Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

modated by the company with loans, on the security of their produce, to the extent of near a million sterling. The quantity of indigo produced in 1786 was 245,011 lbs.; in 1810 it amounted to 5,570,824 lbs. which sold for near two millions.

Sa. Silk. This, as the raw material of a British manufacture, has been studiously encouraged by the company, who have, at a great expense, caused the Italian mode of winding silk to be introduced amongst the natives of India. But it has been generally found to be a losing trade. On the average of ten years ending in 1785, the annual amount of the sales did not reach £350,000, and the annual loss exceeded L88,000.

4th. Cotton. This being the raw material of the staple manufacture of India, and at the same time a good remittance to China, has been at all times cultivated to a great extent in Bengal, &c. but as it is also raised in Brazil, in the West Indies, and in the southern states of North America, the British market was, before the invention of Arkwright's machinery, so abundantly supplied, that the competition of India cotton was in a great measure precluded by the difference of freight. The Company, however, have lately established a permanent factory in the upper part of India, and another on the western coast, in the country lately ceded by the Peishura, with a view to secure the British manufacturers, by a steady supply of this important article, from the frequent fluctuations of price which it has experienced through the agency of rival speculators.

5th. Sugar, an article of which Great Britain raises more than she consumes, and with which her inarkets are now-most distressingly encumbered, because it has ceased to be a medium of exchange with foreign Europe, would not be worth enumerating, but that the quantities of it exported from Calcutta about the year 1790 proves the extreme attention of the Company to every source of profit. If, however, the growing population of Great Britain, which seems to have outrun its usual means of subsistence, should compel the government to perpetuate the use of sugar in the distilleries and breweries; or, by reducing the duty, to permit its more general consuniption as an article of food; or if, from the same causes which extinguished the cultivation of indigo in the Britisha West Indies, the cultivation of sugar in our islands should also cease, the prolific soil of India would probably furnish as much sugar as the home market would require.

After this examination of the elements which compose the India trade, it is only necessary to say a few words concerning the mode in which it is, and must be conducted.

• It ought to be known,' says Mr. Macpherson, that there are no great stores of goods in India, and that the manufactures do pot, like

those

those of this country, prepare goods to be ready for the order of a purchaser; that they all are, or pretend to be extremely poor, that the employer must advance one third of the price when he orders the goods; another third when one half of them are delivered ; and the last as soon as the order is completed. After all this loss of time and advance of money, the goods are to be put into other hands to receive the finishing touch, which occasions a further expense of time and money. In like manner, a part of the price of pepper and other articles of agricultural produce is usually advanced before the crop is gathered.'

It follows that no individual can, singly, carry on all the branches of such a trade ; and this is not denied; but it has been said, that . if a nation is ripe for the East India trade, a certain portion of its capital will naturally divide itself amongst all the different branches of that trade. Some of its merchants will find it for their interest to reside in the East Indies, and to employ their capitals there in providing goods for the ships which are to be sent out by the merchants who reside in Europe.'-(V. i. p. 472.) Be it so. A competition therefore would take place between the Company and the private merchants; and, the former being previously divested of their monopoly and their territorial possessions, the competition will, thus far, take place upon equal terms. What then will be the natural consequence ?- In this situation (says Dr. Smith, v. iii. p. 144.) the superior vigilance and attention of private adventurers would, in all probability, soon make them (the Company) weary of the trade.' But why ? Is it not notorious that, in every other branch of commerce, an old establishment derives considerable advantage from the mere circumstance of its being long established ? Its duration is supposed to imply a power of resisting the accidental vicissitudes of fortune ; a weight of capital ; well tried connections ; steady adherence to fixed maxims; punctuality of payment; and consequently, solid credit. Whether the vigilance and attention of the new adventurers would counterbalance these advantages is very dubious. The private merchants actually engaged in the India trade may be reasonably supposed to be vigilant and attentive ; yet it is proved, by the declaration of competent witnesses, and by the infallible testimony of the registered accounts of sales, that their investments are made at a much dearer rate in India, and their returns disposed of at a much cheaper price in London, than those of the Company : and the alleged cause of this is, that the Company's servants, to whom the country trade in India is abandoned, being familiar with the languages, the laws, and the habits of the natives, and acquainted with the characters of their agents in the distant provinces over whom also they possess a considerable controul, have obtained an influence in every market which indivipluals are unable to counteract. The private merchants, however,

actually

actually enjoy many facilities, by trading under the protection of the Company, and consequently sharing the benefits of its privilege; whereas, when the trade shall be wholly laid open, the adventurers must engage in a competition, not only with the Company, but with each other. That their want of concert will triumph over the union of a great and wealthy corporate body, is a prediction which, surely, is neither justified by experience nor analogy ; and it is founded in the present case, on a very disputable assumption, namely, that all the commercial superiority of the Company will be annihilated by the simple abrogation of its present legal privileges. But, in cases like the present, authority is sure to survive the power from which it was derived. The respect originally inspired by fear is continued from habit; and many years must elapse before the Hindoos, amongst whom every habit is sanctified by its permanence, and who submit with hereditary ate to the edicts which were obeyed by their fathers, will accustom themselves to look with an equal indifference on the agents of obscure strangers, and on those of the great Company.

Neither is this all. The question respecting the territorial revenues of the Company, a question involving far dearer interests than those of the India trade, still remains; and we cannot close our present article without noticing, though very shortly, the reasoning of onr author on this part of his subject.

