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of schools for the rural population. His successor, Sir Charles Wood, admitted the objections to the imposition of local cesses on land; but he thought that the obligations to keep up roads was a liability which everywhere attached to the proprietors of land; and in respect of education, he considered a special enactment necessary.” Local Rates on land, over and above the Land Revenue, were levied in the Punjab, Northern India, and the Central Provinces; and a special enactment, imposing such rates, was passed for Bombay.

Lord Lawrence, who was Viceroy of India from January 1864 to January 1869, was unwilling to empower Local Governments to impose fresh cesses on the people, and was generally against the principle of the Decentralisation Scheme which was adopted by his successor. Questioned by the Finance Committee on this subject after his retirement from India, he said : “ The system which was subsequently introduced was put before me, and I carefully considered it, and I did not think it advisable to introduce it. I thought that what was wanted really in India was to keep the Local Governments in order; to make them be careful in preparing estimates and not in exceeding their estimates; in fact that what was wanted was a restriction over them in matters of large works." 3 Nevertheless, Lord Lawrence's Government had in 1867 and 1868 recommended 4 that a cess, voluntary or otherwise, should be imposed on land in Bengal for roads and rural education.

It was under Lord Mayo's Government that the question came up for final consideration. The Bengal Government made a strong protest against the imposition of the proposed cess on the Zemindars with whom

i Despatch dated April 7, 1859.
i Despatch dated May 25, 1861.
3 Finance Committee's Report of 1873; Question 4525.

4 Letters to Bengal Government, dated October 28, 1867, and April 25 and 27,1868.

5 Letter to the India Government, dated April 30, 1869.

a Permanent Settlement had been made in 1793. The Government pointed out that the increased profits from extended cultivation did not benefit the Zemindars, but benefited a large class of sub-tenants and the cultivators themselves ; that estates had changed hands, and new purchasers had paid their present values; that James Wilson, the Finance Minister, and Sir Barnes Peacock, Chief Justice of Bengal, had considered special cesses on the soil in Bengal to be a violation of the Permanent Settlement; that Bengal paid a higher proportion of her revenues to the Imperial Exchequer than any other province; that a special educational cess was therefore neither feasible nor proper; but that with regard to a cess for roads, “the Lieutenant-Governor hopes that a cess for this purpose would be far less unpopular than one for education.”

Neither Lord Mayo's Government, nor the Duke of Argyll, who had succeeded Sir Stafford Northcote as Secretary of State for India, agreed with the Bengal Government's views. The Duke of Argyll held that it was open to the Government to impose both a road cess and an education cess in Bengal, but recommended that “until the systein, machinery, and incidence of local rating in Bengal has been satisfactorily established, so much only should, in the first instance, be raised as is required for roads." And speaking generally of India, the Duke of Argyll betrayed his ignorance of its agricultural conditions and its land revenue history, when he denied that “ in the Land Revenue raised from the agricultural classes, the Government of India took so much from the resources of the people as to leave them unable to bear any additional burdens.”

It is strange also to note that the author of the . Reign of Lav disregarded in this matter the opinions

1 See Letter from the Governor-General in Council, dated December 31, 1869, and the Secretary of State's Reply to the Governor-General in Council, dated May 12, 1870.


of his soundest advisers who tried to explain the law to him. In his Council, the Secretary of State had men like Sir Erskine Perry, who had been Chief Justice of Bombay; Henry Thoby Prinsep and Ross Mangles, who had unrivalled experience of Indian administration; Sir Henry Montgomery and Sir Frederick Halliday, who had ruled Provinces in India. And these men spoke in no uncertain voice. Sir Erskine Perry wrote:

“I have come reluctantly to the conclusion, after many struggles and attempts to draw fine distinctions in support of a different view, that the language and acts of Lord Cornwallis, and of the members of Government of his day, were so distinct, solemn, and unambiguous, that it should be a direct violation of British faith to impose special taxes in the manner proposed.”

