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

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should have been erected in the teeth of Indian prepossessions,



44,

are all appointed by the British Government;
and that since the commencement of this
change, and through the instrumentality of
these personages, the whole peninsula has
been subjugated, and a constant succession
of wars has taken place, contrary to the
policy of a commercial Company, influ-
enced ever by the dictates of prudence
and economy ; remarking that all the poli-
tical affairs of their country are guided by
a power in England superior to that of the
Company the native princes can only look
upon the Court of Directors as the Dewan
of the English Government ; and may na-
turaHy be induced to expect that the as-
sumption of the Company's authority into
other hands, will be followed by that of
their territory, and by the cancelling of
every treaty subsisting between them and
the Company, at the pleasure of the higher
power.

The transfer of a native army of 150,000
men will not be very easily effected.
The attempt will be hazardous, and may
occasion such a convulsion as will shake
our Indian possessions to their centre ;
considering the interest which every prince



45

in the country must naturally feel in
prompting a struggle, and promoting dis-
cord. Arid this is another matter which
demands most serious attention.

When we consider the great importance
attaching on the connexion subsisting be-
tween this country and India, and how
much the peace, and prosperity, and manu-
facturing interest, of the British Empire, de-
pend upon it; no minor motive of policy
ouo-ht to induce us to risk an' alteration in

o

the form of the Indian Government, or the
mode of conducting the commerce carried
on between the mother-country and her
Oriental colonies. No topic applying to
this subject can be irrelevant to the ques-
tion. Let us therefore advert to another
circumstance which may endanger the
tranquillity of the two countries. Should
unlimited access to the ports of India be
allowed to adventurers, attracted thither
from many quarters by the hope of en-
riching themselves ; it appears not very
difficult to predict the consequences.
The Company's Government, shorn, as it
has been, of authority, and diminished hi
power, could exercise no very efficient



46

controul over the shoals of people who will
find their way to India. Having sailed
from the out-ports without licence from the
Company, it is not to be supposed that
they would yield obedience to the regula-
tions prescribed by the Court of Directors,
or acknowledge any jurisdiction in the
accredited officers of the Company, esta-
blished in the different presidencies of India.
They would traverse the country in all
directions, rivals of each other, and all of
them rivalling the Company. The cou/se
of trade would be thrown into confusion ;
the markets would contend with each other,
to their mutual destruction ; jealousies
would arise between district and district,
inflamed by the artifices of a set of people
whose sole object must be to accumulate
fortunes with rapidity ; whose views can
only be temporary and selfish ; who can
have no interest in the permanence of
Indian prosperity ; and upon whom, in
a short space of time, (succeeded, as they
would be, by fresh adventurers), no orders
of the Court of Directors, no resolutions
of the Board of Controul, nor any vote
of Parliament itself, would have any effect*



47

We should consider here the distance
of space intervening between the seat of
Government at home, and the scene of
operation chosen by these eager votaries
of wealth ; and we must also take into the
account the magnitude of India and its
immense population, compared with those
of the British islands.

If any alteration should take place in the
existing laws under which the affairs of
India are administered, enough has been
urcred already, to prove that such alteration
should be of a nature calculated to render
that country more dependent upon Britain ;
or, if possible, more useful to her. The
changes petitioned for, must be, of all others,
the most dangerous : the loss of our Ame-
rican colonies should have taught us
wisdom ; and the explosion occasioned by
the French Revolution, produced by the
endeavour of theorists, professedly to better
the condition of the country, and indeed
that of the human race generally, should
make us very cautious how we venture upon
any measure which may raise a fermentation
amongst the myriads of India. That some
Codifications of the trade, to a certain



