Fort William-India House Correspondences, Vol. VII: 1773-1776

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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 Indian Historical Records Commission instituted in 1919 as an advisory body on preservation and publication of historical documents, envisaged the publication of correspondence between the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London and the Fort William Council in Calcutta.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 seventh volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1949 by the National Archives of India. R.P. Patwardhan was the editor of this particular volume. R.P. Patwardhan was noted for editing the compilation on Source Book of Maratha History, along with H.G. Rawlinson. Volume-VII of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors in London by the Public Department, between 1773 to 1776.

Selection details

The seventh volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1949 by the National Archives of India. R.P. Patwardhan was the editor of this particular volume. R.P. Patwardhan was noted for editing the compilation on Source Book of Maratha History, along with H.G. Rawlinson. Volume-VII of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors in London by the Public Department, between 1773 to 1776.

VOL.VII: 1773-1776

[Page 91]

1. 14. LETTER DATED 3 MARCH 1775

[Page 93]

16. We now send you list of the investment to be provided in Bengal for the ships destined for the Coast and Bay this season, in which are our observations and remarks for your guidance in the provision of the several articles, to which you are to give all due attention.

17. The high price of our present Bengal investment, compared with that of former years, requires your immediate and most serious consideration. The subject has been frequently discussed by our President and Council, but we must observe that the following circumstances intimately connected therewith seem not to have been sufficiently attended to in the course of their deliberations.

18. It appears to us that the great increase of price on the manufactures of Bengal, of which we have so much reason to complain, commenced [Page 94] about the year 1769. At that period the extraordinary measure of purchasing goods at Calcutta for the Company's investment was adopted. A resolution was also taken to grant Company’s bonds for the same payable in twelve months bearing interest after the rate of eight p. cent per annum; and the goods so purchased in the first season only, amounted to pounds sterling 289,819.

19. We readily grant that if the revenues of Bengal had enabled us to support our civil government, to maintain an army for the defences of the provinces, reimbursed us for our European exports and yielded us a clear surplus to the amount of our annual investment, the nominal value of the goods would have been of less consequence to the Company, as the investment must in such case have been considered merely as a remittance from Bengal to Britain; but as that has not been the case, and as we have been reduced to the necessity of borrowing money at Fort William, and of purchasing goods on credit to a very large amount, the advance of price now becomes a matter of the utmost consequence, and operates as an actual drawback upon the revenues.

20. When the Governor and Council resolved upon the measure of opening the Company's warehouse at the Presidency for the receipt of goods to be paid for by interest notes, our bond debt in Bengal, was only pounds sterling 351,817 but in 1773 it amounted to no less than pounds sterling 1,547,458; and the annual interest upon the increase alone is pounds sterling 95,636.

21. It must be allowed that remittances were made to our other settlements, and several extraordinary expences incurred in Bengal from 1769 to 1773; and also that in the year 1770 the famine occasioned a considerable diminution of the revenue, but when we consider that bills were drawn upon us about that time for pounds sterling 1,063,000; we cannot but be of opinion that so great an addition to our common resources, must have been more than equivalent to such diminution of revenue, and to all extraordinary disbursements.

22. From this view of facts, we must conclude that the advance of price paid for our Bengal investment, has been the principal cause of the increase of our bond debt, and consequently the means of subjecting us to the heavy additional interest abovementioned.

23. The amount of our Bengal cargoes from 1769 to 1773 is pounds sterling 2,901,194; and if the average increase of price be estimated at 25 p. cent only the amount of such increase is pounds sterling 725,298.

24. The above circumstances are exceedingly alarming to us, but what must be our concern to find by the advices of our President and Council of 1773, that a further advance of 40 p. cent on Bengal goods was expected, and allowed to be the consequence of advertisements then published, authorizing a free trade in the provinces.

25. We find the duannee revenues are in general farmed for five years and the aggregate increase estimated at only rupees 16,28,189 or pounds sterling 183,170 on a supposition that such increase will be realized, [Page 95] yet if the annual investment be 60 lacks, and the advance of price 30 percent only, such advance will exceed the increase of the revenue by no less than pound sterling 829,330.

