But look at this question of Indian finance from another point of view. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India have both referred to the enormous amount of the whole taxation of India taken by the Military Service. I believe it has been shown that at this moment almost, if not altogether, the whole of the net revenue of India is being absorbed by the Military Service of that empire; that not a farthing is left out of the whole net revenue of India to pay the expenses of the civil government or the public creditor. If we leave out the opium duty, perhaps we shall see how far the Military Service bears on the taxation of India; we shall see that more than its net amount is absorbed by the Military Service. That is a state of things that has never existed in any other country or among any other people, for any considerable period, without bringing that country to anarchy and ruin. We have been told by the Governor-General that the great bulk of the revenue of India is not elastic; that with regard to the land-tax there has been for a long period no increase in it; that, on the contrary, that large source of income has decreased. He tells us, further, that the army cannot, at present, be largely reduced with safety. If so, what is the end to which we must come? Either the Government of India must come to an end, or England itself must become tributary to India. Seeing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has within the last fortnight asked 70,000,000l. of the English taxpayer for the expenses of the English Government, to ask nine or ten millions more for the government of India would certainly cause great dissatisfaction in this country. The picture is, to my mind, an alarming one, notwithstanding the cheerful view taken of it by the Secretary for India; and it has filled many besides myself with dismay.
Now, looking round for modes of escape from this position, I believe they exist, if we had the courage to adopt them. An hon. Friend has asked me, 'Is there nobody to tell the House of Commons the truth on this matter?' I might ask why he has not done it himself. I suppose he is afraid of being thought rash; but his advice is, that the Government should re-establish the independence of the Punjab, recall the Ameers of Scinde, restore the Government of the King of Oude, giving to it the dependency of Nagpore. I confess, whether it be rash or not, that I think it would be wise to restore the Government of the Punjab and to give independence to that province which is called Scinde, because as no revenue is received from that part of the country in excess of the expense which its retention causes to this country, we should endeavour to bring our dominions in India within a reasonable and manageable compass. No policy can be more lunatic than the policy of annexation we have pursued of late years in India, and the calamity we are now meeting is the natural and inevitable consequence of the folly we have committed. It is not easy for great generals and statesmen who have been made earls and marquesses and had bronze statues put up in their honour in our public squares—it is not easy for the statesmen who have done all this to turn round and reverse it all; they have not the moral courage to do it; it might be an act of peril; it might appear a descent from the summit of empire and be wrongly construed throughout the world. But as a question of finance and good government we should, a few years hence, admit that it was a sound policy. But I will not pursue this subject, for I may fairly take it for granted that the House of Commons and the Government of England are not likely to take such a course till we are reduced to some extremity even greater than that which now meets us.
But there is another course that may fairly be recommended. It is to take India as it is, the empire with all your annexations as it stands, and to see if it is not possible to do something better with it than you have done before, and to give it a chance in future years of redeeming not only the character of the Government but its financial and legislative position. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) says there cannot be any great diminution in the expenditure for the Civil Service of India; but I do not in the least agree with the Secretary for India when he says that the gentlemen of the Civil Service in that country are not overpaid. Every one knows that they are overpaid; except some very high- salaried bishops of whom we have heard, no men are so grossly overpaid as the officials of the Civil Service in India. The proof of this may be found everywhere. Look at the Island of Ceylon; there the duties are as arduous and the climate as unfavourable as in India; yet the Government does not pay its officials there more than one-half or two-thirds of the salaries they are paid in India. There are in India itself many hundreds of Europeans, the officers of the Indian army, all the Indian clergy, and missionaries; there are also English merchants, carrying on their business at rates of profit not much exceeding the profits made in this country. But the Civil Service of the Indian Government, like everything privileged and exclusive, is a pampered body; and, notwithstanding it has produced some few able men who have worthily done their duty, I do not think the Civil Service of India deserves the loud praise we have so frequently heard awarded to it by speakers in this House. Now if you could reduce the expense of the Civil Service by any considerable amount, the best thing you could do with the money would be to increase the establishment by sending a greater number of competent persons as magistrates, collectors, and officials into the distant provinces, and thereby double the facilities for good government in those districts. If you could reduce the income of the Civil Service one half, you could for the same money have a more efficient Service throughout India than at present. You might not save money, but you would get a more complete Service for it.
But the military question the House of Commons will certainly have to take in hand; though Secretaries for India are afraid to grapple with it, I am not astonished that they feel some hesitation in doing so, for from every one connected with the Military Service they would hear the strongest objections to reducing the number of the troops. But let me ask the Committee to consider what it has just heard. Before the Revolt the European troops in India numbered 45,000 and the Native troops 250,000; now the 45,000 European troops are 110,000, and the 250,000 Native soldiers are raised to 300,000. What was it that we heard during the Indian mutiny; what was the cause of all the letters that appeared in the newspapers? Every man said that the great evil was having a Native army far larger than was required. That has been the source of peril, and that was the real cause of the mutiny. Now we have even a larger portion of this most perilous element than we had before. The authorities of India do not appear to have learnt anything from the mutiny, or they have learnt that all that was said in this House and in this country was untrue, because they have 50,000 more Native troops than they had before the mutiny. Therefore, the mode of argument appears to be this:—A Native army was the cause of the mutiny, the cause of all our perils, and now it is necessary to have more of it; and, as that is the perilous element, of course 45,000 troops are not sufficient to keep them in check; therefore, you have at present 110,000; and certain officers who were examined, and the Commissioners who reported, recommended that you should always have at least 80,000 Europeans there. If we are only to have one body of troops to watch another, it seems to me there can be no hope of any diminution of our military force, nor any real reduction in our expenditure. Why is it that you require all this army? Let me ask the Committee to look at the matter as sensible men of business. The Revolt, which has been such a terrible affair, has been suppressed. It was suppressed mainly by the 45,000 men in India, and not by the 110,000 you have succeeded in placing there at a later period. More than that, there is not at the present moment any alarming amount of dissatisfaction in India, or at least the dissatisfied are dispirited, and have lost all hope of resisting the power of England, and must for a long period, I think, remain wholly dispirited. At the same time, you have disarmed the people over a vast province. There are millions of people in India, a great number of whom were previously in possession of arms, who do not now possess a single weapon. I have seen in the last accounts, only a day or two since, a statement that not less than 1,400 forts in the kingdom of Oude alone have been destroyed, and we know that many more have been destroyed in other parts. There is at this moment no power for combined organized armed resistance against you, except that which is in the Native army, which the Indian Government has been building up of late to a greater extent than ever.
The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) spoke of one point—the great importance of which I admit—the want of confidence and sympathy that must have arisen between the two races in consequence of the transactions of the last two years. The shock of revolt must have created great suspicion and hatred and fear, and there is nothing out of which panic grows so easily as out of those conditions. I believe that is the case in India, and perhaps there are indications of something of the kind at home. There is a panic, therefore, and neither the Governor-General nor the Civil Service nor military officers can make up their minds that they are safe, recollecting the transactions of the past two years, in having a less military force than we now have in India. But if you ask those gentlemen they will never say they have enough. There are admirals here, as we know, who are perfectly wild about ships, with whom arithmetic on such a question goes for nothing. They would show you in the clearest possible manner that you have not ships enough. So also, although I am glad to find not to the same extent, as to troops. Some one said the other night, in answer to an hon. Gentleman, about an increased force of a particular kind, 'There is nothing like leather' and it is so. I say naval officers and military officers are not the men to whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer should depute the great and solemn duty of determining what amount shall be expended for military purposes. There is not a country in the world that would not have been bankrupt long since, and plunged into irretrievable ruin, if the military authorities had been allowed to determine the amount of military force to be kept up, and the amount of revenue to be devoted to that purpose.
