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

. (page 31 of 33)
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 31 of 33)
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'' I liave liitlierto coDsiclcn-ed our interest in this connlry Aproinfnipntof
as built on a ]u-eeaiious i'omulation, because this cement was visSrs,
wanting- to bind it; and, in tliis j)()int of view, I am parti-
cularly happy on the late resolutions which have been takeu
to appoint English Supra-visors, as an introduction to so
desirable an event/'

" But there is a rock, and a dan^-erous one, which requires the oircrcrs of

. . . , _,. , 1 f 1 interfiTiiifr with

greatest circumspection to avoid. We nave stepped lortli tue Mzamut.
beyond all former precedent or example. We have the best
and most laudable of all arguments to justify our conduct.
But it should be remembered, that we have reached that
supreme line, which, to p«ss, would be an open avowal of
sovereignty. It should be remembered, that we cannot be
more, without being greater than sound policy allows; the
interests of our employers at home, no less than our national
connections abroad, forbid it. If we were, before the change,
cautious of interfering with the native government, and of
awakening the jealousy of foreign nations, we ought now to
redouble our prudence. The change itself, supposing the
greatest forbearance on our parts, has an unavoida])le tend-
ency to destroy the name of the Nizamut, by which means,
■what might have been the happiest event for the Company and
nation may become the source of perplexities and jealousies,
if not the deprivation of the Company's privileges.

'^ There is, however, a middle way, where moderation must The middle way.
guide and continue us; where we may walk with safety, ad-
vantage, and consistency without danger of too much confine-
ment or too much liberty. Exteriors should be regarded as
essentials. Every order should scrupulously wear the sanction
of the native government. Our dependence on its indulgen-
cies, our obedience to its commands, our delicacy to its min-
isters, should appear most conspicuous in all transactions,
either of business or ceremony. I am not ignorant how
difficult it is always to preserve and affect that temperate rule
of conduct which I mention, when the power and direction
of all departments so entirely concentre in your Board, and
may be still more difficult to produce a proper conformity in


the Supra-visoi's ; for these reasons I am thus earnest in my
representations, and am of opinion that the whole weig-ht
and viu'ihmce of this Board should be exerted to check the most
trifling variation from the line, and to preserve the idea of
the native government, its dignity and superiority over all,
as entire and unimpaired as possible.
Puties of Supra- *' Without departing from those maxims, we shall have

visors : trainine: , . .

for higher posts, sufficient Opportunities to answer all our views; our power will
not be less efficacious in being exercised with prudence. The
Supra-visorships will afford you a set of servants capable of
succeeding, in their turn, to the first offices ; that station ^vill
introduce them to a perfect knowledge of the laws and cus-
toms of the country ; they will form a judgment upon the
spot of the dispositions of the people ; they will see with their
own eyes the prevalent abuses of office, the villainy of agents,
and, in short, the true spring of the misery or happiness of
the country. Thus much may be advanced with confidence,
that if this measure meets with the necessary support and
encouragement, there cannot fail being a regular succession
of able and vigorous administrators. The service, at present,
affords many young men of promising parts and abilities. As
the Supra-visorships may be called a nursery for them, in res-
pect to the government of the country, so in like manner
their experience in commercial matters, before they reach
Council, must bring them acquainted with our commercial in-
terest ; and as these are the g-rand foundation and support of
our prosperity, they must be deemed the essential part of their

Abuses under " But from what lias been said of the characters of the peo-

Bjsteul! '"^ pie who are employed directly by us, or intermediately for us,
every thinking person must be sensible of one capital defect
in our government, that the members of it derive their sole
advantages from commerce, carried on through black agents,
who again em])loy a numerous band of retainers. It is notorious
thai, at times, the agents of the lowest servants have
domineered over the ryot and kept the officers of government
in a state of awe or subjection ; and it cannot be supposed


tliat more respectable names are not equally misapplied. It
would be as easy to change the genius and manners of the
people, as to prevent the banians, and followers of men
in station, from abusing their master's name. Chastisement
may deter the oppressor for a moment; but, in such cases the
servility of the people must be removed, before oppression
can be eradicated. Perwannahs have been recalled and sup-
pressed ; excellent effects will doubtless flow from it, but the
idea of name and authority will still be held up by rapacious
agents for their owu ends. The conclusion I draw from it is
this, that was it possible to form an administration totally
free from commercial views and connections, restrictive laws
would and must then have their course ; whereas banians
and agents, by the spirit with which they act, and the
force of their example, will always obstruct their good
effects, and j)ropagate a disrespect and delusion of them in

