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CHAP V. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 5 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 5.
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Lord Cornwallis’s Financial and Judicial Reforms.
BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1787.The measures taken during the administration of this Viceroy, for altering the internal government of the British dominions in India, are not less memorable than his transactions with foreign states.
In the eye of the new government of India, consisting more ostensibly of the Directors, more really of the King’s ministers, revenue naturally constituted the first object. In the code of instructions, with which, upon his departure for his government, Lord Cornwallis was provided, occasion was taken to censure the financial administration of his predecessors, and to prescribe a new arrangement. The frequent changes, the substitution of farmers and temporary agents for the permanent Zemindars, the failure of all attempts to enhance the revenue, and the exclusion of the collectors from a share in forming the assessments of their respective districts, were mentioned with disapprobation. Complaint was made of the heavy arrears outstanding on the settlement of the last four years; and the country was represented as exhausted and impoverished. Such is the opinion which it was, by the King’s ministers and the Court of Directors, held fit to express, of the merits of the British government, in India, at the date of this document, in April, 1786. For the purpose of improvement, they directed, that the settlement should be made with the Zemindars. Knowledge sufficient for an equitable assessment, they presumed was alreadyBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1787. acquired. They prescribed the period of ten years, as the limit to which the settlement should be confined, in the first instance. But they declared their intention to render it permanent, provided, on experience, it should merit their approbation. They further commanded, that the collectors of the revenue should be vested with the powers of judicature and police; by having conveyed to them the principal authority in the Duannee Adauluts, with the power of magistrates in apprehending offenders against the public peace. And, in making this provision for the administration of justice, they declared, that they were not actuated by “abstract theories—drawn,” they said, “from other countries, or applicable to a different state of things, but a consideration of the subsisting manners and usages of the people.”
Upon his arrival in India, Lord Cornwallis found, that his masters in England were egregiously mistaken, when they imagined that there was sufficient knowledge, already treasured up, for the business of settling the revenue. The very nature of the landtenure was not understood. The rights of the different orders of people, who cultivated the soil, and divided its produce, formed a complicated mystery. All that was known, with any certainty, was, the amount of revenue which had been annually collected. But whether the country could pay more, or the exactions were already heavier than it could bear, no man had any satisfactory grounds to affirm. In this situation Lord Cornwallis determined to suspend his obedience to the orders of Whitehall and Leadenhall-street; to content himself, in the mean time, with annual settlements, by the local agency of the district collectors, and the superintendance of the Committee, now decorated with the title of Board, BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1787.of Revenue; to circulate interrogatories, and collect information from every accessible source.1
The directions of the government at home, with regard to the administration of justice, were treated with greater respect; the Governor-General saw nothing here to dissuade prompt obedience. In 1787, regulations were promulgated; and the collectors were vested with the triple power of revenue agents, of judges, and of police magistrates. It is good to hear the reasons which the compound of statesmen and Directors, now formed into an instrument of government for India, produced for this device of theirs. They prescribed it, they said, on account of its “tendency to simplicity, energy, justice, and economy.”
By Mr. Shore,2 on whom the Governor-General chiefly relied for information, it was remarked; in that document, in which he exhibited the result of his observation and inquiries; That the constitution of the English government in India was ill adapted for promoting improvement, and the situation of the Company’s servants ill calculated for the acquisition of knowledge and legislative talent. The individuals of whom the government was composed, were in such a state of fluctuation, that no separate portion of them had time to conceive and mature any important ideas of reform. In the next place he remarked, that the servants of the Company were so much engrossed with official forms and the details of business, as to be in a great measure debarred from the acquisition even of local knowledge. Still further; he asserted, that the knowledge which they acquired was not appropriate knowledge, such as laysBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1787. the foundation for political wisdom it was a mere knowledge of practice that is to say, a knowledge of a certain number of facts which are obvious, with ignorance of the numerous facts which lie more remote, and ignorance of the numerous connexions which subsist both among the facts which may happen to be familiar, and those of the far wider circle which is wholly unknown.1 From knowledge of this sort, no plan of improvement, no combination of expedients, to make the future better than the past, can ever be rationally expected.
It is necessary to remark, Mr. Shore, aware BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.of that succession of blunders, which constituted the succession of attempts to improve the mode of governing India claims indulgence, for so many errors, on account of the time required to obtain a knowledge of Asiatic manners and finance. This apology may delude, unless distinction is made between the errors which arose from the want of local knowledge, and those which arose from general ignorance. Those which arose from the want of local knowledge, as far as more time was absolutely necessary for its acquisition, are not to be blamed. Those which arose from general ignorance are, in every instance, the proper objects of reprobation: because provision should always have been made for giving to the government of India the benefit of men capable of applying the best ideas of their age to the arrangement of its important affairs.
On the 2d of August, 1789, Lord Cornwallis informed the government at home, that he had at last matured his plan of revenue, and was preparing to carry it into immediate execution. He took that occasion to describe the state in which the country would be found at the the time when his law would begin to operate; and announced the improvements which he expected it would introduce.
“I am sorry,” these are his words, “to be obliged to say that agriculture and internal commerce have, for many years, been gradually declining; and that, at present, excepting the class of shroffs and banyans, who reside almost entirely in great towns, the inhabitants of these provinces were advancing hastily to a general state of poverty and wretchedness.
“In this description I must even include almost every Zemindar in the Company’s territories; which, though it may have been partly occasioned by their own indolence and extravagance, I am afraid must also be, in a great measure, attributed to the defectsBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. of our former system of management.”
The beneficial effects which he expected to flow from the plan, were summed up in these comprehensive terms, “Wealth and happiness, to the intelligent and industrious part of the individuals of the country.” And, independent, added his Lordship, of all other considerations, “I can assure you that it will be of the utmost importance, for promoting, the solid interests of the Company, that the principal landholders and traders, in the interior parts of the country, should be restored to such circumstances, as to enable them to support their families with decency, and to give a liberal education to their children, according to the customs of their respective casts and religions; that a regular gradation of ranks may be supported, which is no where more necessary than in this country, for preserving order in civil society.”1
Every where, and apparently at all times, in India, the revenue of government had been almost wholly derived from the annual produce of the land. It had been originally extracted in that rude and simple mode which accorded with the character of a rude and ignorant people. The annual produce of the land was divided into shares between the cultivator and the government: originally shares in kind, and so to the last in many parts of India; though latterly, BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.government took the money equivalent, in those provinces which had long enjoyed the benefit of a Mogul administration. The shares varied according as the land was recently or anciently brought under culture, and according to the pressure sustained by the state. Two fifths to the cultivator, and three to the government have been assumed as the average proportions for land under full cultivation.1
Every year to ascertain the produce of every field, and collect from it the share which belonged to the government, was a very laborious and complicated process; and some variety occurred in the modes in which the operation was performed. In the petty Hindu governments, it would appear, that the agents of the prince transacted immediately with the husbandmen, called ryots, either man by man, or village by village.