48

degree, may be proper, will not be denied ;
but, as to the propriety of adopting the
sweeping changes proposed, since the wisest
and greatest statesmen have already depre-
cated them, it may be asked, whom shall
we account the best judges of the question
as it stands at present the ill-informed
petitioners for ruin at the out-ports ; his
Majesty's present Ministers ; or the India
Directors, whose peculiar interests would
not be injured by the proposed changes ;
for their patronage and emoluments will
not be touched, and none of them are large
holders of India Stock. The Directors have
for many years contemplated and managed
the concerns of India, and are in posses-
sion of a mass of experience which has
been accumulating ever since the year
1600, the forty-third of Queen Elizabeth,
when the first Charter of the Company
was granted. We should remember,' too,
that the opinion of the Directors is founded
on the judgment of those great statesmen,
Messrs. Pitt, Dundas, and Fox; and is sup-
ported by that of the merchants of London,
who trade to all parts of the globe, and who
must be deemed, what they are in fact,



49

the most accomplished traders, and best
informed commercial characters, in the
world.

Independently of commerce, let even the
enemies of this country declare, what a
degree of political importance arises to
Britain from her possessions in the East,
under all the disadvantages, as some people
might be disposed to say, of the existing
monopoly. The weight and consequence
which India (triumphant as the Company
has been of late in that quarter of the
world) gives to Britain in the balance of
power, are so great that they ought not to
be endangered by adopting the schemes of
interested projectors. The dismemberment
of the Anglo-Indian Empire would be a
most awful, if not a fatal event ; and that
government which paves the way leading
to such a catastrophe, incurs most serious
and deep responsibility.

It has been held forth that the proposed
alteration in the Indian system, will tend
to promote the general welfare. It is pre-
sumed, that what is contained in these
pages, has shewn such a supposition to be
a mere pretext, set up ad captandum, to

H



50

impose upon many for the ideal advantage
of a few. It is incumbent upon the par-
tisans of change to substantiate their asser-
tions by proof. Parliament has hitherto,
and with incalculable benefit to the public,
proceeded upon solid grounds. The Acts of
Parliament arise out of a basis of evidence ;
the clamours of the out-ports will not avail
at the bar of the House of Commons, or
above-stairs in a committee-room. There,
declamation passes for nothing ; and there
it is, or in the Upper Chamber of Parliament
and its apartments, under the sagacious
presidency of the Chancellor of Great
Britain, or that of Lord Walsingham (from
whose indefatigable labours and consum-
mate knowledge of business, the public has
derived innumerable advantages) ; there it
is, that Lord Buckinghamshire will learn
" whether the nation -is without an alterna-
" tive" respecting the government and the
commerce of India ; whether the welfare
of the country will be secured by laying
open the Peninsula to the speculations of
adventurers ; whether the tranquillity of the
factories and other settlements will be
maintained amidst the shock of contending



interests ; and whether Parliament will not
determine it to be inexpedient, impolitic,
and unwise, to disturb the Company in the
possession which it jet holds, and the
degree of authority which it is yet permitted
to retain in India ?

That the British colonies in other parts
of the world, in North America, for in-
stance, and the West Indies, are open to all
classes of the King's subjects engaged in
trade, is most true, and is readily admitted.
But these colonies are, and have been al-
ways, under the immediate jurisdiction of
the Crown. The King appoints their go-
vernors, and all the officers, civil and mili-
tary ; the constituted authorities hold direct
communication with the sovereign power
at home ; they administer justice with
vigour, they meet every emergency with
promptitude, and can at will enforce obe-
dience to their lawful commands. Com-
pared with the remoteness of India, those
colonies are in a manner before our doors,
and under the eyes of Government, with
which they have at all times a speedy in-
tercourse. The authority exercised over
Europeans throughout the extended dis-



tricts of India, is in comparison but
shadowy and unsubstantial. The people
of England are not aware of this. The
governing power in India is sui generis;
for we may recognise there first, The
authority of the native princes; secondly,
that of the Company, erected upon grants
from those princes, or treaties with them,
or delegated, by virtue of the Charter,
from the King ; and, thirdly, the imperial
sovereignty of the Crown of Great Bri-
tain. All these are curiously blended to-
gether, and form a singular species of po-
lity, sanctioned, partly by law, and partly
by prescription, and supported by opinion.
With regard to Europeans, however, all
residents in India enter into covenants
with the Company, finding security for
their good conduct ; and contempt of the
Company's authority can only be punished
by sending the offending party from the
country. But, during the continuance of
peace, he will have abundant opportunity of
sheltering himself under a neutral flag ; or,
at any rate, may occasion, as has been
already the case, tedious and expensive
investigations in our courts of law.



