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moral grounds the assumption on the part of the Government, whether British or any other, of a proprietary right on the soil of all India, supposing they rule over all India ?
Ross Mangles.— I do not think that that is a question connected with the revenue; I never have assumed or alleged that the Government was the proprietor of the soil of India, and I do not believe that it is the proprietor of the soil in India.
George Thompson.—Is it not virtually so when it takes upon itself to demand 75 per cent. of the natural rent of the land over all the country?
Ross Mangles.-A portion of the rent from time immemorial has been the right of the State for public purposes.
John Bright.—Speaking of the mode of collecting the rent through Collectors, can you say at all, supposing the produce of a certain quantity of land to be 100, whether there be any fixed proportion which the Collector is understood to be authorised to fix as the amount of the assessment to the Government ?
Ross Mangles.—I have explained to the Committee that of late years it has been found extremely dangerous to make the produce the basis of the settlement, and the Collectors have been enjoined on every occasion to endeavour to find what the rent is, and to make that the basis.
John Bright. — If the assessment was an annual assessment, as it is throughout a large portion of the Company's Government in India, would such an increase of the assessment in such a case [i.e. in case of improvements effected by cultivators] be calculated to improve 'the cultivation still further, or to discourage the cultivator from making improvements ?
Ross Mangles. — The natural effect would be discouragement. I am as much opposed to annual settlements as the honourable Chairman can be.
These passages are important, as they throw light on some great principles recognised as long ago as 1848.
(1) The Government did not claim to be the proprietor of the soil; Zemindars and Ryots were recognised as proprietors.
(2) The Government claimed a portion of the economic rent as the Land Revenue.
(3) The portion was not fixed. It amounted to about 50 per cent. in permanently settled estates, and approached 75 per cent. where there was no permanent settlement.
For the rest Ross Mangles held with John Stuart Mill that the Land Revenue of India, being a portion of the rent, did not enter into the cost of production of articles grown on the soil, and could not therefore have any deterrent effect on the cultivation of cotton.
John Sullivan, who had been Member of the Government of Madras, and President of the Board of Revenue, also defended the Indian Land Revenue system, but complained against the annual Economic Drain from India. “As to the complaints which the people of India have to make of the present fiscal system, I do not conceive that it is the amount altogether that they have to complain of. I think they have rather to complain of the application of that amount. Under their own dynasties, all the revenue that was collected in the country was spent in the country; but under our rule, a large proportion of the revenue is annually drained away, and without any return being made for it; this drain has been going on now for sixty or seventy years, and it is rather increasing than the reverse. . . . Our system acts · very much like a sponge, drawing up all the good things from the banks of the Ganges, and squeezing them down on the banks of the Thames. . . . They (the people of
i This uncertainty has been subsequently removed, at least in theory. The Saharanpur Rules of 1855, and the Secretary of State's Despatch of 1864, fix 50 per cent. of the rental as the approximate Government demand in temporarily settled estates, Zemindari and Ryotwari.
India] have no voice whatever in imposing the taxes which they are called upon to pay, no voice in framing the laws which they are bound to obey, no real share in the administration of their own country; and they are denied those rights from the insolent and insulting pretext that they are wanting in mental and moral qualifications for the discharge of such duties.” 1 • Some other less important witnesses are examined, but it is unnecessary to prolong this analysis. Enough has been said to indicate the nature of the evidence placed before the Select Committee; and on this evidence John Bright and his colleagues submitted their report on July 17, 1848.
They reported that for sixty years, i.e. since 1788, the Court of Directors had made experiments in India for extending the cultivation and export of cotton, and had introduced American gins, sent out American cotton growers, and had established experimental farms for this purpose. The Directors still believed that the obstacles which retarded cotton cultivation in India could be overcome.
The result of the experiments satisfied the Select Committee that India had the capacity to supply cotton of an improved quality to an indefinite extent, but the Committee did not expect that this effect would be achieved by the means adopted. American cotton, longstapled, was not so well suited to the Indian manufacturer as the Indian cotton, and the fluctuating demands for exportation were not a sufficient inducement for the introduction of a variety adapted to a foreign and distant market.
The miserable condition of the cultivators of India received the attention of the Select Committee. The great mass of cultivators in Madras and Bombay were “almost wholly without capital, or any of those means which capital alone can furnish, by which industry may be improved and extended. They are in reality a class of cultivators in the most abject condition.”
| Report of the Select Committee, p. 402.
2 Cotton, like sugar, was grown in India mainly for consumption in India; and the people of India, very rightly, produced those articles mainly with an eye to their national requirements, rather than to the demands of Lancashire looms.
There was difference of opinion on the question as to how far this depressed condition of the cultivators was due to the Government Land Revenue demand. On the one hand the principle was urged that so long as the Government demand was limited to a part of the economic rent, no depressing result on the cultivation of soil could ensue. On the other hand, evidence had been given that districts with large populations under the control of single officers were in practice badly administered; that imprudent zeal, inefficiency, or grave errors had affected the prosperity of entire districts, and that “the whole system is depressing, if not destructive to any spirit of improvement on the part of the agricultural population."
The two principles “ of moderation in the Government demand, and certainty as to the amount and tenure” were recommended as the basis of land settlements in India.
Lastly the Select Committee commented on the lamentable want of roads in India, and they referred to the evidence of Ross Mangles himself, a Director of the East India Company, showing how little had been done to improve internal communications. The witnesses examined had also recommended the construction of railways in India from the centres of export and import to the interior.
JOHN Bright's report was submitted in 1848. Five years after, the East India Company's Charter came up for renewal. And, as usual, a thorough inquiry into the Company's administration was made by Select Committees of both Houses of Parliament in 1852 and 1853. We shall have to refer to this inquiry when dealing with the general administration of the Company; but some interesting facts about the production of tea, salt, and opium, elicited during this inquiry, should find a place in the present chapter.
TEA. The most important evidence on the culture of tea was given by Dr. Royle of Saharanpur Botanical Gardens, whose evidence before the Cotton Committee has been referred to before. He had recommended the cultivation of tea to the Indian Government in 1827 and 1834 ; it was first undertaken by the Indian Government in 1835; and in 1842 the first tea was manufactured. At the time when the witness was examined (1853) the cultivation of the plant was going on to a considerable extent all through the North-West Himalayas, and also in Assam. • Not more than 10,000 lbs. had been grown in Kumaon in any year yet, but the cultivation was extending. The whole of the mountains from Sikkim, through Nepal and Kumaon up to the Kangra valley and even to Kashmir, was suited to the cultivation of