§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said, he had last night promised the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) to lay upon the table certain papers connected with recent proceedings in Oude, and he proposed to place before their Lordships the Proclamation itself as transmitted to this country, and also a Letter from the Secretary to the Government of India to the Chief Commissioner of Oude, by which that Proclamation was accompanied, and the Despatch relating to the Proclamation. On looking over the latter, however, very carefully, he found there were some paragraphs containing reasoning upon the subject, the publication of which might not be expedient. The publication of these paragraphs would, he believed, be attended with inconvenience to the public service; but, with that exception, the document would be laid before their Lordships in extenso. The noble Earl concluded by moving,That there be laid before this House,Copy of a Letter from the Secretary to the Government of India, with the Governor General, to the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Oude, dated 3rd March, 1858: Also,Copy of the Proclamation enclosed therein, and ordered to be published in Oude: And also,Extracts of a Letter from the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors of the East India Company to the Governor General of India in Council, dated 10th April, 1858, relating to that Proclamation.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
had pressed the introduction yesterday of these papers, because the present was the last Parliamentary night before the departure of the Indian mail. He approved of the exclusion of parts of the despatch, as since he had an opportunity of reading it, he could hardly conceive how any one could have thought of publishing the whole of that secret despatch. He was, however, afraid that this Resolution was adopted too late, for that despatch had been in the hands of Members of the other House of Parliament, and even Members of the Reform Club for some time. With regard to the Proclamation itself, he, in common with their Lordships, had no knowledge of it beyond what he derived from The Times' correspondence yesterday. Looking at that Proclamation, he certainly thought it was a measure of security; it appeared to him consonant with those principles which Lord Canning was bound to respect, because they had been approved by the Court of Directors and the Home 229 Government; it seemed to him to be a strong weapon placed in the hands of negotiators at a most critical moment in order that it might be used for the purpose of treating with those powerful landholders who, the Directors held, had no legal right to their estates, and who had always been the oppressors of the people. He wished, however, to avoid committing himself in the slightest degree, either to the approval or disapproval of a Proclamation issued strider such circumstances, as he was totally unacquainted with all the circumstances of the case. He saw from The Times' correspondence that the interpretation of the Proclamation was to be left to Sir James Outram, and that the writer knew that Sir James Outram was inclined to mercy; and he added that it was perfectly well understood by the landowners of Oude what the intention of this Proclamation was, and how it was to be acted upon. He might, perhaps, be blamed by the noble Lords opposite for dealing with newspaper documents in speaking upon a grave subject like this; but when the Government were not able to lay on the table of the House the Proclamation, with that most important alteration, showing more clearly, as he understood it, the opening offered to the landowners, which appeared in The Times—[The Earl of ELLENBOROUGH made an observation.] He did not wish to misrepresent the noble Earl; but he understood that the answer given in the House of Commons by the Secretary of the Board of Control to a question asked on the subject was, that the Government had received a Proclamation which Lord Canning intended should be published when Lucknow was taken, and that he (the Secretary to the Board of Control) believed it to be identical with the copy in The Times, with some alteration. If he were mistaken, he would withdraw his observations on this point.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said, that the papers he had just moved for would show the Proclamation which the Governor General directed should be published; but though the Government knew that it had been published, they had no official information of the actual publication. In the Proclamation as given in the public prints there was inserted a paragraph to which he did not attach all the importance which the noble Earl seemed to attribute to it, but which was not in the Proclamation as transmitted to the Government.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, then they were 230 agreed. The Proclamation censured in the secret despatch, and laid before the House, was not identical with that which, from unofficial sources, it was believed had been issued; he understood that it was emphatically declared by the leader of the Government in another place that the secret despatch conveyed to the Governor General the Government's disapproval of his Proclamation "in every sense," and he did think that such a declaration was, under the circumstances, an unheard-of event. Was the noble Earl aware of any precedent of a secret despatch sent out from this country having ever been published? The other day he ventured to ask whether the noble Earl was within the bounds of legality when he issued a despatch on a somewhat similar subject through the Secret Committee; and the noble Earl replied that the course was perfectly legal, and he founded his justification on the secrecy of the despatch.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
