Dissertation Concerning Landed Property of Bengal

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Introductory notes

Charles Boughton Rouse, was a Secretary to the Board of Control between 1784 to 1791. Before being appointed as the secretary of the Board, Boughton Rouse served in the East India Company in Bengal. Boughton Rouse joined the Company's services in 1764. At various points he served as a Persian interpreter, a merchant and a judge at sadar diwani court in Calcutta. Boughton Rouse was also the chief of the Company's factory at Dacca in 1775. Rouse went back to England in 1778 and became a Secretary of the Board of Control in 1784. In 1791 however fell out with Henry Dundas where his views did not found the formers approval. Boughton Rouse published his Dissertation concerning the landed property of Bengal in the same year. The book was published by John Stockdale in London.

Boughton Rouse in the text offers his views on the landed property of Bengal based on his experiences and observations during his days in India. Boughton Rous in the dissertation offers his argument in favor of the zamindari system.

Selection details

Boughton Rouse in the text offers his views on the landed property of Bengal based on his experiences and observations during his days in India. Boughton Rous in the dissertation offers his argument in favor of the zamindari system.




[Page 18]

It is to be lamented, that almost every subject of Indian administration for many years past has in its discussion been perverted by the spirit of party, or received its complexion from the personal connexions and attachments of the authors: which, though laudable in common life, and suitable to the constitution of our government, is to the last degree pernicious in every consideration of abstract right, or municipal justice.

Amongst the various weighty concerns of any country, the good administration of the revenue necessarily takes the lead, as the vital blood which must support its existence, and as it affects in its operation every member of the community. But it is infinitely more consequential, where the chief revenue of the state is raised upon the land, without having recourse [Page 19] to the complicated system of taxes on general consumption, which prevail mostly in Europe; to ascertain, not only the practical rules, by which that revenue shall be collected, but the character and condition of the persons, who are to gather it from the ground tenants and cultivators, and pay it into the public treasury. Such are the Zemindars and Talookdars in their several gradations, throughout the extensive dominions occupied by the British nation in the provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa.

Upon the nature of their tenure, and upon the litigated question, whether there is, or is not, landed property in these countries, and of what nature, and whether descendible to heirs; I shall ingenuously offer a few remarks, according to the best information I have ever been able to collect: feeling that the question ought to receive some definitive adjudication, which may for all time to come prevent such sacred subjects from being lightly agitated; but leaving myself perfectly open to correction, if my [Page 20] facts should be erroneous, or my arguments delusive. To leave this point unsettled, is to destroy the basis upon which every plan of internal regulation and prosperity can be founded.

For my own part, the farther I have carried my inquiries, the more firmly I am convinced, that the state, in which we received the rich provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, was a general state of hereditary property; modified certainly according to the nature and customs of the government which has prevailed there; but nevertheless existing, with important benefit to the possessors, according to the universal sense of the people, sanctioned by the constant practice of the native princes, and established by immemorial usage from one end of the country to the other.

[Page 22]

By attempting to demonstrate, that the Zemindars, and other landholders of Bengal, have not, nor ever had, any claim of hereditary property; and that they ought to be considered as financial servants only, employed to collect the ground rents of the sovereign as proprietor, or, as the title expresses it, having a tenure in his landed property; Mr. Grant would seem to invite this country to retract its plighted faith in their favor. I have not a doubt, that he wishes to establish this opinion out of sincere zeal for the public interest and administration, which he imagines would be benefited by annihilating such supposed property. I confess my cordial wishes and endeavors,—as far as the endeavors of an humble individual could avail in a great national object,—have gone to promote a contrary system: and as no circum [Page 23] stances have hitherto produced any alteration in my sentiments; I find myself impelled by the importance of the occasion to declare, that I differ from him fundamentally in many articles of fact, justice, and expediency: but shall endeavor to offer such remarks as the subject may require from me, with every possible respect to his industry and abilities.

I shall not mean to deduce any argument, either for or against the Zemindars, from the acts or deliberations of the British government since the acquisition of the Dewanny in 1765, any further than they can be considered as a continuation of what I have understood to be the practice of the native government anterior to that period. For, if we were to argue from the rules and projects of our own fluctuating administrations, we might find documents to establish or refute any presupposed system. Mr. Grant himself, has given a strong instance of this in his 12th page, with regard to a Bundoobusty Sunnud: which, though a mere [Page 24] official act of English authority, many years after the native government had ceased, was interpreted to the disfavor of the Zemindars by the Bengal Revenue Committee in 1786, when they were even deliberating on the utter abrogation of the claims preferred to a proprietary and hereditary right in the lands held by this important class of men. In like manner, any description I may make of the state of actual possession, or prevailing opinions in Bengal, I consider to be such as they truly existed before these provinces became a part of the British dominions.

In taking any consistent view of the subject proposed, I find it impossible to draw an intelligible distinction, as to the article of permanent or hereditary property, between a Zemindar and Talookdar—I know of none but magnitude. With regard to the judicial functions conveyed by the Sunnud (or Patent) of the imperial officers, there may arise a difference: since the Talookdars are generally, [Page 25] although not universally, subordinate to the Zemindars. But if a Talookdar takes out a Sunnud on his own account, so as to have his name entered in the records of the superior government; he is thenceforth considered as independent of the Zemindar, and pays his revenue direct to the public treasury. However if every Talookdar were to take out a Sunnud, the provincial divisions and jurisdictions would be broken, and the list of persons paying direct to the public treasury would be rendered so large, that hardly any number of collectors and accountants would be adequate to the increased perplexity of the current collections. The act passed in 1784 (cap. 25, fect. 39) makes no distinction at all between them. I have examined, from attested copies now in my own possession, the Sunnuds of a Zemindar, Talookdar, and Chowdhery; which latter, if I recollect right, is considered in the modern practice of Bengal as the head of several Talookdaries united under one name; and I find the tenor of them exactly the same.

[Page 26]

It appears upon a reference to all the correspondence of the times, and is universally known, that when the dewanny of the three provinces was ceded to us, the country was distributed amongst the Zemindars and Talookdars, who paid a stipulated revenue by twelve instalments (a) (a) to the sovereign power, or its delegates. They assembled at the capital in the beginning of every Bengal year (commencing in April) in order to complete their final payments, and make up their annual accounts; to settle the discount to be charged upon their several remittances in various coins for the purpose of reducing them to one standard, or adjust their concerns with their bankers; to petition for remissions on account of storms, drought, in [Page 27] undation, disturbances, and such like; to make their representations of the state, and occurrences of their districts: after all which they entered upon the collections of the new year; of which however they were not permitted to begin receiving the rents from their own farmers, till they had completely closed the accounts of the preceding year, so that they might not encroach upon the new rents, to make up the deficiency of the past.

