« PreviousContinue »
• In condemning the line of policy which has been observed by the Company for the purpose of preventing an unlimited influx of Europeans into India, the imaginary benefits which an opposite principle would confer upon the natives are then pointed out and strongly insisted upon. It was observed :
“ There are in India no such guardians as a middle “ class; no such guardians as those persons, who “ having embarked in trade and manufactures, de“ pending for success in business on peace and tran“ quillity, looking to the security of the personal pro“ perty for the realization of future fortune, are con“ sequently deeply interested in the maintenance of “ order, and would oppose any act that was likely to
disturb it. On one side, the interest of those indi“ viduals would lead them to protect the natives from “ oppression ; while, on the other, their feelings would “ operate with equal strength, supporting order and “ authority. If the natives want any set of men to “ protect them, let a body of Europeans be invited to " that country to strengthen its connexion with this."* · The opinions of the much and deservedly lamented prelate, the late Bishop Heber, were then referred to in support of the above propositions; whilst, at the same time, opinions coming from the self-same source, and which militate against such propositions, were passed by as ideas “ formed upon information which he “ had received from others rather than to have been “ guided by his own experience on the subject.” How stand the facts ?
Bishop Heber reached Calcutta in October 1823.
* Debate in the House of Commons on the Stamp question, 17th June 1828.
At the close of January 1824, evidently referring to the Europeans connected with Calcutta or its imme, diate environs, he expressed himself as follows:
“ With regard to the questions which have lately ♡ occupied a good deal of the public attention, the “ free press, and the power of sending back Europeans “.to England at pleasure, so far as these bear on the “ condition of the natives, and the probable tranquil, « lity of the country, I have more to say than I have “ now time for. On the whole, I think it still desirable " that, in this country, the newspapers should be li“ censed by government; though, from the increased 66 interest which the Hindoos and Mussulmans take “ in politics, and the evident fermentation which, either “ for good or evil, iş going on in the public mind, I “ do not think the measure can be long continued. “ But the power of deportation is, I am convinced, “ essential to the public peace. Many of the adven“ turers who come hither from Europe are the great“ est profligates the sun ever saw ; men whom nothing “ but despotism can manage, and who, unless they " were really under a despotic rule, would insult, “ beat, and plunder the natives without shame or pity. “ Even now, many instances occur of insult and mis“ conduct, for which the prospect of immediate em“ barkation for Europe is the most effectual precaution “ or remedy. It is, in fact, the only control which " the Company possesses over the tradesmen and « ship-builders in Calcutta, and the indigo planters up “ the country.”
Admitting that so much as related to the indigo planters up the country was derived at that time from information, the Bishop, in March 1825, fifteen months subsequently, after having passed through the eastern,
northern, northern, and western extremities of British India, having been to Dacca and Almora, and passing through the Deccan towards Ahmedabad, writes as follows:
“ The English in the Upper Provinces are of course “ thinly scattered, in proportion either to the mul“ titude of the heathen, or the extent of territory, “ They are, however, more numerous than I expected, “ though there are very few indeed who are not in “ the civil or military employ of government. The “ indigo planters are chiefly confined to Bengal, and “ I have no wish that their number should increase in “ India. They are always quarrelling with, and op“ pressing the natives, and have done much in those
districts where they abound, to sink the English cha“racter in native eyes Indeed, the general conduct “ of the lower order of Europeans in India is such as " to shew the absurdity of the system of free colonizaor tion which
W is mad about.” Thus fully confirming by personal experience the correctness of the information upon which he had formed his original opinion.
It would, however, still be matter for gratulation, if the classes of Europeans pointed out by Bishop Heber were the only parties from whom the natives have experienced any thing tending towards oppression, or who have acted so as to lower the English character in their eyes.
Circumstances attending the failure of a mercantile house at Calcutta in the past year, tended to irritate the native community against the European character and mode of transacting business more than any other event that has taken place. The house, though long insolvent, was supported
whilst gathering up, mostly upon credit, large quantities of produce of all kinds in the interior; and at the moment when all had been collected or was in transit to the presidency, judgment was entered (on a bond given by the house in question) in the supreme court, and the community of the interior saw the goods they had provided, and looked upon as their security, torn from under their eyes, without hope of a fraction of their value being set apart to satisfy their claims! The failure alluded to, though the largest, was not the only one of the same kind.
The opinions of gentlemen possessing local experience appear to have been at all times decidedly opposed to a great increase of Europeans in India. The late Sir Philip Francis recorded his deliberate opinion in 1782, after his return from India, in the following terms :
“ Even of adventurers pursuing every mode of ac“ quisition that offers, very few, if any, have succeed« ed. But these are people to whom no encourage“ ment should be given. Their residence in the “ country, especially in the remoter parts, harasses " the people, and alienates them from the natural “ habits of submission to any power that protects
“ The increase of Europeans in Bengal may be " hazardous to Great Britain in another sense: it “ necessarily tends to fix them there for ever; they “ become colonists in effect, because in a very great “ number a great majority cannot hope or expect “ to return with fortune or independence to the “ mother country. Their connexions with it are gra“ dually dissolved, and their attachment to it declines “ in the same proportion. When once they shall “ have multiplied to a certain point, it is in the course and nature of things that Bengal will neither pay “ tribute nor obedience to England."*
The coincidence of opinion between two such eminent characters as Sir Philip Francis and Bishop Heber, though expressed at such different periods, is too apparent not to strike the most common observer.
The line of conduct pursued by the East-India Company with reference to their foreign affairs, and the nature of the various and important duties which devolveupon the Executive Body in their home transactions, are really little known or understood.
An instance of the error into which the most enlightened minds may be drawn by an imperfect acquaintance with the subject of the Company's foreign policy, presents itself in the motion brought under the consideration of the House of Lords in December 1802, by the late Marquess of Hastings, then Earl of Moira, on the affairs of the Carnatic, on which occasion his Lordship dwelt “ upon the necessity of con“ trolling the Company in their system of excessive “ aggrandizement and increase of their territories, “ and on the unjustifiable measures of making war for “ conquest.” And observed, that “we had found fault “ with France for invading and oppressing all the feeble “ states about her, and by the conduct of the East“ India Company we allowed that opprobrium to be « retorted on ourselves, and it was held up to all “ Europe that we pursued in India the same conduct “ of which we so loudly accused France."
It may be only necessary to contrast the opinions entertained by his Lordship in 1802 with the measures
* Introduction to Original Minutes, 1782.