I have another objection to this great army, and I now come to the question of policy, which, I am sorry to say for India, has not been touched upon. I do not think this is a question to be merely settled by a very clever manner of giving the figures of the case. Those figures depend upon the course you intend to pursue, upon the policy which the Government intends to adopt, in that country. With this great army two things are certain—we can have no reform of any kind in the Government of India, nor an improved conduct on the part of the English in India towards the Natives of India. With a power like this—110,000 English troops, with an English regiment within an hour's reach of each civil servant, you will find that the supremacy of the conquering race will be displayed in the most offensive manner.
Everybody connected with India—the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir Erskine Perry), the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes)—all who are connected with India, know well that when the English were feeble in India, when they had not a great army in the field or a great revenue to support it, every Englishman treated the Natives by whom he was surrounded rather with the feeling that he was an intruder in the country, and that it was not only proper but absolutely necessary to deal in a conciliatory and just manner with the great body of the Natives of India; but precisely as our power increased the conduct of our countrymen changed, and I find in the excellent book of Mr. Shore that thirty years ago he describes this as the very source of the growing ill feeling between the races in India. It has grown from that time to this, until we have an irritation and animosity which in our time, it may be, we shall see very little removed, and which may perhaps never be wholly allayed. A Government, then, with this vast army, must always be in a difficulty. Lord Canning—lord anybody else—cannot turn his attention to anything but this wearing, exasperating question of how money is to be got for the next quarter to pay this army. He cannot turn his attention in any way to reforms, and I am convinced that this House must insist upon the Government reducing its army, whatever be the risk. A large army will render it impossible for you to hold the country, for you will have a constantly increasing debt, and anarchy must inevitably overwhelm you in the end. A small army, a moderate, conciliatory, and just Government, with the finances in a prosperous condition;—and I know not but that this country may possess for generations and centuries a share, and a large share, in the government of those vast territories which it has conquered.
As to measures of reduction, I admit that it is of little use attempting them unless they are accompanied by other changes. Here I have a charge to bring against the Indian Government. I did hope when the noble Lord spoke to-night that he would have told us something which I am sure he must have known; that there is no such thing as a real Government in India at all; that there is no responsibility either to a public opinion there, or to a public opinion at home; and that therefore we cannot expect a better policy or happier results. Let hon. Gentlemen imagine a Government like that in India, over which the payers of the taxes have not the slightest control; for the great body of the people in India have, as we all know, no control in any way over the Government. Neither is there any independent English opinion that has any control over the Government, the only opinions being those of the Government itself, or those of the Military and Civil Services, and chiefly of the latter. They are not the payers of taxes; they are the spenders and the enjoyers of the taxes, and therefore the Government in India is in the most unfortunate position possible for the fulfilment of the great duties that must devolve upon every wise and just Government. The Civil Service, being privileged, is arrogant, and I had almost said tyrannous, as any one may see who reads the Indian papers, which mainly represent the opinion of that Service and the Military Service, which, as everywhere else where it is not checked by the resolution of the taxpayers and civilians, is clamorous and insatiable for greater expenditure. The Governor-General himself,—and I do not make any attack upon Lord Canning, although I could conceive a Governor-General more suited to his great and difficult position,—he is a creature of these very Services.
I now ask the noble Lord to remember a case which happened during the time he held office, and if the Committee will allow me, for the sake of illustration, to refer to it, I do not think it will be any waste of time. Hon. Gentlemen will recollect that during the last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. J. B. Smith), who has paid great attention to Indian subjects, put a question to the noble Lord relating to the annexation of a small territory called Dhar. What has been the course of events in relation to that case? The news of the annexation reached this country on the 20th of March last year. Upon the 23rd the question was put in this House, when the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Baillie), then Under-Secretary, replied, that the Government had just been informed of it by the Governor-General, and that he was solely responsible for the act, the Government here having had no previous communication upon it. Upon the 11th of June the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) announced to the House, in answer to a question, that he had disallowed the annexation of Dhar. The despatch disallowing it has since been laid upon the table. It is dated June 22, and it asks for information from the Governor-General. In India they assumed this unfortunate Rajah to be guilty of misdemeanour, because his troops had revolted, and the noble Lord in his despatch said, as I think very sensibly, 'If we cannot keep our own troops, what argument is it for overturning the independence of the territory of Dhar, seeing that the Rajah himself has been faithful towards us, but his troops have rebelled?' The noble Lord asked for further information. In the preceding April the Ranee, the mother or step-mother of the Rajah, a mere boy of thirteen, sent two memorials to the Governor-General, one by post, and the other through the local British officer, remonstrating against the annexation, and proving, as far as she could, that the Rajah had not been guilty of any wrong against us. This memorial was not acknowledged until August, when the Secretary for the Government of India desired the Ranee to forward the memorial through the Governor- General's agent in Central India. In April these papers were laid upon the table of the House with one exception. The Ranee's memorial was not included in those papers.
Now, when those papers were laid before the House, why was not that memorial, relating to the annexed territory, sent home and printed with the other papers, so that hon. Members of this House might have read it? The letter of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) was dated the 22nd of June, 1858, and to this hour it has never been answered. The noble Lord's despatch disallowed the annexation; it condemned it, and asked for information. From the date of that despatch to this present 1st of August, 1859, there has not come any official information from the Governor-General as to what he has done, or any answer to the noble Lord's despatch, although sixteen months have elapsed. I say it is not fitting that the Secretary of State for India should be treated with utter disregard, if not with something like contempt, by any great satrap who happens to be sent out to govern any of the provinces of this country. This very case shows, that in the midst of the terrible hurricane of the mutiny, the thirst for annexation was unslaked. At the very moment, or just before, that the Queen issued her gracious Proclamation here, the Government in India annexed the territory of this Rajah, a boy of thirteen years of age, manifesting at the same time an utter disregard of the Government at home and the just sentiments, if they could have been ascertained, of the whole body of the people of this country. And this must be so as long as you have a Government like that of Calcutta. Procrastination is its very nature.
The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) did an excellent thing. He did honour to himself by appointing a man of a new sort as Governor of Madras. I have not much acquaintance with Sir C. Trevelyan, but I believe him to be a very intelligent man and very earnest for the good of India. But he finds that at Madras he is like a man who is manacled, as all the Governors are. He is able to do almost nothing. But he has a spirit above being the passive instrument for doing nothing in the hands of the Governor-General, and he has been disposed to make several changes which have looked exceedingly heterodox to those who are connected with the old Government of India, and which have shocked the nerves of the fifteen old gentlemen who meet in Leadenhall-street, and their brethren in India. I find that among the changes endeavoured to be effected by Sir C. Trevelyan, the following are enumerated:—He has endeavoured to conciliate the Natives by abolishing certain ceremonial distinctions which were supposed to degrade them when visiting the Government House; he has shown that personal courtesy to them which appears to be too much neglected in India; he has conspicuously rewarded those who have rendered services to the State; he has made one of the Natives his aide-de-camp; he has endeavoured to improve the land tenure, to effect a settlement of the Enam, and to abolish the impress of cattle and carts. He has also abolished three-fourths, or perhaps more, of the paper work of the public servants. He also began the great task of judicial reform, than which none is more urgently pressing. But what is said of Sir C. Trevelyan for instituting these reforms? He has raised a hornets' nest about him. Those who surround the Governor-General at Calcutta say, 'We might as well have the Governors of the Presidencies independent, if they are to do as they like without consulting the Governor-General as has been done in past times' The Friend of India is a journal not particularly scrupulous in supporting the Calcutta Government, but it has a horror of any Government of India except that of the Governor-General and the few individuals who surround him. A writer in the Friend of India says:—
'Sir C. Trevelyan relies doubtless on Lord Stanley, and we do not dream of denying that the Secretary of State has provocation enough to excuse the unusual course he seems obliged to pursue. To send a reform to Calcutta is, at present, simply to lay it aside. It will probably not even be answered for two years, certainly not carried in five. Even when sanctioned, it will have to pass through a crucible through which no plan can escape entire. That weary waiting for Calcutta, of which all men, from Lord Stanley to the people of Singapore, now bitterly complain, may well tempt the Secretary to carry on his plans by the first mode offered to his hand.'