In many instances the Zemindars were left unmolested in their several districts, and free from all check or interference. But when they were remiss in their payments, officers of government were deputed under various titles, like the Canonicariiand Compulsores of the Roman revenue in the time of the emperors; whose duty it was, to prevent any misapplication of the money collected by the Zemindar, and his agents dispersed over every part of the country. For with them only rested the whole business of letting the lands, keeping the sub [Page 28] sidiary accounts, and collecting the rents from the villages: and they were, in all ordinary matters, independent of the interference of the superior government.

Increases were sometimes made upon the former year's revenue: not, however, in consequence of any local scrutiny or valuation of the resources of any Zemindar; but by a rateable assessment, called months, or 12th parts upon the former jummah, or standard rent. They were levied for various purposes; sometimes public, sometimes private; which it would be superfluous now to exemplify: and in course of time, these proportionable assessments were gradually consolidated into the established rent of the Zemindar, who cleared himself by a repartition upon the cultivators, and subordinate landholders.

In a very few years after the British administration had commenced, a principle was assumed, that the state had a right to the entire [Page 29] produce of the land, leaving to the Zemindars certain allotments called Nankar, which have been probably supposed to be infinitely more considerable than they were. In consequence, various investigations were made into the measurement of the land and village accounts, to the great vexation of the Zemindars; their districts were afterwards let in farm to the highest bidder, and they were totally excluded. unless where they preserved their power and possession by collusion with a nominal farmer: and, in consideration of their exclusion, a pension was allotted to them in ready money; not, as far as I can find, by any fixed proportion to the amount of revenue yielded by their Zemindary, but probably according to personal favor, or supposed situation in respect of family, religious establishments, or other circumstances. In this I speak of the greater Zemindars: for to all the smaller ones, the allowance was fixed at one-tenth of the gross produce, which has always been the established rate in Bahar. At present the Zemindars are generally, and have [Page 30] been for some years past, restored to the possession of their lands.

I have thought it expedient, for the information of such only as may not be particularly conversant in the history of Bengal affairs, to offer this superficial sketch of the situation in which we found the Zemindars, as instruments in the perception of the revenue; and of the changes they have undergone. I purposely refrain from making any comments upon the minute parts which belong to it, or from examining what abuses have arisen in a government so constituted. Almost every article of the description has been subject to various constructions in this country; and might certainly be fit matter for discussion in other points of view, but it would be unnecessary to my present design. I therefore proceed to the consideration of the abstract question, whether the Zemindars were then, or ought now to be regarded as persons holding financial offices merely; or as enjoying a proprietary right to their [Page 31] their lands; and whether that right was like wise of an hereditary nature.

That the subject is embarrassed, as well as delicate, must be acknowledged. Some have inclined to consider them as officers, others, as farmers of the revenue. But this seems to me eluding the difficulty, rather than solving it. For if the Zemindary be even an office, and such office give possession of land, which has by claim or custom descended from father to son, or to collaterals, with other circumstances incident to property, such as mortgage, alienation, bequest or adoption; it is in reality a landed inheritance.

[Page 40]

However, although these Sunnuds may not have been granted to landholders in the reign of Akber; and which I am the more disposed to believe, because I see no mention in the Ayin Akbery, or Institutes of Akber, of judicial functions being vested, as they have since been, in any other than the regular officers of Mahomedan jurisprudence: yet there is no reason to infer, that Zemindars did not then exist. They are by no means overlooked in that most valuable repository of Indian regulation and knowledge; a translation of which has [Page 41] been given to the world by Mr. Gladwin. For not only are they mentioned in the historical abstract of various provinces, as entertaining considerable armies, with great extent of country, and a large revenue (e) (e) : but moreover in my manuscript copy of that work, which is a very fine one, I observe in the table of the measurement, revenue, forts, and military establishment of every Subah or province, there is a distinct column for the title Zemindars; describing the religion and sect of those persons in every subdivision of the country. This is evidence irrefragable, that the term of Zemindar was in use at the time, when that able conqueror made an assessment for his extensive empire, and fixed the regulations for its future government. And what could be meant by Zemindars, but the occupants and proprietors of the land, in their several ranks, as we have seen them in the present period?

[Page 42]

I have endeavored to examine this point more closely, by perusing, in the original, a considerable part of the history of Hindostan, by Mahomed Cosim Ferishteh; who flourished about the beginning of the 17th century, in the reign of Jehanghire, the son of Akber. Colonel Dowe, indeed has, in several instances introduced the word Zemindars in his translation, where it does not occur in the original, particularly in describing the severe regulations of Alla-ul-Dien Chilligi (or Alla II.) (f) (f) in the year 1300, one of the Afghan princes, who reigned at Delhy before the invasion of Timur. The historian speaks of Mocuddems and Chowdries, who used to go abroad with a splendid retinue, dress in rich habits, and hunt like nobles; and, exclusive of these, bears express testimony to the existence of private property in land, under the name of Milk or Milkyet. At present this very term is in use in Behar, to signify proprietory land assessed to the reve [Page 43] nue, too small to be called a Zemindary, but in other respects synonymous.

[Page 58]

In perusing the opinions of Mirza Mohsin, or any other person, concerning the Indian system of government; it should be remembered, that Bengal has not uniformly belonged to the empire of Hindostan: but has, for the most part, been in a state of independent sovereignty, held by various dynasties of kings. And it is a curious circumstance, that one of them was founded about the year of Christ [...] , a Hindoo Zemindar of the name of Kans; whose son [Page 59] afterwards embracing the Mahomedan faith, took the name and stile of Sultan Jelalul-Dien under which he reigned seventeen years; and his grandson Sultan Ahmed, sixteen years; all of them much beloved by the inhabitants. Bengal must therefore be supposed to have had its own peculiar customs and usages. My friend Mr. Orme, in his excellent and admired History of the Transactions of the British Nation in Hindostan, quotes an instance in 1494, of " Sultan alla ul Dien, as Mon "narch of Bengal, making peace on equal "terms with Sultan Secunder emperor of "Delhy (m) (m)." And as late as the year 1528, it was so far a sovereign state, that the Mogul emperor Mahomed Baber, father of Homayon, who ten years afterwards took a temporary possession of it in person, was induced by a mere present of curious articles, not even a tribute in money, to put off his intended invasion, and to enter into a treaty of peace with [Page 60] Nesebe-Shah king of Bengal. I draw these anecdotes from the untranslated Provincial Histories of Mahomed Cossim Ferishteh.

