East India Company.

Considerations on colonial policy with relation to the renewal of the East India Company's charter online

. (page 2 of 5)
Online LibraryEast India CompanyConsiderations on colonial policy with relation to the renewal of the East India Company's charter → online text (page 2 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

vately fitted out a great number of vessels
for Mocha, on the return of the season.
To the surprise of the captains and super-
cargoes, ship after ship entered the har-
bour; Arabia was inundated with American
commodities, and the price of coffee was
so much enhanced by this most injudicious
competition, that the market was totally


spoiled. Mischiefs like this cannot occur
under the auspices of the East India Com-
pany ; but how they can be prevented,
in case the out-ports should be admitted
into the trade, it will be for the favourers
of innovation to demonstrate.

If the advantages already derived from
India shall not be rendered more consi-
derable by risking the experiment of an
open trade, is it perfectly clear, or is it
probable, that they will be more widely
diffused amongst the inhabitants of Great
Britain, than we find them to be at present?
Or, is it not rather to be expected that the
principal benefits will be confined to a few
merchants and their dependents ; and thus
a monopoly of a truly dangerous species
will be established, instead of a trade li-
mited by legal, and consequently known
restrictions ? * The benefits accruing from
the India trade are not engrossed by a few ;

* It should be remembered, that the measure proposed by
hi* Majesty's Ministers does not go to destroy the principle
of monopoly, although it will do away many of the advan-
tages resulting from the present system ; for the trade will be
as much a monopoly in principle when confined to six port*,
MS when restricted to the port of London.

they are divided amongst many. To sup-
pose* that a limited number of those now
engaged in the trade share the principal
advantages amongst them, is a gross error.
Of the numbers who embark in the present
system, many reap profits extremely dispro-
portionate to the capital they employ, and
the exertions they make. The case is the
same with the Proprietors ; the quantum of
whose dividends has not been, nor can be,
augmented beyond what it now is. The
surplus would go to the state in the first
instance ; but it has been absorbed by the
expenses which have been incurred from
the necessity of repelling aggression; the
taking up arms to maintain the internal
peace of India (continually endangered or
molested by the intrigues of the great
enemy of British commerce with the native
powers) ; and, lastly, by the necessity of ex-
pelling the French, and other nations under
their influence, from the oriental islands, the
ports of which, for so long a time, sent forth
continual annoyance to the trade. But
for the immense sums thus expended, in
securing what are nothing less than national
benefits, the debt which now oppresses the


Company would not have been incurred.
With respect to the officers of the establish-
ment either at home or abroad, it is noto-
rious that many years must elapse before
any of them can realise a moderate
fortune; and it was correctly stated by
the Edinburgh Reviewers, that the progress
towards independence of those young men
who go to India, is not so rapid as that of
the same number who, with equal talents,
remain at home. Of those engaged in the
shipping concern, many of them receive
no interest on their capital, and none more

than a small one. The commanders and

. \

subordinate officers, a class of men of ac-
knowledged talent, tried integrity, and
great respectability in society, are justly
entitled to consideration in these pages ;
but it is lamentable to think how few of
them, considering their numbers, obtain the
means of retiring from their laborious em-
ployments at that period of life which most
requires, if not affluence, at least ease, re-
pose, and a fair competency. Where then
are we to look for the signs and tokens, the
morbid symptoms of that bloated mono-
poly, which so frequently furnishes a sub-

ject for vulgar declamation or popular
harangues ? It must be observed, too, that
every article used or exported by the Com-
pany is bought by contract, and that all its
imports are disposed of by public sale ; and
being brought to one market, a great
emporium is thus constituted for Indian
goods ; and although nothing should appear
to be gained by the Indian trade, abstrac-
tedly considered, this measure secures a
great demand for British manufactures, of
vast importance to the country. And is
this a system to break up, to demolish, and
to throw into inextricable confusion, in the
hope of making some fancied, someUtopian
improvement ? Is fact to give way to
supposition ? is reality to be bartered for
hope ? is theory to supersede experience ?
It is hard to say of what sort the waking
dreams indulged in by the advocates of an
open and unguarded trade may have been ;
but this is clear, that however limited the
profits of those' who employ the largest
capitals in the affairs of the East India
Company may be, the sources of general
advantage (if advantage it may be deemed
or styled) are as freely open to every indi-

p ......

