John Clark Marshman.

The history of India, from the earliest period to the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration / by John Clark Marshman (Volume 2) online

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Ministry were not prepared to encourage any arrangement
which should preclude the merchants of England from em-
barking in the trade of India, from their own ports, and in
their own ships. The negotiation then came to a pause, and
before it was renewed the finances of the Company had
become totally deranged. Drafts had been drawn from Cal-
cutta to the extent of five crores of rupees towards the dis-
charge of the debt in India. A crore of rupees had been
lost by vessels which had perished at sea, or had been cap-
tured by French privateers. The Directors were, therefore,
obliged to resort to Parliament for relief, and in June, 1810,


a loan of a crore and a half of rupees was granted to them.
In the following year they obtained permission to raise two
crores on their own bonds, and in 1812 a further loan of two
crores and a half of rupees was sanctioned by the House of
Commons. These embarrassments did not, however, abate the
resolution of the Directors to insist on what they represented as
their right a renewal of the charter on its existing basis ;
and they refused to recommend to their constituents to accept
it on any conditions which would despoil them of their "most
valuable privileges." Lord Melville, the President of the Board
of Control, proposed, by way of compromise, to restrict the
import trade of private merchants to London, and to subject it
to the system of the Company's sales and management, on
condition that the Directors should throw open the export
trade to the nation. The Court refused to accede to this
arrangement, and time was thus afforded to the out-ports to
survey their interests and to urge their claim to a participa-
tion in the entire trade with increased energy.
Opening of the The questions at issue between the Ministry
imSrtSSe, and tlie India H o us e were af; length reduced to
1813. the single point of opening the out-ports to the

admission of cargoes from India, but upon this both the Direc-
tors and the Proprietors determined to make a peremptory
stand. On the 5th May, 1812, a series of resolutions was
passed at the India House, which asserted that the removal
of this trade from the port of London to the out-ports would
break up large and important establishments, and throw thou-
sands out of bread ; that it would increase smuggling beyond
the possibility of control, and entail the ruin of the China trade ;
that it would reduce the Company's dividends, depreciate
their stock, and paralyze their power to govern India ; that
the tranquillity and happiness of the people of India would
thus be compromised ; that the interests of Great Britain in
Asia would be impaired, and even the British constitution
itself imperilled. The Ministry were not, however, appalled
by this phantom of calamities which the genius of monopoly


had conjured up, and informed the Court that if they still
thought the extension of commercial privileges to the nation
incompatible with the government of India in their hands,
some other agency might be provided for administering it upon
principles consistent with the interests of the public, and the
integrity of the British constitution ; but the Court of Direc-
tors refused to give way, and they were vigorously supported
by the great body of the Proprietors, who regarded the admis-
sion of the out -ports to a share in the import trade a vital
question, on which there could be no concession. They ex-
pressed their confidence that the wisdom of Parliament would
never consent to gratify a few interested speculators by
abolishing a commercial system which had existed for two cen-
turies, and was fortified by a dozen Acts. In conformity with
this resolution, a petition was presented to Parliament on the
22nd Februarjr, 1813, praying for a renewal of the privi-
leges granted to the Company in 1793, and deprecating any
interference with the China trade, or any extension of the
import trade to the out-ports. Another petition was at the
same time, unseasonably, submitted to the House soliciting
the payment of a bill of two crores and thirty lacs of rupees,
which the Company asserted was still due to them from the

orowth of The claim advanced by the Company to a re-

^"comm^e, newal of their exclusive privileges for another
1793-1813. generation encountered a very strenuous opposi-
tion throughout the country. During the twenty years which
had elapsed since 1793, the commercial and manufacturing
industry of England had been developed beyond all former
example, and new interests of extraordinary magnitude and
power had grown up. The cotton manufacturers of Man-
chester, in the infancy of their enterprize, had solicited the
Government to foster their exertions by imposing a protecting
duty on the importation of piece goods from India. In the
intermediate period, however, their textile fabrics had been
brought to such a state both of perfection and cheapness as


