Motion For A Select Committee
Mr. Speaker—I have undertaken to ask the attention of this House to the complaint of the lineal heir and recognized successor of the most confiding and most useful ally we ever had in India, who is now a suppliant for justice at your Bar. And what is the plaint of the unhappy Prince, who, against his will, is compelled to sojourn afar from home and country, to the detriment of his family and affairs? He fears, and with too much cause, that designs are harboured to disinherit his sons at his death, and to deprive them of advantages they have hitherto been taught to regard as in-defeasibly theirs. The evidence of such a purpose I shall lay before you, not with the fullness of detail with which it would be brought before a Committee, but with sufficient palpability of outline to satisfy the least credulous that his complaint is not without reason. I am authorized to state distinctly that from Parliament or from the Executive he asks neither favour nor indulgence; all he asks is what he can prove to a Committee of this House to be his own. All he wants is justice—fidelity to engagements—the same fair play which, if this House were sitting as a Court of Equity, it would decree between man and man. It is not his fault if he has to come to Parliament, because this is the only Court in the Realm to whose jurisdiction the Executive cannot plead in Bar. I wish with all my heart, as I have on former occasions stated in this House, that Parliament would constitute a suitable tribunal from selected Members of the two Houses, with a Judge of the highest class as Assessor, to whom might be referred questions of political jurisprudence between the Crown and those Princes and dependencies whose interests sometimes clash with the views of the Secretary of State. Until such, or some such, provision is made, no alternative is left, in cases of this kind, but an appeal to the justice and wisdom of Parliament not to allow a great wrong to remain unredressed. I say a great wrong, because after long consideration, and the devotion of much care and reflection to the subject, I do not hesitate to say that I can satisfy any impartial mind that Syud Ali, now in this country, is entitled to the fulfilment of the Treaties made with his ancestors, and confirmed to him in the name of Her Majesty; and further that, if all those Treaties were put into the fire and not a vestige of them remained, it would be inconsistent with the duty, the fame, and the honour of this House, after confirming to his family, rank, dignity, and income for 100 years, that any Minister from this side of the House or the other should contemplate disfranchising them as if they had no pretensions to princely rank and heritage. I ask the House to take nothing from me for granted; but I will give them authorities which nobody of either party will gainsay. Little more than a century ago, as venturous traders in the East, we were but too glad of leave from the Princes of India to dwell in peace, to buy and sell, to rent land and build factories, and to arm sufficient followers for watch and ward, especially so to the Nazim of Bengal for the countenance and protection he afforded us. Lord Macaulay, whose name is still familiarly cherished in this House, not merely as a statesman, but as an author of imperishable history, whose name is identified with the English language of the 19th century, has left on record that at this period Bengal was ruled by one of "those great Mussulman Houses" who "had as many subjects as the King of France or the Emperor of Germany." That is said of a family whom we have beard described as no Princes at all. What was their rank, and whence their authority? Hear Lord Macaulay again.
Political power and function in Bengal we then had none; but in the words of Lord Brougham, spoken in the great suit brought by the Mayor of Lyons against the East India Company—"Though," he says, "they might still acknowledge in words the superiority of the House of Tamerlane, yet in truth they were no longer lieutenants removable at pleasure, but independent hereditary Princes."
Sir, it is only necessary for me to add to this the testimony of history, that when the great founder of this House, Aliverdy Khan, died in 1756, his foolish son, like James II. in this country, became unbearable as a tyrant, and his nobles and officers combined against him and sought foreign aid to emancipate themselves from the yoke they could no longer bear. The pioneer Company, who, under Clive, furnished a contingent to aid this domestic revolution, were paid for their services, partly in money, and partly in land; and the chartered Company, whose executors and heirs we are, were glad to accept jaghires or freeholds, and zemindaries or leaseholds from Meer Jaffier, the progenitor and predecessor in the male line direct of the present Nawab of Bengal. And yet there are those who would have us now believe, and act on the belief, that the dynasty with whom we were glad to bargain, from whom we were glad to take lands in chief, and to whom we were glad to hire our bayonets, had never at any time claim to princely rank or any pretension to independent power. From 1757 to 1770, five separate treaties, agreements, capitulations—what you will—were made with these Princes, who having the power of life and death, and the right of peace and war, we thus acknowledged and treated as the Sovereigns of Bengal. By the first Treaty in 1757, signed by Clive, Vansittart, and others of the Company's Council, we stipulated for £2,500,000, the Zemindary of Culpee, subject to the land tax, and the effects and factories of the French. In return, we covenanted to aid the revolt which overthrew Suraja Dowla at the Battle of Plassey, and made Meer Jaffier, Soubadar. By a second Treaty in 1763, we covenanted to maintain a body of troops to be at the service of the Nawab Nazim, in consideration of three jaghires or grants in fee-farm of Birdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, and exemption from all excise duties. Now, will anyone have the goodness to tell me how sharp practitioners like Vansittart, Carnac, and Warron Hastings, came to sign a deed with a Prince who was not a Prince; to take grants of the soil in fee from one who was not lord of the soil; to accept exemptions from inland tolls and taxes throughout a territory as large as France, from somebody who after all was nobody in particular; and to engage for so many British troops as escort to a country gentleman when he went out tiger shooting? But there is something more curious still in the second Treaty, which now we are told was not a Treaty—only a Christian cheat to amuse Mahommedans. We read—not between the lines, but plainly and roundly writ—this curious clause on the part of Meer Jaffier—"Their territorial settlement was effected by leave of a regularly established Government, invested with the right of Sovereignty. Calcutta and the lands adjoining were held under it by the Company as tenants rendering rent, and afterwards as officers exercising by delegation part of its authority;" namely, the "Receivership of taxes, in Bengal, Behar, and Orissa."
And who was sent as our Envoy, to feel his way to further acquisitions, and to negotiate new engagements? Why, no other than the aspiring, subtle, and insatiable Warren Hastings, who, at Moorshedabad fashioned the master-key by which he afterwards unlocked so many cabinets and treasuries. The third Treaty was made on the accession of Meer Jaffier's son in 1765, ratifying and confirming all that the former contained, and extending its provisions somewhat further. The Company engaged to keep up a subsidiary force for the defence of Ms Provinces against external enemies, and thus relieve the Nawab from the charge of all but those "necessary for the dignity of his person and Government." In this way began the armed ascendancy of the Company in Bengal. This is our third title-deed, and having netted the golden fruit that came of it, do you seriously believe that Europe, that America, that your own children will believe you when you say that that fruit grow on the points of fixed bayonets, that you won Bengal, Behar, and Orissa by fight in the open field, and that you have a right to treat it as the spoil of conquest, and the sons of its Princes as captives and dependents on your grace and favour? I say that as a matter of fact the allegation is untrue, and that Parliament ought once and for all, for the sake of its own character and honour, to silence the misrepresentation. I shall not stop to argue hypothetics, or debate what the Company might have done had they invaded Bengal as they afterwards invaded Rohilcund. They preferred the way of diplomatic acquisition. They trafficked with successive Nawabs, and, step by step, won peaceably their way, never firing a shot in anger, but bargaining for each jaghire and pergunnah—each privilege and each function; and now, having got all they desired, I say it would be unutterably base, contemptible, and infatuated, to higgle or to huckster about the price which they agreed to pay. In the same year—1765—there was a fourth Convention, memorable in its way. By this the Company obtained the office of Dewan, or Farmers General of the taxes in Bengal; the conditions of the grant being that they should become security for the more punctual payment of the tribute to the Mogul, and that a suitable Civil List of £530,000 a-year should be paid to the Nawab. After disbursement of these two charges. "whatsoever might remain," was to be their own, to assist in defraying the cost of the troops they had covenanted in the previous Treaty to organize. On the succession by inheritance of another son, a fourth Treaty was made, embodying all that had gone before, but reducing a portion of the charge for Nizamut expences. It is nothing to the purpose to say now—What fools the Nazim and his Ministers were to cut down their guards on the plea of economy! History will say of England at this period—What fools your King and Cabinet were at that very hour! With all your boasted enlightenment, classical learning, freedom of the Press, and Parliamentary rhetoric, what were you about? Why, nothing less than elaborately cutting adrift an Empire a thousand times more valuable than Hindostan, and with idiotic ingenuity contriving to charge yourselves £110,000,000 for the operation. Why, the Moslem Prince at Moorshedabad was acting like a philosopher, compared with His Majesty of England; and Mahommed Reza Khan, the Finance Minister, who counselled the transfer of the Dewanny, was a frugal and successful financier compared with George Grenville, who invented the Stamp Act for America, or Lord North, who would enforce the duty on tea. Here, then, we have four Treaties and a Convention, framed in European fashion, and consecutively executed by the Company on one side, and by Meer Jaffier and his two sons, who succeeded him, on the other, in which the diplomatic parity of the contracting parties is never so much as questioned, and the precision and completeness of whose provisions is as cavil-proof as if the ratifications had been exchanged at Vienna. And yet we are told that they were not Treaties at all; or, if Treaties, merely personal, and binding the Company only during the life or reign of each Nazim, although, by the nature of their conditions, they bound the country of the Nazim, and, of necessity, whoever might come after him, irredeemably and permanently. The distinction between real and personal Treaties is an elementary one in all works of authority on International Law. From Grotius to Wheaton, the greatest of modern jurists, the fundamental distinction is broadly traced. Differences of opinion, on points of less importance, there