vidual, as those of any trade whatsoever;
India stock may be purchased by any one ;
the contracts are open to all who choose to
send in proposals ; the doors of the Com-
pany's sale-rooms are shut to none ; and
offices of responsibility or trust are attain-
able under the Company, as in every de-
partment of the active world, by the usual
steps ; by the assiduities and zeal of friend-
ship, by the exercise of industry, by the
display of talent and the proof of integrity.
The word monopoly, in its odious and re-
volting sense, is altogether inapplicable to
the system of commerce maintained by the
Honourable East India Company.

If the country in general reaps advan-
tages from the Indian trade under its pre-
sent wise limitations ; unless it can pre-
viously be proved that superior benefits
will result from an alteration of system,
compensating the distress, and overwhelm-
ing confusion, that must inevitably attend
the forcing of the trade into new channels,
after it has flowed in its present bed with a
fertilising stream for more than two cen-
turies ; so tremendous a change ought not
to be attempted, so hazardous an experi-


ment ought not to be tried. The Pro-
prietors, and all who are connected with
the Company, from the Chairman to the
humblest labourer in the warehouses at
home; from the Govenor-General to the
servant that supports his palanquin in
India; are justified in the confidence which
they repose in the collective wisdom of the
Legislature, and the hope which they en-
tertain that their interests will neither be
sacrificed at the shrine of popularity ; nor
compromised in order to establish a pre-
ponderant interest in the out-ports ; nor
abandoned to the scramble of those who
certainly do not compose a larger, or a
more respectable, or a more trust-worthy
part of the community than themselves, in
their several classes.

That the East India Company should be
allowed to possess territory gained by right of
conquest, is a subject which has been often
discussed. This, abstractedly considered,
is a question for publicists to decide. There
can be no doubt, however, that if the con-
quered provinces belong to the State, the
Company has an equitable claim on the
Empire for a reimbursement of the ex>


penses which have been incurred by adding
to, or preserving and defending, her do-
minions. With regard to the demesnes
which the Company holds in consequence
of grants from the native princes, or pur-
chases from the oriental possessors, it is
clear that these princes, and others, had the
right of ceding lands, and conferring autho-
rity to rule them, or of parting with territory
or power for a valuable consideration ; and
that if the terms on which these grants^
purchases, or surrenders were made, cannot
any longer be complied with by the Com-
pany, the lands, and the prerogatives at-
tached to them, ought to revert to the
aboriginal proprietors, unless it appear
that the Company are invested with power
to make them over to the State for a just
and fair equivalent. Such property, derived
from the munificence of Sovereigns, has
been deemed sacred in England ; and it
were a libel on the Legislature to suspect
that Parliament will invade it. The pro-
perty of the East India Company will
surely be as much respected as that of the
meanest subjects of the King.

Jt may be proper, however, to look at


this part of the argument in another light.
The Company possess invaluable territorial
property in India, ceded in the way of ne-
gociation, or granted in free gift, by the
sovereign proprietors of the soil. Posses-
sions of this nature are exactly of the same
sort with those which in Europe arise out
of the bounty of crowned heads to indivi-
duals; whether bestowed as rewards for ser-
vices rendered, or encouragement to merit,
or simply as marks of royal favour and
princely liberality. If property of this
nature is to be wrested out of the hands of
the Company, for whom is it destined ? Is
it to be given to strangers? Is it to be
restored to the representatives of the original
granters ? Or, lastly, is it to be confiscated
for the use of the State ? If the State is to
seize it, then it will become us to advert to
the principle on which this is to be perpe-
trated. Will the necessities of the State
afford a sufficient apology for a strong
measure like this ? Then will many great
landholders in the United Kingdom be
placed in a perilous situation ; for the prin-
ciple is equally as applicable to multitudes
of them at home, as to the Company, in its

remote possessions. The old maxim, nul-
lum tempus occurrit regi, may be expected
to revive : what is now deemed indefeasible
property, may turn out to be held on the
frail tenure of caprice; the forest of In-
glewood, and many old English parks,
forests, and chases, bestowed by our an-
cient monarchs as the rewards of valour,
the honourable requitals of political wis-
dom, or the tokens of affection, may be
resumed at the pleasure of Administra-
tion. And be it ever remembered, that
the princes of India have far more power
over their domains, than any king of
England possesses over the property of
the Crown, in the limited monarchy which
is the glory, and the boast, and the bless-
ing of England.