in a great measure to supersede the Indian manufacture, the
imports of which had fallen from three crores and a half of
rupees a-year to half a crore. They had, moreover, invaded
the Indian market, where the import of Manchester cottons had
increased from about seven thousand rupees a-year to ten
lacs. The mill-owners now came forward and claimed the
right of an unrestricted traffic with India, both export and
import, from their respective ports, and in their own vessels.
They maintained that however important the monopoly might
have been in the early stages of our connection with India, it
had now ceased to be either necessary or profitable, and only
served to cramp the spirit of national enterprize. Indeed,
the Company had themselves furnished the strongest argu-
ment for its cessation by the confession that their trade to
India had for many years been carried on at a loss. The
Ministers, on their part, had long since made up then* minds
to emancipate this trade from the fetters of the monopoly.
The Emperor Napoleon, by his Berlin and Milan decrees, had
closed all the ports of the continent against English com-
merce, and the public interests required that other channels of
trade should, if possible, be opened out. The nation was
passing through the most gigantic struggle in which it had
ever been involved ; the national resources were strained to
an unprecedented degree, and it was necessary to spare no
effort to sustain the energies of the country.

On the 22nd of March the ministerial plan for

India BUI, 1813.

conducting the trade and administration of India
was introduced by Lord Castlereagh into the House of Com-
mons. He proposed to continue the government of the country
in the hands of the Company for a further period of twenty
years with liberty to pursue their trade, but, at the same
time, to admit the whole nation both to the import and export
trade, without any other restriction than that no private
vessel should be of larger dimensions than four hundred tons.
The exclusive trade to China, which alone yielded any profit,
was to be confirmed to them. The restriction on the resort of


Europeans to India was to be virtually removed, though they
were still required to take out a licence from the Court of
Directors, or, if refused by them, from the Board of Control,
but the local authorities were at liberty at any time to cancel
it at their own discretion.

These propositions were vigorously opposed by

Opposition of i -T TT

the India the Court of Directors, who petitioned the House
for leave to be heard by counsel, and to bring for-
ward witnesses to substantiate their claims. The first witness
introduced was the venerable Warren Hastings, then in his
eightieth year. Twenty-six years before he had been arraigned
by the House of Commons at the bar of the Lords for high
crimes and misdemeanours. He had outlived the prejudices
and the passions of that age, and the whole House rose as he
entered, and paid a spontaneous homage to his exalted cha-
racter and his pre-eminent services. But his views of Indian
policy belonged, for the most part, to that remote and normal
period when he was employed in giving form and consistency
to our rising power. He was opposed to all innovations,,
however necessary they had become by the progress of
time and circumstances. When reminded that as Governor-
General he had denounced the " contracted views of monopo-
lists," and insisted upon it " as a fixed and incontrovertible
principle that commerce could only flourish when free and
equal," he had the moral courage to say that he had altered
his opinions, and did not come there to defend his own incon-
sistencies. The evidence of Lord Teignmouth, of Mr. Charles
Grant, of Colonel Malcolm, of Colonel Munro, and, indeed of
all the witnesses, more than fifty in number, marshalled by
the India House on this occasion, ran in the same groove.
They affirmed that the climate of India and the habits and
prejudices of the natives presented an insuperable barrier to
the increased consumption of British manufactures. The trade
of India had already reached its utmost limit, and it could be
conducted with advantage only through the agency of the
Company. The free admission of Europeans would lead to


colonization ; the weak and timid natives would become the
victims of European oppression, and India would eventually
be lost to England. These opinions were advocated, gene-
rally, in the spirit of a sincere conviction, and not of mere
partizanship ; and although, with our larger experience, we
cannot fail to regret that so many great and eminent men
should have clung to an erroneous creed, we are constrained
to respect the benevolence of their motives when we find
that they deprecated the proposed changes chiefly because they
dreaded their injurious consequences on the well-being of
the natives. But all the authorities and all the evidence the
Court of Directors could muster proved unavailing. The
House yielded to the voice of the nation, which had been
unequivocally expressed in the petitions with which it was
overwhelmed, and opened the gates of Indian commerce to the
capital and enterprise of England.

