Front Page Titles (by Subject) 404.: THE INDIA BILL, I MORNING CHRONICLE, 5 JULY, 1853, P. 5 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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404.: THE INDIA BILL, I MORNING CHRONICLE, 5 JULY, 1853, P. 5 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE INDIA BILL, I
The 1833 renewal of the charter of the East India Company, 3 & 4 William IV, c. 85, was due to expire in 1854. On 30 June, after four nights of debate in the Commons, the second reading was approved of “A Bill to Provide for the Government of India,” 16 Victoria (9 June, 1853), PP, 1852-53, III, 181-96 (enacted as 16 & 17 Victoria, c. 95). (For the debate see PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 128, cols. 605-74, 734-78, 814-903, and 977-1074.) The proposals had been introduced on 3 June by Sir Charles Wood, then President of the Board of Control in the Aberdeen administration (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 127, cols. 1092-1169). In his nearly five-hour-long speech Wood (see especially cols. 1147-50) had frequently cited opinions of Mill’s that resemble those here expressed. For further discussion, see No. 405. The article, headed as title (but without the “I”), with the subtitle, “[From a Correspondent],” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘The India Bill—from a Correspondent’ in the Morning Chronicle of 5th July 1853”
(MacMinn, p. 79).
according to the parliamentary maxim that the second reading of a Bill implies the adoption of its principle, the assent of the House of Commons to the second reading of the India Bill has decided the continuance, in some form, of what is called the double government.1 So far as depends on the House of Commons, the government of a hundred millions of people, who, in almost every point of character and social condition, are unlike and opposed to Europeans, will not be given up to the sole administration of a Secretary of State, having no acquaintance but with European ideas, no experience but of European life, and who is both selected at first, and changed every two or three years, according to the exigencies, not of India, but of English party politics. A voice in the government, and even the decisive voice, must necessarily reside in the Minister; but, unless by the rarest accident, no Minister possesses, when he comes into office, a particle of the special knowledge without which he is unfit to carry on the administration of Indian affairs, and which it is the business of many years to acquire. There is, then, no safety but in associating with the Indian Minister a Board or Council possessing this special knowledge, and sufficiently independent of him to command his deference, and, when necessary, to resist his will.
At present, the Court of Directors is such a council, and that it shall continue to exist is the first point which the vote of the House of Commons has decided. The second is, that in maintaining its existence an attempt shall be made to improve its composition. The maintenance of the Court of Directors, and its improvement, are the leading objects of the Bill. To both, the House has now in principle assented. In what the improvement shall consist, and by what means it may be effected, remains to be considered in committee.
When two powers are required to act together, either for joint deliberation or mutual check, whatever else may be requisite, this at least is essential—that one of the two authorities shall not be appointed by the other. If it is, there are not two powers, but only one. Yet, by the present Bill, the Crown—that is, the Indian Minister—has the appointment of one-third of the co-ordinate body.2 This provision is no less inconsistent with the principle of the Bill than with Sir Charles Wood’s declared opinions, and can be defended on no principle.3 It does not go far enough, if the intention is that the Court of Directors should be simply an instrument of the Indian Minister. It goes too far, if they are intended as a check and restraint upon him. If only an instrument, all authorities should have the choice of their own instruments; the Minister should nominate, not six—not a mere fraction—but the whole eighteen or twenty-four. But if the Court of Directors are to remain, as they have hitherto been, a power in the Indian government, having an opinion and a will of their own, which the Minister may overrule, but cannot pass by—without whose initiative he cannot act, to whose reasons he is compelled to listen, and, if he does not adopt, is bound to answer and confute them—then neither the whole nor any part of the body which is to be a check to his power, ought to hold their offices by his appointment. It would not be borne that the House of Lords should appoint a third of the House of Commons. There are many bad modes of selecting a jury, but the worst of all would be that it should be nominated by the judge; yet the judge would be the fittest person to select the jury, if any man could be allowed to select those who are to check himself. In judicial matters, Englishmen so feel the necessity of a check, and so prize entire independence as the condition of its efficacy, that to make sure of it they place even the ignorance of the jury as a check upon the knowledge of the judge; but this Bill proposes that a Minister should appoint those whose knowledge is to be a check on his ignorance.
It is not Sir C. Wood, nor the Government, that need to be reminded how considerable a check, limited as their power is, the Court of Directors have hitherto been. The body who recalled Lord Ellenborough,4 who recorded an indignant condemnation of the greatest iniquity in modern Indian history—the seizure of Scinde (the joint act of their two bitterest enemies, Lord Ellenborough and Sir Charles Napier)—who were willing to go to prison rather than sign the spoliation of Oude for the benefit of a set of grasping money-lenders, and by their resistance compelled the Cabinet to investigate the case, and to retract the honestly-intended but ill-considered mandate of the then President of the Board of Control, Lord Glenelg5 —such a body is a power which no Indian Minister can despise, and whose remonstrances, in any important case, he must think twice before he disregards. These are the glorious pages in the recent history of the Court of Directors; and if actual collisions have not been frequent—if, like other checking bodies, the Directors sacrifice much to keep on harmonious terms with the stronger authority—there is the more reason against adding so great a weight to the side of obsequiousness and subservience as would probably divest the body altogether of the character of a check, and convert it into a screen.
