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for the proceedings which had resulted in this vote. The Court quickly re-assembled, and repeated substantially what they had done before, by declaring that a dividend of less than £400,000 a year would not satisfy them. Parliament was offended at this apparent intention to challenge, if not to resist, its authority; and Mr Fuller, chairman of the committee, forthwith moved to bring in a bill limiting the dividends of the Company to 10 per cent., which, after many warm debates, was read a third time on the 28th of May, and passed. In the Upper House it was denounced by Lord Mansfield and other peers as an infraction of the rights of private property; but public feeling ran high, opposition was unavailing; and before the session closed, another bill was passed which bound the Company to pay £400,000 a year into the exchequer out of their revenues in Bengal, as a condition of the renewal of their charter. It was thus made plain for whose benefit the collection and administration of the revenues of the Nawab-Nazim had been transferred from native to foreign hands. In the scramble between Westminister and the City for a divison of the spoil, the weightier matters of justice, judgment, and mercy seem to have been forgotten. The darkening shadows had fallen upon the mind of the great statesman who then nominally held the reins of administration, but who, secluded in his villa at Hampstead, refused for months to attend Parliament or Council, to answer letters, or even to receive visits from his colleagues. Chatham, towards the close of the year, gave up the Privy Seal, and returned no more to power. Politicians occupied themselves with more pressing affairs in Europe and America, and the new owners, as they had virtually become, of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, went their way.

In the session of 1769, the agreement made for three

years between Government and the Company had to be revised. Lord North now led the House of Commons in his pleasant off-hand style. He offered the Company a new lease of their Eastern-hunting grounds upon the old terms. No stipulations, political or social, administrative or legislative, were proposed. But a new voice was to be henceforth heard in the affairs of India, whose lofty and passionate protests against wrong have not yet ceased to thrill the hearts of all who love the honour of their country wisely and well. Three years before, the Member for Wendover had entered Parliament, and had rapidly asserted, by the unhelped force of courage, eloquence, and independency of thought, a position such as no man without birth or wealth had before attained in that assembly. With ineffable wonder and disdain, Burke noted this mere perfunctory discharge of the great duties of State, and rebuked warmly the absence of all policy and prudence displayed in such official conduct. "This bargain," he exclaimed," is not an agreement but a ransom. "is calculating the revenue, without allowing for risk, without inquiring into circumstances, to make a great commercial Company pay £400,000 to Government is but a robbery." His vehemence in conversation and debate suggested in the meaner minds around him only the suspicion, genuine or feigned, that he must have some personal motive for engaging so earnestly in a subject that did not ostensibly concern him or his country-town constituents; and not a few of his political friends were rather chilled than kindled by zeal which never slackened in or out of season. His prophecies of evil were not believed, his too accurate prognostics, his too prescient insight into consequences, were unheeded. If they squeezed the Company in this blind fashion, they but 1 Cavendish, vol. i. p. 266-Burke's Speeches.




incited them to squeeze their servants in the East, and that only meant that they should squeeze the native victims of their rule. But he seemed to them as one that mocked. How could they know what was really happening, or might possibly happen, at the other side of the globe? and at heart what did they care? Though he spoke like an angel, the House laughed,' and few divided with him. Then he grew angrier and less convincing. Nature, which had lavished on him so many of her choicest gifts, had forgotten tact when he was made. Tact he had none, and the want of that species of instinct cannot be supplied by learning, discipline, or even by experience. Few sympathised enough with the poor and plebeian man of genius to risk his ill-humour by telling him the truth of what was said or insinuated in his disparagement. The Duke of Richmond, who had both goodnature and good sense, on one occasion frankly told him the truth, taking care to add, that for himself he did not believe him to be swayed in the least by any personal motives. But the haughty spirit of Burke was not to be influenced by hints however delicate, or advice however kind. He had his work to do, and, after all, he could only do it in his own way. Justice to India became to him an Egeria, whom he loved to commune with in the silent hours of night, and from whom, most truly, he received inspiration.

The musnud remained, but the sceptre had been taken away. The dignity of native rule still subsisted, and still wore the ancient embroidery of power; but power to protect, control, defend, or guide, was gone. After ten years of foreign rule, what was the plight of the people? Did they grieve like the Hebrews of old? or if unmoved by national sentiment, had they physical cause to feel that "their inheritance was turned to strangers, and their houses

1 Life of Burke, by Macknight, vol. ii. p. 18.

to aliens; that they drank their water for money, that their wood was sold unto them; that servants ruled over them, and that there was none to deliver them out of their hand?"1

The rice crop of 1768 had been scanty throughout Bengal, but "the revenues were never so closely collected before." Prices rose, and the poorer cultivators of the soil had consequently little to spare for seed. Nevertheless, in the spring of 1769, the export of rice went on; for customers at Madras and elsewhere could afford to pay high, and no one in authority cared about consequences. The rains fell as usual in the spring, copiously enough to do even harm in the Delta. But the clouds of autumn came not as usual, and failed to drop fatness. Everywhere the crop withered, and the rice-fields became prematurely fields of straw. Governor Verelst did not deem the matter worth mentioning when writing home; and except for the troops, no care was taken to lay up provisions in store. The only question indeed was about the troops; for as once was said of another neglected dependency by a statesman of our own time, Bengal "was occupied, not governed." Mr Cartier mentioned incidentally late in January 1770, that one district was suffering severely for want of food, but he adds the consolatory assurance that "they had not yet found any failure in the revenue." What no failure of revenue means, when people are famishing, it can hardly be necessary to explain. Subsequently it occurred to the Governor and Council that if some relaxation in the collection of the landtax were conceded, that was the utmost that could be expected of them; but as for taking measures to save the lives of the community, they naturally thought nobody expected that at their hands. In seasons of drought it had

1 1 Lamentations of Jeremiah, v.

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not been uncommon for native rulers to suspend the landtax, and to make advances to ryots; and measures of this kind were proposed at Fort William, but "except in a few isolated instances they were not granted." In April, the pulse harvest, though scanty, was secured, and about the same time an addition of 10 per cent. was made to the rentrevenue. But destitution deepened, and in the middle of May the reports of suffering came from far and near. mortality and beggary exceeded all description. one-third of the inhabitants perished in the once-plentiful province of Purneah, and in other parts the misery was the same. From every native official who had still been retained earnest representations poured in of the dire calamity that had befallen the people. Sympathy and selfishness alike inspired these representations. Even Mussulmans, Tusuldars, and Hindoo police might be credited with pity and compassion; while whatever tribute they still were able to send in, would entitle them to all the more praise when it was known under what difficulties it had been collected. There were no disorders, outbreaks, or threats of violence among the peasantry. The habitual reticence and domestic privacy of Bengalis is well known. Even the charitable who sought out objects of benevolence, found it often difficult to reach the inner chambers, where debilitated and despairing women and children slowly perished for want of food. Cattle were sold, tools pawned, and seed-grain eaten; then children were offered for sale, till purchasers could not be found; and finally the Government were informed by their subordinates that the living were known to prey upon the dead." 3

At length all traditional reserve gave way. Troops

1 Hunter's Annals of Rural Bengal, p. 23.

Despatch, 9th May 1770.

"Letter of 24 June 1770.

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