The establishment of villages (a vicinity, or parish,2 would, perhaps, be the more appropriate title) is a peculiarity in India, of which, having been already explained, it is only necessary here to excite the recollection. Each vicinity, call it village, or call it parish, constituted a little community; which had a species of government within itself. Of the villagers, one was headman, distinguished in different places by different appellations; another was employed to keep and register the accounts of the community. Each community had also its Brahmens, as well for the service of the gods, as for the education of the children. It was provided, too, with the various species of handicrafts, and labourers, required by the habits of the people. The land of the village was sometimes divided into lots, and was regarded as individual property; but sometimes it belonged to the communityBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. as a whole; and a separate partition of it was made every year by the villagers among themselves, each ryot receiving for the cultivation of the year, such a portion as appeared to correspond with his capital or means. In this, as in other transactions, the headman was the great regulator; but rather, it should seem, from the habitual deference which was paid to him, than any power which he had to enforce his decrees. When the revenue agents of the government transacted village by village, without descending to the annual assessment of each individual ryot, they levied a particular sum upon each particular village, and left the villagers to settle the individual quotas among themselves.
When the Mogul government extended itself so enormously as to comprehend the greater part of the vast Indian continent, the greatness of its transactions, and the rudeness of its mind, naturally rendered it impatient of details; and modes were invented of transacting the business of revenue more in the gross. The revenue agents were rendered stationary, in the districts where they collected, and became responsible to the government for the revenue, receiving payment, by a per centage, or share of what they collected. Under the Indian governments, Moslem or Hindu, every thing which was enjoyed, whether office or possession, had a tendency to become hereditary. There was a great convenience in preserving, in each district, the same grand agent of revenue, and after himself, his son or successor; because each was better acquainted with the people and resources of the district, than, generally speaking, any other man could be expected to be. In this manner, the situation of those agents became in fact hereditary; BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.and the government of the Moguls, which was, though occasionally violent, in many respects considerate and humane, seldom allowed itself to displace those officers, without some heavy ground of displeasure; even when it sometimes superseded them in the business of collection, it generally made them an allowance, to preserve their families from want or degradation. Before the period of the English acquisitions, the Persian appellative of Zemindar had been generally appropriated to them, in the northern regions of India.
Being responsible to government for the revenue, they were allowed the exercise of all the powers which, in the rude government of the Moguls, were accounted necessary for realizing it. The common method in India of enforcing payment of any debt, was the use of coercion in the hand of the creditor. For revenue debts, government was not likely to pursue more lenient methods. A military force was the instrument allowed; and the Zemindars, in the common style of Oriental pride, retained about them as many troops as they could possibly find the means of maintaining. Under Eastern despotisms the different powers of government were seldom communicated asunder. To the power of collecting the revenue by a military force, was added the power of administering justice. All civil disputes appear to have been regarded in India as falling naturally under the cognisance of the agents of revenue. And, in fact, the whole business of judicature and police, with the sole exception of inflicting the highest class of punishments, devolved upon Zemindars, each within the district over which he was placed.
“We generally,” says an intelligent servant of the Company, speaking of himself and his brethren, “see Indian affairs, with English eyes; and carry EuropeanBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. notions into Indian practice.”1 To this source may evidently be traced a considerable proportion of the blunders of our countrymen in the government of India. For how long a period, and as yet hardly closed, did they resolve upon finding a feudal system, in India? With this turn of mind, it was to be expected, that they would, if possible, find a set of land-holders, gentry, and nobles, to correspond with those in England. The Zemindar had some of the attributes which belong to a land-owner; he collected the rents of a particular district, he governed the cultivators of that district, lived in comparative splendour, and his son succeeded him when he died. The Zemindars, therefore, it was inferred without delay, were the proprietors of the soil, the landed nobility and gentry of India. It was not considered that the Zemindars, though they collected the rents, did not keep them; but paid them all away, with a small deduction, to the government. It was not considered that if they governed the ryots, and in many respects exercised over them despotic power, they did not govern them as tenants of theirs, holding their lands either at will or by contract under them. The possession of the ryot was an hereditary possession; from which it was unlawful for the Zemindar to displace him: For every farthing which the Zemindar drew from the ryot he was bound to account: And it was only by fraud, if, out of all that he collected, he retained an ana more than the small proportion which, as pay for collection, he was permitted to receive. Three parties shared in the produce of the soil. That party to any useful purpose most BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.properly deserves the name of proprietor, to whom the principal share of the produce for ever belongs. To him who derives the smallest share of the produce the title of owner least of all belongs.1 In India to the sovereign the profit of the land may be said to have wholly belonged. The ryot obtained a mere subsistance, not more than the necessary wages of his labour. The Zemindar enjoyed allowances to the amount of about ten per cent. upon the revenue which he collected, not more than a compensation for his services. To the government belonged more than one half of the gross produce of the soil.
The English were actuated not only by an enlightened, but a very generous policy, when they resolved to create, in favour of individuals, a permanent property in the soil, as conducive at once to the increase of its produce, and the happiness of the people. They were under the influence of prejudices in the mode of carrying their design into execution. Full of the aristocratical ideas of modern Europe, the aristocratical person now at the head of the government, avowed his intention of establishing an aristocracy, upon the European model; and he was well aware that the union, at home, of statesmen and Directors, whom he obeyed, was under the influence of similar propensities.
In agreement with the orders from home, the resolution was, To form a settlement with the Zemindars for the revenues of their several districts; to limit the settlement in the first instance, to a term of ten years; but to render it permanent, if sanctioned by the authorities in England; and to recognize the Zemindars as hereditary proprietors of the soil, upon payment, as a landtax,BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. not to be enhanced, of the sum at present assessed.
To such a degree were the English, up to that hour, unacquainted with the country, that the most instructed among them differed prodigiously in estimating the revenue which Bengal was competent to yield. Some were of opinion that the existing rate of assessment was heavier than the people could bear. Others conceived that it was far below the amount to which it might, with propriety, be raised. The government, after all its inquiries, had no better foundation on which to place the magnificent structure it intended to raise, than the amount of the actual collections of preceding years; upon the average or medium of a few of which the assessment, destined for perpetuity, was now arranged. The authorities at home dissuaded, or rather forbid, an actual measurement and valuation of the country; and made a remark which, in itself, does them credit, whatever may be thought of its application to the occasion on which it was produced: That an assessment below what the country could bear, was no detriment, in the long run, to the government itself, because the riches of the people were the riches of the state.
