Memoir of The Life and Correspondence of John Lord Teignmouth Vol.1

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Introductory notes

Sir John Shore was the Governor of Bengal or the Presidency of Fort William from 1793 to 1797. Shore joined East India Company's service in the year 1769 at the secret political department. Shore was thereafter made the assistant to the board of revenue at Murshidabad in 1770, which provided Shore the opportunity to experience the horrors of the 1770 Famine at first hand. In the years following the famine Shore was a member of the revenue council in Calcutta and later appointed a seat at the committee of revenue by the Governor-General. Shore also served as the revenue commissioner of the districts in Dacca and Bahar. The profound knowledge that Shore acquired over the years, came in use in Cornwallis' revenue experiments, which ultimately took the shape of Permanent Settlement. Shore himself succeeded Cornwallis as the Governor of Bengal in 1793 and remained in office till 1797. In 1798 Shore was created Baron Teignmouth in the peerage of Ireland for his services. After retiring Shore became a member of the Board of Control and wrote a biography and memoir on his close friend Sir William Jones. The Memoir of the Life and Correspondences of Lord Teignmouth was compiled by his son Charles John Shore, who became the second Baron Teignmouth. The memoir was published in the year 1843 by Hatchard and Son from London.

The Memoir as it has been mentioned above was compiled from the correspondences and papers of Sir John Shore by his son Charles John Shore. The selections from the text include Shore's memorable poem which we wrote after his experiences of the horrors of the 1770 famine. Shore's letters to his mother also reveal his ideas and opinion of 1770 famine. The selections also include his experiences at the revenue department which eventually contributed to the introduction of the Permanent Settlement in 1793.

Selection details

The Memoir as it has been mentioned above was compiled from the correspondences and papers of Sir John Shore by his son Charles John Shore. The selections from the text include Shore's memorable poem which we wrote after his experiences of the horrors of the 1770 famine. Shore's letters to his mother also reveal his ideas and opinion of 1770 famine. The selections also include his experiences at the revenue department which eventually contributed to the introduction of the Permanent Settlement in 1793.

JOHN LORD TEIGNMOUTH (John Shore, 1st Baron)

LORD TEIGNMOUTH (Charles John Shore, 2nd Baron)
[Page 21]


MR. SHORE landed in Bengal in such ill health, that his shipmates despaired of his recovery; and he overheard them observing with sorrow, as he quitted the vessel, that he would never reach Calcutta.

To judge of the situation and circumstances of a youth entering his career at the period now brought under review, the reader must divest himself of impressions derived from the present state of our Indian settlements. The exclusive sovereignty of Great Britain in Bengal did not extend, at this time, beyond a few factories. It is true, that the East-India Company had been involved in several wars and revolutions; and that the memorable grant of the revenues of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, including the civil and financial jurisdiction of those vast provinces, obtained four years previously from the Great Mogul, boo placed in their hands the [Page 22] resources of the Subahdar (Viceroy) of Bengal: but the collection of the revenues, and attendant civil administration of justice, had been left till this very year in the hands of native functionaries.

Some check to the gross mismanagement and extortion practised by those who levied, and to the fraudulent evasion of those who paid the assessment, had been interposed by the appointment of European agents, named "Supervisors."

The Company regarded its Political, secondary and subservient to its Commercial objects. The government of the Colony was entrusted to a Council, usually composed of the junior servants of the Company; as the senior found their account in taking charge of the factories, and in remote employment. The Legislature having at length directed its inquiries to the causes and conduct of the important political transactions in which the Company had been engaged—viewing, whether through ignorance or negligence, that body exclusively in its commercial character—limited its interference to the provisions of the Statute of 1767. By this enactment, a share of the annual profits of the Company was reserved to the nation, without establishing any security for the investigation and controul of the means by which its revenues might be realised. A scheme for the partial accomplishment of these objects was frustrated by the loss, at [Page 23] sea, of the three Commissioners to whom its execution bad been confided.

In remunerating its servants, the Company considered them rather as mercantile than political agents; allowing them, in lieu of fixed salaries proportioned to the importance of their duties, the right of indemnifying themselves by trade, as well as by various objectionable methods; one of which was especially fertile of abuse, and subsequently withdrawn—the liberty, after the Oriental fashion, of receiving presents. Of these, and various other privileges, its servants now retained that alone of trading on their own account; whilst the miserable pittance which they received as salary was the product of a commission on the ceded revenues of the three provinces.

