Imágenes de páginas

should be moved against the Ministry, and that this duty should be intrusted to Lord Shaftesbury in the Upper House, and to Mr Cardwell in the Lower. The pious son-in-law of Lord Palmerston, whose zeal for Sabbathobservance is known in all the churches, ought to have been considerably shocked to become the mouthpiece and ostensible leader of this Sunday cabal. Ten days afterwards (the 19th), when presiding at a meeting for the conversion of the Turks, the noble lord," we find it reported, commenced by giving a spiritual application to the circumstance of the Derby Day: he said that while a great horse-race was being run on that day, they were engaged in running the Christian's race.' We wonder in what style his lordship would have "improved" the meeting at Cambridge House, where, when others were at church, his father-inlaw's adherents met to concoct the schemes and put up the vows of faction !

[ocr errors]


On Tuesday the 11th, accordingly, after an indefinite announcement on the preceding day, Lord Shaftesbury tabled the terms of his motion in the House of Lords. Although redundantly enveloped in words, in order to make it loom large in the public eye, and render it suitable for taking on the character of a "vote of censure" which was superimposed on it, the only charge against the Government adventured on in the motion was that of having given premature publication" to the Despatch. This was a very small charge certainly; but, after consultation, it was agreed that this was all that there was the least chance of getting the Peers to affirm; and a mere show of a majority in the Lords-on any point however trivial-would serve the purpose of the Factions, whose main strength lay in the Lower House. Discerning at a glance their tactics, Lord Ellenborough resolved to baffle them. As the promise to table the despatch, when it was asked for, was given on his own responsibility, and as some of his colleagues did not approve of that step, the noble Earl, with the chivalrous resolution so characteristic of him, at once, and without apprising his colleagues, tendered

his resignation to her Majesty. And next day (the 13th), to the dismay of the chiefs of the plot, and the surprise of the whole House, he announced that he had voluntarily demitted his place in the Ministry. "I did so,” he said, after alluding to the momentous character of the interests at issue, "because I am determined that this question shall be freed from personal feeling, and shall proceed upon the merits." The Opposition had resolved to make the vote turn upon a trivial point of form in the production of the despatch, and to assail the Ministry, through him, for having acted harshly to Lord Canning; but by sacrificing himself, the noble Earl at once knocked away both these pretexts, for with himself alone lay the responsibility for the "premature publication," and also, if, through him Lord Canning had been harshly dealt with, his own resignation was certainly ample atonement. He saw that a momentous question of Indian Government, a question involving the very stability of our Indian empire, was about to be debated on a false issue; and to prevent this, he nobly laid down his high office-an office dear to him, because there he felt he was in the right place, and could bring the aid of his masterly intellect and generous heart to right our mighty Eastern empire when reeling under the heaviest storm that ever overswept a State. Had his colleagues been apprised of his intention, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House of Commons, they would have "unanimously opposed it." And it is certainly to be deplored that the contemptible tactics of a most sordid faction should-as a means of unmasking their baseness, and preventing the adoption of the ruinous policy which they advocated

- have occasioned the withdrawal from office of such a statesman.

Lord Ellenborough's noble resig nation had the effect he desired. It unmasked the objects, though it did not avert the grand attack of the Factions. It is the current belief in India that Lord Canning's confiscatory policy (so different from his former clemency) was the result of instructions from the Home Government. Colonel Franks says he


[ocr errors]