The justice and facility of transferring the foreign possessions and revenues of the Company to the sovereign of the state are inferred in every page of the Essay on the Wealth of Nations, where the India trade is discussed, and Dr. Smith expressly affirms (v. iii. p. 144.) that the monopoly ought certainly to determine; the forts and garrisons--to be taken into the hands of government, their value to be paid to the Company, and the trade to be laid open to all the subjects of the state.? . Again he says, (v. jji. p.462.) The territorial acquisitions of the East India Company, the undoubted right of the crown, that is, of the state and people of Great Britain, might be rendered another source of revenue, &c. &c.' Now, surely this undoubted right is somewhat shaken by the following solem disclainer made by the British ministry during the negociations for peace at the close of the year 1762.

• Respecting those territorial acquisitions which the English East India Company have made in Asia, every dispute relative thereto must be settled by that Company; the crown of England haring no right to interfere in what is allowed to be the legal and exclusive property of a body corporate, belonging to the English nation.'

If indeed it should be held that a species of legal property so sacred as to demand the renewal of war for its preservation, is of no

avai]

avail against commercial expediency, it may be answered that the expediency of compelling the Company to sell what they wish to retain, and of forcing the public to purchase what they cannot turn to profit, and must pay for by considerable increase of taxes, is not yet sufficiently demonstrated. It is true that one principal difficulty in all contracts, namely, the adjustment of terms, will, in this compulsory bargain, be wholly removed, because the compelling power, that is to say the representatives of the reluctant public, will impose their own conditions on the unwilling seller; and when the title-deeds of the property, being grants from the Great Mogul, shall have been duly authenticated, nothing more will be necessary, but that his Mahometan majesty shall constitute his well beloved cousin, the defender of the Christian faith, receiver general of his customs, and conservator of his person. But what will be the probable advantages of this strange and indecorous metamorphosis?

To the Hindoos, who have never manifested a wish to rebel, it must evidently be indifferent whether the forts and garrisons which protect them against foreign aggression, and inspire them with no apprehension, are the property of a visible or invisible master; whether the resident ruler of India is a Viceroy or a Governor General; whether the subordinate officers whom they obey, are appointed iinmediately by the King of Great Britain or by his delegates. Their best security against oppression is derived from the laws which render the company's servants amenable to our tribunals for offences committed in India; and the best pledge for their happiness is found in the administration of their government, by persons well acquainted ivith their peculiar feelings and prejudices. A moment's reflection will suggest the certain inconvenience and probable danger, of any extensive innovation in such a government. Neither is such an innovation required by the interests of the state, because the British legislature already possesses a power of controul in the affairs of India, as effective as that which it could exercise through its own immediate officers; and it cannot be essential to the interests of commerce, since the most lucrative branch of our trade with the East (that of China) is carried on without any military intervention.

The history of our intercourse with China affords, indeed, some useful lessons on this subject. Whilst the English East India Company were devising means to conciliate the Chinese, Sir William Courten, an adventurer trading under a special licence granted by Charles I, in defiance of the company's charter, made a piratical attack on the town of Canton; in consequence of which the English were declared to be enemies of the empire, and have been viewed ever since with peculiar jealousy by the Chinese govern

rent.

ment. It is under circumstances thus untoward, that the company have carried on, during more than a century, an extensive and growing commerce. It is to a country thus hostile, that they export the far greater part of the British woollens, (exceeding a million sterling in value,) with which they supply the markets of Asia. From such a country they import the tea, an article now become a necessary of life, of which the annual consumption within the British dominions, amounts to twenty millions of pounds.

To some persons it may be amusing to learn that this article about the time of King Charles II, was so rare in England, that the infusion of it in water was taxed by the gallon, in common with chocolate and sherbet; and that the following memorandum is preserved in the diary of Mr. Pepys,-September, 5th, 1661. I sent for a cup of tea (a Chinese drink) of which I had never drank before.'— Two pounds and two ounces were, in the same year,

formally presented by the company, as a most valuable oblation, to the king. Whether the present astonishing demand for such a beverage be a beneficial or a mischievous effect of the caprice of fashion, it is not, in this place, necessary to inquire: but there can be no doubt whether the demand, having been created, ought to be satisfied. The steady and uninterrupted supply of this portion of the national subsistence, which proves the prudent and conciliatory conduct of the company during a long series of years, affords, therefore, a satisfactory refutation of many of the charges against them.

But setting aside the claims of the Company and the probable wishes of the Hindoos, and considering only the permanent interests of the British empire, can the transfer of the whole civil and apilitary patronage of India to the crown, be treated as a matter of little moment; or, can it be seriously urged that the inconveniences of such a measure would be compensated by a vast accession of resource to the national treasury? The revenue of India, it is well known, has been long since wholly absorbed by an *expenditure applied not to the separate purposes of the company, but to the vigorous prosecution of a war directed against the enemies of Great Britain ; and although the many new sources of wealth which have been acquired by the triumphant termination of that war, may promise the ultimate liquidation of the enormous debt incurred during its progress, the period at which a net revenue will again become available, cannot be rationally foretold. So long as the administration of Indian finance remains in the experienced hands to which it is now entrusted, a gradual improvement of the receipts and diminution of expenses may be expected; but it would be preposterous to hope for such an improvement by substituting the officers of the crown, for those of the municipal government. There is already scarcely any difference between the board of direc

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »