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

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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 2 of 19)
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persons that were being publicly executed; of being privy
to the deaths of the greater number who were dying in jail
at Mangalore, all without another human being than my-
self to undertake their cause, or say one word, nut in their
defence, but in revelation of the real facts of the case; being
further made privy to the nameless horrors, to which their
homes and families were delivered up ;* at length, I ad_

* Let any man read the following extract of a letter : —

Mangalore, 9th May, 1837.

" 's detachment appears to be the acting one, 's the looting

(plundering). The Bombay officers (including those of H.M. 6th, who
returned yesterday) cry 'shame, shame!' I hear. On the lUh the hang-
ing will commence, I presume. The ravishing is said to have been exe-
cuted by 's detachment already. The people fly whenever it ap-
proaches their villages. The people here were in great alarm yesterday,
having heard of the performances in the Mofussil (the inland country),
and htlitvcd that the town was to be given up for three days' loot (sack
and plunder) from to-day !"


dressed the Governor in Council, supplicating for mercy
for the rest of these ignorant, unfortunate, misguided crea-
tures ; showing, from the private, familiar testimony of a
native to his own family circle, that they were, from the
beginning, a mere mob ; imploring, not that he would credit
me, but that he would grant a brief space for enquiry and
investigation, and suspend his belief in their guilt or inno-
cence, until he read their trials, and heard the judgment
upon the events, which impartial, unbiassed men of rank
and character, deputed to the spot, should pronounce :

( If writing, as I believed I was writing, under the seal
of confidence which, from a British subject, a landholder,
and a Justice of the Peace, in my situation, it will, I think,
be held, that it was no less the interest of the Governor in
Council to encourage, than it was his duty to respect, the
feelings which overwhelmed me labouring for utterance,
betrayed me into an undue warmth of expression, not war-
ranted by the necessity, the urgency, or the fearful magnitude
of the occasion, or that was calculated to wound the feel-
ings of the functionaries, of whom, and of whose conduct,
it was my duty to speak, in a degree beyond what the plain,
undisguised narrative of harrowing, yet indisputable occur-
rences, which men would give a thousand after-lives to
recal, must ever wound; or if, having for my object to
arouse and, if possible, to arrest the Government in its
career of spreading universal hatred and abhorrence of the
British name, it shall be thought, that eternal, impartial
truth could have suffered me to stop short in what I wrote
to attain that object, even if the hazard were the severing
for ever of the ties of long, inviolable, friendships cemented
in other climes, and of ending the hitherto unbroken rela-
tions of private life with others around me ; if this be my
error or my crime, I shall lament it, and join in its con-

(32) That the next step taken by the Governor in Coun-
cil, at the lapse of more than five months after the official


report of the Criminal Judge had been before him, was, to
appoint a Commission, consisting of a MiUtary and of a
Civil Member, the latter a Member of the Board of Reve-
nue, "to inquire" (in the words of the Gazette, 16th
Sep., 1837) "into the causes of the late insurrection in
Canara, &,c. :"

(33) That in a month (20th Oct.) the Military Member,
Major-General Vigoureux, was relieved from the Commis-
sion for the reason that his Regiment, H.M. 45th, was
under orders, as it was when he was appointed, for embark-
ation to England from Madras; and was succeeded by
Major General Fearon, C.B., Deputy-Adjutant-General to
H.M.'s forces, who again, on the 1st December, "was per-
mitted, in consequence of certified ill-health, to relinquish
the appointment of Commissioner : "

(34) That no Military Member replaced General Fearon;
and that four days after his resignation, on the 5th Dec,
the Civil INIember likewise appeared in the Gazette, as
permitted to proceed to sea for eighteen months on medical
certificate, none of the Members having to that time pro-
ceeded further than Bangalore :

(35) That after the Commission was announced, — after
it was known that the appointment of the Commission
ascribed to my letters to Madras and Bengal was a sub-
ject of annoyance to certain of the authorities at Man-
galore, — and after those authorities had had private,
secret possession of one of my letters to the Governor
in Council of Madras, for three months, a respectable
Native of Mangalore declared to me and to other persons
at Tellicherry, referring to and producing a Native Officer
of Canara to corroborate the truth of what he said, that
he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, the
town-crier go about the town with a Proclamation, prohi-
biting the inhabitants from even speaking of the scenes
and events they had witnessed, and been made the innocent
victims of, under pain of being immediately seized, and
sent to jail :


