« ПредишнаНапред »
business was more confidential, as well as extensive, than that of any of the Chap. rest. Its duty was, to study the advices from India, and to prepare answers for the inspection of the Court of Directors: To report upon the number of ships expedient for the trade of the season, and the stations proper for each: To report upon the number of servants, civil and military, in the different stations abroad; on the demand for alterations, and the applications made for leave of absence, or leave to return: All complaints of grievances, and all pecuniary demands on the Company, were decided upon in the first instance by this Committee, which nominated to all places in the treasury, and in the secretary's, examiner's, and auditor's offices: It performed, in fact, the prime and governing business of the Company: The rest was secondary and subordinate.
The next Committee was that of Law-suits; of which the business was to deliberate and direct in all cases of litigation; and to examine the bills of law charges. It is not a little remarkable that there should be work of this description sufficient to engross the time of a committee.
The third was the Committee of Treasury. Its business was, to provide, agreeably to the orders of the Court, for the payment of dividends and interest on bonds; to negotiate the Company's loans; to purchase gold and silver for exportation; to affix the Company's seal to bonds and other deeds; to examine monthly, or oftener, the balance of cash; and to decide, in the first instance, on applications respecting the loss of bonds, on pecuniary questions in general, and the delivery of unregistered diamonds and bullion.
The Committee of Warehouses was the fourth. The business of importation was the principal part of its charge. It framed the orders for the species of goods of which the investment or importation was intended to consist: It had the superintendance of the servants employed in the inspection of the purchases; determined upon the modes of shipping and conveyance; superintended the landing and warehousing of the goods; arranged the order of sales; and deliberated generally upon the means of promoting and improving the trade.
The fifth was the Committee of Accounts; of whose duty the principal ingredients were, to examine bills of exchange, and money certificates; to compare advices with bills; to examine the estimates, and accounts of cash and stock; and to superintend the office of the accountant, and the office of transfer, that is, the office in which are effected the transfers of the Company's stock and annuities, and in which the foreign letters of attorney for that purpose are examined.
A committee, called the Committee of Buying, formed the sixth. Its busi
IV. ness was to superintend the purchase and preparation of the standard articles of export, of which lead and woollens constituted the chief; to contract with the dyers and other tradesmen; to audit their accounts, and keep charge of the goods till deposited on board the ships for exportation.
The Committee of the House was the seventh, and its business was mostly of an inferior and ministerial nature. The alterations and repairs of the buildings, regulations for the attendance of the several officers and clerks, the appointment of the inferior servants of the House, and the control of the secretary's accounts for domestic disbursements, were included in its province.
The eighth Committee, that of Shipping, had the charge of purchasing stores, and all other articles of export, except the grand articles appropriated to the Committee of Buying; the business of hiring ships, and of ascertaining the qualifications of their commanders and officers; of distributing the outward cargoes; of fixing seamen's wages; of issuing orders for building, repairing, and fitting out the ships, packets, &c. of which the Company were proprietors; and of regulating and determining the tonage allowed for private trade to the commanders and officers of the Company's ships.
The ninth was the Committee of Private Trade; and its occupation was to adjust the accounts of freight, and other charges, payable on the goods exported for private account, in the chartered ships of the Company; to regulate the indulgences to private trade homeward; and, by examining the commanders of ships, and by other inquiries, to ascertain how far the regulations of the Company had been violated or obeyed.
The tenth Committee was of a characteristic description. It was the Committee for preventing the growth of Private Trade. Its business was to take cognizance of all instances in which the license, granted by the Company for private trade, was exceeded; to decide upon the controversies to which the encroachments of the private traders gave birth; and to make application of the penalties which were provided for transgression. So closely, however, did the provinces of this and the preceding Committee border upon one another; and so little, in truth, were their boundaries defined, that the business of the one was not unfrequently transferred to the other.
Other transactions respecting the employment of troops and the government of territory, required additions to the system of Committees, when the Company afterwards became conquerors and rulers. But of these it will be time to speak when the events arrive which produced them.
The Chairmen, as the name imports, preside in the Courts, whether of Directors or Proprietors; they are the organs of official communication between Chap. I. the Company and other parties, and are by office members of all the Committees. v——'
The articles in which the export branch of the Indian trade has all along Articles and consisted are bullion, lead, quicksilver, woollen cloths, and hardware, of which company "seethe proportions have varied at various times. Port trade
The official value of all the exports to India for the year 1708, the year in which the union of the two Companies was completed, exceeded not 60,915/. The following year it rose to 168,357/. But from this it descended gradually till, in the year 1715, it amounted to no more than 36,997/. It made a start, however, in the following year; and the medium exportation for the first twenty years, subsequent to 1708, was 92,288/. per annum.* The average annual exportation of bullion during the same years was 442,350/.
The articles of which the import trade of the East India Company chiefly import ditto, consisted, were calicoes and the other woven manufactures of India; raw silk, diamonds, tea, porcelain, pepper, drugs, and saltpetre. The official value of their imports in 1708 was 493,257/.; and their annual average importation for this and the nineteen following years was 758,042/. At that period the official value assigned to goods at the Custom House differed not greatly from the real value; and the statements which have been made by the East India Company of the actual value of their exports and imports for some of those years, though not according with the Custom House accounts from year to year, probably from their being made up to different periods in the year, yet on a sum of several years pretty nearly coincide. f The business of sale is transacted by the East India Company in the way of auction. On stated days, the goods, according to the discretion of the Directors, are put up to sale at the India House; and transferred to the highest bidder.