I said it referred to an event which had not happened, and possibly might not happen.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that according to his recollection the reason assigned was that it was a case of urgent secrecy. However, if the present despatch was secret, and sent through the Secret Committee (and he understood that copies had been withheld from the Court of Directors until that morning), what had occurred to change the necessity for that secrecy? He very much feared the effect that the despatch would have on the Governor General and the people of India. He believed that it would be admitted by all persons, notwithstanding the previous attacks which had been made on Lord Canning, that the present Governor General of India had established among the Natives of that country a character for firmness and judgment; and he believed that the possession of these qualities was important for all rulers, but especially for the rulers of Oriental nations. He was not now going to paint Lord Canning's character; but he would refer to two instances in which his firmness was remarkably exhibited. There was another proclamation, nicknamed the Clemency Proclamation. Those who knew the feelings of human nature would admit that that Proclamation very naturally excited the resentment of the Europeans in India; and that feeling was taken up in this part of the world; but neither the clamour raised here nor in India induced 231 Lord Canning to swerve to the right or to the left, but he maintained the even tenour of his way, tempering justice with mercy. He did not believe that any man entitled to be heard with respect would now rise and disapprove the principles embodied in that Proclamation. Another instance of the firmness of his character was exhibited while the siege of Delhi was being prosecuted with great difficulty. [The Earl of ELLENBOROUGH: This is an eulogy.] Well, he thought he had a right to say something in Lord Canning's behalf, when that noble Lord, though not attacked, was placed in an indirect way, either intentionally or unintentionally, in a position which made it difficult for him to act whether according as the public advantage or his feelings of private honour might require. He thought that under these circumstances he had a right not to make an eulogy, but some observations on matters of fact, and he should not be deterred from doing so by the remark which had just been made. He was referring, when interrupted, to the siege of Delhi, and observing that that siege was prosecuted with some difficulty. Propositions to negotiate with the insurgents were made, and Sir John Lawrence, one of the most experienced and foremost of public men in India, and the heroic General who conducted the siege to a successful issue, were favourably inclined to these propositions. It was, then, an act of great moral courage for a civilian like Lord Canning, who had not long arrived in the country, to take on himself the great responsibility of absolutely refusing to entertain those propositions and of insisting that the siege should be proceeded with. When a change took place in the Government, it was certainly competent for the noble Earl opposite to communicate with Lord Canning, and inform him that the Government did not think him the best person for the post he occupied in India, and that they deemed it their public duty to require him to retire. That course it was open for the Government to take; but a course which was not open for them to pursue was to continue Lord Canning in his post, and then to give publicity to that complete censure which they had passed on him. He begged not to be misunderstood, and for the sake of argument he would assume that the Proclamation in question was entirely wrong; but while the Government maintained Lord Canning in the post of Governor General it was not for them to publish an attack on him, and 232 to communicate through Parliament to the people of India that they had absolutely no confidence in the man who in this great emergency had to deal with the people of India. That was placing Lord Canning in the difficult position of having to decide whether, notwithstanding this public affront, he would act according to his private feelings of honour, or as he might think essential for the public good. When the noble Earl the President of the Board of Control sent out the despatch which had been described in the other House—and the accuracy of that description had not yet been questioned by the noble Earl—he could not have reflected upon the effect which it would produce in India. Conceive what would be the thoughts of the people of India when they were told that the Government in Calcutta was not to be supported by the Government at home in measures of vigour. He hoped the noble Earl at the head of the Government would explain to the House his views upon this great question. Was it his intention that Lord Canning should come home at once? Had he made any provision for replacing him? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer so wantonly disclosed the substance of a secret despatch, had he considered the probable effects both on the Governor General and on the interests of our Indian empire? There was another question which ought to be answered—namely, whether there was in existence any public correspondence connected with the same subject, and, if so, whether the Government would have any objection to produce it? As the Government had not hesitated to publish a secret despatch, they could have no scruple in producing a public correspondence.