Here are only a dozen lines from a long article, and there are other articles in the same paper to the same purport. I think, then, that I am justified in condemning any Secretary for India who contents himself with giving us the figures necessary to show the state of the finances, which any clerk in the office could have done, and abstains from going into the questions of the government of India and that policy upon which alone you can base any solid hope of an improvement in the condition of that country.
There is another point I would mention. The Governor-General of India goes out knowing little or nothing of India. I know exactly what he does when he is appointed. He shuts himself up to study the first volumes of Mr. Mill's History of India, and he reads through this laborious work without nearly so much effect in making him a good Governor-General as a man might ignorantly suppose. He goes to India, a country of twenty nations, speaking twenty languages. He knows none of those nations, and he has not a glimmer of the grammar and pronunciation or meaning of those languages. He is surrounded by half-a-dozen or a dozen gentlemen who have been from fifteen to forty years in that country, and who have scrambled from the moderate but sure allowance with which they began in the Service to the positions they now occupy. He knows nothing of the country or the people, and they are really unknown to the Government of India. To this hour the present Governor-General has not travelled through any considerable portion of the territory of India. If he did, he would have to pay an increased insurance upon his life for travelling through a country in which there are very few roads and no bridges at all. Observe the position, then, in which the Governor-General is placed. He is surrounded by an official circle, he breathes an official air, and everything is dim or dark beyond it. You lay duties upon him which are utterly beyond the mental or bodily strength of any man who ever existed, and which he cannot therefore adequately perform.
Turning from the Governor-General to the Civil Service, see how short the period is in which your servants in that country remain in any particular office. You are constantly criticising the bad customs of the United States, where every postmaster and many other officers lose their situations, and where others are appointed whenever a new President is elected. You never make blunders like the United States, and you will therefore be surprised at a statement given in evidence by Mr. Underbill, the Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. He says that in certain districts in Bengal there are three or four Englishmen to 1,000,000 inhabitants, and that the magistrates are perpetually moving about. I have here the names of several gentlemen cited. Mr. Henry Lushington went to India in 1821, and remained till 1842. During these twenty-one years he filled twenty-one different offices; he went to Europe twice, being absent from India not less than four and a quarter years. Upon an average, therefore, he held his twenty-one offices not more than nine months each. Mr. J. P. Grant was Governor of Bengal. That was so good a place that he remained stationary in it. But he went to India in 1828 and remained there until 1841. In those thirteen years he held twenty-four different situations, being an average of less than six months for each. Mr. Charles Grant—and I may say that Grant is a name which for three or four generations has been found everywhere in India,— he was in India from 1829 to 1842, and in those thirteen years he filled seventeen offices, being an average of only eight months for each office. Mr. Halliday, Governor of Bengal, went to India in 1825, and remained until 1843. In those eighteen years he held twenty-one offices, and he did not become stationary until he was accredited to the lucrative and great office of Governor of Bengal.
I think these facts show that there is something in the arrangements of the Indian Government which makes it no Government at all, except for the purpose of raising money and spending taxes. It is no Government for watching over the people and conferring upon them those blessings which we try to silence our consciences by believing the British Government is established in India to promote. What can a Governor-General do with such a Council, and with servants who are ever changing in all the departments? I am not stating my own opinion, but what is proved by the blue-books. Mr. Halliday stated that the police of Bengal were more feared than the thieves and dacoits. But how is this Government, so occupied and so embarrassed, to be expected to put the police on a satisfactory footing? With regard to justice, I might appeal to any gentleman who has been in India whether, for the most part, the Judges in the Company's Courts are not without training, and if they are without training, whether they will not probably be without law. The delay is something of which we can have no conception, even with our experience of the Court of Chancery in this country. Perjury and wrong are universal wherever the Courts of the Company's Service have been established in India. Of their taxation we hear enough to-night. It is clumsy and unscientific. In their finance there is such confusion that the Government proposes to send out somebody, not to raise revenue, not to spend it, but somebody who will be able to tell you how it is raised and spent, for that is what you want to know. They have no system of book-keeping whatever. The Secretary of State gives us a statement of revenue and expenditure up to the 30th of April, 1858, sixteen months back, and even for the year preceding he can only furnish what he calls an 'estimate.' Would any other Legislative Assembly in the whole world, except this, tolerate such a state of things? I did try myself several years ago to get a statement of the accounts up to a later period; but I found it was of no use. They ought to be brought up to a later period; the thing is quite within the range of possibility; it is simply not done because there is no proper system of book-keeping, and no one responsible for not doing it.
You have no Government in India; you have no financial statement; you have no system of book-keeping; no responsibility; and everything goes to confusion and ruin because there is such a Government, or no Government, and the English House of Commons has not taken the pains to reform these things. The Secretary of State to-night points to the increase in the English trade. In that trade I am myself interested, and I am delighted to see that increase; but it should be borne in mind that just now it is not a natural increase, and therefore not certain to be permanent. If you are spending so many millions in railroads and in carrying on war—that is, 22,000,000l. for your armaments in India instead of 12,000,000l.—is not that likely to make a great difference in your power to import more largely from this country? Do not we know that when the Government of the day was pouring English treasure into the Crimea the trade with the Levant was most materially increased? And, therefore, I say it will be a delusion for the right hon. Gentleman to expect that the extraordinary increase which has taken place within the last three years will go on in future in the same proportion.
Now, the point which I wish to bring before the Committee and the Government is this, because it is on this that I rely mainly—I think I may say almost entirely—for any improvement in the future of India. It would be impertinent to take up the time of the Committee by merely cavilling at what other people have said, and pointing out their errors and blunders, if I had no hope of being able to suggest any improvement in the existing state of things. I believe a great improvement may be made, and by a gradual progress that will dislocate nothing. I dare say it may disappoint some individuals, but where it will disappoint one man in India it will please a thousand. What you want is to de-centralize your Government. I hold it to be manifestly impossible to govern 150,000,000 of persons, composing twenty different nations, speaking as many different languages, by a man who knows nothing of India, assisted by half-a-dozen councillors belonging to a privileged order, many of whom have had very little experience in India, except within narrow limits, and whose experience never involved the consideration and settlement of great questions of statesman ship. If you could have an independent Government in India for every 30,000,000 of its people, I do not hesitate to say, though we are so many thousand miles away, that there are Englishmen who, settling down among those 20,000,000 of people, would be able to conduct the Government of that particular province on conditions wholly different and immeasurably better than anything in the way of administration which we have ever seen in India.
