Fort William-India House Correspondence, Vol.VI: 1770-1772

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Introductory notes

The Fort William-India House Correspondences was published under the Indian Records Series, by the National Archives of India, at the recommendation of the Indian Historical Records Commission. Indian Historical Records Commission instituted in 1919 as an advisory body on preservation and publication of historical documents, envisaged the publication of correspondence between the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London and the Fort William Council in Calcutta. Noted scholars attached with Universities and academic institutions were invited to edit each of the volumes under the General Editorship of the Director of the National Archives of India.

The sixth volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1955 by the National Archives of India. Bireshwar Prasad was the editor of this particular volume. Bireshwar Prasad was a professor of history at the Delhi University. Volume-VI of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors in London between 1770 to 1772. The letters were addressed by two authorities, the Council and the Select Committee. The volume is particularly important for the discussion on the Famine of 1770, whose ravages were felt in Bengal in these years.

Selection details

The sixth volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1955 by the National Archives of India. Bireshwar Prasad was the editor of this particular volume. Bireshwar Prasad was a professor of history at the Delhi University. Volume-VI of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors in London between 1770 to 1772. The letters were addressed by two authorities, the Council and the Select Committee. The volume is particularly important for the discussion on the Famine of 1770, whose ravages were felt in Bengal in these years.

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157. As the famine which has raged to so great a degree throughout the provinces could not but excite in every humane breast the utmost compassion for the miseries which the poor must have suffered from it, we will not admit a thought that our superior servants have not afforded every aid [Page 108] which humanity could dictate, and employed every means in their power to prevent such a calamity from having more than its natural effects. But, as we are not equally free from an apprehension that even amidst the distressed to which a kingdom was reduced and the depopulation which war in prospect there may have been others in the Company's service or under its protection so far influenced by avarice as to monopolize the chief articles of the support of the poor, we therefore enjoin you to send us a full and exact account of the quantity of rice which during the progress of this calamity has been exported into other parts from those provinces which suffered least by it together with the name of each proprietor of the rice so exported as well as the quantity thereof. And as [sic] we expect that unbiased by partiality you extend your enquiries to the utmost and transmit to us all possible information in respect to a proceeding which may have dishonoured our favour and protection.

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9. At a time when famine was depopulating a country with which we arc so immediately connected and in the prosperity whereof we are so deeply interested, we cannot but highly approve every well-meant and generous effort to relieve the miseries of the poor inhabitants, by whom, in an especial manner, the calamity must have been experienced in all its dreadful consequences. And as we enjoy a very singular pleasure in commending those of our servants whose attention has been turned towards alleviating the general distress, so are we filled with the greatest indignation on finding a charge exhibited against any persons whatever, but especially natives of England, for monopolizing grain, and thereby aggravating the woes, and, no doubt, increasing the numbers of wretched mortals, laboring under the most awful circumstances, which could possibly happen to any people whatsoever.

10. We are led to these reflections by perusing the letters from Mr. Becher and Mahomud Reza Cawn, which accuse the gomastahs of English gentlemen, not barely for monopolizing grain, but for compelling the poor ryotts to sell even the seed requisite for the next harvest! It was natural for us to expect, upon reading the above advices, that the strictest enquiry into the names and stations of all persons capable of such transactions would have been the immediate consequence, and that the most exemplary punishment had been inflicted upon all offenders who could dare to counteract the benevolence of [Page 120] the Company, and entertain a thought of profiting by the universal distress of the miserable natives, whose dying cries, it is said, were too affecting to admit of an adequate description.

11. You will judge from hence how great must have been our surprize on observing that upon a. general charge of this nature having been made, and not one name specified either by Mr. Becher or Mahomud Reza Cawn, you never entered into any enquiry at all about the matter, and what seems equally strange and absurd, you, in general terms, tell the Resident at the Durbar, he may depend on your concurrence in every measure that may tend to relieve the distress of the poor in this time of dearth, and yet reject the only particular remedy pointed out and recommended by him for that purpose! And on this occasion we must remark that whatever other expedients might have been applied, none could, in our opinion, have operated more speedily or effectually than that suggested by Mr. Becher, of totally prohibiting all Europeans, in their private capacity, or their gomastahs from dealing in rice during the scarcity of that article. But as part of the charge sets forth that the ryotts were compelled to sell their rice to these monopolizing Europeans, we have reason to suspect that they could be no other than persons of some rank in our service. Otherwise, we apprehend they would not have presumed on having influence sufficient to prevent an enquiry into their proceedings, in case they were hardy enough to attempt the oppression of the natives or to monopolize the necessaries of life; for though these practices arc at all times unwarrantable and very destructive, they were rendered exceedingly so by the unhappy circumstances of the province at that conjuncture.

12. We do therefore enjoin you to examine impartially the above charge, which we cannot suppose would have been made, if there had been no foundation at all for it; and we direct that whoever may be found guilty of a conduct which appears to us so unworthy be forthwith dismissed from our service, or deprived of our protection if not in our service, and sent to Europe as a warning to all persons not to contribute towards oppressing the poor, which we arc determined never to permit whilst in our power to prevent it, nor to spare the offenders whenever we may be able to detect them.

13. The numberless complaints which you say you have received from the merchants of Calcutta respecting the salt trade and the perwannahs granted under the seal of Mahomud Reza Cawn for a monopoly of the trade for three years exhibit a scene so contrary to our expectations, so opposite to our intentions, and so contradictory to our positive commands, that we can by no means approve your lenient conduct, either towards Mahomud Reza Cawn or Telukee Ram, the latter of whom, under different zemindars, was, it seems, the man appointed to be the actual monopolist of that article. We are well persuaded that Mahomud Reza Cawn could not be so easily imposed upon as he pretends to have been by persons who are said to have solicited the perwannahs. It is not at all probable that he could believe the salt works were unoccupied whilst so many merchants were even clamorous for a share in the trade; but supposing he had believed it, as he owns he was at that time in Calcutta, his plain duty was to have represented the matter directly to our Governor and Council, and not to have granted very extraordinary privileges to individuals in direct contradiction to the Company's orders with, which he was perfectly acquainted. But it appears to us very [Page 121] probable that Mahomud Reza Cawn's undue influence had totally discouraged the merchants; and it is no wonder they became willing to receive back their money, when they could no longer indulge an expectation of obtaining any salt; but we observe, however, that they were as unable to recover their advances as to prosecute their trade.

14. As Mahomud Reza Cawn had the express orders of the Company and the regulations of the Committee before him for his guidance, we are greatly astonished that he should presume on such frivolous pretences to disobey the one and totally to disregard the other. And it is impossible, after detecting him in such conduct, that we should any longer consider him as a proper object of that full confidence hitherto reposed in him. We have in this transaction the plainest proof of his secretly counteracting our positive commands, and we must conclude that he will not scruple to repeat the same practices whenever self-interest and a favorable opportunity concur for that purpose.

15. The diminution of the duties on salt is so very considerable that we cannot hut express our astonishment at your declared ignorance of the cause thereof, and although the result of your examination into the conduct of the Fouzedar of Roughly may, in some degree, enable you to assign reasons for the great loss sustained by the Company on this account, yet we cannot but he of opinion that the perwannahs granted by Mahomet Reza Cawn for a monopoly have so powerfully operated in reducing the revenue arising from salt as to render it necessary for you to turn your enquiries to that quarter; the case is plain, and the deduction by no means forced. How it could he deemed so little worthy of your notice, we arc at a loss to conceive, or how you could advert to the fact of salt being monopolized under the express authority of Mahomet Reza Cawn and not be aware of the consequence, namely, that he, having presumed to transgress the Company's commands, would also avail himself of his station to screen his agents from paying duties or compel them to compound with him for the same to the damage of the Company.

