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Selections from the state papers of the governors-general of India (Volume 2) online

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Hastings' Memoirs relative to the State of India - 1

Narrative of the Insurrection in the Zemef.dary of

Banaris - - - - - - 119

Hastings' Despatch on the Negotiations of 1781 199

Appendix A. — Bengal in 1772, portrayed by Warren

Hastings - - - - - - 263

Appendix B. — Extract of a Letter from the Governor

and Council at Furt William, etc. - - 281

Extract of the Proceedings of the Committee at
KissEN Nagar - - - - - - 288

Plan for the Administration of Justice, extracted
FROM the Proceedings of the Committee of Cir-
cuit, August 15, 1772 .... 290

Appendix C. — Plan for the Better Administration of

Justice in the Provinces of Bengal - - 300

Appendix D.— Hastings' Minute on the Rohilla War 309

Index -.-.-.. 33s


M E M O T ?v R




rr^HE following sheets were written at sea, during
my passage from India to England. When I
began them I had no other design than to preserve
and concentrate all the miscellaneous transactions of
the three last months of my administration, while they
were yet recent in my remembrance.

In the course of this Review, I was imperceptibly
led to take in a larger scope, as 1 have stated in the
work itself ; and it has acquired such a degiee of
importance in the judgement of those who have perused
it, (authorities of which I should speak with the highest
veneration on any occasion, but one which like the
present could not but reflect a praise on myself;) that
I have been induced to cause a few printed copies to
be struck off, for the private information of such
persons as from their official situations are intitled to
the knowledge which they may be thought to contain.


Bath, Jan. U, 1786.


/^N the 20th of March 1783, I addressed a letter to
^^^ the Court of Directors, in which I apprised them
of my intention to resign the service of the Company,
leaving a sufficient interval for the appointment of a
successor to my office. Had I formed my opinion of
the propriety of this intimation on any estimate of my
own consequence, the total disregard which was shown
to it mio-ht have tauofht me an humbler lesson. But
in truth, I had simply considered it as a point of
common obligation ; and was convinced in my own
mind, that the member of the council who stood next
to me in the regular line of succession, was at least
as likely to fill the station with ability as any person,
wanting the same local experience, whom the chance
of competition might substitute in his stead ; for he
had been bred and practised in the habits of business,
and his manners were conciliating. It would be there-
fore, at this time, superfluous to assign any reasons for
the resolution which I had taken. Yet these were
detailed at large in my letter ; and if they produced
no other effect, they certainly were, as they were
intended, a pledge to my first constituents for the
performance of the declaration which I had thus
formally made, if no circumstance intervened which
might lessen the weight of it as an engagement, or
which, as a superior claim, might require it to be sus-



pended. In effect, such a contingency did actually
come to pass within a very few months after the date
of my letter. This originated in an appeal which was
made by the Nabob Vizir and his Ministers, against
the acts of Mr. Bristow, the Company's Kesident at
his Court, and impelled me, by every tie of justice,
honour, and public duty, to sacrifice every considera-
tion that regarded myself alone, if necessary, for his
redress : And that my stay for this purpose was
necessary, I may with safety at this time afhrm, since
it is demonstrable, that the purposes which were the
professed objects of my stay have been attained, and
could not have been attained without it.

I had fixed upon the beginning of last year for my
departure to England. This event determined me to
postpone it to another season ; and I may be allowed
on such an occasion to appeal for the evidence, and the
strongest evidence that could be produced, of the recti-
tude of my motive, even to an argument of private
relation to my own interest and feelings, but imme-
diately connected with the resolution I had taken ;
since it compelled me to submit to a privation of all
domestic society, and to an expence which must be
unavoidably repeated whenever I should prosecute the
design of my own departure to England, and which
my fortune could ill afltbrd.

It was not incumbent upon me to apprise the Court
of Directors formally of this change of my determina-
tion, or of the ground of it. Both were obvious. But
the original obligation still remained, subject to the
reservation of the same circumstances under which it
was imposed. My return from Lucnow, after a long
and successful application to the re-establishment of
the affairs of the province of Oude, and the due autho-
rity of its ruler, replaced me in the situation from


which I had been drawn by the necessity of that
attendance. It was, therefore, my first care to provide
for the execution of the engagement dependant on it,
after my arrival.

About the same instant of time advices were received
from England of a bill depending in Parliament for the
more effectual regulation of the government of the
British possessions in India ; and as I had deemed it
a proper respect to the Court of Directors to refer
myself to their pleasure for my continuation in the
service, if they should think me deserving of being
entrusted with the powers which I had stated as
necessary to enable me to conduct it, I held it proper
to wait the result of this intelligence, in the possi-
bility of its producing that change in the administra-
tion of Bengal, which I had prescribed as the condition
of my stay. Of this I advised the Court of Directors,
in a letter which I wrote to them, dated the 22d of
November, by the Surprise ; repeating my former
declaration, and informing them of my intention to
wait the arrival of the next dispatches which I had
been made to expect with the Fox packet, which was
waiting at the date of the last advices to bring the
orders which would be required with the publication
of the bill impending.

