James Talboys Wheeler.

Early records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio online

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theu' chief wealth from thek private trade. Their
official salaries were almost nominal. They had
carried on this private trade in the eastern seas
from the earliest days of the British settlements
in India. Every one traded in some way or other,
from the governor of a settlement to the lowest
servant of the Company, not excluding the chaplain
and schoolmaster.

Hitherto this private trade had been confined to
the seaports. When the English became masters in
Bengal, they sought to extend it inland. They began


to deal in country commodities, such as salt, betel-
nut, and tobacco. They claimed to be free of all
duties of every kind, by virtue of the privileges
which had been guamnteed in unqualified language
by existing treaties.

When the Enghsh Company originally obtained Ensii>^h na^ and

_ _ . ilustuck.

from the Moghul the privilege of trading duty free,
the officers of the Nawab insisted upon searcliing
every boat and every person in the boat. Subse-
quently it was agreed that whenever the boat
showed the English flag and Company's dustuck or
permit, no search was to be made, and all goods
in the boat were to be passed duty-free.

After the battle of Plassev, the English had N^ative respect

" ^ lor the English

grown all-powerful in Bengal. The grandees bent
before them ; the natives regarded them with re-
spectful awe. No one ventured to offer resistance.
Those who had the best reason to hate them were
the foremost to flatter and propitiate them, and
only plotted against them in dark and secret ways.
So long as Xawab Jaffier was reigning, every native
of position sought the favour and protection of the
English. When Jaffier was deposed, he refused to
stay at Murshedabad. He begged that he might
go either to Mecca or Calcutta ; he could not, he
said, be safe in Bengal excepting under Enghsh
protection.* There are no traces of any complaint
of the harshness or injustice of the Enghsh ; their
honesty and good faith in all commercial dealings

1 Malcolm's Life of Olive, Vol. II, page 268, note. When deposed, the
Nawab wauted his case to be referred to the jodginent of Olive.



Native agents
or gomastas.

against the

had won general confidence. The Vizier at Delhi,
as already seen, was ready to entrust the collection
of the revenues of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa to
the English Company as rei^resented hy Clive/

It was not the English, but the native servants
of the English, that terrified the people of Bengal.
The employment of native agents or gomastas
was already familiar to the English. In 1753 the
Company had ceased to employ native contractors,
and had dealt direct with weavers and artisans
through the medium of these gomastas. The ser-
vants of the Company employed gomastas in like
manner to carry on the inland trade. The gomas-
tas were entrusted with the English flag and
Company's dustuck; they bought and sold duty
free. Under such circumstances, the inland trade
of Bengal soon grew into a vast monopoly in the
hands of the servants of the Company and their

The monopoly was bad enough ; the conduct of
the gomastas was far worse. Native servants of
Em'opean masters are generally inclined to be pre-
tentious and arbitrary towards their own country-
men. It is easy to understand how they would
condu.ct themselves in remote districts, when in-
vested with the emblems of authority, and when the
English name was regarded with awe. Bengallees
of no character or position, who had been seen at
Calcutta walking in rags, were sent out as the

See ante, page 2(


E^omastas of English merchants, factors, or writers.
They assumed tlie dress of English sepoys, lorded
it over the country, imprisoned ryots and mer-
chants, and \^Tote and talked in an insolent man-
ner to the Nawab's officers. NaAvah Cossim com-
l^lained that the gomastas plundered his people,
injured and disgraced his servants, and exposed his
government to contempt. The gomastas, he said,
thought themselves the equals of the Company.
In every district, village, and factory they bought
and sold salt, betel-nut, ghee, rice, straw, bamboos,
fish, ginger, sugar, tobacco, opium, and other native
commodities. They forcibly took away the goods
of ryots and merchants for a fourth part of their
value, and obliged the ryots to give five rupees for
articles which were not worth one.'

