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Wellesley during his seven years' tenure of office (1798-1805) had again involved the Company in financial difficulties, and in 1808 a committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire, amongst other things, into the conditions on which relief should be granted. It continued its sittings over the four following years, and the famous Fifth Report, which was published in July, 1812, is still a standard authority on Indian land tenures, and the best authority on the judicial and police arrangements of the time. When the time arrived for taking steps to renew the Company's charter, a Dundas' was still at the Board of Control, but it was no longer found possible to avoid the questions which had been successfully shirked in 1793. Napoleon had closed the European ports, and British traders imperatively demanded admission to the ports of Asia. At the end of 1811 Lord Melville told the Court of Directors that His Majesty's ministers could not recommend to Parliament the continuance of the existing system unless they were prepared to agree that the ships, as well as goods, of private merchants should be admitted into the trade with India under such restrictions as might be deemed reasonable.
The Company struggled hard for their privileges. They began by arguing that their political authority and commercial privileges were inseparable, that their trade profits were dependent upon their monopoly, and that if their trade profits were taken away their revenues would not enable them to carry on the government of the country. But their accounts had been kept in such a fashion as to leave it very doubtful whether their trade profits, as distinguished from their territorial revenues, amounted to anything at all. And this ground of argument was finally cut from under their feet by the concession of a continued monopoly of the tea trade, from which it was admitted that the commercial profits of the Company were principally, if not wholly, derived.
Driven from this position the Company dwelt on the
Robert Dundas, who, on his father's death in 1811, became the second Viscount Melville.
political dangers which would arise from an unlimited resort of Europeans to India. The venerable Warren Hastings was called from his retreat to support on this point the views of the Company before the House of Commons, and it was on this occasion that the members testified their respect for him by rising as a body on his entrance into the House and standing until he had assumed his seat within the bar. His evidence confirmed the assertions of the Company as to the danger of unrestricted European immigration into India, and was supplemented by evidence to a similar effect from Lord Teignmouth (Sir J. Shore), Colonel (Sir John) Malcolm, and Colonel (Sir Thomas) Munro. Experience had proved, they affirmed, that it was difficult to impress even upon the servants of the Company, whilst in their noviciate, a due regard for the feelings and habits of the people, and Englishmen of classes less under the observation of the supreme authorities were notorious for the contempt with which, in their natural arrogance and ignorance, they contemplated the usages and institutions of the natives, and for their frequent disregard of the dictates of humanity and justice in their dealings with the people of India. The natives, although timid and feeble in some places, were not without strength and resolution in others, and instances had occurred where their i esentment had proved formidable to their oppressors. It was difficult, if not impossible, to afford them protection, for the Englishman was amenable only to the courts of British law established at the presidencies, and although the local magistrate had the power of sending him further for trial, yet to impose upon the native complainant and witness the obligation of repairing many hundred miles to obtain redress was to subject them to delay, fatigue, and expense, which would be more intolerable than the injury they had suffered.
That their apprehensions were unfounded no one who is acquainted with the history or present conditions of British India would venture to deny. But they were expressed by the advocates of the Company in language of unjustifiable intemperance and exaggeration. Thus Mr. Charles Grant, in the course of the debate in the House of Commons, dwelt on the danger of letting loose among the people of India a host of desperate needy adventurers, whose atrocious conduct in America and in Africa afforded sufficient indication of the evil they would inflict upon India.
The controversy was eventually compromised by allowing Europeans to resort to India, but only under a strict system of licences.
Closely connected with the question of the admission of independent Europeans into India was that of missionary enterprise. The Government were willing to take steps for the recognition and encouragement of Christianity by the appointment of a bishop and archdeacons.
But a large number of excellent men, belonging mainly to the Evangelical party, and led in the House of Commons by Wilberforce, were anxious to go much further in the direction of committing the Indian Government to the active propagation of Christianity among the natives of India. On the other hand, the past and present servants of the Company, including even those who, like Lord Teignmouth, were personally in sympathy with the Evangelical school, were fully sensitive to the danger of interfering with the religious convictions or alarming the religious prejudices of the natives.
The proposals ultimately submitted by the Government to Parliament in 1813 were embodied in thirteen resolutions 1.
The first affirmed the expediency of extending the Company's privileges, subject to modifications, for a further term of twenty years.
The second preserved to the Company the monopoly of the China trade and of the trade in tea.
The third threw open to all British subjects the export and import trade with India, subject to the exception of tea, and to certain safeguards as to warehousing and the like.
· Printed in an appendix to vol. vii. of Mill and Wilson's British India.
The fourth and fifth regulated the application of the Company's territorial revenues and commercial profits.
The sixth provided for the reduction of the Company's debt, for the payment of a dividend at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum, and for the division of any surplus between the Company and the public in the proportion of one-sixth to the former and five-sixths to the latter.
The seventh required the Company to keep their accounts in such manner as to distinguish clearly those relating to the territorial and political departments from those relating to, the commercial branch of their affairs.
The eighth affirmed the expediency, in the interests of economy, of limiting the grants of salaries and pensions.
The ninth reserved to the Court of Directors the right of appointment to the offices of governor-general, governor, and commander-in-chief, subject to the approbation of the Crown.
Under the tenth, the number of the king's troops in India was to be limited, and any number exceeding the limit was, unless employed at the express requisition of the Company, to be at the public charge. This modified, in a sense favourable to the Company, Pitt's declaratory Act of 1788.
Then followed a resolution that it was expedient that the church establishment in the British territories in the East Indies should be placed under the superintendence of a bishop and three archdeacons, and that adequate provision should be made from the territorial revenues of India for their maintenance.
The twelfth resolution declared that the regulations to be framed by the Court of Directors for the colleges at Haileybury and Addiscombe ought to be subject to the regulation of the Board of Control, and that the Board ought to have power to send instructions to India about the colleges at Calcutta 1 and Madras.
| The college at Calcutta had been founded by Lord Wellesley for the training of the Company's civil servants.
It was round the thirteenth resolution that the main controversy raged, and its vague and guarded language shows the difficulty that was experienced in settling its terms. The resolution declared 'that it is the duty of this country to promote the interest and happiness of the native inhabitants of the British dominions in India, and that such measures ought to be adopted as may tend to the introduction amongst them of useful knowledge, and of religious and moral improvement. That in the furtherance of the above objects, sufficient facilities shall be afforded by law to persons desirous of going to and remaining in India for the purpose of accomplishing these benevolent designs, provided always, that the authority of the local Governments, respecting the intercourse of Europeans with the interior of the country, be preserved, and that the principles of the British Government, on which the natives of India have hitherto relied for the free exercise of their religion, be inviolably maintained.' One discerns the planter following in the wake of the missionary, each watched with a jealous eye by the Company's servants.
The principles embodied in the Resolutions of 1813 were developed in the Act of the same year. The language of the preamble to the Act is significant. It recites the expediency of continuing to the Company for a further term the possession of the territorial acquisitions in India, and the revenues thereof, 'without prejudice to the undoubted sovereignty of the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in and over the same?' The constitutional controversy of the preceding century was not to be reopened.
The Act then grants the Indian possessions and revenues to the Company for a further term of twenty years, reserves to them for the same time the China trade and the tea trade, but throws open the general India trade, subject to various restrictive conditions.
55 Geo. III, c. 155. 2 The sovereignty of the Crown had been clearly reserved in the charter of 1698. But at that time the territorial possessions were insignificant.