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 17 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 17 of 19)
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strict bounds of the powers which as Sub-Collector and Magistrate, he
conceives to be undeniably vested in him, over the acts, the persons,
the liberty, and the property of every Native whomsoever, of what-
ever rank, degree, or condition, in his Sub-Collectorate ; or in his
Province, whenever interest or seniority shall raise him to be the
Principal Collector and Magistrate of a Province, containing a million
and more of men. Not a doubt, nor a misgiving, nor a suspicion, I
am sure, crossed his mind in the course of these proceedings, of the
lesson that was being authoritatively taught by them, to be practised
by all his Native subordinate Officers, whenever promotion and removal
to higher grades shall give them an opportunity of " bettering the
instruction;" and if unhappily, on the present occasion, the people had
given vent to the indignation witli which they burned, if, wrought into
momentary fury at seeing the whole power, the whole authority, and the
whole influence of the alien Government ruling over them, employed
and engaged, for days, in labouring to make the conduct proveably


true, innocent, and exemplary, of an old, infirm, helpless man, appear
falsified and treasonably criminal, in order to overtake this man with
condign punishment, and to cast a suspicion of disaffection generally
upon the whole of them as a body; if, seeing this, the people had risen
tumultuously, and headlong burst the bars of his ignominious prison,
the Magistrate would, instantly and unhesitatingly, have called for
troops, and British troops would have come, and would have exterminated
them, while no other eye than the eye of Heaven saw and marked, that
they had been driven to desperation by treatment, which it will be else-
where inconceivable that men should be men, and bear.

London, June, 1838.



There are, settled at Mauritius, two foreigners, the joint
proprietors of an estate which now yields them a clear
income of 10,000/. a-year. This estate, bought with the
fruits of their honourable and successful industry during
their residence on the island, is a model estate, where
planters and persons go who desire to see an example of
skill, science, economy, and good management applied to
the growth of the sugar-cane, and the improved manufac-
ture of sugar. The annual expenditure upon this estate
cannot be less than 40,000?., nor the indirect contributions
to the revenue short of at least 5000/.

Both these foreigners read, write, and speak French cor-
rectly ; they are welcome guests at every English and French
house, respected visitors at the Government House. One
of them has rendered important public service. Reader,
English reader, desire you to know who these estimable
men are ? who these two foreigners are, increasing so greatly
the prosperity of their adopted country, and adding so praise-
worthily to the general wealth of the British Empire. Learn
then, that they are both of them Natives of the Presidency of
Madras, the one of the Northern Circars, the other of Tanjore!
The latter will tell you, as he tells all who ask his history,
that he is a man of high caste, and was born to competent
hereditary landed property in his own Province; but that
the continued exactions and oppressions of the Collector
drove him forth a wanderer on the earth, abandoning family,
kindred, friends, country, property, every good held


dear by man. Reader, you have heard, and you will con-
stantly hear, that Biitish India contains 100 millions of
men; these 100 would, at the present hour, be 200 mil-
lions, for it is a thinly peopled country compared to its
extent, and its population only requires food to double in
25 or 30 years. Think you that, with only 100 millions of
men, having preserved to them the same property in the
land of their fathers as these two, their exiled countrymen,
have acquired under the fostering spirit of British laws
in the rock of Mauritius, India would be poorer than she
now is — that her revenues {the land tax having fallen off
from 16 millions to 10) would be less than they now are, or
her commercial value to Great Britain more fractional com-
paratively than it is? Think you, if these 100 millions
knew and felt, every hour of their lives, that they bad a
hearth and a home of their own to defend, they would be
slow, led on by British landholders and capitalists, in defend-
ing such possessions against all enemies, whether foreign or
domestic ? Would you not, knmoing that they enjoyed these
blessings, laugh to scorn all the attempts that Russia,
with her thousand secret emissaries, or any other rival or
enemy whatever, European or Asiatic, open or concealed,
could make to debauch their allegiance, and convert theni
into covert traitors against the British Government ?