" To form such an administration, I not only think possible English Mem-
but easy. I would propose that, from the admission of a tJcclse'tradlog
member into Council, he put an entire conclusion to his "^ ^'^"^'''•
trade ; and, in lieu of it, that he receive a certain allowance,
chargeable upon the country ; which allowance should be
augmented in proportion to the improvements made, and its
internal prosperity : a method of reward the most honour-
able that can be devised for those that are to receive it, and
the most beneficial to the community, being unencumbered
with the consequences, anxieties, and relations of private
affairs. The members of administration will have a more
undivided attention to the public, and their orders be more
thoroughly respected, and more vigorously obeyed.'^

The wisdom of the foregoing ohservations will be Permanent

value of

admitted by all who are familiar with the past ^'"■^''^f^
and present liistory of India. They are sufficient
to show that, however Mr. Verelst may have been
judged by his contemporaries, he was emj)hatically
a man in advance of his time.

value of


The following extract is taken from the proceed-
ings of the Select Committee in connection with
the employment of Supervisors ; it indicates still
more clearly the existing state of the native admin-
istration : —

Causes of ''The Committee, liaving" encleavoiired to trace and assign

exis mg VIS,. ^^^ ^^_^^^ causc of oui" declining" situation, unanimonsl\^ agree
that the following imperfections, in the formation and conduct
of the system hitherto pursued, are the grand and original
sources thereof: —

■Want of control. "1. The waut of Sufficient checks in the instruments of
government, who are generally adventurers from Persia,
educated in the manners and principles of a gr>vernment where
tyranny, corruption, and anarchy are predominant ; who are
strangers to the customs, and indifferent to the welfare of
this country ; and who cannot by any vigilance be restrained,
or by any severit}^ be deterred, from practising their native
oppressions, over a timid, servile, and defenceless people.

Supreme " 2. The delegation of a trust and authority to one, or to

authority lodged i • V • ,1 ^ ^^• • i •" -i p

in ihe hands of a fcw, wliich rcomre the abilities and activity or many to

one or a few. .... , • i , i e ,-\

execute ; an error which is notoriously the cause or those

departments being worse administered, but give rise to a

complex corruption, which is difficult, if not impossible, to

be detected. The avenues of justice are by those means

obstructed, and the injured are frequentl}' at a loss where to

prefer their complaints, and in whom the right of decision

is invested.^

imoraneeof '^ ^' ^^^ ignomuce of the real produce and capacity of the

the Kngiish. country, in which we are necessarily kept by a set of men,

who first deceive us from interest, aud afterwards continue

the deception from fear of punishment, and a necessary

regard to tlieir own safety.

Host of native "4. The uumcrous train of dependents and underlings,

cpeu en ». ^y|iom the coUcctors entertain ; whose demands, as well as

the avarice of their principals, are to be satisfied from the

' This parngiiiph is evidently aimed at ]\ruliaminad Roza Khau.


spoils of the industrious ryot, who thus loses all conficlence
in the government, and seeks protection in other places, where
he has better iiopes to see his industry rewarded.

" 5. The venality which forms part of the genius of the Vcuaiuy.
people, and which is known to be openly exercised, or tacitly
allowed by government, without drawing any shame or dis-
credit on the guilty, or being thought auy peculiar hardship
on the injured.

"6. The collusion of the collectors with the zemindars Collusions of
whom the collector employs as a tool to serve his m.al})rac- zemiudars".
tices, or admits an associate in his fraudulent gains.

