ON QUESTIONS OF PUBLIC POLICY
BY JOHN BRIGHT, M.P.
EDITED BY JAMES E. THOROLD ROGERS
IN TWO VOLUMES
'BE JUST AND FEAR NOT'
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The speeches which have been selected for publication in these volumes possess a value, as examples of the art of public speaking, which no person will be likely to underrate. Those who may differ from Mr. Bright's theory of the public good will have no difficulty in acknowledging the clearness of his diction, the skill with which he arranges his arguments, the vigour of his style, the persuasiveness of his reasoning, and above all, the perfect candour and sincerity with which he expresses his political convictions.
It seems likely that the course of events in this country will lead those, who may desire to possess influence in the conduct of public affairs, to study the art of public speaking. If so, nothing which can be found in English literature will aid the aspirant after this great faculty more than the careful and reiterated perusal of the speeches contained in these volumes. Tried indeed by the effect produced upon any audience by their easy flow and perfect clearness, or analysed by any of those systems of criticism which under the name of 'rhetoric' have been saved to us from the learning of the ancient world, these speeches would be admitted to satisfy either process.
This is not the occasion on which to point out the causes which confer so great an artistic value on these compositions; which give them now, and will give them hereafter, so high a place in English literature. At the present time nearly a hundred millions of the earth's inhabitants speak the English tongue. A century hence, and it will probably be the speech of nearly half the inhabitants of the globe. I think that no master of that language will occupy a loftier position than Mr. Bright; that no speaker will teach with greater exactness the noblest and rarest of the social arts, the art of clear and persuasive exposition. But before this art can be attained (so said the greatest critic that the world has known), it is necessary that the speaker should secure the sympathies of his audience, should convince them of his statesmanship, should show that he is free from any taint of self-interest or dissimulation. These conditions of public trust still form, as heretofore, in every country of free thought and free speech, the foundation of a good reputation and of personal influence. It is with the fact that such are the characteristics of my friend's eloquence, that I have been strongly impressed in collecting and editing the materials of these volumes.
Since the days of those men of renown who lived through the first half of the seventeenth century, when the liveliest religious feeling was joined to the loftiest patriotism, and men laboured for their conscience and their country, England has witnessed no political career like that of Cobden and Bright. Cobden's death was a great loss to his country, for it occurred at a time when England could ill spare a conscientious statesman. Nations, however, cannot be saved by the virtues, nor need they be lost by the vices, of their public men. But Cobden's death was an irreparable loss to his friends—most of all to the friend who had been, in an incessant struggle for public duty and truth, of one heart and of one purpose with him.
Those who have been familiar with Cobden's mind know how wide was his knowledge, how true was his judgment of political events. The vast majority of those who followed his public career had but a scanty acquaintance with the resources of his sagacity and foresight. He spoke to the people on a few subjects only. The wisdom of Free Trade; the necessity of Parliamentary Reform; the dangerous tendency of those laws which favour the accumulation of land in few hands; the urgent need for a system of national education; the mischief of the mere military spirit; the prudence of uniting communities by the multiplication of international interests; the abandonment of the policy of diplomatic and military intermeddling; the advocacy, in short, of the common good in place of a spurious patriotism, of selfish, local, or class aims, formed the subject of Cobden's public utterances. But his intimate friends, and in particular his regular correspondents, were aware that his political criticism was as general as it was accurate. The loss then of his wise and lucid counsel was the greatest to the survivor of a personal and a political friendship which was continued uninterruptedly through so long and so active a career.
At the commencement of Mr. Bright's public life, the shortsighted selfishness of a landlords' parliament was afflicting the United Kingdom with a continuous dearth. Labour was starved, and capital was made unproductive by the Corn-laws. The country was tied to a system by which Great Britain and her Colonies deliberately chose the dearest market for their purchases. In the same spirit, the price of freights was wilfully heightened by the Navigation-laws. Important branches of home industry were crippled by prying, vexatious, and wasteful excises. And this system was conceived to be the highest wisdom; or at any rate, to be so invincible a necessity that it could not be avoided or altered without danger. The country, if it were to make its way, could make it only because other nations were servile imitators of our commercial policy, and, in the vain hope of retaliation, were hindering their own progress.
The foreign policy of Great Britain was suspicious and irritating, for it was secret, busy, and meddling, insolent to the weak, conciliatory, even truckling, to the strong. The very name of diplomacy is and has been odious to English Liberals, for by means of it a reactionary Government could check domestic reforms, and hinder the community of nations indefinitely. The policy of the Foreign Office was constantly directed towards embittering, if not embroiling, the relations between this and other countries. It is difficult to account for these intrigues, except on the ground that successive Governments were anxious to maintain political and social anomalies at home, while they were affecting to support 'the balance of power' abroad. The abandonment of intervention in foreign politics was the beginning of agitation for domestic reforms.
Perhaps no part of the public administration was worse than that of India. The great Company had lost its monopoly of trade in the Eastern seas, but retained its administrative powers over the subject races and dependent princes of India. Its system of finance was wasteful and oppressive. Its policy was that of aggression and annexation. In practice, the Government was irresponsible. Nobody listened to Indian affairs in Parliament, except on rare occasions, or for party purposes. The Governor-General did as he pleased. The President of the Board of Control did as he pleased. If the reader wishes to see how the former acted, Mr. Cobden's pamphlet, 'How Wars are got up in India' will enlighten him. If it be necessary to inquire what the policy of the latter might be, the disastrous and disgraceful Affghan War is an illustration. Never perhaps was a war commenced more recklessly. It is certain that when loss and dishonour fell on the English arms, the statesmen who recommended and insisted on the war tried to screen themselves from just blame by the basest arts.
The internal resources of India were utterly neglected. The Company collected part of its revenue from a land-tax, levied in the worst shape. In order to secure an income through a monopoly, it constrained the cultivation of certain drugs for which there was a foreign demand; and neglected to encourage the cultivation of cotton, for which the home demand was wellnigh boundless, and to which the Indian supply might be made to correspond. The Company constructed neither road nor canal. It did nothing towards maintaining the means of communication which even the native governments had adopted. It suffered the ancient roads and tanks to fall into decay. It neglected to educate the native gentry, much more the people. In brief, the policy of the Company in dealing with India was the policy of Old Spain with her Transatlantic possessions, only that it was more jealous and illiberal.
Against these social and political evils, and many others which might be enumerated, a very small body of true and resolute statesmen arrayed themselves. Among these statesmen the most eminent were the two chiefs of the Anti-Corn-law agitation. Never did men lead a hope which seemed more forlorn. They had as opponents nearly the whole Upper House of Parliament, a powerful and compact party in the Lower. The Established Church was, of course, against them. The London newspapers, at that time almost the only political power in the press, were against them. The 'educated' classes were against them. Many of the working people were unfriendly to them, for the Chartists believed that the repeal of the Corn-laws would lower the price of labour. After a long struggle they gained the day; for an accident, the Irish famine, rendered a change in the Corn-laws inevitable. But had it not been for the organization of the League, the accident would have had no effect; for it is a rule in the philosophy of politics that an accident is valuable only when the machinery for making use of the accident is at hand. Calamities never teach wisdom to fools, they render it possible that the wise should avail themselves of the emergency.
A similar calamity, long foreseen by prudent men, caused the political extinction of the East India Company. The joint action of the Board of Control and the Directors led to the Indian mutiny. The suppression of the Indian mutiny led to the suppression of the Leadenhall Street Divan. Another calamity, also foreseen by statesmen, the outbreak of the American Civil War, gave India commercial hope, and retrieved the finances which the Company's rule had thrown into hopeless disorder.
I have selected the speeches contained in these two volumes, with a view to supplying the public with the evidence on which Mr. Bright's friends assert his right to a place in the front rank of English statesmen. I suppose that there is no better evidence of statesmanship than prescience; that no fuller confirmation of this evidence can be found than in the popular acceptance of those principles which were once unpopular and discredited. A short time since, Lord Derby said that Mr. Bright was the real leader of the Opposition. It is true that he has given great aid to that opposition which Lord Derby and his friends have often encountered, and by which, to their great discredit, but to their great advantage, they have been constantly defeated. If Lord Derby is in the right, Mr. Bright is the leader of the People, while his Lordship represents a party which is reckless because it is desperate. The policy which Mr. Bright has advocated in these pages, and throughout a quarter of a century, a policy from which he has never swerved, has at last been accepted by the nation, despite the constant resistance of Lord Derby and his friends. It embodies the national will, because it has attacked, and in many cases vanquished, institutions and laws which have become unpopular, because they have been manifestly mischievous and destructive. No one knows better how conservative and tolerant is public opinion in England towards traditional institutions, than Mr. Bright does; or how indifferent the nation is to attacks on an untenable practice and a bad law, until it awakens to the fact that the law or the practice is ruinous.
