James Barber.

The court of directors of the East India Company, versus Her Majesty's Ministers ... as regards a complete plan of steam communication between the two empires online

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"This Meeting is unanimously of opinion, that the present
means afforded for overland intercourse with India is totally
inadequate for commercial purposes, and that for social purposes
it has hitherto entirely failed to fulfil the just expectations of the
people, both of England and of India." (Cheers.)


A Committee* was also appointed to investigate the subject,
and to make their report. Public duty was never more faithfully
nor more zealously performed. The Committee made their re-
port, it was received and adopted at a Public Meeting in January
last, and therein they stated,

" Your Committe are of opinion, that a monthly communica-
tion, combining regularity and despatch, so ardently desired, but
hitherto so unsuccessfully attempted, may be effectually secured
through the instrumentality of a private association, and that by
such agency alone can it be accomplished.

" In order, therefore, at once to place the undertaking in a posi-
tion of undoubted efficiency to carry out the scheme with perfect
success, your Committee recommend that the Capital of the pro-
posed Company should not be less than 600,000.

" To meet the annual disbursement, your Committee consider
that the projectors should look for returns from the following
sources, viz. : passengers, periodicals, specie, and valuable light
parcels, and an annual payment from Her Majesty's Government
and the East India Company, for carrying the mails and des-
patches to and from the several presidencies of India and Ceylon,
and for a monthly conveyance of the mails to and from Gibraltar,
Malta, and Alexandria.

" Your Committee are decidedly of opinion, that any Com-
pany, formed with an adequate capital for the purpose of carrying
out the contemplated communication, would be entitled to receive
an annual sum from Her Majesty's Government and the East
India Company, for a limited period, not only for conveying the
mails and despatches, but also in consideration of the vast bene-
fits, political, social, and commercial, which such international
communication cannot fail to confer."

* John Bagshaw, Esq.
T. A. Curtis, Esq.
Henry Gouger, Esq.
J. P. Larkins, Esq.
James McKillop, Esq.
Captain Alexander Nairne,


P. Auber, Esq.
Captain Henderson.

J. H. Pelly, Esq.
John Pirie, Esq. Alderman.
Christopher Read, Esq.
John Small, Esq.
Robert Thurburn, Esq.
Major Turner.
Major Oliphant.
P. Stewart, Esq.


At that Meeting the following Resolutions were passed unani-
mously .'

" That the daily increasing importance of a quick and certain
intercourse between Great Britain and her immense possessions in
the East Indies, whether the subject is considered politically or
commercially, renders it highly necessary that the intercourse
should be sustained by a private Company, whose sole object
would be to afford such means of conveyance of letters, news-
papers, and periodicals, and such accommodation to passengers as
shall ensure a constant and certain monthly communication be-
tween Great Britain, and the three Presidencies of India and
Ceylon, and whose future views may be directed to the extension
of that communication to the Mauritius, the Straits, China, and

" That T. A. Curtis, J. P. Larkins, J. Bagshaw, and James
McKillop, Esquires, be requested to take measures for forming a
Board of Direction, and preparing a Prospectus to carry out the
proposed Company, and that the East India Association of Lon-
don, and the respective Chambers of Commerce of Liverpool,
Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, and Birmingham, be respectfully
invited to co-operate with the proposed Company."

The Gentlemen thus appointed, were selected from the Com-
mittee who had investigated the subject, and who had brought
up their Report. Proceeding in the spirit of that Report, they
entered into a negociation with Her Majesty's Government,
through their Chairman, T. A. Curtis, Esq., and the plan submit-
ted to Government was approved of. Previous to its being
carried into effect, it was necessary the East India Company
should concur in the arrangements. The Projectors, therefore,
in May last, placed before the executive of that Corporation
the plan that had been approved of by Her Majesty's Govern-
ment. To demonstrate the advantages that would be gained
by the adoption of that plan, I will place it in juxta-position
with the one in operation.