It was easy for the government to assume that the Zemindars were proprietors of the soil under the Mogul sceptre; and it was easy to declare that they should be so in future. But it was not easy to reconcile these proceedings with the rights of other classes of the people. Under the Mogul system, there were various descriptions of persons, as Talookdars, Chowdries, Munduls, Mokuddims, who, as well as the Zemindars, had hereditary claims upon the produce of the soil; and it was not the intention of government to sacrifice to any class of its subjects BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.the interests of any other. But the interests of the ryots, which were of many times the importance of the interests of all the other classes taken together, whether the mass of individual happiness, or the power of the state, be regarded as the end, were by far the most difficult to bring into a state of concordance with the rights which were thus to be conferred upon the Zemindars.
The possessions of the ryots, either individually, or by villages, were hereditary possessions. So long as they continued to pay to government the due proportion of the produce, they could not lawfully be dispossessed. They not only transmitted their possessions by descent; but had the power of alienation, and could either sell them, or give them away. At an early period of the Mogul history, a minute survey had been made of the land; upon that survey an assessment had been founded, which had long been regarded as the standard of what every field was to pay; even when new imposts, during the progressive difficulties and corruption of the Mogul administration, were superadded, the Zemindars were bound to give written schedules, called pottahs, to the ryots, specifying the particulars of the assessment upon each individual; and these documents were registered in the government accounts, and intended for the protection of the ryot against the extortion of the collector.
The means which, under the Mogul sceptre, were provided for the security of the ryots, were very inadequate to their end. The Zemindars were enabled to exercise universal oppression. Under the eye of a humane and vigilant governor, they were occasionally restrained, by the terror of summary punishment, from the excesses of exaction. But, in general, they took from the ryots every thing beyond what was necessary to preserve them in existence; and everyBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. now and then desolated whole districts by the weight of their oppressions. This was contrary to the laws under which the Zemindar was appointed to act. But to whom was the ignorant, the timid, the credulous, the indigent ryot, to apply for redress? His fears, and very often his experience, taught him, that to suffer in patience was the prudent course. The exactions of the Zemindars were covered with so many ingenious contrivances, that they puzzled the wits of the simple cultivator, and often eluded the eye of the government itself.
If the aristocracy was provided for, it appears to have been thought, as by English aristocrats it is apt to be thought, that every thing else would provide for itself. The rules by which the payments of the ryots were determined varied in various places; and so intricate did they appear to the Anglo-Indian government, that no little trouble would be necessary to make an assessment in detail. The ryots were, therefore, handed over to the Zemindars in gross. The Zemindars were empowered to make with their ryots any settlements which they chose, under a mere general recommendation to be guided by the custom of the place. One security alone was thought of for the ryot. Upon the terms on which the Zemindar agreed to fix his payment, he was to give him a pottah; and according to the terms of that pottah, his possession or estate was to be equally permanent with that of the Zemindar.
When the principles of the decennial settlement were finally resolved, and proclamation of the measure was about to be made, a question arose, whether notice, at the same time, should be given of the intention to make the assessment and its rules unalterable, in case the authorities in England should BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.approve. Mr. Shore, though he was among the leading patrons of the Zemindary system, opposed such an intimation, as fraught with imprudence. The Zemindars, he affirmed, were a set of people, whose minds would be as powerfully governed by a decennial, as a perpetual term. He insisted upon the deficiency of the information under which the matter had been arranged. He allowed that enormous abuses existed in the mode of dealing of the Zemindars toward the ryots; abuses which no sufficient expedients had been employed to correct. And he desired that a door might be left open for the introduction of such improvements as the experience of ten years might suggest.
The advantages which the imagination of the Governor-General had painted, as likely to result from the permanence of the settlement, had made so deep an impression on his mind, that he opposed the arguments of Mr. Shore; persisted in his purpose of proclaiming the design; and declared his resolution to use all his influence with the Court of Directors, that they should not wait for the lapse of ten years, but make the settlement perpetual without any loss of time. The circumstance, from which he most vehemently argued, was, the improvement which certainty of enjoyment, he affirmed, would effect, and which certainty of enjoyment alone could be expected to effect, in the cultivation of the country. “I may safely,” said he, “assert that one-third of the Company’s territory in Hindostan, is now a jungle, inhabited only by wild beasts. Will a ten years’ lease induce any proprietor to clear away that jungle, and encourage the ryots to come and cultivate his lands? when, at the end of that lease, he must either submit to be taxed, ad libitum, for his newly acquired lands, or lose all hopes of deriving any benefit for his labour.—I must own, that it is clear to myBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. mind, that a much more advantageous tenure will be necessary, to incite the inhabitants of this country to make those exertions which can alone effect any substantial improvement.”1
The authorities which constituted the Indian government made it their profession, and their boast, that they were not directed by “abstract theories, drawn from other countries, and applicable to a different state of things;”2 And the fact was, that almost every step which they took was the result of an “abstract theory,” commonly drawn from something in their own country, and either misdrawn or misapplied. The abstract theory now acted upon by the Governor-General; namely, that the highest improvements in the cultivation of the land can be expected from none but the proprietors of the land; was just only in one, and that a restricted, point of view. But though it were proprietors alone that had sufficient motives for the highest efforts in cultivation, the Governor-General, and his ministerial and directorial masters, who concurred with him, ought to have reflected, that there are sorts of proprietors; and that it is not from every sort, that any improvement whatsoever, or any attempt towards improvement, is to be expected. They might have reflected, for how many centuries the soil of Poland has been private property, or the soil of Russia, and how little, in those countries, of any thing like improvement, has yet taken place. They might have recollected, that the nobles even of France, where knowledge was so far advanced, had for many centuries before the revolution enjoyed the property of the soil of France; and that the agriculture BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.of France still continued in the most deplorable condition.1 There are three sets of circumstances, whose operation, where it is felt, prevents the improvement of the soil at the hands of its proprietors: first, ignorance; secondly, possessions too large; and thirdly, too much power over the immediate cultivators. The last is by far the most important circumstance; because men, with very few exceptions, as education and government have hitherto moulded their minds, are more forcibly drawn by the love of absolute power, than by that of money, and have a greater pleasure in the prostrate subjection of their tenants than the increase of their rents. When our countrymen draw theories from England, it would be good if they understood England. It is not because in England we have a landed aristocracy, that our agriculture has improved, but because the laws of England afford to the cultivator protection against his lord. It is the immediate cultivators who have increased so wonderfully the produce of the land in England, not only without assistance from the proprietors, but often in spite of them. The proprietors of the land in England even to this hour, exhibit one of the strongest proofs which can be adduced, of the ascendency which is exercised by the love of domination over the love of improvement and of wealth. No principle is more thoroughly established, and indeed more universally admitted, than that the grant of leases, and leases of a long duration, to the immediate cultivators of the soil, are essential to all spirited and large improvement. But the proprietors of the soil in England complain, that leases render their tenantry too independent of them; and the greater proportion of the land of England is cultivated on tenure at will. If the gentlemen of England willBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789. sacrifice improvement to the petty portion of arbitrary power which the laws of England allow them to exercise over tenants at will; what must we not expect from the Zemindars of Hindustan, with minds nurtured to habits of oppression, when it is referred to themselves whether they shall, or shall not, have power over the miserable ryots, to whom the law is too imperfect to yield any protection? It is the interest of permanent governments to promote the prosperity of their people, because the prosperity of the people is the prosperity of government. But the prosperity of the people depends entirely upon their freedom. What governments, on this account, have ever promoted freedom? The propensity of the Zemindars was to regard themselves as petty sovereigns.
The effect of ignorance, with respect to improvement, is too obvious to require illustration. But it may be remarked, that it operates with peculiar efficacy in augmenting the force of the most powerful of the causes by which the proprietors of land are made to prevent improvement. The love of domination has always the greatest sway in the most ignorant state of the human mind.
The effect of large possessions in preventing those efforts and sacrifices, on which improvement depends, deserved of the Indian legislators profound consideration. It cannot escape the feeblest powers of reflection, that the man, who already enjoys a vast accumulation of wealth must regard, with comparative indifference, small acquisitions; and that the prospect of increasing his great revenue, by slowly adding the painful results of improvement, cannot operate very powerfully upon his mind. It is the man of small possessions who feels most sensibly the benefit of petty accessions; and is stimulated the most powerfully to use BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1789.the means of procuring them. It is on the immediate cultivator, when the benefits of his improvements is allowed to devolve in full upon himself, that the motives to improvement operate with the greatest effect. That benefit, however, cannot devolve upon him in full, unless he is the proprietor as well as the cultivator of his fields; and hence, in part, the backwardness of agriculture in some of the most civilised portions of the globe.
There was an opportunity in India, to which the history of the world presents not a parallel. Next, after the sovereign, the immediate cultivators had, by far, the greatest portion of interest in the soil: For the rights (such as they were) of the Zemindars, a complete compensation might have easily been made: The generous resolution was adopted of sacrificing to the improvement of the country, the proprietory rights of the sovereign: The motives to improvement which property gives, and of which the power was so justly appreciated, might have been bestowed upon those upon whom they would have operated with a force incomparably greater than that with which they could operate upon any other class of men; they might have been bestowed upon those from whom alone, in every country, the principle improvements in agriculture must be derived, the immediate cultivators of the soil: And a measure, worthy to be ranked among the noblest that ever were taken for the improvement of any country, might have helped to compensate the people of India, for the miseries of that misgovernment which they had so long endured.—But the legislators were English aristocrats; and aristocratical prejudices prevailed.
Instructions for the settlement were issued in Bengal towards the end of 1789, and for the province of Bahar in the following year. A complete code of regulations was promulgated for the new system inBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. November, 1791. And the land revenue realized in that year from Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, together with Benares, amounted to 3,02,54,563, sicca rupees, or 3,509,530l. It was not however, before the year 1793, that the decennial settlement was executed in every district; and that the completion of the measure was announced. So perfectly did the ideas of the government at home correspond with the ideas of the Governor-General, that in the early part of that very year, and before the plan was fully carried into execution, authority arrived in India for bestowing upon it the intended permanence by immediate proclamation.
Beside the land revenue, some other duties were levied in India, which were all generally included under the denomination of Sayer; and consisted, chiefly, of certain tolls upon the entry or transit of goods, by land or water. These duties, also, the Zemindars, in their capacity of collectors of the revenue, had formerly had in charge. To the Anglo-Indian government, however, it appeared, that the management of the Sayer duties but ill accorded with the character of a great landed aristocracy, now imparted, or supposed to be imparted, to the Zemindars. Invention was taxed for the discovery of another plan, by which these duties might be collected. Upon inquiry it appeared, that the difficulties of the business would be very great. The value, too, of the Sayer duties had never yet been very considerable. It was certainly the easiest, and was finally determined to be the best expedient, to abolish them. The tax on spirituous liquors, from moral rather than fiscal motives, was alone reserved.
The taxes of Bengal were thus included, with hardly any exception, in one grand impost, that upon BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.the land. The government, however, added to its income, by the resource of monopoly. There are but two articles of luxury, of which there is any considerable consumption in India; salt, and opium. Under the native governments, the monopoly of salt had usually been sold. It has been already stated in what manner the servants of the Company endeavoured, at an early period of its territorial history, to appropriate the benefits of this monopoly; and at what period the Company itself thought proper to become the monopolist. From the period of the assumption of the monopoly till the year 1780, it had been usual to dispose of the manufactories in farm, on leases of five years. In that year Mr. Hastings abolished the system of farming, and placed the manufacture of salt in the hands of government. Servants of the Company were appointed to conduct the business, in the capacity of agents; and the price was annually fixed by the Governor-General in Council. With this arrangement Lord Cornwallis no further interfered than by an alteration in the mode of sale, and some rules to protect the workmen. Instead of fixing a price, the commodity was to be sold in small lots by public auction. And as cruelties were practised upon the salt-makers, in confining them to the salt-works, while they were subject to fraud on the part of the natives employed as subordinate agents, certain measures were taken for the prevention of those evils. The salt monopoly produced, at the commencement of the present administration, the sum of 40,00,500 sicca rupees, or 464,060l. It had been gradually worked up to the rate of 1,360,180l. the sum which it produced on the average of three years preceding 1810. How much of this arose from increased consumption; how much from the severity of augmented price, will appear hereafter.
The monopoly of opium, like that of salt, the MogulBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. government uniformly sold. In this branch of business, the Company’s government did not depart from the practice of its predecessors. The contract was disposed of by private bargain and special favour till the year 1785; when it was exposed to public competition, and consigned to the highest bidder. Regulations were at the same time made for protecting the ryots from the compulsion, which it had been usual to exercise upon them, to cultivate this article at the contractor’s price. It was the interest of government, when government became the monopolist, to pay to the ryot, as grower, the lowest possible price. To effect this object, a rate was declared, at which the ryot was compelled to furnish the commodity. Lord Cornwallis complained, that the regulations which had been formed to mitigate the effects of this oppressive system, were by no means adequate to their end; and he added, or substituted, others, of which the beneficial effects were not much superior. One peculiarity it is useful to remark. When the East India Company became the sovereign, it was not only the seller of the monopoly, but it was the principal buyer, too, from its own contractor. As the government fixed the price, at which the contractor was to pay for the opium to the grower; so it fixed the price, at which the contractor was to sell it to the Company. The price at which the Company bound the contractor to furnish it with opium, was less than the price, at which it bound him to pay for it to the grower. “Though the result,” say the Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, “will sufficiently demonstrate the erroneous tendency of these contracts, yet the mistakes committed in them were not discovered BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.soon.”1 They were not seen by Lord Cornwllis. He continued the system.