53

It has been observed, that in consequence
of the wise provisions of the Navigation-
Act, the intercourse of foreign nations with
our western colonies is restrained ; whereas,
on the contrary, with regard to India, it is
said, and probably truly, that British capital
has often been employed in trading with
India, under the cover of foreign flags.
But it is to be feared, that in the event of
conceding the prayer of their petitions to
the out-ports, after the disappointed adven-
turers shall have parted with the sanguine
hopes which at present cause their bosoms
to pant; after their golden dreams shall have
ended in positive and actual losses the pii-
vileges with which they will be invested may,
t no great distance of time, present that
anomalous prodigy in the trading world,
the converse of the last mentioned case,
foreign capital embarked under British flags.
Thus Englishmen will degenerate into car-
riers of Indian produce from their own set-
tlements to their own ports, for the benefit
of foreigners ; much in the way that the
Spanish galleons bring the precious metals
of Peru and Potosi to Cadiz ; not on the
account of Spanish, but British and other



merchants. Sic vos, non votis,fertis aratra t
boves, $-c.

The Government in India having availed
itself of the treasure shipped by the Com-
pany at home for commercial purposes,
and having appropriated it to the liqui-
dation of the expenses attending war-
like operations, and having retained the
formidable vessels belonging to the Com-
pany, and employed them in the defence
of India ; a question naturally arises out
of the probability that the same measures
may be resorted to again, on a similar
emergency. In this event, when the
Company's ships shall be fitted out for
the general service of the public, is the
trade of the out-ports to continue without
a check, whilst the Company is to stand
the brunt of battle ; and their ships, built
for commercial purposes, shall be freighted
with British thunder ? The Company's pa-
triotism is well known to the country ; but
will the country assign honour to the India
Company merely, whilst their rivals in
the out-ports shall be in the quiet possession
of the whole commerce ? The dividends of
India Stock must probably suffer diminu-



55

tion, whilst the Company covers itself with'
glory. Will the country allow it to sit
under the barren and deleterious shade of
the laurels it has earned ; whilst a tide- of
wealth sets into the out-ports, with its cur-
rents quickened by the Company's exertion,
to its own assured loss, and their sole gjain ?

' O

The merchants at the out-ports are no doubt
honourable men; and as their ships will not
be applicable to the service of the nation, on
the recurrence of such difficulties, it is to
be hoped that they will not object to
compensate the Company for the treasure
with which they may furnish the state, and
the vessels they may place at its disposal.

In fact, the whole measure is replete
with difficulties, and pregnant with many
evils. It does not seem possible to main-
tain any intercourse with India, beneficial
to Great Britain, except through the me-
dium of the East India Company.

However, it is not intended in these
pages to assert, or to insist, that the Com-
pany has never erred, or has done every
thing, numerically, which the country had
a right to expect. A friend, as the author
avowedly is, to the first trading company



56



in the world, he cannot but deplore that
truth and candour oblige him to record
some of the vacillations in council and
in system which they have betrayed. In
Mr. Pitt's and Lord Melville's time, re-
peated complaints were made to those
eminent characters, that the East India
Company did not give due encouragement
to the export of British goods, or the im-
port of raw materials for our manufactu-
rers ; and that the remittance of private
fortunes from India had not that facility
which ought to have been afforded. Hence,
in the year 1793* the supply of a given
quantity of tonnage was stipulated for with
the Company, and enjoined by the Act of
Parliament which was then passed ; and a
specific rate was agreed upon for freight
on a peace-transit. In case the Company's
tonnage in India should eventually prove
inadequate to the demands upon it, the
governments there were empowered to
grant licences to country-ships, which were
allowed by an Act of Parliament to import
produce during the continuance of the
war, and for the space of eighteen months
subsequent to the termination of hostilities.



