Francis Carnac Brown.

Letters to and from the Government of Madras, relative to the disturbances in Canara, in April, 1837, with some explanatory notes. To which is prefixed a letter to the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company online

. (page 12 of 19)
Online LibraryFrancis Carnac BrownLetters to and from the Government of Madras, relative to the disturbances in Canara, in April, 1837, with some explanatory notes. To which is prefixed a letter to the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company → online text (page 12 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

state, in detail, the means of substantiation available, to
enable the Commissioners to investigate the matter brought
forward by you.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

&c. &c. 8cc.

C. R. Cotton,

For the Secretary. *

* Tills Commission consisted of a Military and of a Civil Member,
and a Secretary. To the Civil Member, a Member of the Board of
Revenue, who had served in Canara for several years, both as a Sub and
as Principal Collector and Magistrate, strong objections were made at
Mangalore. If he was known to the people, and knew the country, he
was also a most intimate friend of some of the parties. The Military
Member was Major General V^igoureux, of H.M. 45th, whose regiment
was at Madras, under orders for embarkation to England. The senior
Officer of it could not be left behind ; so that before the General could
enter on his new duties, it became necessary to relieve him. lie was



Anjarakandy,near TeUicherrij, Oct. 19, 1837.


I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of
your letter, without date, from Bangalore.

succeeded by a distinguished Officer, the Deputy Adjutant General to
the Queen's Troops, a near adviser of the Commander-in-Chief. One of
the first steps which followed General Fearon's appointment was, the
calling upon every one of the Officers, Military and Civil, who were at
Mangalore at the commencement of the outbreak, for a statement in
writing of what occurred at the meeting, when the resolution was taken
of abandoning the place ; from the Magistrate was required, a history of
the first occurrences of the rising.

This requisition was made in the very end of October, or the begin-
ning of November last : I am compelled to call attention to the fact and
to the date. In the second Presidency of India, in what is, in reality, a
great dependent kingdom of the British Empire containing, including
tributaries, a population of as many millions as the whole of the United
Kingdom, the abandonment of one of the largest and wealthiest frontier
Provinces is officially reported to the Governor in Council, in the month
of April, as having been unanimously determined on thirty-six hours
before an enemy appeared ; and it is a subordinate Commission which,
at the distance of nearly seven months, first calls upon the several actors
for an account of so unprecedented an occurrence, and demands to know
the causes which drove a newly acquired people into rebellion ! Whe-
ther the answers returned to the inquiries, or the nature of the duties
which became disclosed to him, affected General Fearon's health, the
world is not likely to know. He proceeded no further than Bangalore,
where he was speedily relieved on urgent Medical Certificate. From
that time to the middle of December, the date of my leaving India, no
successor to him had been named, nor had the Commission got a
step further. And as, on the 5th December, Mr. Cotton, the Civil
Member, obtained leave to proceed to sea, this Commission appointed,
as the Madras Gazette stated, in phraseology which excited general and
significant remark, " to inquire into the causes of the late insurrection in
Canara, etc." I am led to conclude, terminated its labours and expired-


With every possible respect for the Government of Fort
St. George, I beg to be permitted to observe, that I am no
public informer. I am an English British subject, residing
in the Province of Malabar ; which Province was plunged
into alarm and agitation, in consequence of the events
which occurred in Canara in April last. Those events are,
I believe, not matters of doubt nor for contradiction, they
are matters of official record. It has been officially reported
to the Government by one or two of its own officers, that
the abandonment of the capital of Canara and of the Pro-
vince was unanimously determined upon by the public
functionaries, and fruitlessly attempted, on the 4th of
April, twenty-four hours (36) before an insurgent appeared.

It is, hence, manifest, that lean have no charge to make
" iitdividua/l^" against those functionaries, to almost all of
whom, by name, I am a stranger. But I am possessed of
considerable landed and immoveable property in Malabar;
the security of that property, the security of the property
of every other man in the country, was endangered, it
would probably have been destroyed, had the abandon-
ment of Mangalore been effected. The value of my pro-
perty is seriously deteriorated by what did happen.

