Proclamation Of The Governor General—Despatch Of The President Of The Board Of Control
Sir, I rise to invite the judgment of the House upon what I believe to be one of the most remarkable series of occurrences that has been witnessed in the history of British administration. I trust I shall not occupy the attention of the House at great length, for I mean to say nothing that does not rest either upon facts patent and indisputable, or upon the statements of those whose conduct it is my painful duty to impugn. It appears that, upon the 12th of the month of April last, there was received in this country a letter from the Secretary of the Government of India to the Commissioner of Oude, covering a draught of a Proclamation which it was intended should be promulgated in Oude as soon as the fall of Lucknow was known. That important document was immediately taken into consideration by Her Majesty's advisers; and, that I may make no mistake in relating what took place, I will state it to the House in the language of those advisers themselves. These were the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—
And in the language of the Earl of Ellenborough:"I think it right to take this opportunity of stating that when we received notice of this intended Proclamation we took the subject at once into our consideration."
So there can be no doubt that, with respect to the writing, the approval, and the transmission of that despatch, it was the deliberate act of Her Majesty's Government collectively. It is known to the House that the India Board, under the statutes which regulate the government of India, possesses the power of sending through the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors those despatches concerning the treatment of the Native Princes and States which in their judgment require secrecy. That course was pursued on this occasion; and that despatch, so collectively adopted by the Government, was sent out to India on the 26th of April through the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors. With regard, therefore, to the document itself these things are clear—that it was the collective act of Her Majesty's Ministers—that it was sent to India through that particular channel, the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors. What was the tenor of the document is familiar to the House, for the Members have had it in their hands. I shall hereafter have occasion to describe it to you, but I shall describe it, not in language of my own, but exclusively in the language of those who indited it, and are responsible for it. So much, then, for the writing and sending of the despatch. From the 26th of April to the 6th of May no important information conies within my knowledge; but on the 6th of May it became known, through the columns of The Times, that a Proclamation had been promulgated in Oude, not the identical draught Proclamation to which I have before referred, but a Proclamation, in the language of the Earl of Derby, materially modified from that draught Proclamation. I say it became known to us incidentally from the columns of the newspapers, that that Proclamation, materially modified, had been published in Lucknow. Things being in that position, the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) came into the House of Commons and put a question to the hon. Member for the county of Inverness, the Secretary to the India Board. To that question the hon. Gentleman returned an answer, which, so far as it relates to the despatch, I think I had better read in extenso to the House. After speaking of the Proclamation, he said—"The letter to which the noble Earl has alluded, enclosing the Proclamation, was received on the 12th of April. The answer was not written till the 18th of April. It was dated the 19th of April; and it was not sent off until the 26th of April. There was, therefore, ample time for considering what the letter reflecting upon the Proclamation should contain, and also for further consideration after it was written, as has been shown by my noble Friend near me. Reflection only more strongly induced me to think that it was absolutely necessary to send the letter as it was originally written. When I read that Proclamation I felt it was my duty at once to express my own sentiments on the subject, which were adopted by my noble Friends."
Now, Sir, you will observe in that answer of the hon. Gentleman that publication was promised; but publication was not made. If the case had rested there—if the responsible advisers of the Crown, warned by that question, had met in consultation on the following day, and had been of opinion that a hasty promise had unfortunately been made, and that serious inconvenience to the public service and most prejudicial effects would follow if that promise were fulfilled, I appeal to this House whether, if after that deliberation, they had conic to the House of Commons and stated on their responsibility that then, before the actual Proclamation made by Lord Canning had arrived in England, in their opinion it was contrary to the public interest to produce that despatch—I say I appeal to the House whether there is the smallest belief that this House would have insisted on the fulfilment of that promise? But I ask another question—if this House can be conceived to have been disposed to act in a spirit so unpatriotic and improper, was it not the bounden duty of the responsible advisers of the Crown at least to cast that responsibility upon us, and to quit themselves of their pledge by stating their belief that in fulfilling their promise they were inflicting a serious and irreparable mischief on the public interests of the country? That is a just description of the case after the question of the hon. Member for Birmingham had been put, and after the answer of the Secretary to the Board of Control. But it is well known that the case did not rest there. The hon. Member for Birmingham was not satisfied with so guarded an answer as was given by the hon. Member for the county of Inverness. He rose again to put this question to the House:—"The Proclamation was, of course, taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Government as soon as it was received, and a despatch was written expressing the views and opinions with respect to it which the Government entertained. That despatch as well as the Proclamation itself there can be no objection to lay upon the table of the House, and I may add that the Proclamation was not made in consequence of any instructions which were sent out to the Governor General Gem this country."
What followed? In the first place, the leader of Her Majesty's Government in this House repeated the promise which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness had made. He said—"I hope the Government will be good enough to inform the House what the general tenor is of the despatch which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, in order that the decision of Her Majesty's Ministers upon this subject may as soon as possible go forth to the country."
And he went on to say—"A copy of the despatch will, of course, as my hon. Friend has stated, be laid upon the table of the House."
Has anybody forgotten the electric effect which that statement produced within the walls of this House? Has anybody forgotten that in every house in London, in whatever social circle we spent a portion of that evening, there was one universal eager question? And what was that question? Did people say to one another, "Is it true that the Secretary of the India Board has told the House of Commons that a despatch has been written by Lord Ellenborough, and that it will be laid upon the table very soon?" No such question was put. Everybody asked with eager curiosity, "Is it true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the House of Commons that a despatch has gone to India disapproving the policy of the Governor General in every sense?" [Mr. BRIGHT interposed an observation.] I thank the hon. Member for Birmingham for his interruption. I am discharging a task which I desire to discharge with perfect fidelity, and if I should be so unfortunate as to make the smallest misquotation in any statement I make I shall be truly indebted to any hon. Gentleman who may interrupt me. But, Sir, I have the passage in my hand, and I am repeating exactly the words which that passage contains. The words are these:—"We have sent out a despatch to the Governor General of India disapproving the policy which he indicated in every sense." I say the question on that night was this:—"Is it true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a certain statement to the House of Commons?" and the reason why it was put was that everybody understood and felt the important consequences that hinged upon it. Then what happened the next day? On the following day—every Member of the Cabinet being, I presume acquainted with the promise that had been given—there was a meeting at which, so far as I am aware, only three persons were present; and I shall read in the language of Lord Ellenborough what the nature of that meeting was:—"I think it, however, right to take this opportunity of stating that when we received notice of this intended Proclamation we took the subject at once into our consideration, and the result was that we sent out a despatch to the Governor General of India, disapproving the policy which he indicated in every sense."
Now, observe, the publication by production of the despatch has not yet been made. What publication has been made is only by the oral statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons. The head of the Government, the leader of the Government in this House, and the Minister for India, come to an understanding on the subject, and that understanding is that, with the omission of certain extracts, publication shall be made; and accordingly on that night publication is made in both Houses—in the House of Lords, in conformity with the understanding that had been conic to, while in this House the whole of the despatch is given. Now, is it possible to say that the Minister for India was more responsible for that publication than the head of the Government or the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Nay, if there be any distinction between individuals, is it not plain that, whereas they had agreed expressly that this publication should be made—and I will likewise pay their colleagues the tribute of respect to suppose that within the twenty-four hours that intervened some indication of their opinions and feelings bad been taken—there was one who had made a separate oral publication of his own. So stands the case with regard to the writing and publication of the despatch on Friday, the 7th of May. On the Monday following there occurred a circumstance that I think, in giving a narrative of these transactions, I ought not to omit; for since Lord Ellenborough thought it worth while to explain it, it is surely worthy of being noticed here. I mean the explanation he made with regard to the reported or surmised possession of information with regard to the secret despatch on the part of the hon. Member for Birmingham. There is in this matter something which I am not able to explain, because, as has been stated by Lord Derby, no notice of the question put by the hon. Member for Birmingham had been given, and yet he and Lord Ellenborough said the Secretary to the India Board had been authorised to take the course he did take in answering it. But how he came to obtain authority if he had no notice of the question is, so far as I am aware, a point upon which no explanation has to this moment been given. I have thought it right to notice this circumstance in the present narrative; but I will make upon it no comment, because I am speaking in the presence of those who can give the explanation which I am sure it will afford them satisfaction to give. I then thought it my duty to give notice of the Motion which I have now the honour to place, Sir, in your hands; and on the following day Lord Ellenborough, chivalrously taking upon himself the whole responsibility of the difficulty in which the Government was placed, resigned. Now, these being, as I believe, the general circumstances of the case, I submit to the House whether it does not appear that the writing and sending of the despatch were the collective acts of the Government, and not the separate acts of any Member of that Government? and with equal confidence I submit to the House whether the publication of the despatch on Friday, the 7th of May, can justly be said to have been the act of one Minister alone, and whether, under the circumstances which I have shortly laid before you, it is not as much the act of every one of them? Sir, those being the circumstances of the case, I shall now state to the House what is the nature of the Motion which I submit for its consideration, and what is the judgment I shall ask the House to form upon the very serious question involved. And here, in the first place, let me observe that on the Proclamation issued by the Governor General it is not my intention to ask the House to give any judgment. ["Hear, Hear!"] I cannot but be much indebted to Gentlemen for their cheers. I will now proceed to state my reasons for that determination, and I hope they will be equally satisfactory. In the first place, if I were to presume to ask the House for an opinion on that Proclamation I should be met by the irresistible statement that the Proclamation is not before us at all. What Her Majesty's Government have thought proper to lay before you is the draught of a Proclamation which I believe was never issued. Of the Proclamation which has been issued, and which in the language of Lord Derby, is "materially modified" from the Proclamation which has been laid before you, we have no knowledge but such as has been gathered incidentally from sources which cannot be made the ground-work of Par- liamentary proceedings. But in regard to the Proclamation itself, while I will not ask any judgment on it, I think it my duty to state a fact, and that fact is this. In the blue-book of 1856 respecting Oude there is, under the signature of Mr. Edmonstone, addressed to Sir James Outram, and published at Lucknow, a proclamation to which those who describe the present Proclamation as a novelty will do well to turn their attention. It will be found that the persons against whom that proclamation was levelled are not the peaceful cultivators of the soil in Oude, not even the zemindars, as the word zemindar is understood at Calcutta; but that they are those persons with whom we have been made familiar in the volumes of Colonel Sleeman and in the blue-books, and who have been described, from the days of Lord Cornwallis to those of Lord Canning, as the curse and tribulation of Oude. But what I ask the House to condemn is the despatch itself of Lord Ellenborough, whether you regard it in its character of a secret despatch, or, still more, whether you regard it in its character of a published despatch. I do not know what notion Her Majesty's Government may have of the position in which the Governor General of India has been placed. But, if their sympathies with his position have been so little excited that they think it wise and right to address to him opinions which, be they right or wrong, have not been recommended upon their responsibility to the Crown, nor to Parliament for its sanction, we cannot but feel that his position of Governor General has become one of still greater difficulty, and that his action as a public servant must be seriously embarrassed. Lord Canning is there to support the Queen's Commissioner in Oude. He is acting as a public servant, with instructions as to the best mode of restoring the allegiance of the people of Oude to his Royal mistress and the Government of this country. Those to whom he is subordinate by official position have no doubt a right to advise the Queen to alter those instructions and modify his position, and they have a right to come to Parliament for the sanction of their views. But they have no right to paralyse the hands, and—if he were not a man of unusual courage, I would say—to palsy the heart of that distant servant of the Crown who is engaged in carrying out the behests of his Sovereign and his country. Lord Canning rules over an empire of 150,000,000 of people, spread over an enormous territory, extending from the Himalaya mountains to Cape Comorin; but what do you suppose will be his freedom in governing India in his present circumstances if you tell him—as you have told him in this despatch—"At a late period of the day it was understood between my noble Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and myself that extracts only should be read, for it was considered inconvenient that particular passages should be made public."
Sir, there is no objection to independent Members of this House expressing those opinions; but there is the greatest objection to these doctrines going out to India as the doctrines of the responsible servants of the Crown when it is the duty and necessity of the public servant to whom they are addressed to administer our government over more than 150,000,000 of people, many of whom look back to the time when, if they lived under a bad Government, they lived, at least, under a Native Government. Now, Sir, let the House look at the tone and temper of the Government. The House has read that passage which begins "Other conquerors." Sir, I wonder that when Her Majesty's advisers considered the draught of that despatch there never occurred to any one of them the suggestion that when Lord Canning read those caustic words he might compare himself with "other conquerors" who had annexed other territories and had issued other proclamations. If so, they might have remembered that if the words "policy" of "clemency" had been honoured in connection with the government of India, that policy of clemency would go down to history, not associated with the names of other conquerors, but with the name of Canning. But when I come to consider this despatch not merely as read by Lord Canning, but as a document published in England and India, how shall I describe it? Sir, what are the duties of the Government to the Governor General of India? if you are dissatisfied with the Governor General, it is in your power and your duty to recall him. If you are satisfied with the mode in which he is performing his duty in difficult circumstances, then you ought to sustain and cordially to encourage him. lf, so sustaining him, you differ from him on an important matter of policy, you will direct and control him—but in that spirit and temper which will not break off his cordial concurrence with the Government at home—above all things it is your duty to avoid anything which has the effect of paralysing that authority by which he is to do your work in India. Sir, what have you done? You have sent out to him and published a despatch which I have ventured in some particulars to criticise, but in regard to which, since it is in all your hands, I need not occupy your time. But I will ask you to listen to the language in which the Proclamation has been disclaimed by those who have indited and proposed the despatch. In the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was a "disapproval of his policy in every sense." [The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: "Of his policy indicated."] In the words of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, it was "censure and condemnation." In the language of the Earl of Ellenborough it rose to "reprobation." What was the position of a Governor General occupying that difficult post after the annexation of Oude, which took place while he was on his way to India to take charge of his Government—suddenly finding himself immersed in the anxieties of this perilous rebellion—not recalled by the Government at home—not instructed by the Government to recall the Proclamation they condemned, but told that they disapprove of his policy indicated in every sense; and "censure," "condemnation," and "reprobation" being the words used to characterise his conduct in "another place"? And this to Lord Canning, to the man who stood erect, and I am afraid sometimes too much alone—who sustained his courage and calmness and compassion in the midst of that tremendous period of anxiety through which we have been passing, and from which we have not yet entirely emerged—a man who has attained the nickname of "Clemency Canning" for the conduct which has displeased some, but who has been the worthy representative of that Sovereign—"Suddenly the people saw their King taken from among them, and our Administration substituted for his which, however bad, was at least Native,"
"Whose earthly power then shows likest God's
Well, if the writing of that despatch and its publication are unjust to Lord Canning what is its bearing on the British Crown? Whose commission does Sir James Outram bear, and what will be its character in Oude if such language is addressed to him and published? What is to be its bearing on our army there? Are they to shed their blood and put their lives in peril for a cause which is described in such language? What will be its operation on the great cause of humanity? Are you prepared to reverse your operations and put an end to civil strife by restoring the throne of Oude to its Native rulers? and, if not, how else are you to put an end to those conflicts, except by establishing the authority and policy of the Government? What effect will it have on our friends in that country—on those who have made sacrifices and run hazards in our service—who have sheltered our countrymen and countrywomen in the hour of danger? Will it not carry dismay to their hearts when they see the publication of sentiments like these? What will be its effect on our enemies? Will it not encourage them in that resistance which many thousands of them are still in arms to offer? What has already been its effect upon our friends in continental Europe? Has it not dipped with gall every pen that loves to malign our policy and defame our character? Sir, for these reasons, and for many more that I could mention, I object to the writing and publication of this despatch. But, Sir, here I may be told, "The case stood very well when you gave notice of your Motion, but an important circumstance has occurred which varies the position of affairs—the responsible Minister has resigned." Sir, I say that those who are responsible for this despatch have not resigned. I do not know what the feelings of others may be, but I know that I should have felt ashamed to come down to this House and declare that this Motion was levelled against an individual member of the Cabinet, and that with the retirement of that Minister the objects of the Motion had ceased and ought to be forgotten. Sir, I know that I shall have at least one voice in this House that will cordially sympathise with me in this opinion. I well remember when a vote of censure was proposed in this House which displaced the Government of Lord Aberdeen—I well rember the generous sentiments that fell on that occasion from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I cordially agreed with him at that time, and I agree with him now. And, considering the applicability of his remarks to the present circumstances, and the high authority of the person by whom they were uttered, I will, with your permission, read them to the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said:—"When mercy seasons justice."
Sir, these are eloquent and true words. I rejoiced to hear from the right hon. Gentleman last night language with regard to Lord Ellenborough which did him credit. He spoke in bold and manly language, and expressed the regret which he felt at the resignation of the noble Earl in these words:—"The right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have addressed us have always argued this case as if the present Motion was an attack upon an indivi- dual Member of the Cabinet. The whole of this case has been argued by the Government as if this were a personal attack upon the Minister of War. Now, Sir, for my part, I disclaim, in language as clear as I can express my meaning in, that I entirely protest against that Parliamentary conduct which singles out one Member of the Cabinet, and, on the pretence of criticising the administration of his department, visits him with a censure, from which the other Members of the Cabinet, his colleagues, are to be exempted. I have had occasion in other instances to maintain these opinions, and I have now acted upon them. I have been asked by hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side, whether I would support a vote of censure upon the Duke of Newcastle, and I have been assured by those hon. Gentlemen that such a Motion, if proposed, would be sure to be passed by a decisive majority. But I said, as I say now, that I never will, directly or indirectly, be a party to any Motion in this House the object of which is to select one Member of the Cabinet and make him the scapegoat of a policy for which the whole of his colleagues are equally responsible."
That is language which, in my opinion, does the right hon. Gentleman great credit. But the right hon. Gentleman goes too far when he speaks for others besides himself. Two propositions are contained in what I have read—first, that they have not had the opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the subject; and, secondly, that if they had had that opportunity, they would have unanimously requested Lord Ellenborough to remain. That is not the statement of the head of the Government. That I may be accurate, I will read the words themselves:—"I have no doubt that the motive which induced Lord Ellenborough to take that not unconstitutional but unusual course was, that he knew very well, if the question had been put to those who lately had the honour of being his colleagues, their great regard for his personal qualities and their admiration of his genius would have led them unanimously to request him to withdraw that resignation."
("Hear, hear!") I shall invite more cheers in the next sentence:—"There is nothing, my Lords, so painful to my feelings as the possibility of being suspected for any purposes of sacrificing a colleague, and I know not that I have ever in my life felt deeper pain than when I received from my noble Friend, not a tender of his resignation, but a copy of a letter in which he had already submitted his resignation to Her Majesty."