are among these authorities; but upon this point there is no difference. The tests universally and uniformly recognized by all of them are simple and obvious. If a Treaty is made for personal benefit only—that is, for the benefit of a Sovereign or his family—it is personal, and not real. If it is made, or professes to be made, for the benefit of the country or the community, it is real, and not personal—that is to say, terminable only by mutual consent or war. There are cases, of course, where the benefits on one side are personal, and the benefits on the other side are real, and then the interpretation of common sense and common equity, admitting of no serious question, is, that the obligation follows the nature of the benefit, and imparts its own character of reality to the whole. What is the case before us? Relying on a guarantee of dignity and income for themselves and their family, three successive Sovereigns of Bengal agreed to enfief the Company with lands, and to appoint them to great posts of Administrative trust. But they recite expressly, as the joint inducement to the adoption of this policy, their perfect confidence that the engagements thus entered into would be for their own honour and the "good of their country." There is no question here of severance, for there has never been a blow struck in anger; and as for mutual renunciation, that is ridiculous. It does not lie in the mouths of us, who are the heirs and successors of the Company who made these Treaties, to say that we will not hold to them. From generation to generation the Company, by themselves and their dependents, their apologists and their chroniclers, never ceased to chant thanksgivings for the transfer of power thus begun from Native to European hands. We are always assured that it was for the spread of commerce, civilization, and Christianity, that these triumphs of astute diplomacy were made. Well, but if so, the recitals of 1766, about the "good of the country" were true as well as binding on the parties to the contract; and, if true and binding then, they are so now as much as on the day they were written. Thus these engagements are plainly and palpably real, and not personal Treaties. In point of fact, what was done in Bengal at this period is acknowledged on all hands to have been the foundation of the gigantic structure of empire reared by the Company. It did not suit their purpose to unsettle the foundation while the business of building was going on. Accordingly, they never said a word casting doubt on these fundamental compacts—they kept them ostensibly, nay, ostentatiously, to the end. Disputes there were, in the course of years, regarding the application of the stipend thus guaranteed; but, as Clive had said—"Let it be remembered there is always a Soubah," or native form of government; and for 80 years the Company never proposed to set aside the Soubadar, or to withhold from him the means of maintaining befittingly his inheritance. But there is another test of real or perpetual Treaties which all publicists of reputation recognize. Grotius says—"Wherever I shall fix my Court, an English gentleman shall reside to transact all affairs between me and the Company; and a person shall also reside on my part at Calcutta to negotiate with the Governor and Council."
Von Martens and Wheaton say the same. In all the four Treaties I have cited, it may be frankly owned there are not the words which, in a technical sense, are held to make a compact perpetual—that is, the expression that it shall be "inviolable always." And, to my astonishment, I have found that a remarkable document, issued by the India Office not very long ago, in referring to these Treaties, has not only pointed out the omission of these words from the four Treaties first made, but has committed the strange blunder of saying that the fifth and last Treaty in which all the relations of England with Bengal were finally settled in 1770 was identical in terms with the previous four, and, therefore, in no sense more binding. This Treaty of 1770 was made with the fourth Prince of the dynasty. It confirms all that had gone before, solidifies the whole, and then baptizes it with a blessing. Now, I assert, and challenge contradiction or dispute, that if that final Treaty was made, not for a time, but for ever, by Mr. Cartier, then Governor of Bengal, and his Council, in the name of the King, it will be still subsisting, and cannot be made away with. Now, Sir, here is the document—the original Treaty—signed, sealed, and delivered in the year 1770. Here is the broad seal of the Mussulman Prince, and here are the signatures of the Christian statesmen, the chartered merchants—there they are for anyone to look at, and they are appended to these concluding words—"This agreement, by the blessing of God, shall be inviolably observed for ever." Now, I ask any honourable man what was meant by those words? Has anyone the face to say they were all badinage or blasphemy, or to say that we are now to act the menial part of political scavengers, to sweep up and hide away dead roguery? What a function that would be for a great Government to perform! Sir, I hope that while I have had the honour of a seat in this House, no man has heard from my lips anything that could be mistaken for profanity; but this is a topic with which it is hard to deal without liability to be misunderstood in that respect. This Treaty, the foundation of this petitioner's rights, is sealed and signed under "the blessing of God." Some future critic exegetically may ask, What God can here be meant? Not Mars, for there was no fighting between the parties—not a blow was struck at any time. Not Mercury, for he was the god of thieves. My private opinion is that it was Plutus. Mammon was uppermost in the thoughts of the contracting parties. Well, then, to Mammon let us go; and I say that when the millions upon millions of revenue levied since then from Bengal, Bekar, and Orissa, subject only to the rent of 16 lacs to its former Sovereigns are taken into consideration, no judge in Mammon's Courts would rule in favour of the stronger party. For my part I do not believe that the Company, Directors, Generals, or Agents meant either subterfuge or trick. I believe they thought they were making an excellent bargain when they agreed for ever to pay the occupant of the Musnud a yearly rent charge; and the best proof that they meant it is that they paid it uninterruptedly for 100 years, and that it is payable still. Upon a special pleaders' quibble, unsustainable as I believe in point of law, the five Treaties under which our ascendancy in Bengal was secured, confirmed and ratified, are now said to have been personal only; but the common doctrines of equity override, by the inferences from fact, all hypercritical distinctions of form. Taking them only as documentary evidence of an old subsisting agreement freely entered into in the face of day for public objects, they are conclusive of the case. The logic of mutual liability is irrefutable. The Native Princes of the House of Aliverdy Khan bound themselves in various acts to the Company, which every one of them confessedly performed; and nothing under Heaven can release the power that made with them these Treaties, or the power that has bound itself to stand in the shoes of the Company, in all respects from keeping and observing the spirit, if not the letter of the bond. I do not stop to ask whether the letter has always been observed. In the pranks of statesmen, like those of boys, it is frequently agreed that "cheating shall be in;" and if it were worth while I think I could show not a few over-reachings in the lapse of time. But I am not here to make a petty-fogging case, or to cast odium on the grave of the Company. I am not here to go into old reckonings, or to ask this House to appoint a Committee to go into past accounts. I demand nothing but security for the future against forfeiture and defeasance. I claim only on behalf of the descendant of your first great territorial ally in the East—an ally with whom you have never had a quarrel, a contest, or a suit—the scant and bare justice of guaranteed rank and guaranteed income; and I say that were it possible to burn the five Treaties, counterparts and all, or to forge five red Treaties framed on the memorable model furnished by Clive instead of them, you would still be bound by uninterrupted user to keep in substance the bargain they embody—bound by policy in the face of disaffected Asia, bound by self-respect in the face of Europe, bound by every sense of shame in the face of nations, bound by every sense of justice in the sight of Heaven. But it may be asked, why have there been no more Treaties of recognition and confirmation? The answer is clear, and weighty with meaning. Because the engagements having been summed up and settled in this Convention of 1770, there was nothing more to debate about; and because at each new accession the rights, dignities, and advantages of the family were duly, promptly, and unreservedly recognized by the Anglo-Indian Government. Because every Governor-General, from Warren Hastings to Canning, including Cornwallis, Minto, Wellesley, and Auckland—every man, in short, whose name is associated with the acquisition of our Empire in India—every one of these great functionaries on taking office intimated either in writing or otherwise to the Nawab of Bengal that he recognized his state and dignity, that it should be his object to maintain amity and intimacy with him, and that nothing should be done during his vice-royalty contrary to the honour and the maintenance of the Nawab's rank and state. All this time, too, they were authorizing the payment of £160,000 a-year to this Prince, who we are now told was no Prince, nobody in particular, only the descendant of an officer of a bygone Government, whom we were not hound to, after the period of our magnanimous grace and bounty had expired. If anyone doubts my assertion, here are the collected letters of these noblemen and Viceroys. Let any man read them and refute them if he can. Let him dispute their authenticity if he dare. Let any man dispute the inference I draw from them, which is, that there was a continuous stream of acknowledgment from the time you got the country at a rent-charge from the Princes of Bengal in 1770 until the present day; that you continued to pay and still continue paying that money, and that the design harboured to determine that payment upon the expiration of the life of the present incumbent is wholly inconsistent with policy, good faith, and fair dealing. But, Sir, I should be very sorry to rely upon general statements; you would like me to give particulars and you shall have them. There was once a man—I much mistake, Sir, if his image is effaced from your early memory, it is certainly not from mine—whom I saw in his old age sitting on yonder bench as Member for the town of Glasgow. I refer to one of the best and most courageous of men, a noble by birth, a soldier by profession, a statesman by experience—Lord William Bentinck—who governed India for seven years without shedding a drop of blood, and who left that country followed by the regrets of all creeds and classes. He had for his Secretary in Council a man entitled also to great honour for services rendered in civil departments of the State—Sir Charles Trevelyan. In 1834, some zealous suttler of the camp of conquest sought to degrade the Nazim by making him amenable to legal process, when Lord "William Bentinck instructed the Advocate General, through his Secretary, to resist by every lawful means the attempt to harass the Nawab by civil suits—"If it be added to the Treaty that it shall stand for ever, it will from hence appear that the Treaty is real."