Do you wish to see the contrast ? Do you desire truly
to know what the sum of blessings really is which the
Natives of India have granted to them to possess, to
enjoy, and to defend ? Discard and despise the volumes
of pompous, self-laudatory generalities by which, perhaps
w'ithout design, but certainly without examj)le, the con-
fidence of a great and generous people has been duped and
deluded, and its patience tasked in a degree never before
witnessed. It is not from 16,000 studiously penned folios,
from any governing class, it is by descending to record par-
ticulars, patiently noted and learned on the spot from direct
communication with the people, that the operation of a


Government upon their happiness and well-being is to be
truly known and gathered. Insist henceforth upon having,
and upon hearing periodically, from independent, unbiassed
witnesses, and from every region of India, full, minute, and
authentic particulars of a system, which leaves no person
and no thing throughout the country uninterfered with, or
untouched — which makes a King, and fixes the hire of every
artisan and day-labourer, prescribing that he shall receive
so much, in reward of his day's toil, and no more ; which,
in fact, sees in him, from the hour he first draws, until the
moment he resigns, his breath, nothing but a creature made
to pay revenue, to be grateful that he lives, and — to be silent.

Every word of the previous pages, addressed to the Court
of Directors, was sent to the press before the receipt of the
late intelligence from India, which has made known to all,
that Russian spies and emissaries have been traced, tam-
pering successfully with Native powers, both on the frontiers
and in the heart of the British territories, and that the whole
population desire nothing so ardently as their success.

It is no longer a choice, it becomes a duty, to throw
every possible light, even at the risk of prolixity, upon the
causes of this universal hatred and dislike to the Govern-
ment, which are now felt to exist among the Natives — causes
spurned and despised in India, and unsuspected in Eng-
land ; and to show why it is, that a countless and submis-
sive population are all believed by their local rulers, to turn
a greedy ear to every liope that is whispered to them from
afar, not of regaining self-dominion, for of that desire they
are not susj^ected, but of seeing a change from their present
to any other foreign masters.

The following letters, as will be seen, were never designed
for publication ; the first, meant solely to serve, gave umbrage,
I fear, in a quarter which demands and deserves at my hands
every service, public or private, in my power to render. The
particulars it details, however, are such that they cannot
now be withheld, whatever their shape or their words.



Anjarakandy, 27th June, 1837,

My Dear

I mentioned to you the case of some Teers (Culti-
vators) who had taken the lease of a morass in Cottayum
(a County), for the purpose of draining, clearing, and cul-
tivating it ; but who were arrested and stopped in the
middle of their labours by the assessment which the revenue
Officers fixed upon the land. As the case requires to be
fully known, I will give you the particulars of it at length.
The following is a translation of the lease, which was
granted to these persons by the proprietor of the land, one
of the Rajahs of Cottayum : — " This is the lease of a swamp
" executed by the Cottayum Ponerye Rajah, in favour of
*' Teers, PaddavadeeKannen, and Oochumel Tolen Cootty,
*' of Ponerye. The river having now for many years over-
" flowed, and the jungle overgrown, two Paddy fields called
** Oochumel and Ottakandum, belonging to my South Pa-
** lace, in the Padnakara Deshum (Parish), and of the
*' yearly rent of 200 Dungays of Paddy, I have hereby
" granted to you, in consideration of these fields being waste
** and salt-water swamps, a lease of them for ten years, rent
*' free. — (Here follow the boundaries.) At the expiration
" often years, when the jungle has been rooted out, and
" the fields brought into cultivation, you are every year to
" bring to, and measure at, the Erroovetty Palace 200
" Varum Madda Dungays of Paddy, as the rent of the
" same. If this Deed (royal writing) is mortgaged to any
" person whatsoever, the act shall be null and void. Dated
" 3 Kannee, 1007 (18th September, 1831)."


