Revenue Board Consisting of the Whole Council, 2nd August-27th September, 1774

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Introductory notes

The early records preserved in the West Bengal State Archive pertains to the administration of the land revenue system by the East India Company. The Company attained the revenue rights of the Province through the Grant of Diwani in 1765. The records in the repositories of the Archive date back to the Select Committee Records in 1768. Between 1769 and 1786 the revenue administration was managed by various intermediate agencies like the Resident at the Durbar, Provincial Council of Revenue, the Calcutta Committee of Revenue. In the early the revenue administration was managed by various intermediary agencies, these committees reflect the early experiments and confusion of the East India Company over revenue collection.

On May 1772, the Court of Directors decided to hand the revenue administration to a board, consisting of the President and four other members, while the title of the supervisor was changed to that of the Collector. The whole council that was constituted, to sit two days in the week, or if necessary more; the members of the council were appointed to act as auditors of accounts, each a week in rotation, The Revenue Board in the Whole Council continued to operate till 1774.

Selection details

On May 1772, the Court of Directors decided to hand the revenue administration to a board, consisting of the President and four other members, while the title of the supervisor was changed to that of the Collector. The whole council that was constituted, to sit two days in the week, or if necessary more; the members of the council were appointed to act as auditors of accounts, each a week in rotation, The Revenue Board in the Whole Council continued to operate till 1774.


[Page 5758]

1.1. Read the Following Letter from the Provincial Council of Burdwan

To the Hon'ble Warren Hastings Esq President & Gentlemen of the Council of Revenue
Hon’ble Sir & Sirs
[Page 5759]

Mr Bathoe with his address of the 7th Sept 1773 laid before you a particular explanation of the Nature of Settlement of the Burdwan Pergunnah and its declining state. Both the Head Farmer Gour Gosane and the under renters have applied to us to be released from their Engagements. We have not complied with this request not can they in strict justice lay any claim to Deductions but as we are fully satisfied that their Loss is very considerable and that the [...] upon the full Revenue would be attended with the total ruin of many of the under Farmer we think it for the Interest of Government that some relief should be afforded them & we therefore beg leave to recommend that the Settlement for the present and ensuing year be continued on the same Terms as that of the Last year and that a Sum equal to the [...] be excused them to be distributed amongst the several Divisions [Page 5760] of the Pergunnah proportionally to the loss sustained in each. The [...] which was agreed for is as follows.

For the Bengall year 1181 rs 4570
For the Bengall year 1182 rs 4570 Note: For the year 1182 a further sum of 1591- 6161
Totall to be remitted 10,731
We are with the respect & c
George Vanisttart John Bathoe C Fleetwood
[Page 5870]

1.2. Read the following Letters and Enclosures from the Provincial Council of Dinagepore

To the Hon'ble Warren Hastings Esq President & Council of Revenue At Fort William Hon'ble Sir &Sirs

We herewith transmit you copies of two Letters received from our Naib at Purnea, the Contents of the which have given us greater concern, as we have every Reason to believe from the accounts from Rungpore and the Distant parts of the, as well as from what we have ourselves observed that they are not exaggerated. The heats have indeed District been moderate but we have had not rain during the whole month of Sawan, and from the repeated Clamours of the Riotts were not without our fears for the consequences for this some time past; yet we were [...] hastily to alarm you on so serious a Subject, more especially as we flatter ourselves that the late Change of the [...], would have relieved us from the necessity, but as there are now three days elapsed and still less appearance of rain than ever, the Clouds being dispersed almost as soon as gathered by a strong south easterly wind. We can no longer delay addressing you without deserving the scurriest censure. The apprehensions we are under of injury to the Collections by the future of the crops however great begin to give place to still more alarming ones, as we hear on all lands that failure of Rain has not been confined to these Districts. The only favourable Circumstance we [Page 5871] have to mention is that the Price of Grain has not yet rose materially in this or the Rungpore District, tho it appears to be rising at Purnea. We have neither issued any orders or attempted taking any Precaution on this Matter, least we might spread an alarm that might be productive of bad Consequence [...] rather to want your Pleasure.

We are
R Harris Geo Robertson Ah Goodlad Fra. Gladwin


[Page 5871]
From Atchunt Roy Naib of Purnea

At the end of Assar there was Rain, and now that it is the Month of Sawan it is necessary that it should Rain daily, it is near these fifteen days that we have had no rain, and there is a prospect of a very great loss, a number of the Moffusil Aumils have complained of this; and the price of Grain daily increases for which Reason the Beparries buy it up & send it to other Places which I have not Put a Stop to that there might be no Complaint against me. I have wrote this for your Information.

R Goodlad Persian Translator
[Page 5884]

1.4. Read the Following extracts of the Proceedings of the Publick Department Extract of Consultation the 22nd August 1774

The President begs leave to recommend to the Board the Consideration of some means which without creating an alarm among the People may guard against the effects which there is too great Cause to apprehend from the late unusual Drought and the Reports made both to the Board in the Revenue Department and to himself from the Provincial Divisions of the Damage which the Grain crops have already sustained by the want of Rain, which though favourable (as he is informed) to many of the low lands, in the Dacca Districts and [...] & not very hurtful to the ordinary crops has entirely prevented the Growth of that sown for transplanting an operation command to all parts of the Province and universal in the Western Division of Bengal thought partially used in the Eastern Lower Land. To these unfavorable appearances another cause has acceded which may accelerate the effects to be dreaded from then. namely the great Demand [Page 5885] for Rice on the Coast which has already drained this Town of its [...] by the large Cargo lately exported and many ships are still waiting for further Ladings.

Inconsiderable as there supply may be when compared with the Produce and consumption of the whole Province, as they have an immediate effect upon the Markets at the Capital on which the People will naturally form their judgment of the General Plenty or Scarcity which may prevail in the Country it therefore becomes an object to the Government to obviate the Popular impressions which [...] Grain in Calcutta may produce, at the same time that they apply such means as their Wisdom may prescribe for averting the Effects of a real scarcity.

The President lays therefore the Board for their further information the Custom masters report of the Grain already exported by the Ships to the Coast and a Calculate of what is still expected to be sent.


[Page 5885]

I reply to your commands to inform you of the Quantity of Grain which has been exported this Season, and the probable amount of what may yet be exported to the coast before the Monsoon Changes. I have the Honor to acquaint you as follows that from the 7th of April last to the 30th of July there was no Grain exported from the 30th July to this Day there has been exported mostly for Madrass, Rice 21,94,75 [Page 5886] Baazar Maunds Paddy 4050 Baazar Maunds, Pease 382 Baazar Maunds. The further Quantity of Rice now loaded on different vessels in the River which have not yet had their Clearances from this office, and the Quantity to be shipped off for Exportation will I judge amount to about 50000 or 60000. maunds.

I am Sir your most obedient and most Humble Servant
Wm. Bensley Custom Master
[Page 5886]
Note: The Board Concur with the President in opinion of the necessity of adopting immediate Measures for preventing the Consequences which may be apprehended from a failure of the approaching Harvests and having maturely considered the Subject are agreed on the following Resolutions.
Note: That orders having been already circulated to the Provincial Councils from Revenue Department to report the State of the Crops in their respective Divisions. The Probably Amount of their products it be further recommended to them to procure with as much exactness as possible and transmit to us without delay an Estimate of the Remains of the last year's Harvest and to take measures for preventing the [...] of grain within their respective Divisions and the artificial increase of the Price occasioned by withholding the Publick Sale of it, by Monopolies or illegal combinations of the Merchants.
Note: For this last purpose that they limit [Page 5888] each individual Merchant to Purchase of a certain Quantity proportioned to the General produce the Consumption of the Country and the exigencies of Trade. That to explain our intention in his Limitation We express it to be our sole object to hinder this Trade from falling into the hands of a few who by the means above mentioned might command the Price and create an artificial scarcity the usual forerunner of a real Want where such precautions are not effectively taken.
Note: That as last year's harvests where every where abundant & We have the most authoritative ground to believe that much of the grain produced by them still remains in store in different parts of the Province there is no Danger of an immediate or sudden Scarcity from the present exportation of Grains by shipping; as the Quantity still remains to be exported is in considerable but the stoppage of it would prove a heavy loss to the Owners of the [...] which are waiting to receive it as well as the means of adding to the Distresses of our Neighbours in the Carnatic that therefore no immediate embargo be laid on the Exportation of Grain but that notice be given to prepare the Publick to receive such an Introduction in Case our expected Reports from the Provincial Division shall render it necessary for the Common Safety and that to this effect and advertisement be Published . Resolved that copies of these Minutes be transmitted to the Revenue Council that the Letters to the Provincial [Page 5889] Councils may be issued from thence on order to preserve the Subject entire in the Records of one Department.
W.Auriol Asst. Secretary
[Page 5888]