These are matters of feeling and opinion; but I beg to say that, having given notice of submitting this Motion to the House, I should have been extremely loth to infer that, by the resignation of a colleague in the Ministry, the Government had been relieved from the responsibility of his act, and that the motives which had induced me to propose submitting these Resolutions to the House were consequently at an end. The resignation of Lord Ellenborough does affect the question, but not, I think, in the way in which the argument to which I have been adverting would lead. In the first place, the language of the head of the Government which I have read to you relieves me altogether from the necessity of arguing when I impugn conduct which he admits is not capable of defence. In the second place, it allows the question to be viewed in an important constitutional respect. When I gave notice of this Motion, I felt that, if conduct like that of which I have been speaking passed unnoticed by this House, our sovereignty of India was perilled, and the vast Indian dependencies of this kingdom could no longer be regarded as safe to the British Crown. But now I want to know, is there no danger with regard to the Government of England? We have just passed a Resolution that we will intrust the government of our Indian possessions to a responsible Minister. Is there to be limited liability in the Cabinet? Is there to be no solidarity among those to whom the vast interests of the greatest empire of the world are intrusted by this House? The East India Company has set to the House of Commons an example which we shall do well to bear in mind in our deliberations. "Corpses" they have been called, but those corpses have too much blood in them to see the Governor General treated in this manner, while the statute law places his protection in their hands, without coming forward to record their confidence in his administration. Sir, I regret that in making this Motion it has been my duty so long to occupy the time of the House. I have laid before you the facts of a case which I believe to have no parallel in the history of British administration, I have regarded it as a case deeply affecting the most important inter rests of this country. I believe the continued government of your distant dependencies depends upon it. I believe a new element has been imported into it materially affecting the constitutional government of this country. I have endeavoured to discharge my task by laying it clearly before you, without any exaggeration and without any artifice of rhetoric; and I now conclude by appealing to you to know whether you, the representatives of a generous and high-spirited people, will permit the Governor General of India, the author of the policy of clemency, to remain under the censure which has been cast upon him, or whether, by the expression of your sentiments, you will show that your sympathy and your support will ever be extended to those who with courage and with compassion under arduous circumstances maintain in a distant dependency the rightful cause of England. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the following Resolution:—"I was bound to consider not private and personal feelings only, but what was due to the great interests of the country. I was bound to consider whether it was desirable that the Government should stake their existence as a Government upon their liability for an act of which they were not in the slightest degree cognizant—whether they should take upon themselves the defence of that which they felt they could not wholly defend; or whether they should accept the noble self-sacrifice of my noble Friend, and thereby, through his generosity, allow his colleagues to have justice done to them. That course I did take. I never felt greater pain than when I came to that determination. But, guided solely by great public considerations, I felt that it was my bounden duty to accept the self-sacrifice of my noble Friend. Painful as I felt, it to be to part from one for whom, personally, I had the highest respect and the most sincere regard—from one whose knowledge of India, whose long experience, whose devotedness to the cause of India, whose abnegation of self rendered him an invaluable colleague in our councils on India, and whose resignation was the greatest loss to the Cabinet—yet, swayed by still stronger considerations, I felt bound, but not without the deepest pain, to suggest that the resignation of my noble Friend should be received."
"That this House, whilst in its present state of information it abstains from expressing an opinion on the policy of any Proclamation which may have been issued by the Governor General of India in relation to Oude, has seen with regret and serious apprehension that Her Majesty's Government have addressed to the Governor General, through the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, and have published, a Despatch condemning in strong terms the conduct of the Governor General; and is of opinion that such a course on the part of the Government must tend, in the present circumstances of India, to produce the most prejudicial effect, by weakening the authority of the Governor General, and encouraging the further resistance of those who are in arms against us."
said, he was sure that he should not ask in vain for the indulgence of the House while he stated the reasons which had influenced him to undertake the task of seconding the Mo- tion. In doing so, he was particularly anxious to guard himself against any misapprehension of the views he entertained. If he regarded the Proclamation of Lord Canning as a measure, not to say of wholesale confiscation, but an act of undue severity to the people of Oude, be should be the last person to give it his sanction or support. Sprung, as he did, from a race, and coming from a country which had been made the subject of wholesale confiscation and wholesale proscription, the memory of which had not even now wholly passed away, it would ill become him to advocate wholesale confiscation and proscription in any dependency of the British Crown. But not only did the Resolution of his right hon. Friend carefully and properly abstain from pledging the House to any approbation of the policy indicated in the Proclamation which had been the subject of condemnation by Her Majesty's Government, not only did it leave them full liberty, when they should be supplied with complete information to take into consideration the scope and purport of that Proclamation, but he confessed that he had come to the conclusion that the Proclamation indicated no such policy as that which had been ascribed to it. Whether he viewed it with reference to the source from which it emanated, or its context and terms, or the facts connected with it, he came to an entirely different conclusion. The policy which he thought ought to be pursued towards the people of Oude was clearly and properly indicated in a letter from the late Minister of India, in which he gave the following instruction to the Governor General of India:—
He fully subscribed to that view; but that was not the question which the House had to consider. It was one thing to indicate their views of policy, and another to condemn and censure, and publish to the world the reasons by which the Minister was influenced in reversing the policy on which the Governor General had entered. The Proclamation was not a measure of wholesale proscription or undue severity. It emanated from a statesman who had been most conspicuous for the clemency which had guided his policy in India, and who had dared to stand between the people of India and an indiscriminate desire for vengeance which could scarcely be appeased. Was it likely that Lord Canning, in dealing with a people who might have some excuse for their hostility to us, would depart from the whole tenor of policy which had hitherto actuated him in the government of India, and embark in measures of wholesale confiscation and proscription? But what are the terms of the Proclamation? Does Lord Canning say that the whole property of Oude was to be confiscated, and that the whole population was to be proscribed? No such thing—the import of his Proclamation was entirely different. The words of the Proclamation were these:—"It appears that, whenever open resistance shall have ceased, it will be prudent, in awarding punishment, rather to follow the practice which prevails when a country has been defended to the last by its inhabitants, rather than that which might, perhaps, be lawfully adopted after the suppression of mutiny and rebellion."
But what were actually the proprietary rights here spoken of as being subject to confiscation? In India the Government of a country was by right, and not only in theory, the owner of the land. And what was the case in Oude? The monarchs who had preceded us in Oude had granted out in large tracts what were called the "proprietary rights," and they had thus created a class of proprietors intermediate between them and the tillers of the soil, called talookdars and zemindars. The rights of these persons were thus described in the instructions of the Lieutenant Governor of the North Western Provinces to the officials engaged in the land settlement of those districts:—"The Governor General further proclaims to the people of Oude that, with the above-mentioned exceptions, the proprietary right in the soil of the province is confiscated to the British Government."
That was exactly the position of the talookdars in Oude. The fullest information would be found respecting them in Sir William Sleeman's book and in the bluebook on Oude, and it would be seen that they had encroached not only on the rights of the superior Government, but also on those of the persons over whom they were set. It was with these proprietary rights, forfeited by rebellion against us, and with them alone, that Lord Canning's Proclamation dealt; and nothing would be more calculated to benefit the actual tillers of the soil than that the Government should, if not confiscate, at least modify the rights which had been exercised by the former chiefs, and give the Natives the protection of which they stood so much in need. But the Proclamation was not such a sweeping unqualified measure of confiscation as had been represented. Lord Canning had included in his Proclamation a very important qualification in one of the paragraphs, which had not been sufficiently dwelt on:—"The ordinary form in such cases is, when a powerful man, by patent or by grant from a superior Power, or by favour of local officers, or by the voluntary act of the people themselves, has become an intermediate person between the Government and the village proprietors, collecting from the latter what they would otherwise have paid to the Government, and paying it in himself in one sum after such deductions to cover his own risk as may be settled on in the patent or original agreement."
What could be more likely to tend to the pacification of Oude than to threaten these men with the confiscation of their, rights if they continued to resist, but to promise them indulgence if they at once submitted? He would admit, that this qualification was not in the draft of the Proclamation laid before the Government when the letter was written to Lord Canning; but Ministers were in possession of it before the 8th of May when the publication of the despatch took place, of which he and other hon. Gentlemen complained. This paragraph of Lord Canning's was no departure from former precedents. Sir Charles Napier had done exactly the same thing when he conquered Scinde. The Ameers of Scinde, like the Kings of Oude, had in former times granted out large tracts of land on feudal tenure, and when Sir Charles Napier conquered that province he confiscated those rights, but he accompanied the forfeiture with a declaration that they would be restored to them on certain conditions. When Oude was originally annexed, Lord Dalhousie issued a Proclamation in language almost identical with that used by Lord Canning:—"To those among them who shell promptly come forward and give to the Chief Commissioner their support in the restoration of peace and order, the indulgence will be large, and the Governor General will be ready to view liberally the claims which they may thus acquire to a restitution of their former rights."
The event provided for by Lord Dalhousie had now occurred; the talookdars and zemindars had rebelled, and Lord Canning was only putting in force the sentence prospectively announced by Lord Dalhousie. There was every reason why the Government should have postponed their decision respecting the Proclamation, until they should have been in possession of that full information which alone could have enabled them to decide fairly upon it. As to the effect of the issuing of the Proclamation there could be no more satisfactory evidence than that of The Times' Special Correspondent, who stated that immediately it was put out, several chiefs came in and made their submission on the conditions upon the understanding that their religion should not be interfered with, that others were coming in, and that there was every prospect that this Proclamation, fairly carried out, would rapidly bring Oude to a state of tranquillity. But the policy of the Proclamation was not now before the House, but the conduct of the Government, as to which the House possessed the fullest information. They complained of two things—first, that the Government should have written and forwarded to India a despatch framed in terms of such stringent severity; and secondly, that they should have transmitted it without obtaining that fuller information which the lapse of a short time would have put them in possession of. He complained also that the Government by its conduct had exposed the country to imputations upon its honour, and had seriously imperilled the safety of its dominions by the premature publication of the document. Could anything be more unfair than to censure Lord Canning, and to refuse to recall him?—to load him with censure and obloquy, and yet to leave him to administer the government of India in these troublous times was a course of conduct which ought not to be pursued, and which could not be justified. Instead of remonstrating with Lord Canning, calling his attention to their former instructions, and indicating to him a line of policy which they wished him to pursue, the Cabinet had administered to him the sharpest rebuke that was ever given by a Government to any public man; and that, he contended, was the act not of one Member of the Government in its collective capacity. But he complained likewise of the precipitate and unaccountable publication of that despatch. That despatch proclaimed not merely to England, but to all Europe and to India, and elaborate condemnation of the policy of the Governor General, and a justification of those who were engaged in defying our authority and resisting our arms. He declined to enter into any question with respect to the original policy which had resulted in the annexation of Oude. That was, as his right hon. Friend had said, un fait accompli, and when Lord Canning assumed the reins of government in India, Oude was, to all intents and purposes, a British province, and was occupied by British soldiers. Our authority there had since been defied, and availing themselves of the fearful catastrophe which threatened to engulf the empire, the Natives seized the whole province. Upon the details of those events he need not dwell. We sent out troops by thousands, commanded by a veteran general, to restore by force the authority which by force had been displaced. By the skill of our generals and the valour of our soldiers we had succeeded, and Lucknow was no longer the seat of a dynasty antagonistic to our power. But, in such a crisis what was the course adopted by the Government? They sent out a despatch, not merely censuring the Governor General for his Proclamation, and calculated to weaken his authority, to paralyze his power, and to lower his position, but actually containing an elaborate and authoritative vindication of those who were engaged in resisting our power—placing them in the rank of the Spanish patriots who opposed Napoleon, and our officers in the position of Napoleon's marshals. Supposing that Napoleon, in the plenitude of his power, had addressed such a document to his marshals in Spain, what would have been the effect produced on the Spaniards and on his army? Surely that despatch published by the Government here and translated into every dialect in India, would add vastly to the strength of our opponents, and would increase their moral and material power. He did not ask what justification there was for that publication, because he believed that it was admitted to be unjustifiable. Was the House to ignore such conduct on the part of those who were entrusted with the government of India? He contended, that if Acts like these were brought under the cognizance of a Parliamentary tribunal, and were not visited with the severest censure that could be bestowed upon them, constitutional Government was little better than a fiction and a sham. He confidently asserted that the House of Commons could not avoid expressing an opinion upon this important subject. They owed it alike to Lord Canning, to themselves, to the people of England, to the people of India, and to the Government to pronounce a, decided opinion upon it. He said that they owed it to the Government, because, when a vote of censure was proposed, it was the duty of the House of Commons to come to an immediate and decisive conclusion upon the point; and it was not fair to the Government to allow them to remain under the imputation of a charge which, possibly, could not be maintained. He did not believe that the Gentlemen opposite would shrink from the issue, but would meet it as they ought, fully, and fairly; he did not believe they would meet this Motion by resorting to any of the expedients which in various quarters had been suggested; neither could he for a moment suppose that they would shelter themselves under what his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) had called "the generous self-sacrifice of Lord Ellen-borough." He could not concede the doctrine that Ministerial responsibility was to be so limited. The Government was not a mere aggregate of Departments presided over by independent chiefs, but it was a union of statesmen taking the same views, acting upon the same policy, consulting and agreeing together, tendering in their joint character advice to Her Majesty, and responsible individually and collectively for the consequences of that advice. If it were necessary to go into that portion of the case, he thought that it could be shown beyond all controversy that the sending and publication of the despatch was not the sole and undivided act of Lord Ellenborough. The members of the Cabinet concurred, and he supposed still concurred, in the propriety of issuing and publishing that despatch. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself was the first Cabinet Minister who promised its publication, and in pursuance of that promise it was made public; and the House had never yet heard a single expression from the right hon. Gentleman or from his colleagues indicating any regret that the publication of the despatch had taken place. The House had now to decide a simple issue:—Did they approve the framing and publication of that despatch, blaming Lord Canning and aiding and defending the insurgents? If they did, of course they would vote against the Motion of his right hon. Friend; but if they thought that the preparation and publication of that document were indefensible, he called upon them to support by their votes the Resolution that was now proposed; for they owed it to Lord Canning to make some reparation for the grievous and unjust censure to which he had been subjected; they owed it to the country, they owed it to themselves and to their constituents not to permit an act to pass without reprobation by which our dominions had been exposed to such imminent peril. It might be said that the object of this Motion was factious. He did not think that the present Government had reason to complain of faction. He never knew a Government which had experienced greater forbearance at the hands of the majority. But forbearance had its limits. He thought that those limits had been outstepped, and that when acts were done by the Executive Government which were calculated to imperil the safety of our Indian empire and to protract the terrible struggle which had so long been waging, it was the duty of the House of Commons to interpose and to condemn those acts. He repeated that they owed it to Lord Canning to make some reparation; and reparation could not be effectually made by acceding to the motion for the Previous Question, or by supporting the amendment of the noble Lord (Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest), and declining to pronounce an opinion upon the conduct of the Government. The only remaining course by which the honour and the interests of the country could be maintained, due assistance given to Lord Canning in the arduous position in which he was placed, and the character of that House upheld, was by acceding to the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford."All officers, civil and military, all servants of the State, and all inhabitants of Oude are required to render implicit obedience to the officers of the British Government. If any person shall refuse to render such obedience, shall withhold payment of revenue, or dispute the authority of the British Government, he shall be declared a rebel, his person shall be seized, and his land confiscated to the State."
