Considerations on India Affairs
About this text
William Bolts was a Dutch born 18th Century merchant, who joined the service of the English East India Company. Bolts was the second in Council in the Company’s factory at Benaras. Bolts promoted opium production, opened woolen mart during his time at the Benaras factory. Bolts like his other colleagues at the East India Company was also involved in private trading. The Company decided to censure him in 1766 and he resigned in 1768. Bolts attempt to redeem his position did not meet with much success. Back in England he published “Considerations of Indian Affairs” in 1772 as a rearguard action. In his book Bolts discussed in details of the inconsistencies in the affairs of the Bengal Government. Bolts particularly highlighted the exploitation and despoliation of Bengal, mostly due to the illegal trading of the Company officials, following the Battle of Plassey. In his later life Bolts joined service under the Austrian monarch. His attempts of founding Austrian factories in India failed. Bolts died in Paris, in the year 1808.
The selections from Considerations of Indian Affairs highlight the nature of private trading which severely affected Bengal’s economy following the Battle of Plassey.
The selections from Considerations of Indian Affairs highlight the nature of private trading which severely affected Bengal’s economy following the Battle of Plassey.
PARTICULARLY RESPECTING THE
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED,
A MAP OF THOSE COUNTRIES
CHIEFLY FROM ACTUAL SURVEYS
AND ALDERMAN, OR JUDGE OF THE HON. THE MAYOR COURT OF CALCUTTA,
Hindostan, from time immemorial, practised agriculture and manufacturing in an extraordinary degree; and they served to make her populous and wealthy almost beyond example. But by neglecting foreign commerce she has continued deficient in various kinds of useful knowledge; and from her want of many laborious arts, and not practising navigation in any considerable degree, she never grew sufficiently powerful to be secure of her own defence.
From very ancient times, we hear much of far distant nations going to trade with the Indians, but nothing of the people of India ever going to trade with them. In like manner, the writers in remote times make frequent mention of the great wealth of the Indians, but say little of their power; nor indeed could the latter have ever been very considerable, because, we know they were easily subdued at different periods of time.
The English East India Company have since got posessions of Bengal, Bahar, and so much of Orissa as had been preserved by the latter Nabobs; and there have been negociations entered into by their servants with the Marahtah Rajahs, particularly Janoogee and Ragoonaut Row, concerning the Chout; the latter of whom, the Court of Directors were informed from their President and Council in Bengal, under date or the 5th January 1768, had assembled an army at Berar; and, by dispatches of the 29th of the following month they were farther advised, that "The President, since Mahomed Reza Khawn's arrival in Calcutta, "had in conjunction with that minister, had several conferences with "the Marahtah Vakeel on the subject, who assured them, that his "master would not listen to any accommodation for the cession of Cut "tack and consideration for the Chout, on any other terms than the "annual payment of †1 sixteen lacks of rupees, to be accounted for from "the time the Company took charge if the Dewannee of those provinces, "and the select Committee on their behalf, to be guarantees for the Nabob's faithful performance of the treaty. In support of the propriety "of these demands, he recited the promise made to his master by Mr. [Page 10] " Vansittart, in the year 1763, of paying all arrears of the Chout, on "condition that he did not join his forces to the troops of the Nabob "Cossim Ally Khawn; and laid much stress upon the assurance given ''him by Lord Clive, that whenever the treaty should be concluded with "them, the annual sum stipulated for should commence fromthe time the "Company were invested with the Dewannee of the provinces. After many "debates the Vakeel consented, with assurances of his master's concur "rence also, that the rents which have been collected in Orissa during "the above period should be set against the annual arrears which he de "manded.
" By such an agreement," (proceed the Governor and Council) "and "a proper examination of their accounts, the arrears will be considerably "diminished; and although we must expect, from the distracted state of ''the Marahtah government, that they have not collected the whole "amount of the revenues of that province, yet we have reason to believe, " that under your government, and the immediate inspection of your ser "vants, they may in time amount to, if not exceed, the annual tribute "demanded.
"As this was a matter which we deemed of the highest importance, "so it has engaged our most serious attention: when we consider the "many benefits which must naturally result from thus uniting the Com "pany's territories on the coast with your valuable possessions in Bengal, a step" which will complete the chain of your influence and dominions, from the "banks of the Caramnassa to the farthest extremity of the coast of Coro"mandel, a measure that must tend so greatly to the preservation of both "settlements, by the mutual support which at all times it will enable "them to give to each other; the removing at once every pretence of ''the Marahtahs for disturbing the peace and tranquillity of these pro "vinces, and the shock it will give to their strength and power, when "ever it may be found necessary to separate so principal a member as "Janoogee; who, during the whole course of his negociations, has ex "pressed an earnest desire to enter into an offensive and defensive alli "ance with us: all these considerations having been attentively weighed "and debated in Committee, we resolved to acquisce in the proposals "of the Vakeel, and to bring the treaty to as speedy a conclusion as "possible: the President has accordingly signified our assent in a letter "to Janooge, and has requested of the Nabob to agree to it on his "part.
Thus we see negociations were long ago on the carpet between the Marahtahs and the English East India Company, not only for the reestablishment of their Chout, or tribute, but even for the payment of [Page 11] arrears from the time of our acquiring those territories. What has been farther done in these matters, we pretend not to say; but we know it is said in India, and has been lately written from thence hither, that there are important points which the Marahtahs have in view, and that they will persevere in the pursuit of them.
The Marahtahs are in possession of a very extensive country, and their husbandmen and manufacturers are on their military, or rather militia establishment. Being all bred to arms, and heretofore entirely cavalry, they are enterprising from long practice, and ever ready to march out of their country to ravage the territories of, or impose tributes on their neighbours, or for any other purpose. Being ferocious and rapacious, they are naturally cruel; insomuch that they maim *2 and murder as well as spoil, and often torture to extort discoveries, when they think treasures are concealed.
