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 18 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 18 of 19)
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entitled to no portion whatsoever; or, in other words,
they have never been told in plain English, that tlieir
existence is an incumbrance on the earth, that tiiey are a
nuisance which ought to be abated.

Such language they hold to be quite superfluous, when
public measures are permitted, which carry irresistible con-
viction to their feelings :

" You take my life,
" When you do take the means whereby I live."

Whenever, as in this instance, the assessment exceeds the
gross produce, whenever it equals that produce, whenever
it exceeds the rent, whenever it absorbs no more than the
rent, whenever it absorbs so much of the rent as not to
leave the landlord wherewithal to exist; in short, whenever,
in the language of the country, the Niggdee (Assessment)
is more, or no more, or a fraction less, than the Patum
(Rent), the Jenmec (Landlord) is told, far more intelligibly
than in words, that he is left to starve.

Would it be wise, would it be politic, were the increase
of Revenue to be as great and immediate as it is certain of
being less, to sink such a conviction deep in the minds of
the landlords of the country ; that similar may be their
fate, at the nod of any Revenue Officer? They are men,
that are thus dealt with, not stocks, nor stones; I admit,
patient, enduring, peaceable, well-disposed, men ; but as
long as they are men, the authorized existence, the delega-
tion, and the exercise of a power, which may make them
the victims of such acts of caprice and folly, as the one 1
have instanced, must impress then, with a deep-rooted and
settled distrust and dislike of the Government.

I have heard of one instance, but can scarcely credit it,*
in which a Revenue Officer prohibited a landlord from cul-
tivating a piece of his own waste land, unless he gave the

* Faet.


preliminary security of his other property to pay the assess-
ment fixed on the waste, in case the returns of the waste
should fall short of the assessment !

Fourthly, in all communities, be they more civilized or
less, men feel that they have a right, as a condition of their
very being, to enter into agreements for their mutual bene-
fit; they feel, even the most untutored feel, that their
individual benefit cannot be productive of public injury;
and hence they feel, with a force greater than any demon-
stration, that it is among the first and most essential duties
of the Government they live under, to respect all lawful
agreements, and to uphold their inviolability. Moreover,
in any community purely agricultural, all men (in Malabar
almost all women also) are either directly interested in the
land, as proprietors, or cultivators, or indirectly, as creditors
and mortgagees ; and hence, the last class of persons, who
may be said to include all those not comprehended in the
other two classes, feel intuitively and as keenly as thelatter,
that it is the duty of a Government strictly to protect the
right of all men to private property, and to encourage its
acquisition by every security, with which law and authority
can fence it. Whenever, therefore, a Government departs,
or what in the result is the same thing, whenever a Govern-
ment is felt, whomsoever the agent, to depart in its conduct
from the rigid performance of these, its cardinal duties ;
whenever, out of its boundless authority, it interposes to
break, and not to maintain, the lawful contracts of indivi-
duals, whenever it confiscates and annihilates, and not
preserves, the property of any one class of the community,
as surely as wrong begets wrong, and injustice hate, so
surely does such conduct call up in hostile array against
it the feelings of every man whatever, without distinc-
tion of rank, caste, or sect, subject to its sway. So
indissolubly has the Great and Good Being, who made
man the brother of his fellow-man, knit his sympathies
with his kind, by the tie of a common, inseparalile interest!

p 2


Such is the conviction to which we are brought, step by
step, by an examination of the case I have instanced; the
more cahnly and dispassionately it is considered, the more
strong and deep-felt will, 1 think, that conviction be,
namely, that this conduct must produce an universal feel-
ino; of fear and hatred to the Government, amon^all classes
of the community. I have instanced only one case; the
same landlord, the P. Rajah has been stripped of his land,
and his tenants of their outlay, in two other cases of lease,
similar to the foregoing, except in the amount of the rent.
In one of the two, the rent to be paid by the tenant, at the
end of ten years, was to be 100 Varum Madda Dangays,
equal to 83 Macleod (Government) Seers, of the average
value in money of R. 2. 1. 96.

