Observations On the Present State of the East India Company

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Introductory notes

John Scott Waring an agent of the East India Company and later member of the British Parliament wrote Observations on the Present State of the East India Company. Waring joined the East India Company and became a major of the Bengal division. Scot in 1781 became a political agent to Warren Hastings and send to England to represent Hastings. Scot became a member of the Parliament in 1784 and remained so till 1790. His Observations on the Present State of the East India Company was published in 1771, just before the introduction of the Regulating Act.

As the sub-title of the text indicates, Observations on the Present State of the East India Company suggested measures which would ensure permanency of the Company augmenting its commericial activities. In the selected paragraphs, Scott offers an account of Company's trading activities since the early 1750s. Scott from his experiences as Company's agent observed the distatrous effect of the monopoly enjoyed by the East India Company and how it facilitated private trade among the officials of the East India Company.

Selection details

As the sub-title of the text indicates, Observations on the Present State of the East India Company suggested measures which would ensure permanency of the Company augmenting its commericial activities. In the selected paragraphs, Scott offers an account of Company's trading activities since the early 1750s. Scott from his experiences as Company's agent observed the distatrous effect of the monopoly enjoyed by the East India Company and how it facilitated private trade among the officials of the East India Company.

Ensuring Its Permanency, and Augmenting
its Commerce

London. S. MierdmanBookseller to his Majesty 1771


[Page 1]

MY occupation and employment, for some years past, have given me many opportunities of enquiring into the state of India, whereby I have obtained some knowledge of those countries, that are more immediately connected with our possessions in those parts; and having turned my thoughts towards the trade, as well as the government of our territories in that part of the world; I am able to give the public some information upon these interesting subjects, which are growing every day more and more important to Great Britain. My situation has preserved me from all Indian connections; in which respect, I am more likely to be impartial than any of those gentlemen, who have been concerned in the manage-

[Page 2]

-ment of our affairs, either at home or abroad. Nor have I ever meddled in the stocks, and, therefore, have no private interest in the rise or fall of dividends. lean answer for the facts that I have advanced; but my observations are submitted to the public. The reader will soon find that I have not been much accustomed to writing, and is not, therefore, to expect fine language, and well turned periods; but he may be allured, that the opinions are honest, and the facts are authentic, which, perhaps, may be sufficient to recommend any essay upon a subject where the public wants information more than amusement.

[Page 3]

The Company's affairs, until about the year 1750, required little more than commercial talents ; the produce of our own country was carried there, sold, and returned in the manufactures of those parts; and the little spots we possessed excited no jealousies amongst the neighbouring princes.

The leaders in the direction at that time, attentive only to the commercial plan, and prejudiced against more extensive views, remained inactive until the French and Indian powers together had almost drove us [Page 4] into the sea. We were roused at last by necessity; and, about the year 1751, the Company's affairs began to wear a better aspect: Lord Clive had made a stand against the enemy and soon after general Laurence returned again from Europe to take upon him the chief command ; his lordship acted under the general, and assisted him in establishing the reputation of the British arms.

About the year 1755, we were almost extirpated at Bengal, by the disputes between Drake and Surajah Dowla, but were fortunately re-established by lord Clive and admiral Watson. Lord Clive went farther; he placed us on a footing all Europeans had been strangers to before; for, by virtue of his treaties and conquests, we took the lead at the Suba's court. Soon after all this was settled, lord Clive returned to England, hastened in fome measure by a peremptory letter from the directors.

[Page 5]

An extensive commerce is the great and capital advantage which England ought to expect from these acquisitions; and consequently the politics of India mould be principally directed to this end; but though, perhaps, it might be wished, that the original plan of trade, upon which the Company was first constituted, had till continued upon that contracted bottom, and that they had not been from merchants erected into sovereign princes; yet, as this great dominion is acquired, it must be maintained; for the politics, not only of Asia, but even of Europe, are now fo interwoven with the affairs of our commerce there, that it will be absolutely impossible to return back to our former situation with any hopes of profit, or indeed of security: we must preserve what we have acquired upon the principles of self-defence.