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18. Notwithstanding we observe that Mahomud Reza Cawn has complained of a monopoly of rice being carried on by other persons, we have received information that he himself, in the very height of the famine, has been guilty of great oppressions; that he has been guilty of stopping the merchants' boats, loaded with rice and other provisions intended for the supply of Muxadavad, and has forcibly compelled the owners to sell their rice to him at a price so cheap as from 25 to 30 seers per rupee, and re-sold it afterwards at the rate of 3 or 4 seers per rupee, and all other eatables in proportion ; and that although it is affirmed this conduct of Mahomud Reza Cawn has operated in the destruction of many thousands of people, yet it has been overlooked by those in power, who ought to have prevented him from acting in a manner so- inhumane and so very unworthy the station which he fills as Naib Dewan of the province of Bengal.

19. We have repeatedly directed you to enquire into the very large balances said to be due from Mahomud Reza Cawn on account of the Dacca revenues ; and, upon the whole, nothing of consequence has been produced by our frequent orders on this subject. But after such a discovery of flagrant duplicity in Mahomud Reza Cawn, we cannot persuade ourselves that his bare assertion of having accounted for all the money collected ought to have the least credit with us. The unadjusted balances amount to a very large sum, and we arc determined that either he shall prove to us that he did not collect the whole revenues, and what part was remitted, .and to whom all abatements were specifically made, or refund to the Sircar all the balances due from the chucla of Dacca during the time he rented the revenues of that district.

20. When we expected that the influence and protection of the Company would have had such happy effects throughout the provinces of Bengal as would ensure to us a considerable increase in the revenues of the Dewanny, we cannot but be deeply affected to see ourselves disappointed in that reasonable expectation and to experience such a reverse as now appears by the great diminution of those revenues, particularly in the province of Bahar. Indeed, when we turn our view to the flourishing state of Burdwan and the encreasing revenue of that province under the immediate inspection of our servants, we cannot but conclude that the diminution of the Dewanny revenues must have been owing to the misconduct or malversation of those who have had the superintendency of the collections.

21. But as we have further reasons to suspect that large sums have, by violent and oppressive means, been actually collected by Mahomet Reza Cawn on account of the Dewanny revenues, great part of which he has appropriated to his own use or distributed amongst the creatures of his power and the [Page 123] instruments of his oppressions, we should not think ourselves justified to the Company or the publick were we to leave to him in future the management of the Dewanny collections; and as the transferring the like trust to any other minister could yield us little prospect of reaping any benefit from the change, we are necessitated to seek by other means the full advantage we have to expect from the grant of the Dewanny. It is therefore our determination to stand forth as Duan, and by the agency of the Company's servants to take upon ourselves the entire care and management of the revenues. In confidence, therefore, of your abilities to plan and execute this important work, we hereby authorize and require you to divest Mahomet Reza Cawn and every person employed by or in conjunction with him or acting under his influence of any further charge or direction in the business of the collections; and we trust that in the office of Duan you will adopt such regulations and pursue such measures as shall at once ensure to us every possible advantage, and free the ryotts from the oppressions of zemindars and petty tyrants under which they may have been suffered to remain from the interested views of those whose influence and authority should have !wen exerted for their relief and protection.

22. From the grounds we have to suspect that Mahomet Reza Cawn has abused the trust reposed in him and been guilty of many acts of violence and injustice towards his countrymen, we deem insufficient the depriving him of a station which may he made subservient to the most corrupt purposes. It is therefore our pleasure and command that you enter into a minute investigation not only of the causes to which the decrease of revenue may he ascribed, hut also into Mahomet Reza Cawn's general conduct during the time the Dewany revenues have been under his charge. And as the several complaints and accusations already noticed to you are of a nature too serious to he suffered to pass over without the most rigid enquiry, we have directed our President to order him to repair to Calcutta, there to answer to the facts which shall be alleged against him, both in respect to his publick administration and private conduct. And while we enjoin you to pursue your researches with unremitting care and attention, we expect you to obtain not only a just and adequate restitution of all sums which may have been withheld from the Circar or the Company, either by embezzlement or collusion, but also the redress of such injuries as individuals may have sustained by the exercise of his power or the effects of his avarice.

23. As such appearances of corrupt practices in the administration of Mahomet Reza Cawn leave us room to apprehend that he may have been equally unfaithful in the discharge of the trust he held under the Nabob, we further direct that you make a full and strict enquiry concerning the application of the large sums which have passed through his hands on account of the annual stipends paid to successive Nabobs in consequence of the treaty in 1765 for the maintenance of their family; and the charge of sepoys for the support of their dignity; and if it shall appear that any part thereof has not been duly accounted for by him, we require you to demand and receive for the benefit of the Circar the amount of all such sums as he may have withheld or applied to his own separate use.

24. Though we have not a doubt but that by the exertion of your abilities and the care and assiduity of our servants in the superintendency of [Page 124] the revenues, the collections will be conducted with more advantage to the Company and case to the natives than by means of a Naib Duan, we are fully sensible of the expediency of supporting some ostensible Minister in the Company's interest at the Nabob's court to transact the political affairs of the Circar, and interpose between the Company and the subjects of any European power in all cases wherein they may thwart our interest or encroach on our authority. And as Mahomet Reza Cawn can no longer be considered by us as one to whom such a power can safely be committed, we trust to your local knowledge the selection of some person well-qualified for the affairs of Government, and of whose attachment to the Company you shall be well assured. Such person you will recommend to the Nabob to succeed Mahomet Reza as Minister of the Government and guardian of the Nabob's minority; and we persuade ourselves that the Nabob will pay such regard to your recommendation as to invest him with the necessary power and authority.

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48. We are sorry to acquaint you that the apprehensions we expressed to you in our letter of the 23d of November last regarding the consequence of the uncommon drought that has prevailed are confirmed, and this general calamity is severely felt in all the provinces. The Collector General hath laid before us a representation on this occasion from the Rajah arid the Resident of Burdwan proposing a remission to be made in the rents this year; and so sensible are we of the melancholy truth of what they set forth that we have been induced to grant a remission to the farmers of the Burdwan Province of or three lacks of rupees, taking care that they November. also extend it to the ryotts, and at the time of granting it bring both the farmers and ryotts under engagements that the same shall be replaced at certain periods along with their rents of next year; and we have desired the Collector General to adopt the system in the Calcutta lands, which equally require the same indulgence.

49. By this method we hope to relieve the farmer and the ryott who in this time of dearth and distress claim all the indulgence and assistance we can afford; and we also hope that by this method you will only suffer a temporary inconvenience, not a total loss, and if the next should be a plentiful year that these remissions will be recovered.

50. We have assured you in our letter of 25th September 1769, and we here beg leave to repeat it, that your orders for the abolition of the batta on sonauts shall be carried into execution. We have already adopted a measure which we hope will prove an introductory step to it, that is fixing the same marks on all siccas coined in the mints of Moorshedabad, Dacca and Patna, which though of the same fineness and weight were coined with such marks as made it easy to the shroffs to distinguish from what mints they came, and from this knowledge they took many unfair advantages.

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3. The droughts which have so long prevailed, we are concerned to acquaint you, still continue; no part of either province has been exempt from the calamity; but Bahar has more particularly and severely felt its influence. Whatever the experience of Mr. Rumbold and Shltabroy, the advice of Mahomed Reza Cawn and our own judgment could suggest has been maturely weighed and every precaution taken for the support of the collections the alleviation of the evil. Notwithstanding these our endeavours the daily accounts from Bahar represent such scenes of misery and wretchedness, such general poverty and dispondency that we cannot expect to see a revenue equal to former years. Abatements must in some measure keep pace with the necessities of the country. It shall be our care it be not wantonly allowed or ineffectually applied.

4. In Bengall we pave not yet found any failure in the revenue or stated payments. But we must not flatter ourselves in a country where the laborer depends merely on the coming in of his harvest, not on any established or accumulated property that he can always pay the full demands of Government; neither can we with any regard to justice or consequences insist on it. We shall think ourselves happy if by relaxing the rigor of the demands for a time we give encouragement and 1eave room for the industry of the poor to exert itself in retrieving the calamities of one year during the course of more succes[s]full seasons. When the Supravisors of the districts have made any progress in the proposed enquiries the acts of ministerial dependants will, we hope, be foiled or over ruled; our information will become more direct; and it will be in our power, though it never can be more our inclination, to enforce.