Mr. Bright's political opinions have not been adopted because they were popular. He was skilfully, and for a time successfully, maligned by Lord Palmerston, on account of his persevering resistance to the policy of the Russian War. But it is probable that the views he entertained at that time will find more enduring acceptance than those which Lord Palmerston and Lord Palmerston's colleagues promulgated, and that he has done more to deface that Moloch, 'the balance of power,' than any other man living. Shortly after the beginning of the Planters' War, almost all the upper, and many of the middle classes, sympathized with the Slave- owners' conspiracy. Everybody knows which side Mr. Bright took, and how judicious and far-sighted he was in taking it. But everybody should remember also how, when Mr. Bright pointed out the consequences likely to ensue from the cruise of the Alabama, he was insulted by Mr. Laird in the House of Commons; the Mr. Laird who launched the Alabama, who has been the means of creating bitter enmity between the people of this country and of the United States, and has contrived to invest the unlawful speculation of a shipbuilder with the dignity of an international difficulty, to make it the material for an unsettled diplomatic question.
There are many social and political reforms, destined, it may be hoped, to become matter of debate and action in a Reformed Parliament, towards the accomplishment of which Mr. Bright has powerfully contributed. There is that without which Reform is a fraud, the redistribution of seats; that without which it is a sham, the ballot; that without which it is possibly a danger, a system of national education, which should be, if not compulsory, so cogently expedient that it cannot be rejected. There is the great question of the distribution of land, its occupancy, and its relief from that pestilent system of game preserving which robs the farmer of his profit and the people of their home supplies. There is the pacification of Ireland. The only consolation which can be gathered from the condition of that unhappy country is, that reforms, which are highly expedient in Great Britain, are vital in Ireland, and that they therefore become familiar to the public mind. There is the development of international amity and good-will, first between ourselves and the people of our own race, next between all nations. There is the recognition of public duty to inferior or subject races, a duty which was grievously transgressed before and after the Indian mutiny, and has been still more atrociously outraged in the Jamaica massacre. Upon these and similar matters, no man who wishes to deserve the reputation of a just and wise statesman,—in other words, to fulfil the highest and greatest functions which man can render to man,—can find a worthier study than the public career of an Englishman whose guiding principle throughout his whole life has been his favourite motto, 'Be just and fear not.'
I have divided the speeches contained in these volumes into groups. The materials for selection are so abundant, that I have been constrained to omit many a speech which is worthy of careful perusal. I have naturally given prominence to those subjects with which Mr. Bright has been especially identified, as, for example, India, America, Ireland, and Parliamentary Reform. But nearly every topic of great public interest on which Mr. Bright has spoken is represented in these volumes.
A statement of the views entertained by an eminent politician, who wields a vast influence in the country, is always valuable. It is more valuable when the utterances are profound, consistent, candid. It is most valuable at a crisis when the people of these islands are invited to take part in a contest where the broad principles of truth, honour, and justice are arrayed on one side, and their victory is threatened by those false cries, those reckless calumnies, those impudent evasions which form the party weapons of desperate and unscrupulous men.
All the speeches in these volumes have been revised by Mr. Bright. The Editor is responsible for their selection, for this Preface, and for the Index at the close of the second volume.
JAMES E. THOROLD ROGERS.
OXFORD, June 30, 1868.
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The Second Edition of these volumes is an exact reprint of the first, certain obvious errors of the press only having been corrected.
OXFORD, Dec. 21, 1868.
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CONTENTS OF VOL. I.
I. House of Commons, June 3, 1853
II. House of Commons, June 24, 1858
III. House of Commons, May 20, 1858
IV. House of Commons, August 1, 1859
V. House of Commons, March 19, 1861
I. House of Commons, March 13, 1865
II. The Canadian Fortifications. House of Commons, March 23, 1865
III. The Canadian Confederation Scheme. House of Commons, February 28, 1867
I. The 'Trent' Affair. Rochdale, December 4, 1861
II. The War and the Supply of Cotton. Birmingham, December 18, 1862
III. Slavery and Secession. Rochdale, February 3, 1863
IV. The Struggle in America. St. James's Hall, March 26, 1863
V. London, June 16, 1863
VI. Mr. Roebuck's Motion for Recognition of the Southern Confederacy. House of Commons, June 30, 1863
VII. London, June 29, 1867
I. Maynooth Grand. House of Commons, April 16, 1845
II. Crime and Outrage Bill. House of Commons, December 13, 1847
III. Employment of the Poor. House of Commons, August 25, 1848
IV. Rate in Aid. House of Commons, April 2, 1849
V. Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill. House of Commons, February 17, 1866
VI. Dublin, October 30, 1866
VII. Dublin, November 2, 1866
VIII. House of Commons, March 14, 1868
IX. House of Commons, April 1, 1868
I. War with Russia—The Queen's Message. House of Commons, March 31, 1854
II. Enlistment of Foreigners' Bill. House of Commons, December 22, 1854
III. Negotiations at Vienna. House of Commons, February 23, 1855
IV. On the Prosecution of the Russian War. House of Commons, June 7, 1855
Letter of John Bright to Absalom Watkin on the Russian War
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HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 3, 1853.
[The ministerial measure for the government of India was introduced by Sir Charles Wood on June 3, 1853. The particulars of the Bill were as follows: The Government proposed that for the future the relations between the Directors and the Board of Control should be unchanged, but that the constitution of the former should be altered and its patronage curtailed. It reduced the number of the Members of the Court from twenty-four to eighteen, of whom twelve were to be elected as before, and six nominated by the Crown from Indian servants who had been ten years in the service of the Crown or the Company. One-third of this number was to go out every second year, but to be re-eligible. Nominations by favour were to be abolished. The governorship of Bengal was to be separated from the office of Governor-General. The legislative council was to be improved and enlarged, the number to be twelve. The Bill passed the House of Lords on June 13.]
I feel a considerable disadvantage in rising to address the House after having listened for upwards of five hours to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. But the question is one, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, of first-rate importance; and as I happen from a variety of circumstances to have paid some attention to it, and to have formed some strong opinions in regard to it, I am unwilling even that the Bill should be brought in, or that this opportunity should pass, without saying something, which will be partly in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and partly by way of comment on the plan which he has submitted to the House. There is, as it appears to me, great inconsistency between the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and that which he proposes should be done; because, really, if we take his speech as a true and faithful statement of the condition of India, and of the past proceedings of the Government in that country, our conviction must be that the right hon. Gentleman will be greatly to be blamed in making any alteration in that Government. At the same time, if it be not a faithful portraiture of the Government, and of its transactions in India, then what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do in regard to the home administration of that country is altogether insufficient for the occasion. I cannot on the present occasion go into many of the details on which the right hon. Gentleman has touched; but the observations which I have to make will refer to matters of government, and those will be confined chiefly to the organisation of the home administration. I am not much surprised that the Government should have taken what I will call a very unsatisfactory course with regard to the measure they have propounded, because they evidently did not seem exactly to know what they ought to do from the very first moment that this question was brought before them. I do not allude to the whole of the Treasury bench, but I refer particularly to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), because he was at the head of the Government when this question was first brought before them. Lord Broughton, then Sir John Hobhouse, was at that time the President of the Board of Control, and he was not in favour of a Committee to inquire into the past government and present condition of India. Shortly afterwards, however, it was considered by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that it would be desirable to have such a Committee appointed. A Committee was appointed, and it sat.
But at the commencement of the present Session the noble Lord intimated very distinctly, in answer to a question which I put to him, and which seemed to make the noble Lord unnecessarily angry, that it was the intention of the Government to legislate, and in such a way as to leave the Indian Government almost entirely the same as it had hitherto been. ['No, no!'] Well, I thought that the noble Lord said so, and in corroboration of that I may mention that the noble Lord quoted—and I believe that it was the noble Lord's only authority—the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries), who considered that no material change was required in the constitution of the home Indian Government. Well, when the noble Lord made that announcement, considerable dissatisfaction was manifested on both sides of the House, some hon. Members speaking in favour of a delay of one, two, or three years, or declaring themselves strongly against the present constitution of the Indian Government. However, from that time to this, various rumours were afloat, and everybody was confident one week that there would be no legislation, or only a postponement; in another week it was thought that there was to be a very sweeping measure (which last report, I must say, I never believed); and the week after that people were again led to the conclusion that there would be a measure introduced such as the one this night submitted to the House. Again, it was understood so lately as last Saturday that there would be no legislation on the subject, excepting a mere temporary measure for a postponement. I confess that I was myself taken in by that announcement. On Monday the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Danby Seymour) gave notice of a question on the same subject, and he was requested not to ask it till Tuesday. On Tuesday there was a Cabinet Council, and whether there was a change of opinion then I know not, but I presume that there was. The opinion that was confidently expressed on Saturday gave way to a new opinion, and the noble Lord announced that legislation would be proceeded with immediately. All this indicates that there was a good deal of vacillation on the part of the Government. At last, however, has come the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control. There were some good things in it, no doubt. I do not suppose that any man could stand up, and go on speaking for five hours, without saying something that was useful. But as to the main question on which this matter rests, I do not believe that the plan which the Government proposes to substitute will be one particle better than that which exists at the present moment.