Nawab Jaffier never ventured to make such com- pretensions of
plaints. He depended solely upon the English for
support ; he was the nominee of the English ; with-
out them he was nobody and nowhere. Nawab
Cossim liad taken warning by his example to sever
himself as much as possible from the English. He
had withdrawn to Monghyi*, secured letters of in-
vestiture from the King, disciplined his army,
wreaked his vengeance on the grandees who had
been protected by the English in the time of
Xawab Jaffier, and was in every respect prepared for
the collision. He still made a show of friend-
ship towards Governor Vausittart and Warren

' Verelst's View of Bengal.


Hastings, a member of the Board. He ordered Ms
officers not to liinder the gomastas of his friends,
but to thwart the gomastas of his enemies. He
raised the question of whether the Company's ser-
vants had the right to carry on the inland trade
duty free. No doubt he had the abstract right to
levy duties as an independent ruler ; but he had
abandoned this right by treaty ; and no exception
whatever had been made as regards the duties on
inland trade. It would have been expedient for
the English servants of the Company to have
abandoned that right, but in so doing they would
have sacrificed the bulk of their incomes for the
public service, and this was the point on which the
question mainly turned.

The records may now be left to tell the progress
of the struggle : —
Recriminations " The President havinei" laid before tlie Nawab tlie complaints

between the '^

English aiKi the q( i\^q o^entlemen of Chittaofono-, Dacca, and Luckipoie, cou-

Nawab s officers => » &^ •> i '

inland trade'''' ccming' the stoppagc of several of their boats at different
chokeys {i. e., custom houses), also received from him a
multitude of complaints from his (the Nawab^s) officers in
several parts of the country against the English gomastas,
but particularly those at Rungpoor, Silhet, Rangamutty,
and other distant parts of the country, employed chiefly in
the trade of salt, tobacco, betel-nut, and some few other
articles of inland trade, which he urged we were restrained
from before the troubles. The Nawab enlarged much upon
the detriment his revenues suffered by the authority exercised
by our gomastas in carrying on their trade in those distant
parts, where we had no government to restrain them, and
his was too weak to do it ; urging finally that he thought we
had no rijjht to deal in those articles.


" The President and Mr. Hastino^s being- of opinion that the niscnRBion in

1 ^ • 1 L- -x li i.i -1 ,1 • the Hoard: all

trade m snen articles ou^-iit not to he carried on to the preju- the nireoiors
dice of the revenues of the Country Governmentj and that Calcutta.
rules should be hiid down for the conduct of onr g-omastas
and the officers of the Government, respectively, proposed to
the Nawab articles for this purpose. The Nawab declined
binding himself by these articles, but represented again in
a letter to the President, just before his departure from
Monghyr, the grievances before mentioned ; and the Presi-
dent wrote him an answer concerning the regulations before
proposed, and some other articles, and assuring him that
the inland trade should be carried on upon that footing
only, and our gomastas to be subjected in the manner
therein mentioned to the officers of the Government. The
rest of the gentlemen of the Council at Calcutta did not
approve of the articles proposed in the letter before mentioned
from the President and Mr. Hastings, nor of the President's
letter to the Nawab, which had been transmitted them from
the factory at Dacca, and determined, therefore, to call all the
members of the Board to Calcutta, excepting those at Patna
and Chittagong, whose great distance would make it incon-
venient, that they might consider this affiiir. Certain it is,
the officers of the Country Government have made a very ill use
of the concessions made in their favour, and the restraints laid
upon our agents and gomastas, as they have in many places
stopped our trade entirely, and grossly insulted our agents
and gomastas. The members of the Board called down on
this occasion being arrived, we shall take this affiiir into con-
sideration tomorrow, and lay down such rules for carrying on
the inland trade, and for the conduct of our gomastas towards
the Country Government, as shall appear most equitable and
expedient for removing the grievances of both parties. In the
meantime the President has represented strongly to the Nawab
the insolence of his officers, and told him that till full and
sufficient regulations are agreed on, our trade in any articles
must not be interrupted ; and if any attempts are made to the
contrary, we shall use our own force to remove all sucii ob-



JTcotiiifr of the
full Boaril at

lotli February :
Jlajors Adams
and Carnac

Measures for
disorders during
the interval.

19th February:
ordered of all
Firmans, Hus-
and Treaties.