[Page 97]

39. We have examined the separate Consultation of our President and Council respecting Mahomed Reza Khan, and embrace the present opportunity of testifying our approbation of their conduct during the whole of that enquiry, and although the particular informations transmitted us against Mahomed Reza Khan and those general and alarming accounts of oppressions with which the records of our Presidency of Fort William abounded, must have rendered it our indispensible duty to have his administration scrutinized, we are nevertheless well pleased on finding him able to exculpate himself from all charges brought against him, to the satisfaction of our servants, notwithstanding they on the spot, had deemed them so well founded as to entertain no doubt of fixing on hint facts sufficient to justify our censure and to warrant his dismission from publick employment.

40. These being the sentiments of our President and Council relative to Mahomed Reza Khan's general conduct, we cannot but notice also that their ideas respecting the arrears due from him to the Circar were nearly similar to our own, as appears by their letter of the 10th December 1772, wherein they inform us that they had great reason to believe, on a scrutiny into Mahomed Reza Khan's Dacca accounts, a balance would appear against him of upwards of seventeen lacks of rupees.

41. If our Governor and Council at Fort William had reason to be of opinion that the result of an enquiry would issue as above mentioned. [Page 98] we cannot but conclude there must have been such publick and general appearances of mal-administration, as warranted the particular information communicated to us, and rendered it absolutely necessary for us to use the most speedy and effectual means in our power for delivering the natives from apparent tyranny and oppression, and for recovering to the Nabob, or to the Company, the amount of all monies supposed to have been embezzled or misapplied by Mahomed Reza Khan, or outstanding in his hands on account of the revenues.

42. It was on these grounds we directed an enquiry to be made, and though it has not been proved that Mahomed Reza Khan was intentionally oppressive in collecting grain, or that he reaped pecuniary advantages from that article in the time of the famine, yet to those persons who suffered by his measures, the interference of him and his agents was at times a real grievance, and a sufficient ground for their complaint, ignorant as they must have been of the directions of the Governor and Council to Mahomed Reza Khan to use his utmost endeavors to procure grain for the use of the city of Moorshedabad, and for the subsistence of the troops.

43. In regard to the Dacca revenue we have already declared that the different reports of our Governor and Council from time to time, have been unsatisfactory to us and we are far from being convinced by the materials now before us that Mahomed Reza Khan is not indebted to the Circar in a very considerable sum, or that he ought not to be compelled to fulfil the engagement entered into for the chucklah of Dacca. The general words under the handwriting of Meer Jaffier, supposing both the papers authentick, are of little importance and can never be construed to annul the positive agreement, which appears under the seal of Mahomed Reza Khan, and as to his plea of having executed that instrument by compulsion merely to gain time and to save his life, it wants every necessary proof to render it effectual.

44. Under these circumstances, and because we find the Nabob Meer Jaffier, at the time of his death, indebted to the Company in the sum of rupees 16,69,758, we cannot deem ourselves warranted to cancel the obligation in question, but in consideration of the inconveniences which Mahomed Reza Khan may have experienced during the time of his examination we direct that you suspend our claim for the arrear of the Dacca revenue.

45. After declaring ourselves thus favorably on the case of Mahomed Reza Khan we have only to add that as we wish him to remain under no other obligations to us than those of gratitude, we, therefore, can have no objection to his total enlargement.

[Page 192]


[Page 195]

15. Notwithstanding our investment this year was retarded by the length of time employed in receiving proposals delivered by the merchants who offered to provide the investment by contract and which were rejected for the reasons we formerly pointed out, yet has the provision of it in general exceeded our expectations and we have the satisfaction to assure you that we shall not only receive sufficient for the compleating the lading of all our ships but have about the value of a lack in balance, remaining in our warehouse at the close of the season.

16. With respect to the silk investment we have already acquainted you per Lapwing that it was given in charge to the Committee of Circuit to enquire into the state of that valuable branch which has for some time been on the decline owing chiefly, we believe, to the famine in 1770. From [Page 196] these sentiments, whilst at Cossimbuzar, upon this subject we are to conclude that to restore it to its former flourishing state is to be effected only by time and proper encouragement. Regulations of the most encouraging kind have therefore been issued to induce the riots to the culture of waste lands with mulberry plantations.

