« PoprzedniaDalej »
abled with one hand to check the in- commercial benefits which they might dustry of the poor, and with the other otherwise promise themselves from the to narrow the enjoyments of the rich. partiality of government. The strong There is but one way of promoting stimulus of individual interest, and the industry with effect--to increase the benefits of private vigilance, being lost demand for its productions ; and there by the very constitution of the society, is also but one way to extend con- the inference is no less inevitable in sumption—by lowering the price of the theory, than we have found it invariaarticles consumed. Under these two bly justified by the event, that such heads may be ranged almost every pro- an association, with all its privileges position in the science of political eco. and immunities, could not for a single nomy, as well as every rational scheme day sustain the competition of the prifor accelerating the progress of opu- vate merchant ; nay, that even when lence ; and yet it is not a little singu- secured against this competition, such lar, that the attainment of both these are the negligence and waste inseparagreat ends forms the very objection ble from its plan of administration, that which the East India Company were it cannot, with any rational prospect pleased to state to the abolition of their of success, hope to continue its comcommercial monopoly. They com.
They com. mercial undertakings. plained that private competition would But there was still another circumenhance the price of Indian commodi. stance connected with the state of the ties;- in other words, that it would en. East India Company since its immense courage industry among the subjects of territorial acquisitions had been made the British government in India ; and, in India, by which it was most unfawith perfect consistency, they com- vourably distinguished from almost plained also that the same private com- every other monopoly, and aspired to petition would lower, in the home a pre-eminence over every other impomarket, the value of Indian produce, litic establishment, viz. the combina that is, would greatly extend the con- tion of the incompatible functions of sumption.
merchant and sovereign, which must for What has been already stated is, ever preclude advances in commercial with some limitations, true of all mo. improvement. If the sovereign of any nopolies ; even of those which leave European state had an entire moscope for the enterprize and vigilance nopoly of its foreign trade, what are of the private traders of a particular the consequences which every man of province or state. But the argument common understanding would anticiapplies with tenfold force to a mono- pate from so preposterous an union of poly so very narrow as to include only different, or rather opposite characa single commercial association, so con- ters? Would he not expect, with the stituted as to forfeit entirely all the most perfect confidence, either that the benefits derived from the powerful sti. trade would be rendered quite subsermulus of private interest, and the vient to the fluctuating schemes of adcontrol of private inspection. Such ministration, and of course would sink an association as this, while it de- quickly into insignificance, or that the prives industry of all the advantages paternal interest,
which is natural even derived from a free competition, and to the worst of governments, in the sacrifices the interests of the commu- prosperity of its subjects, would be nity to the prejudices of a few indivi- shamelessly abandoned for the pursuits duals
, is so ingeniously contrived as to of unlawful gain, at the hazard of comforfeit, even for the grantees, all the mitting the greatest oppressions in the
industrious classes of the people ? The were vices inherent to the very consticase was precisely the same with India: tution of the Company, which disquathe Company, as sovereigns, ought to lified it for the exercise of the funchave felt an interest in extending the tions with which it was entrusted ; manufactures and trade of India ; but, that the greater number of the proas monopolists, it was clearly their busi- prietors must always be much more ness to compress them within the nar- disposed to intrigue for political ini u. row limits which were found suitable ence, than to speculate for the sake of to their own circumstances and re- commercial wealth; and that the court
of directors, being a representative The accuracy of these general views body, must of necessity be supposed has been well illustrated in the history to participate in the vices and prejuof this great establishment. In the dices of their constituents. It was but year 1784, the attention of the legisla- too obvious, from the whole scene of ture and the country was imperiously iniquity which was unveiled, that the called to Indian affairs, by the profli. more bustling and ambitious of the gacy and mismanagement which seem- proprietors were naturally so much ed to mark the whole of the Company's interested in the welfare of the Comproceedings. It had at this period pany's servants in India, who were of become notorious, that the oppression their own selection, as to aim at secuexercised by the Company's servants ring certain impunity for all classes of abroad over the independent princes of delinquents; and it was at once per. India,princes in alliance with the ceived, that the irregular and undeCompany as well as over the provin. fined controul then exerted by minices which had submitted to the British sters over the proceedings of the di. government, were such as to endanrectors, must for ever be found inade. ger
the very existence of the British quate to the remedy of such grievanin India. So very critical and alarm- It availed not the Company to ing was the state of British India pretend, that the instructions dispatch. thea deemed by the legislature, that ed by them to their servants in India after elaborate and voluminous reports had in general been wise and politic, by committees of the House of Com- because it had been remarked with mons, in which every species of mis. astonishment, that every breach of these government was brought home to the instructions had been ultimately re. Company, the most violent remedies warded with the Company's approba. alone were pronounced suitable to the tion. Of the disposition natural to a disease. Mr Fox and his friends did set of men like the proprietors of India not hesitate about proposing a measure stock, a very good specimen was at which involved the temporary, forfei. this time given, in the confirmation of ture of the most valuable privileges the power of Mr Hastings, after his belonging to the Company; while Mr recal had been determined upon by the Pity, with less precipitation, and more House of Commons; and, in short, it tenderness for the Company's rights, was, in the whole circumstances of the could discover no cure for the disorder case, quite manifest, that no remedy short of a participation by the execu.
