Sivut kuvina

It is needless to insist that all the excellencies ascribed to the India Company must be possessed by the Chinese Company. The latter, doubtless, are careful that competition shall not enhance prices when they are buyers,— —as of woollens from the English, and of tea from the Chinese producers; nor lower them when they are sellers, as of tea to the English, and of woollens to the Chinese consumers. They, also, frequently "submit to a certain loss," to conciliate men in authority, "being indemnified in the result by their exclusive privileges." In every respect, the one is a "match" for the other.


The quantity of tea annually consumed in Great Britain is less than 25,000,000 of pounds, and it has been calculated, that, under a free trade, allowing two ounces per week to each adult, it ought to be upwards of 60,000,000. Suppose it should only be increased to 50,000,000, the profits of the wholesale and retail dealers, and on the augmented value of the export-cargoes of China, would amount to vast sums, the loss of which may be considered a tax without any kind of compensation. But say that the price of tea has been enhanced only one shilling in the pound (whereof sixpence for duty) on 20,000,000l., here is at once a tax of 1,000,000l. per annum, not for the support of the public revenne, but of an exploded and wasteful system of monopoly.

'If, then, it clearly appears expedient to throw open the teatrade, the question of the abolition of the East India Company is decided, unless it should be found that in their political capacity they perform functions which could not otherwise be provided for at less cost for they profess their inability to continue and to trade in concurrence with private merchants; so that the mere opening of the trade would be equivalent to their expulsion from it, and deprivation of the only fund for paying their dividends. "It cannot be unknown," said Mr. Grant to the Committee of 1821, "that the stability of the Company, and their means of conducting the Indian administration, at present entirely depend on the profits of the China monopoly, because they derive no income whatever from the territory ;' so that, if the China monopoly were now to fail, they would not have wherewithal to pay the dividends to the Proprietors; the Indian territory not only yielding nothing to them, but being very largely in debt."


'Since the opening of the trade in 1813, the increase of the exports and imports has been sufficient to falsify the predictions of all the witnesses brought forward by the Company, but has fallen incomparably short of what it would have been if the trade of agriculture had also been laid open. Without colonisation it is impossible that any considerable augmentation of the exportable productions of India, or of demand for the manufactures of Great Britain, can ever take place; and with colonisation the augmentation of both is incalculable. Besides indefinitely improving the

[ocr errors]

quality of the commodities which now constitute the list of exports, new articles, such as coffee, cocoa, and cochineal, “might be made to enrich the commerce of the Ganges, and afford a return investment, understated at a crore of rupees."

In the Report of the Lords' Committee of 1821, it is stated that the value of merchandise exported from Great Britain to India had increased from 870,1771., in 1815, to 3,052,7417., in 1819. In the tables of Cæsar Moreau, I find the increase stated only at from 2,153,120l. in 1815, to 3,163,6471., in 1822. But the increase of British cotton manufactures exported to India was from 142,4117., in 1815, to 1,147,393l., in 1822. It was respecting the probable extension of the demand for this article that the principal dispute was maintained; the manufacturers insisting that the astonishing powers of machinery enabled them to produce it in such cheapness as to create a demand for it throughout the whole of India, while the witnesses for the Company, civil and military, strangers to the mysteries of trade, but presuming on what they considered the indispensable advantage of local knowledge, pronounced with more solemn confidence that the few wants of the Natives could be supplied at a cheaper rate, and more to their taste, by articles of their own manufacture. Some specimens of the testimony then recorded may now be read with profit and amusement: Such a scene will never be rehearsed again.

The following facts exhibit some of the differences which characterise the Company's and the private trade. The East India sugar imported by the Company fell from 40,241 cwt. in 1814, to 11,370 cwt. in 1822; while the quantity imported by the private trade rose from 9,608 cwt. in 1814, to 215,099 cwt. in 1822. The influence of the Company's commercial residents has prevented the superiority of the private trader from being equally conspicuous in Bengal raw silk; but in China raw silk, while the quantity imported by the Company fell from 138,326 lbs. in 1814, to 88,969 lbs. in 1822, the quantity imported by the private trade rose from 12,303 lbs. in 1814, to 133,706 lbs. in 1822.

Since the Company's dividends are confessedly levied on the people of England, in the shape of artificially-enhanced expenses and profits, and are less than a moiety of the tax to which their monopoly subjects the nation: since it is admitted that, in their commercial capacity, the Company are positively, and negatively, a great evil, it would follow that sentence of dissolution cannot be averted but by showing that the advantages derived from them in their political character are proportionately great. And, if it should indeed be found that the latter preponderate, the result would be without a parallel in any age or country.

'One advocate for the Company is of opinion that a sufficient compensation for these sacrifices is found, not in any peculiar qualifications possessed by the gentlemen who, by dint of wealth, con

nexions, and longevity, obtain a place in the Committee of Correspondence, but in the check which they exercise on the conduct of the Board of Control. He admits that, in every other department of Government, the strength of public opinion has more than kept pace with the increasing patronage of the Crown; but, so indescribable and incomprehensible is every thing relating to India, where "the very names of persons, places, and things are as foreign to the ear as confusing to the sense of the English reader," that the control of Parliamentary vigilance and public discussion, which, in all other matters, is invaluable and irresistible, would, in respect to Indian questions, from indifference or ignorance, either fail to prevent abuses, or give an injurious impulse to the measures of Administration. He admits that "the Company, by ceasing to be rulers, and by remaining monopolists, have lost the consideration which belonged to their former character; while the odium, ever attached to the latter, has been increased." Now, Sir John Malcolm does not propose that they should resume their power, or relinquish their monopoly, but only that means should be contrived for giving to men who have served with distinction in India, easier access to the upper seats in the Court of Directors, and that the Board of Control should interpose its authority less frequently. The functions of an organ so constituted, and so dearly maintained, he esteems of more value than the gratuitous exertions of Parliament and the press.