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12. If the internal prosperity of these provinces corresponded with an external security we should be happy. but it is far otherwise. Not a drop of rain has fallen in most of the districts for six months. The famine which has ensued, the mortality and beggary, exceeds all description. About one third of the inhabitants have perished in the once plentifull province of Purnea and in other parts the misery is equal.

13. The Supravisor of Bahar has represented to our President that the harvest which in that province is gathered in during the months of March and April has yielded but a scanty return, that the price of grain has rose even since the harvest, and that it is absolutely [necessary] to move the brigade from Bankypoor beyond the Carumnassa to save the lives of many poor wretches who might be subsisted from what the brigade consume[s].

14. Though it was the last necessity that induced the Supravisor of Bahar to make this proposal yet your orders against it are so positive, the season so fatal to Europeans on a march, the policy of keeping our forces as near as [Page 204] po[s]sible to the Presidency so obvious, and the consequences of being involved in the same difficulties with the King from which we arc but lately freed and so much to be dreaded, that however advisable it appears in other respects, we could not with propriety adopt that method of relief.

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2. Few alterations have happened during this short interval. The famine of which we have already given you an unexaggerated description has continued to rage with all its fatal consequences and notwithstanding all our efforts to administer relief by public contributions to the poor, remission of the collections and importations from the neighbouring provinces, we have beheld the calamity daily encreasing. Your revenues must suffer from it both now and in future, but no endeavours shall be ommitted on our parts to render the evil as light and as temporary as possible.

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13. If the accounts transmitted in our letter of the 9th May last of the general calamity which famine had extended to almost every part of these provinces were truely alarming how much more so must they now be when we inform you that our miseries have been daily increasing to the present period, nor do we view relief but at a distant prospect.

14. It naturally follows that from so calamitous an event great failures in the collection of the revenues must be the inevitable consequence ; but still we are willing to hope they will not be so great as our apprehensions have conceived. This however is an avowed truth, that it will be a length of time before the effects of so horrid a famine will cease to be felt and ere the country recovers from its present depopulated state.

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5. In the several letters from this Committee we have endeavoured to give a very faithful, candid and impartial account of the distress this country has suffered from the severity of a famine-indeed it is scarcely possible that any description could be an exaggeration of the misery the inhabitants of it have encountered with. It is not then to be wondered at that this calamity has had its influence on the collections; but we are happy to remark they have fell less short than we supposed they would when a famine was only apprehended and [Page 228] when we could form no idea to what a pitch of misery the country would be reduced to. 6. From the annual accounts received within these few days from the Resident at the Durbar we find the sum collected is sicca rupees one crore thirty-eight laak two thousand six hundred and ninety three, nine annaes and ten pice (Sa. Rs. 1,38,02,693-9-10), that sicca rupees eight laak three thousand three hundred twenty-one, fifteen annaes (Sa. Rs. 8,03,321-15-0) have been obliged to be totally remitted in the different provinces to alleviate the distress of the wretched inhabitants, and that a ballance of sicca rupees six laaks fourteen thousand two hundred nineteen, eight annaes (Sa. Rs. 6,14,219-8-0) remains to be collected of last year's agreement, that at the new pooneah which commenced the l0th April 1770 a new statement was made, of one crore fifty two laaks forty-five thousand nine hundred seventy-nine rupees, fifteen annaes, twelve pice (Sa. Rs. 1,52,45,979-15-12) for Bengall, which our Resident from the authority of Mahomed Razah Cawn gives us some faint hopes of realizing should the season prove favourable, notwithstanding the loss the country has sustained in the number of inhabitants. But we, gentlemen, cannot be so sanguine, or shall we flatter you with hopes of such good fortune when we consider the miseries the country has suffered, the numbers of industrious peasants and manufacturers destroyed by the famine. W c should be presumptuous to raise your expectations when there is so much probability of their being disappointed. Riches are the consequence of industry and population, and when there is defect either in one or the other a failure must be expected, and no remedy for the evils occurs but a length of time and lenient measures.

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3. You will receive this address by the Prince of Wales, who was under dispatch the 25th of last month. But the great mortality amongst her crew and the unfavorableness of the season rendered her lading impracticable to be compleated by that period although every assistance was afforded her from our Marine Yard.

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15. We could not avoid taking notice of the sum remitted from the last year's settlement, although we were persuaded that the Resident at the Durbar and Mahomed Reza Cawn were compelled to the necessity of making so considerable a reduction from your revenue in order to answer the humane and indeed the political purpose of relieving the truely calamitous state of the country and its wretched inhabitants.

16. When we reflect on your orders on and expectations from the duties arising on salt, we cannot but be greatly concerned at the disappointment you must necessarily meet with, from the last year's produce of that branch of your revenue. Its falling so very short of your estimate makes us strongly suspect that the Phousdar of Hughley has either been extremely negligent in his duty, or dishonest in the management of the business committed to his charge. This district is now under the management of a Supravisor from whose investigation the conduct of the Phousdar will be fully discovered, and if it appears that he has committed any fraudulent actions, we shall call him to a very severe account. Under the Supravisor we expect this important branch of your revenues will be revived and ascertained with greater precision than it has hitherto been.

17. From the very serious representations of the Resident at the Durbar and Mahomed Reza Cawn, we were at length with much difficulty induced to withdraw from some of the Supravisors that controuling authority which the Committee intended should be vested in them all. We thought an adherence to the original plan more suitable to the consistency and dignity of Government than a change which might, if an association really existed, inspire the accomplices with fresh courage and confidence. The Resident at the Durbar, on the other hand, assured us that the collections could not be carried on if the controuling power was continued to those gentlemen, that it would interrupt business and create pretexts for ballances, that the active power was the only effectual one, and that it was too great to be entrusted to all at once. And he further urged the distresses of the conjuncture and insufficiency of your funds, which he thought made it a most unfit season for experiment, offering it as his opinion at the same time that it would be most expedient to commence by slow degrees first to invest a few of the Supravisors with the active power, and to confine the rest to the ad- ministration of justice and the improvement of themselves in the knowledge of the country. Many other forcible arguments, which are recorded in our proceedings, were urged on this occasion, and we therefore at length gave our consent that the controuling power should for the present be only vested in Messrs. Kelsall, Graham, Vansittart, Ducarell and Stewart. But in this our intention has been frustrated by orders since issued by the Council in their Secret Department, confirming the controuling power to all the Supravisors which was originally vested in them.

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22. The famine having entirely ceased and there being such an earnest of a plentifull crop that there is already great quantity of grain in this place and a prospect of much abundance in a short time, we have recommended it to the Board to lay in a quantity of provisions in the new fort to answer any emergencies, and this we hope will be done at a very cheap rate.

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43. In our letter of the 25 January 1770 by the Grafton we informed you that on account of the famine which prevailed throughout the country we had made a remission to the farmers in the Burdwan province of about 2:h or 3 lacks of rupees on condition that they should discharge it at certain periods with the rents of the next year.

44. But the Collector General has represented to us that the great increase of the famine since that period has been the cause of such a mortality and desertion amongst the ryotts as to deprive the farmers of a possibility of recovering the rents that had been allowed to run in arrear and that therefore if some reduction of the sum remitted was not made many of the farmers would be ruined. On a scrutiny made by Mr. Stewart it appeared that the farmers had lost by the death or desertions of the ryotts 82,180 rupees of the above 3 lacks. As it was not expected when this temporary remission was allowed that the famine would have been so fatal, and as it appeared but equitable that the farmer should be relieved from the payment of sums which they could not collect from the ryotts, we authorized the Collector General to allow the farmers the sum above specified should it be found on a further scrutiny that it could not with justice be reduced.

