Front Page Titles (by Subject) 84.: East India Revenue 12 AUGUST, 1867 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
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84.: East India Revenue 12 AUGUST, 1867 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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East India Revenue
PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 189, cols. 1382–7. Reported in The Times, 13 August, p. 5, from which variants and responses are taken. In the debate on going into Committee, Ayrton moved as an amendment resolutions on conducting business in India
mr. j. stuart mill said, that as the House, notwithstanding the deprecation of the Minister for India,1 had drifted into a debate on general policy, and as the right honourable Gentleman would be expected next year to bring forward a measure which might effect changes in the machinery of government, he could not help expressing his fear lest some of the changes which had been recommended would make the administration of India worse than it was at present. The use and importance of Councils had, in particular, been undervalued. No doubt it was a most important principle of representation that responsibility should rest as far as possible on one person, and that that person should not be screened by a Board or Council.2 But he apprehended that this principle applied only to one department of the Government—the Executive. Now, the work of Government was twofold; it was executive and deliberative: and in the Indian Government the deliberative was quite as extensive as the executive work, and even more important. As was stated by the honourable Member for Wick, there was no place in the world where so much depended on the personal qualities of the particular officer who was intrusted with power in all the important appointments.3 Upon the person who was at the head of the administration in any one district of India the prosperity of that district, to a very large extent, depended. But it did not follow that you had only to choose the best man, and then leave him to do as he liked. You should not rely solely upon the policy of one man, and that a man who filled office only for a brief period. Before any important act was done in India, there should be a full and complete statement, as far as possible, of the different sides of the question; the pros and cons should be brought forward by different people, and not solely by the particular officer concerned. Especially should this be so in the case of the Governor General. He perfectly agreed in the opinion that those who were entrusted with the chief power in India should not in general be persons who had passed their lives there. India ought to furnish knowledge of detail; but knowledge of principles and general statesmanship should be found more easily and in greater abundance in England, and here it should be sought. But when this officer went out to India, however able he might be, he rarely knew anything of his business. No doubt an able man would learn his business quicker than another man; but meanwhile he must be more or less dependent on the opinion of other people. That opinion, if he had not a well-chosen and sufficiently numerous Council, must be the opinion of the executive officers under him. Such opinions were often very valuable, but those who gave them were under no responsibility for the advice thus given. Now, if there was one thing more than another to which the great success of our Indian administration was due—for notwithstanding many defects it was on the whole a successful administration—it was to the fact that the Government had, to so large an extent, been carried on in writing; that no important act had been done the reasons for which had not been fully stated on paper, so that those at a distance were able to study them, and to decide upon the validity of the arguments by which the responsible officers justified their acts. It was not enough to trust to one despatch from the one officer who was so responsible; there should be a substantial discussion in the place itself, so that if different opinions were held on the subject, all of them should be placed before the functionary who was to decide in the last resort. It was this necessity which justified not only the existence of Councils, but of numerous Councils. He did not agree with his honourable and learned Friend (Mr. Ayrton) that the Government of Bengal had been a Government of inefficient, superannuated people.4 He did not wish to say anything of Sir Cecil Beadon,5 whose conduct had been so much canvassed of late, because he did not know much of that gentleman; but those who preceded him were, first, Mr. Halliday, and then Sir J.P. Grant,6 and two more efficient, enlightened administrators than those gentlemen were, it would be difficult to find in any service. Like all the great officers in India, these men were over-worked; and this was the great excuse for their shortcomings. The Governor of Bengal had never had the benefit of a Council. He (Mr. Stuart Mill) thought it was desirable that he should have one. If that Governor had had the benefit of an efficient Council, perhaps that great calamity which had lately occurred in a particular district of India would have been averted.7 One reason the more for a Council in Bengal would be supplied if it were determined that a member of the Civil Service should not be at the head of this Government, and that Bengal should be put on the same footing in this respect as Bombay and Madras. In that case it would be all the more necessary that the Governor should have some members of the Civil Service to assist him. He believed that such a Council would have been created in Bengal if it had not been for the expense. It was from motives of economy that a Council had not hitherto been appointed. As the Governor General and his Council were nearer to the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal than to the Governments of Bombay and Madras, it was thought that in Bengal a local Council could be dispensed with. But he was afraid that this would be found, and had, indeed, been found, a mistake. In appointing to the