mark these significant words—"By the Treaty of 1770 annexed," he said, "His Highness the Nawab has been recognized by the British Government as an independent Prince; and "—
This was more than 60 years after the Treaty had been signed, four devolutions of inheritance having taken place in the interval. May I ask, what is the meaning of public faith and public law, if all this can be set aside at the selfish will of one party to engagements so solemn, so mutually beneficial, and the intent of the parties to which is so confirmed by assent and consent, by public documents and by public payments to heirs and successors during the period ordinarily assigned for the life of man? What is to be held sacred or binding if user like this can be set at nought? With all freehold property any contest of title is barred after unquestioned possession during 60 years, and a Bill is actually before Parliament bettering the claim by user still more, and giving indefeasibility of possession after 40 years. A squatter on a common; a usurer who has reduced his mortgage to possession; the bastard's son who has contrived to keep the manor house, and to let the land without disturbance or contention three-score years, cannot be ousted by the rightful heir, too late awaking to the claim on which he has slumbered; and yet it is proposed to set aside the unimpeachable title and undisturbed possession of more than a century in the case of a man who has never boon so much as suspected—or any of his race—of political infidelity to British interests, or to any of the engagements to which his fathers bound themselves and him. I have recited one refutation of the unworthy plea of the unreality of these Treaties from the lips of the Company's highest officers 60 years after they are now said to have expired, and to my mind this one emphatic avowal is sufficient of itself to destroy that plea. But the tale of testimony does not end in 1834. In a despatch of 14th November, 1838, the Court of Directors in Leadenhall Street forbade the support of a collateral branch of Meer Jaffier's family, being made a charge on the Nawab's income, because they said that support was—"the national faith is pledged for nothing being proposed or carried into execution, derogating from his honour. If the liability of the Nazim were to be admitted, there is no degree of indignity which might not be inflicted upon him in contravention of the pledged national faith, and of that respect which is obviously due to the representative of our oldest ally on this side of India. The case of Raja Hurraneath Rae does not appear to his Honour in Council to bear any analogy to the present. Raja Hurraneath Rae was a subject of this Government from whose gift he derived his title; while the Nawab Nazim is a Prince whose independence has been recognised by a Treaty with one of his predecessors."
Still later in April, 1840, they rebuked the assumption of a zealous subordinate at Calcutta, who proposed to pay for municipal improvements at Moorshe-dabad, out of the Nizamut Trust Fund, with this explicit declaration—"Anterior in its origin to the Treaty which settled 16 lacs of Rupees per annum on the Nizamut, and could not therefore after a contrary understanding had been so long acted on he made a charge on those 16 lacs."
Furthermore, in the devolution of heirship, whenever a Prince of this House succeeded his father or his uncle, as the ease might be, a Proclamation was issued at Calcutta, publicly announcing the fact. Thus on the 19th December, 1838, a Proclamation was issued by order of Lord Auckland, informing the"The Deposit Fund is not public money, but part of the assignment by Treaty of the family, of which part is allowed to accumulate for its general benefit."
A pendant to the Proclamation is a garrison order that a salute should be fired of 19 guns and three rounds of musketry. Are these announcements and concussions of the air usual on the death or accession of a private citizen, of an officer of state, or even of a Prince of the Blood? I have certainly no particular love for salvos of artillery, and I should be sorry to be cross-examined on the moral value of blank shot; but if you think it necessary to testify your respect for Her Majesty the Queen by 21 guns on her birthday, be good enough to explain what you mean by 19 guns, to say nothing of the musketry on the accession of a man who is now alleged to be no Prince, but a dependent whom you have a right to despoil at pleasure. It may be said these are mere unmeaning ceremonials; but are you prepared to open up the discussion of the value of political symbols, or can you afford in the East of all places in the world capriciously and suddenly to turn Jacobin or quaker in your mode of carrying on government? I have the misfortune to be short-sighted, but I think I see something on that Table wrought and embossed with images, and all of gold, the precise use of which I do not think I ever heard. We know who would have said—" Why should not this bauble be sold, and the produce given to the poor?" But you will not quote him as an authority; and yet no power on earth could get you, Sir, to leave that Chair, until the noble Lord, who is the armed guardian of order in this House, takes a walk up the floor and back again to remove that bauble from the gilt spurs on which it rests, and put it down on the little shelf which I believe to be an essential part of the British Constitution. For my part, I have no objection to see our grand old mace maintained, believing, as I do, that symbolism is the natural and legitimate way of appealing to the historic faith of the people in our great and ancient institutions; and I think, that while we value symbolism as expressing our constitutional feeling, we cannot tell those whom we have contrived to over-reach or overcome, and whom we now seek to over-awe, that when their interests are concerned we regard these formalities as meaningless and vain. Relying on these Treaties, these acknowledgments, these reiterations of good faith, for 15 years the present Nawab dwelt in peace. How should he mistrust pledges and assurances so cumulative? But in 1853 that infatuated policy of aggression on, and absorption of, Native States, seems to have become fixed in the mind of Lord Dalhousie. In the words of Sir George Clerk, when courageously dissenting in Council from a course he could not control, Lord Dalhousie "led off with that flagrant instance of bare-faced appropriation," in the annexation of Sattara. This was followed, at brief intervals, with similar confiscations of Nagpore, Kerowli, Jhansi, Arcot, and Mysore—in some of which the Native families were disinherited, the furniture of their palaces and the jewels of their women sold by auction, and their territories annexed to those of the paramount power. The Viceroy cast his eyes on Moorshedabad, and wrote an elaborate Minute, in which he declared that the Nawab had no right or title whatever to any allowance by Treaty or compact; that the old Treaties were purely personal; and that the 16 lacs a-year had been all along paid only by the free grace and favour of the British Government. He then suggested that, on the death of the present Prince, the Government should not be bound to the existing payments. State secrets, as we know, have a wonderful power of escape, and this unexpected danger soon became known at Moorshedabad, and remonstrances, in the shape of memorials, were addressed by the Nawab to the Governor General, but without extorting any reply. On Lord Canning's appointment these expostulations were renewed, and a memorial was forwarded to the Court of Directors. Then came the Mutiny, with its terrors and its horrors; and there was a time when every Native Chief or Prince was viewed with distrust, and when no man could say what aggravation of our difficulties a wavering allegiance might entail. But the Petitioner at your Bar is, on all hands, admitted to have never wavered in his fidelity. When things were at the worst, spontaneously he sent to Government a timely contribution of elephants for draught use, and employed his guards to prevent incipient tendencies to disturbance. For this he had no lack of acknowledgments at the time; and when the storm had subsided, and Lord Canning sought to point the moral of the fearful outbreak of popular hate and princely disaffection excited by the Dalhousie policy, he put on record, in 1860, words of rebuke, protest, and warning that, except by madmen, will never be forgotten. With the moral courage worthy of his father's son, Lord Canning did not hesitate to renounce and denounce the infatuated course of expropriation and forfeiture, which had spread fear and misgiving through the whole of Hindostan. In his celebrated despatch of the 30th April, 1860, he warned the Home Government that—"Allies of the British Crown and all friendly Powers of the death of the late; Nawab," and the "succession to the hereditary honours and dignities of the Nizamut and Soubadarry of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, of his son Syud Munsoor Ullee."
Lord Canning, indeed, was mindful that it was he who had promulgated, in 1858, Her Majesty's first Proclamation as Queen of India, which contained the memorable pledge that—"Our supremacy will never be heartily accepted and respected so long as we leave ourselves open to the doubts which are now felt, and which our uncertain policy has justified, as to our ultimate intentions towards Native chiefs."
All Treaties and engagements! What do these words mean? Surely not a flourish, a fanfaron, a quibble, or a cheat. Loyalty, policy, decency forbid the thought that anything open to imputation of the kind should have been placed by the Cabinet Minister for India in the mouth of the Queen. And why? Because the Queen is that Sovereign of all her race who has written her name indelibly in the history of the nation as the faithful Priestess of truth, and because the Minister was the present Earl of Derby. He is not a man to palter with great words of State, and I call upon his Colleagues to stand by his words, and to make them good. It is the duty of the Chancellor, in matters doubtful, to keep the conscience of the Queen, but it is the duty of Parliament, by the interpretation, application, and vindication of Treaties and of laws to keep the word of the Queen. Here is Her Royal word to the Princes of India, uttered while the smoke of civil war and the groans of civil carnage still filled the air; uttered in redemption of the promise given to Parliament that if the government of India were given over to the Crown, that government should be conducted in loyal observance of those compacts, bargains, engagements, and Treaties by which we first gained footing, then gained power, and ultimately gained ascendancy in Southern Asia. But what are engagements, if those recognized by letters, Proclamations, accredited Envoys, and salvoes of artillery do not warrant the appellation; and what are Native chieftainries, if one transmitted from sire to son through 10 successive holders of the dignity, without interruption, without question, without pretence of failure in fidelity and loyalty, does not constitute such a position? Did Lord Canning doubt them when he wrote to Syud Munsoor Ali, the petitioner for your justice, telling him he might rely that the—"All Treaties and engagements made by the Company with Native Princes would be scrupulously maintained, and that She would respect the rights, dignity, and honour of Native Princes as her own."
