Front Page Titles (by Subject) PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIRST TWO OF THE PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS ON THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA 1858 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXX - Writings on India
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PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIRST TWO OF THE PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS ON THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA 1858 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXX - Writings on India 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXX - Writings on India, ed. John M. Robson, Martin Moir, and Zawahir Moir (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1990).
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PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIRST TWO OF THE PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS ON THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
London: Penny, 1858. No running titles. Unsigned. Not republished. There are no emendations in the Somerville College copy. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “Practical Observations on the first two of the proposed Resolutions on the Government of India,” the second item under the heading: “The following short pamphlets on the India Bills and Resolutions of the Session of 1858 viz:” (MacMinn, 91). For the Resolutions, see “Government of India. Resolutions to be Proposed by Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer in Committee of the Whole House upon the government of India, on Friday, the 30th of April ,” PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 149, Appendix.
Practical Observations on the First Two of the Proposed Resolutions on the Government of India
1. that, as the territories under the government of the East-India Company are by law to remain under such government only until Parliament shall otherwise provide;
from the terms of this resolution it might be supposed that the renewal of the Company’s powers in 1853 was a mere temporary arrangement, and that the phrase “until Parliament should otherwise provide,”1 was the expression of an intention on the part of Parliament to provide otherwise, at some not remote period. But this is not the fact. As is well known, the words were only used to show that the powers of the Company were renewed for an indefinite period, and not, as on former occasions, for a definite period of twenty years.
It is no peculiarity of the East-India Company’s authority, that it exists only until Parliament shall otherwise provide. This is the case with all our institutions; and is no more a reason for abolishing the East-India Company, than for abolishing the courts of justice, or trial by jury.
The first clause of the resolution thus appears to have for its object to excuse the proposed change, by giving to be understood that its expediency was duly considered and affirmed by a former Parliament, though no such consideration or affirmation took place.
this House is of opinion that it is expedient that the transfer of such government to the Crown should now take place,
The transfer of the “government” of India to the Crown is an improper expression. The government of India, like that of all the rest of the empire is already in the Crown. The power of the Crown, when actually exercised, is more absolute in India than in any other part of the British dominions, except perhaps Gibraltar, or some other mere military position without any local institutions.
It is the administration, not the government of India, which is carried on by the East-India Company; and the Company conducts it for and under the Crown. It is the administration of India which it is proposed should be taken from the Company, and made over bodily to a Minister of the Crown; contrary to the whole practice of the Constitution, according to which direct administration by the cabinet is limited to the general affairs of the empire, all local affairs being, wherever possible, administered by some intermediate body, constituted for the purpose, and exclusively devoted to it.
in order that the direct superintendence of the whole empire may be placed under one executive authority.
The superintendence of the empire by the Crown, so far as concerns India, is as direct and complete already, as any change could make it. The proposal is, that the superintendence should cease to be “superintendence,” and should become direct administration. The word superintendence, as used in the Resolution, only serves to shelter the substitution of one idea for another totally distinct from it.
Is it true that the direct administration of all the affairs even of England, is “under one executive authority”? On the contrary, it is shared by a multitude of authorities.
The currency and paper credit of the country are, like all other great national concerns, under the superintendence of the Crown. But they are administered by the Bank of England.
The protection of the navigation of the country, by lighthouses, buoys, etc., is a matter of far too great national importance not to be superintended by the Crown; but it is administered by the corporation of the Trinity House.
The civil and criminal justice of the country is superintended by the Crown, and in part even administered by judges whom the Crown nominates, but whom it cannot remove. Justice however is also administered, not only by the county magistrates, but by independent juries, in whose appointment the Crown has no voice.
The public provision for the poor, and the levy and expenditure of the poor-rates, are superintended by a Commissioner who is one of her Majesty’s Cabinet Ministers; but they are administered by the Boards of Guardians throughout the country, and by the parochial officers, under the orders of the Boards of Guardians.
The railway communication of the country is superintended by her Majesty’s Board of Trade; but it is administered by the Boards of Directors of the various railway companies, under the provisions of their several Acts of Parliament.