“In 1854, Lord Dalhousie, a man of no weak will, was most desirous to impose a local tax in Bengal for the maintenance of an improved police; but after reading Sir Barnes Peacock's masterly exposition of the pledges which Government had entered into in 1791-93, the great pro-consul was compelled to accede to the soundness of the Chief Justice's argument, and most reluctantly abandoned his projects.”

“Here, then, we have the plain language of Government, the contemporanea exposita of its framers, the unanimous conviction of the people, and the declared acquiescence of the State in the justice of the popular interpretation during a period of eighty years. What is the answer attempted to this state of facts ?”

“The Government of India allege that the language of the Permanent Settlement itself, in section vii. of Lord Cornwallis's Proclamation, is large enough to enable them to impose the taxes in question, but this argument, on close examination, proves so utterly unsound that the Secretary of State abandons it."

“Two other arguments are brought forward; first, that the imposition of the income tax proves that taxes, additional to what Zemindars pay as land assessment, may be imposed on them ; second, that educational cesses have been imposed over most parts of India in addition to the land assessment.”

“As to the income-tax, it cannot be considered sound logic, when the meaning of particular pledges is in question, to argue that because a Despotic Government has on one occasion, without consulting the people, construed these pledges in its own sense, that act of the Government is a fair proof that their construction is right and just. But argument on this head may be withheld ; because I understand that both the Bengal Government and the Zemindars acquiesce in the proposition that in any great emergency they are justly subject to all general taxation which is imposed on the rest of the community.”

“With respect to cesses additional to Land Revenue having been imposed in other parts of India, I am compelled to observe that, in my opinion, the Secretary of State has not interpreted the facts correctly, and that the exposition of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal is the true one."

“I will content myself with saying that I believe the true explanation of Local Cesses for education [in the other Provinces of India] to be this: whenever they have been levied, they have been so either when settlements for terms of years were under discussion, and when the ' higgling of the market' between the Revenue Officer and the Landowner was going on, or if the settlement was already made, the cess was imposed with the acquiescence of the Landholder.”.

And Sir Erskine Perry paid a fine compliment to the Zemindars of Bengal who had protested against the . proposed Education Cess in a public meeting held in Calcutta. The speeches, he said, “though delivered in a foreign language, would have done credit, both for

Sir Erskine Perry's Dissent, dated May 14, 1870.

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good sense and good feeling, to any meeting of country gentlemen in England.”

Other dissents were not less emphatic. Mr. Macnaughten considered that “the tax, if levied at all, ought to be general in its application, and, irrespective of the amount of Land Revenue under the Permanent Settlement, should be imposed upon the holders of all property, real and personal, of whatever description.” 1

Sir Frederic Currie admitted the unsatisfactory state of the Indian Finance; it was a cogent reason, he said, for retrenchment and economy; “but it cannot justify our laying a special tax exclusively on the Zemindars of Bengal, to do which, Sir Erskine Perry's paper shows conclusively, would be a breach of faith and the violation of the positive statutory engagement made with these Zemindars at the Permanent Settlement.” 2 .

Sir Henry Montgomery said: “A government should not, in my opinion, voluntarily place itself in a position laying it open to be charged with a breach of faith.” 3

Henry Thoby Prinsep, with his vast knowledge and experience of Indian administration, wrote: “I have never felt so deeply grieved and disappointed at a decision given in opposition to my expressed opinions as when it was determined, by a casting vote, to approve and forward the Despatch referred to at the head of this paper, for I regard the principles laid down in that Despatch to be erroneous, and the avowal of them to be unwise ; while the policy inaugurated and the measures sanctioned will, if attempted to be carried out, alienate the entire population of India from the Government, and shake the confidence hitherto felt universally in its honesty and good faith.” . “The Court of Directors, the Imperial Government,

and Parliament, were all parties to the resolution to fix

i Mr. Macnaughten's Dissent, dated May 14, 1870.
2 Sir Frederic Currie's Dissent, dated May 14, 1870.
3 Sir H. Montgomery's Dissent, dated May 18, 1870.

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