It seems to me to result indisputably from the deductions of history contained in the foregoing pages, that Zemindars, as persons possessing land either in their own right, or by successive renovation of grant, are of considerable, perhaps of high antiquity, but that the present Sunnud, upon which only their title to this land has generally been supposed to rest, is of comparatively modern institution. So that, whether the Sunnud now in use commenced under the reign of Akber, or that of Aurungzebe; I trust I shall not be thought presumptuous in contending, that the Zemindary property existed independant of the Sunnud, and was not, at least not within any ascertainable period, created by it. However, although it did not create, the Sunnud may have confirmed the property. Judicial functions may have been superadded by it. After a recent conquest, it might he prudent [Page 61] for the conqueror, and safe for the proprietor; to receive a charter of confirmation. Or the lands of persons who had been engaged in rebellion, having been sequestered and seized by the rightful, or what is in effect the same thing, the successful party; which is the practice of all nations under every description, with more or less of ceremonial process: they might be added to the districts of some faithful adherent, and a charter would then become necessary to establish the new proprietor upon the exclusion of the former. Or it might be expedient in the case of acquisition by purchase, to confirm in like manner the possession of the purchaser.

In stating these cases hypothetically, I conceive, that I really describe by analogy, the occurrences of our own country, at those unhappy periods of our history, when the contentions of the royal houses produced continual revolutions in the kingdom; and of all other nations under similar circumstances. Large tracts of land in England and Wales were so conveyed by charter [Page 62] from the successful competitor: and the titles of the present owners are deduced from them. The description will equally apply, with a change of terms only, to explain the origin, enlargement and consolidation of several of the great Zemindarries of Bengal.

The Sunnud now in use, of which it will be proper to take some farther notice, has been inserted in numberless publications; similar in substance, although differently translated. For the greater case of reference to those who may wish to examine it, I have annexed two specimens in the Appendix: (No. I.) that, which was granted by the Nabob Jaffier Ally Khan to the English East India Company in the year 1757, for the twenty-four pergunnahs near Calcutta, taken on Mr. Verelst's authority from his View of the State and Government of Bengal; (and No. II.) translation of a Sunnud to Chitun Sing, grandson of the deceased Zemindar, for the Zemindary of Bishenpore, entered upon the [Page 63] consultations of the Bengal revenue committee in 1786.

This instrument certainly does not, on the face of it, convey an hereditary tenure: and in addition to this negative proof, it was required, as I have observed before, that, upon every succession or alienation, the grant should be renewed. In the one instance, however, that requisition was null, as far as regards succession at least, because a grant to a corporate body necessarily became perpetual. The same perpetuity necessarily attached upon the grant given by the emperor Furruksere in 1717. Even in ordinary cases, the rule of renewal was not invariably followed: as Zemindarries were sometimes taken in the name of a son, or other relation (n) (n) ; sometimes in a fictitious name composed in an anagram, to comprehend certain family descriptions, or fortunate words, or num [Page 64] bers. And if the authority of the incumbent went on prosperously in the district, he was glad to elude the payment of fees to the imperial officers, which were formerly very heavy, although they have been considerably reduced under the British administration.

However, when there was a new Sunnud to be taken out, there seems no reason to believe, that it was solicited as a new appointment, or delegation to be granted, or refused, at the caprice of the vice-regal officers; but a confirmation of the possession, never withheld from the heir of the deceased Zemindar; provided there lay no objection against him, such as might render him an unfit person to be entrusted with power, on account of disloyalty, profligacy, insanity, or such like. How far this discretion might under a corrupt administration, give the means of extorting presents from the Zemindars, is a question of another nature.

To shew the manner in which the application was formerly made for a new Sunnud, [Page 65] and the measures pursued upon it; I subjoin in the Appendix (No. III.) a minute description of this procedure drawn out by Bode Mull, one of the ablest and best informed of the native exchequer officers; and which I receive through the favor of Mr. Shore, lately a Member of the council-general of India, whose name will long be revered in Bengal, for the abilities he has displayed there, and the integrity, with which he has devoted them to the public service.

[Page 77]

It can never be maintained, either from the histories or traditions of Bengal, or from the anecdotes of the several families who now possess the lands, that the Zemindars have been ever displaced at the whim of the reigning prince, or his ministers, as is practised all the World over with regard to official nominations; nor that they needed confirmation at every succession of an emperor, or appointment of [Page 78] his provincial viceroy: nor that they have been liable to deprivation, except for crimes real or alledged, failure of revenue, rebellion, public robberies, or such acts of atrocity, as would even in free countries subject a person to attainder and outlawry. Since the British government has taken place, now twenty-five years, I believe no Zemindar has lost his inheritance, but for failure of revenue, or upon judicial process for private debt. With regard to preceding periods, I speak only as to the general practice. For in forming a government for our possessions in India, we must not take as our precedents, the solitary examples of tyrants and usurpers; but, where we find no written law, should endeavor to make that law hereafter, which has been known as usage under the best of the native princes.

Mr. Grant has given in his Appendix an instance of a Sunnud, granted to one person, on the dismission of another, from the Zemindary. Upon this I shall only remark; first, [Page 79] that the original expression, which he has interpreted dismission ought to have been given, and accurately examined; secondly, that all the changes, stated to have been made between the parties, are subsequent to the Company's administration, and therefore furnish no decisive test of ancient practice; and thirdly, that, be the matter how it may, even these changes were preceded by various judicial proceedings upon the question of right: which proceedings ought to be given at length, to enable us to form any just inference from the whole.

I have now before me an attested copy of an original Zemindary Sunnud, granted by Nowazish Mahomed Khan, Dewan of Bengal, in pursuance of the sign manual of Aliverdy Khan the Soubahdar, in the Bengal year 1152, about A.D. 1747; Which was given by him to a petition in the following terms, "that Assud "Ullah and Futteh Ally, who had formerly "obtained a Sunnud for the district in ques- "tion, had failed in the punctual payment of [Page 80] "their revenue, and from their neglect the Per- "gunnah had gone to ruin: that Mahomed "Ibrahim, who had of old a claim to the Ze"mindary, solicited a Sunnud in the names of "his sons Mahomed Ally and Bakir Ally" The claim was allowed according to the petition, and the Sunnud given. This Pergunnah pays about 20,000l. per annum, and the family is still in possession. Here is a restitution of a Zemindary, granted even by a usurper upon a claim of right (Dawy) asserted in a petition, and acknowledged in the body of his grant.

