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ment, led Mr. D. Seymour to believe, that the revenue was still collected by ill usage and torture, as under the preceding native rulers; and they provided him with a picture, representing various kinds of torture to aid his inquiries among the people during his tour in the provinces. Mr. D. Seymour could not speak a word of any native language, and had with him for interpreters, an agent of the Hindoo Association, and a sub-editor of the Athenæum, a Madras newspaper, distinguished by its hostility to the civil service, and the present system of administration. Travelling under such circumstances, it is not surprising that he received information which led him afterwards to declare in the House of Commons," that the grand object of the Company
was to get ten shillings from a man when he had only eight, and that the same system of torture and coercion which prevailed a hundred years ago, was still continued to accomplish this end.
In the debate on Mr. Blackett's motion on the state of the Madras presidency, when this assertion was made, some other members connected with the Indian Reform Society, also declared that torture was still practised in the collection of the revenue ; and although an emphatic denial was given by Sir J. W. Hogg and other speakers, the charge thus assumed an importance which induced Lord Harris, the newly appointed Governor of Madras, to institute a searching investigation into its truth. In the order issued on the occasion, Lord Harris observed : “ The idea ' of such a practice is so abhorrent to the principles innate in
every Englishman, that the Right Honorable the Governor in • Council would not hesitate to repel such an accusation on the
part of the covenanted service; but he feels that a mere denial
of this nature would not be satisfactory to the officers of the • service themselves, but that on the contrary they would be
desirous, as be is, that the fullest enquiry should be made, in " order that if untrue the charge may be at once openly and
clearly rebutted; while if on the other hand, there should be any ground for the assertion, every exertion may be made to expose
and effectually prevent such highly objectionable practices, and vindicate the character of our Government."
Commissioners were accordingly appointed to investigate the subject, and care was taken to make the enquiry effective and free from suspicion. The most prominent member of the commission was Mr. J. B. Norton, a Barrister of the Supreme Court, who was a correspondent of the India Reform Society, and editor of the Madras Athenæum, in which newspaper Mr. D. Seymour's proceedings, during his provincial tour, had been loudly praised and vindicated. Another member was Mr. E. F. Elliot, Chief Magistrate of the town of Madras, whose duties were confined to the limits of Her Majesty's Supreme Court, and who did not belong either to the Company's civil or military service. The third member was Mr. H. Stokes, a civil servant, but whose occupation separated him from the subject of enquiry, as he was employed at the Presidency and not in the provinces.
To aid the enquiries of the Commissioners, the legislature passed a special law, Act XXXII. of 1854, investing them with full judicial powers for administering oaths, summoning witnesses and punishing perjury. Witnesses were protected from the consequences of any self-criminatory disclosures they might make, and the Commissioners were authorised to pay their travelling expenses to and from Madras, or to have them examined upon written interrogatories before “ any Judge, Collector, Magistrate, or other officer, having by law power to examine wit
nesses on oath.” The records of every court and public office were thrown open to them—the servants of Government received orders to answer their calls for information, and proclamations were issued in every village throughout the presidency, inviting the people to state personally or by letter, any instances of torture or violence with which they were acquainted during the preceding seven years, and notifying that those persons who appeared before the Commissioner to complain, would receive payment, as well as their witnesses, for their travelling expenses. Every encouragement was thus given for aggrieved parties to make known their wrongs, and the European public officers in the provinces, anxious for the cause of truth and good Government, gave all the information in their possession. This is acknowledged by the Commissioners, who in publishing the letters of these officers, which form Appendix C to the Report, observe : “ We cannot too pointedly recommend to perusal a body of opi' nion remarkable for its candor, and throwing much light on this important question.” (Para. 19.)
It was under these favorable circumstances that the Commissioners proceeded with their enquiry, and after a sitting of seven months, they produced the report which stands at the head of this article. The importance of the subject caused the report to be looked for with much interest, for although minds of candor and common sense were slow to believe it possible that educated Christian gentlemen could sanction such a barbarity as torture, yet it was evident that without the aid of its European servants, the Government could not accomplish the grand object imputed to it by Mr. D. Seymour,“ of obtaining ten shillings from a man
who had only eight." How it was practicable even with that aid we leave Mr. Seymour to show. Expectation was consequently raised to ascertain how such an idea as the complicity of the European officers could have arisen, and to what extent vio
lence or torture had been resorted to by their native subordinates without their knowledge. The report does not, however, set at rest the controversy between Mr. D. Seymour and Sir J. Hogg. Unfortunately, in our opinion, the Commissioners were
instructed by Government to extend their enquiry to torture in the Police department before they had completed their original subject. The consequence is that a new field was opened, which enables the Commissioners to depart from the original question, and instead of giving a clear decision whether the parliamentary statement of Mr. D. Seymour or that of Sir J. Hogg had most truth, they confine themselves to a comparison of the prevalence of torture in the revenue and Police departments. Another consequence is that the original subject of torture in collecting the revenue, unavoidably appears in an exaggerated light, by being so mingled with cruelties inflicted on prisoners to extort confessions, or discover stolen p perty, that the reader of the report has difficulty in keeping the two subjects distinct. The opinion at which the Commissioners arrive, is that the European servants of Government are known throughout the land to abhor torture of all descriptions, and that under their active exertions, its practice has greatly diminished ; but they then proceed to remark (Para. 63) that it is most frequently exercised in the revenue department, though in a less aggravated form than in the Police ; and in Para. 55 they express a sweeping declaration of their belief in the general exis*tence of torture for revenue purposes.' Thus two entirely incompatible things have been enunciated ; the exculpation of the European servants of Government, and the general prevalence of torture in collecting the revenue !