speeches of The charter discussions in the House of Lords

andLord Gren- were rendered memorable by the speeches of Lord
vine, 1813. Wellesley and Lord Grenville. Lord Wellesley,
when Governor-General, had incurred the wrath of the India
House by advocating and encouraging the enlargement of the
private trade, and asserting that it was not likely to lead to a
large influx of Europeans, and that if it did, they could be kept
under due control by the local authorities. On the present
occasion, however, he abandoned his former opinions, and ad-
vocated with equal vigour the claims of the Company to the ex-
clusive trade, not only of China, but also of India. He resisted
the proposal to allow Europeans to settle in India, because they
would outrage the prejudices of the natives, and endanger the
security of the Government. He likewise passed a high enco-
mium on the East India Company, affirming that no Government
had ever fulfilled its duties with more exemplary fidelity and
success. The sentiments expressed by Lord Grenville were the
boldest and the most enlightened which had ever been heard
within the walls of Parliament on the subject of Indian policy.
He considered that twenty years was too long a period for farm-


ing out the commerce of half the globe and the government of
sixty millions of people. The sovereignty of India belonged to
the Crown and not to its subjects. The blended character of
merchant and sovereign was an anomaly. No ruler had ever
traded to advantage; no trading company had ever adminis-
tered government for the happiness of its subjects. The
Company had lost four crores of rupees by their trade to
India in nineteen years, notwithstanding their monopoly ; and
they had traded with profit only to China, where they had
neither sovereignty nor monopoly. The Government of India
ought to be vested in the Crown. If, as he admitted, the
transfer of the patronage to the Ministry would weigh down
the balance of the constitution, appointments to the civil
service should be given by competition, and cadetships dis-
tributed among the families of those who had fallen in the
service of their country. That the trade of India was suscep-
tible of no extension was a mere idle assumption ; commerce
increased by commerce, and trade begat trade in all countries,
and India would furnish no exception to this universal law.
These sound opinions, which were far in advance of the spirit
and the courage of the age, carried no weight at the time, and
the Bill passed as it came up from the Commons, without any
modification. But the seeds of truth once planted in the fertile
soil of England never fail to germinate and bring forth fruit in
due season. It was a great stride for one age to break up
the monopoly. It devolved on a succeeding age to make
fresh advances in the career of progress. We find, accordingly,
that at the next renewal of the Charter in 1833 the Company
were entirely divested of their mercantile character, and con-
fined to the duties of government, while the Charter of
1853 threw open the civil service to competition, and the
government itself was transferred from the Company to the
Crown five years later.

me missionary Reference has been made in a previous chapter to
question, 1813. ^he restrictions which were imposed on the Seram-
pore Missionaries by Sir George Barlow, in 180 6, during the panic
n. u


created by the Vellore mutiny. Lord Minto, immediately on his
arrival, when new to the country, was led by their adversaries
to interfere with their proceedings ; but their satisfactory ex-
planations, and the discreet course they pursued, induced him
to desist from all opposition, and they were enabled for five
years to prosecute their labours without molestation. But in
the year 1812 Lord Minto's Government, without any apparent
motive, thought fit to adopt the most truculent measures
against the missionary enterprize, and to order eight mission-
aries, the majority of whom had recently arrived in the country,
to quit it. The alleged ground of this arbitrary proceeding
was, that they were without a licence from the Court of Di-
rectors; but as hundreds of Europeans, equally unlicensed,
had been allowed freely to enter and settle in the country, it
was felt to be a mere pretext for the indulgence of that feeling
of hostility to the cause, which was equally strong at that period
in the Council chamber in Calcutta and at the India House.
The feelings of the Court of Directors on this subject had all the
strength of traditional prejudices. They had violently opposed
and ultimately defeated the proposal made during the charter
discussions of 1793, to permit missionaries and schoolmasters
to resort to India, and their aversion to the introduction of
secular or religious knowledge had experienced no abatement.
It became necessary for the friends of missions to take advan-
tage of the present opportunity, and appeal to Parliament for
its interposition. The question was entrusted to Mr. Wilber-
force, who, in a speech distinguished for its eloquence, pointed
out the injustice and impolicy of the impediments imposed on
the resort of missionaries to India, and entreated the House to
remove them. He repudiated the remotest intention of forcing
Christianity on the country, and only sought permission to
place the truths of the Bible before the native mind for its
voluntary acceptance. But the India House and its witnesses,
with a few honourable exceptions, were as rigidly opposed to
this concession as to that of free trade, and reprobated the ad-
mission of missionary and mercantile agents with equal vehe-


