Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

EDINBURGH REVIEW,

JANUARY 1810.

No. XXX.

Art. I. An Inquiry into the practical Merits of the System for

the Government of India, under the Superintendance of the Board of Controul. By the Earl of Lauderdale. 8vo. Edinburgh, Constable & Co. pp. 260.

pp. 260. 1809. T must be admitted, we conceive, upon all hands, that the state

of our Indian empire has uniformly disappointed the hopes and expectations of the country. The golden prospects of national revenue to be derived from our vast territorial possessions in the East, have hitherto flitted before us like the scenes of an en. chanted landscape ; and, when they appeared just on the point of being realized, have suddenly receded to a greater distance than ever. As the periodical renovation of the charter of the East India Company drew near, matters have usually assumed a very alluring aspect; but, as the day advanced, clouds have collected, and the whole atmosphere suddenly been enveloped in gloom and obscurity. To what cause, we may ask, is this melancholy result to be a scribed ? Has the public formed expectations in themselves unreasonable, and which, in the nature of things, could not be gra. tified? Does the disappointment originate in unforeseen and uncontroulable circumstances, by which the best exertions of human prudence, vigour and sagacity, have been unavoidably frustrated ? Should it be imputed to the pernicious ambition, the incapacity, or the incorrigible supineness, of those selected by the proprietors of East India stock for the management of their concerns? Or, lastly, is it to be ascribed to the same errors or deficiencies in those to whom his Majesty has entrusted the controul of Indian policy? To one or other of these causes, we conceive that the public disappointment must necessarily be ascribed. For we cannot admit a fifth supposition,--that the governors appointed to conduct the affairs of India, equally negligent of the orders of the Directors, and of the injunctions of his Majesty's ministers, have VOL. XY. NO. 30,

R

presumed presumed to act in open defiance of both. The immediate recal of the delinquent would undoubtedly have been considered at all times as a necessary sacrifice to the national interest, and to the vindication of the wisdom and integrity which had been baffled and discredited by his misconduct. No such symptom of ministerial displeasure, however, has hitherto occurred; and the supposition, therefore, must be considered as inadmissible ; particularly when we find that each returning viceroy has invariably received the same flattering tribute of applause which had been previously lavished on his predecessor.

As the renewal of the Company's charter must soon undergo a parliamentary discussion, it is extremely desirable that the public should be in possession of some clear and accurate views of the most momentous subject which ever engaged the attention of any legislature. It is from this motive, we presume, that the Earl of Lauderdale has been induced to publish the result of his researches on Indian affairs. His strictures, however, embrace but a limited view of a subject almost boundless; and, while we endeavour to give our readers a view of their result, we shall endeavour to state, as succinctly as possible, a few of the most important considerations involved in the decision. To develop them fully, would require, in addition to that local knowledge to which we presume to lay soine

claim, a far more intimate acquaintance with the posture of the Company's political and financial concerns at the present moment, than we possess the means of obtaining.

Lord Lauderdale has been long known to the public, both as a zealous statesman, and as a writer of very considerable ability ; nor can we recollect any individual of his rank who has evinced a more commendable industry, both to acquire the knowledge which is suitable to his condition, and to disseminate it, when ac. quired, among those in whom ignorance would be most pernici

With all his industry, however, and all his talents, his ad. versaries have sometimes imputed to Lord Lauderdale a degree of rashness and violence, which would make him an unsafe guide in questions of great political importance, and even his friends have acknowledged, that his zeal has sometimes been at least a match for his discretion, and that the views which his sagacity has opened, have sometimes taken a little colouring from his prejudices or his passions. It was with the caution suggested by these general impressions that we took up the work before us; and found, to our surprise as well as our satisfaction, that it contained a disquisition as remarkable for temperance of manner, as for clearness of statement and fairness of reasoning. The fruit evidently of a great deal of research, it makes no parade, either of the labour which it must have cost, or of the discoveries by which it has been repaid ; but exhibits the results with exemplary conciseness and simplicity, and deduces the conclusions, if not with perfect accuracy and justice, at least with plainuess and candour. The subject of our Indian goverrient certainly was not that of all others on which we should have thought Lord Lauderdale most likely to judge without prejudice, or to write without passion ; yet we believe, with few exceptions, the Directors of the East India Company would have little difficulty in subscribing to his statements, or in admitting the justice of much of the censure he infers.

conciseness

ous.

The immediate object of this disquisition is to inquire, how far the Board of Controul, erected in 1784 for checking and regulating the proceedings of the Court of Directors in the government of India, has answered the purposes of its institution. With this view he examines, by a reference to historical facts, the proofs of its efficacy; ist, In preventiog schemes of conquest and extension of dominion ; 2dly, In increasing the export of our manufactures, and the import of raw materials ; Sdly, la effecting the objects to which the Company's profits were by law appropriated.