could be found for the defects inherent tive government in the conduct of the to the constitution of the Company, Company's political affairs.
but in the exercise of a powerful and During the anxious discussions of efficient controul over the selection of that memorable period, it seems to have their servants, as well as their plans of been conceded on all sides, that there policy. A most important revolution
VOL. VI. PART I.
in the government of British India was to any extent worth mentioning-had of course determined on, and a great it fulfilled the expectations even of share of that power which the Com- those who estimate on the most mo. pany had shewn itself so ill qualified to derate principles the commercial value, exercise, was transferred to the crown, to such a country as Great Britain, of which was thus enabled to controul the the exclusive inflúence which it had, by proceedings of the directors, by the a series of fortunate events, been enapower of appointing to offices of trust bled to acquire among the nations of in India, of imposing a negative on Asia-or had it not rather kept down the appointments made by the Com- the enterprise'and baffled the hopes of pany, andof removing improperand un- the British people ? Every one knows worthy servants from the situations to what answer must be given to these which they had been nominated. A questions. direct influence over the policy pur- But had the Company's transacsued in India was bestowed on a body tions been profitable to itself? It is of commissioners, created for the pur. true, indeed, that so long as the mapose, who have since been known un. nufactures of India found no rival in der the appellation of the Board of those of Great Britain—while the Controul" Thus did the Company's Company was in the undisturbed en. acknowledged incapacity to manage its joyment of all its exclusive privileges, affairs prescribe a change of system to with the advantage of a ready mar. the legislatare, which amounted to a ket, to which no competitor could direct and serious encroachment on the venture on approaching and while rights then claimed, even under an ex. there yet remained some faint traces isting charter, which had received the of the mercantile origin of the esta. sanction of parliament.
blishment, in the habits of vigilance By far the most solid and impor. and economy which correspond with tant of the advantages which England that character they did contrive to may derive from her vast empire in make a profit on their mercantile adIndia, is that of a great and extended ventures, although even then the procommercial intercourse with the im. fit was as narrow as a very careless mamense regions included in the Com. nagement of their affairs would permit. pany's charter. The splendid acqui. But of late years the scene had been sition of extended empire is but of quite changed-the admission of Ame doubtful advantage--the surplus of rica, in the year 1797, to that share in revenue after defraying the expences the trade both of India and China, of local government is but precarious which was denied to the British merand uncertain at the best, while the law. chant, appeared to have altered entirely ful gains of an honourable commerce the form of the Company's commercial forn an important and substantial ad. concerns, and since that fatal year the dition to the power and resources of general balance on their mercantile the parent state. Few persons would transactions had, with hardly a single have been disposed to challenge the exception, been against the Company: Company's administration, even if it The year 1797 was the first in which had secured for the mother country a total loss on the mercantile transacno advantages except those which are tions of the Company was fairly adof the most unequivocal character, by mitted. In 1798 the same discouraging the increase of her manufacturing in- result was presented; in 1799 there was dustry and the extension of her como a great loss on the exports to India ; merce. Had the Company done this and in 1800 a serious loss was again sus.