It was impossible for an Englishman in my position to
forbear, on such an occasion, to suggest enquiry. Whether
enquiry be needed, the Commissioners and the world may
judge, not from any circumstance advanced or alleged by
me, on information perhaps deemed questionable, but from
the declaration of an English eye-witness, described to
be a straight-forward, plain-spoken, man. This witness,

Mr. , the late Master-Attendant at Mangalore,

lately passed through Tellicherry. In speaking to others
of the attacks of the insurgents, he observed, " Lord, sir !
if we had known as much then as we do now, we would
have banged them well with twenty men ! "

The letters from the Government render it necessary that
I should address it in reply. I shall do so, at the earliest


moment that a press of occupation, arising from preparing
my produce for immediate shipment to England, will

I have the honour to be, Sir,

8cc. &,c. &c.

TO F. C. BROWN, Esq.

Political Department.


I AM directed to return, herewith, the specimens
transmitted with your letter of the 27th ultimo, and to
inform you that the Governor in Council presumes that
you are prepared to substantiate the very serious charges
against Public Officers, vs^hich are contained in your com-
munication of the 31st of May last.

I have the honour to be. Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,


Secretary to Government.

Fort St. George, Ut/i July, 1837.


Political Department.

With reference to my letter of the 11th of July

last, I am directed by the Governor in Council to acquaint


you, that your communications of the 31st May and 27th
June have been laid before the Commissioners * Major-
General Vigoureux and C. R. Cotton, Esq., appointed to in-
vestigate the causes of the late insurrection in Canara,
with instructions to call upon you to substantiate the state-
ments which they contain.

I have the honour to be. Sir,
Your most obedient Servant,


Secretary to Government.
Fort St. George, V2th September, 1837.


Anjarukundy, 2'ird November, 1837.


1. I HAVE had the honour to receive your letters
of the 11th of July, and 12th of September; the last
intimating that my letters to Government of the 31st of
May and 27th of June have been placed in the hands of
the Commissioners newly appointed to inquire into the
affairs of Canara, and that these Officers have been in-
structed to call upon me to substantiate the statements
therein made.

* It was not stated to the Commissioners that my "communications"
had been privately dispatched to Mangalore months before, witli a view,
doubtless, of clearing the way to their investigations, and of putting it
in my power to establish the statements, for the substantiation of which
they were instructed to call.


2. It is to me a subject of unfeigned regret to perceive,
from the tone and the style of your two letters, a tone and a
style not to be mistaken, that my letters have been received
by the Right Honourable the Governor in Council with
sentiments strongly akin to displeasure and distrust.

3. No person can be more forward to acknowledge the re-
ceived insignificance of so humble an individual as myself, a
solitary British subject not in the Service; nor to admit,
how little his communications are deemed worthy of the ordi-
nary attention and confidence, which elsewhere are bestowed
upon the letters of an English resident, written upon local
subjects, touching which he may be supposed to be cor-
rectly informed.

4. Yet every man in the Commission of the Peace in
England, or in any British Colony, is not merely considered
entitled, he is held bound, and he is encouraged, by the
strictest faith and discretion maintained towards him, to
correspond unreservedly with a Secretary of State, or a
British Colonial Secretary, upon all subjects affecting the
peace of the country he resides in, or the honour and cha-
racter of the British Government; secure, at all times,
that if he is betrayed into any errors of the judgment, or
of the feelings, they will be viewed with indulgence, and
charitably construed.

5. It is known that I am, by descent and inheritance, a
Landholder of some extent in the Province of Malabar,
and that I am the only European British subject of that
class residing in the two distant, extensive, and important
Provinces of Malabar and Canara, containing a population
of more than two and a half millions of Natives. The
Government has been pleased, for some years past, to in-
clude my name, unsolicitedly, in the Commission of the
Peace for the territories of Madras.

6. The first character makes it, I conceive, a part of my
allegiance as a British subject, living under a Government
subsisting by the opinion entertained by the Natives of its


wisdom, firmness, and stability, to communicate every
occurrence, leaving the Government to estimate its im-
portance, which appears to me calculated to give a shock
to that opinion. The second character involves a public
trust, and imposes, in my belief, the corresponding obliga-
tions discharged by a Justice of Peace in every other
possession of the British Crown.

