Gentleman long resident in India.

Reflections on the present state of our East-India affairs; with many interesting anecdotes never before made public online

. (page 1 of 5)
Online LibraryGentleman long resident in IndiaReflections on the present state of our East-India affairs; with many interesting anecdotes never before made public → online text (page 1 of 5)
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Never before made public.

By Gentleman long refident in INDIA


Printed for T. LOWNDS, mFleet-ftreet. 1764.

17 C,^





" /" B A ^ ^ ^ ove ^ our country (lands

foremoft in the rank of human

B virtues; it is of fuch high efteem

that every man afpires at being

._ thought poffeffed of it. Its value to fo-

ciety being ineftimable, no wonder it is fo

ilrongly inculcated on individuals. We are

taught to ward off the danger of our country

at the rifque of our own fafety and lives.

a Can any one then who fees this danger with

large flrides approaching her, {land aloof, and

j not even give her the alarm ? I do not pre-

J tend to be the only fagacious perfon in thefe

^kingdoms ; but if others who do perceive

it fliould, through felfi&nefs or indolence,

B hold,


hold their peace, I, who have an equal inte-
reft with every other perfon in the general
weal, mall make ufe of the privilege which
that gives me, to fpeak. I have reafon to think
that the generality of people do not con-
ceive the common good and fafety to be fo
highly interefted in our commerce to the
Raft Indies as they really are ; but being
convinced that this trade is of the laft and
greateft import to England, and alfo appre-
hending it to be in imminent danger, I
hope that it will not be judged impertinent
in me to communicate my fears j which,
though they (hould at prefent prove vain,
yet will they anfwer one excellent end, viz.
that routing the attention of the publick
to this grand, though neglected object, it
may be induced to keep a watchful eye
over the conduct of that company, which
is by the nation entrusted with the charge
of what is termed by a judicious and well-
informed writer, a grand ivbeel of com-
merce, fitting all the others in motion, My
intention however is not to ftrike invi-
dioufly at the being of the company ; fo
far from it, I mall in the fequel endeavour
to remove the popular prejudices which
have been raifed againft it, being fatisfied
that inftead of bzmv prejudicial, it is abfo-
lutely neceffary to the exigence of this trade,
which in any other way could not fubfift



at all : But my defign is to prevent its
hiding from the eye of the public, by
fkinning it over, a wound which it hath
neither the fkill nor power to cure, while
the corruption proceeds inwards, till it feifes
and taints the vital parts.

As little has been written of late on the
fubject of our company's affairs, previoufly
to entering on the prefent fituation of them,
I (hall give a fhort and general view of
the importance of this trade to England,
and of the intereft the nation has in the
conduit and well-being of the company.
And though this may feem fuperfluous and
unneceffary to fuch as have already {ludied
it, yet to fuch as have not had leifure to
look into thefe matters, it will ferve to elu-
cidate what I am going to fay on the fub-
jecl, as well as by interefting them, engage
their attention. I (hall next take upon me
to give a (hort account of the nature of this
great company, as alfo of the manner
how, and by whom, their affairs are con-
dueled "in Europe } and {hall afterwards pro-
ceed to a detail of the nature and fituation
of their affairs in India.

Having before declared my reafons for
communicating my fentiments on this fub-
jedt to the public,! need not mention that
prejudice and envy can hold no place here ;
and I further hope that this integrity and
B 2 up-

. .

uprightnefs of the in ention will throw a
covering over the nakednefs and imperfec-
tions of the execution.

I am fen fible that the value of our Eaft-In-
dia trade has been greatly depreciated in the
eyes of my countrymen, by arguments ufed
as well againft the general utility of this
trade to Europe, as againft the particular
benefit arifing from it to England. Thefe
two, in this cafe, very difHn6t interefts,
have been on this occafion blended toge-
ther, and the force of both united, in or-
der to fink it in the eftimation of the pub-
lic; whereas to form a proper judgment
of its worth, thefe two interefts ought to be
moft carefully feparated. In forming the
calculation betwixt Europe and India, it
hath been advanced that bullion being the
true fign of trade, and the .balance in that
article being greatly againft the former, it
inuft of confequence be a very lofing trade
to Europe. It is not at all material to my
purpofe to decide this point, which is dif-
puted, and which to England is almoft en-
tirely fpeculative ; her bulinefs is to examine
whether it be or be not a lofing trade to her.
If (he gains while other European nations
lofe, it is naturally more the buiinefs of
thofe lofers than of England to obviate this
evil ; it would be weak and abfurd in her
to facrifice an evident intercfl to the general


