An Essay Upon the Cultivation of the Lands, and Improvements of the Revenues, of Bengal

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Introductory notes

Herny Pattullo was an agent of the East India Company. Pattullo's An Essay on Cultivation of lands and Improvement of Revenues was published in 1772 from London.

Pattullo in the pamphlet offers a brief account of the cultivation and tenancy in Bengal. Pattullo in his book published in the year following the devastating famine of Bengal suggests the need to establish magazines to store grains in the Pergunnahs to avert such calamity in future. Pattullo also points out the need for better management of uncultivated lands in the province.

Selection details

Pattullo in the pamphlet offers a brief account of the cultivation and tenancy in Bengal. Pattullo in his book published in the year following the devastating famine of Bengal suggests the need to establish magazines to store grains in the Pergunnahs to avert such calamity in future. Pattullo also points out the need for better management of uncultivated lands in the province.

Cultivation of the Lands,

LONDON. Printed for T.Becket and P.A.De Hondt, in the STRAND 1772
[Page 1]


AT a time that the interesting object of Bengal occupies the great council of the nation, and that the riches and revenue, even the preservation and existence of that extensive province seem to depend upon agriculture; may a person, who during many years has made the renting and culture of lands, both in Britain and in foreign countries, the particular objects of his observation, be permitted to offer some ideas, upon a matter of so much importance to this kingdom? May he likewise be allowed to say, that they were put in writing, solely to satisy private curiosity, and are now submitted to the public, expresly at the request of friends, who are willing to hope they may do good.

Many plans have appeared or regulating and conducting that valuable acquisition: but that of Mr. Dow seems, in many repects, to be the most judicious and reasonable. And whether it may or may not be adopted, there appears an evident necessity that some rule should be established and followed, for managing a cultivation, which so greatly merits to be encouraged and supported, for, the intire desolation and ruin of these fertile and very improvable lands seem to impend, and cannot fail to be the inavoidable consequence of the present manner of managing them.

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2. EXTENT of the LANDS

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It is observed by Mr. Dow, that the lands and revenues, which are presently possessed in consequence of former grants of jagueerdars, and other hereditary settlements, and from which the company at present draws no rents, may amount to one fifth part of all the lands which are in culture. But to give full allowance and to prevent objections, let us suppose that these grants, together with the pottas, which he also mentions, may amount to a full third part of all the cultivated lands, yet, even in that case, when a third of the ninety millions [Page 4] of begas shall be deducted, there still remains sixty millions o begas, which acrually are, or may be rented out by the company, for their agents. Thus far, with regard to the extent, let us now view the rents .

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Yet, in whatever manner the mistake may have been occasioned, there evidently appears to be a mistake in citing or any rule these extremely high rents; or even at the lowest of the rents which Mr. Bolts mentions, o three rupees the bega, or twenty shillings an acre; the sixty millions o begas which we have with reasonable grounds computed to be actually rented out by the company, would yield a very great sum. No less than twenty two millions and a half of our money. And in fact, three rupees the bega, is too high or the general rent of lands in any country .

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If we even should suppose the lands to be lett at a rupee and a half the bega, still it would be too high a general rent, and the sum arising from it too great: no less than eleven millions, two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.

Yet, let us illustrate still farther by comparison, that these computations are probably well sounded. We have seen that the territorial extent of Bengal,. is not far inferior to that of France ; also that only one third part of the lands of France are cultivated: the general rent there, is likewise far from being so great as one rupee the bega, nor even near of high as rents in Britain; yet the rent paid nett to the propritors, amounts one year with another, to 520 millions o livres, or about twenty-three millions of our money; which is well acertained by the vingtieme, or twentieth part o thee rents which [Page 6] is annually returned into the treasury of the state, and amounts one year with another, to twenty-six millions of livres. It must however be acknowledged, that the revenues which the proprietors draw from their woods and forrests, are included. But on the other hand, it is well known, that there are great frauds and concealments in the declarations of the proprietors.

As therefore the extent of Bengal is not much less than France, and evidently larger than Britain ; that a rupee the bega, is rather higher than the general rents in either; it surely need be no surprize that the rents there should come nearer to a proportion with those of these two kingdoms; and that they should yield nett into the Company's treasury seven millions and a half, which is not a third part of what we have seen is raised by the rents in France, and very probably likewise in Brirain. Neither is there any room to doubt, that by proper management, the land in Bengal might be made to yield as much as either. Thus we have seen what the lands may yield, and the disposal of them in property would confirm the solidity of the revenue.

