Title page

The History of British India, vol. 1

James Mill’s History is a work of Benthamite “philosophical history” from which the reader is supposed to draw lessons about human nature, reason and religion, and the deleterious impact of commercial monopolies like the East India Company.



Part of:

The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 1.


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in six volumes.

Hoc autem pressè et distinctè excutiamus sermone quodam activo et masculo, nusquam digrediendo, nil amplificando. Bacon.

De Augm. Scient. Lib. ii.
printed for baldwin, cradock, and joy.
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  • Preface ........................... i
  • Glossary .......................... xxxi
  • BOOK I.

    Commencement of the British Intercourse with India; and the Circumstances of its Progress, till the Establishment of the Company on a durable Basis by the Act of the Sixth of Queen Anne

    ........................ 1
    • CHAPTER I.

      From the Commencement of the Efforts to begin a Trade with India, till the Change of the Company from a regulated to a Joint-stock Company

      ..................... 3

      From the Change of the Company into a Joint-stock Company, in 1612, till the Formation of the third Joint-stock in 1631–2

      ......................... 27

      From the Formation of the third Joint-stock, in 1632, till the Coalition of the Company with the Merchant Adventurers in 1657

      .......................... 58

      From the Coalition between the Company and the Merchant Adventurers, till the Project for a new and a rival East India Company

      ....................... 79
    • Edition: current; Page: [iv] CHAPTER V.

      From the Project of forming a new and rival Company, till the Union of the two Companies by the Award of Godolphin, in the year 1711

      .................... 100
  • BOOK II. of the hindus.
    • CHAPTER I. Chronology and Ancient History of the Hindus ........... 133
    • CHAPTER II. Classification and Distribution of the People .............. 153
    • CHAPTER III. The Form of Government .................. 175
    • CHAPTER IV. The Laws ............... 192
    • CHAPTER V. The Taxes ................... 247
    • CHAPTER VI. Religion ............... 282
    • CHAPTER VII. Manners ............. 376
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In the course of reading and investigation, necessary for acquiring that measure of knowledge which I was anxious to possess, respecting my country, its people, its government, its interests, its policy, and its laws. It was met, and in some degree surprised, by extraordinary difficulties, when I arrived at that part of my inquiries which related to India. On other subjects, of any magnitude and importance, I generally found, that there was some one book, or small number of books, containing the material part of the requisite information; and in which direction was obtained, by reference to other books, if, in any part, the reader found it necessary to extend his researches. In regard to India, the case was exceedingly different. The knowledge, requisite for attaining an adequate conception of that great scene of British action, was collected no where. It was scattered in a great variety of repositories sometimes in considerable portions, often in very minute ones; sometimes by itself, often mixed up with subjects of a very different nature: and, even where information relating to India stood disjoined from other subjects, a small portion of what was useful lay commonly imbedded in a large mass of what was trifling and insignificant; and of a body of statements, given indiscriminately as matters of fact, Edition: current; Page: [ii] ascertained by the senses, the far greater part was in general only matter of opinion, borrowed, in succession, by one set of Indian gentlemen from another.1

In bestowing the time, labour, and thought, necessary to explore this assemblage of heterogeneous things, and to separate, for my own use, what was true and what was useful, from what was insignificant and what was false, I was led to grieve, that none of those who had preceded me, in collecting for himself a knowledge of Indian affairs, had been induced to leave his collection for the benefit of others; and perform the labour of extracting and ordering the dispersed and confused materials of a knowledge of India, once for all. The second reflection was, that, if those who preceded me had neglected this important service, and in so doing were not altogether free from blame, neither should I be exempt from the same condemnation, if I omitted what depended upon me, to facilitate and abridge to others the labour of acquiring a knowledge of India; an advantage I should have valued so highly, had it been afforded by any former inquirer.

In this manner, the idea of writing a History of India was first engendered in my mind. I should have shrunk from the task, had I foreseen the labour in which it has involved me.

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The books, in which more or less of information respecting India might be expected to be found, were sufficiently numerous to compose a library. Some were books of Travels. Some were books of History. Some contained philological, some antiquarian, researches. A considerable number consisted of translations from the writings of the natives in the native tongues; others were books on the religion of the people of India; books on their laws; books on their sciences, manners, and arts.

The transactions in India were not the only transactions of the British nation, to which the affairs of India had given birth. Those affairs had been the subject of much discussion by the press, and of many legislative, executive, and even judicial proceedings, in England. Those discussions and proceedings would form of course an essential part of the History of British India; and the materials of it remained to be extracted, with much labour, from the voluminous records of British literature, and British legislation.

The British legislature had not satisfied itself with deliberating, and deciding; it had also inquired; and, inquiring, it had called for evidence. This call, by the fortunate publicity of parliamentary proceedings, brought forth the records of the councils in India, and their correspondence, with one another, with their servants, and with the constituted authorities in England: a portion of materials, inestimable in its value; but so appalling by its magnitude, that many years appeared to be inadequate to render the mind familiar with it.

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Such is a short and very imperfect description of the state of the materials.1 The operations necessary to draw from them a useful history, formed the second subject of consideration. To omit other particulars, which will easily present themselves, and are common to this with all undertakings of a similar nature, a peculiar demand, it is evident, was presented for the exercise of discrimination, that is, of criticism, in a chaotic mass, of such extent, where things relating to the subject were to be separated from things foreign to it; where circumstances of importance were to be separated from circumstances that were insignificant; where real facts, and just inferences, were to be separated from such as were the contrary; and above all things, where facts, really testified by the senses, were to be discriminated from matters, given as testified by the senses, but which, in truth, were nothing but matters of opinion, confounded with matters of fact, and mistaken for them, in the minds of the reporters themselves.2

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A history of India, therefore, to be good for any thing, must, it was evident, be, what, for want of a better appellation, has been called, “A Critical History.”1 To criticise means, to judge. A critical history is, then, a judging history. But, if a judging history, what does it judge?

It is evident that there are two, and only two, classes of objects, which constitute the subject of Edition: current; Page: [vi] historical judgments. The first is, the matter of statement, the things given by the historian, as things really done, really said, or really thought. The second is, the matter of evidence, the matter by which the reality of the saying, the doing, or thinking, is ascertained.

In regard to evidence, the business of criticism visibly is, to bring to light the value of each article, to discriminate what is true from what is false, to combine partial statements, in order to form a complete account, to compare varying, and balance contradictory statements, in order to form a correct one.

In regard to the matter of statement, the business of criticism is, to discriminate between real causes and false causes; real effects and false effects; real tendencies and falsely supposed ones; between good ends and evil ends; means that are conducive, and means not conducive to the ends to which they are applied.

In exhibiting the result of these several judgments, the satisfaction, or the instruction of the reader, is very imperfectly provided for, if the reasons are not adduced. I have no apology, therefore, to make, for those inductions, or those ratiocinations, sometimes of considerable length, which were necessary to exhibit the grounds upon which my decisions were founded. Those critical disquisitions may be well, or they may be ill performed; they may lead to correct, or they may lead to erroneous conclusions; but they are, indisputably, in place; and my work, Edition: current; Page: [vii] whatever had been its virtues in other respects, would have remained most imperfect without them.1

There will be but one opinion, I suppose, with regard to the importance of the service, which I have aspired to the honour of rendering to my country; for the public are inclined to exaggerate, rather than extenuate, the magnitude of the interests which are involved in the management of their Indian affairs. And it may be affirmed, as a principle, not susceptible of dispute, that good management of any portion of the affairs of any community is almost always proportional to the degree of knowledge respecting it diffused in that community. Hitherto the knowledge of India, enjoyed by the British community, has been singularly defective. Not only among the uneducated, and those who are regardless of knowledge, but among those who are solicitous to obtain Edition: current; Page: [viii] a competent share of information with respect to every other great branch of the national interests, nothing is so rare as to meet with a man who can with propriety be said to know any thing of India, and its affairs. A man who has any considerable acquaintance with them, without having been forced to acquire it by the offices he has filled, is scarcely to be found.

The same must continue to be the case, till the knowledge of India is rendered more accessible. Few men can afford the time sufficient for perusing even a moderate portion of the documents from which a knowledge of India, approaching to completeness, must have hitherto been derived. Of those, whose time is not wholly engrossed, either by business or by pleasure, the proportion is very moderate whom the prospect of a task so heavy, and so tedious, as that of exploring the numerous repositories of Indian knowledge, would not deter. And, with respect to the most important of all the sources of information, the parliamentary documents, they were not before the public, and were by the very nature of the case within the reach of a number comparatively small.

But though no dispute will arise about the importance of the work, I have no reason to expect the same unanimity about the fitness of the workman.

One objection will doubtless be taken, on which I think it necessary to offer some observations, not-withstanding the unfavourable sentiments which are Edition: current; Page: [ix] commonly excited by almost any language in which a man can urge pretensions which he may be suspected of urging as his own; pretensions which, though they must exist, in some degree, in the case of every man who writes a book, and ought to be encouraged, therefore, rather than extinguished, had better, in general, be understood, than expressed.

This writer, it will be said, has never been in India; and, if he has any, has a very slight, and elementary acquaintance, with any of the languages of the East.

I confess the facts; and will now proceed to mention the considerations which led me, notwithstanding, to conclude, that I might still produce a work, of considerable utility, on the subject of India.

In the first place, it appeared to me, that a sufficient stock of information was now collected in the languages of Europe, to enable the inquirer to ascertain every important point, in the history of India. If I was right in that opinion, it is evident, that a residence in India, or a knowledge of the languages of India, was, to express myself moderately, not indispensable.

In the next place, I observed, that no exceptions were taken to a President of the Board of Control, or to a Governor-General, the men entrusted with all the powers of government in India, because they had never been in India, and knew none of its languages.

Again, I certainly knew, that some of the most successful attempts in history had been made, without ocular knowledge of the country, or acquaintance Edition: current; Page: [x] with its language. Robertson, for example, never beheld America, though he composed its history. He never was in either Germany or Spain, yet he wrote the history of Charles the Fifth. Of Germany he knew not so much as the language; and it was necessary for him to learn that of Spain, only because the documents which it yielded were not translated into any of the languages with which he was acquainted. Tacitus, though he never was in Germany, and was certainly not acquainted with the language of our uncultivated ancestors, wrote the exquisite account of the manners of the Germans.

But, as some knowledge may be acquired by seeing India, which cannot be acquired without it; and as it can be pronounced of hardly any portion of knowledge that it is altogether useless, I will not go so far as to deny, that a man would possess advantages, who, to all the qualifications for writing a history of India which it is possible to acquire in Europe, should add those qualifications which can be acquired only by seeing the country and conversing with its people. Yet I have no doubt of being able to make out, to the satisfaction of all reflecting minds, that the man who should bring to the composition of a history of India, the qualifications alone which can be acquired in Europe, would come, in an almost infinite degree, better fitted for the task, than the man who should bring to it the qualifications alone which can be acquired in India; and that the business of acquiring the one set of qualifications is almost wholly incompatible with that of acquiring the other.

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For, let us inquire what it is that a man can learn, by going to India, and understanding its languages. He can treasure up the facts which are presented to his senses; he can learn the facts which are recorded in such native books, as have not been translated; and he can ascertain facts by conversation with the natives, which have never yet been committed to writing. This he can do; and I am not aware that he can do any thing further.

But, as no fact is more certain, so none is of more importance, in the science of human nature, than this; that the powers of observation, in every individual, are exceedingly limited; and that it is only by combining the observations of a number of individuals, that a competent knowledge of any extensive subject can ever be acquired. Of so extensive and complicated a scene as India, how small a portion would the whole period of his life enable any man to observe!

If, then, we may assume it as an acknowledged fact, that an account of India, complete in all its parts, at any one moment, still more through a series of ages, could never be derived from the personal observation of any one individual, but must be collected from the testimony of a great number of individuals, of any one of whom the powers of perception could extend but a little way, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that the man best qualified for dealing with evidence, is the man best qualified for writing the history of India. It will not, I presume, admit of much dispute, that the habits which Edition: current; Page: [xii] are subservient to the successful exploration of evidence are more likely to be acquired in Europe than in India.

The man who employs himself in treasuring up, by means of perception and the languages, the greatest portion of knowledge in regard to India, is he who employs the greatest portion of his life, in the business of observing, and in making himself familiar with the languages. But the mental habits which are acquired in mere observing, and in the acquisition of languages, are almost as different as any mental habits can be, from the powers of combination, discrimination, classification, judgment, comparison, weighing, inferring, inducting, philosophizing in short; which are the powers of most importance for extracting the precious ore from a great mine of rude historical materials.

Whatever is worth seeing or hearing in India, can be expressed in writing. As soon as every thing of importance is expressed in writing, a man who is duly qualified may obtain more knowledge of India in one year in his closet in England, than he could obtain during the course of the longest life, by the use of his eyes and his ears in India.

As soon as the testimony is received of a sufficient number of witnesses, to leave no room for mistake from the partial or the erroneous statements which they may have separately made, it is hardly doubtful, that a man, other circumstances being equal, is really better qualified for forming a correct judgment on the whole, if his information is totally derived Edition: current; Page: [xiii] from testimony, than if some little portion of it is derived from the senses. It is well known, how fatal an effect on our judgments is exerted by those impulses, called partial impressions; in other words, how much our conceptions of a great whole are apt to be distorted, and made to disagree with their object, by an undue impression, received from some particular part. Nobody needs to be informed, how much more vivid, in general, is the conception of an object which has been presented to our senses, than that of an object which we have only heard another man describe. Nobody, therefore, will deny, that, of a great scene, or combination of scenes, when some small part has been seen, and the knowledge of the rest has been derived from testimony, there is great danger, lest the impression received from the senses should exert an immoderate influence, hang a bias on the mind, and render the conception of the whole erroneous.

If a man were to lay down the plan of preparing himself for writing the history of India, by a course of observation in the country, he must do one of two things. Either he must resolve to observe minutely a part; or he must resolve to take a cursory review of the whole. Life is insufficient for more. If his decision is to observe minutely; a very small portion comparatively is all that he will be able to observe. What aid he can derive from this, in writing a history, has partly been already unfolded, and may for the rest be confided to the reflections of the intelligent reader.

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What I expect to be insisted upon with greatest emphasis is, that, if an observer were to take an expansive view of India, noting, in his progress, those circumstances alone which are of greatest importance, he would come with peculiar advantage to the composition of a history; with lights capable of yielding the greatest assistance in judging even of the evidence of others. To estimate this pretension correctly, we must not forget a well-known and important law of human nature. From this we shall see, that a cursory view, of the nature of that which is here described, is a process, in the highest degree effectual, not for removing error, and perfecting knowledge, but for strengthening all the prejudices, and confirming all the prepossessions or false notions, with which the observer sets out. This result is proved by a very constant experience; and may further be seen to spring, with an almost irresistible necessity, from the constitution of the human mind. In a cursory survey, it is understood, that the mind, unable to attend to the whole of an infinite number of objects, attaches itself to a few; and overlooks the multitude that remain. But what, then, are the objects to which the mind, in such a situation, is in preference attracted? Those which fall in with the current of its own thoughts; those which accord with its former impressions; those which confirm its previous ideas. These are the objects to which, in a hasty selection, all ordinary minds are directed, over-looking the rest. For what is the principle in the mind by which the choice is decided? Doubtless Edition: current; Page: [xv] that of association. And is not association governed by the predominant ideas? To this remains to be added, the powerful influence of the affections; first the well known pleasure which a man finds, in meeting, at every step, with proofs that he is in the right, inspiring an eagerness to look out for that source of satisfaction; and, secondly, the well-known aversion which a man usually has, to meet with proofs that he is in the wrong, yielding a temptation, commonly obeyed, to overlook such disagreeable objects.

He who, without having been a percipient witness in India, undertakes, in Europe, to digest the materials of Indian history, is placed, with regard to the numerous individuals who have been in India, and of whom one has seen and reported one thing, another has seen and reported another thing, in a situation very analogous to that of the judge, in regard to the witnesses who give their evidence before him. In the investigation of any of those complicated scenes of action, on which a judicial decision is sometimes required, one thing has commonly been observed by one witness, another thing has been observed by another witness; the same thing has been observed in one point of view by one, in another point of view by another witness; some things are affirmed by one, and denied by another. In this scene, the judge, putting together the fragments of information which he has severally received from the several witnesses, marking where they agree and where they differ, exploring the tokens of fidelity in Edition: current; Page: [xvi] one, of infidelity in another; of correct conception in one, of incorrect conception in another; comparing the whole collection of statements with the general probabilities of the case, and trying it by the established laws of human nature, endeavours to arrive at a complete and correct conception of the complicated transaction, on which he is called to decide. Is it not understood, that in such a case as this, where the sum of the testimony is abundant, the judge, who has seen no part of the transaction, has yet, by his investigation, obtained a more perfect conception of it, than is almost ever possessed by any of the individuals from whom he has derived his information?1

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But, if a life, in any great degree devoted to the collecting of facts by the senses and to the acquiring of tongues, is thus incompatible with the acquisition of that knowledge, and those powers of mind, which are most conducive to a masterly treatment of evidence; it is still less compatible with certain other endowments, which the discharge of the highest duties of the historian imperiously demands. Great and difficult as is the task of extracting perfectly the light of evidence from a chaos of rude materials, it is yet not the most difficult of his operations, nor that which requires the highest and rarest qualifications of the mind. It is the business of the historian not merely to display the obvious outside of things; the qualities which strike the most ignorant observer, in the acts, the institutions, and ordinances, which form the subject of his statements. His duty is, to convey just ideas of all those objects; of all the transactions, legislative, administrative, judicial, mercantile, military, which he is called upon to describe. But in just ideas of great measures what is implied? A clear discernment, undoubtedly, of their causes; a clear discernment of their consequences; a clear discernment of their natural tendencies; and of the circumstances likely to operate either in combination Edition: current; Page: [xviii] with these natural tendencies, or in opposition to them. To qualify a man for this great duty hardly any kind or degree of knowledge is not demanded; hardly any amount of knowledge, which it is within the competence of one man to acquire, will be regarded as enough. It is plain, for example, that he needs the most profound knowledge of the laws of human nature, which is the end, as well as instrument, of every thing. It is plain, that he requires the most perfect comprehension of the principles of human society; or the course, into which the laws of human nature impel the human being, in his gregarious state, or when formed into a complex body along with others of his kind. The historian requires a clear comprehension of the practical play of the machinery of government; for, in like manner as the general laws of motion are counteracted and modified by friction, the power of which may yet be accurately ascertained and provided for, so it is necessasy for the historian correctly to appreciate the counteraction which the more general laws of human nature may receive from individual or specific varieties, and that allowance for it with which his anticipations and conclusions ought to be formed. In short, the whole field of human nature, the whole field of legislation, the whole field of judicature, the whole field of administration, down to war, commerce, and diplomacy, ought to be familiar to his mind.1

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What then? it will be said, and most reasonably said; do you hold yourself up, as the person in whom all these high qualifications are adequately combined? No. And I am well assured, that by not one of those by whom I shall be criticised, not even by those by whom I shall be treated with the greatest severity, will the distance between the qualifications which I possess, and the qualifications which are desirable in the writer of a history, be estimated at more than it is estimated by myself. But the whole of my life, which I may, without scruple, pronounce to have been a laborious one, has been devoted to the acquisition of those qualifications; and I am not unwilling to confess, that I deemed it probable I should be found to possess them in a greater degree, than those, no part of whose life, or a very small part, had been applied to the acquisition of them. I was also of opinion, that if nobody appeared, with higher qualifications, to undertake the work, it was better it should be done imperfectly, better it should be done even as I might be capable of doing it, than not done at all.

Among the many virtues which have been displayed by the Company's servants, may justly be enumerated the candour with which they themselves confess the necessity under which they are laid, of remaining to a great degree ignorant of India. That they go out to their appointments at a time of life when a considerable stock of general knowledge cannot possibly have been acquired, is a fact which Edition: current; Page: [xx] nobody will dispute. And they are the foremost to declare, that their situation in India is such, as to preclude them from the acquisition of local knowledge. Notwithstanding the high degree of talent, therefore, and even of literary talent, which many of them have displayed, more than some very limited portion of the history of India none of them has ventured to undertake.1

“When we consider,” said Lord Teignmouth, in his celebrated Minute on the Revenues of Bengal, “the nature and magnitude of our acquisitions, the characters of the people placed under our dominion, their difference of language, and dissimilarity of manners; that we entered upon the administration of the government ignorant of its former constitution, and with little practical experience in Asiatic finance, it will not be deemed surprising that we should have fallen into errors; or if any should at this time require correction.—If we further 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 state of constant fluctuation, and the period of their residence often expires, before experience can be acquired, or reduced Edition: current; Page: [xxi] 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 attained. True information is also procured with difficulty, because it is too often derived from mere practice, instead of being deduced from fixed principles.”1

Lord William Bentinck, after being Governor of Fort St. George, and President of the Council at Madras, expresses himself in very pointed terms. “The result of my own observation, during my residence in India, is that the Europeans generally know little or nothing of the customs and manners of the Hindoos. We are all acquainted with some prominent marks and facts, which all who run may read: but their manner of thinking; their domestic habits and ceremonies, in which circumstances a knowledge of the people consists, is I fear in great part wanting to us. We understand very imperfectly their language. They, perhaps, know more of ours; but their knowledge is by no means sufficiently extensive to give a description of subjects not easily represented by the insulated words in daily use. We do not, we cannot associate with the natives. We cannot see them in their houses, and with their families. We are necessarily very much confined to our houses by Edition: current; Page: [xxii] the heat. All our wants and business, which would create a greater intercourse with the natives, is done for us; and we are in fact strangers in the land.”1

Another servant of the Company, Sir Henry Strachey, distinguished both by his local experience, and by general knowledge, remarking upon the state of judicature, under the English government in India, says, “Another impediment, though of a very different nature from those I have mentioned, and much more difficult to remove, is to me too palpable to be overlooked;—I mean, that arising from Europeans in our situation being necessarily ill qualified, in many points, to perform the duties required of us, as judges and magistrates. This proceeds chiefly from our very imperfect connexion with the natives; and our scanty knowledge, after all our study, of their manners, customs, and languages.” “We cannot study the genius of the people it its own sphere of action. We know little of their domestic life, their knowledge, conversation, amusements, their trades, and casts, or any of those national and individual characteristics, which are essential to a complete knowledge of them.” “The difficulty we experience in discerning truth Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] and falsehood among the natives, may be ascribed, I think, chiefly, to our want of connexion and intercourse with them; to the peculiarity of their manners and habits, their excessive ignorance of our characters; and our almost equal ignorance of theirs.”1

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One or two things. I may venture to affirm that I have done.

I have performed the business of research, with a labour, and patience, which it would not be easy to surpass. And I believe there is no point, of great importance, involved in the History of India, which the evidence I have adduced is not sufficient to determine. I am, at the same time, aware, that in regard to some things there are documents which were not within my reach; and, concerning the latter part of the history, in particular, that there are individuals in England, possessed of information, which, in several places, would have rendered the narrative richer, and perhaps more accurate, in matters of detail. If I shall be found to have performed, with any tolerable success, what I had the means of performing, the liberality which distinguishes the gentlemen of India gives me reason to hope, that many of those who are possessed of useful information, but whom it was impossible for me to find out, will not be unwilling to contribute their aid to the improvement of the History of British India.

Having thus placed before me the materials of Edition: current; Page: [xxv] Indian history in a state, I believed, of greater fulness and completeness, than any preceding inquirer, I followed the course of my own thoughts in the judgments which I formed; not because I vainly imagined my thoughts more valuable than those of all other men, but because the sincere and determined pursuit of truth imposed this rigid law. It would not allow me to give for true the opinion of any man, till I had satisfied myself that it was true; still less to give the opinion of any man for true, when I had satisfied myself that it was not true.

Mr. Locke has declared; that he who follows his own thoughts in writing, can hope for approvers in the small number alone, of those who make use of their own thoughts in reading; that, by the rest, “a man is not permitted, without censure, to follow his own thoughts in the search of truth, when they lead him ever so little out of the common road.”

If this is the severe condition, under which a man follows his own thoughts, in writing even on abstract and general truths, how much harder must be the lot of him who follows them, in writing of the actions and characters of powerful men, and bodies of men? Conscious, however, that I had been faithful in forming my opinions, I believed that I lay under an indispensable obligation to be faithful in expressing them: “to give them without violation of modesty, but yet with the courage of a man unwilling to betray the rights of reason;” and with that manly plainness, which the sincerity of the historical character appeared to require.

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I could not overlook the probable consequences. “La perfection d'une Histoire,” says a great judge, “est d’etre desagréable à toutes les sectes, et à toutes les nations; car c’est une preuve que l'auteur ne flate ni les uns ni les autres, et qu’il a dit à chacun ses verités.”1

He who desires to obtain a considerable portion of immediate applause, has two well-known, and well-trodden paths before him.

The first is, to be a zealot for some particular and powerful party; to panegyrize its leaders; attack its opponents; place its principles and practices in the fairest possible light; and labour to bring odium upon the principles and practices of its opponents. This secures the loud and vehement applause of those who are gratified; and the vehement applause of a great party carries, by contagion, along with it, all, or the greater part of those, who are not very strongly engaged by their interests or passions on the opposite side.

The next of the easy ways to the acquisition of fame, consists of two principal parts. The first is, “to wanton in common topics, where a train of sentiment generally received enables a writer to shine without labour and to conquer without a contest.”2 The second is to deal for ever in compromise; to give up the half of every opinion and principle; go no further in favour of any side of any question, than may be reconcileable in some degree with the good opinion Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] of those who oppose it; and having written as much on one side, as to extract applause from one set of persons, to turn immediately and write as much on the other, as will extract applause from the opposite sort. This is done, without glaring marks of inconsistency, by avoiding all close encounter with the subject, and keeping to vague and general phrases. And in this manner, by a proper command of plausible language, it is easy to obtain reputation with all parties; reputation, not only of great talents, but of great moderation, great wisdom, and great virtue.1

If my book were possessed of a much greater share of the titles to applause, than even the partialities of the writer allow him to ascribe to it; I have travelled so very wide of those beaten paths to success, that my only chance for it depends, I cannot fail to perceive, upon the degree in which real liberality, that is, strength of mind, is diffused in the community. I have done enough, doubtless, to secure to myself the malignity of the intemperate, and the narrow-minded, of all parties. I have encouraged myself, however, with the belief, that civilization, and the improvement of the human mind, had, in this country, attained a Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] sufficient elevation to make a book he received as useful, though it neither exaggerated, nor extenuated the good, or the evil, of any man, or combination of men: to afford a multitude, in every party far enough removed from the taint of vulgar antipathies, to yield to an author, who spoke with sincerity, and who though he has not spoken with a view to gratify any party, or any individual, most assuredly has never spoken with a view to hurt any, a compensation for the hostilities of the lower and more ungenenous portion of every party.

Though I am aware of many defects in the work which I have ventured to offer to the public; and cannot forget how probable it is, that more impartial and more discerning eyes will discover many which are invisible to mine, I shall yet appeal from the sentence of him, who shall judge of me solely by what I have not done. An equitable and truly useful decision would be grounded upon an accurate estimation of what I have done, and what I have not done, taken together.

It will also deserve to be considered, how much was in the power of any individual to compass. In so vast a subject, it was clearly impossible for one man to accomplish every thing. Some things it was necessary to leave, that others might be taken; some things it was necessary to handle but slightly, that others might be treated with greater attention. The geography, for example, alone, would have occupied a life-time. To nicety in the details of geography. I was, therefore, unable to aspire. I followed without much criticism, the authors whom I was consulting, and Edition: current; Page: [xxix] was only careful to give, with correctness, that outline and those particulars, which were necessary for understanding completely the transactions recorded in my work. To compensate as far as possible, for that which, in this department, I myself was unable to perform, I was anxious to afford the reader the advantage of Mr. Arrowsmith's map, by far the finest display which has yet been made of the geography of India; and in any discrepancy, if any should appear, between the text and that reduction of his noble map, which is prefixed to the second volume, I desire the reader to be guided rather by the geographer than by the historian.

In the orthography of Indian names, I should not have aimed at a learned accuracy, even if my knowledge of the languages had qualified me for the task. I have not been very solicitous even about uniformity in the same name; for as almost every author differs from another in the spelling of Eastern names, it appeared to me to be not altogether useless, that, in a book intended to serve as an introduction to the knowledge of India, a specimen of this irregularity should appear.

There is another apparent imperfection, which I should have more gladly removed. In revising my work for the press, some few instances have occurred, in which I have not been able to verify the references to my authorities. This arose from one of the difficulties of my situation. Unable to command at once the large and expensive number of books, which it was necessary for me to consult, I was often dependent upon Edition: current; Page: [xxx] accident for the period of my supply; and, if not provided with the best channels of information, obliged to pursue my inquiries, at the moment, in such as I possessed. It was often, in these cases, useful, for the sake of memory, and of following out the thread of research, to quote, in the first instance, at second hand. When I afterwards obtained the better authority, it was a matter of anxious care to adjust the reference; but I have met with some instances in which I am afraid the adjustment has not been performed. I mention this, to obviate cavils at the appearance of inaccuracy, where the reality does not exist; inaccuracy in form, rather than in substance; for I have no apprehension that those who shall trace me with the requisite perseverance will accuse me of wanting either the diligence, or the fidelity of an historian; and I ought not to have undertaken the task, if I had not possessed the prospect of obtaining, sooner or later, the means of carrying it to completion.

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  • Adawlut. Justice, equity; a court of justice. The terms Dewanny Adawlut, and Foujdarry Adawlut, denote the civil and criminal courts of justice. See Dewanny and Foujdarry.
  • Ameer, Meer, Emir. A nobleman.
  • Ameer ul Omrah. Noble of nobles, lord of lords.
  • Anna. A piece of money, the sixteenth part of a rupee.
  • Aumeen. Trustee, commissioner. A temporary collector or supravisor, appointed to the charge of a country on the removal of a Zemindar, or for any other particular purpose of local investigation or arrangement.
  • Aumil. Agent, officer, native collector of revenue. Superintendant of a district or division of a country, either on the part of the government, Zemindar, or renter.
  • Aumildar. Agent, the holder of an office. An intendant and collector of the revenue, uniting civil, military, and financial powers, under the Mahomedan government.
  • Aurung. The place where goods are manufactured.
  • Bala-Ghaut. Above the Ghauts, in contradistinction to Payeen Ghaut, below the Ghauts. The terms are generally applied to the high tableland in the centre of India, towards its southern extremity.
  • Banyan. A Hindu merchant, or shopkeeper. The term Banyan is used in Bengal to denote the native who manages the money concerns of the European, and sometimes serves him as an interpreter. At Madras, the same description of persons is called Dubash, which signifies one who can speak two languages.
  • Batta. Deficiency, discount, allowance. Allowance to troops in the field.
  • Bazar. Daily market, or market place.
  • Bega. A land measure equal, in Bengal, to about the third part of an acre.
  • Begum. A lady, princess, woman of high rank.
  • Bice, Vaisya. A man of the third Hindu cast, who by birth is a trader, or husbandman.
  • Brahmen, Brahmin, Brahman, Bramin. A divine, a priest; the first Hindu cast.
  • Brinjarrie, Binjary, Benjary, Banjary. A grain merchant.
  • Bungalow. The name used in Bengal, for a species of country-house, erected by Europeans.
  • Caly Yug, Calyoogum. The present, or fourth age of the world, according to the chronology of the Hindus.
  • Caste, Cast. A tribe, or class of people.
  • Caravan-Serai. The serai of the caravan. See Serai and Choultry.
  • Cawzi, Cazi, Kazy. A Mahomedan judge, or justice, who also officiates as a public notary, in attesting deeds, by affixing his seal. The same as the officer we name Cadi, in Turkey.
  • Cauzy-ul-Cazaut. Judge of judges; the chief judge, or justice.
  • Chandala. One of the names for the most degraded Hindu casts.
  • Choky, Chokee. A chair, seat; guard, watch. The station of a guard or watchman. A place where an officer is stationed to receive tolls and customs.
  • Choultry. A covered public building, for the accommodation of passengers.
  • Chout. A fourth: a fourth part of sums litigated. Mahratta chout; a fourth Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] of the revenues, exacted as tribute by the Mahrattas.
  • Chubdar. Staff-bearer. An attendant on a man of rank. He waits with a long staff, plated with silver, announces the approach of visitors, and runs before his master, proclaiming aloud his titles.
  • Chunam. Lime.
  • Circar. Head of affairs; the state or government; a grand division of a province; a head man; a name used by Europeans in Bengal, to denote the Hindu writer and accountant, employed by themselves, or in the public offices.
  • Colluries, Colerees. Saltworks, the places where salt is made.
  • Coolites, Cooly. Porter, labourer.
  • Coss. A term used by Europeans, to denote a road-measure of about two miles, but differing in different parts of India.
  • Chore. Ten millions.
  • Csnatriya, Kshatriya, Chetterie, Khetery. A man of the second or military caste.
  • Cutcherry. Court of justice; also the public office where the rents are paid, and other business respecting the revenue transacted.
  • Cutwal, Katwal. The chief officer of police in a large town or city, and superintendant of the markets.
  • Dar. Keeper, holder. This word is often joined with another, to denote the holder of a particular office or employment, as Chob-dar, staff-holder; Zemin-dar, land-holder. This compound word, with i, ee, y, added to it, denotes the office, as Zemindar-ee.
  • Darogah. A superintendant, or overseer; as of the police, the mint, &c.
  • Daum, Dam. A copper coin, the fortieth part of a rupee.
  • Deccan. Literally, the south. A term employed by Mahomedan writers, to denote the country between the rivers Nerbuddah and Crishna.
  • Decoits. Gang-robbers. Decoity, gang-robbery.
  • Dewan, Duan. Place of assembly. Native minister of the revenue department; and chief justice, in civil causes, within his jurisdiction; receiver-generad of a province. The term is also used, to designate the principal revenue servant under an European collector, and even of a Zemindar. By this title, the East India Company are receivers-general of the revenues of Bengal, under a grant from the Great Mogul.
  • Dewanny, Duannee. The office, or jurisdiction of a Dewan.
  • Dewanny Court of Adawiur. A court for trying revenue, and other civil causes.
  • Doab, Doowab. Any tract of country included between two rivers.
  • Droog. A fortified hill or rock.
  • Dubash. See Banyan.
  • Durbar. The court, the hall of audience; a levee.
  • Faqueer, Fakir. A poor man, mendicant, a religious beggar.
  • Firmaun, Phirmaund. Order, mandate. An imperial decree, a royal grant, or charter.
  • Foujdar, Fojedar, Phousdar, Fogedar. Under the Mogul government, a magistrate of the police over a large district, who took cognizance of all criminal matters within his jurisdiction, and sometimes was employed as receiver-general of the revenues.
  • Foujdarry, Fojedaree. Office of a Foujdar.
  • Foujdarry Court. A court for administering the criminal law.
  • Ghaut. A pass through a mountain; applied also to a range of hills, and the ford of a river.
  • Ghee. Clarified butter, in which state they preserve that article for culinary purposes.
  • Ghirdawar, Girdwar. An overseer of police, under whom the goyendas, or informers, act.
  • Gomastah. A commissioner, factor, agent.
  • Gooroo, Guru. Spiritual guide.
  • Goyenda. An inferior officer of police; a spy, informer.
  • Gunge. A granary, a depot, chiefly of grain for sale. Wholesale markets, held on particular days. Commercial depots.
  • Gurry. A name given to a wall flanked with towers.
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  • Haram. Seraglio, the place where the ladies reside.
  • Hircarra, Harcarrah. A guide, a spy, a messenger.
  • Howda. The seat of great men fixed on an elephant, not much unlike the body of a sedan in shape.
  • Jaghire, Jagheer. Literally, the place of taking. An assignment, to an individual, of the government share of the produce of a portion of land. There were two species of jaghires; one, personal, for the use of the grantee; another, in trust, for some public service, most commonly, the maintenance of troops.
  • Jamma, Jumma. Total, amount, collection, assembly. The total of a territorial assignment.
  • Jammabundy, Jummabundy. A writted schedule of the whole of an assessment.
  • Jeel, Keel. A shallow lake, or morass.
  • Jinjal. A large musket, fixed on a swivel, used in Indian forts, and fired with great precision.
  • Jug. See Yug.
  • Jungle, Jangle. A wood, or thicket; a country overrun with shrubs, or long grass.
  • Khalsa. Pure, unmixed. An office of government, in which the business of the revenue department is transacted: the exchequer. Khalsa lands, are lands, the revenue of which is paid into the exchequer.
  • Khan, Cawn. A title, similar to that of Lord.
  • Khilaut, Kelaut. A robe of honour, with which princes confer dignity.
  • Killader, Kelladar. Warder of a castle commander of a fort.
  • Kist. Stated payment, instalment of rent.
  • Kushoon, Cushogn. A body of military, corresponding nearest to our term brigade; varying from one to six or eight thousand.
  • Lac. One hundred thousand.
  • Lascar. Properly a camp-follower, but applied to native sailors and artillery-men.
  • Limber. A low two-wheeled carriage, on which the trial of a gun is fixed when travelling: it is released in a moment if wanted to fire, which is called unlimbering; the cattle being yoked to the limber, guns are of course always dragged breech first.
  • Maal, Mahl, Mehal, Mhal. Places, districts, departments. Places, or sources of revenue, particularly of a territorial nature; lands.
  • Maha. Great.
  • Mocurrery. As applied to lands, it means lands let on a fixed lease.
  • Mofussil. Separated, particularized; the subordinate divisious of a district, in contradistinction to Saddur, or Sudder, which implies the chief seat of government.
  • Mofussil Dewanny Adawlut. Provincial court of civil justice.
  • Molungee. Manufacturer of salt.
  • Moofty, Muftee. The Mahomedan law-officer who declares the sentence.
  • Monsoon. The ramy season. The periodical winds and rains.
  • Moolavy, Mohlavee. A learned and religious man, an interpreter of the Mahomedan law.
  • Moonshee. Letter-writer, secretary. Europeans give this title to the native who instructs them in the Persian language.
  • Mosque. A Mahomedan temple.
  • Musnud. The place of sitting; a seat; a throne, or chair of state.
  • Mutseddey, Mutaseddee. Iutent upon. Writer, accountant, secretary.
  • Nabob, Nawab. Very great deputy vicegerent. The governor of a province under the Mogul government.
  • Naib. A deputy.
  • Naib Nazim. Deputy of the Nazim, or Governor.
  • Naig, Naik. A petty military officer.
  • Nair. Chief. The Nairs are a peculiar description of Hindus, on the Malabar coast.
  • Nazim. Composer, arranger, adjuster. The first officer of a province, and minister of the department of criminal justice.
  • Nizam. Order, arrangement; an arranger.
  • Nizam ul Mulk. The administrator of the empire.
  • Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] Nizamut. Arrangement, government; the office of the Nazim, or Nizam.
  • Nizamut Adawlut. The court of criminal justice.
  • Nulla. Streamlet, water-course.
  • Nuzzer. A vow, an offering; a present made to a superior.
  • Omrah. A lord, a grandee, under the Mogul government.
  • Pagoda. A temple; also the name of a gold coin, in the south of India, valued at eight shillings.
  • Palankeen. A litter in which gentleman in India recline, and are carried on the shoulders of four men.
  • Pariar. A term used by Europeans in India to denote the outcasts of the Hindu tribes.
  • Patan. A name applied to the Afghaun tribes.
  • Peshwa, Peishwa. Guide, leader. The prime minister of the Mahratta government.
  • Peon. A lootmon, a foot soldier; an inferior officer or servant employed in the business of the revenue, police, or judicature.
  • Pergunnah. A small district, consisting of several villages.
  • Peshcush. A present, particularly to government, in consideration of an appointment, or as an acknowledgment for any tenure. Tribute, fine, quit-rent, advance on the stipulated revenues.
  • Pettah. The suburbs of a fortified town.
  • Polligar, Polygar. Head of a village district. Military chieftain in the Peninsula, similar to hill Zemindar in the northern circars.
  • Pollam. A district held by a Polligar.
  • Potail. The head man of a village. The term corresponds with that of Mocuddim and Mundul in Bengal.
  • Pottah. A lease granted to the cultivators on the part of government, either written on paper, or engraved with a style on the leaf of the fan palmira tree
  • Pundit. A learned Brahmen.
  • Purana, Pooran. Literally ancient: the name given to such Hindu books as treat of creation in general, with the history of their gods and ancient heroes.
  • Pyke. A foot messenger. A person employed as a night-watch in a village, and as a runner or messenger on the business of the revenue.
  • Rajah. King, prince, chieftain, nobleman; a title in ancient times given to chiefs of the second or military Hindu tribe only.
  • Rajepoot. Literally, son of a king. The name of a warlike race of Hindus.
  • Rana. A species of rajah.
  • Ranny, Ranee. Queen, princes, wife of a rajah.
  • Roy Royan. A Hindu title given to the principal officer of the Khalsa, or chief treasurer of the exchequer.
  • Rupee. The name of a silver coin; rated in the Company's accounts, the current rupee at 2s.; the Bombay rupee at 2s. 3d.
  • Ryot. Peasant, subject; tenant of house or land.
  • Sayer. What moves; variable imposts, distinct from land rent or revenue; consisting of customs, rolls, licences, duties on goods, also taxes on houses, shops, bazars, &c.
  • Sepoy. A native soldier.
  • Serai. The same as Choaltry.
  • Shaster. The instrument of government or instruction; any book of instruction, particularly containing divine ordinances.
  • Shroff, Shrof. A banker, or money-changer.
  • Sirdar. Chief, captain, head man.
  • Soucar. A merchant, or banker; a money-lender.
  • Subah. A province such as Bengal. A grand division of a country, which is again divided into circars, chucklas, pergunnahs, and villages.
  • Subahdar. The holder of the subah, the governor or viceroy.
  • Subahdary. The office and jurisdiction of a subahdar.
  • Sudder. The breast; the fore-court of a house; the chief seat of government, contradistinguished from Mofussil, or interior of the country; the presidency.
  • Sudder Dewanny Adawlut. The chief civil court of justice under the Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] Company's government, held at the presidency.
  • Sudder Nizamut Adawlut. The chief criminal court of justice, under the Company's government.
  • Sudra, Shudra, Sooder. A Hindu of the fourth, or lowest tribe.
  • Sonnud. A prop, or support; a patent, charter, or written authority for holding either land or office.
  • Talookdar. A holder of a talook, which is a small portion of land; a petty land-agent.
  • Tank. Pond, reservoir.
  • Tannahdar. A petty police officer.
  • Teed. A note of hand; a promissory note given by a native banker, or money-lender, to Zemindars and others, to enable them to furnish government with security for the payment of their rents.
  • Tehsildar. Who has charge of the collections. A native collector of a district, acting under a European or Zemindar.
  • Topashes. Native black Christians, the remains of the ancient Portuguese.
  • Tope. A grove of trees.
  • Tuncaw, Tunkha. An assignment on the revenue, for personal support, or other purposes.
  • Tumbril. A carriage for the gun ammunition.
  • Vackbel, Vaqnibl. One endowed with authority to act for another. Ambassador, agent sent on a special commission, or residing at a court. Native law pleader, under the judicial system of the Company.
  • Vizir, Vizier. Under the Mogul government, the prime minister of the sovereign.
  • Vedas, Veds, Beeds. Science, knowledge. The sacred scriptures of the Hindus.
  • Yogies, Jogies. Hindu devolees.
  • Yug, Jug, Yoog. An age; a great period of the Hindus; also a religious ceremony.
  • Zemindar. From two words signifying, earth, land, and holder or keeper. Land-keeper. An officer who, under the Mahomedan government, was charged with the superintendance of the lands of a district, financially considered; the protection of the cultivators, and the realization of the government's share of its produce, either in money or kind.
  • Zemindarry. The office or jurisdiction of a Zemindar.
  • Zenana. The place where the ladies reside.
  • Zillah. Side, part, district, division. A local division of a country having reference to personal jurisdiction.

N. B. The explanations of the above terms are taken, for the most part, from the Glossary attached to the fifth Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Indian affairs, appointed in 1810.

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The correction, which the following notice in the first edition required to be made, was forgotten till that part of the text was reprinted. The passage therefore stands as in the first edition.

VOL. III.—Page 150. It has been suggested to me, that the allusion to the death of 400 Gentoos, made in the note of the translator of the Seer Mutakhareen, may have a stress laid upon it, which I should regret. I copied the note, merely as a specimen of the criticisms which were made on the spot, by persons not partial to the English. This, I conceived, was matter of instruction. But I never meant that any fact should stand, as confirmed, upon the authority of the translator of the Seer Mutakhareen; nor will it be so understood by any considerate reader. Had the statement appeared to me to rest upon proof, I should have thought it of sufficient importance to give it a place in the text. I have, since the volume was printed, had reasons given to me, by which I am convinced, that the allusion is not well founded, and that no such catastrophe ever occurred.

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BOOK I.: 1527–1707.

Commencement of the British Intercourse with India; and the Circumstances of its Progress, till the Establishment of the Company on a durable Basis by the Act of the Sixth of Queen Anne.

Two centuries have elapsed, since a few British merchants humbly solicited permission of the Indian princes to traffic in their dominions.

The British power at present embraces nearly the whole of that vast region, which extends from Cape Comorin to the mountains of Tibet, and from the mouths of the Brahmapootra to the Indus.

In the present undertaking, it is proposed, to collect, from its numerous and scattered sources, the information necessary to convey correct and adequate ideas of this empire, and of the transactions through which it has been acquired; and for that purpose,

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book i. I. To describe the circumstances in which the intercourse of the British nation with India commenced, and the particulars of its early progress, till the era when it could first be regarded as placed on a firm and durable basis:

II. To exhibit as accurate a view as possible of the character, the history, the manners, religion, arts, literature, and laws of the extraordinary people with whom this intercourse had thus begun; as well as of the physical circumstances, the climate, the soil, and productions, of the country in which they were placed:

III. To deduce to the present times a history of that part of the British transactions, which have had an immediate relation to India; recording the train of events; unfolding the constitution of that Body, half political, half commercial, through which the business has been ostensibly performed; describing the nature, the progress, and effects of its commercial operations; exhibiting the legislative proceedings, the discussions and speculations, to which the connection of Great Britain with India has given birth; analysing the schemes of government which she has adopted for her Indian dominions; and attempting to discover the character and tendency of that species of relation to one another in which the mother country and her eastern dependencies are placed.

The subject forms an entire, and highly interesting, portion of the British History; and it is hardly possible that the matter should have been brought together, for the first time, without being instructive, how unskilfully soever the task may have been performed. If the success corresponded with the wishes of the author, he would throw light upon a state of society, curious, and commonly misunderstood; upon the history of society, which in the compass of his work presents itself in almost all its stages and all its Edition: current; Page: [3] shapes; upon the principles of legislation, in which he has so many important experiments to describe; and upon interests of his country, of which, to a great degree, his countrymen have remained in ignorance, while prejudice usurped the prerogatives of understanding.


From the Commencement of the Efforts to begin a Trade with India, till the Change of the Company from a regulated to a joint-stock Company.

The Portuguese had formed important establishments in India, before the British offered themselves as competitors for the riches of the East.

From the time when Vasco de Gama distinguished his nation by discovering the passage round the Cape of Good Hope, a whole century had elapsed, during which, without a rival, the Portuguese had enjoyed, and abused, the advantages of superior knowledge and art, amid a feeble and half-civilized people. They had explored the Indian ocean, as far as Japan; had discovered its islands, rich with some of the favourite productions of nature; had achieved the most brilliant conquests; and by their commerce poured into Europe, in unexampled profusion, those commodities of the East, on which the nations at that time set an extraordinary value.

The circumstances of this splendid fortune had violently attracted the attention of Europe. The commerce of India, even when confined to those narrow limits which a carriage by land had prescribed, was Edition: current; Page: [4] book i. Chap. 1. supposed to have elevated feeble states into great ones; and to have constituted an enviable part in the fortune even of the most opulent and powerful; to have contributed largely to support the Grecian monarchies both in Syria and Egypt; to have retarded the downfall of Constantinople; and to have raised the small and obscure republic of Venice to the rank and influence of the most potent kingdoms. The discovery therefore of a new channel for this opulent traffic, and the happy experience of the Portuguese, inflamed the cupidity of all the maritime nations of Europe, and set before them the most tempting prospects.

An active spirit of commerce had already begun to display itself in England. The nation had happily obtained its full share of the improvement which had dawned in Europe; and the tranquil and economical reign of Elizabeth had been favourable both to the accumulation of capital, and to those projects of private emolument on which the spirit of commerce depends. A brisk trade, and of considerable extent, had been carried on during the greater part of the sixteenth century with the Netherlands, at that time the most improved and commercial part of Europe. The merchants of Bristol had opened a traffic with the Canary Islands; those of Plymouth with the coasts of Guinea and Brazil: the English now fished on the banks of Newfoundland; and explored the sea of Spitzbergen, for the sovereign of the waters: they engrossed, by an exclusive privilege, the commerce of Russia: they took an active part in the trade of the Mediterranean: the company of merchant-adventurers pushed so vigorously the traffic with Germany and the central parts of Europe, as highly to excite the jealousy of the Hans Towns: and the protestant inhabitants of the Netherlands and Edition: current; Page: [5] France, flying from the persecutions of their own book i. Chap. 1. 1527. oppressive and bigoted governments, augmented the commercial resources of England by the capital and skill of a large importation of the most ingenious and industrious people in Europe.1

In these circumstances, the lustre of the Portuguese transactions in the East peculiarly attracted the admiration of the English. Already a most adventurous spirit of navigation was roused in the nation. The English were the first who had imitated the example of the Spaniards in visiting the New World. In 1497, Cabot, with a small squadron, explored the coast of America, from Labrador to Virginia, and discovered the islands of Newfoundland and St. John.2 An English merchant, named Robert Thorne, who had been stationed for many years at Seville in Spain, and had acquired particular knowledge of the intercourse which the Portuguese had opened with the East, presented a project to Henry VIII. about the year 1527, the accomplishment of which he imagined would place his countrymen in a situation no less enviable than that of the Portuguse. As that nation had obtained a passage to India by a course to the south-east, and pretended a right, which they defended by force, to its exclusive occupation, he supposed that his countrymen might reach the same part of the globe by sailing to the north-west, and thus obtain a passage at once expeditious and undisputed.3 What effect this representation Edition: current; Page: [6] book i. Chap. 1. 1527. produced on the mind of Henry is not accurately known. But two voyages in the course of his reign were undertaken for the discovery of a north-west passage, one about this period,1 and another ten years later.2

Nothing can more clearly prove to us the ardour with which the English coveted a share in the riches supposed to be drawn from the East, than the persevering efforts which they made to discover a channel from which the Portuguese should have no pretence to exclude them. Two attempts in the reign of Henry to obtain a passage by the north-west having failed, their exploring fancy anticipated a happier issue from a voyage to the north-east. A small squadron, under the direction of Sir Hugh Willoughby, was fitted out in the reign of Edward VI.; and, sailing along the coast of Norway, doubled the North Cape,3 where it was encountered by a storm. The ship of Sir Hugh was driven to an obscure spot in Russian Lapland, where he and his crew perished miserably by the climate. The other principal vessel found shelter in the harbour of Archangel, and was the first foreign ship by which it was entered. So well did Chancellour, its captain, improve the incident, that he opened a commercial intercourse with the natives, visited the monarch in his capital, stipulated important privileges for his countrymen; and laid the foundation of a trade which was immediately prosecuted to no inconsiderable extent. This voyage but little damped the hopes of obtaining a north-east passage to the riches of India. Some vigorous attempts were made by the company in whose hands the commerce with Russia was placed;4 the last of Edition: current; Page: [7] them in 1580, when two ships were sent out to book i. Chap. 1. 1567. explore the passage through the straits of Waygatz. After struggling with many perils and difficulties from the ice and the cold, one of the vessels returned unsuccessful; of the other no intelligence was ever received.

Before this hope was abandoned, the project of obtaining a passage by the north-west was ardently resumed. No fewer than six voyages were made in the course of a few years. Two barks of twenty-five tons each, and a pinnace of ten, sailed under Martin Frobisher in the year 1567, and entered Hudson's bay, which they at first imagined was the inlet about to conduct them to the golden shore. The same navigator was encouraged to make a second attempt in the same direction in 1576. As he brought home some minerals, which were supposed to be impregnated with gold, the attention of government was excited; and after two years, Frobisher was sent out with fifteen of the Queen's ships, miners for the supposed ore, and 120 persons as the rudiments of a colony. Having spent his provisions, and lost one of his ships, but not having found the expected passage, nor left his settlers, he returned with 300 tons of the supposed treasure, which proved to be only a glittering sand.1 The nation persevered in its hopes and its enterprises. A few years afterwards, Captain John Davis sailed as far as 66° 40′ north, and discovered the straits distinguished by his name. In a second voyage, undertaken in 1586, he explored in vain the inlet which he had thus discovered, and after a few years was enabled to proceed in a third expedition, which had no better success than the preceding two.2

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book i. Chap. 1. 1577. After the defeat of so many efforts to discover a new passage to India, the English resolved to be no longer deterred by the pretensions of the Portuguese. A voyage to China by the Cape of Good Hope was undertaken in 1582. Four ships proceeded to the coast of Brazil, fought with some Spanish men of war, and were obliged to return for want of provisions.1 Another expedition, consisting of three ships, was fitted out in 1596, the commander of which was furnished with Queen Elizabeth's letters to the Emperor of China. This voyage proved eminently unfortunate. The ships were driven upon the coast of Spanish America, where only four men were preserved alive from the effects of storms, famine, and disease.2

Amid these unsuccessful endeavours two voyages were accomplished, which animated the hopes of the nation, and pointed out the way to more fortunate enterprises. Francis Drake, the son of a clergyman in Kent, who at a tender age had been put an apprentice to the master of a slender bark trading to the coast of Holland and France, had early evinced that passionate ardour in his profession which is the usual forerunner of signal success.3 He gained the affections of his master, who left him his bark at his death; at the age of eighteen he was purser of a ship which sailed to the bay of Biscay; at twenty he made a voyage to the coast of Guinea; in 1565 he ventured his all in a voyage to the West Indies, which had no success; and in 1567 he served under his kinsman Sir John Hawkins, in his unprosperous expedition to the bay of Mexico. In these different Edition: current; Page: [9] services, his nautical skill, his courage, and sagacity, book i. Chap. 1. 1577. had been conspicuously displayed. In 1570 his reputation enabled him to proceed to the West Indies with two vessels under his command. So vehemently was he bent on executing some great design, that he renewed his visit the next year, for the sole purpose of obtaining information. He had no sooner returned than he planned an expedition against the Spaniards, executed it with two ships and seventy-three men, sacked the town of Nombre de Dios, and returned with great treasure. It is said that, in this voyage, he saw from the top of a high-tree, that is, fancied he saw, across the American isthmus, the Southern Ocean, and became inflamed with the desire of reaching it in a ship of England.

For this expedition he prepared on a great scale; obtaining the commission of the Queen, and the command of five vessels, one of 100 tons, another of eighty, one of fifty, another of thirty, and a pinnace of fifteen; the whole manned with 164 select sailors. The historians of his voyage are anxious to display the taste and magnificence, as well as judgment, of his preparations; expert musicians, rich furniture, utensils of the most curious workmanship, vessels of silver for his table, and many of the same precious metal for his cook-room.

The expedition sailed from Plymouth on the 13th of December, 1577. Having passed the Straits of Magellan, and ravaged the western coast of Spanish America, Drake feared the encounter of a Spanish fleet, should he attempt to return in the same direction, and formed the bold design of crossing the Pacific Ocean, and regaining England by the Cape of Good Hope.

With one ship, the only part of the fleet which remained, he steered along the coast of America to the Edition: current; Page: [10] book i. Chap. 1. 1577. latitude of 38° north, and then entered upon that immense navigation, in which Magellan, the only circumnavigator who preceded him, had sustained so many disasters. No memorable occurrence attended the voyage. Of the islands which have been discovered in the Pacific Ocean none were observed till he approached the Asiatic coast. Fixing his attention on the Moluccas, of which the fame had been circulated in Europe by the rich spices thence imported by the Portuguese, he passed, with little observation, the more eastern part of the numerous islands which stud the Indian seas, and held his course for Tidore. From intelligence, received on the passage, he waved his intention of landing on that island, and steered for Ternate, the sovereign of which he understood to be at enmity with the Portuguese.

His intercourse with that island forms a remarkable epoch in the history of the British nation in India, as it was the beginning of those commercial transactions which have led to the greatest results. The King, having received assurances that his new visitants came with no other intention than that of trading with his country, gave them a very favourable reception. This monarch possessed considerable power, since the English navigators were informed that he ruled over seventy islands, besides Ternate, the most valuable of all the Moluccas; and in the visits which they paid to his court they were eyewitnesses of no contemptible magnificence. They exchanged presents with him, and received him on board; they traded with his subjects, laid in a cargo of valuable spices, and acquainted themselves with the nature and facilities of a commerce which was the object of admiration and envy in Europe.

Not satisfied with the information or the commodities Edition: current; Page: [11] which they received on one island, they visited book i. Chap. 1. 1580. several, being always amazed at their prodigious fertility, and in general delighted with the manners of the inhabitants. Among other places they landed in the great island of Java, famous afterwards as the seat of the Dutch government in India. They held some friendly intercourse with the natives, and departed with a tolerable knowledge both of the character of the people, and the productions of the country.

They now spread their sails for that navigation between Europe and India, to which the Portuguese claimed an exclusive right, and by which they monopolized the traffic with India. Those discoverers had craftily disseminated in Europe terrific accounts of dangers and horrors attending the navigation round the Cape of Good Hope. As the voyage of the English proved remarkably prosperous, they were surprised and delighted with the safety and ease which seemed to them to distinguish this envied passage, and conceived a still more lofty opinion of the advantages enjoyed by the nation that engrossed it. After leaving Java, the first land which they touched was the Cape of Good Hope. They landed once more at Sierra Leone, on the African coast, and received supplies which sufficed for the remainder of the voyage. They arrived at Plymouth on Monday the 26th of September, 1580, after a voyage of two years, ten months, and a few days; exhibiting to the wondering eyes of the spectators the first ship in England, and the second in the world, which had circumnavigated the globe. The news quickly spread over the whole kingdom, which resounded with the applauses of the man who had performed so daring and singular an enterprise. Whoever wished to be distinguished as the patron of merit hastened to confer some mark of his admiration on Captain Drake. The songs, epigrams, poems, and Edition: current; Page: [12] book i. Chap. 1. 1580. other pieces, which were composed in celebration of his exploits, amounted to several collections.1 The Queen, after some delay, necessary to save appearances with the Spanish court, which loudly complained of the depredations of Drake, though as reprisals perhaps they were not undeserved, paid a visit in person to the wonderful ship at Deptford; accepted of an entertainment on board, and conferred the honour of knighthood on its captain; observing, at the same time, that his actions did him more honour than his title.2

We may form some conception of the ardour which at that time prevailed in England for maritime exploits, by the number of men of rank and fortune, who chose to forego the indulgences of wealth, and to embark their persons and properties in laborious, painful, and dangerous expeditions. Among them we find such names as those of the Earls of Cumberland and Essex, of Sir Richard Greenville, Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Humphry Gilbert, Sir Robert Dudley, who prepared squadrons at their own expense, and sailed to various parts of the world. No undertaking of this description was attended with more important circumstances than that of Thomas Cavendish.

This gentleman, descended from a family of distinction, and inheriting a large estate in the county of Edition: current; Page: [13] Suffolk, had been early fired with a passion for maritime book i. Chap. 1. 1586. adventure. In a vessel of his own, he had accompanied Sir Richard Greenville in his unsuccessful voyage to Virginia; and now sold or mortgaged his estate, to equip a squadron with which he might rival the glory of Drake. It consisted of three ships, the largest of 140 tons, one of sixty, and a bark of about forty, the whole supplied with two years’ provisions, and manned with 126 officers and sailors, of whom several had served in the celebrated expedition of Drake.

They sailed from Plymouth on the 21st of July, 1586. Their voyage through the Straits of Magellan, and the depredations which they proceeded to commit along the western coast of the American continent, not only in the spirit of avarice, but even of wanton devastation, form no part of our present subject, and may without regret be left to other recorders. They had reached the coast of Calefornia, and nearly 24° of northern latitude; when, having taken a very rich Spanish ship, and completed their schemes of plunder, they commenced their voyage across the Pacific Ocean. They left the coast of America on the 19th of November, and came in sight of Guam, one of the Ladrone islands, on the 3d of January. From this island they were visited by sixty or seventy canoes full of the inhabitants, who brought provisions to exchange for commodities, and so crowded about the ship, that the English, when they had finished their traffic, discharged some of their fire arms to drive them away.1 With the Philippines, to which Edition: current; Page: [14] book i. Chap. 1. 1586. they next proceeded, they opened a more protracted intercourse; having cast anchor at one of the islands, where they lay for nine days, and carried on an active trade with the inhabitants.

The cluster of islands, to which the Europeans have given the name of the Philippines, was discovered by Magellan. Philip II., shortly after his accession to the Spanish throne, planted there a colony of Spaniards, by an expedition from New Spain; and a curious commerce had from that time been carried on across the Great Pacific between this settlement and the dominions of Spain in the new world. To Manilla, the capital of the Philippine colony, the Chinese, who resorted thither in great numbers, brought all the precious commodities of India; and two ships were sent annually from New Spain, which carried to the Philippines the silver of the American mines, and returned with the fine productions of the East. The impatience, however, of the natives under the Spanish yoke, was easily perceived. When they discovered that the new visitors were not Spaniards, but the enemies of that people, they eagerly testified their friendship; and the princes of the island, where Cavendish landed, engaged to assist him with the whole of their forces, if he would return and make war upon the common adversary.

This adventurous discoverer extensively explored the intricate navigation of the Indian Archipelago, and observed the circumstances of the new and extraordinary scene with a quick and intelligent eye. He visited the Ladrones; shaped a course among the Philippines, which brought the greater part of those islands within his view; passed through the Moluccas; Edition: current; Page: [15] sailed along that important chain of islands, book i. Chap. 1. 1588. which bounds the Indian Archipelago from the Strait of Malacca to the extremity of Timor; and passing the Strait of Bally, between the two Javas, cast anchor on the south-west side of the great island of that name, where he traded with the natives for provisions, and formed a sort of treaty, stipulating a favourable reception when his visit should be renewed.

He sailed for the Cape of Good Hope on the 16th of March, careful to treasure up information respecting a voyage, which was now the channel of so important a commerce. He made astronomical observations; he studied the weather, the winds, and the tides; he noted the bearing and position of lands; and omitted nothing which might facilitate a repetition of the voyage to himself or his countrymen. He passed the Cape with prosperous navigation about the middle of May, and, having touched at St. Helena to recruit his stores, he landed at Plymouth on the 9th of September, 1588. In the letter which, on the very day of his arrival, he wrote to Lord Hunsdon, then Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, he says, “I navigated to the islands of Philippines, hard upon the coast of China, of which country I have brought such intelligence as hath not been heard of in these parts; a country, the stateliness and riches of which I fear to make report of, lest I should not be credited. I sailed along the islands of Moluccas, where, among some of the heathen people, I was well entreated, and where our countrymen may have trade as freely as the Portugals, if they themselves will.”

The tide of maritime adventure which these splendid voyages were so well calculated to swell, flowed naturally towards India, by reason of the fancied opulence, and the prevailing passion for the commodities, of the East. The impatience of our countrymen had Edition: current; Page: [16] book i. Chap. 1. 1588. already engaged them in a circuitous traffic with that part of the globe. They sailed to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where they found cargoes of Indian goods conveyed over land: and a mercantile company, denominated the Levant Company, was instituted, according to the policy of the age, to secure to the nation the advantages of so important a commerce.1 The Company which, after the discovery of the port of Archangel, had been formed to carry on the trade with Russia, had opened a communication with Persia, and thence imported the commodities of India: Mr. Anthony Jenkinson, an active and enterprising agent of the Russia Company, sailed down the Volga, in 1558, to the Caspian Sea, which he crossed into Persia, and at Boghar, a city of some importance, found merchants not only from various parts of the Persian empire, but from Russia, and China, and India. This voyage he performed seven times; and opened a considerable trade for raw and wrought silk, carpets, spices, precious stones, and other Asiatic productions. In 1563, there was business enough to require the presence of three agents at Casbin, the seat of the Persian court; and the traffic flourished for several years.

Accidental circumstances contributed to enliven the admiration excited by the Indian trade. During that expedition to the coast of Spain, on which Sir Francis Drake was sent, by Queen Elizabeth, to harass the Spanish shipping, and prevent as far as possible the preparations for the Invincible Armada, he took one of the Portuguese ships from India, known at that time by the name of Carracks. The value of her cargo inflamed the imaginations of the merchants; and the papers which she carried afforded information Edition: current; Page: [17] respecting the traffic in which she was engaged.1 A book i. Chap. 1. 1593. still more important capture of the same sort was made in 1593. An expedition fitted out for the West Indies by Sir Walter Ralegh, and commanded by Sir John Boroughs, encountered near the Azores the greatest of all the Portuguese Carracks, a vessel of 1,600 tons, carrying 700 men, and thirty-six brass cannon, and after an obstinate contest carried her into Dartmouth. This was the largest vessel which had ever been seen in England, laden with spices, calicoes, silks, gold, pearls, drugs, porcelain, ebony, &c.; and stimulated the impatience of the English to be engaged in so opulent a commerce.2

Some members of the Turkey or Levant Company finished about the same time an expedition to India.3 They had carried some cloth, tin, and other goods from Aleppo to Bagdat, which they next conveyed down the Tigris to Ormus in the Persian Gulph, and thence transported to Goa, the great mart between the Portuguese and Indians on the coast of Malabar. From this place they commenced an extensive survey of the adjoining countries; repaired to Agra, at that time the capital and residence of the Mogul Emperor; visited Lahor; traversed Bengal; travelled to Pegu and Malacca; and, returning by sea to Ormus, retraced their steps to Aleppo, whence they sailed for England, bearing with them important and extensive information respecting the countries they had explored. Intelligence now poured itself into the nation by a variety of channels. An Englishman, of the name Edition: current; Page: [18] book i. Chap. 1. 1593. of Stevens, had sailed with the Portuguese from Lisbon to Goa, by the Cape of Good Hope, and wrote an account of his voyage, which was read with avidity, and contributed to swell the general current of enterprise which now ran so vehemently toward India.1

The first application which was made to government was by a memorial, in the name of “divers merchants,” addressed to the Lords of Council, in 1589, for the royal permission to send three ships, and as many pinnaces, on a voyage to India. They enumerated the different places, at which the Portuguese had already effected settlements, on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, in Malacca, and in the Banda and Molucca islands, places from which it seemed to be tacitly understood that other nations were bound to abstain. But they added, that the islands and shores of the Indian ocean presented many other places, open to the enterprise of English merchants, an intercourse with which might yield the greatest advantages.2 What reception this application received is unknown. But the unfortunate expedition of Captain Raymond; remarkable as being the first of which India was the immediate destination, though its object was not trade, so much as plunder, by cruising against the Portuguese; was fitted out in 1591. Disease had made such ravages among the crews, before they reached the Cape of Good Hope, that one of the vessels was sent home with the sick; and the rest, two in number, had not long doubled the Cape, when the principal ship was lost in a storm. Captain James Lancaster, in the remaining vessel, after a disastrous voyage to the East, sailed to the West Indies, where he lost the Edition: current; Page: [19] ship, and with great difficulty found means to return book i. Chap. 1. 1599. in a French privateer.1

While the English fluctuated between desire and execution in this important enterprise, the Dutch, in 1595, boldly sent four ships to trade with India by the Cape of Good Hope.2 This exploit added fuel, at once, to the jealousy, and to the ambition of the English. In 1599, an association was formed, and a fund subscribed, which amounted to 30,133l. 6s. 8d., and consisted of 101 shares; the subscriptions of individuals varying from 100l. to 3,000l. It was agreed to petition the Queen for a warrant to fit out three ships, and export bullion, and also for a charter of privileges. A committee of fifteen, the origin and foundation of a Court of Directors, were chosen to manage. The approbation of the government was readily signified; but as a treaty was then pending with Spain, policy appeared to counsel delay. The subscribers, known by the name of the adventurers, were impatient, and presented a memorial, distinguishing the places with which the Spaniards and Portuguese had established an intercourse, from others to which, without any ground of complaint on the part of those nations, the English might with unspeakable advantage resort. The council replied, that “it was more beneficiall for the generall state of merchandise to entertayne a peace, then that the same should be hindered, by the standing wth ye Spanishe comissions, for the mayntayning of this trade, to forgoe the oportunety of the concluding of the peace.”3 The memorial was referred to Sir Foulke Greville, who made a favourable report: and in the course of the same year, the Queen sent John Mildenhall over land by Constantinople on an embassy to the Great Mogul.

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It was attended with little success. The Portuguese and Venetian agents exerted themselves to raise suspicions against the designs of the English, and effectually obstructed the endeavours of the ambassador.

Towards the end of the year 1600 the efforts of the adventurers were renewed; and the consent of government was obtained to proceed in preparations for an Indian voyage, while the patent of incorporation was still under consideration. Meanwhile an application was made from government, with what views does not appear, for the employment of Sir Edward Michel-bourne in the expedition. The answer of the committee, though petitioners for a favour not yet conceded, affords a curious specimen of their independence, and of the mode of thinking of the times. They stated it as their resolution “not to employ any gentleman in any place of charge,” and requested “that they may be allowed to sort theire business with men of their own qualitye, lest the suspicion of the employmt of gentlemen being taken hold uppon by the generalitie, do dryve a great number of the adventurers to withdraw their contributions.”1 The adventure was prosecuted with ardour. On the 8th of October the five following ships were already provided; the Malice Scourge, of 200 men, and 600 tons burden; the Hector, of 100 men, and 300 tons; the Ascension, of eighty men, and 260 tons; the Susan, of eighty men, and 240 tons; and a pinnace of forty men, and 100 tons. To provision these ships for twenty months the cost was computed at 6,600l. 4s. 10d.; and the cargo, consisting of iron and tin, wrought and unwrought, of lead, cloths, and some smaller articles, chiefly intended as presents, was estimated, exclusive Edition: current; Page: [21] of bullion, at 4,545l. It was determined that thirty-six book i. Chap. 1. 1600. factors or super-cargoes should be appointed for the voyage, divided into separate classes, rising above one another in trust and emoluments. Captain James Lancaster, whose difficult return from a predatory expedition has already been mentioned, was chosen to command the fleet; and on the 31st of December the charter of privileges was obtained.1

This charter, the origin of a power so anomalous and important as that which was afterwards accumulated in the hands of the East India Company, contained nothing which remarkably distinguished it from the other charters of incorporation, so commonly in that age bestowed upon trading associations. It constituted the adventurers a body politic and corporate by the name of “the Governor and Company of Merchants of London, trading to the East Indies;” and vested them with the usual privileges and powers. The plan which they had already adopted for the management of their affairs, by a committee of twentyfour, and a chairman, both to be chosen annually, was confirmed and rendered obligatory. With a reservation in favour of the rights granted to other associations, and with prohibition extending to all such places as might be already occupied by the subjects of states in amity with her Majesty, and whose objection to rivals should be declared, the privilege of trading to the East Indies, that is, to all places beyond the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan, was bestowed upon the Company, with power to export in each voyage 30,000l. in gold and silver, also English goods for the first four voyages exempt from duties, and to re-export Indian goods in English ships under the same privilege to the end of the Edition: current; Page: [22] book i. Chap. 1. 1600. charter. According to the principle of the times, the charter was exclusive; prohibiting the rest of the community from trading within the limits assigned to the Company, but granting to them the power, whenever they pleased, of bestowing licenses for that purpose. It was granted for a period of fifteen years; but under condition that, if not found to be advantageous to the country, it might be annulled at any time under a notice of two years: if advantageous it might, if desired by the Company, be renewed for fifteen years.

The ardour of individuals, where any thing is to be risked, is more easily excited, than upheld. Though the list of subscribers, while the scheme of Indian adventure was yet in contemplation, had been readily filled up, the calls of the committees for the payment of the instalments were very imperfectly obeyed. Even when the charter was obtained, it was either understood to confer no power of compelling payment, or the directors were afraid to make use of it. Instead of exacting the stipulated sums, and trading upon the terms of a joint-stock company, the subscribers who had paid were invited to take upon themselves the expense of the voyage, and, as they sustained the whole of the risk, to reap the whole of the profit.

The sums which were thus advanced amounted to 68,373l. which greatly exceeded the capital originally subscribed. Of this, 39,771l. was expended in the purchase and equipment of ships—the four, excluding the pinnace, which were taken up by the committee of original adventurers: 28,742l. was expended in bullion: and 6,860l. in goods; consisting partly of British commodities, cloth, lead, tin, cutlery, glass, &c.; partly of foreign, as quicksilver, Muscovy hides, &c. The choice of Captain Lancaster to command the fleet was renewed; and it sailed from Torbay on Edition: current; Page: [23] the 2d of May, 1601, carrying letters of recommendations book i. Chap. 1. 1600. from the Queen to the sovereigns of the different ports to which it might resort.1

A first and experimental attempt was naturally unproductive of any remarkable result: but the first voyage of the East India Company was not discouraging. The first place in India to which they repaired was Acheen, a principal city in the island of Sumatra, at which they were favourably received. They formed a treaty of commerce with the chief or sovereign of the place; obtained permission to erect a factory; and, having taken on board a quantity of pepper, set sail for the Moluccas. In the Straits of Malacca they captured a Portuguese vessel of 900 tons burthen, carrying calicoes and spices, which sufficed to lade the fleet. They diverted their course, therefore, to Bantam in the island of Java; where the Captain, delivering his letters and presents, and meeting with a Edition: current; Page: [24] book i. Chap. 1. 1603–13. favourable reception, left some agents, the first rudiments of the Company's factories; and returned to England, where he arrived, in September, 1603, with a handsome profit to his owners on the capital of the voyage.1

In the course of the years from 1603 to 1613, eight other voyages were fitted out, on similar terms. The first, in 1603, under the command of Captain Middleton, consisted of the ships which had but just returned from the preceding voyage; and the capital subscribed was 60,450l.; of which, 48,140l. was laid out in the preparation and provision of the ships; 11,160l. in bullion, and 1,142l. in goods. The second, in 1606, consisted of three ships commanded by Captain Keeling, with a capital of 53,500l.; of which 28,620l. was for the equipment of the fleet, 17,600l. was in bullion, and 7,280l. in goods. The third, in 1607, consisted of two ships, 15,000l. in bullion, and 3,400l. in goods. The fourth voyage, in 1608, had but one ship; 13,700l. subscription; expense of equipment, 6,000l.; bullion, 6,000l.; goods, 1,700l. The fifth, in 1609, had three ships, larger than in any former voyage; capital subscribed 82,000l.; cost of shipping 32,000l.; the investment, 28,500l. bullion, and 21,000l. goods. The sixth voyage, in 1610, had four ships; and subscription, 71,581l.; divided into 42,500l. for shipping, 19,200l. bullion, 10,081l. goods. The seventh, in 1611, of four vessels, had 76,355l. subscription, expended 48,700l. on the fleet, had 17,675l. in bullion, and 10,000l. in goods. The eighth, in 1612, had one ship, and subscription, 7,200l.; divided into 5,300l. for the vessel, 1,250l. bullion, Edition: current; Page: [25] and 650l. in goods. All these voyages, with one book i. Chap. 1. 1603–13. exception, that in 1607, of which both the vessels were lost, were prosperous: the clear profits, hardly ever below 100 per cent, being in general more than 200 on the capital of the voyage.1

The years in which these voyages were performed were not without other incidents of considerable importance. In 1604, the Company were alarmed by a licence in violation of their charter, granted to Sir Edward Michelborne and others, to trade to “Cathaia, China, Japan, Corea, and Cambaya, &c.” This injury was compensated in 1609, when the facility and indiscretion of King James encouraged the Company to aim at a removal of those restrictions which the more cautious policy of Elizabeth had imposed. They obtained a renewal of their charter, confirming all their preceding privileges, and constituting them a body corporate, not for fifteen years, or any other limited time, but for ever; still, however, providing that, on experience of injury to the nation, their exclusive privileges should, after three years notice, cease and expire.