[Page 94]

But how much soever this claim of universal property may have gratified the vanity and ostentation of a Mogul emperor, the descendent of a race of Tartar conquerors; who called himself the shadow of God, and his vicegerent upon earth; and although European travellers, dazzled by the splendor of his court, when they were humbly soliciting service under his nobles, [Page 95] may have been inclined to believe it: yet it is certain, that some authors of eminence have refused to render homage to this idol of despotism. Voltaire in particular (z) (z)reprobates the notion as false and ridiculous, and even impossible; quoting the authority of Mr. Scrafton, who had accompanied Lord Clive in his victories, and resided at the capital of Bengal as British resident, after the expulsion of Seraje-ul-Dowlah in 1757 (a) (a).

[Page 96]

Look also at the sentiments of Mr Holwell who passed thirty years in Bengal, during the several governments of Jaffer Khan, Shujah Khan, Serafraz Khan, Aliverdy Khan, Seraje-ul-Dowlah, and Mir Jaffer: including, altogether, a period from about ten years antecedent to the invasion of Nadir Shah, which produced the defection of Bengal and other provinces; to the establishment of the British influence, consequent on the victories of Lord Clive, Major Adams, Sir Hector Munro and General Carnac. In recounting any of the Revolutions which had happened in the empire during that tumultuous series, he never hints, by any mode of expression, that the Zemindars are the servants of government, but calls them "the great proprietors of the land" and constantly speaks of them as holding by an hereditary succession (b)(b)

However it will be objected to me, and with truth, that Jaffer Khan, who had been employed [Page 97] originally by Aurungzebe in the Deccan and Orissa, and afterwards continued in the high office of Subahdar of Bengal during the reigns of many successive emperors; crowned his long experience by dispossessing the Zemindars (at least, as many as he was able to subdue,) making an exact valuation of the lands, and collecting the revenues of the country through the agency of his own immediate officers.—The fact is not to be denied. But his successor Shujah Khan found the justice and the expediency, which has been found in the northern Sircars, and in Bengal, in every instance, where this act of violence has been committed, of restoring them to their possessions.

And, as if it were decreed—by that superior providence, which marks with unerring hand the obliquities of human conduct,—that his private acts should be made to falsify his public principle, and his memory should expiate the devastation of his government: he himself bore testimony to the hereditary right of the Zemin [Page 98] dars, by purchasing from one of them the very ground, upon which he founded his new capital of Bengal, called after his own name of Morshed Kuly Khan, the second title conferred upon him by Aurungzebe. The passage of history which records this transaction (well known in Bengal,) is so curious, that I trust I shall be excused for inserting it at length. And the translator Mr. Gladwin, feeing the great importance of such an anecdote, has, with his usual accuracy, not only made his version literal, but subjoined the original Persian at the bottom of the page.—"It is the custom of the empire, that, on the "death of an Ameer or Munsebdar, who is the "immediate servant of the crown, all his "wealth is confiscated and becomes the pro- ''perty of the government: insomuch that "not a grain of his estate goes to his children "or family: even the corpse is unprovided "with a winding sheet. Jaffer Khan had no "son; but out of his regard for his grandson [Page 99] "had the foresight to purchase from the in- "come of his own Jageer, in the name of "Mirza Assedullah (better known by his title "of Sirafraz Khan) the Zemindary of the city "of Moorshedabad, situated in the Pergunnah "of Koolheriah of Kismut Chunakholly, from "Mahommed Aman, a Talookdar of the afore- "said Kismut, and had it registered in the "books of the Khalsah, and of the Canoon- "goes, under the description of Assednagur; "and which became known by the appellation "of the Khass Talook. The reason for Jaffer "Khan's conduct herein was, that in case of a "decline of fortune, there might be left for "his posterity a plate of victuals, a bare com- "petency to sustain the vital spirit; and, that "after paying the royal revenue, the profit "might come to them, and their name re- "main, and be preserved in the pages of "time (c) (c) . "

[Page 100]

Other instances may be found of the same complexion as the preceding. Aliverdy Khan usurped the government, and plundered the country. But Aliverdy was not deaf to the claims (d) (d) of a Zemindar. Cossim Ally Khan attempted to draw the entire rents of the land into his own treasury by cruelties, confiscations and massacres.—But when Cossim Ally granted the East-India Company a Sunnud for the districts of Burdwan, Midnapore and Chittagong, in pursuance of the 6th article of the treaty concluded with him in 1760; he did not confine himself to the ordinary forms of investiture and cession; but added this express injunction, that "they shall continue the Zemindars and "Renters in their places." There was indeed good reason for making this stipulation in favor of the Zemindars; because the Company had unjustly expelled the hereditary proprietors of the twenty-four Pergunnahs south of Calcutta, which had formerly been granted them on a Zemindary tenure.

[Page 101]

Even the vexations and injustice of these rapacious tyrants, Jaffer Khan; Aliverdy, and Cossim Ally, furnish important proofs of the truth I am contending for. They plundered the Zemindars; they ejected them from the collection of the revenues. Yet, as soon as the work of ravage was finished, the families of the same Zemindars, not new ones, as would have been the case, if they had been merely official appointments, returned to their ransacked palaces, and were consoled by the attachment of their inhabitants. The chasm was temporary, the principle permanent.

I shall only add one farther consideration, to establish the actual existence of landed property under the ancient government of Bengal. But it strikes me to be one of that transcendent force, that, if due regard be had to the parties, circumstances, and time; it must even alone, and unsupported by any other argument, carry complete conviction. It is the conjunct testimony of the Mogul emperor himself, and the [Page 102] East-India Company:—the one, before any visible declension had taken place of the imperial authority; the other, humbly supplicating protection and security for its commerce, upon any terms the sovereign might think proper to impose.

About the year 1696, during the reign of Aurungzebe, several of the hereditary landholders, headed by the Rajah of Burdwan, declared themselves independent of the Mogul's governor in Bengal: and the European nations took advantage of this state of confusion to fortify their several settlements. The English, in the year 1698, obtained from Sultan Azim ul Shan, grandson of the emperor, who was deputed to suppress the rebellion, permission to purchase from the hereditary landholders, the Zemindary rights of three villages round Calcutta to the extent of about one mile and a half square. But they had afterwards the misfortune to incur the displeasure of Jaffer Khan, the Subahdar of Bengal: so that, being exposed [Page 103] to frequent interruptions in their business from the officers of the Mogul government, and sensible of the precarious tenure of their establishments; they determined on sending a deputation to the Court of Delhy in the year 1715, to represent their grievances to Furruksere, who then sat upon the throne of Hindostan (e) (e).

