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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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Why stop at the point fixed by my honourable friend rather than
at the point fixed by the honourable Member for Oldham (Mr
Cobbett.), who would make the Jews incapable of holding land?
And why stop at the point fixed by the honourable Member for
Oldham rather than at the point which would have been fixed by a
Spanish Inquisitor of the sixteenth century? When once you enter
on a course of persecution, I defy you to find any reason for
making a halt till you have reached the extreme point. When my
honourable friend tells us that he will allow the Jews to possess
property to any amount, but that he will not allow them to
possess the smallest political power, he holds contradictory
language. Property is power. The honourable Member for Oldham
reasons better than my honourable friend. The honourable Member
for Oldham sees very clearly that it is impossible to deprive a
man of political power if you suffer him to be the proprietor of
half a county, and therefore very consistently proposes to
confiscate the landed estates of the Jews. But even the
honourable Member for Oldham does not go far enough. He has not
proposed to confiscate the personal property of the Jews. Yet it
is perfectly certain that any Jew who has a million may easily
make himself very important in the State. By such steps we pass
from official power to landed property, and from landed property
to personal property, and from property to liberty, and from
liberty to life. In truth, those persecutors who use the rack
and the stake have much to say for themselves. They are
convinced that their end is good; and it must be admitted that
they employ means which are not unlikely to attain the end.
Religious dissent has repeatedly been put down by sanguinary
persecution. In that way the Albigenses were put down. In that
way Protestantism was suppressed in Spain and Italy, so that it
has never since reared its head. But I defy any body to produce
an instance in which disabilities such as we are now considering
have produced any other effect than that of making the sufferers
angry and obstinate. My honourable friend should either
persecute to some purpose, or not persecute at all. He dislikes
the word persecution I know. He will not admit that the Jews are
persecuted. And yet I am confident that he would rather be sent
to the King's Bench Prison for three months, or be fined a
hundred pounds, than be subject to the disabilities under which
the Jews lie. How can he then say that to impose such
disabilities is not persecution, and that to fine and imprison is
persecution? All his reasoning consists in drawing arbitrary
lines. What he does not wish to inflict he calls persecution.
What he does wish to inflict he will not call persecution. What
he takes from the Jews he calls political power. What he is too
good-natured to take from the Jews he will not call political
power. The Jew must not sit in Parliament: but he may be the
proprietor of all the ten pound houses in a borough. He may have
more fifty pound tenants than any peer in the kingdom. He may
give the voters treats to please their palates, and hire bands of
gipsies to break their heads, as if he were a Christian and a
Marquess. All the rest of this system is of a piece. The Jew
may be a juryman, but not a judge. He may decide issues of fact,
but not issues of law. He may give a hundred thousand pounds
damages; but he may not in the most trivial case grant a new
trial. He may rule the money market: he may influence the
exchanges: he may be summoned to congresses of Emperors and
Kings. Great potentates, instead of negotiating a loan with him
by tying him in a chair and pulling out his grinders, may treat
with him as with a great potentate, and may postpone the
declaring of war or the signing of a treaty till they have
conferred with him. All this is as it should be: but he must
not be a Privy Councillor. He must not be called Right
Honourable, for that is political power. And who is it that we
are trying to cheat in this way? Even Omniscience. Yes, Sir; we
have been gravely told that the Jews are under the divine
displeasure, and that if we give them political power God will
visit us in judgment. Do we then think that God cannot
distinguish between substance and form? Does not He know that,
while we withhold from the Jews the semblance and name of
political power, we suffer them to possess the substance? The
plain truth is that my honourable friend is drawn in one
direction by his opinions, and in a directly opposite direction
by his excellent heart. He halts between two opinions. He tries
to make a compromise between principles which admit of no
compromise. He goes a certain way in intolerance. Then he
stops, without being able to give a reason for stopping. But I
know the reason. It is his humanity. Those who formerly dragged
the Jew at a horse's tail, and singed his beard with blazing
furzebushes, were much worse men than my honourable friend; but
they were more consistent than he.

It has been said that it would be monstrous to see a Jew judge
try a man for blasphemy. In my opinion it is monstrous to see
any judge try a man for blasphemy under the present law. But, if
the law on that subject were in a sound state, I do not see why a
conscientious Jew might not try a blasphemer. Every man, I
think, ought to be at liberty to discuss the evidences of
religion; but no man ought to be at liberty to force on the
unwilling ears and eyes of others sounds and sights which must
cause annoyance and irritation. The distinction is clear. I
think it wrong to punish a man for selling Paine's Age of Reason
in a back-shop to those who choose to buy, or for delivering a
Deistical lecture in a private room to those who choose to
listen. But if a man exhibits at a window in the Strand a
hideous caricature of that which is an object of awe and
adoration to nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand
of people who pass up and down that great thoroughfare; if a man
in a place of public resort applies opprobrious epithets to names
held in reverence by all Christians; such a man ought, in my
opinion, to be severely punished, not for differing from us in
opinion, but for committing a nuisance which gives us pain and
disgust. He is no more entitled to outrage our feelings by
obtruding his impiety on us, and to say that he is exercising his
right of discussion, than to establish a yard for butchering
horses close to our houses, and to say that he is exercising his
right of property, or to run naked up and down the public
streets, and to say that he is exercising his right of
locomotion. He has a right of discussion, no doubt, as he has a
right of property and a right of locomotion. But he must use all
his rights so as not to infringe the rights of others.

These, Sir, are the principles on which I would frame the law of
blasphemy; and if the law were so framed, I am at a loss to
understand why a Jew might not enforce it as well as a Christian.
I am not a Roman Catholic; but if I were a judge at Malta, I
should have no scruple about punishing a bigoted Protestant who
should burn the Pope in effigy before the eyes of thousands of
Roman Catholics. I am not a Mussulman; but if I were a judge in
India, I should have no scruple about punishing a Christian who
should pollute a mosque. Why, then, should I doubt that a Jew,
raised by his ability, learning, and integrity to the judicial
bench, would deal properly with any person who, in a Christian
country, should insult the Christian religion?

But, says my honourable friend, it has been prophesied that the
Jews are to be wanderers on the face of the earth, and that they
are not to mix on terms of equality with the people of the
countries in which they sojourn. Now, Sir, I am confident that I
can demonstrate that this is not the sense of any prophecy which
is part of Holy Writ. For it is an undoubted fact that, in the
United States of America, Jewish citizens do possess all the
privileges possessed by Christian citizens. Therefore, if the
prophecies mean that the Jews never shall, during their
wanderings, be admitted by other nations to equal participation
of political rights, the prophecies are false. But the
prophecies are certainly not false. Therefore their meaning
cannot be that which is attributed to them by my honourable

Another objection which has been made to this motion is that the
Jews look forward to the coming of a great deliverer, to their
return to Palestine, to the rebuilding of their Temple, to the
revival of their ancient worship, and that therefore they will
always consider England, not their country, but merely as their
place of exile. But, surely, Sir, it would be the grossest
ignorance of human nature to imagine that the anticipation of an
event which is to happen at some time altogether indefinite, of
an event which has been vainly expected during many centuries, of
an event which even those who confidently expect that it will
happen do not confidently expect that they or their children or
their grandchildren will see, can ever occupy the minds of men to
such a degree as to make them regardless of what is near and
present and certain. Indeed Christians, as well as Jews, believe
that the existing order of things will come to an end. Many
Christians believe that Jesus will visibly reign on earth during
a thousand years. Expositors of prophecy have gone so far as to
fix the year when the Millennial period is to commence. The
prevailing opinion is, I think, in favour of the year 1866; but,
according to some commentators, the time is close at hand. Are
we to exclude all millennarians from Parliament and office, on
the ground that they are impatiently looking forward to the
miraculous monarchy which is to supersede the present dynasty and
the present constitution of England, and that therefore they
cannot be heartily loyal to King William?

In one important point, Sir, my honourable friend, the Member for
the University of Oxford, must acknowledge that the Jewish
religion is of all erroneous religions the least mischievous.
There is not the slightest chance that the Jewish religion will
spread. The Jew does not wish to make proselytes. He may be
said to reject them. He thinks it almost culpable in one who
does not belong to his race to presume to belong to his religion.
It is therefore not strange that a conversion from Christianity
to Judaism should be a rarer occurrence than a total eclipse of
the sun. There was one distinguished convert in the last
century, Lord George Gordon; and the history of his conversion
deserves to be remembered. For if ever there was a proselyte of
whom a proselytising sect would have been proud, it was Lord
George; not only because he was a man of high birth and rank; not
only because he had been a member of the legislature; but also
because he had been distinguished by the intolerance, nay, the
ferocity, of his zeal for his own form of Christianity. But was
he allured into the Synagogue? Was he even welcomed to it? No,
sir; he was coldly and reluctantly permitted to share the
reproach and suffering of the chosen people; but he was sternly
shut out from their privileges. He underwent the painful rite
which their law enjoins. But when, on his deathbed, he begged
hard to be buried among them according to their ceremonial, he
was told that his request could not be granted. I understand
that cry of "Hear." It reminds me that one of the arguments
against this motion is that the Jews are an unsocial people, that
they draw close to each other, and stand aloof from strangers.
Really, Sir, it is amusing to compare the manner in which the
question of Catholic emancipation was argued formerly by some
gentlemen with the manner in which the question of Jew
emancipation is argued by the same gentlemen now. When the
question was about Catholic emancipation, the cry was, "See how
restless, how versatile, how encroaching, how insinuating, is the
spirit of the Church of Rome. See how her priests compass earth
and sea to make one proselyte, how indefatigably they toil, how
attentively they study the weak and strong parts of every
character, how skilfully they employ literature, arts, sciences,
as engines for the propagation of their faith. You find them in
every region and under every disguise, collating manuscripts in
the Bodleian, fixing telescopes in the observatory of Pekin,
teaching the use of the plough and the spinning-wheel to the
savages of Paraguay. Will you give power to the members of a
Church so busy, so aggressive, so insatiable?" Well, now the
question is about people who never try to seduce any stranger to
join them, and who do not wish anybody to be of their faith who
is not also of their blood. And now you exclaim, "Will you give
power to the members of a sect which remains sullenly apart from
other sects, which does not invite, nay, which hardly ever admits
neophytes?" The truth is, that bigotry will never want a
pretence. Whatever the sect be which it is proposed to tolerate,
the peculiarities of that sect will, for the time, be pronounced
by intolerant men to be the most odious and dangerous that can be
conceived. As to the Jews, that they are unsocial as respects
religion is true; and so much the better: for, surely, as
Christians, we cannot wish that they should bestir themselves to
pervert us from our own faith. But that the Jews would be
unsocial members of the civil community, if the civil community
did its duty by them, has never been proved. My right honourable
friend who made the motion which we are discussing has produced a
great body of evidence to show that they have been grossly
misrepresented; and that evidence has not been refuted by my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford. But
what if it were true that the Jews are unsocial? What if it were
true that they do not regard England as their country? Would not
the treatment which they have undergone explain and excuse their
antipathy to the society in which they live? Has not similar
antipathy often been felt by persecuted Christians to the society
which persecuted them? While the bloody code of Elizabeth was
enforced against the English Roman Catholics, what was the
patriotism of Roman Catholics? Oliver Cromwell said that in his
time they were Espaniolised. At a later period it might have
been said that they were Gallicised. It was the same with the
Calvinists. What more deadly enemies had France in the days of
Louis the Fourteenth than the persecuted Huguenots? But would
any rational man infer from these facts that either the Roman
Catholic as such, or the Calvinist as such, is incapable of
loving the land of his birth? If England were now invaded by
Roman Catholics, how many English Roman Catholics would go over
to the invader? If France were now attacked by a Protestant
enemy, how many French Protestants would lend him help? Why not
try what effect would be produced on the Jews by that tolerant
policy which has made the English Roman Catholic a good
Englishman, and the French Calvinist a good Frenchman?