Yet, it would by no means be prudent oeconomy in the company, to raise the rents to the full height that might be in their power. The country would soon suffer by it, and their own interest greatly in the end.

High rents never fail to raise the prices of provisions; those of labour must rise in proponion, and those of manufactures must of course follow. As therefore the Company's returns must at all times be in manufactures, and that the consumption and call for these, and the profits on them, always diminish as their prices advance ; the bad consequences both to the Company and to that country are evident

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The unwise practice of pushing up the rents every year in Bengal, has afforded a full demonstration of the destructive consequences, by having rendered many of thefse lands desolate, and made manufactures there, both scarcer and dearer.

The augmenting the quantity of productions, by cultivating waste lands; and by improving those which are in culture, are most laudable means of augmenting revenues. But to stretch rents beyond a reasonable medium, is always hurtful to a country.

The rents in Britain are now generally fo high, that after some allowances for accidental scanty crops, and for the remarkable increase of riches, it is in vain to search for any other source of the present high prices. For, if labourers and farmers did not draw a sufficiency from their industry to pay these high rents, their ruin would be inevitable; the plough would stop, the lands would lie waste, as in Bengal, and the consequences would be far from. agreeable.

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The company should still further consider, that a people who are debarred the acquisition and enjoyment of property, can never be at hest, but a nation of slaves; timid and passive, without vigour, action, or industry, and who must very naturally both think and act, as the peasants in some of the interior provinces of France now actually do. " Why should we labour," say they, " when we are certain that our tax-masters wou'd always load us " equal to our industry, and that we and our families must in all events for " ever remain in poverty and indigence?" Such is their way of reasoning ; and, giving up all hopes, they abandon themselves passively to misery and to despair. Subjects of that kind, however numerous, can never be of value to any state: whereas the power to acquire and to enjoy, rouses the mind to action; encourages industry and population, and forms valuable subjeets to a state and nation.

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Thence it becomes equally the interest of the sovereign, and of the subjects , that they should enjoy property. All wise governments confirm that truth; and none act otherwise but those despots, who, as Montesquieu expreses it, " cut down the tree to cat the fruit." Which to the reproach of Britain, has been too much the case in Bengal, ever since the British arms made that conquest. Yet the Company have it still in their power to transform fifteen or twenty millions of mankind, from desponding slaves into industrious subjects; and will thereby gain the double advantage of establishing a solid revenue, with reasonable advances to the bargain. Their fidelity and attachment would thereby likewise be for ever secured against all enemies, in defence of property. Whereas, to slaves it is entirely inditrerent, who may become their masters; which indifference has always made conquests in India easly accomplished, and a change of masters frequent.

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WE see by the history of Hindostan, that no country has in all ages been more subject to scarcities, and even to famine, of which there has been a recent, and a very fatal instance in Bengal. It therefore becomes prudent, and even a duty in every government to guard against the greatest of all losses to a state, that of lessening the number of subjects, both by death and by desertion. And the means in this case are easy.

In all countries of Europe, beside the rent of the lands, a tenth part of the productions is set aside, and collected either in kind or by composition, for the subsistance of churchmen, or for the poor. In Britain the poor rates alone amount in many places to more than a tenth of the productions, although the tythes are paid beside. But in this case the tythes would fully answer the intention.

Therefore, besides the quit-rents to the state, or company, a tenth part of all productions might be collected and set aside for public purposes, and to prevent scarcities, and even famine. For churchmen in Bengal are out of the question. Those from Europe being supported by the company, and those of the country by their respective adherents; while the poor would in the end be the greatest gainers by this establishment. The tythes of wheat and rice, which with due care may be preserved during many years, may be laid up in magazines to wait events; and the tythes of the other productions, as peas, barly, sugar, canes, tobacco, opium, beetle, aml others, may be sold annually, and their produce applied towards building magazines ; also to pay collectors and managers: and the surplus may be applied towards making roads of communication, and other publick works in the respective districts .

Mr. Dow has proposed, and by all appearance very judiciously, that the kingdoms of Bengal and Bahar should be divided into five large provinces; each of these subdivided into ten chucklas, or counties, and these again, into an indefinite number of small districts, or pergunnahs.

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In each of these pergunnahs, magazines may be built for the yearly deposit of wheat and rice. The number to be in proportion to the extent of the pergunnah, placed in a manner that no magazine should be above twenty or at most twenty-four miles from each other, all as near the banks of some canal or navigable river as may be found possible, for the easy transport by water. By which means no farm could be at a greater distance than ten or twelve miles from a magazine; so that every farmer might easily deliver his own tythes at the nearest magazine by the labouring cattle of his farm.