The field was assessed by the Talook (County) Officers
at the same time, and in the same manner, as the former,
at R. 27 per annum, which was afterwards reduced to
R. 14, and which being about six times the rent, the field,
like the former, was obliged to be abandoned. The particu-
lars of the third case I have not got.

All these cases occurred at Ponnerye, an Amshum (Pa-
rish) only three miles distant from Tellicherry, long the seat
of a principal Revenue Cutcherry, and of several high
European Functionaries. They occurred now three years
ago. Of the sufferers, one is a Rajah, a man of the highest
rank in the country; and yet you would never have heard
a word of one of them, unless I had brought them to your
notice. Had they been solitary instances of their kind,
had they been the first which had occurred, had the people's
minds not become familiarized with them, it is hardly pos-
sible but that some of the aggrieved parties would have
found their way immediately to your Cutcherry (Office).

The people of Malabar, it is commonly said, are ever
ready with petitions and complaints. I will tell you, in
their own words, why one of the parties, the Teers, did not
complain. " Where was the use of our petitioning? " said


they. "The petition would have been sent in the common
course, to the Talook (County), for inquiry and report. It
was tlie Talook Officers who set aside our leases ; of whom,
and of whose two assessments, we complained. They
would have said, in reply, that our assessment had been
reduced from R. 70, the first imposition, to 28^, less than
one half; that instead of being grateful, we complained of
even l/iis moderate demand, which plainly showed that we
were troublesome, disputatious persons ; that the fields
were under cultivation, and well able to pay Niggdee
(Assessment). The Saheb (Collector) must trust, in such
matters, to his Karistens (Native Officers); and whose
story would be believed, theirs, with this appearanee of
truth and moderation, and the Cutcherry servants to back
it, or ours, which we might not render properly intelligble?
And if we had been ordered to pay the Assessment they
might, in return, have demanded it from our other property."
That such would be the reply, returned by the Talook
(County) to the reference, is obvious, and that it would
appear, prima facie, so satisfactory as to disarm suspicion,
and establish the groundlessness of the complaint, can
scarcely be doubted. Nevertheless, I am not disposed to
impute blame to the Talook Officers. From intercourse
with Native Servants, in general, I am satisfied that the
Talook (County) Officers felt persuaded they were doing no
more than a duty, especially prescribed to them, as the
business of the surveys and assessments they are dispersed
over the country annually to make. To prevent his vigi-
lance from slumbering, a second follows the steps of a first,
to detect his omissions and expose his errors. They have
often told me, what they cannot tell yon, that it is no fault
of theirs, if they are sent to survey fields, when nothing
but the stubble remains on the ground, or to rate a tree by
looking at the leaves; they will candidly confess, that they
were not bred on a farm, but from boyhood, in a Court or
Cutcherry, that they have no experience in land, of its


modes of culture, products, returns, accidents ; but tliut
being ordered to assess it, as if they had, they obey; and
they will freely say, that being Sirkar (Government) Ser-
vants, anxious for advancement and emolument, and know-
ing that under-assessment is always held to be criminal,
while over-assessmentis usually extenuated intoover-zealand
honesty of purpose, they make a point of leaning in every
case to the Sirkar (Government), leaving the aggrieved to
seek redress, where reduction is not open to suspicion.

All these things are talked of among themselves openly
and unreservedly. But, in addition to the etiquette preserved
with you, there is another reason why you are not likely to
hear aught against surveys and Jummabundies (annual
assessments) from them ; and that is, because it has become
a proverbial expression that " Surveys are the best trade
going." Everything, therefore, and every person around
you, combine to keep you in the dark, while the Govern-
ment has interposed its will, in order scrupulously to bar
the only avenue by which the truth could possibly reach
you. If the Rajah, as the proprietor of this land, as the
inheritor, or the purchaser, it matters not which, of the fee-
simple, had an undoubted right to execute the leases he
granted to his tenants, (and it will hardly be denied in
terms, under any Government English even only in name,
that he had not this right,) it would follow in a Government
of law, in any Government that did not place him, and all
men with wrongs like him, out of the pale of the law, that
he would have his remedy, prompt and effectual, provided
by the law, not only for his leases having been treated as
waste paper, and his property confiscated ; but, assuredly,
the law would award exemplary damages for the ejection of
his tenants, and the non-culture of his land for five years,
and this, upon the palpable, self-evident ground of the
injury which, through him, the public had received. His
tenants would, in like manner, and for a like reason, obtain
immediate restitution and ample indemnity for their losses.


