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 4 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 4 of 19)
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But these, howsoever painful, are only very limited illustrations of the
effect of these "Rules" upon the personal protection and happiness
meted out to a people in the state of society, where the " Rules " were
devised and promulgated. " Manners," observes one of the first and
wisest of men (Burke), "are of more importance than laws. Upon them,
in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but now and
then, here and there. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify,
exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform,
insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe. They give their
whole form and colour to our lives. According to their quality, they aid
morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them."

To picture, then, the kind of manners by which some among the
governing class scruple not " to debase " those who cannot resist them,
it must now be stated, that I have known it to be an order in a Court of
Justice, given to the Judge's tipstafis, whenever a Native present hap-
pened to sneeze, or to cough, or spit, to take the offender by the neck
and shoulders, and thrust him out of Court. It will be found entered,
in plain letters, on the records of another Court of Justice, that a Judge
dismissed one of the Native Officers, and reduced him to beggary, for the
crime of not having bowed to the ground sufficiently low, one morning
when the Judge entered the Court; the culprit had bowed, it was admit-
ted, but the Kotou was not abject enough !

It has been known that a Judge, when sitting on the Bench, would


the Judge should (to transh\te in plain, unambiguous words
the threat held over him) be forthwith removed, and sus-
pended from office !

send one of his tipstaffs to the beach, at the time the boats were return-
ing from fishing, have a large basket of fish brouglit into Court, and the
contents all turned out on the floor; select from them the best and
freshest fish for his tiffin (noon-day meal) or dinner, and then order the
Bramin Treasurer of the Court to pay for this fish ; thus fitly finishing
this scene, gone through in a Court of Justice called British before all
the Natives present, without the smallest reserve or compunction, by
putting the grossest outrage he could put upon this man's personal and
religious feelings ; an outrage so gross that the Treasurer immediately
wrote his resignation of office.

It is wholly superfluous to observe that, in Courts of Justice so pre-
sided over, corruption and venality among the Native Officers of it must
be the rule. 1 have in my possession a letter from a Native to a suitor,
offering to obtain a decree for the latter for 20 Rupees (£2 sterling). But
let me here add, that there are exemplary and noble exceptions ; that I have
known, and know, Judges deserving of the high rewards which their
country can bestow ; whose righteous cond uct lives engraved on the hearts,
and embalmed in the memories, of the grateful Natives; Judges, whose
names rise to my pen, as they dwell in my mind, were my painful duty
with names, and not with things.

Morals cannot be disunited from manners, and to those I must now
pass. I will not do more than allude to the commonness of the practice,
of employing the public Peons, given to functionaries for their personal
honour, in pandering for their private pleasures ; that is to say, to em-
ploying a Native Oflicer, clothed witli one of the Honourable Company's
badges of Office, and receiving public pay, in the degrading avocation of
a p — p. But I ask, and let virtuous men answer the question, let them,
I say, think of the honour of their country, and fearlessly answer it;
whether, for several years, it was not a subject of conversation at Madras,
and on the Madras side, both among Europeans and Natives, that a
Judge had appointed his chief p — p to the office of Moonsif, had ap-
pointed this person to the office of Native Judge over his countrymen, to
the first office in honour to which a Native can aspire ? I myself knew
and saw a Native Officer made a Judge, who, some years before, had
brought a female he called his sister to the house of the European Judge,
newly appointed to the Court, (it is from the latter's mouth that I repeat
the relation,) thinking by such means to secure his favour. But trans-
cending all belief would be the following narrative, if 1 had not received
it from a gentleman higli in tiio Service, and well informed of the parti-

I) 2


21. I am aware, and I have no doubt tlie circumstance
will elsewhere be brought prominently forward and insisted
on, as a proof of rigid impartiality, that, in the words of
this " Consultation" which were designed to meet distant
eyes, the Magistrate is linked together in the same censure

culars. Some time ago, the Sheristedar of a Court of Justice, that is,
the Native Officer next in rank and dignity to the European Judge, had
a beautiful and virtuous wife ; in every respect, in her own country,
a hdij, both by birth and education. The Judge heard of her beauty,
and scrupled not to send proposals to her. She rejected them witli the
liveliest scorn and indignation. A short time after, it was discovered in
Court that the husband had committed some fault, deserving of (sus-
pension from office, and he was suspended. In a few days again, the
Court Officers saw him restored; the wretched wife had been brought to
submit to the violation of her person, as the price of his restoration !