" 7. The oppressions to which the ryot is suijject from the Oppression of
multitude of gomastahs and their dependents. ^^

" The Committee are convinced that this degree of power Summing up of
without control, of knowledge without participation, and of
influence without any effectual counteraction, is too important
and replete in the consequences to be vested in any three
ministers, or rather one single man ; who, allowing him the
clearest preference for integrity, ability, and attachment
among his countrymen, cannot be supposed superior to tempta-
tion ; and at least ought not, in good policy, to be trusted so
extensively and independently as has been necessarily the con-
sequence of the present system :' while the Company are in
reality the principals in the revenues of this countiy_, and the
most interested in the good conduct of its govei*nment, every
bar should be removed that tends to preclude them from a know-
ledge of its real state. In the above causes, and others de-
ducible from them, the Committee discerns, with great re^-ret
the original source and present inveteracy of many of those
evils under which these provinces are at present oppressed.

" The frequent and peremptory restrictions which the Court Peremptory
of Directors had thought proper to impose on us, and that SeTenc^'
line of conduct from which no deviation was allowed, and the
smallest surveyed with jealousy, have hitherto left us without
any choice of measures, freedom of action, or power of re-

' Here, again, Verelst is alliuliiigto Muiiauimiul Juza Kliau.



Panetion of
I'irei-tors to

Necessity for

Secret corrup-
tion and oppres-

''Their last letter lias now offered us the sanction that was
so essentially necessary for the welfare and improvement of
these provinces, as well as for our own vindication in the pur-
suit of such plans as we mayjudge advisable to adopt. By
that letter, the Directors seem to approve of the distribution
and allotment of the country into farms, and of the appoint-
ment of European gentlemen to supervise the different pro-
vinces, and to control the conduct of the agents of the
country government. From this permission, we have a well-
grounded expectation of success to our design of introducing
new regulations ; and the event will, we are flattered, be the
strongest confirmation of the propriety of those regulations.

" We have always acted as far as the nature of the occasion
would allow with the most scrupulous regard to the rules
l)rescribed to us by by our employers ; and, on our first acces-
sion to the Dewanny, chose rather to assume the slow but
certain conviction of experience for our guide, than attempt
innovations on the precarious foundation of opinion. But
now that whole pages of our records are filled with so many
incontestible evidences, that great alterations are wanting to
form a mode of collection, which may be restrictive to the
collector, and indulgent to the ryot, we are happy in finding
the sentiments of our employers so aptly correspondent to
our opinion, and the necessity of the juncture. Every native
of any substance or character in this country has been
successively tried in the department of the collections. Fear,
reward, severity, and indulgence, have all failed, and ended
in a short political forbearance, or additional acts of dis-
honesty and rapine.

'' On an alarm of inspection, or at the annual Poona, they
frame accounts to serve the occasion ; or by involving them
in confusion and ambiguity, waste time till it becomes too
late to continue the process against them, without hazarding
new losses in the revenue : and thus the culpable not only
escape punishment, but often obtain a prolongation of their
appointments. Many flagrant grievances reach our ears, but,
in a country of such extent, there are, doubtless, many more
concealed from us j and, what is equally true under our


present disadvantag-es, they are, and must remain, inexplorable ;
we can neither redress g-rievanccs, nor effect improvements.
With reo^ard to the former, our distance, and our too indirect
information through ministerial channels, set the offender
beyond our reach, and the impossibility of having time and
competent knowledge puts the latter out of our power.

" Enough has been said, and more might be produced, to Necessity for
prove that the system, established and now pursuing in this cuuTvati°n, and
country, is deficient in every particular that is requisite to°*"^° '"^^ *"
defend and support the poor from the injustice and oppres-
sion of the strong, and to increase its value to its possessors,
by promoting the industry of the ryot and manufacturer.

" That although we have seen these evils growing and prey-
ing upon the vitals of the country, we have been unable to stop
their progress, or afford effectual protection to the people.

" Lastly, that we can never hope to emerge from that
uncertainty and ignorance into which this system has thrown
us, whilst we sit tamely and will admit of no variation in it.