Clive had strongly urged on the Directors the expediency of granting fixed and liberal salaries to their officers, as the most just and effectual method of putting a stop to the corruption; the reform of which was the grand object of his second vigorous administration. But his sonnd advice was overruled by their own reluctance to the measure, calculated, as they feared, to produce a cry for increased dividends on the part of the Proprietors, and a Ministerial attempt to rob them of a portion of their patronage. The adoption of the plan in Bengal was reserved for the administration of Lord [Page 24] Cornwallis; but its advantages were not, till many years afterwards, extended to the other Presidencies.

The fruit of the illiberal system pursued by the East-India Company, and of the connivance and sanction of the Government, was the prevalence of inveterate corruption and dissipation amongst their servants. Clive depicted it forcibly in his speeches; and, writing in 1772, he observes, that private letters from India gave a most dreadful account of the luxury, dissipation, and extravagance of Bengal.

[Page 25]

Mr. Shore was appointed, soon after his arrival, to the Secret Political Department, and continued in it during a year. Many volumes of its Records are in his hand-writing. His annual salary amounted to 96 current rupees, exactly 12l., according to the then existing value of that money; whilst he paid 125 Arcot rupees, or nearly double the above sum, for a miserable, close, and unwholesome dwelling.

General poverty supplied additional temptations to irregularity and corruption; the colony being much depressed by the heavy cost of the war in the Carnatic, and the failure of the revenues; whilst the gloom of its prospects was enhanced by that memorable famine, occasioned by the loss in Bengal of the harvest of an entire year, which, it is supposed, swept away one-fifth or one-sixth of its inhabitants. Of this calamity Mr. Shore was an eye-witness; and the following lines, forming part of a Poem written nearly forty years afterwards, proves that the impression which his mind had received from the circumstances with which a voyage on the Ganges had familiarised him had never been obliterated:—

"Still fresh in Memory's eye. the scene I view,
The shrivell'd limbs, sunk eyes, and lifeless hue;
Still hear the mother's shrieks and infant's moans.
Cries of despair, and agonizing groans.
In wild confusion, dead and dying lie;—
Hark to the jackall's yell, and vulture's cry,
[Page 26]
The dog's fell howl, as, midst the glare of day,
They riot, unmolested, on their prey!
Dire scenes of horror! which no pen can trace,
Nor rolling years from Memory's page efface."
[Page 28]

The Supervisors, of whom mention has been made, having been placed, in 1770, under the controul of two Councils—one at Moorshedabad, for the province of Bengal, and the other at Patna, for that of Behar—Mr. Shore was nominated Assistant to the former, in September of this year. And in consequence of the indolence of the chief of his department, and the absence of the second on a special mission, he suddenly found himself, at the age of nineteen, elevated from the humble drudgery of a Writer in a public office to the responsible situation of a Judge, invested with the civil and fiscal jurisdiction of a large district.

[Page 34]

The small remaining portion of his correspondence with his mother at this period may be referred to, not only as conveying his opinions and reflecting his feelings, but as deriving additional interest from the light which it sheds on surrounding scenes and objects.


[Page 34]
[Page 37]

"April 26.—Whether the natives are happier under the administration of the English, who have [Page 38] eased the poorer sort of many burdens, than under the arbitrary authority of their own country Governors, is a matter of doubt to me. They have not that opinion which every Englishman glories in, and encourages with such enthusiasm—of the essentiality of liberty to happiness. The regard they entertained for Rulers of the same clime and faith made them submit to their dictates with a degree of zeal which they seldom exert in obeying the commands of a foreign power; which, though enforced with a less heavy hand, are sometimes issued without the proper respect for their religious usages and customs. They have in one respect obtained a great advantage—the security of their houses and effects against the ravages of the Mahrattas and other plunderers. Upon the whole, if we should confer happiness upon them, it will be in spite of themselves.

[Page 47]

" I remain, my dear Mother, "Your truly affectionate and dutiful Son."

[Page 43]


[Page 46]

" I am sorry to find, by the accounts received this year from Europe, that such violent opinions should everywhere prevail of the oppression and peculation exercised by the Company's servants in India, and that the famine was in great measure owing to monopolies made by them*. Mr. —— [Page 47] has in particular been blamed for these practices, both here and at home; and it was to him, amongst others, I alluded, in the caution I gave you in the preceding sheets. Upon my first arrival at Moorshedabad, the scarcity was at the greatest height; and the reports concerning Mr. ——'s monopolies were everywhere ripe. Prompted by my natural curiosity, and with a view of discovering. that gentleman's real character, I made all the inquiries I could amongst the inhabitants of the city and English gentlemen residing there, but could never discover any foundation for the accusation.

"With hearty wishes for your health and happiness,

"I remain, my dear Mother, "Your truly affectionate and dutiful Son."