Though warned of his danger by what took place under Lord Dalhousie, Syud Ali could not persuade himself to believe that the peril which had overtaken other princely houses hovered over his own. His expostulations drew forth no reply, and when he visited Calcutta in 1859, though received with all the usual marks of ceremonial which have since been continued at the Court of Her Majesty, he was told that the Viceroy could not enter into discussions with him during a personal interview. Still his misgivings slept. At last a reply to his remonstrances against these indications of an altered policy was received at Calcutta. In this despatch, written by one who was long a Member of this House, and who occupies a considerable position in public life in England, the Treaties are declared to be no longer binding, upon the ground that they were each and all of a personal character. I have already alluded to the circumstance, which would be comical if it were not deplorable, that when quoting these Treaties in argument, Lord Halifax omits the words in the Treaty of 1770, "inviolably observed for ever," and then coolly says its language was the same as the others, which did not contain these words. The unhappy Prince might well be startled at the levity and the licence with which established rights were thus treated. The obligations derived from long continued usage were, however, generally admitted in this remarkable document, and unpleasant though its contents inferentially were, they were so wrapped up in smooth and conciliatory language as not to excite alarm or resentment in the mind of the Nawab. But here, too, a secret existed; and information soon reached the Prince that the despatch had been mutilated in transmission, and that the part which, more than all it concerned him to know, had been excised at Port William. The original despatch consisted of some 18 or 20 clauses, and paragraph 12 suggested that the future position of the Nawab's sons should be fixed and defined with as little delay as possible; that they should, in fact, be made to understand that they were to earn their bread, instead of relying on any share of patrimony in the future; and there were certain philosophic common-places about young men having suitable avocations instead of being brought up in the pursuit of pleasure. The paragraph, in short, was such a one as the members of the Committee of Public Safety in 1793 might have indulged in when binding the son of Louis XVI. to a working trade. What the avocations were which the descendants of Aliverdy Khan were to be indentured to does not appear; but of the sinister meaning of the recommendation there could be no doubt. Paragraph 12 was left out of the copy sent to Moorshedabad, and the others renumbered to hide the omission. ["Shame!"] Was that done, I ask, in the name or under the blessing of God, for the honour of the Queen? No choice was left the Nawab but to appeal unto Cæsar, to come to this country—to the seat of power—and to lay his case before Her Majesty, before you, Sir, and the Parliament of this Realm. Here he learned that the advisers of the Crown must answer to that Parliament not only for their acts, but for their avowed intentions. The despatch of 1864 was moved for by Mr. Bagwell in 1870, and the Minute of Lord Dalhousie by another hon. Member. Both were produced, and the whole scheme was laid bare. A further despatch was likewise produced, in which I regret to say Lord Mayo acquiesced in the policy which he had reason to suppose his predecessors had determined on. But no acquiescence by him or any other official, however high and reputable, can exonerate this House from judging for itself whether the thing be right or wrong, the policy sound or unsound, the obligations invoked binding or not binding. It is said, Sir, as a last excuse for the breach of agreement and threatened withdrawal of half the Nawab's income, that the Indian Exchequer cannot afford it; and it is plausibly asked—Shall we tax the impoverished ryots for funds wherewith to enable one historic family to live in luxury? We have frequently had a deficit in the finance accounts for the year, and though things look better just now, we have nothing to spare, and we may have a deficit again. Which shall we choose—exaction from the community, or extortion from a mediatized Prince? The question, mutato nomine, is that which Robert Macaire puts in the play. Deliberating as to the course to be taken in a pecuniary strait, he says—" Now what's to be done, or rather who's to be done; somebody must, that's evident." But, seriously, this is the language and this is the thought which every day is reprobated in the Insolvent Court, and in the Court of Chancery. If it be true, which I wholly deny, that India cannot be governed so as to pay 20s. in the pound, the obvious and just—nay, obviously the only just course to be taken is to pay all who have claims, 18s. or 19s. in the pound; but not by unrighteous preference to pay any of them in full, and fleece the few of all. We know how our Judges designate preferential payments of this kind, and the case before us will be precisely one of them, if you permit it to be so. You have full notice of what is intended; there is yet time to interpose. If you have doubts regarding details, appoint a Committee to winnow the facts, and report the fruits of inquiry to you. About the principle there is, I submit, no room for doubt. Will it be said that since the Government was taken over in the name of the Crown, frugality has kept expenditure at the lowest possible point, and that whatever comes, you must pay the interest on £117,000,000 of debt, the cost of the Army, and the charge for civil administration? These are very fine phrases; but what do they really mean? That you may put up the expenditure—Civil and Military—to any unassigned figure, and then turn round on your old contract creditors, and say—"You see we have not enough for you." Why, this was the logic of the Cabal when they shut the Exchequer in Charles II.'s time, and this is the transparent pretence of every prodigal executive in Christendom and Heathendom. But justification in this case there is none. While the prudent rule of the old Company lasted, the total expenditure did not exceed £30,000,000 a-year. To glut the insatiable greed of centralized patronage and power, you swept the Company's Government away, pretending that you would be able to do it cheaper. Have you done so? Have you nearly done so? Have you done so at all? You pulled down the old pent-house pile in Leadenhall Street, and sold the materials and site, and the old Board of Control in Cannon Row has been converted into a school for competitive examination. But the Secretary of State for India has had a Palace in the Park put up for him, at a cost of nearly £1,000,000 sterling, and filled with a whole hierarchy of right honourable and honourable, gentle and simple, inventive and idle hangers-on, whom the Ins and the Outs alternately add to as suits their pleasure. I have a good many friends on both sides of the House, and I am quite impartial. I have watched the proceedings of the two great parties that mutually relieve guard as Governors of England, and I am bound to say that I never was yet able to make out which of the two had the neater hand or the readier knack of jobbing. But of all the jobs that, in my time, have ever been perpetrated, the most costly and uncompensated has been that of superseding the wise and frugal government of India by merchants, and substituting a government by noblemen and gentlemen having no previous knowledge of the wants of that vast dependency; supported by a myrmidon host of paid officials—soldiers, lawyers, and men about town—through all the degrees and declensions of capricious patronage. What has it cost? Putting quite out of sight the exceptional outlay during the Mutiny, and the years that followed it, and putting aside the increased expenditure, wasteful and profitless as it is thought by many to have been, on military railways, the charge for governing India has been permanently increased of late years by nearly £17,000,000. But if you have money enough, notwithstanding your fear of a deficit to add, and to go on adding to the crowd of English officials, civil and military, who are to be paid out of land tax and salt tax, tax upon imports and tax upon exports, profits on the administration of justice and profits on the cultivation of poison; if from all these sources you have enough, notwithstanding the yearly recurring fear of a deficit, to provide handsomely for an ever extending host of English officials; with what face can you gravely affect to say, that you cannot afford to go on paying the quit rent at which you obtained peaceful possession of Behar, Orissa, and Bengal? Read the Correspondence of the last two years, not between political rivals, but between Colleagues in the late Cabinet (the Duke of Argyll and Lord Cardwell), about the charges on the Indian Exchequer for the costs of recruiting and depôts, and what not in England, and see what the Secretary for India avers as to the scandalous way in which Army Estimates are cut down for the House of Commons by throwing the charge on Indian taxation, on the unrepresented millions whose poverty is to be made the excuse when convenient for not paying your covenanted and customary debts. Or look at the Correspondence between a Tory Governor General and a Whig Secretary of State concerning the number of troops maintained in time of peace. The Duke of Argyll began his administration by declaring that great reductions were indispensable, and Lord Mayo responded by saying he would make them if he were supported from home. But after two years of scheme and counter-scheme, plan and anti-plan, reciprocally found fault with by the wise men of the East and the wise men of the West, the Correspondence ends with regrets that so little was likely to be done, and that the Secretary of State has no further instructions to give on the subject. Well, but in face of such facts as these, is it to be endured that the Government of 200,000,000 of people and 1,500,000 square miles of territory should seriously contemplate the confiscation of half the means of a family, who, for generations have never given them cause for an hour's uneasiness? Economy is the last thing against which I would say a word. Economy by all means, as far and as fast as you can; but extortion is not economy. If you must tax something or somebody, then either tax many things and everybody, or tax all round, rateably, the incomes of all your officials and creditors, and so make both ends honestly meet. But politically it is not honest to eke out the means of extravagance by lawless exactions from individuals. This is expropriation, not economy. It is the act and the language of the moss-trooper levy done into modern sophistry. It is communism from above instead of from below. Have a care how you preach such doctrine and set such an example. Sir, if it be too late in the Session—as perhaps in some respects it is—to appoint this Committee, then I venture with great respect to press the Government to consider this matter during the Recess, and, at least, to accord the Nawab the courtesy of a reply to his letters now left unanswered. I entreat them and this House to consider whether it becomes our dignity as a great State, whether it becomes us as an exemplar of Christian morals, whether it becomes us as desiring to keep the peace of India, as desiring that we should