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The conduct of the Company and their servants, and their mutual crimination, had already excited the most violent suspicions in the people; and even the ministers, as was apparent from the tone of the King's speech in the preceding session, were becoming of opinion that the mal-practices of the Leadenhall-street merchants at length called for some interference of the legislature. A motion was made, in March 1772, for leave to bring in a bill for the better regulation of the Company's servants, and for improving the administration of justice in India. It was urged by the Directors, that the powers they already possessed were insufficient to repress the insolence of their servants; and they now, therefore, desired authority for sending out to India a chief justice, a number of puisne judges, and an attorneygeneral, that justice might be administered, on the English model, throughout the Company's territories. The motion, which likewise respected the regulation of trade, proceeded from the Deputy-Chairman of the Company, who, in pointing out the absurdity of men's uniting in themselves the character of merchants and governors, furnished a weighty argument against suffering the sovereignty of India to remain practically in the hands of his colleagues. During the debate which arose upon this motion, Lord Clive vehemently inveighed against both the Company and their servants; but although it appeared that these were sufficiently criminal, it was not clear that he himself was better than the worst of them. It seemed to be a dispute between disappointed banditti.
Public opinion now demanded investigation; the Deputy-Chairman's bill was thrown out, and a select committee appointed to inquire into the affairs and policy of the Company. Although Parliament had thus consented to investigate the concerns of the Company, that most wrong-headed and pernicious body still proceeded in its old track of policy, and, during the recess, resolved upon appointing new supervisors, six in number, to be despatched forthwith to India. In this act of madness they were overruled by Parliament, which informed them, in answer to their sophistical clamours about property, that their privileges must be set aside whenever, as in the present instance, they were detrimental to the public good.
The Company now urged their petition for a loan of 1,500,0007. for four years, at four per cent. interest; and named certain conditions they would consent to submit to, in consideration of obtaining it. Among the propositions of the minister, (who offered them a loan of 1,400,000l. at four per cent.,) was one which totally overthrew the prudence of the Company: it was that by which they were to be allowed, under certain conditions, to retain possession of their territorial acquisitions for the six years which remained unexpired of their charter. This, they perceived, was decidedly laying claim to those territorial acquisitions; and against this act of despotism, as they termed it, and all the other contemplated encroachments of the Government, they petitioned and exclaimed in the most vehement manner. Their virulence, however, availed them nothing; for so far was the minister from contenting himself with what had already been
proposed, that he now meditated to change entirely the constitution of the Company: the qualification to vote in the Court of Proprietors was to be raised from 500l. to 1000l.; every Proprietor possessing 30001. was to have two votes; possessing 60007., three; possessing 10,000l., four; only six of the Directors were to go out of office annually; the Government of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, was to be vested in a governor-general, with a salary of 25,000l. per annum, and four members of council, with 8,000l. each; all the other Presidencies to be subordinate to that of Bengal; a supreme court of judicature to be established at Calcutta, consisting of a chief justice with 80007. a-year, and three other judges, with each 60007. a-year, appointed by the crown. The first governor-general and members of council to be nominated by Parliament, and to hold their office for five years; after which, the nomination to be exercised by the Directors, though the approbation of the crown would always be necessary; the whole of the Company's political correspondence to be laid before the ministry; the governor-general, the members of council, and judges to be excluded from all commercial pursuits; and no person in the service of the King or of the Company to receive presents.
It was now the turn of the East India Company, the most monstrous and oppressive body known to modern times, to exclaim against the tyranny and injustice of Parliament: they treated its decrees with the most opprobrious language; spoke of the subversion of the constitution; and most absurdly called upon the people to uphold them in their iniquitous pretensions. However, their noisy opposition and ridiculous rage were equally unavailing; the ministry were completely successful, and, whatever was the merit of their measures, had the satisfaction to humble and mortify that insolent body of monopolists. The two acts embodying the propositions above mentioned, received the royal assent in the middle of the summer of 1773, and their operation was to commence, in what concerned the home-business, from the 1st of October 1773; the foreign, not till the 1st of August 1774. There can be little doubt that, in all these contentions between the Company and the ministry, the interests of the people at large were never once thought of; both were actuated by selfishness: the Company struggled to preserve its ill-gotten wealth and privileges; the ministry to acquire an enlarged source of patronage, and, eventually, to gratify their own inordinate cupidity. Nevertheless, as the removal of power from the Company, into whatever hands, tended to put the Indian Government in the track of change, and thereby multiplied the chances of reform, we think that the minister's scheme upon this occasion was ultimately beneficial, although at first it produced extraordinary evil and confusion.