Under the foregoing circumstances a full Board of
all the members of Council was held at Calcutta.
The proceedings began in Eebruary 1763 and lasted
till the following April. The following extracts
from a letter sent to the Court of Directors, dated
18th April 1763, will explain the nature and scope
of the Consultations : —

'^ Previous to our entering upon business, motions were made
for summoning Major Adams and Major Carnac to sit at the
Board on this occasion ; which motions being approved by
the majority, those gentlemen were accordingly summoned.

" Major Adams, being then at the cantonments near Ghy-
rottee, could not be present that day. All that we concluded
therefore at this meeting was, upon a due and serious con-
sideration of the several letters received, to issue orders to
the different subordinates, instructing them, until they should
receive our further directions, to carry on both the Company's
and private business in the same manner as before, paying
such duties on certain articles in the latter branch as they
usually did pay previous to the late regulations ; and on this
footing to prevent, as far as possible, any violence being
committed either by our people or the Governments ; but
that, if any such insolencies should be attempted as to oblige
them to make use of force, to endeavour to seize the principal
person who might have thus endeavoured to injure us. And
to prevent all pleas of ignorance, which might in such cases
be urged on the part of the Government, the President at
the same time wrote circular letters to the several Foujdars,
informing them, as far as was necessary, of these regulations
and orders.

'' We met again on the 19th with an intention to consider
the first article of the said plan compared with our Firmans,
Husboolhookums, and subsequent Treaties; but many of
these exact translations being previously required to enable
us to judge properly on the question, we ordered translations
to be accordingly prepared, and for that day proceeded on


tlie second article of the plan, relative to the Nawab's havinc^
shut up one of the gates of the city of Patna and ran an
entrenchment into the river, which prevented the tracking* of
boats on the side of the factory. Our opinions and deter-
niination on these points, as well as regarding a gunge or
wharf belonging to the said factory, which theNawab wanted
to remove, are entered at large on the face of the consultation,
to which therefore we refer you.

" The translations and other necessary papers ordered to be consuifations,
prepared being laid before us, were entered on the face of matter inXlJute
the next consultation agreeable to the order in which they tiousf ^ '^"*^'
■were read ; and, being likewise fully considered and debated
on at the Board, the substance of the whole was reduced
into a set of questions, on which the several members were
desired to deliver in their opinions in writing against the
Tuesday following.

" Accordingly, they were delivered in ; and it was found to consultations
be the opinion of the majority that, from the tenour of our nrnjoiitTaVreed
Firmans, Husboolhookums, and Treaties, we had an absolute f"omaii\TuUes:
rii^ht to carry on our trade, as well foreign as inland, in the saiuo The" ^ ""
Provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, by means of a dustuck
(or permit) free of all duties or customs to the Country Govern-
ment. But that the Nawab might have no room left for
complaint, or to think that we intended pressing our rio-hts
harder upon him than we had done on former Nawabs, it was
agreed to continue to him a certain consideration in the article
of salt. And by the sum of the answers to the question,
* What that consideration should be ?' It was resolved, in
consultation of the 2nd March, to allow him 2| per cent,
upon the Hughly market price; and that salt was the only
article of trade which should pay any customs whatever to the
Country Government.'

1 The Consultations for 1762-G3, which have becu preserved in tlie Home
Office, are in a very iuiperf'ect state. The correspondence and minutes are
not entered in the Consultation volumes, but are only preserved in the
bundles, and much is wanting. It appears, however, that the Firmans from
the King had granted to the English Company absolute freedom from all
duties; that these terms had bccu iigrccd to, both by Jaflkr Ali Kliau and




Merits of the " Tlus being "become here an established and fixed resolution,

ted to the Dirce- it now remains with Your Honors to judge of the justness of

it, as well as of the validity of the arguments made use of

on both sides on the occasion.
Consultations, " Having determined that our o>omastas or agents should

5th Marcli : ® , n ■, m p ^ -kt ^ }

regulations for 1)6 undcr uo actual coutrol of the oifieers or the JSawab s

the mutual re- •n-t • -i • I'liii

straint of (jovernmeut, but restrained by certain regulations which snoula

English agents '' ° .