17. The new method of winding has also required our attention and we have thought it proper to place those departments under the Residents who collect the revenues of those and the adjoining districts, by which means the business will be much facilitated and an effectual stop put to the inconveniences that must arise from the clashing of the commercial and revenue branches. This measure, we doubt not, will be the means of improving the culture of the silk and removing every impediment that may proceed from the influence the pycars have hitherto exercised over the chassers, and the superintendents will be able to give their whole attention to the business of their filatures.

[Page 192]


[Page 244]

62. Since your prohibition to all your servants from importing military stores, the traders ill India have been deprived of the means of providing themselves with such as are absolutely necessary for their defence in those seas and for the protection of their commerce, and an application being made to us from some of them, settled in this place, for relief in this case and praying to be furnished with arms and other stores from the Company's magazine we thought it consistent with the duty we owe to you and with the honor and credit of your Government to support the traders under its protection and, therefore, agreed to a request of this nature preferred to us upon those persons depositing the value with us and engaging to deliver the stores, etc., into the magazines again on the ships return form her voyage they paying for what may be expended or rendered unserviceable.

63. Having had some reason to apprehend a scarcity of grain from the early ceasing of the rains this season, and observing it to increase in price, we thought fit to issue a prohibition to the exportation, induced by motives of prudence and humanity to use every precaution which depends on us for averting the dreadful calamity of another famine. In the present circumstance of things we cannot say there are strong grounds for such an apprehension as we believe there are considerable quantities of grain of last crop still on hand, and we find that since the prohibition the price is rather fallen so that we flatter ourselves although rice may not be so plenty as last year there will still be enough for the consumption of the country.

64. We are sorry to inform you that, in very severe rain which fell here in the beginning of September the Fort suffered considerably by the revetments of the upper ramparts, the redans giving way. The report of the Chief Engineer with his estimate of the damage plan for reparation are sent in this packet. We have not yet adopted any measure on this subject but intend to investigate it more exactly and to practice the nmost scrupulous economy in whatever work we find necessary to be undertaking.

[Page 251]


[Page 252]

9th. Our former advices informed you of our having thought it necessary to impose an embargo on the exportation of grain till such time as we could procure satisfactory intelligence of the crops and the quantity of grain on hand in the country which we had then reason to apprehend would both prove defective, but we have now the pleasure to inform that from the reports of the collectors in various parts of the country we were satisfied there was no ground for the fear of any uncommon scarcity and that altho' the last crop had in some places been a good deal injured by the drought there would still be grain enough of this and the preceding harvest which was very plentiful not only for the consumption of the provinces, but also a quantity to spare for exportation. For these reasons we took off the embargo on the 16th of this month. Every precaution was taken on this occasion to prevent any ill effects from the embargo, or advantage from being made of the repeal of it. The probability of the latter was made known both to the foreign settlements and to the public as soon as we could form a judgement of the expediency of such a measure, and the repeal was published on the morning after the resolution passed in Council for it. We have shipped 6000 bags of rice on the Besborough, Captn. Riddel, for Bombay at the request and on account of that Presidency.

[Page 264]

5. 17. LETTER DATED 15TH MARCH, 1774

[Page 269]

27. A considerable part of our cargo by this ship is composed of raw silk and silk piece goods; their quality will we hope be found superior to any that has been produced since the famine. Their prices are still high, a circumstance that appears to be unavoidable not in this only but in every article of merchandise which finds its true value upon the existance of a free and open trade, which in consequence of your injunctions to us, we have endeavored to promote by every means in our power and which though it may operate partially to the enhancement of the prices on the goods of your investment, will in that circumstance be fully compensated by the advantages resulting from the success of this measure considered in a general and more extensive view.

28. Although we cannot venture to pronounce upon the thorough establishment of the Italian mode of winding silk under the different superintendents, which has been the constant object of our care and attention. We think it so far introduced as to promise fair for its success in a reasonable course of time.