[Page 48]


THE resolution of the East-India Company to take the collection of the revenues of the three provinces subject to their sway more immediately into their hands, was carried into effect in 1772, by Mr. Hastings adopting, soon after his arrival in India, what was called the Quinquennial Settlement, or five years' lease of the lands. The Supervisors were now designated Collectors. And the Council to which Mr. Shore belonged having been abolished, its duties being transferred to a Council of Revenue at Calcutta, he was appointed First Assistant to the Resident of the province of Rajeshahe.

[Page 50]

The three provinces were in this year distributed into six grand divisions. Each was placed under the controul of a Council, the members of which superintended in rotation the Civil business; whilst a subordinate and limited jurisdiction, coupled with the charge of collecting the revenues, was entrusted to the natives, as Deputies of the Councils: and the Councils were subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, till the establishment of the Grand Council of Revenue. Mr. Shore, having temporarily acted as Persian Translator and Secretary to the Provincial Board at Moorshedabad, was appointed Fifth Member of the Board at Calcutta; and he at once exchanged the stillness and seclusion, in which his days had hitherto flowed peacefully along, for the angry contentions of the seat of unsettled and divided government.

By the Act for regulating Indian Affairs, passed in 1713, progressive approximation was made to that centralizing of authority which is essential to the administration of a remote colony. The [Page 51] supreme power was vested in a Council, consisting of five members, one of whom enjoyed the title of Governor General, together with the privilege of the casting vote;—but, as yet, without separate responsibility. And to this Council was assigned a negative controul, in the shape of a veto, over the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay, in regard to wars and negociations.

The result of a system of government so ill constituted became soon apparent;—fluctuating councils at home, and perpetual feuds and factions among the functionaries in India, embroiling the Presidencies, or the Governor-General and his colleagues in the Council; embarrassing all the proceedings of Government, and spreading discord and confusion through every branch of the Service: whilst fresh fuel was supplied to the flame of contention, by the institution, under the same Act, of a Supreme Court of Judicature, formed ostensibly to remedy the defects in the administration of justice, but in effect to set up an authority rivalling, and, by an extravagant assumption of power, usurping the functions of the Supreme Government.

The Act was brought into operation in October 1774, on the arrival of three of the Members of the Council—Mr. (afterwards Sir Philip) Francis, Gen. Clavering, and Col. Monson. Mr. Hastings was immediately involved in differences with his [Page 52] new colleagues; and being supported only by the remaining Member of the Council, Mr. Barwell, was in the minority, though dignified with the title of Governor General; till the death of Col. Monson in 1776, when he obtained the ascendancy.

Mr. Shore received his new appointment from Mr. Hastings's opponents at the Board, who had set aside the Governor-General's recommendations. Perceiving the distracted state of the public councils, and consequent violence of party spirit, he determined at once on pursuing an independent course, though not without anxious apprehensions of its proving a bar to his advancement in the Service.

[Page 69]

Contrary to his expectations, the very circumstances which appeared fatal to Mr. Shore's advancement in the Service mainly contributed to it; and the result justified his old friend Burgess's discernment. Mr. Hastings abolished the Provincial [Page 70] Councils, and transferred the power exercised by them, together with the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Council, to a Board of his own creation, consisting of four members. To the first post was appointed Mr. David Anderson, a servant of the Company, distinguished for his integrity and abilities. But, anticipating the need of this gentleman's services on special missions, Mr. Hastings consulted him on filling the second place at the Board, which would require qualifications not inferior to his own. Mr. Anderson at once recommended Mr. Shore, as, in his opinion, better fitted for the post than any other member of the Service. The Governor-General expressed astonishment at the mention of an individual whom he regarded as one of his most zealous opponents; for Mr. Shore's financial reputation had induced Mr. Hastings to attribute to him a large share in the preparation of Mr. Francis's Minutes. Mr. Anderson, intimately acquainted with the character of Mr. Hastings as well as of Mr. Shore, replied in the following terms: "Appoint Mr. Shore; and in six weeks you and he will have formed a friendship."—The proposal was assented to, and the prediction fulfilled. Mr. Hastings and Mr. Shore entertained for each other a lasting regard; though the latter was fully aware of the errors of the Governor-General's administration, which he imputed to one main defect in his [Page 71] character—his not being an economist, either for himself or the public. These circumstances were communicated to the writer of these pages by an intimate friend of all the parties concerned; and throw light on a transaction which subjected Mr. Hastings to impeachment, on the ground of his having formed a Board consisting of his own creatures.

