Page images

the rest of his days far from the land in which he won it. Hence India is not-and, in all likelihood, never will be—a colony of Great Britain, but only a black empire dotted with the encampments of her adventurous children.



From the earliest period the rumoured wealth of Hindostan must have stimulated the trading avarice of the civilised world. Its natural riches are great, though the splendour of its palaces and princes raise false ideas regarding the actual wealth of its people. After the European nations reached it, there was a rivalry among them as to who should profit most by the new mine opened up. For a time Portugal had the lead; but after the establishment of the East India Company in 1600 England obtained that supremacy which she ever after maintained. “The Company ” was, at first, merely an association of merchants having, as was the fashion in those days, the monopoly of trade with “the Indies;” but in time the necessity of defending its commercial establishments from native enemies and foreign rivals forced it to muster armies, and, from being on its defence, to act on the aggressive, until “ John Company” became a greater conqueror than even “John Bull,” and in due time found itself with the government of an extensive and ever-increasing empire on its bands. The commercial and the political functions of “the Company” did not at all times dovetail into one another; and, as history relates, the desire of gain often compelled the military officials or the merchants to commit acts which no necessity could justify. Up to the year 1836 the Company had the exclusive right of not only governing, but trading with, the country. At an earlier date, a Board of Control had been instituted, in the interest of good government to the people of India; but until the country was opened up to trade, “the Company” were still lords paramount, as, indeed, commercially they continued to be until the country in 1859 passed from their hands into that of the Imperial Government, for whom “the Company” were understood to hold it in trust. The Company, in the old days, when the “pagoda tree” was shaken so successfully by the “ factors” and “writers” who, at the cost of a diseased liver and few years of discomfort, returned with gold mohurs and rupees the amount of which gossip did not require to exaggerate, was managed according to two distinct systems--" by covenanted servants, who received regular pas, and invested the money entrusted to them without making any private profit; and by unsalaried agents, who contracted to supply goods at a certain rate, and might make what they could by the bargain.” The first class bore the 'itles of residents, senior merchants, junior merchants, factors, and sub-factors. Their posts were the most lucrative ones in the service, and attracted the best men. The mere task of governing the people of India was made over to “the boys of the service,” who had on occasion to drop the pen and seize the sword.* But in 1859 even the semblance of the com

* Hunter: “ Annals of Rural Bengal," p. 349. To this charming work the reader is referred for a most complete account of old East Indian life.


mercial life of the old Company' passed away, and India is now open to any one who chooses to seek his fortune there. Of course, the officials are still the chief people in the country. The old feeling has not altogether disappeared, and the “competition wallah” is apt to look on the tea-planter in the hills as an “interloper," while the ancient officials, trained at the old East India Company's College at Haileybury, are not even yet reconciled to the influx of youths with whom the not altogether infallible test of competitive examination has officered the civil service of the country.



India has commercial capabilities perfectly unrivalled. It has many climates, and, as we have seen, is capable of growing the products of almost any country. Its people are essentially agriculturists—two-thirds of them being engaged in cultivating the soil—and whenever any political commotion in the rest of the world has stopped the supply of some particular product, India has been found quite capable of meeting the fresh demand. During the Russian war the manufacturers of Europe and America turned to it for the hemp which no longer reached them from the Baltic, and when the American war caused cotton famine in Europe, the Indian cultivator grew wealthy. Since European enterprise has developed the cultivation of particular products, the "course of trade"

trade” has been somewhat altered. For instance, as Mr. Andrews points out, the extended growth of cotton in Western India, and of coffee in the Malabar Coast Districts, has necessitated the importation of grain and sugar from Bengal to supply the wants of the people of those districts. The home trade of India is estimated at about £25,000,000 per annum, and employs coasting vessels to the number of about 15,000. It also includes the carrying of the products of one district to another, and the bartering of their commodities. Its foreign trade is chiefly with Great Britain and China. In 1878—which year may be taken as a fairly average one—the imports of merchandise amounted to £41,464,185, and the exports to £65,222,328, and the trade is gradually increasing. It may be added that the importation of gold and silver shows that in forty years about £300,000,000 of these metals in coin and bullion have been absorbed by the country over what has been exported, so that its riches must in some way be augmenting. This is, however, a fluctuating item in the commercial estimate of India, and the depreciation of silver during recent years has been a still more disturbing factor in the trade intercourse between Asia and Europe. Raw cotton was exported during the height of the American civil war to the amount of £37,500,000 sterling, though by 1869 the export had fallen to the value of nearly £18,500,000 millions sterling. Of late it has still more dropped off, but it is yet sent abroad to the value of over £3,500,000. From time immemorial, cotton-weaving has been one of the staples of India. The beautiful gossamer muslins of Dacca, and the calicoes of Southern India, were famous all over the civilised world when the products of the looms of Europe were but rude imitations of them. In the early days of Indian trade, it was these manufactures, and not the raw material, which was sent across the seas. In every village the weaver pursued his labours, and under the walls of the Residencies weaving villages sprang up all over Bengal. India then not only supplied its own home wants, but had to spare for its neighbours. But the invention of steam-machinery and the cheapening of freights revolutionised the commerce of India, and nowadays England

