Fort William-India House Correspondences, Vol. XVII: 1792-1795

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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 Indian Historical Records Commission instituted in 1919 as an advisory body on preservation and publication of historical documents, envisaged the publication of correspondence between the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London and the Fort William Council in Calcutta.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 seventeenth volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1955 by the National Archives of India. Y.J. Taraporewala was the editor of this particular volume. Y.J Taraporewala was a professor of history at the Patna College and was appointed as the representative of Patna University on the Research and Publication Committee of the Indian Historical Records Commission. Volume-XVII of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors in London by the Foreign, Political and Secret Departments of the Fort William Council, between 1792 to 1795.

Selection details

The seventeenth volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1955 by the National Archives of India. Y.J. Taraporewala was the editor of this particular volume. Y.J Taraporewala was a professor of history at the Patna College and was appointed as the representative of Patna University on the Research and Publication Committee of the Indian Historical Records Commission. Volume-XVII of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors in London by the Foreign, Political and Secret Departments of the Fort William Council, between 1792 to 1795.

VOL.XVII: 1792-1795

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(76 to 80) Complaint against the Government of Bombay for not complying with a request of the Marratta Government for a temporary suspension of duties on grain.

73. We likewise concur in opinion with you on the conduct of the Bombay Government in not complying with the request of the Marratta Government, communicated to them through Sir Chas. Malet, for a suspension of duties on grain, and approve of the directions that were given upon that occasion.

[Page 137]

2. SECRET LETTER DATED 7 JULY 1795 Instructions for the supply of grain to relieve scarcity in Europe.

DRAFT of letter from the Secret Committee to the Government of Bengal dated 7 July 1795 and signed by S. Lushington, D. Scott and W. Devaynes.

1. The present high price of corn and of provisions in general in Great Britain, and the general state of Europe in this momentous particular, induce us to consider of every probable method that may contribute to the relief of our country. We have, therefore, upon mature deliberation, determined to authorise you to give the utmost encouragement to the merchants in India for importing grain of all sorts into Great Britain in country ships or in foreign ships, provided proper caution is used to prevent it being earned elsewhere instead of Great Britain. Ships of all descriptions are at present allowed to import grain and provisions free of duty; and we have authority to say that the [Page 138] Government here will propose to Parliament to continue this permission, as far as respects importation from India, for at least one year from this date. Ships that engage in this trade shall be allowed to take from hence cargoes in return upon the same terms as we have already directed respecting country ships that may be taken up at our several Presidencies for the bringing home of our investment in case of a deficiency of tonnage in our own regular ships.

2. Although we flatter ourselves that a considerable quantity of tonnage may be procured by you from the country trade, Americans etc., yet, to assist all in our power, we mean to take up here as many coppered ships as can be found ready to proceed in one month. We fear the number will be few; but that no disappointment may take place in case of our not procuring sufficient, we direct that you secure, as soon after the receipt of this as you see proper, ten thousand tons of wheat and rice in equal quantities; or, if there is not so much wheat procurable as five thousand tons, that you secure what you can get, and make up the deficiency in rice.

3. As you have such a variety of qualities of rice of the value, as we understand, of from two rupees per bag of 164 lbs to six rupees, it may be necessary to mention that the most proper for our purpose must be what is styled in India the best cargoe rice, supposed to cost generally from 3 to 3 1/2 rupees per bag. It should, of course, be of such quality as is best suited for long keeping, and a trifle in the first cost should not be considered when put in competition with securing rice of real good quality. An equal attention will be due to the wheat. That article, however, where produced in warm climates, keeps much longer, in general, than that which is the produce of northern climes.

4. Should we not be able to procure tonnage here and the quantity which you can procure in India does not prove sufficient, the grain purchased by you can be resold upon your receiving our future orders.

5. To meet our views completely, the grain should arrive here in March; and though supplies at any period before harvest 1796 must be highly acceptable, you will keep in view that the sooner you can throw in a supply by the above means, the more consequential will the relief be. Although we should suppose that general advertisement would be the most effectual means to secure a large supply, yet, as some of your merchants trade upon a very great scale, it may perhaps be more advisable to secure a large quantity of grain and tonnage by private contract, previous to your making these, our wishes, public; of this you will use your discretion according to circumstances.

