« PreviousContinue »
TO-DAY; AND TO-MORROW?
"A feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction exists among every class, both European and Native, on account of the constant increase of taxation which has for years been going on. My belief is that the continuance of that feeling is a political danger, the magnitude of which can hardly be over-estimated ; and any sentiment of dissatisfaction which may exist among disbanded soldiers of the Native Army is as nothing, in comparison with the state of general discontent to which I have referred. . . . We can never depend for a moment on the continuance of general tranquillity; but I believe that the present state of public feeling, as regards taxation, is more likely to lead to disturbance and discontent, and to be to us a source of greater danger, than the partial reduction which we propose in the Native Army can ever occasion. Of the two evils I choose the lesser."
THEN Parliament assembled early in 1858, the
WHEN most thought in the minds of all was the urgent need of remedial measures for India. A century of misrule
had ended in a convulsion so terrible that the best and bravest natures shuddered at its contemplation, and the wisest and ablest servants of the State were those who said the least about it. The whole of the dreadful truth has never yet been spoken,-will never probably be spoken in our time; but enough became generally known to make men of all parties anxious, by anxious, by a thorough change of policy, to take securities against the like ever happening again. Notice was formally given by ministers to the East India Company that its days were numbered. What was called the "double government" had long been
1 Minute of the Viceroy, on Military Expenditure, 3d October 1870.
arose the deficit to be provided for, either by borrowing, or by exceptional and oppressive taxation. It is now admitted that the outlay of millions on large permanent barracks has been worse than money thrown away. Aggregation, which proves so detrimental in Europe, is deadly in Asia. Not only in Bengal, but in the north-west provinces, these monuments of bureaucratic blundering serve only to remind the overtaxed community of one kind of jobbing on which their money has been recently spent. The merchants of Bombay, in the remarkable protest addressed by them in May 1870 to the Secretary of State against raising the income-tax to eightpence in the pound, reasonably suggested that "if the charges of constructing extensive public works of a permanent nature were met by terminable loans for fixed periods, instead of being defrayed from the current revenues, one main cause of deficit in the finances of India would be eliminated." But the recommendation has not been adopted; and fresh disclosures of the unfair and fraudulent working of the income-tax are made day after day. The bulk of the community, it is true, escape its incidence. Their discontent is secured by the heavy duty on salt, which can only be evaded by the peasantry who are fortunate enough to live near the sea, or the works where this indispensable element of life is manufactured; the former boil their rice in sea-water, and the latter mingle with it portions of the mud that has become saturated with saline particles.1 The Duke of Argyll in 1869 pressed upon the attention of the Viceregal Council the need of securing an equilibrium, and Lord Mayo, in language equally earnest, acknowledged the expediency of military retrenchment. Pre-eminently responsible for the peace and safety of the vast dependencies committed to his charge, he avows that, even were 1 Report of the Bombay Association for 1870.
justice whenever duly preferred, and to enforce reparation and restitution for wrong whenever proved.
The Royal Proclamation of the 1st November 1858, renounced solemnly all thought of further annexation.
Whereas, for divers weighty reasons, we have resolved to take upon ourselves the Government of India, heretofore administered in trust for us by the Honourable East India Company-we do by these presents notify and declare that we have taken upon ourselves the said Government, and we hereby call upon all our subjects within the said territories to be faithful, and to bear true allegiance to us, our heirs and successors.
"We hereby announce to the Native Princes of India, that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the Honourable East India Company, are by us accepted, and will be scrupulously maintained, and we look for the like observance on their part. We desire no extension of our territorial possessions; and while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our rights to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachment on those of others. We shall respect the rights, dignity, and honour of Native Princes as our own.
"We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects, and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil."
The Princes of India received these assurances with satisfaction, qualified only by their inability to judge how far the representatives of Majesty afar off would observe their equitable tenor. Remembering the past, they could not feel sanguine as to the future; for they were told that the preponderating will in Parliament decided who
should be the Queen's ministers, and who should be her Viceroys; and they and their fathers had oftentimes appealed in vain against the haughty satraps who had been set over them. Their hopes rose when, somewhat later, Lord Canning, in his celebrated Minute regarding Adoption, explicitly laid it down that the policy of the Government would thereafter be to recognise the native rights of succession in royal and noble houses, because it had been resolved to preserve subsisting dynasties and chieftainrics as essential to good government and peace. "I was astonished," he said, "at the effect produced by my declaration at Gwalior, where the announcement was received with expressions of joy like those on the birth of a prince." Scindia told the Resident that a cold wind had been blowing on him incessantly for years, from which he was now relieved. Yet, unhappily, too soon-" was it gone, and for ever, the light they saw breaking?" Hardly was the ink of the Adoption Minute dry when Government recalcitrated; and the old policy of confiscation and absorption was summarily put in force upon a new and equally untenable plea. The young Rajah of Dhar was suddenly informed that his accession to his father's titles and privileges had been disallowed, without a hearing or a trial of any description, and that his dominions were to be incorporated with those of the Crown, because, during the revolt, some of his troops had mutinied, and for a time resisted the efforts of his guardians to bring them back to discipline and loyalty. Lord Canning assigned as his only reason that he was determined to show the Durbars of the minor States that they must be held accountable if they were unable as well as if they were unwilling to restrain the misconduct of their soldiery. In reply to a question, put in the House of Commons, Lord Stanley frankly repudiated
the doctrine thus laid down, which did not, he said, lie in the mouth of a Power which had been itself unable to keep its troops from mutiny; and he promised that the annexation should be reversed. His despatch reprieving Dhar and its people from the penalties of sins whereof they were guiltless in all but the name, was set at nought by Lord Canning, who directed Sir Robert Hamilton, the Resident at Indore in August 1858, to inform the young Rajah that his principality was annexed, and that his treasure and jewels were to be divided as prize-money among the troops of the column then serving before the place. He was to accompany the announcement with an intimation that while Government reserved its decision, the unfortunate family must never hope to be restored. The Resident, an upright and a fearless man, acquainted with the real circumstances of the case better than the Viceroy, expostulated against this injustice. The rulers and the people of Dhar had been faithful allies until, in the midst of the tempest of mutiny raging around them, the mistake had been committed of turning loose upon them the lawless mercenaries removed from the Nizam's country, because they were supposed to be dangerous there. Certain fanatics had seized the opportunity to foment sedition, the local Government being in the hands of a Regency; but the British Agent had throughout been on terms of constant communication with the Rajah, and had nothing to complain of in him, his relatives, or influential advisers. If he were to be deprived of his political authority, Sir Robert Hamilton pleaded hard that at least he should not be despoiled of his property. Lord Canning's pride was nettled at the rebuke he had received from the Secretary of State. He left to Colonel Durand the task of answering the remonstrance, and the decree of sequestration was pitilessly enforced. The potent