Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Book IV. more than a third of the inhabitants of Bengal were computed to have been ^ Jy^J"-"^destroyed.*

Bengal Nabob On the 10th of March, 1770, the Nabob Syef al Dowla died of the smallsucceededby pox', and hi8 brother Mubarek al Dowla, a minor, was appointed to occupy his his brother. station. The President and Council made with him the same arrangements, and afforded the same allowance for the support of his family and dignity, as had been established in the time of his predecessor. But this agreement was condemned in very unceremonious terms by the Directors. "When we advert," say they, "to the encomiums you have passed on your own abilities and prudence, and on your attention to the Company's interest (in the expostulations you have thought proper to make on our appointment of commissioners to superintend our general affairs in India), we cannot but observe with astonishment, that an event of so much importance as the death of the Nabob Syef al Dowla, and the establishment of a successor in so great a degree of non-age, should not have been attended with those advantages for the Company, which such a circumstance offered to your view.—Convinced, as we are, that an allowance of sixteen lacks per annum will be sufficient for the support of the Nabob's state and rank, while a minor, we must consider every addition thereto as so much to be wasted on a herd of parasites and sycophants, who will continually surround him; or at least be hoarded up, a consequence still more pernicious to the Company. You are therefore, during the non-age of the Nabob, to reduce his annual stipend to sixteen lacks of rupees." f

By the last regulations of the Directors, the inland trade in salt, beetel-nut, and tobacco, was reserved to the natives, and Europeans were excluded from it. By a letter of theirs, however, dated the 23d of March, 1770, it was commanded to be laid open to all persons, Europeans as well as natives, but with•out any privileges to their countrymen or servants beyond what were enjoyed by natives and other subjects. These regulations were promulgated on the 12th of December.

increase of In the mean time financial difficulties were every day becoming more heavy SSes^ydl oppressive. On the 1st of January, 1771, when the President and Council at Fort William had received into their treasury 95,43,855 current rupees, for which they had granted bills on the Court of Directors, the cash remaining in it was only 35,42,761 rupees. At the same period the amount of bond debts

* Letter from the Governor and Council to the Directors, 3d Nov. 1772.

+ General Letter to Bengal, 10th April, 1771. i in Bengal was 612,628/. And at the beginning of the following year it had Chap. IX. swelled to 1,089,478/. ^~^CT^

1772.

Notwithstanding the intelligence which the Directors had received of the Dividend inadequacy of their revenues, and the accumulation of their debts in all parts""s of India; and notwithstanding their knowledge of the great amount of bills drawn upon them, for which they were altogether unable to provide, they signalized their rapacity on the 26th of September, 1770, by coming to a resolution for recommending it to the General Court, to avail themselves of the permission accorded in the late act, and make a dividend at the rate of twelve per cent. per annum. The approbation of the General Court was unanimous. On the 14th of March and 25th of September, 1771, it was resolved, by the Court of Directors, to recommend to the General Court an augmentation of the dividend to six and a quarter per cent. for the six months respectively ensuing: approved in the General Court, by ninety-four voices against five in the first instance, and 374 against thirty in the second. On the 17th of March, 1772, the Directors again resolved to recommend a dividend of six and a quarter per cent. for the current half year, which the Court of Proprietors in a similar manner confirmed. These desperate proceedings hurried the affairs of the Company to a crisis. The Company

. M , , - unable to meet

On the 8th ot July, on an estimate of cash for the next three months, that is, the demands of the payments falling due, and the cash and receipts which were applicable to upon tbem" meet them, there appeared a deficiency of no less than 1,293,000/. On the 15th of July the Directors were reduced to the necessity of applying to the Bank for a loan of 400,000/. On the 29th of July they applied to it for an additional loan of 300,000/., of which the Bank was prevailed upon to advance only 200,000/. And on the 10th of August the Chairman and Deputy waited upon the Minister to represent to him the deplorable state of the Company, and the necessity of being supported by a loan of at least one million from the . public*

The glorious promises which had been so confidently made of unbounded The nation riches from India, their total failure, the violent imputations of corrupt and beW of great erroneous conduct which the Directors and the agents of their government mu- the^t""the tually cast upon one another, had, previous to this disclosure, raised a great fer- J^Pgervant$ ment in the nation, the most violent suspicions of extreme misconduct on the part of the Company and their servants, and a desire for some effectual inter

* For the details and documents relative to this curious part of the history of the Company, see the Eighth Report of the Committee of Secrecy, 1773.

Book IV. ference on the part of the legislature. In the King's speech, on the 21st of 'January, at the opening of the preceding session, it had been intimated that one branch of the national concerns which, "as well from remoteness of place, as from other circumstances, was peculiarly liable to abuses, and exposed to danger, might stand in need of the interposition of the legislature, and require A motion in new laws either for supplying defects or remedying disorders." On the 30th of Commons for March a motion was made by the Deputy Chairman for leave to bring in a bill in"biu fo"tho tne better regulation of the Company's servants, and for improving the tmn^ftne111" a^xni nistratioTi of justice in India. The grand evil of which the Directors cornCompany's plained was the want of powers to inflict upon their servants adequate punish

affairs. . . ,. ,ment either for disobedience of orders, or any other species of misconduct. The Charter of Justice, granted in 1753, empowered the Mayor's Court of Calcutta, which it converted into a Court of Record, to try all civil suits arising between Europeans, within the town or factory of Calcutta, or the factories dependent upon it: it also constituted the President and Council a Court of Record to receive and determine appeals from the Mayors; it further erected them into Justices of the Peace, with power to hold quarter sessions; and into Commissioners of oyer and terminer, and general gaol-delivery, for the trying and punishing of all offences, high treason excepted, committed within the limits of Calcutta and its dependent factories. This extent of jurisdiction, measured according to the sphere of the Company's possessions, at the time when it was assigned, deprived them of all powers of juridical coercion with regard to Europeans over the wide extent of territory of which they now acted as the sovereigns. They possessed, indeed, the power of suing or prosecuting Englishmen in the Courts at Westminster; but under the necessity of bringing evidence from India, this was a privilege more nominal than real.

