Famine and Dearth

Fort William-India House Correspondences, Vol V: 1767-1769

About this text

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 Indian Historical Records Commission instituted in 1919 as an advisory body on preservation and publication of historical documents, envisaged the publication of correspondence between the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London and the Fort William Council in Calcutta.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 fifth volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1949 by the National Archives of India. Narendra Krishna Sinha was the editor of this particular volume. Sinha was a professor of History at the Calcutta University. Sinha was noted for his work on particularly of his work on the economic history of Bengal between the Battle of Plassey to the Permanent Settlement. Volume-V of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors to the Select Committee between 1767 to 1769. The series also include letter from the Governors and the Select Committee at Fort William. The volume is particularly important for the discussion on the approaching famine of 1770 in the letters of the Select Committee to the Court of Directors.

Selection details

The fifth volume of the Fort-William India House Correspondences was published in 1949 by the National Archives of India. Narendra Krishna Sinha was the editor of this particular volume. Sinha was a professor of History at the Calcutta University. Sinha was noted for his work on particularly of his work on the economic history of Bengal between the Battle of Plassey to the Permanent Settlement. Volume-V of the Fort William-India House Correspondences covered the letters to and from the Court of Directors to the Select Committee between 1767 to 1769. The series also include letter from the Governors and the Select Committee at Fort William. The volume is particularly important for the discussion on the approaching famine of 1770 in the letters of the Select Committee to the Court of Directors.

INDIAN RECORDS SERIES
FORT WILLIAM-INDIA HOUSE
CORRESPONDENCE
AND OTHER CONTEMPORARY PAPERS
RELATING THERETO
(PUBLIC SERIES)
VOL.V: 1767-1769
EDITED BY
NARENDRA KRISHNA SINHA, M.A., Ph.D
Lecturer in History, University of Calcutta

NEW DELHI. PUBLISHED BYTHE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF INDIA 1949
[Page 73]

1. LETTER DATED 16. MARCH 1768

[Page 81]

38. We are concerned to remark the Encrease in the Price of the Chittagong Manufactures which you impute to the advanced Price of the Necessaries of Life and to the Purchases of the French—We wish to have the causes thereof thoroughly investigated, for should it proceed from an extension of the Commerce and an influx of Specie value of Land and the Revenue should rise in proportion.

39. We desire you will send us the medium Price of Rice in the different Provinces for the last Ten Years and continue the same yearly.

[Page 343]

2. LETTER DATED 10. DECEMBER 1767

[Page 359]

73. The Gentlemen at Patna have represented to us that their Books will be compleated in Time to be sent to Europe by the third Ship of the year and also desired to receive our Orders regarding two Mends in them that required to be examined into Vizt. Provisions for the Army remaining a Ballance of Ely Rupees 305368-7-6 and Military Cash remaining a Ballance of Ely Rupees 150504-14 the first has arisen from Grain & other articles being purchased by Mr Billers in a Time of Scarcity & sent to supply the Troops with of which no regular Account has ever been kept nor is there any of the Several Articles purchased remaining, the Ballance of the latter is brought down to the 30 June 1765 but from whence this Ballance was received or what accounts were before kept under this Head cannot be specifyed as notwithstanding our utmost Endeavors we cannot obtain any information of these particulars. We have ordered the Chief & Council at Patna to put them for the present under the Heads of Unadjusted Articles & finish their Books without delay.

[Page 397]

3. LETTER DATED 28 MARCH 1768

[Page 407]

29. Nor has this increase been unattended by complaints from your own Servants though I must confess with much more justice; and my duty to my employers, no less than humanity to the Sufferers calls upon me to lay before you a distinct representation of their Case—The incursions of the Mahrattas in the Time of the Nabob Aliverdy Cawn, the disputes we were forced into with his Successor Surajah Dowlah and the War we sustained against the Bloody Tyrant Cossim have kept these Provinces in a continual state of confusion, and introduced all the evils attendant upon War—Cultivation was neglected, Manufactures were destroyed and numbers of the weavers and winders were obliged to procure subsistence from a less precarious employment we have indeed enjoyed a few years of rest, and the Country every day feels more and more the benefits arising from it, Plenty has succeeded to famine, and security has induced the Natives to apply themselves again to labour and to commerce but the Manufactures are scarcely encreased the Aurungs are not so well peopled as they were twenty years before and yet your demands and those of other Nations are beyond what the Country is able to supply, was every Specie of Cloth to be purchased the amount of your Orders is above a Crore and Twenty Laaks—the Dutch wish to have Forty, the French are endeavouring to Procure Twenty two and the Danes and Portuguese Fifteen.