(36) Lastly, that such was the monstrous distortion,
such the unpardonable exaggeration, with which the riots
in Canara were coloured and industriously reported, far
and near, that the Natives of the adjoining Province of
Malabar were alarmed and convulsed, for a season, and in
a manner beyond belief; a season, which the Collector of
the Province, on the spot, and in the midst, has designated
as " a trying time," to all who witnessed it, and had a stake
in the country, or who felt any anxiety for the maintenance
of public tranquillity, or for the continuance and stability
of the British rule.

4. Such, however numerous, their cumulative weight
residing still more in their gravity and importance than
in their number, are the leading and strikingly promi-
nent features of the case, which I did myself the honour
of laying before your Honourable Court, on the 2nd of last

5. A cursory perusal of the letters would, I conceived,
show, that the evidence upon which rest by far the greater
number of the facts and occurrences related, are indisputa-
ble official reports and records, transmitted to the Gover-
nor in Council of Madras ; and that the proof of the
remainder is of that direct, connected, and presumptively
credible nature, as would secure its reception and im-
mediate consideration in any ordinary case, demanding en-
quiry, a fortiori in so unexampled a case as the present ;
wherein the suppliant is not the humble individual who
addresses you, but in which the real suppliants,for hearing
and for redress, are a million and a half of Natives, the
subjects of one of your Madras Provinces, and through
them, the whole body at large of the Natives of your Indian
Empire; in bringing whom before the eyes of your Honour-
able Court, the more visibly because they are unseen, let
me be suffered to say, with every sentiment of respect, that
the Creator has seen fit, and has been pleased, to endow
them likewise with reason, to gift them with speech, and


to possess them uiili human feelings. Hence the hope
felt, that your Honourable Court would take, on the occa-
sion, some public, decisive steps in the briefest space
required for deliberation and due preparation.

6. Presumptuous indeed would it have been, to call it
by no harsher name, if so humble a person as the writer
had suffered any suggestion to emanate from himself; if,
losing sight of the deference and consideration due to your
Honourable Court, I had not stiictly confined myself, at
that stage, to a simple exhibition and illustration of the
official correspondence, which took place before I left India.
There are occasions, when the path which justice and
patriotism, which public duty and private honor dictate, is
so plainly and imperiously pointed out, that to hint at that
path, to men possessed of high-mindedness and self-
respect, is justly held and received in the light of the most
inexpiable of insults.

7. The strict and unbroken silence, however, of so many
months, which your Honourable Court has preserved to-
wards me, notwithstanding a written and a verbal offer to
furnish any other information in my power, leads me greatly
to fear, that it is not the facts adduced, nor the evidence
alleged, which are so much open to doubt and suspicion,
as the channel through which the one and the other have
been brought before you ; and that the distrust, the dislike,
the discredit, and the discountenance with which your
Honourable Court were once wont to receive and treat all
conmiunications relative to India and its silent millions, from
persons whose lot it is not to be in your service, is regarded
as an all-sufficient reason why the present case, coming
from one of these persons, should likewise be passed over
sub silentio.

8. If this fear should, unhappily, be well-grounded, if,
what I am most averse to think, the ancient animosity felt
towards thesealien Englishmen, gaining strength from years,
prove at heart indestructible, I shall most deeply lament it;


not so much from the personal disgrace afflicting them and
myself, for —

"Suffering is the badge of all our tribe;"

as from this feeling being at the present time a great public
calamity, certain of producing very evil effects upon the
minds of the people of India, as well as fatal and most
pernicious consequences both upon the commercial and
upon the political interests of the Empire at large.