[graphic][merged small]

for the most part imports the cotton and sends it back to India in the woven state. During the height of the cotton famine the starving ryots became prosperous gentlemen, for the first time in their lives independent of usurers, and able to deck out their wives and daughters in costly ornaments of gold and silver. Another revolution is,

however, taking place. India, we have seen, is again beginning to manufacture cotton goods by steam machinery. “It is found,” writes Mr. Andrews, " that the supple fingers, quick intelligence, and patient habits of the native of India make them the best of mill hands; and bearing in mind the cheapness of their labour as compared with that of Europeans, and the fact that the raw material is at hand, and that there is a ready sale for the goods when made, it is evident this comparatively new industry, or more properly speaking old industry revived in a new form, must rapidly grow; and it is well we should be prepared for its competing with our home manufactures, not only in the Indian markets, but elsewhere.” The misery of India is greatly due to its being a country of small farmers, who cultivate little more than can supply their wants of the year, and who are therefore always in imminent danger of famine when a bad season overtakes them. They have not and cannot bave any reserve. The establishment of a large manufacturing population will to a great extent render the country independent of drought, and the failure of the earth in consequence to yield its increase. Next to cotton, come jute, rice, flax, and linseed, tea, untanned hides, grain, coffee, opium, timber, indigo, saltpetre, tobacco, seeds, shellac, gums, oils, wool, cocoa-nut and cocoanat fibre, and shawls as articles of export; and now that the country is intersected by over 9,000 miles of railway, under a proper system, there seems

THE OPIUM POPPY (Papaver somniferum). nothing to prevent India prospering far beyond its wont, and finally extricating itself from that financial Slough of Despond into which it rapidly sunk ever since the cheap paternal government of the East India Company was superseded by the juster but more costly one of the Crown.



The Indian budget is always a sore subject with financiers, and since it has proved possible for the estimates to be so framed that a mistake of four millions sterling is capable

of being made in them, public confidence has not increased in the manner in which the public accounts of Hindostan are kept. However, to take the figures as we find them, the revenue in 1879-80 was £67,583,000 and the expenditure £67,464,000, though an error of £1,000,000 having since been discovered, these comparatively satisfactory figures must be increased by that amount of the different parts of India, Bengal, the regions directly under the Governor-General, and Bombay pay by far the greatest part, and of the three main sources of income—the land-tax, opium, and salt—the first yields over £20,000,000, the second more than £900,000 in all, and the third, which has been recently raised, about £7,000,000. Before the Mutiny the land-tax yielded fully one-half of “the Company's” revenue, and it still supplies two-fifths of the funds to defray the everincreasing expenses of the Government, and the numerous forms in which it is exacted constitute one of the most interesting and complicated departments of the Indian publicist's studies.*

The poppy cultivation (p. 261) is a Government monopoly. In Bengal it can only be grown in order to sell the juice which exudes from its incised pods, to the Government officials, by whom it is sent to the factories at Patna and Ghazepore, where it is made up into the commercial form, and despatched to Calcutta to be sold to the merchants by auction. In Madras the poppy is not cultivated, and in Bombay the revenue is derived from that made from the plant grown in the native States of Malwa and Guzerat.

The Indian army is the heaviest item in the Indian expenditure. In 1878 there were upwards of 65,000 European soldiers in the country, in addition to 190,000 native sepoys, the whole maintained at a cost not much under £17,000,000. There is now no special Indian navy, the war-ships on the coast being those of the Royal Navy. The Indian national debt amounts to over £146,000,000, if all the outstanding obligations of the Government are to be included, and as we write a fresh loan-now becoming a financial "regular"-is announced. The coin circulating in the country is chiefly silver. There were coined in the year 1878 £150,000 worth of copper, but the gold circulating medium is comparatively small, not so much as £16,000 having been coined in 1878, though there are also over £12,000,000 of paper notes in circulation.

Such is a brief sketch of the great empire which was won for us by the valour, the diplomacy, and—justice cannot deny-occasionally by the knavery of our ancestors. Its rule is one of the heaviest responsibilities which have fallen to the lot of the Englishmen of this age. It is no light task to govern it to-day: the duty will prove no easier as

time passes away, and unless the future becomes pleasanter than it seems at present likely to be, only an optimist can look forward to the twentieth century with a light heart. These are, however, speculations outside the limits of a work such as this. We deal with facts alone, and even did space admit of a discussion of the prospects of India, its government and polity, it would be manifestly improper to

Carnegy: “Notes on the Land Tenures and Revenue Assessments of Upper India” (1874); Grant-Duff : * Notes of an Indian Journey” (1876); Kaye: “The Administration of the East India Company” (1853); Knight; “The Indian Empire and our Financial Relations therewith” (1866); Prichard : “ British Rule in India from 1859-1868 (1869); Routledge : “English Rule and Native Opinion in India” (1875); Chunder Dutt: "India, Past and Present" (1880); and the current official publications.

« PreviousContinue »