Another charge has been brought against the Jews, not by my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford--he has
too much learning and too much good feeling to make such a
charge--but by the honourable Member for Oldham, who has, I am
sorry to see, quitted his place. The honourable Member for
Oldham tells us that the Jews are naturally a mean race, a sordid
race, a money-getting race; that they are averse to all
honourable callings; that they neither sow nor reap; that they
have neither flocks nor herds; that usury is the only pursuit for
which they are fit; that they are destitute of all elevated and
amiable sentiments. Such, Sir, has in every age been the
reasoning of bigots. They never fail to plead in justification
of persecution the vices which persecution has engendered.
England has been to the Jews less than half a country; and we
revile them because they do not feel for England more than a half
patriotism. We treat them as slaves, and wonder that they do not
regard us as brethren. We drive them to mean occupations, and
then reproach them for not embracing honourable professions. We
long forbade them to possess land; and we complain that they
chiefly occupy themselves in trade. We shut them out from all
the paths of ambition; and then we despise them for taking refuge
in avarice. During many ages we have, in all our dealings with
them, abused our immense superiority of force; and then we are
disgusted because they have recourse to that cunning which is the
natural and universal defence of the weak against the violence of
the strong. But were they always a mere money-changing, money-
getting, money-hoarding race? Nobody knows better than my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford that
there is nothing in their national character which unfits them
for the highest duties of citizens. He knows that, in the
infancy of civilisation, when our island was as savage as New
Guinea, when letters and arts were still unknown to Athens, when
scarcely a thatched hut stood on what was afterwards the site of
Rome, this contemned people had their fenced cities and cedar
palaces, their splendid Temple, their fleets of merchant ships,
their schools of sacred learning, their great statesmen and
soldiers, their natural philosophers, their historians and their
poets. What nation ever contended more manfully against
overwhelming odds for its independence and religion? What nation
ever, in its last agonies, gave such signal proofs of what may be
accomplished by a brave despair? And if, in the course of many
centuries, the oppressed descendants of warriors and sages have
degenerated from the qualities of their fathers, if, while
excluded from the blessings of law, and bowed down under the yoke
of slavery, they have contracted some of the vices of outlaws and
of slaves, shall we consider this as matter of reproach to them?
Shall we not rather consider it as matter of shame and remorse to
ourselves? Let us do justice to them. Let us open to them the
door of the House of Commons. Let us open to them every career
in which ability and energy can be displayed. Till we have done
this, let us not presume to say that there is no genius among the
countrymen of Isaiah, no heroism among the descendants of the

Sir, in supporting the motion of my honourable friend, I am, I
firmly believe, supporting the honour and the interests of the
Christian religion. I should think that I insulted that religion
if I said that it cannot stand unaided by intolerant laws.
Without such laws it was established, and without such laws it
may be maintained. It triumphed over the superstitions of the
most refined and of the most savage nations, over the graceful
mythology of Greece and the bloody idolatry of the Northern
forests. It prevailed over the power and policy of the Roman
empire. It tamed the barbarians by whom that empire was
overthrown. But all these victories were gained not by the help
of intolerance, but in spite of the opposition of intolerance.
The whole history of Christianity proves that she has little
indeed to fear from persecution as a foe, but much to fear from
persecution as an ally. May she long continue to bless our
country with her benignant influence, strong in her sublime
philosophy, strong in her spotless morality, strong in those
internal and external evidences to which the most powerful and
comprehensive of human intellects have yielded assent, the last
solace of those who have outlived every earthly hope, the last
restraint of those who are raised above every earthly fear! But
let not us, mistaking her character and her interests, fight the
battle of truth with the weapons of error, and endeavour to
support by oppression that religion which first taught the human
race the great lesson of universal charity.




On Wednesday, the tenth of July 1833, Mr Charles Grant, President
of the Board of Control, moved that the Bill for effecting an
arrangement with the India Company, and for the better government
of His Majesty's Indian territories, should be read a second
time. The motion was carried without a division, but not without
a long debate, in the course of which the following Speech was

Having, while this bill was in preparation, enjoyed the fullest
and kindest confidence of my right honourable friend, the
President of the Board of Control, agreeing with him completely
in all those views which on a former occasion he so luminously
and eloquently developed, having shared his anxieties, and
feeling that in some degree I share his responsibility, I am
naturally desirous to obtain the attention of the House while I
attempt to defend the principles of the proposed arrangement. I
wish that I could promise to be very brief; but the subject is so
extensive that I will only promise to condense what I have to say
as much as I can.

I rejoice, Sir, that I am completely dispensed, by the turn which
our debates have taken, from the necessity of saying anything in
favour of one part of our plan, the opening of the China trade.
No voice, I believe, has yet been raised here in support of the
monopoly. On that subject all public men of all parties seem to
be agreed. The resolution proposed by the Ministers has received
the unanimous assent of both Houses, and the approbation of the
whole kingdom. I will not, therefore, Sir, detain you by
vindicating what no gentleman has yet ventured to attack, but
will proceed to call your attention to those effects which this
great commercial revolution necessarily produced on the system of
Indian government and finance.

The China trade is to be opened. Reason requires this. Public
opinion requires it. The Government of the Duke of Wellington
felt the necessity as strongly as the Government of Lord Grey.
No Minister, Whig or Tory, could have been found to propose a
renewal of the monopoly. No parliament, reformed or unreformed,
would have listened to such a proposition. But though the
opening of the trade was a matter concerning which the public had
long made up its mind, the political consequences which must
necessarily follow from the opening of the trade seem to me to be
even now little understood. The language which I have heard in
almost every circle where the subject was discussed was this:
"Take away the monopoly, and leave the government of India to the
Company:" a very short and convenient way of settling one of the
most complicated questions that ever a legislature had to
consider. The honourable Member for Sheffield (Mr Buckingham.),
though not disposed to retain the Company as an organ of
government, has repeatedly used language which proves that he
shares in the general misconception. The fact is that the
abolition of the monopoly rendered it absolutely necessary to
make a fundamental change in the constitution of that great

The Company had united in itself two characters, the character of
trader and the character of sovereign. Between the trader and
the sovereign there was a long and complicated account, almost
every item of which furnished matter for litigation. While the
monopoly continued, indeed, litigation was averted. The effect
of the monopoly was, to satisfy the claims both of commerce and
of territory, at the expense of a third party, the English
people: to secure at once funds for the dividend of the
stockholder and funds for the government of the Indian Empire, by
means of a heavy tax on the tea consumed in this country. But,
when the third party would no longer bear this charge, all the
great financial questions which had, at the cost of that third
party, been kept in abeyance, were opened in an instant. The
connection between the Company in its mercantile capacity, and
the same Company in its political capacity, was dissolved. Even
if the Company were permitted, as has been suggested, to govern
India, and at the same time to trade with China, no advances
would be made from the profits of its Chinese trade for the
support of its Indian government. It was in consideration of the
exclusive privilege that the Company had hitherto been required
to make those advances; it was by the exclusive privilege that
the Company had been enabled to make them. When that privilege
was taken away, it would be unreasonable in the legislature to
impose such an obligation, and impossible for the Company to
fulfil it. The whole system of loans from commerce to territory,
and repayments from territory to commerce, must cease. Each
party must rest altogether on its own resources. It was
therefore absolutely necessary to ascertain what resources each
party possessed, to bring the long and intricate account between
them to a close, and to assign to each a fair portion of assets
and liabilities. There was vast property. How much of that
property was applicable to purposes of state? How much was
applicable to a dividend? There were debts to the amount of many
millions. Which of these were the debts of the government that
ruled at Calcutta? Which of the great mercantile house that
bought tea at Canton? Were the creditors to look to the land
revenues of India for their money? Or, were they entitled to put
executions into the warehouses behind Bishopsgate Street?

There were two ways of settling these questions--adjudication and
compromise. The difficulties of adjudication were great; I think
insuperable. Whatever acuteness and diligence could do has been
done. One person in particular, whose talents and industry
peculiarly fitted him for such investigations, and of whom I can
never think without regret, Mr Hyde Villiers, devoted himself to
the examination with an ardour and a perseverance, which, I
believe, shortened a life most valuable to his country and to his
friends. The assistance of the most skilful accountants has been
called in. But the difficulties are such as no accountant,
however skilful, could possibly remove. The difficulties are not
arithmetical, but political. They arise from the constitution of
the Company, from the long and intimate union of the commercial
and imperial characters in one body. Suppose that the treasurer
of a charity were to mix up the money which he receives on
account of the charity with his own private rents and dividends,
to pay the whole into his bank to his own private account, to
draw it out again by cheques in exactly the same form when he
wanted it for his private expenses, and when he wanted it for the
purposes of his public trust. Suppose that he were to continue
to act thus till he was himself ignorant whether he were in
advance or in arrear; and suppose that many years after his death
a question were to arise whether his estate were in debt to the
charity or the charity in debt to his estate. Such is the
question which is now before us, with this important difference;
that the accounts of an individual could not be in such a state
unless he had been guilty of fraud, or of that gross negligence
which is scarcely less culpable than fraud, and that the accounts
of the Company were brought into this state by circumstances of a
very peculiar kind, by circumstances unparalleled in the history
of the world.

It is a mistake to suppose that the Company was a merely
commercial body till the middle of the last century. Commerce
was its chief object; but in order to enable it to pursue that
object, it had been, like the other Companies which were its
rivals, like the Dutch India Company, like the French India
Company, invested from a very early period with political
functions. More than a hundred and twenty years ago, the Company
was in miniature precisely what it now is. It was intrusted with
the very highest prerogatives of sovereignty. It had its forts,
and its white captains, and its black sepoys; it had its civil
and criminal tribunals; it was authorised to proclaim martial
law; it sent ambassadors to the native governments, and concluded
treaties with them; it was Zemindar of several districts, and
within those districts, like other Zemindars of the first class,
it exercised the powers of a sovereign, even to the infliction of
capital punishment on the Hindoos within its jurisdiction. It is
incorrect, therefore, to say, that the Company was at first a
mere trader, and has since become a sovereign. It was at first a
great trader and a petty prince. The political functions at
first attracted little notice, because they were merely auxiliary
to the commercial functions. By degrees, however, the political
functions became more and more important. The Zemindar became a
great nabob, became sovereign of all India; the two hundred
sepoys became two hundred thousand. This change was gradually
wrought, and was not immediately comprehended. It was natural
that, while the political functions of the Company were merely
auxiliary to its commerce, the political accounts should have
been mixed up with the commercial accounts. It was equally
natural that this mode of keeping accounts, having once been
established, should have remained unaltered; and the more so, as
the change in the situation of the Company, though rapid, was not
sudden. It is impossible to name any one day, or any one year,
as the day or the year when the Company became a great potentate.
It has been the fashion indeed to fix on the year 1765, the year
in which the Mogul issued a commission authorising the Company to
administer the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, as the
precise date of the accession of this singular body to
sovereignty. I am utterly at a loss to understand why this epoch
should be selected. Long before 1765 the Company had the reality
of political power. Long before that year, they made a Nabob of
Arcot; they made and unmade Nabobs of Bengal; they humbled the
Vizier of Oude; they braved the Emperor of Hindostan himself;
more than half the revenues of Bengal were, under one pretence or
another, administered by them. And after the grant, the Company
was not, in form and name, an independent power. It was merely a
minister of the Court of Delhi. Its coinage bore the name of
Shah Alam. The inscription which, down to the time of the
Marquess of Hastings, appeared on the seal of the Governor-
General, declared that great functionary to be the slave of the
Mogul. Even to this day we have never formally deposed the King
of Delhi. The Company contents itself with being Mayor of the
Palace, while the Roi Faineant is suffered to play at being a
sovereign. In fact, it was considered, both by Lord Clive and by
Warren Hastings, as a point of policy to leave the character of
the Company thus undefined, in order that the English might treat
the princes in whose names they governed as realities or
nonentities, just as might be most convenient.

Thus the transformation of the Company from a trading body, which
possessed some sovereign prerogatives for the purposes of trade,
into a sovereign body, the trade of which was auxiliary to its
sovereignty, was effected by degrees and under disguise. It is
not strange, therefore, that the mercantile and political
transactions of this great corporation should be entangled
together in inextricable complication. The commercial
investments have been purchased out of the revenues of the
empire. The expenses of war and government have been defrayed
out of the profits of the trade. Commerce and territory have
contributed to the improvement of the same spot of land, to the
repairs of the same building. Securities have been given in
precisely the same form for money which has been borrowed for
purposes of State, and for money which has been borrowed for
purposes of traffic. It is easy, indeed,--and this is a
circumstance which has, I think, misled some gentlemen,--it is
easy to see what part of the assets of the Company appears in a
commercial form, and what part appears in a political or
territorial form. But this is not the question. Assets which
are commercial in form may be territorial as respects the right
of property; assets which are territorial in form may be
commercial as respects the right of property. A chest of tea is
not necessarily commercial property; it may have been bought out
of the territorial revenue. A fort is not necessarily
territorial property; it may stand on ground which the Company
bought a hundred years ago out of their commercial profits.
Adjudication, if by adjudication be meant decision according to
some known rule of law, was out of the question. To leave
matters like these to be determined by the ordinary maxims of our
civil jurisprudence would have been the height of absurdity and
injustice. For example, the home bond debt of the Company, it is
believed, was incurred partly for political and partly for
commercial purposes. But there is no evidence which would enable
us to assign to each branch its proper share. The bonds all run
in the same form; and a court of justice would, therefore, of
course, either lay the whole burthen on the proprietors, or lay
the whole on the territory. We have legal opinions, very
respectable legal opinions, to the effect, that in strictness of
law the territory is not responsible, and that the commercial
assets are responsible for every farthing of the debts which were
incurred for the government and defence of India. But though
this may be, and I believe is, law, it is, I am sure, neither
reason nor justice. On the other hand, it is urged by the
advocates of the Company, that some valuable portions of the
territory are the property of that body in its commercial
capacity; that Calcutta, for example, is the private estate of
the Company; that the Company holds the island of Bombay, in free
and common socage, as of the Manor of East Greenwich. I will not
pronounce any opinion on these points. I have considered them
enough to see that there is quite difficulty enough in them to
exercise all the ingenuity of all the lawyers in the kingdom for
twenty years. But the fact is, Sir, that the municipal law was
not made for controversies of this description. The existence of
such a body as this gigantic corporation, this political monster
of two natures, subject in one hemisphere, sovereign in another,
had never been contemplated by the legislators or judges of
former ages. Nothing but grotesque absurdity and atrocious
injustice could have been the effect, if the claims and
liabilities of such a body had been settled according to the
rules of Westminster Hall, if the maxims of conveyancers had been
applied to the titles by which flourishing cities and provinces
are held, or the maxims of the law merchant to those promissory
notes which are the securities for a great National Debt, raised
for the purpose of exterminating the Pindarrees and humbling the

It was, as I have said, absolutely impossible to bring the
question between commerce and territory to a satisfactory
adjudication; and I must add that, even if the difficulties which
I have mentioned could have been surmounted, even if there had
been reason to hope that a satisfactory adjudication could have
been obtained, I should still have wished to avoid that course.
I think it desirable that the Company should continue to have a
share in the government of India; and it would evidently have
been impossible, pending a litigation between commerce and
territory, to leave any political power to the Company. It would
clearly have been the duty of those who were charged with the
superintendence of India, to be the patrons of India throughout
that momentous litigation, to scrutinise with the utmost severity
every claim which might be made on the Indian revenues, and to
oppose, with energy and perseverance, every such claim, unless
its justice were manifest. If the Company was to be engaged in a
suit for many millions, in a suit which might last for many
years, against the Indian territory, could we entrust the Company
with the government of that territory? Could we put the
plaintiff in the situation of prochain ami of the defendant?
Could we appoint governors who would have an interest opposed in
the most direct manner to the interest of the governed, whose
stock would have been raised in value by every decision which
added to the burthens of their subjects, and depressed by every
decision which diminished those burthens? It would be absurd to
suppose that they would efficiently defend our Indian Empire
against the claims which they were themselves bringing against
it; and it would be equally absurd to give the government of the
Indian Empire to those who could not be trusted to defend its

Seeing, then, that it was most difficult, if not wholly
impossible, to resort to adjudication between commerce and
territory, seeing that, if recourse were had to adjudication, it
would be necessary to make a complete revolution in the whole
constitution of India, the Government has proposed a compromise.
That compromise, with some modifications which did not in the
slightest degree affect its principle, and which, while they gave
satisfaction to the Company, will eventually lay no additional
burthen on the territory, has been accepted. It has, like all
other compromises, been loudly censured by violent partisans on
both sides. It has been represented by some as far too
favourable to the Company, and by others as most unjust to the
Company. Sir, I own that we cannot prove that either of these
accusations is unfounded. It is of the very essence of our case
that we should not be able to show that we have assigned, either
to commerce or to territory, its precise due. For our principal
reason for recommending a compromise was our full conviction that
it was absolutely impossible to ascertain with precision what was
due to commerce and what was due to territory. It is not strange
that some people should accuse us of robbing the Company, and
others of conferring a vast boon on the Company, at the expense
of India: for we have proposed a middle course, on the very
ground that there was a chance of a result much more favourable
to the Company than our arrangement, and a chance also of a
result much less favourable. If the questions pending between
the Company and India had been decided as the ardent supporters
of the Company predicted, India would, if I calculate rightly,
have paid eleven millions more than she will now have to pay. If
those questions had been decided as some violent enemies of the
Company predicted, that great body would have been utterly
ruined. The very meaning of compromise is that each party gives
up his chance of complete success, in order to be secured against
the chance of utter failure. And, as men of sanguine minds
always overrate the chances in their own favour, every fair
compromise is sure to be severely censured on both sides. I
conceive that, in a case so dark and complicated as this, the
compromise which we recommend is sufficiently vindicated, if it
cannot be proved to be unfair. We are not bound to prove it to
be fair. For it would have been unnecessary for us to resort to
compromise at all if we had been in possession of evidence which
would have enabled us to pronounce, with certainty, what claims
were fair and what were unfair. It seems to me that we have
acted with due consideration for every party. The dividend which
we give to the proprietors is precisely the same dividend which
they have been receiving during forty years, and which they have
expected to receive permanently. The price of their stock bears
at present the same proportion to the price of other stock which
it bore four or five years ago, before the anxiety and excitement
which the late negotiations naturally produced had begun to
operate. As to the territory, on the other hand, it is true
that, if the assets which are now in a commercial form should not
produce a fund sufficient to pay the debts and dividend of the
Company, the territory must stand to the loss and pay the
difference. But in return for taking this risk, the territory
obtains an immediate release from claims to the amount of many
millions. I certainly do not believe that all those claims could
have been substantiated; but I know that very able men think
differently. And, if only one-fourth of the sum demanded had
been awarded to the Company, India would have lost more than the
largest sum which, as it seems to me, she can possibly lose under
the proposed arrangement.

In a pecuniary point of view, therefore, I conceive that we can
defend the measure as it affects the territory. But to the
territory the pecuniary question is of secondary importance. If
we have made a good pecuniary bargain for India, but a bad
political bargain, if we have saved three or four millions to the
finances of that country, and given to it, at the same time,
pernicious institutions, we shall indeed have been practising a
most ruinous parsimony. If, on the other hand, it shall be found
that we have added fifty or a hundred thousand pounds a-year to
the expenditure of an empire which yields a revenue of twenty
millions, but that we have at the same time secured to that
empire, as far as in us lies, the blessings of good government,
we shall have no reason to be ashamed of our profusion. I hope
and believe that India will have to pay nothing. But on the most
unfavourable supposition that can be made, she will not have to
pay so much to the Company as she now pays annually to a single
state pageant, to the titular Nabob of Bengal, for example, or
the titular King of Delhi. What she pays to these nominal
princes, who, while they did anything, did mischief, and who now
do nothing, she may well consent to pay to her real rulers, if
she receives from them, in return, efficient protection and good

We come then to the great question. Is it desirable to retain
the Company as an organ of government for India? I think that it
is desirable. The question is, I acknowledge, beset with
difficulties. We have to solve one of the hardest problems in
politics. We are trying to make brick without straw, to bring a
clean thing out of an unclean, to give a good government to a
people to whom we cannot give a free government. In this
country, in any neighbouring country, it is easy to frame
securities against oppression. In Europe, you have the materials
of good government everywhere ready to your hands. The people
are everywhere perfectly competent to hold some share, not in
every country an equal share, but some share of political power.
If the question were, What is the best mode of securing good
government in Europe? the merest smatterer in politics would
answer, representative institutions. In India you cannot have
representative institutions. Of all the innumerable speculators
who have offered their suggestions on Indian politics, not a
single one, as far as I know, however democratical his opinions
may be, has ever maintained the possibility of giving, at the
present time, such institutions to India. One gentleman,
extremely well acquainted with the affairs of our Eastern Empire,
a most valuable servant of the Company, and the author of a
History of India, which, though certainly not free from faults,
is, I think, on the whole, the greatest historical work which has
appeared in our language since that of Gibbon, I mean Mr Mill,
was examined on this point. That gentleman is well known to be a
very bold and uncompromising politician. He has written
strongly, far too strongly I think, in favour of pure democracy.
He has gone so far as to maintain that no nation which has not a
representative legislature, chosen by universal suffrage, enjoys
security against oppression. But when he was asked before the
Committee of last year, whether he thought representative
government practicable in India, his answer was, "utterly out of
the question." This, then, is the state in which we are. We
have to frame a good government for a country into which, by
universal acknowledgment, we cannot introduce those institutions
which all our habits, which all the reasonings of European
philosophers, which all the history of our own part of the world
would lead us to consider as the one great security for good
government. We have to engraft on despotism those blessings
which are the natural fruits of liberty. In these circumstances,
Sir, it behoves us to be cautious, even to the verge of timidity.
The light of political science and of history are withdrawn: we
are walking in darkness: we do not distinctly see whither we are
going. It is the wisdom of a man, so situated, to feel his way,
and not to plant his foot till he is well assured that the ground
before him is firm.

Some things, however, in the midst of this obscurity, I can see
with clearness. I can see, for example, that it is desirable
that the authority exercised in this country over the Indian
government should be divided between two bodies, between a
minister or a board appointed by the Crown, and some other body
independent of the Crown. If India is to be a dependency of
England, to be at war with our enemies, to be at peace with our
allies, to be protected by the English navy from maritime
aggression, to have a portion of the English army mixed with its
sepoys, it plainly follows that the King, to whom the
Constitution gives the direction of foreign affairs, and the
command of the military and naval forces, ought to have a share
in the direction of the Indian government. Yet, on the other
hand, that a revenue of twenty millions a year, an army of two
hundred thousand men, a civil service abounding with lucrative
situations, should be left to the disposal of the Crown without
any check whatever, is what no minister, I conceive, would
venture to propose. This House is indeed the check provided by
the Constitution on the abuse of the royal prerogative. But that
this House is, or is likely ever to be, an efficient check on
abuses practised in India, I altogether deny. We have, as I
believe we all feel, quite business enough. If we were to
undertake the task of looking into Indian affairs as we look into
British affairs, if we were to have Indian budgets and Indian
estimates, if we were to go into the Indian currency question and
the Indian Bank Charter, if to our disputes about Belgium and
Holland, Don Pedro and Don Miguel, were to be added disputes
about the debts of the Guicowar and the disorders of Mysore, the
ex-king of the Afghans and the Maharajah Runjeet Sing; if we were
to have one night occupied by the embezzlements of the Benares
mint, and another by the panic in the Calcutta money market; if
the questions of Suttee or no Suttee, Pilgrim tax or no Pilgrim
tax, Ryotwary or Zemindary, half Batta or whole Batta, were to be
debated at the same length at which we have debated Church reform
and the assessed taxes, twenty-four hours a day and three hundred
and sixty-five days a year would be too short a time for the
discharge of our duties. The House, it is plain, has not the
necessary time to settle these matters; nor has it the necessary
knowledge; nor has it the motives to acquire that knowledge. The
late change in its constitution has made it, I believe, a much
more faithful representative of the English people. But it is as
far as ever from being a representative of the Indian people. A
broken head in Cold Bath Fields produces a greater sensation
among us than three pitched battles in India. A few weeks ago we
had to decide on a claim brought by an individual against the
revenues of India. If it had been an English question the walls
would scarcely have held the Members who would have flocked to
the division. It was an Indian question; and we could scarcely,
by dint of supplication, make a House. Even when my right
honourable friend, the President of the Board of Control, gave
his able and interesting explanation of the plan which he
intended to propose for the government of a hundred millions of
human beings, the attendance was not so large as I have often
seen it on a turnpike bill or a railroad bill.

I then take these things as proved, that the Crown must have a
certain authority over India, that there must be an efficient
check on the authority of the Crown, and that the House of
Commons cannot be that efficient check. We must then find some
other body to perform that important office. We have such a
body, the Company. Shall we discard it?

It is true that the power of the Company is an anomaly in
politics. It is strange, very strange, that a joint-stock
society of traders, a society, the shares of which are daily
passed from hand to hand, a society, the component parts of which
are perpetually changing, a society, which, judging a priori from
its constitution, we should have said was as little fitted for
imperial functions as the Merchant Tailors' Company or the New
River Company, should be intrusted with the sovereignty of a
larger population, the disposal of a larger clear revenue, the
command of a larger army, than are under the direct management of
the Executive Government of the United Kingdom. But what
constitution can we give to our Indian Empire which shall not be
strange, which shall not be anomalous? That Empire is itself the
strangest of all political anomalies. That a handful of
adventurers from an island in the Atlantic should have subjugated
a vast country divided from the place of their birth by half the
globe; a country which at no very distant period was merely the
subject of fable to the nations of Europe; a country never before
violated by the most renowned of Western conquerors; a country
which Trajan never entered; a country lying beyond the point
where the phalanx of Alexander refused to proceed; that we should
govern a territory ten thousand miles from us, a territory larger
and more populous than France, Spain, Italy, and Germany put
together, a territory, the present clear revenue of which exceeds
the present clear revenue of any state in the world, France
excepted; a territory inhabited by men differing from us in race,
colour, language, manners, morals, religion; these are prodigies
to which the world has seen nothing similar. Reason is
confounded. We interrogate the past in vain. General rules are
useless where the whole is one vast exception. The Company is an
anomaly; but it is part of a system where every thing is anomaly.
It is the strangest of all governments; but it is designed for
the strangest of all empires.

If we discard the Company, we must find a substitute: and, take
what substitute we may, we shall find ourselves unable to give
any reason for believing that the body which we have put in the
room of the Company is likely to acquit itself of its duties
better than the Company. Commissioners appointed by the King
during pleasure would be no check on the Crown; Commissioners
appointed by the King or by Parliament for life would always be
appointed by the political party which might be uppermost, and if
a change of administration took place, would harass the new
Government with the most vexatious opposition. The plan
suggested by the right honourable Gentleman, the Member for
Montgomeryshire (Mr Charles Wynn.), is I think the very worst
that I have ever heard. He would have Directors nominated every
four years by the Crown. Is it not plain that these Directors
would always be appointed from among the supporters of the
Ministry for the time being; that their situations would depend
on the permanence of that Ministry; that therefore all their
power and patronage would be employed for the purpose of propping
that Ministry, and, in case of a change, for the purpose of
molesting those who might succeed to power; that they would be
subservient while their friends were in, and factious when their
friends were out? How would Lord Grey's Ministry have been
situated if the whole body of Directors had been nominated by the
Duke of Wellington in 1830. I mean no imputation on the Duke of
Wellington. If the present ministers had to nominate Directors
for four years, they would, I have no doubt, nominate men who
would give no small trouble to the Duke of Wellington if he were
to return to office. What we want is a body independent of the
Government, and no more than independent; not a tool of the
Treasury, not a tool of the opposition. No new plan which I have
heard proposed would give us such a body. The Company, strange
as its constitution may be, is such a body. It is, as a
corporation, neither Whig nor Tory, neither high-church nor low-
church. It cannot be charged with having been for or against the
Catholic Bill, for or against the Reform Bill. It has constantly
acted with a view not to English politics, but to Indian
politics. We have seen the country convulsed by faction. We
have seen Ministers driven from office by this House, Parliament
dissolved in anger, general elections of unprecedented
turbulence, debates of unprecedented interest. We have seen the
two branches of the Legislature placed in direct opposition to
each other. We have seen the advisers of the Crown dismissed one
day, and brought back the next day on the shoulders of the
people. And amidst all these agitating events the Company has
preserved strict and unsuspected neutrality. This is, I think an
inestimable advantage, and it is an advantage which we must
altogether forego, if we consent to adopt any of the schemes
which I have heard proposed on the other side of the House.

We must judge of the Indian government, as of all other
governments, by its practical effects. According to the
honourable Member for Sheffield, India is ill governed; and the
whole fault is with the Company. Innumerable accusations, great
and small, are brought by him against the Directors. They are
fond of war: they are fond of dominion: the taxation is
burthensome: the laws are undigested: the roads are rough: the
post goes on foot: and for everything the Company is answerable.
From the dethronement of the Mogul princes to the mishaps of Sir
Charles Metcalfe's courier, every disaster that has taken place
in the East during sixty years is laid to the charge of this
Corporation. And the inference is, that all the power which they
possess ought to be taken out of their hands, and transferred at
once to the Crown.

Now, Sir, it seems to me that, for all the evils which the
honourable Gentleman has so pathetically recounted, the Ministers
of the Crown are as much to blame as the Company; nay, much more
so: for the Board of Control could, without the consent of the
Directors, have redressed those evils; and the Directors most
certainly could not have redressed them without the consent of
the Board of Control. Take the case of that frightful grievance
which seems to have made the deepest impression on the mind of
the honourable Gentleman, the slowness of the mail. Why, Sir, if
my right honourable friend, the President of our Board thought
fit, he might direct me to write to the Court and require them to
frame a dispatch on that subject. If the Court disobeyed, he
might himself frame a dispatch ordering Lord William Bentinck to
put the dawks all over Bengal on horseback. If the Court refused
to send out this dispatch, the Board could apply to the King's
Bench for a mandamus. If, on the other hand, the Directors
wished to accelerate the journeys of the mail, and the Board were
adverse to the project, the Directors could do nothing at all.
For all measures of internal policy the servants of the King are
at least as deeply responsible as the Company. For all measures
of foreign policy the servants of the King, and they alone are
responsible. I was surprised to hear the honourable Gentleman
accuse the Directors of insatiable ambition and rapacity, when he
must know that no act of aggression on any native state can be
committed by the Company without the sanction of the Board, and
that, in fact, the Board has repeatedly approved of warlike
measures which were strenuously opposed by the Company. He must
know, in particular, that, during the energetic and splendid
administration of the Marquess of Wellesley, the company was all
for peace, and the Board all for conquest. If a line of conduct
which the honourable Gentleman thinks unjustifiable has been
followed by the Ministers of the Crown in spite of the
remonstrances of the Directors, this is surely a strange reason
for turning off the Directors, and giving the whole power
unchecked to the Crown.

The honourable Member tells us that India, under the present
system, is not so rich and flourishing as she was two hundred
years ago. Really, Sir, I doubt whether we are in possession of
sufficient data to enable us to form a judgment on that point.
But the matter is of little importance. We ought to compare
India under our government, not with India under Acbar and his
immediate successors, but with India as we found it. The
calamities through which that country passed during the interval
between the fall of the Mogul power and the establishment of the
English supremacy were sufficient to throw the people back whole
centuries. It would surely be unjust to say, that Alfred was a
bad king because Britain, under his government, was not so rich
or so civilised as in the time of the Romans.

In what state, then, did we find India? And what have we made
India? We found society throughout that vast country in a state
to which history scarcely furnishes a parallel. The nearest
parallel would, perhaps, be the state of Europe during the fifth
century. The Mogul empire in the time of the successors of
Aurungzebe, like the Roman empire in the time of the successors
of Theodosius, was sinking under the vices of a bad internal
administration, and under the assaults of barbarous invaders. At
Delhi, as at Ravenna, there was a mock sovereign, immured in a
gorgeous state prison. He was suffered to indulge in every
sensual pleasure. He was adored with servile prostrations. He
assumed and bestowed the most magnificent titles. But, in fact,
he was a mere puppet in the hands of some ambitious subject.
While the Honorii and Augustuli of the East, surrounded by their
fawning eunuchs, reveled and dozed without knowing or caring what
might pass beyond the walls of their palace gardens, the
provinces had ceased to respect a government which could neither
punish nor protect them. Society was a chaos. Its restless and
shifting elements formed themselves every moment into some new
combination, which the next moment dissolved. In the course of a
single generation a hundred dynasties grew up, flourished,
decayed, were extinguished, were forgotten. Every adventurer who
could muster a troop of horse might aspire to a throne. Every
palace was every year the scene of conspiracies, treasons,
revolutions, parricides. Meanwhile a rapid succession of Alarics
and Attilas passed over the defenceless empire. A Persian
invader penetrated to Delhi, and carried back in triumph the most
precious treasures of the House of Tamerlane. The Afghan soon
followed by the same track, to glean whatever the Persian had
spared. The Jauts established themselves on the Jumna. The
Seiks devastated Lahore. Every part of India, from Tanjore to
the Himalayas, was laid under contribution by the Mahrattas. The
people were ground down to the dust by the oppressor without and
the oppressor within, by the robber from whom the Nabob was
unable to protect them, by the Nabob who took whatever the robber
had left to them. All the evils of despotism, and all the evils
of anarchy, pressed at once on that miserable race. They knew
nothing of government but its exactions. Desolation was in their
imperial cities, and famine all along the banks of their broad
and redundant rivers. It seemed that a few more years would
suffice to efface all traces of the opulence and civilisation of
an earlier age.

Such was the state of India when the Company began to take part
in the disputes of its ephemeral sovereigns. About eighty years
have elapsed since we appeared as auxiliaries in a contest
between two rival families for the sovereignty of a small corner
of the Peninsula. From that moment commenced a great, a
stupendous process, the reconstruction of a decomposed society.
Two generations have passed away; and the process is complete.
The scattered fragments of the empire of Aurungzebe have been
united in an empire stronger and more closely knit together than
that which Aurungzebe ruled. The power of the new sovereigns
penetrates their dominions more completely, and is far more
implicitly obeyed, than was that of the proudest princes of the
Mogul dynasty.

It is true that the early history of this great revolution is
chequered with guilt and shame. It is true that the founders of
our Indian Empire too often abused the strength which they
derived from superior energy and superior knowledge. It is true
that, with some of the highest qualities of the race from which
they sprang, they combined some of the worst defects of the race
over which they ruled. How should it have been otherwise? Born
in humble stations, accustomed to earn a slender maintenance by
obscure industry, they found themselves transformed in a few
months from clerks drudging over desks, or captains in marching
regiments, into statesmen and generals, with armies at their
command, with the revenues of kingdoms at their disposal, with
power to make and depose sovereigns at their pleasure. They were
what it was natural that men should be who had been raised by so
rapid an ascent to so dizzy an eminence, profuse and rapacious,
imperious and corrupt.

It is true, then, that there was too much foundation for the
representations of those satirists and dramatists who held up the
character of the English Nabob to the derision and hatred of a
former generation. It is true that some disgraceful intrigues,
some unjust and cruel wars, some instances of odious perfidy and
avarice, stain the annals of our Eastern Empire. It is true that
the duties of government and legislation were long wholly
neglected or carelessly performed. It is true that when the
conquerors at length began to apply themselves in earnest to the
discharge of their high functions, they committed the errors
natural to rulers who were but imperfectly acquainted with the
language and manners of their subjects. It is true that some
plans, which were dictated by the purest and most benevolent
feelings have not been attended by the desired success. It is
true that India suffers to this day from a heavy burden of
taxation and from a defective system of law. It is true, I fear,
that in those states which are connected with us by subsidiary
alliance, all the evils of oriental despotism have too frequently
shown themselves in their most loathsome and destructive form.

All this is true. Yet in the history and in the present state of
our Indian Empire I see ample reason for exultation and for a
good hope.

I see that we have established order where we found confusion. I
see that the petty dynasties which were generated by the
corruption of the great Mahometan Empire, and which, a century
ago, kept all India in constant agitation, have been quelled by
one overwhelming power. I see that the predatory tribes, which,
in the middle of the last century, passed annually over the
harvests of India with the destructive rapidity of a hurricane,
have quailed before the valour of a braver and sterner race, have
been vanquished, scattered, hunted to their strongholds, and
either extirpated by the English sword, or compelled to exchange
the pursuits of rapine for those of industry.

I look back for many years; and I see scarcely a trace of the
vices which blemished the splendid fame of the first conquerors
of Bengal. I see peace studiously preserved. I see faith
inviolably maintained towards feeble and dependent states. I see
confidence gradually infused into the minds of suspicious
neighbours. I see the horrors of war mitigated by the chivalrous
and Christian spirit of Europe. I see examples of moderation and
clemency, such as I should seek in vain in the annals of any
other victorious and dominant nation. I see captive tyrants,
whose treachery and cruelty might have excused a severe
retribution, living in security, comfort, and dignity, under the
protection of the government which they laboured to destroy.

I see a large body of civil and military functionaries resembling
in nothing but capacity and valour those adventurers who, seventy
years ago, came hither, laden with wealth and infamy, to parade
before our fathers the plundered treasures of Bengal and Tanjore.
I reflect with pride that to the doubtful splendour which
surrounds the memory of Hastings and of Clive, we can oppose the
spotless glory of Elphinstone and Munro. I contemplate with
reverence and delight the honourable poverty which is the
evidence of rectitude firmly maintained amidst strong
temptations. I rejoice to see my countrymen, after ruling
millions of subjects, after commanding victorious armies, after
dictating terms of peace at the gates of hostile capitals, after
administering the revenues of great provinces, after judging the
causes of wealthy Zemindars, after residing at the courts of
tributary Kings, return to their native land with no more than a
decent competence.

I see a government anxiously bent on the public good. Even in
its errors I recognise a paternal feeling towards the great
people committed to its charge. I see toleration strictly
maintained: yet I see bloody and degrading superstitions
gradually losing their power. I see the morality, the
philosophy, the taste of Europe, beginning to produce a salutary
effect on the hearts and understandings of our subjects. I see
the public mind of India, that public mind which we found debased
and contracted by the worst forms of political and religious
tyranny, expanding itself to just and noble views of the ends of
government and of the social duties of man.

I see evils: but I see the government actively employed in the
work of remedying those evils. The taxation is heavy; but the
work of retrenchment is unsparingly pursued. The mischiefs
arising from the system of subsidiary alliance are great: but
the rulers of India are fully aware of those mischiefs, and are
engaged in guarding against them. Wherever they now interfere
for the purpose of supporting a native government, they interfere
also for the purpose of reforming it.

Seeing these things, then, am I prepared to discard the Company
as an organ of government? I am not. Assuredly I will never
shrink from innovation where I see reason to believe that
innovation will be improvement. That the present Government does
not shrink from innovations which it considers as improvements
the bill now before the House sufficiently shows. But surely the
burden of the proof lies on the innovators. They are bound to
show that there is a fair probability of obtaining some advantage
before they call upon us to take up the foundations of the Indian
government. I have no superstitious veneration for the Court of
Directors or the Court of Proprietors. Find me a better Council:
find me a better constituent body: and I am ready for a change.
But of all the substitutes for the Company which have hitherto
been suggested, not one has been proved to be better than the
Company; and most of them I could, I think, easily prove to be
worse. Circumstances might force us to hazard a change. If the
Company were to refuse to accept of the government unless we
would grant pecuniary terms which I thought extravagant, or
unless we gave up the clauses in this bill which permit Europeans
to hold landed property and natives to hold office, I would take
them at their word. But I will not discard them in the mere rage
of experiment.

Do I call the government of India a perfect government? Very far
from it. No nation can be perfectly well governed till it is
competent to govern itself. I compare the Indian government with
other governments of the same class, with despotisms, with
military despotisms, with foreign military despotisms; and I find
none that approaches it in excellence. I compare it with the
government of the Roman provinces, with the government of the
Spanish colonies; and I am proud of my country and my age. Here
are a hundred millions of people under the absolute rule of a few
strangers, differing from them physically, differing from them
morally, mere Mamelukes, not born in the country which they rule,
not meaning to lay their bones in it. If you require me to make
this government as good as that of England, France, or the United
States of America, I own frankly that I can do no such thing.
Reasoning a priori, I should have come to the conclusion that
such a government must be a horrible tyranny. It is a source of
constant amazement to me that it is so good as I find it to be.
I will not, therefore, in a case in which I have neither
principles nor precedents to guide me, pull down the existing
system on account of its theoretical defects. For I know that
any system which I could put in its place would be equally
condemned by theory, while it would not be equally sanctioned by

Some change in the constitution of the Company was, as I have
shown, rendered inevitable by the opening of the China Trade; and
it was the duty of the Government to take care that the change
should not be prejudicial to India. There were many ways in
which the compromise between commerce and territory might have
been effected. We might have taken the assets, and paid a sum
down, leaving the Company to invest that sum as they chose. We
might have offered English security with a lower interest. We
might have taken the course which the late ministers designed to
take. They would have left the Company in possession of the
means of carrying on its trade in competition with private
merchants. My firm belief is that, if this course had been
taken, the Company must, in a very few years, have abandoned the
trade, or the trade would have ruined the Company. It was not,
however, solely or principally by regard for the interest of the
Company, or of English merchants generally, that the Government
was guided on this occasion. The course which appeared to us the
most likely to promote the interests of our Eastern Empire was to
make the proprietors of India stock creditors of the Indian
territory. Their interest will thus be in a great measure the
same with the interest of the people whom they are to rule.
Their income will depend on the revenues of their empire. The
revenues of their empire will depend on the manner in which the
affairs of that empire are administered. We furnish them with
the strongest motives to watch over the interests of the
cultivator and the trader, to maintain peace, to carry on with
vigour the work of retrenchment, to detect and punish extortion
and corruption. Though they live at a distance from India,
though few of them have ever seen or may ever see the people whom
they rule, they will have a great stake in the happiness of their
subjects. If their misgovernment should produce disorder in the
finances, they will themselves feel the effects of that disorder
in their own household expenses. I believe this to be, next to a
representative constitution, the constitution which is the best
security for good government. A representative constitution
India cannot at present have. And we have therefore, I think,
given her the best constitution of which she is capable.

One word as to the new arrangement which we propose with respect
to the patronage. It is intended to introduce the principle of
competition in the disposal of writerships; and from this change
I cannot but anticipate the happiest results. The civil servants
of the Company are undoubtedly a highly respectable body of men;
and in that body, as in every large body, there are some persons
of very eminent ability. I rejoice most cordially to see this.
I rejoice to see that the standard of morality is so high in
England, that intelligence is so generally diffused through
England, that young persons who are taken from the mass of
society, by favour and not by merit, and who are therefore only
fair samples of the mass, should, when placed in situations of
high importance, be so seldom found wanting. But it is not the
less true that India is entitled to the service of the best
talents which England can spare. That the average of
intelligence and virtue is very high in this country is matter
for honest exultation. But it is no reason for employing average
men where you can obtain superior men. Consider too, Sir, how
rapidly the public mind of India is advancing, how much attention
is already paid by the higher classes of the natives to those
intellectual pursuits on the cultivation of which the superiority
of the European race to the rest of mankind principally depends.
Surely, in such circumstances, from motives of selfish policy, if
from no higher motive, we ought to fill the magistracies of our
Eastern Empire with men who may do honour to their country, with
men who may represent the best part of the English nation. This,
Sir, is our object; and we believe that by the plan which is now
proposed this object will be attained. It is proposed that for
every vacancy in the civil service four candidates shall be
named, and the best candidate selected by examination. We
conceive that, under this system, the persons sent out will be
young men above par, young men superior either in talents or in
diligence to the mass. It is said, I know, that examinations in
Latin, in Greek, and in mathematics, are no tests of what men
will prove to be in life. I am perfectly aware that they are not
infallible tests: but that they are tests I confidently
maintain. Look at every walk of life, at this House, at the
other House, at the Bar, at the Bench, at the Church, and see
whether it be not true that those who attain high distinction in
the world were generally men who were distinguished in their
academic career. Indeed, Sir, this objection would prove far too
much even for those who use it. It would prove that there is no
use at all in education. Why should we put boys out of their
way? Why should we force a lad, who would much rather fly a kite
or trundle a hoop, to learn his Latin Grammar? Why should we
keep a young man to his Thucydides or his Laplace, when he would
much rather be shooting? Education would be mere useless
torture, if, at two or three and twenty, a man who had neglected
his studies were exactly on a par with a man who had applied
himself to them, exactly as likely to perform all the offices of
public life with credit to himself and with advantage to society.
Whether the English system of education be good or bad is not now
the question. Perhaps I may think that too much time is given to
the ancient languages and to the abstract sciences. But what
then? Whatever be the languages, whatever be the sciences, which
it is, in any age or country, the fashion to teach, the persons
who become the greatest proficients in those languages and those
sciences will generally be the flower of the youth, the most
acute, the most industrious, the most ambitious of honourable
distinctions. If the Ptolemaic system were taught at Cambridge
instead of the Newtonian, the senior wrangler would nevertheless
be in general a superior man to the wooden spoon. If, instead of
learning Greek, we learned the Cherokee, the man who understood
the Cherokee best, who made the most correct and melodious
Cherokee verses, who comprehended most accurately the effect of
the Cherokee particles, would generally be a superior man to him
who was destitute of these accomplishments. If astrology were
taught at our Universities, the young man who cast nativities
best would generally turn out a superior man. If alchymy were
taught, the young man who showed most activity in the pursuit of
the philosopher's stone would generally turn out a superior man.

I will only add one other observation on this subject. Although
I am inclined to think that too exclusive an attention is paid in
the education of young English gentlemen to the dead languages, I
conceive that when you are choosing men to fill situations for
which the very first and most indispensable qualification is
familiarity with foreign languages, it would be difficult to find
a better test of their fitness than their classical acquirements.

Some persons have expressed doubts as to the possibility of
procuring fair examinations. I am quite sure that no person who
has been either at Cambridge or at Oxford can entertain such
doubts. I feel, indeed, that I ought to apologise for even
noticing an objection so frivolous.

Next to the opening of the China trade, Sir, the change most
eagerly demanded by the English people was, that the restrictions
on the admission of Europeans to India should be removed. In
this change there are undoubtedly very great advantages. The
chief advantage is, I think, the improvement which the minds of
our native subjects may be expected to derive from free
intercourse with a people far advanced beyond themselves in
intellectual cultivation. I cannot deny, however, that the
advantages are attended with some danger.

The danger is that the new comers, belonging to the ruling
nation, resembling in colour, in language, in manners, those who
hold supreme military and political power, and differing in all
these respects from the great mass of the population, may
consider themselves as a superior class, and may trample on the
indigenous race. Hitherto there have been strong restraints on
Europeans resident in India. Licences were not easily obtained.
Those residents who were in the service of the Company had
obvious motives for conducting themselves with propriety. If
they incurred the serious displeasure of the Government, their
hopes of promotion were blighted. Even those who were not in the
public service were subject to the formidable power which the
Government possessed of banishing them at its pleasure.

The license of the Government will now no longer be necessary to
persons who desire to reside in the settled provinces of India.
The power of arbitrary deportation is withdrawn. Unless,
therefore, we mean to leave the natives exposed to the tyranny
and insolence of every profligate adventurer who may visit the
East, we must place the European under the same power which
legislates for the Hindoo. No man loves political freedom more
than I. But a privilege enjoyed by a few individuals, in the
midst of a vast population who do not enjoy it, ought not to be
called freedom. It is tyranny. In the West Indies I have not
the least doubt that the existence of the Trial by Jury and of
Legislative Assemblies has tended to make the condition of the
slaves worse than it would otherwise have been. Or, to go to
India itself for an instance, though I fully believe that a mild
penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all
systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins,
who sprang from the head of the Creator, while there was a severe
code for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India has
suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from
the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has
engendered. God forbid that we should inflict on her the curse
of a new caste, that we should send her a new breed of Brahmins,
authorised to treat all the native population as Parias!

With a view to the prevention of this evil, we propose to give to
the Supreme Government the power of legislating for Europeans as
well as for natives. We propose that the regulations of the
Government shall bind the King's Court as they bind all other
courts, and that registration by the Judges of the King's Courts
shall no longer be necessary to give validity to those
regulations within the towns of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.

I could scarcely, Sir, believe my ears when I heard this part of
our plan condemned in another place. I should have thought that
it would have been received with peculiar favour in that quarter
where it has met with the most severe condemnation. What, at
present, is the case? If the Supreme Court and the Government
differ on a question of jurisdiction, or on a question of
legislation within the towns which are the seats of Government,
there is absolutely no umpire but the Imperial Parliament. The
device of putting one wild elephant between two tame elephants
was ingenious: but it may not always be practicable. Suppose a
tame elephant between two wild elephants, or suppose that the
whole herd should run wild together. The thing is not without
example. And is it not most unjust and ridiculous that, on one
side of a ditch, the edict of the Governor General should have
the force of law, and that on the other side it should be of no
effect unless registered by the Judges of the Supreme Court? If
the registration be a security for good legislation, we are bound
to give that security to all classes of our subjects. If the
registration be not a security for good legislation, why give it
to any? Is the system good? Extend it. Is it bad! Abolish it.
But in the name of common sense do not leave it as it is. It is
as absurd as our old law of sanctuary. The law which authorises
imprisonment for debt may be good or bad. But no man in his
senses can approve of the ancient system under which a debtor who
might be arrested in Fleet Street was safe as soon as he had
scampered into Whitefriars. Just in the same way, doubts may
fairly be entertained about the expediency of allowing four or
five persons to make laws for India; but to allow them to make
laws for all India without the Mahratta ditch, and to except
Calcutta, is the height of absurdity.

I say, therefore, that either you must enlarge the power of the
Supreme Court, and give it a general veto on laws, or you must
enlarge the power of the Government, and make its regulations
binding on all Courts without distinction. The former course no
person has ventured to propose. To the latter course objections
have been made; but objections which to me, I must own, seem
altogether frivolous.

It is acknowledged that of late years inconvenience has arisen
from the relation in which the Supreme Court stands to the
Government. But, it is said, that Court was originally
instituted for the protection of natives against Europeans. The
wise course would therefore be to restore its original character.

Now, Sir, the fact is, that the Supreme Court has never been so
mischievous as during the first ten years of its power, or so
respectable as it has lately been. Everybody who knows anything
of its early history knows, that, during a considerable time, it
was the terror of Bengal, the scourge of the native population,
the screen of European delinquents, a convenient tool of the
Government for all purposes of evil, an insurmountable obstacle
to the Government in all undertakings for the public good; that
its proceedings were made up of pedantry, cruelty, and
corruption; that its disputes with the Government were at one
time on the point of breaking up the whole fabric of society; and
that a convulsion was averted only by the dexterous policy of
Warren Hastings, who at last bought off the opposition of the
Chief Justice for eight thousand pounds a year. It is notorious
that, while the Supreme Court opposed Hastings in all his best
measures, it was a thoroughgoing accomplice in his worst; that it
took part in the most scandalous of those proceedings which,
fifty years ago, roused the indignation of Parliament and of the
country; that it assisted in the spoliation of the princesses of
Oude; that it passed sentence of death on Nuncomar. And this is
the Court which we are to restore from its present state of
degeneracy to its original purity. This is the protection which
we are to give to the natives against the Europeans. Sir, so far
is it from being true that the character of the Supreme Court has
deteriorated, that it has, perhaps, improved more than any other
institution in India. But the evil lies deep in the nature of
the institution itself. The judges have in our time deserved the
greatest respect. Their judgment and integrity have done much to
mitigate the vices of the system. The worst charge that can be
brought against any of them is that of pertinacity,
disinterested, conscientious pertinacity, in error. The real
evil is the state of the law. You have two supreme powers in
India. There is no arbitrator except a Legislature fifteen
thousand miles off. Such a system is on the face of it an
absurdity in politics. My wonder is, not that this system has
several times been on the point of producing fatal consequences
to the peace and resources of India;--those, I think, are the
words in which Warren Hastings described the effect of the
contest between his Government and the Judges;--but that it has
not actually produced such consequences. The most distinguished
members of the Indian Government, the most distinguished Judges
of the Supreme Court, call upon you to reform this system. Sir
Charles Metcalfe, Sir Charles Grey, represent with equal urgency
the expediency of having one single paramount council armed with
legislative power. The admission of Europeans to India renders
it absolutely necessary not to delay our decision. The effect of
that admission would be to raise a hundred questions, to produce
a hundred contests between the Council and the judicature. The
Government would be paralysed at the precise moment at which all
its energy was required. While the two equal powers were acting
in opposite directions, the whole machine of the state would
stand still. The Europeans would be uncontrolled. The natives
would be unprotected. The consequences I will not pretend to
foresee. Everything beyond is darkness and confusion.

Having given to the Government supreme legislative power, we next
propose to give to it for a time the assistance of a commission
for the purpose of digesting and reforming the laws of India, so
that those laws may, as soon as possible, be formed into a Code.
Gentleman of whom I wish to speak with the highest respect have
expressed a doubt whether India be at present in a fit state to
receive a benefit which is not yet enjoyed by this free and
highly civilised country. Sir, I can allow to this argument very
little weight beyond that which it derives from the personal
authority of those who use it. For, in the first place, our
freedom and our high civilisation make this improvement,
desirable as it must always be, less indispensably necessary to
us than to our Indian subjects; and in the next place, our
freedom and civilisation, I fear, make it far more difficult for
us to obtain this benefit for ourselves than to bestow it on

I believe that no country ever stood so much in need of a code of
laws as India; and I believe also that there never was a country
in which the want might so easily be supplied. I said that there
were many points of analogy between the state of that country
after the fall of the Mogul power, and the state of Europe after
the fall of the Roman empire. In one respect the analogy is very
striking. As there were in Europe then, so there are in India
now, several systems of law widely differing from each other, but
coexisting and coequal. The indigenous population has its own
laws. Each of the successive races of conquerors has brought
with it its own peculiar jurisprudence: the Mussulman his Koran
and the innumerable commentators on the Koran; the Englishman his
Statute Book and his Term Reports. As there were established in
Italy, at one and the same time, the Roman Law, the Lombard law,
the Ripuarian law, the Bavarian law, and the Salic law, so we
have now in our Eastern empire Hindoo law, Mahometan law, Parsee
law, English law, perpetually mingling with each other and
disturbing each other, varying with the person, varying with the
place. In one and the same cause the process and pleadings are
in the fashion of one nation, the judgment is according to the
laws of another. An issue is evolved according to the rules of
Westminster, and decided according to those of Benares. The only
Mahometan book in the nature of a code is the Koran; the only
Hindoo book, the Institutes. Everybody who knows those books
knows that they provide for a very small part of the cases which
must arise in every community. All beyond them is comment and
tradition. Our regulations in civil matters do not define
rights, but merely establish remedies. If a point of Hindoo law
arises, the Judge calls on the Pundit for an opinion. If a point
of Mahometan law arises, the Judge applies to the Cauzee. What
the integrity of these functionaries is, we may learn from Sir
William Jones. That eminent man declared that he could not
answer it to his conscience to decide any point of law on the
faith of a Hindoo expositor. Sir Thomas Strange confirms this
declaration. Even if there were no suspicion of corruption on
the part of the interpreters of the law, the science which they
profess is in such a state of confusion that no reliance can be
placed on their answers. Sir Francis Macnaghten tells us, that
it is a delusion to fancy that there is any known and fixed law
under which the Hindoo people live; that texts may be produced on
any side of any question; that expositors equal in authority
perpetually contradict each other: that the obsolete law is
perpetually confounded with the law actually in force; and that
the first lesson to be impressed on a functionary who has to
administer Hindoo law is that it is vain to think of extracting
certainty from the books of the jurist. The consequence is that
in practice the decisions of the tribunals are altogether
arbitrary. What is administered is not law, but a kind of rude
and capricious equity. I asked an able and excellent judge
lately returned from India how one of our Zillah Courts would
decide several legal questions of great importance, questions not
involving considerations of religion or of caste, mere questions
of commercial law. He told me that it was a mere lottery. He
knew how he should himself decide them. But he knew nothing
more. I asked a most distinguished civil servant of the Company,
with reference to the clause in this Bill on the subject of
slavery, whether at present, if a dancing girl ran away from her
master, the judge would force her to go back. "Some judges," he
said, "send a girl back. Others set her at liberty. The whole
is a mere matter of chance. Everything depends on the temper of
the individual judge."

Even in this country we have had complaints of judge-made law;
even in this country, where the standard of morality is higher
than in almost any other part of the world; where, during several
generations, not one depositary of our legal traditions has
incurred the suspicion of personal corruption; where there are
popular institutions; where every decision is watched by a shrewd
and learned audience; where there is an intelligent and observant
public; where every remarkable case is fully reported in a
hundred newspapers; where, in short, there is everything which
can mitigate the evils of such a system. But judge-made law,
where there is an absolute government and a lax morality, where
there is no bar and no public, is a curse and a scandal not to be
endured. It is time that the magistrate should know what law he
is to administer, that the subject should know under what law he
is to live. We do not mean that all the people of India should
live under the same law: far from it: there is not a word in
the bill, there was not a word in my right honourable friend's
speech, susceptible of such an interpretation. We know how
desirable that object is; but we also know that it is
unattainable. We know that respect must be paid to feelings
generated by differences of religion, of nation, and of caste.
Much, I am persuaded, may be done to assimilate the different
systems of law without wounding those feelings. But, whether we
assimilate those systems or not, let us ascertain them; let us
digest them. We propose no rash innovation; we wish to give no
shock to the prejudices of any part of our subjects. Our
principle is simply this; uniformity where you can have it:
diversity where you must have it; but in all cases certainty.

As I believe that India stands more in need of a code than any
other country in the world, I believe also that there is no
country on which that great benefit can more easily be conferred.
A code is almost the only blessing, perhaps is the only blessing,
which absolute governments are better fitted to confer on a
nation than popular governments. The work of digesting a vast
and artificial system of unwritten jurisprudence is far more
easily performed, and far better performed, by few minds than by
many, by a Napoleon than by a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber
of Peers, by a government like that of Prussia or Denmark than by
a government like that of England. A quiet knot of two or three
veteran jurists is an infinitely better machinery for such a
purpose than a large popular assembly divided, as such assemblies
almost always are, into adverse factions. This seems to me,
therefore, to be precisely that point of time at which the
advantage of a complete written code of laws may most easily be
conferred on India. It is a work which cannot be well performed
in an age of barbarism, which cannot without great difficulty be
performed in an age of freedom. It is a work which especially
belongs to a government like that of India, to an enlightened and
paternal despotism.

I have detained the House so long, Sir, that I will defer what I
had to say on some parts of this measure, important parts,
indeed, but far less important, as I think, than those to which I
have adverted, till we are in Committee. There is, however, one
part of the bill on which, after what has recently passed
elsewhere, I feel myself irresistibly impelled to say a few
words. I allude to that wise, that benevolent, that noble clause
which enacts that no native of our Indian empire shall, by reason
of his colour, his descent, or his religion, be incapable of
holding office. At the risk of being called by that nickname
which is regarded as the most opprobrious of all nicknames by men
of selfish hearts and contracted minds, at the risk of being
called a philosopher, I must say that, to the last day of my
life, I shall be proud of having been one of those who assisted
in the framing of the bill which contains that clause. We are
told that the time can never come when the natives of India can
be admitted to high civil and military office. We are told that
this is the condition on which we hold our power. We are told
that we are bound to confer on our subjects every benefit--which
they are capable of enjoying?--no;--which it is in our power to
confer on them?--no;--but which we can confer on them without
hazard to the perpetuity of our own domination. Against that
proposition I solemnly protest as inconsistent alike with sound
policy and sound morality.

I am far, very far, from wishing to proceed hastily in this most
delicate matter. I feel that, for the good of India itself, the
admission of natives to high office must be effected by slow
degrees. But that, when the fulness of time is come, when the
interest of India requires the change, we ought to refuse to make
that change lest we should endanger our own power, this is a
doctrine of which I cannot think without indignation.
Governments, like men, may buy existence too dear. "Propter
vitam vivendi perdere causas," is a despicable policy both in
individuals and in states. In the present case, such a policy
would be not only despicable, but absurd. The mere extent of
empire is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it
has been cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be
allowed by every statesman of our time that the prosperity of a
community is made up of the prosperity of those who compose the
community, and that it is the most childish ambition to covet
dominion which adds to no man's comfort or security. To the
great trading nation, to the great manufacturing nation, no
progress which any portion of the human race can make in
knowledge, in taste for the conveniences of life, or in the
wealth by which those conveniences are produced, can be matter of
indifference. It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits
which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilisation
among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most
selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of
India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed
and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but
wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that
they were performing their salams to English collectors and
English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor
to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilised men is
infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would,
indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might
remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly
dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being
our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.

It was, as Bernier tells us, the practice of the miserable
tyrants whom he found in India, when they dreaded the capacity
and spirit of some distinguished subject, and yet could not
venture to murder him, to administer to him a daily dose of the
pousta, a preparation of opium, the effect of which was in a few
months to destroy all the bodily and mental powers of the wretch
who was drugged with it, and to turn him into a helpless idiot.
The detestable artifice, more horrible than assassination itself,
was worthy of those who employed it. It is no model for the
English nation. We shall never consent to administer the pousta
to a whole community, to stupefy and paralyse a great people whom
God has committed to our charge, for the wretched purpose of
rendering them more amenable to our control. What is power worth
if it is founded on vice, on ignorance, and on misery; if we can
hold it only by violating the most sacred duties which as
governors we owe to the governed, and which, as a people blessed
with far more than an ordinary measure of political liberty and
of intellectual light, we owe to a race debased by three thousand
years of despotism and priestcraft? We are free, we are
civilised, to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion of the
human race an equal measure of freedom and civilisation.

Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may
keep them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them
knowledge without awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken
ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent? Who will
answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of
them must be answered in the affirmative, by every person who
maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives from
high office. I have no fears. The path of duty is plain before
us: and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity,
of national honour.

The destinies of our Indian empire are covered with thick
darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate
reserved for a state which resembles no other in history, and
which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena.
The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still
unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may
expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by
good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for
better government; that, having become instructed in European
knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European
institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But
never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it
comes, it will be the proudest day in English history. To have
found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and
superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous
and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a
title to glory all our own. The sceptre may pass away from us.
Unforeseen accidents may derange our most profound schemes of
policy. Victory may be inconstant to our arms. But there are
triumphs which are followed by no reverse. There is an empire
exempt from all natural causes of decay. Those triumphs are the
pacific triumphs of reason over barbarism; that empire is the
imperishable empire of our arts and our morals, our literature
and our laws.


EDINBURGH ELECTION, 1839. (MAY 29, 1839)


The elevation of Mr Abercromby to the peerage in May 1839, caused
a vacancy in the representation of the city of Edinburgh. A
meeting of the electors was called to consider of the manner in
which the vacancy should be supplied. At this meeting the
following Speech was made.

My Lord Provost and Gentlemen,--At the request of a very large
and respectable portion of your body, I appear before you as a
candidate for a high and solemn trust, which, uninvited, I should
have thought it presumption to solicit, but which, thus invited,
I should think it cowardice to decline. If I had felt myself
justified in following my own inclinations, I am not sure that
even a summons so honourable as that which I have received would
have been sufficient to draw me away from pursuits far better
suited to my taste and temper than the turmoil of political
warfare. But I feel that my lot is cast in times in which no man
is free to judge, merely according to his own taste and temper,
whether he will devote himself to active or to contemplative
life; in times in which society has a right to demand, from every
one of its members, active and strenuous exertions. I have,
therefore, obeyed your call; and I now present myself before you
for the purpose of offering to you, not, what I am sure you would
reject with disdain, flattery, degrading alike to a candidate,
and to a constituent body; but such reasonable, candid, and manly
explanations as become the mouth of a free man ambitious of the
confidence of a free people.

It is hardly necessary for me to say that I stand here
unconnected with this great community. It would be mere
affectation not to acknowledge that with respect to local
questions I have much to learn; but I hope that you will find in
me no sluggish or inattentive learner. From an early age I have
felt a strong interest in Edinburgh, although attached to
Edinburgh by no other ties than those which are common to me with
multitudes; that tie which attaches every man of Scottish blood
to the ancient and renowned capital of our race; that tie which
attaches every student of history to the spot ennobled by so many
great and memorable events; that tie which attaches every
traveller of taste to the most beautiful of British cities; and
that tie which attaches every lover of literature to a place
which, since it has ceased to be the seat of empire, has derived
from poetry, philosophy, and eloquence a far higher distinction
than empire can bestow. If to those ties it shall now be your
pleasure to add a tie still closer and more peculiar, I can only
assure you that it shall be the study of my life so to conduct
myself in these our troubled times that you may have no reason to
be ashamed of your choice.

