Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].
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Die Jovis, 6 Maii 1830.
The Lord President in the Chair.
John Hodgson Esquire is called in, and examined as follows:
What Situation did you fill in India?
I served the Company for Seven-and-twenty Years. I was Assistant to the Collector of Land Revenue; Secretary to Government in the Revenue and Judicial Departments; Secretary to the Special Commission for settling the Land Revenue permanently; a Member of the Board of Revenue from the Year 1803 to the Year 1809 inclusive, with the Exception of a Furlough of Three Years to England; a Member of the Council of the Government at Madras for One Year; and should have been in the Commission of Government with Sir Thomas Munro had I been able from the State of my Health to have remained.
Will you state whether any Improvements were effected in the Judicial Administration of The East India Company during the Period of your Residence in India, and what they were?
Certainly; very great. When I first entered the Service there was no Judicial Administration whatever legally provided for in any Shape under the Presidency of Madras. The Northern Circars, the oldest Territory of The East India Company, ceded in 1765, the Jaghire Lands forming a Part of the Carnatic ceded to the Company in 1765, were administered by local Officers in the Northern Circars-by Chief and Council. The Administration of Justice by them was confined exclusively, I may say, to the Towns and Factories within which they were placed. Of Criminal Jurisdiction there was none. There was no Law providing for the Infliction of the Penalty of Death or any other Penalty. The Land Revenue was collected through the Agency of Zemindars, of whom there are a great many, hereditary and others; and if not through them, by means of public Contractors. The Settlements with them were either annually or periodically. The Chiefs in Council had very little Authority in their Districts; and of course every Zemindar could interfere in the direct Administration of Justice. If they, the Chiefs and Councils, did interfere, Balances very frequently accrued, which were attributed to that Interference as the Cause. There is no Registry whatever that I am aware of in any of the Records of the Government, either of the local Chiefs in Council or those succeeding them when they were broken up in 1794, and the Records sent to the Presidency, of any recorded Trials or Appeals, or any thing that then came under the Shape of a Judicial Proceeding. Cases of Disputes respecting the Succession to those Zemindarries were certainly inquired into by those local Chiefs in Council, but the ultimate Decision generally rested with The Governor in Council at Madras. On the Report of the Proceedings of those local Officers in the Carnatic, the Circar Lands which were ceded to the Company, which formed Part of the Carnatic-the Country, was rented out to One large Proprietor, who was supposed to be an Agent of the Nabob who had ceded those Provinces to the Company. This Contract existed 'till the Year 1784, when Hyder invaded and desolated the whole of the Carnatic, including the Jaghire. After the Peace made with Tippoo, in that Year, 1784, during Lord Macartney's Government, the whole of the Revenue of the Jaghire was rented out in Contract to large Contractors, by Pergunnahs, which are Divisions of many Villages; the Contractors being to the Number of Ten. After a short Time Superintendents were appointed over these Contractors. The Lease was for Ten Years, on a progressive Demand to meet the supposed gradual Restoration of the Country. During the Period of those Contracts European Superintendents were appointed to see that Justice was done to the Ryots, who were the Payers of the Land Revenue. They inquired into Civil Questions, and certainly decided summarily in Matters of Civil Complaint, and perhaps in Criminal Matters on a small Scale; but they had no specific Rules for their Guidance, and were left much to their Discretion in all Judicial Questions of whatever Nature, Civil or Criminal. This may be said to have been the State of Things 'till the Year 1802, in all the Factories and other Dependencies of the Company on the Madras Establishment. In 1802, Regulations were framed upon the Principle of those in Bengal, and Courts of Justice were established first in those Districts in which a permanent Settlement of the Land Revenue had been made; subsequently, in the Year 1806, they were extended; generally, Criminal Courts were established, I should say, in 1802; generally, those continued upon the same Principle 'till the Year 1816. In the Year 1816, a Departure so far from the previous leading Principles that had been adopted was made, in separating the Office of Magistrate from that of the Judge, and adding it to that of the Collector; in taking the Police from under the Magistrate, and placing that also under the Collector, as Magistrate, with the Aid of his Native Officers; in the Extension of Native Judges - Commissioners appointed under the old Principle, by giving them a fixed Salary, which they had not before, and in extending their Jurisdiction and increasing their Number. The Number of the Zillah or District Courts were also decreased in 1816. And, as far as regards the Company's Territories, those are the principal Alterations I at present recollect.
In the Absence of positive Law, which you have described, previous to the Year 1802, were no Punishments inflicted for Criminal Offences?
Confinement in several Instances occurred in the District in which I was myself in Charge as Collector, and previous to that as Assistant, (when the whole Civil and Criminal Business fell on me, together with the other Duties,) in Instances of a Man stabbing another, an atrocious Murder, he remained in Confinement for a long Period of Years withour the Means of bringing him to Trial; also a great Number of Gang-robberies. I recollect Money going down for Investment being plundered; the Offenders were supposed to have been detected, but the only thing that could be done was to keep them in Confinement. Those that remained in Confinement were acquitted, on the Courts being appointed, for Want of Evidence.
No Capital Punishments were inflicted by any Authority for the greatest Offences?
No; there was none beyond the Jurisdiction of the King's Courts.
