« PreviousContinue »
What will be the financial condition of India India has enjoyed both the advantages. From
at the expiration of the Company's Charter in 1854, if no material change occur in the mean time 2. This question is as important as it is difficult to solve; on such a variety of circumstances does it depend. The chief dis. ficulty in the way appears to arise from our ignorance of the receipts and disbursements of the public revenues, the accounts of which instead of being published here soon after the date of their closing and whilst the circumstances connected with them are fresh in the recollection of the people who are most inter. ested in them, are transnitted to England, and after sometime, published there for the use of the Parliament and among a people who for the most part take no more interest in what is passing here, than if they were transactions of men in the moon. The few who in consequence of their office are obliged to wade through these to them uninteresting documents, for want of information, generally take for granted the correctness of every item. Thus the publication of the Indian accounts in England, some years after the occurrence of the transactions to which they relate, is as coinplete a farce as ever one could desire to laugh at. Why not publish the yearly accounts here, immediately on their being closed, and lay them open for public inspection at some place where the people may have free access to them, forwarding copies to England for the purposes for which they are now transmitted. But this plan we fear will not suit the views of our Honorable rulers. Why and wherefore it is impossible to divine. These accounts are not a state secret nor altogether withheld from the public view ; why then should the people of India, whom they concern directly, e prevented from inspecting them until they are sanctified by passing through the English Press under the orders of Parliament, and by chance reach this country 2 There is, however, very little hope that any appeal from the People of this benighted land on such a subject will be favored with an attentive hearing by our local rulers. So that we must be left in the dark and allowed to grope, the best way **, can, to the solution of the question with which we set out.
the earliest period of our knowledge of India, we are told she has been a commercial country, and there was a time when she supplied almost the whole of the civilized world with her natural and artificial productions. Not to go further back, in the time of the Mahomune. dan rulers, we had commercial intercourse by the sea with the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the French, the Danes, &c., and by land with the Armenians, the Persians, the Tartars, ths Cashmerians, the Afghans, &c. &c. All which must prove beyond question that the people of this country have been no less remarkable for their industry and in genuity than the soil they inhabit has been for its natural productions. Indeed, at one time, such were the capabilities of India—such her wealth, luxury, and splendour, that she was styled the Paradise of the world. Why then, we ask, should the question we have proposed, be considered as difficult of solution? why should we hesitate a moment to reply to it by saying, that if India was such or a despotic and less enlightened rule than that of Britain, she should be in a far better condition when her situation as regards her rulers has been so much improved 2 Under such circumstances, strange as it may at first appear, we are forced to say, that India, ever silice she came into the hands of the English, has been progressing in impoverishment. The cause is a simple one. The rulers of India who preceded the English, from whatever country they came or whatever religious or political creed they professed, made India their home—their permanent domicile. After the flame of war kindled by their invasion had been quenched, and the blood of the numbers who fell by their barbarous sword had dried, they themselves became a part of the people, and made no distinction between their country men and the aborigines, they forgot the country whence they had originally come, and made India the seat of their government. It is true they took much from the people whom they found here, both by plunder and taxes. But what they took they did not send away to a foreign land. They had no island situated at almost half the dis
With such materials as we possess we have two ways of arriving at the solution of the 4"estion we have proposed, viz., a consider*tion of the political history of India and of !'s present condition, and an examination of the !odian accounts which have yet reached us via England. We shall consider each of these separately.
