Page images
PDF
EPUB

infringing that settlement, would, on the contrary, complete and consolidate it: and on the second, we should say that the law of landlord and tenant, of social inequality, and of revenue and rent in the east, must often be guided by principles at which even Adam Smith and Malthus might have been somewhat startled. The principle we contend for, again, is acted on in the province of Benares. The revenue there is fixed perpetually, as it is in Bengal. Yet we hear of no rack-renting, or violent oppression, or defect in the system. Why is this? Because on the one hand the population are bolder, and will not patiently endure tyranny; and on the other, because the authorities have done their part, and have taken care that the tenant proprietors and cultivators shall have their rights and liabilities well and thoroughly defined. Again, our principle forms the basis of the proposed alterations in the sale law. As the draft now stands, the reform contended for will do, for intermediate tenures, what we would have done for the humblest and lowest of all. The middleman, who has just concluded an arrangement with his Zemindar, of immediate loss, but eventual profit, or who has a snug property in half a dozen villages, which from its size he can conveniently manage, will, if the reform be carried, be saved from the abrupt termination of his tenure in a general sale owing to the fraud or the negligence of his superior. Why should not the same righteous interference be manifested for set of men twenty times more numerous, but far less able to protect themselves; for those who labour while others sit at home in comfort, who sow in heat and anxiety, while others quietly reap the main profits of their toil ?

The law for which we contend has either been an element in other reforms, or has anticipated them. In dealing with the land revenue of Benares it has been silently acted on. In the opium monopoly the Government has not hesitated to proclaim that rent should be fixed for once, without regard to the value of produce. And of the new sale law the main points are, that if the Government can count on its revenue, and the Zemindar on his rent, there is no reason why third parties, who have a limited interest in landed properties, should not have these interests secured from invasion. “Add to these considerations, those of philanthropy, and sound policy, and it will follow that Government would not only be justified in such legal interference, but that it is pledged and bound so to interfere, on every principle of equity, on every consideration of mercy, on every pretentious vaunt that has been ever made of its governing for the poor man, on cvery maxim successively laid down by its numerous wise statesmen, whose aim it has been to bind up, as far as they can be bound, the privileges of the upper classes, the rights and interests of

SEPT., 1357.

the lower, and the lawful dues of the state, in one equitable, harmonious, and consistent code.

To some such measure as we have proposed, all other measures, whether of the legal or the executive power, will be auxiliary ; but they will be nothing more. The change we advocate will, in its way, secure to the ryot that reasonable independence, without which all other attempts to raise him in the social scale will end in failure. And this same measure will, on the other hand, be far from rendering nugatory all the other remedies which are more or less under the consideration of the government. Thus the new bill for distraint may well be a little less summary than the present law, and may save the ryot's crops and cattle from hasty attachment and sale. A law making the principals in affrays,—that is, those for whose obvious benefit affrays occur accidentally, responsible for the bloodshed and the distress they cause, will confer peace and security in many places in seed time and in harvest. By a survey of villages and estates, such as is now in progress in some districts, or actually completed in others, many an angry course of litigation will be peremptorily checked. By a more numerous police, with higher pay and under closer supervision, violent offences and agrarian outrage will become more rare. A simple band-book of husbandry may teach the ryot some of the commonest rules of gardening, and a village vernacular school, while it teaches him to read the same band-book, may also put him in the position to know when a receipt for rent is duly signed, when a bond is correctly executed, and when an account is accurately summed up. Add to these measures for his protection, for the registration of his boundaries, and for the dispersion of his ignorance, a network of roads, terminating not in abrupt holes, nor in nullabs and rivers without bridges, or without any suited to the physical character of the country, an improved communication by cuts and channels from one river to another, or in the same river; and in ten years' time, we shall have little need of another petition to the Commons. The ryot, with some fixity of rent, and some security of tenure, may then, if he chooses to exert himself, and to refrain from extravagance, unlawful combination, and determined refusal to pay his dues, hope to share in the almost unrivalled affluence and fertility which the union of sun and shower, on the most fertile of soils, scatters around him in such marvellous prodigality.

We do not expect that the views which we have put forth, will not be freely canvassed, and fiercely opposed in some quarters. And we are quite sensible that some differences of opinion must exist on such large questions as the rent of land, the return of produce of different kinds, the general condition and feelings

of the ryot, and the necessity for prompt and direct legal interference on his behalf. All we can say is that we have neglected no means in our power, in order to attain correct information; and that the deductions we have arrived at, have been carefully made from a very considerable mass of facts gathered by enquiries, pursued, without ostentation, amongst the mass of the population, in their houses, bazars, and rice fields, and backed by some previous experience of the mofussil, and by official or authoritative records in corroboration of the same. A fair discussion is all that we ask. But we must protest beforehand against general charges of inaccuracy, because any position taken up, or any fact announced, may not happen to be borne out by some casual enquiry made of a ryot living within ten miles of Calcutta, or of a bearer from Orissa, who happens to be pulling the punkah. Those who have pursued similar enquiries, know the rottenness of a structure raised on isolated facts. Those who have mixed with the people, are well aware of the necessity of correcting or balancing the statements of one set of agriculturists by those of another set, and both by reasonable pro. babilities and indisputable facts. We have made a comparentia instantiarum, and an exclusio singularum, on the Baconian maxim: and what we can say with confidence is that we have to the best of our ability, brought our modest contribution to the “ eagle's nest.'