Much time was spent by the deputies in felicitation and intrigue. They petitioned, amongst other articles, for a confirmation of the three villages formerly bought by the Company, which paid a revenue of about 150l. per annum; and for a grant of the Talookdarry of thirty-eight other villages, which lay contiguous to their factory in Bengal, subject to a fixed revenue of rupees 8181.6, or about 1000l. per annum. The imperial court at length became favorable to the representations of the deputies. But what course did it take? Did the emperor [Page 104] assign over a body of his subjects to the English Company, as a drove of cattle, that belonged to him, and lay at his mercy? Did he give them the villages they solicited, as a paltry scrap of his own immense landed property, in the manner we should give any neighbour a yard or two of land, to build his wall upon?—By no means. With the dignity of a just monarch, he granted them, unconditionally, a confirmation of the three villages they had actually bought; and conferred upon them the Talookdarry of the thirty-eight villages, with an express reservation in his firman or charter, dated in 1717, of the rights of the proprietors; from whom the Company "as positively required to purchase them, before the investiture should be admitted by the provincial government (f) (f).

[Page 105]

The sense then entertained of the grant is clearly fixed by the bald translation made at the time, and probably by Cojah Serliad himself, one of the deputies, which expresses it thus; "the thirty [eight] towns I give you the Jemidarry off Iikewise, but you must buy "them and satisfy the owner; the Duan "Subah will not impede you." It shows likewise, from the substitution of the word Zemindary for Talookdarry; which is in the original, that they were then considered as equivalent. This requisition is enforced in the order to the imperial officers of Bengal, issued by the prime minister Syed Abdullah Khan, which announces the grant of the lands to the Company.—"If, "according to former customs they buy them "by the assent of the respective owners of them, '"then you are to give permission." It is again repeated in other terms, at the head of the schedule, which enumerates "the towns (or villages) to be taken from their several Pergun- "nahs, and united into one Pergunnah." The condition, nevertheless, was not performed.— [Page 106] The fact is, that the Subahdar Jaffer Khan deterred the holders of the land with secret threats of vengance, from parting with their ground on any terms (g) (g): and a Perwannah issued by Serafraz Khan, then Dewan of Bengal, in the 9th of Mahomed Shah (about 1729) which refers to the charter of Furruksere, says, "the three towns formerly granted them, and "bought by consent from the Zemindars of "them, are now in their possession "—and "the other thirty-eight towns, they have not "yet bought; neither are they in their poss- "ession (h) g."

It gives additional force to the principle of proprietary right, recognized in these charters and edicts, every word of which is emphatical; that the emperor was himself personally con [Page 107] versant in the circumstances and customs of Bengal, from having held the office of Subahdar of that province before his accession to the crown. And, as he was also present at the capital of Morshedabad during the government of Jaffer Khan (i) (i), he must have been an eye witness of the severities practiced by him upon the Zemindars, and probably disapproved them.

It would be superfluous to multiply quotations and references, on either side of the question in order to display the opinions, that have been entertained by different writers. Yet there is one, whose representations once carried considerable weight in this country, and therefore must not pass unnoticed. I mean Colonel Dowe. This gentleman, whilst he was inveighing against the tyrannical measures of the Company's administration, might, one should expect, have felt as much tenderness even for the prescriptive title of the Zemindars, as would have restrained him from proposing [Page 108] to raise ten millions sterling by a general sale of all the lands of Bengal (k)(k) :—I will venture to say, a scheme as wild and arbitrary, as the operation would be delusive and impracticable. I have had occasion to remark upon other instances, that the poison brings its own antidote. So Colonel Dowe, as if something were wanting to heighten the injustice and absurdity of such a proposal, and expose his own incompetency to advise upon the subject; speaks continually of Zemindars as temporary possessors of the land, admitted, and removed at pleasure (l)(l), which never happened; and at last produces, as a Zemindary Sunnud, that is the tenure which he proposes to confiscate and sell, a grant of rent-free land, given in perpetuity, for a religious endowment (m) (m).

[Page 130]

Let it not be understood, however, that this monstrous principle, as it is termed by M. Vattel, was ever assumed by the East India Company, or their governors, at the time they acceded to their territorial acquisitions:—no, not even with regard to property taken in actual war. The late Lord Clive never thought of agitating such a question. His mind was too liberal and enlightened: and from all the accounts I have read or heard, I may venture to say, that the humanity and forbearance of the British army, during the wars carried on against the Nabobs of Bengal and Oude from 1756 to 1765, were the admiration of the eastern world (x) (x).

[Page 131]

At the last-mentioned æra of British aggrandizement in Hindostan, the civil rights of the inhabitants were preserved. The same internal mode of administration was continued, and the land-holders felt no material change. Even in 1769, when a local scrutiny into the lands was instituted, no idea was held out, that the Zemindarries were not hereditary. In the year 1773 the Bengal government thought it right to ascertain the laws and usages of the country upon this important article; so as to lay down an established rule in all cases, that might occur. For this purpose, they formed four questions in writing, which were proposed to certain distinguished natives, who were thought qualified [Page 132] from their eminent situations and known experience, to furnish just and respectable solutions. I cannot describe their competency for this duty required of them, so well as in the words of Mr. Francis. He says, that from their offices in Bengal, "they must be supposed to have a "perfect knowledge of the laws and customs of "Hindostan, and of the established policy of "the Mahomedan government, The Roy "Royan and Canongoes are competent judges "of the custom of the country, and of the usage "of the former government. The Pundits are "the expounders of the Hindoo laws. Maho- "med Reza Khan, Naib Subah of Bengal, is "appealed to for the law of the Coran, and the ''policy of the Mogul conquerors; and Rajah "Shitabroy, Naib of Patna, proves the custom ''of Bahar.''

I have annexed the questions, and the several answers, in the Appendix (No. VII.) They declare, with one voice, the invariable usage of hereditary succession:—and that, even indepen [Page 133] dent of the imperial Sunnud. I do not wonder, that Mr. Grant, who has laboured with so much zeal to destroy this claim, should attempt first to invalidate such specific and weighty testimony. But in the objections he has made against their validity, I confess I can discover but little of substantial reasoning, and less of political discretion.

I see no reason he has, to impute corruption find intentional falsehood to the several persons who were consulted: nor does any other mode occur to me of obtaining the information required, less exceptionable, than that pursued by the President and Council. I hesitate not to say, that the reference does those gentlemen infinite honor. Nor do I think the language of the answers less honourable to those who gave them. Mr. Grant, indeed, insinuates, that "their evidence does not stand uncontradicted "by subsequent answers to nearly the same "queries." I confess this deserves enquiry. For if there be such contradictions, on similar [Page 134] queries proposed even to other persons occupying their stations, it would certainly weaken the first evidence: but, if from the very persons themselves, would not only disparage the first but render the testimony of such persons altogether inadmissible.