not be subject in history to the reproach of sowing serpents teeth and wondering that they should spring up as armed men, to refuse this man the bare justice of a hearing. He asks not a single shilling from the English taxpayer. If he asked for such a thing, I should oppose it. He asks only for the security of that which was his father's and his grandfather's before him; and I say it is intolerable that you, who have added to the burden of taxation in India, and have given the benefit of those burdens to English officers, civil and military, who have gone there to make fortunes; I say it is intolerable in you, to tell the descendant of the old Princes of the land, the rulers of an enormous territory, and the undeviating allies of your power in the East, that you will despoil him of his possessions, disfranchise his children and put them to professions to earn their bread. I protest most strongly against such treatment, and I can never think of it without feelings of shame that we who are so high-minded and so lofty-spoken in our proceedings should be sullied with even the imputation of such acts. Sir, I have shown you the weight of authority there is against this policy of confiscation, and I could go on accumulating proof upon proof, citation upon citation to the same effect, but I do not think it would be agreeable to the House. The Session is late, and we have much to do. I do not press the noble Lord opposite to give me an answer off-hand upon all that I have said. He is new to office, and I hope he may not be tempted, for the sake of a passing cheer, into adopting a course which afterwards he may not find it possible to carry out. I ask him for nothing but consideration; for nothing but to do justice. I ask for nothing on behalf of this man, but for that which so long as there is an independent Member in this House, will and shall be pressed for. I may not be here myself; my voice may be dumb, for I am getting pretty well worn out in the service; but others younger and better able will take my place. I will only make this promise, that the cause which I have argued in this imperfect manner will not be lost sight of, or injured to-night by any rash or inconsiderate words. This claim is a thing which touches the honour and dignity of the nation; it is regarded with secret and selfish sympathy by every Native Prince in India. If you touch one you make the others wince; for how can they tell if you fall back a second time upon precedents like Jhansi, Mysore, and others, if you recommence that system of annexation—how can they tell whose turn it will be next? You have on your Table a very remarkable document—the secret despatch of Lord Napier of Magdala, written three years ago at the instance of Lord Mayo, in which he warns the Government of India that two of the great Indian Chiefs are to be regarded as men against whom we know not how soon our guns may be pointed. These are the men on whose amity and friendship you rely for the quiet possession of India. That is what your Commander-in-Chief confidentially advised you; and why you ever published that despatch Heaven only knows. But having published it and given us the truth, we are bound not to forget it. It is impossible that Russia should forget it, or that America should forget it, and I pray God that England may not forget it before it be too late. [The hon. Member was precluded by the Forms of the House from moving his Resolution.]"Just regard to the honours and dignities duo to his hereditary rank, guaranteed by the stipulations of subsisting Treaties, and long established relations observed by former Governors General, would on his part be fervently fostered and punctually fulfilled."
Mr. Speaker—As one of that Irish party who desire, as I have said on a previous occasion, to form a friendly and voluntary connection with the English people; who desire to form a friendly arrangement with them by which we will consent to their foreign policy; and who desire, therefore, that the foreign policy of England should be in accordance with the national sentiment of Ireland—should be fair, just, and generous—I will say that as to this Indian question I am in accord with the hon. Member who has last spoken. I may frankly tell the House that the people of Ireland have never been satisfied, are not satisfied, and perhaps never will be satisfied with such a foreign policy of England as is characterized by Alabama payments, Ashantee wars, and Indian famines. We desire that the foreign policy of the great Empire of which we now express our willingness to form a part, should be characterized by measures of equity and generosity; and in that spirit I implore the House to take into its most serious consideration the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down.
Sir—If I was not tolerably well acquainted with the facts of this ease which my hon. Friend has laid before the House, and if I was not further well aware of the great ability with which he can place a subject before this House, I confess that I never should have believed that the dramatic picture which he has drawn was one which conveyed the case of the Nawab Nazim of Bengal. Sir, my hon. Friend has very kindly impressed on me the importance of using no sentence which I shall not hereafter be able to fulfil. I will therefore be as moderate as I possibly can in replying to the speech which he has just made. But before I do so, I must remind the House, in a few words, of the case which has been laid before it. The case which my hon. Friend has laid before the House, is the case of one whom he describes as an independent and hereditary Prince who has suffered wrong and injustice, with whom Treaties confirmed by Her Majesty have not been kept; and he calls upon the House not to assent to the dastardly purpose of robbing his children. Sir, I am afraid I shall be compelled by the inextricable logic of facts, to rudely dispel much of the picture which was laid before the House. My hon. Friend concluded his harangue—or rather in the middle of his speech he produced a great effect—by producing an old Treaty, the last few lines of which he read, but the main portion of which he was far too astute to lay before this House, because my hon. Friend knows quite well that the words he has quoted in that Treaty refer to an agreement contained in it, and unless we know what the agreement is, the last paragraph is absolutely useless. I will endeavour very shortly to place before the House the facts connected with this case, and if any hon. Gentleman questions my facts he can easily refer to the historical records. My hon. Friend spoke a great deal of certain Treaties which had been negotiated between the East India Company and the ancestors of the present Nawab Nazim, but I am bound to point out to the House the great discrepancy which exists between the Motion of my hon. Friend as it now stands upon the Paper, and that which he first put upon the Paper. The Notice which my hon. Friend first put on the Paper was to move for a Committee to report on the claims of the Nawab Nazim of Bengal, and the rights, privileges, and advantages granted to his family under the Treaties of 1757 and 1770. That is a clear and intelligible proposition. But he has altered his Motion, and it now stands as a Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into and report on the hereditary rights and dignities claimed on behalf of his family by the Nawab Nazim of Bengal, whether founded on Treaty obligations or on interpreted user for upwards of a century. If my hon. Friend was so positive that these rights and privileges were granted to the Nawab by Treaties, why did he not adhere to the first Notice which he put upon the Paper. But my hon. Friend knows well that every opinion almost which has been given has pointed out to the Nawab and his advisers, that the stipend which he now enjoys is secured to him by no treaty, grant, or contract. I will place before the House what are the indisputable facts of the case. As to the Nawab being descended from an independent or an hereditary Prince, I think I can prove in a few words that the office which his ancestor held for a short time was neither independent nor hereditary. The outer Provinces of the great Mogul Empire belonged to the Emperor of Delhi, and the Emperor of Delhi appointed officers to represent him in them, and the Soubadar of Bengal was one of the most important of those officers. But the right of the Emperor over those Provinces was not questioned up to the date of 1715, as I can prove by two facts. In the year 1715 a deputation from the East India factories at Calcutta proceeded to Delhi for the express purpose of laying before the Emperor the excessive taxes which were imposed upon them by his representative, the Soubadar of Bengal. If the Soubadar had been an independent Sovereign, it would have been useless for them to go to Delhi. But what happened then? The Emperor happened to be very ill at the time, and among the deputation was a gentleman named Gabriel Hamilton, a doctor, who cured the Emperor, and the Emperor showed his gratitude by giving certain parts of Bengal and Orissa to the East India Company. If the Soubadar of Bengal was an independent Prince, what right had the Emperor of Delhi to grant that territory, and also to grant, as he did, certain remissions of taxation? Shortly afterwards, in the year 1725, the Soubadar of Bengal died, and was succeeded by his son, who was deposed by a very able man, of the name of Ali Vavdi Khan. What did he do? The first thing he did was to appeal to the Emperor, and to ask him to confirm him in the position of Soubadar of Bengal, and the Emperor did so confirm him. He died in 1757, and was succeeded by his grandson, Surajah Dowlah, who had a most important officer about his Court, of the name of Meer Jaffier, the ancestor of the present Nawab of Bengal, and the claim of the present Nawab is founded on the claims of Meer Jaffier. But what was his position? He was merely one of the officers of Surajah Dowlah, the grandson of an usurper, and the only hereditary right he had then was a right to betray his master, which he took the first opportunity of doing. When Surajah Dowlah attacked Calcutta, and sanctioned that foul atrocity where upwards of 100 Europeans were murdered in the Black Hole, Meer Jaffier was with him. Surajah Dowlah and Lord Clive negotiated a Treaty which was signed on the part of Surajah Dowlah as the servant of the King of Delhi, and that was witnessed by three Natives, one of whom was Moor Jaffier, who signed himself as the servant of the King of Delhi. If, in that year 1757, the Soubadar of Bengal was the servant of the King of Delhi, I cannot myself see anything in the various Treaties he negotiated with the East India Company to alter that position. After a short time, Lord Clive found it impossible to deal any longer with Surajah Dowlah, and he entered into negotiations with Meer Jaffier, who was only one of the officers of Surajah Dowlah, by which he undertook to place Meer Jaffier in the position of his master if he would assist him. Meer Jaffier did not hesitate; the Battle of Plassey followed, and Meer Jaffier was made, by Lord Clive, Nawab of Bengal. My hon. Friend did not tell us how Meer Jaffier got rid of his master. Surajah Dowlah. Surajah Dowlah was handed over to the tender mercies of his son, who murdered him in his palace. Meer Jaffier was placed in his position by the East India Company. He was appointed to that position by them, and he had no