With regard to the question of patronage, I admit, so far as that goes, that the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman will be an improvement on the present system. But I do not understand that the particular arrangement of the covenanted service is to be broken up at all. That is a very important matter, because, although he might throw open the nominations to the Indian service to the free competition of all persons in this country, yet if, when these persons get out to India, they are to become a covenanted service, as that service now is constituted, and are to go on from beginning to end in a system of promotion by seniority—and they are to be under pretty much the same arrangement as at present—a great deal of the evil now existing will remain; and the continuance of such a body as that will form a great bar to what I am very anxious to see, namely, a very much wider employment of the most intelligent and able men amongst the native population.
The right hon. Gentleman has, in fact, made a long speech wholly in defence of the Indian Government; and I cannot avoid making some remarks upon what he has stated because I wholly dissent from a large portion of the observations which he has made. But the right hon. Gentleman, above all things, dreads that this matter should be delayed. Now I will just touch upon that point. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he has not met any one who does not consider it highly desirable that the House should legislate upon the subject of the Government of India this year; and that it will be a great evil if such legislation is postponed. In support of this view he produces a private letter from Lord Dalhousie upon the subject. Now I do not consider such evidence as by any means conclusive, because the House knows that Lord Dalhousie has been connected with the system that now exists. That noble Earl is also surrounded by persons who are themselves interested in maintaining the present system. From his elevated position also in India—I do not mean his location at Simlah—but from his being by his station removed from the mass of the European population, and still more removed from the native population, I do not think it at all likely that Lord Dalhousie will be able to form a sounder opinion upon this question than persons who have never been in India. In my opinion, no evil can possibly arise from creating in the minds of the population of India a feeling that the question of Indian Government is considered by the House of Commons to be a grave and solemn question; and I solemnly believe that if the decision on the question be delayed for two years, so as to enable Parliament to make due inquiries as to the means of establishing a better form of government in India, it will create in the minds of all the intelligent natives of India a feeling of confidence and hope, and that whatever may be done by them in the way of agitation will be rather for the purpose of offering information in the most friendly and generous spirit, than of creating opposition to any Government legislation. However, the question of delay is one which the House in all probability will be called upon to decide on another occasion.
But passing from that subject, I now come to the principle upon which the right hon. Gentleman founded his Motion. The speech of I he right hon. Gentleman was throughout that of an advocate of the Indian Government, as at present constituted; and, if Mr. Melville had said everything that could possibly be dragged into the case, he could not have made it more clearly appear than the right hon. Gentleman has done that the Government of India has been uniformly worthy of the confidence of the country. My view of this matter, after a good deal of observation, is, that the Indian Government, composed of two branches, which the right hon. Gentleman does not propose to amalgamate into one, is a Government of secrecy and irresponsibility to a degree that should not be tolerated in a country like this, where we have a constitutional and Parliamentary Government, I have not the least idea in any observations which I may make either in this House or elsewhere of bringing a charge against the East India Company—that is to say, against any individual member of the Board of Directors, as if they were anxious to misgovern India. I never had any such suspicion. I believe that the twenty-four gentlemen who constitute the Board of Directors would act just about as well as any other twenty-four persons elected by the same process, acting under the same influences, and surrounded by the same difficulties—having to act with another and independent body— the Board of Control. Neither am I hostile to the Board of Control, because I think that the duty imposed upon it is greater than any such body can properly perform. The right hon. Gentleman, the enormous labours of whose office could not be accomplished by any one man, coming into office in December, and having to propose a new Government for India in the month of May or June, must have found it extremely difficult to make himself master of the question. But beyond this the House should bear in mind, that during the last thirty years there has been a new President of the Board of Control every two years. Nay, in the course of last year there were no less than three Presidents of the Board of Control. Thus that Board seems framed in such a manner as to make it altogether impossible that any one man should be able to conduct it in the way which it ought to be conducted. Beyond this, the President of that Board has to act in conjunction with the Court of Directors. Without saying anything which would impute blame to any party, it must be obvious that two such bodies combined can never carry on the government of India wisely, and in accordance with those principles which have been found necessary in the government of this country. The right hon. Gentleman has been obliged to admit that the theory of the old Government of India was one which could not be defended, and that everybody considers it ridiculous and childish. I am not at all certain that the one that is going to be established is in any degree better. It was in 1784 that this form of government was established, amid the fight of factions. In 1813 it was continued for twenty-years longer, during a time when the country was involved in desperate hostilities with France. In 1833 another Bill, continuing that form of government, passed through Parliament immediately after the hurricane which carried the Reform Bill. All these circumstances rendered it difficult for the Government, however honestly disposed, to pass the best measure for the government of India. But all the difficulties which then existed appear to me wholly to have vanished. Never has any question come before Parliament more entirely free from a complication of that nature, or one which the House has the opportunity of more quietly and calmly considering, than the question now before them.
I should have been pleased if the right hon. Gentleman had given the House the testimony of some two or three persons on his own side of the question. But, as he has not done so, I will trouble the House by referring to some authorities in support of my own views. I will first refer to the work of Mr. Campbell, which has already been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. It is a very interesting book, and gives a great deal of information. That writer says—
'The division of authority between the Board of Control and the Court of Directors, the large number of directors, and the peculiar system by which measures are originated in the Court, sent for approval to the Board, then back again to the Court, and so on, render all deliverances very slow and difficult; and when a measure is discussed in India, the announcement that it has been referred to the Court of Directors is often regarded as an indefinite postponement. In fact, it is evident that (able and experienced as are many of the individual directors) twenty-four directors in one place, and a Board of Control in another, are not likely very speedily to unite in one opinion upon any doubtful point.'
That, I think, is likely to be the opinion of any man on the Government of India. There is another authority to which I will refer, Mr. Kaye, who has also written a very good book. It was actually distributed by the Court of Directors; I have therefore a right to consider it a fair representation of their views of what was done, especially as the Chairman of the Court has given me a copy of the book. Mr. Kaye, in referring to the double Government which existed in Bengal in 1772, makes use of these expressions. When I first read them, I thought they were a quotation from my own speeches:—
'But enlightened as were the instructions thus issued to the supervisors, the supervision was wholly inadequate to the requirements of the case. The double Government, as I have shown, did not work well. It was altogether a sham and an imposture. It was soon to be demolished at a blow.... The double Government had, by this time, fulfilled its mission. It had introduced an incredible amount of disorder and corruption into the State, and of poverty and wretchedness among the people; it had embarrassed our finances, and soiled our character, and was now to be openly recognised as a failure.'
This is only as to Bengal. The following are the words he uses in respect to the double Government at home:—
'In respect of all transactions with foreign Powers—all matters bearing upon questions of peace and war—the President of the Board of Control has authority to originate such measures as he and his colleagues in the Ministry may consider expedient. In such cases he acts presumedly in concert with the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors—a body composed of the chairman, deputy-chairman, and senior member of the Court. The Secret Committee sign the despatches which emanate from the Board, but they have no power to withhold or to alter them. They have not even the power to record their dissent. In fact, the functions of the Committee are only those which, to use the words of a distinguished member of the Court (the late Mr. Tucker), who deplored the mystery and the mockery of a system which obscures responsibility and deludes public opinion, could as well be performed "by a secretary and a seal."'
Further on he says—
'In judging of responsibility, we should remember that the whole foreign policy of the East India Company is regulated by the Board of Control; that in the solution of the most vital questions—questions of peace and war—affecting the finances of the country, and, therefore, the means of internal improvement, the Court of Directors have no more power than the mayor and aldermen of any corporate town. India depends less on the will of the twenty-four than on one man's caprice—here to-day and gone to-morrow—knocked over by a gust of Parliamentary uncertainty— the mistaken tactics of a leader, or negligence of a whipper-in. The past history of India is a history of revenue wasted and domestic improvement obstructed by war.'