Now let any man, — let any Englishman, read this, think of this, think
of these people, think of only one such deed being done to them, — of its
being known, and talked of even in a whisper, and then let him turn to
and think of tliese "Rules 1" " Rules" enjoining and obliging the pros-
trate victims of conduct such as this, if they sought redress, to petition
the wrong-doer ; ordering the husband to proclaim his dishonour, the
wife to detail her shame and violation, by petition in open Court, and
obtain "a written endorsement!" the Governor in Council declaring to
them and to all Natives, that he " will not receive a petition on any matter
unless it shall appear that the petitioner has applied successively to the
subordinate officer and to the Board or Court ! " Let a man think, that the
framer,orframers, of these " Rules" are the persons for whose chief benefit
and advantage the Government is devised, and by whose sole voice it
is conducted ; and that they seized the moment of obtaining to the
" Rules" the sanction of a young Nobleman, scarcely landed, inexpe-
rienced, high principled, confiding in those placed around him, with a
heart overflowing with kind and generous emotions towards all men,
and who would sooner have cut off his right hand than have affixed it to
such a paper, could he have been brought to conceive all that its provi-
sions would sanction and let loose upon the people, he was sent to listen
to and protect. To complete the picture, let it be known, that the
" Rules" were hailed by the Madras authorities, with hardly an excep-
tion, with the loudest praise: this production being, it seems, the last
stone wanting to complete the work of their hands : it being their " Bill
of Rights !" Fitting is it, tiiat the Natives be gagged, and every alien
Englishman driven out of the country !


as his superior, the Circuit Judge. The eyes, the senses,
and the fears, however, which were really and immediately
meant to be addressed by it, were those of the European
and Native public of Mangalore ; where English is com-
monly read, and fluently and correctly spoken and written
by many Natives ; and where, in order that all men might
discriminate, without the possibility of mistake, the func-
tionary against whom the censure of the Governor in
Council was fulminated, while this "Consultation" was
produced in one hand, the Magistrate had the power of
producing, as he did produce, in the other, constant, fre-
quent, confidential letters, written to him by a Member of
the Government, the President of the Board of Revenue,
his immediate superior ; letters not merely conveying entire
approval and hearty praise of his conduct throughout, but
going the length of, in a manner, courting his suffrage and
his favor; a degree of confidence and unflinching support,
which was the general topic of conversation at Mangalore,
and was there openly ascribed, to the well-known and oft-
repeated circumstance, of the Magistrate having a near
connection a Member of your Honourable Court, to his pos-
sessing the ability to influence and command votes in the
Court of Proprietors, and hence the plain, open inference,
that supporting him, at all hazards, was the conduct which
would prove most acceptable to your Honourable Court, and
be remembered as an eventual passport to your favor, and
that of the Court of Proprietors.

22. Now, let your Honourable Court picture to yourselves,
if the human mind can bring itself to picture it, the condi-
tion of the people of Canara. Martial law proclaimed, its
sentences executed without reference to Madras, a Circuit
Judge silenced in his vain efforts to discharge his duty^
by the opprobrious censure of having given way to private
feelings, the law henceforth dead, the Magistrate encour-
aged to persevere in the career, oflicially described and
denounced, by the strongest private countenance and



support ; the Governor de facto deaf to the people, the
Council de facto deaf to them, every person, every power,
every authority, deaf to them; and lastly, to crown and
consummate this scene, the hearts of your Honourable Court
represented and believed to be seared and closed, the
feelings of the Court of Proprietors to be hardened and
deadened to their complaints, by local influences and by
private interests so powerful and all-absorbing, yet so inef-
fably selfish and sordid, that their cries would be received
and regarded here, in England, the sacred dwelling-place
of humanity, as the idle wind, even if Heaven should lend
its blasts to make them audible across the globe !