We do not regret the discussion in the House of Commons, nor its termination; but it must be apparent to every one that had there existed in the heart of Bengal that slumbering discontent and disaffection which the Missionaries in all sincerity imputed to the ryots, the present opportunity wonld hardly have been suffered to escape.

How easily, with the North-west provinces in a blaze, and Behar in danger, or revolted, might some popular leader have fanned the embers into flame, and have excited masses of ignorant and unreflecting peasants to a social revolution, by which the “ rich would have become poor, and the

poor, poorer."'. Had all the statements of the petition been correct, we could scarce have escaped a Jacquerie. But the truth is that the Bengalis, up to the time we write, have remained as dull and as stagnant as the water of one of their own huge tanks in a sultry September, and that it must take much more of wretchedness than at present really exists, added to disturbing agencies and unparalleled mismanagement, before either planters will be expelled from their factories, or land-holders from their estates, or civilians from their cutcherries.

Sheer helplessness on the part of the Bengali, which has been put forth as an excuse for government, or as a reason for doing nothing, is to us a powerful reason why we should act. The

66

[ocr errors]

highest and holiest authority has told us that we have the poor

The concurrent testimony of administrators, oftents amongst the people, and of the people themselves, proclaims the dwellers by the lower Ganges to be void of manliness and spirit. We cannot discover the Icaria in which all men shall be rich : or find out the mesmeric influence by which a statesman shall throw a weak and feeble race into a slumber, whence they may wake up as giants refreshed, strong of hand, and stout of heart. But this

But this is no reason why we should neglect to avail ourselves of every means in our power

How best to help the slender store

How mend the dwellings of the poor ; Nor why, again, we should hesitate about speedily giving the sanction of law and authority to such rights, as in the wreck of institutions, or under encroachment and invasion, are yet found to survive. We can give the material guarantees of every powerful and benevolent government, a numerous police, accessible justice, good means of communication. We may develope and stimulate the natural acuteness of the cultivators, which we take to be considerably above that of yokels and clod-compellers in England, and may turn their unexampled pertinacity and aptness for litigation to the assertion and maintenance of their recognised position and their defined rights. We feel certain that it is in the power of our administrators to effect this, without lavish expenditure, in spite of active opposition, and in spite of the inertness and helplessness of those we desire to benefit. We may at once move on without being deluded by the mirage of imaginary perfection in the distance, as Mr. Grant truly wrote in his minute, and as Lord John Russell, endorsing the Indian statesman, did not hesitate to avow in the House. To the solid and avowed benefits of the Perpetual Settlement, to the spread of agriculture, to the decrease of jungle, to the extension of commerce, to the spectacle of those rich land-holders who accumulate wealth and enlarge their boundaries, and to the many inferior individuals who, secure of sustenance, not to say independence, from the land, have leisure to devote their talents to profitable speculation, or to the service of the state, we may yet, by tact, decision, and firmness, add the still more gratify, ing spectacle of a peasantry, who, if they cannot recruit our evanescent army, may yet fulfil the end of their existence, as loyal, prosperous, and contented subjects of the state.

ART. VII.-Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir John

Malcolm, G. C. B., late Envoy to Persia, anil Gorernor of Bombay. From unpublished letters and journals. By JOHN WILLIAM KAYE, &c. &c. 2 vols. London, 1856.

IT
T is with a feeling of great sadness that we enter upon the

task of reviewing these volumes. The task had been assigned to, and had been undertaken by, one who could have done infinitely more justice to the subject than we can expect to do. If there were in all India, perhaps we might say in all the world, a man who could have entered with fullest sympathy into the character and achievements of the chivalrous soldier, the wise diplomatist, the enlightened governor, the light-hearted playmate of children, the judicious counsellor and animating leader of youth, the affectionate brother, the loving husband, the fond father, the constant friend, the large-hearted philanthropist, the honest man, the earnest Christian--that man was one whom India and the world have lately lost, Sir Henry Lawrence. It was he that ought to have reviewed this book; and we have reason to believe that be was actually engaged upon it until the time when public duty, and care for the safety of the beleaguered band, for whom he watched so earnestly, and fought so bravely, and died so nobly, occupied and engrossed all his thoughts. As well in the peculiarities of their characters as in the circumstances of their careers, there was a remarkable similarity between Sir John Malcolm and Sir Henry Lawrence. The one a Scotchman, and the other an Irishman, each exhibited a combination, as rare as it is graceful, of those qualities that are generally regarded as characteristic of these two nationalities; though perhaps in each, the characteristic of the other's nation predominated over that of his own.

The Scottish Malcolm seems to have had even more than Lawrence of the almost reckless buoyancy of spirits and love of adventure and fun, which are generally considered as distinctive of an Irishman : the Irish Lawrence had decidedly more than Malcolm of the calm reflexion, and practical sagacity, and determined perseverance, that are regarded as the birth-right of a Scotchman.

With respect to the circumstances of the careers of these two men, it may not be without interest to notice that each had an elder brother in the civil service, and was himself in the military service, of the East India Company ;-that each was one of several brothers that achieved high distinction; that each was employed in high political and diplomatic service, and that each, in the course of that service, had an opportunity of distinguish

« PreviousContinue »