If I were Secretary of State for India,—but as I am not, I will recommend the right hon. Gentleman to do that which I would do myself, or I would not hold his office for one month; because, to hold office and come before the House Session after Session with a gloomy statement, and with no kind of case to show that you are doing anything for India, or that you are justified in holding possession of it at all, is nothing but to receive a salary and to hold a dignity without any adequate notion of the high responsibility attaching to them. I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman in particular; he is only doing what all his predecessors before him have done. There has been no real improvement since I have sat in Parliament in the government of India, and I believe the Bill of last year is not one whit better for purposes of administration than any that has gone before. But I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, whether it would not be a good thing to bring in a Bill to extend and define the powers of the Governors of the various Presidencies in India? I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to turn out the fifteen gentlemen who assist him in Leadenhall-street to vegetate on their pensions, but I ask him to go to India and to take the Presidency of Madras for an instance. Let arrangements be made by which that Presidency shall be in a position to correspond directly with him in this country, and let every one connected with that Government of Madras feel that, with regard to the interests and the people of that Presidency, they will be responsible for their protection. At present there is no sort of tie between the governors and the governed. Why is it that we should not do for Madras what has been done for the Island of Ceylon? I am not about to set up the Council of Ceylon as a model institution—it is far from that; but I will tell you what it is, and you will see that it would not be a difficult thing to make the change I propose. The other day I asked a gentleman holding an office in the Government, and who had lived some years in Ceylon, what was the state of the Council? He said it was composed of sixteen members, of whom six were non-official and independent, and the Governor had always a majority. He added that at the present moment in that Council there was one gentleman, a pure Cingalese by birth and blood, another a Brahmin, another a half-caste, whose father was a Dutchman and whose mother was a Native, and three others who were either English merchants or planters. The Council has not much prestige, and therefore it is not easy to induce merchants in the interior to be members and to undertake its moderate duties; but the result is that this Cingalese, this Brahmin, this half-caste, and these three Englishmen, although they cannot out- vote Sir H. Ward, the Governor, are able to discuss questions of public interest in the eye and the ear of the public, and to tell what the independent population want, and so to form a representation of public opinion in the Council, which I will undertake to say, although so inefficient, is yet of high importance in the satisfactory government of that island. Why is it that we can have nothing like this in the Councils of Madras or Bombay? It would be an easy thing to do, and I believe that an Act of Parliament which would do it would lay the foundation of the greatest reform that has yet taken place in India. At present all the Governors are in fetters; and I see that blame has been imputed to Sir Charles Trevelyan for endeavouring to break through those fetters. No doubt an attempt will be made to have him recalled, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, while he moderates the ardour of the Governor so far as to prevent a rebellion among the civilians, will support him honestly and faithfully in all those changes which the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do are essential to the improvement of the government of that country.
There is yet another question, and that is, what is to be done with regard to the people of India on the subject of education, and especially with reference to the matter of religious instruction? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to be cautious how he takes the advice of any gentleman in this country, who may ask him to make changes in the established order of things there by appearing in the slightest degree to attempt to overthrow the caste and religion of the Natives of India. I have here an extract from a letter written by a gentleman who was present at one of the ceremonies of reading the Queen's Proclamation in November last. He says:—
'Not less than 7,000 Natives of all ranks and conditions and religions flocked to the esplanade at Tellicherry, where there was no show but the parading of a company of Sepoys, who fired a feu de joie very badly, to hear the Queen's Proclamation read. All who heard, all who heard not, manifested the deepest interest in it. The pledged inviolability of their religion and their lands spread like wildfire through the crowd, and was soon in every man's mouth. Their satisfaction was unbounded.... I mentioned that I went to Tellicherry to hear the Queen's Proclamation read. We have since had it read here (Anjarakandy). You will see an account of what took place on the occasion in the accompanying copy of an official report I addressed to the assistant-magistrate. What I have described understates the feeling manifested by the people. They were all eyes and ears, listening breathlessly to what was being read. You will observe that convening them for any public purpose whatever, except here, was a thing unknown, and would have been a thing scouted under the Company's Government. Here I always assemble them, communicate everything they ought to know and hear, and talk it over with them. But a Queen's Proclamation is not an every-day affair, so they came in crowds, and I will venture to say that there is not another place in the Queen's India where it was so clearly explained to them or so thoroughly understood. But the impartial toleration of their religion and caste was the be-all and end-all of their comments, praise, and individual satisfaction. One Mafitta said, "They had had scores of proclamations upon every conceivable subject, but never one so wise and sensible as this."
The East India Company was a wonderful Company for writing despatches. There was nothing so Christian as their doctrine, nothing so unchristian as their conduct. That Proclamation has in it the basis of all you should aim at in future in India—a regard to the sacredness of their property, and the sacredness of their religion, and an extension to them of as regular and full justice as is shown to your own countrymen. Depend upon it these Natives of India can comprehend this as well as we comprehend it; and, if you treat them as we are treated, and as they ought to be treated, you will not require 400,000 men to help you to govern a people who are notoriously among the most industrious and most peaceable to be found on the face of the earth. There has lately been an act done by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) to which I must allude. Why he did it I do not know. I am sure the noble Lord did not mean to do an act of injustice—though very great injustice has been done. A question was put the other night about a Native of India who had come to this country to qualify himself for entering into competition for employment in the Civil Service of his country. I have seen that young gentleman, and conversed with him; and when I state his case, it will be seen whether he has been treated well or wisely, though the regulation under which he has suffered may have been made without any reference to him individually. He arrived in this country in June, 1856, and remained preparing himself for competition for two years and a-half till December, 1858, when a new regulation came out, which made twenty-two instead of twenty-three years of age the period for entering the Civil Service. He might have been ready for competition in July, 1860, but he could not be ready in July, 1859. Under these circumstances he would be past the age of twenty-two before he could be able to present himself for examination. The consequence is, that he has been obliged to turn himself to another channel for employment. His father is an assistant- builder in the Government dockyard of Bombay, and has been in England. There was great interest excited among the Natives when the young man left India to come to England, and there is great disappointment among his friends at the result. He has been laughed at for trusting the Government, and it is said that while Government go on changing their regulations in this way no faith can be put in them. Now this is the first case of this kind that has happened. This young gentleman (or his father) has expended 1,500l. in coming here and in endeavouring to get the best education, solely with a view to be suited for the Civil Service. If he had entered into that Civil Service a great thing would have been accomplished. The result would have been that the House and the Secretary for India would have seen that it was very unjust, while the son of any one here could pursue his studies at home and enter into competition for the Civil Service, that the sons of the Natives of India who wish to enter into the service of their own country must come thousands of miles at great expense, and live apart from their families for years, before they are able to accomplish their object, and the result must have been that you would have established in some city in India the same mode of examination that you have established here. You must have been led to do that which would have enabled young men in India to offer themselves for the Civil Service of their country on as favourable terms as could be done in England. I am sure the noble Lord never had the slightest idea of the regulation having reference to this young man, or of injuring him; yet it has been done, and what has occurred leads to the conclusion that either somebody very deep in these matters has been at the bottom of this change, or that some combination of unfortunate circumstances has been at work, by which that which we have all so much at heart has been retarded. If the noble Lord had struck out this regulation, or made a new one, by which this young man could have had a chance of going home as a servant of the Civil Service, the fact would have been worth many regiments of soldiers in India.
In speaking on this subject I have nothing new to offer to the attention of the House. I have propounded the very same theories and remedies years ago. They are not my remedies and theories. I am not the inventor of local government for India; but the more I have considered the subject—the more I have discussed it with the Members of this House and with gentlemen connected with India—the more I am convinced that you will not make a single step towards the improvement of India unless you change your whole system of government—unless you give to each Presidency a government with more independent powers than are now possessed by it. What would be thought if the whole of Europe was under one governor, who knew only the language of the Feejee Islands, and that his subordinates were like himself, only more intelligent than the inhabitants of the Feejee Islands are supposed to be? You set a governor over 150,000,000 of human beings, in a climate where the European cannot do the work he has to do so well as here, where neither the moral nor physical strength of the individual is equal to what it is at home,—and you do not even always furnish the most powerful men for the office;— you seem to think that the atmosphere will be always calm and the sea always smooth. And so the government of India goes on; there are promises without number of beneficial changes, but we never heard that India is much better or worse than before. Now, that is not the way to do justice to a great empire like India. If there had been a better government in India, the late disturbances among your own troops would not have happened; and I own I tremble when I reflect that every post may bring us, in the present temper of the European troops in India, some dire intelligence of acts which they may have committed, because they may think that this is a convenient opportunity for pressing some great claim of their own.
