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serious charge respecting these petitions, as it will be found that undeserved weight has been given to them by a gross exaggeration regarding their number. In Para. 28 they are spoken of in the following emphatic words which we again quote: “In con
sequence of a certain notification disseminated almost simulta
neously over the whole presidency, without any previous warning • or notice, 1,957 complaints were preferred within the space of • three months by parties, the great majority of whom could have · had no means of acting in concert, poor, ignorant and powerless,
dwelling at great distances from, and totally unknown to each ' other, and using even various languages. Yet these complain
ants, one and all, speak to similar facts, detail similar practices, rascribe similar causes for their ill-treatment. If this be a concoctred plan, it is the most singular conspiracy in the world's history.”
Thus Government and the public have been led to believe by this eloquent and elaborate passage, that these petitions and all relate to torture; and this is no clerical or casual error, since in another place (P. 27) the Commissioners urge the impossibility of examining all these 1,957 complaints as an excuse for not having investigated any of them. What then will be thought on its being pointed out that the great majority of these complaints do not refer to torture or personal ill-usage of any description, but to various other subjects, such as are described in P. 10-viz: dismissals from office, appeals from convicted prisoners--restoration of lands-private quarrels—remissions of revenue, and “other subjects which it would be tedious to specify ?”
We find for instance from P. 31, that out of 256 complaints presented in person to the Commissioners, 280 had no connection with the subject of their enquiry, and the Commissioners in their letter to Government, dated 16th April, (see Appendix) show that out of the 1,410 petitions or letters which reached them by post, 854 were set apart as relating 66 to
matters not falling within the scope of their investigation." The vaunted complaints of torture thus at once sink from 1,959 to 832, and the truth of tliese had still to be ascertained by investigation, when the report was written ! To estimate the real paucity of these complaints, it must be borne in mind that they were brought forth by proclamation under the stimulants of redress for real injuries, payments of travelling expenses, and opportunities for renewing litigation and indulging malice and envy—that they were invited for a period of seven years, throughout a large presidency, where the land revenue alone is paid annually direct to Government by 1,630,034 individuals.
In the offices at Madras and in each province, the annual petitions amount to thousands.
The fifth and last head of evidence is styled "native officers'
" admissions.” Encouragement and indemnity were held out for these revelations, but very few have been elicited, and only four are detailed in Appendix G. The first witness, a retired tahsildar, after describing the acts of coercion still occasionally resorted
«« ill-treatment is not common.” The second witness, a sheristadar, states that the number of persons ill-treated, "is very limited.” The third witness principally argues for the separation of revenue and police functions, and the fourth witness seems to think the distraint and sale of a defaulter's property, one of the worst forms of oppression. His inconsecutive and rambling communications show that under British rule the people have learnt not to submit to wrongs in silence, and that their state shines in comparison with that of the subjects of a native prince whose territory he visited.
Such is the really weak and unsifted evidence on which this sweeping" attack on the Madras administration rests, and it only remains to notice the remarks made on the European officers. Has there been any complicity or supineness on their part, and are they in consequence mistrusted by the people? On the contrary, it is shown that the obnoxious acts which formed the subject of enquiry, were universal under the preceding native Governments, and " have of late years been steadily decreasing
both in severity and extent" (P. 53) through the exertions of the European officers. So general and clear is the testimony on this point from missionaries, European settlers, and the people themselves, who find their best protection in the presence of English officers, that the Commissioners remark: “ There is not a native public servant from the highest to the lowest, who does not well know that these practices are held in abhorrence by his European superiors" (P. 66,) and again in P. 70,-“ We have
seen nothing to impress us with the belief that the people ' at large entertain an idea that their maltreatment is coun
tenanced by the European officers of Government;" on the contrary,
" the abstinence of the native officials from such practices in or near the stations where Europeans, be they civilians, surgeons, commissariat or other officers, reside; and the prevalence of torture increasing in proportion as the taluk appears less exposed to European scrutiny, are strong argu"ments in favor of a consciousness on the part of the native
officials, that they cannot with impunity resort to illegal and personal violence when it admits of easy and speedly substan
tiation before the European authorities of the districts; and " the whole cry of the people which has come up to us, is to
save them from the cruelties of their fellow natives, not from the effect of uakinduess, or indifference on the part of the European officers."
What then, we again ask, becomes of the Commissioners'
sweeping assertion," that torture prevails generally in the revenue department, when it comes not near the collectors and magistrates, who are living among the people, visiting continually the villages of their districts, and settling thousands and thousands of complaints on every conceivable subject; and when it is confessedly unknown to the great body of the missionaries, the civil engineers, the commissariat officers, the district surgeons and the European residents, whom commerce or agriculture leads into the provinces ? The public, we anticipate, will have little hesitation in reversing the Commissioners' judgment, and deciding that the balance of truth on Sir J. Hogg's side far outweighs that of Mr. Danby Seymour. It becomes, therefore, an interesting point to ascertain how a contrary impression got abroad among those unacquainted with India. Several causes have contributed to this result. A local press, generally hostile to the East India Company and its civil service, which it regards as an obnoxious monopoly, has continually used the “ torture” question as a point of attack, and the India reform society at home has repeated the charge in all shapes and at all times. To aid their attack they have been able to quote from a large volume, which carried weight as an official publication, without the general public, who trusted to their quotations, being aware that the Commissioners had mis-used the
“ torture," and entirely failed to execute that duty of investigating complaints which was specially entrusted to them.