Letters have to pass through
France and Egypt, and they
arrive at Suez in twenty days :
if a steamer be there, which


A. guarantee has been offered,
to place three steam -ships be-
tween London and Alexan-
dria, each of two thousand ten


is by no meant certain, they
will in eighteen days more
reach Bombay : but from Bom-
bay there are not means to
send on the whole mail at the
same time, which is conse-
quently divided into several
packets, the first occupying
in its transit (from the mail's
arrival at Bombay to Cal-
cutta) 'twelve days, the last
division seventeen, causing a
difference of five days between
the receipt of Letters at Cal-
cutta, and Bombay, although
they left the London Post-Of-
fice at the same hour. On the
average, leters from London to
Calcutta are fifty-four days in
transit, at a charge of four
shillings and eight pence for a
single letter; it must also be
remembered the difficulty of
land-carriage from Bombay to
Calcutta and Madras, prohi-
bits the conveyance of specie,
parcels, law-deeds, bulky in-
voices, samples, patterns, &c.


S learners leave Lond on every
fourth Saturday for Gibraltar ;
they are inadequate in size
and power. At Gibraltar,
passengers are transhipped to
a much worse boat for Malta;
at Malta to another for
Alexandria; which port they
reach on an average in twenty-

burthen, and fire-hundred
horse-power ; and a sufficient
number of the same size and
power between Suez, Bombay,
Ceylon, Madras, and Calcutta,
which would convey direct to
those places, not only letters,
but passengers, parcels of all
kinds, East India Company's
and Government despatches,
however bulky, in forty-five
days from London to Cal-
cutta, at a charge for a single
letter of two shillings and six-
pence, showing a gain in time
of nine days, and a saving in
cost of two shillings and two-
pence for each single letter.


It is offered under guarantee,
that steamers of two thousand
tons, and five-hundred horse-
power, should leave London
every fourth Saturday for
Alexandria, that a vessel
exactly similar should bewail-
ing in readiness at Suez, to
convey the passengers, mails

baggage, &c. direct to Cal-
cutta, calling at Ceylon
and Madras; also it would
meet a branch-boat at Aden,
for the convenience of the
Bombay community ; but
for argument, taking the ex-
treme point, Calcutta passen-
gers would be landed there in
forty-Jive days from England at
a charge of one hundred and
thirty pounds, thus saving in
time twenty -three days, and
in money one hundred and ten
pounds, to say nothing of the
wear and tear of the consti-

eight days : then comes the
feverish excitement, " Is there
a steamer at Suez ? If there
is, will she accommodate all
of us to Bombay ?" If she be
there, and can accommodate
all the passengers, which is
by no means certain, they
will arrive at Bombay in fifty-
one days ; from thence to Cal-
cutta they are subject to a
long land journey, at all times
fatiguing; at certain seasons
impracticable ; but taking it
at the fairest period, they will
reach Calcutta from London
in sixty-eight days, at a
charge of two hundred and
forty pounds, to which sum
must be added the cost of
sending their heavy baggage
by some other route.

To carry this plan into effect, the Projectors have requested
from the Crown and the East India Company a contract for a
limited period, and an annual payment of one hundred thousand
pounds, for which sum the Company would engage to convey the
mails and the East India Company's and Government despatches
from England to all the Presidencies in India.

By the arrangement before alluded to, the East India Company
agreed with the Crown to divide the expenses of the present line,
which is from Suez to Bombay only, and the accounts not being
made up, the Chancellor of the Exchequer appropriated fifty
thousand pounds, as the Government moiety for one year's
expense; but although this sum was accepted by the Court,
several of the Directors entered a protest against it ; the amount
being disproportionate to the expenses actually incurred; therefore,
independent of the advantage to be derived from an extended
and perfect communication over the very limited and irregular
system in operation, it is evident the cost to the East India
Company will be greatly diminished.


3uch a plan of communication is the only one
that can satisfy the just expectations of the people
both of England and of India, for anything short of a
plan that proceeds direct from Suez to Calcutta, call-
ing at Ceylon and Madras, as well as to Bombay, must
fail to render commensurate advantages to the eastern
side of India, which have been so repeatedly sought,
and which being asked for in reason, should have
been graciously conceded long since. The scheme
will be curtailed of its fair proportions, by confining
the connexion by sea to any one point in India ;
because in that country there is a great difficulty of
communication for persons and things, which arises
from the nature of the climate heavy rains at one
period and a burning sun at another and also from
the paucity, and bad state of the roads.* 1 quite agree
with Mr. Peacock, who says in his evidence :