The earliest of the Company's voyages were exclusively directed to the islands in the Indian Ocean, as Sumatra, Java, and Amboyna, the returns being raw silk, fine calicoes, indigo, cloves, and mace. In 1608, the factors at Bantam and in the Moluccas reported that the cloths and calicoes imported from the continent of India were in great request in the islands; and recommended the opening of a trade at Surat and Cambaya, to supply them with those commodities, which might be exchanged, with extraordinary profit, for the spice and other productions of the islands. To profit by these advantages, the fleet Edition: current; Page: [26] book i. Chap. 1. 1603–13. which sailed under the orders of Sir Henry Middleton, in 1609, was directed to steer for the western coast of the Asiatic continent, where they made several attempts to establish a commercial intercourse. At Aden and Mocha they were opposed by the Turks; who surprised one of the ships, and made the Captain and seventy men prisoners. On the coast of India their endeavours were frustrated by the influence of the Portuguese. A fleet which sailed in 1611 had better success. Attacked at Swally, a place at no great distance from Surat, by a large Portuguese armament, it made a successful defence; and, notwithstanding the intrigues and efforts of the Portuguese, obtained a favourable reception at Surat. The English now succeeded in forming a commercial arrangement. They obtained permission to establish factories at Surat, Ahmedabad, Cambaya, and Goga, which were pointed out, by the agents of the Company, as the best situations; and agreeing to pay a duty of 3 ½ per cent, received assurance, that this should be the only exaction to which their merchandise should be subject; that protection should be afforded to their factories; and that their property, even in the case of the death of their agents, should be secured till the arrival of another fleet. A phirmaun or decree of the Emperor, conferring these privileges, was received on the 11th of January, 1612; and authorised the first establishment of the English on the continent of India, at that time the seat of one of the most extensive and splendid monarchies on the surface of the globe.1

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From the Change of the Company into a Joint-Stock Company, in 1612, till the Formation of the third Joint-Stock in 1631-2.

Hitherto the voyages of the East India traders book i. Chap. 2. 1613. had been conducted on the terms rather of a regulated than a joint-stock company; each adventure being the property of a certain number of individuals, who contributed to it as they pleased, and managed it for their own account, subject only to the general regulations of the Company. Whether this was more adapted or not, to the nature of commerce, and the interests of the nation, it was less favourable to the power and consequence of a Governor and Directors, than trading on a joint-stock, which threw into their hands the entire management and power of the whole concern. Accordingly, they exerted themselves to decry the former method, and, in 1612, were enabled to come to a resolution, that in future, the trade should be carried on by a joint-stock only.1

It still appears to have been out of their power to establish a general fund, fixed in amount, and divided into regular shares; the capital was still raised by a sort of arbitrary subscription, some individuals, whose names stood as members of the Company, advancing nothing, others largely. They now, however, subscribed, not each for a particular adventure, with an association of his own choosing, but all into the hands of the Governor and Directors, who were to employ the aggregate as one fund or capital for the benefit Edition: current; Page: [28] book i. Chap. 2. 1613–16. of those by whom it was advanced. On these terms 429,000l. was raised, which the Directors thought proper to divide for the purpose of four separate adventures or voyages, to be undertaken in as many successive years. The voyages were regulated, and composed as follows:


The purchase, repair, and equipment of the vessels amounted to 272,544l., being the remainder of the stock.

The profit of these voyages was far from setting the management of a court of Directors, as compared with that of individuals taking charge of their own affairs, in a favourable light. The average of the profits on the eight voyages which preceded, leaving out of the account the small adventure of what is called the Company's fourth voyage, wholly unfortunate, was 171 per cent. The average of the profit on the four voyages in question, was only 87 1/2 per cent.1

As the power of the Portuguese in the East carried the usual consequences of power along with it. among other things, an overbearing and insolent spirit, they had already embroiled themselves with the Mogul government: an event favourable to the English, who were thus joined with that government in a common cause. At the same time the splendid achievements of the English, against an enemy whom the governments of India were ill able to resist, Edition: current; Page: [29] raised high their reputation for prowess in war. A book i. Chap. 2. 1613–16. Portuguese fleet burned the towns of Baroach and Goga: and a powerful armament arrived at Swally with the Portuguese Viceroy, in January 1614; which attacked the English; but was defeated, with a loss of 350 men. To improve these favourable circumstances, an agent of the Company repaired to the Mogul court, where he was well received, and obtained a royal phirmaun for a general and perpetual trade; and in the same year took place the celebrated royal embassy of Sir Thomas Roe. The character of an ambassador, and the respect attached to it by the discernment of more enlightened nations, were but little understood at the court of the Mogul. On that occasion the choice of the English Ambassador was happy: Sir Thomas was a man of discernment, and temper, and made the most of the circumstances in which he was placed; though he soon discovered that it was bad policy by which he had been sent. He obtained redress of some of the grievances of which the English merchants complained; and concluded, though with difficulty, a sort of treaty, in which liberty was promised them of trading and establishing factories in any part of the Mogul dominions; Surat, Bengal, and Sindy being particularly named.1

Besides his other services, Sir Thomas bestowed advice upon the Company. “At my first arrival,” says he, “I understood a fort was very necessary; but experience teaches me we are refused it to our own advantage. If the Emperor would offer me ten, I would not accept of one.” He then states his reasons: first, he adduces evidence that it would be Edition: current; Page: [30] book i. Chap. 2. 1613–19. of no service to their trade: “secondly, the charge,” he says, “is greater than the trade can bear; for to maintain a garrison will eat out your profit; a war and traffic are incompatible. By my consent you shall never engage yourselves but at sea, where you are like to gain as often as to lose. The Portugueses, notwithstanding their many rich residences, are beggared by keeping of soldiers; and yet their garrisons are but mean. They never made advantage of the Indies since they defended them: observe this well. It has also been the error of the Dutch, who seek plantations here by the sword. They turn a wonderful stock; they prole in all places; they possess some of the best: yet their dead pays consume all the gain. Let this be received as a rule, that if you will profit, seek it at sea, and in quiet trade; for, without controversies, it is an error to affect garrisons and land wars in India.”

“It is not a number of ports, residences, and factories, that will profit you. They will increase charge, but not recompence it. The conveniency of one, with respect to your sails, and to the commodity of investments, and the well employing of your servants, is all you need.” If Sir Thomas had lived to the present day, he might have urged the trade with China as proof, by experiment, of the proposition he advanced.

“The settling your traffic here will not need so much help at court as you suppose. A little countenance and the discretion of your factors will, with easy charge, return you most profit; but you must alter your stock. Let not your servants deceive you; cloth, lead, teeth, quicksilver, are dead commodities, and will never drive this trade; you must succour it by change.”

“An ambassador lives not in fit honour here. A Edition: current; Page: [31] meaner agent would, among these proud Moors, book i. Chap. 2. 1613–19. better effect your business. My quality, often, for ceremonies, either begets you enemies, or suffers unworthily. Half my charge shall corrupt all this court to be your slaves. The best way to do your business in it is to find some Mogul, that you may entertain for 1000 rupees a year, as your solicitor at court. He must be authorized by the king, and then he will serve you better than ten ambassadors. Under him you must allow 500 rupees for another at your port to follow the Governor and customers, and to advertise his chief at court. These two will effect all; for your other smaller residences are not subject to much inconveniency.”

The permission to the Company's servants to trade privately on their own account, which afterwards produced so many inconveniences, was, it seems, even at this early period, a source of abuse. “Concerning this, it is my opinion,” says Sir Thomas, “that you absolutely prohibit it, and execute forfeitures, for your business will be the better done. All your loss is not in the goods brought home; I see here the inconveniences you think not of; I know this is harsh to all men, and seems hard. Men profess they come not for bare wages. But you will take away this plea, if you give great wages to their content; and then you know what you part from; but then you must make good choice of your servants, and use fewer.”

Sir Thomas tells the Company that he was very industrious to injure the Dutch. “The Dutch,” he says, “are arrived at Surat from the Red Sea, with some money and southern commodities. I have done my best to disgrace them; but could not turn them out without further danger. Your comfort is here Edition: current; Page: [32] book i. Chap. 2. 1617. are goods enough for both.”1 If so, why seek to turn them out?

One of the objects at which the adventurers from England most eagerly aspired was a share in the traffic of the Spice Islands. The spices, from their novelty, were at that time a favourite object of consumption to those the supply of whose wants is so naturally but thoughtlessly regarded by the dealer as peculiarly profitable, the rich and the great: and the commerce, brilliant as compared with that of other nations, which the enterprise and diligence of the Dutch now carried on with the East, almost entirely consisted of those commodities. The English, by their connexion with Sumatra and Java, had their full share in the article of pepper; but were excluded from cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs, and all the finer spices. Agents were now sent from Bantam to Amboyna, Banda, and other islands, who fired the jealousy and cupidity of the Dutch. Defeated in their endeavours at all the places where the Dutch had already established themselves, the English projected, as a last resource, a factory at Macassar, of which the produce was only rice, but which might serve as a magazine for spices collected from the neighbouring islands.2

In the year 1617, or the year of the last of the four voyages in which the general subscription had been Edition: current; Page: [33] employed, the Company's agents reported; That Surat book i. Chap. 2. 1617. was the place at which the cloths of India could best be obtained, though nothing could there be disposed of in return except China goods, spices, and money: That large quantities of Indian wove goods might be sold, and gold, camphor, and benjamin obtained, at the two factories of Acheen and Tekoo on the island of Sumatra: That Bantam afforded a still larger demand for the wove goods of India, and supplied pepper for the European market: That Jacatra, Jambee, and Polania, agreed with the two former places in the articles both of demand and supply, though both on a smaller scale: That Siam might afford a large vent for similar commodities, and would yield gold, silver, and deer skins for the Japan market: That English cloth, lead, deer skins, silks, and other goods might be disposed of at Japan for silver, copper, and iron, though hitherto want of skill had rendered the adventures to that kingdom unprofitable: That, on the island of Borneo, diamonds, bezoar stones, and gold, might be obtained at Succadania, notwithstanding the mischief occasioned by the ignorance of the first factors; but from Banjarmassin, where the same articles were found, it would be expedient, on account of the treacherous character of the natives, to withdraw the factory: That the best rice in India could be bought, and the wove goods of India sold at Macassar: And that at Banda the same goods could be sold, and nutmegs and mace procured, even to a large amount, if the obstruction of European rivals were removed.1

Surat and Bantam were the seats of the Company's principal establishments.

In the year 1617–18, a subscription was opened Edition: current; Page: [34] book i. Chap. 2. 1618. for a new fund, and was carried to the large amount of 1,600,000l. This was denominated the Company's Second Joint-stock. They were now, we are told, possessed of thirty-six ships, from 100 to 1,000 tons burthen; and the proprietors of stock amounted to 954.1 But as the accounts of the Company have never been remarkable for clearness, or their historians for precision, we are not informed whether these ships belonged to the owners of the first joint-stock, or to the owners of the second; or if to both, in what proportion; whether the 954 proprietors of stock were the subscribers to both funds, or to the last only; whether any part of the first joint-stock had been paid back to the owners, as the proceeds came in; or whether both funds were now in the hands of the Directors at once, employed for the respective benefit of the respective lists of subscribers: two trading capitals in the same hands, employed separately, for the separate account of different associations. That such was the case to a certain extent may be concluded from this, that of the last of the voyages, upon the first of the funds, the returns were not yet made. We shall see that, afterwards, the Directors had, in their hands, at one and the same time, the funds of several bodies of subscribers, which they were bound to employ separately, for the separate benefit of each; that they, as well as their agents abroad, experienced great inconvenience in preserving the accounts and concerns separate and distinct; and that the interests and pretensions of the several bodies were prone to interfere.

The new subscription was divided into portions for three separate voyages.

The passion, naturally, of the Company's agents, Edition: current; Page: [35] at the different stations abroad, was to grasp at every book i. Chap. 2. 1618. thing, with little regard to the narrowness of the funds upon which their operations depended. In one point of view this was advantageous: while the ground was yet imperfectly explored, it yielded a wider field for selection. The factors at Surat were captivated with the project of a trade to Persia; it promised a vent for English woollens to a large amount, and would furnish silk and other goods, which, both in Europe and in India, might sell to the greatest advantage. Sir Thomas Roe dissuaded the speculation; on the ground, that the Portuguese were already in possession of the commerce, and that it would cost the Company more to protect themselves in it, than they could hope to gain by it. The views of the factors, because the most flattering, were the most persuasive; agents were sent to the court of Persia; grants of privileges were obtained; and a trade was opened, which experience proved to be of little importance.

The rivalship between the East India Company and the other nations of Europe includes, for a considerable time, the principal incidents of the Company's history. The Portuguese, on the pretence of discovery, had long maintained an exclusive claim to the passage by the Cape of Good Hope: they had, partly by conquest, partly by agreement, made themselves masters of Goa, Bombay, and other places, on the Malabar coast; of Aden, at the entrance of the Red Sea; of Ormus, in the Persian Gulf; of part of the Malay coast, in the Straits of Malacca; of the Molucca islands; and of the coasts of Ceylon, the most valuable of all the eastern islands: they were possessed of factories in Bengal and in Siam; and they had erected the city of Macao on the coast of China.

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book i. Chap. 2. 1618. The Dutch, while subject to the crown of Spain, had been accustomed to repair to Lisbon for the productions of the East; which, even at that early period, they were employed in distributing to the rest of Europe. When they broke the chains of their ancient masters, one of the means which Philip employed to distress them was, to deprive them of the commerce of his dominions. Prevented from obtaining Indian commodities by traffic with the subjects of Philip, they became ruinous competitors for the trade with India itself.

At the time when the Dutch commenced their voyages to the East, the crown of Spain was engaged in enterprises of so much importance, in other quarters, and so much engrossed with the contemplation of its splendid empire in the New World, that the acquisitions, in the East Indies, of the Portuguese, now become its subjects, were treated with comparative neglect. The Dutch, accordingly, who entered upon the trade to India with considerable resources and the utmost ardour, were enabled to supplant the Portuguese in the spice trade, and, after a struggle, to expel them from the Molucca islands. That celebrated people, now freed from the oppression of a bad government, were advancing in the career of prosperity with great and rapid strides. The augmentation of capital was rapid, in Holland, beyond what has often been witnessed in any other part of the globe. A proportional share of this capital naturally found its way into the channel of the India trade, and gave both extent and vigour to the enterprises of the nation in the East; while the English, whose country, oppressed by misgovernment, or scourged with civil war, afforded little capital to extend its trade, or means to afford it protection, found themselves Edition: current; Page: [37] unequal competitors, with a people so favourably situated book i. Chap. 2. 1618. as the Dutch.

During that age, the principles of public wealth were very imperfectly understood, and hardly any trade was regarded as profitable but that which was exclusive. The different nations which traded to India, all traded by way of monopoly; and the several exclusive companies treated every proposal for a participation in their traffic, as a proposal for their ruin. In the same spirit, every nation which obtained admittance into any newly explored channel of commerce endeavoured to exclude from it all participators, and considered its own profits as depending on the absence of all competition.

The Dutch, who were governed by the same prejudices as their contemporaries, and actuated, at least in that age, with rather more perhaps than the usual intensity of the appetite for gain, beheld, with great impatience, the attempts of the English to share with them in the spice trade. While contending for their independence against the power of Spain, and looking to England for support, they were constrained to practise moderation and forbearance; and during this time the English were enabled to form a connexion with Sumatra, to establish themselves at Bantam, and obtain a share in the traffic of pepper, which being a commodity so generally produced in the East, could not easily become the subject of monopoly. But before the English made efforts on any considerable scale to interfere with the trade of the further India, where the finer spices were produced, the power and confidence of the Dutch had greatly increased.

That people were more effectual opponents than the Portuguese, between whom and the English the interference was not so direct. The chief settlements Edition: current; Page: [38] book i. Chap. 2. 1618. of the Portuguese on the continent of India were on the Malabar coast, at a great distance from Surat, which was the principal seat of the English: it was in the Persian trade alone that much incompatibility of interest existed: and feeble, in India, as the English at that time were, it is remarkable that they were an overmatch at sea for the Portuguese; and hardly ever encountered them without a brilliant victory, or at least decided advantages. The case was different in regard to the Dutch: the pretensions of the English to the spice trade interfered with the very vitals of the Dutch commerce in the East; and the fleets which the prosperous enterprise of the new republic enabled it to maintain were so far superior to those which the restricted means of the English Company allowed them to send, that contention became altogether hopeless and vain.

It was not till the year 1617–18, that the hostility of the two nations displayed itself in operations of force; the Dutch, in those places where they had formed establishments, having in general been able, by intrigue and artifice, to defeat the attempts of their rivals. The English took possession of two small islands, called Polaroon and Rosengin, which were not formally occupied by the Dutch, but intimately connected with some of their possessions. The Dutch raised pretensions to them, and attacked the English. The English had, however, so well fortified themselves, that the Dutch found it impracticable at the first attempt to expel them; but they found the means, partly by force, and partly by artifice, to get possession of two English ships, on their voyage to these islands; carried them to a Dutch settlement, and refused to deliver them up, till every pretension to the Spice Islands was renounced.1

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The proceedings of the Dutch, though regarded book i. Chap. 2. 1618. by the English as in the highest degree unjust and rapacious, were founded on pretensions, not inferior to those on which the English Company endeavoured to convert claims into rights; and on pretensions which it is clear, at any rate, that the Dutch themselves regarded as valid and equitable; since they presented them to the English monarch, as the ground of complaint against his subjects, and of a demand for his interference to prevent the recurrence of similar injuries. In a memorial to James, in 1618, the Dutch Company set forth, that, at their own cost and hazard, they had expelled the Portuguese from the Spice Islands, and had established a treaty with the natives, on the express condition of affording the natives protection against the Portuguese, and enjoying the exclusive advantage of their trade; that the agents of the English Company, however, had interfered with those well-established rights, and had not only endeavoured to trade with the natives, but to incite them against the Dutch.

To these complaints the English Company replied, by an enumeration of injuries, from the resistance, the intrigues, and violence of the Dutch, in places where no factories of theirs had ever existed. But they also enumerated among their grievances, the hostilities experienced at Tydore and Amboyna, places to which the pretensions of the Dutch applied in all their force.1 And if the ideas are admitted, which then prevailed, and on which the English as confidently grounded themselves as any other nation; ideas importing that, in newly-discovered countries, priority of occupancy constituted sovereignty, and that Edition: current; Page: [40] book i. Chap. 2. 1619. the will of the natives was to be counted for nothing; the English could not make out a right to the trade of the Moluccas; for though Polaroon and Rosengin might not, by actual occupancy, have accrued to the Dutch, they form part of a narrow and closely connected cluster of islands, of which the Dutch had seized the principal, and with the security of which the presence of the English in any of the rest could as little be reconciled, as the security of Great Britain could be reconciled with the dominion of Ireland by the French. With respect to Java, and the settlements at Bantam and Jacatra, the English had an equitable plea, of which they appear not to have availed themselves; they might have insisted on the consent of the Dutch, who had not resisted their early settlement on that island, now sanctioned by time.

After a tedious interchange of hostilities, in which intrigue and force were combined, (the practice of buying up the pepper, at prices higher than the English could afford, forming one of the principal subjects of English complaint), it was agreed between the two governments in Europe, at that time allies, to institute a mutual inquiry, and form an arrangement respecting the claims of their subjects in the East. Commissioners were appointed; and, after repeated conferences, a treaty was concluded at London, on the 17th July, 1619. It was stipulated, that there should be a mutual amnesty, and a mutual restitution of ships and property; that the pepper trade at Java should be equally divided; that the English should have a free trade at Pullicate on the Coromandel coast on paying half the expences of the garrison; and that of the trade of the Moluccas and Bandas they should enjoy one third, the Dutch two, paying the charges of the garrisons in the same proportion. Edition: current; Page: [41] Beside these conditions, which regarded book i. Chap. 2. 1619. their opposite pretensions, the treaty included arrangements for mutual profit and defence. Each Company was to furnish ten ships of war, which were not to be sent in the European voyages, but employed in India for mutual protection; and the two nations were to unite their efforts to reduce the duties and exactions of the native governments at the different ports. To superintend the execution of this treaty a council was appointed, to be composed of four members of each Company, called the Council of Defence. And the treaty was to be in force during twenty years.1

This solemn engagement is a proof, if there was not another, of the imperfection which still adhered to the art of legislation. The principal stipulations were so vague, and the execution of them dependent on so many unascertained circumstances, that the grounds of dispute and contention were rather multiplied than reduced. For these evils, as far as they were foreseen, the Council of Defence seems to have been devised, as the remedy. But experience taught here, what experience has uniformly taught, that in all vague arrangements the advantages are reaped by the strongest party. The voice of four Englishmen in the Council of Defence was but a feeble protection against the superior capital and fleets of the Dutch. The English, to secure their pretensions, should have maintained a naval and military force superior to that of their opponents. In that case, they would have been the oppressors; the Dutch would have been expelled from the spice trade; the spice trade would have rested with the English, who would have overlooked the continent of India, because their capital Edition: current; Page: [42] book i. Chap. 2. 1619. would not have sufficed to embrace it; the continent would have been left to the enterprise of other nations; and that brilliant empire, established by the English, would never, it is possible, have received a commencement.

In consequence of this treaty, by which the English were bound to send a fleet of ten ships to India, a larger fund was this year raised than had been provided for any preceding voyage: 62,490l. in the precious metals, and 28,508l. in goods, were exported with the fleet. The return was brought back in a single ship, and sold at 108,887l.1

In the interval between the time of concluding the treaty and the establishment of the Council of Defence at Jacatra, the Dutch had committed various acts of oppression on the English; and, when the council began its operations, the Dutch, after executing some of the least important conditions of the treaty, endeavoured to evade the rest. They consented to restore the ships taken from the English, but not the goods or stores taken by individuals; on the pretext, that the Company could not be responsible for any acts but their own; though, if the letters may be credited of the English factors at Jacatra, they exploded the same pretension when it was urged against themselves: They refused to admit the English to their share of the pepper trade, till indemnified for certain fortifications, and for the expences incurred by them at the siege of Bantam: They insisted that at Jacatra, and all other places where they had erected fortifications, they possessed the rights of sovereignty; and that the English could claim no permission to reside there except under the Dutch laws: They set forth the large expense they had incurred in fortifications Edition: current; Page: [43] on the Spice Islands; the maintenance of book i. Chap. 2. 1619. which they estimated at 60,000l. per annum; and of all this they required the English to advance their due proportion, before they could be admitted to the stipulated share of the trade. The English objected, that some of the fortifications were at places where no produce was obtained, and that none of them were useful but for defence against the Spaniards and Portuguese, with whom they were not at war. On the whole it may be remarked, that if there were fortifications at places where none were required, the English had a right to decline paying for the blunders of the Dutch; but as they claimed a share of the trade upon the foundation of the Dutch conquests, and would not have been admitted to it, without a war, had not those conquests taken place, it was a less valid plea, to say that they were not at war with the Spaniards and Portuguese. In framing the treaty, no distinction was made between past and future expenses. The English intended to bind themselves only for a share of the future: The Dutch availed themselves of the ambiguity to demand a share of the past: And in all these pretensions, they acted with so high a hand, that the English commissioners of the Council of Defence reported the impracticability of continuing the English trade, unless measures were taken in Europe to check the overbearing and oppressive proceedings of the Dutch.1

In the circle of which Surat was the centre, as the English were more of a match for their antagonists, they had a better prospect of success. In 1620, two of the Company's ships, which sailed from Surat to Persia, found the port of Jasques blockaded by a Portuguese fleet, consisting of five large and sixteen Edition: current; Page: [44] book i. Chap. 2. 1622. smaller vessels. Unable to cope with so disproportionate a force, they sailed back to Surat; where they were joined by two other ships. Returning with this re-inforcement, they attacked the Portuguese, and, after an indecisive action, entered the port. The Portuguese retired to Ormus, but, after refitting, came back for revenge. An obstinate conflict ensued, in which the English were victorious over a vast superiority of force. Such an event was calculated to produce a great impression on the minds of the Persians.

The English and Persians agreed to attack with joint forces the Portuguese on the island of Ormus, which that nation in the days of its prosperity had seized and fortified. The English furnished the naval, the Persians the military force; and the city and castle were taken on the 22d of April, 1622. For this service the English received part of the plunder of Ormus, and a grant of half the customs at the port of Gombroon; which became their principal station in the Persian gulf. The agents of the Company at Bantam, who were already vested with the superb title of President and Council, and with a sort of control over the other factories, condemned this enterprise; as depriving them of the ships and effects, so much required to balance the power, and restrain the injustice, of the Dutch.1

The domestic proceedings of the Company at this period were humble. In 1621–22, they were able to fit out only four ships, supplied with 12,900l. in gold and silver, and 6,253l. in goods; the following year, they sent five ships, 61,600l. in money, and 6,430l. in goods; in 1623–24, they equipped seven vessels, and furnished them with 68,720l. in money, and 17,340l. in goods. This last was a prosperous year Edition: current; Page: [45] to the domestic exchequer. Five ships arrived from book i. Chap. 2. 1622. India with cargoes, not of pepper only, but of all the finer spices, of which, notwithstanding the increasing complaints against the Dutch, the Company's agents had not been prevented from procuring an assortment. The sale of this part alone of the cargoes amounted to 485,593l.; that of the Persian raw silk to 97,000l.; while 80,000l. in pursuance of the treaty of 1619, was received as compensation money from the Dutch.1

Other feelings were the result of demands, by the King, and by the Duke of Buckingham, Lord High Admiral, of shares, to the one as droits of the crown, to the other as droits of the admiralty, of the prize money, gained by the various captures of the Company, particularly that of Ormus. The Company, who deemed it prudent to make little opposition to the claims of the King, objected, as having acted not under letters of marque from the Admiral but under their own charter, to those of the Duke of Buckingham. The question was referred to the Judge of the Admiralty court; witnesses were examined to ascertain the amount of the prize money, which was estimated at 100,000l. and 240,000 reals of eight. The Company urged the expense of their equipments, the losses they had sustained, the detriment to their mercantile concerns, by withdrawing their ships from commerce to war. All possible modes of solicitation to the King and the Admiral were employed; but the desire for their money was stronger than their interest. Buckingham, who knew they must lose their voyage, if the season for sailing was passed, made their ships be detained; and the Company, to escape this calamity, were glad of an accommodation. The Duke agreed to accept of 10,000l., which he Edition: current; Page: [46] book i. Chap. 2. 1623. received. A like sum was demanded for the King, but there is no direct evidence that it ever was paid.

The animosities, between the English and Dutch, were now approaching to a crisis in the islands. The English complained of oppression, and were so weak, as to find themselves at the mercy of their rivals. They represented that, in the execution of the joint articles of the treaty, they were charged with every item of expense, though their voice was entirely disregarded in the disposal of the money, in the employment of the naval and military force, and even in the management of the trade; that, instead of being admitted to their stipulated share of the spice commerce, they were almost entirely extruded from it; and that, under the pretext of a conspiracy, the Dutch had executed great numbers of the natives at Banda, and reduced Polaroon to a desert.1 At last arrived that event, which made a deep and lasting impression on the minds of Englishmen. In February, 1623, Captain Towerson and nine Englishmen, nine Japanese, and one Portuguese sailor, were seized at Amboyna, under the accusation of a conspiracy to surprise the garrison, and to expel the Dutch; and, being tried, were pronounced guilty, and executed. The accusation was treated by the English as a mere pretext, to cover a plan for their extermination. But the facts of an event, which roused extreme indignation in England, have never been exactly ascertained. The nation, whose passions were kindled, was more disposed to paint to itself a scene of atrocity, and to believe whatever could inflame its resentment, than to enter upon a rigid investigation of the case. If it be Edition: current; Page: [47] improbable, however, on the one hand, that the book i. Chap. 2. 1623. English, whose numbers were small, and by whom ultimately so little advantage could be gained, were really guilty of any such design as the Dutch imputed to them; it is on the other hand equally improbable that the Dutch, without believing them to be guilty, would have proceeded against them by the evidence of a judicial trial. Had simple extermination been their object, a more quiet and safe expedient presented itself; they had it in their power at any time to make the English disappear, and to lay the blame upon the natives. The probability is, that, from certain circumstances, which roused their suspicion and jealousy, the Dutch really believed in the conspiracy, and were hurried on, by their resentments and interests, to bring the helpless objects of their fury to a trial; that the judges before whom the trial was conducted, were in too heated a state of mind to see the innocence, or believe in any thing but the guilt, of the accused; and that in this manner the sufferers perished. Enough, assuredly, of what is hateful may be found in this transaction, without supposing the spirit of demons in beings of the same nature with ourselves, men reared in a similar state of society, under a similar system of education, and a similar religion. To bring men rashly to a trial whom a violent opposition of interests has led us to detest, rashly to believe them criminal, to decide against them with minds too much blinded by passion to discern the truth, and to put them to death without remorse, are acts of which our own nation, or any other, was then, and would still be, too ready to be guilty. Happy would it be, how trite soever the reflection, if nations, from the scenes which excite their indignation against others, would learn temper and forbearance in cases where they become the actors themselves! 2

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book i. Chap. 2. 1623. One of the circumstances, the thought of which most strongly incited the passions of the English, was the application of the torture. This, however, under the Civil Law, was an established and regular part of a judicial inquiry. In all the kingdoms of continental Europe, and Holland among the rest, the torture was a common method of extorting evidence from supposed criminals, and would have been applied by the Dutch judges to their own countrymen. As both the Japanese, who were accused of being accessaries to the imputed crime, and the Englishmen themselves, made confession of guilt under the torture, this, however absurd and inhuman the law, constituted legal evidence in the code of the Dutch, as well as in the codes of all the other continental nations of Europe. By this, added to other articles of evidence which would have been insufficient without it, proof was held to be completed; and death, in all capital cases, authorized and required. This was an ancient and established law; and as there are scarcely any courses of oppression to which Englishmen cannot submit, and which they will not justify and applaud, provided only it has ancient and established law for its support, they ought, of all nations, to have been the most ready to find an excuse and apology for the Dutch.1 From the first moment Edition: current; Page: [49] of acting upon the treaty, the Dutch had laid it down, book i. Chap. 2. 1624. as a principle, that at all the places where they had erected fortifications, the English should be subject to the Dutch laws; and though the English had remonstrated, they had yet complied.

It was in vain, that the English President and Council at Java, on hearing of the massacre as they called it, remonstrated in terms of the utmost indignation, and even intimated their design of withdrawing from the island. In their representations to the Court of Directors at home, they declared, what might have been seen from the beginning, that it was Edition: current; Page: [50] book i. Chap. 2. 1624. impossible to trade on a combination of interests with the Dutch; and that, negotiation being fruitless, nothing but a force in the islands, equal to that of their rivals, could ensure to their countrymen a share of the trade.

When the news of the execution at Amboyna arrived in England, the people, whose minds had been already inflamed against the Dutch, by continual reports of injustice to their countrymen, were kindled into the most violent combustion. The Court of Directors exerted themselves to feed the popular fury. They had a hideous picture prepared, in which their countrymen were represented expiring upon the rack, with the most shocking expressions of horror and agony in their countenance and attitudes, and the most frightful instruments of torture applied to their bodies. The press teemed with publications, which enlarged upon the horrid scene at Amboyna; and to such a degree of rage were the populace excited, that the Dutch merchants in London became alarmed, and applied to the Privy Council for protection. They complained of the inflammatory publications; more particularly of the picture, which, being exposed to the people, had contributed to work them up to the most desperate resolutions. The Directors, when called before the Privy Council to answer these complaints, denied that they had any concern with the publications, but acknowledged that the picture was produced by their order, and was intended to be preserved in their house as a perpetual memorial of the cruelty and treachery of the Dutch. The Directors were aware that the popular tide had reached the table of the council room, and that they had nothing to apprehend from confessing how far they had been instrumental in raising the waters.1

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Application was made to the King, to obtain signal book i. Chap. 2. 1624. reparation from the Dutch government, for so great a national insult and calamity. The whole nationl was too violently agitated to leave any suspicion that the application could be neglected. A commission of inquiry was formed of the King's principal servants, who reported, in terms confirming the general belief and indignation; and recommended an order, which was immediately issued, for intercepting and detaining the Dutch East India fleats, till satisfaction was obtained. With great gravity the Dutch government returned for answer; that they would send orders to their Governor General in the Indies to permit the English to retire from the Dutch settlements without paying any duties; that all disputes might be referred to the Council of Defence; that the English might build forts for the protection of their trade, provided they were at the distance of thirty miles from any fort of the Dutch; that the “administration, however, of politic government, and particular jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, at all such places as owe acknowledgement to the Dutch,” should remain wholly in their hands; and that to the Dutch belonged the exclusive right to the Moluccas, Bandas, and Amboyna.1

This was an undisguised assumption of all the rights for which their subjects were contending in India. It is remarkable enough that the English East India Company, who were highly dissatisfied with the other parts of this answer, declared their acceptance of the first article, which permitted their servants to retire from the Dutch settlements. And here, for the present, the matter rested.

In 1624, the Company applied, by petition, to the Edition: current; Page: [52] book i. Chap. 2. 1625. King, for authority to punish their servants abroad, by martial, as well as municipal law. It appears not that any difficulty was experienced in obtaining their request; or that any parliamentary proceeding, for transferring unlimited power over the lives and fortunes of the citizens, was deemed even a necessary ceremony. This ought to be regarded as an era in the history of the Company.1

In the year 1624–5, the Company's voyage to India consisted of five ships; but of the amount of the capital with which they were supplied, no account, it should seem, remains. In 1625–26, it consisted of six ships: and in 1626–27, of seven; farther information wanting as before.2 In the last of these years, we gain the knowledge, collaterally, of one of those important facts, in the Company's history, which it has been their sedulous care to preserve concealed, except when some interest, as now, was to be served by the disclosure. Sir Robert Shirley, who had been ambassador at the court of Persia, made application to the King and Council to order the East India Company to pay him 2000l. as a compensation for his exertions and services in procuring them a trade with Persia. The Company, beside denying the pretended services, urged their inability to pay; stating that they had been obliged to contract so large a debt as 200,000l.; and that their stock had fallen to 20 per cent. discount, shares of 100l. selling for no more than 80l.3

The Company's Persian trade was not prosperous, under the caprice and extortions of the Persian magistrates. At Java their agents, tired out with the mortifications and disasters to which they were exposed Edition: current; Page: [53] from the Dutch, retired to the island of Lagundy, book i. Chap. 2. 1627. in the Straits of Sunda; having abandoned both Bantam and Jacatra, at which the Dutch, under the name of Batavia, had now established their principal seat of government. The island of Lagundy was found to be so unhealthy, that, in less than a year, the imprudent English were anxious to return. Their distress was so great, that out of 250 individuals 120 were sick; and they had not a crew sufficient to navigate a ship to any of the English factories. In these circumstances the Dutch lent them assistance, and brought them back to Batavia.1 On the coast of Coromandel some feeble efforts were continued. The Company had established factories at Masulipatam and Pullicat; but the rivalship of the Dutch pursued and obliged them to relinquish Pullicat. In 1624–5, they projected an establishment in the kingdom of Tanjore, but were opposed by a new rival, the Danes. At Armegum, however, situated a little to the south of Nellore, they purchased, in the succeeding year, a piece of ground from the chief of the district; erected and fortified a factory; and, suffering oppression from the native government at Masulipatam, they withdrew the factory in 1628, and transferred it to Armegum.2

Shortly after the first application to James on account of the injury at Amboyna, that monarch died. In 1627–8, the application was renewed to Charles; and three large Dutch Indiamen from Surat, which put into Portsmouth, were detained. The Company, watching the decline of the royal authority, and the growing power of the House of Commons, were not satisfied with addressing the King, but in the year following presented, for the Edition: current; Page: [54] book i. Chap. 2. 1628. first time, a memorial to the Commons. They represented that, by their failure in the spice trade, and the difficulties they experienced in opening a trade for wove goods on the coast of Coromandel, they were nearly driven from all their factories; and assigned as causes, partly the opposition of the native powers, but chiefly the hostility of the Dutch. The narrowness of their own funds, and their unskilful management, by the negligent Directors of a jointstock, far more powerful causes, they overlooked or suppressed. They set forth, however, the merits of the Company, as towards the nation, in terms repeated to the present day: they employed many seamen: they exported much goods; as if the capital they employed would have remained idle; as if it would not have maintained seamen, and exported goods, had the East India Company, or East India traffic, never existed.1

The detention of the ships, and the zeal with which the injury seemed now to be taken up in England, produced explanation and remonstrance on the part of the Dutch: They had appointed judges to take cognizance of the proceedings at Amboyna, even before the parties had returned from Europe: Delay had arisen, from the situation of the judges on whom other services devolved, and from the time required to translate documents written in a foreign tongue: The detention of the ships, the property of private individuals altogether unconcerned with the transaction, might bring unmerited ruin on them, but could not accelerate the proceedings of the judges; on the other hand, by creating national indignation, it would only tend to unfit them for a sober and impartial inquiry: Edition: current; Page: [55] And were the dispute allowed, unfortunately, book i. Chap. 2. 1628. to issue in war, however the English in Europe might detain the fleets of the Dutch, the English Company must suffer in India far greater evils than those of which they were now seeking the redress. At last, on a proposal that the States should send to England commissioners of inquiry, and a promise that justice should be speedily rendered, the ships were released. It was afterwards recommended by the ministry, that the East India Company should send over witnesses to Holland to afford evidence before the Dutch tribunal; but to this the Company objected, and satisfaction was still deferred.1

In 1627–28, the Company provided only two ships and a pinnace for the outward voyage. They deemed it necessary to assign reasons for this diminution; dreading the inferences which might be drawn: They had many ships in India which, from the obstructions of the Dutch, and the state of their funds, had been unable to return: Though the number of ships was small; the stock would be large, 60,000l. or 70,000l. in money and goods: And they hoped to bring home all their ships richly laden the following year. In 1628–29, five ships went out; two for the trade with India, and three for that with Persia; and though no account is preserved of the stock with which they were supplied, a petition to the King remains for leave to export 60,000l. in gold and silver in the ships destined to Persia. In the succeeding year four ships were sent to Persia, and none to India. Of the stock which they carried with them no account is preserved.2

As the sums in gold and silver, which the Company had for several years found it necessary to export, Edition: current; Page: [56] book i. Chap. 2. 1629. exceeded the limits to which they were confined by the terms of their charter, they had proceeded annually upon a petition to the King, and a special permission. It was now, however, deemed advisable to apply for a general license, so large, as would comprehend the greatest amount which on any occasion it would be necessary to send. The sum for which they solicited this permission was 80,000l. in silver, and 40,000l. in gold; and they recommended, as the best mode of authenticating the privilege, that it should be incorporated in a fresh renewal of their charter; which was accordingly obtained.1

Notwithstanding the terms on which the English stood with the Dutch, they were allowed to reestablish their factory at Bantam after the failure of the attempt at Lagundy: a war, in which the Dutch were involved with some of the native princes of the island, lessened, perhaps, their disposition, or their power, to oppose their European rivals. As Bantam was now a station of inferior importance to Surat, the government of Bantam was reduced to an agency, dependent upon the Presidency of Surat, which became the chief seat of the Company's government in India. Among the complaints against the Dutch, one of the heaviest was, that they sold European goods cheaper, and bought Indian goods dearer, at Surat, than the English; who were thus expelled from the market. This was to complain of competition, the soul of trade. If the Dutch sold so cheap and bought so dear, as to be losers, all that was necessary was a little patience on the part of the English. The fact was, that the Dutch, trading on a larger capital, and with more economy, were perfectly able to outbid the English both in purchase and sale.

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The English at Surat had to sustain at this time book i. Chap. 2. 1630. not only the commercial rivalship of the Dutch, but also a powerful effort of the Portuguese to regain their influence in that part of the East. The Viceroy at Goa had in April, 1630, received a reinforcement from Europe of nine ships and 2000 soldiers, and projected the recovery of Ormus. Some negotiation to obtain the exclusive trade of Surat was tried in vain with the Mogul Governor; and in September, an English fleet of five ships endeavouring to enter the port of Swally, a sharp, though not a decisive action, was fought. The English had the advantage; and, after sustaining several subsequent skirmishes, and one great effort to destroy their fleet by fire, succeeded in landing their cargoes.1

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From the Formation of the third Joint-stock, in 1632, till the Coalition of the Company with the Merchant Adventurers in 1657.

book i. Chap. 3. 1632. In 1631–32, a subscription was opened for a third joint-stock. This amounted to 420,700l.1 Still we are left in darkness with regard to some important circumstances. We know not in what degree the capital which had been placed in the hands of the Directors by former subscriptions had been repaid; not even if any part of it had been repaid, though the Directors were now without funds to carry on the trade.

With the new subscription, seven ships were fitted out in the same season; but of the money or goods embarked no account remains. In 1633–34, the fleet consisted of five ships; and in 1634–35, of no more than three, the money or goods in both cases unknown.2

During this period, however, some progress was made in extending the connexions of the Company with the eastern coast of Hindustan. It was thought advisable to replace the factory at Masulipatam not long after it had been removed; and certain privileges, which afforded protection from former grievances, were obtained from the King of Golconda, the sovereign of the place. Permission was given by the Mogul Emperor to trade to Pipley in Orissa; and a Edition: current; Page: [59] factor was sent from Masulipatam. For the more book i. Chap. 3. 1634. commodious government of these stations, Bantam was again raised to the rank of a Presidency, and the eastern coast was placed under its jurisdiction. Despairing of success in the contest with the Dutch for the trade of the islands, the Company had, for some time, dispatched their principal fleets to Surat; and the trade with this part of India and with Persia now chiefly occupied their attention. From servants at a vast distance, and the servants of a great and negligent master, the best service could not easily be procured. For this discovery the Directors were indebted, not to any sagacity of their own, but to a misunderstanding among the agents themselves; who, betraying one another, acknowledged that they had neglected the affairs of their employers to attend to their own; and, while they pursued with avidity a private trade for their private benefit, had abandoned that of the Company to every kind of disorder.1

As pepper was a product of the Malabar coast, a share was sought in the trade of that commodity, through a channel, which the Dutch would not be able to obstruct: A treaty was concluded, between the English and Portuguese, in 1634–35, and confirmed with additional articles the following year, in which it was ordained that the English should have free access to the ports of the Portuguese, and that the Portuguese should receive from the English factories the treatment of friends.2

The Company, like other unskiful, and for that reason unprosperous, traders; had always competitors, of one description or another, to whom they ascribed their own want of success. For several years they had spoken with loud condemnation of the clandestine Edition: current; Page: [60] book i. Chap. 3. 1645. trade carried on by their own servants; whose profits, they said, exceeded their own. Their alarms, with regard to their exclusive privilege, had for some time been sounded; and would have been sounded much louder, but for the ascendancy gained by the sentiments of liberty, the contentions between Charles and his parliament being already high; and the fear that their monopoly would escape the general wreck, with which institutions at variance with the spirit of liberty were threatened, only if its pretensions were prudently kept in the shade. The controversy, whether monopolies, and among others that of the Company, were injurious to the wealth and prosperity of the nation, had already employed the press: but, though the Company had entered boldly enough into the lists of argument, they deemed it their wisest course, at the present conjuncture, not to excite the public attention, by any invidious opposition to the infringements which private adventure was now pretty frequently committing on their exclusive trade.

An event at last occurred which appeared to involve unusual danger. A number of persons, with Sir William Courten at their head, whom the new arrangements with the Portuguese excited to hopes of extraordinary profit, had the art, or the good fortune, to engage in their schemes Endymion Porter, Esq., a gentleman of the bedchamber to the King, who prevailed upon the sovereign himself to accept of a share in the adventure, and to grant his license for a new association to trade with India. The preamble to the license declared that it was founded upon the misconduct of the East India Company, who had accomplished nothing for the good of the nation, in proportion to the great privileges they had obtained, or even to the funds of which they had disposed. This was, probably, the general opinion of the nation; nothing Edition: current; Page: [61] less seeming necessary to embolden the King to such book i. Chap. 3. 1645. a violation of their charter. Allowing the contrariety to the interests of the nation, the consequences were not so ruinous, but that the stipulated notice of three years might have been given, and a legal end been put to the monopoly. The Company petitioned the King, but without success. They sent, however, instructions to their agents and factors in India, to oppose the interlopers, at least indirectly. An incident occurred of which they endeavoured to avail themselves to the utmost. One of their ships from Surat reported that a vessel of Courten's had seized and plundered two junks belonging to Surat and Diu, and put the crews to the torture. The latter part at least of the story was, in all probability, forged; but the Directors believed, or affected to believe, the whole. In consequence of the outrage, the English President and Council at Surat had been imprisoned, and the property of the factory confiscated to answer for the loss. A memorial was presented to the King, setting forth in the strongest terms, the injuries which the Company sustained by the license to Courten's Association, and the ruin which threatened them unless it were withdrawn. The Privy Council, to whom the memorial was referred, treated the facts alledged, as little better than fabrication, and suspended the investigation till Courten's ships should return.1

The arrival of Courten's ships at Surat seems to have thrown the factory into the greatest confusion. It is stated as the cause of a complete suspension of trade on the part of the Company, for the season, at that principal seat of their commercial operations.2 The inability early and constantly displayed by the Edition: current; Page: [62] book i. Chap. 3. 1637. Company to sustain even the slightest competition is a symptom of inherent infirmities.

In 1637–38, several of Courten's ships returned, and brought home large investments, which sold with an ample profit to the adventurers. The fears and jealousies of the Company were exceedingly raised. They presented to the crown a petition for protection; placing their chief reliance, it should seem, on the lamentable picture of their own distresses. Their remonstrance was, however, disregarded; a new license was extended to Courten's Association, continuing their privileges for five years; and, to form a line between them and the Company, it was ordained, that neither should they trade at those places where the Company had factories, nor the Company trade at any places at which Courten's Association might have erected establishments.1

The Directors, as if they abandoned all other efforts for sustaining their affairs, betook themselves to complaint and petition.2 They renewed their addresses to the throne: They dwelt upon the calamities which had been brought upon them by competition; first, that of the Dutch, next that of Courten's Association: They endeavoured to stimulate the jealousy of the King, by reminding him that the redress which he had demanded from the States General had not been received: And they desired to be at least distinctly informed what line of conduct in regard to their rivals they were required to pursue. The affairs of the King were now at a low ebb; and this may account in part for the tone which the Company assumed with him. A committee of the Privy Council, was formed to inquire into their Edition: current; Page: [63] complaints; and had instructions to inquire, among book i. Chap. 3. 1638. other particulars, into the means of obtaining reparation from the Dutch, and of accomplishing a union between the Company and Courten's Association. One thing is remarkable, because it shows the unfavourable opinion, held by that Privy Council, of the mode of trading to India by a joint-stock Company: The Committee were expressly instructed, “to form regulations for this trade, which might satisfy the noblemen and gentlemen who were adventurers in it; and to vary the principle on which the India trade had been conducted, or that of a general joint-stock, in such a manner as to enable each adventurer to employ his stock to his own advantage, to have the trade under similar regulations with those observed by the Turkey and other English Companies.”1

The committee of the Privy Council seem to have given themselves but little concern about the trust with which they were invested. No report from them ever appeared. The Company continued indefatigably pressing the King, by petitions and remonstrances. At last they affirmed the necessity of abandoning the trade altogether, if the protection for which they prayed was not afforded. And now their importunity prevailed. On the condition that they should raise a new joint-stock, to carry on the trade on a sufficient scale, it was agreed that Courten's license should be withdrawn.2

On this occasion we are made acquainted incidentally with an important fact; that the Proprietors of the third joint-stock had made frequent but unavailing calls upon the Directors to close that concern, and bring home what belonged to it in India.3 For the first time, we learn that payment was demanded of Edition: current; Page: [64] book i. Chap. 3. 1638. the capital of those separate funds, called the joint-stocks of the Company. Upon this occasion a difficult question might have presented itself. It might have been disputed to whom the immoveable property of the Company, in houses and in lands, both in India and in England, acquired by parts indiscriminately, of all the joint-stocks, belonged. Amid the confusion which pervaded all parts of the Company's affairs, this question had not begun to be agitated: but to encourage subscription to the new joint-stock, it was laid down as a condition, “That to prevent inconvenience and confusion, the old Company or adventurers in the third joint-stock should have sufficient time allowed for bringing home their property, and should send no more stock to India, after the month of May.”1 It would thus appear, that the Proprietors of the third joint-stock, and by the same rule the Proprietors of all preceding stocks, were, without any scruple, to be deprived of their share in what is technically called the dead stock of the Company, though it had been wholly purchased with their money. There was another condition, to which inferences of some importance may be attached; the subscribers to the new stock were themselves, in a general court, to elect the Directors to whom the management of the fund should be committed, and to renew that election annually.2 As this was a new Court of Directors, entirely belonging to the fourth joint-stock, it seems to follow that the Directors in whose hands the third joint-stock had been placed, must still have remained in office, for the winding up of that concern. And, in that case, there existed, to all intents and purposes, two Edition: current; Page: [65] East India Companies, two separate bodies of Proprietors, book i. Chap. 3. 1642. and two separate Courts of Directors, under one charter.

So low, however, was the credit of East India adventure, under joint-stock management, now reduced, that the project of a new subscription almost totally failed. Only the small sum of 22,500l. was raised. Upon this a memorial was presented to the King, but in the name of whom; whether of the new subscribers, or the old; whether of the Court of Directors belonging to the old joint-stock, or of a Court of Directors chosen for the new, does not appear. It set forth a number of unhappy circumstances, to which was ascribed the distrust which now attended joint-stock adventures to India; and it intimated, but in very general terms, the necessity of encouragement, to save that branch of commerce from total destruction.

In the mean time a heavy calamity fell upon the Proprietors of the third joint-stock. The King having resolved to draw the sword for terminating the disputes between him and his people; and finding himself destitute of money; fixed his eyes, as the most convenient mass of property within his reach, on the magazines of the East India Company. A price being named, which was probably a high one, he bought upon credit the whole of their pepper, and sold it again at a lower price for ready money.1 Bonds, four in number, one of which was promised to be paid every six months, were given by the farmers of the customs and Lord Cottington for the amount; of which only a small portion seems ever to have been paid. On a pressing application, about the beginning of the year 1642, it was stated, that 13,000l. had Edition: current; Page: [66] book i. Chap. 3. 1642. been allowed them out of the duties they owed; the remainder the farmers declared it to be out of their power to advance. A prayer was presented that the customs, now due by them, amounting to 12,000l., might be applied in liquidation of the debt; but for this they were afterwards pressed by the parliament. The King exerted himself to protect the parties who stood responsible for him; and what the Company were obliged to pay to the parliament, or what they succeeded in getting from the King or his sureties, no where appears.1

About the period of this abortive attempt to form a new joint-stock, a settlement was first effected at Madras; the only station as yet chosen, which was destined to make a figure in the future history of the Company. The desire of a place of strength on the coast of Coromandel, as a security both to the property of the Company and the persons of their agents, had suggested, some years ago, the fortification of Armegum. On experience, Armegum was not found a convenient station for providing the piece goods,2 for which chiefly the trade to the coast of Coromandel was pursued. In 1740–41, the permission of the local native chief to erect a fort at Madraspatam was, therefore, eagerly embraced. The works were begun, and the place named Fort St. George; but the measure was not approved by the Directors.3

Meanwhile the trade was languishing, for want of funds. The agents abroad endeavoured to supply, by loans, the failure of receipts from home.4

An effort was made in 1642–43 to aid the weakness of the fourth joint-stock by a new subscription. The Edition: current; Page: [67] sum produced was 105,000l.; but whether including book i. Chap. 3. 1648. or not including the previous subscription does not appear. This was deemed no more than what was requisite for a single voyage: of which the Company thought the real circumstances might be concealed under a new name. They called it, the First General Voyage.1 Of the amount, however, of the ships, or the distribution of the funds, there is no information on record. For several years, from this date, no account whatever is preserved of the annual equipments of the Company. It would appear from instructions to the agents abroad, that, each year, funds had been supplied; but from what source is altogether unknown. The instructions sufficiently indicate that they were small; and for this the unsettled state of the country, and the distrust of Indian adventure, will sufficiently account.

In 1644, the Dutch followed the example of the English in forming a convention with the Portuguese at Goa. Though it is not pretended that in this any partiality was shown to the Dutch, or any privilege granted to them which was withheld from the English, the Company found themselves, as usual, unable to sustain competition, and complained of this convention as an additional source of misfortune.2

In 1647–48, when the power of the parliament was supreme, and the King a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, a new subscription was undertaken, and a pretty obvious policy was pursued. Endeavours were used to get as many as possible of the members of parliament to subscribe. If the members of the ruling body had a personal interest in the gains of the Company, its privileges would not fail to be both protected and enlarged. An advertisement, which fixed the time Edition: current; Page: [68] book i. Chap. 3. 1650. beyond which ordinary subscribers would not be received, added, that, in deference to members of parliament, a further period would be allowed to them, to consider the subject, and make their subscriptions.1

It appears not that any success attended this effort; and in 1649–50, the project of completing the fourth joint-stock was renewed, partly as a foundation for an application to the Council of State, partly in hopes that the favours expected from the Council would induce the public to subscribe.2

In the memorial, presented on this occasion to the ruling powers, Courten's Association was the principal subject of complaint. The consent of the King, in 1639, to withdraw the license granted to those rivals, had not been carried into effect; nor had the condition on which it had been accorded, that of raising a respectable joint-stock, been fulfilled. The destruction, however, to which the Association of Courten saw themselves at that time condemned, deprived them of the spirit of enterprise: with the spirit of enterprise, the spirit of vigilance naturally disappeared: their proceedings from the time of this condemnation had been feeble and unprosperous: but their existence was a grievance in the eyes of the Company; and an application which they had recently made for permission to form a settlement on the island of Assada, near Madagascar, kindled anew the Company's jealousies and fears. What the Council proposed to both parties was, an agreement. But the Assada merchants, so Courten's Association were now denominated, regarded joint-stock management with so much aversion, that, low as the condition was to which they had fallen, they preferred a separate trade on their own funds to incorporation Edition: current; Page: [69] with the Company.1 To prove, however, their desire book i. Chap. 3. 1650. of accommodation, they proposed certain terms, on which they would submit to forego the separate management of their own affairs.

Objections were offered on the part of the Company; but, after some discussion, a union was effected, nearly on the terms which the Assada merchants proposed.2 Application was then made for an act to confirm and regulate the trade. The parliament passed a resolution, directing it to be carried on by a joint-stock; but suspending for the present all further decision on the Company's affairs.3 A stock was formed, which, from the union recently accomplished, was denominated the united joint-stock; but in what manner raised, or how great the sum, is not disclosed. All we know for certain is, that two ships were fitted out in this season, and that they carried bullion with them to the amount of 60,000l.4

The extreme inconvenience and embarrassment which arose from the management, by the same agents, in the same trade, of a number of separate capitals, belonging to separate associations, began now to make themselves seriously and formidably felt. From each of the presidencies complaints arrived of the difficulties, or rather the impossibilities, which they were required to surmount; and it was urgently recommended to obtain, if it were practicable, an act of parliament to combine the whole of these separate stocks.5 Under this confusion, we have hardly any information respecting the internal transactions of the company at home. We know not so much as how the Courts of Directors were formed; whether there was a body of Directors for each separate fund, or only one body for the whole; Edition: current; Page: [70] book i. Chap. 3. 1652. and if only one Court of Directors, whether they were chosen by the voices of the contributors to all the separate stocks, or the contributors to one only; whether, when a Court of Proprietors was held, the owners of all the separate funds met in one body, or the owners of each separate fund met by themselves, for the regulation of their own particular concern.1

In 1651–52, the English obtained in Bengal the first of those peculiar privileges, which were the forerunners of their subsequent power. Among the persons belonging to the factories, whom there was occasion to send to the Imperial Court, it happened that some were surgeons; one of whom is particularly named, a gentleman of the name of Boughton. Obtaining great influence, by the cures which they effected, they employed their interest in promoting the views of the Company. Favourable circumstances were so well improved, that, on the payment of 3000 rupees, a government license for an unlimited trade, without payment of customs, in the richest province of India, was happily obtained.2

On the Coromandel coast, the wars, which then raged among the natives, rendered commerce difficult and uncertain; and the Directors were urged by the agent at Madras, to add to the fortifications. This they refused, on the ground of expense. As it was inconvenient, however, to keep the business of this coast dependant on the distant settlement of Bantam, Fort St. George was erected into a presidency in 1653–54.3

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When the disputes began, which ended in hostilities book i. Chap. 3. 1654. between Cromwell and the Dutch, the Company deemed it a fit opportunity to bring forward those claims of theirs which, amid the distractions of the government, had lain dormant for several years. The war which succeeded, favourable to the British arms in Europe, was extremely dangerous, and not a little injurious, to the feeble Company in India. On the appearance of a Dutch fleet of eight large ships off Swally, in 1653–54, the English trade at Surat was suspended. In the Gulf of Persia, three of the Company's ships were taken, and one destroyed. The whole of the coasting trade of the English, consisting of the interchange of goods from one of their stations to another, became, under the naval superiority of the Dutch, so hazardous, as to be nearly suspended; and at Bantam, traffic seems to have been rendered wholly impracticable.1

As Cromwell soon reduced the Dutch to the necessity of desiring peace; and of submitting to it on terms nearly such as he thought proper to dictate; a clause was inserted in the treaty concluded at Westminster in 1654, in which they engaged to conform to whatever justice might prescribe regarding the massacre at Amboyna. It was agreed to name commissioners, four on each side, who should meet at London, and make an adjustment of the claims of the two nations. One remarkable, and not an ill-contrived condition was, that if the appointed commissioners should, within a specified time, be unable to agree, the differences in question should be submitted to the judgment and arbitration of the Protestant Swiss Cantons.2

The Commissioners met on the 30th of August, 1654. The English Company, who have never Edition: current; Page: [72] book i. Chap. 3. 1654. found themselves at a loss to make out heavy claims for compensation, whether it was their own government, or a foreign, with which they had to deal, stated their damages, ascertained by a series of accounts, from the year 1611 to the year 1652, at the vast amount of 2,695,999l. 15s. The Dutch, however, seem to have been a match for them. They too had their claims for compensation, on account of joint expenses not paid, or injuries and losses sustained, amounting to 2,919,861l. 3s. 6d. It is impossible to pronounce with accuracy on the justice, comparative or absolute, of these several demands. There is no doubt that both were excessively exaggerated. But if we consider, that, under the domineering ascendancy which the Protector had acquired, it was natural for the English to overbear, and expedient for the Dutch to submit; while we observe, that the award pronounced by the Commissioners, allotted to the English no more than 85,000l., to be paid by two instalments, we shall not find any reason, distinct from national partiality, to persuade us, that the balance of extravagance was greatly on the side of the Dutch. All the satisfaction obtained for the massacre of Amboyna, even by the award of the same Commissioners, was 3,615l., to be paid to the heirs or executors of those who had suffered.1 Polaroon was given up to the English, but not worth receiving.

Various occurrences strongly mark the sense which appears to have been generally entertained, of the unprofitable nature of joint-stock. That particular body of proprietors, including the Assada merchants, to whom the united joint-stock belonged, presented to the Council of State, in 1654, two separate petitions; in which they prayed, that the East India Edition: current; Page: [73] Company should no longer proceed exclusively on book i. Chap. 3. 1654. the principle of a joint-stock trade, but that the owners of the separate funds should have authority to employ their own capital, servants, and shipping, in the way which they themselves should deem most to their own advantage.1 The power and consequence of the Directors were threatened; and they hastened to present those pleas, which are used as their best weapons of defence to the present day. Experience had proved the necessity of a joint-stock; since the trade had been carried on by a joint-stock during forty years: Such competitions as those with the Portuguese and the Dutch could only be supported by the strength of a joint-stock: The equipments for the India trade required a capital so large as a joint-stock alone could afford: The failure of Courten's experiment proved that voyages on any other principle could not succeed: The factories requisite for the Indian trade could be established only by a joint-stock, the East India Company having factories in the dominions of no less than fourteen different sovereigns: The native princes required engagements to make good the losses which they or their subjects might sustain at the hands of Englishmen: and to this a joint-stock company alone was competent.

On these grounds, they not only prayed that the trade by joint-stock should be exclusively continued; but that, as it had been impracticable for some time to obtain sufficient subscriptions, additional encouragement should be given by new privileges; and, Edition: current; Page: [74] book i. Chap. 3. 1654. in particular, that assistance should be granted, sufficient to enable them to recover and retain the Spice Islands.1

In their reply, the body of petitioners, who were now distinguished by the name of Merchant Adventurers, chiefly dwelt upon the signal want of success which had attended the trade to India, during forty years of joint-stock management. They asserted, that private direction and separate voyages would have been far more profitable; as the prosperity of those open Companies, the Turkey, Muscovy, and Eastland Companies, sufficiently proved. They claimed a right, by agreement, to a share in the factories and privileges of the Company in India; and stated that they were fitting out fourteen ships for the trade.2 They might have still further represented, that every one of the arguments advanced by the Directors, without even a single exception, was a mere assumption of the thing to be proved. That the trade had, during forty years, or four hundred years, been carried on by a joint-stock, proved not that, by a different mode, it would not have yielded much greater advantage: if the trade had been in the highest degree unprosperous, it rather proved that the management had been proportionally defective. The Directors asserted, that in meeting competition, private adventure would altogether fail; though with their joint-stock they had so ill sustained competition, that Courten's Association had threatened to drive them out of every market in which they had appeared: and they themselves had repeatedly and solemnly declared to government, that unless the license to Courten were withdrawn, the ruin of the East India Company was sure. Edition: current; Page: [75] With regard to mercantile competition, at any rate, book i. Chap. 3. 1654. the skill and vigilance of individuals transacting for their own interest was sure to be a more powerful instrument than the imbecility and negligence of joint-stock management: and as to warlike competition, a few ships of war, with a few companies of marines, employed by the government, would have yielded far more security than all the efforts which a feeble joint-stock could make. The failure of Courten's Association was sufficiently accounted for by the operation of particular causes, altogether distinct from the general circumstances of the trade; the situation, in fact, in which the jealousy and influence of the Company had placed them. Factories were by no means so necessary as the Company ignorantly supposed, and interestedly strove to make others believe; as they shortly after found to their cost, when they were glad to reduce the greater number of those which they had established. Where factories were really useful, it would be for the interest of all the traders to support them. And all would join in an object of common utility in India, as they joined in every other quarter of the globe. As to the native princes, there was no such difficulty as the Company pretended: nor would individual merchants have been less successful than the directors of a joint-stock, in finding the means of prosecuting the trade.

These contending pretensions were referred to a committee of the Council of State; and they, without coming to a decision, remitted the subject to the Protector and Council, as too difficult and important for the judgment of any inferior tribunal.1

Nothing could exceed the confusion which, from the clashing interests of the owners of the separate Edition: current; Page: [76] book i. Chap. 3. 1655. stocks, now raged in the Company's affairs. There were no less than three parties who set up claims to the Island of Polaroon, and to the compensation money which had been obtained from the Dutch; the respective proprietors of the third, fourth, and united joint-stocks. The proprietors of the third joint-stock claimed the whole, as the fourth joint-stock and the united stock were not in existence at the time when the debt obtained from the Dutch was incurred; and they prayed that the money might be lodged in safe and responsible hands, till government should determine the question. The owners of the two other stocks demanded that the money should be divided into three equal shares, for the three several stocks, and that they should all have equal rights to the Island of Polaroon.

Five arbitrators, to whom the dispute was referred, were chosen by the Council of State. In the mean time Cromwell proposed to borrow the 85,000l. which had been paid by the Dutch, and which could not be employed till adjudged to whom it belonged.

The Directors, however, had expected the fingering of the money, and they advanced reasons why it should be immediately placed in their hands. The pecuniary distresses of the Company were great: The different stocks were 50,000l. in debt; and many of the proprietors were in difficult circumstances: From gratitude to the Protector, however, they would make exertions to spare him 50,000l. to be repaid in eighteen months by instalments, provided the remaining 35,000l. were immediately assigned them, to pay their most pressing debts, and make a dividend to the Proprietors.1 It thus appears, that these Directors wanted to forestall the Edition: current; Page: [77] decision of the question; and to distribute the money book i. Chap. 3. 1655. at their own pleasure, before it was known to whom it belonged. At the same time, it is matter of curious uncertainty, who these Directors were, whom they represented, by what set or sets of Proprietors they were chosen, or to whom they were responsible.

While this dispute was yet undecided, the Merchant Adventurers, or Proprietors of the united stock, obtained a commission from the Protector to fit out four ships for the Indian trade, under the management of a committee.1 We are made acquainted upon this occasion with a very interesting fact. The news of this event being carried to Holland, it was interpreted, and understood, by the Dutch, as being an abolition of the exclusive charter, and the adoption of the new measure of a free and open trade. The interests of the Dutch Company made them see, in this supposed revolution, consequences very different from those which the interests of the English Directors made them behold or pretend that they beheld in it. Instead of rejoicing at the loss of a joint-stock in England, as they ought to have done, if by joint-stock alone the trade of their rivals could be successfully carried on; they were filled with dismay at the prospect of freedom, as likely to produce a trade with which competition on their part would be vain.2

Meanwhile the Company, as well as the Merchant Adventurers, were employed in the equipment of a Edition: current; Page: [78] book i. Chap. 3. 1656. fleet. The petition of the Company to the Protector for leave to export bullion, specified the sum of 15,000l.: and the fleet consisted of three ships. They continued to press the government for a decision in favour of their exclusive privileges; and in a petition which they presented in October, 1656, affirmed, that the great number of ships sent by individuals under licenses, had raised the price of India goods from 40 to 50 per cent. and reduced that of English commodities in the same proportion. The Council resolved at last to come to a decision. After some inquiry, they gave it as their advice to the Protector to continue the exclusive trade and the joint-stock; and a committee of the Council was in consequence appointed, to consider the terms of a charter.1

While the want of funds almost annihilated the operations of the Company's agents in every part of India; and while they complained that the competition of the ships of the Merchant Adventurers rendered it, as usual, impracticable for them to trade with a profit in the markets of India, the Dutch pursued their advantages against the Portuguese. They had acquired possession of the island of Ceylon, and in the year 1656–57, blockaded the port of Goa, after which they meditated an attack upon the small island of Diu, which commanded the entrance into the harbour of Swally. From the success of these enterprises they expected a complete command of the navigation on that side of India, and the power of imposing on the English trade duties under which it would be unable to stand.2

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From the Coalition between the Company and the Merchant Adventurers, till the Project for a new and a rival East India Company.

After the decision of the Council of State in favour book i. Chap. 4. 1658. of the joint-stock scheme of trading to India, the Company and the Merchant Adventurers effected a coalition. On the strength of this union a new subscription, in 1657–58, was opened, and filled up to the amount of 786,000l.1 Whether the expected charter had been actually received is not ascertained.

The first operation of the new body of subscribers was the very necessary one of forming an adjustment with the owners of the preceding funds. A negotiation was opened for obtaining the transfer of the factories, establishments, and privileges in India. After the lofty terms in which the Directors had always spoken of these privileges and possessions, when placing them in the list of reasons for opposing an open trade, we are apt to be surprised at the smallness of the sum which, after all, and “though situated in the dominions of fourteen different sovereigns,” they were found to be worth. They were made over in full right for 20,000l., to be paid in two instalments. The ships, merchandise in store, and other trading commodities of the preceding adventurers, were taken by the new subscribers at a price; and it was agreed that the sharers in the former trade, who on that account had property in the Indies, should Edition: current; Page: [80] book i. Chap. 4. 1659. not traffic on a separate fund, but, after a specified term, should carry the amount of such property to the account of the new stock.1 There was, in this manner, only one stock now in the hands of the Directors, and they had one distinct interest to pursue: a prodigious improvement on the preceding confusion and embarrassment, when several stocks were managed, and as many contending interests pursued at once.

Some new regulations were adopted for the conduct of affairs. The whole of the factories and presidencies were rendered subordinate to the President and Council at Surat. The presidencies, however, at Fort St. George and at Bantam were continued; the factories and agencies on the Coromandel coast and in Bengal being made dependent on the former, and those in the southern islands on the latter.2

As heavy complaints had been made of trade carried on, for their own account, by the agents and servants of the Company, who not only acted as the rivals, but neglected and betrayed the interests, of their masters, it was prohibited, and, in compensation, additional salaries allowed.3

After these preliminary proceedings, the first fleet was dispatched. It consisted of five ships; one for Madras carrying 15,500l. in bullion; one for Bengal; and three for Surat, Persia, and Bantam.4 The following year, that is the season 1658–59, one ship was consigned to Surat, one to Fort St. George, and two to Bantam. The latter were directed to touch at Fort St. George to obtain coast clothes for the islands, and to return to Bengal and Fort St. George to take in Bengal and Coromandel goods for Europe. Edition: current; Page: [81] Instructions were given to make great efforts for recovering book i. Chap. 4. 1661. a share of the spice trade.1 Bantam, however, was at this time blockaded by the Dutch, and no accounts were this year received of the traffic in the southern islands.2

The operations of the new joint-stock were not more prosperous than those of the old. Transactions at the several factories were feeble and unsuccessful. For two years, 1659–60, and 1660–61, there is no account of the Company's equipments; and their advances to India were no doubt small.3 “The embarrassed state of the Company's funds at this particular period,” says Mr. Bruce, “may be inferred from the resolutions they had taken to relinquish many of their out-stations, and to limit their trade in the Peninsula of India to the presidencies of Surat and Fort St. George, and their subordinate factories.”4

Meanwhile Cromwell had died, and Charles II. ascended the throne. Amid the arrangements which took place between England and the continental powers, the Company were careful to press on the attention of government a list of grievances, which they represented themselves as still enduring at the hands of the Dutch; and an order was obtained, empowering them to take possession of the island of Polaroon. They afterwards complained that it was delivered to them in such a state of prepared desolation, Edition: current; Page: [82] book i. Chap. 4. 1661. as to be of no value.1 The truth is, it was of little value at best.

On every change in the government of the country, it had been an important object with the Company to obtain a confirmation of their exclusive privileges. The usual policy was not neglected, on the accession of Charles II.; and a petition was presented to him for a renewal of the East India charter. As there appears not to have been, at that time, any body of opponents to make interest or importunity for a contrary measure, it was far easier to grant without inquiry, than to inquire and refuse; and Charles and his ministers had a predilection for easy rules of government. A charter, bearing date the 3d of April, 1661, was accordingly granted, confirming the ancient privileges of the Company, and vesting in them authority to make peace and war with any prince or people, not being Christians; and to seize unlicensed persons within their limits, and send them to England.2 The two last were important privileges; and with the right of administering justice, consigned almost all the powers of government to the discretion of the Directors and their servants.