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13.1. Postscript

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1. Since closing our letter we have received an address from Major Watson to our Board with two reports and plans of the cantonments at Dinapore and Burrampore, which we beg leave to send you as papers of the packet. From these you will find that the cantonments at Dinapore may he considered as compleated, and those at Burrampore will be so by the end of the year. And [Page 300] we have the pleasure to acquaint you that the three redoubts erected at Budge Budge are entirely compleat, and the old fort there by a small alteration and by dearing the ditch is become very formidable; and from their advantageous situation and vicinity to each other, and the number of cannon they can bring to bear on any vessels sailing up the river, we think it scarcely possible that such a post can be forced without imminent risk to an enemy, and at all events give the greatest security to the Presidency by retarding their opperations. We must likewise inform you that great progress has been made on your fortifications since the engineer's last report considering the immense difficulty we have found in procuring a sufficient number of coolies owing to the mortality which has in general fallen on the lower ranks of people in Bengal.

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54. Of the state of the revenues we can only speak at present in general terms as we have not yet received from the Revenue Councils the necessary accounts which may ascertain the deficiencies in the collections of the preceeding years or the settlements of the Bengal and Bahar provinces for the present year. We are however in hopes that the care and diligence of the Councils of Revenue and Supervisors will in a great measure lessen those deficiencies in the collections which the famine gave us every cause to apprehend must have been the consequence of that dreadful calamity.

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42. By an estimate formed by the Committee of Commerce in September last, the investment expected this season in the ordinary course of provision by your agents and gomastahs was computed at fifty-seven lacks of rupees, which left a deficiency of thirteen lacks to complete the amount of your orders to seventy lacks. This deficiency we thought it our duty if possible to make up, or rather indeed to exceed the investment required to compensate for the disappointment you will have sustained by the unhappy loss of the Verelst. For this purpose it was absolutely necessary to open our warehouse for private purchases on bond as we found on a clear statement and calculation of our probable receipts and disbursements the impossibility of the state of our treasury admitting of any other mode for such an increase. By that means we hope your expectations will be fully answered, and that the investment by the returning ships of this season will prove as satisfactory to you as could be expected under the difficulties that have been the inevitable consequence of the unhappy calamity this country has sustained from the severity of the famine last year, and indeed we should have despaired being so successful if the state of the foreign markets had afforded any encouragement for making purchases to private merchants

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2. We shall now do ourselves the honor of addressing you on the state of your revenues, not having it before in our power to be particular on a

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subject of so much importance to your affairs from a want of the necessary accounts from our Revenue Councils to enable us to give you a clear explanation of the collections of the last and the settlement of the present year.

3. The collections made on the last year's settlements at the City amounted to sicca rupees 119,29,506-13-9-2 and the balance incurred to about thirty-seven lacks. A small part, we have reason to believe from the assurances of the Council there, will be recovered, though we are apprehensive much the largest part must be remitted. A failure in the collections of so large a settlement was naturally to be expected from the ruinous and depopulated state of the country when made; and the variety of local accidents it is subject to, either from a want of rain in some parts or an excess in others with the probability of several districts being inundated, must always occasion some deficiency in the annual settlement, though from the appearance of the collection in January we were flattered with the hopes that so large a balance would not arise as had been incurred, and these hopes induced us to give you assurances that the deficiency was not likely to be so much as there had been reason to apprehend, though, we must remark, the annual settlement was then deemed by your Select Committee to be rather calculated for a more flourishing state of the provinces than the state it was reduced to by the severity of a famine.

4. Having received since closing the revenue proceedings, the settlement for the present year amounting to net revenue sicca rupees 1,66,37,147-12-4, we beg leave to forward the same as a paper of the packet. as likewise a letter from the Muxadabad Council containing their remarks on the settlement of each particular district under the different Supervisors. From this settlement we find an increase of nine lacks on the preceding one, which we hope will appear to you to be a very considerable addition to your annual revenue so immediately after a year which produced such variety of distress and calamity to the inhabitants of these provinces; and as the Supervisors have by this time established their authority in their different departments and the season is favorable to the crops, we entertain no doubt but the collections will be made without incurring any material balances.

5. The accounts of the Bahar collections for 1770 to '71 have not yet been forwarded to us as the year does not expire in that province till the latter end of the month of September, and the accounts, we do suppose, are kept open for the receipt of such collections as the gentlemen of the Revenue Council at Patna may have reason to expect; but from their letter of the 14th September, with their proposal of an agreement for letting out the province of Bahar on a lease for three years, they then imagine the receipt of their collections will not amount to a larger sum than rupees 43,72,002, which appears a decrease on the net annual settlement for the last year of rupees 5,35,058-14-0; however a part, we understand, will be brought to account by advances or tegavy for the present year and charges for the Supervisors to be brought to account at the final close of their accounts so that by these deductions the decrease will, we hope, be reduced to a sum of between three or four lacks.

6. Though we could have wished not to have given our sanction for farming out this province for a longer term than one year till we could have obtain [Page 329] ed by an accurate investigation the true value of the province by ascertaining t~e amount of rents paid by the riots of each district to the different collectors, yet as we found it was the opinion of the gentlemen who arc the members of that Board that such an investigation was scarcely possible to be made but to the injury of the country if the old mode of collecting by Aumils was again practised, and reflecting that the revenues of this province have been greatly in a declining state for the two last years, and the country greatly distressed both from a famine and the oppression of the Aumils, we thought it our duty to give the most effectual relief to it that could be pointed out; and as the representations of the Council there, supported by the opinion of Rajah Sitabroy founded on a local knowledge of the country, was in a great measure to be our guide as to any resolutions we might take in making the future settlement, we judged the arguments made use of in their letter of the 14th September so strong in favor of letting the lands out on an improving lease of three years that it was impossible to withhold our consent, unless we could propose a mode of settlement equally advantageous to the country as the one they had proposed. The repeated representations made by Mr. Rumbold and Mr. Alexander, the former Residents of the Bahar province, of the ruinous mode of making the collections by appointing of Aumils occurred [sic] to us, and gave the greatest force to the plan recommended by the Proceedings 15th gentlemen of the Patna factory, and which we finally adopted and ordered the same to be carried into execution, at the same time recommending that they would instruct the different Supervisors acting under their orders to a vigilant endeavour to procure such lights of the real value of their respective districts that we might have it in our power on the expiration of the three years lease of forming a future settlement with the greatest accuracy. We have therefore only to acquaint you that the settlement of the present year for the province of Bahar will amount to Rs. 49,43,577, the second year to Rs. 53,10,249, and the third to Rs. 57,28,381, the medium of which greatly exceeds the medium collections from the time of your holding the Dewanny, and it is to be hoped that the country will annually improve by an increased cultivation and the renters left more at their ease to promote it. 7. The collections in your province of Burdwan have been made without any balances outstanding; and the sum of Rs. 2,34,272 which the distress of the province obliged us to remit from the rents of the former year but to be paid up in full in the succeeding one has been received except 63,408-13-10, which in consideration of the total inability of the farmers and the great losses they must have sustained by the mortality among their riots have obliged us totally to remit, a sum we must remark to be very inconsiderable when the extent of the province is considered and the misery it was involved in. 8. The three years' lease entered into with the farmers by Mr. Becher, then Collector General for the lands of that province, being expired, we thought proper to give directions to our Resident there to put the lands up to sale on a lease of 5 years, being of opinion that when the true value of the lands is nearly ascertained the most probable means of their further improvement must depend on long leases and such as [would] make it the interest of the farmer to encourage the industry of his riots and extend and improve the cultivation of the lands. This measure, from [Page 330] your repeated letters, we have the pleasure to find to be entirely conformable to your sentiments.