[Page 72]


MR. SHORE retained his new official situation till his return to England in 1785; presiding, with few intervals, at his Board; and frequently incurring additional responsibility, in consequence of the Governor-General's absence from Calcutta. The heavy burden of his ordinary duties was augmented by an immense accumulation of business, produced by the transfer of the Records, both Native and English, to Calcutta; whilst his labour and anxiety were aggravated by the indolence, impracticable temper, and corrupt practices of Gunga-Govind Sing, whom Mr. Hastings had inflicted as Duan on this Board, as he had on the Council which it superseded ;—an individual whom Mr. Shore describes, in his correspondence with Mr. Anderson, as destitute of integrity—a dead weight on the proceedings of the Committee, who paid no attention to business, save that which involved his own immediate patronage.

[Page 74]

Besides superintending the collection of the revenues, Mr. Shore devoted two days in the week to adjudicating Exchequer causes. And as the Revenue System was throughout defective, from want of adequate agency, the President was required to neglect his own immediate duties for the purpose of directing local arrangements. He was, on one occasion, commissioned to settle the revenues of the provinces of Dacca and Behar. [Page 75] Mr. Hastings, who treated him uniformly with the greatest confidence, summoned him, on the eve of his departure, to receive his instructions. And they were conveyed in a brief sentence, which might have been interpreted, in conformity to practice too prevalent at that period, in a manner very different from that in which it was intended by Mr. Hastings, or received by Mr. Shore:—"You know your business, Shore; and good luck to you!"—for the settlement of the Revenue afforded to the Company's servants much scope for corruption; and some had realised vast sums, by receiving bribes from the landlords, in return for underrating their rents. In this single mission to Dacca, Mr. Shore might easily, as be stated, have added 100,000l. to his fortune.

The following feeling allusion to a circumstance which happened during one of his missions occurs in a Letter written many years afterwards:—

"In the end of 1783 and beginning of 1784, I was charged with a Public Commission, to regulate the affairs of Patna province, a country in extent equal to Scotland. A severe scarcity prevailed, and demanded all my exertions to check its dreadful influence; and I was happy to succeed, in some degree. One day, when I was walking in the fields, [Page 76] weak in body and uneasy in mind, a poor native, whose sufferings I had relieved, was proceeding in the same path; and I heard him exclaim, 'May God prolong thy life, and restore thy health, for thou hast saved the lives of the poor!' This indeed was a reward for all my exertions; and I felt the force of it with a satisfaction I would not have bartered for thousands. Often, in the hours of sickness and uneasiness, have I recollected this exclamation of gratitude."

[Page 87]



"As to myself, the prospect of succeeding you gives me no pleasure; for the office to me has no agréments at all: and though I cannot, upon the whole, complain If my health, which is now perfectly good, I have lost all spirits, and half my understanding at least; and would be happy to relinquish a post which is too much for my abilities and health. But I shall keep it as long as the Governor pleases: indeed, he has the fullest right [Page 88] to command my services, both from his original nomination of me, and from the personal confidence with which he has treated me on all occasions. His own situation is still precarious; nor do I believe he or any man can guess at the event. Every idea of removing him in a disgraceful manner seems lost; and, from what I can learn, he will, if recalled, return in a manner agreeable to himself. He appears perfectly indifferent about it. I think his stay will not be very long.

" We have the prospect of famine here; but my opinion is, that the scarcity is more artificial than real. It is an unfavourable time for settlements. I do not, however, despair of getting through my business decently.

"Yours affectionately."

[Page 116]


[Page 118]

The critical state of India having attracted the attention of Parliament in 1784, Mr. Pitt's Act for the Regulation of Indian Affairs was passed—a measure framed to rectify the acknowledged [Page 119] deficiency of power in the governing bodies invested with the direction of them, both at home and in that country, and to prescribe definite rules for the guidance of their policy towards the Native States*

[Page 120]

The attention of the newly-constituted Government would be primarily directed to the establishment on a solid basis of the Revenue System, hitherto subjected to a series of ill-conducted and unsuccessful experiments; the extirpation of deeply-rooted corruption among the Company's servants; and the substitution of fixed and liberal salaries for the various objectionable expedients by which they had as yet been remunerated.

The individual selected to fill the highest post in the Indian administration, and to carry into effect the important measures proposed, was Earl Cornwallis; a nobleman combining extensive civil and military experience, inflexible integrity, sound judgment, vigorous though not brilliant abilities, and an affable and conciliatory deportment. And his authority was enlarged, by the union in his person of the office of Commander-in-Chief with that of Governor-General. To supply Lord Cornwallis's want of experience of Indian Affairs, and [Page 121] especially of the Revenue Department, no Member of the Service occurred to the Directors better qualified than Mr. Shore; and, accordingly, he received the flattering offer of a seat in the Supreme Council.