While men's minds were occupied in discussing the nature of the new constitution, the chairman of the select committee came forward with a motion for inquiry respecting the deposition and death of Suraja Dowla, and numerous other nefarious transactions which had taken place in our Eastern dominions. It was found, however, that if the matter were properly conducted, Lord Clive, and various other
persons, would be liable to exemplary punishment; and, in tenderness to their characters and families, the dreaded inquiry was smothered in its birth. The inquiry made at this time into the financial and commercial state of the Company, shows that, of their capital stock of 4,000,000l., 1,269,4217. had been dissipated; their whole property being now reduced to 2,930,5681. 10s. 10d. From 1744 to 1756, the dividend amounted to eight per cent.; in that year it was reduced to six. For ten years it continued at six per cent., then, for six months, it was raised to ten, and, for the next six months, to twelve and a half. Being fixed by Parliament to ten per cent., it continued at that rate till 1769, and afterwards fluctuated between that amount and twelve and a half, till 1772, when it was again reduced to six per cent.
We now approach the administration of Warren Hastings, a period of our Indian history more celebrated by the crimes of that individual, than any that had preceded or have followed it. Mr. Hastings was the new Governor-General appointed by Parliament, and General Clavering, Colonel Monson, Mr. Barwell, and Mr. Francis, were the Members of Council. Hastings was an old servant of the Company; had passed through the various gradations of its service; and, by his conduct on the Coromandel coast, had given the Directors especial satisfaction. This they expressed in a letter to the President and Council, dated April 1773, at the same time that they signified their resolution to put an effectual stop to the abuses that had hitherto prevailed, particularly monopolies in trade and extravagant expenditure.
The ambiguous administration of affairs, in name by the Nuwaub, in reality by the Company, which had been recommended by Clive, and approved of by his employers and successors, contributed greatly to involve the English in difficulty and embarrassment. In the collection of the revenues, the greatest confusion prevailed, and inefficiency and oppression in the administration of justice. As far back as 1769, during the administration of Mr. Verelst, the slight produce of the Dewannee had excited the dissatisfaction of the Company, and led them to adopt new expedients for increasing it. Supervisors were appointed throughout the whole country, to inspect the administration of justice, and the collection of the revenue; and, afterwards, these supervisors themselves were subjected to the superintendence of two Councils, one at Moorshedabad, the other at Patna.
But as this scheme also failed to produce the desired effect, the Directors now resolved to take upon themselves the collection as well as the expenditure of the revenue; to step, in fact, into the place of the Nuwaub, and, as they themselves expressed it, "to stand forth as Dewan." This was an important revolution, which affected the foundation, not only of the revenues, but of the whole property of the country; and, accordingly, when Mr. Hastings, in April 1772, succeeded to the chair, the Council resolved, almost instantaneously, to let out the lands on long leases, as the mode least embarrassing to the Government; to appoint a committee of circuit, which should perform the local operations throughout the country; and to convert the
supervisors of the former plan into collectors, with each a Native dewan, to strengthen and to check his authority; to allow of no presents to collectors; and to prevent, as much as possible, the accumulation of debts by ryots, and the various orders of middlemen. The committee of circuit, which first began to receive proposals at Kishenagur, finding that no satisfactory offers were made, resolved at once to put up the lands to public auction. A schedule of the taxes offered for sale was drawn up, which enumerated all the claims to which those renting the lands would be subject. In some cases, the offers of the former zemindars, and other middlemen, were accepted; in others, these men were allowed a pension for their subsistence, and the lands were put up to sale.