I was at a loss, Sir, when I first read the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has put into your hands, to understand whether its object was to defend, however indirectly, the policy announced by Lord Canning in the Proclamation which we are discussing; whether he meant to uphold those operations in India, the opposition to which he seems to think the conduct of the Government is calculated to prolong; or lastly, to facilitate operations in this country against the occupants of the Treasury bench, the opposition to which the right hon. Gentleman considers has already been deferred too long. I confess that, after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I have come to the conclusion that it is neither the first nor the second of the objects to which I have adverted that he has in view. The third object which I have mentioned is one, indeed, which is perfectly legitimate, and the furtherance of it, I am ready to admit, has fallen into no unskilful hands. The right hon. Gentleman must nevertheless bear in mind that even in an assault upon a Ministry there are rules of strife which call upon a man boldly and manfully to state and to prove his case. But from those rules, as I think I shall be able to show the House, the right hon. Gentleman has thought proper widely to depart. Sir, I must ask the House to observe that the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman constitutes what is called a complex proposition. It must be resolved into its parts, and those parts are three. The right hon. Gentleman, in the first place, asks the House to pass no opinion upon the policy of the Proclamation which was issued by Lord Canning. In the second place, he seeks to censure the Government for having expressed an opinion upon that Proclamation; and in the third place, to condemn their conduct for having, as he alleges, published the despatch in which their adverse opinion was conveyed. Now, I maintain that if the House accepts the first part of this complex proposition, and evades expressing any opinion as to the policy of Lord Canning's Proclamation, it is impossible it can approach the consideration of that censure which the right hon. Gentleman wishes it to pronounce. It is impossible, with any degree of justice, to come to a decision upon the expediency of the condemnation unless you take into account the merits of that which is condemned. I therefore accept the terms in which the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman is couched as a proof of the weakness of his case. He is afraid to challenge the verdict of the House of Commons upon the policy of the Proclamation. I decline, however, to accept the form of the Resolution, where it narrows and limits the issue which we are to try. I decline at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman to look at an Act of the Government and to shut my eyes to the occurrences by which that Act has been produced. I am quite prepared to meet the right hon. Gentleman in any discussion which he may feel disposed to raise as to the conduct of the Government, but in doing so I claim the right of taking into consideration the justice and the policy of the Proclamation in question. A judgment upon that Proclamation may be formed by having recourse to a very trite dilemma. Either it is right or it is wrong. If it is right, and if the principles which it enunciates are principles just and politic, the Government, beyond all doubt, was wrong in censuring it at all, and still more wrong in making that censure public. But if, upon the other hand, the principles which are embodied in that Proclamation are neither consistent with justice, nor in conformity with sound policy, then I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show upon what good grounds he calls upon the House to censure the condemnation of that which in itself is contrary to justice and to policy. Now, let me ask to whom was this Proclamation intended to be addressed? Not to the Sepoys of India. They were mutineers in the strictest sense of the word. They had eaten our bread and received our pay. They were our sworn subjects, bound to us by every tie of allegiance and fidelity. They threw off that allegiance and rebelled. In the course of that rebellion they committed acts of murder, deeds of cruelty and treachery, coldblooded, wilful, and deliberate. They were—or, at all events, many of them were—persons whose hands were stained by crimes of the deepest dye. Under these circumstances their lives and property were sacrificed by their crimes. But it was not to them, but to the King and people of Oude, this Proclamation of Lord Canning was addressed. What says Mr. Edmonstone, the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Oude? He states in the 19th paragraph that the Proclamation was addressed to the chiefs and inhabitants of Oude, and not to the mutineers. But what was the kingdom of Oude? Our relations with it were relations of conquest, and not of allegiance. I know it has been said, that Oude had voluntarily become incorporated with our dominions—that its people had willingly come into our allegiance, and that the hostilities in Oude were rebellion and not war. Sir, these assertions I deny, and my denial is capable of easy proof. I do not now desire to enter into the merits of the question of the annexation of that kingdom. That is a question which never has been, and in all probability never will be, discussed in this House as fully as it might deserve. In speaking of the subject, I will only say that the strongest feeling by which I was impressed upon reading the papers connected with it, and I have read them carefully, was the hope that history may be as lenient to us in regard to that transaction as we have been to ourselves. But, declining to open up that large question, I shall proceed to deal with facts about which there can be no dispute. In the year 1856, the treaty which the East India Company asserted was the treaty regulating our relations with the King of Oude, was a treaty made in 1801, which contained a clause guaranteeing to the Vizier, his heirs and successors, the possession of their territories, together with the free exercise of their authority within their dominions. In the year 1856, however, the East India Company considering that the kingdom of Oude was misgoverned, deemed that that misgovernment conferred upon them the right, I do not say whether justly or unjustly, to annex that territory to our possessions in India. How did they carry that right into effect? Substantially by means of conquest. A Commissioner was sent to Oude. A body of British troops crossed the Ganges. A treaty was presented to the King, who refused to sign the treaty; and he was consequently dethroned, his palace taken possession of, his property sold, his Ministers either made prisoners or held to bail. I do not say whether this was right or wrong—I will assume it to be right. But I still confidently ask whether the case of Oude was one of voluntary submission or of simple conquest and annexation? My answer to the question is that our relations with Oude were relations of conquest. All that was done there was done under protest, and that protest continued until the Sepoy revolt broke out. The people of Oude, which was under a forced submission, taking advantage of that rebellion, made war against England—war, I admit, stained by bloody and barbarous crimes, but still war. By the valour of our troops, poured into the country, the skill and energy of our Commander in Chief—and I cheerfully and gratefully add, by the skill and energy of Lord Canning—by the heroism almost unparalleled of small handfuls of men, aye, and women, who maintained their position in the country until our troops arrived—by all these means the contest in India has resulted in decisive, and I trust, a lasting victory. But, now that we are victorious, let me ask what is the policy which as victors we ought to pursue? I am prepared to declare what that policy should be upon the broad grounds of justice. But first let me examine the question upon the narrower grounds of prudence and self-interest. Do you mean to hold Oude? If so, how do you propose to effect that ob- ject? Is it by the aid of a standing army? You may achieve your end in that way, but its attainment will cost you dear. Do you desire the willing and cheerful submission of the people of Oude? How can you procure that submission? Is it not an important clement in the question to gain the good will of the landowners of that country? A child could answer that question. Which of two things do you do, let me ask—provoke hostility, or conciliate good-will by taking from them that which they hold dearer than their lives? Let us go a step further. Do you desire to put down the mutiny of the Sepoys? Of course you do. Then it follows naturally that you must also desire to prevent the Sepoys from taking refuge and obtaining support in neighbouring States. Where is it most likely that they would obtain that support which would enable them again to make head against us? In the kingdom of Oude. If we have the people of Oude in our favour, they will assist us in beating down and delivering up those Sepoys who may take refuge in their country; but if you alienate the feelings of that people, the consequence is easy to foresee; you will throw them into the arms of the Sepoys—they will combine with the Sepoys, and you will have in that distant and separate territory to crush and to subdue, not merely the Natives of the territory, but also the Sepoys, who will certainly assemble there. Therefore, I say, upon the lowest ground of self-interest and policy, it is for the advantage of this country to conciliate the affections of the people of Oude. But I desire to rest the case on broader grounds than these. Whatever other nations may do, England ought not to retrograde from those laws of war which civilization has introduced. How, then, upon the principles of justice and the practice of civilized nations, which this country is bound to observe, ought we to treat the property of a conquered people? My proposition is this—you make war with kings and Governments, but not with individuals. If in the course of war individuals commit crimes, they put themselves beyond the pale of that rule; but, except as to such cases, every individual is entitled to protection of life and property from the victorious nation. You might as well confiscate the lives of the conquered as their property. Are there not the highest authorities or precedents upon this point? The matter is so clear that really I am almost ashamed to ask the House to listen to the opinion of one or two great authorities upon this question. But let me read to you what the greatest civilian of the last century—Vattel—says. The Swiss civilian says:—
Those are the words of a writer who lived 100 years ago. I will now quote you the opinion of a distinguished writer of modern times. Dr. Wheaton says:—"But if the entire State be conquered, if the nation be subdued, in what manner can the victor treat it without transgressing the bounds of justice? What are his rights over the conquered country? Some have dared to advance this monstrous principle, that the conqueror is absolute master of his conquest—that he may dispose of it as his property—that he may treat it as he pleases, according to the common expression of treating a State as a conquered country; and hence they derive one of the sources of despotic Government. But, disregarding such writers, who reduce men to the state of transferable goods or beasts of burden, who deliver them np as the property or partrimony of another man, let us argue on the principles countenanced by reason and conformable to humanity."
This is a question upon which the practice and views of other countries are also worthy of our attention. The House is aware that questions affecting the law of nations frequently come before the Supreme Court in America, and that Court is one from which we derive the most valuable information concerning national and international law. That Court, then, has said this:—"In ancient times both the moveable and unmoveable property of the vanquished passed to the conqueror. Such was the Roman law of war, often asserted with unrelenting severity, and such was the fate of the Roman provinces subdued by the northern barbarians on the decline and fall of the Western Empire. A large portion, from one to two thirds, of the lands belonging to the vanquished provincials was confiscated and partitioned among their conquerors. The last example in Europe of such a conquest was that of England by William of Normandy. Since that period, among the civilized nations of Christendom, conquest, even when confirmed by a treaty of peace, has been followed by no general or partial transmutation of landed property. The property belonging to the Government of the vanquished nations passes to the victorious State; which also takes the place of the former Sovereign in respect to the eminent domain. In other respects, private rights are unaffected by conquest."
The hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Serjeant Deasy) has given us his views upon this subject. He has told us that, whatever might be the principle, we had precedents, and precedents, too, in relation to India, from which Lord Canning had not departed. I deny that position, and I think I can soon justify my denial. The hon. and learned Member read us a Proclamation of Lord Dalhousie. That Proclamation is in the memory of the House; and what did that Proclamation state? Lord Dalhousie said, "If you, the zemindars and landowners, come in and submit to the new Government your rights to all your lands shall be protected." Sir, if Lord Canning had said this, I should have found no fault with his Proclamation. But, says the hon. and learned Gentleman, Sir Charles Napier did not follow that rule. Now, we have a history of what was done by Sir Charles Napier, and what does his brother say:—"The modern usage of nations, which has become law, would be violated, that sense of justice and of right which is acknowledged and felt by the whole civilized world would be outraged, if private property should be generally confiscated and private rights annulled. The people changed their allegiance; their relation to their ancient Sovereign is dissolved; but their relations to each other and their rights of property remain undisturbed."
Would be confirmed in what?—"While his cannon still resounded on the banks of the Indus, he had made known that all persons, whether of high or low degree, were confirmed for the time, and would be so permanently, according to their behaviour"—[ironical cheers]—
there is no behaviour here—"In the employments they held under the Ameers—[cheers and laughter]—and that all their rights and possessions would"—
Well, but says the hon, and learned Member, at all events the people of Oude were not entitled to the rights of war and conquest. Those rights were out of the question for them. They were rebels; they were mutineers; and any man connected with the Government of this country or of India who should hint that they are anything but rebels and mutineers is false to his country and a traitor to the interests of Great Britain. Now, whom will the hon. and learned Member accept as a judge of the condition of the people of Oude? Will he take the Directors of the East India Company? Certainly they have not combined to state the case of the people of Oude more favourably for that people than was absolutely necessary; but there has been placed upon the table of the House to-night, and will be in the hands of Members to-morrow, a despatch from the Court of Directors to the Governor General, dated the 5th of this month, from which, if the House will permit me, I will read two paragraphs which contain the views of the Court of Directors as to the position of the people of Oude. Let the House remember that the hon. and learned Member for Cork says the people of Oude are rebels—it is not fair war they are waging, but it is mutiny and rebellion. Now, what says the Court of Directors?"Be safe from confiscation, save those of the people who, contrary to the faith of nations, had assailed the Residency."
That was treason when Lord Ellenborough suggested it."In dealing with the people of Oude, you will doubtless be moved by special considerations of justice and of policy. Throughout the recent contest we have ever regarded such of the inhabitants of that country as, not being Sepoys or pensioners of our own army, have been in arms against us as an exceptional class. They cannot be considered as traitors nor even as rebels, for they have not pledged their fidelity to us, and they had scarcely become our subjects. Many, by the introduction of a new system of government, had necessarily been deprived of the maintenance which they had lately enjoyed, and others feared that the speedy loss of their means of subsistence would follow from the same cause."
When an excuse was made for the rising in arms of the people of Oude in a despatch, it is attached by this Resolution, and we are told it was a betrayal of the interests of the country; but what is it when the Court of Directors speak of it?"It was natural that such persons should avail themselves of the opportunity presented by the distracted state of the country to strike a blow for the restoration of that Native rule under which the permitted disorganization of the country had been so long to them a source of unlawful profit."
That is one paragraph of the despatch. I am fearful of wearying the House; but there is another paragraph which I would wish to read:—"Neither the disbanded soldiers of the late Native Government, nor the great talookdars and other retainers, were under any obligation of fidelity to our Government for benefits conferred upon them. You would be justified, therefore, in dealing with them as you would with a foreign enemy, and in ceasing consider objects of punishment after they have once laid down their arms."
I say that that is a statesmanlike and manly despatch. It meets the case fairly, and it tells the truth. These men in Oude were not rebels, and it would be injustice to deal with them as rebels. The Court of Directors say, provided only they lay down their arms and become peaceable subjects, the holding of their lands shall not be disturbed. I put it to the House to say which is the truer description, which is the wiser and the juster policy. I have heard it asked—I do not think I have heard it in this debate, but it has been said so often that I think it well to refer to it—what could Lord Canning have done? Could he say to men who were in arms that he would preserve to them intact their rights of property? I say, "No; of course not." He should have said what Lord Dalhousie said,—"If you lay down your arms, and become peaceable subjects, promising allegiance to our rule, it is not with you we have made war, and you are safe." And if the Proclamation had been couched in language such as that, I venture to think no Government would have objected to it. But the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cork County, who seconded this Motion, has suggested a theory with regard to this Proclamation, which I cannot pass over. The right hon. Gentleman says, "It is altogether a mistake to suppose that Lord Canning's Proclamation was addressed to the people of Oude or that it interferes with what we call the rights of property. It is, in truth, he says, merely dealing with high and abstruse feudal and baronial rights, which have been a great curse to the country. But, suppose it were true that the Proclamation only meddled with feudal and baronial rights, I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman what difference he makes between a feudal right and any other species of right. He may think it an injurious thing to the country; but if it is a right of property, owned by the people of the country, high or low, I desire to know whether he can justify confiscation of that as distinguished from the confiscation of any other kind of property. The supposition, however, that this proclamation meddles only with "feudal and baronial rights," is entirely without foundation. There is no shadow of a pretence for such a theory. To whom is it addressed? Is it to the talookdars and chiefs alone? On the contrary, it is addressed to the landowners of Oude. Moreover, what is to be confiscated? Why, the proprietary right in the soil of the province." But what is the proprietary right in the soil? Why, Sir, it is the right of property in the soil: it includes the right of the tenant, the right of the farmer, the right of the middleman, the right of the owner of the land, and feudal and baronial rights; and all these rights are confiscated. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to point out a single word in this Proclamation which preserves to any man, except the six persons mentioned in it, any sort of right or property. Well, Sir, I now come to that part of the Motion which censures the condemnation by the Government of the policy of this Proclamation. What are the facts as to this? There comes to tins country the draft of a Proclamation which Lord Canning says he is about to issue as soon as the troops are in possession of Lucknow, an event which he expected to occur without delay. It comes home without the modifying clause which was afterwards introduced, and which I think every one will see was introduced by the hand of the Chief Commissioner. It came home without explanation. It was accompanied, so far as the Board of Control were concerned, with nothing but a letter from the Secretary to the Government of India at Calcutta to the Chief Commissioner at Oude, which appeared therefore to be the whole of the explanation which Lord Canning desired to give. Now let us consider for a moment what are the functions of the Home Government with regard to the Government of India. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) says you have paralysed the arm of the Governor General. The Governor General sends important information to the Government at home on a question of great interest. Is it the province of the latter to pronounce an opinion on them or not? If the Home Government is to give no opinion, the right hon. Gentleman may be right; but if the Government is to give an opinion, I say, I, for one, should have been ashamed to be connected with any Government which allowed a single mail to pass after this Proclamation was received without writing to the Governor General and stating explicitly and distinctly their views in regard to the policy contained in it. Sir, this was a case in which there was not a moment to be lost; nor was it one in which there could be any shrinking from the right through a fear of hurting the feelings of the Governor General. I respect Lord Canning as much as any man in this House respects him. Lord Canning is a man whose kind and considerate nature and whose upright and simple mind are such, that no person who has, however distantly, been an observer of them, can have any other feelings towards him than those of profound respect and considerable admiration; but when the destinies of a country are threatened—when the fortunes of 5,000,000 of people are at stake—all considerations that are merely personal must give way. This part of the subject lies in the smallest possible compass, and with it the right hon. Gentleman has not grappled. Was the Proclamation right or was it wrong? If the Proclamation was right the censure was wrong. And if the Proclamation was wrong the censure was right. I care not who the Governor General was, or what his past services may have been. I say here was a case in which a specific act was proposed to the Home Government. It was their duty to express an opinion on it. They have expressed that opinion, and as I maintain they have expressed it rightly. Sir, I now come to the third and smallest part of the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution—that which refers to the publication of the despatch by the Home Government. On that part of the case my views shall be shortly and distinctly stated. I hold that it was the duty of any Government, the fact that the Proclamation having been published and become known to the people of England, to express in some form or other their opinion of the policy of that Proclamation, whether it was right or wrong. I repeat it was wholly impossible for any Government—the Proclamation having once been made public—to refuse to declare the views they entertained in respect to the policy propounded in it. This was not a question of foreign negotiation or diplomatic correspondence, in which it is a custom—a custom which some Members of the House of Commons consider a vicious one—for a Minister to say it would be inconsistent with the public advantage to reveal the different stages of a transaction which was still pending. This was a transaction completed and done. The Proclamation was published; the House of Commons was assembled; Ministers were in their places, liable to be called upon—and they were called upon—to say aye or no to "what is your line of policy on that Proclamation—do you approve of it or do you not?" The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) is mistaken in some of the facts which he has stated to the House. He said—inadvertently no doubt—but unfortunately for the argument he has endeavoured to sustain. He has stated, for example, that the Government had made a declaration disapproving of the whole policy of Lord Canning. Sir, the Government never did anything of the kind. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) rose in his place in this House, and put this question to the Government, "A Proclamation has been issued confiscating the property of the kingdom of Oude; does Her Majesty's Government approve of that Proclamation or does it not? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to that question, said, "Her Majesty's Government disapproves of the confiscation of the property of Oude (that is to say, of the policy indicated in the Proclamation) in every sense." Sir, I hope I may say, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that they do disapprove of it still "in every sense." There are only two senses in which it can be approved of or disapproved of—the sense of justice and the sense of expediency. In both senses my right hon. Friend stated that he disapproved of that part of Lord Canning's policy, and that alone. In both of these senses the Government disapproved of it, and I hope the House will affirm their decision. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite says, that in addition to the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer there is the publication of the despatch, and that, notwithstanding the resignation of Lord Ellenborough, the whole Government is responsible for that act. Now, what are the facts with reference to that publication? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) gave notice of his Motion before the resignation of Lord Ellenborough. The noble Earl himself has, with that frankness and high honour which is not one of the smallest of his characteristics, stated "in another place" what the facts connected with the production of that despatch were. The noble Earl has stated that the Secretary of the Board of Control did by his directions promise to lay upon the table of the House a copy of the despatch sent to Lord Canning in consequence of his Proclamation. Another noble Earl, a personal friend of Lord Canning, with justifiable haste, applied in "another place" to Lord Ellenborough for a copy of the despatch. Lord Ellenborough yielded to the entreaty of the noble Earl, and at the same time with a spirit of fairness and impartiality, which I am sure the House will appreciate, he thought it proper that that Member of this House, who had put the question to my right hon. Friend, should have the same advantage as that afforded to the noble Earl who applied for the despatch elsewhere. This led to the production of the despatch in this House; but hon. Members will remember that this was done without any other Member of the Government having been consulted on the subject. These two copies of the despatch were thus, in point of fact, made public. They were in possession of individuals not bound to secrecy, and the moment the despatch came into their hands they became to all intents and purposes public. Therefore, the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) was strictly right when he said that he alone, and no other Member of the Government, was a party to the publication of the despatch. In other respects the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Motion has not been quite correct. The right hon. Gentleman, reproducing an old joke of my right hon. Friend near me, which, though a good one, is not in point at the present moment, asked if this was "a Government of limited liability?" and proceeded to advert to what was done in the case of the Government of Lord Aberdeen. He said a Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government resigned; but that notwithstanding this, his right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said his resignation ought not to shelter the other Members of the Government from responsibility. But is there the slightest resemblance or analogy between the present case and that which occurred in Lord Aberdeen's Government? I do not desire to enter into the merits of that question; but I may observe that it had reference to a matter in which every Member of the Government was responsible for a policy pursued which had been pursued for months, if not years. Of course, when any Member of the Government was loaded with the responsibility of that policy, it was in vain to say that when one Member retired the whole responsibility incurred by the others was wiped away. It was not a case in which the responsibility could be thrown upon one Member of the Government only. But the present is the instance of a single and specific Act, and the noble Earl avows that on him lies the whole responsibility. He has said, "Alone I did it;" and the publication of the despatch being exclusively and solely his act, it was for him to tender to Her Majesty his resignation, in order that the great merits of this case might be considered apart from the petty questions that have arisen out of that publication. But then, the right hon. Gentleman says, at all events I find the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the head of the Government contradicting each other; because the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in this House yesterday that the Cabinet, had they known of Lord Ellenborough's intended resignation, would have pressed him not to do so; while Lord Derby in another house said he felt bound to accept the noble Earl's resignation. But was this the true state of the case? What Lord Derby said was, that Lord Ellenborough had sent in his resignation to Her Majesty before he communicated his intention to his colleagues, and that it was in vain, after he had done so—after his resignation was in the hands of Her Majesty—for his colleagues to discuss the question whether they would have accepted or declined that resignation. Why, the object of Lord Ellenborough was to prevent that very question being considered. If he had said to his colleagues, "I desire to resign my office," as a matter of course they would have said, "We decline to accept your resignation, and whatever responsibility you have incurred we will without hesitation share it with you." But when his resignation was in the hands of Her Majesty it was irrevocable; and it was in order that it might be irrevocable that Lord Ellenborough placed it in Her Majesty's hand before communicating with his colleagues. Therefore, looking at all the circumstances of the case the House will see that the statement of Lord Derby and my right hon. Friend on this subject were precisely on all points alike. But at all events, says the right hon. Gentleman, your course ought to have been different with regard to Lord Canning. You ought, says the right hon. Gentleman, to have recalled him. The hon. Member for Cork says you should have either recalled him, or written him a despatch requesting hint to mitigate the severity of the Proclamation in practice, and not addressed Mtn in the terms which have been employed. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to go over the despatch he will find that the very thing he has suggested has been done, and that Lord Canning was recommended in the despatch to mitigate in practice the severity of his Proclamation. Then, as to the recall of Lord Canning, there were manifest reasons why that course could not have been taken, even if the Government had desired it. Had the fall of Lucknow been delayed, the despatch would probably have reached Lord Canning in time to prevent the Proclamation being issued at all; but there was every reason to believe that Lord Canning would on reflection and advice have seen good grounds of himself to modify the Proclamation before it was published; and, in point of fact, a modification was, we believe, introduced into the Proclamation before it was published. I ask the House whether it was not a reasonable and proper ground of hope on the part of the Government in this country that with such men around Lord Canning as Sir John Lawrence, Sir James Outram, General Mansfield, and others who might be named—men well acquainted with Oude—he would have been induced to take the view which the Government hold on this subject, and to consider in that aspect the question of the Proclamation? But then the right hon. Gentleman says, "Why did you not wait for an explanation?" and the hon. and learned Gentleman asks the same question. They say, "Why were you so precipitate? Why did you not suppose that after Proclamation of this kind an explanation would be forthcoming?" Well, Sir, I think there is one circumstance, and one only, which might have led to some delay and postponement, important as the case was, of the despatch sent out to Lord Canning. If Lord Canning had sent home to the President of the Board of Control a statement that if an explanation had not come with the Proclamation an explanation might shortly be expected, the publication, and probably the writing of that despatch, might well have been delayed. And I now, Sir, approach a part of this subject which has, I own, filled me with painful surprise. We have had all the facts of the case from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith), and I must say that if there is one man in this House of whom Lord Canning has reason to complain, it is the colleague and friend of Lord Canning, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton. And what is the statement the right hon. Gentleman gave us? I believe I remember the words. The right hon. Gentleman told us that Lord Canning sent him a letter, in which he said—"I am about to issue a Proclamation to the landholders of Oude. I am anxious to send home a full explanation, but I have been so occupied that I have hitherto been unable to do so." Now, that implied that such an explanation would come by the next mail. What was the meaning of this passage? It was very short, but very significant. It meant, "I am about to issue a Proclamation, which will be sent home in draught and sent to you. You are the President of the Board of Control. It is a Proclamation requiring explanation. I have an explanation to give. I wished to give it by this mail, but give me credit—trust me—put confidence in me—the explanation will come by the next mail, and in the meanwhile consider me as one who has got an explanation to give." The right hon. Gentleman did not himself imagine—he cannot to this moment imagine—he wonders that any one should imagine—he does not believe that any one does imagine that these words of Lord Canning were or could by any artifice be shown to be of the slightest importance, or that they ought to be made known to the head of the Government of India in this country. But he did think them of sufficient importance to consult the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and he and the noble Lord met in conclave on this despatch. Two ex-Ministers of England received a despatch from the Governor General of India adverting to a State Proclamation. They considered the statements that he made in that letter. The right lion. Gentleman says he consulted the noble Lord. [Mr. VERNON SMITH: I never said any such thing.] I am very sorry if I have misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman. I thought he said he consulted the noble Lord, but he no doubt said he showed or read the letter to the noble Lord. Now I want to know for what purpose he showed it to the noble Lord. It could not be from its importance, because the right hon. Gentleman says it was of no importance. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us during the course of this debate what his motive was for showing it to the noble Lord. At present we have this singular fact—that the right hon. Gentleman received a letter—a private letter, if you will, but addressed to those eyes that the draught of the Proclamation was also addressed to—which the right hon. Gentleman considered of so much importance that he showed it to the late Prime Minister, but which was not of sufficient importance to be shown to the President of the Board of Control. Now, Sir, I must say a word on the theory of private letters. As regards the heads of all the Government departments of the State they must no doubt receive a great number of private letters from the Colonies, from our dependencies, and from legations abroad from those with whom they are on intimate terms. I quite admit the necessity for these letters. These letters are not to be displayed to clerks, and they are, to a great extent, private and confidential communications. If a letter of this kind contains matters really relating to private affairs it is not incumbent on the Minister who may have resigned office to hand it over to his successor; but I say it is incumbent upon him to extract from such a letter anything relating to public affairs which had been addressed to that Minister on the supposition that he still continued to be a Minister. Now, whatever the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord arranged, it virtually comes to this—that they intercepted that letter. Well, Sir, what may be the observation of Lord Canning upon this matter I do not know; but if I were in his position my observation would be something of this kind:—"Well, I had a friend, as I thought, in England, who was formerly my colleague. He was the President of a Department with which I had the closest relation, and being my friend and late colleague, I wrote to him on private affairs. At the same time I sent him one of the most important State papers that I had issued during the whole course of my government in India; but I was so much occupied when I did so that I could not send him the explanation with which it ought to be accompanied; but in a note written to him under the impression that he was still Minister, I stated that an ex- planation would follow. My friend, my late colleague, put the letter into his pocket. He knew that the Proclamation was in the hands of the Government of the day, and that they had read it without the explanation; but he dissevered the Proclamation from the explanation, and allowed days and weeks to pass, and the Government to believe that no explanation of the Proclamation would he given. These circumstances have given me the utmost grief and pain, and I may thank for it all my friend." Sir, I have gone through the right hon. Gentleman's charges against the Government, which are reduced to the charge of writing and the charge of publishing the despatch. The charge for publishing it has fallen to the ground. The charge for writing it depends upon the higher and broader question of the policy of the Proclamation. On this question, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman and myself are at direct and positive issue. He appeals to the House to be silent—I appeal to the House not to be silent. I appeal to them on behalf of the dearest interests of this country and of India—on behalf of 5,000,000 of people—who may be misguided, misgoverned, and even barbarous, but who are men, with like passions, feelings, perceptions, and prejudices as ourselves. I appeal to the House in the cause of humanity and justice. I make that appeal to the British House of Commons, to which that appeal never has been, and never will be, made in vain. Do not let this go forth as a matter of doubt, or as a matter to be slurred over by a captious and catching Motion, prepared by a cabal, to embarrass and displace a Ministry. Tell it out by your vote, in terms neither vague nor indistinct, to the people of India that you desire submission, and not spoliation—that the war we wage is the war of nations, and not the war of freebooters—that England knows how to make war and conquer, but also knows how to treat those who are conquered—that she offers to those who are conquered and who submit to her arms that protection for their lives and property which will be the best earnest to them of the mildness of the rule which the fate of battles has assigned to them. Sir, if ever there was a time at which it was necessary that our policy with regard to India should be clear and distinct, it is the present. We are upon the point of transferring the government of India from the Company to the Queen. In the course of the discussions in this House upon the subject of our past Government of that country some confessions have been made which you may rely on it have not escaped the attention of the people of India. There was a confession made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor (Sir G. C. Lewis), which I heard, I must say, with respectful amazement. The right hon. Gentleman the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of the Crown who was advocating the Bill which was introduced into Parliament to transfer the government of India to the Queen, was speaking of the past Government of that country. It is true he was speaking of the Government prior to the year 1784, but at a time when not the most insignificant parts of our acquisitions in India were made. The right hon. Gentleman said:—"Of these arms they must for ever be deprived. You will, doubtless, in prosecution of this object, address yourself in the first instance to the case of the great talookdars, who so successfully defied the late Government, and many of whom, with large bodies of armed men, appear to have aided the efforts of the mutinous soldiery of the Bengal army. The destruction of the fortified strongholds of these powerful landholders, the forfeiture of their remaining guns, the disarming and disbanding of their followers will be among your first works. But while you are depriving this influential and once dangerous class of people of their power of openly resisting your authority, you will, we have no doubt, exert yourselves by every possible means to reconcile them to British rule, and encourage them, by liberal arrangements made in accordance with ancient usages, to become industrious agriculturists, and to employ in the cultivation of the soil the men who, as armed retainers, have so long wasted the substance of their masters and desolated the land. We believe that these landholders may be taught that their holdings will be more profitable to them under a strong Government, capable of maintaining the peace of the country and severely punishing agrarian outrages, than under one which perpetually invites, by its weakness, the ruinous arbitration of the sword."
Sir, in this sentiment I, for one, do not concur; but, at all events, let there be no mistake with respect to our future Government. Let us tell the people of India that we are not ashamed to confess that we offer them mercy and justice, and not spoliation; that the war which we wage against them is a war consistent with mercy and justice, and not made for the sake of plunder; and that no faction and no intrigue will tempt the House of Commons even for a moment to lay themselves open to the suspicion that the dynasty we are about to introduce into India is to be a dynasty of reckless, ruthless, and indiscriminate confiscation."I do most confidently maintain that no civilized Government ever existed on the face of this earth which was more corrupt, more perfidious, and more rapacious than the Government of the East India Company from the years 1765 to 1784."
I hope, Sir, that the admiration which the House very naturally feels, and in which I cordially concur, for the eloquent speech of the learned Solicitor General will not draw them away from the main merits of the question which we have to discuss this evening. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in forcible language, has endeavoured to persuade the House of Commons that it is their duty, on a Motion which expressly excludes from their consideration the merits of the Proclamation of the Governor General in India with regard to Oude—without having the document before them, and in the absence of the reasons which its author is about to lay before the Government and people of this country as a justification of it—to pronounce a condemnation of that Proclamation. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, "We are called upon to censure the despatch of the Government; that despatch has relation to the Proclamation of the Governor General, and therefore to censure the despatch is to approve the Proclamation." Of course, vice versâ, to approve the despatch is to censure the Proclamation. That is the way the right hon. Gentleman puts it; but is he not raising a totally irrelevant issue? It is an issue which may be worth discussing, but is it the issue which we are come to-night to try? Let us test it and we shall see. The Motion, in the way it is framed, is undoubtedly a condemnation of Her Majesty's Government. Will the approbation or condemnation of Lord Canning's Proclamation tend to show us how to vote with regard to condemning or absolving Her Majesty's Government? My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) is not so unjust as to ask the House of Commons to condemn Her Majesty's Government because upon an important and difficult point of State policy they differ in opinion from the Governor General of India. Her Majesty's Government have a right to their opinion as well as the Governor General; and though it may not be that of a majority of this House—and I, for one, most certainly differ from them—it would be the height of injustice for any one to call on the House to censure the Government merely for sending out a despatch disapproving a particular line of policy which the Governor General may have adopted, or any Proclamation which he may have issued with regard to Oude. Is that the question before us? Are not the words of the Motion, regretting, not that Her Majesty's Government sent a despatch, but that they sent it couched in strong terms? It is the tenor, the scope of the despatch, the manner in which the Governor General is treated, that the House is called upon to censure, and not the fact of its being in accordance with or adverse to the opinion of the Governor General. Therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman has led us a will-o'-the-wisp chase in asking us to go into the merits of this, which is a question pointedly excluded in the Motion, because we cannot decide it to-day, and because the author of the production has not had an opportunity of laying his reasons for issuing it before the House. When those reasons are before us, let us by all means discuss that question, and come to a conclusion upon it. Till then I submit, on the clearest grounds, that justice forbids us to condemn the meanest person, much more a great officer of State like the Governor General of India, in his absence; till then we are bound to abstain from expressing an opinion upon the Proclamation, and if the Motion could not be supported without pronouncing an opinion upon it, I, for one, would not support it at all. But that is not the case. Consider the agony and anxiety which, for more than a year, Lord Canning has had to endure. Consider the depressing nature of the climate, the fears by which he must have been nightly surrounded; the responsibility for everything resting upon his head, and his head alone, and then think of the conduct of a Government which could address to him a despatch couched in language like this! When Lord Canning receives this despatch—for he has not yet received it—
he must feel as if a quicksand opened under his feet. What is he to rest upon? Whom is he to trust? The elephant rests upon the tortoise, but what does the tortoise rest upon? Succeeding to the government of India after the annexation of Oude, Lord Canning naturally thinks he is bound to take up matters where he found them, and to carry on the government of Oude upon the hypothesis, whether right or wrong, that what had been done, had been well and rightly done. Entertaining that opinion, he has taken certain measures in regard to Oude. He announces the confiscation of proprietary rights in that province. But why? Because on the 11th of February, 1856, the Commissioner of Oude, in taking possession of that country for the East India Company, announced, "that if any one should refuse to render obedience, withhold payment of revenue, or dispute or defy the authority of the British Government, he should be declared a rebel, his person seized, and his property confiscated to the State." "Confiscated" is the very word. No doubt, Lord Canning, when he read that document, thought he had sufficient authority upon which to ground his proclamation. It might be wise or unwise to take this step, but could Lord Canning suppose he had to do with a Government at home who would scan his actions from a point of view anterior to the annexation of Oude, and say—"We disapprove, not merely in reference to expediency, your Proclamation at the present moment, but because we are of opinion that Oude, which was annexed before you became Governor General, should never have been annexed at all?" Could he suppose that such was the support which, in a position of unexampled difficulty and responsibility, Her Majesty's advisers would render him? It is for doing all that can be done to break down the mind and intimidate the purpose of the Governor General—it is for raising a question against him, as still open, which he was bound by his official duty to treat as closed—it is for such acts of censure as those, and not merely for differing from the opinions expressed by the Governor General in his Proclamation, that this Motion expresses condemnation of the Government."Dedecus ille domûs sciet ultimus"—
Mark the irony and the hostile sneer conveyed in this passage—"We dethroned," says the despatch, "the King of Oude, and took possession of his kingdom, by virtue of a treaty, which had been subsequently modified by another treaty, under which, had it been held to be in force, the course we adopted could not have been lawfully pursued; but we held that it was not in force; although the fact of its not having been ratified in England, as regarded the provision on which we rely for our justification, had not been previously made known to the King of Oude."
We may easily imagine the feeling of indignation with which Lord Canning would read that unworthy language. It is not merely because the Government differed in opinion from Lord Canning, that the right hon. Member for Oxford calls on us to censure this despatch; it is because this despatch is highly unbecoming, insulting, and offensive in tone to a person who deserved other treatment at the hands of a Government which had but recently been obliged to withdraw a former over-hastily expressed censure. I do not know whether other Members were more fortunate, but, for myself, I confess that I was unable to discover whether the Solicitor General did or did not admit the responsibility of the Government for the publication of the despatch. I certainly thought I had fixed him at one time, because he said that as soon as the Proclamation became known, it was the duty of the Government to pronounce an opinion upon it; and I there- fore thought he was going to follow up this declaration with a convincing proof that they had done what he declared to be his duty. But I was mistaken, for the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say, that it was Lord Ellenborough who published the despatch, and that the rest of the Ministers knew nothing about it—so that we have a curious inequality of fortune—the Minister who does his duty is ejected, while the rest remain, because, on their Solicitor General's showing, they did not do theirs. The hon. and learned Gentleman would have us believe that the publication of the despatch was all Lord Granville's fault; that he became anxious about the cause of his friend, and wished to know what the despatch was; and that after a copy had been sent to him and to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), it naturally became impossible to keep it secret any longer. That may all be very true; but the hon. and learned Gentleman forgot to remark, that before the despatch was given to Lord Granville and the hon. Member for Birmingham, it had been published already by no less a person than the Chancellor of the Exchequer; because it is mere quibbling on words, to say, that if you tell all that is in a letter, or at least the worst of it, and do not produce the actual ink and paper, that therefore you do not publish it. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought fit to make that statement, the publication of the letter became, I will not say, inevitable, but at least far more difficult to avoid. In ordinary cases, when the worst had been told, it would have been a matter of indifference whether the actual terms of the letter were published; but it happened not to be in this case, because no one could have imagined that the language of that letter could have been such as it was, and that Her Majesty's Government, for their own purposes, would have constituted themselves missionaries and propagators of rebellion. I understand that Her Majesty's Government repudiate the act of the Earl of Ellenborough in publishing the despatch. In doing so they necessarily repudiate also the general doctrine that Cabinet Ministers are jointly and severally liable for each other's act. They sacrifice one to purchase perfect indemnity for the others. Certainly it is rather hard on Lord Ellenborough, whose destiny it seems to be to enact one by one all the characters of the Old Testament—first appearing as Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza, and now in the more melancholy predicament of Jonah. But there is a rule of law and common sense, that if you repudiate the acts of a person who is acting for you, you must repudiate as soon as you know of the act. You cannot stand by to take your chance of gaining something by it, if it turns out to be a success, but to repudiate it if it turns out badly. On Friday night last Lord Derby, in the other House, used these words—"We cannot but think that the precedent from which you have departed, will appear to have been conceived in a spirit of wisdom superior to that which appears in the precedent you have made."
That is to say, it would have been impossible for the Government when questioned, to abstain from communicating the substance of the despatch. If, indeed, it was impossible to abstain, who is to blame? Overbearing necessity is always a sufficient excuse, why then should Lord Ellenborough be sacrificed, and why should the Government seek to evade their responsibility. In the same speech the noble Earl says—"It would have been impossible that the Government, if questioned on the subject, could have abstained from expressing their opinion relative to the character and nature of this Proclamation."
If that is not an adoption of the publication of the despatch there is no force in language; and now because the public mind has not happened to demand exactly the kind of satisfaction which the noble Earl expected, he turns round and repudiates the publication. But he is as firmly fixed with approving and adopting that publication as is his leader of the House of Commons, who virtually published the contents of the despatches here. The hon. and learned Solictor General summoned to his assistance the letter of the East India Company with reference to the government of Oude, and he quotes it with the greatest unction as the strongest approval of the policy of the despatch; and certainly it does bear out the most decent and proper part of the letter addressed to Lord Canning. But the hon. and learned Gentleman is playing off the complicated machinery of Indian government against us a little too dexterously. Perhaps he does not know that, though one letter is addressed through the Secret Committee and the other through the Court of Directors, the Earl of Ellenborough is in fact solely responsible for both letters. So that it is in fact what is vulgarly called "Pig upon bacon." It is Lord Ellenborough in one capacity approving Lord Ellenborough in another. Lord Ellenborough in his character of correspondent with the Governor General endorsing himself as the President of the Board of Control. We certainly have a right, I think, to complain of the small quantity of knowledge and inquiry which is brought to the consideration of this most important subject in this grandiloquent despatch. It talks about the "disinherison of a people," about the attachment of the landowners to the soil," and their "sensitiveness with regard to the soil," and so on; but, considering the information we possess, I think it was rather too bad that the noble Earl should have expressed himself in such vague, general, and misleading terms. I will not offer a word of comment on what the Solicitor General has said with respect to the people of Oude, but I will read to the House a passage from a letter of Sir William Sleeman, written in 1850, which, as it is printed in a blue-book, was accessible to those who framed the despatch, and which is significant of the position of those sensitive gentlemen of whose rights we are to be so jealous. Sir William Sleeman was accounting for the permanent deficiency of 40 lacs in the revenue of Oude, the income being 100 lacs and the expenditure 140—a deficiency which arose, he said—"It may have been, I think it was, unfortunate that a question should suddenly have been asked the consegence of which has been the production of the letter; but it would have been impossible to satisfy the public mind that the Government of this country had not neglected their duty and the interests of humanity if they had allowed it to be supposed that they sanctioned or consented to the issue of that Proclamation."