[Page 7]

Lord Clive, when he returned home in February, 1760, left Mr. Holwel in the [Page 8] chair at Bengal, who was superseded from Madrass, in August following, by Mr. Vansittart, a gentleman of a fair and amiable character, but unacquainted with that settlement. Immediately on his arrival, the conduct of Meer Jaffier was placed in fuch a light, as induced him, by a fatal revolution, to place Cossim Cawn on the throne.

The principal reason given to the public for deposing Meer Jaffier, was the wretched state of his finances ; but this arose from the misconduct and treachery of his ministers. That there was no real want of specie in the country, is manifest from the large sums which Cossim was enabled to colled, with such expedition, almost immediately after his advancement: and with how much case might the Company have reformed his government, by a change of his [Page 9] ministers, if they had pleased, without any disturbance or commotion.

l am clearly of opinion it was as easy to restrain Meer Jaffier as to depose him; and the country would not, in that case, (to say nothing of the other mischiefs occasioned by that revolution) have been drained of that immense sum which Cossim carried off with him upon his expulsion: yet the country was not totally exhausted even by this drain, witness the sums that have been sent out, since his flight, to Madrass, Bombay, and China.

In the year 1764, Meer Jaffier was replaced in the subaship; contests, and the purfuit of private gain, continued abroad, and party ran high at home.

[Page 10]

The subaship of Bengal takes in 3 large extent of country, the greatest part of which is under the Suba's immediate direction; the remainder is under the management of Nabobs, Rajahs, or Polygars, who are to pay certain annual tributes to the Suba, and some of them are likewise to bring into the field a certain number of troops whenever they are required, the management of the lands within their respective governments being left entirely to themselves to farm and to collect. 'The distracted state the empire had long been in, had led the Suba to neglect paying the tribute due to the throne of Delhi; and the enfeebled state of Shaw Allum made him incapable of enforcing his right; but since we have had possession, that usual tribute has been regularly paid.

The whole revenue above mentioned, including the tribute payable to the Great Mogul, amounts to the sum of near three millions four hundred thousand pounds; to which may be added the duties collected on the foreign trade at the port of Calcutta, about twenty thousand pounds. Besides all this, the Company are in the receipts of a considerable sum for the duties upon salt, beetel, and tobacco. This brought in, while the monopoly of those articles took place, about one hundred and twenty thousand pounds a year, but, lince that was abolished, is reduced to one hundred thousand pounds, or under. The whole of this revenue may be fairly set at three millions five hundred thousand pounds, out of which the * tribute to the Mogul, the allotment to the Nabob, the expence of collecting the revenue, and the civil and military charges of government at Bengal, altogether amount to about two millions, though I am pretty sure it is not quite so much, and consequently there ought to remain the sum of one million five hundred thousand pounds, neat income, in the hands of the Company, to be applied for the purchase of the home investments, or for any emergencies that might accidentally arise.

[Page 13]

1The lands pay according to their produce; this is taken by collectors for the prince, who calling in men conversant in husbandry, do, by their judgment, set the value of the prince's share while the crop is on the ground; the value, so settled, is what the occupier is to pay, and this is transmitted, by the several collectors, to the treasurer or Duan, who is commonly the first minister of the prince. The grain usually pays one half of its produce, cocoa-nut and beetel-nut trees two-thirds, fruit trees, and thofe converted into wood and timber one-third; buffaloes pay one rupee each (or half-a-crown), draft oxen not so much, a-year; and so every other article in proportion, that is produced by, or nourished from the earth.

The prince's revenue is neat and clear of all deduction, except the, fees to the [Page 14] Duan, for himself and his collectors which are fixed, and publicly known; what remains over and above the produce due to the prince, belongs to the occupier of the lands; and this is found, by experience, when he is permitted to enjoy it, to be an ample reward to him for his labour and expence.

This mode of collection has an appearance of the strictest justice, and is founded on principles of equity, but is obviously liable to be corrupted in practice becaufe it leaves a large field for knavery and extortion. The occupier of the land is in no wife on an equal footing with the collector; and the inferior classes of men are kept in such vast subordination, in those oppreslive governments, that fear prevents their complaints; the justest are often conftrued into murmurs and discontents, and punched, probably, with the severed chastisements; for what can those poor wretches do, or what redress can they hope to find, when their judges have, perhaps, shared the plunder with those very2 oppressors they come to complain against.