Such is the tenor of the report which has led many unacquainted with India to believe that Mr. D. Seymour suddenly discovered a terrible plague-spot in our administration, and that the revenues of Madras are still collected through violence and cruelty. The fact, however, is that the Commissioners are manifestly illogical and contradictory in their judgment. Both portions of it cannot be true, and one must be abandoned. We propose therefore to show, by a brief analysis of the Report, that the unsound portion of the judgment is that which has thrown obloquy on the Madras Government by asserting that its revenues are still collected by torture. This may be deemed hardly necessary, after the spectacle which the Madras provinces have shown of loyalty, order, and contentment, during the crisis of our Indian empire; but it will not be uninteresting to notice how such a delusion arose, and on what really slight materials it has been raised.
One main cause of the temporary success of the assailants of Government undoubtedly is the name of torture. No other word causes such an abhorrence to English ears, and the very idea of torture being exercised by the powerful on the weak, and especially under official authority, is sure to excite sympathy and indignation. The parties therefore who sought to assail the Government, chose their topic well in bringing forward this hated word, and it has been turned to the best account by the Commis. sioners.* The casual reader who opens their report is apt to suppose that the “ torture” which he finds spoken of in all its pages, consists of that deliberate and atrocious cruelty which the word elsewhere implies. But so far is this from being the case, that the Commissioners have given a new sense to the word, and include in it every act which causes pain, however trifling, or even inconvenient. On referring to Paras. 54 and 61, it will be found that“ keeping a man in the sun," where the mass of the people pursue their daily labour-" temporary restraint, and charging ' the expense of the peon who serves the notice for an arrear, both legal measures-keeping the defaulter's cattle in his cow-shed —and the pettiest acts of ill-usage, such as a push or a slap, are brought into the category. It is surely unnecessary to dwell on the unfairness of this perversion of language, or to point out the danger of a report which in its title and pages thus misleads, or at least mystifies its reader by using the odious word - torture” in so novel and unheard-of a sense. Amid the general denunciations against torture, and in the confusion of great and trivial matters—of revenue and police, how are the public to come to a knowledge of the truth, or always recollect that when the Commissioners speak of “ torture” in collecting the revenue, they may be alluding to such acts as a constable or a schoolmaster resorts to for keeping a set of unruly boys in order ? But besides the Government which is thus unfairly assailed, and the reading public who are mystified, a third party has just cause to complain of this perverted use of language. In the body of the Report the reader finds that the leading servants of Government are appealed to in support of the assertion that “ torture” still “ extensively prevails in the collection of the revenue.” But this is an injustice to those gentlemen whose information forms the most valuable part of the Report, Appendix C. Their testimony is to the effect, that instead of
* The report is understood to have been written by Mr. J. B. Norton, and his influence in the commission is evident by the difference between the tenor of the report, and the opinion which one of the Commissioners, Mr. Stokes, had previously recorded on the question of torture. It is therefore important to recollect that Mr. J. B. Norton was in some degree on his own trial, and was interested in making out a case against the Government to justify his perpetual attacks on it regarding torture and other subjects in his books, and in the Athenocum newspaper.
the harsh coercive system which prevailed under the former native Governments, a few petty acts of indignity or ill usage now only occur, and they expressly state that the term “ torture" is inapplicable to these acts. For example, Mr. Robertson says: • The methods of coercion used do not come up to the idea of 'torture;" and according to Mr. Smollet, “ the acts alluded to,
cannot reasonably be called torture.” Mr. Bourdillon observes : “ I think that the term torture is likely to convey a mistaken ' and exaggerated impression, and Mr. Hall remarks: "I do not " think that it can justly be said that a system of using torture ' to collect the revenue, exists in this district, or in any other ' with which I have had acquaintance." Mr. H. Stokes also in his reply to a circular enquiry which had been sent by Government, explained, “ that he was alluding, not to the existence of 'torture, but of personal molestation and restraint."
We content ourselves with quoting a few gentlemen of extensive experience and acknowledged candor; but a perusal of Appendix C. will show that numerous other authorities might be cited, and that it is only by employing language in a new sense that “ torture and the collection of the revenue can be associated.
The next part of the Report calling for notice, are the passages in Paras. 55 and 63, where the Commissioners state that “torture" is “more frequently exercised in the revenue department, though in a less aggravated form than in the police, and express
sweeping declaration of their belief in the general existence of 'torture for revenue purposes.” We cannot but attribute these extraordinary passages, and the perverted use of the word “torture” which has just been commented on, to a desire to afford some shelter to Mr. D. Seymour, Mr. J. B. Norton's friend and associate in the India Reform Society, under the exposure of his ill-judged speech which Sir J. Hogg made in the Parliamentary debate. We come to this conclusion for the three following
1. The Commissioners directly contradict themselves—they must have forgotten that in another place (P. 60) they had spoken of ill usage being resorted to for the extraction of the
dregs” only of the public revenue--and in another of its being
probably” confined to the lower order of ryots, and again of its having been banished from all those neighbourhoods, where Europeans, either officers of Government or others, reside-so that their sweeping belief here expressed of its general existence for revenue purposes, takes the reader by surprise.
2. Their statement that torture is more prevalent in the revenue than in the police department is directly opposed to the testimony of their own witnesses. For example, among the authorities quoted by them in p. 21, as the most experienced