It appears not that, on this occasion, the expedient of a new subscription for obtaining a capital was attempted. A new adjustment with regard to the privileges and dead stock in India would have been required. The joint-stock was not as yet a definite and invariable sum, placed beyond the power of resumption, at the disposal of the Company, the shares only transferable by purchase and sale in the market. The capital was variable and fluctuating; formed by the sums which, on the occasion of each voyage, the Edition: current; Page: [83] individuals, who were free of the Company, chose to book i. Chap. 4. 1662–67. pay into the hands of the Directors, receiving credit for the amount in the Company's books, and proportional dividends on the profits of the voyage. Of this stock 500l. entitled a proprietor to a vote in the general courts; and the shares were transferable, even to such as were not free of the Company, upon paying 5l. for admission.1

Of the amount either of the shipping or stock of the first voyage upon the renewed charter we have no account; but the instructions sent to India prescribed a reduction of the circle of trade. In the following year 1662–63, two ships sailed for Surat, with a cargo in goods and bullion, amounting to 65,000l., of which it would appear that 28,300l. was consigned to Fort St. George. Next season there is no account of equipments. In 1664–65, two ships were sent out with the very limited value of 16,000l. The following season the same number only of ships was equipped; and the value in money and goods consigned to Surat was 20,600l.; whether any thing in addition was afforded to Fort St. George does not appear; there was no consignment to Bantam. In 1666–67, the equipment seems to have consisted but of one vessel. consigned to Surat with a value of 16,000l.2

With these inadequate means, the operations of the Company in India were by necessity languid and humble. At Surat the out-factories and agencies were suppressed. Instructions were given to sell the English goods, at low rates, for the purpose of ruining the interlopers. The Dutch, however, revenged the private traders; and by the competition of their powerful Edition: current; Page: [84] book i. Chap. 4. 1662–67. capital, rendered the Company's business difficult and unprofitable.1 On the Coromandel coast the wars among the native chiefs, and the overbearing influence of the Dutch, cramped and threatened to extinguish the trade of the English. And at Bantam, where the Dutch power was most sensibly felt, the feeble resources of their rivals hardly sufficed to keep their business alive.2

During these years of weakness and obscurity, several events occurred which by their consequences proved to be of considerable importance. The island of Bombay was ceded to the king of England as part of the dowry of the Infanta Catharine; and a fleet of five men of war commanded by the Earl of Marlborough, with 500 troops commanded by Sir Abraham Shipman, were sent to receive the possession. The armament arrived at Bombay on the 18th September, 1662; but the governor evaded the cession. The English understood the treaty to include Salsette and the other dependencies of Bombay. As it was not precise in its terms, the Portuguese denied that it referred to any thing more than the island of Bombay. Even Bombay they refused to give up, till further instructions, on the pretext that the letters or patent of the King did not accord with the usages of Portugal. The commander of the armament applied in this emergency to the Company's President to make arrangements for receiving the troops and ships at Surat, as the men were dying by long confinement on board. But that magistrate represented the danger of incurring the suspicion of the Mogul government, which would produce the seizure of the Company's investment, and the expulsion of their servants from the country. In these circumstances the Earl Edition: current; Page: [85] of Marlborough took his resolution of returning with book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. the king's ships to England; but Sir Abraham Shipman, it was agreed, should land the troops on the island of Angedivah, twelve leagues distant from Goa. On the arrival of the Earl of Marlborough in England in 1663, the King remonstrated with the government of Portugal, but obtained unsatisfactory explanations; and all intention of parting with the dependencies of Bombay was denied. The situation in the mean time of the troops at Angedivah proved extremely unhealthy; their numbers were greatly reduced by disease; and the commander made offer to the President and Council at Surat, to cede the King's rights to the Company. This offer, on consultation, the President and Council declined; as well because, without the authority of the King, the grant was not valid, as because, in their feeble condition, they were unable to take possession of the place. After Sir Abraham Shipman and the greater part of the troops had died by famine and disease, Mr. Cooke, on whom the command devolved, accepted of Bombay on the terms which the Portuguese were pleased to prescribe; renounced all claim to the contiguous islands; and allowed the Portuguese exemption from the payment of customs. This convention the King refused to ratify, as contrary to the terms of his treaty with Portugal; but sent out Sir Gervase Lucas to assume the government of the place. As a few years’ experience showed that the government of Bombay cost more than it produced, it was once more offered to the Company: and now accepted. The grant bears date in 1668. Bombay was “to be held of the King in free and common soccage, as of the manor of East Greenwich, on the payment of the annual rent of 10l. in gold, on the 30th of September, in each year;” and with the place itself was conveyed Edition: current; Page: [86] book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. authority to exercise all political powers, necessary for its defence and government.1

Subterfuges of a similar kind were invented by the Dutch to evade the cession of the island of Polaroon. The Governor pretended that he could not deliver up the island without instructions from the Governor of Banda; and the Governor of Banda pretended that he could not give such instructions without receiving authority from the Governor-General of Batavia. After much delay and negotiation the cession was made in 1665; but not, if we believe the English accounts, till the Dutch had so far exterminated the inhabitants and the spice trees, that the acquisition was of little importance. On the recommencement, however, of hostilities between England and Holland, the Dutch made haste to expel the English, and to re-occupy the island. And by the treaty of Breda, both Polaroon and Damm, on which the English had attempted an establishment, were finally ceded to the Dutch.2

In the beginning of 1664, Sevagee, the founder of the Mahratta power, in the course of his predatory warfare against the territories of the Mogul Sovereign, attacked the city of Surat. The inhabitants fled, and the Governor shut himself up in the castle. The Company's servants, however, taking shelter in the factory, stood upon their defence, and having called in the ships’ crews to their aid, made so brave a resistance that Sevagee retired after pillaging the town. The gallantry and success of this enterprise so pleased the Mogul government, as to obtain its thanks to the President, and new privileges of trade to the Company. The place was again approached by the same Edition: current; Page: [87] destructive enemy in 1670, when the principal part of book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. the Company's goods was transported to Swally, and lodged on board the ships. The English again defended themselves successfully, though some lives were lost, as well as some property in their detached warehouses.1

At this period occurred one of the first instances of refractory and disobedient conduct on the part of the Company's servants. This is a calamity to which they have been much less frequently exposed, than, from the distance and employment of those servants, it would have been reasonable to expect. The efforts of the Directors to suppress the trade, which their agents carried on for their own account, had not been very successful. Sir Edward Winter, the chief servant at Fort St. George, was suspected of this delinquency, and in consequence recalled. When Mr. Foxcroft, however, who was sent to supersede him, arrived at Fort St. George, in June, 1665, Sir Edward, instead of resigning, placed his intended successor in confinement, under a pretext which it was easy to make, that he had uttered disloyal expressions against the King's government. Notwithstanding remonstrances and commands, he maintained himself in the government of the place till two ships arrived, in August, 1668, with peremptory orders from the Company, strengthened by a command from the King, to resign; when his courage failed him, and he complied. He retired to Masulipatam, a station of the Dutch, till the resentment excited against him in England should cool: and his name appears no more in the annals of the Company.2

In Bengal the English factory at Hoogley had been involved in an unhappy dispute with the Mogul Edition: current; Page: [88] book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. government, on account of a junk which they imprudently seized on the river Ganges. For several years this incident had been used as a pretext for molesting them. In 1662–63, the chief at Madras sent an agent to endeavour to reconcile them with Meer Jumlah, the Nabob of Bengal; and to establish agencies at Balasore and Cossimbuzar.1 The Company's funds, however, were too confined to push to any extent the trade of the rich province of Bengal.

The scale was very small on which, at this time, the Company's appointments were formed. In 1662, Sir George Oxenden was elected to be “President and chief Director of all their affairs at Surat, and all other their factories in the north parts of India, from Zeilon to the Red Sea,” at a salary of 300l. and with a gratuity of 200l. per annum as compensation for private trade. Private trade in the hands of their servants, and still more in those of others, the Company were now most earnestly labouring to suppress. Directions were given to seize all unlicensed traders and send them to England; and no exertion of the great powers entrusted to the Company was to be spared, to annihilate the race of merchants who trenched upon the monopoly, and to whom, under the disrespectful name of interlopers, they ascribed a great part of their imbecility and depression.2

Their determination to crush all those of their countrymen who dared to add themselves to the list of their competitors, failed not to give rise to instances of great hardship and calamity. One was rendered famous by the altercation which in 1666 it produced between the two houses of parliament. Thomas Skinner, a merchant, fitted out a vessel in 1657. The agents of the Company seized his ship and merchandize Edition: current; Page: [89] in India, his house, and the island of Barella, book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. which he had bought of the King of Jambee. They even denied him a passage home; and he was obliged to travel over land to Europe. The sufferer failed not to seek redress, by presenting his complaint to the government, and after some importunity it was referred first to a committee of the Council, and next to the House of Peers. When the Company were ordered to answer, they refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Peers, on the ground that they were only a court of appeal, and not competent to decide in the first resort. The objection was over-ruled. The Company appealed to the House of Commons; the Lords were highly inflamed; and, proceeding to a decision, awarded to the petitioner 5,000l. The Commons were now enraged in their turn; and being unable to gratify their resentments upon the House of Peers, which was the cause of them, they were pleased to do so upon the unfortunate gentleman who had already paid so dearly for the crime (whatever its amount) of infringing the Company's monopoly. He was sent a prisoner to the Tower. The Lords, whom these proceedings filled with indignation, voted the petition of the Company to the Lower House to be false and scandalous. Upon this the Commons resolved that whoever should execute the sentence of the other house in favour of Skinner, was a betrayer of the rights and liberties of the Commons of England, and an infringer of the privileges of their house. To such a height did these contentions proceed, that the King adjourned the parliament seven times; and when the controversy after an intermission revived, he sent for both houses to Whitehall, and by his personal persuasion induced them to erase from their journals all their votes, resolutions, and other acts relating to the subject. A contest, of which both parties were tired, Edition: current; Page: [90] book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. being thus ended, the sacrifice and ruin of an individual appeared, as usual, of little importance: Skinner had no redress.1

Another class of competitors excited the fears and jealousies of the Company. Colbert, the French minister of finance, among his projects for rendering his country commercial and opulent, conceived, in 1664, the design of an East India Company. The report which reached the Court of Directors in London represented the French as fitting out eight armed vessels for India, commanded by Hubert Hugo, whom, in their instructions to the settlements abroad, the Directors described as a Dutch pirate. The hostilities of the Company were timid. They directed their agents in India to afford these rivals no aid or protection, but to behave towards them with circumspection and delicacy. The subservience of the English government to that of France was already so apparent, as to make them afraid of disputes in which they were likely to have their own rulers against them.2

The war which took place with Holland in 1664, and which was followed in 1665 by a temporary quarrel with France, set loose the powers of both nations against the Company in India. The French Company, however, was too much in its infancy to be formidable; and the Dutch, whose mercantile competition pressed as heavily during peace as during war, added to the difficulties of the English, chiefly by rendering their navigation more hazardous and expensive.

A fact, an enlightened attention to which would probably have been productive of important consequences, was at this time forced upon the notice of Edition: current; Page: [91] the Company. One grand source of the expenses book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. which devoured the profits of their trade was their factories, with all that mass of dead stock which they required, houses, lands, fortifications, and equipments. The Dutch, who prosecuted their interests with vigilance and economy, carried on their trade in a great many places without factories. Upon receiving instructions to make preparations and inquiry for opening a trade with Japan, Mr. Quarles Brown, the Company's agent at Bantam, who had been at Japan, reported to the Court, that it would be necessary, if a trade with Japan was to be undertaken, to follow the plan of the Dutch; who procured the commodities in demand at Japan, in the countries of Siam, Cambodia, and Tonquin, not by erecting expensive factories, but by forming contracts with the native merchants. These merchants, at fixed seasons, brought to the ports the commodities for which they had contracted, and though it was often necessary to advance to them the capital with which the purchases were effected, they had regularly fulfilled their engagements.1 Even the Company itself, and that in places where their factories cost them the most, had made experiments, and with great advantage, on the expediency of employing the native merchants in providing their investments. At Surat, in 1665–66, “the investments of the season were obtained by the employment of a native merchant, who had provided an assortment of pepper at his own risk, and though the Dutch had obstructed direct purchases of pepper, the agents continued the expedient of employing the native merchants, and embarked a moderate assortment.”2 Factories to carry on the traffic of Asia, at any rate on the scale, or any thing Edition: current; Page: [92] book i. Chap. 4. 1663–68. approaching to the scale, of the East India Company, were the natural offspring of a joint-stock; the Managers or Directors of which had a much greater interest in the patronage they created, which was wholly their own; than in the profits of the Company, of which they had only an insignificant share. Had the trade to India been conducted from the beginning, on those principles of individual adventure and free competition, to which the nation owes its commercial grandeur, it is altogether improbable that many factories would have been established. The agency of the native merchants would have performed much; and where it was not sufficient, the Indian trade would have naturally divided itself into two branches. One set of adventurers would have established themselves in India, by whom investments would have been provided for the European ships, and to whom the cargoes of the European goods would have been consigned. Another class of adventurers, who remained at home, would have performed the business of export and import from England, as it is performed to any other region of the globe.

The time, however, was now approaching when the weakness which had so long characterized the operations of the English in India was gradually to disappear. Notwithstanding the imperfections of the government, at no period, perhaps, either prior or posterior, did the people of this country advance so rapidly in wealth and prosperity, as during the time, including the years of civil war, from the accession of James I. to the expulsion of James II.1 We are not Edition: current; Page: [93] informed of the particular measures which were pursued book i. Chap. 4. 1668–74. by the Directors for obtaining an extension of funds; but the increase of capital in the nation was probably the principal cause which enabled them, in the year succeeding the acquisition of Bombay, to provide a grander fleet and cargo than they had ever yet sent forth. In the course of the year 1667–68, six ships sailed to Surat, with goods and bullion to the value of 130,000l.; five ships to Fort St. George, with a value of 75,000l.; and five to Bantam, with a stock of 40,000l. In the next season we are informed that the consignments to Surat consisted of 1,200 tons of shipping, with a stock of the value of 75,000l.; to Fort St. George, of five ships, and a stock of 103,000l.; and to Bantam, of three ships and 35,000l. In the year 1669–70, 1,500 tons of shipping were sent to Surat, six ships to Fort St. George, and four to Bantam, and the whole amount of the stock was 281,000l. The vessels sent out in 1670–71 amounted to sixteen, and their cargoes and bullion to 303,500l. In the following year four ships were sent to Surat, and nearly 2,000 tons of shipping to Fort St. George; the cargo and bullion to the former, being 85,000l., to the latter, 160,000l.: shipping to the amount of 2,800 tons was consigned to Bantam, but of the value of the bullion and goods no account seems to be preserved. In 1672–73, stock and bullion to the amount of 157,700l. were sent to Surat and Fort St. George. On account of the war, and the more exposed situation of Bantam, the consignment to that settlement was Edition: current; Page: [94] book i. Chap. 4. 1668–74. postponed. In the following year, it appears that cargoes and bullion were consigned, of the value of 100,000l. to Surat; 87,000l. to Fort St. George; and 41,000l. to Bantam.1

Other events of these years were of considerable importance. In 1667–68, appears the first order of the Company for the importation of tea.2 Attempts were now recommended for resuming trade with Sumatra.3 In 1671–72, considerable embarrassment was produced at Surat by the arrival of a French fleet of twelve ships, and a stock computed at 130,000l. The inconsiderate purchases and sales of the French reduced the price of European goods, and raised that of Indian; but these adventurers exhibited so little of the spirit and knowledge of commerce, as convinced the Company's agents that they would not prove formidable rivals.4

As England and France were now united in alliance against the Dutch, the Company might have exulted in the prospect of humbling their oppressors, but the danger of a new set of competitors seems effectually to have repressed these triumphant emotions. In 1673, the island of St. Helena, which had several times changed its masters, being recaptured from the Dutch, was granted anew and confirmed to the Company by a royal charter.5

The funds which, in such unusual quantity, the Directors had been able to supply for the support of the trade in India, did not suffice to remove, it would appear that they hardly served to lighten, the pecuniary difficulties under which it laboured. To an order to Edition: current; Page: [95] provide a large investment, the President and Council book i. Chap. 4. 1674. at Surat, in 1673–74, replied, that the funds at their disposal were only 88,228l. and their debts 100,000l. besides interest on the same at 9 per cent.; and in November, 1674, they represented that the debt arose to no less a sum than 135,000l.; and that all returns must in a great measure be suspended till, by the application of the funds received from Europe, the Company's credit should be revived.1

Of the sort of views held out at this period to excite the favour of the nation towards the East India Company, a specimen has come down to us of considerable value. Sir Josiah Child, an eminent member of the body of Directors, in his celebrated Discourses on Trade, written in the year 1665, and published in 1667, represents the trade to India as the most beneficial branch of English commerce; and in proof of this opinion asserts, that it employs from twenty-five to thirty sail of the most warlike mercantile ships of the kingdom, manned with mariners from 60 to 100 each; that it supplies the kingdom with saltpetre, which would otherwise cost the nation an immense sum to the Dutch; with pepper, indigo, calicoes, and drugs, to the value of 150,000l. or 180,000l. yearly, for which it would otherwise pay to the same people an exorbitant price; with materials for export to Turkey, France, Spain, Italy, and Guinea, to the amount of 200,000l. or 300,000l. yearly, countries with which, if the nation were deprived of these commodities, a profitable trade could not be carried on.

These statements were probably made with an intention to deceive. The imports, exclusive of saltpetre, are asserted to exceed 400,000l. a year; though the Edition: current; Page: [96] book i. Chap. 4. 1674. stock which was annually sent to effect the purchases, and to defray the whole expense of factories and fortifications abroad, hardly amounted in any number of years preceding 1665, to 100,000l., often to much less; while the Company were habitually contracting debts, and labouring under the severest pecuniary difficulties. Thus early, in the history of this Company, is it found necessary to place reliance on their accounts and statements, only when something very different from the authority of their advocates is found to constitute the basis of our belief.

It will be highly instructive to confront one exaggerated statement with another. About the same time with the discourses of Sir Josiah Child, appeared the celebrated work of De Witt on the state of Holland. Proceeding on the statement of Sir Walter Raleigh, who in the investigation of the Dutch fishery, made for the information of James I. in 1603, affirmed, that “the Hollanders fished on the coasts of Great Britain with no fewer than 3,000 ships, and 50,000 men; that they employed and set to sea, to transport and sell the fish so taken, and to make returns thereof, 9,000 ships more, and 150,000 men; and that twenty busses do, one way or other, maintain 8,000 people;” he adds, that from the time of Sir Walter Raleigh to the time at which he wrote, the traffic of Holland in all its branches could not have increased less than one third. Allowing this account to be exaggerated in the same proportion as that of the East India Director, which the nature of the circumstances, so much better known, renders rather improbable; it is yet evident, to what a remarkable degree the fisheries of the British coasts, to which the Dutch confined themselves, constituted a more important commerce than the highly vaunted, but comparatively insignificant business of Edition: current; Page: [97] the East India Company.1 The English fishery, at book i. Chap. 4. 1675–82. the single station of Newfoundland, exceeded in value the trade to the East Indies. In the year 1676, no fewer than 102 ships, carrying twenty guns each, and eighteen boats, with five men to each boat, 9,180 men in all, were employed in that traffic; and the total value of the fish and oil was computed at 386,400l.2

The equipments, in 1674–75, were, five ships to Surat with 189,000l. in goods and bullion; five to Fort St. George with 202,000l.; and 2,500 tons of shipping to Bantam with 65,000l.: In 1675–76, to Surat, five ships and 96,500l.; to Fort St. George, five ships and 235,000l.; to Bantam, 2,450 tons of shipping and 58,000l.: In 1676–77, three ships to Surat and three to Fort St. George, with 97,000l. to the one, and 176,600l. to the other; and eight ships to Bantam, with no account of the stock. The whole adventure to India, in 1677–78, seems to have been seven ships and 352,000l.; of which a part, to the value of 10,000l. or 12,000l., was to be forwarded from Fort St. George to Bantam: In 1678–79, eight ships and 393,950l.: In 1679–80, ten ships and 461,700l.: In 1680–81, eleven ships and 596,000l.: And, in 1681–82, seventeen ships, and 740,000l.3

The events affecting the East India Company were still common and unimportant. In 1674–75, a mutiny, occasioned by retrenchment, but not of any Edition: current; Page: [98] book i. Chap. 4. 1675–82. serious magnitude, was suppressed at Bombay. In trying and executing the ringleaders, the Company exercised the formidable powers of martial law. The trade of Bengal had grown to such importance, that, instead of a branch of the agency at Fort St. George, an agency was now constituted in Bengal itself. Directions were forwarded to make attempts for opening a trade with China; and tea, to the value of 100 dollars, was, in 1676–77, ordered on the Company's account. Beside the ordinary causes of depression which affected the Company at Bantam, a particular misfortune occurred in 1667. The principal persons belonging to the factory having gone up the river in their prows, a number of Javanese assassins, who had concealed themselves in the water, suddenly sprung upon them, and put them to death.1

In 1677–78, “the Court,” says Mr. Bruce, “recommended temporising expedients to their servants, with the Mogul, with Sevagee, and with the petty Rajahs; but at the same time they gave to President Aungier and his council discretionary powers, to employ armed vessels, to enforce the observation of treaties and grants:—in this way, the Court shifted from themselves the responsibility of commencing hostilities, that they might be able, in any questions which might arise between the King and the Company, to refer such hostilities to the errors of their servants.”2 This cool provision of a subterfuge, at the expense of their servants, is a policy ascribed to the Company, in this instance, by one of the most unabashed of their eulogists. We shall see, as we advance, in what degree the precedent has been followed.

The difficulties which now occurred in directing Edition: current; Page: [99] the operations of the various individuals employed in book i. Chap. 4. 1682. the business of the East India Company began to be serious. The Directors, from ignorance of the circumstances in which their servants were placed, often transmitted to them instructions which it would have been highly imprudent to execute. The functionaries abroad often took upon themselves, and had good reasons for their caution, to disregard the orders which they received. A door being thus opened for discretionary conduct, the instructions of the Directors were naturally as often disobeyed for the convenience of the actors abroad, as for the benefit of the Company at home. The disregard of their authority, and the violation of their commands, had been a frequent subject of uneasiness and indignation to the Directors. Nor was this all. From discordant pretensions to rank and advancement in the service, animosities arose among the agents abroad. Efforts were made by the Directors for the cure of these troublesome, and even dangerous, diseases. Seniority was adopted as the principle of promotion; but nomination to the important office of a Member of Council at the Agencies, as well as Presidencies, was reserved to the Court of Directors.1

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From the Project of forming a new and rival Company, till the Union of the two Companies by the Award of Godolphin, in the year 1711.

book i. Chap. 5. 1683. The Company were now again threatened by that competition with their fellow-citizens which they have always regarded as their greatest misfortune. From the renewal of their charter, shortly after the accession of Charles II., their monopoly had not been disturbed, except by a few feeble interlopers, whom they had not found it difficult to crush. In the year 1682–83, the design was disclosed of opening a subscription for a new joint-stock, and establishing a rival East India Company. The scheme was so much in unison with the sentiments of the nation, and assumed an aspect of so much importance, that it was taken into consideration by the King and Council. 1

It had so much effect upon the views of the Company, though for the present the Council withheld their sanction, that, in Mr. Bruce's opinion, it introduced into their policy of 1682–83 a refinement, calculated, and intended, to impose upon the King and the public. It induced them to speak of the amount of their equipments, not, as usual, in terms of exact detail, but in those of vague and hyperbolical estimate. What we know of their adventure of that year is only the information they forwarded to their Indian stations, that the stock to be sent out Edition: current; Page: [101] would exceed one million sterling. In the course of book i. Chap. 5. 1683–85. the next season they equipped four ships to Surat. Of that year we only further know that 100,000l. in bullion was intended for Bengal. In 1684–85, information was forwarded to Surat, in general terms, that the tonnage and stock would be considerable: Five ships sailed for Fort St. George and Bengal, with 140,000l. in bullion: Of other circumstances nothing is adduced: and for several succeeding years no statement of the tonnage and stock of the annual voyages appears.1

Under the skill which the Court of Directors have all along displayed in suppressing such information as they wished not to appear, it is often impossible to collect more than gleanings of intelligence respecting the Company's debts. At the present period, however, they appear to have been heavy and distressing. In 1676, it was asserted by their opponents in England that their debts amounted to 600,000l.;2 and we have already seen that, in 1674, the debt of Surat alone amounted to 135,000l.3 In 1682–83, the Directors authorised the Agency in Bengal to borrow 200,000l. and, in 1683–84, it is stated that the debt upon the dead stock at Bombay alone amounted to 300,000l.4 It seems highly probable that at this time their debts exceeded their capital.

In a war between the King of Bantam and his son, in which the English sided with the one, and the Dutch with the other, the son prevailed; and expelled the English from the place. The agents and servants of the factory took shelter at Batavia, and the Dutch Governor made offer of his assistance to Edition: current; Page: [102] book i. Chap. 5. 1683–85. bring the property of the Company from Bantam. As the English, however, accused the Dutch of being the real authors of the calamity, they declined the proposal, as precluding those claims of redress which the Company might prosecute in Europe. Various efforts were made to regain possession of Bantam, but the Dutch from this time remained sole masters of Java.1

Upon the loss of Bantam, the Presidency for the government of the Eastern Coast, which had hitherto, with a fond desire for the traffic of the islands, been stationed at that place, was removed to Fort St. George.2

The nation becoming gradually more impatient under the monopoly, the numbers multiplied of those who ventured to break through the restraint which it imposed upon the commercial ardour of the times. The Company, not satisfied with the power which they had already obtained of common and martial law, and of seizing, with their property, and sending to England, as many of their countrymen, as their interests or caprice might direct, still called for a wider range of authority: and, under the favour of government which they now enjoyed, obtained the powers of Admiralty jurisdiction, for the purpose of seizing and condemning, safe from the review of the courts of municipal law in England, the ships of the interlopers.3 The servants of the Company were now invested with unlimited power over the British people in India.

Insurrection again appeared at Bombay, and assumed a very formidable aspect. The causes were such as have commonly, in the Company's affairs, been attended with similar effects. Efforts had been Edition: current; Page: [103] made to retrench expenses; unpleasant to the Company's book i. Chap. 5. 1683–85. servants. The earliest experiment of the Company in territorial sovereignty agreed with the enlarged experience of succeeding times: the expense of the government exceeded the revenue which the population and territory could be made to yield. The Directors, new to the business of government, were disappointed; and having first laboured to correct the deficit by screwing up the revenue, they next attempted the same arduous task by lessening the expense. By the two operations together, all classes of their subjects were alienated: First, the people, by the weight of taxation; next, the instruments of government, by the diminution of their profits. Accordingly Captain Keigwin, commander of the garrison at Bombay, was joined by the troops and the great body of the people, in renouncing the authority of the Company, and declaring by proclamation, dated December 27, 1683, that the island belonged to the King. Keigwin was by general consent appointed Governor; and immediately addressed letters to the King and to the Duke of York, stating such reasons as were most likely to avert from his conduct the condemnation to which it was exposed.1

The President and Council at Surat, conscious of their inability to reduce the island by force, had recourse to negociation. A general pardon, and redress of grievances, were promised. First three commissioners were sent; afterwards the President repaired to Bombay in person. But neither entreaties nor threats were of any avail.2

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book i. Chap. 5. 1685–87. As soon as intelligence arrived in England, the King's command was procured, directing Captain Keigwin to deliver up the island: and instructions were forwarded to proceed against the insurgents by force. When Sir Thomas Grantham, the commander of the Company's fleet, presented himself at Bombay, invested with the King's commission, Keigwin offered, if assured of a free pardon to himself and adherents, to surrender the place. On these terms the island was restored to obedience. For the more effectual coercion of any turbulent propensities, the expedient was adopted of removing the seat of government from Surat to Bombay. Nor could the humble title and pretensions of a President and Council any longer satisfy the rising ambition of the Company. The Dutch had established a regency at Batavia and Columbo. It was not consistent wiih the grandeur of the English Company to remain contented with inferior distinction. In 1687, Bombay was elevated to the dignity of a Regency, with unlimited power over the rest of the Company's settlements. Madras was formed into a corporation, governed by a mayor and aldermen.1

The English had met with less favour, and more oppression, from the native powers in Bengal, than in any other part of India.2 In 1685–86, the resolution Edition: current; Page: [105] was adopted of seeking redress and protection by book i. Chap. 5. 1685–87. force of arms. The greatest military equipment the Company had ever provided was sent to India. Ten armed vessels, from twelve to seventy guns, under the command of Captain Nicholson, and six companies of infantry, without captains, whose places were to be supplied by the Members of Council in Bengal, were dispatched, with instructions to seize and fortify Chittagong as a place of future security, and to retaliate in such a manner upon the Nabob and Mogul as to obtain reparation for the injuries and losses which had been already sustained. In addition to this force, the Directors, in the following year, made application to the King for an entire company of regular infantry with their officers; and power was granted to the Governor in India to select from the privates such men as should appear qualified to be commissioned officers in the Company's service. By some of those innumerable casualties, inseparable from distant expeditions, the whole of the force arrived not at one time in the Ganges; and an insignificant quarrel, between some of the English soldiers and the natives, was imprudently allowed to bring on hostilities, before the English were in a condition to maintain them with success. They were obliged to retire from Hoogley, after they had cannonaded it with the fleet, and took shelter at Chutanuttee, afterwards Calcutta, till an agreement with the Nabob, or additional forces, should enable them to resume their stations. The disappointment of their ambitious schemes was bitterly felt by the Court of Directors. They blamed their servants in Bengal in Edition: current; Page: [106] book i. Chap. 5. 1685–87. the severest terms, not only for timidity, but breach of trust, as having turned the resources of the Company, which ought to have been effectually employed in obtaining profitable and honourable terms from the Nabob and Mogul, to their own schemes of private avarice and emolument. A hollow truce was agreed to by the Nabob, which he only employed for preparing the means of an effectual attack. The English, under the direction of Charnock, the Company's agent, made a gallant defence. They not only repulsed the Nabob's forces in repeated assaults, but stormed the fort of Tanna, seized the island of Injellee, in which they fortified themselves, and burnt the town of Balasore, with forty sail of the Mogul fleet; the factories, however, at Patna and Cossimbuzar were taken and plundered. In September, 1687, an accommodation was effected, and the English were allowed to return to Hoogley, with their ancient privileges. But this was a termination of the contest ill-relished by the Court of Directors. Repeating their accusations of Charnock and their other functionaries, they sent Sir John Child, the governor of Bombay, to Madras and Bengal, for the purpose of reforming abuses, and of re-establishing, if possible, the factories at Cossimbuzar and other places, from which they had been driven by the war. A large ship, the Defence, accompanied by a frigate, arrived from England under the command of a captain of the name of Heath, with instructions for war. The Company's servants had made considerable progress by negociation in regaining their ancient ground; when Heath precipitately commenced hostilities, plundered the town of Balasore, and proceeded to Chittagong, which he found himself unable to subdue. Having taken the Company's servants and effects on Edition: current; Page: [107] board, agreeably to his orders, he sailed to Madras; book i. Chap. 5. 1687. and Bengal was abandoned.1

These proceedings, with the rash and presumptuous behaviour of Sir John Child on the western side of India, exasperated Aurengzebe, the most powerful of all the Mogul sovereigns, and exposed the Company's establishments to ruin in every part of India. The factory at Surat was seized; the island of Bombay was attacked by the fleet of the Siddees; the greater part of it was taken, and the governor besieged in the town and castle. Aurengzebe issued orders to expel the English from his dominions. The factory at Masulipatam was seized; as was also that at Visigapatam, where the Company's agent and several of their servants were slain. The English stooped to the most abject submissions. With much difficulty they obtained an order for the restoration of the factory at Surat, and the removal of the enemy from Bombay. Negotiation was continued, with earnest endeavours, to effect a reconciliation. The trade of the strangers was felt in the Mogul treasuries; and rendered the Emperor, as well as his deputies, not averse to an accommodation. But the interruption and delay sustained by the Company made them pay dearly for their premature ambition, and for the unseasonable insolence, or the imprudence of their servants.2

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book i. Chap. 5. 1689–98. During these contests the French found an interval, in which they improved their footing in India. They had formed an establishment at Pondicherry, where they were at this time employed in erecting fortifications.1

The equipments for 1689–90 were on a reduced scale; consisting of three ships only, two for Bombay, and one for Fort St. George. They were equally small the succeeding year. We are not informed to what the number of ships or value of cargo amounted in 1691–2. In the following year, however, the number of ships was eleven; and was increased in 1693–4, to thirteen. In the following year there was a diminution, but to what extent does not appear. In each of the years 1695–6 and 1696–7, the number of ships was eight. And in 1697–8 it was only four.2

It was now laid down as a determinate object of policy, that independence was to be established in India; and dominion acquired. In the instructions forwarded in 1689, the Directors expounded themselves in the following words: “The increase of our revenue is the subject of our care, as much as our trade:—'tis that must maintain our force, when twenty accidents may interrupt our trade; 'tis that must make us a nation in India;—without that we are but as a great number of interlopers, united by his Majesty's royal charter, fit only to trade where nobody of power thinks it their interest to prevent us;—and upon this account it is that the wise Dutch, in all their general advices which we have seen, write ten paragraphs concerning their government, their civil and military policy, warfare, and the increase Edition: current; Page: [109] of their revenue, for one paragraph they write concerning book i. Chap. 5. 1689–98. trade.”1 It thus appears at how early a period, when trade and sovereignty were blended, the trade, as was abundantly natural, became an object of contempt, and by necessary consequence, a subject of neglect. A trade, the subject of neglect, is of course a trade without profit.

This policy was so far gratified, about the same period, that Tegnapatam, a town and harbour on the Coromandel coast, a little to the south of Pondicherry, was obtained by purchase, and secured by grant from the country powers. It was strengthened by a wall and bulwarks, and named Fort St. David.2

A fact of much intrinsic importance occurs at this part of the history. Among the Christians of the East, the Armenians, during the power of the successors of Constantine, had formed a particular sect. When the countries which they inhabited were overrun by the Mahomedan arms, they were transplanted by force, in great numbers, into Persia, and dispersed in the surrounding countries. Under oppression, the Armenians adhered to their faith; and, addicting themselves to commerce, became, like the Jews in Europe, the merchants and brokers in the different countries to which they resorted.3 A proportion of them made their way into India, and, by their usual industry and acuteness, acquired that share in the business of the country which was the customary reward of the qualities they displayed. The pecuniary pressure under which the Company at this Edition: current; Page: [110] book i. Chap. 5. 1689–98. time laboured, and under which, without ruinous consequences, the increase of patronage could not be pursued, constrained the Directors to look out for economical modes of conducting their trade. They accordingly gave instructions, that, instead of multiplying European agents in India, natives, and especially Armenians, should be employed: “because,” to use the words of Mr. Bruce, copying or abridging the letters of the Court, “that people could vend English woollens, by carrying small quantities into the interior provinces, and could collect fine muslins, and other new and valuable articles, suited to the European demands, betterthan any agents of the Company could effect, under any phirmaund or grant which might be eventually purchased.”1

The prosperity which the nation had enjoyed, since the death of Charles I., having rendered capital more abundant, the eagerness of the mercantile population to enter into the channel of Indian enterprise and gain had proportionably increased; and the principles of liberty being now better understood, and actuating more strongly the breasts of Englishmen, not only had private adventure, in more numerous instances, surmounted the barriers of the Company's monopoly, but the public in general at last disputed the power of a royal charter, unsupported by Parliamentary sanction, to limit the rights of one part of the people in favour of another, and to debar all but the East India Company from the commerce of India. Applications were made to Parliament for a new system of management in this branch of national affairs; and certain instances of severity, which were made to carry the appearance of atrocity, in the exercise of the powers of martial law assumed by the Edition: current; Page: [111] Company, in St. Helena and other places, served to book i. Chap. 5. 1689–98. augment the unfavourable opinion which was now rising against them.1

The views of the House of Commons were hostile to the Company. A committee, appointed to investigate the subject, delivered it as their opinion on the 16th January, 1690, that a new Company should be established, and established by Act of Parliament; but that the present Company should carry on the trade exclusively, till the new Company were established.2 The House itself in 1691, addressed the King to dissolve the Company, and incorporate a new one; when the King referred the question to a committee of the Privy Council.3

In the mean time the Company proceeded, in a spirit of virulence, to extinguish the hated competition of the general traders. “The Court,” says Mr. Bruce, transcribing the instructions of 1691, “continued to act towards their opponents, interlopers, in the same manner as they had done in the latter years of the two preceding reigns; and granted commissions to all their captains, proceeding this season to India, to seize the interlopers of every description, and to bring them to trial before the Admiralty Court at Bombay;—explaining, that, as they attributed all the differences between the Company and the Indian powers to the interlopers, if they continued their depredations on the subjects of the Mogul or King of Persia, they were to be tried for their lives as pirates, and sentence of death passed; but execution stayed till the King's pleasure should be known.”4

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book i. Chap. 5. 1689–98. The cruelty which marks these proceedings is obvious; and would hardly be credible if it were less strongly attested. The Company seized their opponents, and carried them before their own Admiralty Courts, that is, before themselves, to judge and pass sentence in their own cause, and inflict almost any measure of injury which it suited minds, inflamed with all the passions of disappointed avarice and ambition, to perpetrate. They accused their competitors of piracy, or of any other crime they chose; tried them, as they pleased, and sentenced them even to death: accounting it an act of mercy that they did not consign them to the executioner before the royal pleasure was known;—as if that pleasure could be as quickly known, in India, as it could in England;—as if the unfortunate victim might not remain for months and years in the dungeons of the Company, in a climate, where a sentence of imprisonment, for any length of time, to a European constitution, is a sentence of almost certain death; and where he could hardly fail to suffer the pains of many executions, beside the ruin of his affairs, in a land of strangers and enemies, even if his wretched life were protracted till his doom, pronounced at the opposite side of the globe, could be known. Mr. Bruce, with his usual alacrity of advocation, says, “This proceeding of the Court rested upon the opinion of the twelve Judges, which was, that the Company had a right to the trade to the East Indies, according to their charter.”1 Because the Judges Edition: current; Page: [113] said they had a right to the trade to the East Indies, book i. Chap. 5. 1693. they assumed a right to be judges and executioners of their fellow subjects, in their own cause. This was a bold conclusion. It was impossible that, under any colour of justice, the powers of judicature entrusted to the Company, by kingly without parliamentary authority, even if allowed, could be extended beyond their own servants, who voluntarily submitted to their jurisdiction. Over the rest of their fellow-subjects, it was surely sufficient power, if they were permitted to send them to England, to answer for their conduct, if challenged, before a tribunal, which had not an overbearing interest in destroying them.

The King of 1693, like the King of any other period, preferred power in his own hands to power in the hands of the parliament, and would have been pleased to retain without participation the right of making or annulling exclusive privileges of trade. Notwithstanding the resolution of the committee of the House of Commons, that parliament should determine whatever regulations might be deemed expedient for the Indian trade, a new charter was granted by letters patent from the crown, as the proper mode of terminating the present controversies. The principal conditions were, that the capital of the Company, which was 756,000l. should be augmented by Edition: current; Page: [114] book i. Chap. 5. 1693. 744,000l., so as to raise it to 1,500,000l.; that their exclusive privileges should be confirmed for twenty-one years; that they should export 100,000l. of British produce annually; that the title to a vote in the court of Proprietors should be 1000l.; and that no more than then votes should be allowed to any individual.1

The pretensions, however, of the House of Commons brought this important question to a different issue. Towards the close of the very same season, that assembly came to a vote, “that it was the right of all Englishmen to trade to the East Indies, or any part of the world, unless prohibited by act of parliament:2 and William knew his situation too well to dispute their authority.

The Company laboured under the most pressing embarrassments. Though their pecuniary difficulties, through the whole course of their history, have been allowed as little as possible to meet the public eye, what we happen to be told of the situation at this time of the Presidency at Surat affords a lively idea of the financial distresses in which they were in volved. Instead of eight lacks of rupees, which it was expected would be sent from Bombay to Surat, to purchase goods for the homeward voyage, only three lacks and a half were received. The debt at Surat already amounted to twenty lacks; yet it was absolutely necessary to borrow money to purchase a cargo for even three ships. A loan of one lack and 80,000 rupees was necessary to complete this small investment. To raise this sum, it was necessary to allow to individuals the privileges of the contract which subsisted with the Armenian merchants.3 And Edition: current; Page: [115] after all these exertions the money could only be obtained book i. Chap. 5. 1693–98. by taking it up on loans from the Company's servants.1

The Company meanwhile did not neglect the usual corrupt methods of obtaining favours at home. It appeared that they had distributed large sums of money to men in power, before obtaining their charter. The House of Commons were, at the present period, disposed to inquire into such transactions. They ordered the books of the Company to be examined; where it appeared that it had been the practice, and even habit of the Company, to give bribes to great men; that, previous to the revolution, their annual expense under that head had scarcely ever exceeded 1,200l; that since the revolution it had gradually increased; and that in the year 1693, it had amounted to nearly 90,000l. The Duke of Leeds, who was charged with having received a bribe of 5,000l. was impeached by the Commons. But the principal witness against him was sent out of the way, and it was not till nine days after it was demanded by the Lords that a proclamation was issued to stop his flight. Great men were concerned in smothering the inquiry; parliament was prorogued; and the scene was here permitted to close.2

As the science and art of government were still so imperfect as to be very unequal to the suppression of crimes; and robberies and murders were prevalent even in the best regulated countries in Europe; so depredation was committed on the ocean under still less restraint, and pirates abounded wherever the amount of property at sea afforded an adequate temptation. The fame of Indian riches attracted to the Edition: current; Page: [116] book i. Chap. 5. 1693–98. Eastern seas adventurers of all nations; some of whom were professed pirates; others, men preferring honest trade; though, when they found themselves debarred from this source of profit, by the pretensions and power of monopoly, they had no such aversion to piracy as to reject the only other source in which they were allowed to partake. The moderation which, during some few years, the Company had found it prudent to observe in their operations for restraining the resort of private traders to India, had permitted an increase of the predatory adventurers. As vessels belonging to Mogul subjects fell occasionally into the hands of plunderers of the English nation, the Mogul government, too ignorant and headlong to be guided by any but the rudest appearances, held the Company responsible for the misdeeds of their countrymen; and sometimes proceeded to such extremities as to confiscate their goods and confine their servants. The Company, who would have been justified in requiring aid at the hands of government for the remedy of so real a grievance, made use of the occasion as a favourable one for accumulating odium upon the independent traders. They endeavoured to confound them with the pirates. They imputed the piracies in general to the interlopers as they called them. In their complaints to government they represented the interlopers and the depredations of which they said they were the authors, as the cause of all the calamities to which, under the Mogul government, the Company had been exposed. The charge, in truth, of piracy became a general calumny, with which all the different parties in India endeavoured to blacken their competitors; and the Company itself, when the new association of merchants trading to India began to rival them, were as strongly accused of acting the Edition: current; Page: [117] pirates in India, as the individual traders had been by themselves.1

Such was the situation of the Company in England, and in India, when the influence of the rival association threatened them with destruction. In the year 1698 both parties were urging their pretensions with the greatest possible zeal, when the necessities of the government pointed out to both the project of bribing it by the accommodation of money. The Company offered to lend to government 700,000l. at 4 per cent. interest, provided their charter should be confirmed, and the monopoly of India secured to them by act of parliament. Their rivals, knowing on how effectual an expedient they had fallen, resolved to augment the temptation. They offered to advance 2,000,000l. at 8 per cent. provided they should be invested with the monopoly, free from obligation of trading on a jointstock, except as they themselves should afterwards desire.2

A bill was introduced into parliament for carrying the project of the new association into execution. And the arguments of the two parties were brought forward in full strength and detail.3

On the part of the existing Company, it was represented; That they possessed charters; that the infringement of charters was contrary to good faith, contrary to justice, and in fact no less imprudent than it was immoral, by destroying that security of engagements Edition: current; Page: [118] book i. Chap. 5. 1698. on which the industry of individuals and the prosperity of nations essentially depend: That the East India Company, moreover, had property, of which to deprive them would be to violate the very foundation on which the structure of society rests; that they were the Lords-Proprietors, by royal grant, of Bombay and St. Helena; that they had in India at their own expense, and by their own exertions, acquired immoveable property, in lands, in houses, in taxes and duties, the annual produce of which might be estimated at 44,000l.: That at great expense they had erected fortifications in various parts of India, by which they had preserved to their country the Indian trade; and had built factories and purchased privileges of great importance to the nation; enterprises to which they could have been induced by nothing but the hope and prospect of national support: That the resources and abilities of the Company were proved, by the estimate of their quick and dead stock; and that a capital of two millions would be raised immediately by subscription: That the project, on the contrary, of the new association made no provision for a determinate stock; and the trade, which experience proved to require an advance of 600,000l. annually, might thus be lost to the nation, for want of sufficient capital to carry it on: That justice to individuals, as well as to the public, required the continuance of the charter, as the property and even subsistence of many families, widows, and orphans, was involved in the fate of the Company: In short, that humanity, law, and policy, would all be equally violated by infringing the chartered rights of this admirable institution.1

The new association replied; That it was no infringement Edition: current; Page: [119] of good faith or justice, to annul, by a book i. Chap. 5. 1698. legislative act, a charter which was hostile to the interests of the nation; because that would be to say, if a government has once committed an error, that it is not lawful to correct itself; it would be to say that, if a nation has once been rendered miserable, by erroneous institutions of government, it must never try to rescue itself from its misery: That the practical rule of the British government, as many precedents abundantly testified, had been, to set at nought the pretended inviolability of charters, as often as they were proved to be unprofitable or injurious: That not only had charters been destroyed by act of parliament, but even the judges at law (so little in reality was the respect which had been paid to charters) had often set them aside, by their sole authority, on the vague and general ground that the King had been deceived in his grant: That, if any chartered body was entitled to complain of being dissolved, in obedience to the dictates of utility, if was certainly not the East India Company, whose charter had been originally granted, and subsequently renewed, on the invariable condition of being terminated, after three years’ notice, if not productive of national advantage: To display the property which the Company had acquired in India, and to pretend that it gave them a right to perpetuity of charter, was nothing less than to insult the supreme authority of the state; by telling it, that, be the limitations what they might, under which the legislature should grant a charter, it was at all times in the power of the chartered body to annul those limitations, and mock the legislative wisdom of the nation, simply by acquiring property: That, if the Company had erected forts and factories, the question still remained, whether they carried on the trade more profitably by their charter than the nation could Edition: current; Page: [120] book i. Chap. 5. 1698. carry it on if the charter were destroyed: That the nation and its constituted authorities were the sole judge in this controversy; of which the question whether the nation or the Company were most likely to fail in point of capital, no doubt formed a part: That if inconvenience, and in some instances distress, should be felt by individuals, this deserved consideration, and, in the balance of goods and evils, ought to be counted to its full amount; but to bring forward the inconvenience of individuals, as constituting in itself a conclusive argument against a political arrangement, is as much as to say that no abuse should be ever remedied; because no abuse is without its profit to somebody, and no considerable number of persons can be deprived of customary profits without inconvenience to most, hardship to many, and distress to some.1

The new associators, though thus strong against the particular pleas of their opponents, were debarred the use of those important arguments which bore upon the principle of exclusion; and which, even in that age, were urged with great force against the Company. They who were themselves endeavouring to obtain a monopoly could not proclaim the evils which it was the nature of monopoly to produce. The pretended rights of the Company to a perpetuity of their exclusive privileges, for to that extent did their arguments reach, were disregarded by every body, and an act was passed, empowering the King to convert the new association into a corporate body, and to bestow upon them the monopoly of the Indian trade. The charters, the property, the privileges, the forts and factories of the Company in India, and their claims of merit with Edition: current; Page: [121] the nation, if not treated with contempt, were at least book i. Chap. 5. 1798. held inadequate to debar the legislative wisdom of the community from establishing for the Indian trade whatever rules and regulations the interest of the public appeared to require.1

The following were the principal provisions of the act: That the sum of two millions should be raised by subscription, for the service of government: that this subscription should be open to natives or foreigners, bodies politic or corporate: that the money so advanced should bear an interest of 8 per cent. per annum: that it should be lawful for his Majesty, by his letters patent, to make the subscribers a body politic and corporate, by the name of the “General Society:” that the subscribers severally might trade to the East Indies, each to the amount of his subscription: that if any or all of the subscribers should be willing and desirous, they might be incorporated into a joint-stock Company: that the subscribers to this fund should have the sole and exclusive right of trading to the East Indies: that on three years’ notice, after the 29th of September, 1711, and the repayment of the capital of 2,000,000l. this act should cease and determine: that the old or London Company, to whom three years’ notice were due, should have leave to trade to India till 1701: that their estates should be chargeable with their debts: and that if any further dividends were made before the payment of their debts, the members who received them should be responsible for the debts with their private estates to the amount of the sums thus unduly received.

This measure, of prohibiting dividends while debt is unpaid, or of rendering the Proprietors responsible Edition: current; Page: [122] book i. Chap. 5. 1698. with their fortunes to the amount of the dividends received, befitted the legislative justice of a nation.

A clause, on the same principle, was enacted with regard to the New Company, that they should not allow their debts at any time to exceed the amount of their capital stock; or, if they did, that every proprietor should be responsible for the debts with his private fortune, to the whole amount of whatever he should have received in the way of dividend or share after the debts exceeded the capital.1

This good policy was little regarded in the sequel.

In conformity with this act a charter passed the great seal, bearing date the 3d of September, constituting the subscribers to the stock of 2,000,000l. a body corporate under the name of the “General Society.” This charter empowered the subscribers to trade, on the terms of a regulated Company, each subscriber for his own account. The greater part, however, of the subscribers desired to trade upon a joint-stock: and another charter, dated the 5th of the same month, formed this portion of the subscribers, exclusive of the small remainder, into a joint-stock Company, by the name of “the English Company trading to the East Indies.”2

“In all this very material affair,” says Anderson, “there certainly was a strange jumble of inconsistencies, contradictions, and difficulties, not easily to be accounted for in the conduct of men of judgment.”3 The London Company, who had a right by their charter to the exclusive trade to India till three years after notice, had reason to complain of this injustice, that Edition: current; Page: [123] the English Company were empowered to trade to book i. Chap. 5. 1698. India immediately, while they had the poor compensation of trading for three years along with them. There was palpable absurdity in abolishing one exclusive company, only to erect another; when the former had acted no otherwise than the latter would act. Even the departure from joint-stock management, if trade on the principle of Individual inspection and personal interest had been looked to as the source of improvement, might have been accomplished, without the erection of two exclusive companies, by only abolishing the joint-stock regulation of the old one. But the chief mark of the ignorance of parliament, at that time, in the art and science of government, was, their abstracting from a trading body, under the name of loan to government, the whole of their trading capital: and expecting them to traffic largely and profitably when destitute of funds. The vast advance to government, which they feebly repaired by credit, beggared the English Company, and ensured their ruin, from the beginning.

The old, or London Company, lost not their hopes. They were allowed to trade for three years on their own charter; and availing themselves of the clause in the act, which permitted corporations to hold stock of the New Company, they resolved to subscribe into this fund as largely as possible; and, under the privilege of private adventure, allowed by the charter of the English Company, to trade, separately, and in their own name, after the three years of their charter should be expired. The sum which they were enabled to appropriate to this purpose was 315,000l.1

In the instructions to their servants abroad they Edition: current; Page: [124] book i. Chap. 5. 1698–99. represented the late measures of parliament as rather the result of the power of a particular party than the fruit of legislative wisdom: “The Interlopers,” so they called the New Company, “had prevailed by their offer of having the trade free, and not on a joint-stock;” but they were resolved by large equipments (if their servants would only second their endeavours) to frustrate the speculations of those opponents: “Two East India Companies in England,” these are their own words, “could no more subsist without destroying one the other, than two Kings, at the same time regnant in the same kingdom: that now a civil battle was to be fought between the Old and the New Company; and that two or three years must end this war, as the Old or the New must give way: that, being veterans, if their servants abroad would do their duty they did not doubt of the victory: that if the world laughed at the pains the two Companies took to ruin each other they could not help it, as they were on good ground and had a charter.”1

When the time arrived for paying the instalments of the subscriptions to the stock of the New Company, many of the subscribers, not finding it easy to fulfil their engagements, were under the necessity of selling their shares. Shares fell to a discount; and the despondency, hence arising, operated to produce still greater depression.2

The first voyage which the New Company fitted out, consisted of three ships with a stock of 178,000l.3 To this state of imbecility did the absorption of their capital reduce their operations. The sum to which they were thus limited for commencing their trade but little exceeded the interest which they were annually to receive from government.

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With such means the New Company proved a book i. Chap. 5. 1698–99. very unequal competitor with the Old. The Equipments of the Old Company, for the same season, 1698–99, amounted to thirteen sail of shipping, 5,000 tons burthen, and stock estimated at 525,000l. Under the difficulties with which they had to contend at home, they resolved by the most submissive and respectful behaviour, as well as by offer of services, to cultivate the favour of the Moguls. Their endeavours were not unsuccessful. They obtained a grant of the towns of Chuttanuttee, Govindpore, and Calcutta, and began, but cautiously, so as not to alarm the native government, to construct a fort. It was denominated Fort William; and the station was constituted a Presidency.1

To secure advantages to which they looked from their subscription of 315,000l. into the stock of the English Company, they had sufficient influence to obtain an act of parliament, by which they were continued a corporation, entitled after the period of their own charter, to trade, on their own account, under the charter of the New Company, to the amount of the stock they had subscribed.2

The rivalship of the two Companies produced, in India, all those acts of mutual opposition and hostility, which naturally flowed from the circumstances in which they were placed. They laboured to supplant one another in the good opinion of the native inhabitants and the native governments. They defamed one another. They obstructed the operations of one another. And at last their animosities and contentions broke out into undissembled violence and oppression. Sir William Norris, whom the New Company, with the King's permission, had sent as Edition: current; Page: [126] book i. Chap. 5. 1700. their Ambassador to the Mogul court, arrived at Surat in the month of December, 1700. After several acts, insulting and injurious to the London Company, whom he accused of obstructing him in all his measures and designs, he seized three of the Council, and delivered them to the Mogul Governor, who detained them till they found security for their appearance. The President and the Council were afterwards, by an order of the Mogul government, put in confinement; and Sir Nicholas Waite, the English Company's Consul at Surat, declared, in his correspondence with the Directors of that Company, that he had solicited this act of severity, because the London Company's servants had used treasonable expressions towards the King; and had made use of their interest with the Governor of Surat to oppose the privileges which the Ambassador of the English Company was soliciting at the court of the Mogul.1

As the injury which these destructive contentions produced to the nation soon affected the public mind, and was deplored in proportion to the imaginary benefits of the trade, an union of the two Companies was generally desired, and strongly recommended. Upon the first depression, in the market, of the stock of the New Company, an inclination on the part of that Company had been manifested towards a coalition. But what disposed the one party to such a measure, suggested the hope of greater advantage, and more complete revenge, to the other, by holding back from it. The King himself, when he received in March, 1700, the Directors of the London Company, on the subject of the act which continued them a corporate body, recommended to their serious consideration an union of the two Companies, as the Edition: current; Page: [127] measure which would most promote, what they both book i. Chap. 5. 1700. held out as a great national object, the Indian trade. So far the Company paid respect to the royal authority, as to call a General Court of Proprietors for taking the subject into consideration; but after this step they appeared disposed to let the subject rest. Toward the close, however, of the year, the King, by a special message, required to know what proceedings they had adopted in consequence of his advice. Upon this the Directors summoned a General Court, and the following evasive resolution was voted: “That this Company, as they have always been, so are they still ready to embrace every opportunity by which they may manifest their duty to his Majesty, and zeal for the public good, and that they are desirous to contribute their utmost endeavours for the preservation of the East India trade to this kingdom, and are willing to agree with the New Company upon reasonable terms.” The English Company were more explicit; they readily specified the conditions on which they were willing to form a coalition; upon which the London Company proposed that seven individuals on each side should be appointed, to whom the negotiation should be entrusted, and by whom the terms should be discussed.1

As the expiration approached of the three years which were granted to the London Company to continue trade on their whole stock, they became more inclined to an accommodation. In their first proposal they aimed at the extinction of the rival Company. As a committee of the House of Commons had been formed, “to receive proposals for paying off the national debts, and advancing the credit of the Edition: current; Page: [128] book i. Chap. 5. 1701. nation,” they made a proposition to pay off the 2,000,000l. which government had borrowed at usurious interest from the English Company, and to hold the debt at five per cent. The proposal, though entertained by the committee, was not relished by the House; and this project was defeated.1 The distress, however, in which the Company were now involved, their stock having within the last ten years fluctuated from 300 to 37 per cent.,2 rendered some speedy remedy indispensable. The committee of seven, which had been proposed in the Answer to the King, was now resorted to in earnest, and was empowered by a General Court, on the 17th of April, 1701, to make and receive proposals for the union of the two companies.

It was the beginning of January, in the succeeding year, before the following general terms were adjusted and approved: That the Court of twenty-four Managers or Directors should be composed of twelve individuals chosen by each Company; that of the annual exports, the amount of which should be fixed by the Court of Managers, a half should be furnished by each Company; that the Court of Managers should have the entire direction of all matters relating to trade and settlements subsequently to this union; but that the factors of each Company should manage separately the stocks which each had sent out previously to the date of that transaction; that seven years should be allowed to wind up the separate concerns of each Company; and that, after that period, one great joint-stock should be formed by the final union of the funds of both. This agreement Edition: current; Page: [129] was confirmed by the General Courts of both Companies book i. Chap. 5. 1702. on the 27th April, 1702.1

An indenture tripartite, including the Queen and the two East India Companies, was the instrument adopted for giving legal efficacy to the transaction. For equalizing the shares of the two Companies, the following scheme was devised. The London Company, it was agreed, should purchase at par as much of the capital of the English Company, lent to government, as, added to the 315,000l. which they had already subscribed, should render equal the portion of each. The dead stock of the London Company was estimated at 330,000l.; that of the English Company at 70,000l.; whereupon, the latter paid 130,000l. for equalizing the shares of this part of the common estate. On the 22d July, 1702, the indenture passed under the great seal; and the two parties took the common name of The United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies.2

On the foundation on which the affairs of the two Companies were in this manner placed, they continued with considerable jarrings and contention, especially between the functionaries in India, till the Edition: current; Page: [130] book i. Chap. 5. 1708. season 1707–8, when an event occurred, which necessitated the accommodation of differences, and accelerated the completion of the union. A loan of 1,200,000l., without interest, was exacted of the two Companies for the use of government. The recollection of what had happened, when the body of private adventurers were formed into the English East India Company, made them dread the offers of a new body of adventurers, should any difficulty be found on their part. It was necessary, therefore, that the two Companies should lay aside all separate views, and cordially join their endeavours to avert the common danger.

It was at last agreed, that all differences subsisting between them should be submitted to the arbitration of the Earl of Godolphin, then Lord High Treasurer of England; and that the union should be rendered complete and final upon the award which he should pronounce. On this foundation, the act, 6th Anne, ch. 17, was passed; enacting that a sum of 1,200,000l. without interest should be advanced by the United Company to government, which, being added to the former advance of 2,000,000l. at 8 per cent. interest, constituted a loan of 3,200,000l. yielding interest at the rate of 5 per cent. upon the whole; that to raise this sum of 1,200,000l. the Company should be empowered to borrow to the extent of 1,500,000l. on their common seal, or to call in moneys to that extent from the Proprietors; that this sum of 1,200,000l. should be added to their capital stock; that instead of terminating on three years’ notice after the 29th of September, 1711, their privileges should be continued till three years’ notice after the 25th of March, 1726, and till repayment of their capital; that the stock of the separate adventures of the General Society, amounting to 7,200l., which had Edition: current; Page: [131] never been incorporated into the joint-stock of the book i. Chap. 5. 1708. English Company, might be paid off, on three years’ notice after the 29th of September, 1711, and merged in the joint-stock of the United Company; and that the award of the Earl of Godolphin, settling the terms of the Union, should be binding and conclusive on both parties.1

The award of Godolphin was dated and published on the 29th of September, 1708. It referred solely to the winding up of the concerns of the two Companies; and the blending of their separate properties into one stock, on terms equitable to both. As the assets or effects of the London Company in India fell short of the debts of that concern, they were required to pay by instalments to the United Company the sum of 96,615l. 4s. 9d.: and as the effects of the English Company in India exceeded their debts, they were directed to receive from the United Company the sum of 66,005l. 4s. 2d.; a debt due by Sir Edward Littleton in Bengal, of 80,437 rupees and 8 anas, remaining to be discharged by the English Company on their own account. On these terms the whole of the property and debts of both Companies abroad became the property and debts of the United Company. With regard to the debts of both Companies in Britain, it was in general ordained that they should all be discharged before the 1st of March, 1709; and as those of the London Company amounted to the sum of 399,795l. 9s. 1d. they were empowered to call upon their Proprietors, by three several instalments, for the means of liquidation.2

As the intercourse of the English nation with the people of India was now destined to become, by a rapid progress, both very intimate, and very extensive, Edition: current; Page: [132] book i. Chap. 5. 1708. a full account of the character and circumstances of that people is required for the understanding of the subsequent proceedings and events.

The population of those great countries consisted chiefly of two Races: one, who may here be called the Hindu; another, the Mahomedan Race. The first were the aboriginal inhabitants of the country. The latter were subsequent invaders; and insignificant, in point of number, compared with the first.

The next two Books will be devoted to the purpose of laying before the reader all that appears to be useful in what is known concerning both these classes of the Indian people. To those who delight in tracing the phenomena of human nature; and to those who desire to know completely the foundation upon which the actions of the British people in India have been laid, this will not appear the least interesting department of the work.

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Chronology and Ancient History of the Hindus.

Rude nations seem to derive a peculiar gratification book ii. Chap. 1. from pretensions to a remote antiquity.1 As a boastful and turgid vanity distinguishes remarkably the oriental nations they have in most instances carried their claims extravagantly high. We are informed in a fragment of Chaldaic history, that there were written accounts, preserved at Babylon with Edition: current; Page: [134] book ii. Chap. 1. the greatest care, comprehending a term of fifteen myriads of years.1 The pretended duration of the Chinese monarchy is still more extraordinary. A single king of Egypt was believed to have reigned three myriads of years.2

The present age of the world according to the system of the Hindus, is distinguished into four grand periods, denominated yugs. The first is the Satya yug, comprehending 1,728-000 years; the second the Treta yug, comprehending, 1,296,000 years; the third the Dwapar yug, including 864,000 years; and the fourth the Cali yug, which will extend to 432,000 years. Of these periods the first three are expired, and, in the year 1817, of the Christian era, 4911 years of the last. From the commencement, therefore, of the Satya yug, to the year 1817, is comprehended a space of 3,892,911 years, the antiquity to which this people lay claim.3

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The contempt with which judicious historians now book ii. Chap. 1. treat the historical fables of early society, must be indulged with caution when we explore the ancient condition of Hindustan; because the legendary tales of the Hindus have hitherto, among European inquirers, been regarded with particular respect; and because, without a knowledge of them, much of what has been written in Europe concerning the people of India cannot be understood.1 It is necessary, there Edition: current; Page: [136] book ii. Chap. 1. fore, to relate, that at the commencement of the Satya yug, or 3,892,911 years ago, lived Satyavrata, otherwise denominated Vaivaswata, and also the seventh Menu. He had escaped with his family from an universal deluge, which had destroyed the rest of the human species.1 Of his descendants were two royal branches: the one denominated the children of the sun; the other the children of the moon. The first reigned at Ayodhya or Owde; the second at Pratisht’hana or Vitora. These families or dynasties subsisted till the thousandth year of the present or Cali yug, at which time they both became extinct; Edition: current; Page: [137] and a list of the names of the successive princes is book ii. Chap. 1. presented in the Sanscrit books.1

Satyavrata, the primitive sire, prolonged his existence and his reign through the whole period of the Satya yug, or 1,728,000 years.2 From this patriarchal monarch are enumerated, in the solar line of his descendants, fifty-five princes, who inherited the sovereignty till the time of Rama. Now it is agreed among all the Brahmens that Rama filled the throne of Ayodhya at the end of the Treta yug. The reigns, therefore, of these 55 princes, extending from the beginning to the end of that epoch, filled 1,296,000 years, which, at a medium, is more than 23,000 years to each reign. During the next, or Dwapar yug, of 864,000 years, twenty-nine princes are enumerated, who must, at an average, have reigned each 29,793 years. From the beginning of the present, or Cali yug, to the time when the race of solar princes became extinct, are reckoned 1000 years, and thirty princes. There is a wonderful change, therefore, in the last age, in which only thirty-three years, at a medium, are assigned to a reign.3

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book ii. Chap. 1. Beside the two lines of solar and lunar kings, a different race, who reigned in Magadha, or Bahar, commence with the fourth age. Of these, twenty in regular descent from their ancestor Jarasandha extended to the conclusion of the first thousand years of the present yug, and were cotemporary with the last thirty princes of the solar and lunar race.1 At the memorable epoch of the extinction of those branches, the house of Jarasandha also failed; for the reigning prince was slain by his prime minister, who placed his son Pradyota on the throne. Fifteen of the descendants of this usurper enjoyed the sovereignty, and reigned from the date of his accession 498 years, to the time of Nanda, the last prince of the house of Pradyota. He, after a reign of 100 years, was murdered by a Brahmen, who raised to the throne a man of the Maurya race, named Chandragupta. This prince is reckoned, by our Oriental antiquarians, the same with Sandracottos or Sandracuptos, the cotemporary of Alexander the Great. Only nine princes of his line succeeded him, and held the sceptre for 137 years. On the death of the last, his commander in chief ascended the throne, and, together with nine descendants, to whom he transmitted the sovereignty, reigned 112 years. After that period the reigning prince was killed, and succeeded by his minister Vasudeva. Of his family only four princes are enumerated; but they are said to have reigned 345 years. The throne was next Edition: current; Page: [139] usurped by a race of Sudras, the first of whom slew book ii. Chap. 1. his master, and seized the government. Twenty-one of this race, of whom Chandrabija was the last, reigned during a space of 456 years.1 The conclusion of the reign of this prince corresponds therefore with the year 2648 of the Cali yug, and with the year 446 before the birth of Christ.2 And with him, according to Sir William Jones, closes the authentic system of Hindu chronology.3

It is a most suspicious circumstance, in the pretended records of a nation, when we find positive statements for a regular and immense series of years, in the remote abyss of time, but are entirely deserted Edition: current; Page: [140] book ii. Chap. 1. by them when we descend to the ages more nearly approaching our own. Where annals are real, they become circumstantial in proportion as they are recent; where fable stands in the place of fact, the times over which the memory has any influence are rejected, and the imagination riots in those in which it is unrestrained. While we receive accounts, the most precise and confident, regarding the times of remote antiquity, not a name of a prince in after ages is presented in Hindu records. A great prince, named Vicramaditya, is said to have extended widely his conquests and dominion, and to have reigned at Magadha 396 years after Chandrabija. From that time even fiction is silent.1 We hear no more of the Hindus and their transactions, till the era of Mahomedan conquest; when the Persians alone become our instructors.

After the contempt with which the extravagant claims to antiquity of the Chaldeans and Egyptians had always been treated in Europe, the love of the marvellous is curiously illustrated by the respect which has been paid to the chronology of the Hindus.2 We received indeed the accounts of the Hindu chronology, not from the incredulous historians of Greece and Rome, but from men who had seen the people; whose imagination had been powerfully affected by the spectacle of a new system of manners, arts, institutions, and ideas; who naturally expected to augment the opinion of their own consequence, by the greatness of the wonders which they had been favoured Edition: current; Page: [141] to behold; and whose astonishment, admiration, book ii. Chap. 1. and enthusiasm, for a time, successfully propagated themselves. The Hindu statements, if they have not perhaps in any instance gained a literal belief, have almost universally been regarded as very different from the fictions of an unimproved and credulous people, and entitled to a very serious and profound investigation. Yet they are not only carried to the wildest pitch of extravagance, but are utterly inconsistent both with themselves and with other established opinions of the Brahmens.

Of this a single specimen will suffice. The character which the Brahmens assign to the several yugs is a remarkable part of their system. The Satya yug is distinguished by the epithet of golden; the Treta yug by that of silver; The Dwapar yug by that of copper; and the Cali yug is denominated earthen.1 In these several ages the virtue, the life, and the stature of man, exhibited a remarkable diversity. In the Satya yug, the whole race were virtuous and pure; the life of man was 100,000 years, and his stature 21 cubits. In the Treta yug, one third of mankind were corrupt; and human life was reduced to 10,000 years. One half of the human race were depraved in the Dwapar yug, and 1000 years bounded the period of life. In the Cali yug, all men are corrupt, and human life is restricted to 100 years.2 But though in the Satya yug men lived only 100,000 years, Satyavrata, according to Edition: current; Page: [142] book ii. Chap. 1. the chronological fiction, reigned 1,728,000 years; in the Treta yug, human life extended only to 10,000 years, yet fifty-five princes reigned, each at a medium, more than 23,000 years; in the Dwapar yug, though the life of man was reduced to 1000 years, the duration of the reigns was even extended, for twenty-nine princes held each the sceptre in this period for 29,793 years.1

The wildness and inconsistency of the Hindu statements evidently place them beyond the sober limits of truth and history; yet it has been imagined, if their literal acceptation must of necessity be renounced, that they at least contain a poetical or figurative delineation of real events, which ought to be studied for the truths which it may disclose. The labour and ingenuity which have been bestowed upon this inquiry, unfortunately have not been attended with an adequate reward. No suppositions, however gratuitous, have sufficed to establish a consistent theory. Every explanation has failed. The Hindu legends still present a maze of unnatural fictions, in which a series of real events can by no artifice be traced.2

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The internal evidence which these legends display, book ii. Chap. 1. afforded indeed, from the beginning, the strongest reason to anticipate this result. The offspring of a wild and ungoverned imagination, they mark the state of a rude and credulous people, whom the marvellous delights; who cannot estimate the use of a record of past events; and whose imagination the real occurrences of life are too familiar to engage.1 Edition: current; Page: [144] book ii. Chap. 1. To the monstrous period of years which the legends of the Hindus involve, they ascribe events the most extravagant and unnatural: events not even connected in chronological series; a number of independent and incredible fictions. This people, indeed, are perfectly destitute of historical records.1 Their ancient literature affords not a single production to which the historical character belongs. The works in which the miraculous transactions of former times are described, are poems. Most of them are books of a religious character, in which the exploits of the gods, and their commands to mortals, are repeated or revealed. In all, the actions of men and those of deities are mixed together, in a set of legends, more absurd and extravagant, more transcending the bounds of nature and of reason, less grateful to the imagination and taste of a cultivated and rational people, than those which the fabulous history of any other nation presents to us. The Brahmens are the most audacious, and perhaps the most unskilful fabricators, with whom the annals of fable have yet made us acquainted.2

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The people of Hindustan and the ancient nations book ii. Chap. 1. of Europe came in contact at a single point. The expedition of Alexander the Great began, and in some sort ended, their connexion. Even of this event, so recent and remarkable, the Hindus have no record: they have not a tradition that can with any certainty be traced to it. Some particulars in their mythological stories have by certain European inquirers been supposed to refer to the transactions of Alexander, but almost any part as well as another of these unnatural legends may, with equal propriety, receive the same distinction.1 The information which we Edition: current; Page: [146] book ii. Chap. 1. have received of the Greek invasion from the Greeks themselves, is extremely scanty and defective. The best of their writings on the subject have been lost, but we have no reason to suppose that their knowledge of the Hindus was valuable. That of the modern Europeans continued very imperfect, after they had enjoyed a much longer and closer intercourse with them, than the Greeks. In fact, it was not till they had studied the Indian languages, that they acquired the means of full and accurate information. But the Greeks, who despised every foreign language, made no exception in favour of the sacred dialect of the Hindus, and we may rest satisfied that the writings of Megasthenes and others contained few particulars by which our knowledge of the Brahmenical history could be improved.1

From the scattered hints contained in the writings of the Greeks, the conclusion has been drawn, that the Hindus, at the time of Alexander's invasion, were in a state of manners, society, and knowledge, exactly the same with that in which they were discovered by the nations of modern Europe; nor is there any reason for differing widely from this opinion. It is certain that the few features of which we have any description from the Greeks, bear no inaccurate resemblance to those which are found to distinguish this people at the present day. From this resemblance, from the state of improvement in which the Indians remain, and from the stationary condition in which their institutions first, and then Edition: current; Page: [147] their manners and character, have a tendency to fix book ii. Chap. 1. them, it is no unreasonable supposition, that they have presented a very uniform appearance during the long interval from the visit of the Greeks to that of the English. Their annals, however, from that era till the period of the Mahomedan conquests, are a blank.

With regard to the ancient history of India, we are still not without resources. The meritorious researches of the modern Europeans, who have explored the institutions, the laws, the manners, the arts, occupations and maxims of this ancient people, have enabled philosophy to draw the picture of society, which they have presented, through a long revolution of years. We cannot describe the lives of their kings, or the circumstances and results of a train of battles. But we can show how they lived together as members of the community, and of families; how they were arranged in society; what arts they practised, what tenets they believed, what manners they displayed; under what species of government they existed; and what character, as human beings, they possessed. This is by far the most useful and important part of history; and if it be true, as an acute and eloquent historian has remarked, “that the sudden, violent, and unprepared revolutions incident to barbarians, are so much guided by caprice, and terminate so often in cruelty, that they disgust us by the uniformity of their appearance, and it is rather fortunate for letters that they are buried in silence and oblivion,”1 we have perhaps but little to regret in the total absence of Hindu records.2

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book ii. Chap. 1. Whatever theory we adopt with regard to the origin of mankind, and the first peopling of the world, it is natural to suppose, that countries were at first inhabited by a very small number of people. When a very small number of men inhabit a boundless country, and have intercourse only among themselves, they are by necessary consequence barbarians. If one family, or a small number of families, are under the necessity of providing for themselves all the commodities which they consume, they can have but few accommodations, and these imperfect and rude. In those circumstances the exigencies of life are too incessant, and too pressing, to allow time or inclination for the prosecution of knowledge. The very ideas of law and government, which suppose a large society, have no existence: men are unavoidably ignorant and unrefined; and, if much pressed with difficulties, they become savage and brutal.1

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If we suppose that India began to be inhabited at book ii. Chap. 1. a very early stage in the peopling of the world, its Edition: current; Page: [150] book ii. Chap. 1. first inhabitants must have been few, ignorant, and rude. Uncivilized and ignorant men, transported in small numbers, into an uninhabited country of boundless extent, must wander for many ages before any great improvement can take place. Till they have multiplied so far as to be assembled in numbers large enough to permit the benefits of social intercourse, and of some division of labour, their circumstances seem not susceptible of amelioration. We find, accordingly, that all those ancient nations, whose history can be most depended upon, trace themselves up to a period of rudeness. The families who first wandered into Greece, Italy, and the eastern regions of Europe, were confessedly ignorant and barbarous. The influence of dispersion was no doubt most baneful, where the natural disadvantages were the greatest. In a country overgrown with forest, which denies pasture to cattle, and precludes husbandry, by surpassing the power of single families to clear the land for their support, the wretched inhabitants are reduced to all the hardships of the hunter's life, and become savages. The difficulties with which Edition: current; Page: [151] those families had to struggle who first came into book ii. Chap. 1. Europe, seem to have thrown them into a situation but few degrees removed from the lowest stage of society. The advantages of India in soil and climate are so great, that those by whom it was originally peopled might sustain no farther depression than what seems inherent to a state of dispersion. They wandered probably for ages in the immense plains and valleys of that productive region, living on fruits, and the produce of their flocks and herds, and not associated beyond the limits of a particular family. Until the country became considerably peopled, it is not even likely that they would be formed into small tribes. As soon as a young man became, in his turn, the head of a family, and the master of cattle, he would find a more plentiful subsistence beyond the range of his father's flocks. It could only happen, after all the most valuable ground was occupied, that disputes would arise, and that the policy of defence would render it an object for the different branches of a family to remain united together, and to acknowledge a common head.

When this arrangement takes place, we have arrived at a new stage in the progress of civil society. The condition of mankind, when divided into tribes, exhibits considerable variety, from that patriarchal association which is exemplified in the history of Abraham, to such combinations as are found among the Tartars, or that distribution into clans, which, at no distant period, distinguished the people of Europe. The rapidity with which nations advance through these several states of society chiefly depends on the circumstances which promote population. Where a small number of people range over extensive districts, a very numerous association is neither natural nor convenient. Some visible boundary, as a mountain Edition: current; Page: [152] book ii. Chap. 1. or a river, marks out the limits of a common interest; and jealousy or enmity is the sentiment with which every tribe is regarded by every other. When any people has multiplied so far as to compose a body, too large and unwieldy to be managed by the simple expedients which connected the tribe, the first rude form of a monarchy or political system is devised. Though we have no materials from the Hindus, which yield us the smallest assistance in discovering the time which elapsed in their progress to this point of maturity, we may so far accede to their claims of antiquity, as to allow that they passed through this first stage in the way to civilization very quickly; and perhaps they acquired the first rude form of a national polity at fully as early a period as any portion of the race.1 It was probably at no great distance from the time of this important change that those institutions were devised, which have been distinguished by a durability so extraordinary; and which present a spectacle so instructive to those, who would understand the human mind, and the laws which, amid all the different forms of civil society, invariably preside over its progress.