9. But from the decayed condition of the northern pergunnahs of this province by the loss of inhabitants and neglect of cultivation, their value was so considerably reduced that no farmers would take them on the terms they were before held on, and a deduction therefore in the rents of those pergunnahs the Resident has been obliged to allow in the leases of those lands, though an increase has been added on the more flourishing pergunnahs to the southward. On the final adjusting of the settlement a decrease of rent to the amount of Rs. 1,33,963-14 on the northern pergunnahs took place; but we must observe that this deduction is not from the rent roll, but only an indulgence to the farmer till their lands are brought again into an improved state, and to be again brought to the credit of the province by proportional annual payments, and the fifth year the whole will be brought again on the rent roll with an increase of sicca rupees 96,068-1-0 on the settlement of the southern pergunnahs. For the present year the settlement amounts to rupees 41,89,241-10-6, and the amount of the deduction added to this sum gives the total amount of the rents to be received in the fifth year amounting to sicca rupees 43,23,205-8-6.

10. With equal success have the collections of the Midnapore province been made as those of Burdwan without any balances remaining ; the new year's settlement we have not yet received, but as the districts here have in their value been as nearly ascertained as possible we imagine little increase can be added to the same unless by a larger proportion of waste lands being brought into cultivation.

11. A balance of current rupees 10,223-7-8 arises on the band-oo-bust or settlement of the Chittagong province, part of which will be recovered. We must remark that this balance is to a less amount than has been left uncollected for the last six years. The present year's settlement is formed from the preceding year's after deductions made for sums remitted and losses on the last year's revenue and amounts to CRs. 5,27,127-6-2.

12. We shall now proceed to inform you, Honorable Sirs, of the collections immediately on your own lands, the 24 Pergunnahs. the town of Calcutta, and the 15 Dhees. The collections were made on a hustabood settlement of the former years, which after the decreases which particular circumstances made necessary to allow, amounted to sicca rupee!! 14,02,473-13-3. Of the sum, from the distress and misery of the country, only sicca rupees 10;39,777-7 was collected of that year's settlements; and the sum 2,44,640-9-10 of the outstanding balances on former settlements and salt duties made the total collections amount to sicca rupees 13,16,216-3; the balance which remains to be accounted for is the sum of sicca rupees 3,62,6921 on the settlement. This sum, we are sensible, must appear to you large, but when it comes to be considered that collecting former outstanding balances is so much diminution of the current year's receipts, it will assist in clearing up this point.

13. Having thus briefly proceeded to give you a detail of the collections of the past year and informed you, Honorable Sirs, of such settlements as have taken place for the present one, we must refer you to our Committee' of Revenue proceedings for a more full and explanatory account of particulars, and shall conclude this subject by remarking that as this season has proved in [Page 331] the highest degree favorable, we have every reason to hope the collections will be carried on with the greatest success. Hitherto they have been well kept up and we doubt not of their continuing to be so.

[Page 360]


1. We have done ourselves the honor of addressing you from this Department on the 30th August and 15th November 1771 and the 10th January 1772. In the two last we had the pleasure of informing you of the amount of the several settlements of the revenues for the present year, that for Midnapore excepted. We have .now the pleasure to acquaint you that it amounts to current rupees 10,24,828-5, which is an increase upon the settlement of the former year of Rs. 9,000, and the Resident baa also stipulated for the remaining half of the 27,000 Rs. which he remitted to the farmers in the time of the famine.

2. This ,increase is to no great amount; indeed, as the value of the lands in this province has been so nearly ascertained, any great increase in settlement could not be expected.

3. There will however appear a deficiency of 1,90.000 rupees on account of the abolition of a custom term haul-bungen or a breaking in upon the [Page 361] nett year's rents. It is in fact a forestalling of the revenues. two or three months of the succeeding year, which sum is brought into the amount of the, collections of the present one to supply the deficiency made in it by the same method baring been practiced the year preceeding. This custom on account of its pernicious tendency as being deemed oppressive and ,unjust to the farmers and ryots and occasioning a fallacious statement of the revenue has been already abolished in the other parts of the country, and though the Midnapore revenues for the present year would thereby be lessened we determined on rooting it out of that province.

4. By this practice the farmers were obliged to advance their rents to the zemindars long before they became due, and yet not being allowed interest on these advances they became considerable losers. The zemindars also had it in their power to distress their tenants by increasing the amount at which the haul-bungen had been settled in order to make up deficiencies in their rents or to answer any sudden or pressing demands upon them.

5. We hope that the collections throughout the provinces will be well kept up, having issued strict orders for having particular attention paid to this business by all the servants employed in the Revenue Department.

[Page 361]


[Page 366]

24. As this supply could not however be deemed adequate to the wants of that settlement should any great scarcity be felt there, we encouraged - exportation of grain on private account by a publication promising that the amount of the export duties should be repaid to the owners on their producing certificates from the Custom Master at Fort St. George of the grain having been landed and vended at the place, and we hope by these means their occasions will be amply provided for.

[Page 368]

. 46. From. the several answer of the Patna, Dacca and Chittagong factories and the Burdwan Presidencey to the letters we wrote to these in consequence [Page 369] of your orders for an enquiry into the names of the persons who exported rice from- the different districts during the famine and the quantity exported, we have reason to hope that you will be satisfied with the conduct of your servants during that calamity. Indeed from every circumstance that has come to our knowledge we can venture to assure you that not any European could have taken the advantage of the necessities of the inhabitants by dealing to any amount in that article during the continuation of the famine. What methods were practised to enhance its price and to hoard it up must have been by the natives themselves, who too often insensible to the dictates of common humanity grasp at every opportunity of profiting by these practical notwithstanding every endeavour for the prevention of it.

47. Had any of your servants or others been guilty of such malpractices, we should have considered it our duty to have taken proper notice of it by the severest marks of our resentment.

[Page 383]

18.1. Postscript

[Page 384]

7. We always considered that part of the investment which consisted of raw silk as the most valuable and having the first claim to our attention. It is therefore with much concern we observe by the estimates made by Mr. Guinaud upon that article that it must be supposed to turn out in general to so considerable a loss on the price at which it is provided here. With respect to the country assortments, although the contracts made the two last years were at so very high a rate, yet the merchants instead of making any abatements [Page 385] have rose in their demands for the price of it this year, a circumstance we can account for from the concurrence of these two causes; first a scarcity of this article as a necessary consequence of the famine in 1770, which by all accounts swept off multitudes of that cast of the!: people whose profession it is to breed the silk worms; and secondly the obstinate influence which for several years past has been acquired by the pycars or brokers over the chassors, and which there is too much reason to suspect is still secretly existing, notwithstanding all the endeavours we have employed for its removal. And, as our agents upon the spot must from their intimate knowledge of local circumstances be the most competent judges of a remedy for this evil, we have with that view directed the Chief and Council of the Cossimbuzar factory jointly with that of the revenue at Moorshedabad to take the subject under their particular consideration, and to employ such measures as to them shall appear the beat adapted for the relief and promotion of the silk investment.

[Page 408]


[Page 409]

3. The President upon receipt of your commands executed the commission you entrusted to him by the seizure of the Naib Soubah, Mahomed Reza Cawn: he was accordingly brought down under a guard to Calcutta where he has since that time continued under restraint at his own house.

4. At the same time we deemed it necessary in pursuance of the 20 paragraph of your above noted commands to order to the Presidency Raja Sitabroy, the Naib Dewan of the province of Bahar, that the great deficiency in the Bahar revenue which you charge to the misconduct of the officers of the Government might be explained and adjusted.

5. These previous measures taken, we thought it necessary, in further prosecution of your commands, to issue a proclamation at the City and at Patna advertising the removal of the Nabob Mahomed Reza Cawn and of Raja Sitabroy, and of the abolition of the office of Naib Dewan of the provinces. Advertisements were at the same time affixed at the public cutcherrys desiring all who might have any cause of complaint against the late Naib Soubah to prefer the same that they might be enquired into and redressed. Advertisements have in like manner been affixed at all the public cutcherrys to encourage the people to inform against any persons whatever engaged in purchasing up grain in the time of the famine to the destruction of the poor and in direct contradiction to the express orders of the Government.