7. It was in this twofold character, derived from an
intimate connection with the people of the country on one
hand, and from the trust reposed in me by the Government
on the other, and under a sense of the duties which this
character exacted, that I took the liberty of addressing,
confidentially, to the Government my letter of the 31st of
May ; a letter which I am compelled to see has given
much umbrage, if not offence.

8. In this letter I certainly did implore the Right Ho-
nourable the Governor in Council, most earnestly, perhaps
most warmly, implore him, on an occasion when the lives
of hundieds of human beings were at stake, not implicitly
to believe, but to inquire, not to strike, but hear; and
lastly, not to delegate to any hands whatever his inalien-
able prerogative of life and death* in the case of men,

* This is an error, the result of inadvertence. The Governor in
Council of Madras cannot be said to have ever exercised of himself
this, the most valued privilege of humanity, the noblest attribute of
Sovereign power. All sentences of death and of transportation are
passed, in the first instance, by the local Judges, and if ratified by the
Court of Fonjdaree Udalut, are executed upon warrants, signed by two
Judges of that Court, without any communication to the Governor in
Council. (Regulation 8, of 1802.) Upon such subjects, as the extent
and state of crime, the number and nature of the sentences and exe-
cutions taking place in the dominions confided to his sway, the Governor
in Council was legally dispensed from inquiry or responsibility. The
trials being all in writing, the custom is to circulate them for perusal
from one Judge to the other, who writes upon them his final sentence,
acquitting or condemning. It is not very many years since, that the foot
or margin of a trial exhibited a sentence, condemning to death (I believe



the vast majority of whom appeared, from every concurrent
report, to be far more deluded than criminal, more the
objects of compassion than of public vengeance. Against
no individual, nominatively, did I make a charge; and if I
was driven, most reluctantly driven, to illustrate by an
example the agitated state of men's minds, as well in
North Malabar as in Canara, let those answer who left me
no other mode than this, to plead with effect the cause of
mercy and deliberation, which it was my express design to

9. If the letter in question be considered by his Lord-
ship in Council to exceed the demands of any station I fill,
or to outstrip the limits of any duty I am bound to dis-
charge to the Government, and to the people ; if the peace
and good order of the country, the security of the persons
and property of two millions and a half of Natives, the
tranquillity of their minds, and the honour and character
of the Government which rules over them, be deemed
concerns alien to, and far above, my cognizance ; and that,
however I may see, however I may conscientiously believe
those great interests to be fatally committed, it is my pro-
vince to be mute, while evils are in progress which, if un-
known and unchecked, must lead sooner or later to the
destruction of my property, to the destruction of the pro-
perty of every other man of character and respectability,
and to the extinction of the British name ; if these be the
sentiments entertained by His Lordship in Council, I hope
it is not asking too much, undesignedly as I have offended,
if I request to be favoured, upon these points, with the
opinion in the affirmative of His Lordship in Council, for

one of the witnesses, but certainly) an innocent man. The mistake was
discovered in time; but it was related as an anecdote, and the Sentencer
continued to be, for several years after, a Judge in the highest and last
resort. This was the state of the law until October or November last,
when an Act of the Council of India ordained that penal sentences
should be made known to the Governor in Council.


my own correction, and for the guidance of other European
British subjects.

10. I dare hardly venture to solicit, not a favourable
consideration, but an impartial, dispassionate perusal of
any thing I may now write. Circumstances have, how-
ever, occurred, which render it imperative that I should
detail to His Lordship in Council, even at the risk of in-
creasing- offence, but with a solemn disclaimer of designino-
it, occurrences which happened under my own eye in this
remote spot, from the beginning until after the middle of
April last, and some which I afterwards witnessed at Telli-
cherry ; occurrences so wholly unexpected, and of so
deeply painful a character, as to have forced upon my at-
tention the causes which led to them, and hence to have
occasioned my letter of the 31st of May.

11. It was about the 1st or 2nd of April, that fugitives
from South Canara brought to Tellicherry, where I then
was, the first news of some disturbances existing in that
proverbially tranquil and orderly country. As the rumours
gained ground, on the 3rd of April, I examined, as I
have before related, one of these fugitives, a Koombla *
Merchant who, with others, had been sent for by the In-
surgents to Bellarypet, and who gave me the first inti-
mation of the seat of the disturbances being in Lower
Coorg, and that the number of men of all arms he saw
assembled was about 200.