In the meantime I applied myself early and assidu-
ously to the dispatch of such arrears of business as I
found depending ; and to those exigencies of the govern-
ment which were likely to press, with the severest
weight, upon it, in the event of a change not eftected
by express authority from home, and therefore wanting
the confidence and respect of a fixed appointment.
The first object, and that recently urged by injunctions
from the Court of Dii-ectors, which rather augmented
our difficulties than facilitated the removal of them,



was to clear off the debt which we had contracted
during the course of a long and multiplied war. This
consisted of two kinds : — First, the regular debt at
interest, which had continued for some time at the
fixed sum of one hundred and sixty lacks : and,
Secondly, orders granted on the Treasury and De-
posits, which at this time amounted to about rupees
144,47,860:8:1. Of these orders, some, which were in
lieu of payment made by the Board of Trade, were
charged with the customary interest.

When I left Calcutta at the beginning of the year,
I had vainly flattered myself, with a confidence which
impelled me to express the same expectation to the
Court of Directors, that we should be able to pay off
all the Treasury orders, and discharge a part of the
debt at interest, by the end of December. I was
certainly warranted to form and give this assurance
by a fair state, which I transmitted at the same time
to the Court of Directors, of our probable receipts and
disbursements to the prescribed period. The causes of
my disappointment arose from the unexpected, and
equally unnecessary, detention of Col. Pearse's detach-
ment at Massulipatam, when it was on its return to
Bengal ; by which an expence of near seventeen lacks
of rupees was continued a twelvemonth beyond its
computed duration ; and from the enormous sum of a
crore of rupees, distributed in remittances to the other
presidencies, of which that of Fort St. George alone,
which least wanted it, and of whose disbursements,
whatever they were, our Board was kept in utter
ignorance, had received for its separate share more
than sixty -five lacks. A detail of this subject M^ould
be too long an interruption of the general recital ;
[and] as it is fully comprised in a letter which was
written ex})ressly upon it to the Court of Directors,


dated the 6th of December last, and has long since
been published.

I was not apprised of these unexpected charges till
my return to Calcutta, having trusted to the estimate
of receijjts and disbursements made at the beginning
of the year above quoted, as a sure provision against
them. I was anxious to put an immediate check to
the continuance of a drain which our finances could ill
sustain, and happily found the other members of the
Board in the same disposition and opinion. At our
first meeting in council on the 8 th of November, I
proposed, and it was agreed to with such a promptness
that our orders were written and signed before we
parted, to send a peremptory injunction to the presi-
dency of Fort St. George, to desist from farther drafts
upon us, declaring that we would answer none that
were granted after the receipt of our letter.

To Bombay, whose wants were more pressing, but
had already received a very ample and acknowledged
relief, we wrote to confine their demands within five
lacks of rupees, until they should receive our license
for a larger supply ; and to this we afterwards added
the promise of a farther remittance, by bills from the
treasury of Lucnow in the month of May next ; for
which a provision had been expressly made on a very
profitable rate of exchange in the Kistbundy, or
account of instalments, agreed upon by the Nabob
Vizir in payment of his debt to the Company.

A few days before my return to Calcutta, but while
I remained at a small distance from it, a packet was
received from the Court of Directors, which had been
despatched by land, and contained a letter dated the
15th of June; in which they severely censured the
Governor-General and Council, for having agreed in
the month of November, 1784, to take up the sum of


fifty lacks on loan for draughts on the Court of
Directors, to supply a deficiency of nearly that amount
in the advances made for the investment of the year ;
when, as it appeared to them, our former advances had
greatly exceeded the value of the allotted provision ;
and they therefore recommended to the Board to
prevail upon the subscribers to accept of a redemption
of their loans in lieu of the promised bills.

As this dispatch had been made for the sole and
express purpose of conveying the sentiments and orders
of the Court of Directors on that single subject ; and
therefore strongly manifested the impression which it
had made on their minds and imj)ressed the consequent
necessity of com2:)liance on ours ; the j^art which we
had to chuse was both difficult and hazardous. The
order was evidently founded on a mistake ; for the
Court of Directors, or rather, as we must suppose,
their official reporter, had confounded the advances of
two years with those of one. It was a becoming defer-
ence to conclude that, as the propriety of the order
was inseparably connected with the truth of the fact
to which it was applied, they would not have passed
the order under a contrary supposition ; and that a
discovery of the error would induce them to revoke it.