I beg the Committee to consider this matter, notwithstanding that the right hon. Gentleman is not disposed to take a gloomy view of the state of India. Look at your responsibilities. India is ruled by Englishmen, but remember that in that unfortunate country you have destroyed every form of government but your own; that you have cast the thrones of the Natives to the ground. Princely families, once the rulers of India, are now either houseless wanderers in the land they once called their own, or are pensioners on the bounty of those strangers by whom their fortunes have been overthrown. They who were noble and gentle for ages are now merged in the common mass of the people. All over those vast regions there are countless millions, helpless and defenceless, deprived of their natural leaders and their ancient chiefs, looking with only some small ray of hope to that omnipresent and irresistible Power by which they have been subjected. I appeal to you on behalf of that people. I have besought your mercy and your justice for many a year past; and if I speak to you earnestly now, it is because the object for which I plead is dear to my heart. Is it not possible to touch a chord in the hearts of Englishmen, to raise them to a sense of the miseries inflicted on that unhappy country by the crimes and the blunders of our rulers here? If you have steeled your hearts against the Natives, if nothing can stir you to sympathy with their miseries, at least have pity upon your own countrymen. Rely upon it the state of things which now exists in India must, before long, become most serious. I hope that you will not show to the world that, although your fathers conquered the country, you have not the ability to govern it.
You had better disencumber yourselves of the fatal gift of empire than that the present generation should be punished for the sins of the past. I speak in condemnatory language, because I believe it to be deserved. I hope that no future historian will have to say that the arms of England in India were irresistible, and that an ancient empire fell before their victorious progress,—yet that finally India was avenged, because the power of her conqueror was broken by the intolerable burdens and evils which she cast upon her victim, and that this wrong was accomplished by a waste of human life and a waste of wealth which England, with all her power, was unable to bear.
* * * * *
HOUSE OF COMMONS, MARCH 19, 1861.
[Mr. Dunlop brought forward a motion to inquire into the discrepancies between certain sets of documents, relating to the Afghan war of 1837-8. It appeared that some passages in the despatches of Sir Alexander Burnes had been mutilated, in order to make it appear that he advised a policy which he really condemned. Mr. Dunlop moved for a Committee to inquire into this alleged mutilation of despatches presented to the House. The motion was negatived.]
When the noble Lord rose, I observed, from his countenance and from his language, that he seemed to be suffering from the passion of anger. [Viscount Palmerston: 'Not much.'] 'Not much,' the noble Lord says. I admit that in the course of his speech he calmed down; but he was so far led from what I think was a fair course as to charge the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this Motion with making a violent and vituperative speech, and he spoke of 'that vocabulary of abuse of which the hon. Gentleman appeared to be master.' Now, I will undertake to say that I am only speaking the opinion of every Gentleman in the House who heard the speech which introduced this question, when I say that there has rarely been delivered here on any subject a speech more strictly logical, more judicially calm, and more admirable than that which we have heard to-night from the hon. and learned Member for Greenock. But the fact is the noble Lord felt himself hit.
The noble Lord is on his trial in this case; and on that account I expect that at the conclusion of the debate he will not feel himself at liberty to object to the appointment of this Committee. After a few sentences the noble Lord touched upon the case of Sir Alexander Burnes, and he made a very faint denial of the misrepresentations which are charged against the Government of that day in the case of that gentleman. But he went on to say that, after all, these things were of no importance; that what was in, or what was left out, was unimportant. But I should like to ask the noble Lord what was the object of the minute and ingenious, and I will say unmatched care which was taken in mutilating the despatches of a gentleman whose opinions were of no importance and whose writings could not make the slightest difference either to the question or to the opinions of any person concerned? The noble Lord, too, has stooped to conduct which, if I were not in this House, I might describe in language which I could not possibly use here without being told that I was transgressing the line usually observed in discussions in this assembly. The noble Lord has stooped so low as to heap insult, throughout the whole of his speech, upon the memory of a man who died in the execution of what he believed to be his public duty— a duty which was thrust upon him by the mad and obstinate policy of the noble Lord; and whilst his blood cries to Heaven against that policy, the noble Lord, during a three-quarters of an hour's speech in this House, has scarcely ceased to heap insult on his memory.
What the noble Lord told us throughout his speech was that Sir Alexander Burnes was a man of the greatest simplicity of character. I could not, however complimentary I were disposed to be, retort that upon the noble Lord. He says that Sir Alexander Burnes—of whom he spoke throughout in the most contemptuous manner—an eminent political agent at the Court of Dost Mahommed, was beguiled by the treachery of that Asiatic ruler; that he took everything for truth which he heard, and that, in point of fact, he was utterly unfit for the position which he held at Cabul. But although the noble Lord had these despatches before him, and knew all the feelings of Sir Alexander Burnes, he still continued Sir Alexander Burnes there. He was there two years after these despatches were written, in that most perilous year when not only himself but the whole army—subjects of the Queen—fell victims to the policy of the noble Lord. Now, I must tell the noble Lord what my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Greenock, did not discuss, and what the Committee is not to do—because every Member who heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, and those who listened to the speech of the noble Lord, must have seen that from the first the noble Lord evaded the whole question. He endeavoured to lead the House to believe that my hon. and learned Friend was going into some antiquarian researches about the policy of the English or the Indian Government twenty years ago, and that it was proposed to have a Committee to dig up all the particulars of our supposed peril from the designs of Russia at that time. But the fact is that my hon. and learned Friend had no such intention; and there was no man in the House more cognizant of that fact than the noble Lord when he ingeniously endeavoured to convey a contrary impression to the House.
It is not proposed to go into the policy of the war. And there is another question that it is not proposed to go into. It is not proposed to inquire whether Sir Alexander Burnes or Lord Auckland was Governor- General. We know that Lord Auckland was Governor-General; but we know that a Governor-General who may be many hundreds, or in India, perhaps, 2,000 miles away from the place where particular events are transpiring, must rely to a considerable extent on the information he receives from the political agent who is on the spot. If this be so, clearly what Sir Alexander Burnes thought, and what he said, and what he wrote, is of some importance. At least, if the House of Commons has any evidence placed before it, the noble Lord will agree that in a great question like this—I am not speaking of the present time, but of the time when these events happened—it is of first-rate importance that the House should have evidence not on one side only, but on both sides. There is another thing we do not propose to inquire into, and that is the policy of Russia at that time. I cannot very well understand the course which the noble Lord has taken on this point; for I find that about twelve months after the writing of these very despatches, the mutilation of which is now complained of, the noble Lord made a reply to the Russian Minister who had declared that there was nothing whatever hostile to England in the instructions which were furnished to Vicovich. He says—
'There has not existed the smallest design hostile to the English Government, nor the smallest idea of endangering the tranquillity of the British possessions in India.'
The noble Lord, in reply to that, on the 20th December, 1838, just a year after the writing of these despatches by Sir Alexander Burnes, said:—
'Her Majesty's Government accept as entirely satisfactory the declaration of the Russian Government that it does not harbour any designs hostile to the interests of Great Britain in India.'
I may leave that question there, because I can assure the noble Lord that my hon. and learned Friend has not the smallest intention—I judge so, at least, from his speech—of bringing anybody before the Committee to attack or defend the policy of the Government in the war which then unhappily took place. Nor do I suppose it is intended to arraign anybody for a policy that sacrificed at least 20,000 human lives—20,000 lives of the subjects of the Queen of England. Nor is it intended to inquire how far the loss of more than 15,000,000l. sterling by that policy has affected for all future time the finances and the circumstances of the Government of India. These are crimes—the whole of that policy is a crime—of a nature never to be answered for. No man can accurately measure it. No Committee of this House could adequately punish those who were the perpetrators of it. No, Sir, my hon. and learned Friend has not the slightest idea of going back twenty years for the purpose of bringing the noble Lord, or any one else who may be guilty of that great crime, to the bar of public opinion by this Committee.
But it is worth while that the House should know whether the Government in whom it placed confidence at that time, and in whom the Queen placed confidence—whether that Government was worthy of their confidence, and whether any members of the Government of that day are members of the Government at this day. It is worth while knowing whether there was and is a man in high position in the Government here or in India who had so low a sense of honour and of right that he could offer to this House mutilated, false, forged despatches and opinions of a public servant, who lost his life in the public service. Conceive any man at this moment in India engaged, as many have been during the last three years, in perilous services—conceive that any man should know that to-morrow, or next week, or any time this year, he may lay his bones in that distant land, and that six months afterwards there may be laid on the table of this House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or by the Secretary of State for India, letters or despatches of his from which passages have been cut out, and into which passages have been inserted, in which words have been so twisted as wholly to divert and distort his meaning, and to give to him a meaning, it may be, utterly the contrary to that which his original despatch intended to convey. I cannot conceive any anticipation more painful or more bitter, more likely to eat into the heart of any man engaged in the service of his country in a distant land.
It is admitted, and the noble Lord has not flatly denied it—he cannot deny it—he knows it as well as the hon. and learned Member for Greenock—he knows it as well as the very man whose hand did the evil— he knows there have been garbling, mutilation, practically and essentially falsehood and forgery, in these despatches which have been laid before the House. Why was it refused to give the original despatches when they were asked for in 1842 by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. H. Baillie), and when they were asked for at a later period by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield)? Why was it that the originals were so consistently withheld? That they have been given now I suppose is because those who were guilty of the outrage on the faith of Parliament thought, as twenty years had elapsed, that nobody would give himself the trouble to go into the question, and that no man would be so earnest as my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock in bringing the question before the notice of Parliament.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) informs me that it was the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) who consented to the production of the original despatches when he was in office. I was not aware of that fact; but I am free here to tender him my thanks for the course which he took. I am sure he is the last man whom any one would suspect of being mixed up in any transaction of this kind, except with a view to give the House and the country full information with regard to it. I say, then, avoiding all the long speech of the noble Lord, that the object of the Committee is to find out who did this evil thing—who placed upon the table of the House information which was knowingly false, and despatches that were actually forged— because if you add to or detract from, or so change a coin, or note, or deed, as to make any of them bear a meaning contrary to its original and intended meaning, of course you are guilty of such an act as I have described, and that is precisely what somebody has done in the despatches which we are now discussing. I say an odious offence has been committed against the House, and against the truth; and what we want to know is, who did it?
Now, will the noble Lord be candid enough—he does not think there is anything wrong—he says there is not much—it is very trifling—that Sir Alexander Burnes's opinions are not worth much—supposing it to be so— for the sake of argument, let me grant it; but if it is a matter of no importance, will the noble Lord be so candid as to tell us who did it? When Lord Broughton was examined before the Official Salaries Committee some years ago, he, as the noble Lord is aware, said that he took upon himself as President of the Board of Control at the time the entire responsibility of the Affghan war. The noble Lord now at the head of the Government was then a member of the India Board, and so I believe was the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government was also Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Now, I do not think I am wrong in supposing that this question lies between the noble Lord the Prime Minister and Lord Broughton, once a Member of this House. This thing was not done by some subordinate who cannot be found out.
My hon. and learned Friend says it has been done with marvellous care, and even with so much ability that it must have been done by a man of genius. Of course there are men of genius in very objectionable walks of life; but we know that the noble Lord at the head of the Government is a man of genius; if he had not been, he would not have sat on that bench for the last fifty years. And we know that Lord Broughton is a man of many and varied accomplishments. And once more I ask the noble Lord to tell us who did it? He knows who did it. Was it his own right-hand, or was it Lord Broughton's right-hand, or was it some clever secretary in the Foreign Office or in the India Office who did this work? I say the House has a right to know. We want to know that. We want to drag the delinquent before the public. This we want to know, because we wish to deter other Ministers from committing the like offence; and we want to know it for that which most of all is necessary—to vindicate the character and honour of Parliament. Nothing can sink Parliament to a lower state of degradation and baseness than that it should permit Ministers of the Crown to lay upon the table, upon questions involving the sacrifice of 20,000,000l. of money and 20,000 lives, documents which are not true—which slander our public servants, and which slander them most basely when they are dead and are not here to answer. I do not believe that the Gentlemen of England in this House— upon that side of the House or upon this—will ever consent to sit down with a case proved so clearly as this is without directing the omnipotent power and eye of Parliament into the matter. I say, seeing the charge, seeing that the noble Lord was at the head of the Foreign Office at the time, that the policy of the Affghan war was always considered to be his, that the responsibility of this act must rest between him and Lord Broughton,—I should not like to hold the opinion, and I do not hold the opinion, that the noble Lord will object to a Committee to inquire into a matter in which he is himself so directly concerned.
* * * * *
HOUSE OF COMMONS, MARCH 13, 1865.
From Hansard. [Delivered during the debate on Colonel Jervois' Report on the Defences of Canada.]
I am not sure that I should have addressed the House on this occasion but for the observations which have been made by the noble Lord. I think he has been perhaps a little more frank in his declarations on this occasion, and in pointing out the real thing which I suspect is passing in his mind, and in the minds of very many Members of the House who have made no statement of their own opinions during this debate. I hope the debate will be useful, although I am obliged to say, while I admit the importance of the question that has been brought before us, that I think it is one of some delicacy. That it is important is clear, because it refers to the possibility of war between this country and the United States, and its delicacy arises from this—that it is very difficult to discuss this question without saying things which tend rather in the direction of war than in the direction of peace.
The difficulty which is now before us is this—that there is an extensive colony or dependency of this country lying adjacent to the United States, and if there be a war party in the United States—a party hostile to this country—that circumstance affords to it a very strong temptation to enter without much hesitation into a war with England, because it may feel that through Canada it can inflict a great humiliation upon this country. And at the same time it is perfectly well known to all intelligent men, especially to the statesmen and public men of the United States—it is as well known to them as it is to us—that there is no power whatever in this United Kingdom to defend successfully the territory of Canada against the power of the United States. Now we ought to know that, in order to put ourselves right upon this question, and that we may not talk folly and be called upon hereafter to act folly. The noble Lord at the head of the Government—or the Government, at any rate is responsible for having compelled this discussion; because if a Vote is to be asked for during this Session—and it is only the beginning of other Votes—it is clearly the duty of the House to bring the subject under discussion. I think the Vote now is particularly inopportune for many reasons, but especially as we have heard from the Governor-General of Canada that they are about, in the North-American Provinces, to call into existence a new nationality; and I, for one, shall certainly object to the taxes of this country being heedlessly expended in behalf of any nationality but our own.
Now, what I should like to ask the House is this—first of all, will Canada attack the States? Clearly not. Next, will the States attack Canada—I am keeping out of view England altogether? Clearly not. There is not a man in the United States, probably, whose voice or whose opinion would have the smallest influence in that country, who would recommend or desire that an attack should be made by the United States upon Canada with a view to its forcible annexation to the Union. There have been lately, as we know, dangers on the frontier. The Canadian people have been no wiser than some Members of this House—or than a great many men amongst the richer classes in this country. And when the refugees from the South—I am not speaking now of respectable and honourable men from the South, many of whom have left that country during these troubles, and for whom I feel the greatest commiseration, but I mean the ruffians from the South—who in large numbers have entered Canada and have employed themselves there in a course of policy likely to embroil us with the United States—I say that the people of Canada have treated these men with far too much consideration. They expressed very openly opinions hostile to the United States, whose power lay close to them.
