Page images
PDF
EPUB

appropriated, were used as a bribe wherewith to obtain. new and valuable concessions from the court of Delhi. A separate peace was negotiated, whereby, in consideration of these territories and the Company's guarantee of twentysix lacs of yearly tribute, Shah Alum agreed to issue a firman appointing the Company his farmers-general of the revenues of Orissa, Behar, and Bengal-provision being carefully made that nothing therein contained should imply any derogation from the authority and dignity of the Nawab-Nazim, the maintenance of whose Government. should be a permanent charge, and should be fully defrayed before anything was appropriated to their own profit by the new collectors. This notable transaction is what has been called the transfer of the Dewanny, and from its singularity and importance, it is not surprising that it should have been variously misunderstood and misrepresented. It was, in fact, the realisation of a scheme conceived seven years before. In 1758 the Council wrote home that their late successes had acquired for them so great a reputation with the Emperor, that his Ministers wished for their good offices at Moorshedabad to secure the more punctual payment of the imperial tribute. Their diplomatic agent, Sitab Roy, more than hinted that if they would guarantee the annual payment, they might have the function and title of Dewan. "The Dewan is the second man of rank," they say, "in the kingdom; and such a dignity annexed to your Presidency would give extraordinary weight to the Company in the Empire, which nothing would be able to remove. accepting this employ might occasion jealousy on the part of the Soubahdar, and we are unwilling to cause him any dissatisfaction at a time when our small force is engaged another way, especially as you gentlemen give us so little hopes of reinforcements from home."

Long's Records, vol i.

The

come.

But times had changed, and the reinforcements were now The encroaching lodgers clutched at the latch-key, which gave them henceforth the run of the house without let or hindrance or question. In its ultimate consequences, the transfer of the Dewanny proved to be, no doubt, the turning-point of India's fortunes; and in whatever aspect viewed at the time, it is impossible not to regard it as a proof of the political imbecility into which the Durbar of Delhi had sunk. For the sake of ready money to sustain its lavish and luxurious expenditure, a concession was made to encroaching and ambitious foreigners, who had recently been open foes, incompatible with all our notions of imperial self-respect, patriotism, and policy. But it is idle to pretend, looking at the terms employed in the firman, the stipulations it embodies, and bearing in mind the confidential language used regarding it by the concessionaires, that it ever was proposed or granted, asked for or accepted, as tantamount to a transfer of the dominion or government of the three provinces to the Company. That it was used and abused to that end, at first stealthily and slowly, and then rapidly and ruthlessly, is true. But it is not true that such purpose was breathed until the deed was done. Let those who found a claim of forfeiture upon this so-called act of expropriation by the then acknowledged paramount power, consult the private correspondence of M. de Barillon, wherein the payment of secret pensions and gifts from Louis XIV. to Charles II. are carefully chronicled, with the receipts and acknowledgments given by English peers and diplomatists, and similar documents from noble lords and right honourable gentlemen in Parliament, for like gratifications and benefits from the King of France; and then let them think what would have been said had any one attempted to construe such transactions as a mortgage of

any

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the soil of England, reducible into possession at the pleasure of the mortgagee. Yet, between the two bargainings, the moral difference is unspeakable. Want of money by a sensual and prodigal court is the one feature of identity : everything else is different, the difference being in favour of the Asiatics.

The Council could not contain themselves for joy; and sped their congratulations by the next mail to London. The hills were now about to drop fatness; and for the first time they felt as if they could afford to keep a conscience. The contentions about tolls and duties, wrung from the natives, but not exacted from their own people, and all the corruptions and crimes incident thereto, suddenly had become scandalous in their eyes. They declared they had just discovered that the only way to put an end to all such evils was to take away the bone of contention, and to become tax-gatherers themselves. Their solemn effrontery cannot be appreciated in paraphrase. "The perpetual struggles for superiority between the Nawabs and your agents, together with the recent proofs before us of notorious and avowed corruption, have rendered us unanimously of opinion, after the most mature deliberation, that no other method could be suggested of laying the axe to the root of all these evils, than that of obtaining the Dewanny of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa for the Company. By establishing the power of the Great Mogul, we have likewise established his rights; and His Majesty, from principles of gratitude, equity, and policy, has thought proper to bestow this important employment on the Company, the nature of which is the collecting all the revenues, and, after defraying the expenses of the army and allowing a sufficient fund for the support of the Nizamut, to remit the remainder to Delhi, or wherever the King shall

reside or direct. But as the King has been graciously pleased to bestow on the Company for ever such surplus as shall arise from the revenues, upon certain stipulations and agreements expressed in the Sunnud, we have settled with the Nawab, with his own free will and consent, that the sum of fifty-three lacs shall be annually paid to him for the support of his dignity and all contingent expenses, exclusive of the charge of maintaining an army, which is to be defrayed out of the revenues ceded to the Company by this royal grant of the Dewanny. And, indeed, the Nawab has abundant reason to be well satisfied with the conditions of his agreement, whereby a fund is secured to him, without trouble or danger, adequate to all the purposes of such grandeur and happiness as a man of his sentiments has any conception of enjoying. More would serve only to disturb his quiet, endanger his Government, and sap the foundation of that solid structure of power and wealth which at length is reared and completed by the Company, after a vast expense of blood and treasure.' Already, however, they began to devise how this new privilege might be stretched to work a defeasance of the general authority of the Soubahdar; and they proceed to indicate their meaning in unmistakable terms. It is worthy of note that the Directors in their reply broadly and significantly distinguish between their appreciation of the value of the Dewanny, and their entire disapproval of its perversion to political ends. "We entirely approve of your preserving the ancient form of government in upholding the dignity of the Soubahdar. We conceive the office of Dewan should be exercised only in superintending the collection and disposal of the revenues. This we conceive to be the whole office of the Dewanny.

1 Despatch, 17th May 1768.

1

The admin

istration of justice, the appointments to offices, zemindaries, -in short, whatever comes under the denomination of civil administration, we understand is to remain in the hands of the Nawab or his Ministers."

In compliance with the terms of the imperial rescript, fifty-three lacs of rupees were agreed to be paid annually out of the taxes for supporting the expenses of the Nizamut-seventeen lacs being for household charges, and thirty-six lacs for guards, police, and other purposes requisite to maintain the state and dignity of the Soubahdar's Government. The gross receipts of the three provinces were estimated at no less a sum than two millions sterling; and Clive concurred with the Directors in declaring that all the details and functions of collection should be left, as before, in native hands. When in England, he had strongly urged upon the Directors the necessity of putting a check on the private trade of their servants. "The trading in salt, betel, and tobacco" having been one of the causes of dispute, he hoped these articles would be restored to the Nawab; and the Company's servants absolutely forbidden to trade in them: "the odium of seeing such monopolies in the hands of foreigners need not be insisted on." Under a tropical sun his good resolutions, however, all dissolved away, for before he had been out a month he had become a partner with Messrs Verelst, Sykes, and Sumner in the salt trade. It was said that he devoted his profits derived from the traffic to the relief of needy relatives and dependants, and that personally he obtained no benefit from them. Possessed of a vast fortune, drawn from the resources of native princes, he could hardly appropriate more from that quarter, and he had creditably aided in putting an end to the system of exactions under the name of presents, where his successors were concerned; but the orders of the Directors were equally

« PreviousContinue »