It has already been shewn, they long ago were very formidable; but they are grown much more so of late. In their expedition already mentioned against Allaverdy Khawn, in the year 1742, they almost instantly marched an army of †3 eighty thousand horse into the Bengal provinces: the remains of which being obliged to retire the next year into their own country, two more armies, each of ‡4 sixty thousand horse, were directly sent on the same service; and their point was at last carried. What they have long proved themselves by practice, they are now universally acknowledged to be, by far the most powerful of all the Hindoo nations. They have shewn they are greatly an over match for Hyder Ally; and as of late years they have been forming an infantry, which must be a regular force, should they make it but tolerably numerous and well disciplined, they will be soon able at any time to swell their numbers to what degree they please, as there are ||5 supposed to be no less than one fourth part of the natives of Hindostan, taking the country throughout, that are soldiers of fortune; who, from ill pay and discontent, will be ever ready to join them in any undertaking §6 from which advantage can be hoped; so that a great military power in India may at any time be soon formed: it should there [Page 12] fore be hoped, that the ruling powers in this kingdom will be always greatly on their guard, lest an ignorant or iniquitous administration of power in India should sacrifice advantages that may be but ill estimated at present here, but which might be soon made of the utmost importance to the state.
No rational doubt can be entertained, from the plunders and miseries which they have experienced from frequent changes of masters, and the entire want of legal protection and justice, but that all the most valuable people in the Bengal provinces, who are the husbandmen and manufacturers, would quietly submit to any government that had but the virtue to treat them with humanity, and patiently labour on, so long as they find themselves able by their industry to subsist. But whenever that end can be no longer obtainable by such means, they must and certainly will seek refuge from intolerable misery by any kind of desperation .
The single object which an oppressed people ever have in view, is to free themselves by any means from the present tyranny which they suffer, with trusting to chance for whatever may follow: and we should be extremely weak to suppose the people of Bengal can ever want instigators to, or supporters in a revolt. Those possessions are envied Great Britain alike by the powers of Europe and Asia; who will not scruple, either separately or conjointly, by any means whatever, to deprive her of acquisitions of such infinite importance.
Thus evidently doth it appear, that there is a native power now in India which may be considered as great, and at this very time extremely formidable to the Company; being masters of a great part of India, and by late acquisition in actual possession of the greater part of Orissa, which they now hold as a pledge, and which, to be re-obtained, must in effect be purchased by the payment of arrears; and the Company's servants must likewise be sureties for the payment of an annual tribute in future of two hundred thousand pounds, only because demanded of them by a neighbouring Indian nation.
Such is the present state of the British dominions in Bengal, entrusted to the care of the East India Company, whose government there is rendered hateful to the natives by oppressions, has occasioned desertions of many of the people, is in general odious in India, disgusting to and envied by many of the powers of Europe, and tyrannical in the extreme towards their resident fellow-subjects: from all which circumstances, let the impartial and judicious be judges of the degree of security the state can have in those possessions, should oppressive conduct and ill policy be longer suffered to prevail.
2. CHAP. XII. Of the REVENUES of BENGAL and its DEPENDENCIES; and of the methods of collecting them.
THE revenues of Bengal and its dependencies arise from the rents paid for lands, either according to their measurement or according to the produce of them, at certain established rates, which vary in different parts even of the same province, according to its different degrees of fertility. While the empire remained unshaken, the general established rate of estimation at Dehly, for cultivated ground in Bengal, was three sicca rupees, or seven shillings and six pence per bega of 16,003 square feet, one with another, or about twenty shillings per acre. But this was not the rate of collecting the rents in those provinces, where few lands paid according to measurement as so much per bega; but generally by a proportion of the crop estimated on the ground, and valued at the then market price of such produce. Thus ground producing rice, pease, wheat, barley and other grain generally pays one half of the crop: in which mode some products make the bega very valuable, as the lands in Bengal, from the extraordinary fertility of the soil, in most places produce two, and in some even three crops of grain in the year. Ophium and sugar-cane, which yield only one crop in the year, and are only produced in particular districts, yield to the land-holder at the rate of from seven to as high as fifteen rupees per bega: but the most valuable product of all is the shrub which bears the leaf called by the natives Paan, and by the English Beetle-leaf; which, notwithstanding the vegetative advantages of the soil and climate, requires some nicety [Page 149] in cultivation, and pays the land-holder as high as thirty-two rupees per bega.
The whole of what was collected, was the property of the Emperor, by whom the whole country (excepting such parts as were assigned on temporary grants to the crown pensioners, called Jagueerdars, and the charity-lands, allotted to religious purposes, by the denomination of Bhurmuttro, and a variety of other hard names, under the general title of Bazy Zemeen, which would require whole pages to explain) was allotted for the purpose of governing, and collecting the revenues thereof, to such persons as he pleased, either as superintendants, farmers of the revenues, or governors, under the different ranks of Rajahs, Subahdars, Nazims, Nabobs, Zemindars, &c. who, whatever they might collect, were seldom molested by any officers from the King's Dewan, or Receiver General of the revenues, so long as they regularly accounted for the sums at which their provinces were respectively rated in the King's books, and satisfactorily gratified the Dewan and other great officers of the court.
The Rajahs are Princes descended from the ancient Gentoo Kings; many of whom by the indulgence of the Moguls, who always had the justice or policy to shew particular attention to this race, have had their rajahships hereditarily continued in their families: though the Moguls of later years have assumed the power of creating even GENTOO RAJAHS, as well as ENGLISH OMRAHS. Several Rajahs of the ancient races, however, still hold rajahships among those lands which are now possessed by the English Company. The other renters, called Zemindars, and the Governors of provinces called by the different names of Subahdars, Nazims, or Nabobs (now mostly Mahomedans) that hold lands, are temporary farmers, who usually hold them from year to year, though sometimes for a term of years. These Rajahs, Nabobs and Zemindars, for such lands as they held, were taxed upon a general representation of their produce, ad libitum, by the Sovereign; who likewise could, when he pleased, resume the whole of the collections, as far as could come to his knowledge; paying or allowing the great land-holders, or superintendants therefrom such sums as he thought proper for their subsistence, and for the charges of the collections and of their respective governments. There are another set of inferiour renters under the government, called Chowdrys, Talookdars and Etmaumdars, who are accountable for their rents to the before-mentioned great land-holders; and both the greater and lesser renters have usually farmed out their lands again, for a net sum, to men of property on the spot, as under-farmers. These last are they who set the lands to the Ryots, or poor tenants and manufac [Page 150] turers; though the great renters do frequently keep the lands in their own hands, and collect immediately from the Ryots, at their own charge, by their own officers at the Cutcherries, or offices so called, established for that purpose in every district where they are found most convenient and where, in cases of backwardness in payment, the Ryots are severely chastized.