1.5. Resolved in Consequence that the following orders be immediately circulated to the Provincial Councils

To Samuel Middleton Esq Chief & Provincial Council of Revenue At Moorshedabad Gentlemen,

In addition to the orders which we wrote you under the 16th Instant requiring a Report of the Present Condition of the Country and the expected produce of the approaching Harvests We desire you will endeavor to procure with as much exactness as possible and transmit to us without Delay and Estimate of the Quantity of Grain is remaining of the last year's Harvest within your Division specifying the principal Places at which it is supposed to be deposited.

We must desire you will also take measures to prevent the [...] of grain and the artificial enhancement of the Price occasioned by withholding the Publick sale of it by Monopolies or illegal combinations of the Merchants.

For this last purpose we think it may be advisible to limit each Individual Merchant to the Purchase of a certain Quantity [Page 5889] at any one time proportioned to the General produce the consumption of the Country and the exigencies of trade our intention in this Limitation is to hinder this trade from falling into the hands of a few who by the means above mentioned might command the Price and create an artificial scarcity and having there explained our Intention we leave it to you to take such measures for Carrying into execution as local circumstances may direct you and may judge will prove effectual.

As subsequent measure when it can be confiscated We should wish to receive from you an Estimate of the amount Produce of all the different sorts of Grain in the Districts of your Division. The proportion thereof that is consumed within the Districts and reserved for ______ the Quantity Exported & the Places to which it is Exported for sale.

We desire also that you will endeavor to collect at the same time and transmit to us when completed a computation of the Number of the inhabitants.

We are

[Page 5955]

1.6. Read the following Letters from the Provincial Council of Burdwan

To the Hon’ble Warren Hastings Esq & Gentlemen of the Council of Revenue Fort William
Hon’ble Sir & Sirs
[Page 5958]

We have sent orders to the Naibs at Midnapore & c to furnish us with exact accounts of the Prices of Grain in these districts and will forward them to you. We now enclose [Page 5959] accounts of the Prices at Burdwan on the 1st of Assar at Present. The great Difference you will observe in them is occasioned entirely by want of Rain. In Midnapore & most of the Southern Pegunnahs of Burdwan the Season has hitherto been favourable but all the rest of our Division has suffered considerably by Drought, and the alarm is daily increasing . Even now f there should be Plenty of Rain within a few days we are not apprehensive of any general Calamity, nor of any great Diminution of the revenue, but otherwise it will require the utmost case of Government to prevent a repetition of that fatal mortality which was experienced in 1177. We enclose for your observation copy of a petition which was this Day presented to us by a [...] of Ryotts from the Pergunnah of [...] complaining that the Beparries refuse to sell them any Rice, & we are informed in some places the Ryotts are already beginning to desert, to avoid the Payment of their Rents on Lands from which they expect [Page 5960] is Harvest. We are endeavouring to Procure as exact an account as possible of the quantity of old Paddy remaining in our District. It is supposed to be very considerable & the Dewans are very solicitous that the removal of it should be prohibited till some provision can be made for the subsistence of the Ryotts. If the Drought should continue we will order them to deliver in Writing their [...] at large as to the Measures they would recommend to be taken and will forward it for your consideration. The mode of Collection from the Ryotts will require a speedy regulation. By the general Custom they pay a fixed Sum per bega and the Profit and loss are [...] from a Plentiful crop is their own. In case however of such a Calamity as we now apprehended it is evident that most of the Ryotts where Harvests might fail would find it difficult to support themselves even without the Payment of any Revenue at all, and it seems necessary for their Preservation that when the Crop is destroyed the Rent should be remitted. We are [Page 5961] aware of the Loss of Revenue which such a Remission would occasion, but this cannot with the necessity of guarding against [...] loss of inhabitants as some compensation to Government as well as to lay in stock of Grain to be applied in such manner as might be found most useful, we beg here to submit to your consideration, whether those lands where a crop is produced might not be subjected exclusive of their usual Rents to a Tax of 10th of their produce to be received in kind. The remaining ½ the would in consequence of the dearness of grain yield the Ryotts a much larger profit than the whole would have done had the season been in general favourable. This [...]might be levied from alienated Lands as well as Malguzzary Lands. The former indeed we think in such a Season of Distress might be reasonably charged with a larger proportion. These observations may appear Premature whilst there is still hope that all difficulties may be removed, by a speed supply [Page 5962] of Rain but it is necessary we should be acquainted with your Sentiments, that we may know what assurances we are authorized to give to the Ryotts As an instance of such necessity we enclose you a petition presented to us by a Number of Ryotts in the Beerbhoom District. At Present we can only Promise them in general Terms that if the Drought should continue Attention shall be paid to their relief but such general Promises will afford them little satisfaction, whilst their full Rents continue to be demanded, and we are apprehensive least by Desertion from the Pergunnah, they should not only avoid the Payment of their present Rents, but deprive us of their future services.