and theNawab's be laid down, wc proceeded to settle such rejj^ulations as we
thought necessary for restraining accordingly our agents and
gomastas from interfering with any affairs of the Country
Government, injuring the people or being injured by them,
and for deciding disputes which might arise between them.
For these ends we determined that a gomasta being ag-
grieved by any dependant upon the Government should first
make his application to the officer of the Government residing
on the spot; from whom, if he did not receive immediate
satisfaction, he should send his complaint to the Chief of the
nearest factoiy, who should be empowered to take cognisance
of the same, and demand or exact, if necessary, the satisfaction
which the case might require. On the other hand, where the
Government's people should have reason to complain against
English gomastas or agents, we determined that they should
be directed to give the said agent or gomasta notice of the
complaint in writing, and require and recommend him to turn

Cossim Ali Khanj that Mr. Vansittart had given up these privileges, ex-
cepting as regards goods bought for exportation ; that he had agreed that
English merchants should pay a duty of nine per cent, ad valorem to the
Nawab on all articles of inland trade, such as salt, tobacco, and betel-nut ;
and that he had suggested that all complaints should be settled by the
Nawab's own oflScers.

Tlie majority of the Board over-ruled these proceedings of Mr. Vansittart.
It was urged that he had no right to abandon privilesres which had been
freely granted. The idea of having questions settled by the Native Courts
was especially denounced. If an Englishman or his agent gained a suit he
would be obliged to pay the expenses of the Court, plus a chout of twenty-
five per cent, on the money recovered. If he refused to pay, he never gained
another suit, as it could then be the interest of the Native Judge to decide
against him. Native merchants were sensible of the impossibility of carrying
on business under such restrictions, and purchased the protection of some
Liglitr native uthcial.


to settle the same in an equitable and amicable manner ; which
if the gomasta or agent should refuse or neglect to do, that
the Government's officer should then transmit an account of
it to the Chief of the nearest English factory, who should be
required to examine strictly into the affair, and decide it ac-
cording to justice. Likewise, to render the whole everywhere
effectual, we appointed a member of the Cossimbazar Factory
Resident at Rungpoor, to take cognisance of the complaints
and decide the disputes which might arise in the districts
too distant from any of the established factories, and who
should, at the same time, carry on and endeavour to improve
the Company's silk investment made at that place.

'' During the course of these deliberations, the President Mr. Vansittart's

._ .„ correspondence

wrote frequently to the Nawab, hrst, to inform him that the with the Nawab,

, . 1 , n 111 1 , ^ 1 1 7th March.

regulations he had proposed could not talie place, ana
afterwards, of the many complaints which arrived from all
quarters against his officers, and for which we should expect
to receive ample reparation. The first answer of any con-
sequence to these letters arrived with us in Council the 7th of
March. In the one of them he contained his answer with
respect to trade in three propositions or demands, which are
extracted and entered at length in the body of the consulta-
tion.^ In the other there appeared throughout a general
disinclination to give us any satisfaction for the interru{)tions
and ill-usajre which we had received from the officers of his
Government. And both letters, on the whole, seemed rather
an evasion than any answer to the President's representation.

" It was, therefore, agreed that a letter should be imme- Deputation of

.. •• e ^ • ^ II t Messrs. Amyatt

diately wrote him, containing our opinion ot his letters, and and Hay to the

1 The three demands of the Nawab are set forth in a letter entered upon the

Consultations of the 7th March 1863. They were to the following effect : —

(1). — That the Nawab should correspond only with the President and have

nothing to do with the other members of the Board.
(2), — That the English should abstain from all inland trade, and confine

their trade to exports and imports.
/3). That the English gomastas or agents were to be uinciuiblo to his

(the Nawab's) own officers.