Finally, the colonies are superintended by the governors appointed by the Crown; but, with some insignificant exceptions, they are administered by local cabinets virtually chosen by the parliaments of those colonies, and responsible to them, in the same manner as the Cabinet of the British empire is responsible to, and is virtually chosen by, the British Parliament.
So far therefore is the administration of India for and under the Crown by an independent body, from being an exception to the general practice, and an anomaly in the Constitution, that the exception and the anomaly would lie in its being administered in any other manner. There is scarcely a single department of the business of the empire, except the army and navy, in which the authority of the cabinet is not shared and in some degree checked, by some intermediate body. To establish the authority of a Cabinet Minister single and unchecked, over so vast a country as India, will be the introduction of a new practice, dangerous in the extreme to the stability of our free institutions, and subversive of the existing securities for the good government of the empire.
2nd. That for this purpose it is expedient to provide, that her Majesty, by one of her Principal Secretaries of State, shall have and perform all the powers and duties relating to the government of India, which are or may be now exercised and performed by the East-India Company, or by the Court of Directors or Court of Proprietors of the said Company, either alone or with the approbation of the Commissioners for the Affairs of India.
This Resolution asserts two distinct propositions as if they were one and the same. One is that her Majesty, by one of her Secretaries of State, should have all the powers now held by the East-India Company. The other is, that the Secretary of State should perform all the duties now performed by the Company.
The first proposition is nothing new, and requires no new legislation. The President of the Board of Control already has, with a few exceptions, all the powers of the East-India Company. Whatever act the Company can do, he also can do, except, in some cases, to incur expense; and whatever act the Company does, can only be done with his assent, except the recall of a Governor-General.
But, from possessing all the powers of the Company, to performing all its duties, there is a wide interval. The duties of the Company consist in initiating all Indian business, appointing all the highest functionaries in India, and preparing all orders and despatches to India for the approval of the Indian Minister. If Parliament resolves that these duties ought to be performed by the Crown, it resolves that the Minister of the Crown shall have the initiative, in addition to (what he already possesses) the ultimate decision. It resolves that there shall be no intermediate body which shall have any responsible share in the administration of India. It reduces the council which is provided for in the succeeding Resolutions, to a body of mere assessors, who may be consulted or not, as the Indian Minister pleases, and who will, at most, have no power but that of recording an unavailing dissent.
The great and fatal change in the government of India, from a government of constitutional checks to the autocracy of a Minister, will thus be effected by the first two Resolutions. If these pass, whether the remaining twelve are passed or not, will make very little practical difference.
These considerations forcibly suggest the propriety of postponing the first two Resolutions, until the other Resolutions shall have been discussed. The first two pledge the House to transfer the whole duty of administering India to an officer of the Crown. By the other Resolutions, the House will be asked to provide aids, and frame rules, to guide the officer of the Crown in the performance of the duty thus intrusted to him. Would it not be wise in the House to begin by assuring itself that these aids and rules are sufficient, before pledging itself to confide the entire administration of a great portion of the British empire to a single Minister?
The preamble of a Bill is usually the last part voted. In the present case, the first two Resolutions are virtually a preamble; except that if passed they would be binding on the House even if all the other Resolutions were rejected; whereas the preamble of a Bill which does not pass, is never considered binding.
The first Resolution will pledge the House to abolish the present organ of Indian administration, before the House has begun to consider whether it can frame any new organ preferable to the present. The House will have bound itself to destroy the existing structure, before it has been asked to decide what shall be the plan of the new.
The second Resolution will decide that the new scheme of administration shall be the centralization of all functions in one man; before the House has had an opportunity of considering whether by any subsidiary organization, it can be made possible for one man to fulfil all these functions, or safe to intrust them to him.
The postponement therefore of the first two Resolutions, until the House shall have discussed every provision of the new organization proposed by the remaining Resolutions, seems called for by every consideration of good sense and prudence.
[1 ]The first words of Clause 1 of 16 & 17 Victoria, c. 95.