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Book V. progress of all the modern exactions: And also with respect to the regulations of commerce; and the administration of justice. The reports of the supervisors, intended to convey the information which they collected under these heads, represent the government as having attained the last stage of oppressiveness and barbarism. "The Nazims exacted what they could from the Zemindars, and great farmers of the revenue; whom they left at liberty to plunder all below; reserving to themselves the prerogative of plundering them in their turn, when they were supposed to have enriched themselves with the spoils of the country." The Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, quoting this passage, remark; "The whole system thus resolved itself, on the part of the public officers, into habitual extortion and injustice; which produced, on that of the cultivator, the natural consequences—concealment and evasion, by which government was defrauded of a considerable part of its just demands." With respect to the administration of justice, the supervisors reported, "That the regular course was every where suspended: But every man exercised it, who had the power of compelling others to submit to his decisions." The Committee of the House of Commons, whose remark on the state of the fiscal collections has just been adduced, subjoin to this quotation, which fills up the picture; "Seven years had elapsed, from the acquisition of the duannee, without the government deeming itself competent to remedy these defects." * The Company Grievously disappointed in their expectations of treasure, the Directors ^"functions* resolved to break through the scheme of clandestinity; so far at least as to take ofDuan: con- int0 their own hands the collection as well as the disbursement of the revenues, ■sequences.
In their letter to the President and Council of Fort William, dated the 28th of August, 1771, they declared their resolution, "To stand forth as Duan" (so they were pleased to express it), "and by the agency of the Company's servants to take upon themselves the entire care and management of the revenues." The change was enormous, which it was the nature of this decree to produce, among the people whom they ruled. It was a revolution, much greater, probably, than any previous conjuncture, than even the change from Hindu to Mahomedan masters, had been sufficient to create. The transition from Hindu to Mahomedan masters had only changed the hands by which the sword was wielded, and favours were dispensed; the machine of government, still more the texture of society, underwent feeble alterations; and the civil part of the administration was, from conveniency, left almost wholly in the
* Fifth Report of the Select Committee, 1810, p. 5.
hands of Hindus. A total change in the management of the revenues more deeply affected the condition, individually and collectively, of the people of India than it is easy for the European reader even to conceive: It was an innovation by which the whole property of the country, and along with it the administration of justice were placed upon a new foundation: It was a change far greater than if all the existing tenures of land in England, whether temporary or perpetual, were all at once abolished; and new tenures of a very different description, new possessors in many instances, and a new administration of justice, were introduced.
Of the nature of this change, the Directors appear to have had no thought Consequences or conception. As if the measure which they proposed had been without conse- to Directorsquences, they satisfied themselves with enjoining its execution; and consigned to their servants the task (of which, however, they did not much complain) of carrying into effect a change of government so momentous, without one word of instructions.* Those servants, though more acquainted with the practical difficulties which they would meet, in establishing the new system of finance, appear to have thought nearly as little as their honourable masters, of the great changes, with regard to the people, which it was calculated to produce. With great alacrity, they addressed themselves to the enterprise. Mr. Hastings succeeded to the chair on the 13th of April, 1772; and on the 16th the Council deemed themselves ripe for the following important resolution: That they Mode adopted would let the lands in farm, and for long leases; because it is the most simple [hePfunfctioMS mode, and best adapted to a government like that of the Company, which ^J^^j,^^11 cannot enter into the minute details of the collections; because every mode of of the revenue, agency by which the rents could be received would be attended with perplexed and intricate accounts, with embezzlement of the revenue, and oppression of the people; and because any mode of collecting the revenues which would trench upon the time of the Governor and Council, would deprive them of a portion
* The Committee of Circuit, in entering upon their task, remark a still more extraordinary failure in the sagacity of the Directors, who did not even foresee, that their new resolution was totally inconsistent with their former regulations, and gave no authority for abolishing them. "They have been pleased," say the Committee, "to direct a total change of system, and have left the plan and execution of it to the discretion of the Board, without any formal repeal of the Regulations which they had before framed and adapted to another system—the abolition of which necessarily includes that of its subsidiary institutions, unless they shall be found to coincide with the new." Extract, Proceedings of the Committee of Circuit, dated Cossimbuzar, 28th July, 1772, inserted in the Sixth Report, Committee of Secrecy 1773, p. 21.
Bookv. of what was already too little for the laborious duties which they had to 'perform.* . . ;' [ .'
On the 14th of May the operations were planned. It was decreed, That the lands should be let for a period of five years: That a Committee of the Board, consisting of the President and four Members, should perform the local operations, by circuit through the country: That the servants of the Company who superintended the business of collection in the several districts, and who had hitherto been distinguished by the title of supervisors, should henceforth be denominated collectors: f That a native, under the title of duan, should in each district be joined with the collector, both to confirm and to check: That no banyan, or servant of a collector, should be permitted to farm any portion of the revenue; because with the servant of a collector no man would dare to become a competitor: And, as presents to the collectors from the Zemindars and other middlemen had been abolished, so all acceptance of presents, by such middlemen, from the ryots, and all other modes of extortion, should be carefully prevented. Some precautions were taken against the accumulation of debt, which swelled at exorbitant interest, rarely less than three, often as much as fifteen per cent. per month, upon the ryots, as well as the different orders of middlemen: The collectors were forbidden to lend, or to permit their banyans or servants to lend, to the middlemen; and the middlemen or agents to lend to the ryots: But the Governor and Council express their regret, that loans and exorbitant interest were an evil which it was not in their power wholly to repress, f
The objects which in these regulations the servants of the Company professed to have in view, were; to simplify accounts; to render uniform the mode of exaction; and to establish fixed and accurate rules. The Committee of Circuit, with whom, though a Member, Mr. Hastings did not proceed, first began to receive proposals at Kishenagur: But the terms which were offered were in general so unsatisfactory both in form and amount, that the Committee deemed
* These reasons are assigned in the Consultation 14th May, Report, ut supra.