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lassification and Distribution of the People.

The transition from the state of tribes to the more book ii. Chap. 2. regulated and artificial system of a monarchy and laws is not sudden; it is the result of a gradual preparation and improvement. That loose independence, which suits a small number of men, bound together by an obvious utility, scattered over an extensive district, and subject to few interferences of inclination or interest, is found productive of many inconveniences, as they advance in numbers, as their intercourse becomes more close and complicated, and as their interests and passions more frequently clash. When quarrels arise, no authority exists to which the parties are under the necessity of referring their disputes. The punishment of delinquents is provided for by no preconcerted regulation. When subsistence, by the multiplication of consumers, can no longer be obtained without considerable labour, the desire to encroach upon one another adds extremely to the occasions of discord: and the evils and miseries, which prevail, excite at last a desire for a better regulation of their common affairs. But slow is the progress, made by the human understanding, in its rude and ignorant state. No little time is spent; first, in maturing the conviction that a great reformation is necessary; and next, in conceiving the plan which the exigency requires. Many partial remedies are thought of and applied; many failures experienced; evils meanwhile increase, and press more severely; at last men become Edition: current; Page: [154] weary and disgusted with the condition of things, and prepared for any plausible change which may be suggested to them. In every society there are superior spirits, capable of seizing the best ideas of their times, and, if they are not opposed by circumstances, of accelerating the progress of the community to which they belong. The records of ancient nations give us reason to believe that some individual of this description, exalted to authority by his wisdom and virtue, has generally accomplished the important task of first establishing among a rude people a system of government and laws.

It may be regarded as a characteristic of this primary institution of government, that it is founded upon divine authority. The superstition of a rude people is peculiarly suited to such a pretension. While ignorant and solitary, men are perpetually haunted with the apprehension of invisible powers; and, as in this state only they can be imposed upon by the assumption of a divine character and commission, so it is evidently the most effectual means which a great man, full of the spirit of improvement, can employ, to induce a people, jealous and impatient of all restraint, to forego their boundless liberty, and submit to the curb of authority.1

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No where among mankind have the laws and book ii. Chap. 2. ordinances been more exclusively referred to the Divinity, than by those who instituted the theocracy of Hindustan. The plan of society and government, the rights of persons and things, even the customs, arrangements, and manners, of private and domestic life; every thing, in short, is established by divine prescription. The first legislator of the Hindus, whose name it is impossible to trace, appears to have represented himself as the republisher of the will of God. He informed his countrymen that, at the beginning of the world, the Creator revealed his duties to man, in four sacred books, entitled Vedas; that during the first age, of immense duration, mankind obeyed them, and were happy; that during the second and third they only partially obeyed, and their happiness was proportionally diminished; that since the commencement of the fourth age disobedience and misery had totally prevailed, till the Vedas were forgotten and lost;1 that now, however, he was commissioned to reveal them anew to his countrymen, and to claim their obedience.

The leading institutions of the Hindus bear evidence that they were devised at a very remote period, when society yet retained its rudest and simplest form. So long as men roam in the pastoral state, no division of classes or of labour is known. Every individual is a shepherd, and every family provides for itself the commodities with which it is supplied. As soon as the Edition: current; Page: [156] cultivation of land, which yields a more secure and plentiful subsistence, occupies a great share of the common attention, the inconvenience of this universal mixture of employments is speedily felt. The labours of the field are neglected, while the cultivator is engaged at the loom, or repelling the incursions of an enemy. His clothing and lodging are inadequately provided for, while the attention of himself and his family are engrossed by the plough. Men quit not easily, however, the practices to which they have been accustomed; and a great change in their manners and affairs does not readily suggest itself as a remedy for the evils which they endure. When the Hindus were lingering in this uneasy situation, it would appear that there arose among them one of those superior men, who are capable of accelerating the improvement of society. Perceiving the advantage which would accrue to his countrymen from a division of employments, he conceived the design of overcoming at once the obstacles by which this regulation was retarded; and clothing himself with a Divine character, established as a positive law, under the sanction of Heaven, the classification of the people, and the distribution of occupations. Nor was it enough to introduce this vast improvement; it was right to secure that the original members of the different classes should be supplied with successors, and that the community should not revert to its former confusion. The human race are not destined to make many steps in improvement at once. Ignorant that professions, when once separated, were in no danger of being confounded, he established a law, which the circumstances of the time very naturally suggested, but which erected a barrier against further progress; that the children of those who were assigned to each Edition: current; Page: [157] of the classes, into which he distributed the people, book ii. Chap. 2. should invariably follow the occupation of their father through all generations.

The classification instituted by the author of the Hindu laws is the first and simplest form of the division of labour and employments. The priest is a character found among the rudest tribes; by whom he is always regarded as of the highest importance. As soon as men begin to have property, and to cultivate the ground, the necessity of defenders is powerfully felt; a class, therefore, of soldiers, as well as a class of husbandmen, becomes an obvious arrangement. There are other services, auxiliary to these, and necessary to the well-being of man, for which it still remains necessary to provide. In a state of great simplicity, however, these other services are few, and easily performed. We find accordingly that the Hindu legislator assigned but one class of the community to this department. The Hindus were thus divided into four orders or castes. The first were the Brahmens or priests; the second, the Cshatriyas or soldiers; the third, the husbandmen or Vaisyas; and the fourth, the Sudras, the servants and labourers.1 Edition: current; Page: [158] book ii. Chap. 2. On this division of the people, and the privileges or disadvantages annexed to the several castes, the whole frame of Hindu society so much depends, that it is an object of primary importance, and merits a full elucidation.

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I. The priesthood is generally found to usurp the book ii. Chap. 2. greatest authority, in the lowest state of society. Knowledge, and refined conceptions of the Divine nature, are altogether incompatible with the supposition, that the Deity makes favourites of a particular class of mankind, or is more pleased with those who perform a ceremonial service to himself, than with those who discharge with fidelity the various and difficult duties of life. It is only in rude and ignorant times that men are so overwhelmed with the power of superstition as to pay unbounded veneration and obedience to those who artfully clothe themselves with the terrors of religion.1 The Brahmens among the Hindus have acquired and maintained an authority, more exalted, more commanding, and extensive, than the priests have been able to engross among any other portion of mankind. As great a distance as there is between the Brahmen and the Divinity, so great a distance is there between the Brahmen and the rest of his species. According to the sacred books of the Hindus, the Brahmen proceeded from the mouth of Edition: current; Page: [160] the Creator, which is the seat of wisdom; the Cshatriya proceeded from his arm; the Vaisya from his thigh, and the Sudra from his foot; therefore is the Brahmen infinitely superior in worth and dignity to all other human beings.1 The Brahmen is declared to be the Lord of all the classes.2 He alone, to a great degree, engrosses the regard and favour of the Deity; and it is through him, and at his intercession, that blessings are bestowed upon the rest of mankind. The sacred books are exclusively his; the highest of the other classes are barely tolerated to read the word of God; he alone is worthy to expound it. The first among the duties of the civil magistrate, supreme or subordinate, is to honour the Brahmens.3 The slightest disrespect to one of this sacred order is the most atrocious of crimes. “For contumelious language to a Brahmen,” says the law of Menu,4 “a Sudra must have an iron style, ten fingers long, thrust red hot into his mouth; and for offering to give instruction to priests, hot oil must be poured into his mouth and ears.” “If.” says Halhed's code of Gentoo laws,5 “a Sooder sits upon the carpet of a Brahmen, in that case the magistrate, having thrust a hot iron into his buttock, and branded him, shall banish him the kingdom; or else he shall cut off his buttock.” The following precept refers even to the most exalted classes: “For striking a Brahmen even with a blade of grass, or overpowering him in argument, the offender must soothe him by falling prostrate.”6 Mysterious and awful powers are ascribed to this wonderful being. “A priest, who well knows Edition: current; Page: [161] the law, needs not complain to the king of any book ii. Chap. 2. grievous injury; since, even by his own power, he may chastise those who injure him: His own power is mightier than the royal power; by his own might therefore may a Brahmen coerce his foes. He may use without hesitation the powerful charms revealed to Atharvan and Angiras; for speech is the weapon of a Brahmen: with that he may destroy his oppressors.”1 “Let not the king, although in the greatest distress, provoke Brahmens to anger; for they, once enraged, could immediately destroy him with his troops, elephants, horses, and cars. Who without perishing could provoke those holy men, by whom the all-devouring flame was created, the sea with waters not drinkable, and the moon with its wane and increase? What prince could gain wealth by oppressing those, who, if angry, could frame other worlds and regents of worlds, could give being to other gods and mortals? What man, desirous of life, would injure those, by the aid of whom worlds and gods perpetually subsist; those who are rich in the knowledge of the Veda? A Brahmen, whether learned or ignorant, is a powerful Divinity; even as fire is a powerful Divinity, whether consecrated or popular. Thus, though Brahmens employ themselves in all sorts of mean occupations, they must invariably be honoured; for they are something transcendently divine.”2 Not only is this extraordinary respect and pre-eminence awarded to the Brahmens; they are allowed the most striking advantages over all other members of the social body, in almost every thing which regards the social state. In the scale of punishments for crimes, the penalty of the Brahmen, in almost all cases, is infinitely milder than that of Edition: current; Page: [162] book ii. Chap. 2. the inferior castes. Although punishment is remarkably cruel and sanguinary for the other classes of the Hindus, neither the life nor even the property of a Brahmen can be brought into danger by the most atrocious offences. “Neither shall the king,” says one of the ordinances of Menu,1 “slay a Brahmen, though convicted of all possible crimes: Let him banish the offender from his realm, but with all his property secure, and his body unhurt.” In regulating the interest of money, the rate which may be taken from the Brahmens is less than what may be exacted from the other classes.2 This privileged order enjoy the advantage of being entirely exempt from taxes: “A king, even though dying with want, must not receive any tax from a Brahmen learned in the Vedas.”3 Their influence over the government is only bounded by their desires, since they have impressed the belief that all laws which a Hindu is bound to respect are contained in the sacred books; that it is lawful for them alone to interpret those books; that it is incumbent on the king to employ them as his chief counsellors and ministers, and to be governed by their advice. “Whatever order,” says the code of Hindu laws,4 “the Brahmens shall issue conformably to the Shaster, the magistrate shall take his measures accordingly.”5 These prerogatives and privileges, important and extraordinary as they may seem, afford, however, but an imperfect Edition: current; Page: [163] idea of the influence of the Brahmens in the intercourse book ii. Chap. 2. of Hindu Society. As the greater part of life among the Hindus is engrossed by the performance of an infinite and burdensome ritual, which extends to almost every hour of the day, and every function of nature and society, the Brahmens, who are the sole judges and directors in these complicated and endless duties, are rendered the uncontrolable masters of human life. Thus elevated in power and privileges, the ceremonial of society is no less remarkably in their favour. They are so much superior to the king, that the meanest Brahmen would account himself polluted by eating with him, and death itself would appear to him less dreadful than the degradation of permitting his daughter to unite herself in marriage with his sovereign. With these advantages it would be extraordinary had the Brahmens neglected themselves in so important a circumstance as the command of property. It is an essential part of the religion of the Hindus, to confer gifts upon the Brahmens. This is a precept more frequently repeated than any other in the sacred books. Gifts to the Brahmens form always an important and essential part of expiation and sacrifice.1 When treasure is found, which, from the general practice of concealment, and the state of society, must have Edition: current; Page: [164] book ii. Chap. 2. been a frequent event, the Brahmen may retain whatever his good fortune places in his hands; another Edition: current; Page: [165] man must surrender it to the king, who is bound to book ii. Chap. 2. deliver one-half to the Brahmens.1 Another source of revenue at first view appears but ill assorted with the dignity and high rank of the Brahmens; by their influence it was converted into a fund, not only respectable but venerable, not merely useful but opulent. The noviciates to the sacerdotal office are commanded to find their subsistence by begging, and even to carry part of their earnings to their spiritual master. Begging is no inconsiderable source of priestly power.2

The duties of the Brahmens may be summed up in a few words. They are, to read the Vedas; to teach them to the young Brahmens; and to perform sacrifices and other religious acts.3

II. Among the castes of the Hindus, the next in dignity and rank to the priestly tribe, is that of the Cshatriyas, or the military class. In the rude and early state of society, as man has provided few securities against the evils with which he is assailed, and his wisdom has enabled him to draw few general rules respecting the order of their recurrence, he lives in a perpetual expectation of unhappy events, as well from nature, as from his fellow men; and fear is the passion which chiefly usurps the government Edition: current; Page: [166] book ii. Chap. 2. of his mind. The priest soothes his imagination, in regard to the first and most awful source of his apprehensions, by undertaking to procure for him the favour of the mysterious powers of nature. The soldier, from whom he expects protection against the ravages of hostile men, is the second object of his veneration and gratitude; and in the history of society, it will be generally found, that the rank and influence of the military order are high, in proportion as the civilization of the people is low.1 To all but the Brahmens, the caste of Cshatriyas are an object of unbounded respect. They are as much elevated above the classes below them, as the Brahmens stand exalted above the rest of human kind. Nor is superiority of rank among the Hindus an unavailing ceremony. The most important advantages are attached to it. The distance between the different orders of men is immense and degrading. If a man of a superior class accuses a man of an inferior class, and his accusation proves to be unjust, he escapes not with impunity; but if a man of an inferior class accuses a man of a superior class, and fails in proving his accusation, a double punishment is allotted him.2 For all assaults, the penalty rises in proportion Edition: current; Page: [167] as the party offending is low, the party complaining book ii. Chap. 2. high, in the order of the castes. It is, indeed, a general and a remarkable part of the jurisprudence of this singular people, that all crimes are more severely punished in the subordinate classes; the penalty ascending, by gradation, from the gentle correction of the venerable Brahmen to the harsh and sanguinary chastisement of the degraded Sudra.1 Even in such an affair as the interest of money on loan, where the Brahmen pays two per cent., three per cent. is exacted from the Cshatriya, four per cent. from the Vaisya, and five per cent. from the Sudra. The sovereign dignity, which usually follows the power of the sword, was originally appropriated to the military class, though in this particular it would appear that irregularity was pretty early introduced. To bear arms is the peculiar duty of the Cshatriya caste, and their maintenance is derived from the provision made by the sovereign for his soldiers.

III. The Vaisyas are the third caste of the Hindus. Their duties are to tend cattle, to carry on merchandize, and to cultivate the ground. They are superior only to the Sudras, who owe to them, however, the same awful respect and submission, which it is incumbent on them to pay to the military class.

IV. As much as the Brahmen is an object of intense veneration, so much is the Sudra an object of contempt, and even of abhorrence, to the other classes of his countrymen. The business of the Sudras is servile labour, and their degradation inhuman. Not only is the most abject and grovelling Edition: current; Page: [168] book ii. Chap. 2. submission imposed upon them as a religious duty, but they are driven from their just and equal share in all the advantages of the social institution. The crimes which they commit against others are more severely punished, than those of any other delinquents, while the crimes which others commit against them are more gently punished than those against any other sufferers.1 Even their persons and labour are not free. “A man of the servile caste, whether bought or unbought, a Brahmen may compel to perform servile duty; because such a man was created by the Self-existent for the purpose of serving Brahmens.”2 The law scarcely permits them to own property; for it is declared that “no collection of wealth must be made by a Sudra, even though he has power, since a servile man, who has amassed riches, gives pain even to Brahmens.”3 “A Brahmen may seize without hesitation the goods of his Sudra slave; for as that slave can have no property, his master may take his goods.”4 Any failure in the respect exacted of the Sudra towards the superior classes is avenged by the most dreadful punishments. Adultery with a woman of a higher caste is expiated by burning to death on a bed of iron. The degradation of the wretched Sudra extends not only to every thing in this life, but even to sacred instruction and his chance of favour with the superior powers. A Brahmen must never read the Veda in the presence of Sudras.5 “Let not a Brahmen,” says the law of Menu, “give advice to a Sudra; nor what remains from his table; nor clarified butter, of which part has been offered; nor let him give spiritual counsel Edition: current; Page: [169] to such a man, nor inform him of the legal expiation book ii. Chap. 2. for his sin: surely he who declares the law to a servile man, and he who instructs him in the mode of expiating sin, sinks with that very man into the hell named Asamvrita.”1

Although the adherence of each class to the particular employment assigned to it was secured by the most rigid laws, and the severest penalties, there were extraordinary cases in which a limited departure was permitted. When a Brahmen cannot obtain subsistence Edition: current; Page: [170] book ii. Chap. 2. by the proper business of his order, he may apply himself to that of the Cshatriya or the Vaisya, but must never become so far degraded as to engage in that of the Sudra. The Cshatriya and Vaisya, in like necessitous circumstances, may have recourse respectively to the business of the class or classes below them, even that of the Sudra, but are strictly interdicted from profaning the employment of any class above them. The Sudra having, originally, no inferior class, was probably abandoned to his necessities, though afterwards, in the employments of the mixed classes, a resource was opened also for him.1 In this arrangement, as usually happens in the laws of the Hindus, the advantages are all on the side of the superior orders. The Brahmen has open to him, if need be, the occupations of all the respectable classes; he can overload them with additional numbers in the season of distress, a season at which it is natural for them to be overloaded without him, while his own occupation is exempt from the encroachment or competition of any other description of men. The Cshatriya, while he has the occupations open to him of two of the castes, is liable to the interference of one of them only. The Vaisya, on the other hand, can have recourse to none but the lowest of employments, that of the Sudra, while he is liable to be straitened in his own occupation by the interference and competition of both the orders above him. The unfortunate Sudra, who has no resource, may be driven from his employment, and his means of subsistence, mediately or immediately, by all the other classes of the community.

This distribution of the whole people into four classes only, and the appropriation of them to four Edition: current; Page: [171] species of employment; an arrangement which, in book ii. Chap. 2. the very simple state of society in which it must have been introduced, was a great step in improvement, must have become productive of innumerable inconveniences, as the wants of society multiplied. The bare necessaries of life, with a small number of its rudest accommodations, are all it prepares, to meet the desires of man. As those desires, speedily extend beyond such narrow limits, a struggle must have early ensued between the first principles of human nature and those of the political establishment. The different castes were strictly commanded to marry with those only of their own class and profession; and the mixture of the classes from the union of the sexes was guarded against by the severest laws. This was an occurrence, however, which laws could not prevent. Irregularities took place; children were born, who belonged to no caste, and for whom there was no occupation. No event could befal society more calamitous than this. Unholy and infamous, on account of that violation of the sacred law to which they owed their unwelcome birth, those wretched outcasts had no resource for subsistence, excepting either the bounty of the established classes, to whom they were objects of execration and abhorrence; or the plunder of those same classes, a course to which they would betake themselves with all the ingenuity of necessitous, and all the atrocity of much injured, men. When a class of this description became numerous, they must have filled society with the greatest disorders. In the preface of that compilation of the Hindu Laws, which was translated by Mr. Halhed,1 it is stated that, after a succession of good kings, who secured obedience to the laws, Edition: current; Page: [172] book ii. Chap. 2. and under whom the people enjoyed felicity, came a monarch evil and corrupt, under whom the laws were violated, the mixture of the classes was perpetrated, and a new and impious race were produced. The Brahmens put this wicked king to death, and by an effort of miraculous power created a successor endowed with the most excellent qualities. But the kingdom did not prosper, by reason of the Burren Sunker, so were this impure brood denominated; and it required the wisdom of this virtuous king to devise a remedy. He resolved upon a classification of the mixed race, and to assign them occupations. This, accordingly, was the commencement of arts and manufactures. The Burren Sunker became all manner of artisans and handicrafts; one tribe of them weavers of cloth, another artificers in iron, and so in other cases, till the subdivisions of the class were exhausted, or the exigencies of the community supplied. Thus were remedied two evils at once: The increasing wants of an improving society were provided for; and a class of men, the pest of the community, were converted to its service. This is another important era in the history of Hindu society; and having reached this stage, it does not appear that it has made, or that it is capable of making, much further progress. Thirty-six branches of the impure class are specified in the sacred books,1 of whom and of their employments it would be tedious and useless to present the description. The highest is that sprung from the conjunction of a Brahmen with a woman of the Cshatriya class, Edition: current; Page: [173] whose duty is the teaching of military exercises. book ii. Chap. 2. The lowest of all is the offspring of a Sudra with a woman of the sacred class. This tribe are denominated Chandalas, and are regarded with great abhorrence. Their profession is to carry out corpses, to execute criminals, and perform other offices, reckoned to the last degree unclean and degrading. If, by the laws of Hindustan, the Sudras are placed in a low and vile situation, the impure and mixed classes are placed in one still more odious and degrading. Nothing can equal the contempt and insolence to which it is the lot of the lowest among them to see themselves exposed. They are condemned to live in a sequestered spot by themselves, that they may not pollute the very town in which they reside. If they meet a man of the higher castes, they must turn out of the way, lest he should be contaminated by their presence.1

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The Form of Government.

After the division of the people into ranks and book ii. Chap. 3. occupations, the great circumstance by which their condition, character, and operations are determined, is the political establishment; the system of actions by which the social order is preserved. Among the Hindus, according to the Asiatic model, the government was monarchical, and, with the usual exception of religion and its ministers, absolute. No idea of any system of rule, different from the will of a single person, appears to have entered the minds of them, or their legislators. “If the world had no king,” says the Hindu law,1 “it would quake on all sides through fear; the ruler of this universe, therefore, created a king, for the maintenance of this system.” Of the high and uncontrolable authority of the monarch a judgment may be formed, from the lofty terms in which the sacred books describe his dignity and attributes. “A king,” says the law of Menu,2 “is formed of particles from the chief guardian deities, and consequently surpasses all mortals in glory. Like the sun, he burns eyes and hearts; nor can any human creature on earth even gaze on him. He, fire and air; He, the god of criminal justice; He, the genius of wealth; He, the regent of waters; He, the lord of the firmament. A king, even though a child, must Edition: current; Page: [176] book ii. Chap. 3. not be treated lightly, from an idea that he is a mere mortal: No; he is a powerful divinity, who appears in human shape. In his anger, death. He who shows hatred of the king, through delusion of mind, will certainly perish; for speedily will the king apply his heart to that man's destruction.” The pride of imperial greatness could not devise, hardly could it even desire, more extraordinary distinctions, or the sanction of a more unlimited authority.

The plan, according to which the power of the sovereign was exercised in the government of the country, resembled that which has almost universally prevailed in the monarchies of Asia, and was a contrivance extremely simple and rude. In the more skilful governments of Europe, officers are appointed for the discharge of particular duties in the different provinces of the empire; some for the decision of causes, some for the control of violence, some for collecting the contingents of the subjects, for the expense of the state; while the powers of all center immediately in the head of the government, and all together act as connected and subordinate wheels in one complicated and artful machine. Among the less instructed and less civilized inhabitants of Asia, no other plan has ever occurred to the monarch, for the administration of his dominions, than simply to divide his own authority and power into pieces or fragments, as numerous as the provinces into which it was deemed convenient to distribute the empire. To each of the provinces a vicegerent was dispatched, who carried with him the undivided authority and jurisdiction of his master. Whatever powers the sovereign exercised over the whole kingdom, the vicegerent exercised in the province allotted to him; and the same plan which the sovereign adopted for the government of the whole, was exactly followed Edition: current; Page: [177] by the vicegerent in the government of a part.1 If book ii. Chap. 3. the province committed to his sway was too extensive for his personal inspection and control, he subdivided it into parts, and assigned a governor to each, whom he intrusted with the same absolute powers in his district, as he himself possessed in the administration of the greater department. Even this inferior deputy often divided his authority, in the same manner, among the governors, whom he appointed, of the townships or villages under his control. Every one of those rulers, whether the sphere of his command was narrow or extensive, was absolute within it, and possessed the whole power of the sovereign, to levy taxes, to raise and command troops, and to decide upon the lives and property of the subjects. The gradations of command among the Hindus were thus regulated: The lowest of all was the lord of one town and its district; The next was the lord of ten towns; The third was the lord of twenty towns; The fourth was the lord of 100 towns; And the highest vicegerent was lord of 1000 towns. Every lord was amenable to the one immediately above him, and exercised unlimited authority over those below.2 The Edition: current; Page: [178] book ii. Chap. 3. following law appears to provide for their personal expenses: “Such food, drink, wood, and other articles, as by law should be given each day to the king, by the inhabitants of the township, let the lord of one town receive; let the lord of ten towns enjoy the produce of two plough-lands; the lord of twenty, that of five plough-lands; the lord of 100, that of a village or small town; the lord of 1000, that of a large town.”1 The expense of the government of each vicegerent was defrayed out of the taxes which he levied, and the surplus was transmitted to the superior lord, to whom he was immediately responsible. From him it was again conveyed to the governor above him, till it reached, at last, the royal treasury.

If this plan of government was unskilful and rude, so was the contrivance employed for checking the abuses to which it was liable. “The affairs of these townships,” says the law, “either jointly or separately transacted, let another minister of the king inspect, who should be well affected, and by no means remiss. In every larger town or city, let him appoint one superintendant of all affairs, elevated in rank, formidable in power, distinguished as a planet among stars: Let that governor, from time Edition: current; Page: [179] to time, survey all the rest in person, and, by the book ii. Chap. 3. means of his emissaries, let him perfectly know their conduct in their several districts.”1 Of the practical state of the government abundant proof is afforded. In the passage which immediately follows, “Since the servants of the king,” it is said, “whom he has appointed guardians of districts, are generally knaves, who seize what belongs to other men, from such knaves let him defend his people; of such evil-minded servants, as wring wealth from subjects attending them on business, let the King confiscate all the possessions, and banish them from his realm.”2

At the head of this government stands the king, on whom the great lords of the empire immediately depend. He is directed by the law to choose a Council, consisting “of seven or eight ministers, men whose ancestors were servants of kings, who are versed in the holy books, who are personally brave; who are skilled in the use of weapons, and whose lineage is noble.”3 With them he is commanded perpetually to consult on the affairs of his government; but a singular mode of deliberation is prescribed to him; not to assemble his Council, and, laying before them, as in the cabinets of European princes, the subject on which the suggestions of their wisdom are required, to receive the benefit arising from the mutual communication of their knowledge and views; a plan, apparently more artful and cunning, more nearly allied to the suspicious temper and narrow views, of a rude period, is recommended; to consult them apart, and hear the opinion of each Edition: current; Page: [180] book ii. Chap. 3. separately; after which, having consulted them in common, when each man is swayed by the opinion he had formerly given in private, and has a motive of interest and vanity to resist the light which might be thrown upon the subject by others, the king himself is to decide.1 A Brahmen ought always to be his prime minister. “To one learned Brahmen, distinguished among the rest, let the king impart his momentous counsel.”2

To provide for the defence of the country was one great branch of the duties of the sovereign, and to preside over the military force was his great prerogative and distinction. As, in the original division of the people, a fourth part of them were appropriated to the profession of arms, and destined from that alone to obtain their subsistence, the great difficulty of government must have consisted, not in obtaining troops, but in finding for them maintenance and employment. When so great a proportion of the population were set apart for the business of war, with nothing to do, from year to year, and from generation to generation, but to improve its principles, and acquire the utmost dexterity in its exercises, it appears extraordinary that the nation was not of a formidable and warlike character. Yet has India given way to every invader; “and the rudeness,” says Mr. Orme,3 “of the military art in Indostan Edition: current; Page: [181] can scarce be imagined but by those who have seen book ii. Chap. 3. it.” The precepts in the ancient and sacred books of the Hindus, which lay the foundation of their military system, are few in number, simple, and rude. For the security of the royal residence, the king is directed to take up his abode1 “in a capital, having, by way of fortress, a desert rather more than twenty miles round it, or a fortress of earth, a fortress of water or of trees, a fortress of armed men, or a fortress of mountains.” Their great unskilfulness in the science of attack and defence led them to place great dependence on fortification, as appears by a variety of their precepts. “One bowman,” says Menu,2 “placed on a wall is a match in war for 100 enemies, and 100 for 10,000; therefore is a fort recommended.” Yet their knowledge of fortification was elementary, and mostly consisted in surrounding the place with a mud wall and a ditch, or availing themselves of the natural advantages which insulated rocks, which water, or impervious thickets, could afford. The duty and advantage of maintaining at all times a powerful army are enforced in the most cogent terms. “By a king,” says Menu, “whose forces are always ready for action, the whole world may be kept in awe; let him then, by a force always ready, make all creatures living his own.”3 In recommending a perpetual standing army, the preceptive part of the military doctrine of the Hindus seems in a great measure to have been summed up; for the marshalling, the discipline, the conduct of an army, in any of its branches, no instruction is conveyed. General exhortations to firmness and valour are all the additional advice of which the utility appears to have been recognized. The Hindu prince is, by Edition: current; Page: [182] book ii. Chap. 3. divine authority, informed, that those rulers of the earth, who, “desirous of defeating each other, exert their utmost strength in battle, without ever averting their faces, ascend after death directly to heaven.”1 “Never to recede from combat,” says Menu, “to protect the people, and to honour the priests, is the highest duty of kings, and ensures their felicity.”2 Of a great part of the duty which devolved upon the king, as head of the armed force, he appears to have been relieved by a deputy.3 In times of peace, the military people seem to have been distributed over the country, under the command of the governors of provinces and of districts, for local defence, for the preservation of local tranquillity, and for the convenience of subsistence. When a general war demanded the whole force of the nation, the king commanded the governors of provinces to assemble the soldiers under their command, and repair to his standard.4 From this circumstance it has been rashly concluded, that feudal conditions of military service, in fact a feudal government, nearly resembling that which existed in Europe, had place in Hindustan.

After the care of protecting the nation from foreign aggression or from internal tumult, the next duty of the king was the distribution of justice. In the first stage of society, the leader in war is also the judge in peace; and the regal and judicial functions are united in the same person. Various circumstances tend to produce this arrangement. In the first place, there are hardly any laws: and he alone is entitled to judge, who is entitled to legislate, Edition: current; Page: [183] since he must make a law for every occasion. In book ii. Chap. 3. the next place, a rude people, unused to obedience, would hardly respect inferior authority. In the third place, the business of judicature is so badly performed as to interrupt but little the business or pleasures of the king; and a decision is rather an exercise of arbitrary will and power, than the result of an accurate investigation. In the fourth place, the people are so much accustomed to terminate their own disputes, by their own cunning, or force, that the number of applications for judicature is comparatively small. As society advances, a set of circumstances, opposite to these, are gradually introduced: laws are made which the judge has nothing to do but apply: the people learn the advantage of submitting to inferior authority: a more accurate administration of justice is demanded, and cannot be performed without a great application both of attention and of time: the people learn that it is for the good of the community, that they should not terminate, and that they should not be allowed to terminate, either by force or fraud, their own disputes: the administration of justice is then too laborious to be either agreeable to the king, or consistent with the other services which he is expected to render: and the exercise of judicature becomes a separate employment, the exclusive function of a particular order of men.

The administration of justice by the king in person, and in the provinces of course by his deputies, as in the subordinate districts by theirs, stands in the sacred books as a leading principle of the jurisprudence of the Hindus; and the revolution of ages has introduced a change in favour rather of the prince who abandons the duty, than of the people, for whom hardly any other instrument of judicature is provided.

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book ii. Chap. 3. In the infancy of improvement, the business of the judge is much more to award punishment, than to settle disputes. The Hindu law, accordingly, represents the king, as “created for the guardianship of all, a divinity in human form, to inflict punishment according to the Shaster.”1 In conformity with those rude ideas, the most extravagant praises are bestowed upon this engine of royalty. “For the use of the king, Bramah formed, in the beginning of time, the genius of punishment with a body of pure light, his own son, the Protector of all created things. Punishment governs all mankind; punishment alone preserves them; punishment wakes while their guards are asleep; the wise consider punishment as the perfection of justice. If the king were not, without indolence, to punish the guilty, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish, on a spit. The whole race of man is kept in order by punishment; for a guiltless man is hard to be found.”2

For the more perfect discharge of this important duty the king is directed to associate with himself Brahmens, and counsellors capable of giving him advice.3 Any Brahmen, or even a person of the two middle classes, may interpret the law to him; but a Sudra in no case whatever.4 On those occasions on which it was impossible for the king to give judgment Edition: current; Page: [185] in person, he was empowered to appoint a book ii. Chap. 3. Brahmen, who, with three assessors, might try causes in his stead.1

So much with regard to the constitution of the tribunals. The solemnities of jurisdiction were thus ordered to proceed: “Let the king, or his judge, having seated himself on the bench, his body properly clothed, and his mind attentively fixed, begin with doing reverence to the deities who govern the world, and then let him enter on the trial of causes.”2 The form of process was simple, and good; as it always is among a rude people. The parties were heard, generally in person; though lawyers by profession, unless in the case of certain high crimes, might appear in lieu of the principals. The application of the plaintiff might be either oral or written; but the answer was required to be in the same form; oral, if the application was oral; and in writing, if it was otherwise.3 The judge examines the witnesses; inspects, if any, the writings; and without any intricate or expensive forms proceeds directly to a decision. Punishment immediately follows conviction.4

One of the highest of our authorities affords a picture of the practical state of judicature in India, which, there is every reason to believe, may, with immaterial variations, be applied to Hindu society from the period at which it first attained its existing form. “No man is refused access to the Durbar, or seat of judgment; which is exposed to a large area, Edition: current; Page: [186] book ii. Chap. 3. capable of containing the multitude.1 The plaintiff discovers himself by crying aloud, Justice! Justice! until attention is given to his importunate clamours. He is then ordered to be silent, and to advance before his judge; to whom, after having prostrated himself, and made his offering of a piece of money, he tells his story in the plainest manner, with great humility of voice and gesture, and without any of those oratorial embellishments which compose an art in freer nations.—The wealth, the consequence, the interest, or the address of the party, become now the only considerations. He visits his judge in private, and gives the jar of oil: his adversary bestows the hog which breaks it. The friends who can influence intercede; and, excepting where the case is so manifestly proved as to brand the failure of redress with glaring infamy (a restraint which human nature is born to reverence) the value of the bribe ascertains the justice of the cause.—This is so avowed a practice, that if a stranger should inquire how much it would cost him to recover a just debt from a creditor who evaded payment, he would every where receive the same answer; the government will keep onefourth, and give you the rest.—Still the forms of justice subsist; witnesses are heard, but brow-beaten and removed: proofs of writing produced, but deemed forgeries and rejected, until the way is cleared for a decision, which becomes totally or partially favourable, in proportion to the methods which have been used to render it such; but still with some attention Edition: current; Page: [187] to the consequences of a judgment, which would be book ii. Chap. 3. of too flagrant iniquity not to produce universal detestation and resentment.—Providence has, at particular seasons, blessed the miseries of these people with the presence of a righteous judge. The vast reverence and reputation which such have acquired are but too melancholy a proof of the infrequency of such a character. The history of their judgments and decisions is transmitted down to posterity, and is quoted with a visible complacency on every occasion. Stories of this nature supply the place of proverbs in the conversations of all the people of Indostan, and are applied by them with great propriety.”1

Such are the principal branches of the duty of the sovereign, and in these various institutions may be contemplated an image of the Hindu government. It is worthy of a short analysis. The powers of government consist of three great branches, the legislative, the judicial, and the administrative; and we have to inquire, in what hands these several powers are deposited, and by what circumstances their exercise is controlled. As the Hindu believes, that a complete and perfect system of instruction, which admits of no addition or change, was conveyed to him from the beginning by the Divine Being, for the regulation of his public as well as his private affairs, he acknowledges no laws but those which are contained in the sacred books. From this it is evident, Edition: current; Page: [188] book ii. Chap. 3. that the only scope which remains for legislation is confined within the limits of the interpretations which may be given to the holy text. The Brahmens enjoy the undisputed prerogative of interpreting the divine oracles; for though it is allowed to the two classes next in degree to give advice to the king in the administration of justice, they must in no case presume to depart from the sense of the law which it has pleased the Brahmens to impose. The power of legislation, therefore, exclusively belongs to the priesthood. The exclusive right of interpreting the laws necessarily confers upon them, in the same unlimited manner, the judicial powers of government. The king, though ostensibly supreme judge, is commanded always to employ Brahmens as counsellors and assistants in the administration of justice; and whatever construction they put upon the law, to that his sentence must conform. Whenever the king in person discharges not the office of judge, it is a Brahmen, if possible, who must occupy his place. The king, therefore, is so far from possessing the judicial power, that he is rather he executive officer by whom the decisions of the Brahmens are carried into effect.

They who possess the power of making and interpreting the laws by which another person is bound to act, are by necessary consequence the masters of his actions. Possessing the legislative and judicative powers, the Brahmens were, also, masters of the executive power, to any extent, whatsoever, to which they wished to enjoy it. With influence over it they were not contented. They secured to themselves a direct, and no contemptible share of its immediate functions. On all occasions, the king was bound to employ Brahmens, as his counsellors and ministers; and, of course, to be governed by their judgment. “Let the king, having risen early,” says Edition: current; Page: [189] the law, “respectfully attend to Brahmens learned book ii. Chap. 3. in the three Vedas, and by their decision let him abide.”1 It thus appears that, according to the original laws of the Hindus, the king was little more than an instrument in the hands of the Brahmens. He performed the laborious part of government, and sustained the responsibility, while they chiefly possessed the power.2

The uncontrolable sway of superstition, in rude and ignorant times, confers upon its ministers such extraordinary privileges, that the king and the priest are generally the same person; and it appears somewhat remarkable that the Brahmens, who usurped among their countrymen so much distinction and authority, did not invest themselves with the splendour of royalty. It very often happens that some accidental circumstances, of which little account was taken at the time, and which after a lapse of ages it is impossible to trace, gave occasion to certain peculiarities which we remark in the affairs and characters of nations. It is by no means unnatural to suppose, that to a people, over whom the love of repose exerts the greatest sway, and in whose character aversion to danger forms a principal ingredient, the toils and perils of the sword appeared to surpass the advantages with which it was attended; and that the Brahmens transferred to the hands of others, what Edition: current; Page: [190] book ii. Chap. 3. was thus a source of too much labour, as well as danger, to be retained in their own.

So many, however, and important were the powers which this class reserved to themselves, that the kingly dignity would appear to have been reduced to that of a dependant and secondary office. But with this inference the fact does not correspond. The monuments of the Hindus, imperfect as they are, convince us, that their monarchs enjoyed no small share both of authority, and of that kind of splendour which corresponded with their own state of society. They had two engines entrusted to them, the power of which their history serves remarkably to display; They were masters of the army; And they were masters of the public revenue. These two circumstances, it appears, were sufficient to counterbalance the legislative, and the judicative, and even a great part of the executive power, reinforced by all the authority of an overbearing superstition, lodged in the hands of the Brahmens. These threw around the sovereign an external lustre, with which the eyes of uncultivated men are easily dazzled. In dangerous and disorderly times, when every thing which the nation values depends upon the sword, the military commander exercises unlimited authority by universal consent; and so frequently is this the situation of a rude and uncivilized people, surrounded on all sides by rapacious and turbulent neighbours, that it becomes, in a great measure, the habitual order of things. The Hindu king, by commanding both the force, and the revenue of the state, had in his hands the distribution of gifts and favours; the potent instrument, in short, of patronage; and the jealousy and rivalship of the different sets of competitors would of their own accord give him a great influence over the Brahmens themselves. The distribution Edition: current; Page: [191] of gifts and favours is an engine of so much book ii. Chap. 3. power, that the man who enjoys it to a certain extent is absolute, with whatever checks he may appear to be surrounded.1

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The Laws.

book ii. Chap. 4. Next to the form of government, in determining the political condition of the people, is the body of law, or the mode in which the rights of individuals are expressed and secured. For elucidating this important point, in the history of the Hindus, materials are abundant. The detail, however, or even the analysis, of the Hindu code, would far exceed the bounds, to which, in a work like the present, this topic must be confined. An accurate conception of the character and spirit of the Hindu laws, and of their place in the scale of excellence or defect, is all I can attempt to convey.

Amid the imperfections adhering to the state of law among a rude and ignorant people, one is, that they preserve not their maxims of justice, and their rules of judicial procedure, distinct from other subjects. In the law books of the Hindus, the details of jurisprudence and judicature occupy comparatively a very moderate space.1 The doctrines and ceremonies of religion; the rules and practice of education; the institutions, duties, and customs of domestic life; the maxims of private morality, and even of domestic economy; the rules of government, Edition: current; Page: [193] of war, and of negotiation; all form essential parts book ii. Chap. 4. of the Hindu codes of law, and are treated in the same style, and laid down with the same authority, as the rules for the distribution of justice. The tendency of this rude conjunction of dissimilar subjects is, amid other inconveniences, to confound the important distinction between those obligations which it is the duty of the magistrate to enforce, and those which ought to be left to the suggestions of self-interest, and the sanctions of morality; it is to extend coercion, and the authority of the magistrate, over the greater part of human life, and to leave men no liberty even in their private and ordinary transactions; while it lessens greatly the force of the legal sanction in those cases in which its greatest efficiency is required.

Another topic, which it will be convenient to detach and premise, is, the division and arrangement which the Hindus have given to the matter of law. In marking a stage of civilization, this is a very characteristic circumstance. As the human mind, in a rude state, has not the power to make a good distribution of a complicated subject, so it is little aware of its importance; little aware that this is the groundwork of all accurate thought. In the Institutes of Menu, the most celebrated perhaps of all the original compends of Hindu law, the titles, as they are there denominated, or divisions, of law, are eighteen, laid down in the following order:—1. Debt, on loans for consumption; 2. Deposits and loans for use; 3. Sale without ownership; 4. Concerns among partners; 5. Subtraction of what has been given; 6. Nonpayment of wages or hire; 7. Nonperformance of agreements; 8. Rescission of sale and purchase; 9. Disputes between master and servant; 10. Contests on boundaries; Edition: current; Page: [194] book ii. Chap. 4. 11 and 12. Assault, and slander; 13. Larceny; 14. Robbery and other violence; 15. Adultery; 16. Altercation between man and wife and their several duties; 17. The law of inheritance; 18. Gaming with dice and with living creatures.1 It is not easy to conceive a more rude and defective attempt at the classification of laws, than what is here presented. The most essential and obvious distinctions are neglected and confounded. Though no arrangement would appear more natural, and more likely to strike even an uncultivated mind, than the division of laws into civil and penal, we find them mixed and blended together in the code of the Hindus. The first nine of the heads or titles, as above, refer to civil law; the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth, to criminal law; the sixteenth and seventeenth return to civil, and the eighteenth to criminal; while the tenth relates partly to the one and partly to the other.

Another ground of division, well calculated, as being exceedingly obvious, to strike an uncultivated mind, Edition: current; Page: [195] is the distinction of persons, and things. This was book ii. Chap. 4. the ground-work of the arrangement bestowed upon the Roman laws. It is that of the arrangement which continues to prevail in the English; rude as it is, at once the effect, and the cause, of confusion.1 It will be seen, however, that even this imperfect attempt at a rational division was far above the Hindus.

In the order in which the titles follow one another, no principle of arrangement can be traced. The first eight of the heads may be regarded as allotted to the subject of contracts; but a more rude and imperfect division of contracts cannot easily be conceived. Not to dwell upon the circumstance of beginning with loans, one of the most remote and refined contracts, instead of the more obvious and simple, we may observe that the subject of purchase and sale is divided into two parts; but, instead of being treated in conjunction with one another, one occupies the third place in the list of titles, the other the eighth; and a number of heterogeneous subjects intervene. “Concerns among Partners” is a title which occupies the middle place between that of “Sale without Ownership,” and “Subtraction of what has been given;” with neither of which it has any relation. “Nonpayment of wages or hire” stands immediately before “Nonperformance Edition: current; Page: [196] book ii. Chap. 4. of Agreements,” though the latter is a general title in which the former is included. The latter indeed is remarkable; for it is so general that it includes the whole subject of contracts, though it is here placed as only one, and the last, save one, among nine different titles or divisions of that subject. Several of the titles are nothing but particular articles, belonging to some of the other divisions; and are with great impropriety made to stand as separate and primary heads. The contracts, for example, between master and servant, are part of the great subject Location, or letting and taking to hire, including services as well as things; yet are these contracts here treated of under two distinct titles; the one, “Nonpayment of wages or hire,” the other, “Disputes between master and servant,” and even these are separated from one another by two intervening subjects. “Concerns among partners,” is an article, little, surely, entitled to stand as a separate head among the primary divisions of law, since the rights of individuals in a joint property fall under the same distinctions and rules which determine their rights in other property.1 Where one branch of one great topic, Edition: current; Page: [197] as transfer of ownership, is taken up, and concluded, book ii. Chap. 4. it would appear a very necessary arrangement to pass on to another: when transfer by contract, for example, is finished, to begin with transfer by descent. Such obvious rules appear to have had no influence in the framing of the Hindu systems of law: when the subject of contracts is ended, the principal branches of criminal law are introduced; and, after these and some other topics are finished, then follows the great subject of inheritance.1

In order to convey, in as narrow a compass as possible, an idea of the maxims and spirit of Hindu jurisprudence, it will be convenient not to follow the mangled division of the Hindus themselves. Omitting the laws, which regulate the political order, which determine who are to govern, who are to obey, and define the terms of command and obedience; laws are conveniently distributed under the three usual heads; I. Civil laws, though Civil is a very objectionable term; II. Penal laws; and III. The laws of judicature, or those which fix the mode in which the Edition: current; Page: [198] book ii. Chap. 4. judicial services are rendered. Under each of these heads, such particulars have been carefully selected from the multitude of Hindu laws, as appeared the best calculated to convey an idea of the leading qualities of the Hindu code, and of the stage of civilization at which it may appear to have been formed.

I. Under the first of these heads, Property is the great subject of law. To this we may confine our illustrations.

It is needless to remark, that the sources of acquisition, by occupancy, by labour, by contract, by donation, by descent; which are recognized in almost all states of society, are recognized in Hindustan. It is in the accuracy with which the intended effects of these incidents are defined, and in the efficiency of the means taken to secure the benefits they convey, that the excellence of one system above another is more particularly observed.

Though property, in the first stage of its existence, was probably measured by occupancy, and the one ceased with the other,1 the privilege was early conferred of alienating for a valuable consideration, or of transferring by purchase and sale. As this is a very simple compact, it appears to admit of little variety in the various stages of human improvement. In an age, however, in which the means of detecting fraudulent acquisitions, and of proving the good faith of contracts and bargains, are imperfectly known, purchases and sales, made in public, are alone considered Edition: current; Page: [199] valid. The laws of our Saxon ancestors prohibited book ii. Chap. 4. the sale of every thing above the value of twenty-pence, except in open market;1 and it is with a pleasing kind of surprise we find, that similar circumstances have suggested a similar expedient to the people of Hindustan. “He,” says the law of Menu, “who has received a chattel by purchase in open market, before a number of men, justly acquires the absolute property, by having paid the price of it.” The right, however, conveyed by a bonâ fide purchase, is not, among the Hindus, carried to that extent, which is found requisite in a commercial and highly civilized society. If the goods were not the property of the person by whom they were sold, the right of the purchaser becomes absolute only if he can produce the vendor. “If,” says the law of Menu,3 “the vendor be not producible, and the vendee prove the public sale, the latter must be dismissed by the king without punishment; and the former owner, who lost the chattel, may take it back, on paying the vendee half its value.” This is quite sufficient to throw so much uncertainty into the great class of transactions by purchase and sale, as would prove, in a civilized state of society, a ruinous obstruction of business. A manufacturer purchases a quantity of the raw material, and works it up; he would lose, in a mischievous proportion, if the owner of that material could demand the identical substance, on tendering the half of its price. In many cases, the identical substance is exported; in many it is consumed; and cannot possibly Edition: current; Page: [200] book ii. Chap. 4. be restored.1 Among children, and among rude people, little accustomed to take their decisions upon full and mature consideration, nothing is more common than to repent of their bargains, and wish to revoke them: Among the Hindus this has been found an affair of sufficient importance to constitute an entire head in the classification of their laws. A variety of cases are enumerated, in which, if dissatisfied with his bargain, a man may insist upon having it annulled; and in general any sale and purchase of things, not perishable, may be rescinded within ten days, at the will of either of the parties:2 another law, altogether incompatible with an age in which the divisions and refinements of industry have multiplied the number of exchanges. The regulation, which fixes the price of things, instead of leaving it to the natural and beneficent laws of competition, conveys not a high idea of the knowledge of the Hindus. “Let the king,” says the ordinance of Menu, “establish rules for the sale and purchase of all marketable things. Once in every five nights, or at the close of every half month, let him make a regulation for market prices.”3 Edition: current; Page: [201] It is a circumstance full of meaning, that, under this book ii. Chap. 4. head of bargain and sale, is arranged the obligation of the marriage contract.1

There are many occasions, on which it is useful to the owner of property, to place it in the keeping of another person, without transfer of the ownership. It may be placed, for safe-custody merely; for the sake of an operation, as with the dyer, for the benefit of his art; with the carrier, either by sea or land, for the sake of transportation; or it may be placed, as in the case of a valuable animal, for the sake of maintenance. These, and a variety of other transactions of a similar sort, are included in English law under the title of bailments. In a well-regulated society, where the house of one man is nearly as secure from violence as that of another, mere deposits, unless in the case of warehousing, the object of which is convenience or economy, rather than security, form a class of transactions of little comparative magnitude. In a rude society, in which there is little or no security, and in which the means of concealing valuables is one of the great studies of life, deposits become an object of the greatest importance. In the Hindu code, other cases of bailment occupy a narrow space: the article of deposits swells, alone, to a great size, and forms a subject of considerable intricacy and detail.2 The modes of proof constitute the chief peculiarities in the provisions, and will be considered, when we speak of the third branch of jurisprudence. Edition: current; Page: [202] book ii. Chap. 4. One rule, however, expressive of great simplicity, not to say rudeness, belongs exclusively to this article: “On failure of witnesses, to prove a deposit, let the judge actually deposit gold or precious things with the defendant, by the artful contrivance of spies. Should he restore that deposit, he is to be held innocent; if he deny it, he is to be apprehended and compelled to pay the value of both.”1

Hiring; that is, transferring to another, for a valuable consideration, and to a definite extent, the use of any thing valuable; is a right which holds a sort of middle place between sale and bailment: and may extend to personal services as well as to commodities.2 As this contract falls very naturally under the laws of purchase and sale,3 it occupies a narrow space in the volumes of Hindu law, and as far as commodities are concerned, offers nothing particular for observation.4 In the hire of personal services, three principal classes are distinguished; first, the students of the Veda, who discharge every menial office to Edition: current; Page: [203] their masters, and receive instruction in return: book ii. Chap. 4. secondly, handicrafts, who receive either stipulated wages, or, if no agreement has been made, one tenth of the profits on their labour; thirdly, agricultural servants, who are always paid in kind; for tending cows, one tenth of the milk; for the culture of corn, one tenth of the crop.1

The peculiar species of transfer which is known by the name of loan is an object of great importance in the jurisprudence of all nations. Among the Hindus it stands as the first article in the classification of legal subjects, and in the Digest of Mr. Colebrooke occupies entirely one of the four books into which the compilers of that work have divided the laws of contract. From the peculiarities in the ideas and in the circumstances of the Hindus, it forms among them a subject of more than usual complexity. In an improved state of society, where the efficiency of laws, the diffusion of wealth, and the accommodations of business, have created a mutual confidence, loans are generally contracted on the security of law, without the actual custody or deposit of the property on which they may be secured. It is only in that extremely confined and degraded species of lending, abandoned to pawnbrokers, that pledges form a regular Edition: current; Page: [204] book ii. Chap. 4. and component part. In the more early and imperfect states of the social union, circumstances are very different. Law is both feeble and inaccurate, poverty reigns, violence prevails; and the man who is able to discharge his debts to-day may be stript of all his possessions to-morrow. In these circumstances, the security of law upon the person or property of the debtor is seldom sufficient; and the deposit of some equivalent property, as a pledge, is the obvious, and, in point of fact, the common resource. The doctrine of pledges forms one of the most considerable branches of this part of the Hindu code. The laws relating to them are laid down with great minuteness and solemnity; a variety of cases are distinguished; and the receipt of pledges appears to have formed a component part of a comparatively numerous and important class of transactions.1 The responsibility of a second person, who becomes surety for the borrower, is another foundation on which Hindu loans are contracted, and the different species of it are not inaccurately distinguished.2 Interest, or a consideration for property lent, appears to have been known at a very early stage of civilization.3 As it is only interest on debts of money which is familiar to the members of a highly-civilized society, European visitors appear to have been forcibly struck with the Hindu law, which imposes an interest to be paid in kind on loans in goods, as grain, fruit, wool or hair, beasts of burden and the like.4 Mr. Halhed says, “The different rate of interest to be paid for Edition: current; Page: [205] different articles is perhaps an institute peculiar to book ii. Chap. 4. Hindustan; but it reflects a strong light upon the simplicity of ancient manners, before money was universally current as the medium of barter for all commodities, and is at the same time a weighty proof of the great antiquity of these laws, which seem calculated for the crude conceptions of an almost illiterate people upon their first civilization.”1 When Mr. Halhed, however, informs us that this law “reflects a strong light upon the simplicity of ancient manners,” it is necessary to add that whatever light it reflects upon ancient, it reflects the same upon present manners, as this is not a law anciently in force, but long ago repealed; it is a law now in operation, and as suitable as ever to the purely Hindu state of society. Mr. Halhed too is mistaken when he supposes that this is an institution peculiar to the Hindus. It was familiarly known to the Jews in the time of Moses, and was probably a common practice in the nations around Judea, as well as in Egypt, from which the Jews had recently departed.2

To vary the rates of interest upon the different castes is a peculiarity more naturally arising from the unfair and odious distinctions among men, created by the Hindus. The rule established in the Institutes of Menu is, to take, when there is a pledge, one and a quarter per cent. per month; when there is no pledge, two per cent. per month; that is, from a Brahmen: but from a man of the military caste, three per cent.; four per cent. from one of the mercantile caste; and from a man of the servile caste Edition: current; Page: [206] book ii. Chap. 4. no less than five per cent. per month.1 This exorbitant rate of interest affords a satisfactory criterion to judge of the opinions, which are not unfrequently advanced, of the great riches which, at some imaginary period, formerly distinguished Hindustan. The excessive accumulation, however, of interest was forbidden. Upon a loan in money, interest, beyond the amount of the principal, was not a debt;2 upon loans in goods, for some reason which it is not easy to divine, it was permitted to five times the amount of the principal. Compound interest too was prohibited. These were rules which would give effectual motives to the Hindu creditor to exact the regular payment of his interest, with rigid severity.3 In the laws relating to loans, however, the most remarkable particular is the mode of enforcing payment. The creditor is commanded, first, to speak to the friends and relations of the debtor; next, to go in person and importune him, staying some time in his house, but without eating or drinking. If these methods fail, he may then carry the debtor home with him, and having seated him, as the law expresses it, before men of character and reputation, may there detain him. Should he still hold out, the creditor is next directed, to endeavour by feigned pretences to get possession of some of his goods; or, if any pledge was deposited with him, to carry it Edition: current; Page: [207] before the magistrate, who will cause it to be sold to book ii. Chap. 4. make payment. If neither of these expedients can be used, he shall seize and confine the debtor's wife, children, cattle, buffaloes, horses, &c.; also his pots, clothes, mats, and furniture, and, seating himself at his door, there receive his money. Should even this proceeding fail, he is commanded to seize and bind the debtor's person, and procure by forcible means a discharge of the debt.1 What is meant by forcible means is sufficiently explained in the following extra-ordinary definition. “When, having tied the debtor, the creditor carries him to his own house, and by beating or other means compels him to pay, this is called violent compulsion. By beating,” adds the law, “or by coercion, a creditor may enforce payment from his debtor.”2 When the debtor is of a caste not superior to the creditor, the latter may seize and compel him to labour for the discharge of the debt. If a man owes debts to several creditors, he is commanded to discharge first one debt and then another, in the order in which they were contracted; a regulation by which one or two of his creditors may receive in full their demands, while the rest, whether few or numerous, are entirely defrauded. The equitable arrangement of an equal dividend, which we find established among nations of very limited progress in the knowledge of law, obvious and useful as it is, had not suggested itself to the rude legislators of Hindustan. When a creditor procures payment of a debt by application to the magistrate, he pays him for his interposition a twentieth Edition: current; Page: [208] book ii. Chap. 4. part of the sum recovered.1 By a very extraordinary regulation a punishment seems to be inflicted on the defendant in all actions for debt wherein he is cast. “A debt being admitted by the defendant, he must pay five in the hundred as a fine to the king; but if it be denied and proved, twice as much.”2 The sacred character of the Brahmen, whose life it is the most dreadful of crimes either directly or indirectly to shorten, suggested to him a process for the recovery of debts, the most singular and extravagant that ever was found among men. He proceeds to the door of the person whom he means to coerce, or wherever else he can most conveniently intercept him, with poison or a poignard in his hand. If the person should attempt to pass, or make his escape, the Brahmen is prepared instantly to destroy himself. The prisoner is therefore bound in the strongest chains; for the blood of the self-murdered Brahmen would be charged upon his head, and no punishment could expiate his crime. The Brahmen setting himself down, (the action is called sitting in dherna) fasts; and the victim of his arrest, for whom it would be impious to eat, while a member of the sacred class is fasting at his door, must follow his example. It is now, however, not a mere contest between the resolution or strength of the parties; for if the obstinacy of the prisoner should exhaust the Brahmen, and occasion his death, he is answerable for that most atrocious of crimes—the murder of a priest; he becomes execrable to his countrymen; the horrors of remorse never fail to pursue him; he is shut out from the benefits of society, and life itself is Edition: current; Page: [209] a calamity. As the Brahmen who avails himself of book ii. Chap. 4. this expedient is bound for his honour to persevere, he seldom fails to succeed, because the danger of pushing the experiment too far is, to his antagonist, tremendous. Nor is it in his own concerns alone that the Brahmen may turn to account the sacredness of his person: he may hire himself to enforce in the same manner the claims of any other man; and not claims of debt merely; he may employ this barbarous expedient in any suit. What is still more extraordinary, even after legal process, even when the magistrate has pronounced a decision against him, and in favour of the person upon whom his claim is made, he may still sit in dherna, and by this dreadful mode of appeal make good his demand.1

We have now reviewed the great peculiarities of the Hindu law, in regard to those transfers of property which partake of the nature of exchange, and in which some sort of an equivalent is given and received; it remains for us to consider those, in which the property passes from one owner to another without any return.

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book ii. Chap. 4. The most extensive class of this species of transactions are those occasioned by the death of the owner. Men had considerably strengthened the chain by which they were connected with property, before they ceased to consider death as the cause of a perfect separation, and as leaving their possessions free to the earliest occupier. A right of succession in the children suggests itself, however, at a very early period in the progress of civilization. It is recommended by so many motives, it so happily accords with some of the strongest impulses of human nature, and is so easily engrafted upon the previous order of things, that it could not fail to be an early institution. The children, being naturally the nearest to their parent at the moment of his death, were generally able to avail themselves of the right of occupancy, and to exclude other successors by prior possession. It was the usual arrangement in early stages of society, that the different members of a family should live together; and possess the property in common.1 The father was rather the head of a number of partners, than the sole proprietor. When he died, it was not so much a transfer of property, as a continued possession; and the copartnership was only deprived of one of its members. The laws of inheritance among the Hindus are almost entirely founded upon this patriarchal arrangement.2 When the father Edition: current; Page: [211] dies, if the sons shall choose to live together, the book ii. Chap. 4. eldest, says the law, shall take the station of the head of the family, and the property is held jointly in his name.1 “For brothers a common abode is ordained so long as both their parents live. On failure of both their parents, partition among brothers is ordained.”2 Even during the life-time of the father, a separation of the family might take place, when a division of the property, according to the strict notion of a joint interest, was made, in the proportion of two shares to the father, and one share equally to each of the sons.3 When the division, however, of the common estate is delayed till the death of the father, the elder brother, as the new head of the family, is distinguished in the partition. He first receives one twentieth of the inheritance, after which it is divided equally among all the brothers.4 With a few immaterial exceptions, the principle of equal division guided succession among the Hindus. “Let the sons, after the death of the parents, equally share the assets. If all sons be equal Edition: current; Page: [212] book ii. Chap. 4. in good qualities, they must share alike; but he who is distinguished by science and good conduct shall take a greater share than the rest.”1 The last of these clauses affords an example of that vagueness and ambiguity, the source of endless dispute, which distinguishes the laws of all ignorant people, and which forms a most remarkable feature in those of Hindustan. What is the criterion to ascertain that superiority in science and virtue, which determines the share of brothers in the division of the paternal estate? Or who is to be the judge? Equally unskilful, and pregnant with evil, is the vague and indeterminate law which declares “that all those brothers who are addicted to any vice shall lose their title to the inheritance.”2 As the interpretation of the phrase, “addicted to any vice,” may receive any latitude, according to the inclinations and views of the expounder, a gate is here thrown open to unlimited injustice. Inconsistency, and even direct contradiction, is a characteristic of the Hindu laws, which it does not appear to have been thought even requisite to avoid; as it is expressly enacted, that when two laws command opposite things, both are to be held valid.3 This attribute is fully exemplified in the laws of inheritance. It is declared that, “on the failure of natural heirs, the lawful heirs are such Brahmens as have read the three Vedas, as are pure in body and mind, as have subdued their passions; and they must constantly offer the cake; thus the rites of Edition: current; Page: [213] obsequies cannot fail.”1 Yet it is added, in the book ii. Chap. 4. very next clause or sentence, “The property of a Brahmen shall never be taken as an escheat by the king; this is a fixed law; but the wealth of the other classes, on failure of all heirs, the king may take.”2 Not unfrequently in rude nations, as if one misfortune ought to be aggravated by another, those who labour under certain maladies, or bodily defects, are excluded from inheritance. This principle is fully adopted by the Hindus, and carried to an unusual, and monstrous extent. All those persons who are lame, all those persons who are blind, all those who are deaf, all those who are dumb, impotent, or affected with an incurable disease, as leprosy, marasmus, gonorrhœa, dysentery, are denied a share in the partition of their father's effects, and are only entitled to a maintenance from the family.3 When a man has sons by wives of different castes, they inherit in the proportion of the mother's rank, and the son by a concubine is entitled only to one half of the share of him who is born of a wife.4 The laws which define proximity of kin, and fix the order of collateral succession, are numerous, minute, and in nothing remarkable.5 It is particularly to be noted Edition: current; Page: [214] book ii. Chap. 4. that daughters are debarred from a share in the inheritance of their fathers.1 The woman, indeed, among the Hindus, is so restricted in the means of acquiring property, that she is almost excluded from its rights.2 The exceptions consist, in certain presents; what was given in the bridal procession; what was given in token of love; what was received from a brother, a mother, or a father: and this property is inherited by her daughters in equal portions with her sons. If she die without issue, her property falls to her husband or to her parents, and is subject to nearly the same rules of collateral succession as are established in regard to the property of males.3

The idea of a joint interest in the property of the family, while it early established the right of succession in the children, served to exclude the right of devising by will. As the property belonged to the parent in common only with his offspring, it could not be regarded as just, that he should have the power of giving it away from them after his death. It is only Edition: current; Page: [215] in stages of society, considerably advanced, that the book ii. Chap. 4. rights of property are so far enlarged as to include the power of nominating, at the discretion of the owner, the person who is to enjoy it after his death. It was first introduced among the Athenians by a law of Solon, and among the Romans, probably, by the twelve tables.1 The Hindus have, through all ages, remained in a state of society too near the simplicity and rudeness of the most ancient times, to have stretched their ideas of property so far. The power of disposing of a man's possessions, by testament, is altogether unknown to their laws.2

The same notion of a joint-title, in all the members of a family, to the property of the whole, had originally an effect even upon the power of donation. Individuals were not at liberty to alienate by gift any part of the common stock. This, however, is a right which is recommended by motives more powerful and frequent than that of disposal after death, and was therefore much sooner introduced. The first instances were probably sanctioned by religious pretexts. By the laws of the Visigoths it was permitted to make donations to the church; and by those of the Burgundians a free man was allowed, after dividing his means with his sons, to make an ecclesiastical donation out of his own portion.3 Among the Hindus Edition: current; Page: [216] book ii. Chap. 4. the conferring of gifts upon the Brahmens, which is taught as one of the most important of religious duties, must have early familiarized the mind to gratuitous alienations; yet, notwithstanding this important circumstance, a man's power of transferring his property by gift appears subject still to extraordinary restrictions. Except in certain minor cases, the consent of his heirs is required. It is only over that part of his property which is more than sufficient to feed and clothe all his dependants, that he has an unlimited power of disposal.1

II. The second class of laws, those which relate to offences and their punishment, form a subject less complicated, and of less subtle and difficult disquisition, than those which relate to the distribution of rights; it is, however, a portion of law, which, from the violent interference of human passions, is not less slow in gaining improvement.

An offence is an act by which a right is violated. The object of punishment is to prevent such acts. It is employed, under the empire of reason, only as a last resource. If offences could be prevented without punishment, punishment ought never to exist. It follows, as a necessary consequence, that as little of it as possible ought to exist.

It is equally manifest, that it would be vain to establish rights, if the necessary means were not to be used for securing them. It is therefore good to make use of punishment, as far as necessary for the securing of rights; with this precaution only, that the suffering or evil, produced by the punishment, is less, upon the whole, than that which would arise from the violation of the right.

By these maxims, as criterions, we shall endeavour Edition: current; Page: [217] to ascertain the attributes of the criminal code of the book ii. Chap. 4. Hindus.

The misery and disorder which overspread human life, wherever self-defence rests wholly upon the individual, are the cause to which government owes its origin. To escape from those evils, men transfer to the magistrate powers sufficient for the defence of all; and agree to expect from him alone that protection, which they obtained so imperfectly from their own exertions. In the rude and violent times when this revolution takes place, it is not from a just and cool discernment of the limits of defence, prevention, and reparation, that penalties are exacted. It is from the impulse of a keen resentment, that the sufferer pursues, and from a strong sympathy with that resentment, that the magistrate commonly judges and condemns. It is not so much security that is coveted, as revenge. A great injury committed can only be expiated by a great injury received. Two principles therefore universally characterize the penal code of a barbarous people; severity; and retaliation. The early laws of the Greeks and the Romans were cruel; the laws of the twelve tables, says Mr. Gibbon, like the statutes of Draco, were written in characters of blood.1 By the laws of Moses, blasphemy, idolatry, profaning the sabbath, homicide, adultery, incest, rapes, crimes against nature, witchcraft, smiting or cursing father or mother, were punished with death, and with burning and stoning, the most cruel kinds of death.2 Of the sanguinary character imprinted on the laws of the Egyptians, the following instance may be adduced: They thrust little pieces of reeds, about a finger's length, into all parts of the bodies of parricides; Edition: current; Page: [218] book ii. Chap. 4. and then, surrounding them with thorns, set them on fire.1 The barbarous punishments which prevail among the Chinese are too familiarly known to require illustration. Perhaps of all the rude nations of whom we have any account, our own Saxon and German ancestors were the most distinguished for the mildness of their punishments; a singularity, however, to be accounted for, by the use of a very barbarous expedient, a compensation in money for almost every species of crime. Yet in various instances, particularly that of theft, their laws were not only severe, but inhuman.2

Notwithstanding the mildness which has generally been attributed to the Hindu character, hardly any nation is distinguished for more sanguinary laws. “The cruel mutilations,” says Sir William Jones,3 “practised by the native powers, are shocking to humanity.”

Edition: current; Page: [219]

Retaliation is another peculiarity which remarkably book ii. Chap. 4. distinguishes the laws of that barbarous period, when the punishment of crimes is chiefly measured by the resentment of the sufferer.1 Whatever the injury Edition: current; Page: [220] book ii. Chap. 4. which the innocent man has sustained, a similar injury, by way of punishment, is imposed upon the guilty. Whatever the member, or part of his body, with which the offender committed the crime, upon that part is the chastisement inflicted. The Hebrew law of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, is a familiar example of what occurred among other nations. The forfeit of limb for limb, and member for member, was, among the Romans, exacted by the law of the twelve tables, unless where the offender could expiate his crime by a fine of 300 pounds of copper. The earliest legislators of Greece were so rude as to leave the punishment of crimes, undefined, to the discretion of the judge; but Zaleucus, legislator of the Locrians, who first prescribed rules on this subject, enforced so literally the maxim of an eye for an eye, that it was deemed an important reform on his laws, when it was decreed that he who struck out the eye of a person with one eye should lose both his own.1 The Egyptians extended the principle of punishing criminals in that part of the body which was chiefly instrumental in the guilt, to an extraordinary number of instances. He who discovered the secrets of the state had his tongue cut out; he who violated a free woman was made an eunuch; of those who counterfeited coin and seals either public or private, of those who made use of false weights and measures, and of public notaries who forged or mutilated deeds, the two hands were cut off; and calumniators were subjected to the same punishment which would have been due to those whom they falsely accused.2 To how extraordinary a degree the spirit of retaliation moulds the penal legislation of the Hindus, a few Edition: current; Page: [221] specimens will evince. The law concerning assault book ii. Chap. 4. and battery, in the Institutes of Menu, thus commences: “With whatever member a low-born man shall assault or hurt a superior, even that member of his must be slit or cut, more or less in proportion to the injury: this is an ordinance of Menu.”1 “If a man strikes a Bramin with his hand, the magistrate shall cut off that man's hand; if he strikes him with his foot, the magistrate shall cut off the foot; in the same manner, with whatever limb he strikes a Bramin, that limb shall be cut off; but if a Sooder strikes either of the three casts, Bramin, Chehteree, or Bice, with his hand or foot, the magistrate shall cut off such hand or foot.”2 “If a man has put out both the eyes of any person, the magistrate shall deprive that man of both his eyes, and condemn him to perpetual imprisonment, and fine him.”3 The punishment of murder is founded entirely upon the same principle. “If a man,” says the Gentoo code, “deprives another of life, the magistrate shall deprive that person of life.”4 “A once-born man, who insults the twice-born with gross invectives, ought to have his tongue slit. If he mention their names and classes with contumely, as if he say, ‘Oh thou refuse of Brahmens,’ an iron style, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth. Should he through pride give instruction to priests concerning their duty, let the king order some hot oil to be dropped into his mouth and his ear.”5 “If a blow, attended with much pain, be given either to human creatures or cattle, the king shall inflict on the striker a punishment as heavy as the presumed Edition: current; Page: [222] book ii. Chap. 4. suffering.”1 “With whatever limb a thief commits the offence, by any means in this world, as if he break a wall with his hand or his foot, even that limb shall the king amputate, for the prevention of a similar crime.”2 “A mechanic or servile man, having an adulterous connexion with a woman of a twice-born class, if she was unguarded, shall lose the part offending, and his whole substance.”3 “The breaker of a dam to secure a pool, let the king punish by a long immersion under water.”4 The portion of suffering, sufficient to constitute a motive for abstaining from the crime, is all the punishment which reason authorizes; but we see nations far advanced in civilization so tardy in recognizing this principle, that the excess of suffering, produced by the law of retaliation, would not, it is probable, suggest to nations, at a very early stage of civilization, the utility of repealing it. Yet no maxim more naturally recommends itself to the human mind, even before it is strong, than that all who commit the same crime should meet with equal punishment; and it requires a very slight degree of reflection to see, that when the hand or the foot is cut off from one man, the punishment may be a very moderate one; when the same limb is cut off from another man, to whose subsistence it is essential, the penalty may far exceed a sentence of death.

In another class of punishments, where the principle of equality may be still more easily applied, the grossness of the violation excites considerable surprise. As among our Saxon ancestors, so among the Hindus, fines bear a very large proportion to other punishments. When reparation to the party injured should be made by the author of the wrong, the pecuniary ability of the party on whom the obligation falls can Edition: current; Page: [223] no more be regarded, than where he owes a debt. book ii. Chap. 4. But in so far as it is the object of the law to create a motive against the occurrence of a like offence; or even to take vengeance, to inflict pain purely because pain has been occasioned; in so far it is one of the plainest dictates of reason, that where the offence is equal, the suffering or hardship imposed should be equal. Though a pecuniary mulct imposes all degrees of hardship, according to the pecuniary abilities of the man who pays, the Hindu law makes no distinction between the rich and the poor.1 It makes, indeed, a serious distinction between the man of one class, and another: and they of the lowest are, with a very few exceptions, always the most severely fined. But if the class is the same, the same forfeit is exacted for the same offence; though one man should be too opulent to feel from it any sensible inconvenience; another should suffer all the pains and horrors of want.