7. Agreably to the recommendations repeated in your letters for farming the lands of the provinces upon long leases we framed such regulations as appeared to us the best calculated for carrying that plan into execution in the most effectual manner and for the future management of the collections. The first thing considered was the mode in which these regulations were to be executed. And on this head nothing appeared more adviseable than to form a committee of our own members, who by an actual visitation of the districts and local enquiry into the present state and resources might not only be able to settle the lands to the greatest advantage on the new system, but also to furnish us with lights to guide us in time to come to those conclusions which are ever the moat earnest object of our solicitude-we mean such as tend to your interest and honor to the prosperity of this country and consequence to our own reputation.

8. In pursuance of these ideas a committee was formed of, which it was thought indispensible that the President should be a member, not only because the settlement of the revenue deserved his first attention but because [Page 410] there were also various matters of importance to be transacted at the City which demanded his presence and immediate agency.

9. The committee was accordingly composed of the Governor, the Chief of the Revenue Council at Admonisher, and Messrs Davies Dacres], Lawrell and Graham.

10. In the beginning of June they proceeded to Kistnagar, the chief town in Nuddea. This district was an important though disagreable subject for their first operation. Every thing bore the most discouraging aspect: the country had been greatly desolated by the famine, the lands well! abandoned, and the revenue falling to decay. In spite of all these obstacles we have the pleasure to learn from the letters of the committee that they finished the settlement upon advantageous terms. The next ship will convey to you their proceedings at large; at present we must content ourselves to inform you from their advices that the lands were all let to farm for the term of 5 years on an increasing rent from the first year, the amount of which is rupees 10,64,530-10-8-2, to the last, the amount of which is rupees 13,19,695-10-8-2. 11. From Nuddea the committee proceeded to Moorshedabad. They arrived there the beginning of July and have ever since been employed in the management of the various affairs which were committed to their charge.

12. Besides the settlement and new arrangement of the two divisions of Rajeshahy and the numerous lesser collections comprehended with those under the general name of the Huzzoorzellahs, they were also charged with the execution of your command concerning the reformation of the Nabob's household and the reduction of his expences. They were farther instructed to consider of the means and settle a plan for conducting the business of the khalsa upon the new system prescribed by your orders for taking the office of Dewan upon ourselves. The administration of justice has also been an object of their deliberation, and they have it in reference to take the silk investment under their inspection and consideration for the forming of some general resolutions that may tend to the restoration of that important branch of your commerce.

13. The appointments which have been thought indispensable upon the abolition of the office of Naib Sou bah are as follows: a guardian to the young Nabob, a Dewan of his household, and for the business of the collections, a Dewan of the khalsa. The persons named to these trusts are: Mannee Begum (the relict of the late Nabob Jaffier Aly Cawn-guardian; Rajah Goordass, the son of Maha Raja Nuncomar-Dewan; and Raja Rajabullub, the son of the late Maha Raja Dullubram-Dewan of the khalsa.

[Page 411]

15. The Company having thought proper to stand forth themselves dewans of these provinces, it became narurally a subject of considerations whether it would not be expedient to remove the seat of the collections from Moorshedabad to Calcutta. The opulence it might be expected to bring with it by drawing the principal families of the country to reside here by which the demand for imports from our mother country would be greatly increased, and the opportunity we should have of the more immediate inspection and controul of the revenue, supported by other concurrent arguments, convinced us of the urgency of this measure, which we have therefore resolved upon. The arrangements which appear to us necessary to be taken upon this occasion have been fully weighed and digested by the Governor and committee at the City, and having received the assent of the Board we have empowered them to take the necessary steps for carrying it into execution. Our proceedings at large upon this subject will wait upon you by the first direct dispatch from the Presidency.

16. The removing the seat of the collections to the Presidency having rendered unnecessary the revenue establishment [at] Moorshedabad it has been of course withdrawn ; and the reluctance with which tile late arrangement have been submitted to by a part of the Nabob's household required the presence and constant attention of a person of authority to prevent the Nabob's affairs from falling into more disorder than that from which we have endeavoured to retrieve them. We joined in opinion with the committee on the propriety of continuing the Chief of the Durbar, Resident at the Nabob's Court, and acquiesed in their proposition of uniting the charge of the collections with the provision of the raw silk investment, which from experience we are persuaded will be better encouraged and receive mote improvement by the adoption of this mode than by continuing it under the direction of a seperate authority : and we hope this measure will meet your approbation.

17. After the allotment of such districts as are judged might he most conveniently settled by the Committee of Circuit, those which fell under our immediate management were the Calcutta lands, the zellas of Midnapore, Burdwan, Hughley, Beerboom, and Jessore. Burdwan was last year farmed out for the term of 5 years; Hughley, Beerhoom, and Jessore have been let on leases of the same time from this period and to good advantage; the Calcutta lands and Midnapore will next be concluded upon; and we hope in our subsequent advices to be enabled to give you such an account of the settlement of the revenue upon the plan already described as shall prove to your entire satisfaction.

18. Midnapore and the Calcutta lands as yet remain uqlcased: the former because the Orissa year, agreably to the settlement is made, is not yet expired; the latter because we have not been able to obtain an explanation of the heavy ballances which have accumulated from the year 1174 amounting at present to about 14,50,000 rupees. And here we are concerned to under the neceasity of remarking that the call we made on the Collector Mr. Holme for me necessary papers to had to a settlement of the Calcutta lands, being about a month after inforced by a peremptory order from the Superintendent, Mr. Barwell, was noted by the Collector with a degree of contumely and evasion that has forced us to the disagreable necessity of removing Mr. Holme from hit office. And it was with much relucatance we proceeded to this [Page 412] extremity, but it was necessary in order to vindicate our authority from the disregard with which it had been treated. As soon as the explanation of the ballance due from the Calcutta lands is prepared, we will elect the settlement of those lands on the general plan which we have adopted from your instructions. When the whole is compleated, the revenue of Bengali for the 5 succeeding years, the time to which the leases extend, shall be exhibited to your view in one general statement.

19. The notice which you are pleased to take in the 15th paragraph of your letter per Lapwing' of a deficiency in the salt duty has influenced us to adopt such measures in regulating the delivery of that article from the Government that we flatter ourselves you will not have any further cause of complaint. The plan which has been long pursued by the Government in the Hughly Custom House is the mode we purpose to introduce and establish throughout all the salt districts of Bengal. And we may presume to pronounce that the effects of a general and uniform system for this important branch of commerce will be equally salutary to the merchant, and advantageous to the public. No improper influence of individuals can then possibly operate, or in its consequences tend, to diminish the produce, which we are sorry to remark has fallen off greatly since the year 1767. It is true the famine must in some degree have contributed to occasion this great difference; but whilst individuals by various means keep the manufacturers in the greatest indigence, multiplying on the claims which they can never hope to discharge, the manufacturers will of course grow indifferent in proportion as they perceive it impossible to free themselves from the demands made upon them. For these considerations, and to secure to you an adequate revenue from the salt lands, we have determined on following the Houghley plan, which has proved so advantageous to the public by insuring to it a revenue from the salt lands independant of all duty greatly superior to what is collected from any other lands in Bengali, besides freeing the Molungees from the state of depression to which they have been reduced by the address of their superiors, the Holdars etc. We shall he more particular on this subject in our annual address: our regulations will then have had time to operate, and will of course enable us to present you a statement of the increase of the revenue that will flow to you from this source.

[Page 417]


1. In our address by the Colebrooke dated the 13th April last, we acquainted you with the state of your revenues in Bengal to that period since which we have closed the account of the neat settlements and collections for the last Bengal year, a copy of which we now transmit a number in this packet. From it you will please to observe that the total receipts, including some deductions written off to profit and loss in the Moorshedabad treasury, amounted for last year to sicca rupees 1,57,26,576-10-2-l, so that the ballances for that year are now reduced to rupees 12,40,812-7-15, a great part of which we shall still hope to realize; and we flatter ourselves that this reduction of the ballances and the comparative view we hope you will take of the Bengal collections for these several years past with those of the last year will fully satisfy you as to the favorable success we have met with in the collection of the revenues. The Moorshedabad books that will be transmitted you by the next ship compleatly ballanced, will further elucidate the statement of the last year's revenue, which we have now the honour of enclosing.