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I certainly have no wish to complain that the noble Earl should have availed himself of the present opportunity to pass an eulogium, in some respects well deserved, on Lord Canning for his conduct in India; but I must say he has done injustice to those who sit on this side of the House in stating that when they occupied the benches opposite, Lord Canning was subjected to any attacks from them. On the contrary, although from information we possessed we thought there were great reasons to doubt the propriety of some parts of the conduct of Lord Canning, the language we uniformly held while sitting on the other side was that every allowance ought to be made for the unexampled difficulties in which 233 Lord Canning was placed; and we studiously and carefully forebore to prejudge or condemn any portion of his policy. I must say, my Lords, that the complaint of the publication of these papers comes with bad grace from the noble Earl opposite; because it was he himself who, with an intensity of interest which your Lordships must have remarked, last night urged upon the Government the instantaneous production of these documents, and it was in order to satisfy his natural anxiety to have an opportunity of calling attention to the subject before the mail left London on Monday next that my noble Friend the President of the Board of Control consented to lay the papers on the Table in the course of today. The noble Earl, however, was not satisfied with that promise, but he earnestly pressed upon my noble Friend and myself the necessity of producing the documents then and there.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble Earl was not in his place yesterday when I addressed my first question to the President of the Board of Control, and he seems to have forgotten that before I opened my mouth on the subject a member of the Government in the other House had promised to produce the papers to-day. The President of the Board of Control agreed to lay the documents on the Table of this House; but that was after a similar promise had been given in the House of Commons, and it was at a subsequent part of our sitting that, the departure of the mail being fixed for Monday next, I urged the necessity of producing the papers yesterday instead of today. I did not even know with certainty what the papers were until I heard the reply of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellen-borough) to my previous question.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
The noble Earl has given us a rather long explanation, but it has not altered, it appears to me, the state of the case. I only say, he is not the person, having urged so strongly the immediate publication of the papers, to find fault with us for laying them on the Table. I admit that the premature and partial discussion of so grave a question at the present moment may be productive of inconvenience, and that inconvenience has been in a great measure caused by the practice, exceedingly prejudicial to the public service, of putting questions, as well in this as the other House, without sufficient notice to Members of the Government upon difficult and important subjects. At the same time, recollect what the circumstances in 234 the present instance were. A proclamation appears in the public press; it is read and commented upon out of doors, and a Member comes down to the other House, and asks a Member of the Government whether he has received the Proclamation in question, and, if so, whether it meets with the concurrence of the Government. What was the particular form of expression used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with repect to this Proclamation, I do not think your Lordships need inquire—the noble Earl thinks differently; but it would have been impossible for the Government, that question being put to them, to abstain from expressing their opinion relative to the character and nature of the Proclamation. Observe what the Proclamation was. It was a Proclamation issued at the conclusion of successful operations against the capital of Oude, declaring that from that time, with a few and partial exceptions, the whole of the landed property in Oude—not public property—but the private property of every individual landholder within the kingdom of Oude, was confiscated to the service of the Crown. We were asked whether we approved that Proclamation. Our answer was that we had received a copy of that Proclamation as it was about to he issued three weeks ago, and that we had thought it our imperative duty forthwith to express our opinion that, taking the Proclamation as it would be seen and read by the inhabitants of Oude, apart from any instructions which the Governor General might give to his agents for the purpose of mitigating its apparent severity, it would prove most impolitic and most injurious to the public interests. We felt it to be our duty, on receiving the Proclamation three weeks ago, to send out to the Governor General that expression of our opinion; but when the noble Earl opposite comes to read the despatch to which he has referred he will see that we have made allowance for the position in which the Governor General was placed, and that, although we have expressed our opinion as to the impolicy of the Proclamation, we have not taken upon ourselves the responsibility of ordering him to withdraw or rescind it, but have simply expressed our anxious hope that in practice, and in accordance with what no doubt was his own intention, the apparent severity of the Proclamation might be materially mitigated. Less than that it would have been impossible for us to do. God forbid that I should seek to vindicate what has been 235 done by the people of Oude; but your Lordships must see that there is a broad and manifest distinction to be drawn between the mutiny of our army and the revolt of the people of Oude. The mutiny of the army ought to be, and must be, followed by wholesome severity and punishment. The revolt of the people of Oude has enlisted in its favour a large amount of sympathy, and—there is no question about it—it arose out of acts of doubtful policy upon our part. It was not a revolt of those who had eaten our salt and sworn allegiance to us, but the revolt of a people who thought—I am not saying whether rightly or wrongly—that their native Sovereign had been unjustly dethroned, and who rose