Question of
through the
President or
throug'h the
whole Board,

Abolition of all
duties by the
22nd March.

giving him a full account of what had hitherto been resolved
on by the Board in consequence of the reference made to the
Firmans, HusbulhookumS; and Treaties, by the tenour of which
the Board were determined to abide. It was at the same
time resolved that Messrs. Aniyatt and Hay should be de-
puted to the Nawab, to explain to him more fully the justice
of those rights and pretentions, and settle with him the rule
for levying the custom which we had agreed should be paid
him ; and that for the former purpose they should be furnish-
ed with copies of the said Firmans, Husbulhoohums, and
Treaties. Of this resolution likewise the Nawab was now
advised ; and further acquainted that, as we should examine
into all the complaints against English agents and gomastas
and cause them to make amends for whatsoever injustice it
might appear they had committed, so we should insist upon
justice against all those officers of his Government who
might prove guilty of the obstructions and extortions laid
to their charge, and that they should be obliged to make
reparation for all losses occasioned thereby.

"As the first of the before-mentioned propositions from the
Nawab implied an ignorance of the natm-e of our Govern-
ment, and the powers of the Council, Mr. Johnstone moved
that a public letter should be wrote to him, explaining these
points, and re-demanding the President's letter, which con-
tained the regulations ; and that such letter should be signed
by the whole Board, and go under the Company's seal. But
the majority of the Council dissenting to the latter part of
this motion, it was agreed that the point mentioned by
Mr. Johnstone should be expressed in two additional para-
graphs to the letter before ordered to be wrote nnder the sign
and seal of the President.

" On the 22nd March Mr. Johnstone laid before tlie Board
copy of a sunnud and perwauna of the Nawab's which he
had received in private letters from Patna, the foi-mer contain-
ing an exemption of all duties whatever within his Govern-
ment for the space of two years, and the latter to the Naib


of Patna enjoinino^ the strictest compliance witli the term of
this siiimud. On these Mr. Johnstone desired the opinions of
the Board might he collected, and a resolution come to before
Messrs. Amyatt and Hay should proceed on their deputation.

" This was accordingly done next council day, for the consultations,
majority of the Board being of opinion that the Nawab as (Ut( rmination to
Subah had no authority to take such a step; that it was done with tiie Nawab.
with a view to prejudice the Company's business, and counter-
act the measures which the Board had been taking for the
welfare of trade in general; it was therefore resolved that a
paragraph should be added to Messrs. Amyatt and Hay's
instructions, directing them to represent this to the Nawab,
and insist upon his revoking the suunuds and collecting
duties as before.

" Messrs. Amyatt and Hay now remained ready to set out consultations,

*' •' . "^ . 3l>th ,March :

when the Nawab's answer should arrive ; but, on receipt Nawab rcfuscs.to

'- receive t lie

thereof, it was found to contain rather a refusal than an deputation.
acceptance of the visit, so far as we should regard the public
business, from a conception, that his having abolished all
kinds of duties rendered any further conference or regula-
tions respecting trade altogether unnecessary. The further
substance of his further letters congested is a repetition of his
former remonstrances and I'ctorts, and a refusal to give us the
satisfaction required fur the losses sustained by the disturb-
ances. The several members were therefore desired to deliver
in their opinions on those letters, whether they thought
Messrs. Amyatt and Hay should proceed, or what other
measures should be taken to briug these disputes to a con-

" Accordingly, in consultation, the 1st of April, the opinions Consnitations,
were given in and read; and the matter being also fully con- deputation sent
sidered and debated on, it was resolved, in conformity to the Nawab toid that

o ^ • • jiiii-\T 11 111 '• . bis refusal might

voice or the majority, that the JNawab should be again written hrinsona

• • J 1 • J 111 • n rupture.

to, to insist on his receiving the intended deputation for treat-
ing upon business ; and that Messrs. Amyatt and Hay should
proceed to and wait his answer at Cossimbazar. The Presi-
dent therefore addressed him, under that date, representing


the indecent style of his letters and the impropriety of his
conduct; that these had been already such as would fully
justify our coming to a rujiture : but, to show him how distant
such a proceeding was from our thoughts, we acquainted him
at once with our intentions that, with a view of settling the
disputes in the country in the most effectual and speedy
manner, and to avoid coming to extremities, we deputed
Messrs. Amyatt and Hay to confer with him at Monghyr ;
and that this commission treated on many other points,

Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 26 of 33)