2. At a meeting of your Council of the 30th August it was unanimously resolved to adopt the plan proposed by our President and members of the Committee of Circuit at Cossimbuzar for removing the seat of the revenue business to the Presidency, and for putting this Important branch of your affairs under the immediate management of your Governor and Council, in consequence of which we formed ourselves into a Board of Revenue the 13th ultimo. Since that time all affairs respecting .the collections, or internal government of the provinces, have been confined solely to this department, and we shall henceforth address you separately upon all matters which come under thtse heads.

[Page 419]

8. Complaints against this grievance were universal throughout the province, and it was to be feared that the continuance of it would be so great a check to the industry of the people as to impoverish the revenue in the last degree when their former savings, by which it was supported, were gone.

9. Though 7 years had elapsed since the Company became possessed of the Dewanny, yet no regular process had ever been formed for conducting the business of the revenue. Every zemindarree and every taaluk was left to its own peculiar customs. These indeed were not inviolably adhered to. The novelty of the business to those who were appointed to superintend it, the chicanery of the people whom they were obliged to employ as their agents, the accidental exigencies of each district, and, not unfrequently, the just disternment of the collector, occasioned many changes. Every change added to the confusion which involved the whole, and few were either authorized or known by the presiding members of the Government. The articles which composed the revenue the form of keeping accounts, the computation of time, even the technical terms, which ever form the greatest pan of the [Page 420] abscurity of every science, differed as much as the soil and productions of the province. This confusion had its origin in the nature of the former Government. The Nazims exacted what they could from the zemindars, and great farmers of the revenue, whom they left at liberty to plunder all below them, reserving to themselves the prerogative of plundering-them in their turn when they were supposed to have enriched themselves with the spoils of the country. The matteseddees who stood between the Nazim and the zemindars, or between them and the people, had each their respective shares of the public wealth. These profits were considered as illegal embezzlements, and therefore were taken with every caution which could ensure secrecy ; and being consequently fixed by no rule, depended on the temper, abilities or power of each individual for the amount. It, therefore, became a duty in every man to take the most effectual measures to conceal the value of his property, and elude every enquiry into his conduct, while the zemindars and other landholders who had the advantage of long possession availed themselves of it by complex divisions of the lands and intricate modes of collection to perplex the officers of the Government and confine the knowledge of the rents to themselves. It will be easily imagined that much of the current wealth stopped in its way to the public treasury. It is rather foreign from the purpose of this exposition but too apposite not to be remarked that it was fortunate such a system did prevail, since the embezzlements which it covered preserved the current specie of the country, and returned it into circulation, while a great part of the wealth received by the Government was expended in the country, and but a small superfluity remained for remittances to the Court of Delhee, where it was lost for ever to this province.

10. To the original defects inherent in the constitution of these provinces were added the unequal and unsettled government of them since they became our property. A part of the lands which were before in our possession, such as Burdwan, Midnapore and Chittagong, continued subject to the authority of their chiefs, who were immediately accountable to the Presidency. The 24 Pergunnahs, granted by the Treaty of Plassey to the Company, were theirs on a different tenure, being their immediate property by the exclusion of the zemindars or hereditary proprietors : their rents were received by agents appointed to each pergunnah and remitted to the Collector who resided in Calcutta.

The rest of the province was for some time entrusted to the joint charge of the Naib Dewan and Resident of the Durbar, and afterwards to the Council of Revenue at Moorshedabad, and to the Supervisors who were accountable to that Council. The administration itself was totally excluded from a concern in this branch of the revenue.

11. The internal arrangement of each district varied no less than that of the whole province. The lands subject to the same collectors and intermixed with each other were some held by farm, some superintended by shicdars or agents on the part of the collector, and some left to the zemindars or taalukdars themselves, under various degrees of controul. The first were racked without mercy, because the leases were but of a year's standing, and the farmer had no interest or check to restrain him from exacting more than the land could bear. The second were equally drained and the rents embezzled, as it was not possible for the collector, with the greatest degree of attention [Page 421] on his part, to detect or prevent it. The latter, it may be supposed, were Dot exempted from the general corruption. If they were, the other lands which lay near them would suffer by the migration of their inhabitants, who would naturally seek refuge from oppression in milder and more equitable government.

[Page 422]

17. After the Committee had made a thorough investigation of the above articles of the revenue, they proposed to deduct such as appeared most oppressive to the inhabitants, or of a late establishment, at the same time reserving those which were of long standing, and had been chearfully submitted to by the ryotts, these being in fact a considerable part of the neat rents. Among the former were the duties arbitrarily levied by the zemindars and farmers upon all goods and necessaries of life passing by water through the interior part of the country. The bazeejumma or fines for petty crimes and misdemeanors were also, agreably to the human and equitable spirit of your orders, totally abolished, as well as the haldary or tax upon marriage, which yielded a trifling revenue to Government, was very injurious to the state, and could tend only to the discouragement and decrease of population, an object at all times of general importance, but more especially at this period from the great loss of inhabitants which the country has sustained by the late famine and the mortality which attended it. These several deductions in favor of the natives, although the immediate cause of decreasing the rent roll, will doubtless in time be productive of the most salutary effects, as they tend to encourage the manufactures and trade of the country, to retrieve the loss of inhabitants, to free the people from vexatious prosecutions, and by promoting the general ease of the country, virtually to support and improve its revenue.

18. In order to secure the inhabitants in the quiet possession of the lands whilst they held them on terms of cultivation, and to prevent such exactions as aforementioned in future, the Committee formed new amulnamas or leases, in which the claims upon the ryotts were precisely and distinctly ascertained, and the farmers restricted from making any further demands, under the severest penalties. To this end, and to prevent the farmers from eluding this restriction, they were ordered to grant new pottahs or deeds to the ryotts, the form of which was drawn out by the Committee and made publlc, specifying the conditions on which they were to hold their land; the separate heads or articles of the rents; and every encouragement was contained in them to cultivate the waste ground on a moderate and increasing rent.

19. Another principal object with the Committee was to reduce the charges of collection as low as possible from a conviction that the retrenchment of improper and unnecessary expences opens a source of increase [Page 423] revenue, the most eligible because the most consistent with the case of the inhabitants

For this purpose, we have formed an uniform and regular establishment for all the necessary charges to be incurred in the cutcherries of the several districts, under positive restrictions that they shall not be exceeded without our being previously advised. This, we doubt not, will prove a great saving to the Honorable Company as it will be the effectual means of preventing in future all superfluous and unnecessary disbursements. And we think we may venture to promise that this article will be duly attended to, as it will be almost the only care"of the auditor to prevent every deviation from it in the accounts which are to pass his inspection.

22. Where it can be done with propriety, the entrusting the collections of the districts to the hereditary zemindars would be a measure we should he very willing to adopt, as we believe that the people would be treated with more tenderness, the rents more improved, and the cultivation more likely to be encouraged, the zemindar less liable to failure or deficiencies than the farmer from the perpetual interest which the former hath in the country, and because his inheritance cannot be removed, and it would be improbable he would risk the loss of it by eloping from his district, which is too frequently practised by a farmer when he is hard pressed for the payment of his ballances, and as frequently predetermined when he receives his farm.