The Ryot holds his lands by a kind of lease called a Pottah, specifying the sort, quantity and rate of his land, the rent of which is to be paid at stated periods; and these Pottahs are irrevocable by the ancient established laws of the empire, so long as the tenant justly pays up his rents; and even in case of failure therein, so tender were ancient customs of the husbandman's interest, that he could not be dispossessed of his lands until after a failure in his payments for twelve months.
For the purposes of cultivation, it has been likewise ever customery for the Nabobs to lend the lesser land-holders, and again for those land-holders or other men of property to advance to the Ryots considerable sums of money upon bond, though at a very high rate of interest, even so high as upwards of forty per cent. per ann. to be repaid from the produce of the ensuing crop. The sums advanced in this way, commonly known in Bengal by the term Tagabey, are employed by the Ryot in the charges of cultivation, particularly in buying cattle and feed, and in making the necessary reservoirs and drains, which are there very requisite, and the most expensive preparatives. Without this advance to the poor people, the whole business of agriculture would be at a stand: it is therefore evident, that the encouragement derived by the poorer sort of people from public protection can be no where more neccessary than in the interior parts of Bengal.
Since the subversion of the Mogul empire, the lands of every district of course become the property of each respective usurper, so long as by their own power they can maintain possession; and so long each usurper deemed himself, and in fact was a real sovreign. Thus, upon the English East India Company's assuming the Dewanee, we find that they also, in their turn, declare themselves to have become the Sovereigns *7 of a rich and potent kingdom; of the revenues of which they likewise declare themselves not only the Collectors but Propreitors.
When the sovereignty of the Bengal provinces was thus taken by the Company upon themselves, in 1765 Mr. Sykes was appointed, by the President and Select Committee at Calcutta, the Company's Resident at the Durbar *8, or the Nabob's Court at the capital of Murshedabad, to adjust the gross revenues of the provinces, and settle the claims of Jagueerdars, as being a part of that business. This gentleman, single and without any checks, was likewise entrusted with the direction of the Nabob and his officers, superintended the interior collections, and the administration of Justice in countries more extensive and more populous than Great Britain; and, as if these were not enough for the single abilities of this gentleman, the wisdom of the Select Committee farther loaded him with the additional charge of the chiefship of the Company's factory at Cossimbazar, where most of their silk and a great part of their other Bengal investments are provided.
In the continual fluctuation of the property of the country, under different usurpers, the most simple mode of taxation, under manifold oppressive pretences, has been so increased and varied, and, by the villany of the endless train of accomptants, shroffs, or money-changers, receivers and other officers employed in the collections at the Cutcheries, has in many places become so perplexed, as to render a thorough [Page 155] knowledge of the present revenues a difficult task; and from the present general state of the country, as well as from the particular customs and methods of conducting this business, the harpies employed find it easy to practise every species of extortion and fraud. This is so much the case, that in many places, after the yearly account of a Pergunnah has been settled at any of the Cutcherries, the detection of its falsity, or the proof of its truth would be a difficult undertaking even ta the best accomptant, however well acquainted he might be with the languages and customs of the country.
In fact, every method practised in the business of the collections seems to have been calculated, in every department, to encourage deceit, and screen it from the Sovereign; for the very accounts of the Bengal collections, which are kept in the Bengal language, are, from established custom, kept on small octavo slips of paper, called Ferds, and filed on a string; which, if not sharply looked after and regularly abstracted, it is very easy for the Black clerks to take off one Ferd and slip on another, to serve a particular purpose. The English collector can never detect a fraud of this kind, unless he can write and read the Bengal language, or has, what is very rare, honest Banyans about him.
The same confusion which has prevailed in the Dehly provinces since the subversion of the empire, has extended to the dominions of every usurping Nabob. Thus, in particular, from the invasion of Nader Shah downwards, the independent Nabobs, or Subahdars of Bengal, have in general paid but little attention to the hereditary rights of the ancient Rajahs, or Zemindars; and since the English East India Company have become the Sovereigns of Bengal, less ceremony has been used with them; many of the lowest class of Banyans having been put over them, or in their places, as well as in every department of the government.
The revenues, when adjusted at Murshedabad, are taxations ad libitum, and hitherto have depended entirely on the arbitrary will of the English chief, or chiefs; as may be also seen from Mr. Sykes's Letters, [Page 156] already quoted: and those chiefs so beset with harpies, who, from the highest to the lowest, will be always interested in deceiving them and endeavouring to sap their integrity, can have no guides whom they can depend on but their own judgments and consciences. With English collectors another set of men have been also naturally introduced, the English Sircars and Banyans; who, from the superior influence which they assume over the rest of the Black officers, as being Dewans to the Lords of the country, must generally be first satisfied. Under these different ranks of men, the divisions and subdivisions are innumerable all of whom, from the Nabob down to the lowest officer of a village, must have a share of what can be secreted from the revenues. In this situation of affairs it is obvious, that there must be innumerable abuses in the department of the revenues, which will escape the English collector, though a man of the greatest integrity; of some of which abuses we will briefly take notice in this place.
This adjustment; which is Bengal is emphatically called the Bundobust (the tying and binding) naturally affords a fine field for the exercise of the fertile genius of this race of Asiatics, inferior to none in intrigues. The Zemindars, who upon this occasion generally are in want of large sums of ready each, as well as of security to be given for the payment of their rents according to agreement, have been usually necessitated to call in the Shroffs, or bankers and money-changers, to their assistance.
Among the arrangements which took place upon Lord Clive's assuming the Dewannee, a son of this Juggut Seat, scarce eighteen years old, was appointed the Company's Shroff, and associated with Mahomed Reza Khawn and Doolubram, the persons mentioned in Mr. Sykes's letters already quoted, as officers on the part of the Company, for conducting the business of the province and the collection of the revenues. But notwithstanding all his Lordship's precautions in those appointments they did neither put a stop to the irregularities which had taken so deep root, nor prevent that sudden acquisition of fortune which his Lordship and the Secret Committee had so very much at heart.