Hence, on the very first instance that occurred, you would
have had public knowledge of it, you would have had the
satisfaction of aiding its investigation, and you would have
laid down to rest with the consoling reflection, that no
instance of similar tyranny could recur in the districts
(counties) under your charge, even were all the public ser-
vants banded against you, without the certainty of detection,
of punishment, and of redress. It is not you who would be
loaded with an odious and impracticable responsibility —
that of trusting numerous men with the power to oppress,
and that of tracing and exposing every instance of op-

How different is the present state of things, how calcu-
lated to awaken a crowd of startling reflections ! It is at
the lapse of years, and privately from me, a solitary indi-
vidual — a foreigner, like yourself, in the country — one of a
race till lately proscribed, that you receive, rather by acci-
dent than design, the first intimation of these acts of tyranny ;
the sufferers despairing or fearing to raise their voices in
complaint, because their case is a Revenue case, because,
for Uiat express reason, the public Justice of the country is
peremptorily interdicted from even listening to them, and
because their oppressors armed, as they know full well,
with Police as well as Revenue Powers, are the witnesses
against them, and the Judges ! When we speak of a law,
we mean no more than a proclaimed general rule, adminis-
tered by Officers, representing the Government, and placed
above all temptation — who are sworn to a|)ply the rule,
without bias or favour, in determining whether any act or
conduct complained of has wronged an individual, and
through him the community at large, either in his property
or person ; if so, to redress the wrong, and to punish the
wrong-doer. For this class of wrongs, and all its ramifi-
cations affecting every man in South India, arising out of
the appropriation and usurpation of the land of the people
for the behoof of the Government, there is no law, there


are no Courts, no Judges ; and this, for the avowed reason,
lest tlie public Revenue should be endangered !

Public revenue, which must ever be measured by the sum
of" private revenue, or, in other words, of private property —
private property which knows no measure, nolimit, so long as
it is vested with security, which security it can alone derive
from the law. Property, therefore, is the child of law, or
rather, as a great man has said — " Law and property are born
" together,and will die together; previous to law, no property
" — take away the law, and there is an end to property."

I know no subject more replete with painful, humiliating
reflections than to think, that the authors of a state policy,
which bade the law be dead in cases of land Revenue, are
the idols whom all men are called upon to bow down and
worship. What elsewhere would be indelible opprobrium,
is here fame ! The every-day phrase of, " things xvill last
mij time," which lias become incorporated into the language
of India, is the true and faithful, but unintentional, index
to the general cast of thought, engendered by this wise and
humane policy, and of the ever-present feeling of instability
and insecurity to which it gives birth in the minds of those
who administer it. Apply the same principle to money —
to Company's paper — which is only one species of property,
its nature comes immediately home, and one turns revolted
away at the abuse of power, at the abuse of reason, which
would make the public rapine of money the parent of public

I have entered gravely and seriously into an examination
and exposure of this case, but not more gravely or more
seriously than I think it deserves. What specially deter-
mined me to this course, — what, in fact, has made it
imperative, — were conversations I had, after the Canara
affairs, with two of the oldest retired Native servants.
These men have no individual grievance, are men of rank
and consideration, and cannot be suspected of disaffection ;
but the late extreme, most lamentable, and unfortunate