mence. Of this powerful phalanx, Mr. Marsh, who had
amassed a fortune at the Madras bar, and obtained a seat in
Parliament, became the champion, and delivered a speech of
extraordinary power and virulence against the missionary
clause. Mr. Wilberforce had supported his argument by a
reference to the proceedings and the success of the mission-
aries at Serainpore ; but Mr. Marsh assailed their characters
with inordinate bitterness, denounced them as fanatics and
incendiaries, and applied to them such gross epithets as the
House had not been accustomed to tolerate. He asserted,
moreover, that the safety of the British empire in India de-
pended on the exclusion of all missionaries. But the voice of
the country, which the House implicitly obeys, was raised
with more than ordinary unanimity against the monstrous doc-
trine that the only religion to be proscribed in India should be
that of its Christian rulers. The clause was passed by a large
majority, and the same liberty was given to the introduction
of Christianity which had been enjoyed by the Mahomedans and
by the various Hindoo sectaries for the propagation of their
respective tenets. At the same time a Bishop was appointed
to Calcutta and an Archdeacon to Madras and Bombay, to
superintend the chaplains ; and a clause was added to the Bill
at the last moment, and on the motion of a private member,
to appropriate the sum of one lac of rupees a-year, out of a
revenue of seventeen hundred lacs, to the object of public

Eemarks on the The Charter Act of 1813 inflicted the first blow
charter, 1813. on ^ e monopoly of the East India Company. For
more than a hundred and fifty years that monopoly had been
not only beneficial, but essential to the interests of British
commerce in India. It gave a character of energy and perse-
verance to the national enterprize which enabled it to en-
counter opposition with success, and to survive reverses.
"Without it neither the commerce nor the dominion of England
would have been established in India. The venality and op-
pression of the officers of the native powers, which a powerful

TT 2


corporation was able to withstand, would have been fatal to
the private adventurer. But the monopoly became a positive
evil after the Company had become sovereigns. As rulers of
the country they owed it to the interests of their subjects to
grant the fullest scope for the expansion of their commerce,
instead of fettering it by the bonds of a state monopoly. The
extinction of the exclusive privileges of the Company was,
therefore, not less beneficial to India than to England. The
reasons advanced against it showed little judgment and still
less foresight ; and it may serve to rebuke the dogmatism
with which official men are prone to enforce their opinions, to
note that all the gloomy predictions of the Court of Directors,
and even of the most renowned of their servants, who were re-
garded as the great authorities of the time on Indian ques-
tions, have turned out to be utterly fallacious, without a
single exception. The trade, which they assured the House
of Commons admitted of no expansion, has risen from thirteen
millions to one hundred millions in 1865, and still presents the
prospect of an indefinite increase. In 1813 India was reckoned
among the smallest of the customers of England, but fifty
years later she had attained the highest rank. The export of
British cotton manufactures to India at the renewal of the
charter in 1813 was only ten lacs, but in spite of the invete-
rate habits and prejudices of the natives, it has increased fifty
fold. The Europeans who have been admitted into India
have contributed in the highest degree to its improvement and
prosperity by their capital and enterprize, and so far from
being a source of danger to Government, it is certain that if
there had been a body of only five thousand European settlers
in the North West provinces during the last mutiny in 1857, it
would have been nipped in the bud. If the hand-looms of
India have been in many cases silenced by the power-looms of
Lancashire, the loss has been more than compensated by the
hundred crores of silver and gold which free trade has poured
into her bosom during the last fifteen years.
Lord Hasting?, The Earl of Moira, subsequently created Marquis