From the classification of the people, and the privileges of the castes, we are prepared to expect, among the Hindus, inequalities created by distinctions of rank. They relate either to the crimes committed against persons of the different ranks, or the crimes committed by them. Inequalities of the first sort, it is found difficult to avoid even in high stages of civilization. At present, in the best governed countries of Europe, an injury done to a nobleman is treated as a crime of a deeper die, than a similar injury to a person of the lowest rank.2 If the laws Edition: current; Page: [224] book ii. Chap. 4. should make no distinction in principle, the power of the nobleman to bring the offender to trial, and to command the partiality of the judge, would long make a very essential difference in practice. When the Hindu law, therefore, makes a gradation in the criminality of the same action, according as it is committed against the Brahmen, the Cshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra, it is only the excess in the difference of punishment, which is calculated to excite our surprise. With regard to offences committed by individuals of the different ranks, it is rare, even among the rudest people, to find the principle of unequal punishments, expressly avowed; and comparative impunity granted by law to the crimes of the great. Perjury, fraud, defamation, forgery, incest, murder, are not among us reckoned crimes more venial in the lord than in his servant. Among the Hindus, whatever be the crime committed, if it is by a Brahmen, the punishment is in general comparatively slight; if by a man of the military class, it is more severe; if by a man of the mercantile and agricultural class, it is still increased; if by a Sudra, it is violent and cruel. For defamation of a Brahmen, a man of the same class must be fined 12 panas; a man of the military class, 100; a merchant, 150 or 200; but a mechanic or servile man is whipped.1 The general principle on which the penalties for this crime seem to be regulated is, that whatever fine is exacted from a man of the same class by whom you have been Edition: current; Page: [225] accused, one only half as large should be imposed book ii. Chap. 4. upon the man of a superior class, but one double in magnitude, should the cast of the slanderer be inferior to your own. For all the more serious accusations against any of the superior orders the punishment of the Sudra is far more dreadful.1 That the scale of punishment for crimes of assault is graduated by the same rule, the following instance, out of many, will evince. “If a man of superior cast and of superior abilities to another should strike him with a weapon, the magistrate shall fine him 500 puns of cowries. If a man of an equal cast and of equal abilities with another should strike him with a weapon, the magistrate shall fine him 1000 puns of cowries. If a man of an inferior cast and of inferior abilities to another should strike him with a weapon, the magistrate shall fine him 3000 puns of cowries.”2 For perjury, it is only in favor of the Brahmen, that any distinction seems to be admitted. “Let a just prince,” says the ordinance of Menu, “banish men of the three lower classes, if they give false evidence, having first levied the fine; but a Brahmen let him only banish.”3 The punishment of adultery, which on the Brahmens is light, descends with intolerable weight on the lowest classes. In regard to the inferior cases of theft, for which a fine only is the punishment, we meet with a curious exception, the degree of punishment ascending with the class. “The fine of a Sudra for theft, shall be eight fold; that of a Vaisya, sixteen fold; that of a Cshatriya, two and thirty fold; that of a Brahmen, four and sixty fold, or a hundred fold complete, or even twice four and sixty fold.”4 No corporal punishment, much less Edition: current; Page: [226] book ii. Chap. 4. death, can be inflicted on the Brahmen for any crime. “Menu, son of the Self-existent, has named ten places of punishment, which are appropriated to the three lower classes; the part of generation, the belly, the tongue, the two hands; and fifthly, the two feet, the eye, the nose, both ears, the property; and in a capital case, the whole body; but a Brahmen must depart from the realm unhurt in any one of them.”1

Punishment should be proportioned, not to the greatness of the crime, that is, the quantity of suffering it produces, but solely to the difficulty of creating an adequate motive to abstain from it: if a fine of one shilling created a sufficient motive to abstain from the crime of murder, the fine of a shilling would be all the punishment which ought to exist. It must be owned, however, that the principle of punishing crimes, according to their magnitude, very naturally suggests itself; and bears a strong appearance of according with the principles of reason. Even to this early and imperfect principle, the Hindus have never ascended. While perjury, one of the most mischievous of crimes, and one against which an adequate motive is very difficult to create, is punished only with fine, and in its most aggravated cases, with banishment, the crime of obtaining goods on false pretences is punished with mutilation, and even with death. “If a person steals a man of an inferior cast, the magistrate shall fine him 1000 puns of cowries: If he steals an elephant or a horse excellent in all respects, the magistrate shall cut off his hand, and foot, and buttock, and deprive him of life.”2 The following places of the body are enumerated; the Edition: current; Page: [227] ear, the nose, the hand, the foot, the lip, the eye, the book ii. Chap. 4. tongue, and some others; upon any one of which a stroke, such as to separate or cut them off from the body, is punished equally;1 yet surely there is no comparison between the injury of depriving a man of his ear, for example, and of his tongue, or his hand. An amour with a woman of the Brahmenical caste is more dreadfully punished than parricide. Various cases of theft and robbery are accounted worthy of more shocking penalties than murder. Even Sir William Jones is constrained to say that the punishments of the Hindus “are partial and fanciful, for some crimes dreadfully cruel, for others reprehensibly slight.”2

The principal acts erected into punishable offences by the Hindu law are, false witness, defamation, assault, theft, outrage, adultery. The species and degrees of perjury are thus distinguished: “If a witness speak falsely through covetousness, he shall be fined 1000 panas; if through distraction of mind, 250; if through terror, 1000; if through friendship, the same; if through lust, 2,500; if through wrath, 1,500; if through ignorance, 200 complete; if through inattention, 100 only.”3 The laws against reproachful expressions are numerous, and the penalties remarkably severe; a pretty satisfactory proof that the Hindus have always been abusive; as we find they continue to the present day.4 By the term Assault, are indicated the smaller instances of personal Edition: current; Page: [228] book ii. Chap. 4. offence and injury; on which the laws of the Hindus descend to the most minute distinctions and details. In this they present a remarkable agreement with the laws of our Gothic ancestors. Lord Kaimes, observing upon the ancient European mode of satisfying for injuries by money, remarks that “the laws of the Burgundians, of the Salians, of the Almanni, of the Bavarians, of the Ripuarii, of the Saxons, of the Angli and Thuringi, of the Frisians, of the Langobards, and of the Anglo-saxons, are full of these compositions, extending from the most trifling injury to the most atrocious crimes. In perusing the tables of these compositions, which enter into a minute detail of the most trivial offences, a question naturally occurs, why all this scrupulous nicety of adjusting sums to delinquencies? Such a thing is not heard of in later times. But the following answer will give satisfaction:—That resentment, allowed scope among Barbarians, was apt to take flame by the slightest spark; therefore to provide for its gratification, it became necessary to enact compositions for every trifling wrong, such as at present would be the subject of mirth rather than of serious punishment: for example, where the clothes of a woman, bathing in a river, are taken away to expose her nakedness, and where dirty water is thrown upon a woman in the way of contumely.”1 The following orders of crime, in the Hindu code, present a similar, and a very remarkable picture; 1. Throwing upon the body of another, dust, or sand, or clay, or cow-dung, or any thing else of the same kind, or striking with the hand or foot; 2. Throwing upon the body tears, or phlegm, or the paring of one's nails, or the gum of the eyes, or the wax of the ears, or the refuse of victuals, or spittle; Edition: current; Page: [229] 3. Throwing upon another from the navel downwards book ii. Chap. 4. to his foot, spue, or urine, or ordure, or semen; 4. Throwing upon another, from the navel upwards to beneath the neck, any of the substances mentioned in the last article; 5. Throwing upon another any of the same substances from the neck upwards; 6. Assaulting with a stone, or with a piece of iron or wood; 7. Hauling by the foot, or by the hair, or by the hand, or by the clothes; 8. Seizing and binding another in a cloth, and setting one's foot upon him; 9. Raising up an offensive weapon to assault; 10. Striking with a weapon. In all these cases a further distinction is made, as the offence is committed by a superior, an inferior, or an equal, and committed against a man or a woman. The gradations too of wounds are curiously specified; 1. When no blood is shed; 2. When a little blood is shed; 3. When much blood is shed; 4. When a very great quantity; 5. When a bone is broke as well as blood is shed; 6. When a member or organ is struck off or separated.1 Under the title theft, the Hindus include the various species of frauds. In all nations which have made but the first step in civilization; when the means of protecting property are very imperfectly known, and covetousness is a furious passion; the depredations of thieves are always punished with extreme severity. In the Gothic nations of Europe, when the murder even of the King inferred but a pecuniary composition, theft was punished by mutilation and death.2 In the same manner among the Hindus, while murder is punished by the mere loss of life, some of the most atrocious instances of the cruelty of the Hindu laws Edition: current; Page: [230] book ii. Chap. 4. were drawn as above from the punishments awarded to theft.1 The minor cases of theft are punished by fines, and by various degrees of mutilation; but the higher species, by impaling, by burning alive, and by crucifixion. By Outrage; which is sometimes denominated violence, sometimes robbery; are designated, all attacks, accompanied with violence, upon either property or person, including even murder. While the inferior species are punished by fine and by mutilation, the higher are punished by death; and some of the more heinous kinds of spoliation are avenged with all the sanguinary fury which, among the Hindus, has dictated the higher penalties of theft.2 Adultery is a very complicated subject. In the Hindu language it includes every unlawful species of sexual indulgence, from the least, to the most injurious, or offensive. If the laws are any proof of the manners of a people, this article affords indication of one of the most depraved states of the sexual appetite. Almost all the abuses, and all the crimes which it is possible to conceive, are there depicted with curious exactness; and penalties are devised and assigned for every minute diversity and refinement, as for acts the most frequent and familiar. There are even titles of sections in the code which cannot be transcribed with decency, and which depict crimes unknown to European laws.3 In accordance with the Edition: current; Page: [231] general spirit of Eastern nations, among whom an book ii. Chap. 4. extraordinary value is set on the chastity of the women, its more aggravated violations are punished by the most shocking death which human cruelty has probably devised, that of burning on a heated plate of iron. The ramifications of criminality are also pursued to the most minute and trivial acts, and such as, even in the most jealous nations of Europe, would be held perfectly innocent: “He, who talks with the wife of another man at a place of pilgrimage, in a forest or a grove, or at the confluence of rivers, incurs the guilt of an adulterous inclination: to send her flowers or perfumes, to sport and jest with her, to touch her apparel and ornaments, to sit with her on the same couch, are all held adulterous acts Edition: current; Page: [232] book ii. Chap. 4. on his part.”1 Of all crimes, indeed, adultery appears, in the eyes of Hindu lawgivers, to be the greatest; and worthy of the most severe and terrible chastisement. The offences committed with the women of the higher classes by men of the lower are the acts which are looked upon as of greatest atrocity, and which rise in criminality, as the classes recede from one another, till they arrive at last at the adultery of a man of the servile with a woman of the priestly caste; a point beyond which, it is supposed, that human guilt and depravity cannot proceed.2

III. Conformity to the laws of the two preceding orders; denominated, for want of better terms, the Civil and the Penal; is the End: The laws of Judicature are to be regarded in the light of Means to that End. The subject, in its full extent, includes an account of 1. the instruments made use of for producing the fulfilment of the laws of the two former kinds, and 2. the modes of using them.

The instruments made use of among the Hindus, have been already described, in giving an account of the functions of the king; who, with his Brahmen assessors, is the principal instrument. The mode of using the instruments of judicature, or the steps according to which judicature is performed, were there also briefly described. Of the matters which remain, the laws or rules respecting evidence form the only part which it is still useful to describe.

Prior to the general use of writing, the chief species of evidence, applicable to judicial cases, is the speech of witnesses. It is this species which makes the principal figure in the laws of Hindustan to the present age. It is even more than doubtful whether written Edition: current; Page: [233] evidence is at all referred to by the author of the ordinances book ii. Chap. 4. of Menu, though from himself we learn that writing had been applied to laws.1 “On the denial,” says the law, “of a debt which the defendant has in court been required to pay, the plaintiff must call a witness who was present at the place of the loan, or produce other evidence;”2 the gloss of Culluca adds, “a note and the like:”3 but for the use of evidence by writing not a single rule is afterwards adduced, though numerous rules are prescribed for the use of that which is delivered orally; not even a word of allusion to this novel species of evidence appears; and where the various circumstances are enumerated on which the attention of the judge ought to be fixed, while the evidence of speaking witnesses occupies a conspicuous place, the evidence of writings is entirely omitted.4 In the compilations, however, of recent times, as in that made by order of Mr. Hastings and translated by Halhed, the use of written evidence appears; but even there it is treated with a negligence and slightness due to a matter of subordinate importance.

Among the rules for evidence at the lips of witnesses, some are reasonable and good; others are not only the reverse, but indicate a state of ignorance and barbarism. The evidence of three witnesses is required for the decision of any question: “When a man has been brought into court by a suitor for property, the cause shall be decided by the Brahmen who represents the king, having heard three witnesses at Edition: current; Page: [234] book ii. Chap. 4. least.”1 Yet it is declared in another place that “one man, untainted with covetousness, may (in some cases, says the gloss of Culluca) be the sole witness.”2 This apparent contradiction may perhaps be explained by a passage in the Code of Gentoo Laws, where the decision of a cause by the testimony of a single witness is made to depend upon the consent of the litigants.3 Even from this rule the following cases are excepted: “Supposing,” says the law, “a person to lend another money secretly, or secretly to entrust his money to the care of another, in such affairs one single person is a sufficient witness.”4 The different degrees of trustworthiness in different witnesses leads to mischievous rules. “Married housekeepers, men with male issue, inhabitants of the same district, either of the military, the commercial, or the servile class, are competent, when called by the party, to give their evidence.”5 The most fanciful distinction surely that ever was made by an uncultivated mind, is that between the father of male and the father of female offspring, as a source of evidence. The persons held incompetent to bear witness are a very numerous class. “Those must not be admitted who have a pecuniary interest; nor familiar friends; nor menial servants; nor enemies; nor men formerly perjured; nor persons grievously diseased; nor those, who have committed heinous offences. The king cannot be made a witness, nor cooks and the like mean artificers; nor public dancers and singers; nor a priest of Edition: current; Page: [235] deep learning in Scripture; nor a student of the book ii. Chap. 4. Vedas; nor an anchoret secluded from all worldly connexions; nor one wholly dependant; nor one of bad fame; nor one who follows a cruel occupation; nor one who acts openly against the law; nor a decrepit old man; nor a child; nor a wretch of the lowest mixed class; nor one who has lost the organs of sense; nor one extremely grieved; nor one intoxicated; nor a madman; nor one tormented with hunger or thirst; nor one oppressed by fatigue; nor one excited by lust; nor one inflamed by wrath; nor one who has been convicted of theft.”1 Among the persons excluded from the rank of witnesses are the female sex entirely; unless in the case of evidence for others of the same sex. Servants, too, mechanics, and those of the lowest class, are allowed to give evidence for individuals of the same description.2 Brahmens and the king are exempted from the obligation of giving evidence, by way of privilege, though the Brahmens are admitted when they please.3

This enumeration of persons, whose testimony was altogether unfit to be believed, affords a proof of the great difficulty of obtaining true testimony in the age in which it was made; and holds up a dreadful picture of the state of morality to which it could be supposed to be adapted. It indicates, also, by the strange diversity of the cases which it includes, a singular want of discrimination, in the minds by which it was framed. And further; rules for the exclusion of testimony, from any person, not deprived of the ordinary exercise of the human faculties, could, however the vicious effects of custom may preserve them, be introduced, only in an age of great ignorance and barbarity, when the human mind judges in the gross, Edition: current; Page: [236] book ii. Chap. 4. is incapable of nice discriminations, cannot assign the different value which ought to be attached to the testimony of different men, and estimates the weight of a body of evidence by the number, not the trustworthiness, of the people who deliver it.

The introduction of rules for the exclusion of evidence marks the age of false refinement, which is that of semibarbarism, intermediate between the age of true wisdom, and that of primeval ignorance. When the first judges, or arbiters, the heads of families, had to clear up any dispute, they called before them every individual of the little community or family, who appeared to know any thing of the matter, and questioned them all; allowing to the statements, extracted from each, the influence, much or little, or none at all, to which they seemed entitled; and this is the course, which true wisdom would recommend. In an age, however, of false refinement, which aims at excessive accuracy, but, failing in comprehensiveness, applies its rules to part only of a subject when they should include the whole, the makers of laws, perceiving that certain classes of witnesses were apt to give false testimony, and considering that false testimony misleads, resolved immediately that the testimony of such witnesses ought never to be received. Now, if the testimony of the best sort of witness had been a thing which the judges always had at command, in sufficient quantity, this might have been a rational procedure. But as this was very far from being the case; as it very often happens that the testimony of the best sort of witnesses cannot be had, or that they contradict one another; that not only some light, but full and satisfactory light, may often be obtained from the worst sort of witnesses; to determine that certain classes of persons, and among them the persons whose knowledge of the facts is naturally Edition: current; Page: [237] the most complete, shall not be used as witnesses, book ii. Chap. 4. is merely to determine that judicature shall be performed, so far, without evidence; that the judge shall decide without knowledge; and the question of right and wrong, instead of being determined upon all the evidence that can be had, shall be determined upon a part of it only, sometimes a most insignificant part, sometimes hardly any at all.1

One of the strongest characteristics of a rude age, or of a corrupt government, is, to make laws which cannot, or ought not, to be executed; and then to give dispensations for them. “In all cases of violence, of theft and adultery, of defamation and assault,” says the Hindu law, “the judge must not examine too strictly the competence of witnesses.”2

A presumption, of the very weakest kind, is admitted as a full proof, in the following passages: “If a man brings a suit against another, saying, I have Edition: current; Page: [238] book ii. Chap. 4. lent you several articles, and the person answers, I never received one of the articles you mention; in that case, if the plaintiff proves any one of all the articles claimed, to be in the defendant's possession, the magistrate shall cause the whole so claimed to be restored.”1 In cases of infinitely greater importance the same deceitful rule is applied. “If a man hath accused another of the murder of a man, or of a robbery, or of adultery, and should say, You have in several places been guilty of these crimes, and the defendant denies the accusation; in such a case, if the accuser can prove upon the other the commission of any one of these crimes, it shall be a proof of the whole complaint.”

Of all the perverse proceedings of a superstitious mind, which the history of rude nations presents to us, few will be found more at variance with reason, than the establishment of the following law: “The witness, who has given evidence, and to whom within seven days after, a misfortune happens from disease, fire, or the death of a kinsman, shall be condemned to pay the debt and a fine.”2

Though there is no ground on which the infirmities of the human mind are more glaring, and more tenacious of existence, than that of law, it is probable that the annals of legislative absurdity can present nothing which will match a law for the direct encouragement of perjury. “Whenever,” says the ordinance of Menu, “the death of a man, who had been a grievous offender, either of the servile, the commercial, the military, or the sacerdotal class, would be occasioned by true evidence, from the known rigour of the king, even though the fault arose from inadvertence Edition: current; Page: [239] or error, falsehood may be spoken: it is book ii. Chap. 4. even preferable to truth.”1 What a state of justice it is, in which the king may condemn a man to death, for inadvertence or error, and no better remedy is found than the perjury of witnesses? “Whenever a true evidence would deprive a man of his life, in that case, if a false testimony would be the preservation of his life, it is allowable to give such false testimony. If a marriage for any person may be obtained by false witness, such falsehood may be told. If a man by the impulse of lust tells lies to a woman, or if his own life would otherwise be lost, or all the goods of his house spoiled, or if it is for the benefit of a Brahmen, in such affairs falsehood is allowable.”2

The laws respecting written evidence are few, and applied to a very limited number of cases. One distinction is recognized. “A writing,” says the law, “is of two sorts; first, that which a man writes with his own hand; second, that which he procures to be written by another: of these two sorts, that which is written by a man's own hand, even without witnesses, is approved; and that written by another, if void of witnesses, is not approved.”3 The remaining rules apply, almost entirely, to the modes of supplying, by means of the oral, what is at any time defective in the quantity or quality of the matter drawn from the scriptural source.4

Notwithstanding the diversities of appearance Edition: current; Page: [240] book ii. Chap. 4. which, in different ages and countries, human nature puts on, the attentive observer may trace in it an astonishing uniformity with respect to the leading particulars which characterize the different stages of society; and often a surprising coincidence in particular thoughts and observances. The trials by ordeal, in the dark ages of modern Europe; when the decision of the most important questions was abandoned to chance or to fraud; when carrying in the hand a piece of red hot iron, or plunging the arm in boiling water, was deemed a test of innocence; and a painful or fraudulent experiment, supplanting a righteous award, might consign to punishment the most innocent, or save from it the most criminal of men; have been deemed a shocking singularity in the institutions of our barbarous ancestors. This species of evidence holds a high rank in the institutes of the Hindus. There are nine different modes of the trial by ordeal; 1. by the balance; 2. by fire; 3. by water; 4. by poison; 5. by water in which an idol has been washed; 6. by rice; 7. by boiling oil; 8. by red hot iron; 9. by images. The first of these, by the balance, is thus performed. The party accused is placed in the scale, and carefully weighed; after which, he is taken down, the pundits write the substance of the accusation on a piece of paper, and bind it on his forehead. At the end of six minutes he is weighed again, when, if lighter than before, he is pronounced innocent; if heavier, guilty. In the second ordeal, an excavation in the ground, nine hands long, two spans broad, and one span deep, is filled with a fire of pippal wood, into which the party must walk barefooted; proving his guilt, if he is burned; his innocence, if he escapes unhurt. The third species is rather more complicated: the person accused is made to stand in water up to his navel, with a Brahmen by Edition: current; Page: [241] his side; a soldier then shoots three arrows from a book ii. Chap. 4. bow of cane, and a man is dispatched to bring back that which was shot the farthest; as soon as he has taken it up, another man is directed to run from the brink of the water, and at the same instant the party under trial must plunge into it, grasping the foot or the staff of the Brahmen who stands by him: if he remains under the water till the two men with the arrows return, he is innocent; if he comes up, he is guilty. The fourth kind, by poison, is performed two ways: either the party swallows a certain quantity of a poisonous root, and is deemed innocent if no injury ensues; or a particular species of hooded snake is thrown into a deep earthen pot, and along with it a ring, a seal, or a coin. If the man, putting down his naked hand, cannot take this out unbitten by the serpent, he is accounted guilty. The accused, in the fifth species, is made to drink three draughts of the water in which the images of the sun and other deities have been washed; and if within fourteen days he has any indisposition, his crime is considered as proved. When several persons are suspected of theft, they chew, each, a quantity of dried rice, and throw it upon some leaves or bark of a tree; they from whose mouth it comes dry, or stained with blood, are deemed guilty: This is the sixth species of ordeal. In the seventh, a man thrusts his hand into hot oil; and in the eighth he carries an iron ball, or the head of a lance, red hot in his hand; receiving his sentence of innocence or guilt according as he does or does not come off with safety. The ninth species is literally a casting of lots; two images of the gods, one of silver, and one of iron, are thrown into a large earthen jar; or two pictures of a deity, one on white, and the other on black cloth, are rolled up in cow-dung, and thrown into a jar: if the man. Edition: current; Page: [242] book ii. Chap. 4. on putting in his hand, draws out the silver image, or the white picture, he is deemed innocent; if the contrary, guilty. The religious ceremonies with which these trials are performed it would be tedious and unprofitable to relate.1

The qualities desirable in a Body of Law may all be summed up under two comprehensive titles; I. Completeness; II. Exactness.

Completeness has a reference to the matter: Exactness to the form.

I. A body of laws may be said to be Complete, when it includes every thing which it ought to include; that is, when all those rights, the existence of which is calculated to improve the state of society, are created; and all those acts, the hurtfulness of which to the society is so great as to outweigh the cost, in all its senses, necessary for preventing them, are constituted offences.

II. A body of laws may be said to be Exact; 1. when it constitutes nothing a right, and nothing an offence, except those things precisely which are necessary to render it Complete; 2. when it contains no extraneous matter whatsoever; 3. when the aggregate of the powers and privileges which ought to be Edition: current; Page: [243] constituted rights, the aggregate of the acts which book ii. Chap. 4. ought to be constituted offences, are divided and sub-divided into those very parcels or classes, which beyond all others best adapt themselves to the means of securing the one, and preventing the other; 4. when it defines those classes, that is, rights and offences, with the greatest possible clearness and certainty; 5. when it represses crimes with the smallest possible expense of punishment; and 6. when it prescribes the best possible form of a judicatory, and lays down the best possible rules for the judicial functions.

To show in what degree the Hindu law approaches, or recedes from, the standard of Completeness, would require a more extensive survey of the field of law, than consists with the plan of the present work.

That it departs widely from Exactness, in every one of the particulars wherein exactness consists, enough has already been seen to make abundantly apparent. 1. It creates a great many rights which ought to have no existence; and acts, which ought not to be erected into offences, it does so erect in great numbers. 2. It abounds in extraneous matter. 3. The division and arrangement of the matters of law are highly imperfect. 4. The definitions are so far from excluding darkness and doubt that they leave almost every thing indefinite and uncertain. 5. Punishments are not repressed, but abound; while there is the most enormous excess in the quantity of punishment. 6. The form of the judicatory is bad, as are a certain proportion of the rules for the mode of performing the judicial services.

In respect to definitions, the Hindu law is in a state which requires a few words of elucidation. Prior to the art of writing, laws can have little accuracy of definition; because when words are not written, they Edition: current; Page: [244] book ii. Chap. 4. are seldom exactly remembered; and a definition whose words are constantly varying is not, for the purposes of law, a definition at all. Notwithstanding the necessity of writing to produce fixed and accurate definitions in law, the nations of modern Europe have allowed a great proportion of their laws to continue in the unwritten; that is, the traditionary state; the state in which they lay before the art of writing was known. Of these nations, none have kept in that barbarous condition so great a proportion of their law as the English. From the opinion of the Hindus that the Divine Being dictated all their laws, they acknowledge nothing as law but what is found in some one or other of their sacred books. In one sense, therefore, all their laws are written. But as the passages which can be collected from these books leave many parts of the field of law untouched, in these parts the defect must be supplied either by custom, or the momentary will of the judge. Again, as the passages which are collected from these books, even where they touch upon parts of the field of law, do so in expressions to the highest degree vague and indeterminate, they commonly admit of any one of several meanings, and very frequently are contradicted and opposed by one another. When the words in which laws are couched are to a certain degree imperfect, it makes but little difference whether they are written or not: Adhering to the same words is without advantage, when these words secure no sameness in the things which they are made to signify. Further, in modern Europe, the uncertainty adhering to all unwritten laws, that is, laws the words of which have no certainty, is to some degree, though still a very imperfect one, circumscribed and limited, by the writing down of decisions. When, on any particular part of the field, a Edition: current; Page: [245] number of judges have all, with public approbation, book ii. Chap. 4. decided in one way; and when these decisions are recorded and made known, the judge who comes after them has strong motives, both of fear and of hope, not to depart from their example. The degree of certainty, arising from the regard for uniformity, which may thus be produced, is, from its very nature, infinitely inferior to that which is the necessary result of good definitions rendered unalterable by writing. But such as it is, the Hindus are entirely deprived of it. Among them the strength of the human mind has never been sufficient to recommend effectually the preservation, by writing, of the memory of judicial decisions. It has never been sufficient to create such a public regard for uniformity, as to constitute a material motive to a judge. And as kings, and their great deputies, exercised the principal functions of judicature, they were too powerful to be restrained by a regard to what others had done before them. What judicature would pronounce was, therefore, almost always uncertain; almost always arbitrary.

In a Judicatory, the qualities desirable are; 1. intelligence; 2. good design: and that is the best judicatory in which the best securities are taken for them. In the judicatories of the Hindus, composed of the king and his Brahmens, or the Brahmens alone, there is no security for either the one or the other; and accordingly neither the one nor the other almost ever appears.

The qualities desirable in the forms of judicial procedure, are, 1. efficiency; 2. freedom from delay; 3. freedom from trouble and expense. In these several respects the system of the Hindus displayed a degree of excellence not only far beyond itself in the other branches of law, but far beyond what is exemplified in more enlightened countries. 1. The Edition: current; Page: [246] book ii. Chap. 4. efficiency of the Hindu system of judicial procedure is chiefly impaired by those rules of evidence the badness of which has already been pointed out: 2. For preventing delay, it enjoys every requisite, in its method of immediate, direct, and simple investigation: 3. In the same method is included all that is requisite for obtaining the judicial services with the smallest portion of trouble and expense.1

Edition: current; Page: [247]


The Taxes.

The form of the government is one, the nature ofBOOK II. Chap. 5. the laws for the administration of justice is the other, of the two circumstances by which the condition of the people in all countries is chiefly determined. Of these two primary causes no result to a greater degree ensures the happiness or misery of the people, than the mode of providing for the pecuniary wants of the government, and the extent to which the agents of government, of whatever kind, are enabled to divide among themselves and their creatures, the annual produce of the land and labour of the community.

The matters of detail, which by their number and uncertainty have so exceedingly perplexed the servants of the Company, in the financial operations of the Indian government, cannot here be described. The general outline, and the more important effects, of that system of taxation which is described in the ancient books, are all that falls within the design of an account of the ancient state of the people. 1. “Of grain,” says the ordinance of Menu, “an eighth part, a sixth, or a twelfth may be taken by the king;” to be determined, adds the gloss of the commentator Culluca, “by the difference of the soil, and the labour necessary to cultivate it.”1 2. “He may also take a sixth part of the clear annual increase Edition: current; Page: [248] BOOK II. Chap. 5. of trees, flesh-meat, honey, clarified butter, perfumes, medical substances, liquids, flowers, roots and fruit, of gathered leaves, potherbs, grass, utensils made with leather or cane, earthern pots, and all things made of stone.”1 3. “Of cattle, of gems, of gold and silver, added each year to the capital stock, a fiftieth part may be taken by the king.”2 4. “Having ascertained the rules of purchase and sale,” says the law, “the length of the way, the expenses of food and of condiments, the charges of securing the goods carried, and the neat profits of trade, let the king oblige traders to pay taxes on their saleable commodities; after full consideration, let a king so levy those taxes continually in his dominions, that both he and the merchant may receive a just compensation for their several acts.”3 5. “Let the king order a mere trifle to be paid, in the name of the annual tax, by the meaner inhabitants of his realm who subsist by petty traffic: 6. By low handicraftsmen, artificers, and servile men, who support themselves by labour, the king may cause work to be done for a day in each month.”4 It is added; 7. “A military king, who takes even a fourth part of the crops of his realm at a time of urgent necessity, as of war or invasion, and protects his people to the utmost of his power, commits no sin. 8. The tax on the mercantile class, which in times of prosperity must be only a twelfth part of their crops, and a fiftieth of their personal profits, may be an eighth of their crops in a time of distress, or a sixth, which is the medium, or even a fourth in great public adversity; but a twentieth of their gains on money and other moveables is the highest tax: serving men, artisans, Edition: current; Page: [249] and mechanics, must assist by their labour,BOOK II. Chap. 5. but at no time pay taxes.”1

In these several articles is found an enumeration of all the objects of taxation; and a general expression of the modes and degrees of impost. We perceive taxes on the produce of land, taxes on the produce of labour, a tax on accumulation, a tax on sales, and poll taxes. In article 1., is exhibited a tax on the produce of land; In article 2., a tax both on the produce of land, and on the produce of labour; In article 3., is a tax on accumulation, at least in certain commodities; In article 4., is a tax on purchases and sales; In article 5., is one sort of poll tax; In article 6., is another.

There are two primary qualities desirable in a system of taxation; and in them every thing is included.

The First is, to take from the people the smallest quantity possible of their annual produce.

The Second is, to take from them that which is taken with the smallest possible hurt or uneasiness.

  • I. Of taking from the people more than enough of the matter of wealth, the causes are two; 1st. When the government consumes beyond the smallest amount sufficient to obtain the services which it yields; 2d. When the collection of the taxes themselves costs more than the lowest sum at which, without sacrificing greater advantages, it is capable of being performed.
  • II. Of the hurt and uneasiness, beyond the loss of what is taken away, which a system of taxation is liable to produce, the causes seem to be; 1. Uncertainty; 2. Inequality; 3. Impediment to production; Edition: current; Page: [250] BOOK II. Chap. 5. 4. Injury to the good qualities, bodily or mental, of the people.

Of the first head and its subdivisions, no illustration is necessary; and a few words will suffice for the second.

  • 1. Uncertainty may arise from two sources; 1. Uncertainty in the meaning of the words, by which the tax is defined; 2. Uncertainty in the circumstances upon which the amount of the tax is made to depend; as if it were made to depend upon the weather, or the state of a man's health. Uncertainty in the meaning of the words opens a door to oppression and fraud, on the part of the collector. He will exact the largest sum consistent with the words, if he is not bribed; the lowest, if he is. Uncertainty, from whatever source, is a cause of uneasiness. The mind is continually haunted with the idea of the worst, and with all the fears which attend it; fears, often very great and tormenting. As often as a source of chicanery is opened about the amount which the contributor should pay, a source of extortion is opened, and a source of oppression, necessary to effect the extortion.
  • 2. Of the unequal partition of taxes, the necessary consequence is, a greater quantity of suffering, than the same amount of taxes would produce, if more equally imposed; because the pain of the man who pays too much is out of all proportion greater than the pleasure of the man who pays too little. To make the burthen of taxes equal, it should be made to press with equal severity upon every individual. This is not effected by a mere numerical proportion. The man who is taxed to the amount of one tenth, and still more the man who is taxed to the amount of one fifth or one half, of an income of 100l. per annum, is taxed far more severely, than the man who is Edition: current; Page: [251] taxed to an equal proportion of an income of 1000l.BOOK II. Chap. 5. and to a prodigious degree more severely than the man who is taxed to an equal proportion of 10,000l. per annum.
  • 3. On the mischievousness of all taxes which impede production, it is needless to enlarge. It is only necessary to make them known, or rather acknowledged. 1. Of this sort, are all taxes which take away any part of that property which has been already employed, as capital; because there is always more or less of difficulty in replacing it from the fund destined for immediate consumption. 2. Of this sort also are all taxes which create any encouragement whatsoever, or any discouragement whatsoever, to any particular employment of capital in respect to other employments; for as capital is always carried by a strong impulse to that employment which is the most productive, every thing which turns it out of the course which it would take of its own accord, turns so much of it out of a more, into a less productive channel.
  • 4. That all taxes ought to be shunned which tend to lessen the amount of useful qualities in the people, will not be contradicted. Taxes upon medicines have a tendency to diminish health and strength. Taxes upon innocent amusements, as the sports of the field, have a tendency to drive the people to others that are hurtful. Taxes upon articles of consumption not hurtful, which have a tendency to supplant others that are, as tea and sugar to supplant intoxicating liquors, prompt to the consumption of the hurtful. Taxes upon law proceedings are a premium upon the practice of every species of iniquity. Lotteries are a direct encouragement to a habit of mind, with which no useful tendency can easily coexist. And all taxes, of which the quantity due is Edition: current; Page: [252] BOOK II. Chap. 5.not clear and certain, train the people, by continual practice, to a state of hardened perfection in mendacity, fraud, and perjury.
  • 1. In the above list of the sacred ordinances concerning taxes, the first relates entirely to the tax on the produce of the soil. It offends against the rule of certainty to a high degree. The amount varies as one to one half; and the variation is made to depend upon circumstances the uncertainty of which opens a boundless field to all the wretched arts of chicanery and fraud on the part of the people, and all the evils of oppression on the part of the collectors. As the determination of the circumstances on which the amount of the assessment depends belongs of course, in such a state of society as that of the Hindus, to the agents of the treasury, a free career is afforded to all the baneful operations of favour and disfavour, of bribery and corruption. Whenever an option is granted between a less exaction and a greater, the violent propensity of all imperfect governments to excess in expense is sure in time to establish the greater. It would appear accordingly that a sixth part of the produce became the uniform tax in Hindustan; and that the indulgence in favour of the barren soils was extinguished. This is the state in which it was found by the Mohammedan conquerors.1 And in Sacontala,2 the king is described, at a much earlier period, as “that man whose revenue arises from a sixth part of his people's income.” The source of variation and uncertainty from these causes was prodigiously enlarged by the power reserved to the king, of taking even a fourth of the crops, in times of distress. As he was himself Edition: current; Page: [253] the judge of these times of necessity, we may believeBOOK II. Chap. 5. that they were of pretty frequent occurrence.
  • 2. In the second of these fiscal ordinances, a variety of products are enumerated, which, in a rude age, are either the spontaneous produce of the soil, as flowers, roots, grass; or obtained from the spontaneous produce, by some very simple process; as perfumes and medical substances, by expression; flesh-meat and honey, by killing the animals which produce them; and these, as costing little in point of labour, are all taxed at the highest rate imposed upon grain. By one of those capricious arrangements which abound in the institutions of a rude people, utensils made of leather, cane, earth, and stone, in the production of which labour is the principal agent, are placed under the same exaction as the spontaneous productions of the soil. The consequence must have been to render these commodities proportionably dear.

    In the execution of this ordinance, there must have been excessive uncertainty, and excessive expense. What is meant by “the annual increase?” The “annual produce of trees” is an absurd expression: Trees grow not by the year. What shall be said of such expressions, as “the annual produce,” of “clarified butter,” “of flesh-meat,” “of flowers?” These are not commodities, which continue accumulating, till the amount of the annual produce is seen entire at the end of the year: but commodities daily brought into existence and daily consumed. To collect the tax upon such commodities, a daily visit in every family would hardly suffice. In the execution of this ordinance, the temptation to the incessant practice of all the arts of fraud, on the part of the people, and the powers of oppression bestowed upon the collectors, were well calculated to fill society with immorality and suffering.

  • Edition: current; Page: [254] BOOK II. Chap. 5.3. In the third of the above ordinances are enumerated the principal classes of moveables known to the Hindus. It seems to be the addition made in any year to the previous stock, and not the previous stock itself, of which one fiftieth is taken in the way of tax. In a society, full of knowledge and industry, this would have been a tax upon capital, and therefore mischievous: in Hindustan, where gold, silver, and gems, were most commonly hoarded, and not devoted to production, it would not have been easy to find a less objectionable tax. Unless in a state of society rapidly progressive, or a state in which there is excessive fluctuation of fortunes, that is, excessive misery, it would be a very unproductive tax.
  • 4. In the words of the fourth ordinance is described a tax on all purchases and sales. The circumstances on which the amount is made to depend are so uncertain, as to constitute a great seminary of fraud on the one hand, and a great office of oppression on the other. The tax is also hurtful to production, by impeding circulation; that is, the passage of property from a situation in which it is less, to one in which it is more useful. The mode in which, at least in modern times, it was chiefly raised, that of transit duties, multiplied to excess, obstructed all that encouragement to industry which is afforded by the interchange of commodities, not only between different countries, but one province and another of the same country. As often as property which has been, and is to be, employed as capital, is bought and sold, it is a tax upon capital.
  • 5. A poll tax, when paid in money, or any other common measure of value, is chiefly objectionable on account of its inequality; as the same sum is a very different burthen to different persons.
  • 6. A poll tax paid in labour is somewhat less objectionable in point of equality, though the same Edition: current; Page: [255] portion of his time may be a much greater burthenBOOK II. Chap. 5. upon one man than it is upon another. It is chiefly objectionable on account of the loss of time, and of property, which it occasions to those who have it to pay. In a well-ordered society, accordingly, where every man's time and labour are disposed of to the best advantage, it has no place.

Some of these ordinances are modified, or the words rendered a little more precise, in the Gentoo Code translated by Mr. Halhed. The following are examples. If a man purchase goods in his own country, and sell them again there, one tenth of his profit goes to the magistrate. If the purchase took place in a foreign kingdom, and the sale in his own, one twentieth only is the share of the magistrate.1 If a man, having purchased flowers, or roots, as ginger, radishes, and the like, or honey, or grass, or firewood, from another kingdom, sells them in his own, the magistrate is entitled to one sixth of his profits.2 What was the reason of severe exaction in such cases does not appear. Rude times give not reasons. In the days of Menu these taxes appear to have been much more moderate; a fiftieth of mercantile profits being the ordinary, and a twentieth the extraordinary tax.

In this system of taxation, other sources are of small importance; the revenue of the sovereign arises almost wholly from the artificial produce of the land. To understand in what manner the people of Hindustan were affected by taxation, the circumstances of this impost are all that require to be very minutely explored.

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BOOK II. Chap. 5.The tenure of land in Hindustan has been the source of violent controversies among the servants of the Company; and between them and other Europeans. They first sprung up amid the disputes between Mr. Hastings and Mr. Francis, respecting the best mode of taxing Bengal. And they have been carried on with great warmth, and sometimes with great acrimony, ever since. Of these controversies the account will be due, at the periods when they occur. At present it will suffice to bring to light the circumstances which appear to ascertain the ancient state of the country, in respect to the distribution of property in the land.

In a state of society resembling our own, in which property is secure, and involves very extensive rights or privileges, the affections which it excites are so strong, and give such a force to the associations, by which the idea of it is compacted and formed, that in minds of little range, whose habits are blind and obstinate, the particulars combined together under the idea of property appear to be connected by nature, and not, without extreme injustice, to be made to exist apart.

At different times, however, very different rights and advantages are included under the idea of property. At very early periods of society it included very few: originally, nothing more perhaps than use during occupancy, the commodity being liable to be taken by another, the moment it was relinquished by the hand which held it: but one privilege is added to another as society advances: and it is not till a considerable progress has been made in civilization, that the right of property involves all the powers which are ultimately bestowed upon it.

It is hardly necessary to add, that the different combinations of benefits which are included under the Edition: current; Page: [257] idea of property, at different periods of society, areBOOK II. Chap. 5. all equally arbitrary; that they are not the offspring of nature, but the creatures of will; determined, and chosen by the society, as that arrangement with regard to useful objects, which is, or is pretended to be, the best for all.

It is worthy of remark, that property in moveables was established; and that it conveyed most of the powers which are at any time assigned to it; while, as yet, property in land had no existence. So long as men continue to derive their subsistence from hunting; so long, indeed, as they continue to derive it from their flocks and herds, the land is enjoyed in common. Even when they begin to derive it partly from the ground, though the man who has cultivated a field is regarded as possessing in it a property till he has reaped his crop, he has no better title to it than another for the succeeding year.1

In prosecuting the advantages which are found to spring from the newly-invented method of deriving Edition: current; Page: [258] BOOK II. Chap. 5.the means of subsistence from the ground, experience in time discovers, that much obstruction is created by restricting the right of ownership to a single year; and that food would be provided in greater abundance, if, by a greater permanence, men were encouraged to a more careful cultivation. To make, however, that belong to one man, which formerly belonged to all, is a change, to which men do not easily reconcile their minds. In a thing of so much importance as the land, the change is a great revolution. To overcome the popular resistance, that expedient which appears to have been the most generally successful, is, to vest the sovereign, as the representative of the society, with that property in the land which belongs to the society; and the sovereign parcels it out to individuals, with all those powers of ownership, which are regarded as most favourable to the extraction from the land of those benefits which it is calculated to yield. When a sovereign takes possession of a country by conquest, he naturally appropriates to himself all the benefits, which the ideas of his soldiers permit.

In many of the rude parts of Africa, the property of the land is understood to reside in the sovereign; it is in the shape of a donation from him, that individuals are allowed to cultivate; and when the son, as is generally the case, succeeds to the father, it is only by a prolongation of the royal bounty, which, in some places at least, is not obtained without a formal solicitation.1 It is known, that in Egypt the Edition: current; Page: [259] king was the sole proprietor of the land; and one-fifthBOOK II. Chap. 5. of the produce appears to have been yielded to him as revenue or rent.1 Throughout the Ottoman dominions, the Sultan claims to himself the sole property in land.2 The same has undoubtedly been the situation of Persia, both in ancient and modern times.3 “It is established,” says the late intelligent Governor of Java, “from every source of inquiry, that the sovereign in Java is the lord of the soil.”4 And Edition: current; Page: [260] BOOK II. Chap. 5.when the fact is established in regard to Java, it is established with regard to all that part of the eastern islands, which in point of manners and civilization resembled Java. It is not disputed that in China the whole property of the soil is vested in the Emperor.1 By the laws of the Welsh, in the ninth century, all the land of the kingdom was declared to belong to the king;2 and we may safely, says Mr. Turner, believe, that the same law prevailed while the Britons occupied the whole island.3

To those who contemplate the prevalence of this institution, among nations contiguous to the Hindus, and resembling them in the state of civilization, it cannot appear surprising, that among them, too, the sovereign was the lord of the soil. The fact is, indeed, very forcibly implied, in many of the ancient laws and institutions. “Of old hoards,” says one of the ordinances of Menu, “and precious minerals in the earth, the king is entitled to half by reason of his general protection, and because he is the supreme lord of the soil.”4 The king, as proprietor, and as fully entitled to an equitable return for the land which he Edition: current; Page: [261] has let, is empowered to punish the cultivator for badBOOK II. Chap. 5. cultivation. “If land be injured, by the fault of the farmer himself, as if he fails to sow it in due time, he shall be fined ten times as much as the king's share of the crop, that might otherwise have been raised; but only five times as much, if it was the fault of his servants without his knowledge.”1 Among other ancient memorials of Hindu institutions and manners, are certain inscriptions engraved on durable materials. Some of them are records of grants of land, commonly to favourite Brahmens; and they afford strong indication of the proprietary rights of the sovereign. The sovereign gives away villages and lands, not empty, but already occupied by cultivators, and paying rent.2 It appears from an ordinance of Yagyawalcya, one of the most sacred of the law sages, that the kings alienated the lands within their dominions, in the same manner, and by the same title, as they alienated any portion of their revenues.3 On Edition: current; Page: [262] BOOK II. Chap. 5.this point, it is of material importance to remark, that up to the time, when the interests of the Company's servants led them to raise a controversy about the rights of the Zemindars, every European visitor, without one exception that I have found, agrees in the opinion, that the sovereign was the owner of the soil.1

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Wherever the Hindus have remained under theBOOK II. Chap. 5. influence of their ancient customs and laws, the facts correspond with the inference which would be drawn from these laws. Under the direction of the Governor-General of Bengal, a journey was undertaken, in the year 1766, by Mr. Motte, to the diamond mines in the province of Orissa. In a narrative of his journey, he gives an account of the distribution of the land at Sumbhulpoor, which till that time had remained under the native government. Each village being rated to the government at a certain quantity BOOK II. Chap. 5.of rice, which is paid in kind, the land is thus divided among the inhabitants: To every man, as soon as he arrives at the proper age, is granted such a quantity of arable land as is estimated to produce 242 1/8 measures Edition: current; Page: [264] of rice, of which he must pay 60 3/8 measures, or about one-fourth to the rajah or king. Mr. Motte adds; “The reserved rent of three or four villages, being one-fourth the produce of the land, is applied to the use of the rajah's household. The reserved rent of the rest is given to his relations or principal servants, who by these means have all the inhabitants dependent on them.”1 Dr. Buchanan gives a particular account of the manner in which the crop, in those parts of India which are most purely Hindu, is divided between the inhabitants and the government. In Bengal it is not allowed to be cut down till the rent or tax is first paid: but in those countries to which his journey principally relates, it is the custom, after the grain has been thrashed out in the field, to collect it into heaps, and then to divide it. A heap generally consists of about 110 Winchester bushels, of which he presents the following distribution as a specimen of the partition which is usually made. For the gods, that is, for the priests at their temples, are deducted five seers, containing about one-third of a Winchester gallon each; for charity, or for the mendicant Brahmens, an equal quantity; for the astrologer and the Brahmen of the village, one seer each; for the barber, the potmaker, the washerman, and the Vasaradava, who is both carpenter and blacksmith, two seers each; for the measurer, four seers; for the Aduca, a kind of beadle, seven seers; for the village chief, eight seers, out of which he has to furnish the village sacrifices; and for the accomptant, ten seers. Edition: current; Page: [265] All these perquisites are the same, whatever be theBOOK II. Chap. 5. size of the heap beyond a measure of about twenty-five Winchester bushels. When these allowances are withdrawn the heap is measured; and for every candaca which it contains, a measure equal to 5 1/20 Winchester bushels, there is again deducted half a seer to the village watchmen, two and a half seers to the accomptant, as much to the chief of the village; and the bottom of the heap, about an inch thick, mixed with the cow-dung which in order to purify it had been spread on the ground, is given to the Nirgunty, or conductor of water. These several deductions, on a heap of twenty candacas, or 110 Winchester bushels, amount to about 5 1/4 per cent. on the gross produce. Of the remainder, 10 per cent. is paid to the collectors of the revenue, as their wages or hire; and the heap is last of all divided into halves between the king and the cultivator.1

From these facts only one conclusion can be drawn, that the property of the soil resided in the sovereign; for if it did not reside in him, it will be impossible to show to whom it belonged. The cultivators were left a bare compensation, often not so much as a bare compensation, for the labour and cost of cultivation: they got the benefit of their labour: all the benefit of the land went to the king.2

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BOOK II. Chap. 5.Upon the state of facts, in those places where the present practices of the Hindus have not been forced into a disconformity with their ancient institutions, the fullest light has been thrown, by those servants of the Company, who made the inquiries requisite for the introduction of a regular system of finance, into the extensive regions in the south of India added to the British dominions during the administrations of the Marquisses Cornwallis and Wellesley. Place, Munro, Thackeray, Hodgson, were happily men of talents; sufficiently enlightened to see the things which were before them with their naked eyes; and not through the mist of English anticipations. From the reports of these meritorious gentlemen, presented to their superiors, the Committee of the House of Commons, which inquired into East India affairs in 1810, have drawn the following as a general picture: “A village, geographically considered, is a tract of country, comprising some hundreds, or thousands, of acres of arable and waste land. Politically viewed, it resembles a corporation, or township. Its proper establishment of officers and servants consists of the following descriptions: TheBOOK II. Chap. 5. Potail, or head inhabitant, who has the general superintendance of the affairs of the village, settles the disputes of the inhabitants, attends to the police, and performs the duty Edition: current; Page: [267] of collecting the revenues within his village: The Curnum, who keeps the accounts of cultivation, and registers every thing connected with it: The Tallier and Totie; the duty of the former appearing to consist in a wider and more enlarged sphere of action, in gaining information of crimes and offences, and in escorting and protecting persons travelling from one village to another; the province of the latter appearing to be more immediately confined to the village, consisting, among other duties, in guarding the crops, and assisting in measuring them: The Boundaryman, who preserves the limits of the village or gives evidence respecting them in cases of dispute: The Superintendant of water courses and tanks, who distributes the water for the purposes of agriculture: The Brahmen, who performs the village worship: The Schoolmaster, who is seen teaching the children in the villages to read and write in the sand: The Calendar Brahmen, or astrologer, who proclaims the lucky, or unpropitious periods for sowing and thrashing: The Smith, and Carpenter, who manufacture the implements of agriculture, and build the dwelling of the ryot: The Potman or potter: The Washerman: The Barber: The Cow-keeper, who looks after the cattle: The Doctor: The Dancing Girl, who attends at rejoicings; The Musician, and the Poet.

“Under this simple form of municipal government, the inhabitants of the country have lived, from time immemorial. The boundaries of the villages have been seldom altered: and though the villages themselves have been sometimes injured, and even desolated, by war, famine, and disease, the same name, the same limits, the same interests, and even the same families, have continued for ages. The inhabitants give themselves no trouble about the Edition: current; Page: [268] BOOK II. Chap. 5.breaking up and division of kingdoms; while the village remains entire, they care not to what power it is transferred, or to what sovereign it devolves; its internal economy remains unchanged; the Potail is still the head inhabitant, and still acts as the petty judge and magistrate, and collector or renter of the village.”1

These villages appear to have been not only a sort of small republic, but to have enjoyed to a great degree the community of goods. Mr. Place, the collector in the jaghire district at Madras, informs us, that “Every village considers itself a distinct society; and its general concerns the sole object of the inhabitants at large: a practice,” he adds, “which surely redounds as much to the public good as to theirs; each having, in some way or other, the assistance of the rest; the labours of all yield the rent; they enjoy the profit, proportionate to their original interest, and the loss falls light. It consists exactly with the principles upon which the advantages are derived from the division of labour; one man goes to market, whilst the rest attend to the cultivation and Edition: current; Page: [269] the harvest; each has his particular occupation assignedBOOK II. Chap. 5. to him, and insensibly labours for all. Another practice very frequently prevails, of each proprietor changing his lands every year. It is found in some of the richest villages; and intended, I imagine, to obviate that inequality to which a fixed distribution would be liable.”1

The state of taxation is described by the same committee, in the following terms: “By the custom of the Hindu government, the cultivators were entitled to one half of the paddy produce (that is, grain in the husk) depending on the periodical rains. Of the crops from the dry grain lands, watered by artificial means, the share of the cultivator was about two thirds. Before the harvest commenced, the quantity of the crop was ascertained, in the presence of the inhabitants and village servants, by the survey of persons, unconnected with the village, who, from habit, were particularly skilful and expert, in judging of the amount of the produce, and who, in the adjustment of this business, were materially aided by a reference to the produce of former years, as recorded by the accountants of the villages. The quantity which belonged to the government being thus ascertained, it was received in kind, or in money.” Of garden produce, of which the culture was more difficult, a smaller portion was taken; because, if field culture was taxed as much as it could bear, it seems to have been supposed that garden culture, at an equal rate of taxation, could not have been carried on.

“Such,” continue the committee, “were the rights of the ryots, according to the ancient usage of the country. In consequence, however, of the changes Edition: current; Page: [270] BOOK II. Chap. 5.introduced by the Mahomedan conquest, and the many abuses which later times had established, the share really enjoyed by the ryots was often reduced to a sixth, and but seldom exceeded a fifth. The assessments had no bounds but those which limited the supposed ability of the husbandman. The effects of this unjust system were considerably augmented by the custom, which had become common with the Zemindars, of sub-renting their lands to farmers, whom they armed with unrestricted powers of collection, and who were thus enabled to disregard, whenever it suited their purpose, the engagements they entered into with the ryots; besides practising every species of oppression, which an unfeeling motive of self-interest could suggest. If they agreed with the cultivators at the commencement of the year, for a rent in money, and the season proved an abundant one, they then insisted on receiving their dues in kind. When they did take their rents in specie, they hardly ever failed to collect a part of them before the harvest time had arrived and the crops were cut; which reduced the ryots to the necessity of borrowing from money lenders, at a heavy interest of 3, 4, and 5 per cent. per month, the sums requisite to make good the anticipated payments that were demanded of them. If, from calamity or other cause, the ryots were the least remiss in the discharge of their rents, the officers of the renters were instantly quartered upon them; and these officers they were obliged to maintain, until they might be recalled on the demand being satisfied. It was also a frequent practice with the renters to remove the inhabitants from fertile lands, in order to bestow them on their friends and favourites; and to oblige the ryots to assist them, where they happened to be farmers, in Edition: current; Page: [271] the tilling of their lands; and to furnish them gratuitouslyBOOK II. Chap. 5. with labourers, bullocks, carts, and straw.”1

The two terms, Ryot and Zemindar, introduced into this passage, are of frequent recurrence in the history of India, and require to be explained. By ryots, are always denoted the husbandmen; the immediate cultivators of the ground. The Persian term Zemindar, introduced by the Mahomedan conquerors, was in Bengal, and certain other parts of India, the name of a certain sort of middleman, between the cultivator who raised the crop, and the king who received the greater part of the net produce. Into the controversy respecting the nature of the interest which the Zemindar possessed in the land with respect to which he performed his function of middle-man, I shall not at present enter. Another occasion will present itself for the examination of that subject. It is here sufficient to say, that in districts, sometimes of greater, sometimes of less extent, a person, under the title of Zemindar, received the share of the produce, which was exacted from the ryot; either by himself, or the persons to whom he farmed the receipts; and paid it over to the sovereign, reserving a prescribed portion to himself. The Zemindar was thus, whatever else he might be, the collector of the revenue, for the district to which he belonged. As the receipt of revenue, in a rude state of government, is a business most dear to the governors, the Zemindar, in order the better to secure this favourite end, was vested with a great share of the powers of government. He was allowed the use of a military force; the police of the district was placed in his hands; and he was vested with the civil branch of judicature. When his district was Edition: current; Page: [272] BOOK II. Chap. 5.large, he was a sort of a petty prince. In various places of India, however, the collection of the revenue had never become fixed and hereditary, in the hands of an individual, and the business was transacted between the immediate cultivators, and a man who possessed none but the characteristics of an immediate officer of government.

The committee say, that a rate of taxation much more severe than that which existed under the Hindu governments was introduced by the Mohamedan rulers, and amid the abuses of modern times. For this opinion they have no authority whatsoever. It is, therefore, a mere prejudice. The rate which they mention goes far beyond the scale of the ancient ordinances: And what reason is there to believe that the ancient Hindu governments did not, as the Mohamedan, levy assessments to the utmost limits of the supposed ability of the ryots? In those parts of India which Europeans have found still remaining under Hindu governments, the state of the people is worse, if there is any difference, than where they have been subject to the Mohamedan sway.

The rate established in the ancient ordinances has been regarded as evidence of mild taxation, that is, of good government. It only proves that agriculture was in its earliest, and most unproductive state; and though it paid little, could not afford to pay any more.1 We may assume it as a principle, in which there is no room for mistake, that a government constituted and circumstanced as that of the Edition: current; Page: [273] Hindus had only one limit to its exactions, the nonexistenceBOOK II. Chap. 5. of any thing further to take. Another thing is certain, that under any state of cultivation, but the very worst, if the whole except a sixth of the produce of a soil, so rich as that of Hindustan, had been left with the cultivator, he must have had the means of acquiring wealth, and of attaining rank and consequence; but these it is well ascertained that the ryots in India never enjoyed.1

Notwithstanding these proofs that the ownership in the land was reserved to the king, this conclusion has been disputed, in favour, 1st, of the Zemindars, and 2dly, of the Ryots. The question with regard to the Zemindars may be reserved till that period of the history, when it was agitated for the sake of practical proceedings on the part of the government. The question with regard to the Ryots belongs peculiarly to this part of the work.

The circumstances, which appear to have misled the intelligent Europeans who have misinterpreted this part of the Hindu institutions, are two; first, the tenure of the ryot or husbandman; and secondly, the humane and honourable anxiety, lest the interests and the happiness of the most numerous class of the population should be sacrificed, if the sovereign were acknowledged as owner of the soil.

But, if this acknowledgment were ever so complete, it is inconsistent neither with the tenure which is claimed in favour of the ryots, nor with the means of their prosperity and happiness. And it it were, the acknowledgment of its previous existence would be no bar to a preferable arrangement; since the sovereign Edition: current; Page: [274] BOOK II. Chap. 5.can have a right to nothing which is injurious to his people.

In a situation in which the revenue of the sovereign was increased in proportion to the number of cultivators, and in which a great proportion of the land continued void of cultivators, there would be a competition, not of cultivators for the land, but of the land for cultivators. If a ryot cultivated a piece of ground, and punctually paid his assessment, the sovereign would be far from any wish to remove him, because it would be difficult to supply his place. If the ryot sold the ground to another ryot, or left it to a successor, that is, put another in his place who would fulfil the wishes of the sovereign, he, whose source of fear was the want of a cultivator, had still cause for satisfaction; and seldom, if ever, interfered.

By custom, the possession of the ryot became, in this manner, a permanent possession; whence he was not removed except when he failed to pay his assessment or rent; a possession which he could sell during his life; or leave by inheritance when he died. As far as rights can be established by prescription, these rights were established in India in favour of the ryots. And no violation of property is more flagrant than that by which the tenure of the ryot is annulled.

But, according even to European ideas, a right to cultivate the land under these, and still greater advantages, is not understood to transfer the ownership of the land. The great estates in Ireland, for example, let under leases perpetually renewable, are vendible and inheritable by the leaseholders, without affecting the ownership of their lords; subject, moreover, to a very important restriction, from which the sovereigns in India were free;1 the lords of such estates Edition: current; Page: [275] cannot raise their rents at pleasure; the sovereignsBOOK II. Chap. 5. in India enjoyed this privilege, and abused it to excess. The sovereigns in India had not only the ownership, but all the benefit of the land; the ryots had merely the privilege of employing their labour always upon the same soil, and of transferring that privilege to some other person; the sovereign claimed a right to as much of the produce as he pleased, and seldom left to the ryots more than a very scanty reward for their labour.

That ownership in the land justified this extent of exaction, or implies a valid title to any power at variance with the interests of the ryots, is an erroneous inference. Without violating its obligations to the people, a government cannot spend any sum, beyond what is strictly necessary for the performance of the services, which it is destined to render: and it is justified in taking even this sum exclusively from the cultivators of the land, only if that is the mode in which all the qualities desirable in a financial system are the most completely realized.

Those who contend for the privileges of the ryots would no doubt observe, that in this mode of interpretation, we reduce the ownership of the sovereign to an empty name; and that to the admission of it, thus understood, they see nothing to object. The controversy is then at a close. The ownership of the sovereign in the soil, wherever it exists, is, by the principles which constitute the very foundation of government, reduced to the limits above described. And it is no less certain, that all which is valuable in the soil, after the deduction of what is due to the Edition: current; Page: [276] BOOK II. Chap. 5.sovereign, belongs of incontestable right to the Indian husbandman.1

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The Hindu mode of raising the revenue of theBOOK II. Chap. 5. state, wholly, or almost wholly, by taking as much as necessary of the rent of the land, while it is the obvious expedient which first presents itself to the Edition: current; Page: [278] BOOK II. Chap. 5.rudest minds, has no inconsiderable recommendation from science itself. Previous to allotment, the productive powers of the soil are the joint property of the community; and hence are a fund peculiarly adapted to the joint or common purposes and demands. If the whole of what is strictly rent were taken away, the application of labour and capital to the land would resemble the application of labour and capital to wood or iron; and the same principles, in both cases, would determine their reward.

But as the expense required for the services of government exceeds not a very small portion of the rent of the land, unless where the quantity is very minute, the greatest possible benefit is derived from the productive powers of the soil, when it is the property of individuals. The benefits of the soil have, accordingly, over the greater part of the globe, been employed, first, to supply in whole, or for the greater part, the necessities of government, next to enrich the individual occupant. The most remarkable exception to this rule is in modern Europe. After the conquests of the Gothic nations, the land was thrown in great portions into the hands of the leading men; and they had power to make the taxes fall where they chose; they took care accordingly that they should fall any where rather than upon the land; that is, upon any body rather than themselves. Further, as their influence over the sovereign made him glad to share with them what he derived from the taxes, they not only threw the burden off their own shoulders, but taxed, as they have continued to do, and sometimes in a progressive ratio, to the present hour, the rest of the community for their benefit.

The objections to the Hindu system of providing for the expenses of government, arise rather from the mode, than the essence.

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By aiming at the receipt of a prescribed portionBOOK II. Chap. 5. of the crop of each year; and with a very imperfect distinction of the lands of different powers, the Hindus incurred most of the evils which a bad method of raising a tax is liable to produce. They rendered the amount of the tax always uncertain, and its pressure very unequal; they rendered necessary a perfect host of tax-gatherers; and opened a boundless inlet to partiality and oppression on the one hand; to fraud and mendacity on the other. A tax, consisting of any portion of the gross produce of the soil, raises the price of that produce; because the tax raised from the poorest of the cultivated land must be returned, along with the expense of cultivation, in the exchangeable value of its produce. In this manner a tax is levied upon the consumers of corn, which surpasses the sum paid to the government, and enriches the owners of the best land at the expense of the community.1

An expensive mode of raising the taxes is a natural effect of a rude state of society. We are informed by Sully, that the receipt into the French exchequer, in the year 1598, was only thirteen millions of French money; while the sum, dragged out of the pockets of the people, was 150 millions. “The thing appeared incredible,” says the statesman: “but by the due degree of labour, I made the truth of it certain.”2 The proportion was doubtless greater in Hindustan.

Receiving the taxes in kind was a practice which ensured a prodigious expense, and a waste, by which nobody gained. Scarcely any other mode seems to Edition: current; Page: [280] have been known to the Hindus in the time of their ancient institutions; and to a great degree it continued down to the latest period of their history.1 How rude and inconvenient soever this practice must be regarded; we find several nations, who make a considerable figure in the history of the world, who have not in this respect advanced beyond the Hindus. It may not surprise any one, that taxes were raised in kind in the ancient empire of Mexico.2 The greater part, though not the whole, were raised in the same manner, in Persia, even in the time of Darius Hystaspes;3 and the mixture, at least, whatever the proportion, continues to the present day.4 Edition: current; Page: [281] The whole revenue of China, with the exception of some trifling articles, is paid in kind.1Chap. 5.

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BOOK II. Chap. 6.It is difficult to determine whether the constitution of the government and the provisions of law, or Religion, have, among the Hindus, the greatest influence upon the lives of individuals, and the operations of society. Beside the causes which usually give superstition a powerful sway in ignorant and credulous ages, the order of priests obtained a greater authority in India than in any other region of the globe; and this again they employed with astonishing success in multiplying and corroborating the ideas on which their power and consequence depended. Every thing in Hindustan was transacted by the Deity. The laws were promulgated, the people were classified, the government was established, by the Divine Being. The astonishing exploits of the Divinity were endless in that sacred land. For every stage of life from the cradle to the grave; for every hour of the day; for every function of nature; for every social transaction, God prescribed a number of religious observances. And meditation upon his incomprehensible attributes, as it was by far the most difficult of all human operations, so was it that glorious occupation which alone prepared the intense votary for the participation of the Divine nature.

Of so extensive and complicated a subject, as the religion of the Hindus, a very general view can alone be taken here. All that is interesting to the politician Edition: current; Page: [283] and the philosopher, may, however, it is presumed,BOOK II. Chap. 6. be confined within a moderate space. The task is rendered difficult by the unparalleled vagueness which marks the language of the Brahmens respecting the nature of the gods, the vast multiplicity of their fictions, and the endless discrepancy of their ideas. Hence it is, that no coherent system of belief seems capable of being extracted from their wild eulogies and legends; and if he who attempts to study their religion is disposed, like themselves, to build his faith on his imagination, he meets with little obstruction from the stubborn precision of Hindu expressions and tenets.

Nothing is more curious than to trace the ideas concerning Divine power which the natural faculties of our race suggest to them at the various stages of their career. In the very rude and imperfect state in which society originated, the human mind can hardly so far enlarge its views as to draw conclusions respecting the universe. Those operations and events of nature, which more immediately concern mankind, and on which their happiness and misery depend, no doubt engage their eager curiosity. The causes of light and darkness, of drought and rain, of the thunder, of the hurricane, of the earthquake, suggest many an anxious inquiry; but to put all the objects of nature, and all the changes which they undergo, into one group of ideas, and to ask whence did the whole proceed, seems to be an operation too complicated, and too far removed from the ordinary track of his ideas, to be one of the first that takes place in the mind of a barbarian.

With regard to that other class of questions, which more easily occur to him, his nature very readily suggests an answer. Prior to experience and instruction, there is a propensity in the imagination to endow Edition: current; Page: [284] BOOK II. Chap. 6.with life whatever we behold in motion; or, in general, whatever appears to be the cause of any event. A child beats the inanimate object, by which it has been hurt, and caresses that by which it has been gratified. The sun, which is the cause of day, the savage regards as a beneficent deity. A spirit resides in the storm; the woods and the waters are peopled with divinities; there is a god of plenty, and a god of want; a god of war, and a god of peace; a god of health, and a god of sickness. That this may be considered as a correct outline of the first religion which is suggested to the human mind, the laws of human nature, and the ideas which are found to prevail among rude tribes, appear sufficiently to evince.

But men are not long in making another step in their religious progress. Having made for themselves a theory with respect to the cause of the events which affect them, the origin too of the things which they perceive attracts their curiosity; and from asking the cause, first of one great object, and then of another, they come at last to put the general question, what is the cause and origin of the whole? There are very few, therefore, even among the most barbarous nations, who have not made an attempt to account for the origin of the universe, and in whose religious ideas some species of cosmogony is not involved. But, in answering the question respecting the origin of the universe, it is impossible that men should not be guided by their previous ideas. It follows, that among the divinities, whom they already adored, He, whom they regarded as the most powerful, should be selected as the Maker of the world. Were they placed in circumstances of tolerable tranquillity, this potent God would probably be the sun; were they a people almost constantly plunged in the horrors of war, the god of arms would naturally be Edition: current; Page: [285] their chief divinity. Hence we see that in many nationsBOOK II. Chap. 6. of Asia, who at an early period seem to have been placed in favourable circumstances, the sun was supreme among the gods, and the great principle of the universe; among the turbulent and warlike tribes who inhabited the north of Europe, Odin, the god of war, was the supreme deity, and author of all things.

The Hindus had made considerable progress beyond the first and lowest stage of human society. It seems common, however, to retain for a long time the ideas which are then implanted; and, rather than eradicate the old to make of them a heterogeneous compound with the new. The Greeks and the Romans did not reject their Jupiter, and Mars, their gods of the mountains, trees, and rivers, when they rose to more comprehensive views of the universe; they only endeavoured to accommodate to these primary conceptions their new apprehensions and conclusions. In like manner, the Hindus have still their Indra, or the god of the firmament, Varuna, or the god of the waters, Rembha, the goddess of love; in the whole, a long and splendid catalogue of thirtythree crore.1

We have translations from the Hindu books of several passages containing accounts of the creation.2 Edition: current; Page: [286] BOOK II. Chap. 6.They differ from one another very widely in the minor forms and circumstances; but strongly resemble in the general character, and in the principal ideas. That contained in the sacred volume which bears the name of Menu may be taken as a standard, being more full and circumstantial than any of those which are given us from the Vedas; derived from a work of equal authority with the Vedas themselves, and exhibiting, as drawn up at a later period, the improvement, if any, which the ideas of the people had acquired. It is all vagueness and darkness, incoherence, inconsistency, and confusion. It is one of the most extravagant of all specimens of discourse without ideas. The fearless propensity of a rude mind to guess where it does not know, never exhibited itself in more fantastic and senseless forms.1

Beside accounts of what creation was, we have accounts of the mode in which the Hindu divinity performed the creation. If a man possessing refined and exalted notions of the Divine Nature were to describe the great work of creation, he would have the clearest conviction of his own incompetence; and, as Moses, he would attempt no more than by a few strokes to convey an idea of the magnitude of the task, and of the power and wisdom of him who performed it. If far removed from this degree of knowledge and reflection, he will enter without hesitation upon a minute and detailed description both of the plan, and of its execution. If, however, the society in which he lives has attained any considerable improvement, the process which he conceives will indicate some portion of human wisdom; will, at least, be such as an instructed member Edition: current; Page: [287] of that society, had he infinite power imparted to him,BOOK II. Chap. 6. would devise for himself. On the other hand, if a description of the creation presents no idea but what is fantastic, wild, and irrational; if it includes not even a portion of that design and contrivance which appear in the ordinary works of man; if it carries the common analogies of production, in animal and vegetable life, to the production of the universe, we cannot be mistaken in ascribing it to a people, whose ideas of the Divine Being were grovelling.

“The self-existing power,” says Menu, “having willed to produce various beings, first with a thought created the waters.” This is not a despicable conception: but what succeeds? “He placed in these waters a productive seed.” This is one of those analogies to the growth of a plant or an animal which are generally the foundation of the cosmogony of a rude people. What next? The seed becomes an egg; which is a very extraordinary product; a wonderful course, too, for the self-existing power to follow in the formation of the universe. The other steps are not less amazing. In this egg the divine being deposited himself, and there he lay, in a state of inactivity, a whole year of the Creator, that is, according to the Hindus, 1,555,200,000,000 solar years of mortals.1 At the end of this astonishing Edition: current; Page: [288] BOOK II. Chap. 6.period he caused by his thought the egg to divide itself, and was himself born in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits;1 thus, “from That-Which-is, the first cause, was produced the divine male, famed in all worlds, under the appellation of Brahma.”2 This is celebrated in Hindu books as the great transformation of the Divine Being, from neuter to masculine, for the purpose of creating worlds; and under this masculine form of Brahma it was that he effected the rest of creation. The Hindus believe that he was engaged in it for no less than 17,064,000 years.3 Of the two divisions of the egg from which he had just been freed, he framed the heaven above, the earth beneath, and in the midst the subtle ether, the eight regions, and the permanent receptacle of waters. The creation of mind is next described; but this will be more conveniently considered when we come to appreciate the notions of the Hindus in relation to thought. The creation however of man, or at least of the Hindus, is worthy of our particular regard. “That the human race might be multiplied, He caused the Brahmen to proceed from his mouth, the Cshatriya from his arm, the Vaisya from his thigh, and the Sudra from his foot.” The analogy of ordinary descent is again the foundation of this fantastic imagination; and the Hindu could picture to himself the production of a human being, even by the Deity, only in the way of a species of birth. This analogy leads to a still more extravagant conceit for the creation of other races of Edition: current; Page: [289] men, and living creatures. As if “The MightyBOOK II. Chap. 6. Power” could not produce them by his male virtue alone, “He divided his own substance, and became half male, half female. By this female the male half produced Viraj, a demigod and saint; Viraj, by the virtue of austere devotion, produced Menu, another demigod and saint.” Menu again, “desirous,” he says, “of giving birth to a race of men,” produced ten lords of created beings; and these lords produced at his command “seven other Menus, and deities, and the mansions of deities, and great sages, and also benevolent genii, and fierce giants, blood-thirsty savages, heavenly quiristers, nymphs and demons, huge serpents and snakes of smaller size, birds of mighty wing, and separate companions of Pitris or progenitors of mankind; lightnings and thunderbolts, clouds and coloured bows of Indra, falling meteors, earthrending vapours, comets, and luminaries of various degrees; horse-faced sylvans, apes, fish, and a variety of birds, tame cattle, deer, men, and ravenous beasts with two rows of teeth; small and large reptiles, moths, lice, fleas, and common flies, with every biting gnat, and immoveable substances of distinct sorts. Thus was this whole assemblage of moveable and stationary bodies framed by those high-minded beings.”1

But in the Hindu books we find applied to the Divinity a great variety of expressions, so elevated, that they cannot be surpassed even by those of the men who entertain the most sublime ideas of the Divine Nature. In the passage immediately quoted from Menu, he is described as the sole self-existing power, the soul of all beings, he whom the mind alone can perceive, who exists from eternity, and whom no being Edition: current; Page: [290] BOOK II. Chap. 6.can comprehend. In a passage from the Brahmanda Purana, translated by Mr. Wilford, he is denominated; “The great God, the great Omnipotent, Omniscient one, the greatest in the World, the great Lord who goes through all worlds, incapable of decay.”1 In a prayer, translated by Mr. Colebrooke, from one of the Vedas, he is called, “the pure Brahme, whom none can apprehend as an object of perception, above, around, or in the midst; the God who pervades all regions, the first-born; he, prior to whom nothing was born; who became all beings, himself the Lord of creatures; he, who made the fluid sky and solid earth, who fixed the solar orb and celestial abode, whom heaven and earth mentally contemplate; the mysterious Being, in whom the universe perpetually exists, resting on that sole support; in whom this world is absorbed, from whom it issues.”2 Without multiplying instances, it may shortly be stated that human language does not supply more lofty epithets of praise than are occasionally addressed to their deities by the Hindus.

To form a true estimate of the religion of this people, it is necessary by reflection to ascertain, what those expressions in the mouth of a Brahmen really mean. We shall incur the risk of completely deceiving ourselves, if, with the experience how naturally vague and general expressions, especially in such abstract and mental subjects, convey the most different ideas, to people in different stages of society, we take the lofty expressions of devotion in Hindu books, as full and satisfactory evidence of lofty conceptions of the Divine Nature. It is well ascertained that nations, who have the lowest and meanest ideas of the Divine Being, may yet apply to him the most sounding epithets by which perfection can be expressed.