23. Your Honourable Court will fly from this picture ;
you, and all men who behold it, will rush into incredulity
and scepticism, to escape from a stupor of horror. Be it so.
Be incredulous : call me, if you will, a maligner and calum-
niator. This is relief, to labouring longer with this dreadful
incubus, fatal to all peace and to all rest. But there exists
a disproof of the truth of this representation, a disproof of
it perfectly clear, obvious, ready, and easy ; and nothing
but this disproof will, or can, suffice. It is this. Every
letter, and every part of a letter, which a Member of the
Government wrote to the Magistrate of Canara, or he to a
Member of the Government, touching his conduct, his
duties, his differences, or the stateof his Province, through-
out this melancholy period, was a demi-official letter. Every
one of these letters must be in existence, in the original,
must be, or it ought to be, on record. There can, on such
an occasion, and on such subjects, be no seal of privacy,
no destruction. Let all these letters be produced, and let
them contradict what has been declared to me, what I am
forced to believe, and am now forced to declare, relate
although it does to men, whom I never met, never thought
of, nor ever thought of mentioning, but with feelings of
kindness and esteem. But |)ending the production of these
letters before the authorities, who have an undoubted


right to call for and see them, and to pass judgment upon
the tendency and effects, which their contents were calcu-
lated to have upon the minds of the people at Mangalore,
your Honourable Court will admit the force of the reasons
which kept me away from thence ; you will feel in your
own breasts all the force of the execration I should deserve,
if, following a first and strong impulse, I had gone thither,
and exposed one Native more, could one Native have been
found possessed of moral courage enough to approach, and
not to fly from, me as from pestilence and death, to the
chance of the calamities in which such multitudes around
felt hopelessly involved.

24. Having produced before your Honourable Court this
*' Minute of Consultation," the severity of truth demands
that, among whatever number the legal responsibility of it
may be divided and diminished, the moral responsibility
which attaches to this deliberate act, before the tribunal of
public opinion, should be traced and fixed to the real
author, or authors.

25. The Governor in Council then of Madras, de facto,
during the wholeof this period, consisted of the Commander-
in-Chief, nearly an entire stranger to India, who it was
believed and understood restricted his interference and
control to his own immediate department, and of one
civil Member of Council, the President of the Board of
Revenue ; upon whom devolved, and who in point of fact
exercised, all the executive functions of the Government.
His Lordship the Governor was absent from Madras,
between Bangalore and Ootacamund,from Juneto October;*
the other civil Member, who completes the Council (for
nearly twenty previous years, the able and respected head
of the Board of Revenue, but in Council made the titular
President of the Fonjdaree Udalut,) was also absent on the
Neilgherrics, all the time, on account of his health, which

* See Asiutic Jouriuil for November ;iiid December, 1H37.


speedily after compelled 1) is retirement. His Lordship the
Governor of Madras de jure, therefore, was as ignorant, and
all men will feel persuaded, as innocent, of " the Minute of
Consultation of the Governor in Council of Madras" de
facto, until the Minute was recorded, and dispatched,
and had been read, and passed from hand to hand at Man-
galore, as if His Lordship had been all the time, where he
was a few months before, in Great Britain. That I may
not be suspected of stating to your Honourable Court a
circumstance, upon which the public of Madras were suf-
fered to be in the least doubt or ignorance, or which does
not rest upon official proof, your Honourable Court need
only refer in evidence to the Fort St. George Gazette of the
period in question, where it will be seen that, during His
Lordship's absence, all acts of the Government are headed
in the name, and were done under the authority, of " The
Governor in Council ;" while, immediately upon His Lord-
ship's return, the more ample and expanded formula of,
" His Lordship the Right Honourable the Governor in
Council," prefaced as heretofore, and ushered forth, the
deliberations of the Government.