6. Should you see it a necessary encouragement to the merchants to lend them the money on the grain payable here at a moderate exchange, you will of course do it, or grant them any other facility you may deem proper. We have given you in this despatch our ideas upon the subject, but the execution thereof we leave entirely to your judgement, guided as it must be by local circumstances.

7. We shall send copies of this dispatch to the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay, and direct them to hold out similar encouragement to the merchants there; but at present we see no reason to authorise them to make any purchases.

[Page 139]

8. We enclose for your information a price current of wheat and rice for the last six years as also the present price of pease.

9. If common cargo rice is at the usual price of about three rupees per bag, ten thousand tons even of a superior quality would but little exceed in cost forty five thousand pounds sterling, and if one half was wheat, supposed to cost generally about 274 rupees (sic) per bag, the amount of the whole would be still less. We trust, however, that you will be as economical in regard to your contracts as is fitting with the momentous occasion that calls forth this dispatch.

10. The subject matter of this dispatch was suggested by us, and we directed the same to be carried into execution by the Secret Committee in the terms above written.

November 5th, 1795. Henry Dundas / W. Pitt.

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2. We informed you in our last letter that we had been induced to comply with an application made to us by the agent for the affairs of the French nation in Bengal for permission to export from hence four thousand bags of grain for the relief of the colony of Pondicherry, in consideration of the distress of the inhabitants having been considerably increased by an irruption of Tippoo's cavalry into the Carnatic, which had obliged number of the people of that country to take refuge for some time within the French limits, when Mr. De Fresne humanely provided for their support, and subjected his own settlement to material inconvenience by so doing.

3. Mr. Fumeron having since requested that we would permit him to export a further quantity of four thousand bags of grain to Pondicherry, and assigned as a reason for his application that the return of a large party of looties into the Carnatic had again compelled a great number of the inhabitants to take refuge under the walls of Pondicherry, the same motives that prevailed with us in authorizing the exportation of the supply before solicited induced us [Page 151] to comply with Mr. Fumeron's present request, and the necessary orders were accordingly given for exempting from the general embargo the vessels laden with the additional supply of grain above mentioned.

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[Page 184]

12. In a subsequent letter to Sir Charles Oakley, upon a proposal made by Major Cuppage, His Lordship took notice that if the enemy could be deprived of the supplies of grain, of which they stood so much in need, from the country below the ghauts by any steps the Major could take without putting the southern garrisons in danger, the measure would be very advisable.

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[Page 253]

26. The Government of Madras, thinking it proper that our sanction and concurrence should be obtained to every part of an arrangement so important as that of establishing their frontier to the westward, referred to us a letter from Colonel Brathwaite, their Chief Engineer's report, and their minutes on the subject, and requested our opinion in respect to the forts which it would be most advisable to maintain, and on a proposal of Colonel Brathwaite for disposing of troops, and detaching part of their artillery to the garrisons in the Baramahal. They had previously directed their Commissary General of Grain and Provisions to lay upon a stock of grain for six months in all the places now occupied on that frontier; and they have sent orders to the Military Board to complete the provision and stores for all the forts which appear necessary to be preserved, as well as to cause such repairs as are wanting to be made without loss of time.

[Page 263]

76. We are sorry that there is still another subject on which the Bombay Council appeared to us to have acted improperly. Sir Charles Maler had [Page 264] transmitted to us copies of his correspondence with that Board, and their acting President, relative to an application from the Peshwa’s Government for a suspension of duties upon grain imported into the Marratta country, a quantity having been detained by the officers of the customs for the payment of those duties. The Resident had stated to the Board that it would have a very good effect at the Court of Poonah if the duties were remitted at a time when the general scarcity which prevailed in the Marratta country rendered a step of that nature proper both on grounds of humanity and policy. But it was declined.