23. With respect to the talookdarrys and inconsiderable zemindarrys which formed a part of the Hazzorzellahs or districts which paid their rents immediately to the general cutcherry at Moorshedabad, as well as many others of the same kind in different parts of Bengal, all arguments have been weighed, whether in favor of the just claim Government has upon their lands for a revenue adequate to their real value, or of the zemindars and talookdars in support of their rights and priviledges, grounded upon the possession of regular grants, a long series of family succession, and fair purchase. These being duly considered, there occurred to us only the two following modes which could be pursued in making their settlement. The first was to lett their lands to farm ; to put the rentees in entire possession and authority over them, obliging them to pay each zemindar or talookdar a certain allowance or percentage for the subsistence of himself and family. The second was to settle with the zemindars themselves on the footing of farmers, obliging them first to enter into all the conditions of a farmer's lease; secondly to pay the same revenue. that could be expected from farmers: thirdly to give responsible securities: fourthly to admit a reserve in favor of Government for making during the course of their actual lease an exact hustabood (valuation from accounts) or a measurement of [Page 424] their possessions in order to ascertain their true value at a future settlement, should the present accounts be found to be fallacious or concealment suspected. We have allowed a degree of weight to the arguments of the zemindars and talookdars in favor of their plea of right, which by adopting the first mode of settlement would doubtless be exposed to risk; for as the authority given to the farmers would reduce the present incumbents to the level of mere pensioners, and greatly weaken their claims as proprietors, so in the course of a few long leases, their rights and titles might, from the designs of the farmers to establish themselves in their estates, the death of the old inheritors, and the succession of minors, be involved in such obscurity, doubt and controversy, as to deprive them totally of their inheritance. To expose the zemindars and talookdars to this risk is neither consistent with our notions of equity, nor with your orders, which direct "that we do not by any sudden change alter the constitution, nor deprive the zemindars etc , of their ancient priviledges and immunities". Another argument drawn from the conduct naturally to be expected from the zemindars and talookdars weighed strongly with us, and proves an objection to adopting the first mode. From a long continuance of the lands in their families, it is to be concluded they have rivetted an authority in the district, acquired an ascendancy over the minds of the ryotts, and ingratiated their affections. From causes like these, if entire deprivation were to take place, there could not be expected less material effects than all the evils of a divided authority, prejudice to the revenue, and desertion and desolation to the lands; whereas from continuing the lands under the management of those who have a natural and perpetual interest in their prosperity, provided their value is not of too great an amount, solid advantages may be expected to accrue. Every consideration then sways us, where it can be done with the prospect of the advantages before mentioned, to adopt the second mode in settling with the inferior zemindars and talookdars. First, an equivalent revenue may be thereby obtained with security for its punctual payment. Secondly, the converting them into farmers establishes the Government's right of putting their lands on that footing, whenever they shall think proper, the awe of which must constantly operate to ensure their good behaviour and good management. Thirdly, the clause of scrutiny to which they are subjected, will also have the same tendency, at the same time that it may be strictly put in force where there is cause to suspect concealments, or a prospect presents of increase to the revenue.

[Page 426]

32. The first consideration was whether the Board of Revenue at Moorshedabad should be abolished, and the business of the collections in all its branches put under the management of the members of your administration at the Presidency ; and after allowing due weight to every argument that occurred, we agreed unanimously with the Committee in the necessity of this last measure, which has accordingly been since carried into execution. We take the liberty of laying before you the grounds upon which we have ventured to make this alteration, in the flattering hopes that it will meet with your approval.

[Page 450]


3. In our proceedings of the 30th October transmitted by the last ship. we began upon the settlement of the district of Midnapore and Jella[bad] [[Jellasore?]] upon this occasion, for the reason entered, at large on the Consultation of the above date. we were induced to continue the land in the possession of the hereditary zemindars and talookdars, by whom the whole of these districts are held. general principle, [Page 451] which you will find repeated in various parts of our records, that wee deem [it] equally just and politic to continue the lan[dlords] in the possession of their lands, whenever it can [be] done with safety to the revenue, and because proposals which were made for the farms by others, fell greatly, short of ' the amount which the zemindars themselves offered to pay after the deductions for these allowances.

4. For the particulars of this settlement we beg leave to refer you to our proceedings of the 4th ultimo, by which you will observe there will be an actual increase on the revenue roll at the end of the fifth year, of one lack and a half of rupees. and that the total advantage accruing to your revenue during the five years lease, amounts to rupees five lacks and seventy thousand.

5. As the haldarree and bazee jumm[ah] have been abolished the zemindars and talookdars gave in a claim for a deduction on account of the duties, which were formerly collected by these impositions and which will now cease to form a part of their revenue, amounting to 58,976 rupees. This amount greatly exceeding the proportion of the same taxes in the other districts, we have given orders for an exact scrutiny to be made by the Collector into the amount actually received under these denominations, for the last five year, and when this is performed, we shall be able to forward a compleat statement of the settlement. In the meantime you will be sufficiently able to form a general idea of it from the abstract entered in our proceedings.

6. We are much concerned to acquaint you, that we are under some apprehensions lest the revenue may suffer in different parts of the provinces, from the remarkable plenty and cheapness of all kinds of grain, occasioned by an uncommon favourble season for the harv[est]. For your more particular information in th[ese] points, we beg leave to refer you to the extract of the several letters from the Collectors, which go a number in the packet. It may seem ra[ther] a paradox that a circumstance of this kind [shall] else the revenue more materially than the famine which happened two years ago: to account for which, we take the liberty to point out to you the reasons given in the 6th and 7th paragraph of our last letter, and we must farther observe that it appears moat probable, although we cannot affirm it to have been the case, th[at] mortality was mostly among the workmen, manufacturers and people employed on the rivers, who were without the same means of laying by stores of grain, as the husband[men], so that the number of consumers who suffered from this calamity was greater in propor[tion] than that of the cultivators of grain. The increase lately made in the price of manufacture and present stagnation in the sale and currency of every kind of grain, are strong arguments of the justness of this remark. We may add as another probable cause, the drains which these provinces have suffered in the current specie, by the exportation of it to China, Bombay and Fort St. George, besides the payment of ready money for the King's stipend and the other remitences [...] made to the Western provinces.

7. In order to prevent the loss and bad consequences which the collections were like to sufer from the produce of the ground thus remaining unsold, we have taken every measure in our power to facilitate the transportation of grain from the inland parts of the country: we have suspend all duties heretofore levied at the different [Page 452] interior custom houses, have repeated our orders to the collectors, to remove every impediment to a free circulation, and we have: taken off all duties on grain shipped outwards as an encouragement to the exportation of it

8. As a further expedient, we have sent orders to our Collector of Dinagepoor, in whose districts the bad effects of the cheapness of grain is particularly felt, to receive from the farmer grain at the current price, in lieu of money, fo[r] their rents, and to build golaks for the receipt of it on the public account. But this is an experiment, we by no means propose to mak[e] general, unless we find it turn out more succ[essful] than our present idea of it suggests to us-to adopt it on this occasion reluctantly, and th[ough] neccessity alone.

This is a selection from the original text


authority, calamity, crops, famine, grain, inundation, rice, settlement, trade

Source text

Title: Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto

Subtitle: Vol.VI: 1770-1772

Editor(s): Bireshwar Prasad

Publisher: The National Archives of India

Publication date: 1955

Original date(s) covered: 1770-1772

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: Delhi

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from print at the National Archives of India. Original date(s) covered: 1770-1772

Digital edition

Original editor(s): Bireshwar Prasad

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 107 to 108
  • 2 ) pages 119 to 124
  • 3 ) page 173
  • 4 ) page 181
  • 5 ) pages 191 to 192
  • 6 ) pages 203 to 204
  • 7 ) pages 204 to 205
  • 8 ) page 225
  • 9 ) pages 226 to 228
  • 10 ) page 230
  • 11 ) page 237
  • 12 ) page 261
  • 13 ) page 276
  • 14 ) page 299
  • 15 ) page 310
  • 16 ) page 322
  • 17 ) pages 327 to 331
  • 18 ) pages 360 to 361
  • 19 ) page 366
  • 20 ) pags 368 to 369
  • 21 ) pags 383 to 385
  • 22 ) pags 408 to 412
  • 23 ) page 417
  • 24 ) pages 419 to 426
  • 25 ) pages 450 to 452


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 > official correspondence > india office records

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