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XIX.

1781.

peace than such as might consist with the honor and BOOK dignity of his crown, and the permanent interests and security of his people.

A very considerable proportion of the present session was occupied in the consideration of the affairs of India, of which the interval between the civil and military transactions of the present year affords a proper opportunity to take a general review, from the period in which the memorable bill of regulation framed by the minister lord North, A. D. 1773, passed into a law.

In the month of April 1772, took place, in con- Review of sequence of the removal of governor Cartier, the stration of memorable appointment of Warren Hastings, esq. ings in Inas governor-general of India ; a man whose conduct throughout all the inferior gradations of office stood confessedly unimpeached. The members of the Supreme Council appointed under the new act were, sir John Clavering, colonel Monson, and Philip

Mr. Hast.

dia.

* When lord Clive embarked for Europe, February 1760, he left the government in the hands of Mr. Holwell pro tempore; -Mr. Vansittart being then actually appointed, and arriving at Calcutta in the month of July. Mr. Vansittart remained in Bengal till the beginning of 1764, and was succeeded by Mr. Spencer, who was quickly superseded by lord Clive. On the second resiguration of lord Clive, Mr. Verelst was advanced, January 1767, to the government of Bengal. To him succeeded, December 1769, Mr. Cartier. Both these gentlemen entered into the views, and acted upon the system

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BOOK Francis, esq. than whom persons of more inflexible sprobity and cnlightened beneficence could not have

been selected by the wisdom of parliament, for the purpose of stemming that tide of corruption and rapacity which inundated the government of India throughout all its departments and ramifications ; and which, when opportunities are frequent and temptations forcible, shall cease to overleap the mounds of right when the Ganges shail cease to flow. It is remarkable, that these three gentlemen were impressed with so high an idea of the merits of Mr. Hastings, upon whose powerful aid and local experience they depended to give efficacy to their exertions in the public service, that sir John Clavering, with the approbation of his co-adjutors, had actually addressed the king, previous to their departure from England, to bestow upon the governor some distinguished mark of his royal favor, with a view to induce him to relinquish the intention which he was supposed to entertain of resigning the government.

established by lord Clive. At length the Sullivan party prevailing in the direction, Mr. Hastings was, in opposition to the influence of his lordship, appointed governor of Bengal : and the more secret transactions, with the concomitant intrigues and cabals, which distinguished his administration, can be perfectly understood only by those who have wasted their time in developing the complex and clashing interests, and neverceasing contentions and animosities, of the Clive and Sullivan factions.

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1781.

On the arrival of the new counsellors in India, in BOOK the autumn of 1774, their astonishment was great to find the whole system and policy of Mr. Hastings diametrically contrary to their pre-conceived ideas of his character. His manners also were marked by a coldness and hauteur wholly incompatible with the cordiality of friendship; and they had the chagrin to perceive, that they were regarded by him not as associates in the great and necessary work of reform, but in the odious light of detectors, spies, and rivals. The project so universally and justly execrated in England, of setting up the lands of the zemindars, polygars, &c. to public auction, appeared, from the immediate and unqualified adoption of this odious system by the new governor, to be the favorite policy of Mr. Hastings himself. In the space of about 200 years, during which the kingdom of Bengal and its appendages had been under the Mahomedan government, the original ground-rents or heriots, aussil jumma, of the zemindars and other great hereditary landholders who held under the government, had never been raised : and a permanent interest being thus created in the land, the talookdars and ryots, who possessed the subordinate rights of property under the zemindars, were neither themselves oppressed, nor allowed to oppress the actual occupants and cultivators of the soil. But from the fatal period that Bengal fell into the hands of the English, the security of property was no more. In

XIX.

1781.

BOOK the reign of the emperor Akber, famed for the

wisdom and equity of his government throughout Hindostan, a general and regular assessment of revenue was formed in Bengal, and the quotas payable by each district of the province, and each village of the district, clearly and specifically ascertained. No material deviation from the established rule and mode of assessment, as we are assured, took place from the reign of Akber to the Persian invasion, and thence to the elevation of Jaffier Ali Khan, who, in order to raise the sum which he had stipulated as a reward to the authors of the revolution of 1757, departing wholly from the fundamental constitutions of Akber, multiplied exactions, and introduced that system of oppression which, under the subsequent government of the English, produced universal consternation, calamity, and ruin. After being subject for a succession of years to every depredation and invasion, Mr. Hastings, amongst the first acts of his government, instituted a COMMITTEE of Circuit, invested with the transcendent power to dispose of all the lands in the kingdom, from those in possession of the highest zemindar down to the lowest ryot, by public auction, or farm for the term of five years. The pretext for this enormous outrage was the decay of the public revenue, of which, in consequence of this measure, Mr. Hastings had the courage to promise the court of directors an immediate and

progressive augmentation; acknowledging, nevertheless,

the country at the same time to be in a very lan. BOOK guishing state, and that the population had decreased in the proportion of ONE THIRD since the grant of the dewannee from the emperor*. The most dreadful confusion, as might well be imagined, instantly ensued; and Mr. Hastings, in his minute of April 1773, confesses, " that the expected improvement had not taken place, being obstructed by a circumstance which couLD NOT BE FORESEEN, viz. the farmers having engaged for a higher revenue than their districts could afford. It is true (says he) that the lands were almost all over-bid for, and many let to indigent and desperate adventurers ; but this was UNAVOIDABLE IN SUCH A MODE." But this consequence being confessedly unavoidable, candor would degenerate into folly, to credit the declaration that it was not foreseen. The deficiency in the revenue was in fact enormous, falling, in five years, no less than two millions and a half short of the settlement. But the subsequent conduct of Mr. Hastings furnished the most satisfactory clue to this business. The lands being on all hands admitted to be partially over-rated, the governor and council were of course called upon to exercise a discretionary power of remission. This opened an immense field of fraud and peculation, and could not

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* Colonel Doi, in bis History of Hindostan, affirms, that since Bengal came into the possession of the English five millions of people have been destroyed, or filed from the country,

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