as an armed nation against those whom they conceived to be usurpers and oppressors. It is absolutely necessary, upon all grounds of policy and justice, not to speak of humanity, that in the treatment of the vanquished there should be a broad and palpable distinction drawn between the mutinous Sepoys and the revolted but loyal people of Oude—loyal I mean to their own native King. The punishment to be inflicted upon our rebellious soldiers is the punishment due to treason; but the people of Oude ought to be dealt with like people who have been conquered in legitimate warfare, and I know of no instance in which a people having been so conquered were subjected to the sweeping declaration that, with few and partial exceptions, all their private property should be confiscated to the use of the victors. Do I say that it might not be necessary to issue a Proclamation to the people of Oude, and even to threaten with confiscation those who continued to stand in arms against us? By no means; but for putting an end to future strife, and inducing the great landowners—who, recollect, like the feudal proprietors of former times, are chiefs with armed retainers, men of immense wealth and influence—to Come in and subject themselves to our authority, the course was not to drive them to desperation—it was to hold out a hand to those who might be willing to acknowledge our rule; and I could not have complained of this Proclamation in substance provided it had been reversed—if that which appears as the qualification had been made the main article, and that which is now the main article had been made the qualification. My Lords, if, instead of proclaiming the confiscation of all estates, with the exception of those persons who 236 might come in and receive the indulgent consideration of the Government, proclamation had in the first instance been made, that the Government were ready to receive with every degree of indulgence those who had been seduced into revolt, and to restore the lands, properties, and possessions of those who might have been temporarily in arms against them, provided they at once submitted to the clemency of the Government and promised allegiance to the Sovereign; but that, on the other hand, those who continued in revolt must expect no mercy and no forbearance, but that they would be subjected to the just confiscation of their property for continuing to carry on a hopeless struggle,—I think that in that case the Governor General would have held out to these great chieftains of Oude an inducement to come to his terms and to submit to his authority, which would have materially shortened the struggle in that country. By taking the other course, by driving these men to desperation, he was likely to protract the struggle, because men who had nothing but their arms to trust to for the maintenance of their property are hardly likely to give in to a proclamation. Therefore I think Her Majesty's Government would have failed in their duty if, when that Proclamation reached them, they had not intimated to the Governor General their opinion of its policy, and had not expressed their hope—and they have done nothing more—that in practice he would see reason to mitigate, to a great extent, the threat of wholesale confiscation which the proclamation itself was likely to convey to the minds of the people of Oude. That is the course which Her Majesty's Government have pursued. It may have been—I think it was—unfortunate that a question should suddenly have been asked, the consequence of which has been the production of this despatch; but it would have been impossible to satisfy the public mind that the Government of this country had not neglected its duty—had not neglected the interests of humanity—if they had allowed it to be supposed that they sanctioned and had consented to the issuing of a Proclamation apparently confiscating the property of those whose crime was, not that they had mutinied, but that they had been in arms against our authority. The noble Earl opposite has said that at an early period Lord Canning was blamed for too much clemency, and that he is now apparently blamed for too great severity. My Lords, whatever 237 may have been said of the too great clemency which Lord Canning was supposed to have exhibited towards the Sepoys, I think the noble Earl will do me the justice to recollect that when on that side of the House I candidly and plainly stated that I thought Lord Canning's explanation had satisfactorily vindicated his conduct, and had removed every imputation which had been cast upon him. What I complain of in this case is that Lord Canning has not drawn the distinction which it is most important should be drawn between the mutinous Sepoys and the rebellious people of Oude; and that he is treating with great severity, or apparently intending to treat with great severity, men who have been guilty of a comparatively lower offence in the same manner that he deals with men convicted of the highest crimes known to the law. The noble Earl asks whether we have recalled, or intend to recall, Lord Canning from the Government of India. My Lords, we have no such intention; and the communication which was sent to the Governor General with respect to his Proclamation was studiously so worded that Lord Canning should not consider it as imposing upon him the necessity, in accordance with his own honour, of resigning the office which he now holds. We did not even go so far as to desire him to recall the Proclamation; we only expressed a hope that he would act upon it in a merciful spirit. The same view appears to have occurred to Lord Canning himself, for the last paragraph but one of the amended Proclamation which appears in the public papers seems to indicate the existence in the mind of the Governor General of an intention to do to a certain extent that which we urged upon him the necessity and propriety of doing. But that mitigation did not appear in the original Proclamation, and