57

The complaints which had been then pre-
ferred were thus remedied, yet in such a
way as to preserve the rights of the Com-
pany inviolate; the imports and exports
being confined to the port of London, and
every thing passing under the eye of the
Company. London, and the Company's
warehouses, afforded, as they had done
for the space of two hundred years, a
depot for all the produce of India; and
as a matter productive of mutual benefit to
every one concerned, the goods were all to
be sold by the Company at the usual sales.
The introduction of India shipping, thus
legalized, afforded an opportunity, eagerly
embraced by the residents in India, to send
their goods home in their own vessels ; and
although the ostensible reason for this
choice was the high war-freight of the
Company's shipping, yet there is abun-
dant proof on record,* that other motives
existed in their minds, and helped to swaj
them to the preference given. The ships,
on their return to India, were laden by the
several houses to which they had been

See," A Review of the Shipping System of the East
India Company," published 1798.

I



58

consigned ; but with a very small propor-
tion of the manufactures of this country ; as
may be evinced by the statement of a cargo
in the Third Report of the Court of Directors
in the year 1801. Thus a monopoly was
established by the residents in India, em-
bracing both the transit and trade. The
consequence of this indulgence, and the

exclusion of British merchants and Bri-

%

tish shipping, produced a most serious
controversy between his Majesty's Govern-
ment and the East India Company; which
ended in an engagement, on the part of the
Company, to furnish a description of ship-
ping for the sole purpose of private trade ;
and permission was given to the India
ship-owners to supply a proportion, subject
to the same conditions as those furnished
by British owners ; of which permission
they have never availed themselves. These
vessels were to be so completely equipped
as to surpass any private ships whatever;
and the Court, in order to give every faci-
lity to the merchants, engaged that the
ships should never be detained more than
three months unemployed after delivery of
their cargo from India, if competent to



59

proceed : they further undertook to furnish
the dead- weight ; and in case the mer-
chants should not lade the ships, they en-
gaged to do it on their own account ; and,
in consequence, some ships were taken up
at 12/. per ton, and none higher than 15/.
peace-freight, out and home. This ar-
rangement, if fully acted on, was one of
those liberal concessions which will ever do V
honour to the East India Company ; but it
is to be regretted that the Company did
not follow up and act upon this principle
in a more ample degree, by furnishing
freight to all descriptions of persons requir-
ing it; by giving notice of the quantity of
tonnage provided, and confining this spe-
cies of shipping, as was originally planned,
to direct voyages without detention ; and
by continuing this cheap system of employ-
ing extra ships, instead of garbling and
tampering with so excellent a plan, by
the appropriation of those ships to other
purposes, and taking up temporary vessels
at higher rates of freight. Had they perse-
vered in the intended system, every cause
of dissatisfaction would have been sup-
pressed. The employment of ships of 400



60

tons burthen, equipped as they are at the
out-ports, can never furnish an adequate
transit for cargoes from such a distant
market as India. Shipping of this sort
may suit the American nation, which has
never till lately encountered a maritime
war. Convoys cannot be afforded, as is
the case with fleets bound to the West
Indies ; and although the smaller ships of
the out-ports may now safely navigate the
Indian seas, through the exertions of the
Company, at whose expense they have
been cleared of hostile flags, yet still the
risk of homeward-bound vessels continues
very great.

The exclusion of all the subjects of this
realm from the Eastern hemisphere, (ex-
cepting the immediate servants of the
Company, the licenced residents, and his
Majesty's forces), is a constituent part of
the tenure by which the Charter is held ;
and it is highly expedient that it should be
so. As the Proprietors, by continued
grants and repeated Charters, have been
so singularly favoured in their enterprises,
it was natural to expect that the Court of
Directors, and their servants in India,



should be extremely solicitous to promote,
amongst the natives of that country, the in-
terests of British commerce, and the con-
sumption of home-manufactures. It was
reasonable to hope that the agents of the
Company would do their utmost to dis-
courage any rivalry with British com-
modities; that the export from hence to
India, of British produce, and British
goods, would have suffered no diminu-
tion through any improvident encourage-
ment of Oriental productions, either natural
or manufactured; that a predilection for
their native land, and the force of custom,
would have secured, with all Europeans
in our Indian settlements, a marked
preference for every article exported from
Britain; in a word, that British and In-
dian commodities could never have come in
competition with each other in the East,
but that either the feelings of nationality,
or of patriotism, would have preserved to
the former every possible commercial
advantage. It is but too truly to he ap-
prehended that the reverse of all this
is the fact; and that throughout India,
colonized as it is by the natives of these