There is no need to go further than Sir C. Wood’s speech, and his correspondence with the Directors, to find the principles which condemn the nomination clause. To the Directors he says, “We are most anxious to preserve the independence of that body, and its freedom from all undue political influence, on which we believe that its efficiency for executing the high trust reposed in it so essentially depends.”6 To the House of Commons he said that it had been suggested that the six Directors should be appointed by their colleagues, but that this was objectionable, because, thus appointed, they would be dependent on those who appointed them.7Mutato nomine de te8 —it is proposed that they be appointed by the Minister; is it intended, therefore, that they should be dependent on the Minister? What becomes, then, of the “anxiety to preserve their independence”? How explain this inconsistency between the words of the President of the Board of Control and his acts? Is it that the words express his own opinion—the acts, what he thinks the necessities of his position? There was a clamour without, which seemed formidable, and to which it was thought necessary to make concessions. It was not very obvious what was to be done—therefore what is condemned in principle is adopted in detail, by way of doing something. But it is better to make no change than a change decidedly for the worse. It were better to leave the Court of Directors as it is, than to make a change in its constitution unfitting it for its most important function.
The difficulty of framing a constitution for the Court of Directors is great and serious, and lies in the very nature of things. There is no unexceptionable organ of choice. Nomination could only be by the Minister, or his majority in Parliament; and there are no good materials for a constituency. It is impossible to find any body of electors in England whose interest is identified with the good government of India. The present electors, slightly as they are connected in personal interest with India are as much so as any other constituency which could be framed. Yet many modes of extending the franchise have been suggested, which would be admissible in principle, and might possibly be beneficial in practice. The present electors are a particular class of Indian fundholders;9 all other holders of Indian debt might be included. All who have served a certain length of time in India, and returned to England, might be added to the constituency. The suffrage might even be extended to all who have lived in India some given number of years. In any case, the choice ought to rest with persons likely to be more or less acquainted with the public repute of candidates who have served in India; and the more numerous body would be less accessible to the corrupt influences which have been so ludicrously exaggerated in speeches and pamphlets, but which, if they were twenty times greater than they are, would be worth no more, as an argument for the changes proposed, than the bribery at Parliamentary elections is worth as an argument for abolishing popular representation, and giving to the Crown the nomination of the House of Commons.
The only practical defect alleged in the present composition of the Court of Directors is, that it does not contain a sufficient number of experienced Indian functionaries; and for this reason, it is to be presumed, the nominees of the Crown are to be selected from Indians exclusively.10 It will surprise most people to be told that the real tendency of the present constitution of the Court is to make the Indian services engross it entirely. Before the last Charter, the Company was a commercial body, and naturally included among its Directors many commercial men. When its mercantile character ceased, this ceased also. Of the thirty present Directors, seventeen have been elected since 1834; and of these, all but two had served the Company many years, either in India, in China, or in the naval service—several of them being, by universal admission, among the most eminent of the public officers of their time—while no Indian of eminence who has offered himself, and has chosen to persevere, has failed to be elected. But, it is said, many have been deterred from offering themselves by the “degradation” of the canvass.11 It is a new doctrine in England that canvassing is a degradation, especially from members of the House of Commons. Will they vote for prohibiting it at elections, as the Bill proposes that it should be prohibited at the India House?12 We may take for granted that what men of such a nice sense of honour as members of Parliament claim to be, find not too insupportable to be gone through once in every few years, cannot be too shocking for the susceptibilities of men who aim at a seat in the direction. The labour and expense of the canvass (though not its degradation) do, we believe, deter some of the fittest men from the one contest as from the other; and we therefore heartily wish success (though with no confident hope) to the attempt made by the Bill to prevent canvassing altogether. If this succeeds, the evil complained of is at an end, and needs no further remedy. But if it be indeed necessary to reserve a certain number of seats for men too diffident, or too dignified, or too little desirous of the office, to stand a popular election, it would be far better that those seats should be filled by the choice of the other Directors, who have a stronger interest than anyone else in whatever sheds lustre on their body. Yet appointment even by the Directors, subject to the veto of the Minister, would be objectionable, being likely in practice to become, as the appointment of the Governor-General now is, appointment by the Minister.13
[1 ]I.e., by the Board of Control (representing the British Government) and the Court of Directors (representing the East India Company).
[2 ]See Sects. 2, 3, 5.
[3 ]See nn6 and 7.
[4 ]Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough, Governor-General of India (1841-44), was recalled because of his high-handed policies, particularly in the annexation in 1842 of Scinde, by an army under the command of Charles Napier.
[5 ]Charles Grant, the younger (1778-1866), Baron Glenelg, was President of the Board of Control, 1830-34, when the charter of the East India Co. was altered by 3 & 4 William IV, c. 85, to vest the Company’s property in the Crown. In 1832, the Board had obtained a mandamus from the Court of King’s Bench to compel the Directors’ compliance in issuing a despatch pressuring the Government of Oude to reimburse a group of bankers. The Board did not persist in the face of the Directors’ continued opposition. For the claims on the King of Oude, see “Copy of the Correspondence between the Commissioners for the Affairs of India and the Court of Directors of the East India Company,” PP, 1834, XLIV, 101-40.
[6 ]Wood, Letter to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the East India Company (1 June, 1853), PP, 1852-53, LXIX, 84.
[7 ]Wood, speech of 3 June, cols. 1153-4.
[8 ]Horace, Satires, I, i, 69; in Satires, Epistles, Ars poetica, p. 8.
[9 ]The Directors were elected by those members of the Court of Proprietors (shareholders) who had held at least £1000 of stock for a year.
[10 ]Sect. 5 called for service of the Crown or the Company in India for ten years. (“Indian” refers to residence, not ethnicity.)
[11 ]Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (1820-94), M.P. for Berwick-on-Tweed, Speech on the Government of India Bill (30 June, 1853), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 128, col. 1000.
[12 ]By Sect. 13.
[13 ]By the effect of Sects. 58 and 60 of 3 & 4 William IV, c. 85 (1833).