For my own part, I believe I have inspected all the material proceedings of the Company's administration at home and abroad since 1773, any way relating to Zemindars, (except some that may have arrived within this last twelvemonth) and I declare, I have not seen any thing of the contradictions suggested by Mr. Grant. Other queries were indeed proposed to the superior native officers of the Bengal Revenue Department in the year 1786, by the Revenue Committee, who. adopted a resolution hostile to the claim of hereditary right, and communicated it to the Supreme Board. To allow these also their fair operation in the decision of this question, I have annexed them in the Appendix, (No. VIII.) together with the several answers.

[Page 135]

They relate chiefly to the Moshaherah, or pensions allowed to the Zemindars, when deprived of their own collections. The fifth question only regards the right of hereditary succession. If any candid reader finds in them a contradiction to the opinions given in 1773, I can only say, his sense and mine are different.

Without answering minutely the objections urged by Mr. Grant, which I shall leave to take all the weight they may deserve in the judgement of those who may read them; I will rather state, in a few cursory observations, why I think the opinions, taken in 1773, are entitled to respect. When men occupy, under any government, high and important trusts, with that degree of fair character which belongs to the generality of mankind; they are to be presumed to act as honest men. In great affairs, confidence must be the basis of power; and to suppose fraud, is to inculcate it. If these opinions had been delivered as secret papers, or calculated to influence some particular decision, in [Page 136] which the authors were conjunctly interested: some impeachment might lie against them upon that ground. But they were neither clandestinely delivered, nor hazarded in haste. They were given after mature consideration, like the RESPONSA PRUDENTUM, intitled to form a part of the code of law; open to universal discussion, in a country, where, above all others, there is constantly ready a host of opponents, to expose and depreciate every act of men in power.

As to deeming any of those native officers incompetent to give a fair opinion about Zemindarries, because they were Zemindars themselves: it might as well be argued, that the opinion of the crown lawyers in England ought not to be taken upon any title to property, because one of them may chance to have property of that species belonging to himself; or that a commissioner of the customs would give his name to an intire perversion of all the acts of parliament formed for that branch of revenue, [Page 137] because some friends of his, or even himself, had indiscreetly purchased any article that was prohibited. But it does not appear, that the Nabob Mahomed Reza Khan, although long exercising the great influence of Naib Subahdar and Naib Dewan, the offices from which Zemindary Sunnuds are issued, did possess Zemindary in any corner of the extensive provinces he governed. Even if he had, is it to he supposed, that a judge in any court the most loosely constituted, or carelessly conducted would publicly declare that to be law, which not only every eminent practitioner, but every clerk and inferior officer, and even thousands of the meanest individuals in the community, could pronounce to be nonsense?

The Zemindars and their families are not a few men, who might have entered into a collusion with the great public officers, for the first years of the Company's Dewanny, and prevailed on them to establish false maxims for true, and deceive all the servants of the Com [Page 138] pany from Lord Clive down to the youngest writer in the service, as to the prevailing customs of the country government. It is presumed, that the Zemindars, with their families and adherents, and persons interested in a greater or less degree in the question of hereditary right, throughout the provinces of Bengal, &c. must have amounted to several millions. How could a fraudulent collusion be formed with such a multitude? I do not mean to be an advocate for the virtues of the Bengalese; but I venture to affirm, that there is not in the human heart such a degree of depravity, as would induce a large body of the people, to persist in claiming and holding, without compunction and dismay, any benefits, which their conscience must continually tell them, did not exist in truth and justice.

And whatever may be the number supposed to be immediately interested in preserving to their own families, or those of their patrons and superiors, the important benefits of pro [Page 139] prietortship; we may with reason conclude, there would be at least an equal number who from jealousy of that branch of their family in actual possession, or from ambitious views to future employ and advancement, if the Zemindary were a mere office; would be studious to expose the fallacy of a new system of policy, which, either by instituting a determinate rule of succession, or by establishing any scheme of permanent possession or proprietorship in the occupants, would defeat such hopes. Moreover in Bengal a connection and concern with land in some shape or other, is infinitely more diffusive amongst the inhabitants, than it is in Great-Britain. So that the idea of a Zemindary or Talookdary, or any other tenure, must have received some general and fixed construction in the minds of men; and almost every inhabitant would be able to say, what they were, and what they were not, in the ordinary practice of the prevailing government.

If we permit ourselves to vilify by suspicions, and stigmatize with harsh and opprobrious [Page 140] imputations, the public conduct of men discharging the duties of high and responsible offices; if, instead of being invested with honor and entitled to general respect and confidence, they are to be considered as housebreakers and robbers, ready either to plunder the community, or betray their own leaders and associates: we loosen the strongest band of union between man and man, and rely upon a weak and contemptible engine for the government of nations. But, even if these persons had been so wicked and unwise as Mr. Grant describes; it is indisputably clear to my mind, acting under the impulse of an ordinary understanding which pretends to no particular sagacity, that the interests of some, the jealousies, and competitions of others, their virtues and their vices, their knowledge and their ignorance, and the universal observation of an extensive territory, comprizing from ten to fifteen millions of inhabitants, would have conspired to expose their falsehood, corruption, and absurdity.

[Page 173]

If at any time they are unable to avert the heavy hand of the oppressor, they baffle his measures by artifice; trusting with passive expectation, that he will see his own want of wisdom; and feeling, that, at last, they possess something that is permanent in the land itself. I hope that period is now arrived: and that a settlement of the land revenue, either for a long period of years, or in perpetuity, will leave every man to enjoy, without interruption or jealousy, the increasing fruits of his own industry and good management.

