페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XII

ADMINISTRATION

The Company's Charter, renewed in 1834, was to expire in 1854. A fresh renewal was contemplated, and the usual inquiries into the past administration of the Company were instituted by Select Committees of both Houses of Parliament. The evidence taken by the Select Committees, and published in the shape of Blue Books, are the most valuable materials for the history of India during the early years of Queen Victoria's reign.

A Select Committee of the House of Lords sat in 1852; examined Cosmo Melvill, Sir George Clerk, John Stuart Mill, and other important witnesses; and submitted their Report in June 1852. And a Select Committee of the Lords sat again in 1852–53; and submitted three Reports in August 1853. Among the witnesses examined by this Committee were Lord Hardinge, Lord Gough, Sir Charles Napier, Sir Edward Ryan, Sir Erskine Perry, Sir Charles Trevelyan, Frederick Halliday, George Campbell, Alexander Duff, John Marshman, and Horace Hayman Wilson-names well known in India.

Similarly, a Select Committee of the House of Commons, consisting of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord John Russell, Sir Charles Wood, Cobden, Gladstone, and other Members sat in 1852. They examined Lord Elphinstone, Lord Ellenborough, Lord Hardinge, Sir George Clerk, Cosmo Melvill, Henry Thoby Prinsep, and other witnesses; and submitted their Report in June 1852. And a Select Committee of the Commons, consisting of the Members named above and other Members like Macaulay, Lord Stanley, and Lord Palmerston, sat during the Session of 1852–53. They examined Sir George Clerk, Sir Edward Ryan, Sir Erskine Perry, Sir Charles Trevelyan, Frederick Halliday, Hay Cameron, Merttins Bird, Dr. Royle, John Sullivan, John Marshman, and other witnesses; and submitted six Reports between May and August 1853.

We do not propose to give within the limits of the present chapter anything like a summary of this evidence, submitted with eleven Reports, and covering four thousand folio printed pages. All that it is possible for us to do is to place before the reader the views and opinions of some of the most eminent men of the day on some of the most important questions of their time. There is a distinct advantage in reviewing the Indian administration of the early Victorian Age by help of the opinions of those who took a share in that administration. We not only clearly understand the system which was followed, but we also see how the system worked. We not only learn the rules which guided the administrators, but we also get a living picture of the administration itself, from the very men who spent twenty or thirty or forty years of their lives in carrying on the work, amidst the vast population of the Indian Empire.

DOUBLE GOVERNMENT. The India Act of 1834, following Pitt's India Act of 1784, organised a double government for India. The powers of administration were left with the twenty-four Directors of the East India Company; the powers of control were placed in the hands of a Board of Control consisting of men appointed by the Crown. The Company ceased to be traders, and stood forth simply as administrators in India from 1834. And it was declared that all the powers of the Directors of the Company should be subject to the control of the Board, except in respect of the appointment of servants and officers

specified in the Act. The Court of Directors originated everything; the Board of Control controlled everything. For convenience of work, the twenty-four Directors divided themselves into three Committees, viz. the Committee of Finance, the Committee of Political and Military Affairs, and the Committee of Revenue and Judicial matters.

. There was, however, one important subject in which the Court of Directors had no power of initiative. The Board of Control made peace or war without consulting the Directors, acting through a Secret Committee of the East India Company. “All proceedings of a great political nature, involving peace and war, may be said to be under the immediate direction of the Minister of the Crown, acting in communication with the chief authority in India through the Secret Committee of the East India Company, which so far acts entirely independently of the Directors of the East India Company."2

• It thus happened that India was often involved in war through the action of the President of the Board of Control-a Member of the British Cabinet—without the knowledge of the Court of Directors. If the Court of Directors had any power in the matter, Lord Auckland's Afghan War, “which ended in the loss of 15,000 men, and an expenditure of many millions of money, might have been prevented.” “The Court of Directors have no knowledge whatever of the origin, progress, or the present state of the war in Burma. I have twice asked for the papers, and I have been given to understand that it was not thought desirable to communicate them to the Court.” 3 . It is scarcely necessary to point out that, by this unsatisfactory arrangement, Imperialist British Ministers like Lord Palmerston could, and did, involve India in expeditions and wars for the Imperial interests of England; and the Court of Directors had to find money for such wars undertaken without their consent or knowledge. The Court of Directors have many sins to answer for; and they hastened their own end by the annexations of Indian States effected by an untrue interpretation of the ancient law of India. But it should be said in justice to that body that for the worst Indian wars of the early Victorian Age—the wars in Afghanistan, in Sindh, and in Burma—the Court of Directors are not answerable.

1 Cosmo Melvill's Evidence, Commons' Report of 1852.

? Evidence of Col. Sykes, himself a Director of the East India Com. pany, Commons' Report of 1852.

• Sir T. H. Maddock's Evidence, Commons' Report of 1852.

Leaving aside this undoubted defect in the constitution of the Government, the double system answered well enough in practice. It kept the Directors of the Company under a necessary control, and it avoided the evil of vesting Crown Ministers with irresponsible and despotic powers. The wisest and ablest GovernorGeneral of the period declared that “the system of double government is much wiser than bringing the Crown more prominently forward.”1 And the most thoughtful and far-seeing English philosopher of the nineteenth century approved of the system. John Stuart Mill had been for thirty years an Assistant Examiner of Indian Correspondence, from 1823 to 1852, and he therefore spoke with authority on the system under which he had worked.

JOHN STUART MILL'S EVIDENCE. “It is next to impossible to form in one country an organ of government for another which shall have a strong interest in good government; but if that cannot be done, the next best thing is, to form a body with the least possible interest in bad government; and I conceive that the present governing bodies in this country for the affairs of India have as little sinister interest of any kind as any government in the world.”

? Lord Hardinge’s Evidence, Commons' Report of 1852.

“ The Court of Directors who are the initiating body, not being the body which finally decides, not being able to act but by the concurrence of a second authority, and having no means of causing their opinion to be adopted by that authority except the strength of their reasons, there is much greater probability that a body so situated will examine and weigh carefully the grounds of all proceedings, than if the same body which had the initiative gave the final order."

To carry on the Government of India solely through a Secretary of State “would be the most complete despotism that could possibly exist in a country like this ; because there would be no provision for any discussion or deliberation, except that which might take place between the Secretary of State and his subordinates in office, whose advice and opinion he would not be bound to listen to; and who, even if he were, would not be responsible for the advice or opinion that they might give.”

Fifty years have passed since John Stuart Mill gave this opinion, and our experience of these fifty years proves the foresight and wisdom of the great philosopher. The administration of India has certainly improved in many respects, within these fifty years, owing to larger experience; but there can be little doubt that the irresponsible government of the Secretary of State has also been attended with many hurtful results. There is no real control over the Secretary of State's action, similar to that which was exercised on the Court of Directors by the Board of Control; no periodical inquiries are made into the present administration, as inquiries were made into the Company's administration at every renewal of their Charter; and no jealous and salutary criticism, like that to which the Company was subject, restrains and corrects the action of the present Indian Government. And the results of this irrespon

1 John Stuart Mill's Evidence, Lords' Report of 1852.

« 이전계속 »