Those are the persons who are spoken of in the despatch as the "people of Oude." But the question of any injury done to Lord Canning's feelings or dignity by this despatch sinks into utter insignificance when compared with the effects which this document must produce all over the vast continent of India. Coming from any other quarter, written by any other hand, produced under any other auspices than those of the responsible advisers of the Crown, I should not scruple to say that this is a treasonable document. I would not have hesitated to aver that the person who should disseminate among a large subject population a document calling into question the title of Her Majesty to her dominions, and alleging that what had been clone in her gracious name had been done by fraud, violence, and iniquity, is guilty not so much of a very considerable official blunder as of a great political crime; and if I had any doubts upon the subject those doubts would have been removed by the last sentence in the despatch, which says:—"From the growing strength of the great landholders, who have absorbed the greater part of the estates of their weaker neighbours, and employed their increasing rents in maintaining large bands of armed followers and building forts and strongholds, which enable them to withhold the just demands of the State. These weaker neighbours were the proprietors or holders of what is called the Khalsa or allodial lands, four-fifths of which have now been absorbed by the great landholders who do not pay to Government one-half of the rents which were paid for them by the allodial proprietors, and ought still to be paid for by them. The great landholders have taken these lands either by fraud and collusion with the local authorities or by open violence in utter contempt of such authorities. Secondly—From the large quantities of the most fertile lands in Oude which these landholders have converted into jungles around their strongholds, some of them extending over spaces from ten to twenty miles long, by from four to eight wide, on which no man dares to enter without their permission. These jungles and the strongholds they contain are dens of robbers who infest all parts of the country, defy the Government authorities, and impose intolerable taxes on all traders."
The previous part of the despatch accuses the British Government of being guilty of the grossest wrong to the people of Oude. Apply the principle, and what inference must be drawn by the people of Oude? They must infer, on the very highest authority in this country, that Government in Oude could not long be maintained by any force, and that, if it could, it was a consummation which was not to be desired. Who is it that holds that language? Is it Nana Sahib? Is it the emissaries of the King of Delhi? Is it some rebellious rajah? No; it is the Cabinet to whom the Governor General should look for countenance and support so long as he faithfully and honestly discharged his duty. We can allow for the madness of faction in this country; but what will the people of India think when such a document is sent out to them in the name of the only Sovereign whom they know? Would a man reason badly who said, "True, the Viceroys are against us, but the home authorities are with us. Wait a moment; we have friends in England stronger than these; these forces will be withdrawn and our rights will be restored; why should we lay down our arms before a Viceroy when the Queen is on our side?" Let the Government think anything they like about the Proclamation, but what can justify them in turning round in this way upon their own servant. Consider the effect which this despatch must have upon the army; think of the gallant blood which has been shed to reconquer that very place to maintain which the Government says would be a consummation not to be desired. Think of Havelock, and Neill, and Nicholson, and the many gallant men who have died on that service. Look a little further, and say if this is the way in which we are to keep together an empire on which the sun never sets. The Government of this country hitherto has shown that they were worthy of the vast empire which they govern by supporting their subordinates, so long as they act faithfully and honourably, in all quarters of the world. But who will act for them if they are to stigmatize the conduct of their agents in coarse invectives—if they are themselves to turn agitators, and are to assist to subvert the dominion which it should be their duty to maintain? I have spoken warmly, but I have lived in a colony, I know the necessity that there is for the Home Government to support the colonial authority, and I should be wanting in my duty as a Member of this House and as an honest man, if I did not say that a document such as this is absolutely subversive of all rule by this country beyond the limits of the little island in which we live. I have only one other word to say, and that is with respect to the future policy of the Government. The Government say they did not publish the despatch; it has been shown clearly enough that they did—but I waive that—it is well known that that document contains their sentiments. If that is so, what is to be the future policy of the Government with respect to India? Is it to be in accordance with the terms of the despatch, or is it not? If it be, to what end is any quibbling about the publication of the despatch—it is the manifesto of the Government, and by it they must abide. Argument is no more required. They must say "We had no right to conquer Oude: we will recall our troops, and will send back their King. We will inquire into the way in which every part of the Indian territory was acquired; we will give up the prestige of sovereignty; we no longer appear as the conquerors of India; we will withdraw our soldiers and will dismantle our fortresses." By such a course they will preserve their consistency, but they will lose an empire. But if that be not their policy, and if they in- tend to trample out the smouldering sparks of rebellion which still linger in Oude, what will they do with this despatch? Is it to remain on record as the transcript of their opinions, or is it to be cancelled? Doing what they do not think, and thinking what they do not do, are they to publish a despatch to the rebellious Natives of India on which they dare not act? If the Government intend to stand by that document, let them go into the same lobby with me and join in a vote of censure upon themselves; but if they do not, they are bound to make some ample and public reparation for its contents; for I maintain that the Government of a country like this and the publication of despatches such as the one in question can not possibly co-exist,"Government cannot long be maintained by any force in a country where the whole people is rendered hostile by a sense of wrong; and if it were possible so to maintain it it would not be a consummation to be desired."
said, that he had originally intended to move "the Previous Question," but after the able speech of the Solicitor General he thought that he should best discharge his duty by meeting the Motion by a direct negative. When he gave notice of his intention to move the Previous Question, he thought it desirable that they should have that full information which he presumed would arrive by this mail, and that explanation of his Proclamation which Lord Canning had promised in his private letter to the late President of the Board of Control, and which that right hon. Gentleman had most improperly kept back. He thought, however, that the House had now in its possession sufficient information to justify it in meeting the question under discussion with a direct negative. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), had said that the question before the House was not the Proclamation of Lord Canning but the despatch of Lord Ellenborough. It might suit the right hon. Gentleman very well to have it so; but he (Mr. Lindsay) thought the House could not give an opinion on the effect without inquiring into the cause; and it was the policy of the present Government with regard to India as embodied in the despatch, and the policy of Lord Canning as set forth in his Proclamation that had really to be inquired into. Now he for one could not give his support to the policy which was put forth in the Proclamation of Lord Canning, which was, he must say, in direct opposition to that course of justice tempered with mercy which that noble Lord had hitherto pursued. And why was this so? It might be that when, some months ago, a cry had been raised against the moderation which Lord Canning had evinced, a reprimand had been sent out to him by those who then occupied the Treasury benches, reminding hint that the policy of justice tempered by mercy was not suited to the feelings of the people of England, and that the result of that reprimand was to be found in the Oude Proclamation. That was a point upon which he should like to have such information as the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control could afford, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would deem it to be his duty to lay upon the table of the House any papers bearing upon the subject which might be in his possession. But, whatever might be the reasons for which the Proclamation of Lord Canning had been issued, the policy of confiscation which it embodied was one from which he (Mr. Lindsay) must express his entire dissent; while of the policy enunciated in the despatch of Lord Ellenborough, to the effect that he desired to see British authority in India resting upon the willing obedience of its people,—on their prosperity and contentment, which could not co-exist with confiscation—he entirely approved. The policy of confiscation he should maintain had been one of the chief causes of the recent mutiny in India, and as long as we continued to persevere in it, so long would we be compelled to uphold our authority at the point of the bayonet. In corroboration of his opinion, that the true way to govern India was to do all in our power to promote the happiness of her people, he might refer to a work which had been printed for private circulation, and which had been presented to him a short time ago by the widow of the author, Mr. H. St. George Tucker, a man who possessed the most intimate knowledge of Indian affairs, having been twenty-five years in India and twenty-five years an East India Director. In that work Mr. Tucker expressed his strong conviction that the best mode of ruling that country was by impressing its inhabitants with confidence in our good intentions and by a faithful adherence to our engagements. By pursuing that course alone, and not by the adoption of a system of confiscation, he (Mr. Lindsay) should contend, could we hope to render our dominion in India of advantage to her as well as beneficial to England; but if it were intended to hold India by force after the mutiny should be put down, new armies, equipped at all points, should be sent out without delay. But our true policy was to show that our government was for the benefit of the Natives and had for its object their elevation in every respect. Much had been said about the bad effects which Lord Ellenborough's despatch was calculated to produce upon the minds of the people of India; but in his (Mr. Lindsay's) opinion the Proclamation of Lord Canning was calculated to operate far more injuriously, while, with respect to the anticipated resignation of the noble Lord, he might observe that when he (Viscount Canning) was informed that upon the subject of the explanation which he had promised to send home not the slightest intimation had been given to the present Government, he might be disposed to look upon the despatch which had been sent out to him in quite a different light from that which, under other circumstances, would have been the case. He might very naturally say to himself, "If that intimation had been given to Lord Ellenborough this despatch would never have been written, or, if written, would have been couched in different language." He would wait until lie heard from his right hon. Friend, that he had acquainted the Government with the fact that an explanation of the despatch would be subsequently sent. But he would ask—was it the good of India or the love of office which had prompted his right hon. Friend to bring forward this question? If the latter, he 0(Mr. Lindsay) as a Liberal, did not want the Whigs back on those benches again. But whenever the right hon. Gentleman, and those who supported him, were prepared to adopt liberal views, then they would have his best support. When he saw them making no movement for reform the Whigs might call themselves his leaders; but they were not in reality so; in fact, he felt more nearly allied to the Tories than to the Whigs, so little was the difference between them. The Tories had granted a great many more measures of a liberal character than ever could have been got out of the Whigs. He should, without reference to the men, but looking solely to measures, give his support to that policy which had been laid down by Lord Ellenborough that, while we maintained our rights as rulers and demanded all that in justice we were entitled to, it was our duty to temper that justice with mercy in favour of the people of India.
, in rising to move an Amendment of which he had given notice, said, that having travelled in India some years ago, and taken a deep interest in the country, he should venture to claim the indulgence of the House while he briefly addressed it upon a subject with which experience and reading had made him familiar. The able and eloquent speech of the learned Solicitor General had, indeed, left little for the supporters of Lord Ellenborough's policy to say; but he asked the indulgence of the House while he stated the motives which had induced him to place on the Paper the Notice which stood in his name:—
It occurred to him that there was no logical sequence in the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), and that it was unfair and unjust to ask the House of Commons to pronounce an opinion on the effect of Lord Ellenborough's despatch, and to preclude them at the same time from discussing the Proclamation which was the cause of that despatch. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had spoken of the electric effect which the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the effect that the Government disapproved the policy indicated in the Proclamation of the Governor General "in every sense," produced in London on the night on which it was made. But that electric feeling in those who experienced it did not spring from any interest which they took in the people of India or of Oude. On the contrary, he (Lord A. Vane-Tempest) believed—and he thought a great number of Members of that House shared in the opinion—the feeling originated with certain ex-Ministers, who thought they had discovered the means of ejecting the Government from office. A similar electric feeling was produced in the public mind at the last dissolution of Parliament, when an attempt was made to induce the people to suppose that the opposition to the Government was carried on by a political party who sympathized with Yeh and the Chinese. He supposed the same discreditable system would be resorted to on this occasion, and an attempt would be made to bamboozle the people by telling them that the party in power had a sympathy for the mutineers in India. When General Havelock was obliged to retire from Lucknow, the celebrated clemency Proclamation of Lord Canning was issued; when we had succeeded in obtaining possession of Lucknow, the Proclamation of confiscation was issued. By this policy of Lord Canning, it might be said, that when we were in a situation of difficulty and danger, our Government was cringing and submissive; and when we were in power, we were cruel and tyrannical. To his great surprise, the hon. and learned Member for Cork County (Mr. Deasy) had contended that there was no principle of confiscation contained in the Proclamation of Lord Canning. The magnificent speech of the Solicitor General had disposed at once of that question. But did not Mr. Edmonstone, the Secretary to the Government of India, in his despatch to the Chief Commissioner of Oude, state that the Proclamation was addressed to the chiefs and inhabitants of Oude only, and not to the Sepoys; and that the Governor General believed that any Proclamation put forth in Oude in a liberal and forgiving spirit would be open to misconstruction, and capable of perversion? Did not Mr. Edmondstone also state that "the permission to return to their homes must not be considered as a reinstatement of them in the possession of their lands, for the deliberate disposal of which the Government will preserve itself unfettered?" And was it not clear that at Lucknow it was considered in that light, and no other? As there had been some discussion with regard to the influence and effect that the Proclamation would have on the people of Oude, he would read an extract from one of the letters of the correspondent of The Times in India—a writer from whom he differed on some points, but whose opinions were well entitled to the respect of the House. That gentleman said:—"That this House, in the present state of information, abstains from expressing an opinion on the policy of any Proclamation which may have been issued by the Governor General of India in relation to Oude, or on the course pursued by the Government with reference to such Proclamation."
He (Lord A. Vane Tempest) submitted that that was a pretty significant proof that the Proclamation of the Governor General, in the terms in which it was issued, could not be acted upon. Lord Ellenborough, in his despatch, had very truly said that the inhabitants of Oude would see only the Proclamation. The impressions they took from it would not be modified by any fine reasoning. They would simply look at the Proclamation that had been put forward for them to read, and they would feel at once that it was marked by a want of justice and equity. It was contrary to all precedent in cases of conquest. When Scinde was conquered and annexed, except in the case of the Ameers, the lands of the people were not confiscated. The result was that the inhabitants of Scinde had remained tranquil while other parts of India had been convulsed with rebellion and mutiny. Again, there was no confiscation in Gwalior, and the present ruler of Gwalior had maintained a friendly relationship towards us throughout the recent struggle. The Gwalior Contingent had consequently been kept in a state of inactivity during the most critical period of affairs, and our interests had thereby been most materially served. Again, all the landowners in the Punjab were confirmed in their possessions, and he asked if it was not the levies from the Punjab that had enabled them to maintain their possessions in India? He asked the House to take the course pursued in Scinde and Gwalior, which was the policy of Lord Ellenborough. It was not for him to eulogize that noble Lord, but he would refer to the words of Lord Derby in the other House, who spoke of his knowledge of Indian subjects, his long experience, and his utter abnegation of all personal feelings as rendering him an invaluable councillor in all Indian affairs. He was glad to hear the tones of regret with which Her Majesty's Government regarded the resignation of Lord Ellen-borough, and rejoiced at the bold and manly manner in which the Solicitor General had declared that the policy which Lord Ellenborough advocated was yet to be maintained. He could not but disapprove the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith) in withholding from his successor the letter he had received from Lord Canning, while he confided it to his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and he thought the right hon. Gentleman was the more bound to show that letter because no Minister had ever resorted so much as he did to private correspondence on public matters. The conduct of the Governor General they were bound to consider as a matter of policy, but they were also bound to take into consideration the possibility of carrying out his views. Sir William Sleeman described the people of Oude as exceedingly warlike, and gave a very minute account of the number of forts spread over the country, defended by large guns, and of the great numbers of armed troops everywhere to be found."The terms of the Proclamation are to be interpreted by Sir James Outram. The gloss will be large and liberal; and, in his rendering, the severity of the text will be mollified so far, that the Oude talookdars may read, and run to, and not from us."
In another place—"In Oude, these great landholders have at present about 250 mud forts, mounting about 500 guns, and containing on an average 400 armed men, or a total of 100,000 men trained and maintained to fight against the Government."
These facts showed how hard a task we should have to perform if we attempted to carry out the policy of confiscation. He had put his Amendment on the paper because, from the rumours he heard, he was afraid that the question of India would not be the real question considered that night, and because he was anxious that the House should not come to a hasty and partial decision on the great question at issue; but as he has preferred the direct negative with which Her Majesty's Government had determined to meet the original Motion, he should beg to withdraw his Amendment. When the right hon. Member for Oxford's Resolution precluded them from going into the policy of the Proclamation on the ground that they had not the necessary information; and he (Lord. A. Vane-Tempest) thought the same reason should prevent them from going into a discussion on the course taken by the Government in reference to it. What the result of this debate would be, he would not pretend to determine, but he would quote from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Session, a passage, the foresight of which appeared to him to be very remarkable, while it was particularly apposite to the present occasion. He said, after speaking of the dissensions in India:—"There are no less than twenty-four pults of jungle in Oude, covering an extent of 886 square miles. The forts have never been dismantled, nor the people disarmed. Even the children in the villages play at fortifications as a favourite amusement, each striving to catch the other in the ingenuity of his defence. They all seem to feel that they must some day take part in defending such places against the King's troops, and the parents seem to encourage the feeling. The small mud forts are concealed from sight in beautiful clusters of bamboos, or other evergreen jungle, so that the passer-by can see nothing of them. Some of them are exceedingly strong against troops unprovided with mortars and shells. The garrison is easily shelled out by a small force or starved out by a large one; but one should never attempt to track them with round shot, or take them by escalade or mask."
If the result of the present debate and division should be that an appeal were made to the country, he had no doubt that the people would ratify the policy of justice and clemency rather than one of cruelty and oppression. The noble Lord concluded by withdrawing the Amendment of which he had given notice."A united Parliament and a strong Government are two circumstances most necessary in the difficult position in which we are placed. That is a consideration which has influenced my mind. It is not that I myself on this or on any other subject on which I might recommend a policy would shrink from responsibility, but I wish to show to Europe and to Asia that it is not the object of the British Parliament to overthrow a Ministry but to save an empire. I trust, therefore, that this discussion will at least elicit such a declaration of policy on the part of the Government that the only duty of the House of Commons in future will be to support it with cordial sincerity. If they do not take that course—if they adopt insufficient means, and public disaster occur—deep will be their responsibility. We shall meet again, and perhaps sooner than this House two months ago deemed probable; and if they neglect their duty to the country, I, for one, will not shrink from responsibility. I will then appeal with confidence to an indignant people and to a determined Parliament, and I will ask them to unite their energies to save an endangered empire.
reminded the House that if the Motion were carried—which was unquestionably a party move—there would be no chance of legislation for India this Session. It was a vote of censure, and, of course, if it were carried, there must be either a dissolution of Parliament or a resignation of the Ministry; and in either case the result must be the same—matters would not sufficiently settle down, this Session at least, to enable the House to go on with legislation either for India or anywhere else. Yet both the House and the country had expressed the opinion that India ought to form a subject of legislation during the present Session. For his own part, he did not see why they should be so anxious to bring back the late Administration to the ministerial benches at present. As a Liberal, he was naturally anxious for the advancement of liberal measures; but he must confess that, as far as he had observed, liberal measures had advanced more when the party opposite (the Conservatives) was in power than when the Liberal party was in office. At present he did not think the various sections into which the Liberal party was divided were sufficiently in unison to form a strong Government, and that there was a larger united body upon the ministerial side of the House than on this. If they passed this Motion, the country would say that the majority of the House of Commons were influenced by party spirit, and not by consideration of the good of the empire. He thought the Motion ought not to be met by a direct negative, for he thought Lord Canning deserved great credit for what he had done in India, and that he had been hardly used in the despatch sent out by the Government. Still he admitted that there was great force in the remark of the hon. and learned Solicitor General that more blame was attributable to the right hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith) in that respect than to the present Government. He (Mr. Dillwyn) by no means wished to be understood as endorsing all Lord Canning's policy, but he thought he had been ungenerously and unjustly assailed. By some he had been charged with being too severe, and by others with being too lenient; but he believed the present comparative safety in which our Indian empire stood was to some extent due to that noble Lord. He had no doubt that the despatch in question had been sent out under a misapprehension, and he thought it only just to Lord Canning, as well as prudent, having regard to the responsible and difficult position he filled, that they should strengthen his hands by a general expression of confidence in his policy; and therefore it was that he begged to submit the Amendment of which he had given notice.
seconded the Amendment.
