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Deliberations on a new Plan for collecting the Revenue, and administering Justice—Death of Colonel Monson, and recovery by Mr. Hastings of the governing Power—Plan, by Mr. Hastings, for inquiring into the Sources of Revenue—The Taxes levied by annual Settlements—Resignation of Hastings, tendered by an Agent, whom he disowns—Transactions of Mr. Hastings, in the Cases of Mr. Middleton, Mr. Fowke, and Munny Begum—The Directors, ordering the Transactions to be reversed, are disobeyed—Relations with the Mahrattas—A Detachment of the Bengal Army sent across India to Surat—Expedition from Bombay against Poona —Unsuccessful—Fruitless Negotiation with the Mahrattas—Goddard's Campaign against the Mahrattas—Connexion with the Ranna of Gohud— Mr. Francis fights a Duel with Mr. Hastings, and returns to Europe.
The state of the regulations for collecting the revenue had for some time Chap. III. pressed upon the attention of the government. The lease of five years, on -v—J which the revenues had been farmed in 1772, was drawing to a close, and it was New regu'ia- necessary to determine what sort of course should then be pursued. To remedy fo^coSi^ evils, which delayed not to make themselves perceived, in the regulations of 1772, 1 a considerable change had been introduced in 1773: The superintendence of the collectors was abolished: The provinces (Chittagong and Tipperah remaining under the original sort of management, that of a chief) were formed into six grand divisions, Calcutta, Burdwan, Moorshedabad, Dinagepore, Dacca, and Patna: In each of these divisions (Calcutta excepted, for which two members of the council and three superior servants, under the name of a committee of revenue, were appointed) a council was formed, consisting of a chief and four senior servants, to whom powers were confided, the same, in general, with those formerly enjoyed by the collectors: They exercised a command over all the officers and affairs of revenue, within the division: The members superintended in rotation the civil courts of justice, called Sudder Adaulut: The councils appointed deputies, or naibs, to the subordinate districts of the division: These naibs, who were natives, and called also aumils, both superintended the Vol. IL 3d
Book V. work of realizing the revenue, and held courts of fiscal judicature, called Courts of Duanee Adaulut: The decisions of these courts were subject by appeal to the review of the provincial courts of Sudder Adaulut; which decided in the last resort to the value of 1000 rupees, but under appeal to the Court of Sudder Duanee Adaulut at Calcutta, in all cases which exceeded that amount. Even this scheme was declared to be only intermediate, and preparatory to an ultimate measure, according to which; while the local management, except in those districts which might be let entire to the Zemindars, or responsible farmers, should be performed by a duan, or aumil; a committee of revenue, sitting at the Presidency, should form a grand revenue office, and superintend the whole collections of the country.* Such were the alterations adopted in 1773. Accusations At an early period, under the five years' settlement, it was perceived that the againstthe farmers of the revenue had contracted for more than they were able to pay. lecrionadoptr The collections fell short of the engagements even for the first year; and the Tngs'inmij farms na^ ")een upon a progressive rent. The Governor-General was now and 1773. accused by his colleagues of having deceived his honourable masters by holding up to their hopes a revenue which could not be obtained. He defended himself by a plea which had, it cannot be denied, considerable weight: It was natural to suppose that the natives were acquainted with the value of the lands, and other sources of the revenue; and that a regard to their own interests would prevent them from engaging for more than those sources would afford. It was contended with no less justice on the other side, that there was a class of persons who had nothing to lose; to whom the handling of the revenues and power over those who paid them, though for a single year, was an object of desire; and whom, as they had no intention to pay what they promised, the extent of the promise could not restrain.
The failure of exaggerated hopes was not the only evil whereof the farm by auction was accused. The Zemindars; through whose agency the revenues of the districts had formerly been realized, and whose office and authority had generally grown into hereditary possessions, comprising both an estate and a magistracy, or even a species of sovereignty, when the territory and jurisdiction were large; were either thrown out of their possessions; or, from an ambition to hold the situation, which had given opulence and rank to their families, perhaps for generations, they bid for the taxes more than the taxes could enable them to pay; and reduced themselves by the bargain to poverty and ruin.
* Sixth Report of the Select Committee, 1781, Appendix, No. 1.
When the revenues were farmed to the Zemindars, these contractors were Chap. Hi. induced to turn upon the ryots, and others from whom their collections were levied, the same rack which was applied to themselves. When they were farmed to the new adventurer, who looked only to a temporary profit, and who had no interest in the permanent prosperity of a people with whom he had no permanent connexion, every species of exaction to which no punishment was attached, or of which the punishment could by artifice be evaded, was to him a fountain of gain. .?
After several acrimonious debates, the Governor-general proposed that the Two plans separate opinions of the Members of the Council, on the most eligible plan for propose<1, levying the taxes of the country, should be sent to the Court of Directors. And on the 28th of March, 1775, a draught, signed by him and Mr. Barwell, One by Mr. was prepared for transmission. The leading principle of this proposal was; that HastingS* the several districts should be farmed on leases for life, or for two joint lives, allowing a preference to the Zemindar, as often as his offer was not greatly inferior either to that of other candidates, or the real value of the taxes to be let. The plan of the other Members of the Council was not yet prepared. They contented themselves with some severe reflections upon the imperfections of the existing system; an exaggerated representation of the evils which it was calculated to produce;* and an expression of the greatest astonishment at the inconsistency of the Governor-General, in praising and defending that system, while he yet recommended another, by which it would be wholly suppressed. On the 22d of January, 1776, Mr. Francis entered a voluminous minute, in Another by which he took occasion to record at length his opinions respecting the ancient Mr.Francw" government of the country, and the means of ensuring its future prosperity. Of the measures which he recommended, a plan for realizing the revenue constituted the greatest and most remarkable portion. Without much concern about the production of proof, he assumed as a basis two things; first, that the opinion was erroneous, which ascribed to the Sovereign the property ofthe land; and secondly, that the property in question belonged to the Zemindars. Upon the Zemindars, as proprietors, he accordingly proposed that a certain land-tax should be levied; that it should be fixed once for all; and held as perpetual and invariable.
