Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

. (page 23 of 41)
Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 23 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

allow them to renew their depredations, on the payment
of a sum of money. No other punishment, it may be
averred, was ever inflicted on a man who could afford
to pay a fine ; and on the whole, the criminal system
of the Mahrattas was in the last state of disorder and

Judging from the impunity with which crimes might

be committed under a system of criminal justice and

prevauin poHce sucli as lias been described, we should

crimes. |^g ledto faucy the Maliratta country a complete
scene of anarchy and violence. No picture, however,
could be further from the truth. The reports of the
collectors do not represent crimes as particularly
numerous. Mr. Chaplin, who has the best opportunity
of drawing a comparison with our old provinces, thinks
them rather rarer here and there. Murder for revenge,
generally arising either from jealousy or disputes about
landed property, and as frequently about village rank,
is mentioned as the commonest crime among the
Mahrattas. Arson and cattle-stealing, as a means of
revenging wrongs, or extorting justice, is common in
the Karnatik. Gang robberies and highway robbery are
common, but are almost always committed by Bliils
and other predatory triljcs, who scarcely form part of
the society ; and they have never, since I have been in
the countiy, reached to such a j)itcli as to bear a
moment's comparison with the state of Bengal described
in tlie papers laid before Parliament.

It is of ^ast importance to ascertain the causes that
counteracted the corruption and relaxation of the police,


and which kept this country in a state superior to our
oldest possessions, amidst all the abuses and
oppressions of a Native Government. The account for

■■■ '■ 1 • 1 llicir rarity.

principal causes to which the disorders in
Bengal have been attributed are : the over-popnlation,
and the consequent degradation and pusillanimity of the
people ; the general revolutions of property, in conse-
quence of our revenue arrangements, which drove the
upper classes to disaffection, and the lower to despera-
tion ; the want of employment to the numerous classes,
whether military or otherwise, who were maintained by
the Native Government ; the abolition of the ancient
system of police, in which, besides the usual bad effects
of a general change, were included the removal of
responsibility from the Zamindars ; the loss of their
natural influence as an instrument of police ; the loss of
the services of the village watchmen ; the loss of a hold
over that class which is naturally disposed to plunder,
and, in some cases, the necessity to which individuals
of it were driven to turn robbers, from the resumption of
their allowances ; the separation of the revenue, magis-
terial, judicial, and military powers, by which all were
weakened ; the further weakness of each from the checks
imposed on it ; the delays of trials, the difficulties of con-
viction, the inadequacy of punishment, the trouble and
expense of prosecuting and giving evidence ; the re-
straints imposed by our maxims on the assumption of
power by individuals, which, combined by the dread of
the Adalat, discouraged all from exertion in support
of the police ; the want of an upper class among the
natives, which could take the lead on such occasions ;
and, to conclude, the small number of European magis-
trates (who supply the place of the class last men-
tioned), their want of connection and communication


with tlie natives, and of knowledge of their language
and character.

The Mahratta country presents, in many respects, a
complete contrast to the above picture. The people
are few compared to the quantity of arable land. They
are hardy, warlike, and always armed till of late years.
The situation of the lower orders was verj^ comfortable,
and that of the upper prosperous. There was abund-
ance of employment in the domestic establishments
and foreign conquests of the nation. The ancient
system of police was maintained. All the powers of
the State were united in the same hands, and their
rigour was not checked by any suspicions on the part
of the Government, or any scruples of their own. In
cases that threatened the peace of society, apprehension
was sudden and arbitrary, trial summary, and punish-
ment prompt and severe. The innocent might some-
times suffer, but the guilty could scarcely ever escape.
As the magistrates were natives, they readily understood
the real state of a case submitted to them, and w'ere
little retarded by scruples of conscience, so that prose-
cutors and witnesses had not long to wait. In their lax
system, men knew that if they were right in substance,
they would not be questioned about the form ; and
perhaps they likewise knew that if they did not protect
themselves, they could not always expect protection
from the magistrate, whose business was rather to keep
down great disorder than to afford assistance in cases
that might be settled without his aid. The Mamlutdars
were themselves considerable persons, and there were
men of property and consideration in every neighbour-
hood ; Inamdars, Jahagirdars, or old /amindars. These
men associated with the ranks above and below them, and
kept up the chain of society to the Prince. By tins means
the higher orders were kept informed of the situation