Beside the changes in the financial, Lord Cornwallis meditated important changes, in the judicial department of government. For that part of the judicial business, which regards the civil, as distinct from the penal branch of law, the rulers in England, free, as they boasted, from the influence of “abstract theories,”2 made, by their orders of 1786, a combination of the business of judicature with the business of finance: a mixture of the character of the tax-gatherer with that of the judge. In each district, the same man was collector of the revenue, judge of the Duannee Adaulut, and moreover head of the police. Of two such offices as those of collector and judge, lodged in the same hands, it was notorious that the one had a very strong tendency to produce a sacrifice of the duties of the other. As a security against that great and glaring evil, the rulers of 1786 prescribed, that the proceedings of the collectors, in their financial department, and in their judicial and magisterial departments, should be kept separate and distinct. Upon experience, Lord Cornwallis did not think, that this grand expedient was altogether adequate to the end which it was contrived and provided to secure. In a minute, dated the 11th of February, 1793,3 , he stated, that, under this system, the protection of the natives depended solely upon the character of the individual who was sent to govern them. Where the collector was a man of humanity and justice,BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. the people, as under the worst government on earth, would no doubt be protected. But as often as it should happen that the collector was a man of another character, the people were exposed to the greatest injustice. If the collector was oppressive, he himself was his own judge. If he decided iniquitously, where lay the appeal? to another class of revenue officers, whose feelings could not be regarded as impartial; to the Board of Revenue, as Sudder Duannee Adaulut; a tribunal at such a distance that few indeed of the natives could endure the expense of an appeal. It was therefore resolved that the financial and judicial functions should be disjoined; and the following reasons for that important measure were published to the country: “That while the collectors of the revenue preside in the courts of Mhal Adaulut as judges, and an appeal lies from their decisions to the Board of Revenue, and from the decrees of that Board to the Governor-General in Council in the revenue department; the proprietors can never consider the privileges which have been conferred upon them as secure; That exclusive of the objections arising to these courts, from their irregular, summary, and often exparte proceedings, and from the collectors being obliged to suspend the exercise of their judicial functions whenever they interfere with their financial duties; it is obvious that, if the regulations for assessing and collecting the public revenue are infringed, the revenue officers themselves must be the aggressors; and that individuals who have been aggrieved by them in one capacity can never hope to obtain redress from them in another: That their financial occupations equally disqualify them from administering the laws between the proprietors of land and their BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.tenants: That other security must, therefore, be given to landed property and to the rights attached to it, before the desired improvements in agriculture can be expected to be effected.”1
With a view to improve upon this plan of administering justice, Lord Cornwallis devised and established the following scheme. In each district, that is, in the language of the country, each Zillah, and in each of the considerable towns or cities, a Zillah, or city, court, was established. One of the Company’s servants, higher in rank than the collector, was the judge. To this judge was appointed a register, and one or more assistants from among the junior servants of the Company. Each court was provided with a native, duly qualified to expound the Hindu or Mahomedan law, in cases which turned upon any of these several codes. And all descriptions of persons within the local administration of the tribunal, except British subjects amenable to the Supreme Court, were rendered subject to its jurisdiction.
To obviate the danger of arrears in decision, from the arrival of too many causes to decide, the judge was authorised to refer to his register, under an appeal to himself, all suits in which the litigated property was not of considerable amount. The jurisdiction of the register was extended at first to 200 rupees, and afterwards even to sums of a higher amount. For determining, in suits regarding personal property, from the value of 50 rupees downwards, native commissioners were appointed; and of these tribunals several, at convenient distances, were established in every Zillah. They were allowed no salary or establishment, but received as remuneration a fee of one ana per rupee, or a commission of somewhat more than six per cent, upon all sums litigated before them.BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. They acted the part of arbitrators; and their mode of procedure was summary, that of simple rational inquiry, not distorted into a labyrinth, by technical forms. From their decision an appeal might be carried to the Zillah Court. And upon these appeals, as well as those from the jurisdiction of the register, the decision of the Zillah Court was final, excepting in one set of cases; namely, those regarding the species of property called in English law real property, and of those cases in only that part in which the decision of the inferior court was reversed.
Such was the establishment for primary jurisdiction, or decision in the first instance in the civil department of judicature. A new provision was also devised for the second and ultimate decision, in case of appeal. The Board of Revenue, or the Governor-General in Council, had previously exercised the powers of appellate jurisdiction. But to prevent the inconvenience of their having too much to do, it had been provided (as if unjust decision on small sums could never happen), that no appeal should be made to them, unless the property in dispute amounted to the value of 1000 sicca rupees. By experience it was found, that among the indigent natives very few suits arose for sums so large as 1000 rupees. From that security for justice, therefore, which is constituted by the power of appeal, the natives were, in point of fact, almost wholly excluded: and, indeed, had the limits of appeal been enlarged, the expense of repairing to Calcutta would in most cases have rendered the exclusion equally complete.
Regarding this as an evil, Lord Cornwallis established four tribunals of appeal: one in the vicinity of Calcutta, one at the city of Patna, one at Dacca, BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.and a fourth at Moorshedabad. They were constituted in the following manner. Three judges, chosen from the civil department of the Company’s service, and distinguished by the appellations of first, second, and third; a register, with one or more assistants from the junior branch of the European servants; and three expounders of the native law, a Cauzee, a Mooftee, and a Pundit, formed the establishment of each court. The privilege of appeal was still confined to sums of a given though reduced amount; and by subsequent regulations a more humane and rational policy was adopted, an appeal being allowed from every primary decision of the Zillah Courts. Even the appellate jurisdiction of the Zillah Courts might be reviewed by this superior Court of appeal, commonly known by the name of the Provincial Court, in those cases in which it saw occasion to interpose. It was also, in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, empowered to take fresh evidence; or, for the sake of receiving fresh evidence, to send back the cause to the original court.
Another and higher, a third stage of jurisdiction, was erected. A tribunal, entitled the Court of Sudder Duannee Adaulut, was still set up at Calcutta. It was composed of the Governor-General, and the members of the council, assisted by the Cauzy ul Cauzaut, or head cauzy, two moofties, two pundits, a register and assistants. They received appeals from the Provincial Courts, or courts of primary appeal; at first for sums of 1000 rupees. At this amount, however, appeals were numerous: Decision on so many was laborious to the Governor-General and Council. The number of appeals was, at any rate, no proof of the want of need for the privilege of appeal. What was the remedy? To raise the sum on which appeal was admitted: that is, to deny the privilegeBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. to the poorest class.1 By act 21 Geo. III. c. 70, sect. 21, an appeal lay to the King in Council for all sums exceeding 50,000 rupees.