6 But the defects of such a scheme are obvious and incurable. In the first place, the Board of Control never can be persuaded to recede an inch from the commanding position which it has held for many years its tendency must rather be to make its power be felt more distinctly and diffusively from year to year. In proportion to its increased familiarity with the subject, it must become more interested in the success, and more practised in the superintendence, of its own plans: habit, ambition, duty, the strongest, the most constant, and the most honourable motives of human conduct must combine to make it identify itself more and more with the success of the Indian Government, and to stand forward, in the eye of Parliament and of the nation, as the responsible administrator. Secondly, under such circumstances, it is impossible that men conscious of talent, and touched with a generous love of fame, could consent to appear in so degraded a theatre; the obstacles presented by the fatigue, humiliation, and expense of the first canvass, which Sir John Malcolm seems to consider the most difficult to be surmounted, are as nothing compared with the total deprivation of consideration and dignity in the office itself. An office in which talent can neither find its appropriate exercise nor reward, and can never attract to itself men capable of influencing the conduct of political affairs. Thirdly, whatever may be the private respectability of individual Directors, their want of power, direct or

indirect, legal or moral, renders their attempts to impel or restrain the movements of the Board of Control nugatory. If they are independent of ministers, and, therefore, free to express their real sentiments on all occasions, ministers are as completely independent of them, and, therefore, under no obligation to pay the smallest attention to their remonstrances, provided they retain the support of the King, the Parliament, and the public. The opinions of these three bodies, right or wrong, are those only which ministers acknowledge as a check on their proceedings. Nor are the disadvantages under which they labour, in examining questions of Indian policy, by any means so great as Sir John Malcolm would fain persuade us. The names of "things" may be translated, and made as intelligible to "the English reader" as they are to the Native, or to the Englishman who has spent thirty years in India. If that were not the case, how did Lord Cornwallis and Lord Wellesley, in the first week of their administration, take into their hands the reins of Government with as much confidence, and as much skill and success, as if they had been nursed and dandled into a knowledge of the languages of India, or spent days and nights in their acquisition? How are such facts reconcilable with the importance which Sir John Malcolm attaches to "local knowledge;" an importance which constitutes the foundation of his whole system, and of the principal arguments by which he supports it ? It is true that the names of “ persons and places" cannot be translated, but what is there more I confusing to the sense" in the name of Tippoo than in the name of Buonaparte? in the names of Plassy, Laswary, and Assye, than in the names of Blenheim, Salamanca, and Waterloo ?


'Besides the futility of the objection, founded on the foreign sound of Indian words, it is to be observed that the objection is not applicable to the British community in India. Their knowledge is not acquired through the spectacles of books, but by local observation. Their interest in the subject is not deadened by distance, nor distracted by the obtrusion of nearer objects and louder solicitations. Their ability, therefore, to assist the Parliament and people of England, in thoroughly understanding the circumstances and interests of India, is indisputable. To give to them the liberty of unlicensed printing would be to provide the most effectual and cheapest security against local mal-administration which it is possible to establish. But Sir John Malcolm goes further, in quest of a check, and fares worse. He shuts the mouth of the Indian public, and leaves open (because he dare not propose to shut) that of the English public, which, by his own showing, is disqualified for the task of usefully commenting on the affairs of India. also leaves to Parliament its freedom of investigation with the same acknowledgment of its incompetence, and maintains, at an incalculable expense, an establishment for the express purpose of


controlling the Board of Control, by sending up probationary drafts of paragraphs, on which the latter "hold the pen of correction," running with unlimited freedom and absolute authority; and we may imagine with what spirit an unseen controversy is supported-ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum.

'While the Indian public is silenced and excluded, and that of England depreciated and distrusted, it is evidently the object of Sir John Malcolm to give to men, who have performed approved services in India, a monopoly of claims to hold high office connected with the Government of India, both in England and in India. Since they alone have a true understanding of Indian affairs, and know how far and in what instances they ought to be exempted from the influence of principles which are commonly held to be of universal application, a certain number of them must be active Members of the Board of Control; and, since the Board must be counterpoisod by the Court, another party of them must infallibly be Directors, so that half the parterre should just reflect the other. That such persons should be considered eligible, according to their qualifications and opportunities of making them known, for high office in every department of Government is most reasonable; but that they should be esteemed the only depositaries of knowledge regarding India, and that the existence of the East India Company, with its monopoly of the tea trade and its legion of clerks, should be prolonged for the sole purpose of providing comfortable places for them, wherein they are to assist in the drafting of despatches which may not be adopted, and to sign despatches of which they have not approved, is a degree of extravagance to which the well-earned reputation of Sir John Malcolm will never reconcile the Members of both Houses of Parliament, to whom, in spite of their alleged incompetence, the decision of this matter will soon be committed.

'This is not the only instance in which additional experience and more maturity of judgment have betrayed Sir John Malcolm into a desertion of the right path, and bewildered him in a maze of error and empiricism. On the subject of colonisation, and the revenue and judicial systems, the few opinions which he formerly expressed, were founded on sound and recognised principles of policy and economy. Now he shuts his eyes to that central light, and painfully gropes his way amidst barbarous practices, and uncouth usages, not for the purpose of bringing order out of confusion, but of arresting improvement, excluding reform, and perpetuating ignorance and poverty.

'Like every other advocate for the Company, Sir John Malcolm has availed himself of the eagerness with which objections to placing the patronage of India at the disposal of Ministers are listened to, well knowing and avowing that "the aların taken by the public at the transfer of the patronage now enjoyed by the

« EdellinenJatka »