panic, which was propagated from one end of the country
to the other, had ruffled and broken the usual cahn of the
surface — it was an occasion, when even cautious men
speak out; and the subdued feeUngs rose and found vent
in a bitterness of tone and remark, which flashed conviction
to me, as to what was passing in the minds of the upper
classes of Natives, and formed the leading subject of con-
versation among them. I am no alarmist; but most true
is it, that I have reflected, from that time, upon my own
situation here with a doubt and solicitude I was before a
stranger to. What, indeed, more natural, than that the
Natives should feel, and at a fitting time say to me : " You
were seated and settled amongst us; You, at least, were no
flitting bird of passage, nor chance sojourner; 7/ou have
not the plea of ignorance, which thei/ may offer, to palliate
oppression; for t/ou not to reveal, was to sanction it." The
house I am now writing from, was once burned to the
ground, and my Father and Mother turned penniless on the
world, by men who were stirred to vengeance by a similar
conviction — truth and the public records can declare how
erroneous! It is in me, therefore, a duty to state my con-
scientious belief, that there prevails throughout all classes
a deep, intolerable feeling of hatred and disgust, at the
insecurity of property, and the destruction of all confidence
and all enjoyment, produced by these annual surveys and
assessments; and a yearning to be rid of them, that would
turn to almost any quarter for relief. Pause upon this one
instance : a Revenue Officer and Smveyor demanded 100 Rs.
as the price of not raising the Annual revenue of an Amshum
(Parish); the money was collected and paid to liim ; after
which the Jumma (yearly demand) comes back from the
Talook (County), raised by him 80 Rs. ! After this, think
for a moment what might be tlie consequences, if the People
were only brought to believe, that five or ten thousand
Arabs, or Russians, or Turks, any nation thei/ t/iink a
match for our European Troops, had landed, and would


deliver them from Revenue Surveyors! Nor let it be
forgotten, that their credulity is in proportion to their

The wit of man can devise but one mode of putting
an end to iniquities like these; that is, by fixing the
demand upon the land for twenty-five years, and by
enacting, that so long as this demand is discharged, any
Revenue Officer interfering with the proprietor, in any
manner whatsoever, shall be sent on the roads for fourteen
years. There are but two springs that can animate and
invigorate human industry ; the certainty of enjoying the
present, and of benefitting by the future. Dry not up
these springs, for with them withers every germ of attach-
ment to the Government. Restore security, and revive
hope, the balm of life, wherever life there is, and the peo-
ple of Malabar will ever show themselves to be as indus-
trious, as enterprising, as submissive to the laws, and as
attached to the Government, as any people subject to its

I have addressed you, because you are on the spot, and
I had mentioned some of the particulars of this letter, but
pray communicate it to *

I am, yours, (fee,


* This letter, addressed privately to the Sub-Collector, relates only
three cases of rice-fields, the undoubted property of a private landlord,
which were abandoned by the cultivating tenants, in consequence of the
exorbitant money assessment fixed upon, and demanded for, these fields
by the Government Surveyors and Assessors, who are a the Govern-
ment Revenue and Police Officers, in immediate authority over the cul-
tivators, — demanded eight years before the landlord was entitled to
receive a rupee of rent.

I instanced only these three cases, my object and my wish being
merely to lead to enquiry, and, if possible, to redress.

But, besides these three, there were in this one parish alone, fourteen
other fields, all also the private property of individuals, — all, like them.



Anjarakandy, 6 Jh/j/,1 832.

I HAVE the honour herewith to transmit an answer
to your Malayalim letter (the Native language) of the 28th
ult., requiring to know the quantity of Tobacco consumed

in progress of being cleared, reclaimed, and cultivated, all of which
were also obliged to be given up and deserted by the tenants for the very
same cause. I particularly asked the head of the parish (Potail) and
the Accountant, whether there had been anything underhand in the
granting or taking of the leases, whether there had been any attempt at
fraud or concealment on the part of the tenants. These authorities de-
clared there had been nothing of the kind ; that, so far from anything
clandestine being thought of, the tenants gave due notice that they had
obtained cultivating leases, in conformity to the 'uiunemorlal practice of
the country, and in the usual form, and were going to reclaim the lands
leased to them.