Among the other prejudices of those who at this time legislated in India with so much of good intention for the people of Hindustan, were the prejudices which owe their birth to the interests, and hence to the instructions of lawyers. Of these it is one of the most remarkable, and the most mischievous, that to render judicial proceedings intricate by the multiplication of technical forms, by the rigid exaction of a great number of nice, obscure, pedantic, and puzzling rites and ceremonies, tends to further the ends of justice. This unhappy instrument of justice was not forgotten in the present reforms. For courts of law, provided for a people, among whom justice had always been distributed in the method of simple and rational inquiry, was prescribed a course of procedure, loaded with minute formalities; rendered unintelligible, tedious, and expensive, by technical devices. Of the intricacy and obscurity thus intentionally created, one effect was immediately seen; that the candidates for justice could no longer plead their own causes; that no one could undertake to present a cause to the mind BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.of the judge according to the nicety of the prescribed and intricate forms, unless he belonged to a class of men who made it their trade to remember and observe them. The necessity of an establishment of hired advocates; in Indian phrase vakeels, a word of very general application, meaning almost any man who is employed on any occasion to speak and act for another; was therefore acknowledged. A system of rules was prescribed for the formation and government of a body of native pleaders; to whom pay was provided by a small retaining fee, and a per centage on the amount of the litigated property. From this, one inconvenience immediately flowed; an inconvenience from which the establishment of mercenary pleaders has never yet been freed, but which by this regulation was carried up to its greatest height, and there made secure from descent; that the class of causes which is infinitely the most important of all, could not fail to be treated with comparative neglect, and to sustain a proportionate failure of justice.
In one important particular, common sense, and pure intention guided the present ruler into the good path, wherein his successors, alas! had not the wisdom to follow him. When the Company abolished the choute, or exaction for the judge of twentyfive per cent. Upon the value of the litigated property, they established in lieu of it what was called an institution fee, or a sum to be paid upon the commencement of a suit. Any obstruction to the demand for justice, Lord Cornwallis treated as an evil; and appears to have had some perception more or less clear, of the important truth, that where there is not cheap justice, in the great majority of cases there is no justice. He abolished the impost upon the commencement of a suit; prohibited all fees of court; and restricted the expense of justice to the remuneration of the pleader, and the necessary conveyance and maintenanceBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. of witnesses. With regard to the judges, he emphatically insisted upon their being paid entirely and exclusively by salary, “without receiving any kind of perquisite whatever:”1 And he who understands the injuries which justice has sustained and yet continues to sustain, for the benefit of judges’ fees, will appreciate the gratitude which for this determination, if for nothing else, he deserves from mankind.
Such was the provision made by Lord Cornwallis for the civil department of judicature: He was not less deeply impressed with the necessity of substantial reforms in the penal.
In his address to the Court of Directors, under date the 17th of November, 1790, he said; “Your possessions in this country cannot be said to be well governed, nor the lives and property of your subjects to be secure, until the shocking abuses, and the wretched administration of justice in the foujedarry department can be corrected. Anxious as I have been, to supply a speedy remedy, to evils, so disgraceful to government, so ruinous to commerce, and indeed destructive to all civil society, it has still appeared to me to be so important as to make it necessary for me to act with great circumspection. But I am so strongly incited by motives of humanity, as well as of regard to the public interest, to establish, as early as possible, an improved system for the administration of criminal justice, that I shall use every exertion in my power to effect it, before my embarkation for Madras.”2
For criminal judicature or jail delivery, four tribunals were erected. For judges on these tribunals, the judges of appeal in the four provincial courts were appointed, with the same auxiliaries, in theBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. shape of register, assistants, and native officers, as were appointed for them in the civil courts of appeal. The business of penal judicature was to be performed by circuit. The jail deliveries at the four principal cities, the seats of the provincial courts, were to be held every month; those in the district of Calcutta four times, and those in the remaining Zillahs of the country twice in the year. According to the plan of Lord Cornwallis, the judges of each of the four courts of appeal formed two courts for the circuit: one, consisting of the first judge, accompanied by the Register and Mooftee; and one consisting of the two remaining judges, attended by the second assistant and the Cauzee.
While the judges of appeal were, in this manner employed, the courts of appeal were unavoidably shut. The inconvenience of this was soon very heavily felt. In 1794, it was ordained, that one of the judges should remain to execute the business of the civil court; while the other two proceeded to hold the penal courts by circuit. By an unhappy rule, however, of the civil court, requiring that two judges should be present for decision upon appeals, little relief was obtained by this measure. It was, therefore, in 1797 directed that two of the judges should remain for the business of the civil appeal court, and that only one should be spared for the business of the penal circuit.
Beside the courts of circuit, the utility was still recognized of a superior criminal tribunal at the seat of government. As in the case of the Sudder Duanee Adaulut, it was composed of the Governor-General and the Members of the Supreme Council, assisted by the head Cauzee and two Mooftees. Nizamut BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.Adaulut, as in the language of the country, was the name, by which this high criminal court was distinguished.
In the performance of the great penal branch of the judicial duties, the judges of circuit, periodically, repair to the places which are the seats of the Zillah courts, and remain till they have gone through the calendar; in other words have investigated every charge which is contained in the list of charges presented to them, upon their arrival. The accusation, with its evidence; the defence with its evidence, or the confession of the prisoner when he happens to confess, are heard before the judge, and recorded in writing. The Cauzee, or Mooftee, who has witnessed the proceedings, is then required to write at the bottom of the record the sentence which is required by the Moslem law, and to attest it with his signature and seal. With this decision it is optional in the judge to concur or to disagree. If he disagree, the case is referred to the Nizamut Adaulut; and in all cases inferring the higher degrees of punishment, the sentence of the itinerant court is not executed, till confirmed by that presiding tribunal. A copy of the record, with every material paper delivered into court, is transmitted with all convenient dispatch to the Nizamut Adaulut, accompanied by a letter stating the opinion of the judge on the evidence adduced.
The judges are required, on their return from the circuit, to make a report, containing an account of every thing which has appeared to them to be worthy of the notice of government, in the perfections or imperfections of the law; in the condition of the jails; in the management of the prisoners; and even in the moral and physical condition of the people. It is always a favourable sign of a government to provideBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. for its own information respecting the error of its own proceedings, and the means of carrying on to perfection what is yet mingled with defect. To require periodical reports from the judges, for the purpose of making known the evils which remained without a remedy, is a measure deserving no common tribute of applause. Were a similar operation carried over the whole field of government, and made sufficiently faithful and searching, the melioration of governments, and with it the happiness of the human race, would proceed with an accelerated pace. One consideration, however, which it is of great importance to hold constantly in view, has been well suggested on this very occasion by the Committee of the House of Commons, appointed to report on the affairs of India in 1810. “It is hardly,” they say, “to be supposed that public servants, in such a case, would lean to the unfavourable side; or without sufficient foundation, transmit accounts which would prove disagreeable to the government to receive. A communication of this nature might be rather suspected of painting things in colours pleasing to the government, with the view of bringing the writer into favourable notice.”1 It is a matter of experience, that this propensity, in general, is uncommonly strong. A wise government therefore would always take, with very considerable allowance, the flattering picture presented in the reports it might receive; but in the language of the same Committee, “Would regard them as worthy of particular consideration, as often as defects are stated to exist, and evils are represented to prevail.”2 How opposite the ordinary conduct of governments, how effectual the measures BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.which they take to hear no accounts but flattering ones, to discountenance and deter the suggestion of defects, the world is too old to need to be informed.