With respect to revenue, which is ad-
mitted to be rather an affair of Govern-
ment than of the Company, although it is
equally clear that every body must feel an
interest in the fair and just collection of
legitimate duties, as every evasion of them
is an injury to the advantages of the ho-
nourable merchant, and all must contribute
to make up the deficiency ; let us ask


how, or in what manner, this branch
of the public service can be better admi-
nistered, can be made more productive, or
performed at less expense, than at pre-
sent? It is self-evident that frauds
must be fewer, and the establishment of
revenue officers on a smaller scale, when
the trade is confined to one port, and to a
single dock, than if it were scattered round
the country. The walls which surround
the East India Dock afford no less secu-
rity against pilferers and plunderers, than
against smugglers, and those who are mas-
ters of a thousand contrivances to defraud
the revenue. Shall we look for greater
security in the bays, creeks, and inlets
which indent an extended line of coast on
each side of our islands ; many of them
affording convenient landing-places in dis-
tricts which are thinly inhabited ? The
size of the India ships now at once points
out to the revenue-cutters those vessels,
amongst a number, that require attention ;
but when vessels of only four hundred
tons burthen, freighted with Indian pro-
duce, are floating along our coasts, what
written intructions can possibly suggest


whence they come. In the bosom of the
port of London, the greatest emporium in
the world, where the principles of trade
are so thoroughly understood, and where
there are so many eyes to detect offenders,
who can only expect safety in solitude and
darkness, every possible method has been
devised, and put in force, to place the re-
venue in such a situation as almost to bid
defiance to the artifices of the most ingeni-
ous dishonesty. The erection of the East
India dock, the publicity of the Commer-
cial Road, and the covered caravans which
convey goods from the docks to the Com-
pany's warehouses, have completed a sys-
tem which has occupied the attention of
Government, employed for many years in
attempts to extinguish smuggling. Can
it be consistent with common prudence, or
can it meet with the approbation of that
class of the King's Ministers charged with
the care of the revenue, to abandon the
securities which have been devised ? And,
surely, it will not be asserted that any system
more lax, or less rigid, should be adopted ;
or that fewer precautions will ensure what
is tine to the Customs of the Excise.


Now, let us ask, are there docks at the
out- ports on the principle of those at Black-
wall, prepared to receive .the commerce of
India within their inclosure? If they do not
yet exist, let the projectors of the unlimited
system calculate the surns it will require,
and the labour it will ,demand, and the
time it will take to form <them. Let them
next consider how they shall frame and
establish departments within those docks,
filled with experienced functionaries, the
guardians of public and private property,
attending to the most minute concerns
either of revenue or trade ; and it will be for
those who manage the affairs of the Ex-
chequer to consider the armies of Custom-
House and Excise Officers which must be
marshalled in the out-ports ; and for those
senators who watch over the public expen-
diture, to estimate the expenses which
must be incurred by the folly of doing that
in many places, at great risk, and probably
very inadequately, which at present is done
so perfectly, and so economically, in one. It
will also afford matter of serious reflection
for those members of Parliament, in either
House, who look with a jealous eye to the


extension of ministerial influence ; to weigh
well, whether the proposed alteration will'
not increase that preponderancy of power,
in one of the three estates of the realm;
which, in their judgment, has already too
great a sway in directing the affairs of the
nation. This is not urged in the spirit of
hostility to the present Ministers ; far from
it. The author respects them much ; but
he knows human nature too well, not to be
alarmed at the increase of power which*
in the event of adopting the new plan of
conducting the Indian trade, must needs
be thrown into hands prepared to grasp
and wield, to their own advantage, an ac-
cession of strength. To all these sources of
influence must be added that arising out
of the patronage annexed to the fleets of re-
venue-cutters, and other vessels, filled with
officers of different descriptions, which must
cruise without intermission along our coasts,
in order to prevent, or check, if it be possible,
the attempts of those concerned in contra-
band enterprises. Out of all this arises an ar-
gument of considerable importance : If in
the memorable contest which took place
in 1783, between the country at large,


(which at that time espoused the cause of
the India Company), and the then Admi-
nistration, the patronage of Leadenhall
Street was not allowed, on constitutional
grounds, to be transferred to the disposal
of the King's Ministers, nor yet of Parlia-
ment itself; is it to be expected that the
fancied, certainly not the real, interests of
a few of the out-ports, will induce the
country to connive at the weight of patron-
age which the new experiment on com-
merce will cast into the ministerial scale ?
Mr. Rose published, with laudable pride,an
account of the reduction of revenue-officers
effected by Mr, Pitt. Could the disembodied
spirit of Mr. Pitt take cognizance of the
projected re-appointment, and the prodigi-
ous increase of those people, (always odious
in a free state), for no other reason except
the hope of appeasing some unquiet persons
who have involved themselves in tempo-
rary difficulties in their own immediate
lines of commerce ; would he not (together
with his great colleague, Lord Melville, a
consummate master of every circumstance
connected with the India Company) re-
probate the conduct of his successors ; who

nevertheless have often professed to tread
in his steps, and adhere, to his counsels "
When the Company's Charter was renewed
under the controul of those two great
statesmen, the trade was continued in the
same channels in which they found it,
after the most minute investigation of the
measure in all its points, and a degree of
serious consideration, far surpassing any,
that has taken place on the present occa-
sion. This assertion may. be made with
truth ; and it is hoped that it will be re-
ceived, in a certain quarter, with candour.
Now, we would ask, whether any, and
what, mighty alterations have taken place
in the condition or the conduct of the
Company, or in the relation in which it
stands to the country, which can justify an
innovation so portentous in itself, and so
replete with hazard to the community ?
And, appealing to the honourable sense of
justice, which pervades the hearts of Bri-
tons, we would further ask, whether the
Company, after having fought the nation's
battles in every quarter of the East, exr
pelled the enemy from the Continent, and
driven him from the, islands of India, and



having on this account incurred a debt
amounting to twenty millions sterling;
have not a fair claim on the Legislature
to continue to them the possession of their
ancient privileges ?

Although it has been urged, in popular
reasoning, that the East India Company
must always have been aware of the limited
duration of their chartered rights; and
that, therefore, whatever plans were adopt-
ed, or expenses were risked, still they
should have contemplated the termination
of their exclusive trade at the end of
twenty-one years from the date of their
Charter : Yet after charters had been
confided to them for two hundred years ;
after the decisive opinion of the most ce-
lebrated statesmen had been repeatedly
expressed, that the Company afforded the
most legitimate and safe channel of com-
mercial communication with India ; could
any suspicion arise, that a renewal of the
Charter, and a continuation of the Com-
pany's privileges, could take the form of a
question, or become a matter of doubt?
Had the East India Company acted on
such narrow motives, or had it been swayed

by such contracted counsels, when sum-
moned to prepare for warlike operations;
or had the Company, at that moment, sat
down to a cold-blooded calculation of
profit aud loss depending on the brief
duration of the present Charter, instead of
putting their troops and ships in motion,
and their stores and treasures in requisition,
they would have merited contempt, and
deserved abandonment. Had they consi-
dered, in that exigency, their own interests
as separated, or separable, from the interests
of the British Empire, they had earned
disgrace, and might expect to be paid with
reprobation. On the contrary, with a
patriot ardour, scarcely equalled, certainly
not excelled by any class of their fellow-
subjects, however opulent, however digni-
fied ; they dedicated all the energies of
their commercial capital to the great
national object of preserving the British
Empire in the East: and with a liberal
spirit, the reverse of monopoly, they con-
ceded to the merchants of this country the
general navigation of the Eastern seas ;*