tained on the exports to India, for head were liable to the strongest suspi-
When the great question as to the the apparent contempt with which the renewal of the Company's charter was trade of India was spoken of, and the under discussion, the private mer- instant ruin with which private adven. chants laid claims to a participation turers were threatened, were not quite in the trade exclusively enjoyed by consistent with the serious remonthe Company—that is, to a free trade strances of the Company against the both with India and China, together removal of the restrictions. If the with such a right of residence in the trade were really so narrow and unterritorial possessions of the Com- prosperous as they would have had the pany, as might be found necessary for public to believe, the surrender of their enabling them to manage their con exclusive right to it could not be cerns, free of arbitrary conditions and 80 very serious ; and if it were to restraints of every description! be fraught with ruin to those who
Against this demand the Company might dare to embark in it, the Comalledged the natural and necessary lí. pany might have safely left it to the mitation of the trade to India, and intelligence of the private trader to from this they inferred the expediency have made the discovery, and to his of continuing the monopoly. But prudence to retire from utter destruceven if the public had been satisfied tion, should his sanguine hopes seduce that there was no chance of an increase him into a perilous undertaking. of the trade; there would still have short, the futute extent of the trade been great propriety in acceding to to India could never be estimated by the demands of the petitioners. Whe- any calculations of its amount while ther the trade should, after it was under the management of the Comthrown open, prove susceptible of pany; nor could the warm remongreat improvement in point of extent, strances of the directors against the this at least was certain, that it might admission of private adventurers be admit of much amelioration in the mode teadily ascribed to their disinterested of management-and this seemed quite apprehensions about the safety of their à sufficient reason for acceding to the rivals. propositions of the merchants. But But the most' decisive and satisface the sentiments of the Company on this tory assurance on this branch of the
subject was derived from the vast pro- pany's transactions had however ingress which America had unaccount. spired universal confidence in their hoably been permitted to make in the nour and good faith, but that the pri. trade of India. In a trade which vate merchants would find the difficul. should have admitted of no increase ties of trade with the whole race quite from private interference, the mercan, insurmountable. It was even maintile adventurers of America had been tained, that the progress made in the allowed to participate so largely, that introduction of British manufactures they had the supply, not only of their into China, had been the result of the own market, as well as that of South talents and address displayed by the America, but had actually competed, agents and supercargoes of the honourto good purpose, with the Company able Company, who had dexterously itself, in the general market of Eu- resorted to artifices of various kinds, rope. These facts, which were quite for the
purpose of seducing the Chinotorious, threw considerable suspi- nese into a taste for these produccions on the prophecies, which, in the tions, whose value they would never abolition of a baneful system of ex- otherwise have been able to appreciate. clusion, foreboded the ruin of an ex- But these pretences were too flimsy to tensive trade, and the subversion of require a moment's consideration, an empire.
It is well known that the trade It was maintained by the Company, betwixt Europe and India was conthat the capital of the private mer- templated with much jealousy and apchants would be found inadequate 10 prehension by the advocates of the the proper encouragement of the trade commercial system, as it was called, with India, because the native manu- whose tenets are not yet en tirely facturers are so poor that large ad- abandoned. The constant exportation vances must be made to them long of bullion in return for commodities, before the fruits of their labour can was calculated to alarm those persons be realized. But those who urged who considered the increase of the this absurd plea forgot, that the con- precious metals as comprehending cerns of an extensive commerce natu- every thing which it was the object rally give rise to many subdivisions of a wise policy to accumulate, and in the employment of capital, and that who pretended to discover, in the conwhile with the benefits of a free trade, stant drain of these objects of fond the capital of one class of merchants attachment, the downfall of the commight be devoted to the purchase in mercial prosperity of the European India, and the transmission to Europe states. It was to be expected, that of Indian manufactures, that of ano- the defenders of monopoly, to whom ther class would naturally seek em- every part of the same comme
mercial ployment in furnishing for the native system is naturally so dear, would avail workmen the means of enabling them themselves of the popular prejudices to prepare and bring forward their
on this subject, and endeavour to raise commodities,
an alarm about the ruin which must in It was alledged besides for the Com. this way ensue, from the extension of pany, that the Hindoos, and indeed
our commercial intercourse with Inthe whole people of Asia, are of a dia. It can hardly be worth while to very timorous and suspecting charac- expose so pitiful a prejudice; but if ter--that they are very unwilling to the argument applied in favour of the hold any intercourse with strangers Company, it struck with equal force that a long experience of the Com- against it. If it would be dangerous