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had been used against ancient establishments, at the time of the Reformation, all the good effects resulting from that great national event might have been accomplished, and the bad ones avoided. -But, even in the active part which Henry VIII. thought fit to take in that great event, when he doomed to destruction upwards of three thousand public colleges, hospitals, and other religious and charitable institutions, and distributed their revenues among his favourites and courtiers, he found it expedient to begin cautiously, and proceed gradually: first, by defaming those whom he afterwards meant to destroy; then, by suppressing the lesser monasteries; and finally, by pillaging the more wealthy sees of Canterbury, York and London. To this new and unworthy ap propriation of the revenues of those hospitable institutions, amounting to nearly one fifteenth of the national income, we owe the ori gin of those poor laws which have been an increasing charge upon the nation ever since.
Thus also, any sudden and violent innovation on the established intercourse with the East, would scarcely fail to be attended with most injurious effects, and ought to be deprecated, as we trust it will be, by the legislature. The directors have admitted the necessity of some modification of the present system, and declared their readiness to concede it. In their discussion of the question with the President of the Board of Control, we see distinctly the lengths which they are prepared to go; and, if they would only agree to the admission of return cargoes into the outports of the united kingdom, which we are quite certain the sense of the country will compel them to do, we should then consider the commercial part of the question nearly decided, as far at least as his Majesty's ministers and the Company are concerned. But its political bearing has a far more extended interest-it embraces nothing less than fifteen millions of British subjects at home, and sixty millions of fellow subjects in India-differing, it is true, in customs, language, religion and colour, and having one half of the globe interposed between them but each looking to the British legislature for the establishment of such regulations as may be best calculated to promote their mutual prosperity and happiness.
It may give us a clearer view of the merits of the question, as it lies between the East India Company and the mercantile and manufacturing part of the public, if we take a short and general glance at what the former really consists of; as, by so doing, we shall be able to form a more correct opinion of the relation it bears to the lat ter. We are, besides, not sure that the people of England, unconnected with mercantile transactions, entertain just notions of what constitutes the corporate body of the East India Company.
The East India Company consisted originally of a certain number of persons, whose united contributions formed a joint stock, with which it was intended to carry on a trade with the East Indies; the profits of which trade were to be divided among them in proportion to the sums gained and respectively subscribed. As long as commerce continued to be their only concern, the magnitude of the dividend was the only object that claimed the attention of the proprietors. But when the acquisition of territory was forced upon them, by an uncontrollable course of events, and in despite of their original views and purposes; when they had to assume a sovereign character, their capital was necessarily increased, but the profits thereon were proportionably diminished. Their joint stock was now no longer a pure mercantile concern. The proprietors began to have other objects in view; some entered the list for political purposes; others for the sake of patronage; others to obtain the custom of the Company in its various de mands, but none for the sake of mere mercantile profits. The joint stock shares, like Iago's purse, were continually changing hands, but of late years, owing to the vast increase of patronage and capital, they have had a tendency to settle in the hands of tradesmen supplying, or connected with, the various branches of the Company's establishment. They still, however, are divided among nearly two thousand ladies and gentlemen, of all ranks and descriptions, from Grosvenor-square to Radcliffe Highway-from Amsterdam to Genoa. These ladies and gentlemen elect, from their own body, twenty-four directors, six of whom go out in annual rotation. These directors are entrusted with the management of their concerns, having under their immediate employ a vast body of book-keepers, clerks, warehousemen, porters and labourers, so numerous, indeed, that on the renewal of the present war, there were formed out of them three complete and effective regiments of volunteers. They engage in their service 115 ships of different burthens, amounting altogether to a tonnage exceeding 115,000 tons, and in value to more than six millions sterling. These ships are navigated by a body of seamen not far short of ten thousand, of whom more than two thousand are able and experienced officers; they give employment to a vast and constantly increasing population, composed of shipbuilders, carpenters, coopers, ropemakers, blockmakers, mastmakers, anchorsmiths, blacksmiths, sailmakers, plumbers, painters, and various other artificers, with their numerous workmen and labourers, many of whom, or their progenitors, have for the last two centuries, formed regular establishments on the bauks of the Thames, extending from London Bridge to Blackwall, and giving support to a population little short of fifty thousand persons, or a twentieth part of this great metropolis--by whose 9 4
united industry and wealth all these stupendous fabrics have arisen which, in their display and convenience, as docks, warehouses and manufactories, contribute in so material a degree to characterize the port of London, in its naval and commercial establishments, as the most opulent, extensive, and magnificent that exists in the world. Their commercial capital in stock is valued at £10,800,000; in warehouses at 1,000,000; in regular established ships at 3,800,000; in docks at. 400,000; and that of individuals in their employ at 5,000,000, making a total capital of 21,000,000 sterJing, equivalent to one fifth of the whole national income subject to the property tax.