National wealth must chiefly depend on two **-the natural capabilities of the soil, and the industry and ingenuity of the people. The
tance of the globe to make it the repository of their acquisitions in India. Every man who enjoyed the favor of the ruling Prince or held office under him, and thereby accumulated wealth, spent it here; and in purchasing the luxuries he enjoyed, gave it back to... the people from whom it had been taken. Thus every fortune made in India was spent in India. The wealth of the country circulated within it, and was not abstracted from it. By her coinmercial intercourse, India received in exchange of her produce a considerable quantity of precious metals which by increasing the circulating
"mer of these has never been denied to India, . though some may dispute the latter, yet a *nce at our history will convince them that
medium added to the means of facilitating commerce; which being at the same time
supported by the natural capabilities of the soil and the industry of the people increased the wealth of India to an extent unparalleled in the annals of the world. In those times the riches of India were so great that the people apprehensive of exciting the cupidity of their despotic rulers, kept their wealth generally buried under ground regardless of the interest which now-a-days forms so important a consideration. This is a fact well known to all who have examined the history of this country. While the English rulers of India have until very lately systematically excluded their countrymen from settling in it with their wealth and talents, her former rulers made it their object to invite their countrymen to settle in her
vast territories, and to increase her population
and resources. Hence we find the people of this country consist, of so many classes and nations. This population, composed of the aborigines and the colonists, formed but one people whose interest was the same, and who were all looked upon by Government as equally entitled to its favours.
In this state India continued until the beginning of the 17th century when her misfortunes commenced to gather round her. Like the Roman Empire, India has to date her decline from the period when the luxury of her imperial court began to impair her powers. The first symptoms of her weakness were manifested in her submission to the chouth demanded by the Marrattahs, and afterwards to the other contributions levied on her by depradatory chiefs who now overran almost the whole country and reduced the Emperor to the necessity of committing the management of the country to a body of foreign merchants, and of accepting for himself a pension at their hands.
After the battle of Palasey in 1757, which gave to the English a firm footing in the country, they made it their object to amass as much wealth as they could, and to monopolize the whole of the trade by endeavouring to oust from it the other European nations who were trading with lndia. The wars and political manoeuvres they engaged in, in order to gain this point, are too well known to need being mentioned here. From 1765, the era of the Company's assumption to the Dewany, to 1793 when the permanent settlement was made, the English took upon themselves the manage. ment of the Judicial and Territorial functions of the state, and most vigorously directed their attention to the increasing of the revenues of Government. For this purpose various plans were adopted by the public functionaries. The estates were put up for sale to the highest bidders; the interests of the ryuts and the zemindars were, totally, disregarded, and their families generally ruined. The consequence of these proceedings was an immense increase in the revenues, which gave to the country an appearance of growing wealth, whilst in reality the seeds of its future ruin were being sown. The numerous transfers of landed property which took place in consequence of the sales of estates, brought many new families into little fortunes, and in the eyes of superficial
observers conformed the favourable appearances of the time. The real wealth of the country was however on the decline, and with the ruin of the great and wealthy zemindars and ryuts, all that was substantial vanished from the land.
About this time the abuses in the service of the Company became notorious, which the Marquess of Cornwallis checked by increasing the salaries of the public functionaries. From this period the Government and their servants steadily pursued their grand object of increasing the public revenues and the commercial profits by protected trades, transfers of zemindaries to new hands on more advantageous terms, and a thousand other ways; until, in 1813, the country, overburthened as it was by taxes, &c., was thrown open to the English free-traders.
If all these people who made money by India were allowed to make lndia their home, there would be no cause of complaint, and the country would continue as rich as ever: but this was not the case. All were allowed to come to India, and after they had made their fortune were forced to retire to England, and there enjoy the acquisition they had carried along with them.
But the natural resources of India are so great, that no one cause could have reduced her to her present impoverished condition. A combination of causes acting against her was necessary to produce the effect we are deploring. , Whilst Englishmen were systematically precluded from settling in India, and allowing her to share in the advantages derivable from the improvements which Europe had within the two last centuries made in the various arts and sciences, these very advantages were brought to bear against her in an unequal conflict between the manual labour and the rude implements of India, and the improved machinery of England—the steam, and all the advantages which science can bestow on man. Under these circumstances it is not to be wondered, that notwithstanding the natural resources of India and the industry of her people, she has been impoverished.
sixty-five lacks of annual dividend which the country has to pay in lieu of the commerce, &c. taken away from the Company. This arrangement, therefore, has advanced the interest of the people of England at the expense of the people of India.