In cases of ravage, from the incursions of an enemy, devastations from the floods occasioned by the periodical rains, from the extraordinary drought of the season, or of any other public calamity, a proportionate deduction is made from the stipulated rents and this also affords a spacious field for the exercise of Asiatic ingenuity in bribery and intrigue, from the Nabob down to the Ryot.
People are also frequently sent by the English, or Government-mutseddees into the Pergunnahs, under several different denominations; such as Aumeens, Aumils, &c. to examine accounts, measure land, value the crop, or to hasten and forward the collections; who always receive very considerable allowances from the Zemindars, the amount of which is again levied upon the Ryots, or poor tenants in the districts they are sent to, besides large sums which they most commonly receive for concealing their discoveries. Here it must be remarked, that the abovementioned allowances charged upon the monthly payments made by [Page 160] the Zemindar, for the deficiency of which he must still fill up the sum of his stipulated payment, form the charge of a compound, or aggregate sum, much greater than the same would amount to if charged at once in a fixed sum per annum.
It is likewise the custom of the country, for the government to collect a fourth part, called the Chout, upon the amount of most judicial decisions in causes of meum and tuum between individuals at the Cutcherries, but particularly on the amount of bond debts; and this also is, in the present anarchical state of the country, a copious field for the Banyans and other officers, in which they practice every species of roguery and intrigue.
But one of the greatest advantages, made by the principal officers of the revenue, has been the lending out their money, and not unfrequently the Company's, as their own, upon Tagabey, as already explained, at the rate of 35 and 40 per cent. per annum, for which they can securely repay themselves from the first monies coming in on account of the rents. We do not pretend to assert, that any of our English collectors have shared in this variety of perquisites, though that point might have been worthy of the inquiry of the late intended. Supervisors, yet we cannot exculpate them, on the charge of employing the Nabob, and through him the Zemindars, to take off the cotton of their very extraordinary monopoly of that commodity (treated of in our 14th chapter) as in fact this was neither more nor less than charging the revenues with the profits on the cotton, for the benefit of the owners, and to the ruin of the country and manufactures.
In short, so great, and so notorious have been the advantages to be gathered up at the Durbar, that even the Banyans of junior English servants under the Resident, have thought it worth their while to pay twenty five per cent. per annum for money to satisfy the calls of their masters, rather than lose their posts, while they have lent the money so raised, to their masters at the customary interest of ten per cent. per ann. and so great have been the irregularities in the business of the collections, that it has been a customary practice for the Zemindars to pay twenty-five per cent. on the gross amount of their taxed rents, to particular persons of influence, for the loan of their names to protect them from exactions, or trouble at the Durbar, instances of which are within our knowledge. The writer of these sheets has even known a black collector, employed by the English in the Bahar province, of his own authority levy a tax of eight annas (or about fifteen pence) on every village in his province to indemnify himself for a ring which he had lost in the Cutcherry; which though a small tax on each village, yet when [Page 161] collected upon all the villages in the province would amount to a very considerable sum .
It must be likewise obvious, that while such is the wretched state of the government in Bengal, the real amount of the revenues of those provinces can never be precisely traced through such an intricate labyrinth of fraud and deceit: nor will it ever be effected till a complete measurement be made of every district, and a just account taken of the land held by every Ryot. And whenever that is done, the lands paying no rents, held under the denominations of jagueers and charity-lands, will cut a most conspicuous figure. Of this the reader may form some notion, when he is informed, that during the Chiefship of Mr. John Johnstone in the province of Burdwan alone, after an odious scrutiny, which employed near seventy persons and lasted near eight months, that gentleman discovered 568,736 begas, making nearly a fifth part of the lands of the whole province, to have been alienated from the revenue, and possessed chiefly, upon fraudulent grants, by priests, superintendents of the revenue and favourites; under the various titles of Bazy Zemeen, or charity-lands.
Under these circumstances, it may with the greatest truth be asserted, that the sum received by the Company's collectors at Murshedabad, after making all due allowances, has ever fallen greatly short of the amount actually paid by the Ryots, or original cultivators of the country. This, whether we consider the Company as the sovereigns and proprietors of the revenue, as they stile themselves, or as trustees for the public, is a matter worthy of the regard of stock-holders, and of the minutest attention of this nation. But the embezzlement of the revenues of Bengal [Page 162] never will be effectually prevented, till capital punishments are inflicted upon embezzlers, whomsoever they may be. The blacks, by proper punishments being inflicted on two or three persons legally convicted of such embezzlements, would soon be awed into an honest practice: for the present dishonesty of the timid natives in those matters is perhaps more owing to the frequency of bad examples in their superiors, and to the total impunity of such crimes in Bengal than to the villany of even those natives who have been most corrupted in European settlements. Such punishments however, as would prevent it, at least in some degree, the Company are not, and perhaps be legally impowered to inflict.
The Company have of late adopted a plan which the writer recommended to them, among other improvements in the year 1767, of stationing their covenanted servants to superintendency of the collection at every prinicipal Zemindary, and appointing a board of revenue at Murshedabad. Although, the original springs of the former flourishing revenues in Bengal have been, of late years, so choaked up or destroyed as not easily to be restored; nevertheless by this new regulation, which it is strange was so long neglected, the Company will doubtless make a very considerable saving in the revenues, so far as respects the prevention of frauds and alienations though much will be still wanting for putting the business of the collection upon a proper footing, and particularly for preventing the young English collector from also becoming the only merchant and supreme judge in the district under his superintendency, which the influence he acquires from such a station puts so easily his power. It was a mistaken notion among the Directors, that the influence of a young servant, stationed in the interior country, would be inconsiderable, and therefore less pernicious than that of a Counsellor; for wherever an European is established in a public character, by the authority of the Company, whether a Writer or a Counsellor, he is equally stiled by the natives, the Burra Sahib, the Great Lord, or Rajahs and Zemindars, have as yet but a strange conception of the English government; for there have been instances of a Rajah's offering one of his daughters for the seraglio of an English collector, upon the adjustment of his Bundobust. Nothing at the same time can shew in a stronger light that the great influence of the English, and the abject state of dependence to which the natives are at present reduced, than an instance of this nature, so directly contrary to every tie that is held sacred by Gentoos.
