Page images
PDF
EPUB

FORSTER'S TRAVELS.

LETTER I.

Benares, 3lst August, 1782.

Dear Sib,

Having resolved on visiting Benares, that I might, there, indulge, for a short time, an investigation into the mythology of the Hindoos, I procured permission to proceed to that city; and, as you may receive some amusement from the relation of my journey, with the observations that occurred, I will lay it before you; intreating, that you will make the necessary allowance for a stranger*, who, though his remarks, and the conclusions drawn, may partake of errors, will not, premeditatedly, discolour the truth.

* The author is a civil servant on the Madras establishment. VOL. I. B

[graphic]

On the 23d of May, I left Calcutta; and on the next day arrived at Sooksagur, a valuable and rising plantation, the property of Messrs. Crofts and Lennox. These gentlemen have established at this place, a fabrication of white cloth, of which the Company provide an annual investment, of about two lacks of rupees. They have, also, founded a raw-silk manufactory, which, as it bears- the appearance of increase and improvement, will, I hope, reward the industrious and estimable labours of its proprietors. In this plantation, a large quantity of spirituous liquor is made, resembling, in an inferior degree, the American rum, which, since the commencement of the Dutch war, has become in great demand. Being applied to all the uses of the Batavia arrack, a considerable benefit is expected to arise to the Bengal province, from a current sale of this commodity. In justice to those who enrich their country by an introduction of valuable manufactures, the Government is called upon to yield them every protection, and grant them every fair indulgence; it is, likewise, the duty of the man of observation, to circulate the success of such works, that an emulation may warm the breasts of his fellow citizens, and that those who project them, may receive the tribute of applause, due to genius and industry. It must not be

[ocr errors]

omitted, that this new establishment hath been noticed by the particular attention of the Government of Bengal, which, on many other occasions, has evinced a zealous disposition, in encouraging and promoting useful under

takings.

The English should no longer account themselves sojourners in this country; they are now, virtually, its lords paramount, and their policy should not be that of a day; but, considering the opulence and wealth of the subject as closely tending to enrich the common state, they should, at large, support his wants, and encourage his labours. A conduct equally wise and profitable, would conduce to the increase of public, and private, prosperity, and operate as a compensatory retribution for some actions, which cannot bear the test of investigation; and which have, already, involved the national character in disgrace. In touching on this subject, I am necessarily led into reflections on the commerce of Bengal, interior and foreign, and on the common want of specie, throughout the province.

PREviously to the aera in which the English became possessed of Bengal, the different nations who visited it, were obliged to give specie for the greatest portion of the commodities they purchased ; there being but a small pro

[ocr errors]

portion of articles taken in baiter by the natives. This species of commerce, so lucrative to India, and which must have deposited a large amount of gold and silver, continued for upwards of a century and an half. But, after the English Government was established in Bengal, the necessity of this commercial system no longer existed; the amount of the revenues became sufficient to purchase the cargoes of the country, and to defray the public expenditures: here, one channel of the influx of specie into Bengal was stopped, and it will be found, also, that the revolutions, which in that quarter, advanced the fortunes of the English, have materially lessened the like imports of the other European nations, who traded to Bengal. For, exclusively of fmding a current sale for their commodities, they have been enabled to procure, from the English, large sums of money, for bills on Europe. An important change has also been effected on the interior commerce of Bengal, by the extinction of the Mahometan dominions.

The native princes, and chiefs of a various description, the retainers of numerous dependants, afforded a constant employment to a vast number of ingenious manufacturers, who supplied their masters with gold and silver stuffy curiously flowered, plain muslins, a diversity

[graphic]

of beautiful silks, and other articles of Asiatic luxury; the use of which, wealth, and a propensity to a voluptuous life, naturally excited. ' These Mahometan, or Hindoo, chiefs, have either been removed, or, being no longer possessed of their former resource, have fallen into poverty and decay; and the artisans, who had been supported in their professions by these powerful and wealthy masters, were, on their expulsion, obliged, from a want of subsistence, to quit their professions, or the country. Hence, many branches of rare manufacture, evidently declined ; and some of the most precious are now no longer known. The distracted and impoverished condition of the Moghul and Persian empires, hath contributed, considerably, to lessen the great demand which was made by those states, for the produce of Bengal, when Delhi and Ispahan enjoyed reigns of grandeur and vigour. When it is considered, that the Moghul court, whether in its splendour or wealth, exceeded that of all other nations; that the numerous governors, interspersed throughout the provinces, adopted the manners of sovereign princes, and that all their more luxurious articles of dress were fabricated . in Bengal; we must conclude, that the discontinuation of such a traffic has produced strong effects. In describing this commercial event,

« PreviousContinue »