I will not go into a detail of that which we are all sufficiently well acquainted with—the seizing of American ships on the Lakes, the raid into the State of Vermont, the robbing of a bank, the killing of a man in his own shop, the stealing of horses in open day, and another transaction of which we have very strong proof, that men of this class actually conspired to set fire to the largest cities of the Union. All these things have taken place and the Canadian Government made scarcely any sign. I believe that an application was made to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office nearly a year ago, that he should stimulate the Canadian Government to some steps to avoid the dangers that have since arisen; but with that sort of negligence which has been so much seen here, nothing was done until the American Government and people, aroused by the nature of these transactions, showed that they were no longer about to put up with them. Then the Canadian Government and people took a little notice. Now, Lord Monck, the Governor-General of Canada—about whose appointment I have heard some people complain, saying that he was a mere follower of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who lost his election and was therefore sent out to govern a province—Lord Monck, I am bound to say, from all I have heard from Canada, has conducted himself in a manner very serviceable to the colony, and with the greatest possible propriety as representing the Sovereign there. Lord Monck has been all along favourable to the United States, and I believe his Cabinet has also. I know that at least the most important newspaper there has always been favourable to the North. Still nothing was done; but the moment these troubles arose then everything was done. Volunteers have been sent to the frontier; the trial of the raiders has been proceeded with, and possibly they will be surrendered; and the Canadian Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed a vote in their House of Parliament to restore to the persons at St. Albans, who were robbed by the raiders, the 50,000 dollars that were taken from them.
And what is the state of things now? There is the greatest possible calm on the frontier. The United States have not a word to say against Canada. The Canadian people have found that they were in the wrong and have now returned to their right mind. There is not a man in Canada at this moment, I believe, who has any idea that the United States Government has the smallest notion of attacking them, now or at any future time, on account of anything that has transpired between the United States and Canada during these trials. But if there comes a war in which Canada shall suffer and be made a victim, it will be a war got up between the Government of Washington and the Government of London. And it becomes us to inquire whether that is at all probable. Is there anybody in this House in favour of such a war? I notice with general delight—and I was not a false prophet when I said some time ago that some day it would be so—I say I notice with delight the changed tone manifested here with regard to these American questions. Even the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) can speak without anger, and without any of that ill feeling which I am sorry to say on past occasions he has manifested in discussing these questions.
Now, I believe there are no men out of Bedlam—or at least who ought to be out of it—and I suspect there are very few men in Bedlam, who are in favour of our going to war with the United States. And in taking this view I am not arguing that it is because we see the vast naval and military power and apparently inexhaustible resources of that country. I will not assume that you or my countrymen have come to the conclusion that it is better for us not to make war with America, because you and they find her with a strength that you did not even suspect: I will say that it is upon higher grounds that we are all against a war with the United States. Our history for the last 200 years, and further back, is a record of calamitous, and for the most part, unnecessary wars. We have had enough of whatever a nation can gain by military successes and military glory. I will not turn to the disasters that might follow to our commerce nor to the wide-spread ruin that might be occasioned. I will say that we are a wiser and a better people than we were in these respects, and that we should regard a war with the United States as even a greater crime, if needlessly entered into, than war with almost any other country in the world.
Looking at our Government, we have preserved, with a good many blunders— one or two of which I shall comment upon by-and-by—neutrality during this great struggle. We have had it stated in this House, and we have had a Motion in this House, that the blockade was ineffective and ought to be broken. Men of various classes, some of them agents of the Richmond conspiracy—persons, it is said, of influence from France—all these are reported to have brought their influence to bear on the noble Lord at the head of the Government and his colleagues, with a view of inducing them to take part in this quarrel, and all this has failed to break our neutrality. Therefore, I should say, we may clearly come to the conclusion that England is not in favour of war; and if there should be any act of war, or any aggression whatever, out of which Canada will suffer, I believe honestly that it will not come from this country. That is a matter which gives me great satisfaction, and I believe the House will agree with me that I am not misstating the case.
Now let us ask, Is the United States for war? I know the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) has a lurking idea that there is some danger from that quarter; I am not at all certain that it does not prevail in other minds, and in many minds not so acute as that with which the noble Lord is gifted. If we had at the Bar of the House, Lord Russell as representing the English Government, and Mr. Adams as the representative of the Government of President Lincoln, and if we were to ask their opinion, they would tell us that which the Secretary for the Colonies has this night told us—that the relations between the two countries, so far as it is possible to discover them, are perfectly amicable; and I know from the communications between the Minister of the United States and our Minister for Foreign Affairs that they have been growing more and more amicable for many months past. Now, I take the liberty of expressing this opinion—that there has never been an administration in the United States since the time of the Revolutionary War, up to this hour, more entirely favourable to peace with all foreign countries, and more especially favourable to peace with England, than the Government of which President Lincoln is the head. I will undertake to say that the most exact investigator of what has taken place will not be able to point to a single word he—President Lincoln—has said, or a single line he has written, or a single act he has done, since his first accession to power, that betrays anger against this country, or any of that vindictive feeling which some persons here may imagine to inflame the breasts of the President and his Cabinet.
Then if Canada is not for war, if England is not for war, and if the United States are not for war, whence is the war to come? That is what I should like to ask. I wish the noble Lord the Member for Stamford had been a little more frank. I should like to ask whence comes the anxiety, which undoubtedly to some extent prevails? It may be assumed even that the Government is not wholly free from it; for they have shown it in an almost ludicrous manner by proposing a vote of 50,000l. It is said the newspapers have got into a sort of panic. They can do that any night between the hours of six and twelve o'clock, when they write their articles. They are either very courageous or very panic-stricken.
It is said that 'the City' joins in this feeling. We know what 'the City' means—the right hon. Gentleman alluded to it to-night. It means that the people who deal in shares—though that does not describe the whole of them—'the moneyed interest' of the City, are alarmed. Well, I never knew the City to be right. Men who are deep in great monetary transactions, and who are steeped to the lips sometimes in perilous speculations, are not able to take broad and dispassionate views of political questions of this nature.
As to the newspapers, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) when, referring to one of them in particular, he intimated that he thought its course was indicated by a wish to cover its own confusion. Surely, after four years' uninterrupted publication of lies with regard to America, I should think it has done pretty much to destroy its influence on foreign questions for ever.
But there is a much higher authority—that is the authority of the Peers. I do not know why we should be so much restricted with regard to the House of Lords in this House. I think I have observed that in their place they are not so squeamish as to what they say about us. It appeared to me that in this debate the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) felt it necessary to get up and endeavour to defend his chief. Now, if I were to give advice to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, it would be this—for while stating that during the last four years many noble Lords in the other House have said foolish things, I think I should be uncandid if I did not say that you also have said foolish things—learn from the example set you by the right hon. Gentleman. He, with a thoughtfulness and statesmanship which you do not all acknowledge, he did not say a word from that bench likely to create difficulty with the United States. I think his chief and his followers might learn something from his example.
But I have discovered one reason why in that other place mistakes of this nature are so often made. Not long ago there was a great panic raised, very much by what was said in another place about France. Now an attempt is made there to create a panic upon this question. In the hall of the Reform Club there is affixed to the wall a paper which gives a telegraphic account of what is being done in this House every night, and what is also being done in the other House, and I find almost every night from the beginning of the Session that the only words that have appeared on the side which is devoted to a record of the proceedings of the House of Lords are these, 'Lords adjourned.' The noble Lord at the head of the Government is responsible for much of this. He has brought this House into nearly the same condition. We do very little, and they do absolutely nothing. All of us in our younger days, I am quite sure, were taught by those who had the care of us a verse which was intended to inculcate the virtue of industry. One couplet was to this effect—
'Satan still some mischief finds For idle hands to do.'
