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Book V. of revenue, particularly of that great and principal source, the lands. As the 'mode of letting by auction, which had produced inconvenience, was meant to be discontinued, and the mode of letting by valuation to be adopted in its stead, the Governor-General was of opinion, that as accurate a knowledge as possible of the subject of valuation ought first to be obtained. He proposed that this inquiry should be assigned as an exclusive duty to particular agents; that two covenanted servants of the Company should be chosen, with an adequate appointment of native officers; and that their business should be to collect the accounts of the Zemindars, the farmers, and ryots, to obtain such information as the Provincial Councils could impart; to depute, when expedient, native officers into the districts for the purpose of inquiry; and to arrange and digest the accumulated materials. The use of this knowledge would be to assess the lands in proportion to their value, and to protect the ryots, by equitable agreements, or pottahs, imposed upon the Zemindars. The Governor-General finally proposed, for the sake as he said of dispatch, that all orders issued from the office, in execution of such measures as had received the sanction of the Board, should be written in his name; and that the control of the office should be confided to his care.
Objections of As every proposal made by the Governor-General was an object of attack to 'the opposite side of the Board, this measure introduced as usual a long train of debate and altercation. Mr. Francis objected, 1. That the inquiry proposed was altogether uselss; as a rate of impost extracting from the lands their utmost value would be cruel to the people, and ruinous to the state; while, under a moderate assessment, disproportion between the rate and the value was worthy of little regard; 2. That if an accurate valuation were useful, it ought to have been obtained through the Committee of Circuit; by whom the lands were let at auction, for the professed purpose of ascertaining their highest value; 3. That the inquiry would be unavailing, because the Zemindars, farmers, and ryots would not give true accounts; 4. That if real accounts were capable of being obtained, they would be so voluminous, intricate, and defective, as to preclude the possibility of drawing from them any accurate conclusion; 5. That a valua|tion of land, if accurately obtained, is only true for one particular year, not for any future one; and 6. That with regard to the ryots, while the proposed pottahs were ill-calculated to afford them protection, the interest of the Zemindars, if their lands were restored under a moderate and invariable tax, would yield the best security to the husbandman, from whose exertions the value of And of Gen- the land arose. A furious minute was entered by General Clavering, in which
eral Clavering. g
he arraigned the measure as an attempt to wrest from the Council "the Chap. III. ordering, management, and government of the territorial acquisitions," and as v v~~~J an illegal usurpation of the powers that were vested exclusively in the Board. This accusation was founded upon the proposal about the letters and the control Value of the of the office. And it is remarkable, that knowing the jealousy with which any objectioM" proposal of a new power to himself would be viewed by the hostile party, and the imputations to which it would give birth, the Governor-General should have embarrassed his scheme with a condition, invidious, and not essential to its execution. That the objections were frivolous or invalid, it is easy to perceive. Though the inequalities of some taxes redress themselves in time, it is a mischievous notion that inequality in the imposing of taxes is not an evil: Every inequality in the case of a new imposition is an act of oppression and injustice:. r~j And Hastings showed that in the case of India, where the land-holder paid ninetenths of the produce of the land to government, inequality might produce the most cruel oppression. If the Committee of Circuit had fallen short of procuring an accurate knowledge of the sources of the revenue, that could be no reason why better information should not be obtained. Though it was acknowledged that inquiry would be difficult, and its results defective, it is never to be admitted that, where perfect knowledge cannot be obtained, knowledge, though imperfect, is of no advantage. If it were allowed, as it was not, that the interest of the Zemindars would have been such, upon the plan of Mr. Francis, as Mr. Francis supposed; it is not true that men will be governed by their real interests, where it is certain that they are incapable of understanding those interests; where those interests are distant and speak only to the judgment, while they are opposed by others that operate immediately upon the passions and the senses. As the Governor-General had not proposed that letters from the office issued in his name should relate to any thing but services which had received the sanction of the Council, he insisted that they no more implied an usurpation of the powers of the Council than the letters written in his own name, in the discharge of his function, by any officer who was vested with a trust. The pernicious purposes to which it was in vague and general terms affirmed that such a power might be converted, it is not easy to discover. And the odium which it was attempted to cast upon the inquiry, by representing it as a preparation for exacting the utmost possible revenue from the lands, and dispossessing the Zemindars, Hastings answered, and sufficiently, by a solemn declaration, that no such intention was conceived. Book V. By the ascendancy, now restored to the Governor-General, the office was
v—-v— established. Orders were transmitted to the Provincial Councils; and native 17/7«The office of officers, called aumeens, were sent to collect accounts, and to obtain information i!Xd^ebnt m tne districts. The first incidents which occurred were complaints against satisTctory"°' tnose aumeens, for injurious treatment of the inhabitants; and the opposing
party were careful to place these accusations in the strongest possible light. From the aumeens, on the other hand, accounts arrived of frequent refusal on the part of the Zemindarry agents, and others, to afford information; or even to show their accounts. The country The five years' leases expired in April, 1777; and the month of July of that over axe . yggf nad arrivecl before any plan for the current and future years had yet been determined. By acknowledgement of all parties, the country had been so grievously over-taxed, as to have been altogether unable to carry up its payments to the level of the taxation. According to the statement of the AccountantGeneral, dated the 12th of July, 1777, the remissions upon the five years' leases came to 118 lacs 79,576 rupees; and the balances, of which the greater part were wholly irrecoverable, amounted to 129 lacs 26,910 rupees. In his minute on the office of inquiry, Mr. Barwell expressly declared that "the impoverished state of the country loudly pleaded for a reduction of the revenue, as absolutely requisite for its future welfare."* In the mean time dispatches arrived, by Hie Director* which it was declared, that the Court of Directors, after considering the plans, pEraofux- that of the Governor-General for letting the lands on leases for lives, and
Hastuig^and tnat of Francis for establishing a fixed, invariable rent, "did, for many that of Fran- weighty reasons, think it not then adviseable to adopt either of those modes,"
cis; and re- ,
commend pro- but directed that the lands should be let for one year on the most advantageous settlement3 terms; that the way of auction, however, should no more be used; that a preyear year t° ference should always be given to natives resident on the spot; and that no
European, or the banyan of any European, should have any share in farming the Plan for the revenues. On the 15th of July it was determined that the following plan should yeor' be adopted for the year; that the lands should be offered to the old Zemindars
on the rent-roll or assessment of the last year, or upon a new estimate formed
* Mr. Shore (Lord Teignmouth) said in his valuable Minute on the Revenues of Bengal, dated June, 1789, printed in the Appendix, No. 1, to the Fifth Report of the Committee on India Affairs in 1810, that "the settlement of 1772, before the expiration of the leases, existed, he believed, no where, upon its original terms."