To leave out from the first word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "generally approves of Lord Canning's policy up to the time of the Oude Proclamation, and is satisfied with the firmness and judgment he has evinced during the crisis in India; but this House declines to give any opinion upon the Oude Proclamation until it has had further information on the state of Oude when the Proclamation was issued, and also Lord Canning's reasons for issuing it," instead thereof."
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, that as his opinions upon "annexation," and the impolicy of crushing the Native nobility and gentry of India, had often been publicly exposed, he must be understood not to compromise himself by the arguments he was about to use; for, in truth, could he believe for one moment that it was really Lord Canning's intention to confiscate the proprietary rights in the land of the whole people of Oude, Lord Canning would not find him (Colonel Sykes) amongst his advocates. But, on the contrary, he had a thorough conviction that Lord Canning had no idea of carrying into effect the severe measures which the phraseology of the Proclamation seemed to indicate. There was a great want of knowledge in this country as to who were the proprietors of the soil in India; a conflict of opinions, in fact, existing upon the subject—some maintaining the right of Government, some that of the Chiefs, some that of village communities, and some that of individuals. That it is not in the King or Ruler a recent case testifies—Holkar, the despotic sovereign of Indore, wanted to extend his park, in from of which was a but and some land belonging to a Mahratta, in whose family it had been for generations. The Rajah asked him to sell it, but he said no, it would be a disgrace to him and his family to do so; and the park remains unextended to this day, for though despotic Holkar had regard to public opinion, the proprietary right then was not with the Prince. Now, with respect to the proprietary rights of talookdars, he (Colonel Sykes) had not been in Oude, and could not speak from personal knowledge, but he had been officially employed to report upon the land tenures of the Deccan; and being informed of those, formerly existing in the North-West provinces, the Punjab, and Madras, he argued by analogy, that the same system prevailed in Oude; and if that were so, the talookdars were not necessarily landowners, but hereditary collectors of the King's land-tax; and the "confiscation" would apply to their offices, and not to the lands of the people at large. The talookdars paid a fixed sum annually to the King, and took as much more as they could get from the cultivators. Are we not to judge of Lord Canning's intentions by his acts since he had been Governor General? Had they not been marked by a course of conduct which had procured for him the nickname of "Clemency Canning;" and was it likely that a man who had acted with such moderation as to earn for himself that appellation would carry out with rigour tyrannous and oppressive measures such as would follow the execution of this Proclamation, if it were rightly understood to import the confiscation of the whole lands of Oude—not merely the lands of the leaders of the rebellion, to whom alone he believed it was intended to apply, but of all the landholders of Oude indiscriminately? What had been done in Scinde? That country was conquered and annexed by Lord Ellenborough, who issued a Proclamation that all the land in Scinde, except that given to Moorad Ali, should be placed at the disposal of the British Government. The Proclamation of Lord Dalhousie in 1849, with regard to the Punjab, confiscated the land. Those Proclamations meant the same as that of Lord Canning. In both instances what was intended was the confiscation of the right to receive the tax derived from the lands, and not the dispossession of the actual owners of the land. But in neither case was the issue of those Proclamations made a matter of party conflict in the House of Commons. The so-called confiscation in Scinde and the Punjab had told so little on the loyalty of the people of those countries that we had Bellochee battalions assisting in the taking of Delhi, and 42,000 men from the Punjab aiding us in conquering Oude. He would not enter into the question of the Governor General's policy, as the matter before the House was, whether it was prudent or safe in respect to India for the Government to have adopted the course they had. He did not say that the Government were wrong in expressing their opinion to Lord Canning—quite the reverse; but they should not have promulgated it to the world, a course which would stimulate rebellion, paralyse the authority of the Governor General, and perhaps with a high-minded man like Lord Canning, unfortunately induce bins to resign; and thus occasion great embarrassment in the executive functions. It was said that it was necessary that the Government despatch should go through the Secret Committee, otherwise it would, in the ordinary course of business, between the India House and Board of Control, have delayed the despatch a fortnight. In showing that this was not necessarily the case he would take the opportunity of stating an instance of the way in which the Court of Directors did business. Last week a despatch was received from the Governor General, noticing that some of the troops which had been brought from China to India were to be sent back to China; at which he expressed his alarm, and urged the Court to prevent anything of the kind taking place; and also asking for reinforcements at the rate of 1,000 men a month. The despatch was received on a Tuesday, was drafted and sent to the Board of Control in what is called "previous communication," otherwise P. C., and immediately sent back by Lord Ellenborough. Next morning it came before the political Committee, of which he (Colonel Sykes) was a member; was discussed and adopted, and in an hour was sent to the Court, which was assembled at two o'clock, where it was discussed, and in twenty-four hours after it had been received, an answering despatch was ready to be sent to the Governor General. Such was the delay in the mode of doing public business of which the Company was accused, and for which they were to be sacrificed! It showed also how unnecessary was the Committee of Secrecy for insuring despatch; and he believed that much of the distrust and odium which had fallen upon the East India Company might be traced to the proceedings which were carried through the Secret Committee without the knowledge of the Court of Directors. He might add, that instead of 1,000 men per month, which Lord Canning asked for, the Court of Directors had sent to India 9,000 men within the last five months. Finally he must express his fear that this despatch of the Government might cause the resignation of Lord Canning, and it was lamentable to think that, with all that noble Lord's ability, and firmness, and desire for the good government of India, he should be sacrificed on account of a party conflict in that House.
Sir, as I am labouring under severe indisposition, I should not, after the able speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, have ventured to address the House on this occasion, had not the right hon. Gentleman who brought on this Motion adverted to statements which were made in another place, and said that he wished to have an explanation as to the manner in which the despatch of Lord Ellenborough to the Governor General had been laid on the table of the House. He asked how, without notice, I had been able to answer the question which was first put to me on this subject in the House. The explanation is very simple. A short time before I came down to the House on the evening in question, I was with my noble Friend the late President of the Board of Control. I said to him, I see in The Times the Proclamation of the Governor General. I am quite sure that when I get down to the House some hon. Member will put a question to me on the subject. How shall I answer it? My noble Friend then dictated almost the very words which I used. That is the simple explanation of the matter. It has been said in this House that the Government should have known how to observe a wise and discreet silence on this occasion. I should, however, like to know what hon. Gentlemen opposite would have said, if after the Proclamation appeared in the public papers, a question had been put to the Government in this House, and the Government had answered to the question whether they approved or disapproved the Proclamation that they had formed no opinion on the subject? I am quite convinced that we should have had a Resolution soon proposed of want of confidence in the Government. The hon. and Gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) has expressed his belief that Lord Canning never could have meant to carry out the Proclamation in the terms in which it was written. I trust my hon. Friend is right; but I submit the people of Oude cannot know what the intentions of Lord Canning are. They can only judge of the Proclamation as they see it published; and when I have heard other hon. Members of the House say that this Proclamation has produced an excellent effect—that the talookdars are surrendering themselves to Government, only stipulating that they shall have their religion guaranteed—I believe there is no truth in those statements, because I have seen private letters to persons in high authority directly contradictory. I have seen statements that the Proclamation has produced the worst effect, and that the writers expect that all our work will have to be done over again; and this, too, I know, that that Proclamation has been issued contrary to the advice of those who should have great weight with the Governor General. I will not hesitate to say that Sir James Outram urged the Governor General in the strongest manner to grant an amnesty. He told the Governor General that if he would grant an amnesty he would guarantee that all the chiefs in Oude would surrender, and the people would return to their homes, and that he should have no enemies to fight but the Sepoys and the rebellious soldiers. More than that; he pointed out to the Governor General that the talookdars of Oude should be treated in a different manner from the chiefs in our own territories who had committed murders and atrocities; for he pointed out that there was not a single instance of murder and atrocity committed by a chief in Oude, but that they had saved the Europeans who fell into their power, had treated them hospitably, and sent them with escorts to the British camp. All these statements were made by Sir James Outram to the Governor General to induce him to issue an amnesty. But the result has been this Proclamation. I am very sorry to make the statements, although I do so upon authority I cannot doubt. But I am soy that we should be called upon to make these statements to the House before we have received the explanations of the Governor General. What is the position of the Government? For one month the Proclamation of the Governor General has been in the hands of the home Government; three posts have successively arrived, and we have not received one single line from the Governor General with respect to that Proclamation, while our opponents have by every post been receiving private letters, for all we know, giving full explanations on the subject. ["Oh, oh!"] I say, "for all we know." Under these circumstances the question is brought on in this House, and it was impossible not to enter into the whole subject. It has been said that this Proclamation only refers to the property of the talookdars of Oude, that it does not refer to the property of the people. Now, that is a great mistake, and is a statement which will not be made by any one who has read the papers on Oude. A great portion of the land of Oude does not belong to the talookdars; but this Proclamation confiscates the land not only belonging to the talookdars, but to the religious establishments, the mosques, the Hindoo temples, and, more than that, of the village communities. Now, a great part of the land of Oude is held by village Communities of the highest antiquity—dating, in many cases, from before the Mahomedan conquest. They are composed of poor, industrious persons, every man of whom cultivates his own land and follows his own plough, and who have the keenest sense of their rights as proprietors of the land. They know it is held subject to the right of the Government to collect from them certain taxes, and they know that that does not constitute the Government the proprietor, any more than the land tax in this country constitutes the Government here the proprietor of that land. Who will not say that thousands of these peasant proprietors have held entirely aloof from war? We know, indeed, that in many cases they have been seen pursuing their agricultural occupations amidst the ravages of war; yet this Proclamation will, if it is to be taken literally, confiscate the land of every one of these poor proprietors. I wish to make only one more observation in reply to the right hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), who adverted to the despatch, read by the Solicitor General, from the Court of Directors to the Governor General, which he asserted was evidently the work of Lord Ellenborough. He was entirely at fault on this occasion, for, with the exception of one or two slight verbal alterations, there was not a word of Lord Ellenborough's in the despatch. That despatch was composed entirely in Leaden-hall Street, and the East India Company ought to have the whole merit of producing that document.
Before the debate went further he wished to make a few observations on account of the position in which the question had been placed by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and the Solicitor General, as well as on account of the strong personal attack which had been made on him by the latter. The part of the question which he understood to be now under discussion was this—the Solicitor General and the Secretary of the Board of Control had stated their entire disapproval of the policy of Lord Canning ["No no!"]—he was about to say as "indicated by this Proclamation," or he would now say, of the policy of this Proclamation. As far as he was individually concerned, he was ready to stake the issue upon the question of the policy of the Proclamation. He had no doubt that the Governor General in issuing that Proclamation had been actuated by the best motives, and by a thorough knowledge of that kind of policy which ought to be carried out in the East. He had no doubt that the Governor General took advice from such men as Sir John Lawrence, with whom he had been in the habit of consulting throughout, and that he had been actuated by his feeling that in dealing with Orientals the first step was to show your power. He knew how necessary it was to exhibit his authority, and he said no doubt, "Everything that belonged to you is mine; but I shall be ready to show to you any reasonable indulgences if you evince a disposition to yield and to aid the Government." ["Oh, oh!"] He was stating his view. Possibly the Gentlemen who cried "Oh, oh!" were better acquainted with Indian policy than he could be—that would appear as the debate proceeded; but he was not incorrectly stating the case as he believed it to be. The policy which he had indicated was, he believed, the correct and almost the stereotyped policy of every Governor General; in the case of nearly every annexation when possession was first taken of Oude. The proclamation of Sir James Outram, in the eulogy on whom he entirely concurred, was similar to this, and the word "confiscation" was used. As regarded Scinde, confiscation was not the word used there; but Scinde did not stand in the same position as the other case, for the acquisition was made by treaty with the Ameers of Scinde. But with regard to the conduct pursued towards the Ameer of Scinde, he was of opinion that it was most iniquitous. Many years ago he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had supported Lord Shaftesbury in a Motion made on that subject in that House. On the occasion of the conquest of the Punjab almost the same words were used, namely, that "the jagheers and all the property of the Sirdars and others who have been in arms against the British should be confiscated." One Gentleman had said that threat had not been carried out in the Punjab; but he believed that at first the Government was not aware of the delinquency of a great many of the chiefs of the Punjab, and the property of many of them was not confiscated, but a great deal of it was confiscated. The word confiscation did not carry with it, in India, the terror which it did to country gentlemen here in England. In India it was regarded merely as the taking away of a feudal right, of which the persons concerned knew that they had only a precarious tenure, and not as the abstraction of their whole proprietary right of the soil. The Solicitor General had explained to them what he considered to be the proper way of dealing with the Natives of India, but he could not defer to the hon. and learned Gentleman upon that point, and he rather concurred in the opinion of a more experienced writer in The Times, who had thoroughly discussed the question, and who said that the question of land tenure was the most perplexing of all questions; that it had been tried in various forms, and that the settlement of Lord Cornwallis had been found to be the most oppressive, and that he had arrived at the conclusion that the zemindars were looked upon as the oppressors of the people. The hon. and learned Gentleman had quoted Vattel to show that such a deed was most atrocious. But the doctrines of Vattel could not be applied to our acquisitions in India, and the views of European civilians could not be maintained in the East. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he was prepared to endorse the policy of the despatch of the late President of the Board of Control. He (Mr. Vernon Smith) was prepared to take that issue, but it was not that which was before the House. The question was whether, the Proclamation having been sent home, the Government had not acted precipitately in condemning its policy and then making that condemnation public so as to let it be known in India as the feeling of the Government at home. He conceived that the position of the Solicitor General was erroneous, which went to assert that the Proclamation was issued because the war was over. He (Mr. Vernon Smith) wished to God that the war was over; for although Lucknow was taken, yet it was because the Governor General thought the war was not over that he made that Proclamation. He could not but consider the language of the First Minister was evasive, for he said that they had sent out a condemnation of the policy of the Governor General, but not his recall, for they did not wish his recall. But either to have called on the Governor General to rescind his Proclamation, or to have recalled him, would have been the more manly course. The recall of the Governor General was no slight evil in India. The condemnation of the Proclamation would be looked on as an intimation of recall, and there would be an electric shock all through India on the notion of the recall of the Governor General; it was not so much the actual recall as the expectation of the recall of the Governor General which exercised an evil influence in India. On this subject he would quote the opinion of a nobleman whose authority hon. Gentlemen opposite must all respect. The Earl of Ellenborough, in his examination before a Committee of the House of Commons, was asked whether he would give the Council which he proposed for the Government of India the power of recalling the Governor General, and he said that it was most im- portant that they should not have that power, and especially with reference to the relations between the Governor General and the Native States. It was not the recall of the Governor General, but the expectation of his recall which did the mischief; the expectation of his own recall he knew was one of the main causes of arousing the war in Gwalior. That was the opinion of Lord Ellenborough, and he (Mr. Vernon Smith) would urge that a Government by showing that they had even an intention of recalling a Governor General did much mischief. When he said that the Government had been precipitate in their decision on the policy of the Proclamation, there were several points which had not been elucidated in this debate. First, they had never been told how the Proclamation was sent home. He was of opinion that it was extracted from a mass of correspondence, which was usually sent home, and was not accompanied by any letter. On the notion that it was intended to issue that Proclamation the Government acted. Three months must have elapsed before any action could have been taken on the despatch, and it could not have been supposed that the Governor General would not in that time have issued a Proclamation. Where then was the necessity for such precipitation? The Solicitor General had not, indeed, in terms condemned the Proclamation of the Governor General, but he said with a sneer that, whatever the present generation might do, posterity would condemn it. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL: I said nothing of the kind.] He had understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that he hoped posterity would be as lenient to it as the present generation had been, but as the hon. and learned Gentleman, had, in the course of his speech, so completely misrepresented everything which had fallen from him on the previous evening, he must not be surprised if he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had fallen into an unintentional error with respect to his meaning. The hon. and learned Gentleman had, at all events, said that he would not enter into the question of the annexation of Oude; but he might remind him that Her Majesty's Government had not manifested a similar caution with respect to the subject, for, although an hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) had had a notice on that subject on the paper for several months, which he had declined to bring forward on account of the state of India, yet scarcely had his friends entered upon office when they had in effect proclaimed to the whole population of India that they considered injustice had been done to them by that annexation. Why had they not, he would ask, proceeded further, and, in accordance with the advice which had been given by the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Works (Lord J. Manners) upon a former occasion, restored Oude to its Sovereign? Why had they not placed him again upon the musnud of Oude? Because that was a policy which they dared not carry into execution. But be that as it might, he could conceive no policy more calculated to produce an injurious effect upon the minds of the people of India than that which would lead them to suppose that Her Majesty's Ministers looked upon the annexation of Oude as an act which must be stigmatized as unjust. What would be the result of such a declaration upon the inhabitants of the Punjab and of Scinde? Still more unjust than the annexation of Oude would the inhabitants of those districts pronounce our treatment of them; and the consequence would be that, from Cape Comorin to the mountains of Thibet, and from the Brahmapootra to the Indus, it would be proclaimed that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, those territories had been improperly annexed and ought to be restored. The precipitancy, therefore, with which the Government had acted in sending out their despatch condemning the course taken by Lord Canning, and the manner in which they had done it, were, he maintained, deserving of the utmost reprobation upon the part of the House of Commons. Nor could he, he must confess, see that the resignation of the noble Lord, who lately held the office of the President of the Board of Control, furnished any good reason why that House should abstain from arriving at that decision with respect to the question under discussion which, before the noble Lord's retirement from office, it was prepared to pronounce. Whatever might be the merits or demerits of Lord Ellenborough, that noble Lord, he was perfectly ready to admit, felt a deep interest in the happiness and prosperity of India; and if the Government were prepared to stand by his condemnation of the policy of Lord Canning, he did not see how they could reconcile themselves to the loss of his services. But the fact of his resignation furnished no good ground for declining to censure the publication of a despatch, the policy of which had received the entire approval of his colleagues. Indeed, it was difficult to see how the publication of such a document could be defended. The more general question of the expediency of making such a Proclamation as that which Lord Canning had issued, was not raised by the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford; but if it had been, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) should have been prepared to uphold the policy which the Governor General had indicated, as he certainly would be prepared to vote with his right hon. Friend upon the narrower question which he had submitted to the consideration of the House—a course which he believed hon. Gentlemen opposite would be the first to approve, had not the point at issue assumed a party character. Having said thus much upon the general question under the notice of the House, he should not have trespassed upon the attention of hon. Members at greater length, had it not been for the personal attack which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had made upon him that evening. He had, however, been so long accustomed to attacks of a personal nature that he could scarcely say, by comparison, he had much to complain of in the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken. It was very obvious that the hon. and learned Gentleman must have felt that he had a bad cause to uphold, and that it was desirable to catch at any straw which might happen to present itself in his way; and he might also apply the same remarks to the noble Lord the Prime Minister, who, finding that the hounds were running in to him in another place, had endeavoured to turn the scent and to send them in pursuit of some other game. He (Mr. Vernon Smith) was quite astonished, however, that a gentleman possessing the legal acumen of Her Majesty's Solicitor General should have endeavoured to convert an attack upon him personally into an argument in favour of the conduct of the Government. Now, he would for a moment suppose that there really was some importance in the letter which he had received from Lord Canning, and to which allusion had so often been made—["Read! read!"];—and he would ask the House whether, even under those circumstances, there had been any omission upon his part which could justify Her Majesty's Ministers in taking the course which they had adopted. ["Read! read!"] Did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General really mean to contend that the Government, in coming to a decision upon the important subject of Lord Canning's Proclamation, had proceeded with such little consideration that they had never even taken the pains to inquire whether any explanation of the Proclamation had been received in any other quarter? ["Letter! letter!"] Were they so anxious to bring about the return of Lord Canning that they had immediately pounced upon the Proclamation as a means of procuring his recall? He should also wish to know, whether the Chairman of the East India Company had not received any communication upon the subject of the Proclamation, or whether he had given no intimation to the noble Earl lately at the head of that department as to any communication which he had received. Be that as it might, he could hardly suppose that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General could seriously imagine that the information which had reached him (Mr. Vernon Smith) could have had any effect in changing the views or opinions which right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench entertained. It was quite clear that they were determined to issue the despatch which they had sent out, and that they had come to that decision without deeming it necessary to ask for any advice or information upon the subject. He should wish to know, whether it was not the duty of the actual Minister for India, rather than of an ex-Minister or any other man, to use every exertion to procure such information. ["Oh, oh!—Read."] It was idle to contend that upon an ex-Minister ought to rest the weight of that responsibility which attached to a proceeding characterized by want of due consideration upon the part of the individual who held the reins of office. The fact was, that the whole story was one of the most trumpery nature. ["Oh, oh!"] The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had referred to what had fallen from him (Mr. Vernon Smith) in reference to the subject on the previous evening, and had represented him as having said that Lord Canning had written to him to say, that an explanation of his Proclamation would be forwarded by the next mail. Now, he had never made any such statement, nor did he believe that such a statement was attributed to him in any report of the observations which he had made. Hon. Gentlemen would see that he did not say that the explanation would come by the next or any other mail, but that the Proclamation would come officially by this mail. The Secretary of the Board of Control had stated that three mails had arrived, but no explanation had come, and therefore that justified him (Mr. Vernon Smith) in thinking that the communication which he had received was of no importance. If he had told the Government that the letter was coming, it would have misled him, and the Government, being anxious to throw responsibility upon any one but themselves, would have gladly availed themselves of the circumstance. ["Read!"] He could not read the letter. [Derisive cheers.] If the private letters of the Governor General had contained anything of importance, he should certainly have informed the Ministers; but as they did not, the letters were confidential. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to misstate him (Mr. Vernon Smith) in another and more important point. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had admitted last evening, that on the receipt of the letter he consulted the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. He had said no such thing. ["Oh, oh!"] What he had stated the other evening he would now repeat, that he read Lord Canning's letter to Lord Palmerston, who concurred with himself in thinking that it contained nothing of importance. It did not occur to either of them that there was anything of sufficient importance to communicate. He would be glad if any one would say—what the hon. and learned Gentleman had not ventured to say—that there was anything of sufficient importance to require communication. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL: I did say so, and I repeat it.] He differed from the hon. and learned Gentleman upon that point—he did not at that time—nor did he now consider the letter of sufficient importance to induce him to commit it. There was no want of communication on the part of the late Government, for his noble Friend communicated to Lord Ellenborough a portion of a letter which he did think of importance; but in this particular instance, his noble Friend did not think there was anything of importance to communicate. The general opinion of all with whom he had spoken was to the same effect, and he believed it was the opinion of the public, as it was of every person who was uninfluenced by party feelings. There was nothing in the words that would intimate that there was anything to be communicated to the Government, and it never occurred to his noble Friend or to himself that the para- graph was worth communicating to Lord Ellenborough. When the hon. and learned Gentleman talked of meetings in conclave, he appeared to suggest that such meetings were in reference to a particular paragraph of a letter; he (Mr. Vernon Smith) could only repeat such was not the case. The hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of some possible reproaches which Lord Canning would make for the course he had pursued; but he (Mr. Vernon Smith) did not fear those reproaches, for if he had erred in any respect, it was from too much delicacy for Lord Canning. He had always defended Lord Canning from the attacks of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. When parties on the other side of the House were assailing Lord Canning in the most difficult and trying times, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had always, as was his duty and his pleasure, stood up for him. But what did hon. Gentlemen opposite do? When the noble Lord's policy became successful, the party opposite who had assailed him, and endeavoured to render his position difficult, turned round and professed admiration of his policy, and said they only disputed the propriety of this particular Proclamation. He anticipated no reproaches from Lord Canning, who was fully conscious of his efforts to defend him. But when the hon. and learned Gentleman presumed to say that he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had acted from party motives, he totally and solemnly disclaimed and repudiated the falsehood, ["Order!"]