And I do not believe that men, however high in station, are exempt from that unfortunate effect which arises to all of us from a course of continued idleness. But I should like to ask this House in a most serious mood, what is the reason that any man in this country has now more anxiety with regard to the preservation of peace with the United States than he had a few years ago? Is there not a consciousness in our heart of hearts that we have not during the last five years behaved generously to our neighbours? Do not we feel in some sort a pricking of conscience, and are we not sensible that conscience tends to make us cowards at this particular juncture?
I shall not review the past transactions with anger, but with feelings of sorrow; for I maintain, and I think history will bear out what I say, that there is no generous and high-minded Englishman who can look back upon the transactions of the last four years without a feeling of sorrow at the course we have pursued on some important occasions. As I am wishful to speak with a view to a better state of feeling, both in this country and in the United States, I shall take the liberty, if the House will permit me for a few minutes, to refer to two or three of these transactions, where, I think, though perhaps we were not in the main greatly wrong, yet in some circumstances we were so far unfortunate as to have created an irritation which at this moment we wish did not exist. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour Fitzgerald) referred to the course taken by the Government with regard to the acknowledgment of the belligerent rights of the South. Now I have never been one to condemn the Government for acknowledging those belligerent rights, except upon this ground—I think it might be logically contended that it might possibly have become necessary to take that step—but I do think the time and manner in which it was done were most unfortunate, and could not but produce very evil effects.
Going back nearly four years, we recollect what occurred when the news arrived of the first shot having been fired at Fort Sumter. That, I think, was about the 12th of April. Immediately after that time it was announced that a new Minister was coming to this country. Mr. Dallas had intimated to the Government that as he did not represent the new President he would rather not undertake anything of importance; but that his successor was on his way and would arrive on such a day. When a man leaves New York on a given day you can calculate to about twelve hours when he will be in London. Mr. Adams, I think, arrived in London about the 13th of May, and when he opened his newspaper next morning he found the Proclamation of neutrality, acknowledging the belligerent rights of the South. I say that the proper course to have taken would have been to have waited till Mr. Adams arrived here, and to have discussed the matter with him in a friendly manner, explaining the ground upon which the English Government had felt themselves bound to issue that Proclamation, and representing that it was not done in any manner as an unfriendly act towards the United States Government. But no precaution whatever was taken; it was done with unfriendly haste; and it had this effect, that it gave comfort and courage to the conspiracy at Montgomery and at Richmond, and caused great grief and irritation amongst that portion of the people of America who were most strongly desirous of maintaining friendly relations between their country and England.
To illustrate this point allow me to suppose a great revolt had taken place in Ireland, and that we had sent over within a fortnight of the occurrence of such an unfortunate event a new Minister to Washington, and that on the morning after arriving there he had found, that without consulting him, the Government had taken a hasty step by which the belligerent rights of the insurgents had been acknowledged, and by which comfort and support had been given them. I ask any man whether, under such circumstances, the feeling throughout the whole of Great Britain, and in the mind of every man anxious to preserve the unity of Great Britain and Ireland, would not necessarily be one of irritation and exasperation against the United States?
I will not argue this matter further—to do so would be simply to depreciate the intellect of the hon. Gentlemen listening to me. Seven or eight months afterwards there happened another transaction of a very different but unfortunate nature—that is the transaction arising out of the seizure of two Southern envoys on board an English ship—the Trent. I recollect making a speech down at Rochdale about the time of that occurrence. It was a speech entirely in favour of the United States Government and people—but I did not then undertake, as I do not undertake now, in the slightest degree to defend the seizure of those two envoys. I said that although precedents for such an action might possibly be found to have occurred in what I will call some of the evil days in our history, at any rate it was opposed to the maxims and principles of the United States Government, and was, as I thought, a bad act—an act which should not have been done. Well, I do not complain of the demand that those men should be given up; but I do complain of the manner in which that demand was made, and the menaces by which it was accompanied. I think it was wrong and unstatesman-like that at the moment we heard of the seizure, when there was not the least foundation for supposing that the United States Government were aware of the act, or had in the slightest degree sanctioned it, as we since well know they did not, that we should immediately get ships ready, and send off troops, and incite the organs of the press—who are always too ready to inflame the passions of the people to frenzy—to prepare their minds for war.
But that was not all; because before the United States had heard a word of the matter from this country their Secretary of State had written to Mr. Adams a despatch, which was communicated to our Government, and in which it was stated that the transaction had not been done by any orders of theirs, and that therefore, as far as they and we were concerned, it was a pure accident, which they should consider with the most friendly disposition towards this country. How came it that this despatch was never published for the information of the people of this country? How happened it that, during one whole month the flame of war was fanned by the newspapers, particularly by those supposed to be devoted to the Government, and that one of those newspapers, supposed to be peculiarly devoted to the Prime Minister, had the audacity—I do not know whence it obtained its instructions—to deny that any such despatch had been received? Now, Sir, I am of opinion that it is not possible to maintain amicable relations with any great country—I think it is not possible to do so with any little one—unless Governments will manage these transactions in what I will call a more courteous and more honourable manner. I happen to know—for I received a letter from the United States, from one of the most eminent men in that country, dated only two days before those men were given up, in which the writer said—that the real difficulty in the course of the President was that the menaces of the English Government had made it almost impossible for them to concede; and that the question they asked themselves was whether the English Government was intending to seek a cause of quarrel or not. And I am sure the noble Lord at the head of the Government, if such a demand had been made upon him with courtesy and fairness, as should be between friendly nations, would have been more disposed to concede, and would have found it much more easy to concede, than if the demand had been accompanied by menaces such as his Government offered to the Government of the United States. Now the House will observe that I am not condemning the Government of this country on the main point of what they did. I am only condemning them because they did not do what they had to do in that manner which would be most likely to remove difficulties and preserve a friendly feeling between the two nations.
Then I come to the last thing I shall mention—to the question of the ships which have been preying upon the commerce of the United States. I shall confine myself to that one vessel, the Alabama. She was built in this country; all her munitions of war were from this country; almost every man on board her was a subject of Her Majesty. She sailed from one of our chief ports. She is known to have been built by a firm in which a Member of this House was, and I presume is, interested. Now, Sir, I do not complain—I know that once, when I referred to this question two years ago, when my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford brought it forward in this House, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) was excessively angry—I do not complain that the Member for Birkenhead has struck up a friendship with Captain Semmes, who may probably be described, as another sailor once was of similar pursuits, as being 'the mildest mannered man that ever scuttled ship.' Therefore, I do not complain of a man who has an acquaintance with that notorious person, and I do not complain, and did not then, that the Member for Birkenhead looks admiringly upon the greatest example which men have ever seen of the greatest crime which men have ever committed. I do not complain even that he should applaud that which is founded upon a gigantic traffic in living flesh and blood—a traffic into which no subject of this realm can enter without being deemed a felon in the eyes of our law and punished as such. But what I do complain of is this, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead, a magistrate of a county, a deputy-lieutenant—whatever that may be—a representative of a constituency, and having a seat in this ancient and honourable Assembly— that he should, as I believe he did, if concerned in the building of this ship, break the law of his country, by driving us into an infraction of International Law, and treating with undeserved disrespect the Proclamation of neutrality of the Queen.
I have another complaint to make, and in allusion to that hon. Member. It is within your recollection that when on a former occasion he made that speech and defended his course, he declared that he would rather be the builder of a dozen Alabamas than do something which nobody has done. That language was received with repeated cheering from the Opposition side of the House. Well, Sir, I undertake to say that that was at least a most unfortunate circumstance, and I beg to tell the hon. Gentleman that at the end of last Session, when the great debate took place on the question of Denmark, there were many men on this side of the House who had no objection whatever to see the present Government turned out of office, for they had many grounds of complaint against them, but they felt it impossible that they should take the responsibility of bringing into office the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire or the party who could utter such cheers on such a subject as that.