Secondly.—The Legislative Council and the Law Commission might have been the same body, or one a sub-committee of the other, and thus a great deal of expense saved. This institution appears to us no more than a slight modification on the former system, the most important feature of which change is, that formerly every act of the Government, relating to Calcutta, had to be registered at the Supreme Court where the people had an opportunity of being heard, whereas now not even a preamble explains the reasons on which the edicts of our rulers issue from the closed Council Chambers; whilst the independence of the Supreme Court has been taken away by conferring on the Council the power to legislate for it.
Thirdly.—The Agra Presidency seems almost a nominal institution in regard to any additional facility in working the Government machine ; although it is far from being so in regard to the additional expenses it has entailed on the country, but we are happy to learn by the late English news that the country is soon to be relived from this heavy and useless expense.
Fourthly.—The increase of Bishops and their powers, which is providing for the religion of a few out of money taken from the mass of the people who profess a different creed.
Fifthly.—Colonization—almost the only measure on which lndia might have placed her hope of retrieving what she has lost by the circumstances we have above detailed. But hitherto this has been allowed only in theory. Englishmen cannot reside, except in certain parts of lndia, without the license of Government; and we know it to be a fact that every opportunity is taken to throw obstacles in the way of Europeans settling in lndia. Witness for example the case of Calder versus Halket, lately decided in the Supreme Court. When the Charter was renewed we had expected, that at least colonization would be so effectually allowed and encouraged as in some degree to check the ruinous consequences of the existing state of things. From it we had expected a counterbalancing gain for the loss of the heavy dividend allowed to the East India Company. But that hope, it is now beyond all doubt, has been frustrated, and on the whole we are in a worse situation than before.
Sixthly.—The removal of the disabilities arising from colour and religion. This, in itself so saltary a measure, has been completely nullified by the reservation of patronage to Eugland. This point has been fully explained, in another paper, in which we pointed out that in regard to Hindus especially, who could not go to England owing to the prejudices of caste, this provision, apparently so much to their advantage, had been rendered totally nugatory.
Thus we see, that whilst the causes we have above noticed as leading lndia to poverty continue in full operation, scarcely any thing has been done to check them, and what little has been done in theory, is in practice quite negatived. From which we of course come to the conclusion that India is progressing on towards ruin, and by the time the present charter expires she will have sunk to such a degree of exhaustion as to become almost a burthen to herself and her rulers.
Considering the length to which we have been led, we shall endeavour briefly to go over the parliamentary papers which also lead us to the conclusion to which we have arrived, from a consideration of the history of India. The dividend of 65 lakhs per annum allowed to the Company was also in lieu of their commercial property here. These we all know had been rated so high that their disposal could never realize the amount. But until now only a few instances have occurred to confirm this opinion. The Santipoor and Rungpoor concern, with their balances, valued at a very considerable amount, have been sold literally for nothing. When the estimates were submitted to the authorities in England, they took it for granted that the statements were all correct, and decided the matter accordingly, unwittingly sacrificing the people of India to the interests of the Company. But no more sales of the outstanding balances take place to afford us further proofs of the real state of things, apparently that the enormous loss so recently following the heavy estimates may not attract the attention of the people of England, and thus cause unpleasant enquiries to be made in the matter. But sooner or later these great deficiencies must be written off to profit and loss against this country, and at the end prove a burthen which she will not be able to bear.
As no favorable change appears likely to occur on which a hope may be grounded that things will be so managed in future, as to bring the expenditure on a par with the income, we may reasonably conclude that this deficiency will continue to the expiration of the charter in 1854. The accumulated amount of deficiency will therefore at that, period be about 43,0627,400, to which if we add the 42,00,00,000 —the present amount of the Company's debt, we shall have a debt of about 85,06,27,400 rupees to pay. The increasing interest on this debt must also be reckoned as an increase to the expenses, which itself will amount to something considerable.
It cannot be expected that any increase which can be made in the revenue will be adequate to the liquidation or even extenuation of this enormous debt. In 1765 when the country came into the hands of the English the revenues of Bengal, for example were about 146 per cent. less than they are now. We may therefore safely conclude that the capabilities of the country have been strained to the last degree, and that very little if any thing more can be expected from it in the shape of Government revenue.