12. All these particulars, the nature and locality of the
disturbances, the numbers and means of the disaffected,
were, of course, well known to the inhabitants of Telli-
cherry, among whom were dwelling, in perfect confidence
and security with their wives and children, all the most
opulent and respectable of the fugitives, all of them Hin-
doos. Not the smallest impression upon the inhabitants
did the news make ; up to the time of my leaving the

* A sea-i)ort in Soutli Canara.



town on the 5th of April, no other notice did they bestow
upon it, than expressing their surprise at the pusillanimity
of the persons who had fled from such a danger and such

13. Early on the 5th, I set out for my property here. It
is situated about 25 miles from the frontier of Upper Coorg,
the intervening country being chiefly thinly peopled moun-
tain and forest. The most direct road to Tellicherry is by
a branch one, I myself have made through a neighbouring
Jungle. My store-houses here were full of valuable pro-
perty ; there was besides a considerable sum, upwards of
31,000 Rupees, in ready money. Both the house and
store-houses are quite untenable, and may be fired at any
time without detection. They were plundered and burned
to the ground, and the plantations destroyed, by a rabble
of marauders in 1803, an occasion when my father and
family lost every thing they possessed.

14. My first business, on arriving, was to ascertain^the
exact state of Upper Coorg, from which quarter alone was
any risk to be apprehended affecting the tranquillity of
North Malabar.

15. I immediately dispatched persons to Veerajahpet,
the principal mart in Coorg, and to all the intervening-
marts below the Ghauts, which the Coorg traders pass or
frequent, with orders to bring me correct accounts of what
they saw and heard, and to inquire particularly at the
stations of the Post-runners, whether the Post from Madras,
which passes through Upper Coorg, had been intercepted
or delayed.

IG. From the nearest places of resort the messengers
returned with reports, that every thing was perfectly quiet
and tranquil, all transactions going on as ordinarily, and
numerous Coorgs, with droves of salt and grain bullocks,
proceeding as usual, to and from Cannanore and the Coast.

17. The persons sent to Veerajahpet returned after
attending one of the weekly markets held there. They


reported, that the throng of people was so great, particularly
of people from Mysoor, that the market had in fact lasted
two days instead of one. The Post had not met with an
hour's delay.

18. No proofs more conclusive than these could be given,
showing the peaceful and satisfactory state of the country,
both above and below the Ghauts in this vicinity, and in
Western Mysoor. Until the pressing of the people as
Coolies for Military Service began, similar reports con-
tinned to be brought, and were regularly transmitted by
me to Tellicherry, for the satisfaction of the residents there
during the time I remained absent.

19. Such, Sir, was the calm, orderly, and tranquil aspect
presented by the country, when, let my astonishment
be conceived, to find my doors beset on the morning of
the 8th April, before seven o'clock, by a crowd of people,
all loaded with Pepper, and all clamouring to have Rupees
given to them in exchange for it.

20. Pepper, and not money, is the medium of exchange
best known to the people. It is their universal custom to
hoard their Pepper and to part with it in small quantities,
never at once, and that chiefly, when the tax-gatherer
demands his money payments. It is iience a daily traffic
throughout North Malabar. Saving the few roads I have
made, there are here none but mountain paths. Not a
cart nor beast of burden is known off' the few Government
roads; all the inland traffic is by porters. A load of
Pepper is three maunds, or 102 lbs. : the two great marts
for the commodity are the maritime Towns of Tellicherry
and Cannanore.

21. The disastrous commercial advices from England
had made me desirous not to increase my stock of Pepper.
Solicitous, however, not to give birth to the smallest doubt
or uneasiness among the people, as to the cause of any
reduction in price at that time, on the 7th, I had reduced
the price for the day following, the 8th of April, one Rupee
a Candy.