[Page 126]

Mr. Shore's appointment afforded general satisfaction both to the Europeans and the Natives in India. He was most cordially welcomed by them on his arrival, and found himself surrounded by all his former domestics. He took his seat in Council in January following; and in the meanwhile visited Moorshedabad, charged with the responsible duty of arranging the affairs of the Nabob of Bengal.

[Page 139]


As the vacancy in the Supreme Council, occasioned by Mr. Macpherson's departure for England, was not filled up, the Governor-General had, during a considerable period, but two colleagues: and, as he was frequently absent on remote arrangements, the responsibility for some important measures devolved chiefly on Mr. Shore; the other Member of the Council relying implicitly on his judgment and experience.

[Page 156']

During this period of Mr. Shore's residence in India, he rarely attended the Services of the Church. This neglect, originally unavoidable, from the unfortunate privation of the means of Public Worship, had now become in a great measure habitual to him.



"This year we have been afflicted with a great scarcity; so much so, that many mothers have been compelled to sell their children. Knowing this, I ordered my servants to buy all that were brought; and promised the parents, that if they would take back their children after the removal of the scarcity, they should all have them again. Without this, many must have died, or have been disposed of to persons who would not have taken as much care of them as I have done. I have great doubts myself if many of the parents—strange as it may appear to you, who are a mother—will not leave them upon my hands; for maternal affection here is very different from what it is in England.

[Page 157]

"Two or three months will determine this; and you shall know the event. I hope they will all be reclaimed; as otherwise I must be at the expense of maintaining them;—which, however, will not be burdensome. Let that be as it may, I shall always find a satisfaction in what I have done, and never feel a pang at appropriating a part of my income to this purpose. What do you think was the price given for each?—from ten shillings to twenty. Now tell me, Charlotte, if you are displeased at my increase of family? The brats have clothing as well as food. The whole expense of maintaining them does not exceed £6 a month;—and that will be less. I thank God that the apprehension of a scarcity daily decreases, and is now, in fact, removed. Many thousands are daily maintained by public contributions; of which I have given a share, although my name is not in the public list of Benefactors."

[Page 163]



"The task upon which Lord Cornwallis and myself embarked for India was reformation and improvement. We had inveterate prejudices and long-confirmed habits to encounter. To serve our constituents, it was necessary to retrench the emoluments of individuals, and to introduce system and regularity where all before was disorder and misrule. People in England condemn the favour shewn to individuals in Bengal, at the Company's expense; whilst they are daily recommending them to patronage, although they disclaim the idea. This principle we have had to oppose and discourage. Under such circumstances, it cannot be expected that a man acting up to the object of his appointment can conduct himself agreeably to all: for though there is, I believe, more honesty, principle, and humanity in India, comparatively speaking, than in England, our experience of mankind proves that, with the majority, these qualities are not to be found. Exclusive of these difficulties, which the situation of affairs superadded, the common business of this Government is by no means easy or small. Our politics extend to nations all over the Peninsula of India—to the Mahrattas and other States on the Malabar coast, as well as to Delhi on [Page 164] this side. We controul the revenues and collections of the country, exceeding altogether four millions. We distribute justice among a people more populous than those of Great Britain. We have an army of 40,000 men; and send home annually an investment of goods nearly equal to a million sterling. That all this various business be well done, we must enter into the detail of it: and he that wishes to do his duty will have little time for amusement, or even for sleep. This abridged account of our Government in Bengal will shew you the importance of my situation. Do not suppose I mention this out of vanity; but it will convince you, that to leave it without due consideration would, in my predicament, be inexcusable. Neither will you wonder, after the perusal, that I should complain of fatigue or disquiet. Often does it happen, in the course of the year, that I am obliged to work when I am only fit to lounge upon the couch; and, what is still harder, to resist the applications made by distress and want, when a compliance with them is contrary to my sense of duty. This is indeed a severe trial of the feelings; to which, from my station, I am but too often exposed, and what I consider the lightest part of my duty.