26. Having felt debarred by the strongest reasons from
repairing to Canara, I cautiously abstained in the letters I
addressed to the Government, and which are before your
Honourable Court, from adverting to the causes of the dis-
turbances there ; to the complaints and grievances which
drove a simple, quiet, peaceable, inoffensive race of men to
assemble from their wilds and jungles, and commit riots.
That I have truly represented the disposition and character
of these people, I refer your Honourable Court to the testi-
mony of Mr. Viveash Baskerville, and of Mr. F.Anderson
of the Madras Civil Service, both now in England ; who,
I am sure, will suffer me to mention their names in the
cause of truth and humanity. The first gentleman will
tell your Honourable Court that he was the Principal Col-
lector and Magistrate, when the Coorg districts below the


Ghauts, the original seat of the disturbances, were annexed
to the Province of Canara, and was the Collector who first
made " Jumma-bundee " with the people; that is to say,
using English language and intelligible speech, who first
commuted, agreeably to the much-lauded and extolled Ma-
dras Ryotwar Revenue System, the definite assessment hi
produce and in kind upon their lands, which these people had,
from the beginning of time, paid to their Rajahs, into, what
is called a Jixed annual maximum assessment in money;
a change which they received and obeyed with all respect
and with all humility, as if it had been the fiat of Superior
Wisdom. Mr. F. Anderson will tell your Honourable
Court, that he made these annual Settlements for the three
following years with the Gowdas, such is the caste name
of the chiefs among these people; and that he found them
all as quiet, docile, and well-disposed as they had previously
showed themselves to his predecessor.

27. Not one of these people had I an opportunity of
seeing and questioning, and of learning from themselves
their subjects of complaint. But every Native of Canara,
whom I saw and spoke to, stated, without exception, the
cause of the first disturbance to have been the following.
The Gowdas and Natives of the new districts had gone on
paying for three years, or as long as they could pay, this new
fixed maximum Money assessment demanded from them,
until all their means of raising it from other sources being
exhausted, they could pay it no longer. They represented
their inability to the Collector's Sheristedar, on his Jumma-
bundee arrival at Pootoor in March ; they said, money they
had not, but there was their produce, let him take that,
as their Rajahs had always done (and let one single instance
be proved of any Native, in any part, refusing to pay his
assessment in produce, as long as he has produce to pay).
The Sheristedar told them in reply, that he had nothing to
do with their produce ; that they must pay down in money,
or, in default, their cattle and moveables should be attached


and sold, and these failing, their lands, according to Regu-
lation : proceeding, as some said, to execute the threat,
others said, using it only to intimidate and silence the com-
plainants. Whether this, or the reverse, be true, the
assembled people, hearing or fearing the threat, exclaimed,
** What are we to do without our plough-cattle ? how till
our fields next rains ? can we plough with nothing left but
our hands and nails? Starve then, it is clear, we must next
year; so we may as well be killed, and die at once."
Whereupon they seized their clubs and bill-hooks, seized
the Sheristedar and his fellow-servants at Pootoor; and
having next succeeded in making the Collector and a party
of one hundred and fifty Sepoys retreat from thence in the
middle of the night, they naturally deemed and reported
themselves to be invincible.

28. This account of the origin of the riots is so natural,
so clothed with probability, so illustrative of, and so accord-
ant with, every page in the Revenue History of Madras,*

* It is not possible, nor is this the place, to produce all these accu-
mulated pages of Madras Revenue Management. In 1802, when the
Province of Malabar was transferred, by a stroke of the pen, from
Bombay to.Madras, a "crack" Ryotwar Collector, an original tleve of the
system, arrived from Coimbetoor, followed by one assistant, a mere
youth, and a host of hereditary Potails (village headmen), on five rupees
a month, and other such statesman-like devices, to supersede a dozen
experienced Bombay functionaries. In about eighteen months, this
Collector contrived to kindle a furious civil war, from one end of the
Province to the other; having done this, he disappeared by the light,
leaving the conflagration to be extinguished by torrents of blood, at the
cost of lacs and lacs of rupees, and by the conversion of the homes and
habitations of men into, what they continue to be to this day, the lairs of
wild beasts. This solitude was then called " internal peace !"

The two following instances, drawn from different countries, and
exhibited at long intervals of time the one from the other, show that no
amount of experience is effectual in teaching wisdom, moderation, and
reflection at iMadras.