inferred this from what he actually heard from the lips of the GovernorGeneral himself; and assuredly there is nothing in the mode in which Lord Palmerston and Mr Smith dealt with the letters received by them since their withdrawal from office, --and quite as little in the estimate which Mr Smith entertains of himself, to exclude the notion that, in declaring Lord Canning had acted on the very best advice," he meant his (Mr Smith's) own! But many circumstances combined to instigate the Whig chiefs to an immediate attack. Mr Bright tells, that before ever the Despatch had been heard of, it had been agreed amongst the Whig chiefs that a resolute effort should be made to oust the Ministry by hook or crook before Whitsuntide. Indeed, some journals, favoured with the confidential correspondence of the Whig ex-officials, announced in April that such an attempt would be made. The Palmerstonian ex-officials felt that an immediate success and return to the Treasury benches were necessary, or else their party would break up. The "independent' Liberals were every week breaking off from their old masters, and setting up as a power of themselves. Discarding Hayter's rule, they had appointed "whips" of their own; and it was only too apparent to the Whig oligarchs that their political helots were about to shake off their thrall. At the memorable meeting in Committee Room No. 11, the mutiny had been openly commenced, and the flag of independence unfurled. On that occasion Mr Headlam, from the chair, explained that "the real object of the meeting was to express the general feeling which he believed to prevail, that of late the Liberal party had not been fairly treated-that, in fact, it had rather been betrayed. He was convinced he spoke the sentiments of the meeting, when he said that office ought not to be in possession of a clique or a few families, and that a wider basis for conducting the affairs of the empire was absolutely necessary." And Mr Baxter of Montrose had actually the incredible wickedness to affirm that "he thought it would do the Whigs good to be out of office; and he would not advise any

step for the overthrow of the present Government." The Whigs saw clearly that something must be done; and Lord Ellenborough's Despatch was seized on as a pretext for the attack which they had already planned. At first the occasion looked highly promising. On the Thursday, when the announcement was first made that the Government disapproved of the proclamation, Sir James Graham had observed to Mr Cardwell that if the Despatch contained "any censure on the annexation of Oude, it would be most impolitic and inexpedient." Lord John Russell, too, showed lively symptoms of indignation at the Government; the Times commenced its volleys; and altogether the occasion seemed most favourable for reuniting the whole Liberal party, the Peelites included, and carrying the Treasury benches by storm. The Whigs were immensely elated, but left no stone unturned to secure success. Lists of a new Ministry were handed about, with tempting blanks left to be filled as each one might imagine; and the glittering bait of office was openly held out to the two ringleaders of the revolt in Committee Room No. 11! Success was certain, the Whig leaders gave out. The idea of a Dissolution, which greatly troubled many of their followers, was scouted: "the Queen won't allow it," boldly affirmed Hayter; and besides, the majority against the Government-modestly rated at from 100 to 150-was to be so great that Lord Derby would not dare to appeal to the country! Poor plotters! what fools you have made of yourselves.

On Friday the 15th, the battle began in both Houses. And from the very outset the remarkable superiority in eloquence as well as argument on the side of the Government which characterised the whole debate, was conspicuous. The vote of censure in the Upper House was moved by Lord Shaftesbury, who was to have taken the place of Lord Clanricarde in the new Palmerston Ministry, and whose recent proceedings have certainly lessened his unsuitableness to succeed to such a predecessor. Like "pious Eneas," who carried his father on his back from Troy, pious Lord

[ocr errors]

Shaftesbury did his best, even at the risk of connecting himself with the Sunday cabal, to carry his father-inlaw on his shoulders back to Downing Street. By greatly exceeding his text, he made a tolerable show of the case; but, as even a religious journal observes, his speech was too much stuffed with protestations of his freedom from party bias, and solemn appeals to Heaven for the purity of his motives." Such protestations and appeals certainly were not unneeded on his lordship's part, but they cut a curious figure when subjected to the pungent rhetoric and polished quizzing of the-in this at least-inimitable Premier. But Lord Ellenborough's was the speech of the evening. Seldom has oratory produced anything equal to it. He only spoke for twenty minutes, but the effect on the House was most imposing. Parliament never witnessed anything morally grander than the position and bearing of the noble lord, as, having thrown down office that he might speak untrammelled, he stood there pleading with earnest and flashing eloquence the cause alike of humanity and policy in our vast Indian realms. He did not stoop to the trivialities and personalities of debate. brushed aside the petty considerations of red-tape and routine. He boldly defended his policy out and out. He justified both the Despatch and its publication. Charged by his waspish and puny assailants that, before writing a despatch of censure, he ought to have waited for explanations, he replied-" My lords, there is no explanation. There are some things which cannot be explained. Confiscation is one of these. It is incapable of explanation. It stands in all its naked deformity-the most cruel punishment which can ever be inflicted on a country." Blamed for allowing the Despatch to be published, he challenged the House to lift its eyes from red-tape conventionalities at home, and to read the true answer to that charge in the aspect of affairs in India. With Oude, Gwalior, Rohilcund, Bundelcund, and part of Rajpootana in arms against us -with 25,000 disarmed Sepoys on our hands, needing to be guarded by British troops, with Calcutta it