Thus we see that whilst the resources of the country have been increased, the drain upon it has been so great as not only to exhaust the whole of the increased revenue, but to run it into debt to a very large amount, which, under all the circumstances we have noticed must go on increasing, until the country will be brought into the most deplorable condition imaginable and be in fact a burthen of which England will no doubt be glad to get rid. Such is the sad prospect of India, and such is the only answer we can give to the question that has led us to the above observations.— Reformer.
The Reformer has a very long article on the Prospects of India, in some of the views expressed in which, we fully concur, although we think the investigation embraced by it, is not throughout conducted in a spirit of impartiality and justice.
With respect to the absurdity of the system
which obtains respecting the publication of the accounts of the revenue, nothing can more forcibly illustrate the advantages which flow
from our triple government. The accounts
are made up here, sent home and laid before Parliament after the lapse of a year, and after
the expiration of about 18 months from the time of their being despatched from hence, the public in India have an opportunity of being made acquainted with them ' ' What object
is attained by this system, what benefit to the
governing or the governed, it would puzzle any man to discover—the only argument which can be urged in its favour is, that which is constantly pleaded here by native ignorance in defence of native superstition and folly—it has been the dustoor—the custom. It is in short, part and parcel of the general system of mystification which finds such favour in Leadenhall Street and which, sooth to say, has served in its day the purpose of screening from the profane gaze of the public ; many a profitable job. Had the very opposite of this system prevailed—had the measures of our Indian administration at home and abroad as well as all their financial accounts been made public, we have a strong suspicion that poor territory, which has been made to bear the burthen of so much extravagance, including expenses of its own conquest, would have received more justice, and the proprietors of lndia Stock have had to look elsewhere for their dividends. We of course agree then that in these days, when in other respect the value of publicity
is recognized, we should have the accounts first published here. Why not send them home printed ' ' In his retrospective view of Indian history, we are surprized to find our intelligent, contemporary falling into the error of treating of India as having been at one time a rich country. Rich in the capabilities of her soil she no doubt has been and is—but quoad the ingenuity and industry of her people, we suspect she never was and certainly since the British connection with India commenced, she must suffer in those respects by a comparison with any civilized country on the face of the earth; and as for the inflated eulogies of remote periods when the sources and true symbols of wealth were little understood, they are unworthy of any attention. India is and has been a poor country, and her institutions, that of caste more particularly, have been fatal to the development of the resources which no doubt she possesses, and to the moral and political elevation of the people. If we are to judge the prosperity of a country by her financial accounts and the relative amounts of revenue and expenditure only, no doubt we must admit that India has declined in prosperity under British rule ; but who does not perceive how fallacious such a mode of estimating the condition of a country must be? The case admits of easy illustration. The most cruel despot might go on increasing the revenue yearly and diminishing the expenditure on every useful object till the surplus in the treasury was immense. We know that such has been the practice of some despots. It was said for example, that the treasure amassed at Tehran by the late king of Persia was enormous: now if His Majesty’s accounts had been published, and compared with those of India, according to the Reformer's principle, we must have drawn a comparison in favour of Persia; yet who will venture to contend that Persia has been better governed than British India? We admit that there has been much in our system to condemn, that under our Government the aborigines were until recently, and still are in effect, though not by positive law, excluded from all offices of honour and profit instead of being encouraged as they were by our semi-barbarian predecessors in the conquest of this country: and that the drain on India by the retirement of European functionaries to Great Britain with large fortunes has been great—we admit that India has experienced, still does experience, great fiscal injustice from Great Britain, and that our anti-colonization system of policy, which Napoleon has absurdly termed a selfdenying ordinance, has been detrimental to the interests of both countries ; but still from the time of the great and good Cornwallis at least, down to that of our present ruler, the principle that we govern for the people has been recognized: and if they have not reaped all the fruits of the recognition which it is calculated to produce, the misfortune is owing, in some degree, to the difficulty which Europeans experience in fully understanding their wants and appreciating their feelings, and in some degree also to that superstition which is a wall o separation between the conquered and the conquerors, and a barrier to improvement which time and the spread of knowledge only can overconne.