The oppressions and monopolies in trade which have been introduced of late years, but particularly within the last seven (as treated of in our XIIIth and XIVth chapters) have been the principal causes of such a decrease in the real revenues of Bengal, as very shortly will be most severely felt by the Company. For the Ryots, who are generally both land-holders and manufacturers, by the oppressions of gomastahs in harrassing them for goods (as instanced in our XlVth chapter) are frequently rendered incapable of improving their lands, and even if paying their rents; for which, on the other hand, they are again chastised by the officers of the revenue, and unfrequently have by those harpies been necessitated to sell their children in order to pay their rents, or otherwise obliged to fly the country *9.
Another obstacle to the improvement of the revenues in Bengal is the want, to both great and little land-holders, of a secure and permanent possession of the lands; while the chawbuck and the caprice of a Governor are, in fast, almost the only laws for the decision of right. Thus situated, the renter, so far from venturing any part of his own real property in improving of farms. which he is liable to be disposessed of at any time for the benefit of others, does, on the contrary, entirely employ himself in making the most of all temporary advantages while he holds the lands and cares not in what situation he leaves them to a successor.
Intermediate renters, or dealers, are every where, and in all things, those who make the greatest profits: and the permitting of so many ranks of superintendents and renters seems to have been a material error in the Hindostan policy; because, for the welfare of a state, the growers and consumers of provisions cannot possibly approach too near together.
It remains to be seen, from the experience of future years, what salutary regulations the wisdom of Courts of Directors will enforce for the management of this branch, and the general improvement of the Bengal dominions: a concern of the utmost importance to the nation; and which, if properly attended to, we will venture to assert, the revenues of Bengal, as found by Lord Clive and Mr. Sykes in the year 1765, amounting, as by statement before given, to 3,630,676l. might easily, and without oppression to the inhabitants, have been improved by this time to six millions sterling; while, by an improper management, they have yearly fallen short of that very statement, and will most probably daily continue to grow worse, till an effectual system of reformation be established.
3. CHAP. XIV. ON the General MODERN TRADE of the English in BENGAL; on the OPPRESSIONS and MONOPOLIES which have been the Causes of the DECLINE of TRADE, the DECREASE of the REVENUES, and the present RUINOUS CONDITION of AFFAIRS in BENGAL.
When the Grand Mogul, Furrukhseer, granted his firmaun for exempting the English from the payment of all duties, their trade was very insignificant, as well as their legal possessions of lands, which, as we have seen, were by the firmaun circumscribed within forty begas, or about fifteen acres round every factory. At that time, and also for many years afterwards, even down to the year 1753, it was the custom for the Company in Bengal generally to provide their goods upon contracts with the merchants of the country, who received a part of the money in advance, which were called dadney-advances. These merchants, who were known by the appellation of dadney merchants, contracted upper penalties, to deliver the goods, at stated times and prices, [Page 191] at the Company's principal settlement, and were of course amenable to the laws of the country when they or their agents were guilty of any irregular practices.
The preference granted to the English, gave them great advantages when they came to deal with the weavers in the inland country, where the factors and gomastahs employed by the Company, on this change in the mode of providing their investment, were in general treated with great respect. This influence increased with the power of the English Company; so that after the defeat of Serajah al Dowlah, in 1756, that Nabob was made to engage, "that he or his officers should, on no "account interfere with the gomastahs of the English; but that care ''should be taken that their business might not be obstructed in any "way." And these gomastahs so well availed themselves of this new acquired power, that after the Company, by their substitutes, had made their first Nabob, Jaffier Ally Khawn, in the year 1757, their black gomastahs in every district assumed a jurisdiction which even the authority of the Rajahs and Zemindars in the country durst not withstand. Instances of this influence, so detrimental to the country, are to be met with in every page of Mr. Vansittart's Narrative.
In this situation of things, as the trade of the Company increased, and with it the inland trade of individuals also in a much greater proportion, those evils, which at first were scarcely felt, became at last universal throughout the Bengal provinces: and it may with truth be now said, that the whole inland trade of the country, as at present conducted, and that of the Company's investment for Europe in a more peculiar degree, has been one continued scene of oppression: the baneful effects of which are severely felt by every weaver and manufacturer in the country, every article produeed being made a monopoly; in which the English, with their Banyans and black gomastahs, arbitrarily decide what quantities of goods each manufacturer shall deliver, and the prices he shall receive for them.
To increase the amount of the Company's investment of goods for Europe, beyond what was sent by his predecessor, has been the constant endeavour of every succeeding Governor of Bengal, in order to acquire reputation with the Company. To obtain this increase great strictness has been used with, and great hardships have been exercised [Page 192] on the manufacturers, who are in general now monopolized by the English Company and their servants, as so many slaves; which has occasioned frequent complaints from the agents of the French and Dutch Companies, and those proposals for a participation of the weavers, of which we have taken notice at the conclusion of our eighth chapter. The severities practised towards these poor people, who are generally both manufacturers and husbandmen, are scarcely to be described; for it frequently happens, as we have observed in another place, that while the officers of the collections are distressing them one way for their established rents, the peons from the Company's gomastahs, on the other hand, are pressing them for their goods in such manner, as to put it out of their power to pay their rents. However excusable the oppressing of manufacturers might have appeared in the Company, as merchants, while the country belonged to another power, and the profit arising from trade was their only object in view, now, when they are become the Sovereigns of Bengal, the continuation of such a practice can no otherwise be considered than like the ideot-practice of killing the prolific hen to get her golden eggs all at once.
