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ernment. The Anglo-Indian empire was founded by the middle classeswas maintained by the middle classes. The middle classes have fought for it; the middle classes have toiled for it. What your orators, John, are wont to call the "cold shade of the aristocracy," has never chilled the ardour of the real workmen-of the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, who have done so much for your national greatness. The right men, on my estate, as far as you would let them, John, were ever in their right places. Where I alone have had the power of selection, the best men have come to the front. Has there ever been a time, has there ever been a conjuncture, no matter how trying, when my officers have been found wanting? Have I not distributed my patronage fairly and honourably among men who could do little or nothing for their children in Whitehall? Has this patronage (for patronage is power) in any way destroyed, or has it tended to preserve, the just balance of your much-vaunted constitution? It has not gone to swell the powers of the Crown or of the aristocracy, but has served as a counterpoise to the power of both. Take care that you do not place a vast instrument of corruption in the hands of the Minister of the day. But that is an English question, John, and you will see its bearings without my help.
It is none of my business to point out to you what will be the effect upon India of direct government by the Crown, or, in other words, of Government by a parliamentary majority. I have little to say, John, against your House of Commons. I believe it to be an assembly, on the whole, of very intelligent and right-minded men. But they must be very much changed from what they were a few months ago, if they are at all fit to govern India. A very little time has elapsed since they knew, as a body, as much about India as they cared, and that was nothing. India emptied your House, John, as surely as a Queen's ball or a cry of "fire." Now, I believe that a strong interest in the affairs of my Indian Empire has been really awakened. But although Apa
thy may die on a sudden, there is no sudden death for Ignorance. There is, however, something still worsesomething still more dangerous than Ignorance, and that is "a little learning." Now, there is nothing more true than that a man may study India all his life, and not be thoroughly master of the subject at threescore. The more one knows on such a subject, the more conscious one is of the deficiency of one's knowledge-the less one is inclined to dogmatise. But your men of a little learning, inflated with a three months' vacation-cram, have no doubts or misgivings. They make up their minds about the most difficult and the most complicated questions whilst they are brushing their hair or tying their cravat, and rush in where ripe Indian statesmen fear to tread, lest they should stumble over some hidden difficulty. Ishudder to think of the flood of nonsense that will be poured out next session, John. I wish that it were such nonsense as I could quietly laugh at in an easy-chair: but the nettle danger will be there to sting; the rashness of ignorance will assume the worst forms of aggressiveness. Already I hear it said on every side that Parliament is hot for the discussion of the "religious question." If it had not been for my knowledge and my caution, John, that "religious question" would long ago have destroyed the empire of England in the East. Now, do you really think, John, that your House of Commons is a fit authority to determine the amount of toleration with which the religions and religious usages of the people of India are to be practically regarded by the British Government in the East? Why, my dear John, if you know anything at all about the religions of India, you must have gained your knowledge very recently. It is not very many weeks since one of your shining lights, a member of your Government (and an historian to boot, I believe), spoke, at a public meeting, of Buddhism as the prevailing religion of India. With knowledge will come caution; but my fear is, it will come too late. Perhaps you have not considered, John, what will be thought in India, when, together with the announcement that the
Imperial Government of Great Britain is about to assume the direct management of affairs, there go forth tidings to the effect that the Imperial Parliament is hotly discussing the expediency of a crusade against the religions of the country, and vehemently condemning me for my toleration-pledges in past years.