" Let us now turn our eyes and attention to a more pleasing prosperous
scene ; to Burdwan, and the rest of the Company's proprie- tifre'emied
tary lands, where we ourselves have been the managers.
Plenty, content, population, increase of revenue,, without
increase of burthen, are now the effects ; and form so forcible
an argument in the comparative view, that nothing can
strengthen, nothing can render it plainer or more convincing.

'' And here the Committee cannot hesitate in drawing a Adminishation
decisive conclusion — that the same or similar regulations of the provincoi.
be established throughout the provinces in every distinct
district. The same beneficial consequences to the country
and Company may be expected from them, and by an in-
creased security of the property of individuals, as also by an
encouragement to cultivation and commerce, they may give
a new flow to the circulation of specie, which is become so
limited as to affect every rank and profession.

"The Committee are sensible that much application, in- Extent of th«
tegrity, good conduct, and time will be necessary to retrieve the
desolations of the native collectors; to raise the sinking heart



of the rjot from despair to confidence and hope ; to re-people
and settle the deserted and uncultivated tracts, and to take
every advantage of the abundant fertility of the lands.

Imperfect " The progress towards this desirable change must be gra-

dual. We have yet but an imperfect knowledge of the soil,
the productions, the value, the capacity of the various pro-
vinces, and sub-divisions of the country. This, however, is the
foundation on which, and which only, we can build with suc-
cess and direct our grand design with judgment ; and to
acquire this knowledge should therefore be our first care, by
means of the minutest local investigation, for none other can
give us an authentic record to refer to on every occasion as an
established authority ; nor can we judge of the lenity, rigour,
or propriety of any of our resolutions respecting the country,
without such a work completely and accurately executed.

Relations be- " The Committee concurring in the necessity of pursuing the

tween the Supra- , . , rr i i i n t

visors resident at abovc work lu the most effectual manner, that when perfected

Murshedabad. ,.,». ,.

they may proceed in the important business before them ; and
being farther induced by the opinion of the Court of Direct-
ors, expressed in their last letter of the 11th November 1768,
agree unanimously to the following resolutions : —

" That, in every province or district, a gentleman in the

service be appointed, with or without assistance, in proportion

to the extent of the district, whose office or department is

to be subordinate to the resident of the Durbar.'"'

Native adipinis. The liistructioiis to the Supervisors have become

tration of jus- -•-

obsolete, but the following remarks which refer to
the native administration of justice are interesting
and suggestive : —

" It is difficult to determine whether the original customs
or the degenerate manners of the Mussulmans have most con-
tributed to confound the principles of right and wrong in
these provinces. Certain it is, that almost every decision of
theirs is a corrupt bargain with the highest bidder. The
numerous offences which arc compromised by fines have left
a great latitude for unjust determinations. Trifling oSendcrs,



and even many condemned on fictitious accusations^ are fre-
quently loaded with heavy demands, and capital criminals
are as often absolved by the venal judge. Your conduct in
all capital offences should be to enforce justice where the law
demands it, checking every composition by fine or mulct ;
and where any disputes arise in matters of property, you
should recommend the method of arbitration to any other ;
and inculcate strong-ly in the minds of the people that we are
not desirous to augment our revenue by such impositions, but
to acquire their confidence by the equity and impartiality of our
proceedings, and by our tenderness for their happiness. The
arbitrators should be men chosen by the parties themselves,
and of known integrity, and whose circumstances may sup-
pose them exempt from venality, and promise best to insure
their rectitude. In capital crimes, the sentence should, be-
fore execution, be referred to me, and by me to the ministers of
the Nizamut, that they may ultimately approve or mitigate it,
according to the peculiarity of the case. You are further to
observe, that the want of regular registers of all causes and
determinations have encouraged the natural propensity of the
native judge to bribery and fraud by making him easy with
respect to any future prosecution on a re-hearing of the cases
whicb have been thus partially determined. Whereas, whilst a
reference to records is always open, he must live in perpetual
fear of detection. One of these registers should be lodged in
the principal cutcherry of the province, and an authenticated
copy transmitted to Murshedabad. As to suits on account of re-
venues, these will, we are flattered, be much obviated in future
by the happy consequences of our possessing a real, local, and
undisguised knowledge of the country ; which we promise our-
selves from the investigations above mentioned, and from your
diligence and exactness in the performance of the several duties.

