercised, as he thought, a very wise discretion, for he abstained from proceeding further with the Governor of Rangoon, who had acted so unjustly and so extortionately, but insisted that that Governor should send to the King of Ava a letter stating the case against him, and demanding reparation. The event proved 541 the propriety and justice of the Commodore's mode of proceeding; for that letter, addressed to the King of Ava was taken into consideration by him, and his Majesty felt that reparation was due to us, and immediately removed the Governor from his post. I have no reason to presume that the redress asked for will not fairly be given; the course taken by the King has been extremely just; and he has sent two persons to the spot in order to inquire into the various acts of injustice, and settle the amount of compensation to be paid in respect of them. I see no reason to think that the settlement of these claims will not be effected in a bonâ fide manner; and I must express my opinion that the proceedings on the part of the King of Ava and the Governor General were such as the nature of the case required, whilst the officers employed in the transaction undoubtedly did their duty.