Governor- of Hastings by which title we shall begin to de-
Generai, 1813. s jg nate j^ was appointed Governor-General in
succession to Lord Minto, and took the oaths and his seat in
Council on the 4th October, 1813. He was of the mature age
of fifty-nine, a nobleman of Norman lineage, with a tall and
commanding figure, and distinguished above all his predeces-
sors by his chivalrous bearing. He had entered the army at
seventeen, served for seven years in the war of American in-
dependence, and was rewarded for his services with an Eng
lish peerage. His life was subsequently passed in connection
with great public and political affairs, and he brought with
him to his high office a large fund of experience, a clear and
sound judgment, and great decision of character, together
with the equivocal merit of being the personal friend of the
Prince Regent. It is worthy of note that the responsibilities
of the Government of India produced the same change of
views in him as in his illustrious predecessor. Lord Wellesley
was so thoroughly convinced of the criminality of Warren
Hastings that he had offered to assist in conducting the prose-
cution, and he came to Calcutta, as he admitted, with the
strongest prejudices against him. But as he grew familiar,
on the spot, with the policy and character of his administration,
he expressed his unqualified admiration of it; and in 1802,
when the Nabob of Oude, hearing that Mr. Hastings had been
impoverished by his trial, offered to settle an annuity of twenty
thousand rupees on him, the information was conveyed by Lord
Wellesley in one of the most nattering letters the impeached
Governor-General had ever received. In like manner Lord
Hastings, in his place in Parliament, had denounced the spirit
of Lord Wellesley's administration, and his ambitious policy of
establishing British supremacy throughout India. He had now
an opportunity of testing the value of that opinion, and he
speedily saw cause to recant it. He had no sooner completed
his survey of the position and prospects of the empire than he
recorded his impression "that our object in India ought to
be to render the British Government paramount in effect, _if


not declaredly so, to hold the other states as vassals, though
not in name, and to oblige them, in return for our guarantee
and protection, to perform the two great feudatory duties of
supporting our rule with all their forces, and submitting their
mutual differences to our arbitration." Before he quitted
India he had waged war on a more gigantic scale than even
Lord Wellesley ; he had made the Company supreme through-
out India, and declared that the Indus was, to all intents and
purposes, the boundary of our empire.

state of India, I 11 tne autumn of 1813, Lord Minto quitted
IBIS. India with the firm belief that, with the exception

of the Pindaree cloud, it was in a state of the most perfect
security. "On iny taking the reins of Government," wrote
Lord Hastings, " seven different quarrels, likely to demand
the decision of arms, were transferred to me." In fact, the
non-intervention policy, which, during the preceding eight years-
the home authorities had considered the perfection of political
wisdom, and the native princes the result of sheer pusillani-
mity, had produced the same result of fermentation and even
anarchy, as the faint-hearted policy of Sir John Shore's days.
The total withdrawal of our influence from Central India had
brought on a contempt of our power, and sown the seeds of a
more general war than we had as yet been exposed to. The
government of Holkar was virtually dissolved when he
became insane, and there ceased to be any authority to control
the excesses of the soldiery, while Ameer Khan, with his free
lances, was at once the prop and the burden of the throne.
The troops of Sindia had been incessantly employed in opera-
tions tending to promote the aggrandisement of his power by
usurpations. The Peshwa, who had recovered his throne in
1802 by the aid of the Company, had been husbanding his
resources for the first opportunity of shaking off the yoke of
this connection. Rajpootana was a prey to the rapacity of
Ameer Khan, and the insatiable battalions of Sindia and

Online LibraryJohn Clark MarshmanThe history of India, from the earliest period to the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration / by John Clark Marshman (Volume 2) → online text (page 26 of 38)