rose to order, but
interposed and said,—I am quite certain that if the right hon. Gentleman has used a word which is out of order, and which might be understood in a sense he did not wish to convey, he will be glad of an opportunity of explaining that in the heat of the debate the word had escaped him.
Certainly he had not intended to use any term that might be understood to be offensive; but he thought it had been ruled that to say a particular statement was false was not out of order. As to the imputation of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he repeated his solemn denial that he had acted in any manner from party motives, and he hoped after that denial other hon. Members would not, like the Solicitor General, insinuate that he and his noble Friend had met in conclave in a party spirit to determine the course they should adopt. He had official intercourse with many hon. Members opposite, and he would appeal to them to say whether he was a likely man to be guilty of such conduct. He, like Lord Ellenborough, had devoted the best portion of his life to the pursuit of Indian objects, and with a desire of benefitting that country. India was connected with his earliest associations and his fondest recollections. He, besides this, had been for three years Secretary to the Board of Control and for a similar period President of the Board. Others might judge of the amount of ability he had displayed in those offices, but he could affirm that those who knew the good-will, the assiduity, and the anxiety with which he had discharged the duties would not hesitate to acquit him of any improper motives. In the last days of Sir Henry Lawrence that eminent man, expiring at Lucknow, handed to his successor the commission he held from the Governor General, and said, "Tell them in England to remember Henry Lawrence, who tried to do his duty." He (Mr. Vernon Smith) felt that he stood at an immeasurable distance from that remarkable officer, but he hoped he might make the same manly, modest declaration, that so long as he had been connected with India lie had endeavoured to do his duty, and in so doing he had acquired an interest in the welfare of the country which would only cease with his existence; and it was utterly inconsistent with that feeling that he should have been influenced by the party motives which the hon. and learned Gentleman had attributed to him, to risk for a moment the prosperity of that mighty empire.
hoped the House would do him and the Members of the Government the justice to believe that it was not their desire to evade or shrink from the inquiry into their conduct which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell) had set on foot. In the statement of that right hon. Gentleman, as far as it went, there was nothing to complain of, except, as had been already shown by the Solicitor General, that he unduly, if not unfairly, limited the inquiry which he instituted. The right hon. Gentleman had asked the House to do that which was impossible—to consider the conduct of the Government in censuring a particular act of Lord Canning without at the same time considering the policy and justice of the act so censured. As far as he could gather from the Resolutions and from the discussion, the charges against the Go- vernment were twofold. In the first place, there was the narrow issue of who was responsible for the publication of Lord Ellenborough's despatch; and next, there was the wider question, assuming the despatch not to have been intended for present publication, whether it was a despatch that ought to have been written. The question of publication was one that he approached with some pain, because, however clear the case, it was always painful to seem to exculpate one's self at the expense of one who had been a colleague, and still more when the generosity of that colleague's conduct made it impossible to regard his loss without extreme regret. But in the present instance there was something more than personal or private interest to be considered. And first let him remind the House, what Lord Ellenborough had stated already, that the promise given in the House, that the despatch should be published, was given on the authority of Lord Ellenborough alone, and not upon that of any other Member of the Government. He (Lord Stanley) could say for himself, and he believed also for his colleagues who sat on the bench behind him, that they never heard of the promise being given until they heard it in that House, and that they had heard it then with surprise and regret. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) asked why, "when you had time to consider, did you not revoke your promise?" "The House," the right hon. Gentleman said, "would not, under the circumstances, have insisted that you should produce the despatch." His answer to that was—and it was one which he believed must have occurred simultaneously to every hon. Gentleman who heard the question put—that the promise, once having been given, placed the Government, as regarded the publication of that document, in a position totally different from that which they occupied before. He quite allowed that, as far as the hon. Member for Birmingham was concerned, no promise given to him, or to any one, ought to have stood in the way if the public interest required that such promise should not be fulfilled; but the Government had to consider what would have been the effect on public opinion of its retractation. They must have said:—"It is true the despatch has been sent; it is true that the Minister, the author of that despatch, thought it one which ought to be laid before the House; it is true that that despatch contained the deliberate expression of our policy; but, on second thoughts, we are led to believe that the sentiments which we entertain, and which we have expressed to the Governor General of India, are sentiments of such a nature that to make them public would be dangerous to our influence in India, both as regards Europeans and natives." For his own part, he firmly believed that to have held that language would have been a course fraught with infinitely greater danger than would arise from the production of the document itself. He thought that a course, half disclosure and half mystery—that a course which would have stimulated the curiosity of the public, and left that curiosity unsatisfied—would have led to a belief that the despatch in question contained matter infinitely more grave and more alarming than any that really appeared on the face of it. It might have been unwise to give the pledge which had been given in that House. He regretted to say, he thought, under the circumstances, it was unwise; but that pledge once given, it appeared to the Government a less evil to go on than to draw back, and of two public dangers they had chosen the lesser. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford, making use of a convenient and expressive phrase, had talked of a Cabinet of limited liability. What was the meaning conveyed in that expression? Undoubtedly it was true both in constitutional law and common sense that for every act of every member of the Cabinet all the members were responsible. But how responsible? Surely responsible under certain conditions—responsible, he admitted, not only for acts committed by each—not only for acts individually and expressly assented to, but for acts which they might have allowed to pass without protest—for silence gave consent. But it surely could not be contended that any set of men, no matter under what circumstances brought together, could be held responsible for an act which they did not commit—for an act of the commission of which they knew nothing, and which, when they knew of it, they regretted and disavowed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) who had displayed in a House less full than it now was, even more than his accustomed ingenuity, asked "Why, if you intended to repudiate the course which has been taken, did you not do so at once; and why did you wait to see what popularity you might be able to gain from the publication?" That charge he denied; and he felt sure that if the Government had taken a different course, they would have heard sharper taunts and more vehement imputations from the other side of the House. Even as it was, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster had spoken about the "Jonah" of the Cabinet; but what language would he have held if, without reflection, without deliberation, without taking time to weigh circumstances so novel and so grave, the Government had at once given up as indefensible the conduct of a colleague so eminent in every respect? They knew what were the feelings which governed public men and regulated political parties; and he did not think it was necessary to offer any long or laboured justification for having felt great reluctance, for having made it a subject of deliberation and reflection, and for even having allowed some trifling delay to intervene before they consented, by expressing their disavowal of conduct which they could not wholly defend, to incur the loss of one whom they felt to be a chief ornament and support of the Cabinet. But further, time right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster had said, when the Government stated in that House what the despatch contained. and when they expressed their disapproval of the policy of Lord Canning, the despatch was virtually published, and its subsequent appearance in print was comparatively immaterial. If the right hon. Gentleman really held that opinion it was an exculpation not only of the Members of the present Government, but of Lord Ellenborough as; because, although there might have been some little suspension in the expression of their opinions—although by some of those ingenious artifices which he had often seen practised in that House—they might have contrived, for a few days or even a few weeks, to stave off inquiry, it was idle to suppose that with regard to a matter of this kind any Government could have maintained, or that any Government could have been tolerated in maintaining, a policy of silence and neutrality. How stood the case? One of the most important events of the Indian war had occurred—an event he did not hesitate to say which might materially influence the fortunes of a campaign. It was known that the Government here must decide upon the policy adopted by the Governor General. It was known that their decision would be final. It was known that their decision had gone or was going out to India; and then the right hon. Gentleman told the Government they might have kept their own counsel, for England would not have felt any curiosity to know whether they had disavowed or sanctioned the Proclamation of Lord Canning. He (Lord Stanley) thought such a course of action would have been simply impossible, for we lived in a state of society when secrecy in regard to important national affairs could not be maintained beyond a very limited time. From that system of general publicity, great public advantages were derived; but, as they reaped its benefits, so must they submit to its inconveniences. Turning now from the question of publication, he came to the other point,—ought that despatch to have been written at all? Why, the Government was asked, did they not wait to hear any explanation that Lord Canning might have to give before they pronounced any disapproval of his Proclamation? He did not want to go into that painful question of which they had heard so much, the alleged keeping back of a private letter. He was glad to escape from dealing with that part of the subject, nor was it material to his argument. He was quite content to rest his case on a statement made very recently by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, who said, speaking from his experience of Indian affairs, that it was the practice of the Indian Board in its correspondence with the Governor General to receive from the Indian Government first of all a bare narrative of facts, and afterwards—sometimes months afterwards—to receive explanations of the narratives so sent. He would ask if an explanation which might be deferred for months could, on such a subject, have been waited for? Did the matter not press? Was there no urgency? They were told, and he agreed with the sentiment, that it was their duty to consider the feelings of Lord Canning. No one in that House could speak of Lord Canning with more respect than he did. He never had joined in the vindictive and insensate cry that had been raised against him by a portion, though he believed but a small portion, of the Indian public. He thought that the acts for which Lord Canning had been most censured were precisely those of which, as a public man, Lord Canning ought to be most proud. He might have made mistakes; but, on the whole, he had conducted affairs, at a perilous crisis, with signal ability and success. But was there nothing else to be considered in connection with this question than the feelings of Lord Canning? Were the lives and property of men to be as nothing in the scale? Was the confiscation of property nothing? Was it nothing to arm a population of 5,000,000 against us?—to make their reconciliation more hopeless, their resistance more desperate, their revenge more implacable? Was it nothing to protract a war already sufficiently difficult and dangerous, at the most inconvenient and unhealthy season, and in a country fatally protected against European arms by its jungles and its pestilence? He quite understood the policy with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford opened the debate. The right hon. Gentleman was a skilful tactician, and he (Lord Stanley) perfectly understood why he wished the House to consider Lord Ellenborough's despatch, without at the same time considering Lord Canning's Proclamation. Certainly, if it had been matter of little moment—if it had been merely a question of explaining of some transaction past and done with—they could have well afforded to wait; but the Government thought, and justly thought, that every day and every hour that Proclamation in its original form was left before the public in Oude added to the dangers and difficulties of our Indian position. And how was Lord Ellenborough to know that further explanations were on their way? A partail explanation had been sent; it was quite true that that explanation was hasty and imperfect; but men in great exigencies and occupied with urgent affairs were not unlikely to send hasty and imperfect explanations of that which they did. Then, it might be said, why did not they write out and make further inquiry before writing that despatch? To do so would occupy some months; and he (Lord Stanley) thought not only would the people of England have had reason to complain—not only would the people of Oude have had reason to complain—but that Lord Canning himself would have had fair grounds of complaint, if, after waiting patiently until (however remote the period) a full vindication of the Proclamation should arrive, and in the meanwhile giving no hint of their opinion the Government had written out to him some time towards the end of the summer, mentioning as if it had been quite a trifling matter—"By the way, that Proclamation that you issued in the be- ginning of the year we believe to be totally inexpedient, and utterly unjust." Again, it was urged, as another ground for censure, by the right bon. Gentleman opposite, "if you thought it necessary to censure Lord Canning's policy in this particular, why did you not recall him at the same time?" Certainly, right hon. Gentlemen opposite were hard to please; for, first, they made it matter of grave imputation that objection was made to a Proclation without waiting to hear the arguments by which it might be defended, and at the next moment they expected the Government not only to censure the Proclamation but to recall the Governor General without listening to, or so much as asking for, the defence he might have to offer. In considering the prudence and policy of Lord Ellenborough's despatch, he would ask the House to consider it as that which it was meant to be, a confidential document, not addressed to the public. but intended solely for the Government of India. As to those passages relating to a policy of annexation and to the dethronement of the King of Oude, it had been said they ought not to have been allowed to appear. From that doctrine he (Lord Stanley) was not inclined to dissent. He regretted that they (ACP did appear. But he would ask the House not to confound the two questions—first, whether it was right that passages of that character should—have been written; and next, whether having been written, it was right to produce them, But to whom were they addressed? Not to the Sepoys; not to the population of Oude; not to any person who could possibly misunderstand their meaning; nor to any person into whose mind by any stretch of the imagination, the idea could enter that it was the intention of the Government of this country to restore the native Government of Oude; but they were addressed to the Indian Government, and they were written for an obvious reason—in order to point out emphatically and plainly the wide distinction that ought to be drawn between the conduct of the Sepoys of our own army, and the conduct of the revolted population of Oude. The meaning of that despatch had been made clear by his hon, and learned Friend the Solicitor General. He did not wonder that the attempt had been made and the wish had been expressed to construe the Proclamation of Lord Canning in a sense rather less wide than the words obviously bore; but he thought the explanations offered in support of that construction entirely failed. It was difficult to discuss a question as to the rights of talookdars without going into the perplexed question as to the tenure of land in India; but it was clear even as the case was stated by the hon. Member opposite, that those tenures were hereditary—that they were of long, even if not of perpetual duration, and were considered by those who held them in the light of property. To say that a right existed to deal with the property of talookdars in their holdings otherwise than with land in general was hardly more reasonable than to contend that, because in this country in earlier times all land tenures originated with the Crown, that therefore a right existed to confiscate any English estate. It was said that those talookdars were a disorderly class, that they warred one on the other, and that they oppressed their poorer neighbours. He did not care to enter into that argument, but if it were true that they constituted a powerful landed aristocracy surrounded by armed retainers, in a military point of view and as a matter of policy that was not exactly a class of men that it was desirable to drive to despair, and to force to the alternative of a desperate resistance. But it was not the fact that this was the only class of persons who would be affected by the Proclamation. Ho had it on the highest authority that a large portion of the soil of Oude was occupied in very small holdings. The village communities were numerous. The principle of endowment in land was as well known in Asia as in Europe; almost every mosque and school (and they were many) was endowed in that way. How would these endowments be affected by the Proclamation? They had heard a good deal about the danger of offending the religious prejudices of the Natives of India. He apprehended that a declaration such as that contained in the Proclamation, which would at least have the appearance of sweeping away all endowments indiscriminately, would, especially if it was misrepresented by those who had an interest in doing so, produce a most injurious effect on the native mind. Precedents had been cited in defence of the Proclamation, and the case of Scinde, and that of Oude, on its first annexation, had been specially dwelt upon. But what was the case of Scinde? It was this—that certain feudal Princes, after the conquest of the country, were desired to surrender their jagheers, in order that they might receive them back under the sanction of the new authority. What was the precedent of Oude? It was that they who did not surrender should have their property confiscated. If that precedent had been followed, no objection could have been made. But what was the policy indicated by the Proclamation? A few persons were rewarded, but the property of the great mass of those who remain neutral, who in an Asiatic country will always be an immense majority of the whole, was by the words of the Proclamation confiscated equally with that of those who had taken an open part in the rebellion. If they came in, their lives and honour were saved, but nothing more. And what was the reward offered to those who might have protected English lives, at the risk of their own? They will be entitled to "rewards"—No! but to "consideration and leniency." It had been said, and he believed with truth, that it was never intended to act up to the letter of the Proclamation. There was no doubt about that—no Government could act up to the letter of that Proclamation; but they were considering the effect of the Proclamation on the Native mind; and his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Board of Control (Mr. Baillie) asked with great truth how the people of Oude were to know that these threats were not to be carried into effect. He (Lord Stanley) looked anxiously for information as to the effect of that document. He had no special knowledge on the subject, but it was impossible not to know that private letters had been received from persons high in military position, expressing the greatest anxiety and alarm as to the result of this Proclamation. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded him quoted high authority in support of the policy indicated in this Proclamation. He best knew on what authority those statements were made. He (Lord Stanley) was not willing to make use of private reports or communications, but if it were true, as he believed it to be, that Sir John Lawrence had recommended to the Government of India a discriminative amnesty—that was to say, an amnesty for all mutineers who had not committed violence, but had given up their arms, and returned to their homes—if it were true that such counsel had been given to the Governor General, he thought the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in adducing the great name and authority of Sir John Lawrence in support of his views. Looking, then, at the immediate results of the policy of the Gover- nor General, he thought it was inexpedient; looking at its permanent effects, he believed that it was unjust. He, for one, would not shrink from the responsibility of expressing his disapproval of that policy. As to the alleged precipitancy with which the despatch was sent out, he justified it by the mischief which the Proclamation, unrepealed and unexplained, might do—mischief which would be increased by every day that it remained in force. As to the publication, he thought he had shown that for the act of publication the Government collectively could not be held responsible. If it were the object of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford to obtain a full and deliberate inquiry both into the conduct of the Government here and the conduct of the authorities in India, he believed that he would obtain that object, and he (Lord Stanley) should be glad if he did obtain it. But if in this Motion any other objects be involved—if it be really what some have not hesitated to call it—a party move—if the intention be not to defend a Governor General, not to indicate a policy, but to oveathrow an administration—then, though I may on public grounds deeply regret it—though I may lament to see the interests of India imperilled for the advantage of political parties at home—though I may regard it as an ill omen for that new tours of Indian administration on which we are about to enter—yet, personally, I think we, the Government, have no reason to complain of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford. It is his act that we stand here officially as the defenders of right against wrong—as the champions of a policy which is alike that of humanity and wisdom. Whatever be the issue—and I for one believe that the issue will be favourable—but be what it may, a fairer field on which to combat, a better cause by which to stand or fall, no Minister and no public men could desire.