[Page 169]



"You are not, I think, likely to get more information on Zemindary rights. A despotic Government seldom thinks of the rights of its subjects, and still less of limiting its own prerogatives by defining them. Something might be gleaned from writers: but there is so much reading of what is absolutely necessary, that a man in business cannot find time to hunt out three grains of wheat amidst a bushel of chaff. My opinion is decided, that the Zemindars were the hereditary proprietors of the soil, but that the Sovereign claimed what portion of the rents be pleased. The Zemindars were thus far left at his mercy: but from Akbar to Aurungzebe the demands upon them are moderate. In all speculations regarding the Zemindars, you must be careful to distinguish Bengal from all other parts of the Empire. There was most certainly a difference in the practice and principles of Finance here. I believe I remarked to you before, that there is no confiding to transactions when Zemindars are mentioned. Dew translated Aumil, sometimes, Zemindar; and Gladwyn, who is in general accurate, makes Zemindar and Buzourgur synonymous, in a very important part of the "Ayeen Akbary."

[Page 170]

"Mr. Grant's * chief foundation for his Rubba, or "Fourth," arises from mistaking Rubba for Reia produce ; although the Tables, which follow the passage where the word is mentioned, shew the proportion to be in One-third. I compared four copies of the "Ayeen Akbary," and found Reia in all. The merit of his production is certainly great; but so obscured by his style, that it requires more penetration and attention than I can give to it, to discover his meaning.

"I shall request Captain Smith of the 'Dubton' to take charge of a volume of our Transactions here . . . . . . . . . I was an original Member of the Society, but am now an honorary one; i.e. honoured with belonging to it. Sir William Jones is the vis vitae of the Society; and when he leaves it, it will become a caput mortuum.

"I am, my Dear Sir, your very sincere "and obedient humble servant."

[Page 175]


IN the summer of 1789, Mr. Shore completed the arduous task, the execution of which had occupied every hour that he could rescue from languor, sickness, and the ordinary routine of official duties—the preparation of the Decennial, or, as it proved, the Permanent Settlement of the Revenues of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa—a measure affecting the property, and involving the multifarious and conflicting rights and privileges of a population then amounting to nearly forty millions, including the inhabitants of the comparatively small portion of the territories in the Madras Presidency, to which it was subsequently extended. The extreme difficulty of effecting the proposed arrangement may be inferred from the failure of previous attempts to accomplish it, during the twenty-four years in which the revenues of the Three Provinces had been possessed by the East-India Company; whilst it required practical knowledge, which was wanting to the Company's Servants in consequence [Page 176] of their having been withdrawn by Mr. Hastings from the immediate collection of the revenues. The execution of it rested chiefly on Mr. Shore's abilities and experience; to which honourable testimony has been borne by Lord Cornwallis, and by the Fifth Parliamentary Report on East-Indian Affairs, which distinctly states that his "ability and experience, in supplying the deficiency of the Servants of the Company in the knowledge of the rights and usages of the different orders of people connected with the Revenues, enabled the Government to carry its projected measures into effect."

The first talents in the Company's Service, both in England and India, bad been during some years employed in considering a grand fundamental question, the determination of which was essential to any ulterior settlement. It referred to the Proprietorship of the lands to be assessed; which had been variously assigned to the Sovereign, to the Ryots or immediate cultivators of the soil, or to an intermediate class, the Zemindars. Mr. Shore's opinions on the subject are recorded in a voluminous Minute, supported by a considerable body of Authorities and of evidence, the result of his inquiries. In this document, he traces the Proprietary right of the Zemindars to the reign of Akbar, contemporaneous with Queen Elizabeth. He states, that at that period the Zemindars enjoyed the hereditary [Page 177] management of lands, paying the rents to the Sovereign, with the reservation of a portion for their own subsistence; that they were looked up to by the Ryots, as their hereditary patrons and governors, and proprietors of the soil within their jurisdiction; and were proverbially acknowledged to preserve these rights, according to the ancient saying, that 'The land belonged to the Zemindars, and the rent to the King';—and, that they were, moreover, numerous, rich, and powerful.

He contends, that the Proprietary right of the Zemindars had been never subsequently annulled; but, on the contrary, ratified by uninterrupted usage, during a period including twenty-five years of British sway. As the Zemindars probably existed before the Mahomedan rule, he conjectures that the invaders employed them, as their agents, in the collection of the revenues; guaranteeing their hereditary rights by a grant of investiture (Sunnud); whilst the Sunnud, inasmuch as it was never conferred on aliens, so far from invalidating, confirmed those rights, and conveyed, by lapse of time, a property in the soil, even though it had not been originally possessed. He maintains, that the condition of exercising a limited jurisdiction, and other services, could not affect the rights to which it was annexed; and that no objection to the Zemindary claims could be grounded on the grants of rent-free [Page 178] land (altumga), because they were invariably recognised by these instruments.