Such is the magnitude of the home establishment of the East India Company in its mere trading capacity; which, enormous as it appears to be, shrinks into nothing when we cast our eyes towards its vast dominions in the east, and look at it in its character of sovereign. We there behold under its control a territory of 380,000 square miles, peopled with 60 millions of souls, and producing a yearly revenue of 17 millions sterling; an army raised out of the population consisting of 118 battalions of infantry, 16 regi ments of cavalry, besides 6 battalions of European artillery and 3 regiments of European infantry, amounting in the whole to 150,000 men; to which may be added a numerous and splendid civil establishment of governors, counsellors, judges, diplomatic residents, collectors of revenue, senior and junior merchants, &c. whose numbers we pretend not to estimate. The whole of this vast machine is under the immediate government and management of the 24 directors, who, however, can only be considered as its lower and subordinate wheels, to which a superior power gives motion, and by which it is kept in order. This power is vested in the superintendance and control of a Board, composed of the principal officers of his majesty's government; and the whole system has the mark of a national character still more deeply stamped upon it, by its being the creature of the legislature, and at all times subject to its interference. In point of fact therefore, the East India Company is a public concern, and the privileges conferred on it by charter, are not of that exclusive kind which in strict language can be said to constitute a monopoly. It is a public institution, in which a great part of the public are directly, and a still greater part collaterally concerned, and from which none are excluded; the merchant of Bristol, of Glasgow and of Dublin, being equally eligible to participate in its benefits, whatever they may be, with the merchant of London.
Unless then it can clearly be proved that, by stripping of all its facilities a long established trade, vested in so large a portion of the public, and employing so vast a capital,-that by throwing it open
to all the world, the capital at present employed can be increased in a very material degree, and the productive powers of Great Britain and India thereby considerably extended-unless it can be satisfactorily shewn that there is neither danger, nor the probability of danger, in admitting at once an unrestrained and unqualified in-tercourse with every part of the east, it would be an act little short of madness in the legislature to sanction so dangerous an innovation; whose only tendency would be to take out of the hands of one set of men, merely to transfer it to another, a commerce that, for two hundred years, has gradually advanced, from very small beginnings, to its present magnitude and prosperity; and added, in no small degree, to the wealth, strength, revenue, territory and character of the British nation. It is safer,' said the late Lord Melville, 'to rest on the present system, which experience has rendered practicable, than to entrust myself to theories about which ingenious and informed men have not agreed-and we think that all reasonable men must concur with his lordship in the impolicy of rashly relinquishing a positive'good in possession, for a probable one in anticipation.'
We e are quite aware that neither the directors nor their agents have always administered the affairs of the company in the 'best and most economical manner. We admit that, constituted as the court is, their divided responsibility may make them careless-we admit that their agents are careless at what price they buy; are careless at what price they sell; are careless at what expense they transport its goods from one place to another; that they live with the profusion of sovereigns, and, in spite of that profusion, acquire the fortunes of sovereigns."* We admit that this carelessness and this profusion may cause us to pay somewhat' dearer for Indian commodities. But, in admitting this, we must also contend that this very circumstance goes far to prove the soundness of that system which, in spite of carelessness, prodigality and bad management, has effected more, with less means, than has been effected by any government with which history has made us acquaintedwhich has seated the successors of those directors on the throne of Aurengzebe, whose representatives, in the persons of an adventurer and a Jew, under the name and character of English ambassadors, appeared before this haughty emperor of the east, with their hands bound before them, and were content to be dismissed with a reprimand on their knees-whose principal servants, little more than a century ago, were marched through the streets of Surat, with irons round their necks, for the amusement and derision of the multitude-which has added conquest to conquest, and terri
Wealth of Nations.
tory to territory, with little assistance from the mother country, and in many instances in direct violation of an act of the legislature which declares that to pursue schemes of conquest and extension of dominion in India, are measures repugnant to the wish, the honor, and policy of this nation.' The system, therefore, however anomalous it may appear, has within itself something radically good and energetic, which is not derived from the influencing power of the government at home, but acts in spite of it; and, we will venture to add, neither in derogation of the honor, nor the policy of the nation.'
The interference of the legislature in 1782 and the preamble to the bill of 1784 were no doubt most necessary at those periods to put a stop to the scandalous abuses which had disgraced the British name in the east, and to that mad career of ambitious conquest which embroiled us with all the native powers of India. The British interests in the East Indies were then, as his Majesty observed to his faithful Commons, worthy of their wisdom, justice and humanity;' and most true it was that to protect the persons and fortunes of millions in those distant regions, and to combine our prosperity with their happiness, were objects which would repay the utmost labor and exertion.* It is highly gratifying to add that their labor and exertion' have been amply repaid. After a lapse of 30 years, no instance, that we know of, has occurred of flagitious conduct amongst the Company's servants in India. The charges of corruption, rapacity and cruelty are no more heard. Those which are now brought forward are of a less criminal character, and are, for the most part, shifted from the servants of the Company abroad to the Court of Directors at home. They are stated in a variety of shapes, in printed pamphlets and in speeches in the House of Commons, and are alluded to by some of the petitioners for the abolition of the charter. They may be summed up, however, under a very few heads; and, as they embrace the whole question at issue, we shall employ the remainder of the present article in a brief examination of those charges; throwing out, as we proceed, such suggestions as may seem proper to be adopted for the mutual benefit of Great Britain and India-setting aside all theory and abstract reasoning, and endeavouring to aim at practical utility alone.
The grievances, then, complained of, and which are supposed to make a change of system necessary, may be summed up under the three following heads:
1. That the Company has made repeated calls on the public for money, for the prosecution of ruinous schemes, by which an enor
* His Majesty's Speech at the close of the session of 1782.