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In tracing the progress of natural religion, throughBOOK II. Chap. 6. the different stages of intellectual acquirement, a very important fact is discovered; that language, on this subject, has a much greater tendency to improve, than ideas. It is well known how vile and degrading were the notions of the Divine Nature presented in the fictions of the Greek poets; insomuch that Plato deemed them unfit to be read;1 yet the Brahmens themselves do not surpass the Greek poets in elevated expressions concerning the Deity. Orpheus, early and rude as is the period to which his poetry relates, thus describes the celestial King; “Jupiter, the sovereign; Jupiter, the original parent of all things; and Wisdom, the first procreator; and all-delighting Love: For in the mighty frame of Jupiter all are contained: One power, one godhead: He is the great Regent of all.”2 Cæsar informs us that the Druids among Edition: current; Page: [292] BOOK II. Chap. 6.the ancient Gauls delivered many doctrines concerning the nature of the universe, and the powers of the immortal gods;1 and it is remarkable that the Greeks and the Romans were forcibly struck with the similarity between the ideas of the Druids, and those of the Brahmens of India, the Magi of Persia, the Chaldeans of Assyria, and the priests of Egypt.2 The creed of the ancient Germans, as we are informed by Tacitus, was, “that God is the Ruler of all: other things are to him subject and obedient.”3 In the ancient Scandinavian mythology, the Supreme God was described, as, “The author of every thing that existeth; the eternal, the ancient, the living and awful Being, the searcher into concealed things; the Being that never changeth.”4 On the statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis was this inscription; “I am every thing past, every thing present, and every thing to come.”5 The Deity was described by Zoroaster as “The First, the Incorruptible, the Eternal, without generation, without dissolution, without a parallel, the charioteer of all which is good, inaccessible to bribes, the best of the good, the wisest of the wise.”6 The Getes asserted their deity Zamolxis to be the true God, that besides him there was none other, and that to him they went after death, being endowed with spirits immortal.7 Even the rude tribes of America, wandering naked in the woods, “appear,” says Robertson, Edition: current; Page: [293] “to acknowledge a Divine Power to be the maker of theBOOK II. Chap. 6. world, and the disposer of all events. They denominate him the Great Spirit.”1 Thus it appears how commonly the loftiest expressions are used concerning the gods, by people whose conceptions of them are, confessedly, mean.2

This important fact, however remarkable, is founded on principles of very powerful operation in the nature of man. The timid barbarian, who is agitated by fears respecting the unknown events of nature, feels the most incessant and eager desire to propitiate the Being on whom he believes them to depend. His mind works, with laborious solicitude, to discover the best means of recommending himself. He naturally takes counsel from his own sentiments and feelings; and as nothing to his rude breast is more delightful than adulation, he is led by a species of instinct to expect the favour of his god from praise and flattery. In an uncultivated mind, how strong this sentiment is, a very superficial knowledge of human nature may convince us. Mr. Foster, in his Travels over land from India, was overtaken by a storm in the Caspian Sea; and remarks that during the danger “every man was imploring the Divine interposition in his own manner and language.” “But my attention,” says he, “was chiefly attracted by a Persian. His ejaculations were loud and fervent; and the whole force of his prayers was levelled at Ali; on whom he bestowed every title that could denote sanctity or military prowess. He Edition: current; Page: [294] BOOK II. Chap. 6.called on him, by the name of the Friend of God; the Lord of the Faithful; the Brandisher of the invincible sword; to look down on his servant, and shield him from the impending evil. Thinking also to obtain the more grace with the father, he would occasionally launch out into the praises of his two sons.”1

When the belief is once admitted that the Deity is pleased with panegyric, it is evident to what length the agitated and ignorant votary will speedily be carried. Whatever may be the phrases with which he begins; in a short time, the ardour of his fears incites him to invent new and stronger; as likely to prove more agreeable and prevalent. Even these, by a short use, become familiar to his mind. When they begin to be stale and feeble, he is again prompted to a new invention, and to more violent exaggerations.

Exhausting quickly the powers of his language, he has other expedients in store. The god, on whom his eulogies have been lavished, is that one, among the invisible powers, on whom his interests seem more immediately to depend: This deity is at first panegyrised on account of those operations alone which belong to his own department: The sun is originally applauded only as the Regent of day: the bountiful giver of light, and of all its attendant blessings! But when panegyric on this subject is exhausted, the unwearied adorer opens a new fountain of adulation: The operations of some divinity, whose department most nearly resembles that of the favourite deity, affords some circumstance which, it is imagined, might do honour to that patron god: It is accordingly, as a very artful expedient, immediately detracted from the one, and ascribed to the other: No sooner is the novelty of this new attribute decayed, Edition: current; Page: [295] than the prerogative of some other divinity is invaded,BOOK II. Chap. 6. and the great object of worship is invested with a new power or function of nature: This, it is evident, is a fertile discovery: The votary has many articles to add to his list of powers and functions, before he exhausts the provinces of the whole of the gods. He proceeds incessantly, however; adding to the works and dominions of the great divinity one province after another, till at last he bestows upon him the power and functions of all the gods. He is now the supreme deity, and all the rest are subordinate. He is the king of the celestial powers; or, what is still more sublime, their author or father; He from whom their very being and powers are derived. They still, however, retain their ancient departments: and he who was god of the winds remains the god of the winds: he who was god of the waters remains god of the waters. But they are no longer independant deities; they have now a superior, and are regarded in the light of his ministers or agents.

The ingenuity of fear and desire sometimes invents a higher strain of flattery still. The power, which is delegated to so many extraordinary beings, is regarded as a deduction from that which might otherwise be wielded by the supreme. And happy is the man, who first imagines he can inform the Divinity, that no such division and diminution of his power exist: That those supposed agents or ministers are not in reality beings endowed with the powers of the Almighty; that they are those powers themselves; the different modes in which he manifests himself. After this, he is the one God He is all in all: From him every thing begins, in him every thing terminates: He unites all possible attributes: Like time, he has no beginning and shall have no end: All power belongs to him, all wisdom, and all virtue. Such is the progress Edition: current; Page: [296] BOOK II. Chap. 6.of the language, not of knowledge and cultivated reason, but of the rude and selfish passions of a barbarian; and all these high and sounding epithets are invented by men whose ideas of the divine nature are mean, ridiculous, gross, and disgusting.

Some of the most enlightened of the Europeans who have made inquiries concerning the ideas and institutions of the Hindus, have been induced, from the lofty epithets occasionally applied to the gods, to believe and to assert that this people had a refined and elevated religion. Nothing is more certain than that such language is far from being proof of such a religion. Yet ingenious men, from whom we have largely derived instruction, appear to have thought that no other proof was requisite; and, as on this evidence they adopted the opinion themselves, thought that others ought to receive it on the same foundation.1

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Since the language employed by any people is aBOOK II. Chap. 6. very fallacious test of the ideas which they entertain concerning the Divine Nature, it is necessary to investigate the circumstances, in their religious practice or belief, which enable us in any degree to define their vague expressions. Those circumstances are few; but their evidence determinate. They are the operations ascribed to the Divinity, the services reputed agreeable to him, and the laws which he is understood to have ordained. If these correspond with the ideas of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, we may believe with certainty that the sublime language is the expression of corresponding conceptions; on the other hand, where those operations, services, and laws, are in the highest degree unworthy of a perfect nature, we may be fully assured, that the sublime language is altogether without a meaning, the effect of flattery, and the meanest of passions; and that it is directly suggested, not by the most lofty, but by the most grovelling and base, ideas of the Divine Nature.

Of the host of Hindu Divinities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva are the most exalted. Other nations have Edition: current; Page: [298] BOOK II. Chap. 6.most frequently carried on the applause of one favourite deity, till they bestowed upon him alone all power in heaven and earth: The Hindus have distributed the creation and government of the universe among those three, denominating Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer.

Of the highest scene of operation in which the Divine Being can be contemplated by mortals, the creation of the universe, the conception, formed by the Hindus, is so far from corresponding with high and noble ideas of the creating power, that it is consistent only with the meanest. This itself is a criterion of a religious system from which there is no appeal.

Of the peculiar functions of Vishnu and Siva no determinate conception appears to have been formed. They are two beings of mighty power, by whom great actions are performed; but there is no distinct separation of their provinces. Whenever indeed we seek to ascertain the definite and precise ideas of the Hindus in religion, the subject eludes our grasp. All is loose, vague, wavering, obscure, and inconsistent. Their expressions point at one time to one meaning, and another time to another meaning;1 and their wild fictions, to use the language of Mr. Hume, seem rather the playsome whimsies of monkeys in human shape, than the serious asseverations of a being who dignifies himself with the name of rational.2 Vishnu Edition: current; Page: [299] is not unfrequently employed in the acts which properlyBOOK II. Chap. 6. belong only to a destructive power; and Siva is so far from answering to the title bestowed upon him, that he is a divinity hardly less beneficent than Vishnu himself.

In the conception which the Hindus have formed of the government of the world, the visible agency of the Deity is peculiarly required. “I have passed,” says the preserving God, “many births. Although I am not in my nature subject to birth or decay, and am the lord of all created beings, yet having command over my own nature, I am made evident by my own power; and as often as there is a decline of virtue, and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world, I make myself evident; and thus I appear from age to age, for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of virtue.”1 “Aty Sechen himself,” says another sacred book, “all knowing as he is, could not number the metamorphoses and different forms under which Vishnu has appeared for the salvation of the universe.”2 Such are the Hindu ideas of the manner in which the power of the Divine Being is exerted in the government of the universe.

Of these visible appearances or incarnations of the divinity, ten, known in the Hindu mythology under the name of avatars, are peculiarly distinguished. The first, which is denominated the avatar of the fish, is thus described.3 At the close of the last calpa, there was a general destruction, occasioned by the sleep of Brahma; his creatures in different worlds being drowned in a vast ocean. The strong demon Hagyagriva Edition: current; Page: [300] BOOK II. Chap. 6.came near him and stole the Vedas, which had flowed from his lips. When the preserver of the universe discovered this deed, he took the shape of a minute fish, called sap’hari. A holy king named Satyavrata then reigned. One day, as he was making a libation in the river Critamala, the little fish said to him, How canst thou leave me in this river water, when I am too weak to resist the monsters of the stream who fill me with dread? Satyavrata placed it under his protection in a small vase full of water; but in a single night its bulk was so increased, that it could not be contained in the jar, and thus again addressed the prince: I am not pleased with living in this little vase; make me a large mansion where I may dwell in comfort. The king successively placed it in a cistern, in a pool, and in a lake, for each of which it speedily grew too large, and supplicated for a more spacious place of abode; after which he threw it into the sea, when the fish again addressed him: Here the horned sharks and other monsters of great strength will devour me; thou shouldest not, O valiant man, leave me in this ocean. Thus repeatedly deluded by the fish, who had addressed him with gentle words, the king said, Who art thou that beguilest me in that assumed shape. Never before have I seen or heard of so prodigious an inhabitant of the waters, who like thee has filled up, in a single day, a lake 100 leagues in circumference. Surely thou art the great God whose dwelling was on the waves. Salutation and praise to thee, O first male, the lord of creation, of preservation, of destruction! Thou art the highest object, O supreme ruler, of us thy adorers, who piously seek thee. All thy delusive descents in this world give existence to various beings; yet I am anxious to know for what cause that shape has been assumed by thee. The lord of the universe, Edition: current; Page: [301] loving the pious man, and intending to preserveBOOK II. Chap. 6. him from the sea of destruction, caused by the depravity of the age, thus told him how he was to act: In seven days from the present time, O thou tamer of enemies, the three worlds will be plunged in an ocean of death; but in the midst of the destroying waves, a large vessel, sent by me for thy use, shall stand before thee. Then shalt thou take all medicinal herbs, all the variety of seeds; and, accompanied by seven saints, encircled by pairs of all brute animals, thou shalt enter the spacious ark, and continue in it secure from the flood on one immense ocean, without light except the radiance of thy companions. When the ship shall be agitated by an impetuous wind, thou shalt fasten it with a large sea serpent on my horn; for I will be near thee, drawing the vessel with thee and thy attendants. Thus instructed, the pious king waited humbly for the appointed time. The sea, overwhelming its shores, deluged the whole earth; and it was soon perceived to be augmented by showers from immense clouds. He, still meditating on the divine command, and conforming to the divine directions, entered the ship; when the god appeared again distinctly on the vast ocean in the form of a fish, blazing like gold, extending a million of leagues, with one stupendous horn, on which the king, as he had before been commanded, tied the ship with a cable made of a vast serpent. Afterwards the god, rising, together with Brahma, from the destructive deluge, which was abated, slew the demon Hagyagriva.

Such are the operations in the government of the universe which the religious ideas of the Hindus lead them to ascribe to the divine Being. The second appearance or avatar of the Preserver is of the same character, and suggested by similar views. Hirinacheren, Edition: current; Page: [302] BOOK II. Chap. 6.a malignant and destructive giant, who delighted in afflicting the earth, at last rolled it up into a shapeless mass, and plunged down with it into the abyss. On this occasion there issued from the side of Brahma, a being shaped like a boar, white and exceedingly small, which in the space of one hour grew to the size of an elephant of the largest magnitude, and remained in the air. This being, Brahma discovered to be Vishnu, who had assumed a body and become visible. Suddenly it uttered a sound like the loudest thunder, and the echo reverberated, and shook all the corners of the universe. Shaking the full-flowing mane which hung down his neck on both sides, and erecting the humid hairs of his body, he proudly displayed his two most exceedingly white tusks: then rolling round his wine-coloured eyes, and erecting his tail, he descended from the region of the air, and plunged head foremost into the water. The whole body of water was convulsed by the motion, and began to rise in waves, while the guardian spirit of the sea, being terrified, began to tremble for his domain, and cry out for quarter and mercy. At length, the power of the omnipotent having divided the water, and arriving at the bottom, he saw the earth lying, a mighty and barren stratum; then he took up the ponderous globe (freed from the water) and raised it high on his tusk: one would say it was a beautiful lotos blossoming on the tip of his tusk. In a moment, with one leap, coming to the surface, by the all-directing power of the Omnipotent Creator, he spread it, like a carpet, on the face of the water, and then vanished from the sight of Brahma.1

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Of the third avatar we have so particular and remarkableBOOK II. Chap. 6. a description, that it merits uncommon regard.1 The soors, a species of angels, and all the glorious host of heaven, sat on the summit of Mount Meru, a fictitious mountain, highly celebrated in the books of the Hindus, meditating the discovery of the Amreeta, that is, being translated, the water of immortality: when Narayan2 said unto Brahma, Let the ocean, as a pot of milk, be churned by the united labour of the soors and asoors; and when the mighty waters have been stirred up, the Amreeta shall be found. A great mountain, named Mandar, was the instrument with which the operation was to be performed; but the dews3 being unable to remove it, they had recourse to Vishnu and Brahma. By their direction, the king of the serpents lifted up that sovereign of mountains, with all its forests and inhabitants; and the soors and asoors having obtained permission of the king of the tortoises, it was placed for support on his back, in the midst of the ocean. Then the soors and asoors, using the serpent Vasookee for the rope, the asoors pulling by the head, and the soors by the tail, began to churn the ocean;4 while there issued from the mouth of the serpent, a continued stream of fire, and smoke, and wind; and the roaring of the ocean, Edition: current; Page: [304] BOOK II. Chap. 6.violently agitated with the whirling of the mountain, was like the bellowing of a mighty cloud. Meanwhile a violent conflagration was raised on the mountain, by the concussion of its trees and other substances, and quenched by a shower which the lord of the firmament poured down; whence an heterogeneous stream of the concocted juices of various trees and plants, ran down into the briny flood. It was from this milk-like stream, produced from those juices, and a mixture of melted gold, that the soors obtained their immortality. The waters of the ocean being now assimilated with those juices, were converted into milk, and a species of butter was produced, when the churning powers became fatigued; but Narayan endued them with fresh strength, and they proceeded with great ardour to stir that butter of the ocean. First, arose from it the moon; next, Sree, the goddess of fortune; then the goddess of wine, and the white horse, Oochisrava; afterwards the jewel kowstoobh; the tree of plenty; and the cow that granted every heart's desire. Then the dew Dhanwantaree, in human shape, came forth, holding in his hand a white vessel filled with the immortal juice, amreeta; which, when the asoors beheld, they raised their tumultuous voices, and each of them clamorously exclaimed, This of right is mine! But as they continued to churn the ocean more than enough, a deadly poison issued from its bed, confounding the three regions of the world with its mortal stench, until Siva, at the word of Brahma, swallowed the fatal drug to save mankind. In the mean while a violent jealousy and hatred, on account of the amreeta, and the goddess Sree, sprung up in the bosoms of the asoors. But Narayan, assuming the form of a beautiful female, stood before them, whose minds becoming fascinated by her presence, Edition: current; Page: [305] and deprived of reason, they seized the amreeta andBOOK II. Chap. 6. gave it unto her. But a dreadful battle arose between the soors and asoors, in which Narayan, quitting the female figure, assisted the soors. The elements and powers of nature were thrown into confusion by the conflict; but with the mighty aid of Narayan, and his weapon chacra, which of itself, unguided even by a hand, performed miraculous exploits, the soors obtained the victory, and the mountain Mandar was carried back to its former station. The soors guarded the amreeta with great care; and the god of the firmament, with all his immortal hands, gave the water of life unto Narayan, to keep it for their use. This was the third manifestation of the Almighty, in the preservation and government of the world.

The fourth I shall describe with greater brevity. Hirinacheren, the gigantic ruler, who rolled up the earth, and plunged with it to the bottom of the abyss, left a younger brother Hirinakassup, who succeeded him in his kingdom, and refused to do homage to Vishnu, but persecuted his own son, who was an ardent votary of that god. I, said he, am lord of all this visible world. The son replied, that Vishnu had no fixed abode, but was present every where. Is he, said his father, in that pillar? Then let him come forth; and rising from his seat, he struck the pillar with his foot; upon which Vishnu, bursting from it, with a body like a man, but a head like a lion, tore Hirinakassup in pieces, and placed his son upon the throne.1

In the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh avatars, the Preserving Power appeared in human shapes for the destruction of impious and ferocious kings, performing Edition: current; Page: [306] BOOK II. Chap. 6.many heroic and many miraculous deeds. But, after the examples which have already been given, a particular description of these extravagant legends would poorly compensate the toil of a perusal. The eighth, however, is one of the most celebrated of all the incarnations of Vishnu. He was born the son of Vasudeva and Devaci, of the royal family of Cansa, and obtained the name of Crishna. But as it had been predicted to Cansa, that one born of those parents would occasion his destruction, whence he had decreed the death of all their children, Crishna was secretly withdrawn, and brought up in the family of a shepherd or herdsman. Many and wonderful were the transactions of his childhood, in which the wanton pranks of the mischievous, but amiable boy, are not less distinguished, than the miraculous exploits of the god. When he grew up to youth, the indulgence of licentious love was his great occupation and enjoyment. It is a small part of the picture which I can, or which I need, to expose to view. The scenes with the young shepherdesses are painted by the Hindus in all the glowing colours of oriental poetry. A passage from a hymn, or divine song, translated by Sir William Jones, is in the following words: “With a garland of wild flowers, descending even to the yellow mantle that girds his azure limbs, distinguished by smiling cheeks, and by earrings that sparkle as he plays, Heri1 exults in the assemblage of amorous damsels. One of them presses him with her swelling breast, while she warbles with exquisite melody. Another, affected by a glance from his eye, stands meditating on the lotos of his face. A third, on pretence of whispering a secret in his ear, approaches his temples and kisses them with Edition: current; Page: [307] ardour. One seizes his mantle, and draws him towardsBOOK II. Chap. 6. her, pointing to the bower on the banks of Yamuna, where elegant vanjulahs interweave their branches. He applauds another who dances in the sportive circle, whilst her bracelets ring, as she beats time with her palms. Now he caresses one, and kisses another, smiling on a third with complacency; and now he chases her whose beauty has most allured him. Thus the wanton Heri frolics, in the season of sweets, among the maids of Vraja, who rush to his embraces, as if he were pleasure itself assuming a human form; and one of them, under a pretext of hymning his divine perfections, whispers in his ear: Thy lips, my beloved, are nectar.”1 I shall select but another instance, which is from the translation before us of the Bhagavat. “Crishna, finding himself on the banks of the Yamuna,2 began to play on his pastoral flute. All the shepherdesses, filled with desire, ran in crowds to hear his enchanting sounds. Crishna, beholding them burning with desire, informed them, that it was contrary to the order established in the world, to quit their houses to seek the embraces of a lover. He added that their families might thus, if their husbands were jealous, be thrown into disorder, and disgrace come upon themselves. He advised them accordingly to return. The women replied, that their passion, it was true, were it for an ordinary man, would be criminal; but desiring to unite themselves with the absolute master of all things, they could not believe that such an impulse was any other than meritorious. In regard to their husbands, they could have no rights which tended to the exclusion of God. Crishna, who saw Edition: current; Page: [308] BOOK II. Chap. 6.the innocence of their hearts, graciously gave them entire satisfaction; and by a miracle continually renewed, in all that multitude of women, each was convinced that she alone enjoyed the Deity, and that he never quitted her an instant for the embraces of another.”1 “Crishna,” says Sir William Jones, “continues to this hour the darling god of the Indian women. The sect of Hindus,” he adds, “who adore him with enthusiastic and almost exclusive devotion, have broached a doctrine which they maintain with eagerness, and which seems general in these provinces;2 that he was distinct from all the avatars, who had only a portion of his divinity; while Crishna was the person of Vishnu himself in a human form.”3 “At a more advanced age,” continues Sir William, “he put to death his cruel enemy, Cansa; and having taken under his protection the king Yudhisht’hir and the other Pandus, who had been grievously oppressed by the Curus, and their tyrannical chief, he kindled the war described in the great epic poem, entitled the Mahabharat, at the prosperous conclusion of which he returned to his heavenly seat in Vaicont’ha, having left the instructions comprised in the Gita with his disconsolate friend Arjoon.”4 He was afterwards Edition: current; Page: [309] slain, being wounded by an arrow in theBOOK II. Chap. 6. foot.1

The ninth incarnation of Vishnu, and the last, yet vouchsafed, of the Divine appearances, was in the person of Buddha. The object of this avatar is described in the following verse of a Hindu poet: “Thou blamest, Oh wonderful, the whole Veda, when thou seest, O kind-hearted, the slaughter of cattle prescribed for sacrifice, O Cesava,2 assuming the body of Buddha. Be victorious, O Heri,3 lord of the universe!”4 But though Buddha is by the Hindus, regarded as a manifestation of the Divine Being, the sect of Buddhists are regarded as heretical, and are persecuted by the Brahmens. It is conjectured that, at one time, a great number of them had been compelled to fly from the country, and spread their tenets in various directions.5 The religion of Buddha is now found to prevail over the greater part of the East; in Ceylon, in the farther peninsula, in Thibet, in China, and even as far as Edition: current; Page: [310] BOOK II. Chap. 6.Japan.1 “The tenth avatar,” says Sir William Jones, “we are told is yet to come, and is expected to appear mounted (like the crowned conqueror in the Apocalypse) on a white horse, with a cimeter blazing like a comet, to mow down all incorrigible and impenitent offenders who shall then be on earth.”2

It will require the addition of but a few passages more of this wild mythology, to convey a satisfactory idea of the actions and qualities which the Hindus ascribe to their supreme deities. “It is related,” says Mr. Wilford,3 “in the Scanda,4 that when the whole earth was covered with water, and Vishnu lay extended asleep in the bosom of Devi,5 a lotos arose from his navel. Brahma sprang from that flower, and looking round without seeing any creature on the boundless expanse, imagined himself to be the first-born, and entitled to rank above all future beings. Resolving, however, by investigation, more fully to satisfy himself, he glided down the stalk of the lotos, and finding Vishnu asleep, asked loudly Edition: current; Page: [311] who he was. I am the first-born, answered Vishnu,BOOK II. Chap. 6. waking: and as Brahma contradicted him, they had an obstinate battle, till Mahadeva, or Siva, pressed between them in great wrath, saying, It is I who am truly the first-born: but I will resign my pretensions to either of you who shall be able to reach and behold the summit of my head, or the soles of my feet. Brahma instantly ascended; but having fatigued himself to no purpose in the regions of immensity, yet loth to abandon his claim, he returned to Mahadeva, and declared that he had attained the crown of his head, calling, as his witness, the first born cow. For this union of pride and falsehood, the angry god ordained, that no sacred rites should be performed to Brahma. When Vishnu returned, he acknowledged that he had not been able to see the feet of Mahadeva, confessed him to be the first-born among the gods, and entitled to rank above them all.”

After a passage such as this, who would expect to find the following? “The patriarch Atterien retired into a forest, and there performed rigorous devotion, having for his nourishment nothing but the wind, and being exposed to all the injuries of the atmosphere. One day he addressed his vows to the Eternal in these words: O thou who hast created, and who preservest the universe; O thou by whom it is destroyed; give me the knowledge of thyself, and grant me the vision of thee! Then a fire issuing from the crown of the votary's head, made all the gods tremble, and they had recourse to Vishnu, to Siva, and to Brahma. Those three divinities, completely armed and mounted, accompanied by Lacshmi, Guenga, and Seraswati, their wives, presented themselves before the saint. Prostrating himself, Atterien worshipped them, and uttered the following words: O you three Lords, know that I Edition: current; Page: [312] BOOK II. Chap. 6.recognise only one God: inform me which of you is the true divinity, that I may address to him alone my vows and adorations! To this supplication the three Gods replied; Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between us: what to you appears such is only by semblance: the Single Being appears under three forms; by the acts of creation, of preservation, and destruction: but he is One.”1 Yet this “Single” Being, this One God, is thus again represented, a few pages after, in the same Purana: “Even Brahma, finding himself alone with his daughter, who was full of charms and knowledge, conceived for her a criminal passion.”2 Thus are we taught by the Hindus themselves to interpret the lofty phrases which the spirit of exaggeration and flattery so frequently puts into their mouths.

Of the First-born, Mahadeva, or the One, Eternal God, under one of his forms, we have the following sacred story. He was playing one day at dice with Parvati,3 when they quarrelled, and parted in wrath to different regions. They severally performed rigid acts of devotion, but the fires which they kindled blazed so vehemently as to threaten a general conflagration. The devas,4 in great alarm, hastened to Brahma, who led them to Mahadeva, and supplicated him to recall his consort; but the wrathful deity only answered, that she must come by her own free choice. They accordingly dispatched Ganga, the river goddess, who prevailed on Parvati to return to him, on condition that his love for her should be restored. The celestial mediators then employed Camadeva,5 who wounded Siva with one of his flowery arrows; but the angry divinity reduced him Edition: current; Page: [313] to ashes with a flame from his eye. ParvatiBOOK II. Chap. 6. soon after presented herself before him in the form of a Cirati, or daughter of a mountaineer, and seeing him enamoured of her, resumed her own shape.1 Of the various passages of a similar nature presented to us in the history of this God, I shall content myself with another, extracted by Mr. Wilford from the Scanda Purana. “There had subsisted,” says he,2 “for a long time, some animosity between Brahma and Mahadeva in their mortal shapes; and the latter, on account of his bad conduct, which is fully described in the Puranas, had it appears given much uneasiness to Swayambhuva, and Satarupa. For he was libidinous, going about stark-naked, with a large club in his hand. Be this as it may, Mahadeva, who was the eldest, saw his claim as such totally disregarded, and Brahma set up in his room. This intrusion the latter wanted to support; but made use of such lies as provoked Mahadeva to such a point, that he cut off one of his heads in his divine form.” Such are the ideas which the Hindus entertain of the actions and character of their supreme deities; on whom, notwithstanding, they lavish all the most lofty epithets of divinity which human language can supply.

This theology affords a remarkable instance of that progress in exaggeration and flattery which I have described as the genius of rude religion. As the Hindus, instead of selecting one god, to whom they assigned all power in heaven and in earth, distributed the creation and administration of the universe among three divinities, they divided themselves Edition: current; Page: [314] BOOK II. Chap. 6.into sects; and some attached themselves more particularly to one deity, some to another.1

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Presently the usual consequence appeared. WhicheverBOOK II. Chap. 6. of the three gods any votary selected for his peculiar patron, he expected to perform to him one of the most agreeable of all possible services, by representing him as superior to the other two. This we find to have been the practice, invariably, and enthusiastically. In a passage from the Scanda Purana, one of the sacred books in honour of Siva, we have seen by what legends his votaries endeavour to elevate him above Brahma, and Vishnu; while he cuts off the head of the one for contesting with him the supremacy, and has it expressly yielded up to him by the other. It is not, however, sufficient that the favourite god should be only superior to the rest; whatever honour is derived from their actions, that too must be claimed for him; and he is asserted to be himself the author of all their achievements.

A still higher strain of flattery succeeds. Not only must he absorb their actions, it is accounted still nobler if he can be asserted to absorb even themselves; if Siva, for example, can be affirmed, not only to be Siva, and to be at once creator, preserver, and destroyer, but can be declared to be Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva themselves. Beyond even this, a step remains. In the same manner as he absorbs the gods, he is finally made to absorb every thing. He is asserted to be the universe itself. He is then all in Edition: current; Page: [316] BOOK II. Chap. 6.all. We shall find this process pursued with the Hindu divinities, one after another. In another sacred book,1 dedicated to Siva, that god is made to declare, “I have always been, and I always am, and I always will be. There is no second of whom I can say that I am he, and that he is I. I am the within of all the withins. I am in all surfaces. Whatever is I am; and whatever is not I am. I am Brahma; and I am also Brahme; and I am the causing cause. Whatever is in the east I am; and whatever is in the west I am; and whatever is in the south I am; and whatever is in the north I am. Whatever is below I am; and whatever is above I am. I am man, and not man, and woman. I am the truth; I am the ox; and I am all other animated beings. I am more ancient than all. I am the king of kings. And I am in all the great qualities. I am the perfect being. Whatever has been, Rudra2 is; and whatever is he is; and whatever shall be he is. Rudra is life, and is death; and is the past, present, and future; and is all worlds.”3 But if the votaries of Siva, with exaggerating devotion, thus infinitely exalt him above all; the same, or, if possible, still greater honours, do the adorers of Vishnu lavish upon that divinity. “Let it not be thought,” says the Bhagavat, “that Vishnu is only one of the three divinities, or triple powers. Know that he is the principle of all. It is he who created the universe by his productive power; it is he who supports all by his preserving power; it is he, in fine, who destroys all by his destructive power. He Edition: current; Page: [317] creates under the form of Brahma, and destroys underBOOK II. Chap. 6. that of Siva. The productive power is more excellent than the destructive, and the preserving more excellent than the productive. To the name of Vishnu, therefore, is attached the pre-eminence, since the title of preserver or saviour is peculiarly attributed to him.”1 In the Bhagvat-Geeta, Crishna is thus addressed; “O mighty being! who, greater than Brahma, art the prime creator! eternal god of gods! the world's mansion! thou art the incorruptible being distinct from all things transient! Thou art before all gods, and the supreme supporter of the universe! Thou knowest all things! By thee, O infinite form! the universe was spread abroad. Thou art Vayoo the god of winds, Agnee the god of fire, Varoon the god of oceans, Sasanka the moon, Prajapatee the god of nations! Reverence be unto thee before and behind, reverence be unto thee on all sides, O thou who art all in all! Infinite is thy power and thy glory! Thou includest all things, wherefore thou art all things.”2 In a Sanscrit inscription taken from a stone Edition: current; Page: [318] BOOK II. Chap. 6.at Buddha Gaya, Buddha is thus addressed; “Reverence be unto thee, O god, in the form of the god of mercy; the lord of all things, the guardian of the universe. Thou art Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa.1 Thou art lord of the universe! Thou art, under the proper form of all things, moveable and immoveable, the possessor of the whole!”2

Among the numerous expressions of panegyric and adoration which the Hindus apply to their divinities, none seem to have made a deeper impression upon some of the most intelligent of our English inquirers, than the epithet One. This has so far prevailed as to impress them with a belief that the Hindus had a refined conception of the unity of the Divine Nature. Yet it seems very clear that the use of such an epithet is but a natural link in that chain of unmeaning panegyric which distinguishes the religion of ignorant men. When one divinity has been made to engross the powers of all the rest, it is the necessary termination of this piece of flattery, to denominate him The One. Oriental scholars ought moreover to have reflected that one is an epithet of very common, and vague application in the languages of Asia; and is by no means a foundation whereon to infer among the Hindus any conception analogous to that which we denote by the term unity of God. The translation of the Institutes of Menu affords us a very satisfactory example; “Then only is a man perfect when he consists of three persons united, his wife, himself, and his son; and thus have learned Brahmens announced this—the husband is even One with his wife.”3 Yet Edition: current; Page: [319] surely no unity of being was supposed in this triuneBOOK II. Chap. 6. person, a man, his wife, and his son. Ad, we are informed by Macrobius, was among the Assyrians a word which signified one, and was a name conferred by them upon their chief divinity.1 The Babylonians applied it to their principal goddess.2 The god Rimmon, as we learn from the Bible, had the same epithet.3 Mr. Bryant says it was a sacred title among all the Eastern nations, and originally conferred upon the sun.4 Even the Greek poets, who have never been suspected of refined notions of the unity of God, employ it to profusion. It is applied to Jupiter, to Pluto, to the sun, to Dionysius.5 All the gods are affirmed to be one.6 “One power,” says the Orphic poetry, “one divinity, Jupiter is the great ruler of all.”7 Plutarch informs us that Apollo was frequently denominated the monad, or the Only One;8 and from the emperor Julian we learn, that the people of Edessa had a god whom they called Monimus, a word of the same interpretation.9 Few nations shall we find without a knowledge of the unity of the Divine Edition: current; Page: [320] BOOK II. Chap. 6.Nature, if we take such expressions of it as abound in the Hindu writings for satisfactory evidence. By this token Mr. Park found it among the savages of Africa.1

In pursuance of the same persuasion, ingenious authors have laid hold of the term Brahme, or Brahm, the neuter of Brahma, the masculine name of the creator.2 This they have represented as the peculiar appellation of the one god; Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, being only names of the particular modes of divine action. But this supposition (for it is nothing more) involves the most enormous inconsistency; as if the Hindus possessed refined notions of the unity of God, and could yet conceive his modes of action to be truly set forth in the characters of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; as if the same people could at once be so enlightened as to form a sublime conception of the Divine nature, and yet so stupid as to make a distinction between the character of God and his modes of action. The parts of the Hindu writings, however, Edition: current; Page: [321] which are already before us, completely refute thisBOOK II. Chap. 6. gratuitous notion, and prove that Brahme is a mere unmeaning epithet of praise, applied to various gods; and no more indicative of refined notions of the unity, or any perfection of the Divine Nature, than other parts of their panegyrical devotions. We have already beheld Siva decorated with this title.1 Vishnu is denominated the supreme Brahme in the Bhagvat-Geeta.2 Nay, we find this Brahme, the great, the Edition: current; Page: [322] BOOK II. Chap. 6.eternal One, the supreme soul, employed in rather a subordinate capacity. “The Great Brahm,” says Chrishna, “is my womb. In it I place my fœtus; and from it is the production of all nature. The great Brahm is the womb of all those various forms which are conceived in every natural womb, and I am the father who soweth the seed.”1 In one of the morning Edition: current; Page: [323] prayers of the Brahmens, cited from the Vedas byBOOK II. Chap. 6. Mr. Colebrooke, water is denominated Brahme.1 “The sun,” says Yajnyawalcya, “is Brahme; this is a certain truth revealed in the sacred Upanishats, and in various sac’has of the Vedas. So the Bhawishya Purana, speaking of the sun: Because there is none greater than he, nor has been nor will be, therefore he is celebrated as the supreme soul in all the Vedas.”2 Air, too, receives the appellation of Brahme. Thus, says a passage in the Veda; “That which moves in the atmosphere is air, Brahme.3 Thus again; “Salutation unto thee, O air! Even thou art Brahme, present to our apprehension. Thee I will call, ‘present Brahme:’ thee I will name, ‘the right one:’ thee I will pronounce, ‘the true one.’ May that Brahme, the universal being entitled air, preserve me.”4 Food too is denominated Brahme; so is breath, and intellect, and felicity.5 Nay, it is affirmed, as part of the Hindu belief, that man himself may become Brahme; thus in the Bhagvat-Geeta Crishna declares: “A man being endowed with a purified understanding, having humbled his spirit by resolution, and abandoned the objects of the organs; who hath freed himself from passion and dislike, who worshippeth with discrimination, eateth with moderation, and is humble of speech, of body, and of mind; who preferreth the devotion of meditation, and who constantly placeth his confidence in dispassion; who is freed from ostentation, tyrannic strength, vain glory, lust, anger, and avarice; and who is exempt from Edition: current; Page: [324] BOOK II. Chap. 6.selfishness, and in all things temperate, is formed for being Brahm.”1

Such are the proofs on which the opinion has been adopted that sublime principles run through the religion of the Brahmens.2 I know no supposition Edition: current; Page: [325] which can be employed to reconcile the inconsistencies,BOOK II. Chap. 6. and to remove the absurdities, which we have found this opinion to involve, unless it be assumed that the legends of the Hindus are all allegorical; and though, in their literal interpretation, they may be altogether unworthy of a perfect being, that yet a recondite and enigmatical meaning may be extorted from them, which will tally with the sublime hypothesis it is wished to entertain. Undoubtedly, if we assume to ourselves the licence of giving to the Hindu mythology a meaning to suit our own views, we may form out of it not only a sublime theology, but a sublime philosophy, or any thing we please. It might, however, have been imagined that the futility, the absurdity, of these arbitrary interpretations had been too well exposed to allow them to mislead such men as some of the advocates for the allegorical sense of the Hindu scriptures. The latter Platonists, and other refiners upon the mythology of Greece and Rome, drew from it a pure system of theology, by the very same process which is adopted and recommended in regard to the fables of the Hindus. “Without a tedious detail,” says Mr. Gibbon, “the modern reader could not form a just idea of the strange allusions, the forced etymologies, the solemn trifling, and the impenetrable obscurity of these sages, who professed to reveal the system of the universe. As the traditions of Pagan mythology were variously related, the sacred interpreters were at liberty to select the most Edition: current; Page: [326] BOOK II. Chap. 6.convenient circumstances; and as they translated an arbitrary cipher, they could extract from any fable any sense which was adapted to their favourite system of religion and philosophy. The lascivious form of a naked Venus was tortured into the discovery of some moral precept, or some physical truth; and the castration of Atys explained the revolution of the sun between the tropics, or the separation of the human soul from vice and error.”1 But if a condemnation thus severe can be justly pronounced upon those who allegorize the Greek and Roman mythology, what judgment should be formed of those by whom the same mode of interpretation is applied to the fables of the Hindus?2 The Egyptian religion is allowed on all hands to have possessed the same fundamental principles with the Hindu, and to have resembled it remarkably in its outward features: yet, of all the systems of superstition which were found within the Roman empire, Mr. Gibbon pronounces this to be “the most contemptible and abject.”3 There are satisfactory reasons for supposing that improvement in the language of the Brahmens, and refinement in the interpretations which they put upon their ancient writings, not to speak of what may have been done by their favourite practice of interpolation, have been suggested by the more rational and simple doctrines of Mahomet.4 The natural Edition: current; Page: [327] effect of acquaintance with a better creed is wellBOOK II. Chap. 6. described by Mr. Bryant. “It is to be observed,” he says, “that when Christianity had introduced a more rational system, as well as a more refined worship, among mankind; the Pagans were struck with the sublimity of its doctrines, and tried in their turns to refine. But their misfortune was, that they were obliged to abide by the theology which had been transmitted to them; and to make the history of the Gentile Gods the basis of their procedure. This brought them into immense difficulties and equal absurdities: while they laboured to solve what was inexplicable; and to remedy what was past cure. Hence we meet with many dull and elaborate sophisms even in the great Plutarch: but many more in after times, among the writers of whom I am speaking. Proclus is continually ringing the changes upon the terms νοος, νοερος, and νοητος; and explains what is really a proper name, as if it signified sense and intellect. In consequence of this, he tries to subtilize and refine all the base jargon about Saturn and Zeus: and would persuade us that the most idle and obscene legends related to the divine mind, to the eternal wisdom, and supremacy of the Deity. Thus he borrows many exalted notions from Christianity: and blends them with the basest alloy, with the dregs of Pagan mythology.”1 Such are the Edition: current; Page: [328] BOOK II. Chap. 6.opinions of the greatest men respecting those attempts to allegorize a rude superstition, which some of the most celebrated of our Indian guides so vehemently recommend.1

Of the pure and elevated ideas of the Divine Nature, which are ascribed to the Hindus, or to any other people, an accurate judgment may be formed, by ascertaining the source from which they are derived. Edition: current; Page: [329] It will be allowed that just and rationalBOOK II. Chap. 6. views of God can be obtained from two sources alone: from revelation; or, where that is wanting, from sound reflection upon the frame and government of the universe. Wherever men are sufficiently improved to take a comprehensive survey of this magnificent system, to observe the order which prevails, the adaptation of means to ends, and the incredible train of effects which flow from the simplest causes; they may then form exalted notions of the intelligence to which all those wonders are ascribed. If all the unrevealed knowledge which we possess respecting God, the immediate object of none of our senses, be derived from his works, they whose ideas of the works are in the highest degree absurd, mean, and degrading, cannot, whatever may be the language which they employ, have elevated ideas of the author of those works. It is impossible for the stream to ascend higher than the fountain. The only question therefore is, what are the ideas which the Hindus have reached concerning the wisdom and beauty of the universe. To this the answer is clear and incontrovertible. No people, how rude and ignorant soever, who have been so far advanced as to leave us memorials of their thoughts in writing, have ever drawn a more gross and disgusting picture of the universe than what is presented in the writings of the Hindus.1 In Edition: current; Page: [330] BOOK II. Chap. 6.the conception of it no coherence, wisdom, or beauty, ever appears: all is disorder, caprice, passion, contest, portents, prodigies, violence, and deformity.1 It is Edition: current; Page: [331] perfectly evident that the Hindus never contemplatedBOOK II. Chap. 6. the universe as a connected and perfect system, governed by general laws, and directed to benevolent ends; and it follows, as a necessary consequence, that their religion is no other than that primary worship, which is addressed to the designing and invisible beings who preside over the powers of nature, according to their own arbitrary will, and act only for some private and selfish gratification. The elevated language, which this species of worship finally assumes, is only the refinement, which flattery, founded upon a base apprehension of the divine character, ingrafts upon a mean superstition.1

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BOOK II. Chap. 6.If it be deemed necessary to inquire into the principle of the Hindu superstition; or which of the powers of nature, personified into gods, they exalted in the progress of hyperbolical adoration to the supremacy over the rest, and the lordship of all things; the question is resolved by copious evidence; and on this point inquirers generally coincide. Sir William Jones has written a discourse to prove that the gods of Greece, Italy, and India are the same. But it is sufficiently proved that the Greek and Roman deities ultimately resolve themselves into the sun, whose powers and provinces had been gradually enlarged, till they included those of all nature. It follows that the sun too is the principle of the Hindu religion. “We must not be surprised,” says Sir William Jones, “at finding on a close examination, that the characters of all the Pagan deities, male and female, melt into each other, and at last into one or two; for it seems a well-founded opinion, that the whole crowd of gods and goddesses, in ancient Rome and modern Varanes, mean only the powers of nature, and principally those of the sun, expressed in a variety of ways, and by a multitude of fanciful names.”1 He says too, that “the three Powers Creative, Preservative, and Destructive, which the Hindus express by the triliteral word Aum, were grossly ascribed by the first idolators to the heat, light, and flame of their mistaken Edition: current; Page: [333] divinity the sun.”1 Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, wereBOOK II. Chap. 6. therefore, the heat, light, and flame of the sun; and it follows as a very clear deduction, that Brahme, whose powers were shadowed forth in the characters of those three gods, was the sun himself. This conclusion, too, is established by many express texts of the Hindu scriptures, as well as by the most venerated part of the Hindu ritual. “The syllable Om (Aum) intends,” says a passage from the Veda translated by Mr. Colebrooke, “every deity: It belongs to Paramesht’hi, him who dwells in the supreme abode: it appertains to Brahme, the vast one; to Deva, god; to Adhyatma, the superintending soul. Other deities belonging to those several regions, are portions of the three gods; for they are variously named and described, on account of their different operations: but in fact there is only one deity, THE GREAT SOUL. He is called the Sun; for he is the soul of all beings. Other deities are portions of him.”2 I have already quoted a very remarkable passage from Yajnyawalcya, one of the highest of all authorities, in which the sun is directly asserted to be Brahme, and to be the supreme soul, as is declared in all the Vedas.3 Another passage translated from a Veda by Mr. Colebrooke says; “Fire is That Original Cause, the Sun is that; such too is that pure Brahme. Even he is the god who pervades all regions; he, prior to whom nothing was born; and who became all beings, himself the lord of creatures.”4 A passage in the Veda, translated by Sir William Jones, says, “That Sun, than which nothing is higher, to which nothing is equal, enlightens the sky, the earth, the lower worlds, the Edition: current; Page: [334] BOOK II. Chap. 6.higher worlds, other worlds, enlightens the breast, enlightens all besides the breast.”1 In the Bhawishya, Purana, Crishna himself says; “The sun is the god of perception, the eye of the universe, the cause of day; there is none greater than he among the immortal powers. From him this universe proceeded, and in him it will reach annihilation; he is time measured by instants.” I shall add but one instance more. There is a passage in the Vedas, which is regarded by the Hindus with unspeakable veneration. It has a distinctive appellation. It is called the Gayatri; and is used upon the mightiest occasions of religion. It is denominated the holiest text in the Vedas. This extraordinary, this most sacred, most wonderful text, is thus translated by Sir William Jones; “Let us adore the supremacy of that divine Sun, the godhead, who illuminates all, who re-creates all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress towards his holy seat.”2 Another version of it, and somewhat different in its phraseology, is given by Mr. Colebrooke, in his account of the first of the Vedas: “I subjoin,” says he, “a translation of the prayer which contains it, as also of the preceding one, (both of which are addressed to the sun) for the sake of exhibiting the Indian priests’ confession of faith with its context:—’This new and excellent praise of thee, O splendid, playful Sun! is offered by us to thee. Be gratified by this my speech: approach this craving mind as a fond man seeks a woman. May that sun who contemplates and looks into all worlds be our protector!—Let us Meditate on The Adorable Light of The Divine Ruler; MAY IT GUIDE OUR INTELLECTS!1 Edition: current; Page: [335] Desirous of food, we solicit the gift of theBOOK II. Chap. 6. splendid Sun, who should be studiously worshipped. Venerable men, guided by the understanding, salute the divine Sun with oblations and praise.”2 Constrained by these and similar passages, Mr. Colebrooke says; “The ancient Hindu religion, as founded on the Indian scriptures, recognizes but one God, yet not sufficiently discriminating the creature from the Creator.”3 This is an important admission, from one of the most illustrious advocates of the sublimity of the Hindu religion. Had he reflected for one moment, he would have seen that between not sufficiently, and not-at-all, in this case, there can be no distinction.4

In the natural progress of religion, it very frequently happens, that the spirit of adulation and Edition: current; Page: [336] BOOK II. Chap. 6.hyperbole exalts admired or powerful individuals to the rank of gods. The name of the sun, or of some other divinity, is bestowed as a title, or as an epithet of inflated praise, upon a great prince, or conqueror.1 Immediately the exploits of the hero are blended with the functions of the god; and, in process of time, when the origin of the combination is forgotten, they form a compound mass of inextricable and inconsistent mythology. Mr. Colebrooke is of opinion, that in the Vedas the elements and the planets alone are deified; that the worship of heroes was introduced among the Hindus at a later period; and makes a remarkable figure in the Puranas.2

Among the false refinements to which the spirit of a rude religion gives birth, it is worthy of particular remark, that abstract terms are personified, and made to assume the character of gods: such as, Health and Sickness; War and Peace; Plenty, Famine, Pestilence. When the most general abstractions too begin to be formed, as of space, of time, of fate, of nature, they are apt to fill the mind with a kind of awe and wonder; and appear to stretch beyond all things. They are either, therefore, apprehended as new gods, and celebrated as antecedent, and superior, to all the old; or if any of the old have taken a firm possession of the mind, they are exalted to the new dignity, and receive the name of the abstract idea which most forcibly engages the attention. Thus, among the Greeks and the Romans, Fate usurped a power over all the gods. The Parsee books represent Edition: current; Page: [337] Ormusd and Ahriman, the Good Principle andBOOK II. Chap. 6. the Evil Principle, sometimes as independent beings; sometimes as owing their existence to something above them; in a manner extremely resembling the language of the Sanscrit books respecting Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. At times, however, the Persians express themselves more precisely. “In the law of Zoroaster,” says one of their sacred books, “it is positively declared that God [Ormusd] was created by Time along with all other beings; and the creator is Time; and Time has no limits; it has nothing above it; it has no root; it has always been, and always will be. No one who has understanding will ever say, Whence did Time come? In that grandeur wherein Time was, there was no being who could call it creator, because it had not yet created. Afterwards it created fire and water, and from their combination proceeded Ormusd. Time was the creator, and preserved its authority over the creatures which it had produced.∗ ∗ ∗ I said in the beginning that Ormusd and Ahriman came both from Time.”1 The Brahmens, on the other hand, rather appear to have advanced the dignity of the acknowledged divinities so far as to make it embrace the extent of the abstract ideas; and to have regarded them as the abstract ideas themselves. Thus Mr. Wilkins supposes, that Brahme represents nature; Brahma, matter; Vishnu, space; Siva, time. But this is a refinement which is very sparingly, if at all, introduced in any writings of the Brahmens, which have yet been laid open to European eyes. Direct contradictions of it, though plentifully diffused, are no proof that it is not at all a Hindu doctrine. Thus Chrishna, in the Geeta, says, “I am never Edition: current; Page: [338] BOOK II. Chap. 6.failing Time, the Preserver, whose face is turned on all sides;”1 a point of view in which it well agrees with the peculiar attributes of Vishnu. But in the very same discourse, Chrishna says again, “I am Time, the destroyer of mankind,”2 in which case it agrees only with the character of Siva. But it is still more remarkable that Brahma is said to have “given being to time, and the divisions of time;”3 and that space is said to have been produced from the ear of the first victim immolated by the gods.4 Nay, there are passages in which the Hindus acknowledge a destiny or fate which over-rules the Supreme Beings themselves. “The future condition of great beings is destined with certainty, both the nakedness of Mahadeva, and the bed of Vishnu, on a vast serpent. What is not to be, that will not be; and if an event be predoomed, it cannot happen otherwise.”5

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When the exaggerations of flattery are in thisBOOK II. Chap. 6. manner engrafted upon the original deification of the elements and powers of nature; and when the worship of heroes and of abstract ideas is incorporated with the whole; then is produced that heterogeneous and monstrous compound which has formed the religious creed of so great a portion of the human race; but composes a more stupendous mass in Hindustan than any other country; because in Hindustan a greater and more powerful section of the people, than in any other country, have, during a long series of ages, been solely occupied in adding to its volume, and augmenting its influence.1

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BOOK II. Chap. 6.So little do men regard incoherence of thought; so little are they accustomed to trace the relations of one set of opinions to another, and to form on any subject a consistent and harmonious combination of ideas, that while many persons of eminence loudly contend for the correctness and sublimity of the speculative, there is an universal agreement respecting the meanness, the absurdity, the folly, of the endless Edition: current; Page: [341] ceremonies, in which the practical part of the HinduBOOK II. Chap. 6. religion consists. For the illustration of this part of the subject, I shall content myself with a reference to the documents in the appendix.1 Volumes would hardly suffice to depict at large a ritual which is more tedious, minute, and burthensome; and engrosses a greater portion of human life, than any which has been found to fetter and oppress any other portion of the human race.

No circumstance connected with a religious system more decidedly pronounces on its character, than the ideas which it inculcates respecting merit and demerit, purity and impurity, innocence and guilt. If those qualities which render a man amiable, respectable, and useful; if wisdom, beneficence, self-command, are celebrated as the chief recommendation to the favour of the Almighty; if the production of happiness is steadily and consistently represented as the most acceptable worship of the Creator; no other proof is requisite, that they who framed, and they who understand this religion, have arrived at high and refined notions of an All-perfect being. But where, with no more attention to morality, than the exigencies and laws of human nature force upon the attention of the rudest tribes, the sacred duties are made to consist in frivolous observances, there, we may be assured, the religious ideas of the people are barbarous. The train of thought which tends to this conclusion is extremely similar to that which gives birth to other deformities in the religious system of ignorant minds. From the imbecilities which usually accompany exalted station, it is found, even when society is considerably improved, Edition: current; Page: [342] BOOK II. Chap. 6.that assiduous attendance upon the person of the great man or prince, and unwearied contrivances for the expression of devotion and respect, are the path which leads the most surely to his attention and favour.1 To the rude mind, no other rule suggests itself for paying court to the Divine, than that for paying court to the Human Majesty; and as among a barbarous people, the forms of address, of respect, and compliment, are generally multiplied into a great variety of grotesque and frivolous ceremonies, so it happens with regard to their religious service. An endless succession of observances, in compliment to the god, is supposed to afford him the most exquisite delight; while the common discharge of the beneficent duties of life is regarded as an object of comparative indifference. It is unnecessary to cite instances in support of a representation, of which the whole history of the religion of most nations is a continual proof.

Even those inquirers who have been least aware of the grossness of the Hindu religion, have seen that wretched ceremonies constituted almost theBOOK II. Chap. 6. whole of its practical part. The precepts, which are lavished upon its ceremonies, bury, in their exorbitant mass, the pittance bestowed upon all other duties taken together. On all occasions ceremonies meet the attention as the pre-eminent duties of the Hindu. The holiest man is always he, by whom the ceremonies of his religion are most strictly performed. Never among any other people did the ceremonial part of religion prevail over the moral to a greater, probably to an equal extent. Of the many rules Edition: current; Page: [343] of conduct prescribed to the householder, almost the whole concern religious observances.1 Beside the general strain of the holy text, many positive declarations ascribe infinite superiority to rites and ceremonies, above morality. “Devotion,” says Menu, “is equal to the performance of all duties; it is divine knowledge in a Brahmen; it is defence of the people in a Cshatriya; devotion is the business of trade and agriculture in a Vaisya; devotion is dutiful service in a Sudra. By reading each day as much as possible of the Veda, by performing the five great sacraments, and by forgiving all injuries, even sins of the highest degree shall soon be effaced.”2 In the following list of conditions, a small space is allotted to useful virtue. “By injuring nothing animated, by subduing all sensual appetites, by devout rites ordained in the Veda, and by rigorous mortifications, men obtain, even in this life, the state of beatitude.”3 “It is through sacrifices,” says the Calica Purana, “that princes obtain bliss, heaven, and victory over their enemies.”4

In conceiving the honours with which the divine powers should be treated, it is supposed that there are certain qualities with which it is holy or unholy to approach them. As there are certain pollutions with which it would be held disrespectful to approach an earthly superior, the same sentiment, as usual, is transferred to the heavens; and the notion Edition: current; Page: [344] BOOK II. Chap. 6.of a religious impurity is engendered. This is a circumstance of considerable importance. By the nature of the particulars, to which the belief of religious purity and impurity is attached, a criterion is afforded of the mental qualities which the Divine Being is supposed to possess. The causes of impurity among the Brahmens are exceedingly numerous; that they are proportionally strange, a few instances will evince. “When a child has teethed,” says the law of Menu, “and when, after teething, his head has been shorn, and when he has been girt with his thread, and when, being full grown, he dies, all his kindred are impure: on the birth of a child, the law is the same.”1 Among a variety of other instances it is declared, that he who has touched a Chandala, a woman in her courses, an outcast, a new-born child, a corpse, or one who has touched a corpse, is impure. A Brahmen who has touched a human bone is impure.2 The rules of purification, which form a remarkable part of this subject, are not less exorbitant in their number, or extravagant in their forms. On the death of a kinsman, the modes of purification are various, according to various cases: one, which we may select as an example, is prescribed in the following words: “Let them eat vegetable food without factitious (that is, only with native) salt; let them bathe for three days at intervals; let them taste no flesh-meat; and let them sleep apart on the ground.”3 “Should a Brahmen touch a human bone moist with oil, he is purified by bathing; if it be not oily, by stroking a cow, or by looking at the sun, having sprinkled his mouth with water.”4 All those functions of the body, by which its offensive discharges Edition: current; Page: [345] are effected, or its vital powers communicated,BOOK II. Chap. 6. afford occasion for the ceremonies of purification.1 “Oily exudations,” says the law of Menu, “seminal fluids, blood, dandruff, urine, feces, earwax, nail-parings, phlegm, tears, concretions on the eyes, and sweat, are the twelve impurities of the human frame, and for cleansing these earth and water must be used.”2 “He who carries in any manner an inanimate burthen, and is touched by any thing impure, is cleansed by making an ablution, without laying his burden down.”3 “He who has been bitten by a dog, a shakal, or an ass, by any carnivorous animal frequenting a town, by a man, a horse, a camel, or a boar, may be purified by stopping his breath during one repetition of the gayatri.”4 After the rules for the purification of living bodies, follow precepts for the purification of things inanimate. For each of a great many species, a separate mode is prescribed. Land, for example, is cleansed, by sweeping, by smearing with cow-dung, by sprinkling with cow's urine, by scraping, or by letting a Edition: current; Page: [346] BOOK II. Chap. 6.cow pass a day and a night on it.1 “The purification ordained for all sorts of liquids, is by stirring them with cusa grass; for cloths folded, by sprinkling them with hallowed water; for wooden utensils, by planing them. The purification by sprinkling is ordained for grain and cloths in large quantities; but to purify them in small parcels, such as a man may easily carry, they must be washed.”2 These instances, selected merely as a small specimen of a great whole, will suffice to show what moral ideas are conveyed and inculcated in the notions of purity and impurity comprised in the religion of the Hindus.

As the purifications, so likewise the penances, prescribed by the various systems of religion, afford a remarkable indication of the qualities really ascribed to the object of worship. All penance consists in suffering. In the same degree in which the object of worship is supposed to be delighted with penance, in the same degree he is delighted with human suffering; and so far as he delights in suffering, for its own sake, so far he is a malignant being; whatever epithets, in the spirit of flattery, his votaries may confer upon him. It is natural to a rude and ignorant mind to regard the object of its worship as malignant. Things appear great or little by comparison. Amid the incessant efforts which are made to ascend another step in adulation, after all the epithets of greatness and honour are lavished upon the god, to make his greatness and honour still higher, by contrast, every epithet of meanness and contempt is heaped by the worshipper upon himself and his kind. The same is the case with his happiness; which will appear the Edition: current; Page: [347] greater, the higher it is raised above that of otherBOOK II. Chap. 6. beings; of course, the deeper the misery of other beings. Hence it is, that the prayers and praises, addressed to the deity by rude nations, abound with the most hyperbolical expressions of human misery as well as human depravity; that, in the religion of rude minds, pleasure in general bears a strong mark of reprobation, and the voluntary creation of pain is the strongest of all recommendations to him on whom the issues of life depend. In the language of the Greeks and Romans, the gods were envious of human happiness;1 just as the proud and haughty mind of the earthly despot, the archetype and model according to which, in certain stages of knowledge, the idea of the heavenly is regularly formed, likes not that the happiness of other people should approach to that of himself, and reaps a pleasure from their pain, both as enhancing the idea of his own happiness, and lessening the sense of his misery.2 “A sin, involuntarily committed,” says the sacred Edition: current; Page: [348] BOOK II. Chap. 6.text of Menu, “is removed by repeating certain texts of the scripture, but a sin committed intentionally, by harsh penances of different sorts.”1 The following account of the reason for performing penances, has the effect of exposing to religious antipathy all those persons who are affected with a bodily infirmity. “Some evil-minded persons,” says the same sacred volume, “for sins committed in this life, and some for bad actions in a preceding state, suffer a morbid change in their bodies: a stealer of gold from a Brahmen has whitlows on his nails; a drinker of spirits, black teeth; the slayer of a Brahmen, a marasmus; the violator of his preceptor's bed, a deformity in the generative organs; a malignant informer, fetid ulcers in his nostrils; a false detractor, stinking breath; a stealer of grain, the defect of some limb; a mixer of bad wares with good, some redundant member; a stealer of dressed grain, dyspepsia; a stealer of holy words, or an unauthorised reader of the scriptures, dumbness; a stealer of clothes, leprosy; a horse-stealer, lameness; the stealer of a lamp, total blindness; the mischievous extinguisher of it, blindness in one eye; a delighter in hurting sentient creatures, perpetual illness; an adulterer, windy swelling in his limbs: Thus, according to the diversity of actions, are born men despised by the good, stupid, dumb, blind, deaf, and deformed: Penance, therefore, must invariably be performed for the sake of expiation, since they who have not expiated their sins, will again spring to birth with disgraceful marks.”2 “Any twice-born man, who has drunk spirit of rice through perverse delusion of mind, may drink more spirit in flame, and Edition: current; Page: [349] atone for his offence by severely burning his body;BOOK II. Chap. 6. or he may drink boiling hot, until he die, the urine of a cow, or pure water, or milk, or clarified butter, or juice expressed from cow-dung.”1 A curious reason is assigned for the heinous guilt assigned to the drinking of intoxicating liquors by a Brahmen; Because, “stupified by drunkenness, he might fall on something very impure, or might even, when intoxicated, pronounce a secret phrase of the Veda, or might do some other act which ought not to be done.”2 If a Brahmen kill by design a cat, or an ichneumon, the bird chasha, or a frog, a dog, a lizard, an owl, or a crow, he must perform the ordinary penance required for the death of a Sudra;”3 as if the crime of killing a man were the same with that of killing a frog. “Should one of the twice-born eat the food of those persons with whom he ought never to eat, or food left by a woman, or a Sudra, or any prohibited flesh, he must drink barley gruel only for seven days and nights.”4 “Having taken goods of little value from the house of another man, he must procure absolution by performing the penance santapana, or by eating for a whole day the dung and urine of cows mixed with curds, milk, clarified butter, and water boiled with cusa grass, and then fasting entirely for a day and a night.”5 The penances for venereal sin, and the description of its various species, are unfit to be transcribed.6 Something might be said for penances, if they were attached solely to moral offences, and proportioned in painfulness to the motives to offend; because the efficacy of the punishment which is reserved to a subsequent life is commonly Edition: current; Page: [350] BOOK II. Chap. 6. annihilated by remoteness. How much of this useful character belongs to the penances of the Hindus, a few passages will disclose. “He, who has officiated at a sacrifice for outcasts, or burned the corpse of a stranger, or performed rites to destroy the innocent,” (a strange association of crimes) “may expiate his guilt by three prajapatya penances.”1 “A total fast for twelve days and nights, by a penitent with his organs controlled, and his mind attentive, is the penance named paraca, which expiates all degrees of guilt.”2 He who for a whole month eats no more than thrice eighty mouthfuls of wild grains, as he happens by any means to meet with them, keeping his organs in subjection, shall attain the same abode with the regent of the moon.”3 “Sixteen suppressions of the breath, while the holiest of texts is repeated with the three mighty words, and the triliteral syllable, continued each day for a month, absolve even the slayer of a Brahman from his hidden faults.”4 “A priest who should retain in his memory the whole Rigveda would be absolved from guilt, even if he had slain the inhabitants of the three worlds, and had eaten food from the foulest hands.”5 To such a degree are fantastic ceremonies exalted above moral duties; and so easily may the greatest crimes be compensated, by the merit of ritual, and unmeaning services.6

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But the excess to which religion depraves theBOOK II. Chap. 6. moral sentiments of the Hindus is most remarkably exemplified in the supreme, the ineffable merit which they ascribe to the saint who makes penance his trade.

Repairing to a forest, with no other utensils or effects, than those necessary in making oblations to consecrated fire: and leaving all property, and all worldly duties behind him, he is there directed to live on pure food, on certain herbs, roots, and fruit, which he may collect in the forest, to wear a black antelope's hide, or a vesture of bark, and to suffer the hairs of his head, his beard, and his nails to grow continually. He is commanded to entertain those who may visit his hermitage with such food as he himself may use, to perform the five great sacraments, to be constantly engaged in reading the Veda; patient of all extremities, universally benevolent, with a mind intent on the Supreme Being; a perpetual giver, but no receiver of gifts; with tender affection for all animated bodies. “Let him not eat the produce of ploughed land, though abandoned by any man, nor fruits and roots produced in a town, even though hunger oppress him.———Either let him break hard fruits with a stone, or let his teeth serve as a pestle.—Let him slide backwards and forwards on the ground; or let him stand a whole day on tiptoe; or let him continue in motion rising and sitting alternately; but at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, let him go to the waters, and bathe. In the hot season let him sit exposed to five fires, four blazing around him with the sun above; in the rains let him stand uncovered, without even a mantle, where the clouds pour the heaviest showers; in the cold season, let him wear humid vesture; and Edition: current; Page: [352] BOOK II. Chap. 6.enduring harsher and harsher mortifications, let him dry up his bodily frame. Let him live without external fire, without a mansion, wholly silent, feeding on roots and fruit, sleeping on the bare earth, dwelling at the roots of trees. From devout Brahmens let him receive alms to support life, or from other housekeepers of twice-born classes, who dwell in the forest. Or, if he has any incurable disease, let him advance in a straight path, towards the invincible north eastern point, feeding on water and air, till his mortal frame totally decay, and his soul become united with the Supreme.”1

In conformity with these principles are formed those professors of mortification and piety, who are known under the modern name of Fakeers, and presented to Europeans a spectacle which so greatly surprised them. Of all the phenomena of human nature, none appears at first view more extraordinary than the self-inflicted torment of the holy saints of Hindustan. Some of them keep their hands closed till they are pierced through by the growth of the nails. Others hold them above their heads, till the power of the arms is extinguished. They make vows to remain in the standing posture for years. Three men were seen by Fryer, whose vow extended to sixteen years. One of them had completed his dreadful penance; of the Edition: current; Page: [353] rest, one had passed five years in torment, the otherBOOK II. Chap. 6. three. Their legs were prodigiously swelled, and deeply ulcerated; and became at last too weak to support their bodies, when they leaned on a pillow suspended from a tree. Others, turning their heads to gaze at the heaven over their shoulder, remain fixed in that posture, till the head can no longer be restored to its natural position, and no aliment, except in the liquid state, can pass down their throats.

The ceremony, commanded by Menu, “of sitting, in the hot season between five fires,” cannot be conceived without horror. A yogee, or penitent, actually seen by Fryer, had resolved to undergo this penance for forty days, at a public festival, where an immense concourse of spectators were assembled. Early on the morning, after having seated himself on a quadrangular stage he fell prostrate, and continued fervent in his devotions, till the sun began to have considerable power. He then rose, and stood on one leg, gazing stedfastly at thesun, while fires, each large enough, says the traveller, to roast an ox, were kindled at the four corners of the stage, the penitent counting his beads, and occasionally, with his pot of incense, throwing combustible materials into the fire to increase the flames. He next bowed himself down in the centre of the four fires, keeping his eyes still fixed upon the sun. Afterwards, placing himself upright on his head, with his feet elevated in the air, he stood for the extraordinary space of three hours, in that inverted position; he then seated himself with his legs across, and thus remained sustaining the raging heat of the sun and of the fires till the end of the day. Other penitents bury themselves up to the neck in the ground, or even wholly below it, leaving only a little hole through which they may breathe. They tear themselves with whips; they repose on beds of iron Edition: current; Page: [354] BOOK II. Chap. 6.spikes;1 they chain themselves for life to the foot of a tree: the wild imagination of the race appears in short to have been racked to devise a sufficient variety of fantastic modes of tormenting themselves. The extent to which they carry the penance of fasting is almost incredible. They fix their eyes on the blazzing sun till the power of vision is extinguished.2 The following description, in the drama entitled Sacontala, how much soever partaking of the hyperbolical character of oriental poetry, conveys a most remarkable image of the length of time, the patience, and steadiness, with which the devotees of the forests must have remained immoveable in their solitary positions. “You see,” says one of the personages of the drama, “in that grove a pious Yogee, motionless as a pollard, holding his thick, bushy hair, and fixing his eyes on the solar orb.—Mark; his body is covered with a white ants’ edifice, made of raised clay; the skin of a snake supplies the place of his sacerdotal thread, and part of it girds his loins; a number of knotty plants Edition: current; Page: [355] encircle and wound his neck; ‘and surrounding birds’BOOK II. Chap. 6. nests almost conceal his shoulders.”1 The same venerable character is thus farther described in the Bhagvat-Geeta; “The Yogee constantly exerciseth the spirit in private. He is recluse, of a subdued mind and spirit; free from hope, and free from perception. He planteth his own seat firmly on a spot that is undefiled, neither too high, nor too low, and sitteth upon the sacred grass which is called coos, covered with a skin and a cloth. There he, whose business is the restraint of his passions, should sit, with his mind fixed on one object alone, in the exercise of his devotion for the purification of his soul, keeping his head, his neck, and his body, steady, without motion, his eyes fixed on the point of his nose, looking at no other place around. The man who keepeth the outward accidents from entering his mind, and his eyes fixed in contemplation between his brows; who maketh Edition: current; Page: [356] BOOK II. Chap. 6.the breath to pass through both his nostrils alike in expiration and inspiration, who is of subdued faculties, mind, and understanding; the Yogee, who thus constantly exerciseth his soul, obtaineth happiness incorporeal and supreme.”1 This pure state of meditation, which obtains the name of devotion, is even more exalted than that of penance. “The Yogee,” says Crishna, “is more exalted than Tapaswees, those votaries who afflict themselves in performing penance, respected above the learned in science, and” (which is worthy of peculiar regard,) “superior to those who are attached to moral works.”2 “Be thou at all times,” says this supreme god to Arjoon in another place, “employed in devotion. The fruit of this surpasseth all the rewards of virtue pointed out in the Vedas, in worshippings, in mortifications, and even in the gifts of charity.”3

It is abundantly ascertained that the Hindus at one time, and that a time comparatively recent,4 were marked with the barbarity of human sacrifices.5 It even appears that the remainder of that devotional service is now in existence. When it is proposed to resist, as exorbitant, the demands of government, the Brahmens erect, what they denominate a koor, Edition: current; Page: [357] which is a circular pile of wood, with a cow, or anBOOK II. Chap. 6. old woman on the top of it. If urged to extremity they set fire to the pile, and consume the victim, a sacrifice by which they are understood to involve their oppressor in the deepest guilt.1 The British Government has interfered to prevent the sacrifice of children by throwing them to the sharks in the Ganges.2

Though the progress of improvement has brought into comparative disuse the mode of seeking divine favour by the sacrifice of a fellow creature, horrid rites, which have too near an affinity with it, are still the objects of the highest veneration. It is one of the grandest achievements of piety, for individuals to sacrifice themselves in honour of the gods. There are solemn festivals, in which the images of certain deities are carried in procession in vast ponderous machines denominated raths, or chariots, drawn by a multitude of devotees and priests; when it is customary for numbers of the congregated people to throw themselves under the wheels, and even fathers and mothers with their children in their arms. The chariot passes on, as if no impediment existed, and crushing them to death, is supposed to convey them immediately to heaven.3 The practice of sacrificing Edition: current; Page: [358] BOOK II. Chap. 6.themselves in the flames is a noted ceremony of the Hindus. It is sometimes executed with circumstances of studied atrocity; the victim striking himself in front with his sabre, so as to lay open his bowels to the spectators, tearing out part of his liver, cutting it off with his sabre, giving it to a relation or bystander, conversing all the time with indifference apparently complete, then with unchanged countenance leaping into the flames, and expiring without a movement.1 In some parts of India a Brahmen devotes himself to death, by eating till he expires with the surfeit.2 On great solemnities, the votaries strike off their own heads, as a sacrifice to the Ganges,3 and many drown themselves in the hallowed streams.4 Of the modes adopted by the Hindus of sacrificing themselves to the divine powers, none however has more excited the attention of the Europeans, than the burning of the wives on the funeral piles of their husbands. To this cruel sacrifice the highest virtues are ascribed. “The wife who commits herself to the flames with her husband's corpse, shall equal Arundhati, and reside in Swarga; accompanying her Edition: current; Page: [359] husband, she shall reside so long in Swarga, as areBOOK II. Chap. 6. the thirty-five millions of hairs on the human body.1 As the snake-catcher forcibly drags the serpent from his earth, so, bearing her husband from hell, with him, she shall enjoy the delights of heaven, while fourteen Indras reign. If her husband had killed a Brahmana, broken the ties of gratitude, or murdered his friend, she expiates the crime.”2 Though a widow has the alternative of leading a life of chastity, of piety, and mortification, denied to the pleasures of dress, never sleeping on a bed, never exceeding one meal a day, nor eating any other than simple food, it is held her duty to burn herself along with her husband; and “the Hindu legislators,” says Mr. Colebrooke, “have shown themselves disposed to encourage” this barbarous sacrifice.3

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BOOK II. Chap. 6. Such are the acts, by which, according to the Hindu religion, the favour of the Almighty Power is chiefly to be gained; such are the ideas respecting purity and merit, which it is calculated to inspire. Yet if any one concludes that the Hindus were unacquainted with the ordinary precepts of morality, he will be greatly deceived. “By Brahmens,” says the law of Menu, “placed in the four orders, a tenfold system of duties must ever be sedulously practised; Content; returning good for evil; resistance to sensual appetites; abstinence from illicit gain; purification; coercion of the organs; knowledge of scripture; knowledge of the supreme spirit; veracity; and freedom from wrath.”1 In this enumeration of duties, though a large proportion is allowed to acts purely ceremonial and useless; yet some of the noblest virtues are included. “Action,” says the same sacred code, “is either mental, verbal, or corporeal. Devising means to appropriate the wealth of other men, resolving on any forbidden deed, and conceiving notions of atheism or materialism, are the three bad acts of the mind: scurrilous language, falsehood, indiscriminate backbiting, and useless tattle, are the four bad acts of the tongue: Taking effects not given, hurting sentient creatures without the sanction of law, and criminal intercourse with the wife of another, are three bad acts of the body; and all the ten have their opposites, which are good in an equal degree.”2 Though there is something extremely whimsical in the consequence ascribed to the following acts of injustice, yet they are with great propriety forbidden: “He who appropriates Edition: current; Page: [361] to his own use, the carriage, the bed, the seat,BOOK II. Chap. 6. the well, the garden, or the house of another man, who has not delivered them to him, assumes a fourth part of the guilt of their owner.”1 The following observations are in a pure and elevated strain of morality: “Even here below an unjust man attains no felicity; nor he whose wealth proceeds from giving false evidence; nor he, who constantly takes delight in mischief. Though oppressed by penury, in consequence of his righteous dealings, let him never give his mind to unrighteousness; for he may observe the speedy overthrow of iniquitous and sinful men. Iniquity, committed in this world, produces not fruit immediately, but, like the earth, in due season; and, advancing by little and little, it eradicates the man who committed it. Yes; iniquity, once committed, fails not of producing fruit to him who wrought it. He grows rich for a while through unrighteousness; then he beholds good things; then it is that he vanquishes his foes; but he perishes at length from his whole root upwards. Let a man continually take pleasure in truth, in justice, in laudable practices, and in purity; let him chastise those, whom he may chastise, in a legal mode; let him keep in subjection his speech, his arm, and his appetite: wealth and pleasures, repugnant to law, let him shun; and even lawful acts, which may cause future pain, or be offensive to mankind.”2

Sir William Jones, whom it is useful to quote, because his authority may have influence with those whose opinions I am constrained to controvert, observes, that “the principles of morality are few, luminous, and ready to present themselves on every Edition: current; Page: [362] BOOK II. Chap. 6. occasion.”1 Descanting on the rudeness, and ignorance, of the Scythian nations; “of any philosophy,” he says, “except natural ethics, which the rudest society requires, and experience teaches, we find no more vestiges in Asiatic Scythia, than in ancient Arabia.”2 He was not surprised to find natural ethics, where not a vestige of philosophy was found; because “natural ethics,” are what “the rudest society requires, and experience teaches.” If we search a little further, we shall discover that nations differ less from one another in the knowledge of morality, and of its obligations, (the rules of morality have been taught in all nations in a manner remarkably similar), than in the degrees of steadiness, with which they assign the preference to moral, above other acts. Among rude nations it has almost always been found, that religion has served to degrade morality, by advancing to the place of greatest honour, those external performances, or those mental exercises, which more immediately regarded the deity; and with which, of course, he was supposed to be more peculiarly delighted. On no occasion, indeed, has religion obliterated the impressions of morality, of which the rules are the fundamental laws of human society: morality has every where met with the highest applause; and no where has it been celebrated in more pompous strains, than in places where the most contemptible, or the most abominable rites, have most effectually been allowed to usurp its honours.3 It is not so Edition: current; Page: [363] much, therefore, by the mere words in which moralityBOOK II. Chap. 6. is mentioned, that we are to judge of the mental perfections of different nations, as by the place which it clearly holds in the established scale of meritorious acts. In a moment of hyperbolical praise, it may even receive a verbal preference to ceremonies; as in one passage of the Institutes of Menu: “A wise man should constantly discharge all the moral duties, though he perform not constantly the ceremonies of religion; since he falls low, if, while he performs ceremonial acts only, he discharge not his moral Edition: current; Page: [364] BOOK II. Chap. 6. duties.”1 Yet in the entire system of rules concerning duty, the stress which is laid upon moral acts, may, as we see in the case of the Hindus, bear no comparison to the importance which is attached to useless or pernicious ceremonies. Such a maxim as that which has just been quoted, can be regarded as but of little value, when it is surrounded by numerous maxims of the following tendency; “Not a mortal exists more sinful than he, who, without an oblation to the manes or gods, desires to enlarge his own flesh with the flesh of another creature.”2 “From the three Vedas, the lord of creatures, incomprehensibly exalted, successively milked out the three measures of that ineffable text beginning with the word tad and entitled, savitri, or gayatri; whoever shall repeat, day by day, for three years, without negligence, that sacred text, shall hereafter approach the divine essence, move as freely as air, and assume an ethereal form.”3 “Studying and comprehending the Veda, practising pious austerities, acquiring divine knowledge, command over the organs of sense and action, avoiding all injury to sentient creatures, and showing reverence to a natural and spiritual father, are the chief branches of duty which ensure final happiness.”4 “Even three suppressions of breath made according to the divine rule, accompanied with the triverbal phrase, and the triliteral syllable, may be considered as the highest devotion of a Brahmen; for as the dross and impurities of metallic ores are consumed by fire, thus are the sinful acts of the human organs consumed by suppressions of the breath.”5 If we examine that highest degree of merit to which the imagination of the Hindu can ascend, that of the Edition: current; Page: [365] Sanyassi, or professor of austere devotion, we shallBOOK II. Chap. 6. find it to consist in an absolute renunciation of all moral duties, and moral affections. “Exemption from attachments, and affection for children, wife, and home;”1 nay, “the abandonment of all earthly attachments,”2 form a necessary part of that perfection after which he aspires.