The conclusion in favour of the Proprietary rights of the Zemindars, adopted by Mr. Shore, was ratified by our Governments at Home and in India, and became the basis of the Permanent Settlement.*

[Page 179]

The limits of this work admit of but a brief review of his very voluminous Minutes on this subject. The principal of them (June 18, 1789) is stated, in the Fifth Parliamentary Report, "to contain information derived from experience and diligent research, in regard to the condition and character of the Natives of India, the past and present state of the country, and the laws and practices of the Mogul Government; which may at all times be referred to with advantage, as an authentic and valuable Record."

The amount of the Assessment, and the best method of collecting it, form the principal subjects of this important document. The author deduces the former from a review of the financial history of Bengal, from the first recorded Settlement of the Revenues under Akbar, in 1582. He recommends that it should be moderate; grounded on an estimate, intermediate between that proposed by Mr. Francis, and that elaborately worked out by Mr. J. Grant in his Analysis of the Finances of Bengal; the fallacies of which he points out. *

Animadverting on the proposition for assessment by local minute investigation, he observes:—

[Page 180]

"There is no country in the world, I believe, where the Officers of Government devote more time and attention to the discharge of public business than in Bengal. The official duties are inconceivably laborious, to those who perform them with zeal and assiduity—an assertion which the Public Records will prove. But there are limits to industry, and bounds to exertion. If too much be attempted, matters of great importance must be neglected. The controul of the Board of Revenue over the Collectors, and that of the Supreme Power over them and all other departments, will alike prove ineffective, if their attention be dissipated in the minutiæ of detail."

Reiterating his former arguments in favour of the Proprietary right of the Zemindars, be recommends, that, on account of their almost universal incapacity and corruption, the rights of the inferior cultivators (Ryots) should be secured:—

"Our Administration has heretofore been fluctuating and uncertain: an idea of improvement has been hastily adopted, unsteadily pursued, and afterwards abandoned from a supposed defect in principle: new measures have been substituted, followed, and relinquished, with the same facility: and the Natives, from these variations, with every succession of men expect a change of system.

"Measures in the detail must always be subject to variation, from local circumstances and contingencies, which no foresight can provide against; but principles should be fixed, if possible.

"The fluctuation in the Members of Government, as [Page 181] well as in the Officers employed in the subordinate departments, renders the establishment of principles indispensably necessary; for, as experience cannot be transmitted with offices, the discretion of the Agents will never cease to operate in the expectation of real or fancied improvement, unless it be restrained by rule. The characters of individuals, even where the same system is pursued, must have a considerable influence upon the success of it; but where no system is established, the evils far exceed the partial benefits resulting from the talents, knowledge, and zeal of a few."

"The skill and success which the Natives display in applying to the defects of our personal characters, and in rendering them subservient to their own views and interests, are well known: what one man refuses, another is disposed to grant: the system rejected to-day is again brought forward, with new arguments in support of it, at another period: what has been once tried, and found to fail, is again revived, under plausible reasons assigned for its failure. They study our dispositions, inclinations, aversions, enmities, and friendships; and, with the cool caution so familiar to them, seize the favourable opportunity to introduce propositions for new systems and measures, or for reviving those which have been exploded. With the most upright intentions, our caution and experience are liable to be misled. But experience is not the lot of all; and the judgment will often yield to the suggester or adviser, where it ought to be guided only by the propriety of the measure suggested or proposed. In the stability of system alone we must look for a remedy [Page 182] against evils which can never be thoroughly eradicated or corrected: and this consideration is, with me, of the greatest importance."

" We are however to remember, that we mean now to establish a principle of giving confidence to our subjects, and of correcting the evils resulting from fluctuating measures—to convince them of our moderation, and, by that and by firmness to shew them, that whilst we exact what we deem ourselves fairly entitled to demand, we are equally disposed not to enhance those demands beyond their ability to discharge them; and that the object or this system is, to put an end to those intrigues, which they have sometimes been forced into, although they have oftener adopted them from habit. We must therefore take care not to clog the principle with difficulties and embarrassment that shall suppress its operation, and more particularly in the article of the amount of the assessment; since I fear that in other instances we shall be under the necessity of adopting measures which, however intended for the public good. may wear a different complexion."

"If the object of our present deliberations were only to obtain the highest possible Jumma (Assessment), without regard to the permanency of our arrangements, we should then relinquish the principle of concluding engagements with the Zemindars altogether, and attempt to secure it by other modes."