Our enf>;aoements had hitherto been held most
sacred, the Court of Directors having contented them-
selves with expressing their disapprobation of such as
they deemed not sufficiently warranted ; but never
dis])uting their validity, or withholding their effect, if
it depended on them for giving it ; and the former
loans, which had been contracted on the same con-
ditions, and for the same exigency, had received their
express approval in terms of a})plause. To receive
their recommendation in the construction of an absolute
order, and to execute it literally as such, under the


circumstances whlcli liave been recited, would have
been injurious to the service, highly culpable in its
principle, productive of much aggravated distress in
its immediate operation, and destructive of our future
credit ; fatally, perhaps, to the Company's existence,
if ever a season should recur of the like difficulties
with those which our credit hath hitherto enabled us
to surmount : at the same time, to persist in a literal
adherence to our engagements with the knowledge of
such an indisposition in the Court of Directors towards
them, would have been an injury to the subscribers, if
the Court should refuse to ratify them. Upon the
whole, after much discussion, but little debate, a middle
expedient was adopted ; which was, to publish the
whole state of the case, and to give the subscribers an
option, either of the redemption of their loans, or of
the acceptance of their bills, and to refer the latter to
the justice and candour of the Court of Directors for
their ratification of them. This subject engaged much
of the attention of the Board in their two first meetinirs,
held on the 8th and 9th of November, and passed with
their unanimous assent. The instant effect was such
as could not fail to afford us the most complete satis-
faction ; for the publication made no alteration in the
minds of the subscribers, who retained their original
interest in the subscription, only 2,51,500 rupees of it
having been withdrawn principally by persons acting
as trustees for others, and therefore not choosing to
exercise the same latitude of judgment with those
whose property was at their own disposal.

I found the Board engaged in an un2)leasant alter-
cation with the Board of Trade, which had originated
from prior orders of the Court of Directors, received
by the Surprise Packet, which had left England on the
29th of April, and arrived in Calcutta on the 28th of


August. These contained some severe censures upon
the Board of Trade for a latitude assumed in their
allotment of contracts for the provision of the invest-
ment, and a peremptory injunction to grant them after
due advertisement, to the best bidder. Our Council,
in implicit submission to the letter of the order exacted
from the Board of Trade an immediate obedience to it ;
to which the Board of Trade objected, pleading that
in consequence of an intimation given them by the
Superior Council, early in the year, of their intention
to appropriate one complete crore of rupees for the
service of the investment of the season, not accom-
panied or followed by any other instructions, they had
issued immediate orders to their former agents and
contractors, that no time might be lost for so large a
provision to continue their advances on the terms of
the last year ; that these orders were intended and
received as actual engagements, though not confirmed
by any formal deeds, and had certainly the same effect
after so long a lapse of time ; that the season for
making the advances, and other preparatory acts, was
long since passed, and the season for the returns
approaching ; and that any attempt to cancel the
existing engagements, against which they thought the
contractors would have their remedy at law, and to
transfer them to new adventurers, with the necessary
time allowed for public notice, and for ^^ossesslon,
would occasion a total loss of the investment for the

To these objections, which really possessed all the
weight given to them by the Board of Trade, it might
have been added, that the order of the Court of
Directors, though, as I recollect, rather indefinitely
worded, must have been intended for a rule of general
practice, and could not possibly be meant for imme-


dijtte application ; since it would not have been re-
ceived till the latter end of October, or the beginning
of November, if the Surprise had made her passage in
the ordinary time, which she had shortened by t\A'0
months ; and of course the Board of Trade would have
been in the receipt of part of the goods provided, and
the rest would have been in the course ot delivery.
At all events, the order was now become ineffectual.
It was therefore proposed, and happily agreed to, to
close the contest, by yielding the point of it to the
Board of Trade, and allowing their engagements to
stand with the responsibility thrown on them for its
effects with relation to the orders received from home.
At the same time, as the Court of Directors in their
Beport delivered to the House of Commons on the
23d of March 1784, and which they had called upon
us with much solemnity to verify, had stated the
whole sum of the expected cargoes from India for that
year at one million sterling, of which the proportion
that Bengal alone bore to the other presidencies was
but thirty lacks ; the Board of Trade was required to
limit the provision to that sum for the prescribed
articles of their investment, with the addition of fifteen
lacks for raw silk, which was not in the list ; both to
allow for the provision actually made, and to preserve
the manufacture, which had been much improved both
in price and quality. The Board of Trade contended
for a larger allowance ; but a peremptory declaration
of the Superior Board prevented a repetition of the