It would lead to a very long discussion, if I were to demonstrate the benefits of such an arrangement. Indeed I should conclude for a certainty, they would be obvious to every one, if I did not suppose it possible, that such as are enemies to property itself, may be adverse to every thing that resembles it, and therefore recommend the destructive practice of annual set [Page 174] tlements (k) (k). I am ready to admit, that under this mode, the land revenue is not assessed with correct equality. I am in the same degree convinced, that it never can be. The minute valuation and distributions which an able and upright man might make, and for the advantage of all, in a little district, would be impracticable in a country circumstanced as Bengal is. It seems to me, that the principal object for the state to determine, is, as to the aggregate of revenue, which the land is capable of yielding; to enable every proprietor to know, what he has [Page 175] to pay: and if the fixed valuation is tolerably fair, little inequalities are of no signification. They must always happen in a large territory. In Bengal, whilst the correction of one was carrying on, others would arise. And as to the Zemindars, I say decidedly, let them grow rich. The state will grow rich also through the wealth of the landed property. We should regard it as the hen that lays the golden eggs: and it would be an idle frugality, that grudges the expence of her being well fed (l)(l)

[Page 176]

But because this property is circumscribed, or taking it on the meanest scale of estimation, if it were clear that in strictness and rigour it can be intitled to claim a tenth part only of the usufruct: still it would be unreasonable to conclude at once, that it is no property at all, or nothing worth possessing. Is hereditary power, and pre-eminence amongst our fellow-citizens, nothing? Is the devoted attachment of thousands, (and none can exceed that of the inhabitants of Bengal to their Zemindars) the reciprocal protection, the distribution of little favors, the united attendance of a district at the mansion of the superior in the ostentatious ceremonies of religion; the congratulations of the people taking a concern in his domestic occurrences; and I might add, the little contributions spontaneously given, to supply any extraordinary ex [Page 177] pense;—are all these to be accounted nothing? on the contrary, they are incitements to every laudable exertion of the human mind, as they may equally conduce to the gratification of every evil appetite: and in either point of view, they become the objects of ambition and solicitude.

Besides, it is possible, that notwithstanding our various scrutinies, some of the Zemindars may have been able to screen a portion of their emoluments from the avidity of government. That they have possessed no inordinate benefits in latter times, is demonstrated by their general impoverishment, the decay of their magnificent palaces, and religious edifices, the deprivation of many, the debts of all. But if they have not, even a tenth of the gross produce of many of the Zemindarries would put the possessor on a footing with English dukes: and considering the extent of their country, from one to twelve thousand square miles, they may [Page 178] some of them be regarded as tributary princes, more than as the unassuming proprietors of a landed estate. Again, as to the smaller land-holders, their wants are few, in a country where nature is prodigal of its blessings: and, as they frequently cultivate their land themselves, and live upon it, they unite the profits of proprietor and farmer.

If even in Great Britain, it were possible to bring together our land tax, tythes, church rate, poor rate, highway rate, turnpikes, taxes on houses, windows, carriages, servants, horses, with all the multifarious customs and taxes, which have exhausted the ingenuity of Ministers, and enhance imperceptibly the price of all consumeable articles in every sphere of life; and we could deduct this aggregate from the actual produce of our estates: we should not perhaps find our rents reduced to one tenth; but I really believe we should be taught to consider the state of a Zemindar, to whom this embarrassing and [Page 179] complicated mode of taxation is unknown, as no very despicable condition (m) (m).

[Page 181]

In attempting to ascertain the usages of Bengal, I have neither looked to Syria, nor Turkey, nor Persia, as Mr. Grant has done. For although the premises were admitted, which I conceive to be highly disputable, that there has never existed a property of land in those regions; it would still leave the question with regard to Bengal exactly where it was before; since neither its conquerors, nor legislators, came from either of those countries.

Such as they are, and such as they have been in times when it abounded in wealth, and [Page 182] merited its oriental denomination of Jenat-ul-Belad, or Paradise of Nations, we may collect from careful inquiry, aided by written and traditional history. Of these usages only the inhabitants ask the preservation: not to have their system of government altered; nor to have their possessions assimilated to any European tenures, or guarded by any other laws, than those they have heretofore enjoyed, carried into execution according to the rules of common justice and probity. It is a satisfaction to reflect, not only that all this may be allowed with perfect safety to the interest and power of Great-Britain; but that it is the surest engine for preserving both. For by no other means can their minds be conciliated to the government of a distant sovereign, and the fugitive administration of delegated servants. As long as they obtain these innocent indulgences, they will pursue their instinctive industry, in raising corn, to render their country the granary of Asia; in the introduction of new articles of [Page 183] cultivation (n) (n), which may bring additional sources of wealth, all ultimately tending to the benefit of Great-Britain; and in the improvement of those beautiful manufactures of silk and cotton, which will be dispersed, through the channel of the British Custom-House, to all the nations of the world.

[Page 184]

Believing that I have established, upon fair grounds of argument the positions I set out with, I might here conclude my discussion; did I not wish to add a few observations upon the question of policy. I will suppose, that by force of reasoning, by the weight of contrary examples, by the literal construction of deeds and patents, or by the defect of titles, all my opinions were to be overthrown; so as to establish the proposition Mr. Grant has so much labored, "that the sovereign is sole, "universal proprietary lord of the land;" collecting his rents "through the intermediate agency of farmers general, or temporary com- "missioned officers of the crown:" and that he may, as a natural consequence of that proprietory right, dispose of the land, or allot that temporary possession of it, to whomsoever, and in whatever manner he pleases. Without this consequence, the argument itself is nugatory: and to nullify the claims of the Zemindars, without meaning to enforce the denial, would be a frivolous proceeding.—Then, supposing all [Page 185] proprietary and hereditary possession to be at an end; it may be useful to inquire by anticipation, what would be the condition of Bengal? What would be the measures to be pursued?

"Quanta autem inde feres tam dirae praemia culpre ?" JUVENAL.

[Page 187]

Then, if the old Zemindars were removed, we should have the peasants and cultivators without any superior to look up to, between themselves and the sovereign power, no patron to mediate for them, and compose their little differences; expecting to be harassed by the inquisitorial officers of revenue, or temporary farmers sharing in no common interest with them (q) (q), many thousands of which must necessarily be scattered over a country comprehending near a hundred millions of acres. The emoluments, which formerly went to the Zemindars, would never find their way to the [Page 188] public treasury, but would be sunk and annihilated; the whole territory would be impoverished; the loss of a class of men, who used to spend their income upon the land, and the substitution of a set of mere tax-gatherers, would impede the circulation, which is one source of wealth; the government would find itself bewildered in the labyrinths of detail; and, after various experiments had been tried, would seek its remedy, where it ought in policy to have begun its regimen, by the creation of land proprietors, in every respect like the present Zemindars, except only the great extent of some particular districts.