* " Will it be believed, that after holding of such a country for
nearly a century, that the Government-post is carried by foot-
men, at the rate of ubout three miles and a half per hour! I travelled
a journey of six hundred miles through the most populous and
frequented part of India, viz. from Calcutta to Cawnpore, which
occupied fourteen days and nights in uninterrupted travelling ;
soon after emerging from the city of Moorshedabad the road
became a perfect swamp, and frequently no vestige of it could be
found. After wading the whole night we reached, about half-past
two o'clock in the morning, a little rising ground, where the
weary bearers found a dry spot to rest the palankeen." Dr. Spry's
Modern India.

" The total absence of high-roads by which the traffic of the
country might be conducted, is found to be one of the heaviest
rvils with which our eastern dominions is afflicted." Central


" For the objects contemplated by the Indian Government
Steam Navigation would require to be carried on, on a large and
efficient scale. Between doing it efficiently and not doing it at
all there seems to be no advisable medium '\

It would be trespassing too much upon the patience
and time of the reader, were the varied and multitu-
dinous objections to be narrated that have been made
by the opponents of a complete system of intercourse
between the two empires. Without referring, therefore,
to those that have already been advanced and refuted,
1 proceed to notice the last that has been raised,
and, as I trust to be able to prove, with as flimsy a
title to truth as any that have been previously urged.
It is said, the plan proposed has been formed upon
erroneous opinions and estimates, and this argument
is grounded upon a statement, that, at most, the num-
ber of Europeans that could benefit (as passengers) by
the establishment of the " Comprehensive Plan,"
would not exceed eight thousand ; and, moreover,
it is declared, that the " Natives of India are totally
indifferent to the matter." The first assumption is not
proven by the circumstance, that at present but eight
thousand Europeans pass between the two countries;
but the smallness of the number going to and fro
proves that some very powerful cause has existed for
the last fifty years to prevent the augmentation of
European residents in India, and it will be fair to
assume the same cause lias operated to deprive Great
Britain of the relative value, which she might other-
wise have derived from her intimate connexion with
a country of such extent and capability as that of
British India.

Can any other nation boast of such a possession ?
It is most strange, but yet most true, that even unto
this day India is to us as an unknown country ; with
a soil capable of growing articles of prime necessity to
England, and with a population capable of consum-
ing the fabrics of our mills and our looms,* in return
for the produce of her wide-spread and fertile lands,
what has been done? comparatively nothing. Is it
not high time, then, that a country holding, under
favour of Providence, such a place amongst the na-
tions of the earth, should be no longer hermetically
sealed by the vexatious opposition of the East India

The calculations made by the projectors of the
proposed scheme, are based upon the actual number
of passengers that at present travel from England to
and from India, of which number they estimate one
half will go via Egypt, whenever that route shall be
made convenient and expeditious. Who will say
this is not a moderate and safe computation ? but to

* "The people could take a great deal of the k British manufac-
tures ; they are remarkably fond of them, particularly of scarlet
It is a mistaken notion that Indians are too simple in their man-
ners to have any passion for foreign manufactures. They are
hindered from taking our goods, not by want of inclination, but
either by poverty, or the fear of being imputed rich, and having
their rents raised. When we relinquish the barbarous system of
annual settlements ; when we make over the lands either in very
long leases, or in perpetuity, to the present occupants ; and when
we have convinced them, by making no assessments above the
fixed rent for a series of years, that they are actually proprietors



this should be added the many that will proceed not
only from all parts of the continent of Europe, but
from America. Experience proves the fact, that on
facilities of intercourse being provided, the number
of travellers is largely increased. It will also be
seen, from the evidence hereafter quoted, given by
men of admitted good judgment, that there can be
no doubt that the accession of travellers to India
and back will be very great when suitable accommo-
dation shall be provided If it be asked why there
are so few at present who choose the route here ad-
vocated ? it may be answered, it is astonishing there
are so many ; and I quote from the Indian journals the
following letters to testify the cause.