self still palpitating with panic, and with disaffection to our rule smouldering only too widely, he called upon his Peers to consider what must be the effect of launching that edict of wholesale confiscation, which struck at once at the property and religion of five millions of people. He told the House that the moment he received that proclamation, he knew what must be the result; and that he thought within himself—“I will write; and at the earliest possible moment after that proclamation is published in India, I will send my letter as an antidote, that the people may know they are to be ruled with justice and clemency." The country now feels that he was right. There could be but one remedy for Lord Canning's error,-namely, the recall of his proclamation, and the open repudiation of its principles. But Lord Ellenborough had to address men who could not see as he saw. Pugnacious Argyll and weakly-loquacious Granville followed Shaftesbury in establishing, to their own satisfaction, that the ex-Minister did not understand the proclamation, and quite misrepresented what would be its effects. The moles were judging an eagle! On a division a large majority of those present - 93 to 65-voted in favour of the Government; but the other side held So many more proxies than the Ministerialists, that in this way the majority was reduced to ten. Had the debate been prolonged, and the House had time to see more clearly the principles at issue, the Ministerial majority would have been much greater; but what are we to think of the large number of Peers who, without ever hearing the case, gave their votes in proxy to the Opposition leaders? Nay, what do they now think of themselves? No one who was absent from that debateno one who did not hear the speeches of Lords Derby and Ellenborough, so full of important statements and revelations, was competent to judge in the matter. There were, doubtless, not a few present on the Opposition benches who were resolved to vote against the Government whatever might be the character of their defence; but that on a question of

so much importance and speciality, twenty-five Peers should give their votes in condemnation of the Government without ever compearing, shows how remorselessly faction was at work in the British Senate.

In the House of Commons, fortunately, the debate was much more protracted. Had a vote been come to on the first night, as in the Lords, there cannot be a doubt that faction would have triumphed at the expense of truth, justice, and the best interests of the empire. The House has to thank time and the loquacity of its members for saving it from a tremendous mistake. The motion of censure here was of a graver character than that in the Lords; for the Cambridge-House faction counted upon easy and certain success in the Commons. Nevertheless the nature of their case was such as did not admit of being fairly put upon trial. They had recourse, therefore, to the manœuvre of framing a false and unfair issue (a practice, we regret to say, becoming every year more common in Parliament), in order to facilitate their obtaining a verdict. Mr Cardwell's resolution, which deserves to be put on record as a remarkable example of Whig chicanery, faction, and folly, was as follows:

"That this House, whilst, in its present state of information, it abstains from expressing an opinion on the policy of any proclamation which may have been issued by the Governor-General of

India, in relation to Oude, has seen with regret and serious apprehension that her Majesty's Government have addressed to the Governor-General, through a Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, a despatch, condemning in strong terms the conduct of the Governor-General, and is of opinion that such a course on the part of the Government must tend, in the present circumstances of India, to produce the most prejudicial effect, by weakening the authority of the Gov. ernor-General, and encouraging the

further resistance of those who are in arms against us."

Observe, first, the chicanery here displayed. Although Ministers stated that they had authentic intelligence (though not from Lord Canning) that the proclamation had actually been issued; and although the Times'


correspondent had sent home a copy of it as posted in the streets of Lucknow on the 15th of March; the framers of the resolution affected to consider it doubtful whether any proclamation had been issued at all! Secondly, the resolution affirmed that the Despatch condemned the conduct of the Governor-General,”which was false; seeing that what the Despatch condemned was not the conduct, but only a particular act of the Governor-General-namely, his intention to confiscate all the land of Oude. Observe also, as a specimen of Whig ignorance and malicious assumption, the prognostication of the most prejudicial effects" to be produced by the tenor of the Despatch, especially in “encouraging the further resistance of those who are in arms against us !!" whereas the very opposite is now acknowledged to be the case.