of the lower ; and as there was scarcely any man without
a patron, men might be exposed to oppression, but could
scarcely suffer from neglect.

Many of the evils from which this country has
hitherto been exempt are inseparable from the intro-
duction of a foreign Government ; but perhaps
the e:reater may be avoided by proper pre- preserving an

P "^ ^ i i i efficient Police.

cautions. Many of the upper classes must
sink into comparative poverty, and many of those who
were employed in the court and army must absolutely
lose their bread. Both of these misfortunes happened
to a certain extent in the commencement of Baji Euv's
reign ; but as the frame of Government was entire, the
bad effect of these partial evils was surmounted.
Whether we can equally maintain the frame of Govern-
ment is a question that is j^et to be examined. The
present sj'^stem of police, as far as relates to the villages,
may be easilj^ kept up ; but I doubt whether it is
enough that the village establishment be maintained,
and the whole put under a Mamlatdar. The Patil's
respectability and influence in his village must be kept
up, by allowing him some latitude, both in the expendi-
ture of the village expenses, and in restraining petty
disorders in his village. So far from wishing that it
were possible for the European officers to hear all com-
plaints on such subjects, I think it fortunate that they
have not time to investigate them, and think it desirable
that the Mamlutdars also should leave them to the
Patils, and thus preserve a power on the aid of which
we must, in all branches of the Government, greatly
depend. Zealous co-operation of the Patils is as
essential to the collector of the revenue, and to the
administration of civil justice, as to the police ; and it
ought, therefore, b}^ all means to be secured. Too
much care cannot be taken to prevent their duty

3t6 report on the TERRITORIES

becoming irksome, and their influence impaired by
bringing their conduct too often under the correction of
their superiors. I -would lend a ready ear to all com-
plaints against them for oppression, but I would not
disturb them for inattention to forms ; and I would leave
them at liberty to settle petty complaints their own way,
provided no serious punishment were inflicted on either
party. We may weaken the Patils afterwards if we
find it necessary, and retrench their emoluments ; but
our steps should be cautious, for if we once destroyed
our influence over the Patils, or theirs over the people,
we can never recover either. Care ought also to be
taken of the condition of the village watchmen, whose
allowance, if not sufficient to support him, and to keep
him out of temptation to thieve, ought to be increased ;
but it ought not to be so high as to make him inde-
pendent of the community, and it ought always to be
in part derived from contributions which may compel
him to go his rounds among the villagers, as at present.
If the village police be preserved, the next step is to
preserve the efficiency of the Mamlatdar ; at present
all powers are invested in that officer, and as long as
the auxiliary horse and Sebandis are kept up he has
ample means of preserving order. The only thing
requisite at present is that the Mamlatdar should
have higher pay to render him more respectable and
more above temptation, and to induce the better
sort of natives to accept the office. Wlien the
Sebandis are reduced in numbers and the horse dis-
charged, our means of preserving the police will be
greatly weakened, at the same time that the number of
enemies to the public tranquillity will be increased ; the
number of Sel)andis now in our pay, by giving employ-
ment to the idle and needy, contributes, I have no doubt,
more than anything else to the remarkable good order