( 5)

good of Europe, whilft (he has neighbours
who would very induflrioufly take up what
{he for fuch end laid down. But granting
bullion to be the true criterion of trade,
and that half of what our company fends
to purchafe her cargo in the Indies confifls
of that article, and never returns from
thence ; yet if the company doth replace
from other countries a fum equal to that
which fhe exports to India, and this by
her charter me is obliged to do, -that trade
cannot even by this flandard be deemed a
lofing one to England. The odium an-
nexed to the idea of monopoly and exclufive
trade has alfo fuggefled arguments aimed ei-
ther obliquely through the fides of the com-
pany, or directly again ft the trade itfelf. It
is faid that the nation has but a diftant con-
cern in the intereft of the company, who
dividing the benefit and profits arifing from
their trade amongft the proprietors of their
ftock, the exiflence of it is of little more
confequence to the nation, than that of
fome great trading houfes in London, which
if they fail, their place will be fupplied by
others. But let people be cautious in di-
flinguiming betwixt a trade itfelf, and any
particularity in the manner of carrying on
that trade : It will appear that every perfon
in England, although he be no proprietor
in the company's flock, is interfiled in the


( 6)

fuccefs of this trade, even as every landed
gentleman is concerned in the fafety of the
national credit, although he may hold no
fhare in the funds. Whether the being of
this company is or is not neceffary to the
nation, will more properly fall under con-
fideration in another place; the queftion at
prefent is not whether this trade (hall or
ihall not be carried on exclufively, but whe-
ther England fhall or fhallnothold a fharein
it at all. The direct arguments ufed againft
this trade are, that the wearing of India
piece- goods prejudices our own woollen and
filk manufactures ; and that the exportation
of India goods is difadvantageous, becaufe
it is conjectured to leflen the confumption
of our own manufactures, in thofe coun-
tries to which the produce of India is ex-
ported. To give place here to the anfwers
which have fufficiently refuted thefe ill-
grounded cavils, would cccafion too great
a digreffion from my main point; but by
prefenting a view of the trade of our Eafl-
India company, which I do not however
take upon me to give as a juft, but as a
much undervalued calculation, every man
will be able to judge for himfelf, of what
import it is to the nation. Suppofing then the
company doth export every year to the Eaft-
Indies to the amount of only 1,500,000!.
fterling, one half of this in bullion, the other



in manufactures, metals, &c. this fum in-
verted there in India piece-goods, drugs,
&c. with China manufactures and teas,
produces at the company's fales in En-
gland a fum greatly yfoovzdouble the amount
of the tirft export j that is to fay, above
3,000,000 /. The buyers at thefe fales
vend we may fuppofe about one half in
London, for the confumption of the
three kingdoms ; the other half, amount-
ing to 1,500,0007. or the whole of the
company's firft coft, is exported to other
countries j which, after paying freight to
thefe countries, with other charges, and a
proper premium to the adventurer, muft be
imagined to be returned to England, in-
creafed to at lead 2,000,000 /. Now the
bullion part of thefe returns does much
more than replace the whole amount of the
company's original export in that article;
and the balance is made up in commodities,
for which Britain mull otherwife, at leaft
for the greateft part of them, pay bullion.
Thus by this trade England gets rid every
year of a quantity of her manufactures, to
the amount of 750,000 /. fterling, to coun-
tries which, but for it, would not take off
one pound's worth. Her trade in thefe
Indian commodities to other countries is
exceedingly great and beneficial j and thefe
two branches of this trade employing a
number of her fubjeds, doth greatly extend



her commerce. And let us not overlook
the firft half, faid to be confumed in the
three kingdoms, which I am aware fome
will fay can be of no benefit to the nation,
as being in itfelf fuperfluous, unnecefTary,
and what we could very well do without.
I mail reply, that fuch an argument is a
very odd one in the mouths of a people,
who draw fuch immenfe fums from other
nations, for the felf-fame and other fuper-
fluities. It is true, we might do without
thefe articles ; Europe fubfifted long with-
out an intercourfe with India, but now it is
opened, we find that all our neighbour na-
tions, even fuch as are excluded from a
direct commerce with it, do make a great
ufe of its commodities j and can any one
imagine that England, fuppofing (he were
alfo to be excluded from this direct com-
merce, could be brought, on fuch account,
to deny herfelf the ufe of what me has
been now fo long accuftomed to, while me
could be fupplied by her neighbours the
French and Dutch ? No furely, thefe neigh-
bours would draw from her every year in
fpecie, for her own confumption, a fum
equal to the whole of what our company
at prefent exports, poffibly much more, as
an unrivalled monopoly would no doubt in-
duce them to raife their prices on us. Such
an cxclufion to England muft alfo throw



