Sivut kuvina

skill are in their infancy; but in Asia obstacles of a peculiar nature are opposed to improvement by the inextricable confusion in the


The first step to improvement is by a perpetual limitation of the Government demand to create a body of proprietors ;-the next, to encourage those proprietors to purchase upwards from Government, and downwards from those holding under them their several interests, in the use and produce of the land, so as to give them an exclusive property in a smaller extent of surface, and to enable them to cultivate such estates by hired labour or by contract. Suppose the land-tax redeemed, and all beneath them in the condition of tenants at will (of whom there are multitudes in every part of India), the process which will ultimately be pursued in enlarging the size of farms, and substituting a skilful for a slovenly agriculture, will be that which has been exemplified in several districts in Ireland and Scotland, and especially in the magnificent operations on the vast estate of Sutherland. In Ireland these changes are proceeding with a rapidity which is attended with considerable inconvenience; but in India there would be less reason to apprehend such consequences; first, because the number of European proprietors would be small compared with that of Native proprietors, on whose estates the changes would follow more tardily; secondly, several years must elapse before the European proprietors could collect a sufficient number of practical data whereon to ground their calculations; thirdly, there would be a concurrent demand for labourers in the establishment of manufactories, and in the cultivation of waste lands; fourthly,-gradual conformity to European habits will abate the practice of early marriages among the Natives, as well as that of squandering their fortunes on the pomp of nuptial ceremonies; finally, as the European proprietors would have the best means of becoming acquainted with the condition and feelings of the Native population, so it would be their obvious interest to use every effort to improve their condition, conciliate their attachment, and preserve peace of the country.


In effectuating these improvements, the agency of British enterprise, skill, industry, and capital, is indispensable. In India, as in Siberia," the importation of industry" is the only plan whereby an increased demand for the produce of the soil can be created and supplied, and whence motives and means can originate for reducing the present complexity of tenures to the simple relations of landlord and tenant.

The effects hitherto produced by the permanent settlement in Bengal, though far short of what were predicted from it, have not been such as to detract, in the smallest degree, from the certainty of the proposition, that a limitation in perpetuity of the Government demand, as being the first step toward the introduction of the most advantageous system of property, must and will, ultimately,

be established throughout all our possessions. The income of the Zemindars has, on an average, been tripled, by an addition of 20 per cent. to the rents collected by them from the Ryots; a secure investment for capital has been provided; the general wealth of the country, and the produce of the revenue from customs, excise, salt, and stamps, have been increased.

On this point, as on so many others, Sir John Malcolm has chang ed his opinions for the worse. In the first edition of his 'Political History of India,' he " imagines there can be no doubt in the mind of any man who reflects seriously on the subject, but that the permanent settlement of the revenue, and the introduction of the judicial regulations, have already been attended with great benefit; that the character of this system is progressive improvement, and that its success has been sufficient to prevent disappointment to those who take a rational and comparative view of that good which can be produced by any human institution." In the second edition, he pronounces, as decidedly, that the objections of Colonel Wilks to a permanent settlement "have never been successfully controverted;" that it has occasioned disappointment, and that "it is now admitted, by its warmest advocates, to have been too much hurried, and to have been adopted with very incomplete information, both as to the extent and resources of the countries settled, and to the various claims, rights, and relations of its inhabitants." Now, with respect to the doctrines of Colonel Wilks, viz. that it "shuts out improvement," we have seen that, in Bengal, it has been followed by increased cultivation and productiveness of all other taxes: that "it is probable, nay, certain, the land tax will diminish;" that tax has been collected in Bengal with greater facility than ever, and with scarcely any defalcations: that being an irrevocable law," it is "allowing a political nullity;" it is such a nullity as was allowed by the Act for the redemption of the land tax in 1798, an Act which could not be infringed without violating the strongest sanctions which can make a law sacred. With respect to the "resources" of Bengal, the jumma fixed by the perpetual settlement was higher than the average sum collected during the whole anterior period; and, with respect to "the various claims, rights, and relations of its inhabitants," they were not determined nor affected by the mere renunciation by Government, in favour of the Zemindars, of all surplus collections which they might be entitled to make beyond a specified amount. Not content with retracting his former commendations of the Cornwallis institutions, Sir John Malcolm sets his face against all reformatory principles and arrangements, thinking that "the Natives may be as happy and as prosperous, under systems to which they are accustomed, as under those we would introduce to meet our own convenience, and our ideas of amelioration."

[ocr errors]

'The only laws which are irrevocable are the immutable princi

ples of justice, which, being of divine appointment, constitute the foundation and authority of all human institutions. Where these are not involved, one generation cannot preclude the exercise of the discretion of a succeeding generation in framing arrangements of public utility, whether respecting the form of government, or the extent and remuneration of public establishments. But, if a former generation had made a distribution of the public lands, under a conviction that the direct and indirect contributions of such proprietors would vastly exceed all that could be derived from their cultivation by any system of agency or contract: or, to come nearer to the actual circumstances, if a former generation, finding the public lands in the hands of a set of hereditary contractors, without skill, industry, or integrity, had determined to convert them into proprietors, by fixing, for ever, the rents payable by them, at an amount exceeding the average of their payments during the last thirty years, subject to the condition that their lands should be sold to the highest bidder, if they failed to discharge their annual rent, the infringement of such compact by a succeeding generation would be an act of equal folly and injustice. These considerations did not occur to Colonel Wilks, when he declared the perpetual settlement to be "a political nullity;" nor to the author of the following passage, in a despatch from the Court of Directors :-" When institutions contain within themselves a corrective prínciple, the imperfections which may adhere to their original formation are of comparatively little importance, because they are susceptible of gradual improvement; but when, case of the proposed permanent settlement, institutions are irrevocable and unalterable, prudence, circumspection, and the most mature deliberation, cannot be too often or too generally inculcated upon those whose province it is to direct and superintend their establishment." By the perpetual settlement nothing was made "irrevocable and unalterable," but the rights of individuals to their estates, those individuals continuing liable to every future tax which should not fall exclusively on the rent of landlords, but equally affect every description of property. To engage to respect such rights seems rather to require an instinctive impulse of common sense than an extraordinary exercise of circumspection and deliberation to such an institution no corrective principle" can be imagined, for the rights cannot be held too sacred, and no legislative power is excluded, except that of decreeing a wanton confiscation.