"which this part of our new conquests has liitherto
enjoyed. The Mamlatdar will also fool the want of
many of the Jahagirdars and others of the upper class
who used to aid his predecessors with their influence,
and even with their troops. The want of that class
will he still more felt as a channel through which
Oovernment could receive the accounts of the state of
the districts, and of the conduct of the Mamlutdars
themselves. The cessation of all prospects of rise will
of itself in a great measure destroy the connection
between them and their rulers, and the natural distance
which I am afraid must always remain between natives
and English gentlemen will tend to complete the
separation. Something may be done by keeping up the
simplicity and equality of Mahratta manners, and by
imitating the facility of access wliich was conspicuous
among their Chiefs. On this also the continuance of
the spirit of the people and of our ow^n popularity will
probably in a great measure depend. Sir Henry
Strachey, in his report laid before Parliament,
attributes many of the defects in our administration
in Bengal to the unmeasurable distance between us and
the natives, and afterwards adds that there is scarcely a
native in his district who would think of sitting down
in the presence of an English gentleman. Here, every
man above the rank of a Harkura sits down before
us, and did before the Peshwa ; even a common Piayat,
if he had to stay any time, would sit down on the ground.
This contributes, as far as the mechanical parts of the
society can, to keep up the intercourse that ought to
subsist between the governors and the governed : there
is, however, a great chance that it will be allowed to
die away; The greater means of keeping it up, is for
gentlemen to receive the natives often, when not on
business. It must be owned there is a great difficult}'


iu this. The society of the natives can never be in
itself agreeable ; no man can long converse with the
generality of them without being provoked with their
constant selfishness and design, wearied with their
importimities, and disgusted with their flattery. Their
own prejudices also exclude them from our society in
the hours given up to recreation, and at other times
want of leisure is enough to prevent gentlemen
receiving them ; but it ought to be remembered that
this intercourse with the natives is much a point of
duty, and contributes as much towards good govern-
ment as the details in which we are generally occupied.
Much might likewise be done by raising our
Mamlatdars to a rank which might render it creditable
for native gentlemen to associate with them. It must
be owned our Government labours under natural dis-
advantages in this respect both as to the means of
rendering our instruments conspicuous, and of attaching
them to our cause. All j^laces of trust and honour
must be filled by Europeans. We have no irregular
army to afford honourable employment to persons
incapable of being admitted to a share of the Govern-
ment, and no court to make up by honours an
empty favour for the absence of the other more solid
objects of ambition. As there are no great men in our
service, we cannot bestow the higher honours ; and the
lower, on which also the natives set a high value — as the
privilege of using a j^articular kind of umbrella, or of
riding in a palanquin — cease to be honours under us,
from tlicir being thrown open to the world. What
honours we do confer are lost from our own want of respect
for them, and from our want of sufficient discrimination
to enable us to suit them exactly to the person and the
occasion, on which circumstances the value of these
fanciful distinctions entirely depends.


To supply tlio place of these advantages, we have
nothing left but good pay, personal attentions, and
occasional commendations and rewards. The first
object may be attained without much additional expense
by enlarging the districts, diminishing the number of
officers, and increasing their pay. The pay might also
be augmented for length of service, or in reward of
particular activity. It might be from 200 to 250
rupees at first, and increase one-sixth for every five
years' service ; Khillats might also be given as occa-
sional rewards for service ; and above all, lands for life,
or even on rare occasions for two or three lives, or in
perpetuity, ought to be given to old or to meritorious
servants. Besides the immediate effect of improving
the conduct of the Mamlatdars by these liberalities, the
political advantage would be considerable by spreading
over the country a number of respectable persons
attached to the Government, and capable of explaining-
its proceedings. If these grants could often be made
hereditary w^e should also have a source from which
hereafter to draw well-educated and respectable men to
fill our public offices, and should found an order of
families exactly of the rank in life which would render
them useful to a Government circumstanced like ours.
The Jahagir lands as they fall in might be applied to this
purpose ; and I think it would be good policy to make
the rules regarding the resumption at the death of the
present incumbents much stricter, if they were to be
applied to this purpose, since we should gain more of
useful popularity by grants of this kind than we should
lose by dispossessing the heirs of many of the present
Jahagirdars. It would be a further stimulus to the
Mamlatdars, at the same time that it contributed to the
efficiency of the system, to put the office of Daftardar
with the collector on such a footing as to render it a


