THE IRDIAN MAILS.
T'Port of the Committee appointed to inquire into our communications with India has been published, and as it has been signed by men of all parties, was agreed to by Lord Stanley and Mr. Stansfeld, we trust it will be acted on at once. Mr. Crawford, the member for London, who has been the soul of the Committee, we believe drew up the report, and his exposure of the existing system is un- answerable. Our trade with Asia and Australia now amounts to one-fourth of the whole external commerce of the United Kingdom, and the communications on which that vast busi- ness depends are most imperfect. The whole is really in the hands of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, who do the work very well, having never lost an outward-bound mail, but who are so paid that they can afford only forty-eight com- munications a year instead of fifty-two. Instead of malting Bombay, which is the external point of the Indian railway system, the centre of receipts and deliveries for the ocean post, the steamers blunder on to Madras and Calcutta, and as steam on land travels three times as fast as steam at sea, in most parts of India letters written twice a month are as useful as letters written four times, the mails rid Bombay, say of 17th July, being delivered as soon as the mails via Calcutta of 10th July. This is pure waste of power, and would have been remedied long ago, but that the Post Office cannot bear to risk the slight loss of 30,0001. involved in a weekly mail. The Committee, however, prove that they are bound to risk it, the only loss now existing as far as India is concerned arising from a payment for the benefit of the China mails which India ought not to make. The Post Office want to meet their risk, which would be amply recouped by increased correspondence, by an absurd increase of 6d. a letter ; but the Indian Government rejected the proposal, offering, rather than submit to it, to run the risk itself. The Com- mittee, however, recommend that a. weekly mail should be established, to sail of course on a fixed day, which will, we trust, be Saturday,—Friday, the day suggested by merchants, being the absolute worst for the transmission both of journals and parliamentary hews,—and that this mail should be separated finally from any connection with mails going to the Far East. India and China have no more .geographical relation than India and California, or England and Iceland,
and the artificial connection ought to be given up. Bombay being once made the central point, all India would be on an equality, and every station receive letters barely a month old at exactly seven days' interval, a system absolutely perfect, till the country requires, as one day it will require, a semi- weekly communication.
The remainder of the Far East, Ceylon, Singapore, China, Japan, and Australia will then form a main line, with minor lines for passengers radiating from Ceylon to Calcutta and Madras, from Hong Kong to Shanghai and Yokohama, and so -on, a line quite important enough to be self-supporting. The Committee recommend that the contracts should be let to different companies, but that we cannot support, believing that so long as the Peninsular and Oriental Company is com- pelled, by severe fines strictly levied, to do its work swiftly and well, its magnificent fleet forms a Transport Reserve such -as no aggregation of petty steamers could possibly replace. As to the French Messageries, they ought not to have one shilling -of English money, unless the Emperor will guarantee that their service shall not be suspended in time of war, and that they will even in war transport our artillerymen, a mere re- ductio ad absurdum. A weekly mail carried by the Peninsular and Oriental Company is the practical ideal.
The telegraphic communication the Committee condemns. It exists, but it is carried through many European countries at enormous cost, and through Turkey at excessive loss of time. A message of twenty words costs 5/. is., and takes from -one to nine days to deliver, and is then often received in an unintelligible form. The Committee therefore recommend a separate and independent line through Italy from England to Egypt, thence by land to Suakim, and thence by cable to the nearest point on the Indian continent, the whole to be in European hands. This it seems to us is only the Red Sea project over again, a project which we always approved, -and which, now that the Atlantic Cable has succeeded, ought to be taken up again. A trade of 110,000,0001. a year can pay anything, and the main telegraphic route ought to consist -of cables laid for Asiatic service alone along the route known -as the Southampton route, either to Alexandria, or, which we should prefer, to Seleucia, thence by land to the Euphrates, and then down the bed of that river to Bushire, where it joins the Persian Gulf Cable. The portion exposed would then be less than one hundred and fifty miles, which could be strictly guarded, the entire remainder of the line being within reach -of the English fleet. Less than this is insufficient, and this we fully believe will ultimately be accomplished without hampering State guarantees.