How can the Reformer, treating of Indian history subsequent to 1793, say, if he refers to Bengal, to which as usual with writers here, his remarks seem to be limited, that the interests of the zemindars were overlooked 2 lt is not our purpose now to enter for the hundredth time on the vexata quaestio of the merits of the permanent settlement; but we are at a loss to conceive, how, after that measure, it could be alleged that the interests of the zemindars were totally disregarded. It has been urged against that measure and its great and good author. that he entirely neglected the interests—not of the zemindars but of the ryuts —and at the same time those of the Government: now our belief is that he did none of these ; but rather tried to do what we take to be an impossibility in his anxiety to protect the interests of zemindars and ryuts—to fix the revenue of the landholders in perpetuity and then to regulate by law their arrangements with their cultivators—a system which reasoning a priori we should have held to be absurd; and which experience has proved to be impracticable. As to the Government, we believe that at the time of permanent settlement, a maximum of revenue was taken which led of course to a vast immediate increase, and which seemed to anticipate improvement for many years to come. The estates sold were those of defaulters; and though crack Collectors may have caused some severity in this respect, the principle on which those sales were effected is recognized, we believe, by all civilized governments.
Admitting all the faults of our system as it has been and even as it is, however, will it not bear, we ask, favorable comparison with any that preceded it in the East as to the two great tests of good government—the degree of protection to life and property enjoyed by the people 2—that is the question, and to that question from impartial people there can be, we apprehend, only an affirmative answer. On this comparative estimate of Native and British governments we will only remark that we must protest against the narrow and fallacious principle of testing the merits of any government by a mere calculation of profit and loss. This was Cobbett’s error. He, as we have often remarked, thought a reduction in the tax on malt or a saving in some item of expenditure of more importance than a measure which had for its object the instruction of the people or the securing to them the most important political advantages.
On the deficiencies of the New Charter we have so often expatiated, that we should scarcely be excused for again dwelling on that subject, when it is considered that there is no power here to remedy the evils of which we complain. . We agree generally with the Reformer in all but this gloomy view of our prospects, summed up in the following passages:
“Considering the length to which we have been led, we shall endeavour briefly to go over the parliamentary papers which also lead us to the conclusion to which we have arrived, from a consideration of the history of lndia. The dividend of 65 lakhs per annum allowed to the Company was also in lieu of their commercial property here. These we all know had been rated so high that their disposal could never realize the amount. But until now only a few instances have occurred to confirm this opinion. The Santipoor and Rungpoor concern, with their balances, valued at a very considerable amount, have been sold literally for nothing. When the estimates were submitted to the authorities in England, they took it for granted that the statements were all correct, and decided the matter accordingly, unwittingly sacrificing the people of India to the interests of the Company. But no more sales of the outstanding balances take place to afford us further proofs of the real state of things, apparently that the enormous loss so recently following the heavy estimates may not attract the attention of the people of England, and thus cause unpleasant enquiries to be made in the matter. But sooner or later these great deficiencies must be written off to profit and loss against this country, and at the end prove a burthen which she will not be able to bear.
Deficiency....... Sa. Rs. 2,15,31,370 0 0
As no favorable change appears likely to occur on which a hope may be grounded that things will be so managed in future as to bring the expenditure on a par with the income, we may reasonably conclude that this deficiency will continue to the expiration of the charter in 1834. The accumulated amount of deficiency will therefore at that period be about 43.06.27,400, to which if we add the 42,00,00,000—the present amount of the Company’s debt, we shall have a debt of about 85,06,27,400 rupees to pay. The increasing interest on this debt must also be reckoned as an increase to the expenses, which itself will amount to something considerable.
“It cannot be expected that any increase which can be made in the revenue will be adequate to the liquidation or even extenuation of this enormous debt. 1n 1765, when the country came into the hands of the English, the revenues of Bengal for example were about 146 per cent. less than they are now. We may therefore safely conclude that the capabilities of the country have been strained to the last degree, and that very little, if any