By Reg. XLVIII. of 1793, the collectors were required to prepare and transmit to the Board of Revenue quinquennial registers of estates paying revenue to Government, and (annual) registers of intermediate mutations in landed property. By subsequent Regulations, other Registers relating to, and exempt from, the payment of revenue, were required; but they all remained nearly

Inoperative. Very few such registers were ever prepared; and, as the failure was ascribed to the want of sufficient, office establishments, the judge and collector of each Zillah were, in 1817, appointed a committee, with the Register for their secretary, and adequate establishments, for the purpose of executing similar duties in a more accurate and comprehensive manner. These Record Committees record, compile, and transmit to the Presidency Record Committee, statements and reports respecting revenue settlements, individual or conjunct tenures, and all manner of statistical information. But the question is, what has been the value of their labours compared with the cost? What has been their influence on the statistical condition of the country, and on the territorial revenue? How much nearer have they brought us to the desiderated relations of landlord and tenant? In what degree have they tended to give simplification and validity to tenures? To these objects, the avowed ends of their institution, they have contributed nothing. If the inefficient quinquennial, and other register regulations, had not been disturbed from their slumber, some lacs of rupees might have been saved which have been spent on these Record Committees without the return of any advantage whatever. Taking the expense of each Committee at only 250 rupees per month, the expense of fifty-four Committees for ten years will amount to upwards of 17 lacs of rupees. Yet the absolute waste of a much greater sum would be nothing compared to the loss of time during which a better system might have been in operationone which facilitated the acquisition of individual property in land, and the application of British skill to its cultivation.

'I know not what evidence there is of a desire, on the part of public officers, to render rents uniform; but there is good ground for their impatience of interminable investigations and unprofitable accuracy. It is Government which desires to render that fixed which is in its nature variable, and to disturb the natural level of private contracts by the interposition of public authority. While Government persevere in this course of minute inspection of, and continual tampering with, landed property, (if such a thing can be said to exist in the non-permanently settled provinces, where it is so confusedly divided between the cultivators of various ranks and Government,) and prevent the enterprise and skill of unlicensed British subjects from being applied to the cultivation of the soil and the manufacture of its rude produce, no lapse of time nor any elaboration of detailed enactments will ever conduce to the improvement of the public revenue, or of the condition and character of the Native inhabitants.

On the Judicial System.

'The same change in the landed tenures, which is indispensable to the promotion of agricultural improvement, is no less indispensable

to the production of that amelioration in the judicial system which is implied in diminished litigation, greater precision in the laws, and a more able administration of them. At present a greater proportion of the public revenue is appropriated to the maintenance of judicial establishments than can be paralleled in any other country; but, if, by trenching still further on the funds for the support of other departments, the number of tribunals were doubled, and every Judge a Mansfield, the effect on the happiness of the people would be inconsiderable. The sum of ignorance, poverty, and vice, would not be sensibly diminished; the rights of the Ryots, who constitute the great mass of the population, would remain equally inscrutable; the disputes between borrowers and lenders equally numerous and perplexed. When the Zillah Courts were established, in 1793, Sir Henry Strachey observes that "the Judges and Registers were soon overloaded with suits. I will not here dwell upon the claims without end to land of every description. I say nothing of the suits concerning rent-free land, and the boundary disputes which no labour can unravel. I proceed to mention that the nature of the land tenures in Bengal gives rise to innumerable suits among the cultivators."

[ocr errors]

Sir Henry Strachey observes:- "The remedy I propose for the defects I have stated is the establishment of more Courts, composed of Natives, both Mohammedans and Hindoos, to be guided entirely by our regulations. Let the Native Judges be well paid, and they will do the duty well: of this I feel the strongest conviction. The expense would be little or nothing, as the fees might defray the whole, though it would be better to give the Native Judges liberal salaries."—" If the powers of the Moonsifs were only extended to the decision of suits to the amount of two hundred rupees, (the limit of the Register's authority at present,) the institution fee alone would, I conceive, form an ample fund for the payment of the Native Judges and their omlah. When I speak of a liberal salary for a Native Judge, I would be understood to mean somewhat less than one-tenth of the salary of the European Judge. It is my opinion that all the judicial functions of Bengal might gradually be thrown into the hands of the Natives, if such were the pleasure of the Company; and that the business would be as well conducted, under the Regulations, by the Natives as by the Europeans,-in some respects better,—and at one-tenth of the expense." -"To transact one quarter of the judicial business by European agency is impossible. If all the Company's servants were employed in judicial offices, still the drudgery would fall upon the Natives. The advantage, in point of economy, of employing the Natives is self-evident. The plan might be contracted or adopted to any extent. Suppose a portion, for instance half, of the subordinate offices in the judicial departments, (I mean those of Register and assistant,) as they fall vacant, were to be filled with Natives, with

« EdellinenJatka »