[Page 497]

4. LETTER DATED 2 FEBRUARY 1769

[Page 501]

20. The Gentlemen at Madrass judging it of material Consequence to have a Supply of Provisions always in Store sent us an Indent of the Articles they desired to be furnished with immediately your Ship the Dutton being then under dispatch for that Presidency we had the several Articles sent round on her except Rice of which from the great scarcity that prevailed we could not procure any Quantity without detaining the Ship which we thought had better not be done as she was carrying a supply of Treasure which they represented to us to be in great want of.

[Page 588]

5. LETTER DATED 30 SEPTEMBER 1769

[Page 600]

36. The Reason assign'd by Mahomed Reza Cawn for Collecting the Revenues of Syllet in Cowries, is that this District being a Boundery of the Kingdom, & Contiguous to the Hills & an Enemies Country is only inhabited by the Poorer sort of People who without Effects or Property Cultivate their Grounds which produce Grain merely for their subsistence and for procuring the necessaties of Life, this Grain they sell for Cowries, & Consequently are oblig'd to pay their Rents in them.—

[Page 603]

45. The Sum hitherto Collected from the Lands taken from the Goorka Raja amounts only to Sunnaut Rupees 20,400 this is far short of the expectations given us by Mr. Rumbold, who assures us it has proceeded from the Ryotts having neglected to Cultivate their Grounds from the interruption they met with from the People Residing near the Hills who continually made lncursions & Destroy'd whatever they could meet with—He also adds that the Country is so Unhealthy that our Sepoys could not remain in it; for the Necessary protection of the Ryotts during the Rainy Season.—

46. It is with much Concern we perceive from the representations of Messrs. Becher & Rumbold that the Provinces of Bengal & Bahar will fall short this Season of their Revenues on Account of the very unusual Scarcity of Rain.—

[Page 604]

6. LETTER DATED 23 NOVEMBER 1769

[Page 605]

On the departure of the Governor Mr Becher would consequently become second in Council & that Gentleman being desirous to know the opinion of the Board whether on Mr Verelst's departure he was to remain in his present station of Resident at the Durbar or repair to the Presidency this subject was again debated And on a Declaration of Mr Becher contained in his minute entered on Consultation the 23d of October that his Intentions are to proceed to Europe next year and on no terms (except at the Request of the Board) to accept the Government. It was agreed by the majority of the Board that he should remain in his present Station.—

It is with great Concern Gentlemen we are to inform you that we have a most melancholy prospect before our Eyes of universal distress for want of grain owing to an uncommon Drought that has prevailed over every part of the Country—In so much that the oldest Inhabitants never remember to have known any thing like it & as to threaten a Famine.

As there is the greatest probability that this distress will encrease and a certainty that it cannot be alleviated for six Months to come we have ordered a stock of Grain sufficient to serve our Army for that period to be laid up in proper store houses & we have taken and shall pursue every measure in our power to relieve the miserable Situation the poor Inhabitants must be involved in from this dreadfull Calamity.—But we cannot flatter ourselves that all our Endeavours will prevent very fatal Effects being felt or that Human means can check its baneful Influence.

The Consequences of so General a Calamity can not be confined to Individuals,—though they may most severely feel them.—The Publick must suffer likewise, & we have too much reason to apprehend, it will occasion a very considerable Dimunition (sic) in your Revenue to what amount we cannot at present form a Judgement.—But we deem it our indispensable Duty to give you this early Information in hopes that by being prepared for such an Account you may be the better able to guard against its Effects— [Page 606] and We would take the Liberty to suggest whether a Considerable Dimunition in your Revenue from so unforeseen and unavoidable a Cause may not be a just plea for a proportional abatement to be made from the Demands of Government, as well as that of your being dispossessed of any part of your Territorial acquisitions and Revenues by any foreign Power.

This is a selection from the original text

Keywords

distress, drought, grain, rice, scarcity

Source text

Title: Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Indian Records Series

Subtitle: (Public Series) Vol V: 1767-1769

Editor(s): Narendra Krishna Sinha

Publisher: The National Archives of India

Publication date: 1949

Original date(s) covered: 1767-1769

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: 1767-1769

Digital edition

Original editor(s): Narendra Krishna Sinha

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) page 181
  • 2 ) page 359
  • 3 ) page 407
  • 3 ) page 501
  • 3 ) page 600
  • 3 ) page 603
  • 3 ) pages 604 to 606

Responsibility:

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

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Genre: India > official correspondence > india office records

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