We entirely concur with the noble author in his admiration of the liberal and enlarged principles which dictated the resolutions of the House of Commons in 1782. - We think, too, that the orders of the Court of Directors, which contained a prohibitory condemnation of all schemes of conquest and enlargement of dominion, were founded no less in wisdom than policy, and we are decidedly of opinion, that every transgression of those orders, without evident necessity, has tended to weaken their influence, and to diminish their resources; and that every interference as a party in the domestic or national quarrels of the country powers, was wisely forbidden by the Company. Above all, we repeat, with feelings of enthusiastic approbation, the following most excellent resolution. That the maintenance of an inviolable character for mo

deration, good faith, and scrupulous regard to treaty, ought to have been the simple grounds on which the British governments should have endeavoured to establish an influence superior to

other Europeans, over the minds of the native powers in In• dia ; and that the danger and discredit arising from the forfei

ture of this preeminence, could not be compensated by the • temporary success of any plan of violence or injustice.'' The recital introduced into the act 1784, and repeated in the act 1793, professes similar principles. • Forasmuch as, to pursue schemes of conquest and extension of dominion in India, are ' measures repugnant to the wish, the honour, and policy of this

nation, ' &c. But, noble and enlightened as these principles are, it is but just

R 2

[ocr errors]

to observe, that they had uniformly actuated the policy of the Court of Directors. The territorial possession of Bengal, Bahar and Orissa, had long limited the extent of their ambition ; and they impatiently waited till a season of tranquillity might permit their servants abroad to conform to their osders, in devising the regulations best adapted to promote the internal prosperity of the fair and fertile regions submitted by Providence to their controul. But whilst such were the principles, and such the instructions of the Company to their servants, it must be confessed that far other views influenced the councils of Calcutta and Bombay. The annals of Mr Hastings's administration exhibit an almost uninterrupted series of unjustifiable and ruinous wars. If, indeed, we except the war with Mysor, (a state which has uniformly been the aggressor), all the military operations of that period constituted a direct infringement of the orders which it was the duty of the Bengal government to respect. The systematic aggressions of the English alarmed the native rulers of adjacent states. But the extremne financial embarrassment occasioned by a plan of such extensive military combinations, rendered the efforts of that

government only fatal to itself. The diminution of its reputation kept pace with that of its pecuniary resources.

Ar such a crisis it became the duty of the legislature to intersere. The orders of the Directors had been found insufficient to check the irregular ambition of their own servants; these orders were now to be combined with those of his Majesty's ministers. It might fairly be presumed, that, in some cases, they would correspond more than before with the general policy of the state ; and that, in all, they would acquire such an additional authority as to preclude the possibility of disolvedience.

Lord Lauderdale thinks himself warranted, by the resolutions of the House of Commons in 1782, by the enactments of 1784, and nuch more by the speeches delivered in Parliament on both these occasions, to assume, that to check schemes of conquest and extension of clominion was the primary object of the institution of the Board of Controul. It follows, upon this view of the case, that to prove its total ineflicacy for the purposes of its institution, the noble author has only to enumerate the long list of states and kingdonis added to the British dominions since 1784, by which they have in fact been at least doubled in extent and population. Ist, Mysor, nearly reduced to its original limits, has yielded to the conqueror all the additions derived from the warlike achievements of her Moslem kings. 2d, The Carnatic, which iirst afforded a harbour to the commerce of Britain, now submits to her exclusive sway. After all the blood and treasure expended to support the questionable right of Maliomed Ali 10 the succession of his father, the unquestionable right of his grandson has been transferred to another. 3d, The Mahratta sovereign of Tanjor has put the British in possession of that fertile district. The endless disputes between his family and that of Walajah, have been finally terminated by the dispossession of both.

Hi motus animorum, atque hæc certamina tanie

Pulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescent. 4th, The Suba of the Decan has condescended to accept a sub

sidiary British force for his protection, and districts, of which the annual revenue amounts to 720,0001., have been ceded to defray this expense. 5th, The Vizier of Oude has reluctantly been compelled to cede a portion of his territory, the revenues of which are calculated at one million one hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds. 6th, The small independent territory of the Nabob of Furrukhabad has been added to the British dominions, from an apprehension that the personal character of that chief would not tend to promote morality and good order amongst his subjects. 7th, The city and port of Surat have been taken

rossession of by the Bombay government. 8th, When the affairs of the Chief of the Mahratta confederacy were involved in almost hopeless embarrassment, he applied for a subsidiary force, for the maintenance of which he has ceded lands in the province of Bandelcund.

This list no doubt is formidable: and much of what the author infers from it, it would not be easy to deny. Yet there are several circumstances that seem to require observation. In the first place, we submit to the noble author, whether he was warranted in classing the just and unavoidable war waged by the Marquis of Cornwallis against Mysor, in the same category with the events subsequently related.' " The relations of unity and peace,' says Lord Lauderdale,' remained uninterrupted, till an attack by Tippoo Sahib, the son and successor of Hyder Ali, on our ally the Rajah of Travancor, roused a desire of revenge, that warfare alone could appease. Submissive offers to settle all differences through a person of rank and dignity sent to our camp, were rejected; Lord Cornwallis declaring, that good policy, as well as a regard to our reputation in India, required a severe reparation. We can venture to state, from the oilicial documents which fell under our inspection at that period, that although Tippu did indeed propose to send an officer of rank to adjust all differences, no intreaties could induce him to suspend his attack on Travancor, even until that officer should reach the Englisin camp, The conquest of Travancor, therefore, was really made a preliminary to negociation; and the ruin of our ally was the only cere train result.

RS

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »