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lishman and a Whig calls such an event the very best ?—the very best event, I say, that I can anticipate is that out of the confusion a strong military despotism may arise, and that the sword, firmly grasped by some rough hand, may give a sort of protection to the miserable wreck of all that immense prosperity and glory. But, as to the noble institutions under which our country has made such progress in liberty, in wealth, in knowledge, in arts, do not deceive yourselves into the belief that we should ever see them again. We should never see them again. We should not deserve to see them. All those nations which envy our greatness would insult our downfall, a downfall which would be all our own work; and the history of our calamities would be told thus: England had institutions which, though imperfect, yet contained within themselves the means of remedying every imperfection; those institutions her legislators wantonly and madly threw away; nor could they urge in their excuse even the wretched plea that they were deceived by false promises : for, in the very petition with the prayer of which they were weak enough to comply, they were told, in the plainest terms, that public ruin would be the effect of their compliance.
Thinking thus, Sir, I will oppose, with every faculty which God has given me, every motion which directly or indirectly tends to the granting of universal suffrage. This motion, I think, tends that way. If any gentleman here is prepared to vote for universal suffrage with a full view of all the consequences of universal suffrage as they are set forth in this petition, he acts with perfect consistency in voting for this motion. But, I must say, I heard with some surprise the honorable Baronet the Member for Leicester * say that, though he utterly disapproves of the petition, though he thinks of it just as I do, he wishes the petitioners to be heard at the bar in explanation of their opinions. I conceive that their opinions are quite sufficiently explained already; and to such opinions I am not disposed to pay any extraordinary mark of respect. I shall give a clear and conscientious vote against the motion of the honorable Member for Finsbury; and I conceive that the petitioners will have much less reason to complain of my open hostility, than of the conduct of the honorable Member, who tries to propitiate them by consenting to hear their oratory, but has fully made up his mind not to comply with their demands.
* Sir John Easthope.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON THE 9TH OF March, 1843.
On the ninth of March, 1843, Mr. Vernon Smith, Member for Northampton, made the following motion :
“That this House, having regard to the high and important functions of the Governor General of India, the mixed character of the native population, and the recent measures of the Court of Directors for discontinuing any seeming sanction to idolatry in India, is of opinion that the conduct of Lord Ellenborough in issuing the General Orders of the sixteenth of November, 1842, and in addressing the letter of the same date to all the chiefs, princes, and people of India, respecting the restoration of the gates of a temple to Somnauth, is unwise, indecorous, and reprehensible." Mr. Emerson Tennant, Secretary of the Board of Control, opposed the motion. In reply to him the following Speech was made.
The motion was rejected by 242 votes to 157.
If the practice of the honorable gentleman, the Secretary of the Board of Control, had been in accordance with his precepts, if he had not, after exhorting us to confine ourselves strictly to the subject before us, rambled far from that subject, I should have refrained from all digression. For in truth there is abundance to be said touching both the substance and the style of this Proclamation. I cannot, however, leave the honorable gentleman's peroration entirely unnoticed. But I assure him that I do not mean to wander from the question before us to any great distance or for any long time.
I cannot but wonder, Sir, that he who has, on this, as on former occasions, exhibited so much ability and acuteness,
ion in the the Member for No complaint,
should have gravely represented it as a ground of complaint, that my right honorable friend the Member for Northampton has made this motion in the Governor General's absence. Does the honorable gentleman mean that this House is to be interdicted from ever considering in what manner Her Majesty's Asiatic subjects, a hundred millions in number, are governed? And how can we consider how they are governed without considering the conduct of him who is governing them ? And how can we consider the conduct of him who is governing them, except in his absence? For my own part, I can say for myself, and I may, I doubt not, say for my right honorable friend the Member for Northampton, that we both of us wish, with all our hearts and souls, that we were discussing this question in the presence of Lord Ellenborough. Would to heaven, Sir, for the sake of the credit of England, and of the interests of India, that the noble lord were at this moment under our gallery! But, Sir; if there be any Governor who has no right to complain of remarks made on him in his absence, it is that Governor who, forgetting all official decorum, forgetting how important it is that, while the individuals who serve the State are changed, the State should preserve its identity, inserted in a public proclamation reflections on his predecessor, a predecessor of whom, on the present occasion, I will only say that his conduct had deserved a very different return. I am confident that no enemy of Lord Auckland, if Lord Auckland has an enemy in the House, will deny that, whatever faults he may have committed, he was faultless with respect to Lord Ellenborough. No brother could have laboured more assiduously for the interests and the honor of a brother than Lord Auckland laboured to facilitate Lord Ellenborough’s arduous task, to prepare for Lord Ellenborough the means of obtaining success and glory? And what was the requital ? A proclamation by Lord Ellenborough, stigmatizing the conduct of Lord Auckland. And, Sir, since the honorable gentleman, the Secretary of the Board of Control, has thought fit to divert the debate from its proper course, I will venture to request that he, or the honorable director who sits behind him*, will vouchsafe to give us some explanations on an important point to which allusion has been made. Lord Ellenborough has been accused of having publicly announced that our troops were about to evacuate Afghanistan before he had ascertained that our captive countrymen and country
* Sir James Hogg.