*^ For the ryot being eased and secured from all burthens Leases to ryots.
and demands but what are imposed by the legal authority of
government itself, and future pottahs ' being granted him,
specifying that demand ; he should be taught that he is to

' Leases.


regard the same as a sacred and inviolable pledge to liim,
that be is liable to no demands beyond their amount. There
can, therefore, be no pretence for suits on that account ; no
room for inventive rapacity to practise its usual arts : all will
be fair, open, regular. Every man will know what he can
call and defend as his own ; and the spirit of lawless en-
croachment subsiding, for want of a field for exercise, will be
changed into a spirit of industry ; and content and security
will take place of continual alarms and vexations.

otiivr reforms. *' The instaucB whcrB venal, ignorant, and rapacious judges
avail themselves of a crude and mercenary system of laws of
the prevalance of licentiousness and the force of reigning
habits and customs, have been already mentioned. I can only
repeat, that it is your part to endeavour to I'eform all these
corruptions which have encroached on the primitive rights of
both the Mahomedans and Hindoos; particularly by abolish-
ing the arbitrary imposition of fines, and recommending all in
your power the more equitable method of arbitration.

Control of Kazis "The officers of justice and Kazis who are established
ra mi . ^^ ^^^^ Mahomedau law, as also the Brahmins, who administer
justice among the Hindoos, in every village, town, and quarter,
should all be summoned to appear, produce their Sunnuds, or
authority for acting, and register them. Records, of what-
ever cases are heard and determined, are to be sent to and
deposited in the Sudder Cutcherry of the province, and
monthly return thereof forwarded to Murshedabad.

Reeistration of '' The register of Sunnuds is intended to deter any from

sunnuds. excrcising a judicial, because lucrative function, who may not

be legally appointed by government, if a Mahomedau, or
fairly elected by his caste, if a Hindoo. And the depositing
of all cases and determinations, added to the other regulation,
will figure to the several oflJicers a vigorous and observant
power, watching all their actions, and, in case of abuses,
direct you at once to the culpable.

FoHVit of caste. The pccuHar punishment of forfeiting castes, to which the
Hindoos are liable, is often inflicted from private pique and
personal resentment amongst themselves; and requires to be


restrained to those occasions only where there may be a regu-
lar process, and clear proofs of the offence before the Biali-
mins, who are their natural judges. But when any man has
naturally forfeited his caste, you are to observe that he cannot
be restored to it without the sanction of government, which
was a political supremacy reserved to themselves by the Maho-
medaus, antl which, as it publicly asserts the subordination of
Hindus, who are so considerable a majority of subjects, ought
not to be laid down ; though every indulgence and privilege
of caste should be otherwise allowed them.

The f oUoAvins^ evidence about the oppressions of oppressions of

^ •*■ zemindars.

the zemindars may be regarded as trustworthy : —

" The truth cannot be doubted that the poor and industri-
ous tenant is taxed by his zemindar, or collector, for every
extravagance that avarice, ambition, pride, vanity, or in-
temperance may lead him into, over and above what is gener-
ally deemed the established rent of his lands. If he is to
be married, a child born, honours conferred, luxury indulged,
and nuzzurannas, or fines, exacted, even for his own mis-
conduct, all must be paid by the ryot. And what heightens the
distressful scene, the more opulent, who can better obtain redress
for imposition, escape, while the weaker are obliged to submit.'"

The drain of silver out of Hindustan was pro- praiaot suver;
ducing the most lamentable results. The following
extracts from a dispatch to the Court of Directors
will throw some light on the subject : —

" We have frequently expressed to you our apprehension
lest the annual exportation of treasure to China would pro-

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 31 of 33)