29. As this manufacture whilst prosecuted at the factory of Cossimbuzar was found to interfere with the investment of silk piece goods, it has been discontinued there and is at present conducted at the factories of Bauleah and Commercolly, and Rungpore. Such as has been received from those places respectively composes a part of our investment by the ships of this season, the quantity is far more considerable than has been heretofore provided and the quality so much improved as we .flatter ourselves will answer your expectations. As a farther token that the new mode is likely to spread itself throughout the country it seems already to have found its way into the hands of private adventurers.

[Page 291]


[Page 296]

25. The President and Council at Fort St. George in the month of June last advised us, that apprehending a scarcity of grain on the Coast, they had thought proper to suspend the collection of duties, on all importations of that article from Bengal or elsewhere, before the 1st October, and also to contract for the delivery of 41,000 maunds of rice from this river, which we have reason to believe has been duly delivered to their order.

26. In compliance with their request, we made publick this suspension of duties, at Madras, but some time after, having cause from the unusual dryness of the weather to apprehend a similar scarcity, here, we deliberated on the means for alleviating it, as will appear on the Consultation referred to; happily, however, a seasonable fall of rain put an end to our apprehensions, and rendered it unnecessary to carry into execution the precaution we had intended to an embargo.

27. We have the pleasure to acquaint you, that the sales of your imports from Europe have this season turned out nearly upon a par with those of the last year, but the article of copper, which was then thought extremely well sold, has brought a price something higher as well appear from the account of sales, and a comparative view of the medium prices, since the year 1770, entered on our Consultation the 20th June last, the brocades then remaining were also disposed of at publick sale, but many of them being old, damaged, and much tarnished were sold at a loss.

[Page 297]

31. Having in compliance with your instructions [we] used every endeavour to make the provision of your investment by contract and advertized in due time for receiving proposals for the investment of the present year; several were delivered in before the departure of the Revolution, but those from Patna only, were on terms of advantage, which we were induced to accept as mentioned in our letter by that ship, dated 15th of March. We at the same time observed that although proposals had been received from Cossimbuzar, for the silk investment, they were in terms too vague to be accepted without further explanations; these have been since received together with musters both of the raw silk and silk piece goods and being in general of a superiour quality to the goods sent home of late years, though not altogether equal to the old musters, the Chief was invested with discretional powers to accept them, the lateness of the season when these materials were laid before us leaving it doubtful whether it might be eligible to receive them or to continue the provision of this sea on by gomastahs, the determination has been given in favour of the contract which with the provision expected to be made also of the filature assortment will amount according to a calculate transmitted to us by the Chief of Cossimbuzar, to twenty one lacks of rupees and from the dispatches hitherto made to us we flatter ourselves you will find this valuable article of your investment much improved [Page 298] and that it will soon be recovered from the declining state to which it has been reduced since the year of the famine, we mean with respect to the quality of the goods, the price still continues very high, nor can we devise any means of reducing it consistently with the encouragement, that has been given for a free and open trade, the necessary consequence of which is an enhancement on the price of goods in those places, where any restrictions might have before prevailed. In such predicament particularly is the raw silk Radanagore, in the Burdwan Province, which for many years had been taken at an arbitrary price, that is at such rates as were judged, sufficient for the maintenance of the ryotts or original Providers it then came to less than six rupees p. seer and accounts for the great and partial profit gained on that assortment at the sales in Europe, but since those restrictions have been removed in consequence of the system, universally adopted for a general freedom of trade, the price of this article has risen from six to nine rupees, at which rate a contract has been entered into, for the provision of Radanagore silk this season, an it is still under the market price of that assortment at Calcutta.

This is a selection from the original text


drought, famine, grain, ryot, scarcity, trade

Source text

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

Subtitle: Vol. VII: 1773-1776

Editor(s): R.P. Patwardhan

Publisher: The National Archives of India

Publication date: 1949

Original date(s) covered: 1773-1776

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: 1773-1776

Digital edition

Original editor(s): R.P. Patwardhan

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 93 to 95
  • 2 ) pages 97 to 98
  • 3 ) pages 195 to 196
  • 3 ) page 244
  • 3 ) page 252
  • 3 ) page 269
  • 3 ) pages 296 to 298


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Genre: India > official correspondence > india office records

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