it was to the original and not to the amended Proclamation that the despatch which has been sent to India had reference. I am glad to take this opportunity of saying that, although I do not think it goes far enough, yet, undoubtedly, that paragraph is a considerable mitigation of the Proclamation in its original form. I do not wish to cast the slightest blame upon Lord Canning, but I cannot say that I approve the course which he has pursued. I do not doubt that Lord Canning pursued it with the best intentions. I do not doubt that, in his own mind, he wished to reserve to himself and to the Government the power of materially mitigating 238 the severity of that Proclamation; but your Lordships will observe that, unfortunately—I mean unfortunately with regard to the effect upon the people of Oude—the mitigating spirit was not made known to them while the Proclamation of wholesale confiscation was—a circumstance which was calculated to drive the people to desperation, and therefore indefinitely to protract and not to shorten the struggle in that country. My Lords, I earnestly hope that Lord Canning may have acted in a spirit of generous appreciation of the many mitigating circumstances in favour of the people of Oude; that he may in practice have relaxed—have greatly relaxed—the severity of the original decree; and that this practical proof of his intention to diminish its severity may avert those injurious consequences with regard to the continuance of war and the continuance of bad feeling which I cannot but anticipate are likely to flow from the Proclamation in its original form. I do regret that at the present moment this letter should have been brought so prominently into notice—that its production should have been, perhaps somewhat hastily, promised; and I am sure that alter what has passed your Lordships will see the propriety of the course which my noble Friend has recommended to-night—that of laying on your Lordships' table only such portions as may be published without causing serious inconvenience to the public service, and omitting some passages which, if published in India, might, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, produce a most prejudicial effect. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) himself, as a friend of Lord Canning, has had an opportunity of seeing the whole despatch. We thought it right, after his intimation that he intended to make some observations upon this subject, that he should see the whole despatch and should be made acquainted with all that had taken place; and I think that, however much he may regret that any portion of the despatch should have been made public, he will concur with me that we have exercised a sound discretion in laying upon the table only extracts, omitting certain paragraphs which I pointed out to the noble Earl.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I shall not be tempted by the speech of the noble Earl to say one word on the merits of Lord Canning's Proclamation, upon the policy of which he has taken 239 this opportunity of expressing a decided opinion; I beg the House to recollect that my noble Friend (Earl Granville) has most carefully abstained from expressing any opinion upon it. For my own part, although there are many observations in the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) which will require to be answered when this matter is debated, as I suppose it will be in a few days, when it will be easily shown that the noble Earl labours under mistaken impressions, yet those matters are not now before the House, and I will therefore not discuss them. What we ought to keep our attention fixed upon is the course of conduct which the Government have pursued towards Lord Canning with respect to this Proclamation. If one sentiment has been oftener repeated than another by noble Lords on both sides of this House, and by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of "another place," it has been, that the government of India must mainly be carried on in that country; that is to say, that the government of India and the welfare of the Indian people must mainly depend upon the wisdom and upon the strength of the Government there. What a comment is it upon this doctrine, which has received the assent of Her Majesty's present Ministers, that on the very first occasion on which the Governor General issues a proclamation of which the home Government does not entirely approve they take the opportunity of throwing him over—not merely of expressing disapproval of his conduct, but of throwing him over in the most offensive manner! How can you carry on the government of India if your relations with the Governor General are to be conducted in such a manner as this? I observe that neither of the noble Earls opposite who have addressed the House have taken the slightest notice of the report which was referred to by my noble Friend,—that although this famous despatch of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellen-borough) has gone through the Secret Committee, and has been kept absolutely from the knowledge of the Court of Directors—that council with which he is bound to consult upon great questions of Indian policy—until to-day, yet it has been in the hands of private Members of Parliament for several days. [The Earl of DERBY interposed an observation.] I refer to the report mentioned by my noble Friend. I have not heard it, but he has, and I think it important in connection with the course taken by the Government. 