Front Page Titles (by Subject) 405.: THE INDIA BILL, II MORNING CHRONICLE, 7 JULY, 1853, P. 5 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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405.: THE INDIA BILL, II MORNING CHRONICLE, 7 JULY, 1853, P. 5 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE INDIA BILL, II
For the background, see No. 404, the argument of which is here continued. The article, headed as title, with the subhead, “[From a Correspondent],” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘The India Bill No. II—from a Correspondent’ in the Morning Chronicle of July 7th 1853”
(MacMinn, p. 79).
the clause in the india bill which diminishes the total number of Directors from 24, or more properly 30, to 18, or (excluding the six Government nominees) to 12, forms no essential part of the measure, and is liable to such serious objections that its omission would not only not impair, but would greatly improve the Bill.1 A reason has been assigned for the change in the mode of appointment of a portion of the Directors; namely, that some, and, it is affirmed, even a considerable number, of those who are fittest for the office, do not find their way to it in the mode hitherto provided.2 But, granting that the expedient adopted in the Bill for correcting this defect were the best or the only one that could be invented—supposing it were a conceded, instead of a disputed point, that a certain number of Directors should derive their office from nomination by the Minister, and that these nominated Directors cannot possibly be added, but must necessarily be substituted for an equivalent number of the elected—even then no reason would have been shown for a greater diminution of the elective body than is sufficient to make room for the additional members. But the Bill does more—its destructive operation is threefold as great as its constructive. It abolishes six Directors to replace them by nominees, six to get rid of the rotation system, and six for no reason at all.
We say no reason, because the reason which the case itself would suggest is barred by the emphatic declarations of the Ministers. One who knew nothing of the objects of the Bill but what the Bill itself indicates would be at no loss in assigning a motive for this provision. He would say, The elected Directors are reduced to 12, instead of 18 or 24, in order to give greater power to the six nominees. But Sir Charles Wood, both in his own behalf and on that of his colleagues, distinctly disavows this purpose.3 It has never been professed by Ministers that the object of introducing nominees into the Court of Directors is to exercise ascendency over the body by means of them. On the contrary, this is an effect which Ministers, if they thought there was any danger of it, would earnestly deprecate; for it is impossible to affirm more distinctly than they do, that the independence of the Court of Directors, and its freedom from undue political influence, are indispensable conditions of fitness for its duties. The reason which they give for introducing a new mode of appointment, is to admit some persons—they do not say better qualified, but—as well qualified as the best of the present Directors, and who are unwilling to go through the labour and expense of an election by the proprietors. If six be the number requisite for this purpose, six will suffice for it, whether the number of the remaining Directors be twelve or twenty-four. It is not in the smallest degree necessary to the object that these six should be a third of the whole. On the contrary, as Directors appointed by a Minister are, to say the least, less independent, and more liable to political influence, than those elected by the proprietors, it must, we imagine, be the wish of the Government to attain the specific object of admitting the excluded class, with the least possible diminution of the independence of the body; and, therefore, to take no artificial means of enabling the nominees to exercise greater power in the Court than the same number of persons can do under its present constitution. It is hardly necessary to point out that the proposed diminution in the aggregate number of Directors is entirely at variance with this purpose.
Apart from any question as to the mode of appointing the Court, we are at a loss to imagine on what principle it can be expected that a diminution of its numbers will render it better adapted to its functions. If the Court of Directors, or any other public body, could be purged only of its least efficient members, retaining the most efficient, nobody can deny that it would be improved. But the proposed purgation is indiscriminate. There is no ground for supposing that, in future elections, the able will bear a larger proportion to the incompetent in the smaller than in the more numerous body. The reduction of the total number would in the end subtract as great a proportion from the best as from the inferior members; and, unfortunately, while by the one consequence much would be lost, by the other very little would be gained. If, by the abstraction of eighteen out of thirty, only three superior men should be sacrificed, it would be more than an equivalent for getting rid of fifteen mediocrities. The value of any public body is equal to that of the able men contained in it; a few more or less of the others are of little moment, for they are sure to be numerous enough to outnumber the men of eminence, were it not that, in the long run, mediocrity is always led by talent. The Court of Directors is rather remarkable among public bodies for the small number it contains of decidedly inferior men, and the more than ordinary proportion of men of ability; but those who disparage its merits ought strenuously to oppose any reduction of its numbers, for the fewer able men it habitually contains, the less it can afford to lose any of its chances of obtaining them.
All principle, in the case of a body like the Court of Directors, is in favour of maintaining at least the present number. An executive body should be small, to secure vigour and promptitude of action; but a deliberative body ought to be numerous, that it may include the needful variety of knowledge and experience. The Court of Directors is not an executive Board, but a Council, a sort of Parliament of India; and every department of the Indian services should be represented in that body. It should contain persons from Bengal, from Madras, from Bombay, the North West Provinces, and, hereafter, the Punjaub; engineer officers, military officers, naval officers; persons of fiscal, judicial, and political or diplomatic experience; persons who have administered the zemindaree system, the village system, and the ryotwar system.4 As now constituted, the Court generally does contain persons of all these classes, and more than one of each: with the reduced number, it is not likely to do so. Besides, the Court is regularly divided into three Committees, each of which superintends and controls an amount of business corresponding to that of five or six Ministerial departments and public Boards in England.5 Every despatch sent to India, except in the Secret Department, passes through one of these Committees, and there undergoes a minute examination and criticism; every act sanctioned by the Court of Directors originates in one or other of them. Seven or eight members for each Committee is not too ample a provision, allowing for illness, relaxation, and accident, and supposing the average proportion of the ineffective to be no greater than in the best constituted Board of seven or eight persons which performs any portion of the public business of England.
[1 ]See Sect. 2 of “A Bill to Provide for the Government of India” (9 June, 1853).
[2 ]See Charles Wood, speech of 3 June, 1853, col. 1154; and, for the modes of appointment, No. 404, nn9 and 11.
[3 ]Wood, Letter (1 June, 1853), p. 84.
[4 ]Under the first of these systems, the Zemindars collected the peasants’ rents, and paid them to the government, taking a commission. The British introduced into the North-West Provinces the village system, whereby the government made an engagement (stipulating individual amounts), with the village as a whole, which was responsible for the payments. Under the ryotwar system the tax was paid directly by the ryot, the actual occupier or tenant of the soil.
[5 ]Each of the three Committees of the Court of Directors (Finance and Home; Revenue, Judicial, and Legislative; and Political and Military) controlled a Department. The Secret Committee, which had existed since the seventeenth century to deal with sensitive political issues, was made official in 1784; composed of the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and a senior director, it sent secret dispatches (some of which it originated) to India, and acted as a kind of “cabinet council.”