[ocr errors]

Passing from the minor dishonesties, let us note the leading features of the motion. In the House of Lords the charge against the Government was merely for having published the Despatch prematurely. But Mr Cardwell's motion implied that the despatch (1) ought not to have been published at all-nay (2), that no despatch on the subject ought to have been written at all-and (3), expressly declared that the despatch actually written was wrong, and would produce injurious effects. The first two points of accusation were only affirmed by as it was necessary implication, doubtless felt by the astute framers that they would not stand being embodied in express words. third one was made explicitly, and yet was quite incompatible with the rest of the motion; for how, in common fairness, could the House pronounce an opinion on the Despatch, if it abstained from considering the proclamation to which the Despatch was a reply? The House was requested to say that it had seen "with regret and serious apprehension" the condemnation pronounced by the Despatch on the Governor-General's proclamation; but how could the House affirm that the condemnation was wrong, without at the same time affirming that the proclamation


was right? If the House, "in its present state of information," was incapable of judging of the proclamation, how could it judge of the criticism on that proclamation? Glaringly absurd and unfair as this way of framing the motion was, it was nevertheless absolutely necessary; for very many of the Opposition, though quite willing to vote that the Despatch was wrong, could not face the alternative that the proclamation was right. Some, indeed, did so, like Mr V. Smith, who said he was "ready to take issue on the proclamation of Lord Canning, who had the best advice!" So let us see precisely the document, of which Mr Smith and some others expressly approved, and the condemnation of which all the Opposition speakers professed to have seen with regret and serious apprehension." Here is all of the proclamation that contains the expression of the policy condemned by Lord Ellenborough's Despatch :


"The Governor-General further proclaims to the people of Oude that the proprietary right in the soil of the province is confiscated to the British Government, which will dispose of that right in such manner as may seem fitting. To those Talookdars, Chiefs, and Land

holders, with their followers, who shall

make immediate submission to the Chief Commissioners of Oude .. the Gover

[ocr errors]

nor-General promises that their lives and honour shall be safe. . . . But as regards any further indulgence which may be extended to them, and the condition in which they may hereafter be placed, they must throw themselves upon the mercy and justice of the British Government."

[ocr errors][merged small]

some innocent minds, as a bright idea, that the whole thing was a grave joke of the member for Oxford, to see into how much absurdity and self-contradiction he could inveigle the House by a crafty use of words. He was so nearly succeeding, that we must either place him far above any sophist of Athens, or else rank the House of Commons, in intellectual acuteness, considerably below the demos of that ancient city. And as, like good Tories, we venerate the British Constitution, we trust that that honourable and august assembly will henceforth show, in a manner not over-meek, that it does not consider itself a corpus vile upon which such experiments may be tried.

Mr Cardwell's tones were even more solemn than usual as he opened the grand debate in the Commons; but he made no hits, and his speech went off flatly. Indeed, he appeared to labour at times under a half-consciousness that his case was somewhat rotten, and needed to be touched gently and with circumspection lest it went to pieces in his hands. He need not have been so careful, however, for his successor on the floor knocked it to pieces at once. This was the first time the Solicitor-General, Sir Hugh Cairns, had been intrusted with so prominent a place in debate; but most admirably did he prove himself worthy of the distinction. Alike eloquent, spirited, and convincing, he led the van of the Ministerialists most gallantly; not contenting himself with standing on defence, and maintaining a "not proven," but fairly breaking the enemy's line, and doubling them up in irrecoverable rout. "My proposition is this," he said-"We make war with Kings and Governments, not with individuals. If in the course of war individuals commit crimes, they put themselves beyond the pale of that rule; but, except as to such cases, every individual is entitled to protection of life and property from the victorious nation. You might as well confiscate the lives of the con

"In the present state of its information," would have been the correct wording. The House itself, the motion implied, was not in a "state of information" at all, but in a state of deplorable ignorance. What could the scholastic Member for Oxford mean by perpetrating such an Hibernicism?


3 F

« AnteriorContinuar »