22. On the 9th, there was, from sun-rise to sun-set, a
perfect rush of people with their Pepper, and a crowd of
other Natives, all in the same consternation, flocking
hither for news and advice. On this day, I learned from
them the cause of this unprecedented scene : from the
7th, every shop in Tellicherry and Cannanore had been
shut; not a Native would buy a grain of Pepper,

23. On the 10th, the day was not long enough to weigh,
( Pepper is weighed by the single Maund,) receive, and
pay for all the Pepper that came pouring in. Persons
whom we had never seen nor heard of before, respectable
Bramins and heads of families, from the extremity of the
neighbouring districts, arrived in one universal panic,
intreating for money. Although I refused not a grain of
their Pepper, giving to the Hindoos, who are the bulk of
the population, a Rupee more, I talked to, and endea-
voured to reason with them, but in vain. It was in vain
that I argued, that I remonstrated with them, that I told
them truly all I knew of the occurrences in Canara, that I
besought them not to be alarmed, but to take back their
Pepper, and return quietly to their homes. Their fears
made them deaf to every thing I could say. "We had
no wish to sell our Pepper," they exclaimed, " we kept
it for our Niggdee (assessment); but the Saheb-mars
(British functionaries) must know what has happened better
than you that are here. There they are, arrived from Man-
galore in a ship and Pattamars, with their wives and
children ; the Saheb-raars at Tellicherry have detained
the ship, and what can this be for, but to go away too,
and leave us at the mercy of thieves and robbers ? Better
get what money we can, and fly too ! " Whither, poor
creatures, they knew not ! Among this panic-stricken mul-
titude were some of the Mapillas from Cottapurumba, four
miles distant; some of those very Mapillas who, at the very
time, were declared by name in one of the Madras papers,
the Conservative, the reputed organ of the Government, to
be all ripe for insurrection.


24. All men liave heard of, some men have seen, a run
upon a failing Bank in a remote town in England, have
witnessed the awful picture of despair and distress, which
the scene exhibits. Sir, this is not a town, it is not a
village: it is the solitary dwelling of an Englishman in
the middle of the Jungles of India, without even a ham-
let near, save that of my own labourers. Let a man ima-
gine to himself the scene of terror and dismay, that was
here exhibited to me ; a scene occasioned, not by any pri-
vate imprudence nor calamity, such as may induce ruin
and bankruptcy, but by an universal belief among the
Natives in the end and dissolution of all Government!
No, Sir ! as long as memory endures, the grief, the shame,
the indignation, caused by such a spectacle, will never be

25. The urgent letters I wrote to Tellicherry, the remon-
strances I addressed to all the principal Natives there,
with whom my word would have weight, but still more,
the example I set, restored some degree of confidence :
the shops in the Towns and Bazaars, were re-opened, and
the buyers resumed their purchases. But the desire there
evidently was in the people, so opposed to their rooted
habits and prejudices, to get rid of their Pepper, and pos-
sess themselves of all the money they could collect, showed
but too plainly that the feeling of security, in the strength
and stability of the Government, had received a fatal and
alarming shock.

26. I, therefore, persisted in purchasing all the Pepper
that was offered. In twenty-four days (from the 7th to the
30th of April ), I paid away for Pepper, Rupees 16,986,
in sums from one quarter of a Rupee, and half a Rupee,
to 222 Rupees, the highest sum any seller received.
Up to the 22nd of May, and not until then, was I satisfied
that the minds of the people were tranquillized, and the
late scenes, in a degree, obliterated, the sum paid away


was Rupees 25,189,* the quantity of Pepper received,
in quantities of 2h pounds and upwards, was 223,173
pounds, upon which, when sold in England, I estimate
my loss will be from 8,000 to 10,000 Rupees.

27. The Government requires me to substantiate what
1 say. Sir, there are the facts, accompanying are the
accounts, the daily accounts, J with the name of every
man entered, during the first twenty-four days (the others
are forthcoming), the pounds of Pepper he brought, and
the Rupees he took away. The Government demands
witnesses; I refer the Government to a whole population.
IVor let me be mistaken. This disclosure has been extorted
from me. The feeling which dictated any sacrifice, to pre-
serve unsullied the honour and reputation of my country,
is something very different from any feeling which either
courts praise, or quails at censure.

28. On the 18th of April, the arrival of a guest, a
gentleman from Manilla, induced me to return to Telli-

29. It was then that I learned, in detail, not from
choice, nor curiosity, nor inquiry, but from necessity, from

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryFrancis Carnac BrownLetters to and from the Government of Madras, relative to the disturbances in Canara, in April, 1837, with some explanatory notes. To which is prefixed a letter to the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company → online text (page 12 of 19)