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“The worst, however, is not yet told; for it would appear that when extra regiments are despatched to India, as happened during the late disturbances there, the pay of such troops for six months previous to sailing is charged against the Indian Revenues, and recovered as a debt due by the Government of India to the British army pay-office.”
. “In the crisis of the Indian Mutiny, then, and with the Indian finances reduced to an almost desperate condition, Great Britain has not only required India to pay for the whole of the extra regiments sent to that country, from the date of their leaving these shores, but has demanded back the money disbursed on account of these regiments for the last six months' service in this country previous to sailing for India.” 1
But a greater man than Sir George Wingate spoke on the subject of the Mutiny expenditure in his own frank and fearless manner. “I think,” said John Bright,
that the 40 millions which the revolt will cost, is a grievous burden to place upon the people of India. It has come from the mismanagement of the Parliament and the people of England. If every man had what was just, no doubt that 40 millions would have to be paid out of the taxes levied upon the people of this country.” ?
We make these extracts and mention these facts, not to recall an almost forgotten controversy, but simply with the object of clearly explaining the genesis of the Indian Debt. The popular impression is that the Indian Debt arose out of capital spent by England for the conquest and administration of India, and for the development of her resources. The facts explained in the present chapter will show that that was not the genesis of the Indian * Debt up to 1858. India had paid for her own conquest and her own administration; and what little English gold had found its way to India down to the last year of the 1 Our Pinancial Relations with India, by Major Wingate. London, 1859.
John Bright's speech on East India Loan, March 1859.
Company's rule was an insignificant portion of the tribute India had paid for a century. It is impossible to calculate even approximately what this payment amounted to. Sir George Wingate reckons it at 100 millions from the beginning of the nineteenth century down to 1858, without calculating interest. Montgomery Martin reckons it at over 700 millions during the first thirty years of the century, calculating compound interest at Indian rate of 12 per cent. And these calculations exclude the sums remitted from India in the eighteenth century.
It was this tribute, exacted as Home Charges, which was the genesis of India's debt. India paid for her own administration; paid also for the frequent wars of conquest and annexation in India. But she could not pay the full tribute demanded over and above these local expenses. Deficit occurred year after year, and thus a Debt was piled up which amounted to sixty millions when Lord Dalhousie left India. And the first year of the Mutiny expenses brought it up to seventy millions when the East India Company was abolished.
The fresh charges which were thrown on India, owing to the transfer of the Government, will be described in the next chapter. The Empire of India was purchased by the Crown from the Company, but the people of India were charged with the purchase money. The value received by the shareholders of the Company's stock was not paid by the British Crown which won an imperial property, but was added to the Indian Debt.
Would England at least guarantee this Debt thus accumulated ? That would reduce the annual interest on the Debt by over a million sterling, and would so far relieve the tax-payers of India. Lord Stanley, afterwards Lord Derby, cautiously suggested it in 1859.
"I am aware the uniform policy of the Parliament and the Government of this country has been to decline all responsibility in regard to the Debt of India, which has been held to be a charge only on the Indian Exchequer. Dealing with the present state of affairs I may say at once that I am not going to recommend any change in that policy. I know well the alarm which any such proposition would create, and I know the refusal which it would inevitably receive. But this is a question which will recur again and again, and which will have to be considered in the future as well as in the present.”
“I would likewise ask the House to bear in mind that if ever the time should come when the established policy in this respect should undergo a change, and when a national guarantee should be given for these liabilities, that guarantee would operate to reduce the interest paid upon the Indian Debt by no less than £750,000, or even £1,000,000, which, formed into a sinking fund, would go far to pay off the whole.”
Six months after it was John Bright himself who opposed the idea of giving an Imperial guarantee to the Indian Debt. And his reasons were characteristic.
“I do not oppose an Imperial guarantee because I particularly sympathise with the English tax-payers in this matter. I think the English tax-payers have generally neglected all the affairs of India, and might be left to pay for it. . . . But I object to an Imperial guarantee on this ground—if we left the Services of India, after exhausting the resources of India, to put their hands into the pockets of the English people, the people of England having no control over Indian expenditure, it is impossible to say to what lengths of unimagined extravagance they would not go ; and in endeavouring to save India may we not go far towards ruining England ? ” 2
Even John Bright did not see that the people of • England would have very soon ceased to neglect the affairs of India, and would have obtained a real control over Indian expenditure, if some share of the liability of the Indian Debt had been thrown on them. 1 Lord Stanley's speech on East India Loan, February 1859.
2 John Bright's speech, August 1, 1859.
END OF THE COMPANY'S RULE
“My parting hope and prayer for India is, that, in all. time to come, these reports from the Presidencies and Provinces under our rule may form, in each successive year, a happy record of peace, prosperity, and progress.” With this pious wish Lord Dalhousie had concluded the memorable review of his eight years' administration of India before he sailed for England.
“We must not forget that in the sky of India, serene as it is, a small cloud may arise, at first no bigger than a man's hand, but which, growing bigger and bigger, may at last threaten to overwhelm us with ruin.” With these almost prophetic words Lord Canning had replied to the Court of Directors at a parting banquet in London, before he sailed for India.
Lord Dalhousie's bright picture of peace, prosperity, and progress was destined to be obscured for a time; Lord Canning's fears of a dark cloud threatening to overwhelm the Empire were destined to prove a true prophecy.
The causes of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 are no longer hidden in obscurity. “As a body," wrote John Lawrence,“ the native army did really believe that the universal introduction of cartridges destructive to their caste was only a matter of time .... such truly was the origin of the Mutiny. And we know now from the equally high authority of Lord Roberts” that the belief of the native army was not altogether unfounded, and 1 Letter on the trial of the King of Delhi, dated April 29, 1858.
Porty-one Years in India.
that the cartridges introduced were greased with the fat of the pig and the cow.
It is also beyond a doubt that political reasons helped a mere mutiny of soldiers to spread among large classes of the people in Northern and Central India, and converted it into a political insurrection. Lord Dalhousie's vast and rapid annexations had created an impression in India that the East India Company aimed at universal conquest; that they disregarded treaties and the laws of the country in order to compass their object. The minds of the people were unsettled; and leaders of the insurrection issued Proclamations dwelling on the bad-faith and the earth-hunger of the alien rulers. In Jhansi State, which had been annexed by Lord Dalhousie, the Dowager Rani was the life and soul of the insurrection, fought in male attire against British troops, and died on the field of battle. In Oudh, which had also been annexed by the same ruler, vast masses of the population gathered round the mutinous soldiers, and made their deposed king's cause their own.
It is not within the scope of the present work to narrate the thrilling incidents of that eventful war, which have been told by Sir John Kaye and Malleson in their great work, and have also been described in more recent and smaller works of great merit. The heroism of the small band of Englishmen who stood at Lucknow against surging masses of insurgents, and the tragic death of that truest and best of English soldiers, Henry Lawrence, “who tried to do his duty”; the unflinching courage with which a handful of warriors held their ground through weary months on the historic ridge of Delhi, until the master hand of John Lawrenøe denuded the Punjab to deal that 'memorable blow which decided the fate of the Empire ; the rapid and successful march through Central India, and the prolonged and arduous operations in Rohilkhand and Oudh ; all these are portions of English history and have been woven into English literature. The Poet