This is very much what I complain of. I admit the right of the East India Company to complain of many things done by the Board of Control; and I am of opinion, that if the House left the two bodies to combat one another, they would at last come to an accurate perception of what they both are. The East India Company accused the Board of Control of making wars and squandering the revenue which the Company collected. But Mr. Kaye said that Mr. Tucker deplored the mystery and the mockery of a system which obscured responsibility and deluded public opinion. It is because of this concealment, of this delusion practised upon public opinion, of this evasion of public responsibility and Parliamentary control, that you have a state of things in India which the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) has described, when he says that the Company manages the revenues, collects the taxes, and gets from 20,000,000l. to 30,000,000l. a-year, and nobody knows how much more. But, whatever it is, such is the system of foreign policy pursued by the Board of Control—that is to say, by the gentlemen who drop down there for six or eight or twelve months, never beyond two years—that, whatever revenues are collected, they are squandered on unnecessary and ruinous wars, till the country is brought to a state of embarrassment and threatened bankruptcy. That is the real point which the House will have to consider.
With regard to some of the details of the Government plan, we should no doubt all agree: but this question of divided responsibility, of concealed responsibility, and of no responsibility whatever, that is the real pith of the matter. The House should take care not to be diverted from that question. [Mr. Mangles: 'Produce your own plan.'] An hon. Gentleman has asked me to produce my plan. I will not comply with that request, but will follow the example of a right hon. Gentleman, a great authority in this House, who once said, when similarly challenged, that he should produce his plan when he was called in. I believe that the plan before the House to-night was concocted by the Board of Control and the hon. Member for Guildford and his Colleagues I shall, therefore, confine myself at present to the discussion of that plan. Some persons are disposed very much (at least I am afraid so) to undervalue the particular point which I am endeavouring to bring before the House; and they seem to fancy that it does not much matter what shall be the form of government in India, since the population of that country will always be in a condition of great impoverishment and much suffering; and that whatever is done must be done there, and that after all—after having conquered 100,000,000 of people—it is not in our power to interfere for the improvement of their condition. Mr. Kaye, in his book, commences the first chapters with a very depreciating account of the character of the Mogul Princes, with a view to show that the condition of the people of India was at least as unfavourable under them as under British rule. I will cite one or two cases from witnesses for whose testimony the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) must have respect. Mr. Marshman is a gentleman who is well known as possessing a considerable amount of information on Indian affairs, and has, I presume, come over on purpose to give his evidence on the subject. He was editor of a newspaper which was generally considered throughout India to be the organ of the Government; in that newspaper, the Friend of India, bearing the date 1st April, 1852, the following statement appears:—
'No one has ever attempted to contradict the fact that the condition of the Bengal peasantry is almost as wretched and degraded as it is possible to conceive—living in the most miserable hovels, scarcely fit for a dog-kennel, covered with tattered rags, and unable, in too many instances, to procure more than a single meal a-day for himself and family. The Bengal ryot knows nothing of the most ordinary comforts of life. We speak without exaggeration when we affirm, that if the real condition of those who raise the harvest, which yields between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l. a-year, was fully known, it would make the ears of one who heard thereof tingle.'
It has been said that in the Bengal Presidency the natives are in a better condition than in the other Presidencies; and I recollect that when I served on the Cotton Committee the evidence taken before it being confined to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies, it was then said that if evidence had been taken about the Bengal Presidency it would have appeared that the condition of the natives was better. But I believe that it is very much the same in all the Presidencies. I must say that it is my belief that if a country be found possessing a most fertile soil, and capable of bearing every variety of production, and that, notwithstanding, the people are in a state of extreme destitution and suffering, the chances are that there is some fundamental error in the government of that country. The people of India have been subjected by us, and how to govern them in an efficient and beneficial manner is one of the most important points for the consideration of the House. From the Report of the Indian Cotton Committee it appears that nearly every witness—and the witnesses were nearly all servants of the Company—gave evidence as to the state of destitution in which the cultivators of the soil lived. They were in such an abject condition that they were obliged to give 40 or 50 per cent, to borrow money to enable them to put seed into the ground. I can, if it were necessary, bring any amount of evidence to prove the miserable condition of the cultivators, and that in many places they have been compelled to part with their personal ornaments. Gentlemen who have written upon their condition have drawn a frightful picture, and have represented the persons employed to collect the revenue as coming upon the unhappy cultivators like locusts, and devouring everything. With regard to the consumption of salt, looking at the Friend of India, of April 14, 1853, it appears that it is on the decline. In the year 1849-50, the consumption was 205,517 tons; in 1850-51, 186,410 tons; and in 1851-2, 146,069 tons. Thus, in the short period of three years, there has been a decrease in the consumption amounting to 59,448 tons, which will involve a loss to the revenue of 416,136l. [Footnote: The Friend of India was incorrect in this statement the real decline in the consumption of salt was about 12,000 tons.] Salt is one of those articles that people in India will use as much of as they can afford, and the diminution in the consumption appears to me to be a decided proof of the declining condition of the population, and that must affect adversely the revenue of the Indian Government. Now there is another point to which the right hon. Gentleman has slightly alluded; it is connected with the administration of justice, and I will read from the Friend of India a case illustrative of the efficiency of the police. The statement is so extraordinary that it would be incredible but for the circumstance of its having appeared in such a respectable journal:—
'The affair itself is sufficiently uninteresting. A native Zemindar had, or fancied he had, some paper rights over certain lands occupied by a European planter, and, as a necessary consequence, sent a body of armed retainers to attack his factory. The European resisted in the same fashion by calling out his retainers. There was a pitched battle, and several persons were wounded, if not slain; while the Darogah, the appointed guardian of the peace, sat on the roof of a neighbouring hut and looked on with an interest, the keenness of which was probably not diminished by the fact of his own immunity from the pains and perils of the conflict. There has been a judicial investigation, and somebody will probably be punished, if not by actual sentence, by the necessary disbursement of fees and douceurs, but the evil will not be thereby suppressed or even abated. The incident, trifling as it may appear—and the fact that it is trifling is no slight evidence of a disorganised state of society—is an epitome in small type of our Bengal police history. On all sides, and in every instance, we have the same picture—great offences, the police indifferent or inefficient, judicial investigations protracted till the sufferers regret that they did not patiently endure the injury, and somebody punished, but no visible abatement of the crime. The fact is, and it is beginning at last to be acknowledged everywhere, except perhaps at home, that Bengal does not need so much a "reform" or reorganisation of the police, as a police, a body of some kind, specially organised for the preservation of order. Why the change is so long postponed, no one, not familiar with the arcana of Leadenhall-street and Cannon-row, can readily explain.'
Mr. Marshman uses the expression, 'the incident, trifling as it may appear;' but I will ask the House if they can conceive a state of society in a country under the Government of England where a scene of violence such as has been described could be considered trifling?
The right hon. Gentleman has, while admitting that the want of roads in some districts of India is a great evil, endeavoured to show that a great deal has been done to remedy the deficiency, and that on some roads the mails travel as fast as ten miles an hour. Now, I believe that if the speed were taken at five miles an hour, it would be nearer the truth; and I will beg the House to excuse me if I read another extract from the Friend of India of April 14, 1853:—
'The Grand Trunk, however, is the only road upon which a good speed has been attained, remarks being attached to all of the remainder strongly indicative of the want of improved means of communication. From Shergotty to Gyah, and Gyah to Patna, for instance, the pace is four miles and a half an hour; but then "the road is cutcha, and the slightest shower of rain renders it puddly and impracticable for speedy transit." From Patna to Benares the official account is the same, but the rate increases at one stage to five miles and a half. The southern roads are, however, in the worst condition, the mails travelling to Jelazore at three miles an hour, or less than a groom can walk; and even between Calcutta and Baraset the rate rises to only four miles and a half an hour, while everywhere we have such notices as "road intersected by numerous unbridged rivers and nullahs," "road has not been repaired for these many years," "road not repaired for years," the "road in so bad a state, and so much intersected by rivers and nullahs, that no great improvement in the speed of the mails can be effected." And yet the surplus Ferry Funds might, one would think, if economically administered, be sufficient to pay at least for the maintenance of the roads already in existence. New roads, we fear, are hopeless until Parliament fixes a minimum, which must be expended on them; and even then it may be allowed to accumulate, as the Parliamentary grant for education has done at Madras.'
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the subject of irrigation; and I hold in my hand an extract from the Report of the Commission which inquired into the subject. The Report states that—
'The loss of revenue by the famine of 1832-33 is estimated at least at 1,000,000l. sterling; the loss of property at a far greater amount; of life, at 200,000 or 300,000; and of cattle, at 200,000 at the lowest, in Guntore alone, besides the ruin of 70,000 houses. The famine of the Northern Circars in 1833, and that of the north-western provinces of India at a later period, prove with irresistible force that irrigation in this country is properly a question, not of profit, but of existence.'