By this projected exclusion of the present occupants, we should gain indeed a nominal augmentation of our own property; but nominal only, a burthensome and barren possession (r) (r). For what is even property itself but [Page 189] an inert mass, useless and unproductive, until it is broken into smaller particles, and receives a conventional value in the wants and competitions of individuals? And land, the most important property of all, is not beneficial in proportion to its extent, but its improvement. That improvement was never considerably advanced in a large territory by any other principle, than proprietorship: nor was ever perfected since the world began, but by rendering that proprietorship hereditary. For we improve with reluctance, what we hold in uncertainty, or what our successors must hold at the pleasure of another. But we grudge no exertions, when our property is secure, both to enjoy and to dispose of. Under that powerful influence, our labours become a source of delight and increasing reward. To use the beautiful imagery of a [Page 190] gentleman, with whom I was many years since a fellow labourer in the cause of the Zemindars, when their situation was brought under the cognizance of parliament, "It makes our "weakness subservient to our virtue, and grafts "benevolence even upon avarice (s) (s)." He likewise wished to protect and maintain them; because, instead of allowing his creative fancy to form fantastic and doubtful institutions; he saw, that the Zemindary tenure, taking its conveniences and defects together, as all human institutions ought to be considered, combines in many respects the happiness of the people, with the safety, wealth, and dignity of the sovereign.

[Page 191]

On the other hand, prohibit property, and you discourage population, you destroy national prosperity in the destruction of private wealth (t) (t). [Page 192] Carry this proscription to Bengal; annihilate the Zemindars, with the whole system of landed property that prevails there:—and the sum of your gain will be, a territory despoiled of its most powerful incentive to industry; a government without series or subordination; a society robbed of its best, if not its only cement (u) (u) .

[Page 193]

For it is not wealth only that is produced by property. It is equally an instrument for the maintenance of a well regulated administration in all its branches. The good government of a nation, and the energy of its exertions, foreign and internal, depend more upon the train of discipline and authority, carried down from the sovereign to the lower orders of the people by the agency of intermediate ranks, than by the wisest laws issued from the imperial cabinet (v) (v).

[Page 194]

The most efficacious of these agents is the landed proprietory: and the history of all nations will prove it. If any one should object, that landed proprietors may become the promoters of sedition, as the Zemindars have sometimes been; it is merely arguing from the use to the abuse: and the correction would create a greater evil, by leaving an unguided populace, without union or attachment, ready for confusion and tumult, because they have no permanent interest in the prosperity of the country.

I have, throughout the course of this dissertation, refrained as much as possible from making any references to the proceedings of the East India Company and their servants; and have particularly avoided quoting any discussions of individuals, except such as have before been given to the public in a historical point of view. One reason for adopting this method, I have already mentioned, that such references would afford no test as to ancient practice. Another is, that I should not deem it honor [Page 195] able to bring, in support of my own argument the speculative opinions of others although ever so respectable, which have been delivered in any course of personal controversy, without exhibiting the whole fairly together; and that would have required a voluminous compilation, besides the obvious impropriety of such a measure, and more especially of publishing any part of the discussions, which may not have been finally decided upon. I have therefore chosen rather to confine myself to my own observations upon original documents; and have put it in the power of every one, who may be inclined to take the trouble of following me, to examine the authorities I quote, in order to check the inferences I have drawn from them. However, I cannot hesitate to declare my perfect conviction and confidence, that from the Company's records might be drawn numberless additional examples and arguments, to fortify the opinions I have maintained: and, above all, from the candid and intelligent observations of Mr. Shore.

[Page 197]

Although the curiosity of every person, who has done me the honor to peruse these sheets, must have been excited to know, what are the sentiments of the present administration; and perhaps they will hardly excuse me, for pursuing a dry argument of so much length, without once quoting them: yet I thought it for many reasons most proper, to try the question theoretically upon its own merits, rather than shackle the discussion by a reference to opinions given under the high authority of government. But in so doing, I have put a restraint upon my own inclinations, as I am perfectly sensible of the weight, which my opinions and reflections would derive from such a reference: and it is [Page 198] highly gratifying to me to think, that there is no part of them inconsistent with the regulations, which have been prescribed since the institution of his Majesty's Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India. Without transgressing the line of official reserve and propriety, I may venture to say, that under instructions sent from this country in 1786, arrangements have been formed in Bengal to establish a permanent settlement with the Zemindars, upon a fair and moderate valuation of their revenue, drawn from the best information that can be obtained, without the vexation of a local scrutiny.

This being once settled, and the stated revenue regularly discharged, they will be left in the uninterrupted possession of their districts, and the increasing benefits of good management; with the general superintendance only of British collectors and magistrates, whose situation is now rendered honorable by allowances adequate to the importance of their trust, which [Page 199] the misjudged parsimony of former times had withheld, to the great detriment of the public service, and mortification of upright servants. The importance of the undertaking, and the wish of those intrusted with the execution, to render it as perfect as possible, have created some delays: but much progress has already been made in this excellent work; and in a very short period, we may expect its completion. Until that is accomplished, and every man declared to be secure in his property, I think we shall not have fully discharged the debt, which conquerors owe to human nature (w) (w) But when it is, I have not a doubt, that our internal government of India will become as much an object of admiration and attachment to the native inhabitants of our own provinces, as our political friendship is already, of solicitude and reliance to the neighbouring states, as well in India, as in Europe.

Of the earnestness and perseverance of the present administration in compleating the equit [Page 200] able system they have begun there cannot be a doubt. But I would appeal, moreover, to the good sense and benevolence of my country at large, and to those in particular, who, under our mixed government, may in any respect influence the national opinions or measures: wishing and intreating them to consider, that the renewal of these enquiries into property is not harmless in itself;—not the examination, as an academic thesis, into the Agrarian laws of the Greeks and Romans, but the dissection of a living body. We should remember, that as the natives of Bengal are become our fellow subjects, every consideration, which interests them, and their happiness, belongs to us; and if the existence of landed property be found consistent with truth, justice, and policy; we should not then delay to pronounce and ratify that principle, which animates our exertions through the career of active life; and softens the regrets of age, by the consoling thought, that our possessions will be perpetuated in our children.

This is a selection from the original text


authority, avarice, grain, inundation, settlement, virtue, wealth, zamindar

Source text

Title: Dissertation Concerning Landed Property of Bengal

Subtitle: "H Omnium Dominus in regno terrarum Rex habetur; omnesque de eo tenere per juris fictionem consentur; ita tamen, ut fit cuique suum." REG. POLIT.

Author: Charles Boughton-Rouse


Publication date: 1791

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at the Digital Library of India: http://www.dli.ernet.in/.

Digital edition

Original author(s): Charles Boughton-Rouse

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 18 to 31
  • 2 ) pages 40 to 43
  • 3 ) pages 58 to 65
  • 4 ) pages 77 to 80
  • 5 ) pages 94 to 108
  • 6 ) pages 130 to 140
  • 7 ) pages 173 to 200


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

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