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The disasters of the war in Carnatic, with the disorders which pervaded the Chap. VIII. government of Bengal, excited the most violent apprehensions in the Company;' and reduced sixty per cent. the price of East India Stock. The treaty with The terms on Hyder was the bed on which the resentments of the Directors sought to repose. was termiIt is very observable, however, that their letters on this subject abound much "on^mned by more with terms of vague and general reproach, than with any clear designationthe Directorsof mischief to which the conditions of the treaty were calculated to give birth. They accuse the Presidency of irresolution, and incapacity; and tell them that by the feebleness with which they had carried on the war, and the pusillanimity with which they had made peace at the dictation of an enemy, "they had laid a foundation for the natives of Hindustan to think they may insult the Company at pleasure with impunity." Yet they pretended not, that a mutual renunciation of conquests was not better than a continuation of the war; or that the vain boast of driving Hyder's light cavalry from the walls of Madras would not have been dearly purchased with the ravage of the city of Madras, and the surrounding country. The Presidency affirm that they "were compelled to make peace for want of money to wage war." * And the only imprudent article of the treaty in which, however, there was nothing of humiliation, or inconsistency with the train of the Company's policy, was the reciprocation of military assistance; because of this the evident tendency (a circumstance however which seemed not ever to be greatly deprecated,) was to embroil them with other powers.f
* Letter to the Court of Directors, 23d March, 1770; Rous's App. p. HI 5.
■f For these transactions, besides the printed official documents, the well-informed, but not impartial author, of the History and Management of the East India Company, has been, with caution, followed, together with Robson's Life of Hyder Ali, corrected from authentic MSS. by Mr. Grant.
Public opinion in England, Proceedings in the India House, and in Parliament—Plan of Supervisors—Plan of a King's Commissioner—Increase of pecuniary Difficulties—Dividend raised—Company unable to meet their Obligations—Parliamentary Inquiry—Ministerial Relief—An Act, which changes the Constitution of the Company—Tendency of the Change—Financial and Commercial State.
Book IV. The affairs of the Company excited various and conflicting passions in England;
"^qq and gave rise to measures of more than ordinary importance. The act of parAmount of di-liament having expired which limited the amount of dividend in 1767, the
vidend limited . * .. „ . ,
by act of par- Directors exclaimed against a renewal of the restriction, as transternng the hamtut. powers of the Company to parliament, subverting the privileges of their charter, and rendering insecure the property of every commercial and corporate body in the kingdom. They even presented to parliament a petition, in which these arguments were vehemently enforced; and so well by this time were they represented in that assembly, that a sufficiency of orators was not wanting, who in both Houses supported their claims. Opposite views, notwithstanding, prevailed; and an act was passed to prevent the increase of the dividend beyond ten per cent. till the 1st day of February, 1769. New arrange- Before the expiration of this term, the Company, who were anxious to evade LogthTterri- *ne question respecting the public claim to the sovereignty of the Indian territory- tory, very assiduously negotiated with the minister a temporary arrangement. After a great deal of conference and correspondence, an act was passed in April, 1769, to the following effect: That the territorial revenues in India should be held by the Company for five years to come; that in consideration of this benefit they should pay into the exchequer 400,000/. every year; that, if the revenues allowed, they might increase the dividend, by augmentations not exceeding one per cent in one year, to twelve and a half per cent.; that if, on the other hand, the dividend should fall below ten per cent., the payment into the exchequer should obtain a proportional reduction, and entirely cease if the dividend should decline to six per cent.; that the Company should, during each year of the term, export British merchandise, exclusive of naval and military stores, to the
of 380,837/.; and that when they should have paid their simple con- Chap. IX. tract debts bearing interest, and reduced their bonded debt to an equality with'' their loans to government, they should add to these loans the surplus of their receipts at an interest of two per cent.* This agreement between the public and the Company, was made, it is obvious, upon the same supposition, that of a great surplus revenue, upon which all its successors have been made, and with the same result.
In the mean time, the grievous failure in the annual treasures, which they Disappointhad been so confidently promised; and which, with all the credulity of violent rece?ptnoftreawishes, they had so fondly and confidently promised themselves; excited, both TM^ a"d a in the Company, and in the nation, the most vehement complaints against the pervisors demanagers in India, to whose misconduct was ascribed the disappointment of remedy of hopes which no conduct could have realized, f A grand investigation and reform evils' were decreed. And for the performance, after great consultation, it was resolved; that three persons should be chosen, whose acquaintance with Indian affairs, and whose character for talents, diligence, and probity, should afford the best security for the right discharge of so important a trust; and that they should be sent out, in the name and with the character of Supervisors, with powers adapted to the exigence of the case. Mr. Vansittart, the late Governor of Bengal, Mr. Scrafton, and Colonel Ford, were recommended as the three commissioners; and it was proposed to invest them with almost all the powers which the Company themselves, if present in India, would possess; a power of superseding the operations and suspending the authority of the Presidents and Councils, of investigating every department of the service, and establishing such regulations as the interests of the Company might seem to require. The scheme was indeed opposed with great vehemence, by all those who favoured the persons now invested with the governing powers in India; by all those who had any pique against the individuals proposed; and by all those who disliked the accumulation of exorbitant authority in a small number of hands. But though they formed no inconsiderable party, the disappointment of the golden
. *■ Act 9 Geo. III. c.2*.