[Page 16']

This being the nature, and these the methods of collecting the revenue, the poor subject has in all times been oppressed by Duans, farmers, and collectors. These ways to wealth are easy and expeditious; to which, if you add the practice of making presents (which is an established custom in India) the great men and ministers grow rich in an instant; but as these were always in danger of being plundered again by their sovereign, the dread, together with the fear of punishment, taught some to be more moderate; and those who were directed, [Page 17] either by prudence or justice, treated the natives with fome degree of gentleness; and so the country continued in a tolerable state of prosperity, even under the" rapacity of absolute government. Where this revenue came under the management of the Company, lord Clive continued the fame mode of collecting, and the nominal Duan, farmers, and collectors were still Moors or natives, and they still bore the title of miniflers and servants to the nominal Nabob; but were under the inspection and controul of the Board.

The treasurer or Duan, appointed by lord Clive, was Mahomed Reza Caun; it was left to him to nominate, arid to preside over the several collectors and farmers of the revenue; and as they brought in the money, he delivered it to a gentleman, a member of the Board of Calcutta, who transmitted the amount to the Company's treasury.

[Page 19]

These are the true causes of the inflability of this revenue, which must always fall short to the Company, so long as the occupiers are thus drained by a tribe of Duans and officers of the revenue. This practice is in truth, an embezzlement of the revenue itself; for there is little or no diffrence between plundering the treasury, after the money is collected, and taking from the fund out of which it is to arise; the deficiency to the public is the same in both cases.

[Page 20]

But besides this practices. which had always prevailed in this country to some degree, our countrymen struckout a new method of acquiring immense sums by trade, as they call it, and by drawing to themselves the most destructive monopoly, that ever was invented. For the great power and influence acquired throughout the provinces beloniging to Bengal, opened a new scence of traffic with the interior parts of the country, which our former weakness had always rendered us incapable of undertaking. This trade consisted mostly in salt, beetel, and tobacco; the two last are, as much as the first, reckoned by the Indians, amongst the necessaries of life. This trade was begun by us under Meer Jaffier; all ranks of men run into it, templted by great profits these articles always yielded, which must be the case when good are carried to great distances, are very bulky, and invest but little money,- And these advantages were greatly increased to the European gentlemen, as they evaded the heavy customs, and at last demanded the privilege of trading free from every restraint; very cosiderable fortunes were made by this trade.

[Page 21]

To make room for this monopoly, the Board called down all the Europeans dispersed about the provinces, and forbid any going up, without their prervious licence. This seemed necessary, and calculated to answer a wise purpose; for, when his lordship arrived, the unsettled state of the government had led numbers to take advantage of it; who spreading themselves throughout the provinces, were eagerly pursuing trade whereever they went.

[Page 22]

But unfortunately the means adopted for correcting this abuse, only introduced a worse; for the3monopoly that followed, [Page 23] became ten times more pernicious than the open trade had been; for now the provinces were flowly supplied with the necessaries of life, and the prices were greatly increased.

[Page 25]

Whilst the Europeans, before this monopoly, traded on better terms than the natives, by evading the duties, it was the revenue only that suffered, and the natives were excluded, by being underfold. For if in that case the European merchant had raised his price upon the consumer beyond its value, together with the amount of the duty; the natives would have resumed the trade, by which means the price of those articles could never be advanced to a pitch that would raise the manufactures. Whereas the monopoly had [Page 26] the most pernicious, ruinous effect; it was calculated to injure the occupier of the land, to affect the security of the revenue, and to enhance the prices of all the goods made throughout the provinces.

This is a selection from the original text


crops, farmer, grain, oppression, trade

Source text

Title: Observations On the Present State of the East India Company

Author: John Scott Warring

Publisher: J. Nourse

Publication date: 1771

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: http://archive.org.

Digital edition

Original author(s): John Scott Warring

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 1 to 26


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > pamphlets

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