77. We could not help expressing our concern to observe that, in a business of this trifling nature as well as in the transaction of Tricumdoss, they had not paid the smallest attention to the maintenance of the friendship subsisting between the Company's Government and the Maratta State, which they well knew it had cost us so much pains to establish; but that, on the contrary, the whole tenor of their conduct towards that nation was not only unkind but tinctured with injustice and ingratitude. We thought that the proposition in Sir Charles Malet's letter to their acting Resident [sic], dated the 20th of December last, was perfectly fair and equitable, and even in some degree advantageous to your interest; and we could not therefore too strongly express how much we disapproved of their rejecting it. It was that, for the sake of relieving the calamity which was then prevalent in the Mahratta country, and in order to manifest the sincere friendship of the two Governments, the Bombay Presidency should propose at once to the Court of Poonah the abolition of all imposts or impediments upon grain landing at Bombay or going through it till the 30th of the following June, on condition that, in like manner and for the same good purpose of humanity, the Poonah Government should, for the same period, abolish all imposts or impediments upon vessels importing grain to its ports through the harbour of Bombay, and from such ports to the city of Poonah, providing likewise to the satisfaction of the Company's Resident that this intended relief should not be prevented or evaded by unusual exactions of bullock masters, or the masters of any other conveyance, but that the traffic in grain should be absolutely and bona fide free. To this proposition it was objected by the Bombay Government that your own subjects were suffering the greatest distress from want of grain, and that they had a right to expect protection and relief; that they had not laid an embargo on that article, but on the contrary, in order to encourage a large importation, they had permitted the merchants to export half the quantities imported; that this measure would probably be attended with the most beneficial consequences to the subjects of both States, considering the large supplies expected from Bengal in consequence of the discontinuance of the embargo here; and that the customs of the port of Bombay formed so considerable a part of the revenues of that Presidency, and had been so long established, that they did not think themselves authorized to deviate from the regulations which had been constantly observed.

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7. We received a letter from the Government at Fort St. George acquainting us that Colonel Martinz, who commanded at Ramnaud, had informed them that owing to a severe drought, the country was, at that period, unable to afford subsistence to any troops which they might send thither, and that in consequence they had been obliged to postpone taking those coercive measures which the Rajah's refractory conduct seemed to require. That in the mean time they had directed a more particular investigation to he made into the subjects of dispute between him and the Cherokar of Shevigunga, and especially with a view to ascertain the truth of the fact alleged against the Raja, that he continued hostilities after he had received the Governor's letter positively directing him to desist, and after the Cherokar, in compliance with similar orders, had laid down his arms.

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9. They further acquainted us that they had instructed the Board of Revenue to send orders to the Collectors to adjust the dispute in regard to the customs and watercourses conformably to the ancient usage of the country, previously calling upon the parties to declare whether they would agree to abide by the decision; that as the drought still continued in the Ramnaud country they could take no steps at present for compelling the Rajah's obedience; but that, when an opportunity offered, they would exercise coercive means, should existing circumstances render it advisable.

[Page 381]

98. He, at the same time, requested the Resident to urge the Nabob to assemble as respectable a body of his best cavalry as could be conveniently collected, to take the necessary measures for collecting grain at the proper stations and securing the punctual payment of his own and the Company's troops, to issue such orders as might prevent his troops from plundering the country and ill treating the inhabitants, and, if not already done, to station a respectable force for the protection of Bareilly and his frontier. On these points, the Resident informed us [that] the Nawaub immediately gave the requisite directions, and on his return to Lucnow, after waiting the answer of Ghoolaum Mohummud, which was wholly evasive and unsatisfactory, he resolved to take the field against him in person, and applied for the march of the Company's troops towards Rampore. He also, at the suggestion of [Page 382] the Resident, wrote to the Rajah of Napaul, who now possesses the Almorah Mountains, which border on Rampore, to prevent his giving an asylum to Ghoolam Mohummud in the event of his retiring there, and addressed the Seiks and Marhattahs with a view to obviate his obtaining assistance from them.

This is a selection from the original text


grain, rain, relief, wheat

Source text

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

Subtitle: Vol. XVII: 1792-1795

Editor(s): Y. J. Taraporewala

Publisher: The National Archives of India

Publication date: 1955

Original date(s) covered: 1792-1795

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: 1792-1795

Digital edition

Original editor(s): Y. J. Taraporewala

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) page 101
  • 2 ) pages 137 to 139
  • 3 ) pages 150 to 151
  • 4 ) page 184
  • 5 ) page 253
  • 6 ) pages 263 to 264
  • 7 ) pages 362 to 363
  • 8 ) pages 381 to 382


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