One object, therefore, of the present bill was to obtain authority for sending a chief justice with some puisne judges, and an attorney-general, according to the model of the Courts of England, for the administration of justice throughout the territory of the Company.

The next object was, the regulation of the trade. The author of the motion, the Deputy Chairman of the Company, represented it as a solecism in politics, and monstrous in reason, "that the governors of any country should be merchants; and thus have a great temptation to become the only merchants, especially in those articles which were of most extensive and necessary consumption, and on which, with the powers of government, unlimited profits might be made." It was, therefore, proposed that the Governors and Councils, and the rest of Ihe Company's servants, should be debarred from all concern in trade. But it Chap. IX. neither occurred to the Deputy Chairman, nor was it pressed upon his notice Dv,^"ji^~"' any other member of the legislative body, that the argument against the union of trade and government was equally conclusive, applied to the Company, as applied to their servants; to those who held the powers of government in the first instance, as to those who held them by delegation and at will. It was in the debate upon this motion that Lord Clive made the celebrated Clive's eele- speech, in which he vindicated his own conduct, against the charges to which, sp^ch. as well from authority as from individuals, it had been severely exposed. He spared not the character either of his fellow-servants, or of the Directors. "I attribute the present situation of our affairs," he said, "to four causes; a relaxation of government in my successors; great neglect on the part of administration; notorious misconduct on the part of the Directors; and the violent and outrageous proceedings of general courts." To hear his account, no one would believe that any creature who had ever had any thing to do with the government had ever behaved well but himself. It was much easier for him, however, to prove that his conduct was liable to no peculiar blame, than that it was entitled to extraordinary applause. With great audacity, both military and political, fortunately adapted to the scene in which he acted, and with considerable skill in the adaptation of temporary expedients to temporary exigencies, he had no capacity for a comprehensive scheme, including any moderate anticipation of the future; and it was the effects of his short-sighted regulations, and of the unfounded and extravagant hopes he had raised, with which the Company were now struggling on the verge of ruin, and on account of which the conduct both of them and of their servants was exposed to far more than its due share of obloquy and condemnation.

The suspicions of the nation were now sufficiently roused to produce a general A Select Com

i •• i , - ~ , n x. . j i mittee of the

demand for investigation; and on the 13th of April a motion was made and House of carried in the House of Commons for a Select Committee to gratify the public^TMtTM"°*^ desire. The bill which had been introduced by the Deputy Chairman was^"g^J^6 thrown out on the second reading, to afford time for the operations of the Com- Company's

. affairs.

mittee, and parliament was prorogued on the 10th of June.

During the recess, took place the extraordinary disclosure of the deficiency of The Minister the Company's funds, their loans were solicited from the Bank, and their appli

for support was made to the Minister. He received their proposals with coldness; and referred them to parliament. That assembly was convened on the 26th of November, much earlier, as the King from the throne informed

Book IV. them, than had been otherwise intended, to afford them an opportunity of V"^^~~/ taking cognizance of the present condition of the East India Company. The Minister had already come to the resolution of acceding to the request of the Directors; it therefore suited his purpose to affirm that how great soever the existing embarrassment, it was only temporary; and a Committee of Secrecy was appointed, as the most effectual and expeditious method for gaining that knowledge of the subject from which it was proper that the measures of parliament should spring.

Company pro- Among the expedients which the urgency of their affairs had dictated to the missionoTsu- Company, a new commission of supervision had been resolved upon during the whichthi recess; and six gentlemen were selected for that important service. The meaministry op- sure, however, was not approved by the ministry; and on the 7th of December the Committee of Secrecy presented a report, stating, that notwithstanding the financial difficulties of the Company, they were preparing to send out a commission of supervisors at a great expense, and that, in the opinion of the Committee, a bill ought to be passed to restrain them from the execution of that purpose for a limited time. The introduction of this bill excited the most vehement remonstrances on the part of the Company, and of those by whom their cause was supported in the two houses of parliament. It was asserted to be a violation of property, by curtailing the powers which the Company possessed by charter of managing their own affairs; and all the evils which can arise from shaking the security of property were held up in their most alarming colours to deter men from approbation of the threatened restraint. The Company's claims of property, however, so frequently, during the whole course of their history, brought to oppose the interposition of parliament in their affairs, proved of as little force upon this as upon other occasions; and their privileges, they were told, to which the term property, in its unlimited sense, could not without sophistry be applied, were insufficient to set aside that for which all property is created—the good of the community; now in one important article so formidably threatened in their mismanaging hands. Terms on After this decisive act of control, the next ostensible proceeding was the peti

whichthe r & r

Company pray tion for a loan, presented by the Company to parliament on the 9th day of March.

"r rt 10 The propositions urged by the Directors were: that they should receive a loan of 1,500,000/. for four years, at four per cent. interest; that they should make no dividend of more than six per cent. per annum until the loan should be reduced to 750,000/.; that the dividend in that event should rise to eight per cent.; that the surplus of receipts above disbursements in England should be

« ПредишнаНапред »