240 What was the course taken in this matter? An hon. Member gets up in another place, which must be nameless, and asks whether the Proclamation of the Governor General has been issued under instructions from the Government at home? The Minister of the Crown who represents the noble Earl (the President of the Board of Control) in that place is represented to have given a very moderate answer—no doubt somewhat imprudently promising the production of the despatch, but using very moderate terms. In reply to another question, however, a still higher official of the Government gets up and announces to the British Parliament that the policy of the Governor General has been condemned in every sense. The noble Earl, having concealed this despatch from the Court of Directors,—and I do not see that there was any necessity for adopting such a course, because the most important matters connected with the annexation of Oude were not transacted through the Secret Committee—confined himself, as the report goes, to communicating it to independent Members of Parliament; and what occurred in the other House of Parliament has all the appearance of having resulted from an arrangement between these independent Members and the Government, by which the condemnation of the conduct of Lord Canning should be announced to the House of Commons in the most offensive terms. I ask if any course has ever been taken by any Government more likely to bring into contempt the authority of the Governor of India? If you lay down the principle that, however your home Government may be constituted, it is to the authorities in India that you must mainly trust for the maintenance and preservation of your empire, could you have taken a course more likely to throw contempt upon those authorities and to invole the difficult and complicated question of the government of Oude in hopeless confusion than that which you have in this instance pursued?
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, the noble Duke has objected that this despatch ought to have been made known to the Court of Directors only. My Lords, it never would have been made known to the Court of Directors if the Proclamation had not been made public. The despatch refers only to this Proclamation, and only to a particular paragraph in it. I was in hopes, up to the last moment, that, yielding to the representations which 241 I believe were made to him against issuing that Proclamation, Lord Canning never would have issued it in the form in which it was sent home. if he bad yielded to such representations, the Proclamation never having been issued, this letter would never have been known. It would have remained perfectly secret, and years and years hence only might it have been discovered that such a document had been sent. It is next objected that some private individuals were in possession of this despatch in extenso. My Lords, the noble Earl himself is in possession of it. He requested to have it communicated to him, and he now complains that that which was shown as an act of courtesy towards himself should be shown to others equally interested with himself in the welfare of India, though not interested perhaps as much as himself in Lord Canning. My Lords, it is assumed that Her Majesty's Government have not acted in a generous spirit towards Lord Canning, and have not given him their full support. My Lords, I think it is not three weeks, unless I am greatly mistaken, since the noble Earl expressed his approbation of a secret despatch which I had sent to Lord Canning, and was pleased also to observe, in expressing that approbation, that that letter would afford material support to the Governor General. My Lords, what were the terms and object of that letter? It declared the hope of Her Majesty's Government that our recent successes would enable the Governor General to act in a spirit of clemency as well as of justice towards those who had been engaged in hostilities against us. Here is the paragraph:—To us it appears that whenever open resistance shall have ceased it would be prudent, in awarding punishment, rather to follow the practice which prevails after the conquest of a country which has defended itself to the last by desperate war than that which may perhaps be lawfully adopted after the suppression of mutiny and rebellion, such acts being excepted from forgiveness or mitigation of punishment as have exceeded the license of legitimate hostilities.That was the principle which we laid down. We thought it especially applicable to the position of Oude and to the people of that country. What do we say in conclusion:—"Acting in this spirit, you may rely upon our unqualified support." And, my Lords, we did not only send that despatch to India, and keep it in the secret department as a thing to be known to Lord Canning alone,—by which 242 by the way, he would have received but little support from it;—we made it public here as soon as we were enabled to do so, and thus conveyed to all India the knowledge of the fact that Her Majesty's Government were determined to give him their unqualified support—their support, be it observed, in the prosecution of a system of clemency as well as justice. And what do we receive a few days afterwards? This Proclamation! My Lords, no Government would have deserved to survive twenty-four hours which did not at once mark with its reprobation the confiscation under such circumstances of the proprietary rights of the entire people of Oude. I cannot believe, whatever may be the sentiments of the noble Earl and his friends towards Lord Canning that there can exist in this country a feeling which will not induce all classes to support those who have reprobated such a declaration from the Government of India. I hold that the hostilities which exist in Oude bear more the character of war than of rebellion. And yet, notwithstanding that fact, the penalty inflicted is one which is hardly to be paralleled in the records of history. The noble Earl asks what I desire to do with respect to the Governor General. As I understand him, he wishes to know whether I desire that Lord Canning should return to this country. My Lords, if I had desired to force the return of Lord Canning, I should have made the conclusion of that despatch more in keeping with the observations which it was necessary to make in the body of the document. I avoided the expression of that