hereditary right of any kind to that office;—more than that, the East India Company had great difficulty in maintaining him in that post. A short time afterwards his conduct caused disasters in Bengal, and he was quickly put on one side, and his son-in-law, Meer Kossim, succeeded. His conduct did not give satisfaction, and he was soon afterwards put on one side, and Meer Jaffier was brought back in his place. The only right of Meer Jaffier was given to him by the East India Company. He died in the year 1765, and the Company recognized his son as his successor. Well, Sir, the next three engagements between the Company and the Nawabs were personal agreements; for if they were not personal agreements, it is clear that each Nawab who succeeded to the post of his predecessor would have taken advantage of the Treaty which his predecessor negotiated. No such claim was made, however; and not only that, but as each succeeding negotiation was made, the stipend given by the Company to the Nawab was diminished for a very obvious reason. In the year 1765, a Treaty was negotiated with the King of Delhi, by which he undertook to hand over the whole of the revenue of the Provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa to the Company; and the first condition was that a sum of 26 lacs should annually be paid to him as tribute in recognition of his rights to those revenues; and the second condition was, that a certain provision should be made to him for his representative, the Soubadar of Bengal, in order properly to maintain his dignity. Shortly after that, in the same year, the Nawab, a very young man, died, and he was succeeded by his brother, to whom an allowance of £410,000 a-year was made by the Company; and he held that post for some five years, and then he died in the year 1770. And in that year a fresh arrangement was made by the representatives of the Company out at Calcutta, by which an allowance of £320,000 a-year was in that Treaty arranged as the sum to be paid to the representative of the King of Delhi. That is the Treaty on which my hon. Friend bases his case, and he produced it to this House, and spoke of the wording of the latter part of it, in which it says—"This agreement, by the blessing of God, shall be inviolably preserved for ever." That Treaty was never sanctioned by the Company, and never ratified by them; and not only that, but that Treaty, so far from ever having been in force, was not agreed to; for instead of being paid £320,000 a-year, which is the amount contained in this Treaty as the sum to be paid to the Nawab, he never received more than £160,000. The first condition was that a large sum should be annually paid to the King of Delhi—to the Sovereign of those territories. That sum has never been paid, and therefore nothing can be more clear than that that Treaty was not sanctioned or ratified. The second condition was that a certain sum should be paid to the Soubadar or Nawab of Bengal, and that was to be paid in consideration of his carrying on the Governorship, and performing the duties of the Executive government of the Province. What happened afterwards? The King of Delhi was taken prisoner by the Mahrattas, and the Company, finding the greatest inconvenience had existed from the double government of the Nawab's officers as well as of the King's officers, and that a great deal of money was taken from the ryots, paid the Nawab the sum which was stipulated in that agreement for his personal expenses, but did not pay him the sum which was to be paid to him for performing the duties of government; and I am astonished that my hon. Friend should base his case on a Treaty which merely undertakes to pay money for certain duties performed, and which for 100 years have never been performed. Yet he produces the Treaty, and quotes with great effect the last words; but he never alludes to the agreement contained in it. Well, Sir, from that day until now, the Nawab has been in receipt of £160,000 a-year. He may have been an ally of ours at a critical moment; but I think the House will admit that whatever services he has rendered to us have been well requited, when I toll you that from the time he has been unconnected—directly or indirectly—with the duties or offices of government, his family have received a sum of £18,000,000 sterling from us. That is what my hon. Friend calls one of the gravest blots upon our history; but I am not certain that one of the gravest blots upon our history would not be found in our having placed upon the Throne the ancestors of this man. He held that position for eight years; and upon this ground alone we have paid his ancestors for more than 100 years £160,000 a-year. Successive Governors-General have intimated to the Nawab that they entirely reject his claims so far as they are founded on the assertion of any Treaty rights, or any hereditary rights; but the Directors of the East India Company laid down this principle—a principle which has been acceded to by successive Governors-General—that so long as policy recommended the maintenance of the dignity of the Nawab, and while it was so maintained, justice recommended that it should be continued in Meer Jaffier's family. I hope I have now shown plainly to the House—and my facts cannot be questioned—that the ancestor of the present Nawab never had any hereditary rights, or was an independent Prince; that the only right he had was one which we ourselves granted and maintained by force of arms for eight years. For five years we kept his ancestors in a position for which they were in no way qualified, and from that time until the present we have paid them this enormous stipend of £160,000 a-year. Let my hon. Friend recollect these facts. The hon. Member talks about Her Majesty the Queen, but lot him remember that Her Majesty's Civil List is only £360,000 per annum, and with that sum heavy and onerous duties have to be performed; whereas the Nawab Nazim has, happily for himself, nothing to do but to enjoy himself. My hon. Friend pointed with some effect to the Mace upon the Table—that "bauble," as it has been called—and said he should be the last to desire that it should be taken away; but if it cost £160,000 per annum, would not my hon. Friend be the first to denounce the extravagance of maintaining a "bauble "from which nobody derived the slightest advantage? I am not sure that that description could not be applied to the Nawab of Bengal. I do not know what may happen in the future, but of this I am perfectly certain, that so long as I have in any way the honour of being connected with the India Office, or so long as the present Secretary of State for India holds the position he now fills, he will never consent to any such proposal as that which my hon. Friend has made. And I think lie may congratulate the Nawab that we do not consent to that proposal. At the present moment great attention is being directed to Indian Expenditure and Indian Finance. I am not quite certain that any Committee of the House of Commons, or any impartial tribunal which might be appointed to inquire into these claims, might not consider, when we are bound by no Treaty, obligation, or contract, that £160,000 a-year was a very large sum for the maintenance of what may be fairly called an "empty bauble;" and therefore I think that my hon. Friend may be glad that we do not assent to his proposal. If he has any influence with the Nawab or his family, the best advice he can give him is to return to his country, and there let him occupy, as I have no doubt he can well do, the proud position which by the liberality of the English Government he is able to maintain. But if the Nawab Nazim, by his pertinacity and by continual airing of grievances—which I do not believe in the smallest degree have any real existence—should even be successful in getting an appeal to an impartial tribunal, of this I feel confident, that he and his family will rue the decision of the tribunal before which they brought their claims.
Sir, it is somewhat difficult to follow the noble Lord in his indignation at the course adopted, and the extent of the liberality which has been extended to this Prince. It has been stated by the noble Lord that the title to these rights is derived by the Nawab Nazim from his ancestor, Meer Jaffier, and that Meer Jaffier had no rights of his own as a Prince, and having no rights for himself, had none to convey to his descendants, so that none of his successors had any claim. Now, in referring to a work of some authority as descriptive of what took place after the Battle of Plassey, I find it mentioned in the preface to these Treaties that were entered into, that—
Now, was there attached to that position any right, any title, any prerogatives? From 1757 to 1770 we have successive Treaties entered into by the East India Company with successive descendants of Meer Jaffier Ally—acts of State, in themselves indicative of sovereign or semi-sovereign powers. It is said that the Emperor of Delhi was the legitimate potentate and Monarch, and that the rights of these Soubadars were not recognized. Sir, I turn to a Memorial of the East India Company, dated in 1760, when difficulties arose between themselves and the Dutch. The Directors of the East India Company on that occasion drew up a Memorial to George III., in which they used these terms—"A confederacy was formed amongst Surajah Dowlah's officers to enter into a Treaty with Meer Jaffier, and as at the Battle of Plassey, which was fought on the 23rd of June, 1757, the power of the Surajah Dowlah was completely broken, Meer Jaffier Ally Khan was settled by Clive as Soubadar of Bengal."
That is the statement of the Directors of the East India Company as to the status of the Nawab of Bengal. That statement of his being de facto, if not de jure, a Sovereign Prince is confirmed by various documents of various Departments, which I shall not trouble the House by reading, and from successive Governors of India, each recognizing the position as a Prince of the Nawab of Bengal. But now, it is said by the noble Lord that this Treaty, produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, is one the contents of which he wisely refrained from reading to the House. It terminates, as has been stated, with these important words—" This Agreement, by the blessing of God, shall be inviolably observed for ever." But the noble Lord says they do not mean that the whole of it shall be observed for ever, but they merely refer to some portion of it. Now I have no objection, if it will not impose too much trouble on the House, to read the entire of this Treaty, because I venture to say that the interpretation which any impartial tribunal or individual would put upon it would be that the whole of this Treaty must be taken together, the covenants on one side with those on the other, and that if the concessions made by one side were to be observed for ever, the benefits reciprocally obtained from the other were likewise to endure for ever. The Treaty is headed—"The Nawab makes war or peace without the privity of the Mogul, and although there appears to he some remains of the old constitution in the succession to the position of Nawab, yet in fact the succession is never regulated by the Mogul's appointment. The Nawab, if possible, is desirous of verifying his succession by the Mogul's confirmation, but the Court of Delhi, conscious of its inability to interfere, readily grants its consent. The Nawab of Bengal is, therefore, de facto, whatever he may be de jure, a Sovereign Prince."