The right hon. Gentleman has also quoted from a Report by Colonel Cotton on the subject of the embankment of the Kistna. Now, the embankment of the Kistna has been recommended as far back as the year 1792, and from that time has been repeatedly brought forward. The whole estimate for it is but 155,000l., and it was not until September, 1852, that the preliminary operations were commenced. I find this officer stating with respect to the district of Rajamundry, that if a particular improvement that had been recommended above twenty years ago had been carried out, it would have saved the lives of upwards of 100,000 persons who perished in the famine of 1837. I say that such facts as these are a justification of stronger language than any in which I have indulged in reference to the neglect of the Indian Government whether in this House or out of it. The right hon. gentleman candidly informs us that this very embankment has been recently stopped by order of the Madras Government, because the money was wanted for other purposes—the Burmese war, no doubt. In the year 1849 it was reported that Colonel Cotton wrote a despatch to the Madras Government, in which, after mentioning facts connected with the famines, he insisted, in strong and indignant language, that the improvements should go on. I believe that there was an allusion in the letter to the awkward look these things would have, pending the discussions on the Government of India, and I understand that it was agreed that the original letter, which countermanded the improvements, should be withdrawn, and that then the remonstrance from Colonel Cotton should also be withdrawn. A gentleman who has been in the Company's service, and who has for some time been engaged in improvements, chiefly in irrigation, writes in a private letter as follows:—
'From my late investigations on this subject, I feel convinced that the state of our communications is the most important subject which calls for consideration. I reckon that India now pays, for want of cheap transit, a sum equal to the whole of the taxes; so that by reducing its cost to a tenth, which might easily be done, we should as good as abolish all taxes. I trust the Committees in England are going on well, in spite of the unbecoming efforts which have been made to circumscribe and quash their proceedings. Woe be to India, indeed, if this opportunity is lost! Much will depend upon you—
(the letter was not addressed to myself)—
and others now in England, who know India, and have a single eye to its welfare. It behoves you to do your utmost to improve this most critical time, and may God in his mercy overrule all the efforts of man for its good! What abominations, villanies, and idiotcies there still are in our system! Is there no hope, no possibility, of infusing a little fresh blood from some purer source into these bodies?
(the ruling authorities).
It is quite clear that no radical improvement can take place till some influences can be applied to stimulate our rulers to more healthy, wholesome action; health can never be looked for in a body constituted as the Court of Directors now is; nothing but torpid disease can be expected as matters now stand.
With respect to the administration of justice, I shall not go at any length into that subject, because I hope it will be taken up by some other Gentleman much more competent than myself, and I trust that a sufficient answer will be given to what has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman. However, as far as I am able to understand, there appears to be throughout the whole of India, on the part of the European population, an absolute terror of coming under the Company's Courts for any object whatever. Within the last fortnight I have had a conversation with a gentleman who has seen a long period of service in India, and he declared it was hopeless to expect that Englishmen would ever invest their property in India under any circumstances which placed their interests at the disposal of those courts of justice. That is one reason why there appears no increase in the number of Europeans or Englishmen who settle in the interior of India for the purpose of investing their capital there. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to make an excuse on the ground that the Law Commission had done nothing. I was not in the House when the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay) brought forward the Bill of 1833, but I understand it was stated that the Law Commission was to do wonders; yet now we have the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control, that the Report of the Law Commission has ever since been going backwards and forwards, like an unsettled spirit, between this country and India. Mr. Cameron, in his evidence, said (I suppose it is slumbering somewhere on the shelves in the East India House) that the Court of Directors actually sneered at the propositions of their officers for enactments of any kind, and that it was evidently their object to gradually extinguish the Commission altogether. Yet the evidence of Mr. Cameron went to show the extraordinary complication and confusion of the law and law administration over all the British dominions in India. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control also referred to the statistics laid before the public; but I want to know why Colonel Sykes' statistical tables are not before the House. They are at the India House; but a journey to Leadenhall-street seems to be as long as one to India, and one can as soon get a communication by the overland mail as any information from the India House. What did Colonel Sykes say, with respect to a subject referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, who had given the House to suppose that a great deal had been done in respect to improvements in India? Colonel Sykes stated that in fifteen years, from 1838 to 1852, the average expenditure throughout the whole of India on public works, including roads, bridges, tanks, and canals, was 299,732l. The north-west appeared to be the pet district; and in 1851 the total expenditure was 334,000l., of which the north-west district had 240,000l. In 1852 the estimate was 693,000l., of which the north-west district was to have 492,000l., leaving only 94,000l. in 1851, and 201,000l. in 1852, for public works of all kinds in the three Presidencies of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, with a population of 70,000,000 souls. The right hon. Gentleman then referred to the exports from this country, and the increase of trade with India; and a kindred subject to that was the mode in which Englishmen settle in India. What I want to show is, that the reason why so little is done with India by Englishmen is, that there does not exist in that country the same security for their investments as in almost every other country in the world. I recollect receiving from Mr. Mackay, who was sent out by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, a letter expressing his amazement on finding that in the interior of India an Englishman was hardly known, unless he now and then made his appearance as a tax collector. The following Return shows in what small numbers Europeans resort to India:—
'British-born subjects in India not in the service of the Queen or the Company:—
Bengal 6,749 Madras 1,661 Bombay 1,596 ——— 10,006
'In the interior of the country, engaged in agriculture or manufactures—
Bengal 273 Madras 37 Bombay 7 ——— 317'
I cannot believe, if the United States had been the possessors of India, but that where there are tens of Europeans now in that country there would have been, not hundreds, but thousands of the people of America. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the exports to India, and wanted to show how large they were. Certainly they have increased very much, because they started from nothing at all. Before the opening of the trade, the Court of Proprietors, by resolution, declared that it was quite a delusion to suppose it possible to increase the trade with India. In 1850 the total exports to India from Great Britain and Ireland were 8,024,000l., of which cotton goods alone amounted to 5,220,000l., leaving 2,804,000l. for the total exports from Great Britain and Ireland upon all other branches of industry other than cotton. Now, let the House make a comparison with another country, one with which a moderately fair comparison might be made. Brazil has a population of 7,500,000 souls, half of whom are reckoned to be slaves, yet the consumption of British goods is greater in Brazil, in proportion to the population, than in India—the former country, with a population of 7,500,000, taking British goods to the amount of 2,500,000l. If India took but half the quantity of our exports that Brazil did in proportion to her population, she would take more than five times what she now takes. Yet Brazil is a country upon which we have imposed the payment of exorbitant duties, which we have almost debarred from trading with us by an absurd monopoly in sugar, while India is a country entirely under our own government, and which, we are told, is enjoying the greatest possible blessings under the present administration, compared with what it enjoyed under its former rulers. Our exports to India in 1814 were 826,000l.; in 1832 they were 3,600,000l.; in 1843 they were 6,500,000l.; and in 1850 they were 8,000,000l. India consumes our exports at the rate of 1s. 3 d. per head; whilst in South America, including the whole of the slave population, the consumption per head is 8 s. 8d. These are facts which the right hon. Baronet is bound to pay serious attention to. For myself, representing, as I do, one of our great seats of manufacturing industry, I feel myself doubly called upon to lose no opportunity of bringing such facts before the House, satisfied as I am that there is no Member of this House so obtuse as not to comprehend how materially the great manufacturing interests of this country are concerned in the question—what shall be the future Government of India?
Another subject requiring close attention on the part of Parliament is the employment of the natives of India in the service of the Government. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay), in proposing the Indian Bill of 1833, had dwelt on one of its clauses, which provided that neither colour, nor caste, nor religion, nor place of birth, should be a bar to the employment of persons by the Government; whereas, as matter of fact, from that time to this, no person in India has been so employed, who might not have been equally employed before that clause was enacted; and, from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control, that it is proposed to keep up the covenanted service system, it is clear that this most objectionable and most offensive state of things is to continue. Mr. Cameron, a gentleman thoroughly versed in the subject, as fourth member of Council in India, President of the Indian Law Commission, and of the Council of Education for Bengal—what does he say on this point? He says—
'The statute of 1833 made the natives of India eligible to all offices under the Company. But during the twenty years that have since elapsed, not one of the natives has been appointed to any office except such as they were eligible to before the statute. It is not, however, of this omission that I should feel justified in complaining, if the Company had shown any disposition to make the natives fit, by the highest European education, for admission to their covenanted service. Their disposition, as far as it can be devised, is of the opposite kind.
'When four students (added Mr. Cameron) were sent to London from the Medical College of Calcutta, under the sanction of Lord Hardinge, in Council, to complete their professional education, the Court of Directors expressed their dissatisfaction; and when a plan for establishing a University at Calcutta, which had been prepared by the Council of Education, was recommended to their adoption by Lord Hardinge, in Council, they answered that the project was premature. As to the Law Commission, I am afraid that the Court of Directors have been accustomed to think of it only with the intention of procuring its abolition.'