Such was the apparatus provided by Lord Cornwallis for the administration of law. A correspondent consideration ought to have been, what was the law which through this machinery was to be administered.
When rights are considered as already established, the object of a body of law is to define and secure them. Among the people of India rights to a great extent were already established; and there were two systems of law which respected them. It was an important question to what degree those systems were calculated to answer the purposes of law; that is, to mark out, by clear, precise, and unambiguous definitions, what were rights, and what the violations of them. It was a very lame and defective provision for the distribution of justice, to appoint a number of persons for the administration of law, if there was no law, or no tolerably good law, for them to administer. The standards of Hindu and Moslem law, by which, respectively, the rights of the Hindu and Mahomedan population were to be governed, were their sacred books; the Shasters and the Khoran. These were just about as well calculated for defining the rights of the people of India, as the Bible would be for defining those of the people of England. There was by consequence, in India, nothing which in reality deserved the name of law. Its place was supplied by the opinions of the Pundits and Cauzees, which were liable to all the fluctuations, which diversity of thoughts, and the operation of interest, were calculated to produce. Every thing was vague, every thing uncertain, and by consequence every thing arbitrary. The few points which could be regarded as in any degree determinate and fixed, covered a very smallBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. portion of the field of law. In all the rest, the judges and interpreters were at liberty to do what they pleased; that is, to gratify their own interests and passions, at the expense of the candidates for justice, to as great a degree, as the ignorance or negligence of the ruling power would permit. With the law, in such a condition as this, it is evident, that any thing like a tolerable administration of justice was altogether impossible. The first thing, therefore, first in point both of order and importance, was, to have prepared a set of exact definitions comprehending rights, and those violations of them which it is the business of law to prohibit; in other words, it was proper to have drawn up a clear and unambiguous digest of law, in both its departments; the prohibitive or penal, as well as the creative or civil. The thought of rendering this great service to justice and to human nature, seems never to have visited the mind of the Governor-General and his advisers. To this day, it has hardly visited the mind of any Indian ruler; though to provide an expensive machinery of judges and courts without a body of law, is in point of reason as great an absurdity, as to provide an expensive apparatus of cooks and kitchen utensils, without any victuals to cook. Is it a wonder, that the administration of justice in India should still be a disgrace to a government conducted by a civilized people?
The irrational notion appears to have established itself in the minds of most Englishmen, that courts, or tribunals, are also law; and that when you have established tribunals, you have not merely provided an instrument for the administration of law, if any law exists; but have provided law itself. Nothing, it must be owned, was ever better calculated for generating so absurd an opinion, than the BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.state of the law in England, and the efforts of English lawyers, whose interests it eminently promotes. In England, extraordinary as it may sound, the courts have been at once tribunals, and law. In England, as in India, the courts were originally set up without law. What they did was to make law for themselves. In that deplorable condition the business of law in England remains. The greater part of the rights of Englishmen depend upon nothing better than unwritten, undefined law, generally denominated common law; that is, any thing which the judges choose to call law, under no other restriction than certain notions, to a great degree arbitrary, of what has been done by other judges before them. Englishmen in general have no conception of the extent to which they lie under a despotic power in the hands of the judges; and how deeply it concerns them to see that despotic power taken away.
It is remarkable, notwithstanding this, that Lord Cornwallis has expressed very strongly, both by words and example, the great utility, or rather absolute necessity, if the ends of justice are the ends in view, that every law should be fixed, by written, permanent expressions; and, what is more, that it should be accompanied hy the reasons upon which it is grounded. In the preamble to one of his enactments, he said; “It is essential to the future prosperity of the British in Bengal, That all regulations, which may be passed by government, affecting, in any respect, the rights, persons, or property of their subjects, should be formed into a regular code; and printed, with translations in the country languages: That the grounds on which each regulation may be enacted, should be prefixed to it: And that the courts of justice should be bound to regulate their decisions by the rules and ordinances which those regulations may contain.” If all this is of so much importance, in the case of regulationsBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. for only the modes of administering law; what must it not be for the matter of law itself? And what is to be thought of the state of legislation, in India, and in Great Britain, the people of both of which are still deprived of such an advantage, “essential to their prosperity?“—”A code of regulations,” continues the preamble, “framed upon the above principles, would enable individuals to render themselves acquainted with the laws, and the mode of obtaining speedy redress against every infringement of them: The courts of justice would be able to apply the regulations, according to their true intent: Future administrations would have the means of judging how far the regulations had been productive of the desired effect, and, when necessary, of altering them, as experience might direct: And the causes of future prosperity or decline would always be traceable in the code to their source.”1 The gratitude of mankind is due to a government, which, thus solemnly, promulgated to the world the beneficent creed; That it is only by a code, that is, laws existing in a given form of words, that the people can know the laws, or receive protection from them: That it is only by means of a code, that courts of justice will apply the laws according to their true intent: That the defects of all ordinances of law ought to be experimentally traced; and corrected whensoever known: And, that the causes of the decline or prosperity of nations may always be found, as at their source, in the state of the laws. Opinions more important to the interests of human beings never issued from human lips.
By the reforms of Lord Cornwallis however, almost BOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793.wholly confined to the instruments of judicature, no alternations were made in the state of the law, except that the mutilations, and some other cruelties in the native modes of punishing were abolished, and certain modes, very liable to abuse, of enforcing payment of debt, were forbidden; no coercion for the recovery of debt, even in the case of the revenue, being allowed, except through the medium of the courts of law.
Beside the dispensation of justice, in deciding upon rights, and in punishing wrongs, the protection of society requires that provision, as effectual as possible, should be made, for preventing evil; for checking crimes, in the act of commission; and for ensuring the persons of offenders for justice. The system of operations and powers, destined for the performance of these services, goes, in the languages of modern Europe, by the unappropriate name of police.