The date of the letter is June 1837. On the 2d or 3d of December,
two or three days before I sailed from Tellicherry, as I was passing the
Sub-Collector's Cutcherry, the Head of the Parish and the Accountant
ran out to speak to me. They said that they themselves, and the princi-
pal and most influential persons of the Parish had all been sent for, and
were now at the Cutcherry, where they had received positive orders from
the Head Slieristedar (chief Native Officer) to make the refractory culti-
vators, whose cases I had related, and ivho were also brought in and
there detained, to make these men consent and submit in writing to pay
the Government Assessment fixed upon their fields; rather than pay
which, when first demanded, the cultivators had borne the loss of all
their outlay, and had abandoned their fields for four whole years. There
is a favourite Madras Revenue phrase called, " Sumjui'shing the Rt/ots."
Is the meaning of the phrase desired ? This is the real, uniform, prac-
tical, meaning of it ; using means like these to force the Natives, by the
instrumentality generally of head Native Officers, to cultivate the land,
upon any terms whatsoever that are dictated to them by those Govern-


monthly in these five Parishes. I have stated tliat this
quantity fluctuates from three to five Chippums (the name
of the package in which the Govt. Tobacco is retailed) ac-
cording to the season of the year ; and the explanation of
this fluctuation is so completely illustrative of the con-
dition of the lower classes of people, who are the great
consumers of Tobacco, that I beg you will permit me to
say a few words upon it, in English.

The falling off' in the consumption from five to three
Chippums, or two-fifths of the whole quantity, takes
place during the months of Meedhoonum, Karkadagum,
and Chingum (June, July and August); during which
months there is no demand for labour, for there remains
nothing to pay it with, and a stop is put by the annual
rains to the inland carrying trade, which, in the absence of
every species of carriage or beast of burthen, necessarily
employs a great number of men. In Kannee (September)
the first crop of rice comes in ; other crops follow, Ponuni
(hill rice), Modum (dry grains), Moondone (December rice).
Pepper; the carrying trade is resumed, and the consump-
tion of Tobacco increases, until the return of Meedhoonum,
when the same falling oflf takes place as before.

nient Officers, not allowing them even to abandon it; and making, first,
their property (if tliey have any), next their persons, answerable for the
entire demand ; nay, I have known their children to be taken up and
confined for it, and I have known this act to be J'ruitlesslj/ represented
and complained of. There was, I much fear, on the present occasion,
another lesson to be taught to these Natives, and to all others around
them ; the lesson of the good they would get, by presuming to go to a
European }iol in the service, and comjjlaining to him, because he would
listen and could understand them, of the losses, grievances, and oppres-
sion they suffered from the public Officers: in whose hands, it is their
own universal conviction that the union of all Revenue and of all Police
authority over them is expressly designed and maintained, for the sole
purpose of stifling their complaints, or if they should venture to make
a eomplaint, of providing the means whereby their hardihood shall
sooner or later be punished, the crime being one that is never forgotten
nor forgiven.


The quantity of Tobacco which a labouring man, if he
can buy it, consumes a day is one-quarter of a pice, or
half a farthing's, worth ; and it is an undoubted fact that
for three months of the year, he is without the means of
purchasing even this quantity of what to him is, not a
luxury, but a necessary of life; for if he would starve
without rice, he cannot loork without Tobacco. I repeat,
that he cannot earn this money, or the money's worth.
Such, after forty years of nearly uninterrupted peace, is
the accumulation of capital, or, in other words, the fund
for employing productive labour in this country !

Far be it from me to breathe a syllable in disparage-
ment o^ the good intentions of the Government towards the
people. But the truth must be told, and optimists awakened
from their day-dreams : that truth is, that wherever such a
state of things as I have described habitually prevails, it is
as plain as demonstration, that the condition of the great
body of the people cannot be progressive.

I have, the honour to be,

Sec. &c.


The official requisition on the subject of Tobacco W'as
addressed to me, as the person through whom the public
revenue of the five Parishes is collected and paid in. This
revenue has been so collected and paid for the last forty
years, and every local public duty discharged, without one
Rupee of expence to the Government. The Government
had, for tiuelve years, annually revived and kept suspended
over me, together with the arrears, a demand for land-tax
charged in the public Accounts, not against my lands, but
generally against the five Parishes ; the amount of which


must have irretrievably ruined any Native placed in the
same situation. From the first, I had simply requested

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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 18 of 19)