26 MARCH 1853, Page 10


THE public discussion of the affairs of India, which is so earnestly claimed by the Indians themselves, and has been so anxiously de- precated by certain officials in London, has assumed an im- portant and positive character, not tending to obstruct but to inform and strengthen Ministers. The formation of an Indian Reform Society in London originating among independent Mem- bers of Parliament on the Liberal side, and comprising thirty of them in its number, (though it has yet somewhat of an ex- clusive if not personal look about it)—the commencement of meetings amongst the commercial body, like that at Manchester- -the activity in the writing world, and the busy ferment of conver- sation—may convince Ministers that they have really had an escape in not having brought forward an Indian plan of a crude and imperfect kind. Evidently, they had no adequate idea that the public could be so readily informed and aroused upon the main and most pressing incidents of the question ; and they have made the discovery just in time to avoid the chance of a very- damaging position. That they have not concealed their willing- ness to reconsider the proposal which they had in view, is creditable to their sense of practical necessities. They must legislate this year ; the continuation of the Government for India must be se- cured before Parliament break up ; and upon that one subject of the Department in London they must concentrate their attention, so as to arrive at an arrangement by the proper time, and to satisfy the 'public that it will secure the means and opportunity for future legislation and improvement.

Roughly as it has been obliged to judge, and on very imperfect data, the public has made up its mind against the system of double government—against the division of authority between Cannon Row and Leadenhall Street. The arrangement which throws the apparent responsibility on a body of twenty-four persons elected by holders of " stock," while the power resides in an anomalous Com- mittee of the Privy Council, is against a priori reason; and in prac- tical operation it has not been justified by successful working. The attempts that have been made to bolster up " the Company," and to thwart even the discussion of its non-continuance, have only served to stimulate the opinion against it. It is now remembered, rather late in the day, but with extreme vividness of apprehension, that this "Company," which claims to be continued as an immortal authority, was actually abolished twenty years ago ; that it 'has for all practical purposes of the original Company, little more existence than the wreck of the South Sea establishment; and that the ruins of the Company that are kept up merely as a screen to hide behind them the official building which has been badly constructed by favour of that concealment. The Government of India works ill, not for want of information or ability, both of which exist, but for want of responsibility. Nobody is bound to govern India well. The man who has the power, so far as legal authority concentrates

itself in his hand, the President of the Board of Control, is de-

feated because he is obliged to work with instruments that ob- struct him—his subordinates in his own irresponsible department, and the East India Direction. The chief object of the latter is self-preservation ; and their administration is conducted with a view to the most profitable " exploitation' of patronage for the Directors and their friends, and for the protection of their system from external encroachment; the interests of the empire, still more the interests of India and all its peoples, being sub- servient to that personal object. Such is a conclusion from the facts, even if English opinion were not dead against irresponsible government whenever it is fairly recognized. Besides India, we can remember no other instance of irresponsible government sur- viving in the British empire, except perhaps the mahogany set- tlement of Honduras or some naval station. And now that the English public is fairly alive to the fact the continuance of irre- sponsibility in the Indian administration has become impossible. Oh ! cry the advocates of the Directory, you cannot abolish the instrument for distributing patronage, unless you hand that patron- age over to the Ministers of the day, with a dangerous power of

political purchase in it. This objection belongs to the -usual class of " difficulties "—things to be overcome. It is a lion in the path,

that proves to be a harmless bush when you come close to it. India is not to be misgoverned in the name of Sir James Weir Hogg and twenty-three other gentlemen not of first-rate standing, because there is a fear that Ministers may grow corrupt in the en- joyment of that patronage which Sir James and his friends enjoy. Already suggestions are abroad sufficient to show that the obstacle will not foil invention. The principle of throwing the Indian ser- vice open to " concours," under the diploma or certificate to be given on examination of candidates by some independent public body—a collegiate corporation or a special board—and then leav- ing the responsibility to the Minister of the Crown, is an obvious expedient, which would be far better than the present plan of making the Indian service an appanage for the connexions of any persons who may hold Indian stook. For public opinion is rapidly consolidating itself on another point—that it would be better to govern India in the name of the Crown, by a Minister sitting in Parliament and responsible to Parliament. If " responsiblegovernment" would be premature in India itself, open responsibility to the British Parliament is the least that is due. And there is a general belief among well- informed people of independent judgment, that the name of the Queen would not be less impressive on her Majesty's Indian subjects than that of "John Company." If Ministers, in the time which they have allowed themselves, can prepare a bill that will command the concurrence of Parlia- ment as satisfactorily placing these matters on the right footing, and constructing a Government in London competent to carry out the series of reforms under the other seven heads of the inquiry now going on, they may arrange the Imperial Department this session. If not, there is Mr. Bright's suggestion, of a continuance bill for two or three years, which would give the requisite time to let the facts of the case, and a competent knowledge of them, work out the right arrangement. Anyhow, the public must be satisfied that the matter is put on a right train, or Ministers will inevitably fail in that essential duty of theirs, success.