These deposits of corn from their first instituion, will be of great service to supply accidental deficiencies in any crop; but, if nothing of that kind should happen soon, these tythes of wheatr and rice, may with due attention, and by magazines suited to the purpoie, easily be preserved during twenty years, or longer if it were necessary.

[Page 15]

Further, the rents in no country are consldered to exceed one third of the productions, and by the improvements which will soon happen in Bengal, the rents may in time perhaps not exceed a fourth or fifth ; but allowing them a third, we find they would be seven millions and a half, the productions of course twenty two millions and an half, and the tythes of them two millions, two hundred and fifty thoufand pounds; whereof the half would build many magazines. The tythes in France are known to be above six millions sterling, whereof we have supposed those in Bengal only to be about a third, and surely they would be more. Again, although the magazines were built within twenty miles of each other, the whole extent of Bengal and Behar would only require four hundred and fifty magazines; and allowing a thousand pounds for each, which is large, it would only require a like number of thousands, which the first crop we see would do much more than answer. Yet as at present one third of the lands can scarce possibly be in culture, a much less number would at first answer the end. By these measures, all apprehensions of scarcity would for ever be removed; short crops might happen by unfavourable seasons, and no doubt would ; but famines, and the fatal effects of them, could never happen, And these calamities being greatly dreaded in Asia, so prudent an establishment would not fail to attract people to settle in Bengal. Establishments of magazines, are, however, no new thing in Hindostan: the greatest and wisest of the Mogul emperors well knew their utility, arid established them there at different periods, altho' the instability of government soon after, always disconcerted their wise measures. Neither can they possibly, be judiciousy established and supplied, but by a regular government, founded upon reasonable principles; as no doubt that of the company will soon become.

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BY the improvements which will infallibly be made, in consequence of established property; the rents, which have been proposed will soon be found to moderate, that they be considered in no other light than as a resonable land-tax for the support of government. They may therefore be raised and remitted into the treasury of the Company, much in the same manner as land-tax in Britain.

[Page 18]


HITHERTO we have only had in view the management of the lands which are actually in cultivation. But now, another great field opens, of the lands which lie uncultivated. In time, no doubt, they may be brought upon the same footing with the others; but that period being at some distance, proper measures must be made use of to bring them to that point.

We have already computed, that a full third part of the extent of Bengal and Behar, lies in a neglected state, without cultivation; and that supposition seems to be well founded. We have also found by the dimensions of these two kingdoms, that these waste lands should contain ninety millions of begas. And as there can be no jagiers or other hereditary incumbrances upon lands which are actually of no value, the whole is intirely at the Company's disposal, and is in fact, an object of so great importance, that all prudent measures should be taken in that respect. Yet, the cutting of woods, the clearing of grounds, the draining of morasses, and the bringing of waste lands into proper culture is so arduous a task, and the prospect of returns so disiant, that very few will be found inclined to undertake it, as long as they can find it in their power to acquire lands already in culture, at the moderate advance of two years rent.

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It must indeed be allowed, that in France good farmers are very rare; and any possessed of sufficient funds for arduous undertakings, still rarer. Beside, the constitution of government, with the arbitrary way of raising the taxes, are so unfavourable to culture, that the besr farmers, even in the best farms are greatly harrassed, and often ruined by oppression : whereas in Bengal, the regulations which have been proposed, and an undisturbed enjoyment, will give life and spirit to all undertakings. The soil also being better, and the climate more favourable to vegetation, the returns will be quicker, and the enjoyment less distant; therefore, by wise measures, no doubt remains that the whole may be well cultivated in a short time.

[Page 20]

Such, and worse is possible, will soon be the infallible consequences, over al the province, of Bengal, of the present destructive measures; and the Company can only find their real interest, by putting an effectual stop to these ruinous proceedings without loss of time, and by governing their people and lands with prudence, and with moderation.


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LANDS and agticulture are the subsistence of all ranks, and the source of all revenues. Their produce are the only real riches. Without their regular reproduction, all other riches can be of no value.

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Therefore, the speculative eyes of all nations were turned towards manufactories, as a secondary resource: whereof high duties and prohibitions, with customs and excises, to augment revenues, were the natural consequences.

But never were there so solid motives for promoting manufactories in any country, as in Bengal, where they have been carried on from very distant times, to fo uncommon advantage, that they were the sole source of the immense riches, which that country has possessed during all ages: and may, henceforward, become so to the Company.