great office of Governor General or Viceroy, it might be said with truth that every Government had, as a general rule, chosen one of the best of themselves—a man who might aspire to a high or even to the highest office in this country. In that respect there had been no failure of duty, though mistakes had now and then been made. But his experience did not tell him that the same care and conscientiousness had been shown in England in choosing men to be the Governors of the minor Presidencies.8 He had known stupid men, careless, frivolous men, idle men, appointed to both the minor Presidencies (hear)—men so little fitted for the business of government that if it had not been for their Councils he did not know how the government of those Presidencies would have gone on. (Hear, hear.) It seemed to him, therefore, that if instead of a Lieutenant Governor there was to be a Governor of Bengal and a Governor of the North-Western Provinces, it was more important than ever that each of them should have a Council. One word now as to the Council of India in this country. The difficulty raised by the noble Lord opposite was real, and required serious consideration.9 On the one hand, it was of the highest importance to have a Council which should be a check upon the Secretary of State in matters of expense. On the other hand, it was true, as the noble Lord said, that the Secretary of State was in some degree compelled to bear a responsibility which might not be his own. How this difficulty should be overcome—if it could be overcome—was a matter well deserving the consideration of the House. But with regard to the necessity of a Council, and even of a numerous Council, not only to prevent the waste of the money of India, but also for the purpose of enlightening the Secretary of State on the general affairs of India, it appeared to him (Mr. Stuart Mill) to be clearer than many honourable Gentlemen seemed to think. He believed that many persons looked at it as if the question was, whether the Secretary of State should prevail or the Council, overlooking the fact that the Council would most probably not be all of one mind. The great advantage of a Council was that it represented many minds, that it embodied many of the opinions existing among public men. This was the case in the Court of Directors of the East India Company. They comprised permanent settlement men, village settlement men, and Ryotwar men: and again, in judicial matters, men who were for the regulation system, men who were for the non-regulation system, and men who were for the Native system. Indeed, every variety of Indian policy was there represented. There was no leading variety of Indian policy, the reasons for and against which were not certain to be stated very strongly by persons who had studied the subject, and were capable of urging the best arguments in favour of the views they advocated. It was surely an advantage to the Secretary of State, who could seldom know much about India when he took office for the first time, to obtain on the best authority that various knowledge which the great diversities of people and civilization rendered necessary. When he (Mr. Stuart Mill) was concerned, in a subordinate capacity, in the administration of India, he found that those who were at the centre of government in England really knew India, as a whole, better than those who were in India. Gentlemen knew their own Presidencies, and those who were concerned in the administration of one had more or less of prejudice against the system which prevailed in another. Those who were resident in Bengal knew less of Madras and Bombay, and vice versâ, than those who had access to the records of all the Presidencies and were accustomed to deliberate upon and discuss them, and to write about them; and so with regard to each of the Presidencies. He believed that a alarger view of Indian affairs, less coloured by imperfect information and prejudice,a would be found in a Council than in any one of the local Governments, or even in the Governor General, if he were not acting with a Central Board. He thought that no Secretary of State who was aware of the imperfection of his own knowledge when he entered office, would wish to deprive himself of the advantage which he was likely to derive from an experienced Council. It was, however, another question whether the members of that Council should hold their office for life. It would be better, in his opinion, that they should give up office at intervals; but, nevertheless, he thought that they should be eligible for re-election; bnot in order that they might habitually be re-elected, but in order that, by the votes of the other members and the Secretary of State, the department might still retain the services ofb any member who was still in the vigour of his intellect and capable of rendering good service to the country. Those were the observations he was desirous of making.
[Shortly after Mill’s speech, the amendment was withdrawn.]
[1 ]Stafford Northcote, col. 1358.
[2 ]For the image, see Jeremy Bentham, Letters to Lord Grenville (1807), in Works, ed. John Bowring, 11 vols. (Edinburgh: Tait, 1838–43), Vol. V, p. 17.
[3 ]Samuel Laing, col. 1370.
[4 ]Ayrton, cols. 1349–50.
[5 ]Cecil Beadon (1816–81), Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal 1862–67.
[6 ]Frederick James Halliday (1806–91), Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal 1854–59, and his successor 1859–62, John Peter Grant (1807–93).
[7 ]The Orissa famine of 1866, in which one-quarter of the population perished. Beadon’s failure to take decisive action led to the questioning of his competence. Writing to John Plummer on 15 August, Mill referred to the present speech, but said he had not taken part in the debate on Orissa (2 August) because he thought it “a good rule not to speak where there are other people capable and desirous of saying what one wishes should be said” (CW, Vol. XVI, p. 1307).
[8 ]I.e., those of Bombay and Madras.
[9 ]Robert Cecil, Lord Cranborne, cols. 1380–2.
[a-a]TT] PD much more unprejudiced view of Indian affairs
[b-b]TT] PD and therefore power should be given to the Council to re-elect and to the Crown to re-appoint