At first the Company built and owned the ships employed in their trade. But in the progress and sub-division of commerce, ship-owning became a distinct branch of business; and the Company preferred the hiring of ships, called chartering. It was in hired or chartered ships, accordingly, that from this time the trade of the Company was chiefly conveyed; and a few swift-sailing vessels, called packets, more for the purpose of intelligence than of freight, formed, with
* Custom House accounts. See Sir Charles Whitworth's Tables, p. 9.
f Try, for example, the sum of the exports for twenty years from 1710, in Sir Charles Whitworth's Tables, and that in the Company's accounts; the table, for instance, No. 7, in the Appendix to Mr. Macpherson's History of European Commerce with India. See too, the averages in Bruce's Historical View of Plans for British India, p. 295.
Book IV. some occasional exceptions, the only article of shipping which they properly ^ 'called their own. This regulation set free a considerable portion of the funds or resources of the Company, for direct traffic, or the simple transactions of buying and selling.* Mode in which That part of the business of the Company which was situated in India, was the Company distinguished by several features which the peculiar circumstances of the country in"ndia.Sa(:tC forced it to assume. The sale indeed of the commodities imported from Europe, they transacted in the simplest and easiest of all possible ways; namely, by auction, the mode in which they disposed of Indian goods in England. At the beginning of this trade, the English, as well as other European adventurers, used to carry their commodities to the interior towns and markets, transporting them in the hackeries of the country; and established factories or warehouses, where the goods were exposed to sale. During the confusion, however, which prevailed, while the empire of the Moguls was in the progress of dissolution, the security which had formerly existed, imperfect as it was, became vastly impaired; and, shortly after the union of the two Companies, it was adopted as a rule, not to permit any of the persons in their service, or under their jurisdiction, to remove far into the inland country, without leave obtained from the Governor and Council of the place to which they belonged. According to this plan, the care of distributing the goods into the country, and of introducing them to the consumers, was left to the native and other independent dealers.
For the purchase, collection, and custody of the goods, which constituted the freight to England, a complicated system of operations was required. As the state of the country was too low in respect of civilization and of wealth, to possess manufacturers and merchants, on a large scale, capable of executing extensive orders, and delivering the goods contracted for on pre-appointed days, the Company were under the necessity of employing their own agents to collect throughout the country, in such quantities as presented themselves, the different articles of which the cargoes to Europe were composed. Places of reception were required, in which the goods might be collected, and ready upon the arrival of the ships, that the expense of demurrage might be reduced to its lowest terms. Warehouses were built; and these, with the counting houses, and other apartments for the agents and business of the place, constituted what were called the factories of the Company. Under the disorderly and inefficient system of government which prevailed in India, deposits of property were always exposed,
* Ninth bye-law of the Company, in Russel's Collection of Statutes.
either to the rapacity of the government, or under the weakness of the govern- Chap. I. ment to the hands of depredators. It was always therefore an object of importance to build the factories strong, and to keep their inmates armed and disciplined for self-defence, as perfectly as circumstances would admit. At an early period the Company even fortified those stations of their trade, and maintained professional troops, as often as the negligence permitted, or the assent could be obtained, of the Kings and Governors of the countries in which they were placed.
Of the commodities collected for the European market, that part, the acquisition of which was attended with the greatest variety of operations, was the produce of the loom. The weavers, like the other laborious classes of India, are in the lowest stage of poverty, being always reduced to the bare means of the most scanty subsistence. They must at all times, therefore, be furnished with the materials of their work, or the means of purchasing them; and with subsistence while the piece is under their hands. To transact in this manner with each particular weaver, to watch him that he may not sell the fabric which his employer has enabled him to produce, and to provide a large supply, is a work of infinite detail, and gives employment to a multitude of agents. The European functionary, who, in each district, is the head of as much business as it is supposed that he can superintend, has first his banyan, or native secretary, through whom the whole of the business is conducted. The banyan hires a species of broker, called a gomastah, at so much a month: The gomastah repairs to the aiming, or manufacturing town, which is assigned as his station; and there fixes upon a habitation, which he calls his cutchery: He is provided with a sufficient number of peons, or sort of armed servants; and hircarahs, messengers or letter carriers, by his employer: These he immediately dispatches about the place, to summon to him the dallals, pycars and weavers. The dallals and pycars are two sets of brokers; of whom the pycars are the lowest, transacting the business of detail with the weavers; the dallals again transact with the pycars; the gomastah transacts with the dallals, the banyan with the gomastah, and the Company's European servant with the banyan. The Company's servant is thus five removes from the workman; and it may easily be supposed that much collusion and trick, that much of fraud towards the Company, and much of oppression towards the weaver, is the consequence of the obscurity which so much complication implies.* Besides his banyan, there is attached to the European
* The obstinate adherence of the natives to their established customs, renders it not easy to VOL II. C