We are & c
George Vansittart John Bathoe Alex Higginson P Fleetwood
[Page 6246]

1.7. Read the following letter from the Chief of Chittagong

To the Hon’ble Warren Hastings Esq President & Council of Revenue at Fort William
Hon’ble Sir & Gentlemen

I have been duely favored with your Letter of the 16th and 23rd ultimo regarding [Page 6247] the conditions of the Country and the expected Produce of the approaching harvest.

I have the satisfaction to inform you that the Conditions of the Country is at present very good and the Harvest promises to be a very fine one, nevertheless as the Rainy season is not yet over and as on one hand twenty days excessive Rain or entire dry weather would disappoint all over present hopes and as on the other [...] the Same Number of Days moderate Rainy weather will improve it exceedingly, it is not possible to form with any Certainty a judgment how the Harvest may turn out.

Mr Reed the 5th December last transmitted to your Board an Estimate of the principal articles of Grain annually produced in this province with an account how the same is disposed of, and Calculation of the number of Inhabitants, I beg leave to refer you to that Gentleman’s letter, under that date for his remarks, on this Subject, permit me also Gentlemen to refer you to the Price Current sent you every Months for the rise and fall of Grain. Its fluctuation must depend entirely upon the

[Page 6248]

the Quantity that is annually produced there being in Importation of Grain from other parts of the Country into this Province and the exportation of it upon an average not exceeding Five or Six thousand maunds annually, it consequently must be cheap if there is a plentiful Crop and Dear if it proves a bad one.

The distant situation of this province from other Markets and the poorness of its Inhabitants render monopolies altogether impracticable, as the few Merchants there are cannot afford to have any large quantity lying by them just above 3,4, or 5000 maunds owing to the great expence of Boats and the Risque attending the Exporting Grain to other places as it must be Conveyed partly by sea.

At the time Mr Reed sent the aforementioned accounts he accompanied them with an estimate of the quantity of grain remaining of the last lean harvest.

I am with respect
H Goodwin
This is a selection from the original text


crops, grain, paddy, rain, scarcity, trade

Source text

Title: Revenue Board Consisting of the Whole Council, 2nd August-27th September, 1774, Revenue Board Consisting of the Whole Council

Original date(s) covered: 1774

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from manuscripts at the West Bengal State Archives. Original date(s) covered: 1774 West Bengal State Archive

Digital edition

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 5758 to 5760
  • 2 ) pages 5870 to 5871
  • 3 ) pages 5884 to 5889
  • 4 ) pages 5888 to 5889
  • 5 ) page 5955
  • 6 ) pages 5958 to 5962
  • 7 ) pages 6246 to 6248


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 > state archives > West Bengal

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