Do not think, John, that I deprecate the public discussion of the affairs of my Empire. The more inquiry, the more discussion, the better, so long as it is impartial inquiry and enlightened discussion. What I deprecate is public discussion, which does not seek to elicit the truth, and has no tendency to benefit the people. Ignorance and party-spirit are what I fear. Give full play to these in Parliament, and I know not what may be the result. It has heretofore been the custom to consider the affairs of India to be my concern rather than yours. Your Parliament has been wont to avoid their discussion, and to justify their avoidance, upon the plea that "John Company knows all about these things: leave them to him; he will manage them." And although I have in this way incurred some obloquy not justly my due, and have smiled at the popular ignorance regarding the responsibilities of Indian government, I have solaced myself, under unmerited condemnation with the thought, that it is better, on the whole, that Parliament and the people should not have too clear impression of the direct responsibility of the Minister of the day for all that is done or left undone in my Indian Empire. In the abstract, I admit, John, that it is not pleasant to be a scape-goat, but I would rather be a scape-goat than I would see India given up to party; and as soon as the direct and sole responsibility of the Crown Minister of the day, for all that is done or left undone in India, comes to be not only a substantive but a generally recognised fact, India will become the battle-field of party. Upon a parliamentary vote relating to some ill-understood Indian question, the fate of a ministry may depend. Nay, I am inclined to think that it will often depend, for India is
not likely to be the strong point of a Crown Minister. His own ignorance, and the ignorance of the House, will render him more readily assailable in this direction than on the side of his domestic policy. And you know better than I do, John, that the state of parties at the present time is peculiarly favourable to damaging assaults on the Government of the day. A weak section of the House, representing the views of some particular class of the community-say of that which is typified by "Manchester" or "Exeter Hall,"-aided by those who habitually vote against Government as a party, or as you call them, John, your "Opposition," will often have the power of obtaining a majority, and of damaging, if not of upsetting the ministry by an adverse vote. Government, in such a case, will either be driven into some dangerous concessions, or a new ministry will replace them, pledged to a measure which may be pregnant with danger to our Indian Empire. Your Indian fellow-subjects will never again be suffered to enjoy their old feelings of security. They will be threatened with continual changes, and they are jealous of change to a degree which you can hardly appreciate. You may sneer at my "traditionary policy," John; but it is the definite and consistent policy of a permanent Board, not removable at the pleasure of the Crown, and not influenced by political partisanship, which has enabled us so long to hold the "brightest jewel" in our hands.
I do not say that my Government is faultless, John, either in respect of its machinery or the manner of its working. I did not make it. Indeed, no one made it. Like the little negro-girl in Brother Jonathan's famous novel, "I 'spects I grow'd." But I am not peculiar in this. How did you come by your famous constitution, John? Did any one ever make it for you-did you make it yourself? or did it grow out of inevitable circumstances fostered by the genius of the people? Of course it did; and have not your colonial constitutions grown up in the same way? Such constitutions are the strongest, the most flourishing, because the
most deeply rooted. What was an acorn, John, is now an oak. You can manufacture nothing with half so good a chance of endurance as that which, under God's providence, has grown up in spite of you. I was a trader, as you know-a dealer in piece-goods, teas, and other commodities, and now I am a sovereign power; but still I retain much of the old administrative machinery which formerly governed the affairs of our trading corporation. But it is not for you, John, to reproach me on account of this remnant of the old mercantile leaven. Is there anything of which you are prouder than of your mercantile enterprise? Are you not continually crying out that the activity, the promptitude, and the success of private enterprise are perpetually putting the cumbrous inertness of the Imperial Government, with all its costly failures, to shame? I am not ashamed of having been a trader. If I had not been a trader, there would have been no Anglo-Indian Empire. My Court of Directors is somewhat changed from the Court which erst sat in judgment on investments; but it is substantially the same body. And because it is so, you speak of it as a worn-out institution, and say that it has served its purpose, and must now cease to exist. Let it cease; if you can provide anything better, or as good, in its place. Do this, and without a murmur I will retire into private life.