sufficient object of emulation. For this purpose I
would allow it 1,000 rupees a month, which, considered
as the very highest salary to which a native could
attain is surel}^ not too much. I have fixed these
allowances below what I at first thought it expedient ;
and in judging of their amount, the great difference in
expense between this territory and the old provinces
must be borne in mind. The pay of the common
servants here is more than double what it is in Bengal.
But if the proposed allowances should still seem more
than the finances can bear, it ought to be recollected
that economy, no less than policy, requires liberal pay
where there is considerable trust, a maxim long since
confirmed in its application to the natives by the
experience and sagacity of General Munro.

Having thus formed a chain from the Patil to the
collector, and having provided them with such rewards
as circumstances will admit, it is of at least equal
importance to take care that they should bo punished
for neglect. The proposed improvement in the
situation of a Mamlatdar provides some means of
punishing him by affording him allowances which it
would be a serious misfortune to lose, and which would
admit of his paying fines, by giving him a character
that should make reproof a punishment and prospects
which he would be unwilling to forfeit. Imprisonment
or other punishment may be added if his offence were
more than neglect. A still stronger responsibility must
be imposed on the Patil, village watchmen ; and in
villages where the Kulkarni manages, on him also.
The practice of levying the value of the property lost
on the village ought not, I tliink, to be entirely
abandoned. I am aware that it has been objected to
by the highest authorities, and that it is in reality harsh
and often unjust ; but I think it better to regulate than


abandon it. It is a coarse but effectual remedy against
the indifference of the nei^^fhbourhood to the sufferings
of individuals, and if the great secret of police be to
engage many people in the prevention and punishment
of crimes, it will not perhaps be easy to find a measure
more advisable. It was adopted by our own early law-
givers, and is not less suited to the state of society in
India than it was in England under Alfred. When it
is plain that a village could not prevent a robbery, the
exaction of the money could of course be omitted ; but
where there is either negligence or connivance, it ought
to be levied either whole or in part. A fine would at
all events be expedient in such a case, and this is a
popular and established method of levying it : it keeps
a heavy punishment hanging over every village where a
robbery is committed, and throws the burden of j^roving
its innocence upon it ; whereas a fine would require
proof of actual connivance, and would after all be com-
plained of as a hardship ; while a levy of the same sum
in lieu of the property lost w^ould, if less than the
value of the property, be felt as an indulgence.

It appears an objection to this plan, that it affords
the Mamlatdar an opportunity of collecting more than
he brings to account, but in such a case the villagers
will of course complain, as they alwaj's did when the
money was taken from them unreasonably; and this
abuse, like many others, must depend for a remedy on
the vigilance of the collector.

On this, indeed, it will have been long since observed,
the whole system must depend, its object being to pro-
vide sufficient powers, and leave it to the principal
officer to guard against the abuse of them. That he
will always succeed, is more than I would promise ;
but perfection is not to be looked for, and we have only
the choice of taking away from our agents the power to



do good, or leaYing them in some degree the power to
do harm. Against this even a system of check and
limitation will not always guard ; for a man may be
careful not openly to commit irregularities, while he is
secretly guilty of every sort of oppression. As long as
the chief power in the district is in able hands, the good
done by the inferiors on this system will far prepon-
derate over the evil ; and if the collector be deficient,
I am afraid that no distribution of powers would make
up for his want of capacity, or do more than palliate or
conceal the evils to which such a want would give rise.