But for the better understanding of the nature of these oppressions, it may not be improper to explain the methods of providing an investment of piece goods, as conducted either by the Export-warehouse-keeper and the Company's servants at the subordinate factories, on the Company's account, or by the English gentlemen in the service of the Company, as their own private ventures. In either case, factors, or agents called gomastahs are engaged at monthly wages by the gentleman's Banyan; there being generally, on each expedition into the country, one head gomastah. one mohuree, or clerk, and one cash-keeper appointed, with some peons and hicarahs; the latter being for the purpose of intelligence, or carrying letters to and fro, which, for want of regular posts, every merchant does at his own expense. These are dispatched, with a Perwanah from the Governor of Calcutta, or the chief of a subordinate to the Zemindar of the districts where the purchases are intended to be made; directing him not to impede their business, but to give them every assistance in his power. The next step is to purchase a convenient sum in such species of rupees in the Bazar, at the batta current among the Shroffs, or moneychangers, as will best answer in the intended districts of purchase, which is dispatched for the first advances to the weavers; and afterwards, generally a proportion of such goods as it is imagined can be sold advantageously in the said districts, and realized in time for the latter advances, in full, to the weavers, are also dispatched, with the Company's dustuck, and consigned to these gomastahs. Upon the gomastah's [Page 193] arrival at the aurung, or manufacturing town, he fixes upon a habitation which he calls his Cutcherry; to which, by his peons and hircarahs, he summons the brokers, called Dallals, and Pykaas, together with the weavers; whom, after receipt of the money dispatched by his maater, he makes to aign a bond for the delivery of a certain quantity of goods, at a certain time and price, and pays them a part of the money in advance. The assent of the poor weaver is in general not deemed necessary, for the gomastahs, when employed on the Company's investment, frequently make them sign what they please; and upon the weavers refusing to take the money offered, it has been known they have had it tied in their girdles, and they have been sent away with a flogging. The Dallals are brokers, who are usually and necessarily employed by the gomastahs, as knowing and having accounts with all the weavers of the respective districts. They are often as much oppressed as te weavers; but when seperately employed they always make the latter pay for it. Under the Dallals, the Pykars are an inferior set of brokers, who manage the minutiæ of business between the weavers and the Dallals, as these last do with the gomastahs. A number of these weavers are generally also registered in the books of the Company's gomastahs, and not permitted to work for any others; being transferred from one to another as so many slaves, subject to the tyranny and roguery of every succeeding gomastah. The cloth, when made, is collected in a warehouse for the purpose, called a Khattah; where it is kept marked with the weaver's name, till it is convenient for the gomastah to hold a Kattah, as the term is, for assorting, and fixing the price of each piece: on which business is employed an officer called the Company's Jachendar, or assorter. The roguery practised in this department is beyond imagination, but all terminates in the defrauding of the poor weaver; for the prices which the Company's gomastahs, and, in confederacy with them, the Jachendars, fix upon the goods, are in all places at 1east fifteen per cent. and in some even forty per cent. less than the goods so manufactured would sell for in the public Bazar, or market, upon a free sale. The weaver, therefore, desirous of obtaining the just price of his labour frequently attempts to sell his cloth privately to others, particularly to the Dutch and French gomastahs, who are always ready to receive it. This occasions the English Company's gomastah to set his peons over the weaver to watch him, and not unfrequently to cut the piece out of the loom when nearly finished. With this power and influence, the gomastahs, in the mean time, are never deficient in providing as many goods as they can on their own [Page 194] accounts, and for the Banyans of their English employers; which they either sell to the agents of foreign Companies on the spot, or dispatch to Calcutta with the goods of their constituents, under cover of the same Company's dustucks; in either case, if there is any market at all, being sure of a profit on goods, so provided, of at least twenty per cent.
Upon the whole, it may with truth be asserted, that the monopolies which have been of late established, and the ruinous practices and regulations that have been introduced and enforced in Bengal by the English East India Company and their substitutes with respect to trade, are hastening on that destruction of the manufactories there which had its first beginning in the irregularities of usurping Nabobs, and the depredations of the Marahtahs. They have for several years past been decreasing in quality and advancing in price, while many manufacturers of all denominations have, by unparalelled oppressions, been driven from their callings and country.
We have seen all merchants from the interior parts of Asia effectually prevented from having any mercantile intercourse with Bengal, while, at the same time, the natives in general are in fact deprived of all trade within those provinces, it being wholly monopolized by a few Company's servants and their dependents. In such a situation, what commercial country can flourish? or who can be at a loss to account for that de [Page 207] crease of the Company's credit, and the great of current specie in Bengal? which last, though greatly promoted of late years by different drains, such as that of the treasures carried out of the provinces upon the flight of the Nabob Cossim Ally Khawn, the exportations to China and the other parts of India, the suspension of importations from Europe, and the introduction at Calcutta of the above-mentioned overrated base gold coin; yet, as they had their beginning in, so their continuance is owing chiefly to the obstructions of the original springs of commerce, and the great oppression of the industrious part of the natives.
While the Company and their substitutes, by a subversion of the rights of mankind, in the unrestrained exercise of every species of violence and injustice are thus suffered to monopolize, not only the manufactures but the manufacturers of Bengal, and thereby totally repel that far greatest influx of wealth which used to steam in from the commerce of Asia; and likewise, by every method they can safely practise, obstruct the trade of the other European nations with those provinces, which is the only other inlet, of wealth they possibly can have, and at the same time, while they are continually draining off from thence immense sums annually for China, Madrass, Bombay and other places, the consequence cannot prove other than beggary and ruin to those inestimable territories.
These are circumstances that should serve to awaken the strong attention even of the proprietors of East India stock, as well as of the government; who should pay no regard to the confident assertion, that so long as the Ganges runs through Bengal, the inhabitants will not quit that country. The Ganges is equally, nay more venerated in other countries to the northward of Bengal and Bahar, where the Hindoos, who are only one part of the people, may equally follow the rites of Brimha their law-giver; besides experience evinces the falsity of such an assertion.
The Company ought not to erect or suffer others to establish any monopolies in Bengal; but should so regulate matters as to seek their own advantage in the prosperity of the country. Such can be the only just, the only safe policy to adopt; without which the possession of that [Page 208] country, with all its natural resources, will soon become burthensome, instead of being advantageous to the Company or the nation.