Book IV. dreams of the Proprietors prevailed, in the General Court; and supervisors. 'with extraordinary powers, it was resolved, were the very remedy which the maladies of the Indian government required. Legality of gut ^ pretensions of the ministry again interfered. Not only was the
the coramis- Jo J
sion disputed, legality disputed of the commission by which the supervisors were appointed;but a share was claimed in the government of India, which the Directors regarded with alarm and abhorrence. As an accession to their power and influence in India, which they imagined would be of the utmost importance, they had applied to government for two ships of the line, and some frigates. No aversion to this proposition was betrayed by the ministry; but when the Company were elated with the hopes which a compliance was calculated to inspire,
The Company they were suddenly informed that the naval officer whom the Crown should
allowed by . , ,
the Ministers appoint to command in India, must be vested with full powers to adjust all mariKin^com* t'me a^a^IS , **> transact with the native princes; and, in short, to act the prinIn1dia°ner f° pai^ TM tne on"ensive and defensive policy of the country. The Directors represented this proposal as affecting the honour, and the very existence of the Company. The General Court was adjourned from time to time to afford sufficient space for the consideration of so important a subject; and the Proprietors were entreated to consider the present moment as the very crisis of their fate; and to devote to the question a proportional share of their attention. To vest the officers of the Crown in India with powers independent of the Company, was in reality, they said, to extrude the Company from the government; to lay the foundation of endless contests between the servants of the King and those of the Company; and to prepare the ruin of the national interests in that part of the world: If the Company were incapable of maintaining their territorial acquisitions, to surrender them to the powers of the country, upon terms advantageous to their commerce, was better, it was averred, than to lie at the mercy of a minister: And the fatal effects of the interference of the servants of the Crown in the affairs of a company, formed for upholding a beneficial intercourse with India, were illustrated by contrasting the ruin of the French East India Company, the affairs of which the ministers of the French King had so officiously controled, with the prosperity of the Dutch East India Company, the affairs of which had been left entirely to themselves. The grand argument on the other side was furnished by Clive and the Directors themselves; who had used so many and such emphatical terms to impress a belief that the unprosperous state of their government was wholly produced by the rapacity and misconduct of those who conducted it in India. In the first place the authority of a King's officer was held up as an indispensable security against the vices of the Company's servants; and in the next place the dignity of the master whom he served was represented as necessary to give majesty to the negotiations which a company of merchants might be required to conduct with the potentates of India.* After long and acrimonious debates, the powers demanded for an officer of the Crown were condemned in a Court of Proprietors; and the ministers were not disposed to enforce, by any violent procedure, the acceptance of their terms. The Company would agree to sanction the interference of the officer commanding the ships of the King only within the Gulf of Persia, where they were embroiled with some of the neighbouring chiefs; the demand of two ships of the line for the Bay of Bengal was suspended; and the legal objection to the commission of the supervisors was withdrawn. In this manner, at the present conjuncture, was the dispute between the Government and the Company compromised. Two frigates, beside the squadron for the Gulf of Persia, were ordered upon Indian service. In one of them the supervisors took their passage. Their fate was remarkable. The vessel which carried them never reached her port; nor was any intelligence of her or her passengers ever received; ■'
Mr. Cartier assumed the government of Bengal at the beginning of the year 1770.
The first year of his administration was distinguished by one of those dreadful famines which so often afflict the provinces of India; a calamity by which
* These debates are reported in various periodical publications of the time. A good abstract of them is presented in the Annual Register for 1769. A variety of pamphlets was produced by the dispute; of those which have come under the author's inspection, the following are the titles of the more remarkable: "An Address to the Proprietors of India Stock, showing, from the Political State of Indostan, the Necessity of sending Commissioners to regulate and direct their Affairs abroad; and likewise the Expediency of joining a Servant of Government in the Commission. Printed for S. Bladon in Paternoster Row, 1769;" "A Letter to the Proprietors of East India Stock, containing a brief Relation of the Negotiations with Government, from the Year 1767 to the present Time, respecting the Company's Acquisitions in India, together with some Considerations on the principal Plans for adjusting the Matters in dispute, which have been discussed in the General Court of Proprietors. Printed for B. White, at Horace's Head, in Fleet Street, 1769"A Letter to the Proprietors of India Stock, containing a Reply to some Insinuations in An Old Proprietor's Letter To The Proprietors on the 13th Inst. relative to the Ballot of that Day. Printed for W. Nicholl, No. .51, St. Paul's Church Yard, 1769;" "A Letter to the Proprietors of E. I. Stock, by Governor Johnstone. Printed for W. Nicholl, 1769;" "A Letter to the Proprietors of East India Stock, relative to some Propositions intended to be moved at the next General Court, on Wednesday the 12th of July." Printed as above, 1769.
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