Those gentlemen who invited me to appear as a candidate before
you were doubtless acquainted with the part which I took in
public affairs during the three first Parliaments of the late
King. Circumstances have since that time undergone great
alteration; but no alteration has taken place in my principles.
I do not mean to say that thought, discussion, and the new
phenomena produced by the operation of a new representative
system, have not led me to modify some of my views on questions
of detail; but, with respect to the fundamental principles of
government, my opinions are still what they were when, in 1831
and 1832, I took part, according to the measure of my abilities,
in that great pacific victory which purified the representative
system of England, and which first gave a real representative
system to Scotland. Even at that time, Gentlemen, the leaning of
my mind was in favour of one measure to which the illustrious
leader of the Whig party, whose name ought never to be mentioned
without gratitude and reverence in any assembly of British
electors, I mean Earl Grey, was understood to entertain strong
objections, and to which his Cabinet, as a Cabinet, was
invariably opposed. I speak of the vote by ballot. All that has
passed since that time confirms me in the view which I was then
inclined to take of that important question. At the same time I
do not think that all the advantages are on one side and all the
disadvantages on the other. I must admit that the effect of the
practice of secret voting would be to withdraw the voter from the
operation of some salutary and honourable, as well as of some
pernicious and degrading motives. But seeing, as I cannot help
seeing, that the practice of intimidation, instead of
diminishing, is gaining ground, I am compelled to consider
whether the time has not arrived when we are bound to apply what
seems the only efficient remedy. And I am compelled to consider
whether, in doing so, I am not strictly following the principles
of the Reform Bill to the legitimate conclusions. For surely
those who supported the Reform Bill intended to give the people
of Britain a reality, not a delusion; to destroy nomination, and
not to make an outward show of destroying it; to bestow the
franchise, and not the name of the franchise; and least of all,
to give suffering and humiliation under the name of the
franchise. If men are to be returned to Parliament, not by
popular election, but by nomination, then I say without
hesitation that the ancient system was much the best. Both
systems alike sent men to Parliament who were not freely chosen
by independent constituent bodies: but under the old system
there was little or no need of intimidation, while, under the new
system, we have the misery and disgrace produced by intimidation
added to the process. If, therefore, we are to have nomination,
I prefer the nomination which used to take place at Old Sarum to
the nomination which now takes place at Newark. In both cases
you have members returned at the will of one landed proprietor:
but at Newark you have two hundred ejectments into the bargain,
to say nothing of the mortification and remorse endured by all
those who, though they were not ejected, yet voted against their
consciences from fear of ejectment.

There is perhaps no point on which good men of all parties are
more completely agreed than on the necessity of restraining and
punishing corruption in the election of Members of Parliament.
The evils of corruption are doubtless very great; but it appears
to me that those evils which are attributed to corruption may,
with equal justice, be attributed to intimidation, and that
intimidation produces also some monstrous evils with which
corruption cannot be reproached. In both cases alike the elector
commits a breach of trust. In both cases alike he employs for
his own advantage an important power which was confided to him,
that it might be used, to the best of his judgment, for the
general good of the community. Thus far corruption and
intimidation operate in the same manner. But there is this
difference betwixt the two systems; corruption operates by giving
pleasure, intimidation by giving pain. To give a poor man five
pounds causes no pain: on the contrary it produces pleasure. It
is in itself no bad act: indeed, if the five pounds were given
on another occasion, and without a corrupt object, it might pass
for a benevolent act. But to tell a man that you will reduce him
to a situation in which he will miss his former comforts, and in
which his family will be forced to beg their bread, is a cruel
act. Corruption has a sort of illegitimate relationship to
benevolence, and engenders some feelings of a cordial and
friendly nature. There is a notion of charity connected with the
distribution of the money of the rich among the needy, even in a
corrupt manner. The comic writer who tells us that the whole
system of corruption is to be considered as a commerce of
generosity on one side and of gratitude on the other, has rather
exaggerated than misrepresented what really takes place in many
of these English constituent bodies where money is lavished to
conciliate the favour and obtain the suffrages of the people.
But in intimidation the whole process is an odious one. The
whole feeling on the part of the elector is that of shame,
degradation, and hatred of the person to whom he has given his
vote. The elector is indeed placed in a worse situation than if
he had no vote at all; for there is not one of us who would not
rather be without a vote than be compelled to give it to the
person whom he dislikes above all others.

Thinking, therefore, that the practice of intimidation has all
the evils which are to be found in corruption, and that it has
other evils which are not to be found in corruption, I was
naturally led to consider whether it was possible to prevent it
by any process similar to that by which corruption is restrained.
Corruption, you all know, is the subject of penal laws. If it is
brought home to the parties, they are liable to severe
punishment. Although it is not often that it can be brought
home, yet there are instances. I remember several men of large
property confined in Newgate for corruption. Penalties have been
awarded against offenders to the amount of five hundred pounds.
Many members of Parliament have been unseated on account of the
malpractices of their agents. But you cannot, I am afraid,
repress intimidation by penal laws. Such laws would infringe the
most sacred rights of property. How can I require a man to deal
with tradesmen who have voted against him, or to renew the leases
of tenants who have voted against him? What is it that the Jew
says in the play?

"I'll not answer that,
But say it is my humour."

Or, as a Christian of our own time has expressed himself, "I have
a right to do what I will with my own." There is a great deal of
weight in the reasoning of Shylock and the Duke of Newcastle.
There would be an end of the right of property if you were to
interdict a landlord from ejecting a tenant, if you were to force
a gentleman to employ a particular butcher, and to take as much
beef this year as last year. The principle of the right of
property is that a man is not only to be allowed to dispose of
his wealth rationally and usefully, but to be allowed to indulge
his passions and caprices, to employ whatever tradesmen and
labourers he chooses, and to let, or refuse to let, his land
according to his own pleasure, without giving any reason or
asking anybody's leave. I remember that, on one of the first
evenings on which I sate in the House of Commons, Mr Poulett
Thompson proposed a censure on the Duke of Newcastle for His
Grace's conduct towards the electors of Newark. Sir Robert Peel
opposed the motion, not only with considerable ability, but with
really unanswerable reasons. He asked if it was meant that a
tenant who voted against his landlord was to keep his lease for
ever. If so, tenants would vote against a landlord to secure
themselves, as they now vote with a landlord to secure
themselves. I thought, and think, this argument unanswerable;
but then it is unanswerable in favour of the ballot; for, if it
be impossible to deal with intimidation by punishment, you are
bound to consider whether there be any means of prevention; and
the only mode of prevention that has ever been suggested is the
ballot. That the ballot has disadvantages to be set off against
its advantages, I admit; but it appears to me that we have only a
choice of evils, and that the evils for which the ballot is a
specific remedy are greater than any which the ballot is likely
to produce. Observe with what exquisite accuracy the ballot
draws the line of distinction between the power which we ought to
give to the proprietor and the power which we ought not to give
him. It leaves the proprietor the absolute power to do what he
will with his own. Nobody calls upon him to say why he ejected
this tenant, or took away his custom from that tradesman. It
leaves him at liberty to follow his own tastes, to follow his
strangest whims. The only thing which it puts beyond his power
is the vote of the tenant, the vote of the tradesman, which it is
our duty to protect. I ought at the same time to say, that there
is one objection to the ballot of a very serious nature, but
which I think may, nevertheless, be obviated. It is quite clear
that, if the ballot shall be adopted, there will be no remedy for
an undue return by a subsequent scrutiny. Unless, therefore, the
registration of votes can be counted on as correct, the ballot
will undoubtedly lead to great inconvenience. It seems,
therefore, that a careful revision of the whole system of
registration, and an improvement of the tribunal before which the
rights of the electors are to be established, should be an
inseparable part of any measure by which the ballot is to be

As to those evils which we have been considering, they are evils
which are practically felt; they are evils which press hard upon
a large portion of the constituent body; and it is not therefore
strange, that the cry for a remedy should be loud and urgent.
But there is another subject respecting which I am told that many
among you are anxious, a subject of a very different description.
I allude to the duration of Parliaments.

It must be admitted that for some years past we have had little
reason to complain of the length of Parliaments. Since the year
1830 we have had five general elections; two occasioned by the
deaths of two Sovereigns, and three by political conjunctures.
As to the present Parliament, I do not think that, whatever
opinion gentlemen may entertain of the conduct of that body, they
will impute its faults to any confidence which the members have
that they are to sit for seven years; for I very much question
whether there be one gentleman in the House of Commons who
thinks, or has ever thought, that his seat is worth three years'
purchase. When, therefore, we discuss this question, we must
remember that we are discussing a question not immediately
pressing. I freely admit, however, that this is no reason for
not fairly considering the subject: for it is the part of wise
men to provide against evils which, though not actually felt, may
be reasonably apprehended. It seems to me that here, as in the
case of the ballot, there are serious considerations to be urged
on both sides. The objections to long Parliaments are perfectly
obvious. The truth is that, in very long Parliaments, you have
no representation at all. The mind of the people goes on
changing; and the Parliament, remaining unchanged, ceases to
reflect the opinion of the constituent bodies. In the old times
before the Revolution, a Parliament might sit during the life of
the monarch. Parliaments were then sometimes of eighteen or
twenty years' duration. Thus the Parliament called by Charles
the Second soon after his return from exile, and elected when the
nation was drunk with hope and convulsed by a hysterical paroxysm
of loyalty, continued to sit long after two-thirds of those who
had heartily welcomed the King back from Holland as heartily
wished him in Holland again. Since the Revolution we have not
felt that evil to the same extent: but it must be admitted that
the term of seven years is too long. There are, however, other
considerations to set off against this. There are two very
serious evils connected with every general election: the first
is, the violent political excitement: the second is, the ruinous
expense. Both these evils were very greatly diminished by the
Reform Act. Formerly these were things which you in Scotland
knew nothing about; but in England the injury to the peace and
morals of society resulting from a general election was
incalculable. During a fifteen days' poll in a town of one
hundred thousand inhabitants, money was flowing in all
directions; the streets were running with beer; all business was
suspended; and there was nothing but disturbance and riot, and
slander, and calumny, and quarrels, which left in the bosoms of
private families heartburnings such as were not extinguished in
the course of many years. By limiting the duration of the poll,
the Reform Act has conferred as great a blessing on the country,
--and that is saying a bold word,--as by any other provision
which it contains. Still it is not to be denied that there are
evils inseparable from that state of political excitement into
which every community is thrown by the preparations for an
election. A still greater evil is the expense. That evil too
has been diminished by the operation of the Reform Act; but it
still exists to a considerable extent. We do not now indeed hear
of such elections as that of Yorkshire in 1807, or that of
Northumberland in 1827. We do not hear of elections that cost
two hundred thousand pounds. But that the tenth part of that
sum, nay, that the hundredth part of that sum should be expended
in a contest, is a great evil. Do not imagine, Gentlemen, that
all this evil falls on the candidates. It is on you that the
evil falls. The effect must necessarily be to limit you in your
choice of able men to serve you. The number of men who can
advance fifty thousand pounds is necessarily much smaller than
the number of men who can advance five thousand pounds; the
number of these again is much smaller than the number of those
who can advance five hundred pounds; and the number of men who
can advance five hundred pounds every three years is necessarily
smaller than the number of those who can advance five hundred
pounds every seven years. Therefore it seems to me that the
question is one of comparison. In long Parliaments the

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