* See the late concessions of trading as far as to the me-


excepting only those districts in which
strangers might trench on certain peculiar
branches of the Company's immediate com-
merce with the peninsula and China ; with a
view of preventing that impolitic intrusion
into the interior of the country, which
might endanger the civil authority vest-
ed in the Company. On a principle of
public spirit, and actuated by a sense
of public duty, they gave every pos-
sible facility to the measures of Go-
vernment, and they paid the navy and
army appropriated to the defence of In-
*lia; a circumstance in which the Com-
pany stand alone ; for there is no other
instance on record, in which a military ex-
pedition, undertaken by a nation, has been
supported and paid by a commercial body
of its liege subjects. Nor is this all ; for it
must not be forgotten that the Company,
at these eventful periods, and at all times,
furnished tonnage for stores, troops, and
naval equipments, not only without limit,
but without charge. They have also given
ships of the line to the state, and have pro-

ridian of the Persian Gulf, and, south of the equator, to any
exttfnt eastward.


vided and maintained three regiments for
the preservation of the metropolis, and the
defence of this country, if required. When
the Gazettes which recorded the glorious
result of the Company's exertions, were
hardly dry from the press ; will posterity
believe, or will our contemporaries credit,
that then, even then, plans were maturing,
petitions were preparing, and interest was
making, to wrest out of the Company's
hands a trade which has enabled them to
render such important services to the com-
mon-weal ; or that the King's Ministers
should entertain an idea of granting a par-
ticipation in the Company's privileges to
those who, without contributing a farthing
to them, have a share, with the nation at
large, in all the beneficial consequences
arising from the burdens so nobly borne
by the Company?

From the most impartial view, therefore,
of this great subject; from the most dis-
passionate consideration of which so in-
teresting a question will admit ; from a
diligent perusal of what has been urged
to the Legislature and the public, through
the medium of the press ; after many con-



vcrsations with the well-informed, and
after much patient attention to public
debate this most reasonable conclusion
may fairly be drawn, that any violent alter*
ation of the present system, or any material
trespass upon it, will assuredly occasion,
either immediately or ultimately, the most
serious injuries and eventful consequences
which can befal any country. They will
be felt throughout the Empire ; and pro-
bably in the following order, London will
be the first sufferer ; the speculators in the
out-ports will next sink in the vortex of
ruin ; and, what is a most tremendous
consideration, the whole of India, (from the
mouths of the Indus to the confines of
Aracan, from Thibet to Cape Comorin), with
all its islands and dependencies, will exhibit
a horrible scene of insubordination, confu^
sion, and revolt; for however trivial the be-
ginning may appear, the seeds of all this
mischief will be sown by the intrusion of
speculative adventurers. Wherever many
are ruled or restrained by a few, the rawest
student in the science of politics will inform
us, that all authority is founded on opinion,
The writer of these sheets would not will-?


ingly alarm the public mind further than
is necessary to rouse it to a due examination
of the Indian controversy ; but he thinks
it his duty to state, that already, owing to
the interposition of a power superior to that
residing for such a length of time in the
East India Company, (an innovation which
has been felt and reasoned upon in India),
the native princes and states are at a
pause ; and are beginning to doubt the
stability of the present Government, and
to question the permanency of existing
treaties. Staggered in their confidence by
the deference paid to the King's autho-
rity,* and the King's servants (for this has
not escaped their penetration) ; observing
that some of the highest offices, the Com-
mander -in-Chief, the Judges and Admirals,

* It is not meant to be denied that the King's authority is,
and must be, supreme ; and that his Majesty** appointment
of the great officers employed in the Government of India,
is legal, having the sanction of the Parliament, and the force
of a law ; but, so far as opinion weighs with the millions
of the Indian population, it had been a wise and politic mea-
sure, if the Legislature thought it necessary to fix such ap-
pointmenU in the Crown, that they should still take place
through the ostensible medium of the Company ; for it must
ever be deplored that the co-existence of two authorities

2 4 5

Online LibraryEast India CompanyConsiderations on colonial policy with relation to the renewal of the East India Company's charter → online text (page 2 of 5)