The next change effected was in the Khalsa, or principal office of revenue; which was removed from Moorshedabad to Calcutta, and placed under the immediate superintendence of the Council, which constituted itself into a board of revenue, to inspect its details. Up to this period, both the civil and criminal law were generally administered by the zemindar of the district, who was guided in his decisions by the Koran, its commentators, and the customs of the country, none of which could ever be very determinate. Instead of these Native courts, so exceedingly ill adapted for the proper administration of justice, two new courts, a civil and a criminal, were appointed for each district; the latter, under the name of Phousdary Adawlut, consisted of the Collector, the Cadi, and the Mufti, and two Moollahs, as interpreters of the law; the latter, Mofussul Dewanee Adawlut, consisted of the Collector, as President, the provincial Dewan, and the other officers of the Native court. Cases of succession to zemindaries and talookdaries, were reserved to the President and Council. Two supreme courts of appeal were established at the seat of Government; but as upon trial it was found that the court of appeal in criminal cases imposed a degree of labour and responsibility upon the Governor and Council, which was thought inconvenient, this branch of the Nizamut was restored to the nominal Nuwaub, and the court removed to Moorshedabad. Two courts, similar to the other district courts, were established for the district of Calcutta; and it was ordained, that in all these courts records of the proceedings should be made and preserved.
Among the causes which, in the opinion of the Directors, diminished the revenues of Bengal, was the administration of Mohammed Reza Khan, Naib Dewan of that province; and in revenge for the dislike with which he had inspired them, they commanded the Governor-General secretly to seize upon his person, with all his family, partizans and adherents, and to bring them prisoners to Calcutta. It has already been related, that Mohammed Reza had an enemy, or rival, appointed to co-operate with him in the duties of his office; this rival was Nuncomar, a man whom the Directors regarded as a villain versed in the deepest iniquity, and constitutionally inclined to the commission of enormities; yet, in seeking secret evidence against Mohammed Reza, it was to Nuncomar, above all others, that they Oriental Herald, Vol. 9.
directed their Governor to have recourse, who, from envy, they said, and jealousy, would not fail to communicate the desired intelligence.
Acts of villainy, like this, were too congenial to the disposition of Warren Hastings not to be performed with alacrity. Without communicating his design further than to one individual, he issued his orders for the arrest of Mohammed Reza; who was already a prisoner, and on his way to Calcutta, before a soul in India, except Hastings and his instrument, knew wherefore he was obnoxious to the Company. In his letter to his employers, the Governor-General assigns as an additional reason for despatch and secrecy, besides their commands, that he feared the corrupt characters of his fellow-servants, who might, he thought, have been bribed to obstruct the designs of the Company.
Mohammed Reza's office was twofold: as Naib Dewan, or Master of the Revenues, he represented the Company; as Naib Subah, he was at the head of every branch of executive government. His sudden removal, therefore, before any other person had been appointed to supply his place, induced the greatest confusion in the business of government, and suspended the operation of the laws. Yet, although he was arrested some time before the 28th of April, it was not till the 11th of July that any attempt was made to provide for the office he had filled. The Rajah Shitabroy, who held at Patna the same office for the province of Bahar, as Mohammed Reza at Moorshedabad, for Bengal, was also arrested, and sent to trial. It may be presumed, that the only crime of these men was their standing in the way of the Company; for, upon their removal, no other persons were appointed in their places; the office of Naib Subah was abolished, and nothing at all equivalent established in its stead.
The education of the Nuwaub, during his minority, which had been hitherto directed by Mohammed Reza, was now intrusted to Munny Begum, the widow of Meer Jaffier; and Rajah Goordass, a son of Nuncomar, was appointed Dewan to the Nuwaub's household, in which capacity he was to regulate and pay the salaries of the Nuwaub's servants, and keep and transmit to the Board the monthly account of his expenses. It has already been observed, that the Nuwaub's revenue had been reduced, by command of the Directors, from thirtytwo to sixteen lacs of rupees annually.
Mohammed Reza Khan, and Raja Shitabroy, were detained, during two years, in confinement, their trial being delayed in order that all those who might be disposed to give evidence in their favour might be removed, and their bitterest enemies brought into office; notwithstanding, it was in the end found impossible to prove them guilty, and they were acquitted. The former was destined to act a conspicuous part in the calamitous scenes which followed; but the Rajah, chafed and incurably wounded by disgrace, returned to Patna, and died soon after of a broken heart.
In the meanwhile, the Emperor, Shah Aulum, who had for some time resided at Allahabad, entered into correspondence with the Mahrattas, and engaged them, though upon hard conditions, to escort him to Delhi, his ancient capital. The English were, of course, averse