[Page 183]

In his Minute of Sept. 18, Mr. Shore, after having weighed the objections to the introduction of the Settlement into the Province of Behar on account of the number and poverty of its Zemindars, recommends that the Settlement should be fixed for ten years certain. This suggestion produced a protracted controversy between the Governor-General and himself. Mr. Shore urged, that the proposed limitation of the Settlement would not diminish the confidence of the Zemindars, or induce the neglect or desolation of the land—that, to people who had subsisted on annual expedients, a period of ten years was nearly equal in estimate to perpetuity—*that their own interest at the commencement of the term, and their confidence in the stability and advantages of the system towards its close, would induce the necessary exertion on the part of the Zemindars;—that, in corroboration of this reasoning, [Page 184] might be instanced the fact, that the cultivation of Bengal had progressively increased, under all the disadvantages of variable assessments and personal charges ;-that the Court of Directors, from whose opinion he little differed, held that the idea of a definite term would be more pleasing to the Natives than a dubious perpetuity;—that inexperience of the working of the proposed system, and the necessity of adjusting the complicated rights of the Government, of the Zemindars, and of the Ryots, and of correcting, by new Regulations, the inequalities of produce resulting from various causes, such as droughts and inundations, afforded cogent reasons or deferring the proclamation of the Permanent Settlement. And he suggested, that the intermediate time should be employed in giving confidence to the Zemindars by appropriate measures; and, that after four or five years, during which period the Zemindars would be induced by self-interest to cultivate their land, the Settlement might be declared permanent.

On the other hand it was maintained by Lord Cornwallis, that the limitation of the Settlement would destroy the confidence of the Zemindars, and produce neglect of cultivation and desolation—that the losses by drought and inundation would, under a Permanent Settlement, induce the Zemindars to avail themselves of the great fertility [Page 185] of the soil to make up the deficiency by renewed industry—that the habit which the Zemindars had fallen into, of subsisting by annual expedients, had originated, not in any constitutional imperfection in the people themselves, but in the fluctuating measures of Government; and that he could not therefore admit that a period of ten years would be considered by the generality of people as a term nearly equal in estimate to perpetuity;—that, at the conclusion of ten years, the Company's Servants would not be better, and perhaps not so well qualified to carry into effect a permanent arrangement and that the immediate adoption of the measure would not prevent the rectification of inequalities, errors, and abuses, and the adjustment of relative rights.

[Page 187]

Lord Cornwallis's decision on the important question of the Permanency of the Settlement was influenced by a reason not avowed in his able Minutes. He had learned, from the past history of India, the evils resulting from the perpetual fluctuations of system produced by changes in the component Members of the Administration: and be frankly avowed to Mr. Shore, that he would willingly have yielded his opinion, could security against the interposition of adverse influence have been furnished, by the continuance of the reins of Government either in his own hands or in those of Mr. Shore, till the expiration of the decennial term. The Directors of the East-India Company ratified the Governor-General's proposition; qualifying their adoption of it by provisions, guaranteeing to themselves a share in the profits arising from an expected increase of cultivation, and the right of modifying it by any Regulations necessary to the protection of the Ryots.

The lapse of nearly half a century since the proclamation of the Permanent Settlement in 1793 has afforded ample opportunity of testing the opposite opinions entertained at that period respecting it. The results of the measure have been, an increase of revenue, unextorted by excessive assessment;—in regard to the Zemindars, notwithstanding their temporary losses, and transfer of [Page 188] property occasioned by the unequal operation of the laws for the collection of the revenue, and more durable mischief arising from their own habitual incapacity or misconduct, the maintenance of a class of proprietors capable of being by degrees employed, in conformity to the suggestions of Sir Henry Strachey and other enlightened Indian Authorities, in the functions of Government;—and in reference to the Ryots, a limited improvement in their condition; which might have been much more effectual, had the delay proposed by Mr. Shore supplied better means of ascertaining, defining, and recording their rights; to the imperfect settlement of which their continued grievances are very generally attributed.

This is a selection from the original text


authority, avarice, calamity, cultivator, famine, health, ryot, scarcity, settlement, war, wheat, zamindar

Source text


Subtitle: Vol.I

Author: Charles John Shore, 2nd Baron, Lord Teignmouth


Publication date: 1843

Original date(s) covered: 1770-1793

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original date(s) covered: 1770-1793

Digital edition

Original author(s): Lord Teignmouth

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 21 to 28
  • 2 ) pages 34 to 38
  • 3 ) pages 46 to 48
  • 3 ) pages 50 to 52
  • 3 ) pages 69 to 71
  • 3 ) pages 72 to 76
  • 3 ) pages 87 to 88
  • 3 ) pages 116 to 121
  • 3 ) page 126
  • 3 ) page 139
  • 3 ) page 156
  • 3 ) page 163 to 164
  • 3 ) page 169 to 170
  • 3 ) page 169 to 170
  • 3 ) page 175 to 188


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 > nonfiction prose > memoirs

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