It is by no means unnatural for the religion of a rude people to unite opposite qualities, to preach the most harsh austerities, and at the same time to encourage the loosest morality. It may be matter of controversy to what degree the indecent objects employed in the Hindu worship imply depravity of manners; but a religion which subjects to the eyes of its votaries the grossest images of sensual pleasure, and renders even the emblems of generation objects of worship; which ascribes to the supreme God an immense train of obscene acts; which has them engraved on the sacred cars, pourtrayed in the temples, and presented to the people as objects of adoration, which pays worship to the Yoni, and the Lingam, cannot be regarded as favourable to chastity.3 Nor Edition: current; Page: [366] BOOK II. Chap. 6. can it be supposed, when to all these circumstances is added the institution of a number of girls, attached Edition: current; Page: [367] BOOK II. Chap. 6. to the temples, whose business is dancing and prostitution,BOOK II. Chap. 6. that this is a virtue encouraged by the religion of the Hindus.

Another contrast to the tortures and death which the religion of the Hindus exhorts them to inflict upon themselves, is the sacredness which it imprints upon the life of animals. Not only are the Hindus prohibited the use of animal food, except at certain peculiar sacrifices; even the offerings to the gods consist almost entirely of inanimate objects; and to deprive any sensitive creature of life, is a heinous transgression of religious duty. Many of the inferior creatures, both animate and inanimate, are the objects of religious veneration; such, in particular, are the cow, the lotos, and cusa grass. Nor, in this enumeration, must the dung and urine of the cow be forgotten; things so holy as to be of peculiar efficacy in the ceremonies of purification. To whatever origin we may ascribe this strange application of the religious principle, it has at least been very widely diffused. It is known that many negro tribes worship animals and reptiles; and that they carry the solicitude for their preservation to a still more extravagant pitch than even the Hindus; punishing with death those who hurt them even casually.1 The sacred character in Egypt of the ox, and of many other animals, is too familiarly known to require any proof. The cow was oracular, and sacred among the Amonians.2 Not only cows, but horses, eagles, lions, bears, were divine animals among the Syrians.3 The Egyptian priests respected as sacred the life of all animals, and animal food seems to have been interdicted Edition: current; Page: [368] BOOK II. Chap. 6. not less in Egypt than in Hindustan.1 At an early period, the Greeks, and even the Romans, punished with death, the killing of an ox.2 The worship of this species of quadrupeds appears indeed to have been common to all the idolatrous nations from Japan to Scandinavia.3 That, in India, it was a worship directed to no moral end, is evident upon the slightest inspection. To renounce the benefits which the inferior animals are fitted by nature to render to man, is not humanity, any more than swinging before an idol, by an iron hook, forced through the muscles of the back, is the virtue of self-command. And that this superstition took not its rise from a sensibility to the feelings of animated creatures, is evident from the barbarous character of several of the nations where it prevails; from the proverbial cruelty suffered by the labouring animals of Hindustan; and from the apathy with which human beings are left to expire by hunger and disease, while reptiles are zealously tended and fed.4

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BOOK II. Chap. 6. Religion consists of two great doctrines; that concerning the nature and service of God; and that Edition: current; Page: [370] BOOK II. Chap. 6. concerning the nature and destination of the human soul. In the complicated superstition of the Hindus, the first presented many questions which it needed a considerable accumulation of evidence to solve. Of the latter, a just idea may be speedily conveyed.

It is well known that the metempsychosis, or the transmigration of the soul into various orders of Edition: current; Page: [371] BOOK II. Chap. 6. being, reviving in one form, when it ceases to exist in another, is the tenet of the Hindus. This is a theory well calculated to present itself to the mind of the rude inquirer, when first excited to stretch his views beyond the present term of sensation and action. The vegetable life, which expires in the plant, in autumn, revives in the seed in spring. The sluggish worm, which undergoes a species of death, and buries itself in a tomb of its own formation, springs again to life, a gay and active creature, as different in appearance, as in appetites and powers. Every thing on earth is changed, nothing annihilated; and the soul of the man who expires to day, revives in something else, to which life is at that instant imparted.

Some very obvious, and very impressive appearances must have suggested the notion of the metempsychosis, since it is one of the most ancient, and one of the most general of all religious opinions. “No doctrine,” says Dupuis, “was ever more universally diffused; none claims an origin so ancient. It reigned in the East, and in the West, among rude nations, and polished nations; and it ascends to antiquity so high, that Burnet ingeniously declares, one would believe it to be descended from heaven; so much it appears without father, without mother, and without descent.”1 The Brahmens grafted upon it, in their usual way, a number of fantastic refinements, and gave to their ideas on this subject, a more systematic form than is usual with those eccentric theologians. They describe the mind as characterized Edition: current; Page: [372] BOOK II. Chap. 6. by three qualities, goodness, passion, darkness. According as any soul is distinguished by one or another of those qualities in its present life, is the species of being into which it migrates in the life to come. Souls endued with goodness attain the condition of deities; those filled with passion receive that of men; those immersed in darkness are condemned to that of beasts. Each of these conditions, again, is divided into three degrees, a lower, a middle, and a higher. Of the souls distinguished by darkness, the lowest are thrust into mineral and vegetable substances, into worms, reptiles, fishes, snakes, tortoises, cattle, shakals; the middle pass into elephants, horses, Sudras, Mlec’has, (a word of very opprobrious import, denoting men of all other races not Hindu,) lions, tigers, and boars; the highest animate the forms of dancers, singers, birds, deceitful men, giants, and blood-thirsty savages. Of the souls who receive their future condition from the quality of passion, the lowest pass into cudgel players, boxers, wrestlers, actors, those who teach the use of weapons, and those who are addicted to gaming and drinking; the middle enter the bodies of kings, men of the fighting class, domestic priests of kings, and men skilled in the war of controversy; the highest become gand-harvas, (a species of supposed aërial spirits, whose business is music,) genii, attending superior gods, together with various companies of apsarases, or nymphs. Of the souls who are characterized by the quality of goodness, the lowest migrate into hermits, religious mendicants, other Brahmens, such orders of demigods as are wafted in airy cars, genii of the signs and lunar mansions, and Daityas, another of their many orders of superior spirits; the middle attain the condition of sacrificers, of holy sages, deities of the lower heaven, genii of the Vedas, Edition: current; Page: [373] regents of stars, divinities of years, Pitris, and Sadhyas,BOOK II. Chap. 6. two other species of exalted intelligences; the highest ascend to the condition of Brahma with four faces, of creators of worlds, of the genius of virtue, and the divinities presiding over the two principles of nature.1 Besides this general description of the future allotment of different souls, a variety of particular dooms are specified, of which a few may be taken as an example. “Sinners in the first degree,” says the ordinance of Menu, “having passed through terrible regions of torture, for a great number of years, are condemned to the following births at the close of that period. The slayer of a Brahmen must enter the body of a dog, a boar, an ass, a camel, a bull, a goat, a sheep, a stag, a bird, a Chandala, or a Puccasa. He, who steals the gold of a priest, shall pass a thousand times into the bodies of spiders, of snakes, and camelions, of crocodiles, and other aquatic monsters, or of mischievous blood-sucking demons. He who violates the bed of his natural or spiritual father, migrates a hundred times into the forms of grasses, of shrubs, with crowded stems, or of creeping and twining plants, carnivorous animals, beasts with sharp teeth, or cruel brutes.”2 After a variety of other cases, a general rule is declared, for those of the four castes who neglect the duties of their order: “Should a Brahmen omit his peculiar duty, he shall be changed into a demon, with a mouth like a firebrand, who devours what has been vomited; a Cshatriya, into a demon who feeds on ordure and carrion; a Vaisya, into an evil being who eats purulent carcases; and a Sudra, who neglects his occupations, into a foul embodied spirit, who feeds on lice.”3 Edition: current; Page: [374] BOOK II. Chap. 6. The reward of the most exalted piety, of the most profound meditation, of that exquisite abstemiousness which dries up the mortal frame, is peculiar: Such a perfect soul becomes absorbed in the Divine essence, and is for ever exempt from transmigration.1

We might very easily, from the known laws of human nature, conclude, notwithstanding the language held by the Hindus on the connection between future happiness and the virtue of the present life, that rewards and punishments, very distant and very obscure, would be wholly impotent against temptations to crime; though, at the instigation of the priests, they might engage the people in a ceaseless train of wretched ceremonies. The fact corresponds most exactly with the anticipation. An admirable witness has said, “The doctrine of a state of future rewards and punishments, as some persons may plead, has always been supposed to have a strong influence on public morals: the Hindoos not only have this doctrine in their writings, but are taught to consider every disease and misfortune of life as an undoubted symptom of moral disease, and the terrific appearance of its close-pursuing punishment. Can this fail to produce a dread of vice, and a desire to merit the favour of the Deity? I will still farther,” he adds, “assist the objector; and inform him, that the Hindoo writings declare, that till every immoral taint is removed, every sin atoned for, and the mind has obtained perfect abstraction from material objects, it is impossible to be re-united to the great spirit; and that, to obtain this perfection, the sinner must linger in many hells, and transmigrate through almost every form of matter.” Our informant then declares; “Great as these terrors are, there is nothing Edition: current; Page: [375] more palpable than that, with most of theBOOK II. Chap. 6. Hindoos, they do not weigh the weight of a feather, compared with the loss of a roopee. The reason is obvious: every Hindoo considers all his actions as the effect of his destiny; he laments, perhaps, his miserable fate, but he resigns himself to it without a struggle, like the malefactor in a condemned cell.” This experienced observer adds, which is still more comprehensive, that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments has, in no situation, and among no people, a power to make men virtuous.1

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BOOK II. Chap. 7.By the manners of a nation are understood the peculiar modes in which the ordinary business of human life is carried on. The business itself is every where essentially the same. In all nations men eat and drink; they meet, converse, transact, and sport together. But the manner in which these and other things are performed is as different as the nations are numerous into which the race is divided.

So much of the entire business of life, among the Hindus, consists in religious services, that the delineation of their religion is a delineation of the principal branch of their manners.

The singular distinctions, attached to the different classes, present another remarkable feature in the manners of this people. The lower orders, in other countries, are often lamentably debased; in Hindustan they are degraded below the brutes. With the single exception of the Vaisya caste, to whom is appropriated the business of agriculture and of barter, the whole of the productive classes, according to the standards of law and religion, are vile and odious, unworthy to eat, to drink, or to sit with a member of the classes above them.

There are four remarkable periods into which, with respect to the three honourable classes, human life is divided. Of these periods; or orders, as they are denominated by the Hindus; the first is that of the student; the second, that of the householder; Edition: current; Page: [377] the third, that of the man who performs penance orBOOK II. Chap. 7. other religious acts, residing continually in a forest; the fourth, that of the Sannyasi, or the ascetic absorbed in divine contemplation.1

The period of the student commences at the era of investiture.2 Prior to this age, the situation of children is remarkable; even those of a Brahmen are not held superior in rank to a Sudra.3 The condition of the student much more closely resembles that of an European apprentice than that of a pupil in literature. He dwells in the house of his preceptor, and tends him with the most respectful assiduity. He is commanded to exert himself in all acts useful to his teacher;4 and of course performs the part of an assistant in all the offices of religion.5 “As he who digs deep with a spade comes to a spring of water, so the student, who humbly serves his teacher, attains the knowledge which lies deep in his teacher's mind.” Upon the student of the priestly order a peculiar burden, or distinction, is imposed: to acquire daily his food by begging.6

The gift of sacred instruction is not bestowed indiscriminately; but the text, which regulates the choice of pupils, is so vague as to leave the selection nearly at the discretion of the master. “Ten persons,” it is declared, “may legally be instructed in the Veda; the son of a spiritual teacher; a boy who is assiduous; one who can impart other knowledge; one who is just; one who is pure; one who is friendly; one who is Edition: current; Page: [378] BOOK II. Chap. 7. powerful; one who can bestow wealth; one who is honest; and one who is related by blood. Where virtue and wealth are not found, or diligent attention proportioned, in that soil divine instruction must not be sown; it would perish like fine seed in barren land.”1

The instruction which is bestowed may soon be described. “The venerable preceptor, having girt his pupil with the thread, must first instruct him in purification, in good customs, in the management of the consecrated fire, and in the holy rites of morning, noon, and evening.”2 The grand object of attention and solicitude is the reading of the Veda.3 Some classes of the Brahmens have united with their religious doctrines certain speculations concerning the intellectual and material worlds; and these speculations have been dignified with the name of philosophy; but the holy rites, and the Veda, form the great, and on most occasions the exclusive object of that higher instruction which is bestowed on the pupil of the Brahmen.

On this important occasion, as on other occasions, the attention of the Hindu is much more engaged by frivolous observances, than by objects of utility. While the directions laid down respecting the instruction of the pupil are exceedingly few and insignificant, the forms, according to which he must pay his duty to the master, are numerous, minute, and emphatically enjoined.4

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The duration of the period of study is very indefinite.BOOK II. Chap. 7. “The discipline of a student in the three Vedas may be continued for thirty-six years, in the house of Edition: current; Page: [380] BOOK II. Chap. 7. his preceptor; or for half that time, or for a quarter of it, or until he perfectly comprehend them: A student, whose rules have not been violated, may assume the order of a married man, after he has read in succession a sac’ha, or branch from each of the three Vedas, or from two or from any one of them.”1 It is even permitted to pass the whole period of life in the state of a pupil; and to this merit so exalted is ascribed, that the very highest rewards of religion are bestowed upon it. “If a student anxiously desire to pass his whole life in the house of a sacerdotal teacher, he must serve him with assiduous care, till he be released from his mortal frame. That Brahmen who has dutifully attended his preceptor till the dissolution of his body, passes directly to the eternal mansion of God.”2 Should the teacher die, the student must attend upon his widow, his son, or one of his paternal kinsmen, with the same respect as to the deceased preceptor. Should none of these be living he occupies the seat of the preceptor himself.3

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To the state of the student succeeds that of theBOOK II. Chap. 7. married man, or the housekeeper. It is at this epoch that the Hindu begins to sustain a part as the member of society.

Marriage is a religious duty; and a duty of the highest order. Except for some grand plan of devotion, as that of remaining a student, or of becoming a fakeer, no man neglects at an early age to fulfil this sacred obligation. As the sacrament of obsequies to the manes of ancestors can be performed only by a male descendant, and as any failure in these obsequies deeply affects the spirits of the dead, to die without a son is regarded as one of the greatest of all calamities.1

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. The ceremonies of marriage, entirely religious, have been already described. Marriages are distinguished into eight kinds; of which one half are honourable, and differ from one another only in some minute circumstances; in the fifth the bridegroom bestows gifts upon the bride, her father, and paternal kinsman; the last three are rather species of unlawful connexion, than forms of nuptial contract; one being voluntary and by mutual consent; the other forcible, when a woman is seized, “while she weeps, and calls for assistance, after her kinsmen and friends have been slain in battle;” the last, “when the damsel is sleeping, or flushed with strong liquor, or disordered in her intellect.”1 With the grand rule to prevent the intermixture of the castes, the reader is already acquainted. “For the first marriage of the twice-born classes,” says the law of Menu, “a woman of the same class is recommended; but for such as are impelled by inclination to marry again, women in the direct order of the classes are to be preferred: a Sudra woman only must be the wife of a Sudra; she and a Vaisya of a Vaisya; they two and a Cshatriya, of a Cshatriya; those two and a Brahmani, of a Brahmen.”2 The Hindu law-givers, who commonly mistake minuteness for precision, and are apt to be most Edition: current; Page: [383] particular where it is least required, make rules for theBOOK II. Chap. 7. choice of a wife. “In connecting a man's self with a wife, let him,” says Menu, “studiously avoid the ten following families, be they ever so great, or ever so rich in kine, goats, sheep, gold, and grain: The family which has omitted prescribed acts of religion; that which has produced no male children; that in which the Veda has not been read; that which has thick hair on the body; and those which have been subject to hemorrhoids, to phthisis, to dyspepsia, to epilepsy, to leprosy, and to elephantiasis. Let him not marry a girl with reddish hair, nor with any deformed limb; nor one troubled with habitual sickness; nor one either with no hair, or too much; nor one immoderately talkative; nor one with inflamed eyes; nor one with the name of a constellation, of a tree, or of a river, of a barbarous nation, or of a mountain, of a winged creature, a snake, or a slave; nor with any name raising an image of terror. Let him choose for his wife a girl, whose form has no defect; who has an agreeable name; who walks gracefully like a phenicopteros, or like a young elephant; whose hair and teeth are moderate respectively in quantity and in size; whose body has exquisite softness.”1

The condition of the women is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the manners of nations. Among rude people, the women are generally degraded; among civilized people they are exalted.2 In the barbarian, the passion of sex is a brutal impulse, which infuses no tenderness; and his undisciplined nature leads him to abuse his power over every creature that is weaker than himself. The history of uncultivated nations uniformly represents the women as in a state Edition: current; Page: [384] BOOK II. Chap. 7. of abject slavery, from which they slowly emerge, as civilization advances. Among some of the negro tribes on the coast of Africa, the wife is never permitted to receive any thing from the hands of her husband, or even to appear in his presence, except on her knees.1 In the empire of Congo, where the people are sufficiently advanced to be united in a large community; and in most of the nations which inhabit the southern regions of Africa, the women are reckoned unworthy to eat with the men.2 In such a state of society property is an advantage which it may naturally be supposed that the degraded sex are by no means permitted to enjoy. Not only among the African and other savage tribes, and the Tartars of the present day, but among the ancient inhabitants of Chaldea and Arabia, and all the nations of Europe in their ancient uncivilized state, the women were excluded from the inheritance of the family.3 Being condemned to severe and perpetual labour, they are themselves regarded as useful property. Hence a father parts not with his daughter but for a valuable consideration; hence the general custom, among barbarous nations, as in Pegu, in Siberia, among the Tartars, among the negroes on the coast of Guinea, among the Arabs, and even among the Chinese, of purchasing the bride by a dower.4 It is only in that improved state of property and security, when the necessities of life have ceased to create perpetual solicitude, and when a large share of attention may be Edition: current; Page: [385] given to its pleasures; that the women, from theirBOOK II. Chap. 7. influence on those pleasures, begin to be an object of regard. As society refines upon its enjoyments, and advances into that state of civilization, in which various corporeal qualities become equal or superior in value to corporeal strength, and in which the qualities of the mind are ranked above the qualities of the body, the condition of the weaker sex is gradually improved, till they associate on equal terms with the men, and occupy the place of voluntary and useful coadjutors.

A state of dependance more strict and humiliating than that which is ordained for the weaker sex among the Hindus cannot easily be conceived. “Day and night,” says Menu, “must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependance.”1 Who are meant by their protectors is immediately explained: “Their fathers protect them in childhood; their husbands protect them in youth, their sons protect them in age: a woman,” it is added, “is never fit for independence. Let husbands consider this as the supreme law, ordained for all classes; and let them, how weak soever, diligently keep their wives under lawful restrictions.”2 “By a girl, or by a young woman, or by a woman advanced in years, nothing,” says the same code, “must be done, even in her own dwelling-place, according to her mere pleasure. In childhood must a female be dependant on her father; in youth, on her husband; her lord being dead, on her sons: a woman must never seek independence.”3 The deference which is exacted towards her husband is without limits. “Though inobservant of approved usages, or enamoured of another woman, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must constantly be revered as a Edition: current; Page: [386] BOOK II. Chap. 7. god by a virtuous wife. No sacrifice is allowed to women apart from their husbands, no religious rite, no fasting: as far only as a wife honours her lord, so far she is exalted in heaven.”1 “She who neglects her lord, though addicted to gaming, fond of spirituous liquors, or diseased, must be deserted for three months, and deprived of her ornaments and household furniture.”2 To every species of ill-usage, she is bound to submit; “neither by sale nor desertion,” says the ordinance of Menu, “can a wife be released from her husband: thus we fully acknowledge the law enacted of old by the lord of creatures.”3 This is a remarkable law; for it indicates the power of the husband to sell his wife for a slave, and by conse quence proves, that her condition, while in his house, was not regarded as very different from slavery. A law is even made to direct the mode in which she is beaten; “A wife, a son, a servant, a pupil, and a younger whole brother, may be corrected, when they commit faults, with a rope, or the small shoot of a cane; but on the back part only of their bodies, and not on a noble part by any means.”4

Nothing can exceed the habitual contempt which the Hindus entertain for their women. “Hardly are they ever mentioned in their laws, or other books, but as wretches of the most base and vicious inclinations, on whose nature no virtuous or useful qualities can be engrafted. “Their husbands,” says the sacred code, “should be diligently careful in guarding them; though they well know the disposition with which the lord of creation formed them; Menu allotted to such women a love of their bed, of their Edition: current; Page: [387] seat, and of ornament, impure appetites, wrath, weakBOOK II. Chap. 7. flexibility, desire of mischief, and bad conduct.”1 “Be there no place, be there no time, be there no one to tempt them,” says the Hetopadesa, “then, O Narada, doth women's chastity appear. Women at all times have been inconstant, even among the celestials, we are told. In infancy the father should guard her, in youth her husband should guard her, and in old age her children should guard her; for at no time is a woman proper to be trusted with liberty.”2 The same author declares again; “Unto woman no man is to be found disagreeable, no man agreeable. They may be compared to a heifer on the plain, that still longeth for fresh grass. Infidelity, violence, deceit, envy, extreme avariciousness, a total want of good qualities, with impurity, are the innate faults of womankind.”3

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. They are held, accordingly, in extreme degradation. They are not accounted worthy to partake of religious rites but in conjunction with their husbands.1 They are entirely excluded from the sacred books; “Women have no business with the texts of the Veda; thus is the law fully settled: having, therefore, no evidence of law, and no knowledge of expiatory texts, sinful women must be as foul as falsehood itself. To this effect many texts, which may show their true disposition, are chanted in the Vedas.”2 “A minor,” says the law, “one single person, a woman, a man of bad principles, &c. may not be witnesses.”3 We have already seen, as in the most barbarous nations, that the women among the Hindus are excluded from sharing in the paternal property.4 They are, by system, deprived of education.5 That remarkable proof of barbarity, the wife held unworthy to eat with her husband, is prevalent in Hindustan.6

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. An almost unlimited power of rejection or divorce appears to be reserved to the husband. In the code of Gentoo laws, among various other ordinances to the same purpose, it is declared that, “a woman who dissipates or spoils her own property, or who procures abortion, or who has an intention to murder her husband, and is always quarrelling with every body, and who eats before her husband eats, such women shall be turned out of the house.”1 On grounds like these, a man can never be without a pretence for dismissing his wife. But on the other hand we have seen that no species of barbarous treatment, not even desertion and sale, ever absolves the woman from her obligations to her lord.2

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. That polygamy was an established custom of the Hindus, we learn from various documents, and among others from the following story, which at the same time conveys no evidence of their domestic gentleness:—“In the city of Devee-kotta, there was a Brahman, whose name was Deva-Sarma. One lucky evening he found a curious dish, which he took with him into a potter's warehouse full of earthen-ware, and throwing himself upon a bed which happened to be there, it being night, he began to express his thoughts upon the occasion in this manner:—If I dispose of this dish, I shall get ten kapardakas (cowries) for it; and with that sum I may purchase many pots and pans, the sale of which will increase my capital so much that I shall be able to lay in a large stock of cloth and the like; which having disposed of at a great advance, I shall have accumulated a fortune of a lack of money. With this I will marry four wives; and of these I will amuse myself with her who Edition: current; Page: [391] may prove the handsomest. This will create jealousy;BOOK II. Chap. 7. so when the rival wives shall be quarrelling, then will I, overwhelmed with anger, hurl my stick at them thus! Saying which he flung his walking-stick out of his hand with such force, that he not only broke his curious dish, but destroyed many of the pots and pans in the shop.”1

The Hindus were, notwithstanding, so far advanced in civilization, except in the mountainous and most barbarous tracts of the country, as to have improved in some degree upon the manners of savage tribes. They have some general precepts, recommending indulgence and humanity in favour of the weaker sex. “Married women,” says the law of Menu, “must be honoured and adorned by their fathers and brethren, by their husbands, and by the brethren of their husbands, if they seek abundant prosperity. Where female relations are made miserable, the family of him, who makes them so, very soon wholly perishes.”2 When particulars indeed are explained, the indulgences recommended are not very extensive. It is added, “Let those women, therefore, be continually supplied with ornaments, apparel, and food, at festivals, and at jubilees, by men desirous of wealth.”3 When it is commanded by law, as an extraordinary extension of liberality, to give them ornaments, and even apparel and food, at festivals and jubilees; this is rather a proof of habitual degradation than of general respect and tenderness. The idea, however, of purchasing a wife, as a slave, from her relations, had become odious; and though it is stated as one of the eight species of nuptial contract, it is classed among Edition: current; Page: [392] BOOK II. Chap. 7. the dishonourable species, and forbidden.1 As the necessity of such a law indicates a state of society but one remove from that in which the unhappy bride is purchased and sold; so the customary, and original purchasing gift, the bull and the cow, still remained; but it had acquired a religious character, and was at last commanded to pass by another name. “Some say,” observes the law of Menu, “that the bull and cow given in the nuptial ceremony of the Rishis, are a bribe to the father; but this is untrue: a bribe indeed, whether large or small, is an actual sale of the daughter.”2 There are texts, however, which directly recognize the transaction as a purchase: “He who takes to wife,” it is said, “a damsel of full age, shall not give a nuptial present to her father; since the father lost his dominion over her, by detaining her at a time when she might have been a parent.”3 The obligation of the marriage contract is stated in the Institutes of Menu, under the head of purchase and sale; and it is expressly said, “If, after one damsel has been shown, another be offered to the bridegroom, who had purchased leave to marry her from her next kinsman, he may become the husband of both for the same price: this law Menu ordained.”4 The same Edition: current; Page: [393] undoubtedly is the purport of the following sacredBOOK II. Chap. 7. text: “The recitation of holy texts, and the sacrifice ordained by the lord of creatures, are used in marriages for the sake of procuring good fortune to brides; but the first gift by the husband is the primary cause of marital dominion.”1 It is to be observed, besides, that the women have no choice in their own destiny; but are absolutely at the disposal of their fathers, till three years after the nuptial age. If, until that period, the father have neglected what is reckoned one of his most sacred duties, to place his daughter in a situation to become a parent, he forfeits, through his sin, the dominion over her, and she may choose a husband for herself.2

It has been doubted whether immuring the women was an original part of Hindu manners, or adopted in consequence of the intercourse and dominion of the Mahomedans. But they have been found in a state of seclusion and confinement beyond the range of Mahomedan influence.3 The practice is fully recognized Edition: current; Page: [394] BOOK II. Chap. 7. in the ancient writings. We are told in the Bhagavat, that, on the day of the yug of Judishter, “the women who, buried in harams, were seldom permitted to see the sun, came out, on that day, to view rajah Judishter.”1 The monarch who forms the hero in the drama entitled Sacontala had many wives, and they are represented as residing in the secret apartments of the palace.2 The whole spirit of the Hindu maxims indicates confinement: there are numerous precepts which respect the guarding of women: and the punishment for vitiating those who are not guarded is always less than the punishment in the case of those that are.3 Among these proofs of confinement are also appearances of freedom. The law of seclusion is made only for the few. Among the jealous Ottomans themselves, the great body of the community must leave their women at large, because an indigent man can neither dispense with the useful services of his wife, nor afford the cost of retaining her in confinement. In the earlier and ruder states of society, when men are in general poor, few can afford the expense of confinement; but among the Hindus, as in general among the nations of Asia, since their emerging from the rudest barbarism, it seems to have been the practice for every man, who possessed sufficient means, to keep his women guarded, in a state of seclusion.

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. On the coast of Malabar, where the manners differ considerably from those of the rest of the Hindus, and where the people have not reached a state of society altogether so perfect as that in some other parts of Hindustan, it would appear that the institution of marriage has never been regularly introduced. The peculiar mode in which the intercourse of the sexes is here carried on has not yet been satisfactorily explained to us, and from the differences which appear in the accounts of different authors it probably exhibits considerable variety; but in its general character it is pretty evidently a relict of the period in which there is no law for the association of the sexes; when their intercourse is casual; when the father of the offspring is by consequence uncertain; and when the children of necessity belong to the mother. The nearest male relations of the female, her father being in this case unknown, are her brothers; who, never having children whom they can recognize as their own, naturally contract an affection for those of their sister whom they support and with whom they live; by consequence regard them as in some measure their own; and vest them with the property which they leave at their death. In the family of a Nair there is no wife; all the brothers and sisters live under the same roof; their mother the only known parent, during her life, and after her death the eldest sister, manage the domestic affairs; the sisters cohabit with the men of their choice, subject only to the sacred restriction of a class not inferior to their own; the children are by the brothers regarded as their own, and inherit the property of the family.1 This is the Edition: current; Page: [396] BOOK II. Chap. 7. exact description of a people among whom the institution of marriage is unknown, and the order into which things will run of their own accord, wherever the intercourse of the sexes is casual. The Nairs, however, are said to have added a kind of refinement to this established custom. They contract a marriage with a particular woman. But this is entirely nominal. The woman never leaves her mother's house; her intercourse with other men is not restricted; her children belong to her brothers; and the arrangement of society is the same as if no such marriage existed. If it really takes place, and the absurdity of the thing may support a suspicion of some mistake in our informants, it must be the effect of imitation, and of the reproaches which this people have sustained from other nations. These circumstances move them to contrive a semblance of a marriage, though not in the least degree to alter the established system of manners, to which it adheres as a useless excrescence. The Nairs are only one of the castes; and there appears to be some diversity in the mode of intercourse between the sexes in the several castes. The fashion among the Nairs is the standard to which they all approach. Our information, however, of these diversities, even if they merited a fuller elucidation, is too imperfect for minute description.1

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. It is not surprising, that grossness, in ideas and language, respecting the intercourse of the sexes, is a uniform concomitant of the degraded state of the women. Superficial contemplators have, in general, contented themselves with remarking, that it was a diversity of manners; or was the effect of a diversity of climate; and that what in one place was gross bore a different interpretation in another. Inquiry discovers, that grossness in this respect is a regular Edition: current; Page: [398] BOOK II. Chap. 7. ingredient in the manners of a rude age; and that society, as it refines, deposits this, among its other impurities. The ancient inhabitants of our own country were as indelicate as those of the hottest regions of Asia.1 All European witnesses have been struck with the indelicacy of the Hindus. The gross emblems and practices of their religion are already known.2 To the indecent passages in the books of law, and the practices which they describe, exceedingly numerous, and exceedingly gross, we can here only allude.3 Both the writings and conversation of the Hindus abound with passages which are shocking to European ears. Even in the popular and moral work, entitled Hetopadesa, there are parts which Mr. Wilkins could not translate; and he thus expresses himself on this characteristic of society among the Hindus: “The translator has carefully refined a great many indelicate expressions, which a Hindu lady, from grosser habits, might hear without a blush; and even omitted whole passages when that could not be effected but by a total change of the author's meaning.”4 Another Oriental scholar, as Edition: current; Page: [399] well as eye-witness of the manners he describes,BOOK II. Chap. 7. affords us a passage which at once pourtrays this part of the Hindu character, and traces one of those remarkable resemblances, which run through the principal nations of Asia. “The Persian woman,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “like the Indian, are totally devoid of delicacy; their language is often gross and disgusting, nor do they feel more hesitation in expressing themselves before men, than they would before their female associates. Their terms of abuse or reproach are indelicate to the utmost degree. I will not disgust the reader by noticing any of them; but I may safely aver that it is not possible for language to express, or the imagination to conceive, more indecent or grosser images.”1

Much attention has been attracted to the gentleness of manners, in this people. They possess a feminine softness both in their persons and in their address. As the inhabitants of Europe were rough and impetuous, in their rude and early state, and grew mild only as they grew civilized, the gentleness of Hindu manners has usually impressed their European visitors, with a high conception of their progress in civilization. It is, perhaps, a ground of presumption; but fallacious if taken as a proof. One of the circumstances which distinguish the state of Edition: current; Page: [400] BOOK II. Chap. 7. commencing civilization is, that it is compatible with great violence, as well as great gentleness of manners. Nothing is more common than examples of both. Mildness of address is not always separated even from the rudest condition of human life, as the Otaheitans, and some other of the South-Sea islanders, abundantly testify.1 “The savages of North America are affectionate in their carriage, and in their conversations pay a mutual attention and regard, says Charlevoix, more tender and more engaging, than what we profess in the ceremonial of polished societies.”2

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. The causes which seem to account for these effects are partly physical, and partly moral. Where the commodities of life, by a happy union of climate and soil, are abundant, gentleness of manners, as appears by the traditions respecting the golden or pastoral age, is by no means unnatural to men in the earliest period of improvement: The savage, involved in a continual struggle with want, who sees himself and his children every day exposed to perish with hunger, is, by a sort of necessity, rapacious, harsh, unfeeling, and cruel. The species of polity under which the national character is formed is perhaps to a still greater degree the cause of the diversity which we now contemplate. Where the mind is free, and may vent its passions with little fear, the nation, while ignorant and rude, is also fierce and impetuous: Where slavery prevails, and any departure from the most perfect obsequiousness is followed with the most direful consequences, an insinuating and fawning behaviour is the interest, and thence becomes the habit, of the people.

With the same causes are connected other leading features in the character of the Hindus. They are remarkably prone to flattery; the most prevailing mode of address from the weak to the strong, while men are still ignorant and unreflecting.1 The Edition: current; Page: [402] BOOK II. Chap. 7. Hindus are full of dissimulation and falsehood, the universal concomitants of oppression.1 The vices of falsehood, indeed, they carry to a height almost unexampled among the other races of men. Judicial mendacity is more than common; it is almost universal. “Perjury,” said Sir William Jones, to the Grand Jury at Calcutta, “seems to be committed by the meanest, and encouraged by some of the better sort among the Hindus and Mussulmans, with as little remorse, as if it were a proof of ingenuity, or even a merit.”2—” I have many reasons to believe, and none to doubt, that affidavits of every imaginable fact may as easily be procured in the streets and markets of Calcutta, especially from the natives, as any other article of traffic.”3 Speaking of the forms of an oath, among the Hindus, he says, “But such is the corrupt state even of their erroneous religion, that if the most binding form on the consciences of men could be known and established, there would be few consciences to be bound by it.”4

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I have not enumerated the religion of the HindusBOOK II. Chap. 7. as one among the causes of that gentleness, which has been remarked in their deportment. This religion has produced a practice, which has strongly engaged the curiosity of Europeans; a superstitious care of the life of the inferior animals. A Hindu lives in perpetual terror of killing even an insect; and hardly any crime can equal that of being unintentionally the cause of death to any animal of the more sacred species. This feeble circumstance, however, is counteracted by so many gloomy and malignant principles, that their religion, instead of humanizing the character, must have had no inconsiderable effect in fostering that disposition to revenge, that insensibility to the sufferings of others, and often that active cruelty, which lurks under the smiling exterior of the Hindu. “Although the killing of an animal of the ox kind,” says Buchanan, “is by all Hindus considered as a kind of murder, I know no creature whose sufferings equal those of the labouring cattle of Hindustan.”1 No other race of men are perhaps so little friendly, and beneficent to one another as the Hindus. “Dysenteries,” says Dr. Tenant, speaking of the salt manufacturers, “are at one season, peculiarly fatal. The unhappy victims of this disorder are avoided as infectious Edition: current; Page: [404] BOOK II. Chap. 7. by their companions, and suffered to pine without receiving either that aid or consolation, which compassion usually pays to the wretched.”1 “The Bengalese,” says another traveller, “will seldom assist each other, unless they happen to be friends or relations, and then the service that they render only consists in carrying the sufferer to the water of the Ganges, to let him die there, or be carried away by the stream.”2 Le Couteur remarks, that “men accustomed from their infancy to abstain from every kind of cruelty towards brutes, ought naturally to be humane and benevolent towards their own species; and this would infallibly be the case, if the same religion had not hardened the hearts of the superior casts; for they hold those that are born their inferiors, as beings below even the most worthless animals: they take away the life of a man with less scruple than we kill a fowl. To strike a cow would Edition: current; Page: [405] BOOK II. Chap. 7. be sacrilege; but a Bramin may put a man to death when he lists.”1

It commonly happens that in a rude period of society, the virtue of hospitality, generously and cordially displayed, helps to cast into the shade the odious passions which adhere to man in his uncultivated state. The unhappy circumstances, religious and political, of the Hindu, have tended to eradicate even this, the virtue of a rude age, from his breast. After noticing in various parts of his journey, the striking instances which he witnessed of the want of hospitality, Dr. Buchanan says in one passage, “I mention these difficulties, which are very frequently met with by travellers in all parts of India where Europeans have not long resided, to show the inhospitable nature of its inhabitants.” For one of his sepoys, who was seized with an acute disease, and left in agony by the side of the road, he could not, except by force, in a large village obtain a cot, though he was assured there was one in every house.2

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. The ancient literature of the Hindus affords many proofs that no inconsiderable degree of ferocity has at all times been mingled with the other ingredients of their character. The Yadavas, a sacred race, the kindred of Crishna, in a drunken fray, took arms and butchered one another, to the utter extinction of the race.1 One of the most remarkable stories in the celebrated book, called Hetopadesu, is that of a man who cut off his wife's nose, because she would not speak to him.2 As the performance of that great religious ceremony, called a Jug, is sufficient to extort from the divinity whatever boon the true performer demands, the following law makes provision against the most cool, intense, and persevering malignity of which human nature appears to be susceptible. “If a man performs a jug to procure the death of any innocent person, the magistrate shall fine him 200 puns of cowries.”3 If the gentleness, too, of the punishment, about ten shillings,4 be a sign, the indignation, which so atrocious a purpose excites, is far from remarkable. That murder by the most odious means, by poison, is looked upon in the same venial light, the following law bears equal testimony; “If a man, to procure the death of any innocent person, by any contrivance, causes him to drink a potion, or otherwise meditates his death, the magistrate shall fine him 200 puns of cowries.”5 The cool reflection Edition: current; Page: [407] which attends the villainy of the Hindu, has oftenBOOK II. Chap. 7. surprised the European. Mr. Holwell informs us, that, when he sat as a judge at Calcutta he had often heard the most atrocious murders avowed and defended by the criminals, on the ground of its being now the Cali age, when men are destined to be wicked.1

Notwithstanding the degree to which the furious passions enter into the character of the Hindu, all witnesses agree in representing him as a timid being. With more apparent capacity of supporting pain than any other race of men; and, on many occasions, a superiority to the fear of death, which cannot be surpassed, this people run from danger with more trepidation and eagerness than has been almost ever witnessed in any other part of the globe.2

It is the mixture of this fearfulness, with their antisocial passions, which has given existence to that litigiousness of character which almost all witnesses have ascribed to this ancient race. As often as courage fails them in seeking a more daring gratification to their hatred or revenge, their malignity finds a Edition: current; Page: [408] BOOK II. Chap. 7. vent in the channel of litigation. “That pusillanimity and sensibility of spirit,” says Mr, Orme, “which renders the Gentoos incapable of supporting the contentions of danger, disposes them as much to prosecute litigious contests. No people are of more inveterate and steady resentments in civil disputes. The only instance in which they seem to have a contempt for money, is their profusion of it in procuring the redress and revenge of injuries at the bar of justice. Although they can, with great resignation, see themselves plundered to the utmost by their superiors, they become mad with impatience, when they think themselves defrauded of any part of their property by their equals. Nothing can be more adapted to the feminine spirit of a Gentoo, than the animosities of a lawsuit.”1

A modification of the same passions gives rise to another, and seemingly a strong ingredient in the Hindu character, a propensity to the war of contentious tongues. The following picture, if not finely, is at least clearly drawn. “The timidity of the Hindu may, in general, prevent his fighting, boxing, or shedding of blood; but it by no means restrains him from scolding and upbraiding his neighbours. In Edition: current; Page: [409] BOOK II. Chap. 7. this respect they are the most litigious and quarrel-some of all men. Have two persons a misunderstanding? Let them meet in the street and they will upbraid each other for an hour together, with every foul epithet of abuse which their imagination can suggest, or their language supply. A few natives engaged in one of these bickerings display a furious gesticulation; a volubility of words and coarseness of expression which leave the eloquence of Billingsgate far behind.”1

The physical temperament of the Hindus, though an effect of some of the circumstances which have operated to the formation of their minds, has reflected a strong influence on their character. Their make is slender and delicate. Their shapes are in general fine. The female form, in particular, frequently attains in India its most exquisite proportions; and “their skins,” says Mr. Orme, speaking of the Hindu women, “are of a polish and softness beyond that of all Edition: current; Page: [410] BOOK II. Chap. 7. their rivals on the globe.” The muscular strength, however, of the Hindus, is small; even less, according to the same accurate observer, than the appearance of their bodies, though expressive of weakness, would lead the spectator to infer. Their stature is in general considerably below the European standard; though such inferiority is more remarkable in the south, and diminishes as you advance toward the north.1

The extreme simplicity and lightness of the aliments used by the Hindu, and the smallness of his consumption, must, undoubtedly, have been among the causes of the lightness and feebleness observable in his frame. His food consists almost wholly of rice; and his drink is nothing but water: while his demands are satisfied with a pittance which appears extreme to the people of almost every other part of the world. The prohibition, by the Hindu religion, of the flesh of animals for food, has been sufficiently remarked. It is not such as to have produced by any means a total abstinence, but the quantity consumed is, no doubt, small. The great luxury of the Hindu is butter, prepared in a manner peculiar to himself, and called by him, ghee.2

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But though the body of the Hindu is feeble, it isBOOK II. Chap. 7. agile, in an extraordinary degree. Not only in those surprising contortions and feats, which constitute the art of the tumbler, do they excel almost all the nations in the world; but even in running and marching they equal, if not surpass, people of the most robust constitutions. “Their messengers will go fifty miles a day, for twenty or thirty days without intermission.” Their infantry, if totally unincumbered with burthens, which they could by no means support, will march faster, and with less weariness, than European.1

The delicacy of their texture is accompanied with great acuteness and sensibility in all the organs of sense. This not only gives them great advantages in some of the finest of the manual arts, as weaving, for example; the pliant fingers and exquisite touch of the Hindu being so peculiarly adapted to the handling of the finest threads: but it communicates a remarkable susceptibility to the mental organs. The Hindu is a sort of a sensitive plant. His imagination and passions are easily inflamed; and he has a sharpness and quickness of intellect which seems strongly connected with the sensibility of his outward frame.

Another remarkable circumstance in the character of the Hindus; in part, too, no doubt, the effect of corporeal weakness, though an effect in some sort Edition: current; Page: [412] BOOK II. Chap. 7. opposite to that excitability which we have immediately remarked, is the inertness of disposition, with which all men have been so forcibly struck in observing the conduct of this peculiar race. The love of repose reigns in India with more powerful sway, than in any other region probably of the globe. “It is more happy to be seated than to walk; it is more happy to sleep than to be awake; but the happiest of all is death.” Such is one of the favourite sayings, most frequently in the mouths of this listless tribe, and most descriptive of their habitual propensities. Phlegmatic indolence pervades the nation. Few pains, to the mind of a Hindu, are equal to that of bodily exertion; the pleasure must be intense which he prefers to that of its total cessation.1

This listless apathy and corporeal weakness of the natives of Hindustan, have been ascribed to the climate under which they live. But other nations, subject to the influence of as warm a sun, are neither indolent nor weak; the Malays for example, the Arabians, the Chinese.2 The savage is listless and indolent Edition: current; Page: [413] under every clime. In general, this dispositionBOOK II. Chap. 7. must arise from the absence of the motives to work; because the pain of moderate labour is so very gentle, that even feeble pleasures suffice to overcome it; and the pleasures which spring from the fruits of labour are so many and great, that the prospect of them, where allowed to operate, can seldom fail to produce the exertions which they require. There is a state of barbarity and rudeness which implies, perhaps, a weakness of mind too great to be capable of perceiving, with a clearness sufficient to operate upon the will, the benefits of labour. This, however, is a state beyond which the Hindus have long since passed; and there is but one cause, to which, among the Hindus, the absence of the motives for labour can be ascribed; their subjection to a wretched government, under which the fruits of labour were never secure.1

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BOOK II. Chap. 7. The languid and slothful habits of the Hindu appear to have prescribed even his amusements and diversions. They are almost all of the sedentary and inactive kind. The game of paucheess, which bears a resemblance to chess and draughts, and is played by two natives, reclining on their sides, with a small chequered carpet placed between them, is the favourite amusement of this indolent race. Wonderful is the patience and interest with which, we are told, they watch and plan the evolutions of this languid game.1 The mind in vacuity droops and pines; even where the body is the most gratified by repose: and in the rude state of society, when interesting objects seldom occur, the passion for play is a general resource. The Hindus, accordingly, appear to have been at all times deeply infected with the vices of gaming. In that celebrated poem, the Mahabarat, Judishter, though celebrated as a model of kingly wisdom, and his four brothers, all eminent men, are represented as losing their fortunes, and their very kingdoms, at dice. The laws, as usual, are ambiguous and contradictory. All gaming is pronounced unlawful; yet, according to the Gentoo Code, parties may game before an agent of the magistrate, to whom in that case a half of the winnings belongs.2

A fondness for those surprising feats of bodily agility and dexterity which form the arts of the Edition: current; Page: [415] tumbler and the juggler, is a feature in the characterBOOK II. Chap. 7. of the Hindu. It is a passive enjoyment which corresponds with the passiveness of his temper; and it seems in general to be adapted to the taste of all men in a similar state of society. Our Saxon ancestors were much addicted to this species of amusement; and their tumblers and jugglers had arrived at great proficiency.1 The passion of the Chinese for those diversions is known to be excessive, and the powers of their performers, almost incredible.2 This was one of the favourite entertainments of the ancient Mexicans; and their surprising dexterity and skill seem hardly to have yielded to that of the Hindus and Chinese. Clavigero concludes a minute and interesting account of the astonishing feats of the Mexican performers, by remarking, that, “the first Spaniards, who were witnesses of these and other exhibitions of the Mexicans, were so much astonished at their agility, that they suspected some supernatural power assisted them, forgetting to make a due allowance for the progress of the human genius when assisted by application and labour.”3

A taste for buffoonery is very generally a part of the character of a rude people; as appears by the buffoons, who, under the name of fools, were entertained by our Gothic ancestors in the courts of princes and the palaces of the great. Among the Hindus, this source of amusement was an object of so much importance, as to become the subject of legislative enactment. “The magistrate,” says the Gentoo Code, “shall retain in his service a great number Edition: current; Page: [416] BOOK II. Chap. 7. of buffoons or parasites, jesters, and dancers, and athletics.”1

Story-telling, which entirely harmonizes with the Hindu tone of mind, is said to be a favourite diversion.2 The recitations of the bards, with which the people of Europe were formerly so much delighted, afforded an entertainment of the same description. The stories of the Hindus consist of the wildest fictions; and as almost all their written narratives are in verse, their spoken stories, it is probable, like the effusions of the bards, contained occasionally more or less of the measure and elevation of verse.3 Music and dancing form a part of their entertainments; the latter, however, they enjoy as spectators chiefly, not performers.

Notwithstanding the indolence and inactivity of the Hindus, hunting, which is in general so favourite a sport of man in his uncivilized state, is capable of calling forth their most strenuous exertions. The different classes seem not only to forget their habitual languor and timidity, but their still more inveterate prejudices of caste, and join together in pursuing the tenants of the woods and mountains with an ardour, enterprise and patience, which no other people can surpass.4

It is curious that avarice, which seems but little consistent with sloth, or that insecurity with regard Edition: current; Page: [417] BOOK II. Chap. 7. to property which so bad a government as theirs implies forms a more remarkable ingredient in the national character of the Hindus, than in that of any other people. It is a passion congenial to a weak and timid mind, unwarmed by the social affections. They are almost universally penurious;1 and where placed in situations in which their insatiable desire of gain can meet with its gratification, it is not easy to surpass their keenness and assiduity in the arts of accumulation.2 “Slavery,” says Mr. Orme, “has sharpened the natural fineness of all the spirits of Asia. From the difficulty of obtaining, and the greater difficulty of preserving, the Gentoos are indefatigable in business, and masters of the most exquisite dissimulation in all affairs of interest. They are the acutest buyers and sellers in the world, and preserve through all their bargains a degree of calmness, which baffles all the arts that can be opposed against it.”3 The Edition: current; Page: [418] BOOK II. Chap. 7. avaricious disposition of the Hindus is deeply stamped in their maxims of prudence and morality. Thus, they say: “From poverty a man cometh to shame. Alas! the want of riches is the foundation of every misfortune.—It is better to dwell in a forest haunted by tigers and lions, than to live amongst relations after the loss of wealth.”1

The mode of transacting bargains among the Hindus is sufficiently peculiar to deserve description. By a refinement of the cunning and deceitful temper of a rude people, the business is performed secretly, by tangible signs. The buyer and seller seat themselves opposite to one another, and covering their hands with a cloth, perform all the most subtile artifices of chaffering, without uttering a word, by means of certain touches and signals of the fingers, which they mutually understand.2

The simplicity of the houses, dress, and furniture of the Hindus correspond with that of their diet. “The Indian houses,” says Sonnerat, “display Edition: current; Page: [419] nothing of oriental magnificence.”1 Those of theBOOK II. Chap. 7. poor, even in towns, are built of mud, sometimes of brick, and thatched. “Brahmens and religious people plaster the pavement, and sometimes the walls, with cow-dung; and although this act proceeds from a spirit of religion, yet it is of use in keeping out insects.”2 The furniture, which is almost nothing in the houses of the poor, is in the highest degree scanty and simple even in those of the rich. Mats or carpets for the floor, on which they are accustomed both to sit and to lie, with a few earthen and other vessels for the preparation of their victuals and for their religious ceremonies, form the inventory in general of their household goods.3

From the frequency and care with which the Hindus perform religious ablutions, the Europeans, prone from partial appearances to draw flattering conclusions, painted them, at first, as in the colours of so many other virtues, so likewise in those of cleanliness. Few nations are surpassed by the Hindus, in the total want of physical purity, in their streets, houses, and persons. Mr. Foster, whose long residence in India, and knowledge of the country, render him an excellent witness, says of the narrow streets of Benares; “In addition to the pernicious effect which must proceed from a confined atmosphere, there is, in the hot Edition: current; Page: [420] BOOK II. Chap. 7. season, an intolerable stench arising from the many pieces of stagnated water dispersed in different quarters of the town. The filth also which is indiscriminately thrown into the streets, and there left exposed, (for the Hindus possess but a small portion of general cleanliness) add to the compound of ill smells so offensive to the European inhabitants of this city.”1 Dr. Buchanan informs us, that “the earthen pots in which the Hindus boil their milk, are in general so nasty, that after this operation no part of the produce of the dairy is tolerable to Europeans, and whatever they use their own servants must prepare.”2 “The Hindoo,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “who bathes constantly in the Ganges, and whose heart equals in purity the whiteness of his vest, will allow this same white robe to drop nearly off with filth before he thinks of changing it. Histories, composed in the closet, of the manners of extensive nations may possess every beauty; for as facts do not restrain the imagination, nor impose rules on poetic license, the fancy of the historian enjoys an uninterrupted range in the regions of fiction.”3

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To a superficial view, it appears surprisingBOOK II. Chap. 7. that overstrained sentiments in regard to the ceremonial of behaviour are a mark of the uncivilized state of the human mind. The period when men have but just emerged from barbarism, and have made the first feeble steps in improvement, is the period at which formalities in the intercourse of social life are the most remarkably multiplied, at which the importance attached to them is the greatest, and at which the nice observance of them is the most rigidly exacted. In modern Europe, as manners have refined, and knowledge improved, we have thrown off the punctilious ceremonies which constituted the fine breeding of our ancestors; and adopted more and more of simplicity in the forms of intercourse. Among the inhabitants of Hindustan, the formalities of behaviour are multiplied to excess; and the most important bonds of society are hardly objects of greater reverence.1 Some of their rules breathe that spirit of benevolence, and of respect for the weak, which begins to show Edition: current; Page: [422] BOOK II. Chap. 7. itself partially at an early period of society, and still wants much of its proper strength at a late one. The distinctions of giving way on the road are thus marked in the Gentoo code; a man with sight, to a man blind; a man with hearing to a man deaf; a man to a woman; a man empty-handed to a man with a burthen; an inferior person to a superior; a man in health to a sick person; and all persons to a Brahmen.1 Not a few of their rules bear curious testimony to the unpolished state of society in which they were prescribed. “If a man,” says one of their laws,” having accepted another's invitation, doth not eat at his house, then he shall be obliged to make good all the expense that was incurred in consequence of the invitation.”2 When a Hindu gives an entertainment, he seats himself in the place of greatest distinction; and all the most delicate and costly of the viands are placed before him. The company sit according to their quality, the inferior sort at the greatest distance from the master, each eating of those dishes only which are placed before him, and they continually decreasing in fineness, as they approach the place of the lowest of the guests.3

The attachment which the Hindus, in common with all ignorant nations, bear to astrology, is a part of their manners exerting a strong influence upon the train of their actions. “The Hindus of the present age,” says a partial observer, “do not undertake any affair of consequence without consulting their astrologers, who are always Brahmens.”4 The belief of Edition: current; Page: [423] witchcraft and sorcery continues universally prevalent;BOOK II. Chap. 7. and is every day the cause of the greatest enormities. It not unfrequently happens that Brahmens, tried for murder before the English judges, assign as their motive to the crime, that the murdered individual had enchanted them. No fewer than five unhappy persons in one district were tried and executed for witchcraft, so late as the year 1792. The villagers themselves assume the right of sitting in judgment on this imaginary offence; and their sole instruments of proof are the most wretched of all incantations. Branches of the Saul tree, for example, one for each of the suspected individuals, inscribed with her name, are planted in water. If any of them withers within a certain time, the devoted female, whose name it bears, suffers death as a witch.1

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NOTE A. p. 286.

“5. This universe existed only in the first divine idea yet unexpanded, as if involved in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, and undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep;

“6. Then the sole self-existing power, himself undiscerned, but making this world discernible, with five elements and other principles of nature, appeared with undiminished glory, expanding his idea, or dispelling the gloom.

“7. He, whom the mind alone can perceive, whose essence eludes the external organs, who has no visible parts, who exists from eternity, even he, the soul of all beings, whom no being can comprehend, shone forth in person.

“8. He, having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, first with a thought created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed:

“9. The seed became an egg bright as gold, blazing like the luminary with a thousand beams: and in that egg he was born himself, in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits.

“10. The waters are called nara, because they were the production of Nara, or the Spirit of God; and, since they were his first ayana, or place of motion, he thence is named Narayana, or moving on the waters.

“11. From That Which is, the first cause, not the object of sense, existing every where in substance, not existing to our perception, without beginning or end, was produced the divine male, famed in all worlds under the appellation of Brahma.

“12. In that egg the great power sat inactive a whole year of the Creator, at the close of which, by his thought alone, he caused the egg to divide itself.

“13. And from its two divisions he framed the heaven above Edition: current; Page: [426] and the earth beneath: in the midst he placed the subtil ether, the eight regions, and the permanent receptacle of waters.

“14. From the supreme soul he drew forth mind, existing substantially though unperceived by sense, immaterial; and before mind, or the reasoning power, he produced consciousness, the internal monitor, the ruler:

“15. And, before them both, he produced the great principle of the soul, or first expansion of the divine idea; and all vital forms endued with the three qualities of goodness, passion, and darkness; and the five perceptions of sense, and the five organs of sensation.

“16. Thus, having at once pervaded, with emanations from the Supreme Spirit, the minutest portions of six principles immensely operative, consciousness and the five perceptions, he framed all creatures;

“17. And since the minutest particles of visible nature have a dependence on those six emanations from God, the wise have accordingly given the name of sarira or depending on six, that is, the ten organs on consciousness, and the five elements on as many perceptions, to his image or appearance in visible nature.

“18. Thence proceed the great elements endued with peculiar powers, and mind with operations infinitely subtil, the unperishable cause of all apparent forms.

“19. This universe, therefore, is compacted from the minute portions of those seven divine and active principles, the great soul, or first emanation, consciousness, and five perceptions; a mutable universe from immutable ideas.

“20. Among them each succeeding element acquires the quality of the preceding; and, in as many degrees as each of them is advanced, with so many properties is it said to be endued.

“21. He too first assigned to all creatures distinct names, distinct acts, and distinct occupations; as they had been revealed in the pre-existing Veda.

“22. He, the supreme ruler, created an assemblage of inferior deities, with divine attributes and pure souls; and a number of genii exquisitely delicate; and he prescribed the sacrifice ordained from the beginning.

“23. From fire, from air, and from the sun he milked out, as it were, the three primordial Vedas, named Rich, Yajush, and Saman, for the due performance of the sacrifice.

“24. He gave being to time and the divisions of time, to the stars also, and to the planets, to rivers, oceans, and mountains, to level plains, and uneven valleys.

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“25. To devotion, speech, complacency, desire, and wrath, and to the creation, which shall presently be mentioned; for he willed the existence of all those created things.

“26. For the sake of distinguishing actions, he made a total difference between right and wrong, and enured these sentient creatures to pleasure and pain, cold and heat, and other opposite pairs.

“27. With very minute transformable portions, called natras, of the five elements, all this perceptible world was composed in fit order;

“28. And in whatever occupation the supreme lord first employed any vital soul, to that occupation the same soul attaches itself spontaneously, when it receives a new body again and again:

“29. Whatever quality, noxious or innocent, harsh or mild, unjust or just, false or true, he conferred on any being at its creation, the same quality enters it of course on its future births;

“30. As the six seasons of the year attain respectively their peculiar marks in due time, and of their own accord, even so the several acts of each embodied spirit attend it naturally.

“31. That the human race might be multiplied, he caused the Brahmen, the Cshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra (so named from the scripture, protection, wealth, and labour) to proceed from his mouth, his arm, his thigh, and his foot.

“32. Having divided his own substance, the mighty Power became half male, half female, or nature active and passive; and from that female he produced Viraj:

“33. Know me, O most excellent of Brahmens, to be that person, whom the male power VIRAJ, having performed austere devotion, produced by himself; me, the secondary framer of all this visible world.

“34. It was I, who, desirous of giving birth to a race of men, performed very difficult religious duties, and first produced ten lords of created being, eminent in holiness,

“35. Marichi, Atri, Angeras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Cratu, Prachetas, or Dacsha, Vasishtha, Bhrigu, and Narada:

“36. They, abundant in glory, produced seven other Menus, together with deities, and in the mansions of deities, and Maharshis, or great Sages, unlimited in power.

“37. Benevolent genii, and fierce giants, blood-thirsty savages, heavenly quiristers, nymphs and demons, huge serpents, and snakes of smaller size, birds of mighty wing, and separate companies of Pitris, or progenitors of mankind;

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“38. Lightnings and thunder-bolts, clouds and coloured bows of Indra, falling meteors, earth-rending vapours, comets, and luminaries of various degrees;

“39. Horse-faced sylvans, apes, fish, and a variety of birds, tame cattle, deer, men, and ravenous beasts with two rows of teeth;

“40. Small and large reptiles, moths, lice, fleas, and common flies, with every biting gnat, and immovable substances of distinct sorts.” (Instit. of Menu, ch. 1.)

Such is the account of the creation which is contained in one of the principal standards of Hindu faith; such is one of the chief documents from which we can draw precise ideas respecting the religious principles of the Hindus. The darkness, the vagueness, and the confusion, which reign in it, need not be remarked; for by these the Hindu mythology is throughout distinguished. The first of the propositions, as it now stands, can be adequately designated only by the familiar appellative, nonsense; the ideas are heterogeneous, and incompatible. “This universe” it is said, “existed only in the first divine idea.” When any thing is said to exist in idea, the meaning is, that it is conceived by the mind, or, in common language, that it is an idea in the mind. This universe then, according to the above passage, was conceived by the divine mind before it was actually produced, or, in other words, it was an idea in the divine mind. This idea existed in the divine mind “yet unexpanded.” But what are we to understand by an idea in the divine mind “unexpanded?” In regard to human thought an idea may be said to be unexpanded, when something is conceived very generally and obscurely; and it may be said to be expanded when the thing is conceived minutely, distinctly, and in all its parts. Are we then to understand by the idea of the universe being unexpanded in the divine mind, that the universe was conceived by it only generally, obscurely, indistinctly, and that it was not till creation was actually performed, that the divine idea was clear, full, and precise? How infinitely removed is this from the sublime conception which we entertain of the Divine Being; to whose thoughts all his works past, present, and to come, and every thing in the universe from eternity to eternity, are present always, essentially, perfectly, in all their parts, properties, and relations! This divine idea is still farther described: it existed “as if involved in darkness.” When an idea is involved in darkness, it is an idea not perfectly understood; an apprehension only compatible with the most imperfect notions of the divine nature. It existed “imperceptible.” Edition: current; Page: [429] If this means by the senses, all ideas are imperceptible; if it means by the mind, it is impossible, for the very essence of an idea consists in its being perceived by the mind. It existed “undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.” What sort of an idea could that be in the divine mind which the divine mind could not define, that mind by which it was formed? If the meaning be, that it could not be defined by any other mind; neither can the idea, not yet expressed, which exists in the mind of the most foolish of men. “Not discoverable by reason;” does this mean that the divine reason did not discover the divine idea; or does it mean that human reason could not discover it? An idea in the mind of another being is not discoverable to man by reason, but by enunciation. The last expression is the most extraordinary; “as if immersed in sleep:” “an idea immersed in sleep!” An idea too in the divine mind immersed in sleep! What notion can be formed of this?

But it must be explained that this incoherence and absurdity is not the work of Menu, or of the author, whoever he was, of the treatise which goes by his name. It is a common plan in India, for a commentator who is explaining a book, to insert between the words of the text such expressions as to him appear necessary to render the sense of the author clear and distinct. This has been done by a commentator of the name of Culluca, in regard to the ordinances of Menu; and his gloss or commentary, interworded with the text, Sir William Jones has translated along with his author. As he has, very judiciously, however, printed the interwoven expressions of the commentator in italics, it is easy for the reader to separate them, and to behold the sense of the original unadulterated. According to this expedient, the words of Menu appear thus: “This existed only in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable, undiscovered, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.” It seems remarkably the genius of the ancient Sanscrit writings to be elliptical, and the adjective pronouns specially are very frequently used without a substantive. “This,” in the passage which we are now examining, is in that situation. The mind of the reader is left to supply the word which the sense of the context demands. This—every thing; this—whole; this—universe; such is the manner in which the mind easily here suggests the requisite idea; and when this is done, the incoherence and absurdity which the supplement of Culluca engendered, is entirely dispelled. The passage presents clearly and unambiguously, a description, a very vague and unmeaning Edition: current; Page: [430] description, it must be owned, of that chaos of which the Greeks and Romans drew so striking and awful a picture, and of which the belief appears to have been so widely and generally diffused. The notion which Culluca endeavoured to engraft, is remarkable. It is no other than the celebrated Platonic principle of the preexistence of all things in the divine mind, which Culluca, it is evident, neither understood nor could apply, and with which he made such havoc on the genuine sense of his author. It is probable that he borrowed the idea from some foreign source, that it pleased him as preferable to the more rude conception of a chaos, and that he resolved, according to the invariable rule of the Brahmens, to give his own order the credit of it, by incorporating it with the doctrines of the sacred authors.

There is a remarkable coincidence, and there is a remarkable discrepancy, between this passage in the Institutes of Menu, and the following at the beginning of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The coincidence appears in the chaotic description here applied to the earth: the discrepancy consists in this, that the Jewish legislator informs us of the previous creation of the shapeless mass, the Hindu legislator describes it as antecedent to all creation.

This chaos, this universe, then, in its dark, imperceptible, undefinable state, existed according to Menu, antecedent to creation. This too was the idea of the Greeks and Romans, who thence believed in the eternity of matter. It is doubtful, from the extreme vagueness of the Hindu language, whether they had carried their thoughts so far as to conceive the question respecting the origin of matter; but as its eternity is implied in several of their doctrines, so it appears to be recognized in some of their expressions. It appears, indeed, that they were unable to make any clear distinction between matter and spirit, but rather considered the latter to be some extraordinary refinement of the former. Thus even the Divine Being, though they called him soul, and spirit, they certainly regarded as material. In the passage already quoted, it is said, “that he willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance.” Now what can be meant by substance, if not material substance? Besides, from material substance alone can material beings be produced. But the first thing which we are told was produced from the divine substance, was water. It is worth remarking, at the same time, that in other places water appears to be spoken of as uncreated, and as the material out of which all other things Edition: current; Page: [431] were produced. A passage describing the creation, translated from the Yajur Veda by Mr. Colebrooke, commences thus: “Waters alone there were; this world originally was water. In it the lord of creation moved, having become air.” [Asiat. Res. viii. 452.]

NOTE B. p. 289.

Another and a very remarkable account of the creation of living creatures is found in the Vedas, and translated by Mr. Colebrooke. “This variety of forms was, before the production of body, soul, bearing a human shape. Next, looking round, that primeval Being saw nothing but himself; and he first said, I am I. Therefore his name was I: and thence even now, when called, a man first answers, it is I, and then declares any other name which appertains to him.—Since he, being anterior to all this which seeks supremacy, did consume by fire all sinful obstacles to his own supremacy, therefore does the man, who knows this truth, overcome him, who seeks to be before him.—He felt dread; and, therefore, man fears, when alone. But he reflected 'since nothing exists besides myself, why should I fear?’ Thus his terror departed from him; for what should he dread, since fear must be of another?—He felt not delight; and, therefore, man delights not when alone. He wished the existence of another; and instantly he became such as is man and woman in mutual embrace. He caused this his own self to fall in twain; and thus became a husband and a wife. Therefore was this body, so separated, as it were an imperfect moiety of himself: for so Yajnyawalcya has pronounced it. This blank, therefore, is completed by woman. He approached her; and thence were human beings produced.—She reflected, doubtingly; How can he, having produced me from himself, incestuously approach me? I will now assume a disguise. She became a cow; and the other became a bull and approached her; and the issue were kine. She was changed into a mare, and he into a stallion; one was turned into a female ass, and the other into a male one: thus did he again approach her, and the one-hoofed kind was the offspring. She became a female goat, and he a male one; she was an ewe, and he a ram: thus he approached her, and goats and sheep were the progeny. In this manner, did he create every existing pair whatsoever, even to the ants and minutest insect.” See a curious Discourse of Mr. Colebrooke on the Vedas, or Sacred Writings of the Hindus, Asiat. Research. viii. 440, 441.

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NOTE C. p. 341. daily ceremomies of the brahmens.

As he rises from sleep, a Brahmen must rub his teeth with a proper withe, or a twig of the racimeferous fig tree, repeating prayers. Should this sacred duty be omitted, so great a sin is incurred, that the benefit is lost of all religious rites performed by him. The next circumstance of importance is, the deposit of the withe after it has done its office. It must be carefully thrown away in a place free from impurities; that is, where none of those religious stains, which are so multiplied among the Hindus, and must infect so many places, have been imprinted. When the business of the teeth and of the twig is accomplished, ablution next engages the attention of the Brahmen. The duty of the bath, particularly in the months of Magha, Pholgima, and Cartica, is no less efficacious than a rigid penance for the expiation of sin. Standing in a river, or in other water, the worshipper, sipping water, which is a requisite preliminary to all rites, and sprinkling it before him, recites inaudibly the gayatri, or holiest text of the Veda, with the names of the seven worlds. He next throws water eight times on his head, or towards the sky, and at last upon the ground, to destroy the demons who wage war with the gods, reciting prayers, of which the first may be received as a specimen: “O waters, since ye afford us delight, grant us present happiness, and the rapturous sight of the supreme God.” When these ceremonies and prayers are performed, he plunges three times into the water, and each time repeats the expiatory text which recites the creation, and having then washed his mantle, the morning ablution is finished. If he is an householder, it is his duty to bathe again at noon, and if he belongs to an order of devotion, both at noon and in the evening, with ceremonies, differing somewhat in the words and forms, but the same in spirit and substance.1

An important part of the worship of the Brahmen then succeeds. Coming out of the water, and putting on his mantle, he sits down to worship the rising sun. This great duty is performed by first tying the lock of hair on the crown of his head, while he holds much cusa grass in his left hand, and three blades of it in his right, or wears a ring of it on the third finger of that hand, reciting Edition: current; Page: [433] at the same time the gayatri. He then sips water three times, repeats the mysterious names of the seven worlds, recites again the gayatri, rubs his hands as if washing them, touches with his wet hand his feet, head, breast, eyes, ears, nose and navel, and again three times sips water. If, however, he should sneeze, or spit, he must obey the text which says, “after sneezing, spitting, blowing his nose, sleeping, putting on apparel or dropping tears, a man should not immediately sip water, but first touch his right ear.” The sipping, however, being at last performed, he passes his hand filled with water, briskly round his neck, while he prays: “May the waters preserve me!” He then shuts his eyes and meditates in silence. Till we got better information, very wonderful ideas were formed of the sublimity of the Brahmen's meditations. On this, one of the most sacred and solemn of all occasions, while he meditates in silence, with his eyes shut, and every mark of intense thought, we are informed, that he is only “figuring to himself, that Brahma, with five faces and a red complexion, resides in his navel; Vishnu, with four arms and a black complexion, in his heart; and Siva, with five faces and a white co lexion, in his forehead.” Nor is this the whole of his meditation. He ponders next on the holiest of texts; and this sublime duty is performed in the following manner. Closing the left nostril with the two longest fingers of the right hand, he draws his breath through the right nostril, and then closing it with his thumb, and suspending his breath, he repeats to himself the gayatri, the mysterious names of the worlds, and the sacred text of Brahme; after which, raising his fingers from the left nostril, he emits the breath which he had suppressed, and thus ends one part of his meditation. The same process is repeated three times and the whole is then concluded. This meditation, says Yajnyawalcya, “implies, Om, (aum,) earth, sky, heaven, middle region, place of births, mansion of the blessed, abode of truth. We meditate on the adorable light of the resplendent generator which governs our intellects, which is water, lustre, savour, immortal faculty of thought, Brahme, earth, sky, and heaven.”1 He then stands on one foot, resting the other against his ancle or heel, and looking towards the east, while his hands are held open before him in a hollow form, and in that posture he recites prayers to the sun, of which the following is one of the most remarkable: “Thou art self-existent, thou art the most excellent ray; thou givest effulgence, grant it unto me.” When all these ceremonies are performed, the oblation or offering is the next Edition: current; Page: [434] part of the service. It consists of tila, flowers, barley, water, and red sanders wood; it is put into a vessel of copper in the shape of a boat, and placed on the head of the votary, who presents it with fresh prayers, and holy texts. In the last place comes the invocation of the gayatri. It is first addressed in these words: “Thou art light; thou art seed; thou art immortal life; thou art effulgent; beloved by the gods, defamed by none, thou art the holiest sacrifice.” It is then recited measure by measure; next the two first measures are recited as one hemistich; and the third measure as the other; lastly, the three measures are repeated without interruption. It is addressed again in the following words; “Divine text, who dost grant our best wishes, whose name is trisyllable, whose import is the power of the Supreme Being; come, thou mother of the Vedas, who didst spring from Brahme, be constant here.” It is then, along with the triliteral monosyllable, and the names of the three lower worlds, pronounced inaudibly a hundred, or a thousand times, or as often as practicable, while the repetitions are counted upon a rosary of wild grains, or of gems set in gold. Additional prayers are recited, and the morning worship of the sun is thus terminated.1

The religious duties which fill up the remaining portion of the day are chiefly comprised in what are denominated the five sacraments. In a passage of the Institutes of Menu these are thus described; “Teaching and studying the scripture is the sacrament of the Veda: Offering cakes and water, the sacrament of the manes; An oblation to fire, the sacrament of the deities; Giving rice or other food to living creatures, the sacrament of spirits; Receiving guests with honour, the sacrament of men.”2 I shall endeavour by a very short illustration to convey an idea of each.