" But the voyager must not think his trouble at an end on
reaching Bombay ; or that the Steam -packets are equal to passen-
ger Indiamen in accommodation In fact I cannot conceive how
a lady manages. We have, however, five. There are only seven
very small cabins, into each of which two people are crammed :
no room to swing cots. Eight other deluded individuals (of
whom I am one) are given to understand that in a cabin-passage
is included permission to sleep on the benches and table of the
cuddy. For this you pay two hundred rupees extra. The vessel
is dirty beyond measure, from the soot, and with the difficulty of
copious ablution, and private accommodation is almost worse to
a lover of Indian habits, than the journey to Bombay from Agra
on camels. No civility is to be got from the officers. If they
are not directly uncivil, you are luckier than we have hitherto been.
They declare themselves disgusted with passenger-ships, but do not
take the proper way of showing their superiority to the duty.
Egypt is, I hear, still plagued with four-footed things ; indeed
the Bombay presidency suffers in some degree from a like pesti-
lence, and the Steamers on the other side are said not to be better
than on this. One thing, we have abundance of good food and
good plain wines. We have only to shut our eyes to the process
of the cuisine, and all is right."


Again " I was twenty-five days from Suez to Bombay in the
Atalanta : on my arrival, 25th November, I requested that a dak
might be had for Mrs. and myself, via Nagpore to Alla-
habad ; this I was told by the deputy post-master could not be
done, without almost the certainty of our both dying of jungle-
fever. I then suggested our going to Madras via Hydrabad ; to
this he replied, I might be detained on the road for want of bearers
for three weeks or a month, and possibly be obliged to return to
Bombay; judge of my vexation and disappointment when I
reflect, but for the prejudice of my honourable masters, I might
have gone from Suez to Calcutta in the same time it took us to
reach Bombay, and at the same cost ; thus I should have been
spared this toil, vexation, delay, and expense,"

Once more " I was desirous of coming to England via Egypt,
and took the precaution to apply for accommodation in one of
the East India Company's Steamers four months in advance ; at
the end of the fifth month we went on board, but till the day of
embarkation, I could obtain no definite answer as to the accom-
modation we could have ; we were thus charged by the East India
Company for passage from Bombay to Suez only :

"Bombay to Suez, for each adult eight hundred rupees, or eighty
pounds; each child four hundred rupees, or forty pounds; Euro-
pean attendant, for whom no sleeping accommodation was pro-
vided, and who had her meals with the servants, four hundred
rupees, or forty pounds ; man servant, for whom there was no ac-
commodation but the deck, forty rupees, or ten pounds. Each
cabin was for two persons, neither bed or bedding provided."

I now come at the second objection, viz. " the
natives of India are totally indifferent to the matter."
The best answer that can be given to this broad, but
erroneous assertion, is to allow the native gentlemen
to speak for themselves, and to subjoin some resolu-
tions that have been moved and seconded by natives
of wealth, intelligence, and influence ; added to which
the natives have already taken upwards of three hun-
dred shares in the proposed Company, believing,
from the statement that had arrived in India, there


would be no longer any hesitation on the part of
the East India Company to comply with so rea-
sonable a request, and to give to all the presidencies
of India superior advantages at a much less cost than
is now incurred for the very limited service rendered.
The Report of the Committee of London Merchants,
given in January last, before alluded to, had no
sooner arrived in Calcutta, than a Public Meeting
was called to demonstrate the satisfaction felt there at
the result of that Committee's labours.

" Dwarkanath Tagore, in rising to second Mr. Clarke's resolu-
tion, found it scarcely necessary to say anything upon the subject
which that gentleman had so fully and ably commented upon.
He would only say a few words regarding his own countrymen.
Among other advantages which they would derive from the esta-
blishment of Steam Communication between the two countries, it
should be remembered that England was the last place where
their grievances, whatever they be, could be redressed, and that
every step taken towards reducing the distance between the two
countries, was an advantage gained in obtaining redress, which
under the circumstances that had heretofore prevailed, every body
knew, could not be obtained but after years' delay, and seldom
in a satisfactory manner. He therefore hoped his countrymen
would now come forward to support the measure that had been
set on foot by taking shares."

At a Public Meeting at Berhampore, composed
chiefly of native noblemen and gentlemen, the fol-
lowing Resolutions were unanimously passed : -

" 1. That the European gentlemen now present cannot allow
this occasion to pass without expressing their sincere gratification
at the interest evinced in the objects of this Meeting by so large
an assemblage of the most respectable native gentry of the city
and its neighbourhood, and their hope that so laudable an ex-
ample will be extensively followed throughout India.