opinion. I knew also that there might exist circumstances when that despatch arrived in India which might make it as impolitic suddenly to recall the Proclamation as it was impolitic ever to issue it; and I did not desire to force Lord Canning to the adoption of that course. But, my Lords, I am asked what I desire. I do not desire the return of Lord Canning, but I do not fear it. Provision has been made, as the noble Earl perfectly well knows, and the very best provision—it was suggested by myself a few days after the change of Ministry; and I found it had been already adopted by the late Cabinet—the best provision, I repeat, has been made to meet the difficulties which might arise in the event of any accidental, unforeseen, or unfortunate vacancy occurring in the office of Governor General. I do wish Lord Canning's return. I do not fear it. We have done our duty—we could 243 not do otherwise that we have done. It was impossible for any Government desirous of seeing the administration of India conducted in a spirit of clemency as well as of justice desirous of conciliating as well as of subduing a people, not to express its opinion in proper terms with respect to an act confiscating the whole proprietary rights of the whole people of Oude.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I must point out to your Lordships that both the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down and that of the noble Earl at the head of the Government have been addressed, not to the question raised by my noble Friend (Earl Granville) as to whether it was proper at this time publicly to declare the severe censure pronounced by Her Majesty's Ministers upon the whole policy of Lord Canning in respect to Oude, but, on the contrary, to the totally different question whether that policy in itself was right or wrong—whether the Proclamation which has been published was a proper Proclamation, and whether the Government have done their duty in expressing their disapproval of it. On the last question, my Lords, I am not able to give any opinion whatever. We have not before us the information necessary to enable us to decide whether Lord Canning has done right, or whether he deserves to be censured. I can quite understand, however, that Her Majesty's Government, being in possession of far more information than we now have, may possibly have thought fit to disapprove the Proclamation issued by the Governor General, and even to write a very severe despatch in condemnation of what has been done. But, then, is it right that that censure should be publicly proclaimed? My Lords, I cannot forget that Lord Canning during the time he has held the government of India has shown great moral courage and firmness in maintaining the principles of justice and the policy of clemency at a period when the public mind was highly excited and not disposed to give the consideration which was due to calmer counsels. I cannot forget that Lord Canning braved the virulent calumny to which he was exposed by adhering to his duty in this respect amid every discouragement. Therefore, I say, in the first place, you ought not to believe that Lord Canning has now departed from the principles on which he has hitherto acted until this shall be proved by conclusive evidence—nor until you have had an opportunity of weighing his explanations of the grounds on 244 which he has proceeded, and of making up your minds that he has been in error. But at the same time I say that even if you are convinced that he has done wrong, you are bound to believe that it is an error of judgment only that he has committed. No man can doubt that it is Lord Canning's desire to act in a spirit of justice and humanity; and if he has done wrong it is his judgment, not his moral sense, that has been at fault. That being so, what, I ask, was the duty of Her Majesty's Government? No doubt, if they thought him in error, fully to explain to him the grounds of that opinion, and to direct him to modify, if requisite, the course he was about to adopt. I have not a word to say against the strongest instructions which they might have felt it right to issue on the subject. But then when that despatch had only just gone out, was it necessary to publish to the whole world that this was the view taken of his conduct by the Government? The noble Earl opposite says, "What were we to do? It was very indiscreet to come and ask the Government a question on the subject; but when the question had been put to them they could not help answering it." My Lords, that is quite a new light in which to place the duties of a Minister. I can only say, that when I had the honour of sitting on that bench as a Secretary of State, I made it a rule invariably to refuse to answer the simplest question, even though I knew perfectly well how to answer it, if it were put to me without notice. I said, "No, I never will answer you without notice. Your question may be very simple; but if you are once allowed to establish the practice of coming down here and asking me without notice any question you think fit, then the very fact of my declining to answer one when I have answered another, will show that the question is embarrassing." But, my Lords, I go further. Even supposing that Her Majesty's Government have had the fullest notice beforehand, is it to be said that they are under a positive obligation to answer a question of this kind, though to do so is injurious to the public service? I have always understood that a very different course has been pursued. It more than once fell to my lot, when holding the seals of the Colonial Office, to have questions put to me as to my intentions respecting matters upon which I was in correspondence with the Governors of particular colonies, and on which I had 245 reason to doubt whether they had acted right. But I never then thought of replying, while such a correspondence was still in progress, that I disapproved in every sense of what had been