into the hands of thefe rivals, that grand
branch of Englim commerce in thefe com-
modities, to other parts of Europe, to Africa,
and to America ; for we are not to fuppofe
that thole whom we at prefent fupply would
leave off the ufe of them, for this fole rea-
fon, that England could no longer furnifh
them. As an occafional enhancement of
the value of this Eaft-India trade, I might
mention the fums annually remitted from
thofe countries to England by her adven-
turous fons j the fortunes acquired there by
all fuch as go out, and they feldom carry
much with them, do, whether they die
there, or live to come home, contribute a
mite to the acceffion of her wealth. Nor
will this feem altogether fo contemptible,
when I affert that the fums remitted by fuch
from one particular fettlement alone, a-
mounted in one year to near two millions
flerling, befides the immenfe fums received
there that fame year by the company, in
the way of donations j and although thefe
did not arrive here in fpecie, yet every one
knows how to transfer fuch fums paid into
the company's cam in India, to the account
of their export of bullion in Europe. By
this time it may be unneceffary to call in
for the fupport of my argument the exam-
ple of other European nations, who have
txnrcifcd their fenfe of the value of this
C com-

commerce by the moft ftrenuous endeavours
to come at a {hare of it. Nations which
never were traders before have commenced
fuch, to have a part in this trade, and thofe
who have once tafted the fweets of it, have
always ufed their utmoft efforts to preferve
and extend it. We have feen Europe in a
blaze through the ftruggles made to obtain
a {hare in this commerce, by thofe who
through tardinefs had been excluded, and
the determined refolution of the others to
preferve what they had acquired.

But though, as I before obferved, this
mighty branch of BritiJJj commerce hath
been reprefented by me greatly below its
real and true value j yet, if it is but equal,
what a dreadful amputation muft the lofs
of it be ? Such a diminution too of our
trade and wealth, becoming an addition to
that of an already dreaded neighbour, muft
appear not only dangerous to, but deftruc-
tive of the power, fafety, and independence
of this kingdom. If thefe interefting points
therefore are thus liable to be affedted by
the conduct of this company, how watch-
ful ought we to be over it, how careful
that it does not abufe the truft repofed in it
by the nation ? And indeed, when we come
to coniider the nature and conftitution of
this company, and how it is compofed ; if
we alfo enquire into the number and qua-

( II )

lity of the perfons to whom it deputcth its
authority, together with the characters, ca-
pacities, and acquired light of thofe who
have been intruded with the charge of
their weighty affairs in India, it will ap-
pear to be almoft time to look about us, and
fee whether we may reft lecure on their
good management.

The proprietors of this company's ftock
are numerous, confining of men, women,
and children, foreigners as well as natives.
This ftock being alfo transferable like other
public funds, is frequently fluffing in the
hands of fuch as know no more of the
company's affairs, than any of the tempo-
rary ftockholders know of the tranfactions
at the Cockpit : The whole fecret refts in
the breafts of a few, a very few individu-
als, who have an intereft in concealing it ;
therefore thofe who imagine that the na-
tion is fecured againft any mifconducl: of
the company, by the interpofition of the
numerous proprietors, will find themfelves
woefully miftaken. As an inftance of the '
ignorance in which this fluctuating body is
kept by its managers, I (hall only mention,
that fome years ago a general court having
been demanded by a few of the proprie-
tors, it was then required by thefe, that in
order to fatisfy them of the real ftate of
their affairs, the books of the company
C 2 fliould