The highest rank in the chain under Government
should be a Court, or an individual vested with a general
control of all departments, who should be frequently in
motion, and whose business should rather be to super-
intend the whole system than to administer any part of
it, and to see that essentials were attended to rather
than rules were not violated. I would vest the fullest
power over the officers under them in the collector,
and in like manner it would be proper for Government
to pay the utmost attention to the principal officer's
recommendations, originating in the good or ill conduct
of the collectors. So general a charge, of course, re-
quires great industry and abilities : it is to be hoped
such may be obtained ; and if they are not, I despair of
supplying their place by any machiner}^ that can pos-
sibly be invented.

I have introduced those remarks under the police
where they first occurred to me ; but it is evident they
apply equally to any other branch of the Government.
I now return to the police.

The spirit of the people has been mentioned as of
the first importance ; and although that may be ex-
pected to flag under a foreign rule, and still more under
a strong Government which protects all its subjects, and


leaves no call for the exertion of their coura^'C and
energy in their own defence, yet there are instances in
some parts of our old territories of our subjects retaining
their military spirit after they have lost their habits of
turbulence, and we may hope to accomplish the same
object here. The first step towards its attainment is
to remove all obstructions to the use of arms. On our
first conquest some restriction was necessary on persons
travelling with arms ; but that has since been relaxed,
and ought to be done away. Besides the advantage of
arming the people for purposes of police, it would be
useful even in cases of w^ar and insurrection, as the
bulk of the people, even if disaffected, would be led,
for the sake of their property, to employ their arms
against our predatory enemies rather than against us.
On the same principles villages should be encouraged
to keep up their walls, and perhaps allowed some
remission to enable them to repair them.

It is important to the police that sudden discharges
of Sibandies should for a long time be avoided, and the
greatest encouragement given to the plan wdiich I have
mentioned elsewdiere of settling that class on waste or
other lands as a sort of local militia. It is to be con-
sidered that the Mahrattas, besides losing what service
they had under Baji Pu'iv, are now in a great measure
shut up from those colonies in Hindustan that afiorded
such a vent for the superfluous military population ;
Holkar's and the Bhonsle's armies are now nearly anni-
hilated, and it is much to be feared that Scindia's will

Some rules are required regarding the receipts and
sale of stolen or plundered property, regarding which
the native practice was weak and irregular.

I insert in this place some remarks on the manage-
ment of the hill-tribes, which, though at jn-escnt it



belongs to police, might easily be raised by a wrong
Management of system to importanco in a political view. The
other^pvedafol-y plan whicli has been found most effectual in
tnbes. ^^^ ^Y^ province, especially in the Bhaugal-
pore hills and in the Jungle Mahals of Midnapore, is
to govern this people through their native chiefs, whose
assistance is rewarded by the support of Government,
and in some cases by pecuniary allowances. This
plan has been kept up here, as it had been by the
Peshwa, after an unavailing attempt to manage the
Bhils by force alone. It is the only one practicable
until the gradual effects of civilization shall have under-
mined the power of the chiefs, at the same time that it
removes the necessity for their control over the people.
The principal chiefs are at present allowed pensions,
and a certain number of Bhils, of their selection, are
also paid bj^ the Government. These measures at once
fix them in the interest of Government, and secure
their influence in their tribe. It is, however, necessary
to guard against the abuses of this system, which are
the chiefs harbouring thieves, or conniving at robbers,
and their acquiring such an influence, as may tempt
them to oppose the measures of Government. The
flrst evil will be provided against by exacting strict
responsibility from the chief, and fining or otherwise
punishing him if frequent offences take place within
his jurisdiction ; whether the punishment should be
imprisonment or removal of the same family must
depend on the notions of the Bhils, which ought to be
investigated, not only for this purpose, but to prepare
us for questions of disputed succession to chiefships,
that we may not destroy the power of this engine of
government by running counter to the opinion of the
people whom it is to sway. For the other object, it is
necessary to grant no increase, cither in extent of land



or in authority to any chief, without its being clearly
necessary for repressing disorder, which necessity is
not likely to be felt. The Bhils may also be gradually

Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 23 of 41)