" Proposed by Nuwab Jaun Buhadoor, seconded by Nuwab
Shumsher Jung Buhadoor,

" 2. That as the proposed communication by Steam, from Cal-
cutta to the Red Sea, will greatly shorten the period of going to
and returning from Mecca Shureef, every Mahomedan is in-
terested in its success.

"Proposed by Nuwab Sufdun Ally Khan Buh ad oor, seconded
by Nuwab Sulabut Jung Buhadoor,

" 3. That the Mahomedan gentlemen now present be requested to
write to their friends in the celebrated cities of Delhi and
Lucknow, to endeavour to receive their aid in a scheme fraught
with such advantages to all India.

" Proposed by Rae Parushnath Buhadoor, Dewan of the
Nizamut, seconded by Nuwab Nazir Darab Ally Khan

" 4. That all Hindoos are no less interested in the success of this
scheme, than the Mahomedans, more particularly the zumeendar
Merchants, the most valuable products of whose estates and
traffics, such as indigo, silk, &c., will be far more expeditiously
conveyed to, and the returns obtained from Europe by this, than
by any other mode of conveyance now known.

" Proposed by L. Grey, Esq., seconded by Dr. O'Dwyer,

" 5 That a statement, showing the number of Shares to be
subscribed in this scheme, the price of each Share, and the regu-
lations with regard to the payment of the same, be translated
and circulated as widely as possible, for the information of the
native gentry of the district whojhave been unable to attend this

" Proposed by Rajah Kishennath Ro*y Buhadoor, seconded by
Rajah Ram Chunder Buhadoor,

" 6. That every native of Hindostan should support to the
utmost of his power the scheme of Comprehensive Steam Com-
munication, by means of which India will be brought so near to
England, the great source to her of knowledge and Government,
and which it is to be hoped will tend so much to the develope-
nient of the immense resources of this country.

" Proposed by G. G. M'Pherson, Esq., seconded by Captain

" 7. That the thanks of this Meeting be given to Koonwur
Kishennath Roy Buhudoor, for the exertions he has made amongst
the Hindoo community to further the objects of the Comprehen-
sive Steam Communication.


" Captain Pemberton, then, at the request of the Chairman,
read a list of the members of the Nizamut family and dependents
who had subscribed to the Steam Fund, and intimated that he
had received communications, of an intention to subscribe, from
other members of the Nizamut family, whose names did not
appear in the present list.

" 8. A vote of thanks to the Chairman.

" The Chairman, in returning his thanks, congratulated the
native gentlemen who attended the meeting on their respecta-
bility and number, and observed that there never had been so
large an assemblage, he believed, at Berhampore before, nor one
on a more interesting occasion."

The interest the natives of Hindostan not only
have, but feel, in promoting the approximation of
the two countries by means of Steam-power, is
here manifested ; and he who knows it will think
lightly of truth, should he be bold enough hereafter
to assert " the natives of India care little about the
matter." It cannot fail to appear otherwise than
extraordinary that we should have possessed for so
many years a country whose empire is as large as
Europe, (Russia excluded,) of a population of more
than 100,000,000, and that a native of British India,
if seen to-day perambulating our streets, is eyed with
as much curiosity as if he had been just introduced
from a newly discovered country, of which it
may have pleased some marvellous modern tra-
veller to have told the greatest wonders. It is evident
a forcible reason must cause this estrangement of
our fellow-man, otherwise so intimately connected
with us in a bond of union, as subjects of the same
sovereign, and whose interests in common are so
identified with our own.


A long sea-voyage is in every way repugnant to
their feelings, and is never undertaken except lor the
purpose of obeying the dictates and ceremonies of
their religion. Many of the wealthy and influential
Musulmen of Hindostan make a pilgrimage to
Mecca, notwithstanding the serious inconvenience
and deprivation of comfort they suffer on board the
ill-fitted and badly-navigated Arab ships, at present

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Online LibraryJames BarberThe court of directors of the East India Company, versus Her Majesty's Ministers ... as regards a complete plan of steam communication between the two empires → online text (page 2 of 6)