Such are the bad effects of evil causes, which are now operating very fast towards the ruin of the Bengal provinces; so evidently, as when brought to a severe test, which must soon be the case, even Directors cannot, nor will dare to deny. If successive sets of Directors have been ignorant of those sure effects of causes, they have thereby shewn themselves to be unqualified for their stations: but if they were able to trace them out, or were timely apprized of the evils, and neglected to act honourably from such knowledge, they will have then proved themselves unworthy of their trust, and must deserve to be considered as the betrayers of it.
It remains to be seen from the effects of time, what salutary measures towards the cure of present existing, and the prevention of dreaded evils in future have been or may hereafter be adopted from the wisdom of Directors; but however the temporary propreitors of East India stock, or such as have an interest in the Company's affairs seperate from that of the public, may think and act on these matters, it should be greatly hoped, by every real well-wisher to this kingdom, that government will take the preservation and improvement of those Asiatic dominions, which is conceived would be no very hard task, into their most serious consideration, while there is yet time for making preventive remedies efficaciously to operate. The critical period cannot now be far distant; so that longer delays may render the application of restorative means ineffectual, because unfortunately made too late.
4.1. No XVIII. Copy of the General Firmaun from THE EMPEROR, SHAH ALLUM, granting to the Company the Dewannee of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa. Dated 12th August 1765.
At this happy time our royal firmaun, indispensably requiring obedience, is issued, That whereas in consideration of the attachments and [Page 30] services of the High and Mighty, the Noblest of exalted Nobles, the Chief of illustrious Warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers worth of our royal favours, the English Company, we have granted them the Dewanee of the provinces of Bengal, Bahar and Orissa, from the beginning of the Fussul Rubby of the Bengal year 1172, as a free gift and ultumgau, without the association of any other person, and with an exemption from the payment of the customs of the Dewanee, which used to be paid to the court; it is requisite that the said Company engage to be security for the sum of twenty-six lacks of rupees a year, for our royal revenue, which sum has been appointed from the Nabob, Najim al Dowlah Bahader, and regularly remit the same to the royal Sircar; and in this case, as the said Company are obliged, to keep up a large army for the protection of the provinces of Bengal, &c. we have granted to them whatsoever may remain out of the revenues of the said provinces, after remitting the sum of twenty-six lacks or rupees to the royal Sircar, and providing for the expences of the nizamut: it is requisite that our royal descendents the Viziers, the bestowers of dignity, the Omrahs, high in rank, the great officers, the Mutseddes of the Dewanee, the managers of the business of the Sultanaut, the Jagueerdars and Croories, as well the future as the present, using their constant endeavours for the establishment of this our royal command, leave the said office in possession of the said Company, from generation to generation, for ever and ever, looking upon them to be insured from dismission or removal, they must on no account whatsoever give them any interruption, they must regard them as excused and exempted from the payment of all customs of the Dewanee, and royal demands. Knowing our orders on the subject to be most strict and positive, let them not deviate thereform.
Written the 24th of Sophar, of the 6th year of the Jaloos*10.
Contents of the Zimmun.
Agreeably to the paper which has recieved our sign-manual, our royal commands are issued, that in consideration of the attachment and services of the High and Mighty, the Noblest of exalted Nobles, the Chief of illustrious Warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company, we have granted them the Dewanee of the provinces of Bengal, Bahar and Orissa, from the beginning of the Fussul Rubby of the Bengal year 1172, as a free [Page 30] gift and ultumgau, without the association of any other person, and with an exemption from the customs of the Dewanee, which used to be paid to the court, on condition of their being security for the sum of twenty-six lacks of rupees a year, for our revenue; which sum has been appointed from the Nabob Najim al Dowlah Bahader; and after remitting the royal revenue, and providing for the expences of the nizamut, whatsoever may remain we have granted to the said Company.
4.2. No XIX. Copy of the Firman from THE EMPEROR, SHAH ALLUM, confirming to the English Company the provinces of Burdwan, Midnipore, and Chittigong and the 24 pergunnahs of Calcutta, &c. before ceded to them by the Nabobs, Jaffier Ally Khawn and Cossim Ally Khawn. Dated the 12th August, 1765.
At this happy time our royal firmaun, indispensably requiring obedience, is issued, that the Chucklahs of Burdwan, Midnapore and Chittigong, &c. and also the twenty-four pergunnahs of Calcutta, &c. (the zeminldary of the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles. the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company) which were granted to the said Company in the time of Meer Mahomed Cossim and Meer Mahomed Jaffier Khawn, deceased. We, in consideration of the attachment of the said Company, have been graciousiy pleased to confirm to them, from the beginning of the Fussul Rubby of the Bengal year 1172, as a free gift and ultumagau, without the association of any other person. It is requisite that our royal descendents, the Viziers, the bestowers of dignity, the Omrahs, high in rank, the great officers, the Mutseddees of the Dewannee, the managers of the [Page 32] business of the Sultanut, the Jagueerdars and Croories, as well the future as the present, using their constant endeavours for the establishment of this our royal command, leave the said districts and pergunnahs in possession of the said Company from generation to generation, for ever and ever; looking upon them to be insured from dismission or removal, they must on no account whatsoever give them any interruption, and they must regard them as excused and exempted from the payment of all manner of customs and demands. Knowing our orders on this subject to be most strict and positive, let them not deviate therefrom.
Written the 24th of Sophar, of the 6th Year of the Jaloos*11.
Contents of the Zimmun.
Agreeably to the paper which has received our sign-manual, our royal commands are issued, that the Chucklahs of Burdwan, Midnipore, and Chittigong, &c. and also the twenty-four pergunnahs of Calcutta, &c. (the zemindary of the English Company) which were granted to the said Company in the time of Meer Mahomed Cossim, and Meer Mahomed Jaffier Khawn, deceased, be confirmed to the said Company, as a free gift and ultumgau, without the association of any other person.
4.3. No XX .Copy of the Firmaun from THE EMPEROR SHAH ALLUM confirming the Reversion, in perpetuity, of Lord Clive's Jagueer to the Company. Dated the 12th August 1765.