On obtainino- this lease (for which the only consideration
paid were 6 fanams (2s. 6d.) as the writer's fee), the tenants
immediately set about the first and most indispensable work,
that of constructing a dam along the bank of the river
bordering the swamp, of sufficient width and solidity to
exclude the salt water at spring-tides, and to bear the pres-
sure of the Monsoon floods. This work, and that of rooting
out the dense matted jungle, with which the swamp was
overgrown, both laborious and, to persons in their circum-
stances, most expensive tasks, occupied them the whole of
that year, 1007, and the one following. In 1009 (1833),
the fields were sown for the first time. In Meenom (March
1834) of that year, long after the crop was reaped and off
the ground, and when nothing remained on it but the stubble,
a Talook (county) Officer came and looked at the fields, and
assessed them for that year in a motiey revenue of 70 rupees.
The rent which the tenants contracted to pay, at the expi-
ration of 10 years, an exemption which could alone have
tempted them, or any other men in their senses, to under-
take the reclaiming of a morass was, as we have seen, a
rent hi kind of '200 V. Dangays of Paddy, equivalent to
180 Macleod, or Government, seers, which at the average
price of 30 rupees per mil seers, would be rupees 5.1. 60.
The Government demand, therefore, amounted to more than
13 times the reserved rent for one year, and to upwards of
one third more than the whole reserved rent for 10 years !
But the stipvdated rent represents, as of all Paddy fields,
one-third of the grow produce ; so that the tenants were
called upon to pay an assessment of upwards of four times
the entire gross produce of their fields, supposing the fields
had been redeemed and brought into perfect cultivation, a
task not to be completed under several years.

It being clearly impossible for them to pay such a tax,
they appealed to the Tahsildar (the head county Officer of
revenue and police). The 1'ahsildar came and reduced the
tax from 70 rupees to 28 \, as low, perhaps, us he thought


lie could prudently or expediently reduce it. But this
reduction, great as it appears to be, still left the money
assessment immediately demandable, five times more than
the money value of the reserved rent. The result is, that
from that time, the Teers have abandoned their fields,
the dam, which cost them so much money and expence,
is washed away, the salt-water floods the spot at one
season, the rains at another, and it again is, what it was, a
pestilent morass.

This interference of the Government between a private
landlord and his tenants has, therefore, been productive of
nothing but pure, unalloyed mischief to all parties concerned ;
and as the evil is of a more serious, profound, and exten-
sive nature than may at first sight be apparent, you will
pardon me, I am sure, for pointing it out plainly and in
some detail.

In the first place, there can be no doubt that the imme-
diate effect of the proceeding has been, to rob the tenants
of all their outlay, in draining and clearing the swamp, and
in bringing it into a state fit for cultivation — an outlay
which, in one instance, was procured on the security of
other property, and the repayment of whi(^ will probably
consign the borrower to a jail. As the act was the act of
the Officers of Government, it is taken to be that of the
Government itself; and the impression, therefore, of the
suffeiers and of all around them is, that they have been
robbed by the Government of the fruits of their labour,
their time, and their money, on an occasion when they felt
entitled to its approbation, at least, if not to its rewards.

Were the spoiler a private individual, they know they
would have a chance of remedy, and might hope for redress j
but as it is the Government, and as the case is a {land) Revenue
case, it is withdrawn from the protection of all law. But,
superadded to the privation of all legal redress, and super-
added to the wrong they suffer, is the feeling to which they
are sensibly alive, whatever they may be able to say, that


the hand which has been stretched out to despoil them is
the hand which, above all others, should be ever extended
for their efficient protection and encouragement in all the
pursuits of honest, lawful, praise-worlhy industry.

In the second place, the shock given to industry and the
security of property, has been as extensive as the circum-
stances have been known. " What possible good can it
" do the Sirkar (Government) ?" said a Nyr to me, when I
was on the spot, surrounded by a number of Natives,, and lis-
tening to what they had to say — " What possible good can
•' it do to the Sirkar, to prevent me from turning these
•* marshes, where there are now only thorns and alligators,
" into Paddy fields ? In a few years the Varum (rent)
" upon them would be due, in four years more the Ponnerye
" Rajah (the landlord) would have received his due, and
" been able to pay Niggdee (assessment), while the Koo-
" dians (tenants) and their families would have been pro-
" vided now and hereafter with food and employment ; —
" now, no one gets, or can get, anything : all is loss, all the
" labour, time, and expence incurred, and who, after the
" treatment of the Teers, will venture again to incur them?"