Under the Act of 1833 the natives of India were declared to be eligible to any office under the Company. No native has, in the twenty years which have since elapsed, been appointed to any office in pursuance of that clause which he might not have held before the Bill passed, or had it never passed at all. There might not, perhaps, have been so much reason to complain of this circumstance, had the Government of India meanwhile shown a disposition to qualify the natives for the covenanted service; but the fact is that the Government has, on the contrary, manifested a disposition of a totally opposite character. The House must be very cautious not to adopt the glossed and burnished statement of the right hon. Gentleman as exhibiting the real state of things in India; for it is essential, in the highest degree, that in the present critical juncture of things the whole truth should be known. The right hon. Baronet, towards the close of his speech, has gone into the subject of education, and not so much into that of ecclesiastical establishments in India, but somewhat into that of religion. Now, with reference to education, so far as can be gathered from the Returns before the House— I have sought to obtain Returns of a more specific character, but to no purpose, having received the usual answer in these matters, that there was no time for preparing them—but from the Returns we have before us I find that while the Government has overthrown almost entirely that native education which had subsisted throughout the country so universally that a schoolmaster was as regular a feature in every village as the 'potail' or head man, it has done next to nothing to supply the deficiency which has been created, or to substitute a better system. Out of a population of 100,000,000 natives we instruct but 25,000 children; out of a gross revenue of 29,000,000l. sterling, extracted from that population, we spend but 66,000l. in their education. In India, let it be borne in mind, the people are not in the position with regard to providing for their own education which the people of this country enjoy, and the education which they have provided themselves with, the Government has taken from them, supplying no adequate system in its place. The people of India are in a state of poverty, and of decay, unexampled in the annals of the country under their native rulers. From their poverty the Government wrings a gross revenue of more than 29,000,000l. sterling, and out of that 29,000,000l., return to them 66,000l. per annum for the purposes of education!
What is our ecclesiastical establishment in India? Three bishops and a proportionate number of clergy, costing no less than 101,000l. a- year for the sole use of between 50,000 and 60,000 Europeans, nearly one-half of whom, moreover—taking the army—are Roman Catholics. I might add, that in India, the Government showed the same discrimination of which the noble Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) seemed to approve so much the other night, for, although they give to one Protestant bishop 4,000l. a-year, with 1,2OOl. a-year more for expenses and a ship at his disposal, and to two other Protestant bishops between 2,000l. and 3,000l. a-year, they give to the Roman Catholic bishop a paltry sum of about 250l. a-year. The East India Company are not, perhaps, herein so much to blame, seeing that they do but follow the example of what is going on in this country.
There is another question—perhaps the most important of all—the question of Indian finance, which, somehow or other, the right hon. Baronet has got over in so very lame a manner, in so particularly confused a style, that had I not known something of the matter previously, I should have learnt very little from the right hon. Baronet's statement. A former Director of the East India Company has, on this subject, issued a book—of course, in defence of the Company. Here are two or three facts extracted from this book:—From 1835 to 1851— sixteen years—the entire net taxation of India has produced 340,756,000l.; the expenditure on the Government in the same period having been 341,676,000l.—an amount somewhat in excess of the revenue. During these sixteen years there has been also expended on public works of all kinds 5,000,000l., and there has been paid, in dividends, to the proprietors of East India stock, 10,080,000l.; making a total expenditure of 356,756,000l. In the same period the Company has contracted loans to the extent of 16,000,000l.; every farthing of which has gone to improvements, the stated extent of which I believe to have been greatly magnified, and to pay the amiable ladies and gentlemen whose votes return to Leadenhall-street those immaculate Directors whom the Government seems so desirous of cherishing. All expenditure for improvements of every kind, and all dividends to stockholders, have been paid from loans contracted during the last sixteen years; so that the whole revenue has been expended, leaving nothing for improvements and nothing for the Company's dividends. This seems to me a formidable, an alarming state of things.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Indian debt coming upon the people of this country, expressing the opinion that if the Government of India were transferred to the Crown—which assuredly it ought to be—the debt ought so to be transferred. The debt is not in the present Budget, indeed, but it will certainly come before the House. I have already referred to a memorable speech of the late Sir Robert Peel on this subject, in 1842, just after he had come into office, and when, finding the country left by the Whigs with an Exchequer peculiarly discouraging to a Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was about to propose that temporary income-tax which has since become permanent. He said, after referring to the affairs of Canada and China—
'For the purpose of bringing before the House a full and complete view of our financial position, as I promised to do, I feel it to be my duty to refer to a subject which has of late occupied little attention in the House, but which I think might, with advantage to the public, have attracted more of their regard—I refer to the state of Indian finance, a subject which formerly used to be thought not unworthy of the consideration of this House. I am quite aware that there may appear to be no direct and immediate connexion between the finances of India and those of this country; but that would be a superficial view of our relations with India which should omit the consideration of this subject. Depend upon it, if the credit of India should become disordered, if some great exertion should become necessary, then the credit of England must be brought forward to its support, and the collateral and indirect effect of disorders in Indian finances would be felt extensively in this country. Sir, I am sorry to say that Indian finance offers no consolation for the state of finance in this country. I hold in my hand an account of the finances of India, which I have every reason to believe is a correct one. It is made up one month later than our own accounts— to the 5th of May. It states the gross revenue of India, with the charges on it; the interest of the debt; the surplus revenue, and the charges paid on it in England; and there are two columns which contain the net surplus and the net deficit. In the year ending May, 1836, there was a surplus of 1,520,000l. from the Indian revenue. In the year ending the 5th of May, 1837, there was a surplus of 1,100,000l., which was reduced rapidly in the year ending May, 1838, to one of 620,000l. In the year ending the 5th of May, 1839, the surplus fell to 29,000l.; in the year ending the 5th of May, 1840, the balance of the account changed, and so far from there being any surplus, the deficit on the Indian revenue was 2,414,000l. I am afraid I cannot calculate the deficit for the year ending May, 1841, though it depends at present partly on estimate, at much less than 2,334,000l. The House, then, will bear in mind, that in fulfilment of the duty I have undertaken, I present to them the deficit in this country for the current year to the amount of 2,350,000l., with a certain prospect of a deficit for the next year to the amount of at least 2,470,000l., independently of the increase to be expected on account of China and Affghanistan, and that in India, that great portion of our Empire, I show a deficit on the two last years which will probably not be less than 4,700,000l.'— [3 Hansard, lxi. 428-9.]
Now, this deficit has in the period since 1842 been growing every year, with the exception of two years, when, from accidental and precarious circumstances, a surplus of between 300,000l. and 400,000l. was made out. The course of deficit has now, however, been resumed, and there is probably no one in this House or in the country but the right hon. President of the Board of Control, who does not perceive that the Burmese war will materially aggravate the amount of that deficit. Where is this to end? When the Board of Control was first established, the debt was 8,000,000l.; in 1825 it was 25,000,000l.; in 1829 it was 34,000,000l.; in 1836, 37,000,000l.; in 1843, 36,000,000l.; in 1849, 44,000,000l.; in 1853, 47,000,000l.; and now, including the bond debt at home and the debt in India, it is about 51,000,000l. The military expenditure of India has increased since the last Charter Act from 8,000,000l. a-year to more than 12,000,000l. a-year, and now forms no less than 56 per cent. of the whole expenditure. I believe that if the Indian Government would endeavour to improve the condition of the people by attending to economic principles, by establishing better means of communication, by promoting irrigation, and by affording facilities for education, the Indian population would at once be convinced that there was a feeling of sympathy entertained towards them on the part of their rulers and conquerors, and the idea—which I believe prevails very extensively— that we held India more with the object of extorting taxation than of benefiting the people, would speedily be removed.
When I come to consider the amount of the revenue, and its pressure upon the population, I think I can show a state of things existing in India which cannot be paralleled in any other country in the world. The evidence of Mr. Davies and Mr. Stewart, collectors in Guzerat, shows that in that district the actual taxation varies from 60 to 90 per cent. upon the gross produce of the soil. Mr. Campbell calculates the gross revenue of India at about 27,000,000l.; and Mr. Kaye, a recent authority, who, I presume, wrote his book at the India House, states that the gross revenue was 29,000,000l. The land revenue is 12,000,000l. or 13,000,000l.; and although the Government took, or intended to take, all the rent, it is not half enough for them, and they are obliged to take as much more from other sources in order to enable them to maintain their establishments. I mention this fact to show the enormous expense of the Indian Government, and the impossibility of avoiding a great and dangerous financial crisis unless some alteration is made in the present system. Mr. Campbell, speaking of the Indian revenues under the Mogul Princes, says—
'The value of food, labour, &c., seems to have been much the same as now—that is, infinitely cheaper than in Europe; and, certainly, in comparison to the price of labour and all articles of consumption, the revenue of the Moguls must have been more effective than that of any modern State—I mean that it enabled them to command more men and luxuries, and to have a greater surplus.'