Thus on the one side were perpetual attacks, while on the other the English officers, conscious of their integrity, left truth to make its own way, and maintained a proud silence. Although therefore, the inflated bubble did not deceive those acquainted with India, it is not surprising that repeated and uncontradicted allegations of torture made some impression on the public mind at home, accustomed as it was to the writings of Macaulay and the eloquence of Burke, in which old Indian annals and morality are depicted in most sombre tints. Thus have the sins of the fathers been visited in some degree on the children.
The assailants also of the Madras ryotwary system have in some degree helped to facilitate a belief in the revenue being collected by violence, through their mistaken pictures of a race of pauper peasants. We are not however about to plunge into this vexed question; nor is it necessary. Torture cannot be encouraged by the hereditary proprietors and occupants of the soil, paying their dues direct to Government, insteal of being placed under zemindars or other middlemen; and much as the ryot wary system has been misunderstood, its admirers have at last the satisfaction of seeing it appreciated and imitated.
While we write, Mr. Currie has brought his ryottee bill before the Legislative Council, which, according to the friend of India of the 19th November last, is to confer on Bengal the following “ three immense reforms: 1st, it releases the ryot from his per
sonal slavery to the zemindar, making him a tenant instead of
a serf—2nd, it enables him to throw up his land if he chooses " without reference to anything save his own voluntary engage
ment, or his own free will—3rd, it secures him his property so long as he pays his rent, without risk of that rent being
illegally enhanced.” The Madras system has conferred on the ryot all these advantages, with the great additional one of being acknowledged by Government as the absolute and unfettered proprietor of his farm. But notwithstanding these helping causes, the attack on the Madras administration, respecting torture, would not have had such success, we readily admit, if it had not contained some truth. Its fault is, unjust and gross exaggeration, not total falsehood. The habits of a nation, founded as they are on national character, thought, feeling and mode of education, take long to alter; and little more than half a century has elapsed since in most of the Madras provinces a native Government had to use violence to collect its revenues, because the people dreaded its rapacity, and knew that prompt payment would be considered a sign of wealth and lead to further demands. This fear has been removed by a fixed and more* moderate revenue, but the oriental dislike to part with money, and hopes of ultimately gaining remission, lead occasionally to the old habit of procrastination, and although instruments of torture have long since been banished from the land, petty acts of coercion or threats are sometimes used, despite the exertions of European officers, to obstinate defaulters. But this is only for what the Commissioners style in a candid part of their report,
the dregs of the revenue,” and complaints rarely follow, because the injury is so trifling that “the loss of time spent in
complaining is felt as the greater inconvenience of the two." (Letter of the Revd. S. Dewasagayeun, Appendix C.) And the parties know the justness of the claim, and are aware that they brought the treatment on themselves, and were liable to the distraint and sale of their property, which they consider a harsher and more odious course.t
* The land tax is here spoken of in comparison of what it used to be under the preceding native Government. We gladly hail the measures now in progress for its further modification.
+ The mode of tax-gathering by oriental Governments may be seen described in Sharpe's History of Egypt - Hadji Baba, and numerous books of eastern travel. A recent traveller in Syria has described that a man loses caste in his village
Again, as an instrument of police, torture in its real sense has always been resorted to in oriental countries, to obtain proof of guilt, or recover stolen property ; and though the practice has greatly diminished through the exertions of the European officers, as observed by the Commissioners, we dare not hope that it is altogether eradicated, either in Madras or in the other presidencies. Much, however, has been accomplished, and the known abhorrence felt for it by Europeans, the punishments* inflicted on parties convicted of its perpetration, and the positive refusal to admit as evidence, alleged confessions before native police officers, aided by the spread of education and more humane and just ideas, will, it is hoped, gradually lead to its extinction. But, as already observed, national habits alter slowly; and we must recollect how lately the rack was used in England, and that the extraction of confessions by prolonged mental harassment, by scanty diet and unwholesome dungeons, as well as by even sharper means, is not yet banished from all European countries. But it is unnecessary to pursue this part of the subject, which has been treated in the Report with ability as well as fairness, omitting the error of publishing complaints, which have not undergone investigation. The Commissioners show the connection between the torture of criminals and the habits of the people in their various social relations, including the still popular trial by ordeal; and the Hindoo religion encourages inhumanities, by its visions of deities who delight in bloodshed, and expect sacrifices and painful acts of penance from their worshippers. One observation, however, seems called
if he pays without blows, instead of being disgraced by them, since all would susier by his yielding readily to demauds which are made in proportion to the supposed power of payment The land tax in Madras is fixed and known to all the ryots, so that this reason for resisting the demands of Government has long ceased to exist. But we see traditional relics of the practice in our magisterial and criminal courts. It is common to see a convicted person pray for the remission or modification of a fine, urging that he has no means to pay, and must be ruined together with his family is sent to prison. The judge or magistrate is however obdurate, and orders the warrant for his imprisonment to be made out, upon which he produces the money from his turban or waistcloth, pays the fine and walks off unabashed.
* An impression has got abroad that real efforts have not been made to suppress acts of ill-iisage and violence, because light punishments appear to be occasionally inflicted for grave offences. But this is an error, and arises from the mode in which the magisterial returns of punishments published in the report, are drawn out. They show the charge made, not the offence proved, which under oriental exaggeration is usually very different, – and then the punishment. The returns might be usefully corrected on this point. Dismissal from the service is the prescribed penalty. when an European officer strikes a native, and it is not therefore to be supposed that Government permits leniency to other offeuders.