I have said, that it was the first object of the Board
(it was at least my own) to clear off our debts, by
lessening our disbursements, as the only means of ful-
filling the commands and expectations of the Court of
Directors, and of affording an effectual relief to the


other presidencies ; since a lavish dissipation of* our
treasures beyond our current income, however specious
the occasion might appear, or however urgent the call
might be, as it was in the instance of the orders of the
Court of Directors, grounded on their Report presented
to the House of Commons, would only add to our dif-
ficulties, not unlike a thread drawn to its utmost length
from an entangled skain. Our natural exigencies must
be supplied ; the army must be paid a portion of its
arrears for its subsistence, and the larger was their
amount, the less would it admit of increase ; the whole
amount, therefore, of the annual pay, of whatever
denomination, must, after a certain run, be distributed
to them : the restoration of peace, and the return of
our foreign detachments, required that as large a
portion of the army should be disbanded as had been
superadded to our fixed establishment in the course of
the war ; but the corps which were to be disbanded,
were to be first paid up to the period of their service ;
nor could they be paid, and the others neglected,
without excitincr o-eneral discontent, at all times
dangerous in transactions of military oeconomy ; but
above all, when the necessity of retrenchments, and
the known intention of making reformations, had dis-
posed the minds of men to a quicker reception of such
impressions as led to mutiny : expedients, if they were
to be found, must be used, either to answer or to shift
the actual demand ; and every such expedient will be
found to be the present gain of one rupee for the future
loss of two : the debt as it increased, would throw the
prospect of payment to a greater distance, and propor-
tionably increase the discount of the original sums,
which was already very large both on the Interest
Notes and Treasury Orders : the multitude of bills
unpaid created the like accumulation of accounts un-


audited, and the consequence licentiousness of con-
tingent charges, besides the natural incitement to
irregular claims when the expected receipts were
either partial or remote. Though the Treasury was
ostensibly charged with the established rate of interest,
its substantial loss was equal in most cases to the
discount, since every contractor, and other dealer on
trust, either with the Board, or Board of Trade, took
the difference into the account, either by enhancing
the rates of originating engagements or eluding the
conditions of the old. Yet the debt itself was incon-
siderable : and here it may not be amiss to take notice
of the fallacy of the general cry which has prevailed
for some time past, of the loss of our public credit ;
than which nothing can be more foreign from the

The fact is, that our public credit, by which I mean
the credit of our Interest Notes, and Treasury Orders,
never extended beyond the English servants of the
Company, and the European inhabitants of Calcutta ;
and to these may be added a few, and a very few, of
the old Hindoo families at the presidency. All the
other inhabitants of the provinces are utterly ignorant
of the advantage and security of our funds, and have
other ways of emplo3^ing their money, such as pur-
chases of landed property, loans at an usurious and
accumulating monthly interest, and mortgages ; to
which, though less profitable in the end, and generally
insecure, they are so iiuich attached by long usage,
and the illusion of a large growing profit, that it would
not be easy to wean them from these habits for others
more difficult of comprehension, and to them of in-
superable discredit from the idea of insecurity, attached
to the dependence on power. And happy for the
Company is it, that such bounds are prescribed by


necessity to their public credit ; and that it is not in
the power of a weak administration to load its suc-
cessors with debts improvidently contracted for the
relief of its own exigencies.

The want of credit, as it is falsely called, in Bengal,
is not, as the term implies, a want of confidence, but
of means, in those who were the creditors of our
Treasury. When these had no more ready money
to lend, the government appeared to be greatly dis-
tressed, because its expenses continued at the same
amount with the resource stopped, by which they had
been supplied beyond the extent of its current income;
and as the prospect of discharging the debt which it
had contracted became so much the more remote, and
in a degree doubtful from the hazards of a state of
multiplied warfare, its notes first lost their equal cur-
rency by a natural consequence, and afterwards sunk
yet more in their value. The same causes afterwards
affected the orders on the Treasury, although in the
course of payment, but at uncertain periods. Yet,
w^hen I left Bengal, our debts of every denomination
amounted to no more than 304,00,000 current rupees,
w^hich is little more than one half of our annual revenue,
which may be fairly estimated at 5^ crores of current
rupees, or 5 J millions sterling.

With this clear, and certainly true state of the
question, how will it appear to any candid judgement,
that after a war sustained during the course of five
years with three States of the greatest relative power
to our own situation and connections, the Marattahs,
Hyder Ally Cawn, and the French ; after having sent
two great armies to the extremities of Indostan and
Deccan ; after having furiiislied subsistence to the
other presidencies, supplied the China Trade with
yearly remittances, and made richer investments for


England than were ever purchased in the same space
of time under any preceding administration ; our
resources are exhausted, and our credit gone, because
we owe a sum which we cannot instantly discharge,
but which scarcely exceeds half our annual revenue/ I
repeat the position in the same terms, because it cannot
be too often repeated, nor its impression too forcibly
made in such a discussion. Let the same case be put
of a private estate so encumbered, and its proprietor
reduced by it to a state of bankruptcy. It is an

Online LibraryGeorge ForrestSelections from the state papers of the governors-general of India (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 29)