It is sealed with the seal of the Company. It is signed by six or eight names, which, I presume, were those of the Governor and Council of the Company, and this is the document—"Articles of Treaty and Agreement between the Governor and Council of Fort William on the part of the East India Company, and Nawab Mobaruk-ul-Dowlah, dated the 21st March, 1770."
Was not that part intended to endure for ever? Was that meant to be merely a temporary transaction? Were not the general words at the end of this Treaty quite sufficient to carry that part of the contract to the Nawab and his successors for ever? Then we come to this—"On the part of the Company, we, the Governor and Council, do engage to secure to the Nawab Mobaruk-ul-Dowlah the Soubahdarry of the Provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, and to support him therein with the Company's Forces against all his enemies."
Was not that meant to be included in the general words—"This Agreement, by the blessing of God, shall be inviolably observed for ever?" Here you have the successor to three Princes ratifying and confirming the Treaties made by them with the East India Company, and making concessions which are detailed in Article No. 2, which, if necessary, I shall read in the same way, specifying the sums of money which the Company were to secure in return for the concessions made to them and which they thus derived."On the part of the Nawab. The Treaty which my father formerly concluded with the Company upon his first accession to the Nizamut, engaging to regard the honour and reputation of the Company, and of the Governor and Council as his own, and that entered into with my brothers, the Nawabs Nudjm-ul-Dowlah, and Syef-ul-Dowlah, the same Treaties, as far as is consistent with the true spirit, intent, and meaning thereof, I do hereby ratify and confirm."
Will the hon. and learned Member read it all?
a very misplaced confidence I may be permitted to say—"The King has been graciously pleased to grant unto the English East India Company, the Dewannyship of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa as a free gift for ever; and I, having an entire confidence in them and in their servants "—
he was very much mistaken—"settled in this country, that nothing whatever be proposed or carried into execution by them derogating from my honour, interest, and the good of my country "—
"do therefore, for the better conducting the affairs of the Soubahdarry, and promoting my honour and interest and that of the Company, in the best manner, agree that the protecting the Provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, and the force sufficient for that purpose, be entirely left to their direction and good management, in consideration of their paying the King Shah Aalum, by monthly payments, as by Treaty agreed on, the sum of Rupees two lakhs, sixteen thousand, six hundred and sixty-six, ten annas, and nine pice (Rupees 2,16,666–10–9); and to me, Mobaruk-ul-Dowlah, the annual stipend of Rupees thirty-one lakhs, eighty-one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-one, and nine annas, (Rupees 31,81,991–9), viz.—the sum of Rupees, fifteen lakhs, eighty-one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-one, and nine annas (Rupees 15,81,991–9) for my house, servants and other expenses, indispensably necessary; and the remaining sum of Rupees sixteen lakhs (Rupees 16,00,000), for the support of such sepoys, peons, and burkundauzes as may be thought proper for my suwarry only; but on no account ever to exceed that amount.
"The Nawab, Minauh Dowlah, who was at the instance of the Governor and Gentlemen of the Council, appointed Naib of the Provinces, and invested with the management of affairs, in conjunction with Maharajah Doolubram, and Juggat Scat, shall continue in the same post, and with the same authority; and having a perfect confidence in him, I moreover agree to let him have the disbursing of the above sum of Rupees sixteen lakhs, for the purposes above mentioned.
Now I have read everything. It is said that the money was not paid, that the Treaty was never acknowledged by the East India Company, and that therefore it is not binding. It has the appearance of all solemnity. It has the seal of the Company and the seal of the Nawab Nazim. But let us see now whether the position of the Nawab has not been acknowledged by the very highest authority. I shall not weary the House by reading many extracts, but will take the last I have here in the life-time of the present Nawab and from Lord Canning. This letter is dated 11th March 1850, and addressed.—"This Agreement, by the blessing of God, shall be inviolably observed for ever."
"Nawab Sahib, of high worth and exalted station, my good brother, I wish you peace.
"After expressing devoted desire beyond description for a happy interview, I would announce what you will have gleaned from the newspapers of the 29th February last, that this friend has been appointed to succeed the Most Noble the Marquis of Dalhousie, K.T., as Governor-General of India. Permit me to add, this friend entered Calcutta, the seat of Government, and assumed the duties of this high office on the 26th February 1853, corresponding to the 22nd Jumadee-ul-Sanee, 1272, H.
What does that mean?—"Your Highness may be assured the consideration, respect, and friendly interest in the prosperous administration of your affairs, and just regard to the honours and dignities due to your hereditary rank and the prescriptive privileges of your high station "—
I say that if between ordinary individuals there was evidence of contract so clearly established as there is here of a contract commenced in 1757, summed up in 1770, and recognized by successive Governors-General down to the time of the late Lord Canning and the present Nawab; and if between the private individuals there was an attempt made to break the contract, by alleging that the parties could not contract or did not contract, and there was evidence also of such falsification of documents as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Finsbury, the parties who resorted to such a plea to escape from their just, if not absolutely legal, liabilities in return for the enormous amount of territory and the enormous sums they acquired by these Treaties, such conduct would be anything but honourable; and I think that is a very mild word. Now, Sir, the noble Lord has stated that so long as he can advise and control the course to be taken by the Government, the Nawab has no hope of being able to justify his assertion of these claims. I am sorry the noble Lord has arrived at that conclusion, for it does appear to me that upon a calm and dispassionate examination of these documents, from the Battle of Plassey down to the succession to his dignities and ancestral rights by the present Nawab, that the position of this family, as Princes de facto, has been clearly and indisputably recognized and established. It may be said that these various Treaties do not contain what lawyers call the words of limitation "to his heirs and assigns for ever." I could understand a lawyer resorting to such a plea as that, and thereby advising a dishonest client to escape from a just debt. But here, from the very nature of the contract, such pleas are inadmissible and unworthy. We find the East India Company receiving large accessions of territory, and deriving great advantages from successive Treaties, and, they being the stronger party—and particularly when dealing, as in 1770, with a boy 10 years of age—reducing the amount of the consideration for which such advantages were granted, and, later on, applying a portion of these revenues, which formerly belonged absolutely to this Prince, to a fund which has been most unsatisfactorily expended, and which, I think, has been entirely diverted from the object for which it was ostensibly formed. It is impossible to read these Papers without seeing that there was a contract, for full consideration given, entered into with the ancestor of the present Nawab. That contract is one which he on his part and his ancestors on their part have faithfully discharged, but which I regret to say the East India Company—a British Company—have endeavoured to ignore."guaranteed by the stipulations of subsisting Treaties and long established relations, observed and cherished by former Governors-General, will on the part, also, of this sincere friend, be fervently fostered and punctually fulfilled."
Sir—After the long and exhaustive speech of my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State, it will not be necessary for me to detain the House with any lengthened remarks upon this subject, but inasmuch as this is by no means the first time we have been favoured with a long discussion as to the same case and the same contention, I think it right to refer hon. Members of the House, or at any rate such as were not in the last Parliament, to a similar discussion which took place no longer a time than three years ago. On that occasion, Sir, the then Member for Christchurch, I think it was, moved for a Committee in the same manner as has been done now by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fins-bury. The then Under Secretary of State entered upon a long and exhaustive reply like that which has been given by the noble Lord. If any hon. Gentleman is curious in this matter, he need only refer to the debate of the 4th of July, 1871, and he will there see set forth everything that can be said pro and con in this matter. But, Sir, besides my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer also spoke on that occasion—and he spoke, Sir, with all the authority of a man who had himself been Secretary of State for India, and who during his presidency at the India Office had found it his duty to inquire into this very matter. With the permission of the House I will read what he said on that occasion. It is not long, but it is very much to the purpose, and contains the whole marrow of this matter in a small compass. He said—
These were the words of Sir Stafford Northcote—I may name him, as he is not present—spoken with all the weight of his authority. But there is something else which I wish to draw attention to, and which is also very much to the purpose. It is very short, but it is the opinion of the present Lord Selborne—then Sir Roundell Palmer—upon this very hereditary claim. These are the words—"The discussion would be much shortened, and a decision upon the Motion facilitated, if hon. Members would bear in mind the particular proposition submitted to them—namely, whether certain treaties and agreements have been faithfully observed by the Indian Government, and to what claims, if any, the present Nawab Nazim might be entitled under them. If treaties had been entered into with this family and not fulfilled, that was a question which touched the honour of a great country like England; but if the allowances given were merely given as customary donations and as a matter of grace and favour, then the controversy assumed a very different aspect. The whole question was, what were the relations of those high personages who held the title of Nazim 100 years ago to the Indian Government. Were they powerful Princes or not, and did we enter into treaties with them as Sovereign Powers or not? What was conceded to us was the collection of the revenues, and the Emperor of Delhi cared little about anything but that we should pay his tribute, and provide for the expenses of the Nizamut. That bargain having been made 100 years ago between competent authorities, it was useless to go into the motives which led to the arrangement. What was given to us was the collection of the revenues, and we had nothing to do with the administration but to see that it was provided for. Fresh bargains were afterwards made with the different succeeding Nazims. The Commissioners afterwards took the administration into their own hands and performed the duties themselves. If the House would endeavour to avoid mixing up questions as to the treaties with other questions, they would perceive, he thought, that the matter was hardly one to be referred to a Select Committee.…This was not a question upon which a Committee could throw any light, for the matter rested, not upon treaty, but upon the liberal arrangements of the Indian Government, and if this House were to undertake to revise the daily administration of the affairs of India it would be found unable to do so."—[3 Hansard, ccvii. 1161.]