The countenances of the by-standers, and a waste of
swamp on either side where we stood, were sufficient answers
to the question. Had no interference of the kind been suf-
fered, had the private engagement of these parties, from
which nothing but good could accrue, been scrupulously
respected, I am satisfied that the whole expanse of morass
would, ere now, have been one scene of cultivation.

The reverse of all this, this interference has annihilated
the certain and immediate revenue which would be paid by
the Rajah, when he began to receive his rent; it has, in
effect, blotted out from the map of the country the spot
that had been reclaimed, and others similar to it that arc
reclaimable, constituting some of the most valuable land
in the country, when brought under the plough ; it has
sacrificed the much greater revenue, which would certainly


iind permanently be derived, (Vom suilering these baneful
seats of disease and death to be converted into sources of
health and plenty ; and it has engendered in the breasts of
the liibouriniJ: population, that class the most valuable and
the most helpless of all, a deep inipression, that no sooner
is their industry exerted, and all their scanty means be-
stowed, blamelessly »nd beneficially, in providing a main-
tenance for their families, and in adding to the general
wealth of the country, than the Government steps in, and
bids them cease, and starve.

In the third place, it is not to be disguised that the con-
duct of the Government goes to the length of declaring all
leases between landlords and tenants to be null and void,
and of establishing it, as a principle, which the Revenue
Officers are ordered to enforce, that private propertj/ in the
hind is not recognised to exist, (juasi the Government. For,
for the Government to tell the tenants of a landlord, that
they shall not cultivate the land he has given them on a
lease of years, unless, as a preliminary, they pay an assess-
ment amounting to more than four times its gross produce,
is telling them that they shall not cultivate the land at all j
that their lease is a farce ; that the landlord has, in fact, no
right nor title to dispose of his laud as Jie thinks proper;
and that if the Government shall will it to lie waste, lie
waste it shall. It is impossible, therefore, for the landlord
not to feel that he has been stripped by the strong arm of
power of all property in these Paddy fields; and that he has
been stripped at a time, when he particularly merited to be
maintained in all the security of possession. To both the
Government and the public he had done his duty as a pro-
prietor; he had procured good tenants to cultivate and
reclaim what was before a waste; he had passed a written
obligation, forbearing from all demand upon them, until
their outlay was reimbursed ; and he had probably made
liberal advances (of which he is likewise a loser) to enable
them to proceed efifectually with their task. The Govern-


ment, on the contrary, which fixes and demands such an
assessment years before he can receive a rea of rent, has
not supplied the land, nor procured the tenants, nor ad-
vanced the outlay, nor run the risk of failure. In a work
of great and essential public benefit, the Government has
not only not had the smallest share, but the part which it
takes is, to blight all the good that has been done, all that
would directly, indirectly, and immeasurably flow from the
work, by stripping the landlord of his land !

The nature of the land, whether wet or dry, Paddy field
or Parumba (garden), waste or cultivated, can in no degree
afiTect the equity of this act. Every landlord in the
country feels the case to be his own. The principle which
is applied to this property to-day may be applied to all
others to-morrow ; and seeing that the very opposite of any
increase of Revenue must be really contemplated by it,
satisfied that the Government does not act deliberately and
systematically, except upon a settled design, the landlords
can arrive at no other conclusion than that their existence
is felt as a crime; that they are, in fact, a proscribed race,
whose extinction is doomed by the slow and gradual acqui-
sition of all their lands. In truth, no law of mortmain
was ever more certain or more fatal. It may be very well

for Mr. , who never bought nor cultivated an acre of

land in his life, and for twenty-four gentlemen echoing his
opinions amid the smoke of Leadenhall-street, to declare
that, as nothing more {more!!) than the rent of the land is
demanded from the Natives of India, they are, in reality,
untaxed. If you had bought 10,000 Rupees worth of Com-
pany's paper, upon the faith of receiving 5 per cent, inte-
rest upon it, and if the Civil Auditor had the power of
taking every year the whole of this interest, under the name
of " Assessment," Mr. , or those twenty-four gentle-
men, would have great difficulty in persuading you that
you were wholly untaxed; and in preventing you from
feeling, that you were robbed of 10,000 Rupees' worth of


your honest acquisitions. If, again, you preferred land as
an investment to the Honourable Company's paper, and
after laying out your money on a farm, the rent of which
you expected would yield you 5 per cent, if a Collector
came and walked over your farm, and without knowing
wheat from barley when he sees them together, thinks it
suflicient to look at the stubble, in order to decide upon
the returns of your land, and your ability to pay taxes ; if,
after this, he were politely to ask you for no more than this
interest, that is, for all the rent of your farm, as your tax,
your incredulity, as to your paying no tax at all would, I
imagine, remain unshaken. But if the same functionary
were to ask you for four times the gross produce, as your
annual contribution, w'ere to declare this demand to be no
more than fair and reasonable, and were to assure you, in
the same breath, of his perfect "good intentions," if you
made any reply, you would probably say, " such good inten-
tions would make Paradise a H — 11 !" Now, in this Province
(Malabar), there is a numerous body of men who, until
about forty or fifty years ago, upon the sanctity of venerable
laws, upon the faith of most ancient titles, from long unin-
terrupted descent, and upon innumerable transfers and pur-
chases of land, enjoyed the whole rent of their estates with-
out any deduction whatsoever.* As land then sold for

* The pretence and the justification for all this interference with the
landlords of the country, is grounded upon certain previous official reports
and surveys, the authority of which no local functionary dares question,
even if he had the inclination during his flitting sojourn and tenure of
office ; or if his understood orders were not to exact revenue, and to ask
no questions.

The following extract from a Diary is some illustration of the value of
those authoritative documents, and a sample of the manner in which the
most notorious, the best attested, and the most ancient of the rights of
the people of India over their own soil have, from first to last, been in-
variably written and reported away by persons who, being debarred from
themselves holding private properly, seem to be quite incapable of appre-
hending what the right to it is, when acquired and possessed by the people.


thirty and thirty-five years' purchase, much as it now does
in England, this rent, in the great majority of instances,
was not more than a return of three or four per cent upon
the price actually paid for the land. Since the period above
mentioned, the right of these landlords to a poiiioN, howso-
ever varying, of the rent, has never been openly denied ; it
has never been stated, in express terms,* that they were

Telltcherrj/, 24/// June, 1834.
"I had along visit of some hours yesterday evening from K. Karna-
gam Menon. Talking of surveys, I told him the people of Malabar
had to thank him for all the surveys which have taken place. He asked,

how? I said, that both Sir T. Munro and Mr. , with whom he was

Sheristedar (head Native), had stated in their reports, I concluded upon
his authority, that it was the immemorial custom, in the time of the
Rajahs, to re-survey and assess all lands, garden and field, every twelve
years ; and hence, it was now believed by the Government that, follow-
ing this practice was, in truth, adhering to the ancient custom of the
country. He became much excited, and asked me if it was possible I
could believe him capable of such gross misrepresentation; he who
knew, as did every man in the country, that, in the time of the Rajahs,
there was no such thing as land-tax at all ? He declared, that what he
stated to those gentlemen was, that, at the expiration of leases^t)?" waste
land, which were usually granted for twelve years, it was the custom to
fix the rent the landlord was to receive (after first paying the tenant for
his products); that, as to re-survei/ing Paddy (rice) fields, the thing is an
absurdity in terms ; because, as soon as a field is brought into thorough
cultivation, the produce is reaped, threshed, and divided into three lines,
" varum," or shares; one of which is assigned for the expences of culti-
vation; the second for seed and the farmer's profit; and the third, to
the landlord as rent ; and this being a corn, not a money rent, the quantity
is immutable. He added, "Thus it is ; Gentlemen do not understand the
customs of the country, and not knowing what they are asking about,
mistake what is said to them in reply ; they then make a report, con-
sisting of these mistakes, which the people know nothing about, and
never hear of, while the Government believes it all to be true, and treats
and taxes them accordingly."

There is the speaker, whose words I have given, to be referred to for
their correctness ; one of the first Natives in the country, and most de-
servedly pensioned for his services to the Government.

F, C. B.

Except by the Court of Directors.

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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 17 of 19)