by the Provincial Council; that for such lands as should not in this manner find Chap. III. a renter, the Provincial Councils should receive sealed proposals by advertise- ^ I777~"'' ment; that the salt farms should be let upon sealed proposals, a preference being given to the Zemindar or farmer of the lands on which the salt was made; that security should not be asked of the Zemindars, but a part of their lands be sold to discharge their balances. Mr. Francis objected to the rent-roll of last year as too high; and Mr. Hastings admitted the justice of the observation with regard to a part of the lands, where abatement would be required; but thought it good, in the first instance, to try in how many cases the high rent, for which persons were found to engage, would be regarded as not more than the taxes would enable them to pay. Instead of sealed proposals, which he justly denominated a virtual auction, Mr. Francis recommended a settlement by the Provincial Councils. And he wished the manufacture of salt to be left to the holder or renter of the lands where it was made; the government requiring nothing but a duty. With these proposals the Governor-General signified no disposition to comply; but, after fresh commands from England, the average of the collections of the three preceding years was made the basis of the new engagements.
In their letter of the 4th of July, 1777, the Directors made the following stricture* by severe reflections on the institution of the Office of inquiry, and the separate D?rectonup« authority which the Governor-General had taken to himself. "Our surprise ?he 9ffice of
and concern were great on finding by our Governor-General's minute of 1st November, 1776, that after more than seven years' investigation, information is still so incomplete, as to render another innovation, still more extraordinary than any of the former, absolutely necessary in order to the formation of a new settlement. In 1769, supervisors were appointed professedly to investigate the subject: In 1770, controling councils of revenue were instituted: In 1772, the office of Naib Duan was abolished, natives were discarded, and a Committee of Circuit formed, who, we were told, precisely and distinctly ascertained what was necessary to be known: And now, in 1777, two junior servants, with the assistance of a few natives, are employed to collect and digest materials, which have already undergone the collection, inspection, and revision, of so many of our servants of all denominations.—We should have hoped, that when you knew our sentiments respecting the conduct of our late administration, in delegating separate powers to their President, it would have been sufficient to prevent us further trouble on such occasions; but, to our concern, we find, that no sooner was our Council reduced, by the death of Colonel Monson, to a number which rendered the President's casting vote of consequence to him, Vol* 11. 3e
Book V. than he exercised it to invest himself with an improper degree of power in the
^—~v^~' business of the revenue, which he could never have expected from other
1777. , . „ m
The same con-authority.
yeM<tofyeM The same mode of settlement was renewed from year to year, till 1781; till 1781. when a plan destined for permanence was adopted and employed.f
When Mr. Hastings was in the deepest depression, under the ascendancy of his opponents, a gentleman, of the name of Macleane, departed for England, and was entrusted with a variety of confidential affairs, as the private agent of the Governor-General. For the measures adopted against the Rohillas Hastings Resignation of had been censured by the Courts of both Directors and Proprietors: And the tendered'byS Court of Directors had resolved to address the King for his removal. Upon this to t^e Court ofsevere procedure, a Court of Proprietors was again convened; a majority of Directors;andwhom appeared averse to carry the condemnation to so great an extent; and
accepted. m voted, that the resolution of the Directors should be reconsidered. The business remained in suspense for some months, when Mr. Macleane informed the Court of Directors, that he was empowered to tender the resignation of Mr. Hastings. If he resigned, a mere majority of the Proprietors, who appeared to be on his side, could restore him to the service. If he was dismissed, a mere majority would not be sufficient. In the letters by which the authority of Mr. Macleane was conveyed, confidential communications upon other subjects were contained. On this account he represented the impossibility of his imparting them openly to the Court; but proposed, if they would appoint a confidential Committee of Directors, to communicate to them what was necessary for their satisfaction. The Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and another Director were named. They reported that they had seen Mr. Hastings's instructions in his own hand-writing; and that the authority of Mr. Macleane, for the proposed proceeding, was clear and sufficient. Mr. Vansittart, and Mr. Stewart, both in the intimate friendship and confidence of Mr. Hastings, gave evidence, that directions perfectly correspondent to this written authority had been given in their presence. The two Chairmen alone concurred in the report. The third Director regarded not the authority as sufficiently proved. The Directors proceeded upon the report: The resignation was formally accepted: And a successor to Mr. Hastings was chosen. Mr. Wheler was named; presented to the King for his approbation; and accepted. General Clavering, as senior Member of the Council, was empowered
• Sixth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 11, 12, 13,14,.15, 16. Minutes of the GovernorGeneral and Council of Fort William, by Philip Francis, Esq. f Fifth Report of the Committee of Indian Affairs, 1812, p. 8.