Whereas a sunnud has been presented to us under the seal of the Nabob, Najim al Dowlah Bahader, to the following purport, viz. "The ''sum of 212,958 sicca rupees and odd, agreeably to the Dewannee "sunnud, and the sunnud of the high and mighty Sujah al Muluck "Hossam o Dowlah MEER JAFFIER KHAWN BAHADER, has "been appointed from the Pergunnahs of Calcutta, &c. in the Sircar of ''Sautgaum, &c। in the province of Bengal (the Paradise of the earth) "the zemindary of the English Company, as an unconditional jagueer "to the High and Mighty Zubdut al Muluck Nusser al Dowlah LORD "CLIVE, Bahader, now likewise the said Pergunnahs are confirmed as "an unconditional Jagueer to the High and Mighty aforesaid, from the ''16th May of the 1764th year of the Christian stile (answering to the ''14th of Zelcada the 1177th year of the hegira) to the expiration "of 10 years, they shall appertain as an unconditional jagueer to the "High and Mighty aforesaid, and after the expiration of this term, ''to revert to the Company as an unconditional jaguoer and perpetual "gift; and if the High and Mighty aforesaid should die within the said "term, they shall revert to the Company immediately upon his death."
And whereas the said sunnud has met with our approbation at this happy time, therefore our royal firmaun, indispensably requiring obedience, is issued; that in consideration of the fidelity of the English Company and the High and Mighty aforesaid, the said jagueer stand confirmed agreeably to the aforesaid sunnud : it is requisite that the present and future Mutseddees, the Chowdries, Canongoes, Muckaudums, Ryots, and all other inhabitants of the Pergunnahs of Calcutta, &c. in the Sircar of Sautgaum, &c. regard the High and Mighty aforesaid during the forementioned term, and after him the Company aforesaid, as unconditional Jagueerdars, and regularly pay them the revenues of the said Pergunnahs.
Written the 24th Sophar, the 6th year of Jaloos*12.
Contents of the Zimmun.
Agreeably to the paper which has been received, our sign manual, our royal commands are issued, that whereas the sum of 222,958 sicca rupees and odd, has been appointed from the Pergunnahs of Calcutta, &c. in the Sircar of Sautgaum, &c. the zemindary of the English Company, as an unconditional jagueer to the High and Mighty Subdut al Muluck Nusser al Dowlah LORD CLIVE Bahader, agreeably to the Dewannee sunnud, and the sunnud of the Nazim of the province; in consideration therefore of the attachment of the High and Mighty aforesaid, we have been graciously pleased to confirm to him the said Pergunnahs for the space of ten years, commencing from the 16th May of the 1764th year of the Christian stile, or 14th of Zelcada of the 1177th year of the hegira; and in consideration of the attachment of the English Company, we have granted the said Pergunnahs to them after the expiration of the aforesaid term, as an unconditional jagueer and perpetual gift; and if the High and Mighty aforesaid should die within this term, the said Pergunnahs are to revert immediately to the English Company.
4.4. No XXII. Copy of the agreement whereby the Right Honourable Robert Lord Clive, on the part of the English East India Company, agrees to pay the King Shah Allum, from the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, the sum of twenty-six lacks, or 325,000l. per annum, in gratitude for the favours which his Lordship and the Company had received from HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY. Dated 19th August 1763.
Articles of agreement with his Majesty.
The Nabob Najim al Dowlah agrees to pay to his Majesty out of the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, the sum of 26 lacks of rupees a year, without any deduction for batta, on bills of exchange, by regular monthly payments, amounting to Rs. 216,666—10—9 per month; the first payment to commence from the 1st of September of the present year; and the English Company, in consideration of his Majesty's having been graciously pleased to grant them the dewannee of Bengal, &c. do engage themselves to be security for the regular payment of the same. It shall be paid month by month from the factory of Patna, to Rajah Shetabroy, or whomsoever his Majesty may think proper to nominate, that it may be forwarded by him to the court: but in case the territories of the aforesaid Nabob should be invaded by any foreign enemy, a deduction is then to be made out of the stipulated revenue, proportionably to the dainage that may be sustained.
In consideration of Nudjuff Khawn's having joined the English forces, and acted in his Majesty's service in the late war, his Majesty will be graciously pleased to allow him the sum of two lacks of rupees a year, to be paid by equal monthly payments; the first payment to commence from the 1st of September of the present year and in default thereof, [Page 37] the English Company, who are guarantees for the same, will make it good out of the revenue allotted to his Majesty from the territories of Bengal. If the territories of Bengal should at any Time be invaded, and on that account a deduction be made out of the royal revenue, in such case a proportionable deduction thall also be made out of Nudjuff' Khawn's allowance.
4.5. No XXIII. Copy of the Articles of Resignation agreed to in July 1765, whereby the Nabob, Najim al Dowlah, agrees to accept of the sum of 5,386,131 rupees 9 annas, or 673,266 pounds sterling, for the support of his government and dignity; because HIS IMPERIAL. MAJESTY SHAH ALLUM had been pleased to give the revenues of his nabobship to the English East India Company.
Agreement with the Nabob made by Mr. Francis Sykes in July 1765. (See his letter to the Secret Committee at Calcutta, dated the 28th July 1765.)
The King having been graciously pleased to grant the English Company the dewannee of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, with the revenues thereof, as a free gift for ever, on certain conditions, whereof one is, that these shall be a sufficient allowance out of the said revenues for supporting the expence of the Nizamut; be it known to all whom it may concern, that I do agree to accept of the annual sum of sicca rupees, 5,386,131—9—0 as an adequate allowance for the support of the Nizamut, which is to be regularly paid as follows, viz. the sum of sicca rupees 1,778,854—1—0 for my household expences, servants, &c. and the remaining sum of rupees 3,607,277—8—0 for the maintenance of each horse, seapoys, peons, bercundazes, &c. as may be thought necessary for my Sewawry, and the support of my dignity only, should such an expence hereafter be thought neccesary to be kept up but on [Page 38] no account ever to exceed that amount; and having a perfect reliance on Maeen al Dowlah, I desire he may have the disbursing of rupees, 3,607,277—8—0 for the purposes before-mentioned. This agreement, by the blessing of God, I hope will be inviolably observed, as long as the English Company's factories continue in Bengal.