" Another measure was tried by the Commissioners of the Presidency
of Fort St. George (1796); namely, to tax, in the first instance, all cocoa-


so strictly confirmed by the narrative which the Criminal
Judge gave, from the first, to the Governor in Council ;
reporting that, "The Collector of the District, without
having the slightest idea of any spirit of disaffection existing
in the District, received information (30th March) from a
Tahsildar (Head Native Officer of Revenue and Police) of
a Talook (County), bordering upon the confines belonging

nut trees, at the rate of one fanara each yearly. The collection of this
tax occasioned again a general discontent, which soon broke forth into
an open opposition; and it was speedily found expedient to abandon it.
The reasons offered against this tax were, that it was laid on an article of
raw produce, and one of the necessaries of life ; — that it was laid, too, in
a most unequal proportion ; for all trees, not only the most productive,
but those which were the least so, had been taxed according to the same
rate of one fanam per tree : {making the tax, in some cases, forty, itiolhers,
not so much as six, per cent.) A tax of this nature must inevitably have
been vexatious in the extreme : and its being imposed in money rendered
it at that time particularly difficult to be complied with, because money
was then exceedingly scarce in Ceylon. If we judge, in fact, from the
feelings of the natives, the latter circumstance (namely, the payment of
the tax in money) was the most disagreeable part of it ; because they
offered to contribute, instead of it, the tenth part of the produce of the
trees in kind, which was imprudently refused: the good opportunity was
then lost, and it afterwards became necessary to relinquish it altogether." /
(Bertolacci's Ceylon, p. 323.)

From the Principal Collector of to Captain , Ootacamund,

December 2d, 1831 :—

" Sir,— I have the honour to apprise you that I have forwarded to the
Cash-keeper at Ootacamund a certificate in your favour of the permission
of Government for you to occupy the land therein described, together
with a bill for fees due to the Register of Grants at the Presidency,
amounting to Rupees 35.

" This charge has been authorised by Government, as well as the
assessment of Quit-rent on all lands on the Neilgherries, whether within
or without the Cantonment, for which grants or licences may be issued, at
the uniform rate of 5^ Rupees per Cawney."

A Cawney is Ijd Acre; "the assessment on all lands" was annual.
The rent, therefore, demanded from an occupier for every acre of a tract
of mountain land which, from the Hood, had been waste, and whether


to the late Rajah of Coorg, that numbers of the inhabi-
tants of the Coorg country had suddenly risen, and taken
possession of the treasure, amounting to about 15,000
Rupees, together with the Head Sheristedar and his
Cutcherry of Servants, who were on Jiimmahundi/ at the
place :" all these proofs drawn from opposite quarters,
European and Native, lead me to place more than ordinary
confidence in the general correctness of the account,
although to ascertain its strict truth obviously required

required for building or for agricultural purposes, was fixed bj/ the
Government in 1831, at ten shillings an acre, equal, according to the
different value of money, to about £lO in England!

Asiatic Journal. — October, 1838.
" The Madras papers state, that Government has ordered an assess-
ment on all the petty cultivation of the Neilgherries, and that the conse-
quence has been, that the place is fast falling into its former state ; the
little gardens that had given employment and support to many, and
furnished the tables of the visitants with a plentiful supply of superior
vegetables, being abandoned."

And what is this region, which is in progress of being reconverted into
a wilderness? It is one, the possession of which is the same, as if a part
of the South of France or of North Italy had been transplanted, and set
down in the heart of the Madras territories; a region, blessed with a very
fertile soil, and the salubrious climate of tlie temperate zone; highly
restorative in most tropical maladies, and particularly delightful at the
season of the year when the heats rage in the countries below, and render
change to such a scene and temperature a priceless bounty, which one
would think Providence had bestowed upon all Europeans in India, for
the express restoration and preservation of their health and mental
energies. It is, in truth, a spot capable of being made one of the most
delightful residences in the world.

But the laud assessment expels the Natives out of it, who were con-
verting that land into "gardens;'' it starves the Europeans out of it, for
want of the necessaries of life, and forces them to the Cape, where it is

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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 4 of 19)