I would ask the House to imagine that all steam engines, and all applications of mechanical power, were banished from this country; that we were utterly dependent upon mere manual labour. What would you think if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, under such circumstances, endeavoured to levy the same taxation which is now borne by the country? From one end of India to the other, with very trifling exceptions, there is no such thing as a steam engine; but this poor population, without a steam engine, without anything like first-rate tools, are called upon to bear, I will venture to say, the very heaviest taxation under which any people ever suffered with the same means of paying it. Yet the whole of this money, raised from so poor a population, which would in India buy four times as much labour, and four times as much of the productions of the country, as it would obtain in England, is not enough to keep up the establishments of the Government; for during the last sixteen years the Indian Government has borrowed 16,000,000l. to pay the dividends to the proprietors in England.
The opium question has been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood). I must say I do not know any one connected with China, or at all acquainted with the subject, who is not of opinion that the opium revenue is very near its termination. Even the favourite authority of the President of the Board of Control, Mr. Marshman, declared his opinion that India was on the verge of a great financial crisis. Whether the present Chinese Government retains its power, or the insurgents be successful and a new dynasty be established, the scruple against the importation of opium into China from India having once been removed, the transition to the growth of the drug in China is very easy, and there can scarcely be a doubt that opium will soon be as extensively cultivated in that country as ever it was in India. This might very soon produce a loss of 3,000,000l. of revenue to the East India Company. There has already been an annual deficit in the revenues of the East India Company for the last fifteen years; they have to bear the cost of a Burmese war; and the annexation of new territory will only bring upon them an increased charge, for Pegu will probably never repay its expenses, and yet they have the prospect of losing 3,000,000l. of their revenue within a very few years. Now, what would the Chancellor of the Exchequer say if the President of the Board of Control came to that House and proposed to raise a loan upon the credit of this country for the purpose of maintaining our territory in India? Would it not be better at once to ascertain whether the principles and policy on which we have hitherto proceeded have not been faulty? Should we not rather endeavour to reduce our expenditure, to employ cheaper labour, to increase the means of communication in India, which would enable us to dispense with a portion of our troops, and to make it a rule that the Governor-General should have more honour when he came home, for not having extended by an acre the territory of our Indian possessions, than if he had added a province or a kingdom to them?
The plan proposed by the President of the Board of Control appears to me very closely to resemble that which exists at present. The result, so far as regards the real question, about which the public are most interested, is this, that the twenty-four gentlemen who are directors of the East India Company are, by a process of self-immolation, to be reduced to fifteen. I think this reduction will be one of the most affecting scenes in the history of the Government of India. As the East India Company keep a writer to record their history, I hope they also keep an artist to give us an historical painting of this great event. There we shall see the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. W. Hogg), one of the hon. Members for the City of London, and the other directors, meeting together, and looking much like shipwrecked men in a boat casting lots who should be thrown overboard. To the fifteen directors who are to remain, three others are to be added, and the result will be that, instead of having twenty-four gentlemen sitting in Leadenhall-street, to manage the affairs in India, there will be eighteen. The present constituency is so bad that nothing the President of the Board of Control can do can make it worse; but as that right hon. Gentleman finds it impossible to make it better, he lets the constituency remain as it was. The right hon. Baronet proposes that the Crown should appoint six members of the Board who have been at least ten years in India, so that there may at all events be that number of gentlemen at the Board lit for the responsible office in which they are placed. But this is an admission that the remaining twelve members of the Board are not fit for their office. They have two ingredients—the one wholesome, the other poisonous; but there are two drops of poison to one of wholesome nutriment. The right hon. Gentleman mixes them together, and then wants Parliament and the country to believe that he has proposed a great measure.
As regards the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I must say that I have never heard so great a one—I mean as to length—where the result, so far as the real thing about which people wish to know, was so little. The twelve gentlemen appointed by the present constituency are degraded already by the right hon. Gentleman's declaration, that they are not elected in a satisfactory manner, and that they are not fit persons for the government of India. They are, in fact, bankers and brewers, and men of all sorts, in the City of London, who find it their interest to get into the Court of Directors—no matter by what channel—because it adds to the business of their bank, or whatever else may be the undertaking in which they are engaged; but who have no special qualification for the government of India. If the Government thinks it right to have six good directors, let them abolish the twelve bad ones. Then it appears that the Secret Department is to be retained. Speaking of this, Mr. Kaye, quoting the authority of Mr. Tucker, a distinguished director, said it was no more than a secretary and a seal. Next comes a most extraordinary proposition. Hitherto the directors have undergone all the hardship of governing India for 300l. a-year; but the right hon. Gentleman now proposes to raise their wages by 4l. per week each. I must say, that if this body is to be salaried at all, and is not to have the profit of the patronage enjoyed by the present Government, nothing can be worse economy than this, with a view to obtaining a body which shall command the respect, and have the amount of influence, requisite for conducting the Government of India. Sixteen of the directors, receiving 500l. a-year each—why, they would have to pay their clerks much more!—and the chairman and the deputy-chairman 1,000l. a-year each. The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme seems to bear the marks of—I am almost afraid to say what; but he seems to have tried to please every one in framing his great proposition, and at last has landed the House in a sort of half measure, which neither the East India Company nor India wants. If I had made a speech such as the right hon. Gentleman has delivered, and believed what he said, I would leave the Indian Government as it is; but if I thought it necessary to alter the Government, I would do so on principle essentially. The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of bringing the Government of India under the authority of the Crown. What, I should like to know, would have been done if India had been conquered by the troops of the Crown? We should then never have sent some thirty men into a bye-street of London to distribute patronage and govern a great country. The Government of India would then have been made a department of the Government, with a Council and a Minister of State. But it appears that the old system of hocus- pocus is still to be carried on.
This is no question of Manchester against Essex—of town against country—of Church against Nonconformity. It is a question in which we all have an interest, and in which our children may be more deeply interested than we are ourselves. Should anything go wrong with the finances, we must bear the burden; or should the people of India by our treatment be goaded into insurrection, we must reconquer the country, or be ignominiously driven out of it. I will not be a party to a state of things which might lead to the writing of a narrative like this on the history of our relations with that empire. Let the House utterly disregard the predictions of mischief likely to result from such a change in the Government of India as that which I advocate. When the trade was thrown open, and the Company was deprived of the monopoly of carrying, they said the Chinese would poison the tea. There is nothing too outrageous or ridiculous for the Company to say in order to prevent the Legislature from placing affairs on a more honest footing. I object to the Bill, because—as the right hon. Gentleman admitted—it maintains a double Government. In the unstatesmanlike course which the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing, he will, no doubt, be especially backed by the noble Lord the Member for London. I only wish that some of the younger blood in the Cabinet might have had their way upon this question. Nothing can induce me to believe, after the evidence which is before the public, that this measure has the approbation of an united Cabinet. It is not possible that thirteen sensible gentlemen, who have any pretensions to form a Cabinet, could agree to a measure of this nature. I am more anxious than I can express that Parliament should legislate rightly in this matter. Let us act so at this juncture that it may be said of us hereafter—that whatever crimes England originally committed in conquering India, she at least made the best of her position by governing the country as wisely as possible, and left the records and traces of a humane and liberal sway.
I recollect having heard the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) deliver in this House one of the best speeches I ever listened to. On that occasion the noble Lord gloried in the proud name of England, and, pointing to the security with which an Englishman might travel abroad, he triumphed in the idea that his countrymen might exclaim, in the spirit of the ancient Roman, Civis Romanus sum. Let us not resemble the Romans merely in our national privileges and personal security. The Romans were great conquerors, but where they conquered, they governed wisely. The nations they conquered were impressed so indelibly with the intellectual character of their masters, that, after fourteen centuries of decadence, the traces of civilisation are still distinguishable. Why should not we act a similar part in India? There never was a more docile people, never a more tractable nation. The opportunity is present, and the power is not wanting. Let us abandon the policy of aggression, and confine ourselves to a territory ten times the size of France, with a population four times as numerous as that of the United Kingdom. Surely that is enough to satisfy the most gluttonous appetite for glory and supremacy. Educate the people of India, govern them wisely, and gradually the distinctions of caste will disappear, and they will look upon us rather as benefactors than as conquerors. And if we desire to see Christianity, in some form, professed in that country, we shall sooner attain our object by setting the example of a high-toned Christian morality, than by any other means we can employ.
