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Whateyer it may be, of their deservings, and of assisting the reader to settle for himself the account of merit, on the one hand, between the Company and the country; on the other, between the Company and their dominions in India.
... In the event, however, the author has not been able to bring the course of his general narrative lower than the year 1773. Before that period, and for some years after it, the Indo-British empire was immature, and the administration of it necessarily experimental. The system, therefore, would then inevitably exhibit evils and disorders which, if soundly constituted, it might be expected gradually to outgrow. It is a matter of great regret to the author that he is thus prevented from challenging almost unmixed praise to the maturity of that system, the infancy of which he, in the following pages, defends from unjust blame. At the same time, his cause will surely suffer no injury, in the mind of a candid and impartial reader, from the circumstance that it is here vindicated exactly on that ground where it undoubtedly contends at the least advantage. There is also another consideration worthy of mention on this point. Some very distinguished opponents of the Company have alleged that the merits, whatever they are, of the present Indian system, redound to the credit, not of that body, but of the British legislature. The government of the Company, according to those persons, is in its nature essentially bad; its excellencies are superinduced; and must be ascribed, not to the Company, who nominally govern, but to the authority of the executive power and of Parliament, which effectually controuls. Now it is material to observe that, although the Indian Board of Controul, as it now subsists, was not constituted till the year 1784, yet the Regulating Act of 1773 first gave the administration at home, and, by consequence, the legislature, a positive concern in the interests, and a formal though an ill-defined superintendence over the proceedings, of the Company. The year 1773, therefore, constitutes the precise aera at which the principle of legislative and ministerial controul had its birth: and he who vindicates the previous proceedings of the Company has at least the merit of throwing away that borrowed shield with which they are accused of meanly covering their own imbecility. Here at least, whatever palliation can be offered for what seems wrong, whatever explanation of what seems doubtful, whatever commendation of what is right, the merit, whether negative or positive, is their own. As they must bear all the blame, so they may appropriate all the praise. In order to supply, though imperfectly, that portion of the history which is wanting, a separate chapter has been added, containing an outline of the more memorable changes that have taken place in the internal administration of British India since the period of 1773. The excellent system which has been
thor has endeavoured minutely to describe in his former volume. The authorities from which the representations given in the following work have been derived, are generally referred to by name, and will, it is trusted, be deemed unexceptionable. In some cases, the references have been accidentally omitted; but with respect to every material part of the history, the reader will easily perceive the general sources of the information submitted to him. The first century and a half of the Company's history forms that part of it respecting which the published accounts are in general the most wretchedly scanty. This defect has been lately supplied, down to the year 1708, by Mr. Bruce's compilation of the Annals of the East-India Company: to which very useful work the present writer is greatly indebted in his first chapter. He has also availed himself of various other means of information with respect to the same period, most of which are distinctly mentioned. His state
ments of the events during the first half of the eighteenth century, he partly owes to authentic accounts obtained from the India House. After that time, the published information is copious and universally accessible, though, with the exception of Orme's history, little known. It remains only to be added that, in composing the present volume, the writer conceived himself to be merely stating the facts of a litigated case. He has, therefore, been little ambitious of the excellencies usually considered as the great virtues of historic composition, with the exception always of that fidelity from the observance of which no species of recital can be absolved. This remark is here solicitously made, both as some excuse for the general dryness of the book, and also in order to explain what might otherwise seem the unnatural prominence given to some particular passages in the history of the Company, as well as the dissertatory and occasionally polemical form which the recital