( 12)

fliould be produced and {hewn ; but they
were given to underfland by the directors,
that it was not for the intereft of the com-
pany that their books mould be expofed to
public view ; for that it would make certain
people too wife. The majority of the court
not infilling on it, the thing was dropped,
and they remained in the dark. As the
flock is faleable, no man needs retain it
longer than he pleafes ; if he is diffatisfied
with the conduct of the company, he has
his redrefs by felling out his {hare : Thus
he is interefled in their welfare only from
day to day. Five hundred pounds in flock
give the owner a title to vote in a general
court; 2000 1. qualifies him to be cbofen a
director. The charge of their affairs is
entrufled to 24 directors, including the chair-
man and deputy chairman. Of the pro-
prietors, few are qualified by flock for the
place of director. Of thofe who are qua-
lified, few choofe to confine themfelves to
the neceflary attendance: Therefore, till
lad year, difputes for this place were but
rare. Amongft the candidates there is ge-
nerally one, who, by dint of drudgery and
application to the bufinefs of the India
houfe, the principal quality hitherto pof-
feffed by or requisite to any of them, has
rendered himfelr necefTary in the direction.
This perfon takes upon him to form a lift


( J3)

of fuch directors for the enfuing year as are
agreeable to him, copies of which lift are
ufually delivered out beforehand to his own,
friends, but to others they are difiributed at ^ '
the door of the houfe when the proprietors
affemble to vote. If the proprietor receiving
this lift diflikes any one or more names, he
fcratches fuch out, and inferring others, deli-
vers it in as his lift. If, as laft year, there
be feveral lifts, he takes that of his friend.
When all are delivered in, the different lifts
are fcrutinized, and the majority declared.
Thus there is always in the lift a leader ;
and though there may be fome fcratches,
yet has it been feldom, if ever known, that
he failed of even one member of his lift;
and, as a noble candidate expreffed himfelf
at the laft year's election, this leader will
always, if not very hard pulhed, take care
not to introduce any with him that fliall
difpute his authority ; at the worft, he will
be fure to bring in fuch as will, upon any
occafion, form a majority for him. Hence
it appears that the power of the company,
though veiled in 24. names, doth notwith-
ftanding reft in one perfon, who, when
he is placed in his chair, is fuppofed to be
the mouth of this company. Sitting at the
helm, he directs their affairs with unlimited
authority ; he raifeth up, and he putteth
down. In this manner are their affairs con-


( 1+)

clu&ed in Europe. As to their fervants in
India, who are the executors of their or-
ders, and more immediately upon the fcene
of action, they are, except a very few in-
flances, compofed of young gentlemen,
taken immediately from fchool to be fent
there j for as thefe fervants there have ge-
nerally till of late rifen in rotation and fland-
ing, the parents or friends of fuch gentle-
men don't choofe they mould lofe any time.
Going abroad therefore thus young, before
their education and underftanding are well
formed, into a country where jollity and
good fellowship reign in a very high de-
gree, it is but feldom that they improve by
ftudy what they acquired at fchool : It is
even much if they preferve it. Thus we
cannot expect to find among them many
men of deep or improved underftanding;
it is true indeed we have feen among them
a CLIVE, but he was a rara avis ; Nature
had done wonders in him. It may perhaps
be replied here, that the government of the
company's affairs is on the fame footing as
it always has been, and that the gentle-
men at prefent in that trufl are equal in abi-
lities and fkill to thofe who have conducted
their bufinefs with acknowledged addrefs
and fuccefs from the commencement of
the company till this prefent time; and
that, if matters have hitherto gone well,


( 15)

what reafon have we to alarm ourfelves
with unnecefTary fears for the future ? To
this I anfwer, that if the affairs of the com-
pany were on the fame footing at prefent as
they had remained from fuch commence-
ment till a few years ago, the gentlemen
now in truft might be, no doubt, quite
equal to fuch charge. While the bufmefs
of directors in Europe was only to anfwer
letters of commerce, to load mips with their
indented cargoes, and to vend the returns, an
ordinary genius, with a little application,
might very well difcharge the tafk. Nor
were extraordinary talents requifite to their
fervants in India, as living like merchants
under the protection of the prince in whofe
dominions they refided, to barter a little
broad cloth, filver, lead, iron, fteel, &r. for
piece-goods of certain fabricks, or for other
commodities wanted in Europe : While this
remained the fole bufmefs of the company
in India, matters went very well, Fair
trade being in thefe times the only path to
riches, their fervants there were induced to
apply to and ftudy it ; and as fortunes are
by means of it but flowly and gradually ac-
quired, the rife to truft in that employ was
in confequence but flow and gradual. Rarely
did any man in thofe days reach the dig-
nity of counfellor, till after a faithful fer-
vice of the company for twenty years ; and