that reason was it ant of October, and an Proclamation was
women had been restored to liberty. This accusation, which is certainly a serious one, the honorable gentleman, the Secretary of the Board of Control, pronounces to be a mere. calumny. Now, Sir, the proclamation which announces the withdrawing of the troops bears date the first of October, 1842. What I wish to know is, whether any member of the Government, or of the Court of Directors, will venture to affirm that on the first of October, 1842, the Governor General knew that the prisoners had been set at liberty ? I believe that no member either of the Government or of the Court of Directors will venture to affirm any such thing. It seems certain that on the first of October the Governor General could not know that the prisoners were safe. Nevertheless, the honorable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control assures us that, when the proclamation was drawn up, the Governor General did know that the prisoners were safe. What is the inevitable consequence? It is this, that the date is a false date, that the proclamation was written after the first of October, and antedated. And for what reason was it antedated ? I am almost ashamed to tell the House what I believe to have been the reason. I believe that Lord Ellenborough affixed the false date of the first of October to his proclamation because Lord Auckland's manifesto against Afghanistan was dated on the first of October. I believe that Lord Ellenborough wished to make the contrast between his own success and his predecessor's failure more striking, and that for the sake of this paltry, this childish, triumph, he antedated his proclamation, and made it appear to all Europe and all Asia that the English Government was indifferent to the fate of Englishmen and Englishwomen who were in a miserable captivity. If this be so, and I shall be surprised to hear any person deny that it is so, I must say that by this single act, by writing those words, the first of October, the Governor General proved himself to be a man of an ill regulated mind, a man unfit for high public trust.
I might, Sir, if I chose to follow the example of the honorable gentleman, the Secretary of the Board of Control, advert to many other matters. I might call the attention of the House to the systematic manner in which the Governor General has exerted himself to lower the character and to break the spirit of that civil service on the respectability and efficiency of which chiefly depends the happiness of a hundred millions of human beings. I might say much about the financial committee which he appointed in the hope of finding out blunders of his predecessor, but which at last found out no blunders except his own. But the question before us demands our attention. That question has two sides, a serious and a ludicrous side. Let us look first at the serious side. Sir, I disclaim in the strongest manner all intention of raising any fanatical outcry or of lending aid to any fanatical project. I would very much rather be the victim of fanaticism than its tool. If Lord Ellenborough were called in question for having given an impartial protection to the professors of different religions, or for restraining unjustifiable excesses into which Christian missionaries might have been hurried by their zeal, I would, widely as I have always differed from him in politics, have stood up in his defence, though I had stood up alone. But the charge against Lord Ellenborough is that he has insulted the religion of his own country and the religion of millions of the Queen's Asiatic subjects in order to pay honor to an idol. And this the right honorable gentleman, the Secretary of the Board of Control, calls a trivial charge. Sir, I think it a very grave charge. Her Majesty is the ruler of a larger heathen population than the world ever saw collected under the sceptre of a Christian sovereign since the days of the Emperor Theodosius. What the conduct of rulers in such circumstances ought to be is one of the most important moral questions, one of the most important political questions, that it is possible to conceive. There are subject to the British rule in Asia a hundred millions of people who do not profess the Christian faith.
The Mahometans are a minority : but their importance is much more than proportioned to their number: for they are an united, a zealous, an ambitious, a warlike class. The great majority of the population of India consists of idolaters, blindly attached to doctrines and rites which, considered merely with reference to the temporal interests of mankind, are in the highest degree pernicious. In no part of the world has a religion ever existed more unfavourable to the moral and intellectual health of our race. The Brahminical mythology is so absurd that it necessarily debases every mind which receives it as truth; and with this absurd mythology is bound up an absurd system of physics, an absurd geography, an absurd astronomy. Nor is this form of Paganism more favourable to art than to science. Through the whole Hindoo Pantheon you will look in vain for anything resembling those beautiful and majestic forms which stood in the