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The object originally contemplated in the present work was to record facts rather than to offer opinions regarding the system under which the government of India is conducted.
In submitting a few preliminary observations to a Supplement, which brings down the Analysis, comprising a continuation of the Brief Historical Sketch, and the Laws, to the present time, no departure from the original plan has been intended.
Great and permanent benefits have been conferred on the Indian community, by the important legislative provisions carried into effect during the last session, which provisions are contained in this volume.
Other subjects connected with India were likewise brought under the consideration of Parliament, which, although not leading to any practical results, presented opportunities for the expression of sentiments and opinions, which condemn, in no very measured terms, the present mode of governing that extensive and interesting empire.
Two questions were brought forward by a distinguished member, whose statements on matters relating to India, from the high judicial station which he formerly so honourably filled in that country, and his subsequent connexion with the Company at home, cannot fail to carry with them, and often deservedly, great weight.
The one is a personal case, that of Mr. O'Reilly.
The other a general one, the petition against the stamp act lately imposed by the Bengal Government.
The claim of Mr. O'Reilly for redress from the Court of Directors, for losses which he represents to have sustained by the negligence of the East-India Company, was brought before the House of Commons on the 18th of April last. It was urged on the attention of the House as a case “ in which a family had sus“ tained a heavy pecuniary loss, by the negligence, the
gross negligence (I will not say moral misconduct) " and want of care of the public money, which is a “ most serious offence in a public body."
It will be perceived, on a perusal of the documents laid before the House of Commons on the 25th June and 7th July, that neither the Court of Directors, nor their Government of Madras nor its servants, have been in any way parties to, or are responsible for the loss sustained by Mr. O'Reilly. In support of this assertion, it
may be sufficient to quote the following opinion of His Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor-General, which confirmed the opinion given by Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet, the standing counsel to the Company, viz. “ that neither the East-India Company nor any other
persons were liable to make good the losses oc“ casioned by the insolvency of Mr. Ricketts.”
If the case is one which has no ground of claim beyond that of an appeal to the liberality of the EastIndia Company, it should be brought forward under such an avowal, and not as founded on grounds imputing to the Company “ gross negligence, not to
say moral misconduct.”
It is impossible not to observe the earnestness with which the Company are called upon to exercise libe
rality when the occasion suits, whilst at the same moment they are held up as conducting their affairs on principles regardless of economy: clearly shewing that no occasion is lost, where an opportunity offers, for impugning the principles which govern their proceedings, whether relating to a personal or a general question.
The other subject is that of the Tax on Stamps, which was brought before the House of Commons on the 17th June last, when a petition was presented from the inhabitants of Calcutta against that measure. The coarse invectives contained in a publication attributed to a highly favoured servant of the Company, who has taken a prominent part in the question, and whose hostility to the Company appears to have increased in exact proportion with the increase of the advantages which he has derived in their service, are merely alluded to as shewing the justice of the following observations by Sir John Malcolm, who cannot be supposed to cherish any indisposition towards the service, civil or military, in both branches of which he has so highly distinguished himself.
“ It is a remarkable fact, that those whose interests, “ as a body, the Company are so prompt to defend,
are not so sensible as might be expected of the
safety they derive from this intermediate authority. :56 The causes of this are obvious: the highest and “ most distinguished of these public officers, whose
opinions and actions have a great influence over the
rest, are too often discontented at their condition, “ and hostile to this branch of the Indian administra“ . tion. The supposed disposition of the Court to “ look chiefly to expenditure, occasions every reduc
" tion either to be ascribed to them, or to a desire of “ conciliating their favour ; while all acts of grace or “ liberality are referred either to the representations “ of local superiors in India, or to the interference of “ his Majesty's Government. These conclusions are “ often unjust, but they are always made ; and they
operate to prevent those feelings of respect and at“ tachment, which it is so desirable men should enters tain for that authority under which they are placed. “ Those feelings, however, never can be maintained “ in large classes, by a system that employs no means “ but those of circumscribed rules and cold inanimate “ justice. There must be parts of the community “ kindled into warmer sentiments than such means 6.
can ever inspire, or a government will never acquire “ the popularity which it is essential for it to possess. “ This ingredient of rule is singularly wanting in the
Company's government. It has few if any zealous “ and active advocates, to meet those attacks with “ which it is continually assailed; and the conse
quence is, that though serious reflection should “ teach the great body of those who are in its service “ that no change is likely to be for their advantage, “ all that they are in the daily habit of hearing and
reading is calculated to make a different impression upon their minds."*
In moving that the petition as to the Stamp Tax be brought up, it was stated, with reference to the renewal of the Company's charter :
“ The question will be taken up in haste, decided « in haste, and we shall crowd the discussions into a “ few weeks, and postpone all discussion until the
* Vide Political History of India, vol. ii, page 118.
eve of decision. If this be a wise course, and if “ it be not advisable to enter into preliminary discus“ sions on this great question, I am yet to learn the “ first rudiments of prudence and policy; but the “ course which I have alluded to is too accordant with “ past practice, not to find favour in the eyes of some
“ What has been the history of India and of this " question ? For a long time the subject is utterly
neglected ; at length, forcing itself upon the atten“tion of Parliament, it is suddenly taken up, tu“ multuously debated for a few hours, in a few days
spread over a few weeks in a session; and, in the
end, a hurried bargain struck for the lease of this “ great empire for twenty years longer. In the in“ terval, the perpetual impatience of Parliament inter“ dicts the most intrepid member in the House from
bringing the subject under its consideration, until
perhaps the very day before the settling day be“ tween the steward and the tenant, when perhaps
some increase in the rent, or some variation in the
covenant, is agreed to. Such is the history of the con“ duct of Parliament towards India, in the successive
periods of 1773, 1783, 1794, and 1813. Our In“ dian legislation has advanced by springs and jerks. “ What could have been expected from such a system “ and from such management, forming, as it does, a
perfect exemplification of a system—which combines “ evils that seem to be irreconcilable : slow without “ deliberation, sudden without vigour ? When the
subject came upon us on former occasions, there “ was not much time for deliberation—all was hurry “ and precipitation ; scarce a moment's time was de