9. But finding it impossible to believe in the existence of
such a feeling, — believing rather, that the judgment of your
Honourable Court, however anxious to decide and act,
remains in suspense, from some broken, imperfect link,
requiring to be joined and connected, in order to render
entire, continuous, and complete the chain of evidence
illustrating the conduct held by the Government of Madras,
throughout the present occasion, ab ovo usque ad mala; it
becomes my duty, after this considerable pause, to supply
the apparent want to the best of my ability, by producing
some further testimony, all likewise official, in support of
what has been advanced ; testimony which, independent of
its extrinsic and intrinsic authority, impartiality may, per-
haps, be disposed to think entitled to be received with some
additional confidence, when it is stated, as it can be proved,
that the existence of this testimony was unknown to me in
July, when I did myself the honour of addressing your Se-

10. I proceed with the detail. The SpecialJudicial Com-
mission, already mentioned, which was ordered to proceed
to Mangalore, and immediately commence the civil trial
of the prisoners, arrived there in obedience to this order
on the 3rd of May, 1837. In addition to this special
duty devolved upon both, the senior of the two Judges
was charged with the further duty of the ordinary Circuit,
and directed to proceed with the half-yearly sessions and
jail-delivery of the province of Canara, in substitution



of his immediate senior, the first Judge of Tellicherry, to
whom this duty properly and in turn belonged.

11. Part of the oath taken by a Judge of Circuit is,
(Regulation 7th of 1802, sect. 5.) "that he will truly and
faithfully execute the duties of Judge — that he will admi-
nister justice according to the Regulations that have been, or
may be, enacted by the Governor in Council, to the best of
his ability, knowledge, and j udgment, without fear, favor,
promise, or hope of reward." He is enjoined by tbe same
Regulation (sec. 32) "to visit the jails on every Circuit."
The Judges of a Special Court or Commission are enjoined
to "proceed like Courts of Circuit;" and they are em-
phatically ordered, to ^'exercise all the powers and authorities,
vested in the Courts of Circuit by the Regulations." (Reg. 20,
of 1802, sect. 3.)

12. In obedience to tiiis soleami oath, and to these ex-
press Regulations; not to quote the orders of his immediate
superiors, the Court of Fonjdaree Udalut, alike binding and
imperative upon him; the Circuit Judge of the Commission
proceeded, on the 26th May, some weeks after his arrival
at Mangalore, to visit the jail, when, as he afterwards offi-
cially reported, "verbal complaints of unjust arrest were
made to him," by many among the prisoners with whom
the jail was crowded; but the Judge did not deem it
" necessary to call for explanation" at that time, for the
reason that " the number in confinement afforded reason-
able ground for conclusion, that even a slight enquiry, to
warrant detention, could hardly have been held in all cases,
though, even by that time, much, he conceived, might have
been done."

13. At the lapse of some more weeks, on the 16th or 17th
June, the Circuit Judge conceived it his duty again to visit
the jail. Again was he beset and overwhelmed with the
same complaints as on his first visit. He states, that, "a
boy only ten or eleven years of age, the son of a prisoner,
had been in confinement nearly four months" — that,


"another, a youth, was actually sent (for trial) before the
Special Commission, without ever having been confronted
with an accuser, and no one would, or ever did, accuse
him" — that "four Madras Coolies, who brought (and it
must be concluded, delivered) Stationery for the public
offices, were confined without the slightest ground for
suspicion." The Judge also found, " that the Magistrate had
a large body of men under a Military guard, independent
of 237 found in the regular jail of the Zillah, who may have
NO FRIENDS, OR OTHER MEANS, to bring the hardship
of their cases to Ms notice, and consequently before the higher
authorities" — that "he further had heard of most distress-
ing cases of despondency, which may naturally be expected,
when there are such frequent instances of persons being
led out for execution :" (meaning by this observation, as
I am persuaded the Judge did mean, that the prisoners in
jail were either dying of, or putting an end to their ex-
istence from, utter despair at the hopelessness of their
fate and treatment.)