Well, Sir, it is not necessary, I think, to insist on this point. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House from the other side, and taken up this case, thoroughly and entirely agree in the justice of the case. I believe that the House, as it has before refused, will not now grant this Committee for the investigation of claims which have been pronounced again and again to be untenable; and therefore I think that my hon. Friend, and those who, with him, are advocating the appointment of a Select Committee, are doing the Nawab himself a very bad service, for I have great confidence that if these claims came to be tested by a Committee, they would be pronounced to be groundless."We look in vain for any words of inheritance or succession in any of those several treaties, or, in fact, for any expression to show an intention on the part of either of the contracting parties to include the heirs or successors of any such several individuals. Our attention has been specially directed to the concluding lines in the last of those treaties—viz., that of 1770—in which the words 'forever' occur; but upon reference to their context, it clearly appears that the intention in using them was that the 'agreement' (whatever it was) contained in that Treaty should be inviolably observed for ever; and we have above stated what, in our opinion, is the nature and extent of that agreement. We are further of opinion, therefore, that the above words 'forever' cannot alter or extend the meaning and force of the express agreement in the body of the Treaty."
I think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and also the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India, have used very extraordinary arguments. The hon. Member who has just sat down has expressed a strong conviction that whenever a Committee should sit upon this case, if ever it did—and he also thought the House would never consent to a Committee—that the decision of that Committee must necessarily be against the Nawab. Now, if that be the case—if there is such a conviction in the hon. Gentleman's mind, and if there be such a conviction in the minds of hon. Members who take part with him, surely the plain course would be to say—"Let us get rid of this case; let us investigate the case; let us hear what can be said for and against it; let the whole trial be had impartially and judicially, and not with a partizan spirit; let each point be stated, and examined, and adjudicated upon by an impartial Committee of this House—as impartial an Assembly as ever sat in any country in the world." Let that be done, and hon. Gentlemen on this side who advocate the case will be satisfied. If two parties in private life have a controversy, and they are so advised, the merits of their respective claims can be ascertained by trial at law. If one of them objects to such an arbitration of the ease, he practically condemns himself and refutes his own pretended claim. He admits that his own conscience tells him that right is not with him, and that he dare not set his case before a fair arbitration. Is not that the case of the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, who now refuse to appoint this Committee to hear the case of the Nawab Nazim? They assert that he has no claim, that he has no rights, that there has been no violation of the Treaty with him, that there was no Treaty with him at all, and yet they refuse to come and hear his case impartially stated. [Mr. BECKETT-DENISON: No hereditary Treaty.] No hereditary Treaty! What is the difference between a Treaty made on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen and one made on behalf of those whose successor she is? Because she is by Act of Parliament the successor of the East India Company, and the Company were bound by their Treaties, and admitted that they were, and whether those Treaties are personal Treaties or hereditary Treaties, they signed, them, and sealed them, and authenticated them, and for 100 years they have been acted upon. [Mr. BECKETT-DENISON: No, they have not.] For 100 years it is in evidence that they have been acted upon. For 100 years a stipulated sum named in these Treaties, and agreed to be paid to the predecessors of this Prince has been paid to them, to him, and to his family; and yet hon. Gentlemen stand up in this House and tell us that there were no Treaties; and then, fearing that the effect of these Treaties themselves might be placed upon the Table of the House, they say that there were Treaties, but not hereditary Treaties. Yes; they were unmistakeably real and hereditary Treaties, and the parties who were declared the recipients of the sums mentioned in those Treaties received those sums which were paid them from time to time, until the spirit of Mammon entered more deeply into the hearts of our officials, and they determined that they would rob this Prince of what he was hereditarily entitled to, and what was confirmed to him by the very word of Her Majesty herself. I confess, Sir, that as a subject of the Queen, and as one anxious to look forward to the time when every subject of the Queen will be proud of that position, and will honour the Ministers of the Queen, and will recognize everything done by them as eminently honourable, worthy of the Sovereign, and worthy of the Constitution, and worthy of this House, I was pained beyond expression at some of the words which fell from the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India. I heard him argue with great emphasis, but with very little force, as it seemed to me, that we should ignore the claims of this Prince; a course which I hold to be unworthy of this House, unworthy of a Minister of Victoria, unworthy to be listened to by any man of honour in this House. ["Oh, oh!"]
The hon. Member-is exceeding the licence of debate.
I am very sorry that I should be said to exceed the licence of debate, but I scrupulously avoided—["Oh, oh!" and laughter]—I scrupulously avoided saying anything that seemed to me possible to be offensive to the noble Lord, whose speech I listened to with much attention. I speak of the sentiments which he expressed, which were threats to a suitor at this Court; threats to a claimant before this Court to have his case heard.
I rise to Order. I used no threats. What I said was—and what I repeat is—that if these professed claims were submitted to any tribunal, I care not how composed, he would rue the day when he submitted them.
I wish to assure the noble Lord that nothing could be further from my intention than to say anything that could possibly be personally offensive, and if I said anything in violation of the rules of debate, I apologize to this House—nay, to him—for saying it; because I should think it improper of a Member of this House to disregard its Rules. But, with all due respect for the noble Lord—and I have much respect for him personally, much respect for his family, and great respect for his position as a Minister of the Crown—with all due respect, however, to the noble Lord I do affirm—subject, of course, to your decision, Sir—that for a Minister to use a threat of this sort to a claimant for justice at the Bar of this House—to assert that a man in the position of a Prince; a man who has been recognized at the Court of Victoria as a Prince; a man who has been presented to our Sovereign as a Prince; a man who is received at the Court of St. James's with all the honours due to a Prince; a man who has had appointed for his escort a special officer, such as is never given to any person except a person in the high position of a Prince and an equal—to assert, in regard to such a man, that he is a mere pretender, while the Sovereign treats him as a Prince—and to tell any man, be he Prince, or Peer, or peasant, that he would rue the day that he came here to ask for justice—to assert that he and his family, whom it is now sought to cast on the tender mercies of the world, would rue the day when he appealed to the British House of Commons for a fair and honest hearing of his case, was to adopt a course which, with due submission, Sir, to your opinion, was not worthy of a British Minister, and was not worthy of a subject acting on behalf of his Sovereign. If that be a wrong sentiment for me to utter, Sir, I will bow to your decision; but until you pronounce it to be a wrong sentiment to be expressed by a freely-elected British Representative, I must continuo to hold it, and be prepared at all proper times to express it. If, how-over, you pronounce it wrong, Sir, then I will apologize, and adopt any course that you may adjudge requisite and proper. Now, Sir, passing from that, I wish to ask why was it that the Treaties were entered into with the predecessors of this Prince if their descendants were not afterwards to be recognized as persons on whoso behalf those Treaties should be held inviolable and safe? We were told, Sir, as one of the reasons why faith should not be kept with this Indian Prince, that he had betrayed his master. But, Sir, that comes ill from the lips of a British Minister. Many and many a man has betrayed his master, and his Sovereign, and his country, and has been richly rewarded by British Ministers, honoured by British Sovereigns, sustained by British Parliaments; and yet we are told in this House, by a British Minister, that the man who betrays his master ought not to have faith kept with him. But who taught him to betray his master? Who bribed him to betray his master? Who tempted him that wealth and honours, protection and security, should be his if he betrayed his master, and sold for British guns that which it was his duty and his honour to defend? Of such we have been told by the Foot, that—
Is this a policy to be defended? On one side you hold out promises, make Treaties, and pay money under those Treaties; and then you turn round and toll the man, whoso ancestor, we are told, betrayed because he was bought to betray, that the Treaty shall not be kept faithfully with him; though the name of God was invoked to give solemnity to the compact, and the honour of Ministers, Parliament, and the Sovereign, were plighted to maintain it inviolable for ever. One hundred years of continuous payments have confirmed that Treaty, and proved that we felt bound to keep it inviolate. I would suggest, then, Sir, that if the noble Lord, and those who support him, are so confident of the justice of their case, and are so certain that any impartial and just tribunal will decide against this claim, let them appoint that tribunal now. In no place in the world can you get so impartial a tribunal as in the British House of Commons. Then let a Committee of the House of Commons be appointed now to inquire into the matter, and those who defend the cause of this Indian Prince—who defend truth, honour, Treaties, and justice—and who hold that a long-continued system of payment under those Treaties have confirmed them, will abide the judgment of that tribunal, whatever its decision may be."Undistinguished they live, till they learn to "betray."