62

islands, Oriental productions have been
encouraged, the manufactures of Britain
copied and rivalled, her commercial ex-
ports diminished, and the interests of the
Indian settlements have been chiefly con-
sidered, with a marked preference to those
of the mother country. Lord Chatham
averred that America should not be allowed
to make a hob-nail whilst England could
supply her. However difficult the accom-
plishment of this might be in the case of
America, the principle is a wise one ; and
is surely applicable to India, where every
person taught to imitate an article of Eu-
ropean manufacture, learns his craft to the
detriment of a British artisan.

It is now asserted, and with truth, that
India stands in need of few articles which
this country can supply. This cessation
of demand for home-productions in the
Indian market, is the lamentable result
of the culpable infatuation which has pro-
moted, in the districts of Ilindostan, the
manufacturing arts of Europe. This evil,
so destructive of the prosperity of Great
Britain, has increased with the enlargement
of our settlements; but what will be the



63

consequence of an open trade ? The out-
ports, and even London itself, will in
coarse of time send out multitudes of
adventurers; extensive manufactories will
be established in every part of India ; the
British looms, forges, and potteries, will
presently suffer under the effects of this
mistaken system; our Oriental colonies
will feel themselves independent on Bri-
tain ; our exportation of the produce of
British labour will suffer vast diminution ;
and money will probably become the only
medium of commerce from this country
bullion our only export. The cotton mills
of Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, and
Scotland, will experience the ill effects of
the projected communication with India.
At all events, it is to be hoped, that in
the new Charter some prudential regula-
tions will be introduced to secure the wake-
ful attention of the Court of Directors to
the manufacturing interests of this country.
It is by no means a matter of difficulty
to substantiate these observations by evi-
dence. Indeed, proof has become hardly
necessary; for it is notorious that India
has made rapid advances in the produc-



tion of European manufactures, and the
adoption of British improvements in me-
chanics. In many articles they have al-
ready established a rivalry with us; and,
it is possible, (nay, if an open trade should
be conceded, it is probable), that they will be
able to supply themselves with those goods
which we yet are able to export. India is
not without copper, iron., lead, and other me-
tals ; and what must astonish every one who
has the least smattering of the policy of
commerce, iron works are about to be estab-
Y lished in India under the sanction of Govern-
ment ; and samples of steel have been trans-
mitted home, equal to any made in Britain.
Thus will some of the most essential ar-
ticles of British manufacture, in a short
time, produce no commercial benefits to
our country, so far as India is concerned,
through the competency of the natives to
fabricate them, instructed by the mistaken
zeal of Englishmen, and supported by the
East India Company, and by Government
itself.

It behoves the public to look narrowly
into the probable consequences of the pro-
jected innovations. The Court of Direc-



65

tors, themselves, have not secured to their
country all the advantages that she might
have enjoyed from the wholesome restric-
tions which they had it in their power to
lay upon trade ; and they have connived
at, if not encouraged, attempts in manu-
factures, from which we could only look
for contingent and remote benefits, whilst
the detriment occasioned by them is direct
and immediate.

Were a list of the articles formerly ex-
ported to India made out, and compared
with the goods which that country now
takes from us, we should be utterly asto-
nished at the various manufactures of
which she no longer stands in need ; Asia,
at this day, preparing for her own use, and
the consumption of many of our coun-
trymen, resident in her territories, what
formerly was supplied by the skill and
industry of Europe. The very stores and


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Online LibraryEast India CompanyConsiderations on colonial policy with relation to the renewal of the East India Company's charter → online text (page 3 of 5)