14. For all these paramount reasons, from the surmise
grounded, as the Circuit Judge stated, " on uncontroverted
fact, that the innocent might be suffering," and " that
amid so much confusion, innocent persons may have been
arrested;" for the reason, that nearly three months had
elapsed since the suppression of the outbreak ; seeing " that
the Magistrate, Joint Magistrate, and two Assistants had
all been at the station for a considerable time ; " — having
reason " to believe that he (the Magistrate) had not made
due progress in ascertaining whether there was even slight
ground for detaining each person whom he had in custody;"
believing that " the Regulations, as well as the first princi-
ples of justice, obviously require, that the Magistrate should
lose no time in making a list of all persons in his custody,
or confined under his orders, showing the date of apprehen-
sion, and the cause:" for all these solemn and paramount
reasons, the Circuit Judge, conceiving that the time for



his interference had imperatively arrived, yet disclaiming all
" wish to embarrass the Magistrate, or to interfere unne-
cessarily with the execution of his duty," addressed one
requisition, then another (17th and 20th of June), to the
Magistrate ; the first simply calling for " a list of all prison-
ers who have not been brought to trial, the date of appre-
hension, and grounds for detention, according to a form ;"
the second, for the particulars of the case of a prisoner
named, a Native of Mi/soor, whose brother complained to the
Judge in open court, that he had presented two Jruitkss
petitions to the Magistrate.

15. A correspondence ensued between the Circuit Judge
and the Magistrate, which ended in the Magistrate rcfiisino;
compliance with one requisition or the other, and in his
appealing direct to the Governor in Council; before whom
the whole correspondence was likewise brought by the Fonj-
daree Udalut, the superiors of the Judge, accompanied by
a running conmientary to which it is wholly superfluous to
direct attention, exhibiting, as it does, a state of government,
a state of law, and a state of criminal justice, without a
parallel in any country believed to have a government, to
have laws, and to have courts of justice.*

* Extract from the proceedings of the Fonjdarce Udalut, under date
the 3d July, 1837:—

Read letters, dated respectively the 23d and 24th ultimo, from the 2d
Judge on Circuit in the Western Division, submitting copy of a corres-
pondence with the Magistrate of Canara respecting the number of
persons under his custody, charged with the commission of crimes
against the State, and adverting to the style and tenor of the ]\Iagistrale's
replies, and to liis " disposition" to evade compliance v/ith the requisitions
of his "precepts," requesting that the Court of Fonjdaree Udalut will
" obtain" for him " their support of" his " authority," and " the enforce-
ment of the subordination which the Regulations prescribe."

1. The cause of the 2d Judge first addressing the Magistrate, on the
subject of the number of prisoners in his custody, charged with crimes
against the State, is stated in his letter of the 17th June, 1837, to have
been to " enable him to communicate to the Court of Fonjdaree Udalut,


16. Immediately on the receipt of the Appeal from the
Magistrate, the Governor in Council, situated nearly five
hundred miles away from the place where all these scenes,

on the subject of the duties required of" him ; and he accordingly
requested to be informed of the number of prisoners in his custody, who
were likely to be brought before the Special Commission.

2. In reply, the Magistrate* informed the 2d Judge, that he had not
been able to make all the inquiry necessary to a due answer to the
question, but that he had fifteen cases then ready for the Special Com-
mission, and that he conceived at least thirty more would come before it.

3. The 2d Judge on Circuit, considering this information insufficient
for the purposes for which he required it, pointed out to the Magistrate,
in a letter, dated the 19th of the same month, that he wished to be in-
formed of the numher of prisoners likelij to be brought before the Special
Commission, and begged he would do him " the favour to say how
many" he had in custody, and give even a rough estimate " of the
number likely to be brought to trial."

4. The Magistrate replied, in the course of the same day, that he was
unable to answer the question " with even an approximation to correct-
ness ;" that the number of prisoners to be brought before the Special Cora-
mission would " depend on a variety of circumstances which" he could
not at that "time embrace;" that the various shades of guilt "in each
case must be considered," also " whether the case be" for a Court Mar-
tial or the Special Commission," and that " these questions" involved
"a sifting of evidence," for which there had "not as yet been sufficient

5. Upon receipt of this letter,f the 2d Judge on Circuit issued a
Precept to the Magistrate, pointing out " that the Regulations, as well as
the first principles of justice, obviously required, that the Magistrate
should lose no time in making a list of all persons in his custody, or
confined under his orders, shewing the date of apprehension, and the
cause of it," as it was " very possible that, amid so much confusion,
innocent persons" had " been arrested," — that on the 2d Judge " visiting
the jail on the 26th" of the previous month (May), " verbal complaints of
unjust arrest" had been "made to him," but that he had not deemed " it
necessary to call for explanation then," as the number in confinement
afforded reasonable ground for conclusion, that even a slight inquiry to
warrant detention could hardly have been held in all cases, though even