* * * * *
HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 24, 1858.
From Hansard. [After the suppression of the Indian mutiny, Lord Palmerston's Government determined to introduce a Bill the object of which was to place the possessions of the East India Company under the direct authority of the Crown. This Bill was introduced by Lord Palmerston on February 12. But the Government fell a few days afterwards, on the Conspiracy Bill, and Lord Palmerston's Bill was withdrawn. On March 26 the new Government introduced their own Bill, which was known as the India Bill No. 2. The chief peculiarity of this Bill was that five members in the proposed council of eighteen should be chosen by the constituencies of the following cities:—London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Belfast. The scheme was unpopular, and Lord Russell proposed that it should be withdrawn, and that resolutions should be passed in a Committee of the whole House, the acceptance of which might prove a guide to the proceedings of the Government. The suggestion was accepted by Mr. Disraeli, and in consequence India Bill No. 3 was brought in, and read a second time on June 24.]
I do not rise for the purpose of opposing the second reading of this Bill—on the contrary, if any hon. Member thinks proper to divide the House upon it, I shall vote with the noble Lord. I must say, however, that there are many clauses in the Bill to which I entertain serious objections. Some of them will, I hope, be amended as the Bill passes through Committee; but if that is not the case, I can only hope that, as the Bill of 1853 is abandoned in 1858, within the next five years the House of Commons will take some further steps with regard to this question, with the view of simplifying the Government of India as carried on in England. I wish to take this opportunity of making some observations upon the general question of Indian government, which it might have been out of place to have made during the discussion of the various Resolutions which have been agreed to by the House.
I think it must have struck every hon. Member that, while two Governments have proposed great changes with regard to the government of India, no good case has really been made out for such changes in the speeches of the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman by whom the two India Bills have been introduced. That opinion, I know, will meet with a response from two or three hon. Gentlemen on this (the Opposition) side of the House. It occurred to me when the noble Lord at the head of the late Government (Viscount Palmerston) introduced his Bill—and I made the observation when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward his measure—that if the House knew no more of the question than they learned from the speeches of the Ministers, they could not form any clear notion why it was proposed to overthrow the East India Company. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) has expressed a similar opinion several times during the progress of these discussions. The right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) has also said that the East India Company was being dealt with in a manner in which animals intended for sacrifice were treated in Eastern countries and in ancient times,—they were decked with garlands when they were led out for immolation. That is true; but it does not therefore follow that the House is not quite right in the course it is taking. It must be clear that the moment the House of Commons met this Session there was only one course which the then Government could adopt with reference to this question. A feeling existed throughout the country—I believe I may say it was universal—that for a long time past the government of India had not been a good government; that grave errors—if not grievous crimes— had been committed in that country. I think the conscience of the nation had been touched on this question, and they came by a leap, as it were— by an irrepressible instinct—to the conclusion that the East India Company must be abolished, and that another and, as the nation hoped, a better government should be established for that country. There was a general impression, arising from past discussion in Parliament, that the industry of the people of India had been grievously neglected; that there was great reason for complaint with respect to the administration of justice; and that with regard to the wars entered into by the Indian Government, there was much of which the people of England had reason to be ashamed.
It has been said by some that these faults are to be attributed to the Board of Control; but I have never defended the Board of Control. I believe everything the East India Company has said of the Board of Control—to its discredit; and I believe that everything the Board of Control has said to the discredit of the East India Company to be perfectly true. There was also a general impression that the expenditure of the East India Government was excessive; and that it had been proved before more than one Committee that the taxes imposed upon the people of India were onerous to the last degree. These subjects were discussed in 1853, at which time, in my opinion, the change now proposed ought to have been effected. Subsequently the calamitous events of 1857 and 1858 occurred; and the nation came at once to the conclusion—a conclusion which I think no disinterested person could resist—that it was impossible that India and its vast population could any longer be retained under the form of government which has existed up to this period. If, then, a change was inevitable, the question was how it should be accomplished and what should be done. I think it is quite clear that the course the noble Lord has pursued is right—namely, that of insisting that during this present Session, and without delay, the foundation of all reform in the government of India should be commenced at home, because we cannot take a single step in the direction of any real and permanent improvement in the Indian Government until we have reformed what I may call the basis of that Government by changes to be effected in this country.
What, then, is the change which is proposed, and which ought to be made? For my own part, in considering these questions, I cannot altogether approve the Bill now before the House. What we want with regard to the government of India is that which in common conversation is called 'a little more daylight.' We want more simplicity and more responsibility. I objected to the scheme originally proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer because it did not provide these requisites; that scheme so closely resembled the system we were about to overthrow that I could not bring myself to regard it favourably. In considering the subject before Parliament met, I asked myself this question:—'Suppose there had never been an East India Company or any such corporation,—suppose India had been conquered by the forces of the Crown, commanded by generals acting under the authority of the Crown,—how should we then have proposed to govern distant dominions of vast extent, and with a population that could scarcely be counted?' I believe such a system of government as has hitherto existed would never have been established; and if such a system had not existed I am convinced that no Minister would have proposed the plan now submitted to the House.
I think the government would have been placed in the hands of a Secretary of State, with his secretaries, clerks, and staffs of officers, or of a small Board, so small as to prevent responsibility from being diffused and divided, if not actually destroyed. I suspect that the only reason why the Country or Parliament can be disposed to approve the large Council now proposed is, that they have seen something like a Council heretofore, formerly of twenty-four, and subsequently of eighteen members, and I believe there is something like timidity on the part of the House, and probably on the part of the Government, which hinders them from making so great a change as I have suggested to the simple plan which would probably have existed had no such body as the East India Company ever been established. I am willing to admit candidly that if the government of India at home should be so greatly simplified it will be necessary that very important changes should be made in the government in India. I agree with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) that the representatives of the Crown in India must have power as well as responsibility; that they should be enabled to deal with emergencies, and to settle the hundred or the thousand questions that must arise among 100,000,000 of people, without sending 10,000 miles to this country to ask questions which ought to be settled at once by some competent authority on the spot.
There are two modes of governing India, and the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Willoughby), who has been a very distinguished servant of the East India Company, has publicly expressed his views upon this question. I have been very much struck with a note attached to the published report of his speech, referring to the multifarious duties discharged by the Directors of the East India Company. That note states that—
'A despatch may be received, containing 60, or 100, or 200 cases; and the despatch, in itself voluminous, is rendered more so by collections attached to it, containing copies of all former correspondence on the subject or subjects, and of all letters written thereon by various local officers, and all papers relating thereto. There has not long since been in the Revenue Department a despatch with 16,263 pages of collections. In 1845 there was one in the same Department with 46,000 pages, and it was stated that Mr. Canning, some years since in the House of Commons, mentioned a military despatch to which were attached 13,511 pages of collections.'
The hon. Gentleman did not say in his speech that anybody at the India House ever read all these things. It was quite dear that if the Directors were to pretend to go through a waggon-load of documents coming to Leadenhall-street every year it must be only a pretence, and if they want to persuade the House that they give attention to only one- tenth part of these papers they must think the House more credulous than it is in matters of this kind. That is one mode of governing India. It is the mode which has been adopted and the mode which has failed. If we are to have the details settled here, I am perfectly certain we can have no good government in India. I have alluded on a former occasion to a matter which occurred in a Committee upstairs. A gentleman who was examined stated that he had undertaken to brew a wholesome beer, and quite as good as that exported for the supply of the troops, somewhere in the Presidency of Madras, for one-sixth of the price paid by Government for that exported to India from England; that the experiment was completely successful; that the memorandum or record with regard to it was sent home, no doubt forming part of the thousands of pages to which reference has been made; and that it was buried in the heap in which it came, because for years nothing was heard of a proposition which would have saved the Government a very large amount annually and opened a new industry to the population and capital of India. I believe this system of government is one of delay and disappointment—one, actually, of impossibility—one which can by no means form a complete theory of government as held by any persons in the House; and that the other, the simpler system, which I wish the House to undertake, would be one of action, progress, and results, with regard to India, such as we have never yet seen and never can see until there is a complete simplification of the Indian Government in this country.
I come now to the question—and it is for this question that I have wished principally to address the House—if at any time we obtain the simplicity which I contend for with regard to the government at home, what changes will it be desirable to make in the government in India? And I would make one observation at this point, that in all the statements and arguments which I hope to use, I beg the House to believe that I use them with the greatest possible deference, with the feeling that this is a question upon which no man is at all entitled to dogmatize, that it is a vast question which we all look at as one we are scarcely capable of handling and determining. I submit my views to the House because I have considered the subject more or less for many years, and I believe I am actuated by the simple and honest desire of contributing something to the information and knowledge of Parliament with regard to its duty upon this great question.