f The reason they assign for this change of title is worth transcribing. "The term 'Supervisor' was properly suited to the original commission, which was to examine, inspect, and report. This office has been long since annulled; but we apprehend that the continuance of the name, and of many of the residents, in the same stations which they now fill as collectors, may have misled even our Honourable Masters, tvho wre never regularly advised of the change, into the opinion that the first commission still subsisted." So much for the care of instructing, and the accurate information of, the Honourable Directors.
J Consultation, 14th May, ut supra.
them inadmissible; and came speedily to the resolution of putting up the lands Chap. I. to public auction. It was necessary to ascertain with as much exactness as possible the nature and amount of the different taxes which were to be offered to sale. For this purpose a new hustabood or schedule of the taxes was formed. The exactions consisted of two great parts; of which the first and principal was called assail, or the ground rents; the second aboabs, which consisted of a variety of additional, often arbitrary, and uncertain imposts, established at different times, by the government, the Zemindars, the farmers, and even the inferior collectors. Some of the most oppressive of these were abolished, and excluded from the present schedule. And new leases or titles were granted to the ryots; which enumerated all the claims to which they were to be subject; and forbid, under penalties, every additional exaction. When the Zemindars, and other middlemen of ancient standing, offered for the lands which they had been accustomed to govern, terms which were deemed to be reasonable, they were preferred; when their offers were considered as inadequate, they were allowed a pension for their subsistence, and the lands were put up to sale.
While the settlement, in other words the taxation of the country was carrying into execution upon this plan, the principal office of revenue, or Khalsa, underwent a total revolution. So long as the veil of the native government had been held up, this office had been stationed at Moorshedabad, and was ostensibly under the direction of the sort of minister of revenue, whom, under the title of Naib Duan, the President and Council had set up. It was now resolved to transfer this great office from Moorshedabad to Calcutta; and to place it under the immediate superintendance of the government. The whole Council were constituted a Board of Revenue, to sit two days in the week, or, if necessary, more. The Members of the Council were appointed to act as auditors of accounts, each for a week in rotation. The office of Naib Duan, which had been held by Mahomed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad, and by Shitabroy at Patna, was abolished; but a native functionary, or assistant duan, under the title of roy royan, was appointed to act in the Khalsa as superintendant of the district duans, to receive the accounts in the Bengal language, to answer interrogatories, and to make reports.*
The fundamental change produced in that great and leading branch of Indian 2. Administra
tion of justice.
* Extract of Proceedings, Sixth Report, ut supra. See also Sixth Report of the Select Committee of 1782, Appendix, No. i.; Colebrooke's Supplement to Digest of Bengal Regulations, p. 174—190; and the Fifth Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, p. 4, 5.
Book V. administration which concerned the revenue, rendered indispensable a new
* 'provision for the administration of justice. The Zemindar, who was formerly the great fiscal officer of the district, commonly exercised both civil and criminal jurisdiction within the territory over which he was appointed to preside. In his Phousdary, or criminal court, he inflicted all sorts of penalties; chiefly fines for his own benefit; even capital punishments, under no further restraint, than that of reporting the case at Moorshedabad before execution. In his Adaulut, or civil court, he decided all questions relating to property; being entitled to a chout, or twenty-five per cent., upon the subject of litigation. His discretion was guided or restrained by no law, except the Koran, its commentaries, and the customs of the country, all in the highest degree loose and indeterminate. Though there was no formed and regular course of appeal from the Zemindary decisions, the government interfered in an arbitrary manner, as often as complaints were preferred, to which, from their own importance, or from the importance of those who advanced them, it conceived it proper to attend. To the mass of the people these courts afforded but little protection: The expense created by distance, excluded the greater number from so much as application for justice: And every powerful oppressor treated a feeble tribunal with contempt. The judges were finally swayed by their hopes and their fears; by the inclinations of the men who could hurt or reward them. Their proceedings were not controuled by any written memorial or record. In cases relating to religion, the Cauzee and Brahmen were called to expound, the one the Moslem, the other the Brahmenical law.; and their opinion was the standard of decision. Originally questions of revenue as well as others belonged to the courts of the Zemindars; but a few years previous to the transfer of the revenues to the English, the decision of fiscal questions had been taken from the Zemindar, and given to an officer styled the Naib Duan, or fiscal deputy, in each province.
Beside the tribunals of the districts; the capital was provided with two criminal courts; in one of which, called roy adaulut, the Nazim, as supreme magistrate, tried capital offences; in another, a magistrate called the Phousdar tried offences of a less penal description, and reported his proceedings to the Nazim. At the capital was also found the principal duanee or fiscal court; in which the Duan tried causes relating to the revenue, including all questions of title to land. All other civil causes were tried at the capital in the court of the Darogo adaulut al alea; except those of inheritance and succession, which were decided by the Cauzee and Muftee. An officer, with the title of Mohtesih, superintended the weights and measures, and other matters of police.