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* "In the course of three years more, we think it much to be apprehended, that the continued operation of this system will have reduced the country in general to such a state of ruin and decay, as no future alteration will be sufficient to retrieve." Extract of a Minute from General Clavering, Col. Monson, and Mr. Francis, March 21, 1775.
Book V. This was the principle and essence of his plan; and the reasonings by which j,^6 he supported it, were the common reasonings which prove the benefit of certainty in levying contributions for the use of the state. But Mr. Francis misapplied a common term. By certainty, in matters of taxation, is not meant security for ever against increase of taxation. Taxes may be in the highest degree certain, and yet liable to be increased at the will of the legislature. For certainty, it is enough, that under any existing enactment of the legislature, the sum which every man has to pay should depend upon definite, cognoscible circumstances. The window-tax, for example, is a certain tax; though it may be increased or diminished, not only at the pleasure of the legislature; but by altering the number of his windows at the pleasure of the individual who pays it. By the common reasonings to prove the advantages of certainty in taxes, Mr. Francis, therefore, proved nothing at all against the power of increasing them. The sacred duty of keeping taxation in general within the narrowest possible limits, rests upon equally strong, but very different grounds.
Into the subordinate arrangements of the scheme, it belongs not to the present purpose to enter. It is only necessary to state, that Mr. Francis proposed to protect the ryots from the arbitrary exactions of the Zemindars, by prescribed forms of leases, in India known by the name of pottahs; that he condemned the provincial councils, and recommended local supervisors, to superintend, for a time, the executive as well as judiciary business of the collections; a business, which, by the arrangements made with the Zemindars and the ryots, he trusted, would in a great measure soon perform itself. On opium and salt, of which the monopoly had generally been disposed of by contract, he proposed that government should content itself with a duty; and terminate a large amount of existing oppressions by giving freedom to the trade.* The plan for That the regulations which had been adopted for the administration of justice j'ustice1among among the natives were extremely defective, all parties admitted and comtreineiy1Tfec- plained. That robbery and other crimes so greatly prevailed, was owing, tlve- in the opinion of Mr. Francis, to the reduction of the authority of the Zemin
Remedies pro- dars. These officers had formerly exercised a penal control, which Mr. Francis
posed by Mr.
Francis, maintained was fully judicial; which had reference, as Mr. Hastings affirmed,
* Report, ut supra, and Appendix, No. 14 and 15: see also a publication entitled Original Minutes of the Governor-General and Council of Fort William; by Philip Francis, Esq. For the meaning of the terms Zemindar and Ryot, see i. 190; and the interest which the Zemindar had in the land, see the considerations adduced on the introduction of the zemindary system during the administration of Lord Cornwallis.
to nothing but police. As a cure for the existing disorders, Mr. Francis recom- Chap. III. mended the restoration of their ancient powers to the Zemindars, who, in the case of robbery and theft, were obliged, under the ancient government, to make compensation to the party wronged; and in the case of murders and riots, were liable to severe mulcts at the hand of government. Mr. Hastings, who judged By Mr. Hast- more wisely what effects zemindary jurisdiction had produced, or was likely to mgsproduce, treated this as a remedy which was far from adequate to the disease. In conjunction with Sir Elijah Impey, he formed the draught of a bill for an act of parliament, on the subject of the civil judicature of Bengal. It was communicated to the Council on the 29th of May. In this plan of the Chief Governor and Chief Judge, it was proposed, that in each of the seven divisions into which, including Chittagong, the country had been already distributed, two courts of record should be established; that one should be denominated "The Court of Provincial Council;" that it should in each instance consist of a President and three Councillors, chosen by the Governor-General and Council among the elder servants of the Company; and have summary jurisdiction in all pecuniary suits which regarded the Company, either directly, or through the medium of any person indebted to them or employed in their service : that the other of these courts should be called the Adaulut Dewanny Zillajaut; should consist of one judge, chosen, for his knowledge in the language and constitutions of the country, by the Governor and Council, from among the senior servants of the Company; and should have jurisdiction in cases of trespass or damage, rents, debts, and in general of all pleas real, personal, or mixed, relating to parties different from those included in the jurisdiction of the Courts of Provincial Council. In this draught no provision was made for the criminal branch of judicature among the natives, which had been remitted to the nominal government of the Nabob, and exercised under the superintendence of Mahomed Reza Khan.*
Early in November, 1776, Colonel Monson died; and as there remained in the Death of Council, after that event, only the Governor-General and Mr. Barwell on the SJ^whiSlTeone part, with General Clavering and Mr. Francis on the other, the casting ^J^*6go_ vote of the Governor-General turned the balance on his side, and restored to him vemment to
, . „ . Mr. Hastings.
the direction of government.
In the consultation of the 1st of November he had entered a minute, in which A plan of inhe proposed as a foundation for new-modelling the plan of collection, that an by^M^Hastinvestigation should be instituted for ascertaining the actual state of the sources tefnuiga'better
knowledge of * See Francis's Minute, ut supra, and the Draught of Hastings's Bill; Report, ut supra,the sources of Appendix, No. 13.