But, the demands for Bengal manufactures can never lessen, in regard that their quality, is so peculiar to that country, that no nation on the globe can either equal or rival them. If matters are therefore prudently conducted, they may, in time, become as solid a staple in the hands of the company, as the spice islands are to the Dutch, or the valuable wines of France are to that kingdom, or the treasures of America, to Spain and Portugal.

Again, As these commodities of Bengal are by custom become necessary to all nations, the call for them must continually augment by the general growth of luxury, and can never fail. Therefore the Company may in full safety rely intirely upon them for their returns, to the utmost extent ; and need never be under any necessity to draw specie from thence, nor ever should do so upon any consideration. For, by the growing demands, and the command of markets, they will find their returns in that way, much more profitable, more extensive [Page 26] and fully as lasting, as the above-mentioned staples can possibly be to their possessors. The augmenting quantities of these manufactures bought up and exported thence, will daily augment the prosperity of Bengal, by promoting an uninterupted circulation among all classes. Exports in specie would ruin the people and country: but the larger the exports of their labours, the greater will be the growth of their industry and prosperity: while their lands and magazines will confirm their happiness.

But, favourably for Bengal, none of thefe inconveniences can possibly happen. For there, the two most important occupations for mankind, are so happily blended together, that the same hand which at one season governs the plough, at another guides the shuttle, in executing those exquisite textures, which are every where admired, but can no where be equalled. Endeavours in Europe, to connect agriculture and manufactures together, in the same persons and families, have always been found ineffectual, as they always will; and that desirable connection is absolutely peculiar to Bengal, where Mr. Orme observes [Page 27] the delicate formation of the hand, is equally adapted to all kinds of operations, even the most difficult.

Surely, it is the higher degree of cruelty, to oppress a people, in many respects; very valuable. Peaceable by disposition, docile and obedient by habit, patient and assiduous in labour, moderate in desires, frugal and temperate from motives of religion, are qualities which excite admiration, and merit the most: favourable treatment: never can protection and comfortable establishbments be more worthily applied, nor in favours of more deserving subjects; who by these only, will cordially and contentedly carry on improvements, both in culture and in manufactories, hand in hand to the highest perfections, which the most sanguine expectations of their masters can require, who, if they act their own part, may be assured their subjects will not fail in theirs.

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Thus the Company have it still intirely in their power to make Bengal become the most industrious, prosperous and happy nation that perhaps ever has existed; reaping in returns the applause of the world, the grateful feelings of their happy subjects, and an immense revenue. The doing of good is its own reward. But in this case it will also be gratified, by far greater gains, than there is any example in history. Justice and humanity are the dictates of reason, and the duty of all mankind. Yet here they will be rewarded by great riches, and by lasting reputation. These inducements are fo singularly great, that to potpone is criminal.

The means of execution are likewise so far from being discouraging that they are both simple and easie; and to firm minds all difficulties disappear; whereas, hesitations in great objects, mark a want of fortitude, which is always faulty ; and in this case may disappoint the end, in compleating by delays the absolute destruction of thofe valuable provinces and people, perhaps beyond recovery .

Therefore the Company needs only make application to parliament for authority to dispose of the lands in property, at the rates of their present rents, and to establish a bank upon the advances which will arise from thence, with a prudent plan for the management of both. A vast and solid revenue will be thereby for ever established; large funds will be procured directly, for facilitating all subsequent operations, and the object are so very great, that they can well afford full means [Page 29] means of employing men of the most approved virtue, prudence, and abilities in their execution.

[Page 32]

Upon the whole, a candid conduct of that kind, seems to be the only satisfactory proof the Directors can possibly give to the world, of their disapprobation and abhorrence of the former shocking enormities : [Page 33] without some such step, it will be in vain for the leaders in Leadenhall-street, to pretend vindicating themselves from suspicions of connivance with the merciless measures of their representatives in Asia.

For, although the oppressive practices of those, are now exposed to light, yet that can no way justify their mailers, unless they on their own part give demonstration of steady resolutions, to act henceforward openly, candidly and honourably toward their subjects, their constituents, and their country .

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, crops, cultivation, famine, jagirdar, oppression, scarcity, waste

Source text

Title: An Essay Upon the Cultivation of the Lands, and Improvements of the Revenues, of Bengal

Author: Henry Pattulo

Publisher: Printed for T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt

Publication date: 1772

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive:

Digital edition

Original author(s): Henry Pattullo

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 1 to 9
  • 2 ) pages 13 to 16
  • 3 ) pages 18 to 20
  • 4 ) pages 24 to 29
  • 5 ) page 32


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Genre: India > pamphlets

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