Preparatory to the study of the Veda must ablution be performed. Of this some ceremonies not yet described may be here introduced. “Let a Brahman at all times perform the ablution,” says the law of Menu, “with the pure part of his hand, denominated from the Veda, or with the part sacred to the Lord of creatures, or with that dedicated to the gods; but never with the part named from the Pitris: The pure part under the root of the thumb is called Brahma; that at the root of the little finger, Caya; that at the tips of the fingers, Daiva; and the part between the thumb and index, Pitrya. Let him first sip water thrice; then twice wipe his mouth, and lastly touch with water Edition: current; Page: [435] the six hollow parts of his head, [or his eyes, ears, and nostrils,] his breast and his head. He who knows the law, and seeks purity, will ever perform the ablution with the pure part of his hand, and with water neither hot nor frothy, standing in a lonely place, and turning to the east or the north. A Brahmen is purified by water that reaches his bosom; a Cshatriya, by water descending to his throat; a Vaisya, by water barely taken into his mouth; a Sudra, by water touched with the extremity of his lips.”1 Having concluded this part of the ceremony, and walked in a circle beginning from the south, he proceeds to the pronunciation of the syllable Aum. “A Brahmen, beginning and ending a lecture on the Veda, must always pronounce to himself the syllable Aum; for unless the syllable Aum precedes, his learning will slip away from him; and unless it follow, nothing will be long retained. If he have sitten on culms of cusa grass, with their points toward the east, and be purified by rubbing that holy grass on both his hands, and be further prepared by three suppressions of breath, each equal in time to five short vowels, he may then fitly pronounce Aum. Brahma milked out, as it were, from the three vedas, the letter A, the letter U, and the letter M, which form by their coalition the trillteral monosyllable, together with three mysterious words, earth, sky, heaven.”2 Turning his face towards the east, with his right hand toward the south, and his left hand towards the north, he then sits down, having the cusa grass before him, holding two blades of it on the tips of his left fingers, and placing on them his right hand with the palm turned upwards, and in this sacred position he meditates the gayatri. He then recites the due prayers and texts, and is thus prepared to begin the daily perusal of the Veda.3

The sacrament of the manes, which occupies the second place in the above text of Menu, is described at great length in that sacred volume. “Let the Brahmen smear with cow-dung a purified and sequestered piece of ground; and let him with great care select a place with a declivity toward the south. Having duly made an ablution with water, let him place with reverence the invited Brahmens, who have also performed their ablutions, one by one, on allotted seats purified with cusa grass, honouring them with fragrant garlands and sweet odours, and bringing for them water, with cusa grass and tila; then let him pour the oblation of clarified butter on the holy fire, and afterwards proceed to satisfy the manes of his ancestors. Having walked in order Edition: current; Page: [436] from east to south, and thrown into the fire all the ingredients of his oblation, let him sprinkle water on the ground with his right hand. From the remainder of the clarified butter having formed three balls of rice, let him offer them, with fixed attention, in the same manner as the water, his face being turned to the south: Then having offered those balls, after due ceremonies, and with an attentive mind, to the manes of his father, his paternal grandfather, and great grandfather, let him wipe the same hand with the roots of cusa, which he had before used, for the sake of his paternal ancestors in the fourth, fifth, and sixth degrees, who are the partakers of the rice and clarified butter thus wiped off. Having made an ablution, returning toward the north, and thrice suppressing his breath slowly, let him salute the gods of the six seasons, and the Pitris. Whatever water remains in his ewer, let him carry back deliberately near the cakes of rice; and with fixed attention let him smell those cakes, in order as they were offered, and give part of them to the Brahmens. Having poured water, with cusa grass and tila, into the hands of the Brahmens, let him give them the upper part of the cakes, saying Swadha to the manes. Next, having himself brought with both hands a vessel full of rice, let him, still meditating on the Pitris, place it before the Brahmens without precipitation. Broths, potherbs, and other eatables accompanying the rice, together with milk and curds, clarified butter and honey, let him first place on the ground after he has made an ablution: let him add spiced puddings, and milky messes of various sorts, roots of herbs and ripe fruits, savoury meats and sweet-smelling drinks: then being duly purified, and with perfect presence of mind, let him take up all the dishes one by one, and present them in order to the Brahmens, proclaiming their qualities. Himself being delighted, let him give delight to the Brahmens, and invite them to eat of the provisions by little and little; attracting them often with the dressed rice and other eatables. Let all the dressed food be very hot. Let not a chandala, a town boar, a cock, a dog, a woman in her courses, or an eunuch, see the Brahmens eating.”1 These, with a variety of prayers, and several other observances, are the obsequies to the manes of ancestors.

The oblations to fire, which are a most important part of the duties of the Hindu, are dignified with the title of the sacrament of the gods. I shall here premise the ceremonies attending the consecration of the fire, and the sacramental implements, though to all religious rites these may be regarded as introductory. In Edition: current; Page: [437] order to prepare the ground for the reception of the holy fire, the priest chooses a level spot four cubits square, free from all ceremonial impurities, covered with a shed, and this he smears with cow-dung. Next, having bathed and sipped water, he sits down with his face towards the east, and placing a vessel of water with cusa grass on his left, dropping his right knee, and resting on the span of his left hand, he draws, after an established rule, five consecrated lines, and gathering up the dust from the edges of them, throws it away toward the north-east, saying, “What was herein bad is thrown away.” Having, also, sprinkled the lines with water, and the ground being now prepared, he takes a lighted ember out of the vessels wherein he preserves the fire, and throwing it away, cries, “I dismiss far away carnivorous fire: May it go to the realm of Yama, bearing sin hence.” Then, placing the fire before him, he exclaims, “Earth! sky! heaven!” and adds, “This other harmless fire only remains here; well knowing its office, may it convey my oblation to the gods.” He now bestows upon it a name, conformable to the purpose for which he prefers it, and concludes this part of the ceremony by silently burning a log of wood one span long, smeared with clarified butter. The placing of the superintending priest is the next part of the duty. On very solemn occasions this is a real Brahmen; but in general a substitute is made for him of a bundle of cusa grass. He by whom the sacrifice is performed takes up the vessel of water, and keeping his right side towards the fire, walks round it: then he pours water near it, in an eastern direction, and spreads on it cusa grass: then he crosses, without sitting down, his right knee over his left; then takes up a single blade of grass between the thumb and ring-finger of his left hand; next throws it away towards the south-west, saying, “What was herein bad is cast away:” then he touches the water, resting the sole of his right foot on his left ankle, sprinkles the grass with water, after which he places on it his Brahmen made of cusa, saying to it, “Sit on this seat until thy fee be paid thee;” he then returns round the fire the same way by which he went, and sitting down again with his face towards the east names the earth inaudibly. If no profane word should hitherto have been spoken, for which atonement is requisite, he must next spread leaves of cusa grass on three sides of the fire; he begins with the eastern side, and lays three rows of leaves in such a manner that the tip of the one shall cover the root of the other; after this he blesses the ten regions of space, and rising a little puts some wood on the fire with a ladleful of clarified butter, while he meditates in silence on Edition: current; Page: [438] Brahma, the lord of creatures: next he takes up two leaves of the grass, and with another cutting off the length of a span, and saying, “Pure leaves be sacred to Vishnu,” he throws them into a vessel of copper, or other metal; he then takes up other two leaves, and holding the tips of them between the thumb and ring finger of his right hand, the roots between the thumb and ring finger of his left, he takes up, having the one hand crossed over the other, clarified butter in the curviture of the leaves, and throws some of it three several times into the fire. He then sprinkles the leaves with water, and throws them away; next, having sprinkled the vessel containing the clarified butter, he puts it on the fire and takes it off again three several times, when, having recited the proper prayers with cusa grass in both his hands, the ceremony of hallowing the butter is finished. That of hallowing the wooden ladle is performed by describing three times with the tip of his fore finger and thumb the figure 7 on the inside of it, and the figure 9 on the outside, by sprinkling water, having first dropped on one knee, from the palms of his hands, on the whole southern side of the fire, from west to east; on the western side from south to north, on the northern side, and then all around the fire, reciting prayers and sacred texts. Having next recited an expiatory prayer with cusa grass in both his hands, and having thrown the grass away, he has then finished the consecration of the sacrificial implements. It is only after all this is accomplished that he is prepared to begin the oblation to fire, of which the following is one of that variety of forms which it receives according to the rite intended to succeed. First, the priest burns silently a log of wood, smeared with clarified butter: next, he makes three oblations, by pouring each time a ladleful of clarified butter on the fire, and pronouncing severally the following prayers; “Earth! be this oblation efficacious.”—“Sky! be this oblation efficacious.”—“Heaven! be this oblation efficacious.” On some occasions the oblation is made a fourth time, and he says, “Earth! sky! Heaven! be this oblation efficacious.’ An offering of rice, milk, curds, and butter, is next performed, and the oblations accompanied with the names of the three worlds are repeated.1 “In his domestic fire, for dressing the food of all the gods,” says the law of Menu, “let a Brahmen make an oblation each day to these following divinities; first to Agni, god of fire, and to the lunar god, severally; then, to both of them at once; next, to the assembled gods; and afterwards to Edition: current; Page: [439] Dhanwantari god of medicine; to Cuhu, goddess of the day, when the new moon is discernible; to Anumati, goddess of the day after the opposition; to Prajapati, or the lord of creatures; to Dyava and Prithivi, goddesses of sky and earth; and lastly, to the fire of the good sacrifice. Having thus, with fixed attention, offered clarified butter in all quarters, proceeding from the east in a southern direction, to Indra, Yamu, Varuna, and the god Soma, let him offer his gift to animated creatures.”1

The fourth sacrament, or that of spirits, in the Institutes of Menu, is thus described: “Let him, saying, I salute the marats or winds, throw dressed rice near the door: saying, I salute the water gods, let him throw it in water; and let him throw it on his pestle and mortar, saying, I salute the gods of large trees. Let him do the like in the north-east, or near his pillow, to Sri, the goddess of abundance; in the south-west, or at the foot of his bed, to the propitious goddess Bhadracali; in the centre of his mansion, to Brahma, and his household god; to all the gods assembled, let him throw up his oblation in open air; by day, to the spirits who walk in light; and by night, to those who walk in darkness; in the building on his housetop, or behind his back, let him cast his oblation for the welfare of all creatures; and what remains let him give to the Pitris with his face toward the south.”2

Of those diurnal sacraments, which constitute so great a part of the duty of the Hindus, receiving guests with honour, which is denominated the sacrament of men, is the fifth. This is commonly, by English writers, interpreted “hospitality.” But we shall form a very erroneous notion of this sacramental service, if we confound it with the merely human and profane duty of receiving strangers beneficently from motives of humanity. This is a duty purely religious, confined to the twice-born and consecrated classes; and principally contrived for the benefit of the Brahmens; that for them, in all places, and on all occasions, every door may be open, and every table spread. “A Brahmen, coming as a guest, and not received with just honour, takes to himself all the reward of the kousekeeper's former virtue, even though he had been so temperate as to live on the gleanings of harvests, and so pious as to make oblations in five distinct fires.”3 A guest, in the Hindu sense, is not every man who may claim, or may stand in need of your hospitalities: A guest, according to the commentator, whom Mr. Colebrooke follows as his guide, is “a spiritual preceptor, a priest, an ascetick, a prince, a bridegroom, a friend.”4 “In Edition: current; Page: [440] the house of a Brahmen,” says the law of Menu, “a military man is not denominated a guest; nor a man of the commercial or servile cast;”1 so that a Brahmen, to whom are devoted the hospitalities of all the classes, is bound to return them to Brahmens alone. Among the religious ceremonies with which this sacrament is celebrated, a cow is tied on the northern side of the apartment, and a stool and other furniture placed for the guest, when the householder, rising up to bid him welcome, recites the prayer; “May she, who supplies obligations for religious worship, who constantly follows her calf, and who was the milch cow when Yama was the votary, abound with milk, and fulfil our wishes year after year.” The guest then sits down on the stool or cushion prepared for him, reciting the text of the Yajurveda, which says; “I step on this for the sake of food and other benefits, on this variously splendid footstool.” His host next presents to him a cushion made of twenty leaves of cusa grass, holding it up with both hands, and exclaiming, “the cushion! the cushion! the cushion!” which the guest accepts and places it on the ground under his feet, reciting prayers. This done, a vessel of water is presented to him, the host thrice exclaiming, “Water for ablutions!” Of this the guest declares his acceptance, and looking into the vessel cries, “Generous water! I view thee; return in the form of fertilizing rain from him from whom thou dost proceed.” He then takes some of it in the palms of both hands joined together, and throws it on his left foot, saying, “I wash my left foot, and fix prosperity in this realm;” in the same manner on the right foot, with a similar declaration; and lastly, on both feet, saying, “I wash first one and then the other; and lastly, both feet, that the realm may thrive, and intrepidity be gained.” With similar formalities is next presented and received, an arghya; that is, a vessel shaped like a boat, or a conch, filled with water, rice, and durva grass; when the guest pouring the water on his head, says, “Thou art the splendour of food; through thee may I become glorious.” The host, again presenting water, three times exclaims, “Take water to be sipped!” the guest, accepting it, says, “Thou art glorious, grant me glory!” These ceremonies being finished, the host fills a vessel with honey, curds, and clarified butter, and, covering it with another vessel, presents it to his guest, exclaiming three times, “Take the Madhuparca!” He, receiving, places it on the ground, and looking into it, says, “Thou art glorious, may I become so:” he tastes it three times, saying, “Thou art the sustenance of the glorious; thou art the Edition: current; Page: [441] nourishment of the splendid; thou art the food of the fortunate; grant me prosperity:” and then silently eats until he be satisfied. When this is done, he sips water; and touching his mouth and other parts of his body with his hand, he says, “May there be speech in my mouth; breath in my nostrils; sight in my eyeballs; hearing in my ears; strength in my arms; firmness in my thighs: may my limbs and members remain unhurt together with my soul.” Presents are then presented to him, suitable to the rank of the parties; and a barber who attends for the purpose, now exclaims, “The cow, the cow.” The guest then pronounces the following text: “Release the cow from the fetters of Varuna. May she subdue my foe. May she destroy the enemies both of my host and me. Dismiss the cow that she may eat grass and drink water.” At this intercession she is released, and thus the guest addresses her; “I have earnestly entreated this prudent person, saying, Kill not the innocent, harmless, cow, who is mother of Rudras, daughter of Vasus, sister of adityas, and the source of ambrosia.”1 Such is the mode in which the ceremonial duty of entertaining guests is celebrated, and such is an idea of the ceremonies which are included in the five daily sacraments of the Hindus.

As the daily ceremonies, however, in their full detail, are sufficient to engross the whole time of the votary; for those on whom the functions of society devolve, some alleviation of the burthen, or rather, in the Hindu notion, some restriction of the privilege, was necessarily devised: and while the sanctity of entire accomplishment is reserved for the holy men who maintain perpetual fires, those who are engaged in the affairs of life are obliged to content themselves with a rite, called Vaiswadeva, in which all the daily sacraments, excepting that of the Veda, are comprised. It consists of oblations to the manes, to the gods, and spirits, and of donations to guests, all out of the food prepared for the daily meal; and is thus performed. Sitting down in a place free from impurities, and setting a vessel containing fire on his right hand, the worshipper hallows the ground by throwing away a lighted piece of cusa grass, while he recites the appropriate text,2 and then places his fire on the consecrated spot, repeating the prayer which is used, when the household and sacrificial fires are lighted by the attrition of wood.3 Edition: current; Page: [442] He next lays cusa grass on the eastern side of the fire, with its tips pointed towards the north, exclaiming, “I praise divine fire, primevally consecrated, the efficient performer of a solemn ceremony, the chief agent of a sacrifice, the most liberal giver of gems.”1 He spreads it on the southern side, with its points towards the east, reciting the commencement of the Yajurveda. 1. “I gather thee for the sake of rain. 2. I pluck thee” (at this he is supposed to break off the branch of a tree) “for the sake of strength. 3. Ye are” (he touches calves with the branch he had pulled off) “like unto air. 4. May the liberal generator of worlds make you” (here he touches, or is supposed to touch, milch-cows with the same branch) “happily reach this most excellent sacrifice.”2 In like manner he lays grass on the two other sides of the fire, on the western side with the tips to the north, crying, “Fire! approach to taste my offering; thou who art praised for the gift of oblations; sit down on this grass, thou, who art the complete performer of the solemn sacrifice;”3 and on the northern side with the tips pointed to the east, saying, “May divine waters be auspicious to us, &c.4 When all these ceremonies are completed, he stirs the fire, and sprinkles water upon it, after which, having his hands smeared with clarified butter, he offers food three several times, repeating, “Earth! sky! heaven!” Five similar oblations are next performed: one to the regent of fire; one to the god of medicine; one to the assembled deities; one to the lord of created beings; and one to the creator of the universe. Six more oblations are then offered with six prayers, every oblation having its separate prayer. 1. “Fire! thou dost expiate a sin against the gods; may this oblation be efficacious. 2. Thou dost expiate a sin against man. 3. Thou dost expiate a sin against the manes. 4. Thou dost expiate a sin against my own soul. 5. Thou dost expiate repeated sins. 6. Thou dost expiate every sin I have committed, whether wilfully or unintentionally: may this oblation be efficacious.” He next worships the fire, making an oblation with the following prayer; “Fire! seven are thy fuels; seven thy tongues; seven thy holy sages; seven thy beloved Edition: current; Page: [443] abodes; seven ways do seven sacrificers worship thee: thy sources are seven: be content with this clarified butter: may this oblation be efficacious.” As the sacred lamp was lighted for the repulsion of evil spirits, before the oblations to the gods and the manes were presented, it is now extinguished, while recitation is made of the following text; “In solemn acts of religion, whatever fails through the negligence of those who perform the ceremony, may be perfected solely through meditation on Vishnu.” The oblations to spirits are next offered: the performer depositing portions of food in the several places prescribed for it, having previously swept each place with his hand and sprinkled it with water. Near the spot where the vessel of water stands, he makes three offerings, saying, “Salutation to rain! to water! to the earth!” He makes them at both doors of his house to Dhatri, and Vidhatri, or Brahma, the protector and creator. He presents them toward the eight points of the compass, adding salutation to them, and to the regents of them. To Brahm, to the sky, and to the sun, he makes oblations with salutation in the middle of the house. He then offers similar oblations to all the gods; to all beings; to twilight; and to the lord of all beings. After the sacrament of spirits thus performed, the worshipper, shifting the sacramental cord, and looking toward the south, drops upon one knee, and presents an oblation to the manes of ancestors, saying, “Salutation to progenitors: may this ancestral food be acceptable.” Having performed a lustration, he should then present food to his guests. “When he has thus,” says Mr. Colebrooke, “allotted out of the food prepared for his own repast, one portion to the gods, a second to progenitors, a third to all beings, and a fourth to his guests, he and his family may then, and not before, consume the remaining portion of the food.” This ceremony must be regularly performed in the forenoon, by those to whom the full celebration of the five sacraments is impracticable; and by some persons it is repeated again in the evening.1

After this tedious though greatly abridged account, of the daily ceremonies of the Hindus, we come to those which are performed at certain great and chosen epochs. On these, however, I shall content myself with some very general notices.

The Brahmans wait not for the period of birth to commence the ceremonis which pertain to each individual. “With auspicious Edition: current; Page: [444] acts,” says the holy text, “prescribed by the Veda, must ceremonies on conception, and so forth, be duly performed, which purify the bodies of the three classes in this life, and qualify them for the next.” Oblations to fire are required during the mother's pregnancy, and holy rites are commanded on the birth of the child. “Before the section of the naval string, a ceremony is ordained on the birth of a male child: he must be made, while sacred texts are pronounced, to taste a little honey and clarified butter from a golden spoon.”1 The ceremony of giving a name is ordained to be performed on the tenth or twelfth day after the birth: “or on some fortunate day of the moon, at a lucky hour, and under the influence of a star with good qualities.”2 The ceremony of the tonsure, which is one of the distinguishing marks of the first three classes, is a rite of great solemnity, commanded to be performed in the first or third year after birth.3 But of all the ritual ordinances of the Hindus none are reckoned more essential or important than those relating to the investiture. “In the eighth year from the conception of a Brahmen,” says the law of Menu, “in the eleventh from that of a Cshatriya, and in the twelfth from that of a Vaisya, let the father invest the child with the mark of his class: Should a Brahmen, or his father for him, be desirous of his advancement in sacred knowledge, a Cshatriya of extending his power, or a Vaisya of engaging in mercantile business, the investiture may be made in the fifth, sixth, or eighth years respectively. The ceremony of investiture, hallowed by the gayatri, must not be delayed, in the case of a priest, beyond the sixteenth year; nor in that of a soldier, beyond the twenty-second; nor in that of a merchant, beyond the twenty-fourth. After that all youths of these three classes, who have not been invested at the proper time, become vratyas or outcasts, degraded from the gayatri, and contemned by the virtuous. With such impure men let no Brahmen, even in distress for subsistence, ever form a connexion in law, either by the study of the Veda, or by affinity.”4 The investiture, or institution, is usually denominated the second birth; and it is from this ceremony that the three highest classes are denominated the twice-born.5 It consists chiefly in bestowing upon the object of the rite, a mantle, a girdle, a sacrificial cord, and a staff, with numerous ceremonies, prayers, and Edition: current; Page: [445] holy texts. “Let students of the Veda,” says the law of Menu,1 “wear for their mantles, the hides of black antelopes, of common deer, or of goats, with lower vests of woven sana, of cshuma, and of wool, in the direct order of their classes. The girdle of a priest must be made of munja, in a triple cord, smooth, and soft; that of a warrior must be a bow-string of murva; that of a merchant, a triple thread of sana. The sacrificial thread of a Brahmen must be made of cotton, so as to be put on over his head in three strings; that of a Cshatriya, of sana thread only; that of a Vaisya, of woollen thread.2 A priest ought by law to carry a staff of Bilva or Palasa: a soldier, of Bata or C’hadira; a merchant, of Venu or Udumbara. The staff of a priest must be of such a length as to reach his hair; that of a soldier to reach his forehead; and that of a merchant to reach his nose. Let all the staves be straight, without fracture, of a handsome appearance, not likely to terrify men, with their bark perfect, unhurt by fire. His girdle, his leathern mantle, his staff, his sacrificial cord, and his ewer, he must throw into the water, when they are worn out or broken, and receive others hallowed by mystical texts. The ceremony of cesanta, or cutting off the hair, is ordained for a priest in the sixteenth year from conception; for a soldier, in the twenty-second; for a merchant, two years later. Such is the revealed law of institution for the twice-born, an institution in which their second birth clearly consists, and which causes their advancement in holiness.”

The ceremonies of marriage, which next call for our attention, are extremely numerous. The bridegroom is first of all received by the father of the bride with all the ceremonies of hospitality which we have already described; and during this time the bride is bathed.3 When these rules are finished, the Edition: current; Page: [446] hand of the bride is placed in that of the bridegroom, both having been previously rubbed with some auspicious drug, and a matron binds them with cusa grass amid the sound of cheerful music. The father of the bride then bidding the attendant priests begin their acclamations, pours water from a vessel containing tila and cusa grass, upon the hands of the united pair, and uttering the words, “God the existent,” and pronouncing the names and designations of the bridegroom, the bride, and himself, says, “I give unto thee this damsel, adorned with jewels, and protected by the lord of creatures.” The bridegroom replies, “Well be it.” The bridegroom then having received from the father of the bride a piece of gold, and recited an appropriate text, the parties are affianced, and walk forth, while the bridegroom thus addresses the bride; “May the regents of space, may air, the sun, and fire, dispel that anxiety which thou feelest in thy mind, and turn thy heart to me. Be gentle in thy aspect, and loyal to thy husband; be fortunate in cattle, amiable in thy mind, and beautiful in thy person: be mother of valiant sons; be fond of delights; be cheerful; and bring prosperity to our bipeds and quadrupeds.”1 A libation of water is afterwards made; and the father of the bride, having meditated the gayatri, ties a knot with the skirts of the mantles of the bridegroom and bride, saying, “Ye must be inseparably united in matters of duty, wealth, and love.” The bridegroom next attires the bride with a variety of ceremonies, of which the following are the most remarkable. Going to the principal apartment of the house, he prepares a sacrificial fire, and hallows the implements; when one friend of his bearing a jar of water, walks round the fire, and stops on the south side of it; and another, performing the same ceremony, places himself on the right of the first. The bridegroom then casts four double handfuls of rice, mixed with leaves of Sami, into a flat basket; and placing near it a stone and mullar, which with formality he had previously touched, he causes the bride to be clothed with a new waistcloth and scarf, while he himself recites a variety of prayers. This being done, the bride goes to the western side of the fire, and recites a prayer, while she steps on a mat made of virana grass, and covered with silk. Edition: current; Page: [447] She then sits down on the edge of the mat, and the bridegroom makes six oblations of clarified butter, reciting a prayer with each.1 After this he names the three worlds separately and conjointly, presenting oblations; and makes four or five oblations to fire and to the moon. After these he rises up with the bride, and passing from her left to her right makes her join her hands in a hollow form. The rice, which was previously put in the basket, being then taken up, and the stone which was laid near being placed before the bride, she treads on it with the point of her right foot, while the bridegroom recites this prayer, “Ascend this stone; be firm like this stone; distress my foe, and be not subservient to my enemies.” He then pours on her hands a ladleful of clarified butter; another person gives her the rice; two ladlefuls of butter are poured over it; when she separates her hands, and lets fall the rice on the fire, while a holy text is recited. She treads again on the stone, again makes an oblation of rice, again a prayer is recited, again walking is performed round the fire, again four or five oblations are made with similar ceremonies and prayers, when the bridegroom pours two ladlefuls of butter on the edge of the basket, and then rice out of it into the fire, saying, “may this oblation to fire be efficacious.” After the ceremony of ascending the stone and throwing the rice into the fire, the bride is conducted to the bridegroom, and by him directed to step successively into seven circles, while seven texts are repeated. This is the most emphatical part of the ritual; for no sooner is the seventh step of the bride performed, than the nuptial bond is complete and irrevocable. The bridegroom then in appropriate texts addresses the bride and the spectators, dismissing them; after which his friend, who stood near the sacrificial fire, bearing a jar of water, advances to the spot where the seventh step was completed, and, while a prayer is recited, pours water on the head, first of the bridegroom and then of the bride. Upon this, the bridegroom, putting his left hand under the hands of his bride, which are joined in a hollow posture, takes her right hand in his, and recites six holy texts; after which he sits down with her near the fire, and makes oblations, while severally and conjointly he names the three worlds. On the evening of the same day, when the stars begin to appear, the bride sits down on a bull's Edition: current; Page: [448] hide of a red colour, placed with the neck towards the east, and the hair upwards; and the bridegroom, sitting down beside her, makes oblations, naming the three worlds as usual; then six other oblations, pouring each time the remainder of the clarified butter on her head, and reciting prayers.1 After rising up, and contemplating the polar star as an emblem of stability, matrons pour upon them water mixed with leaves, which had been placed upon an altar prepared for that purpose, and the bridegroom again makes oblations with the names of the worlds. He then eats food, prepared without factitious salt, reciting prayers during the meal: and when he has finished, the remainder is given to the bride. During the three subsequent days the married couple must remain in the house of the father of the bride, must abstain from factitious salt, must live chastely and austerely, sleeping on the ground. On the fourth day the bridegroom carries her to his house, reciting texts when he ascends the carriage, and when they come to cross roads. Leading her into his own house he chants a hymn, when matrons hail, and seat her on a bull's hide as before, and the bridegroom recites a prayer. They place next a young child in her lap, putting roots of lotus, or fruits, into his hand; when the bridegroom takes him up, and, preparing a sacrificial fire with all the usual ceremonies, makes eight different oblations, with as many prayers. The bride then salutes her father in law, and the other relations of her husband. The bridegroom prepares another sacrificial fire, and sits down with the bride on his right hand; when with the usual preliminary and concluding oblations to the three worlds, he makes twenty oblations, with as many prayers, throwing the remainder of each portion of the consecrated butter into a jar of water, which is afterwards poured on the head of the bride.

If the ceremonies prescribed for marriage are thus multiplied, trivial, and tiresome, those allotted to funerals are in point of number still more exorbitant and oppressive. After a specimen, Edition: current; Page: [449] however, of the Hindu ceremonies, there is something exceedingly monotonous in the detail of the rest; and hardly any thing is more ungrateful than to be obliged to go through them. The reader is, therefore, spared the task of studying the funeral rites of the Hindus, of which, notwithstanding, he may form a sufficient conception, as, in point of character, they exactly resemble those which have already been described.2

Of the monthly ceremonies, one may suffice to afford an idea of the whole. “From month to month,” says the law of Menu, “on the dark day of the moon, let a twice-born man, having finished the daily sacrament of the Pitris, and his fire being still blazing, perform the solemn sraddha.”3 Of the sraddha's, which are numerous but very similar, the following is exhibited as a specimen. The person who is to perform the ceremony having purified the place by smearing it with cow-dung, raises on it an alter of sand of certain dimensions and form, washes his hands and feet, sips water, and puts a ring of cusa grass on the ring finger of each hand. He then sits down on a cushion of cusa grass, and lights a lamp, reciting a prayer. He next places the utensils and materials in order, sprinkles water on himself and all around, meditates on Vishnu, surnamed the Lotos-eyed, meditates the gayatri, and after some ceremonies proceeds to invite and to welcome the assembled gods and the manes. Two little cushions, of three blades of cusa grass, he places on one side of the altar for the Viswadevas, and six in front of it for the Pitris, and strewing on them cusa grass, he asks, “Shall I invoke the assembled gods?” Do so; is the answer: upon which he exclaims, “Assembled gods! hear my invocation: come and sit down on this holy grass.” After scattering barley and meditating a prayer to the gods, he invites the manes of ancestors with similar invocations; and welcomes the gods and manes with oblations of water, &c. in vessels made of leaves. He puts cusa grass into the vessels, and sprinkles them with water, while he recites the prayer, beginning, “May divine waters be auspicious to us;” he next throws barley into the vessels intended for the gods, and tila into those intended for the manes, with a prayer appropriate to each. The vessels are then taken up in succession, a prayer being repeated for each; the cusa grass placed on the vessels is put into the hand of a Brahmen; that which was under them is held in the hand of the person by whom the sraddha Edition: current; Page: [450] is performed; and he pours through it, on the hand of the Brahmen, the water which the vessels contained, then piles up the empty vessels in three sets, and overturns them, saying, while he reverses the first, “Thou art a mansion for ancestors.” Taking up food smeared with clarified butter, he next makes two oblations to fire, with two corresponding prayers. The residue of the oblation, the performer having consecrated it by prayers and other ceremonies, having sweetened it with honey and sugar, and having meditated the gayatri with the names of worlds, is distributed among the Brahmens; and when they have eaten till they have acknowledged that they are satisfied, he gives them water to rinse their mouths. He then offers the cakes, consisting of balls or lumps of food, mixed with clarified butter, observing the requisite ceremonies. In the next place he makes six libations of water from the palms of his hands, with the salutation to the seasons, then places with due ceremonies and texts, a thread on each funeral cake, to serve as apparel for the manes. After this he takes up the middle cake and smells it, or his wife, if they are desirous of male offspring, eats it, while they recite a correspondent prayer. He takes up the rest of the cakes, and smelling them one after another, throws them into a vessel; which done, they are given to a mendicant priest, or a cow, or else cast into the water. He then dismisses the manes, reciting a holy text, and having walked round the spot, and recited a prayer, departs.1 “Formal obsequies,” says Mr. Colebrooke, “are performed no less than ninety-six times in every year.”2


The difficulty arising from this source of false information was felt by the very first accurate historian.

Thucyd. lib. i. c. k. Other excellent observations to the same purpose are found in the two following chapters.


Il y avoit plus de choses la dessus qu’on ne le croyoit communement, mais elles etoient noyées dans une foule de recueils immenses, en langues Latine, Espagnole, Angloise, et Hollandoise, ou personne ne s'avisoit de les aller chercher; dans une quantité de routiers tres-secs, tres ennuyeux, relatifs à cent autres objets, et dont il seroit presque impossible de rendre la lecture interressente. Les difficultés ne touchent guère ceux qui ne les essuyent pas. Hist. des Navigation aux Terres Australes, par M. le President de Brosse.


L’on ne sent que trop, says Mr. Gibbon, combien nous sommes portés à mêler nos idées avec celles que nous rapportons. Memoire sur la Monarchie des Medes, Gibbon's Miscel. Works, iii. 61. Ed. 8vo. This infirmity of the human mind, a fact of great importance, both in speculation and in action, the reader, who is not already acquainted with it, will find very elegantly illustrated in one of the chapters of the second volume of the work of Mr. Dugald Stewart, on the Philosophy of the Human Mind. See p. 72, vol: ii. of the present work. Many examples of it will present themselves in the course of this history; for as it is a habit peculiarly congenial to the mental state of the natives, so a combination of circumstances has given it unusual efficacy in the minds of those of our countrymen by whom India has been surveyed.


The idea of a critical history is not very old. The first man who seems to have had a distinct conception of it, says, “Je traiterai mon sujet en critique, suivant la rogle de St. Paul, Examinez toutes choses, et ne retenez que ce qui est bon. L’histoire n’est bien souvent qu'un melange confus de faux et de vrai, entassé par des ecrivains mal instruits, credules, ou passionez. C’est au lecteur attentif et judicieux d’en faire le discernement, à l'aide d'une critique, qui ne soit ni trop timide, ni temeraire. Sans le secours de cet art, on erre dans l’histoire, comme un pilote sur le mer, lorsqu’il n'a ni boussole, ni carte marine.” Beausobre, Hist. de Manichee, Disc. Prelim. p. 7.

The same writer has also said, what is not foreign to the present purpose, “Une histoire critique ne pouvant être trop bien justifiée, j'ai eu soin de mettre en original, au bas des pages, les passages qui servent de preuve aux faits que j'avance. C’est un ennuyeux travail, mais je l'ai cru necessaire. Si l’on trouve les citations trop amples et trop abondantes, c’est un superflu qui n'a coῦté qu'a moi, et le lecteur peut bien m’en pardonner la depense.” Id. Ibid. Pref. p. 24.

A great historian of our own has said: “It is the right, it is the duty of a critical historian to collect, to weigh, to select the opinions of his predecessors; and the more diligence he has exerted in the search, the more rationally he may hope to add some improvement to the stock of knowledge, the use of which has been common to all.” Gibbon's Miscel. Works, iv. 589.


Even those strictures, which sometimes occur, on institutions purely British, will be all found, I am persuaded, to be not only strictly connected with measures which relate to India, and which have actually grown out of those institutions; but indispensably necessary to convey complete and correct ideas of the Indian policy which the institutions in question contributed mainly to shape. The whole course of our Indian policy having, for example, been directed by the laws of parliamentary influence, how could the one be explained without adducing, as in the last chapter of the fourth volume, and in some other places, the leading principles of the other? The result of all the judicial inquiries, which have been attempted in England, on Indian affairs, depending in a great degree on the state of the law in England, how could those events be sufficiently explained, without adducing, as in the chapter on the trial of Mr. Hastings, those particulars in the state of the law of England, on which the results in question appeared more remarkably to depend? The importance of this remark will be felt, and, I hope, remembered, when the time for judging of the use and pertinence of those elucidations arrives.


The Indians themselves have a striking apologue to illustrate the superiority of the comprehensive student over the partial observer.

“One day in conversation,” says Mr. Ward, “with the Sŭngskritŭ head pŭndit of the College of Fort William, on the subject of God, this man, who is truly learned in his own Shastrŭs, gave the author, from one of their books, the following parable:—In a certain country, there existed a village of blind men, who had heard of an amazing animal called the elephant, of the shape of which, however, they could procure no idea. One day an elephant passed through the place: the villagers crowded to the spot where the animal was standing; and one of them seized his trunk, another his ear, another his tail, another one his legs. After thus endeavouring to gratify their curiosity, they returned into the village, and sitting down together, began to communicate their ideas on the shape of the elephant, to the villagers: the man who had seized his trunk said, he thought this animal must be like the body of the plantain tree; he who had touched his ear was of opinion, that he was like the winnowing fan; the man who had laid hold of his tail said, he thought he must resemble a snake; and he who had caught his leg declared, he must be like a pillar. An old blind man, of some judgment was present, who, though greatly perplexed in attempting to reconcile these jarring notions, at length said—You have all been to examine the animal, and what you report, therefore, cannot be false: I suppose then, that the part resembling the plantain tree must be his trunk; what you thought similar to a fan must be his ear; the part like a snake must be the tail; and that like a pillar must be his leg. In this way, the old man, uniting all their conjectures, made out something of the form of the elephant.” A View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos. By the Rev W. Ward. Introd. p. lxxxvii. London Ed. 1817.


Aux yeux d'un philosophe, les faits composent la partie la moins interressante de l’histoire. C’est la connoissance de l’homme; la morale, et la politique qu’il y trouve, qui la relevent dans son esprit. Gibbon, Mem. Sur la Monarchie des Medes, Misc. Works, iii. 126. Ed. 8vo.


The following words are not inapplicable, originally applied to a much more limited subject. De quibus partibus singulis, quidam separatim scribere maluerunt, velut onus totius corporis veriti, et sic quoque complures de unaquaque earum libros ediderunt: quas ego omnes ausus contexere, prope infinitum mihi laborem prospicio, et psa cogitatione suscepti muneris fatigor. Sed durandum est quia cœpimus: et si viribus deficiemur, animo tamen perseverandum. Quinct. Inst. Or. lib. 4. Proœm.


No. 1. Appendix to the Fifth Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, on the Affairs of the East India Company, in 1810. This passage the Committee have thought of sufficient importance to be incorporated in their Report.


Observations of Lord William Bentinck, printed in the Advertisement, prefixed to the “Description of the Character, &c. of the People of India,” by the Abbé J. A. Dubois, Missionary in the Mysore. If any one should object to the testimony of this Ruler, as that of a man who had not been bred in India, it is to be remembered that the testimony is adduced, as expressing his own opinion, by the translator of that work, whose knowledge of India is not liable to dispute; and given to the world as the opinion of the Court of Directors, to whom the manuscript belonged, and under whose authority and direction, it was both translated and published.


Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 534, 562. “It is a fact,” says another enlightened observer, “which, however singular and unfortunate, is yet founded in truth, that those persons from whom correct information on these subjects might justly be expected, are generally the least able from the peculiar circumstances of their situation, to supply it; I mean the Company's servants.—During the early period of their residence in the East, every hour must be employed, in the acquisition of the languages, in the study of the laws of the country, and the manners of the natives: whilst the latter years of their service are still more unremittingly engrossed, in the discharge of the irksome and arduous duties of their profession.” Considerations on the Present Political State of India. By Alexander Fraser Tytler, late assistant Judge in the Twenty-four Pergunnahs, Bengal Establishment, Preface, p. xii. See other passages to the same purpose, Introduction, p. iv, v, xi; also i. 77, 357, 415. And Mr. Tytler quotes with peculiar approbation the passages already given from the Minute of Lord Teignmouth.

“I must beg you always to bear in mind, than when an English gentleman undertakes to give an account of Indian manners and habits of private life, he labours under many disadvantages. The obstacles which prevent our ever viewing the natives of India in the ir domestic circles are great and insuperable; such as the restrictions of caste on their side, rank and situation on ours, &c. We do not int ermarry with them, as the Portuguese did: nor do we ever mix with them, in the common duties of social life, on terms of equality. What knowledge we have of their domestic arrangements has been gained chiefly by inquiry, &cc.” Letters written in a Mahratta camp, &c. by T. I). Broughton, Esq. p. 3.

See to the same purpose, Sir John Malcolm, Sketch of the Political History of India, &c. p. 449.

After adverting to certain erroneous notions on Indian subjects, Lieutenant Moor, the well-informed author of the “Narrative of the Operations of Captain Little's Detachment,” observes, “Other opinions, equally correct and entertaining, are indulged by the good people of England; which it is vain to oppose, for the party ‘was told so by a gentleman who had been in India; perhaps a voyage or two but these, however respectable in their profession, are surely not the persons to receive information from, on the subject of the political characters of the East; no more (nor indeed much less) than some gentlemen who may have resided a few years in India; for we can easily admit the possibility of a person spending many years of his life in the cities of Calcutta, Madras, or Bombay, without knowing much more of the politics, prejudices, &c. of interior states or countries, than if he had never stirred out of London, Dublin, or Edinburgh,” p. 196.


Bayle, Eclaircissemens, sur le Dictionnaire.


Rambler, No. ii.


Some considerable reputations have been acquired, by praising every thing in one's own country. And there are many persons who sincerely insist upon it, that a writer ought always to contrive to put his country in the right: and that it is a proof of his not being a friend to it, if he ever puts it in the wrong. This is a motive which I utterly disclaim. This is the way, not to be a friend to one's country, but an enemy. It is to bring upon it the disgrace of falsehood and misrepresentation, in the first instance; and, next, to afford it all the inducement, in the writer's power, to persevere in mischievous, or in disgraceful courses.


Anderson's History of Commerce in the reign of Elizabeth, passim. See also Hakluyt's Voyages, ii. 3, 96. Ibid. iii. 690. Guicciardini's Description of the Netherlands. Sir William Temple. Camden, 408.


Hakluyt, iii. 4. Rymer's Fœdera, xii. 595. Anderson's History of Commerce, published in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 11. Robertson's History of America, iv. 138.


Hakluyt, iii. 129. Harris's Collection of Voyages, i. 874.


Hakluyt, ut supra.


Ibid. 131.


Hakluyt, i. 226, &c.


Anderson's History of Commerce in Macpherson, ii. 166.


Hakluyt. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 145, 158, 159.


Hakluyt. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 175, 180, 185.


Anderson, ut supra, ii. 171.


Purchas, b. iii. sect. 2. Anderson, ii. 210.


Hakluyt, iii. 440. Harris's Collection of Voyages, i. 14. Camden's Annals, 301, &c.


Harris is not satisfied with the merit of those productions, which reached not, in his opinion, the worth of the occasion; and seems to be rather indignant that no modern poet has rivalled the glory of Homer, “by displaying in verse the labours of Sir Francis Drake:” i. 20.


Her Majesty appears to have been exquisitely gracious. The crowd which thronged after her was so great that the bridge, which had been constructed between the vessel and the shore, broke down with the weight, and precipitated 200 persons into the water. As they were all extricated from their perilous situation without injury, the Queen remarked that so extraordinary an escape could be owing only to the Fortune of Sir Francis Drake. Harris, i. 20.


I am sorry to observe that no great respect for human life seems to have been observed in this proceeding; since, directly implying that the guns had been charged with shot, and levelled at the men, the historian of the voyage jocosely remarks, “that 'tis ten to one if any of the savages were killed; for they are so very nimble that they drop immediately into the water, and dive beyond the reach of all danger, upon the least warning in the world.” Harris's Collect. of Voyages, i. 27.


Monson's Naval Tracts. Hakluyt. Anderson's Hist. of Com. published in Macpherson's Annals, ix. 169, 198. Rymer's Fœdera.


This is not a conclusion merely drawn from the circumstances of the case, which however would sufficiently warrant it; but stated on the testimony of Cambden, who related what he heard and saw. Cambden's Annals. Anderson's Hist of Commerce.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 201.


They returned to London in 1591. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 198.


Harris's Voyages, i. 875.


This Memorial is preserved in the State Paper Office, and a short account of it has been given us by Mr. Bruce Annals of the East India Company, i. 109.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 199. Harris's Voyages, i. 875.


Anderson, ut supra, ii. 209. Harris's Voyages, i. 920.


Minutes, &c. (Indian Register Office.) Bruce's Annals, i. 112.


Minutes of a General Court of Adventurers, preserved in the Indian Register Office. Bruce's Annals, i. 128.


Bruce's Annals, i. 129–136. Anderson's History of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 216. Harris's Collection of Voyages, i. 875.


Bruce's Annals, i. 146. “But forasmuch,” says Sir William Monson (Naval Tracts, iii. Churchill's Collection of Voyages, 475), “as every innovation commonly finds opposition, from some out of partiality, and from others as enemies to novelty; so this voyage, though at first it carried a great name and hope of profit, by the word India, and example of Holland, yet was it writ against.” He then exhibits the objections, seven in number, and subjoins an answer. The objections were shortly as follows, the answers may be conceived:

  • 1. The trade to India would exhaust the treasure of the nation by the exportation of bullion.
  • 2. It would consume its mariners by an unhealthy navigation.
  • 3. It would consume its ships by the rapid decay produced in the southern seas.
  • 4. It would hinder the vent of our cloth, now exported in exchange for the spices of the foreign merchants.
  • 5. It was a trade of which the returns would be very slow.
  • 6. Malice to the Turkey Company was the cause of it, and jealousy and hatred from the Dutch would be the unhappy effect.
  • 7. It would diminish the Queen's customs by the privilege of exporting bullion duty free.

These objections, with the answers, may also be seen in Anderson's History of Commerce, ad an.


Harris, i. 875. Anderson, ut supra, ii. 217, 218. Bruce's Annals, i. 151, 152.


Bruce's Annals, i. 152–163.


Bruce's Annals, i. 164.


Bruce, i. 165.


Bruce, i. 166.


Bruce, i. 171, &c. Sir Thomas Roe's Journal and Letters. Churchill, i. 770–809.


Churchill, i. 106–108. He gives another account of his endeavours to injure the Dutch, in the following words:— “The 10th, 11th, and 12th, I spent in giving the king and prince advice that a Dutch ship lay before Surat, and would not declare upon what design it came, till a fleet arrived; which was expected with the first fit season. This I improved to fill their heads with jealousies of the designs of the Dutch, and the dangers that might ensue from them; which was well taken: and, being demanded, I gave my advice to prevent coming to a rupture with them, and yet exclude them the trade of India.” Ib. 774.


Bruce, i. 174, 178.


Bruce, i. 188.


Sir Jeremy Sambrooke's Report on East India Trade (MS. in East India Register Office) quoted by Bruce, i. 193.


Bruce, i. 199.


Memorial of the Dutch East India Company to King James, and Reply of the London East India Company thereto, in the year 1616, (East India Papers in the State Paper Office) quoted, Bruce, i. 202.


Rymer's Fœdera, xvii. 170. Bruce, i. 212.


Bruce, i. 213.


Bruce, i. 223.


Bruce i. 237, 238.


Accounts in the Indian Register Office. Bruce, i. 225, 234, 241.


The Dutch, in their vindication, stated that the English intrigued with the Portuguese, and underhand assisted the natives in receiving the Portuguese into the islands. See Anderson's History of Commerce, in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 305.


East India Papers in the State Paper Office. Bruce, i. 241.


The English had not been so long strangers to the torture themselves, that it needed to excite in their breasts any emotions of astonishment. “The rack itself,” says Hume in his History of Elizabeth, v. 457, “though not admitted in the ordinary execution of justice, was frequently used upon any suspicion, by authority of a warrant from a secretary or the Privy Council. Even the Council in the Marches of Wales were empowered, by their very commission, to make use of torture whenever they thought proper. There cannot be a stronger proof how lightly the rack was employed, than the following story; told by Lord Bacon. We shall give it in his own words: ‘The Queen was mightily incensed against Haywarde, on account of a book he dedicated to Lord Essex, thinking it a seditious prelude to put into the people's head holdness and faction: [to our apprehension, says Hume, Haywarde's book seems rather to have a contrary tendency; but Queen Elizabeth was very difficult to please on that head.] She said, she had an opinion that there was treason in it, and asked me if I could not find any places in it, that might be drawn within the case of treason?. .....Another time when the Queen could not be persuaded that it was his writing whose name was to it, but that it had some more mischievous author, she said, with great indignation, that she would have him racked to produce his author.’ ...Thus, continues Hume, “had it not been for Bacon's humanity, or rather his wit, this author, a man of letters, had been put to the rack for a most innocent performance.”—The truth is, that the Company themselves, at this very time, were in the regular habit of perpetrating tortures upon their own countrymen, and even their own servants—of torturing to death by whips or famine. Captain Hamilton (New Account of the East Indies, i. 362,) informs us, that before they were intrusted with the powers of martial law, having no power to punish capitally any but pirates, they made it a rule to whip to death, or starve to death, those of whom they wished to get rid. He produces (Ib. 376) an instance of a deserter at Fort St. George, “whipt,” as he expresses it, “out of this world into the next.” The power too, of executing as for piracy, the same author complains, was made use of to murder many private traders. “That power (he says, Ib. 362.) of executing pirates is so strangely stretched, that if any private trader is injured by the tricks of a Governor, and can find no redress—if the injured person is so hold as to talk of lex talioni, he is infallibly declared a pirate.” He gives an account of an attempt of an agent of the Company, and a creature of the Governor of Fort St. George, to swear away his life by perjury at Siam. (lb. ii. 183.)—These parallels are presented, not for the sake of clearing the one party at the expence of the other; but, by showing things as they were, to give the world at last possession of the real state of the case.


East India Papers in the State Paper Office. Bruce, i. 256.


Bruce, i. 258.


Bruce, i. 252.


Ib. 252, 265, 271.


East India Papers in the State Paper Office. Bruce, i. 272.


Bruce, i. 262, 264, 268.


Bruce, i. 264, 269, 290.


Bruce, i. 276, 277, 282. Anderson in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 351.


Bruce, i. 285, 287.


Ib. i. 278, 293.


Bruce, 293.


Bruce, i. 296, 304, 300, 302.


Papers in the Indian Register Office. Sir Jeremy Sambrooke's Report on the East India Trade, Bruce, i. 306.


Bruce, i. 306, 320, 323.


Bruce, i. 306, 320, 324, 327.


Ib. 325, 334.


Bruce, i. 329, 387.


Ib. 342.


Bruce, i. 345, 349.


Ib. 349, 350, 353.


Bruce, 353, 354.


Ib. i. 355, 361, 362.


Ib. 363.


Preamble to a subscription for a new joint-stock for trade to the East Indies, 28th January, 1640, (East India Papers in the State Paper Office,) Bruce, i. 364.




See Bruce, i. 371. The quantity was, 607, 522 bags, bought at 2s. 1d. per pound, total 63,283l. 11s. 1d.; sold at 1s. 8d. per pound; total 50,626l. 17s. 1d.


Bruce, i. 379, 380.


Piece Goods is the term which, latterly at least, has been chiefly employed by the Company and their agents to denote the muslins and wove goods of India and China in general.


Bruce, i. 377, 393.


Ib. 385.


Bruce, 389, 390.


Ib. 407, 412, 423.


Bruce, i. 423.


Ib. 434


Bruce, i. 435, 436.


Ib. 437, 438.


Ib. 439, 440.


Ib. 440.


Ib. 441.


If we hear of committees of the several stocks; the bodies of Directors were denominated committees. And if there were committees of the several stocks, how were they constituted? were they committees of Proprietors, or committees of Directors? And were there any managers or Directors besides?


Bruce, i. 406, 463.


Ib. 454, 462, 484.


Bruce, i. 458, 482, 484, 485.


Ib. 48.


Bruce, i. 491.


The reasons on which they supported their request, as stated in their petition, exhibit so just a view of the infirmities of joint-stock management, as compared with that of individuals pursuing their own interests, that they are highly worthy of inspection as a specimen of the talents and knowledge of the men by whom joint-stock was now opposed. See Bruce, i. 518.


Bruce, i. 492, 493.


Ib. i. 494.


Bruce, i. 503.


Bruce, i. 503, 504.


Bruce, i. 508.


Thurloe's State Papers, iii. 80. Anderson says, “The merchants of Amsterdam having heard that the Lord Protector would dissolve the East India Company at London, and declare the navigation and commerce to the Indies to be free and open, were greatly alarmed, considering such a measure as ruinous to their own East India Company.” Anderson's History of Commerce, in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 459. See Bruce, i. 518.


Bruce, i. 514–516.


Ib. 522–529.


Bruce, i. 529.


Bruce, i. 529, 530.


Bruce, i. 532.




Ib. 533.


Bruce, 539, 540. The state of interest, both in India and England, appears incidentally in the accounts received by the Company from the agents at Surat, in the year 1658–59. These agents, after stating the narrowness of the funds placed at their disposal, recommend to the Directors rather to borrow money in England, which could easily be done at 4 per cent., than leave them to take up money in India at 8 or 9 per cent. Ib. 542.


Ib. 544.


Ib. 549—551.


Ib. 555.


Bruce, i. 553, 554.


Ib. 557.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce in Macpherson's Annals, ii. 495, 605.


Bruce, ii. 108, 119, 152, 186.


Bruce, 110, 138, 157, 158, 174.


Ib. ii. 130, 159.


Bruce, ii. 104, 106, 126, 134, 141, 155, 168, 199. Macpherson's Annals, ii. 503.


Bruce, ii. 132, 161, 184, 198.


Bruce, 144, 145, 284.


Ib. ii. 179, 245


Bruce, i. 560; ii. 110, 131.


Ib. ii. 107—109.


Macpherson's Annals, ii. 493.


Raynal, Hist. Philos. et Polit. des Etabliss. &c. dans les Deux Indes, ii. 183. Ed. 8vo. Geneve, 1781. Bruce, ii. 137, 150, 167. Macpherson's Annals, ii. 516.


Letters from the Agent and Council of Bantam (in the East India Register Office), Bruce, ii. 163.


Bruce, ii. 178, from a letter from the President and Council of Surat.


Sir William Petty, who wrote his celebrated work, entitled Political Arithmetic, in 1676, says; 1. The streets of London showed that city to be double what it was forty years before; great increase was also manifested at Newcastle, Yarmouth, Norwich, Exeter, Portsmouth, and Cowes; and in Ireland, at Dublin, Kingsale, Coleraine, and Londonderry. 2. With respect to shipping, the navy was triple, or quadruple what it was at that time; the shipping of Newcastle was 80,000 tons, and could not then have exceeded a quarter of that amount. 3. The number and splendour of coaches, equipages and furniture, had much increased since that period. 4. The postage of letters had increased from one to twenty. 5. The King's revenue had tripled itself. See too Macpherson's Annals, ii. 580.


Bruce, ii. 201, 206, 209—224, 227, 230—256, 258, 259—278, 281, 282, 283—293, 296, 297—312, 313—327, 328, 331.


Ib. ii. 210. The words of this order are curious, “to send home by these ships 100 lb. waight of the best tey that you can gett.”


Ib. ii. 211.


Ib. 302.


Ib. 232, 334.


Bruce, ii. 337, 342, 366.


An anonymous author, whom Anderson in his History of Commerce quotes as an authority, says, in 1679, that the Dutch herring and cod fishery employed 8,000 vessels, and 200,000 sailors and fishers, whereby they annually gained five millions sterling; besides their Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland fisheries, and the multitude of trades and people employed by them at home. Macpherson's Annals, ii. 596. See in the same work, ii. 547 and 552, a summary of the statements of Child and De Witt. For ampler satisfaction the works themselves must be consulted.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce. Macpherson's Annals, ii. 579.


Bruce, ii. 356, 360, 361—375, 379—392, 393, 395—406, 409, 410—435, 438, 439—446, 451, 453—459, 465, 468.


Bruce, ii. 367, 466, 396, 404.


Ib. 405.


Bruce, ii. 355, 374, 449, 453.


Bruce ii. 275.


Bruce, ii. 476, 481—496, 506—528, 531.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce Macpherson's Annals, ii. 579


Supra, p. 95.


Bruce, ii. 482, 499.


Bruce, ii. 492


Ib. 502.


Ib. 496.


Bruce, ii. 512. Governor Child is accused by Hamilton of wanton and intolerable oppressions; and that author states some facts which indicate excessive tyranny. New Account of the East Indies, i. 187—199.


Bruce, ii. 515.


Bruce, ii. 526, 540, 584, 591. It was debated in the Privy Council, whether the charter of incorporation should be under the King's or the Company's seal. The King asked the Chairman his opinion, who replied, “that no person in India should be employed by immediate commission from his Majesty, because, if they were, they would be prejudicial to our service by their arrogancy, and prejudicial to themselves, because the wind of extraordinary honour in their heads would probably make them so haughty and overbearing, that we should be forced to remove them.” Letter from the Court to the President of Fort St. George, (Ib. 591). Hamilton, ut supra (189—192). Orme's Historical Fragments, 185, 188, 192, 198.


Mr. Orme is not unwilling to ascribe part of the hardships they experienced to the interlopers, who, seeking protection against the oppressions of the Company, were more sedulous and skilful in their endeavours to please the native governors. Hist. Frag. 185.


These events occurred under the government of the celebrated imperial deputy Shaista Khan; “to the character of whom (says Mr. Stewart, Hist. of Bengal, 300.) it is exceedingly difficult to do justice. By the Mohammedan historians he is described as the pattern of excellence; but by the English he is vilified as the oppressor of the human race. Facts are strongly on the side of the Mohammedans.”


Bruce, ii. 558, 569, 578, 594, 608, 620, 630, 639, 641, 646, 650. The lively and intelligent Captain Hamilton represents the conduct of Sir John Child at Surat as exceptionable in the highest degree. But the Captain was an interloper, and though his book is strongly stamped with the marks of veracity, his testimony is to be received with the same caution on the one side as that of the Company on the other. New Account of India, i. 199—228.


Bruce, ii. 655.


Ib. iii. 75, 87, 122, 139, 181, 203, 231.


Bruce, iii. 78.


Ib. 120.


See, in Gibbon, viii. 357 to 360, a train of allusions, as usual, to the history of the Armenians; and in his notes a list of its authors.—The principal facts regarding them, as a religious people, are collected with his usual industry and fidelity by Mosheim, Ecclesiast. Hist. iii. 493, 494, 495, and 412, 413.


Bruce, iii. 88.


Bruce, iii. 81; Macpherson's Annals, ii. 618; and Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, iii. 132, who with his usual sagacity brings to view the causes of the principal events in the history of the Company.


Bruce, iii. 82.


Macpherson's Annals, ii. 648.


Bruce, iii. 102.


Ib. iii. 103. Sir Josiah Child, as chairman of the Court of Directors, wrote to the Governor of Bombay, to spare no severity to crush their countrymen who invaded the ground of the Company's pretensions in India. The Governor replied, by professing his readiness to omit nothing which lay within the sphere of his power to satisfy the wishes of the Company; but the laws of England unhappily would not let him proceed so far as might otherwise be desirable. Sir Josiah wrote back with anger:—“That he expected his orders were to be his rules, and not the laws of England, which were an heap of nonsense, compiled by a few ignorant country gentlemen, who hardly knew how to make laws for the good of their own private families, much less for the regulating of Companies, and foreign commerce.” (Hamilton's New Account of India, i. 232.) “I am the more particular,” adds Captain Hamilton, “on this account, because I saw and copied both those letters in Anno 1696, while Mr. Vaux [the Governor to whom the letters were addressed] and I were prisoners at Surat, on account of Captain Evory's robbing the Mogul's great ship, called the Gunsway.” Bruce, iii. 233.


Bruce, iii. 133—135. Macpherson's Annals, ii. 649.


Ib. 142.


We know not the terms of that contract, nor how a participation in its privileges could be granted to individuals without a breach of faith toward the Armenian merchants.


Bruce, iii. 167.


Macpherson's Annals, ii. 652, 662; 10,000l. is said to have been traced to the King.


Bruce, iii. 146, 186. “Sir Nicholas Waite [Consul of the Association] addressed a letter,” says Mr. Bruce, “to the Mogul, accusing the London Company of being sharers and abettors of the piracies, from which his subjects and the trade of his dominions had suffered, or, in the Consul's coarse language, of being thieves and confederates with the pirates.” Ib. 337.


Anderson's Hist. Macpherson's Annals, ii. 694 Bruce, iii. 252, 253.


Bruce, iii. 253, Macpherson, ii. 694.


Bruce, iii. 253. Anderson's History of Commerce; Macpherson, ii. 694, 695.


Bruce, iii. 253, 254. Anderson's History of Commerce; Macpherson, ii. 695.


Bruce, iii. 253. Macpherson, ii. 696.


Statute 9 & 10 W. III. c. 44.


Macpherson's Annals, ii. 699. Bruce, iii. 257, 258. Preamble to the Stat. 6. A. c. 17.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce, Macpherson, ii. 700.


Bruce, iii. 256, 257. Macpherson, ii. 700. Smith's Wealth of Nations, iii. 133.


Bruce, iii. 257.


Ib. 259, 260.


Ib. 285.


Bruce, 264, 268, 300


Ib. iii. 293, 326, 350.


Bruce, 260 to 370, 374 to 379, 410.


Bruce, iii. 290, 293, 355.


Bruce, 124.


Anderson's Hist. of Commerce, Macpherson, ii. 705.


Bruce, iii. 424 to 426. Of the subtleties which at this time entered into the policy of the Company, the following is a specimen. Sir Basil Firebrace, or Firebrass, a notorious jobber who had been an interloper, and afterwards joined with the London Company, was now an intriguer for both Companies. At a General Court of the London Company, on the 23d April, 1701, this man stated, that he had a scheme to propose, which he doubted not would accomplish the union desired; but required to know what recompense should be allowed him, if he effected this important end. By an act of the Court, the committee of seven were authorized to negotiate, with Sir Basil, the recompense which he ought to receive: and after repeated conferences with the gentleman, they proposed to the Court of Committees, that if he effected the union, 150,000l. of the stock of the Company should be transferred to him on his paying 80l. per cent. In other words, he was to receive 20 per cent. on 150,000l. or a reward of 30,000l. for the success of his intrigues. Ibid. See also Macpherson, ii. 663.


Bruce, iii. 486 to 491.


Bruce, iii. 635 to 639; Stat. 6. A. c. 17.


Ib. 667 to 679. Macpherson, iii. 1, 2.


Mr. Gibbon remarks, (Hist. Decl. and Fall of the Roman Empire, i. p. 350,) that the wild Irishman, as well as the wild Tartar, can point out the individual son of Japhet from whose loins his ancestors were lineally descended.—According to Dr. Keating (History of Ireland, 13), the giant Partholanus, who was the son of Seara, the son of Esra, the son of Sru, the son of Framant, the son of Fathacian, the son of Magog, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah, landed on the coast of Munster, the 14th day of May, in the year of the world 1978.—The legends of England are not less instructive. A fourth or sixth son of Japhet named Samothes, having first colonized Gaul, passed over into this island, which was thence named Samothia, about 200 years after the flood; but the Samothians being some ages afterwards subdued by Albion, a giant son of Neptune, he called the island after his own name, and ruled it forty-four years. See the story, with some judicious reflections, in Milton's History of England (Prose Works of Milton, iv. 3. Ed. 1806). “The Athenians boasted that they were as ancient as the sun. The Arcadians pretended they were older than the moon. The Lacedemonians called themselves the sons of the earth, &c. such in general was the madness of the ancients on this subject! They loved to lose themselves in an abyss of ages which seemed to approach eternity.” Goguet, Origin of Laws, v. i. b. l. ch. 1, art. 5. See the authorities there quoted.


Eusebii Chronicon, p. 5. Syncelli Chronograph. p. 28. Bryant's Ancient Mythology, iv. 127. 8vo. edit.


Syncelli Chronicon, p. 51. Herodotus informs us, (lib. ii. c. 2,) that the Egyptians considered themselves as the most ancient of mankind, till an experiment made by Psammetichus convinced them that the Phrygians alone preceded them. But the inhabitants of the further Peninsula of India make the boldest incursions into the regions of past times. The Burmans, we are informed by Dr. Buchanan, (As. Res. vi. 181,) believe that the lives of the first inhabitants of their country lasted one assenchii, a period of time of which they thus communicate an idea: “If for three years it should rain incessantly over the whole surface of this earth, which is 1,203,400 juzana in diameter, the number of drops of rain falling in such a space and time, although far exceeding human conception, would only equal the number of years contained in one assenchii.”


Sir William Jones's Discourse on the Chronology of the Hindus, (As. Res. ii. 111, 8vo. Ed.) also that on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India, (Ibid. i. 221)—See too Mr. Bentley's Remarks on the principal Eras and Dates of the ancient Hindus, (Ibid. v. 315); and the Discourse of Captain F. Wilford on the Chronology of the Hindus, in the same volume, p. 24.—Consult also Mr. Marsden's Discourse on the Chronology of the Hindus, (Phil. Trans. lxxx. 568.) These authors, having all drawn from the same sources, display an appearance of uniformity and certainty in this part of the Hindu system. It is amusing to contemplate the wavering results of their predecessors. Mr. Halhed, in the preface to his Translation of the Code of Gentoo Laws, thus states the number of years, and thus spells the names of the epochs; 1. The Suttee Jogue, 3,200,000 years; 2. The Tirtah Jogue, 2,400,000 years; 3. the Dwapaar Jogue, 1,600,000; 4. the Collee Jogue, 400,000.—Colonel Dow marks the Suttee Jogue at 14,000,000; the Tirtah Jogue at 1,080,000; the Dwapaar Jogue, 72,000; and the Collee Jogue, 36,000 years. (History of Hindostan, i. 2.)—M. Bernier, whose knowledge of India was so extensive and accurate, gives, on the information of the Brahmens of Benares, the Satya yug at 2,500,000 years, the Treta at 1,200,000, the Dwapar at 864,000, and assigns no period to the Cali yug. (Voyages, ii. 160.)—Messrs. Roger and le Gentil, who received their accounts from the Brahmens of the coast of Coromandel, coincide with Sir William Jones, except that they specify no duration for the Cali yug. (Porte Ouverte, p. 179; Mem. de l'Academ. des Sciences pour 1772, tom. ii. part 1. p. 17.)—The account of Anquetil Duperron agrees in every particular with that of Sir W. Jones; Recherches Historiques et Geographiques sur l’Inde, Lettre sur les Antiquités de l’Inde.—The four ages of the Mexicans bear a remarkable resemblance to those of the Hindus, and of so many other nations. “All the nations of Anahuac (says Clavigero, History of Mexico, B. vi. sect. 24,) distinguished four ages of time by as many suns. The first, named Atonatiuh, that is, the sun (or the age) of water, commenced with the creation of the world, and continued until the time at which all mankind perished in a general deluge along with the first sun. The second, Tlaitonatiub, the age of earth, lasted from the deluge until the ruin of the giants, &c. The third, Ehécatonatiuh, the age of air, lasted from the destruction of the giants, till the great whirlwinds, &c. The fourth, Tletonatiuh, commenced at the last-mentioned catastrophe, and is to last till the earth be destroyed by fire.”


The reader will by and bye be prepared to determine for himself how far the tales of the Brahmens deserve exemption from the sentence which four great historians have, in the following passages, pronounced on the fanciful traditions of early nations. “The curiosity,” says Mr. Hume, “entertained by all civilized nations, of inquiring into the exploits and adventures of their ancestors, commonly excites a regret that the history of remote ages should always be so much involved in obscurity, uncertainty, and contradiction.∗ ∗ ∗ The fables which are commonly employed to supply the place of true history ought entirely to be disregarded; or, if any exception be admitted to this general rule, it can only be in favour of the ancient Grecian fictions, which are so celebrated and so agreeable, that they will ever be the objects of the attention of mankind.” (Hume's History of England, i. ch. 1.)—“Nations,” says Robertson, “as well as men, arrive at maturity by degrees, and the events which happened during their infancy or early youth cannot be recollected, and deserve not to be remembered.∗ ∗ ∗ Every thing beyond that short period, to which well-attested annals reach, is obscure; an immense space is left for invention to occupy; each nation, with a vanity inseparable from human nature, bath filled that void with events calculated to display its own antiquity and lustre. And history, which ought to record truth, and teach wisdom, often sets out with retailing fictions and absurdities.” (Robertson's History of Scotland, i. b. 1.)—Mr. Gibbon, speaking of a people (the Arabians) who in traditions and antiquity bear some resemblance to the Hindus, says, “I am ignorant, and I am careless, of the blind mythology of the Barbarians.” (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. ix. 244, 8vo. edit.) Of a people still more remarkably resembling the Hindus, he says, “We may observe, that after an ancient period of fables, and a long interval of darkness, the modern histories of Persia begin to assume an air of truth with the dynasty of the Sassanides.” (lb. i. 341.)—“Quæ ante conditam condendamve urbem, poeticis magis decora fabulis quam incorruptis rerum gestarum monumentis traduntur ea nec affirmare nec refellere in animo est.” Livii. Prefat.


The coincidence in the tradition respecting Satyavrata and the history of Noah are very remarkable, and will be further noticed hereafter.


Sir Win. Jones, As. Res. ii. 119, 120, 127.


Sir Wm. Jones, Ib. 126. He was the son of Surya, (or Sol), the son of Casyapa (or Uranus), the son of Marichi (or Light), the son of Brahma, “which is clearly,” says Sir Wm. Jones, “an allegorical pedigree.” The Hindu pedigrees and fables, however, being very variable, he is, in the opening of the fourth book of the Gita, called, not the son of the Sun, but the Sun himself. Sir Wm. Jones, Ib. 117. In a celestial pedigree the Hindus agree with other rude nations. There is a curious passage in Plato respecting the genealogy of the Persian kings. They were descended, he says, from Achæmenes, sprung from Perseus the son of Zeus (Jupiter.) Plat. Alcib. i.


Compare the list of princes in the several yugs, exhibited in the Discourse of Sir Wm. Jones, As. Res. iii. 128 to 136, with the assigned duration of the yugs. The lineage of the lunar branch, who reigned in Pratisht’hana, or Vitora, during exactly the same period, is in all respects similar, excepting that the number of princes, in the first two ages, is in this line fewer by fifteen than in the line of solar princes. From this it has been supposed, that a chasm must exist in the genealogy of those princes; but surely without sufficient reason; since, if we can admit that eighty-five princes in the solar line could outlive the whole third and fourth ages, amounting to 2,160,000 years, we may, without much scruple, allow that seveaty princes in the lunar could extend through the same period.


The reigns of those princes, therefore, must have been fifty years at an average.


As. Res. ii. 137 to 142.


According to the Brahmens, 4911 years of the Cali yug were elapsed in the beginning of April, A. D. 1817, from which deducting 2648, the year of the Cali yug in which the reign of Chandrabija terminated, you have 2263, the number of years which have intervened since that period, and which carry it back to 446 years before Christ.


As. Res. ii. 142, 3.—We have been likewise presented with a genealogical table of the great Hindu dynasties by Captain Wilford, (As. Res. v. 241,) which he says is faithfully extracted from the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavat, and other Puranas, and which, on the authority of numerous Mss. which he had collated, and of some learned Pundits of Benares whom he had consulted, he exhibits as the only genuine chronological record of Indian history which had yet come to his knowledge. But this differs in numerous particulars from that of the learned Pundit Radhacant, exhibited by Sir William Jones, and which Sir William says, “that Radhacant had diligently collected from several Puranas.” Thus it appears that there is not even a steady and invariable tradition or fiction on this subject: At the same time that the table of Captain Wilford removes none of the great difficulties which appear in that of Sir Wm. Jones. The most remarkable difference is exhibited in the line of the solar princes, whose genealogy Captain Wilford has taken from the Ramayan, as being, he thinks, consistent with the ancestry of Arjuna and Crishna, while that given by Sir William Jones and Radhacant, he says, is not.—The reader may also compare the Rajuturungu, a history of the Hindus compiled by Mrityoonjuyu, the head Sanscrit Pundit in the College of Fort William; translated and published in the first volume of “An Account of the Writings, Religion, and Manners of the Hindus,” by Mr. Ward, printed at Serampore, in four volumes 4to. 1811.


Sir Wm. Jones, As. Res. ii. 142.


Mr. Halhed seems, in his pref. to Code of Gent. Laws, to be very nearly reconciled to the Hindu chronology: at any rate he thinks the believers in the Jewish accounts of patriarchal longevity have no reason to complain, p. xxxvii. He has since, however, made a confession at second hand, of an alteration in his belief as to the antiquity of the Hindus. See Maurice's Hist. of Hindostan, i. 88.


See Sir Wm. Jones, Discourse on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India, As. Res. i. 236. The similarity between the Hindu description of the four yugs, and that of the four ages of the world by the Greeks, cannot escape attention. We shall have occasion to notice many other very striking marks of affinity between their several systems.


I have followed Mr. Halhed in the number of years (see Preface to Code of Gentoo Laws), though a derivative authority, because his statement is the highest, and by consequence the least unfavourable to the consistency of the Hindu chronology. In the Institutes of Menu, (ch. i. 83,) human life for the Satya yug is stated at 400 years, for the Treta yug at 300, the Dwapar 200, and the Cali yug at 100 years.


There is a very remarkable coincidence between the number of years specified in this Hindu division of time, and a period marked in a very curious fragment of the Chaldean History. The Cali yug, it appears from the text, amounts to 432,000 years, and the aggregate of the four yugs, which the Hindus call a Maha yug, or great yug, amounts to a period expressed by the same figures, increased by the addition of a cipher, or 4,320,000. Now Berosus informs us, that the first king of Chaldea was Alorus, who reigned ten sari, that a sarus is 3,600 years; that the first ten kings, whose reigns seem to have been accounted a great era, reigned 120 sari, which compose exactly 432,000 years, the Hindu period. See Eusebii Chronic. p. 5, where this fragment of Berosus is preserved; Syncelli Chronograph. p. 28. See also Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology, iii. 95 to 126, for a most learned and ingenious commentary on this interesting fragment.


A learned author pronounces them inferior even to the legends of the Greeks, as evidence of primeval events. “Oriental learning is now employed in unravelling the mythology of India, and recommending it as containing the seed of primeval history; but hitherto we have seen nothing that should induce us to relinquish the authorities we have been used to respect, or make us prefer the fables of the Hindus or Guebres, to the fables of the Greeks.” Vincent, Periplus of the Erithrean Sea, Part i. 9. It may be added, that if the Greeks, the most accomplished people of antiquity, have left us so imperfect an account of the primitive state of their own country, little is t