I will tell you what my Government is, John. It is a Government possessed of knowledge and of independence. My bitterest enemies have never brought to my charge that I know nothing about India. I will not repeat what has been said, from time to time, by some of the most eminent of your public men, on the subject of the extensive and accurate information possessed by the Court of Directors, and their officials of the India House, respecting the varied concerns of all parts of my immense Empire. I may move slowly, but I move surely. Festina lentè has been my motto. It is easy to settle a matter in an off-hand fashion when you are guiltless of knowing anything about it. But a number of men, with large knowledge and extensive expe
rience, cannot, where great interests are at stake, dismiss a question officially before them, in a summary flippant manner. But do you, with your triple Government, John, get through business any faster-nay, do you get through it so fast? How long were you manufacturing the new Marriage and Divorce Act? Through how many stages did that unfortunate Bill pass? How did it go up and down, backwards and forwards, from one House to another! Leadenhall Street and Canon Row are nothing to be compared with Lords and Commons, when they are in antagonism with each other! If Leadenhall Street and Canon Row fall out, it is said to be an "unseemly spectacle." But do Lords and Commons never fall out? Yes, and you do not talk of unseemly spectacles, but of constitutional checks and elements of safety. The Court of Directors, in their deliberative capacity, may be slow, but in their executive capacity they are not. They can move fastly enough when there is need to be fast, as I have told you in an earlier part of my letter.
Then, as I have said, I am at least independent. Did any one ever connect the Court of Directors with the party-politics of the day? India is of no party. The India House is of no party. I work as harmoniously, John, with a Whig as with a Tory minister. First one party, then another, is in the ascendant. storms of faction pass harmlessly over me. I scarcely feel the change in the political atmosphere. My policy is still the same. My agents, when I have my own will, are still the same. I have never made an appointment, or helped to make an appointmentI have never cancelled or helped to cancel an appointment with any reference to English politics. I have never used my patronage for political purposes. I have never bought, or tried to buy, a single vote in Parliament with it. I have never sought to purchase royal or ministerial favour, by supporting measures known to be popular in high places. I have resisted Court intrigue and Governmental jobbery-vainly, perhaps, but conscientiously. And I have gone about my own business, without a
thought of anything but of worthily fulfilling the great trust which has been reposed in me as the ruler of a great empire. I have governed India for the people of India; and even our enemies are now publicly acknowledging that the country has never been governed so well.
But can you expect this freedom from party influence to survive my political extinction? If I cease to be, John, will you ever have an independent Indian Government again? You tell me that there is to be a Council, or Board, connected with the Indian Minister-a Council of experienced advisers, men of Indian antecedents and established reputation-such a Board, only more limited in numbers, as the present Court of Directors, and brought into more immediate association and co-operation with the Indian Minister. Establish such a Board, with knowledge and independence not inferior to the degree in which those qualities distinguish the Court of Directors, and I shall not tremble for the safety of my old Empire; but I do not clearly see how you are to establish such a Board. The knowledge and experience of the present Court of Directors cannot be possessed by any council of inferior numbers. We have not now got all that we want even in a Council of eighteen members; and I believe that you did contemplate the limitation of the new Council to six or eight members. I hope that you have thought better of this design. For India is a very large place; the Executive Government is divided into a number of different departments. The business, like the people, John, is of a very varied character; and I do not see how a Council much smaller than that of Leadenhall Street, at the present time, can embrace the necessary amount either of local or departmental experience. Then how can you insure its independence? how can you prevent a Council nominated by the Crown-that is, by the minister of the day-from becoming, for all practical purposes of independent Government, a mere name? The minister, in the first instance, would probably nominate certain members of the present Court of Directors.
They are independent men; and, under any form of Government, would doubtless be independent. But what would be their power? and, if powerless, of what use their independence to the country? Now, what power do you propose to give them? Degrade them to the level of mere advisers, and what check is there upon, or what is there to modify, the arbitrary power of the minister? One minister might take the advice of his Council-another might not even seek it. The present Court of Directors initiates all the ordinary business of the Home Government of India. Now, a despatch, in the course of the several processes of manipulation to which it is subjected, may undergo some changes; but, after all, the main substance of it will be left much in the state in which it was originally devised. This initiation, therefore, is practically, though not theoretically, real power. It is a pervading influence for good, or for evil; and where the knowledge is, there also should be the original creative function. Now, take care, John, that this initiatory process take place in the council chamber, not in the bureau of the minister. And take care, John, that if, at a later stage, the minister overrules the decisions of the Council, his reasons for so doing are placed upon record, and the protests or remonstrances of the Council also recorded. But will the Council stand up manfully in defence of their opinions, as the old Court of Directors has ere now done, if they are appointed by, and are to be removable at the pleasure of the Crown. In what other way, you ask, can they be appointed? It is not easy to answer the question, for you propose to destroy my privileges and functions as a constituent body, and you have no thought of creating any other constituency. Whether a portion at least of the vacancies might not as they occur be filled by the nomination of the remaining members of the Board (the nominee, of course, fulfilling certain conditions, and possessing certain qualifications), is a question which I leave to your consideration. I have no very strong opinion about it myself. All I contend for is, that un
less you can establish a Council of experienced Indian statesmen, independent of party, and with some real practical power, you might as well give up India at once to the dictatorship of a Secretary of State.
Perhaps, John, you will remind me of your colonies, and say that you manage your colonies with the aid of a single Secretary of State. So you do, after a fashion. But I am not aware that there are any very useful lessons of external government to be learned from your successes, John. I don't wish to say anything unkind to you, but I have always had a notion that those successes have been very moderate-I will not use any harder words. You taunt me with this military rebellion in India. You have contrived to get up rebellions of all kinds in the colonies. Have you not had rebellions in Canada, rebellions at the Cape, rebellions in Ceylon? You are seldom without a rebellion on hand. One day it is a black rebellion, another it is a white rebellion; now you are dragooning down the aborigines, now warring with your own children. You have almost forgotten, John, that America was once a colony, and that it was lost to you by parliamentary government. If, then, there were anything in the case of India at all analogous with that of the colonies, I should still desire to rescue it from the grasp of a single Secretary of State. But India is not a colony, and is nothing like a colony. One of your late Indian servants, John, who has since taken to a seafaring life, put the case so well, some four or five years ago, that I cannot do better than remind you of his words: "It is a remarkable circumstance," he said, " in connection with this question, that since the celebrated bill which decided the fate of Mr Fox's Administration, we have seldom or never entered into the consideration of Indian affairs. Party questions with reference to India are almost totally unknown, either in the other House of Parliament or here;
and I do not hesitate to say that it would be a source of imminent danger to India if its affairs were again made the objects of party warfare. I have been in Parliament long enough to see that, in colonial matters, party questions have occurred in which the interests of a colony have been neglected in the contests of party politics in this House. But we must not shut our eyes to the circumstance that the case of India is in no respect similar to that of the colonies. În all the colonies belonging to this country there is a large portion of British subjects well acquainted with the principles of representative government; and even if the worst were to occur-if (which God forbid) any of our colonies were to be separated from the mother country, though I do not see why the connection based upon mutual benefit should not last for a period much longer than we can any of us look forward to-but even if a separation were to take place, there is hardly one of our colonies which would not be able, with more or less success, to govern itself. But if a revolution of that kind was to take place in India, will any one say that consequences must not ensue at which humanity would shudder? There is, in truth, no similarity between the probable consequences in the one case and in the other, and therefore it is of the utmost importance not to allow party politics to interfere with the government of that great dependency."* There, John, you must needs accept the premises; I recommend to you also the conclusion. You may do mischief enough, heaven knows, by making colonial affairs objects of party warfare; but this is nothing in comparison with the danger which will arise out of the discussion of Indian affairs in a spirit of vehement partisanship, seeking to destroy or to uphold a Ministry. And as Indian questions are more difficult to understand than colonial questions, a Minister, unaided by an experienced and independent Council,
Speech of Sir Charles Wood, President of the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, on moving for leave to introduce a bill to provide for the government of India, delivered in the House of Commons on Friday, June 3, 1853.