( '6 )

in that flation he generally, barring death,
continued fatisfied for ten or twelve years
longer. Thus were they till of late ferved
in thefe countries by afet of gentlemen ma-
ture in yearSj and mafters of their bufinefs,
who were aided in the execution of their
orders from Europe by inferiors, whom ex-

/perience had rendered fit for it. Of late
years new lights have been ftruck out, new
roads to wealth 5 the old flow, though
fure tract of trade, hath fallen into uni-
verfal contempt ; mighty fortunes have been
acquired by one ftroke, and as foon as ac-
quired, the field of India appearing too con-
fined for the difplay of fuch opulence, the
poffeflbrs have changed it for the more ele-
gant fcene of Europe. Thus hath there
/ been, by fuch a change of meafures, a
quick rife, and confequently a quick fhift
of fervants in India. And whether fuch an
alteration in the nature of their fervice may
prove for the intereft of their affairs there,
will appear to fuch as, are acquainted with
trade. But this is but a very fmall part of
the evil ; for if the want of years and ex-
perience in their preient Servants may be fup-
'pofcd to render them lefs fit to difcharge
even the trull of the oldeft, how can we
imagine them equal to the new, additional,
weighty charge of governing kingdoms and
nations ? Trade, which formerly was the


( '7 )

fole, is now become but afccondary concern
of little moment. Commerce is greatly
below the dignity and notice of fovereigns,
and fuch are now the company's governors
in India. Admiral Bofcawen, who was
difpatched by the nation in the former war
with a force to attack Pondicherry, on his
arrival in India in 1748, found that the
fervants of the company had fo little inte-
refted themlelves in matters out of their
fphere, that they were entirely ignorant of
what was done fix or feven miles without
the walls of their factory ; for at that di-
flance he found his march Aopt by a French,
fort, of which none of them had ever
heard before. The national war was foon
after this extinguished there, but the evil
effecT: of fuch extenfion of it to India did
and does flill remain. Happy had it been
for this company, happy for the nation,
that the neutrality offered by the French
for that part of the world had been ac-
cepted by us ! In fuch cafe commerce had
flill been at this day the fole bufincfs of
Englishmen in India. But here let me do
juftice to the company, and obviate the
odium which a ftep fo imprudent in mer-
chants may otherwife throw upon it. On
thatoccafion the directors were not allowed
the choice, a pofitive order from higher
powers obliged them, though moft reluc-
D tantly,

tantly, not only to reject, but to appear
themfelves the rejectors of the proffered neu-
trality. What the fuperncial and temporary
views of this noble ftatefman, who hath
now warned off all his fpots and blemifhes
by one plunge in the all-cleaniing pool of
patriotifm, might have been, I cannot tell ;
the confequences, big with innumerable
miichiefs have lliewn that they could not
be folidly good, and that he hath " opened
" a gate which mortal powers cannot fhut
" again." I mutt beg pardon for this di-
gremqn, which yet being of fuch import-
ance to my fubject, poffibly may not appear
altogether improper. Immediately after the
conclufion of this war, thefe gentlemen,
whom I mentioned to have till then fo little
interefted themfelves in affairs without, now
began to extend their views. The governors
for the French and Englifh Raft-India com-
panies on the coaft of Command el, finding
a body of European troops at their com-
mand and difpofal, perceived that this put
it in their power to acquire an influence
among the un warlike natives. With this
view they began to interfere in the political
government of thofe countries, in which
they had till then peaceably traded. They
ftirred up competitors to form pretentious,
and each fuppqrted his claimant with the
whole force of his conftituen-ts. All the


( 19 )

while that the mother nations were at peace
in Europe, thefe rival governors were car-
rying on a very active war againft one
another in India, to the deflrucYion of trade,
and the mifery and ruin of the wretched
natives; nor did this war end, till the de-
molition of the French capital left the En-
glim, lords paramount of that whole coun-
try, the princes of which depend on them
for their power, and fometimes even for
their fubfiftance.

Again, in Bengal the Nabob Sou Rajah
Dowlat having in 1756, whether with or
without reafon is unneceiTary here to men-

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryGentleman long resident in IndiaReflections on the present state of our East-India affairs; with many interesting anecdotes never before made public → online text (page 1 of 5)