Sir, the House cannot but feel that this is a matter which has been brought to a very serious issue. The production of the Proclamation and the despatch seem to challenge some judgment and opinion on the part of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford has asked the House to give that opinion irrespective of the merits or demerits of the Proclamation. The Solicitor General and the noble Lord who has just spoken ask, on the contrary, that the whole case shall be judged, and that we shall give our opinion on a question involving the merits of the Proclamation, as well as the course which the Government have pursued. So that, as it appears to me, the House is reduced to this alternative—either to censure the Government for the course that they have pursued, or to declare, on the other hand, that Lord Canning is deserving of the most severe reprobation. Sir, that is the issue. You cannot agree to my right hon. Friend's Resolution without passing a censure upon the Government. You cannot acquit the Government without declaring Lord Canning to be totally unfit even for the meanest official situation. I listened with great pleasure to the very able speech of the Solicitor General delivered at an early hour of the evening; but at the same time I must confess that I wish he had more entirely abandoned the forensic habits of his profession: because it is evident, and I will prove it immediately, that in every part of the case, while he dwelt with great effect and ability on those circumstances which were in favour of his argument, he entirely suppressed every fact and consideration against it. As an instance I will mention that at the beginning of his speech, when he declared that he would not give an opinion or pass a judgment upon the annexation of Oude, while he contrived, in two or three sentences to show that in his opinion the Government of Her Majesty and the Administration of the East India Company had been guilty of as foul a wrong as was ever committed The hon. and learned Gentleman said, "I will only state that which is undeniable. There was a treaty with Oude, by which it was agreed to guarantee the Vizier of Oude against external and internal enemies." That is perfectly true and undeniable. But there was another article in that treaty, and it said that the Vizier of Oude should be bound to listen to the advice of the East India Company, and to follow that advice. And, Sir, it is notorious that while for fifty years we kept that article of the treaty to which he referred—while we protected Oude against external and internal enemies—that at least for forty years of that period the Vizier of Oude entirely neglected and violated that other article of the treaty. But this, if we are considering Oude, is a main fact in the discussion, and it is undeniable that, whether we were justified in our proceedings or not, the hon. and learned Gentleman thought fit to omit that fact from his argument. I do feel this somewhat, because, in the course the Government has taken, and in the despatch which is the subject of consideration, there is nothing so conspicuous as the attempt to destroy the fame and character of the proceedings of former Governments, and to endeavour to fix the stain of bad faith, of rapacity, and of every other crime on the past Governments of India. I proceed rather in the order of the Solicitor General than that of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and, in the first place, I cannot but observe that when he asks the House to judge of the Proclamation, the document he has given us is an imperfect document. One of the most material passages in that Proclamation does not appear, the Government being perfectly aware at the date—the 7th of May—when they produced this document that there had appeared in the public newspapers an account of the Proclamation which contained that passage. They certainly could not give it as an official document because they had not received it as an official document. But, I ask, where is the candour, where is the fairness, in asking the House to judge of a document, they knowing that the document is incomplete, and that the part omitted contains much in vindication of the context? The passage has been read to the House, but I cannot forbear to notice it. It is this:
Can any man say that this passage is immaterial? May it not have this effect, that, while all the former severe sentences are held out as threats to the landowners who are still in arms, it is meant to open the way to reconciliation and restitution to those who make their submission to the British Government? But I must observe further, with regard to this document, that I could not be struck with the account which the Governor General gives of it in the beginning. He speaks of it first as a Proclamation put forth in a liberal and forgiving spirit. And Mr. Edmonstone thus comments upon the Proclamation:—"'To those among them who shall promptly come forward and give to the Chief Commissioner their support in the restoration of peace and order this indulgence will be large, and the Governor General will be ready to view liberally the claims which they may thus acquire to the restitution of their former rights."
Now, this part of the official document was not noticed in Lord Ellenborough's despatch. Though we must recollect they were men in arms, they were not, as the Solicitor General states, men in arms when we first entered the country, and therefore the case of those who enter a country by conquest, according to the spirit of modern warfare, leaving the inhabitants in the possession of their homes and property, does not apply to Oude. Lord Canning found the country in a state of submission. He did not annex Oude. He found it in a state of peace; and it was some time after—I will not say the exact period—when mutiny spread throughout the country, that those landowners and others took up arms. He says to these men—men who have been fighting against our regiments, men who have killed our soldiers, men who have intercepted our convoys, men who have endeavoured to starve into submission the feeble garrison of Lucknow—he says to all these men, not only that they shall not suffer the penalty of death or transportation, but that not even a week's imprisonment shall be inflicted on them for the offences they have committed. I can only say, that notwithstanding the severe character which has been given to this Proclamation, much is thus taken from that description. But it did not suit Lord Ellenborough to mention it, or to take any notice of that part of Lord Canning's proceedings. It bears the character of mercy, and I do not wonder that it was so considered. But there seems to have been a determination, immediately the Proclamation was received, to seize hold of it, with a view to fix censure upon it without looking to its general tenor. But, Sir, I must call the attention of the House, because this is a grave part of the question, to the situation of Lord Canning. Lord Canning had been for nearly a year exposed in one of the most perilous situations, requiring the highest qualities of heart and head which a man in a high position can need. He had to provide for the safety of a British garrison, small in numbers, which had been diminished by reinforcements and armaments sent away to other parts, with only one European regiment, I believe, in a space of 400 miles from Calcutta. He was exposed to this extensive and perilous mutiny. He had at the same time to consider the welfare of those 150,000,000 in India over whom he had to rule. And, placed in that position, no man can say that, while others trembled, his cheeks were ever blanched with fear—that, while the murders committed roused to frenzy the passions of the Europeans about him, his blood was ever moved to vengeance. Sir, I remember when Thanks were voted in this House to our friends in India, on the proposition of my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton, I took the opportunity of saying a few words in commendation of the course which Lord Canning had pursued; and I remarked on his determination that he would not consent that there should be war between races, but to look at all these Indian races as people who might be reconciled to our rule, and that he had proclaimed a doctrine and a practice most abhorrent to those who look only for vengeance. I do not remember that when I paid that humble tribute to the merits of Lord Canning, the Gentlemen who now sit on the Treasury benches were so impressed with the maxims of forbearance. On the contrary, there was nothing but carping and cavilling, hypothetical condemnations, prophetical speeches, hesitating language, and a willingness to join the popular voice, as it was then esteemed, which depreciated the merits of Lord Canning, and for one cause or another they seemed disposed to withhold that confidence and approbation which to a public man performing difficult duties are ever most dear. Being in power, there came to them a part of a Proclamation which had not been issued by Lord Canning, without any explanation, but purporting to be one which was to be issued, or might be issued, when Lucknow should be taken. I ask, what should have been the conduct of a Government on receiving such a despatch from such a man at such a moment? It seems to me it was no heroic duty or difficult duty, but the common duty of any Government at that period to say—"This is a man distinguished for his humanity. This is a Governor General placed in the most perilous position. If we cast upon him a sudden censure, we may disable him from performing the duties of his office. There is no character of fierceness or cruelty about him which should induce us to withhold our confidence, or to believe that he has surrendered his humane and rational intentions with regard to the people of Oude." If that had been their belief they might have written a despatch conveying their general views concerning confiscation, asking for explanations, and recommending in general terms a policy of mercy. If such a despatch had been written, if, as is usual with despatches when great affairs are being transacted, it had been refused to those who wished it produced, I think it would have been but fair and common justice to Lord Canning, and not only fair and common justice to Lord Canning, but justice to your own empire. That was not thought proper. They, or rather Lord Ellenborough, who with regard to the affairs of India, had their entire confidence, immediately wrote a despatch which appears to me, I confess, more like something which is written for the sake of public invective—more like a letter of "Junius" to be published in the Public Advertiser—more like one of the most severe lampoons which a political opponent launches against his adversary, than the grave rebuke by the President of the Board of Control to a Governor General who he thought had outstepped the limits of his duty. To show the style of this despatch, I will just read a passage or two from it:—"lf an exemption, almost general, from the penalties of death, transportation, and imprisonment, such as is now about to be offered to men who have been in rebellion, had been publicly proclaimed, before a heavy blow had been struck, it is at least as likely that resistance would have been encouraged by the seeming exhibition of a weakness as that it would have been disarmed by a generous forbearance."
It then goes on,—"Other conquerors, when they have succeeded in overcoming resistance, have excepted a few persons as still deserving punishment, but have with a generous policy extended their clemency to the great body of the people,"
Hon. Gentlemen admire that, and it is no doubt a very fine piece of writing and may rank with many passages from our classics; but was it fitting that the Government should hurl their sarcasms at a man placed in the position of the Governor General—a man who had never been convicted of cruelty, who had never been remarkable for the dreadful punishments which he had inflicted, but who had, on the contrary, been taunted for the clemency and mercy which he had displayed? This is the man against whom the organ of the Government thought fit to direct his sarcasms and his invective. Can you suppose that a man who has been censured in that way is fit to continue the Governor General of India? One of two things you must choose—if he is fit for that high situation, he is not deserving of your invective; if he is not, he ought not to be left in that high position. But this is the sort of tone in which you thought fit to write to the Governor General, a tone totally unbecoming the Government of a great empire. A laboured attempt is said to have been made by the Prime Minister "in another place," and it has been made here to-night, to fix on Lord Ellenborough the responsibility of the publication of this despatch. Lord Ellen-borough seems to have thought sincerely that the publication was calculated to do great good in India, and he was anxious that it should be produced. I wish to say nothing disrespectful of Lord Ellenborough—I believe him to be, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite truly said the other night, a man of genius. I only regret the want of judgment which he has shown in this matter. But he had colleagues with whom he must have consulted; and one of the most eminent of them, the leader of this House, on the 6th of May, being asked the tenor of Lord Ellenborough's despatch, said, "Of course that despatch will be laid on the table." Is not that right hon. Gentleman, then, a participator in the publication? If the publication was right, let him claim the merit, for he had a large share in it. We know not what the decision of the Cabinet may have been, but when we hear from the leader of this House that the despatch will be produced, it means, of course, that the Government have decided that it shall be. And when we hear that "the policy of the Governor General has been disapproved ill every sense" is not that an announcement which must make every mutineer in India prick up his ears and instil fresh courage into the breast of every man in arms against us. Was it not news to make every rebel say, "Though the Viceroy be our enemy, though the British troops pursue us into our retreats, though they defeat us in open fight, take our towns and deprive us of our cannon, yet in London we have a friend who will help us?" But, perhaps, it may be said that the publication was not calculated to do any mischief. On that point I have here an authority which will not be disputed. These are the words used in another place by no enemy of the Government:—"You have acted upon a different principle; you have deserved a few as deserving of special Favour, and you have struck, with what they will feel as the severest of persecution, the mass of the inhabitants of the country. We cannot but think that the precedent from which you have departed will appear to have been conceived in a spirit of wisdom superior to that which appears in the precedent you have made."
That is the language of the Prime Minister. He declares that the despatch must produce a most prejudicial effect, and yet that is the despatch which the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised should be laid on the table of the House. The Solicitor General made a point which if he had not been wrong in his dates would have been a very good one. He said that, as the despatch had been given to Earl Granville and to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), it was not likely that it could have been kept secret very long, and that the Government, therefore, had done well to make a virtue of a necessity. But, unfortunately, this promise to produce the despatch was made on Thursday, and I believe Earl Granville received the despatch about eleven on Friday morning, and the Member for Birmingham a little later. Therefore that defence entirely falls to the ground. I put, then, these two things together. It was most unwise and most mischievous, in my opinion, to write such a despatch in the terms I have described—terms which would have done very well for a brilliant author, but which were totally unbecoming a Minister of the Crown. In the next place, it was most mischievous and most prejudicial to the public service, and most dangerous to the interests of India, to publish that despatch; and for this averment my witness and authority is the head of the Government. There are some parts of this despatch which seem to indicate pretty clearly what is to be the policy of the Government. Hitherto it has always been the practice for a Government on coming into office to accept the settlements which have been made by former Governments; and when a conquest has been made, a war entered into, or an acquisition secured to the Crown, not to look any further into the abstract merits of the question, but to adopt that which has been done to carry on the war, and to defend these acquisitions. In this manner alone, I venture to think, can the policy of the empire be carried on with safety. If one Government were to say we disapprove what was done by the East India Company under Lord Dalhousie, and another were to say we disapprove what was done with regard to Scinde—if when Mr. Fox was in office in 1806 he had said, "I disapprove the wars of Lord Wellesley, which secured to us Delhi and Seringapatam;" it is evident that the empire would he in a state of continual fluctuation, and you would have no policy lasting from year to year. If you were to be perpetually entering into discussions with regard to the justice and wisdom of wars gone by you could have no stable policy for the empire. That is the way in which the Government of this great empire has hitherto been carried on; that is the way in which, despite of our party battles—spite of Gentlemen sitting first on one side and then on another—this great empire has been built up, and it is the only way in which it can be maintained. If you are to say, as this despatch says—or rather insinuates, which is a great deal worse—that the annexation of Oude was unrighteous and unprincipled, and done in defiance of treaties, and that therefore the hostilities going on in Oude were legitimate warfare, and that not Her Majesty's troops, but the rebels and mutineers were the real defenders of the right—if that be the tone adopted—do not think that your empire can last. It must be for ever shifting and precarious. For this reason more especially, I think that the despatch is to be condemned; but I think that it is to be condemned in every sense. I think, first, that it is most unjust to Lord Canning, who deserves praise, admiration, and support, and not the most severe censure that was ever passed upon a great public servant. I think, next, that it is dangerous to proclaim to India that the acts of the head of your Government there arc not trusted, and will be disavowed. I think also that it is dangerous—I know not for the sake of what or for what purpose—to be reverting to the acts of past Governors General in India, and of past Presidents of the Board of Control, and Directors of the East India Company. I believe that these things tend to shake and finally to dissolve the magnificent fabric which our ancestors have founded, and which we have helped to rear; and I see no escape from such a consequence unless we censure this despatch. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the other evening—and I admire him for having done so—that if Lord Ellenborough's colleagues had known of his resignation they would have begged him to abandon his intention; but the same tone has not been observed to-night, and it appears from the noble Lord the Secretary of State that Lord Ellenborough's resignation was accepted, if not with regret, at least with regretful feelings. Whether the Government wish to maintain Lord Ellenborough or not, whether they wish to retain the services of "that man of genius and generous temper" I cannot say; but I do say, that they are bound up with his acts; they are responsible for what he did—they are responsible for the tenor of that despatch and for its publication. Let them bear, therefore, the responsibility of that despatch. They may say that it was issued in the cause of humanity. That remains to be seen. If, indeed, in the end that prove true—if the Proclamation tended to plunge Oude into war—the Government would have reason to take credit for their act; but, if on the contrary, as I believe will turn out to be the case, this disavowal of the Governor General tends to encourage the enemies of British rule, and to discourage and dishcarten its friends, them say, the censure rightly falls on Her Majesty's Government, and they must bear it."I do regret that at the present moment that despatch should have been so prominently brought into notice. Its production was somewhat hastily promised, but I hope your Lordships will concur in the propriety of the course recommended by my noble Friend—that of laying on the table only such portions as may be published without causing any serious inconvenience to the public service, omitting some passages which if published in India might, in the opinion of the Government, produce a most prejudicial effect."
MR. ROEBUCK moved the adjournment of the debate.
I presume that it will be resumed the first thing on Monday.
On Monday. Debate adjourned till Monday next.
House adjourned at a Quarter after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.