The native system of police, the powers of which, in arbitrary exercise, were confided to the Zemindars with their armed followers, in the country; and to a set of officers, called Cutwals, with armed followers, in cities; was abolished. From both these sets of officers all powers were taken away. Instead of the previous expedients, the judges of the Zillah courts were vested, in quality of magistrates, with powers of apprehending and examining all offenders. On slight offences, importing a trivial punishment, they might pass and execute sentence: in other cases, it was their business to secure the supposed delinquent for trial in the court of circuit, and that, either by committing, or holding him to bail, as the gravity of the case might seem to require. Each Zillah was divided into districts of ten coss, or twenty miles square; and in each of these districts the judge was to establish a darogah, or constable, with a train of armed men, selected by himself. The darogah was empowered to apprehend on a written charge, and toBOOK VI. Chap. 5. 1793. take security, in the case of a bailable offence, for appearance before the magistrate. The cities of Dacca, Patna, and Moorshedabad were divided into wards, each of which was guarded by a darogah and his party, all under the ultimate superintendance of the magistrate, but subject immediately to the management of a head darogah of the city, who received the old name of Cutwal, and to whom the regulation of the market was consigned.
The magistrate was commanded to present to the Nizamut Adaulut, a report, at the end of every month, embracing the following particulars: 1. Persons apprehended, with name, date of charge, order for punishment, commitment for trial, release: 2. Casualties in regard to prisoners, by death, and removals: 3. sentences in the court of circuit: 4. Trials under reference to the Nizamut Adaulut: 5. Sentences received from the Nizamut Adaulut: Every six months he was to transmit to the same authority a report of all convicts under confinement: And by a subsequent regulation he was every year to present two additional reports; one, of all criminal cases depending before him; and another, of the material circumstances of all the robberies and higher crimes, committed, during the course of the preceeding year, within the Zillah to which he belonged.1
The fate of Mr. Francis, and of Mr. Francis’s ideas, formed a contrast. He himself had been treated by the powers which were, with any thing rather than respect. But his plan of finance was adopted with blind enthusiasm, with a sort of mechanical and irresistible impulse.
Afterwards Sir John Shore, and finally Lord Teignmouth.
The words are worth transcribing. They meet some obstinate prejudices, and some pernicious ideas. “If we consider the form of the British government in India, we shall find it ill calculated for the speedy introduction of improvement. The members, composing it, are in a constant state of fluctuation; and the period of their residence often expires, before experience can be acquired, or reduced to practice—Official forms necessarily occupy a large portion of time, and the constant pressure of business leaves little leisure for study and reflection, without which no knowledge of the principles and detail of the revenues of this country can be obtained.—True information is also procured with difficulty; because it is too often derived from mere practice, instead of being deduced from fixed principles.—Every man who has long been employed in the management of the revenues of Bengal, will, if candid, allow, that his opinion on many important points has been often varied, and that the information of one year has been rendered dubious by the experience of another. Still, in all cases, decision is necessary. And hence, precedents, formed on partial circumstances and perhaps, on erroneous principles, become established rules of conduct. For a prudent man, when doubtful, will be happy to avail himself of the authority of example. The multiplication of records, which ought to be a great advantage, is, in fact, an inconvenience of extensive magnitude; for in them only the experience of others can be traced, and reference requires much time and labour.” Mr. Shore’s Minute on the Bengal revenues, paragraph 2d, in the Appendix, Fifth Report of Committee on India Affairs, 1810, p. 169. If the multiplication of documents is troublesome to the Company’s servants, what must it be to the historian, whose field is so much wider? It is worth remarking, that the Committee in 1810 not only inserted the whole of the Minute, in the Appendix to the Report above quoted, but laid so much stress upon this particular passage, as to incorporate it with the Report p. 11.
Letter from Lord Cornwallis to the Court of Directors, 2d August, 1789; printed by H. of C. 8th March, 1790. The following document contains a similar affirmation, respecting the failure of former regulations. “By the rules established in 1772, all nuzzers or salamies (free gifts) which had been usually presented (to the Company’s servants) on the first interview (with the natives), as marks of subjection and respect, were required to be totally discontinued, the revenue officers were forbidden to hold farms, &c.—This regulation, as far as related to the unavowed emoluments of the Company’s servants, does not appear to have been effectual.” Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 11.
By the Committee on Indian affairs in 1810, Fifth Report, p. 16.
Mr. Thackery, in his Report on the comparative Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ryotwar and Zemindary settlements, dated 4th August, 1807; Fifth Report, ut supra, App. 31. p. 990.
This is even the language of English law. “By a grant of the profits of the land,” say the English lawyers, “the whole land itself doth pass. For what is the land but the profits thereof?”
Governor-General’s Minute, 18th Sept, 1789, Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 472.
Vide supra, p. 399.
See a good book, Travels in France by Arthur Young, Esq. passim.
Fifth Report, p. 25.
It may be remarked with pleasure, as a sign of progressive improvement, that the Select Committee in 1810, have twice, in their Fifth Report, held forth this boast about abstract theories, as an object of contempt.
Appendix No. 9 (A) to Second Report of Select Committee, 1810.
Preamble to Regulation II. of 1793.
It may appear to be ludicrous; but as a far better expedient than this, I should very seriously recommend the determination of the matter by lot. Suppose the Court can find time to decide upon twenty appeals in a month, and that sixty arrive. By cutting off the forty in which the amount of property is least, you make it visible to the inferior judge in what cases he may commit iniquity, free from that check which the prospect of appeal imposes. Reject the forty, by lot, and as the inferior judge can never know, on which of his decisions the review of the Superior Court will attach, the check is, with some degree at least of efficiency, spread over the whole of his decisions. At any rate the suitors are treated impartially, and the interest of those with the small lots of property is not sacrificed, as, according to all systems of law, that ever yet have had any existence, it has been very generally sacrificed, to the interest of those with the large.
See his address to the Court of Directors, dated the 2d of August, 1789, printed by order of the House of Commons, 8th of March, 1790.
Letter from Lord Cornwallis to the Court of Directors, ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, 16th May, 1791. He had, in a preceding letter, dated the 2d of August, 1789, expressed himself in similar language. “The system for the administration of criminal justice has long attracted my serious attention, and is in my opinion in a most exceptionable state.—I feel myself called upon, by the principles of humanity, and a regard for the honour and interest of the Company, not to leave this government, without endeavouring to take measures to prevent, in future, on one hand, the cruel punishments of mutilation, which are frequently inflicted by the Mahommedan law, and on the other, to restrain the spirit of corruption which so generally prevails in native courts, and by which wealthy offenders are generally enabled to purchase impunity for the most atrocious crimes…I conceive that all regulations for the reform of that department would be nugatory, whilst the execution of them depends upon any native whatever.” Ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, 8th March, 1790.
Fifth Report, p. 65.
Preamble to Regulations xli. of 1793.
As authorities for the account of these institutions, see the Code of Regulations, published in 1793, and the Fifth Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs in 1810.