* Magistrate's letter, dated 19th June, 1837.

t Vide Pro. of the Court of Circuit of the 20th June, 1837.


all these sufferings, all these executions, all these distressing
cases of despondency, were daily occurring before the eyes

by that time "much might have been done;" that " such reason for non-
interference no longer" existed,— and that he could " foresee no difficulty
as to making sufficient inquiry to ascertain whether anij have been ground-
lessly seized, (a measure of obvious duty, as some had been taken so far
back as 6tl) of April), since the Magistrate, Joint-magistrate, and two
Assistants," iiad " all been at the station for a considerable time," — that,
therefore, he had resolved, " with reference to a petition from one Patia
Shetty" complaining " of the unjust detention of his brother, Padma
Shetty, an inhabitant of Mysore," to require the Magistrate to " submit
a list of all prisoners" then " in confinement, who had not been brought
to trial, the dates of apprehension, and grounds for detention," " in order
that the Judge on Circuit may be enabled to call for any further explana-
tion, or to make a representation to higher authority."

G. The 2d Judge on Circuit, at the same time, observed, that he
" would not wish to embarrass the Magistrate, or to interfere unneces-
sarily with the execution of his duty ; but as he was aware that the
Magistrate had a large body of men under a military guard, independently
of 237 whom he found in the regular jail of the Zillah, who may have
no friends, or other means, to bring the hardship of their cases to his
notice, and, consequently, before the higher authorities; and as further he
had heard of most distressing cases of despondency (which " might
naturally be expected when there" were " such frequent instances of
persons being led out for execution") he considered it " an urgent duty
to call for such statement without further delay."

7. Instead of conforming to the instructions contained in this precept,
or shewing cause for not doing so, the Magistrate, in his return of the
22d ultimo, merely acknowledged its receipt, stating that he had wished
" to avoid collision with the Circuit Judge, but finding this almost incom-
patible with his requisitions, he had determined to apply for the orders
of the Government."

8. The Court of Fonjdaree Udalut cannot but consider such a return,
addressed to a superior officer, as highly insubordinate. If the Magis-
trate objected to furnish the information required by the Judge of
Circuit, he should have stated the grounds of such objection, and
awaited the further instructions of the superior Court, and in the event
of the final orders being, in his opinion, contrary to the Regulations, it
would have been open to him, to have requested a reference to yet
higher authority.

9. At the same time the Judges must observe, that they consider the
proceedings of the 2d Judge, of the 20th June, 1837, open to objection,


of the Natives, all of whom were hourly exposed, in
addition, to the extreme rigours and terrors of Martial law ;

inasmuch as the reference made to the Magistrate respecting «// prisoners
in his custody, involved a call for information respecting prisoners liable
to be tried by Martial Law, over whom the 2d Judge could exercise no
jurisdiction; and with reference to the state of the District, the press of
business, and the difficulties surrounding the Magistrate, the call for any
information on the subject was, perhaps, inopportune.

10. The Court of Fonjdaree Udalut, however, give full credit to the
2d Judge's assertion, that humane and public motives alone dictated his

11. Witli respect to the return made by the Magistrate, under date
the 24th ultimo, to the precept issued by the Judge on Circuit of the
same date, calling for information in respect to the confinement of Pud-
raaya Shetty, the Court of Fonjdaree Udalut have only to observe, that
if the Magistrate had confined himself to the explanation afforded in
paragraph 2 of his return, there could have been no cause of objection;
but to proceed to " caution" the 2d Judge, in the style and tone adopted
in the 3d and 4th paragraphs of his return, is an instance of disrespect
and contempt of superior authority which, in the opinion of the Fonjdaree
Udalut, deserves severe reprehension.

12. The Governor in Council having called upon the Magistrate to
furnish the information in respect to the number of prisoners in confine-
ment, charged with crimes against the State, and the nature of the
evidence against them, which it was the object of the precepts issued by

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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 2 of 19)