done. I was accustomed to say the subject is a difficult one, and communications are still going on with regard to it; we have not yet been able to form a decision, and it would not be expedient for the public service to say more at present; the business is not yet settled, and the House will be informed of the result in due time. Now, am I to be told, my Lords, that because an indiscreet question is asked in the House of Commons that is an excuse for a Minister to give an indiscreet answer? I can recognize no such excuse; for the more indiscreet the question, the more distinctly is it the duty of a Minister to refuse to answer it. From my experience of both Houses of Parliament I am persuaded that if, in answer to such a question in either House of Parliament, Her Majesty's Government had said, Lord Canning has hitherto deserved our full confidence, and we see no reason for withdrawing that confidence; the Proclamation which has been adverted to is at present the subject of correspondence between us and Lord Canning, and we shall take care most attentively to consider the whole of the circumstances of the case, and see that justice be done, and the House shall in due time be informed as to what has been done—I am persuaded, I say, that if the Government had adopted that course, there would have been no disposition upon the part of either House of Parliament to press the question upon them. I have never in the whole course of my experience, seen that course adopted by a Government without being at once admitted by Parliament. Why, being very course had been adopted by the present Government in reference to the Cagliari. The Government produced a great portion of the papers connected with that affair—more, perhaps, than it was quite discreet to produce—but when they were asked for still more they said, We are still in communication with the Governments of Naples and Sardinia, and it would not be convenient for the public service at present to produce more papers. That answer was readily acquiesced in by the House, and I am informed by my noble Friend behind me (Lord Stanley of Alderley), that it was made on the very same night that the indiscreet answer of which I complain was given to the question relating to this 246 Proclamation. I conceive that the Government committed a grave fault in expressing the opinion that they disapproved in every sense of the policy of Lord Can-Mug. The noble Earl opposite has retorted. upon my noble Friend near me, and says, "You complain of the despatch being in the hands of persons not Members of the Government:—why, you yourself asked to see it;" but the noble Earl forgets that it was not until it had been made known that Lord Canning had been censured by Her Majesty's Government, that my noble Friend asked to see which contained that censure; and I believe that had there been no expression of an opinion hostile to Lord Canning, he would never have asked for that despatch at all. After an unqualified censure upon the policy of Lord Canning had been pointedly announced by the Government, all the friends of Lord Canning were very naturally and very properly desirous of seeing the terms in which that censure was couched, and what were the grounds upon which it was founded; and they hoped from an examination of the despatch, to discover that there was not sufficient ground for any censure at all. I much regret what has occurred—not on account of Lord Canning, although I cannot but think that the manner in which Lord Canning filled his high office in a time of extreme difficulty and under circumstances of a most deeply distressing character, the manner in which he performed duties suddenly and unexpectedly cast upon him, has entitled him to greater consideration than has been shown him. It is not, however, on account of Lord Canning that I so much regret what has occurred; but it is for the sake of India and of this empire. I am convinced that it is not for the interest of India, nor of England either, that the government of India should at this moment be placed in fresh hands, or that Lord Canning, holding that high office, should have his authority weakened and impaired by a public expression on the part of Her Majesty's Government of censure of his policy. I confess, my Lords, that in all my experience the course which has been adopted by the Government appears to me to be without a precedent, and it is one of which I cannot help expressing extreme disapproval. I am utterly at a loss to conceive what grounds can have induced the Government to take such a course. What object could be gained by it? I am sure that the noble Earl who is responsible for the govern- 247 ment of India, possesses too firm a mind to shrink from a temporary obloquy for refusing to give up Lord Canning, supposing a run had been made against him. I am sure, also, that he is not actuated by another motive which might almost seem to have prompted such a course; were it not that the high character of the noble Earl forbids such a supposition, the circumstances which have attended the publication of this despatch would lead one to believe that Her Majesty's Ministers, seeing symptoms of a reaction in public opinion, which, some time back, ran strongly in favour of unsparing and indiscriminate severity, but had now turned against a policy of extreme severity, had thought that a little temporary popularity might be acquired for a weak Administration by the production of a despatch containing some high-sounding words and phrases with regard to principles of justice and humanity. If I were in the habit of putting an unfavourable construction on the motives of public men, I might have believed such a motive had led to the publication of this despatch: but, my Lords, I reject such a supposition, and can only account for it on the ground that it must have resulted from extraordinary and blameable inadvertence.
§ Motion agreed to; and the Papers were afterwards laid on the table.