Графични страници
PDF файл


Book IV. agent a mohurree, or clerk, and a cash keeper, with a sufficient allowance of peons and hircarahs. Along with the gomastah is dispatched in the first instance as much money as suffices for the first advance to the weaver, that is, what is requisite to purchase the materials, and to afford him subsistence during part at least of the time in which he is engaged with the work. The cloth, when made, is collected in a warehouse, adapted for the purpose, and called a kattah. Each piece is marked with the weaver's name; and when the whole is finished, or when it is convenient for the gomastah, he holds a kattah, as the business is called, when each piece is examined, the price fixed, and the money due upon it paid to the weaver. This last is the stage at which chiefly the injustice to the workman is said to take place; as he is then obliged to content himself with fifteen or twenty, and often thirty or forty per cent. less than his work would fetch in the market. This is a species of traffic which could not exist but where the rulers of the country were favourable to the dealer; as every thing, however, which increased the productive powers of the labourers added directly in India to the income of the rulers, their protection was but seldom denied.

The business of India was at this time under the government of three Presidencies, one at Bombay, another at Madras, and a third at Calcutta, of which the last had been created so lately as the year 1707, the business at Calcutta having, till that time, been conducted under the government of the Presidency of Madras. These Presidencies had as yet no dependance upon one another; but each was absolute within its own limits, and responsible only to the Company in England. A Presidency was composed of a President or Governor, and a Council; both appointed by commission of the Company. The Council was not any fixed number, but determined by the views of the Directors; being sometimes nine, and sometimes twelve, according to the presumed importance or extent of the business to be performed. The Members of the Council were the superior servants in the civil or non-military class, promoted according to the rule of seniority, unless where directions from home prescribed aberration.

Plan of the Company's government in India. quit the track which on any occasion they have formed ; and under the ignorance of their manners and character which distinguishes the greater proportion of the Company's servants, it would be mischievous to attempt it. Where the agent however is intelligent, and acquainted with the language and manners of the people, he does simplify and improve the business to a certain degree; and were it performed by men who had an interest to establish themselves in the country, and who would make it a business, it would gradually acquire that rational form which the interests of a rational people would recommend.

Ail power was lodged in the President and Council jointly; nor could any thing Chap. L be transacted, except by a majority of votes. When any man became a ruler, ^ T^C"~"' he was not however debarred from subordinate functions; and the members of council, by natural consequence, distributed all the most lucrative offices among themselves. Of the offices which any man held, that which was the chief source of his gain failed not to be the chief object of his attention; and the business of the Council, the duties of governing, did not, in general, engross the greatest part of the study and care of a Member of Council. It seldom, if ever, happened, that less or more of the Members of Council were not appointed as chiefs of the more important factories under the Presidency, and hence, by their absence, disqualified for assisting in the deliberations of the governing body. The irresistible motive, thus afforded to the persons entrusted with the government, to neglect the business of government, occupied a high rank among the causes to which the defects at that time in the management of the Company's affairs in India may, doubtless, be ascribed. Notwithstanding the equality assigned to the votes of all the Members of the Council, the influence of the President was commonly sufficient to determine every point agreeably to his inclination. The appointment of the Members to the gainful offices after which they aspired, was in a considerable degree subject to his determination; while he had it in his power to make the situation even of a Member of the Council so uneasy to him, that his continuance in the service ceased to be an object of desire. Under the notion of supporting authority, the Company always lent an unwilling ear to complaints brought by a subordinate against his superior; and in the case of councilmen, disposed to complain, it seldom happened, that of the transactions in which they themselves had been concerned a portion was not unfit to be revealed. The powers, exercised by the Governor or President and Council, were, in the first place, those of masters in regard to servants over all the persons who were in the employment of the Company; and as the Company were the sole master, without fellow or competitor, and those under them had adopted their service as the business of their lives, the power of the master, in reality, and in the majority of cases, extended to almost every thing valuable to a human being, to every thing short of life and limb. With regard to such of their countrymen, as were not in their service, the Company were armed with powersto seize them, to keep them in confinement, and send them to England; an extent of authority, which really amounted to confiscation of goods, to imprisonment, and what to a European constitution is the natural effect of any long

Book IV. confinement under an Indian climate, actual death. At an early period of the Company's history, it had been deemed necessary to intrust them with the powers of martial law, for the government of the troops which they maintained in defence of their factories and presidencies; and by a charter of Charles II., granted them in 1661, the Presidents and Councils in their factories were empowered to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction according to the laws of England. Under this sanction they had continued to exercise the judicial powers, under all the changes which their affairs had undergone; but at last it was esteemed desirable that so important an article of their authority should rest Charter of on a better foundation. In the year 1726 a charter was granted, by which the proving tie ad- Company were permitted to establish a Mayor's Court at each of their three justice™tI°"°fpresidencies, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta; consisting of a mayor and nine aldermen, empowered to decide in civil cases of all descriptions. From this jurisdiction, the President and Council were erected into a Court of Appeal. They were also vested with the power of holding Courts of Quarter Sessions for the exercise of penal judicature, in all cases, excepting those of high treason. And a Court of Requests, or Court of Conscience, was instituted, for the decision by summary procedure of all pecuniary questions of small amount.

This reform in the judicature of India was not attended with all the beneficial effects which were probably expected from it. Negligence was left to corrupt the business of detail. The charter is said to have been procured by the influence of an individual, for the extension of his own authority; and when his ends were gained, his solicitude, as usual, expired. The persons appointed to fill the judicial offices were the servants of the Company, bred to commerce, and nursed in its details: And a manuscript book of instructions composed the whole of the assistance which the wisdom of the King and the Company provided to guide uninstructed men in the administration of justice. Totally ignorant of the laws, they were obliged to be guided by what in each instance appeared to them to be the equity of the case. Where free from the taint of sinister interest, and under the direction of intelligence, decisions on this principle might have answered not very imperfectly the ends of justice. But the Indian judges were perplexed by references to the obscure distinctions, and multiplied formalities of the English law, and too often lost sight of one rule in their fruitless search for another.

Nor was the obscurity of the English law, and the inexperience of the judges, the only source of the many evils which the new arrangements continued or produced. Jealousy arose between the Councils, and the Mayor's Courts. The Councils complained that the Courts encroached upon their authority; and the Chap. I. Courts complained that they were oppressed by the Councils. The most ^" violent dissensions often prevailed; and many of the members of the Mayor's Courts quitted the service, and went home with their animosities and complaints.

Besides the above-mentioned tribunals established by the Company for the administration of the British laws to the British people in India, they erected, in the capacity of Zemindar of the district around Calcutta, the usual Zemindary Courts for the administration of the Indian laws to the Indian people. These were the Phousdary Court, for the trial of crimes; and the Cutchery for civil causes; besides the Collector's Court for matters of revenue. The judges, in these tribunals, were servants of the Company, appointed by the Governor and Council, and holding their offices during pleasure. The rule of judgment was the supposed usage of the country, and the discretion of the court; and the mode of procedure was summary. Punishments extended to fine; imprisonment; labour upon the roads in chains for a limited time, or for life; and flagellation, either to a limited degree, or death. The ideas of honour prevalent among the natives induced the Mogul government to forbid the European mode of capital punishment by hanging in the case of a Mussulman. In compensation, however, it had no objection to his being whipped to death; and the flagellants in India are said to be so dextrous, as to kill a man with a few strokes of the chawbuck.*

The executive and judicative functions were combined in the Councils at the Indian presidencies; the powers even of justices of the peace being granted to the Members of Council, and to them alone. If complaints were not wanting of the oppression of these authorities upon their fellow-servants; it is abundantly evident that the Company was judge in its own cause in all cases in which the dispute existed between itself and any other party.

The President was Commander-in-Chief of the Military Forces maintained within his presidency. These consisted, partly of the recruits sent out in the ships of the Company; partly of deserters from the other European nations settled in India, French, Dutch, and Portuguese; and partly, at least at Bombay and Surat, of Topasses, or persons whom we may denominate Indo-Portuguese, either the mixed produce of Portuguese and Indian parents, or converts to the Portuguese from the Indian faith. These were troops disciplined and uniformed; besides whom the natives were already, to a

* Seventh Report from the Committee of Secrecy on the State of the East India Company, in 1773. ~


Book IV. small extent, employed by the Company in military service, and called Sepoys, from the Indian term Sipahi, equivalent to soldier. They were made to use the musket, but remained chiefly armed in the fashion of the country, with sword and target; they wore the Indian dress, the turban, cabay or vest, and long drawers; and were provided with native officers according to the custom of the country; but ultimately all under English command. It had not as yet been attempted to train them to the European discipline, in which it was possible to render them so expert and steady; but considerable service was derived from them; and under the conduct of European leaders they were found capable of facing danger with great constancy and firmness. What at this time was the average number at each presidency, is not particularly stated. It is mentioned, that at the time when the presidency was established at Calcutta in 1707, an effort was made to augment the garrison to 300 men. The President was the organ of correspondence, by letter, or otherwise, with the country powers. It rested with him to communicate to the Council the account of what he thus transacted, at any time, and in any form which he deemed expedient; and from this no slight accession to his power was derived.

The several denominations of the Company's servants in India were, writers, factors, junior merchants, and senior merchants: the business of the writers, as the term, in some degree, imports, was that of clerking, with the inferior details of commerce; and when dominion succeeded, of government. In the capacity of writers they remained during five years. The first promotion was to the rank of factor; the next to that of junior merchant; in each of which the period of service was three years. After this extent of service, they became senior merchants. And out of the class of senior merchants were taken by seniority the members of the Council, and, when no particular appointment interfered, even the presidents themselves.* Commercial Shortly after the first great era, in the history of the British commerce with of the India; the union of the two Companies, and the legislative confirmation of a period of monopoly; the nation was delivered from the destructive burthen of the long war with France which preceded the treaty of Utrecht: And though the accession of a new family to the throne, and the resentments which one party of statesmen had to gratify against another, kept the minds of men for a time in a feverish anxiety, not the most favourable to the persevering studies and pursuits on which the triumphs of industry depend, the commerce and

* See Ninth Report, Select Committee, 1783, p. 11.


« ПредишнаНапред »