Routledge

Queen Victoria’s Proclamation to the Princes, Chiefs and the People of India (1858)

Introduction: The expenditure on the suppression of the Mutiny of 1857 had ruined the East India Company. The Crown had to take over India. Queen Victoria’s proclamation assumed the character of a Magna Carta which was often referred to by Indian nationalists. Particularly her guarantee that Indians would have equal access to positions in the civil service was quoted again and again, because the British authorities in India tried hard to block this access.
(see also AHOI, Ch, 6, section: The Mutiny of 1857)

... Now.... we do by these presents notify and declare that .... we have taken upon ourselves the ....government (of the territories of India) and we hereby call upon all our subjects within the said territories to be faithful and to bear true allegiance to us, our heirs and successors, and to submit themselves to the authority of those whom we may hereafter, from time to time, see fit to appoint to administer the government of our said territories, in our name and on our behalf.
            And we, reposing especial trust and confidence in our right trusty and well-beloved cousin, Charles John, Viscount Canning, to be our first Viceroy and Governor-General in and over our said territories, and to administer the government thereof in our name ...... subject to such orders and regulations as he shall... receive from our Principal Secretaries of State.
            And we do hereby confirm in their several offices, civil and military, all persons now employed in the service of the Honourable East India Company, subject to our future pleasure, and to such laws and regulations which may hereafter be enacted.
            We hereby announce to the native princes of India, that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the East India Company are by us accepted and will be scrupulously maintained, and we look for the like observance on their part.
            We desire no extension of our present territorial possessions, and, while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our rights to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachments on those of others.
            We shall respect the rights, dignity and honour of native princes as our own; and we desire that they as well as our subjects, should enjoy that prosperity and that social advancement which can only be secured by internal peace and good government.
            Firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose  our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise favoured , none molested or disquieted , by reason of their religious faith  or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects on pain of our highest displeasure.
            And it is our further will that, as far as may be, or subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to office in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity duly to discharge.
            .............
            We deeply lament the evils and misery which have been brought upon India by the acts of ambitious men, who have deceived their countrymen by false reports and led them into open rebellion. Our power has been shown by the repression of that rebellion in the field; we desire to show our mercy by pardoning the offences of those who have been misled, but who desire to return to the path of duty.
            .................
            Our clemency will be extended to all offenders, save and except those who have been or shall be convicted of having directly taken part in the murder of British subjects. With regard to such the demands of justice forbid the exercise of mercy.
            .................
            When, by the blessing of Providence, internal tranquility will be restored, it is our earnest desire to stimulate the peaceful industry of India, to promote works of public utility and improvement, and to administer the government for the benefit of all our subjects resident therein. In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security, and in their gratitude our best reward........

( A.B. Keith (ed.), Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750-1921, Vol. I, London 1922, p.382 f.)

 

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