Can you state the Ground which led to the Alteration, in the Year 1816, by which the Authority of the Magistrate was transferred to the Collector?
I should consider it to have arisen chiefly from Revenue Arrangements. It is necessary to explain, that under the Presidency of Madras there was originally but One Mode of Revenue Settlement. This existed under the Orders of the Government at Home for a long Period of Years, as far as the Records can be traced, from 1600 down to probably 1792. The only Means by which the Land Revenue was collected was through the Agency of Zemindars, or public Competition by Contractors; there was no direct Agency with the immediate Payers of the Soil. In the Year 1792 a Cession of Territory was obtained from Tippoo Sultan, after the Fall of Seringapatam, in that Province which is above the Eastern Ghauts of the Peninsula, and what is described in Revenue Language a Dry Grain Country. Colonel Read, and Three Military Assistants, were appointed to the Charge of them. The first Settlement was made in that Province by Villages. It was afterwards abandoned by Colonel Read; and under his Suggestion and Recommendation what is called the Ryotwar System was adopted. The Ryotwar System means, that the Revenue shall be collected direct by the Officers in the Pay of Government from the actual Cultivators of the Land; that the Payment of Revenue shall in all Cases be in Money; that it shall be fixed on each Field, and not vary with the Produce of that Field. Now the former Practice had been, in many Istances, to collect the Revenue in Kind from irrigated Lands-artificially irrigated Lands; an invariable Money Rate from Lands cultivated by the Rains. In this Province the sole Judicial Revenue and Police Administration, such as then existed, was under the entire Controul of Colonel Read and his Assistants. When the Carnatic was ceded to the Company in 1801, and the Ceded District obtained from The Nizam in 1800, it came under the Consideration of the Madras Government, and under the Recommendation, I may say, of Colonel Sir Thomas Munro, whether it would not be expedient to introduce the Ryotwar System of Assessment and Collection into every Province not under Zemindarry Agency. This Course was adopted; and Instructions were issued for carrying the Ryotwar Plan of Assessment and Collection into Execution throughout the whole of the Carnatic. Its Progress was going on, under Sir Thomas Munro, in the Ceded Districts obtained from The Nizam; and was finally completed there before he quitted the Country. In 1807, the Perusal of Sir Thomas Munro's Reports in England, and the Wishes of the Court of Directors and local Authorities in England, led to an anxious Desire that this Arrangement should be made general, and should be perpetuated. Sir Thomas Munro was consulted here upon the Subject, and many other of the Servants of the Company, Civil and Military; and Orders were sent out between the Years 1813 and 1816 for carrying this Plan into Effect; and it was considered necessary, for the due Accomplishment of this, that all the Authority in the Ryotwarry District should be vested in the Head of the Revenue Department, as well to secure the successful Accomplishment of this Plan, as, in the Opinion, I believe, of Sir Thomas Munro, for the better Government of them. The Orders were hardly discretionary; as far as regarded the local Government, they may have been almost said to have been positive; they were not the Result of any Communication from the local Government, but were adopted from the Views of the Government at Home, formed from all that was on Record, and all the Information they had been able to obtain.
Under that Arrangement, was the Revenue Collector armed with Authority, as a Magistrate sufficient to enable him to compel the Collection of any Sums he required, without any Appeal to the Judicial Authority?
With reference to that Question, it is necessary to explain, that the Land Revenue throughout all India is a certain Portion of the produce of all Land cultivated, according to Rates established by local Customs and Usage; those Rates vary, both in Kind and in Money; in fact the Irrigation under which the Country is cultivated is so different in the South-west Monsoons and the Southeast that there is a much greater Certainty in the Cultivation under One Monsoon than in the other. The South and South-east Provinces of Bengal may be said to derive their Fertility from Floods and the Works of Irrigation there are to keep out Water. In the whole of the Peninsula, taking it from the Northern to the Southern Extremity, the most fertile of our Lands are irrigated by means of the Rivers which take their Rise above the Ghauts, and are filled by the Rains of the South-west Monsoon; the other Parts of the Coast are not watered by those large Rivers. I believe there are not more than Three: the Mohanuddi, the Godaveray, the Kistna, the Palar, the Cauveri, and the Tambara Purney. The Surplus of Water by those Rivers rarely fails. The rest of the Country is irrigated by means of large Reservoirs called Tanks; and there are many of great Size; the Banks of some are Three, Four, and Five Miles long, containing an Area of great Extent. Those are supplied either by Cuts from Rivers, or the Rains collected from the higher Grounds; the Supply is precarious, comparatively with the other above the Ghauts. Under the Southwest Monsoon the Rains are more abundant and of longer Continuance; there is comparatively very little Irrigation; the fertile Provinces of Malabar and Canara are not irrigated Provinces. Under this State of Fluctuation in the Means of Irrigation, and consequent Fluctuations in the Produce, a different Mode of Settlement had been the Practice known by those who rented out the Revenue in large Contracts below the Ghauts, from what was the Practice above. When it became necessary to survey and assess each Field, extensive Powers were considered to be necessary to enable the Collectors to get through with this Work, and so far the Authority of the Magistrate being added to that of Collector enabled him to overcome all Resistance with greater Facility. I should however explain, that during the Time that the first Ryotwar Surveys were made, no Courts of Justice existed, and that therefore there was no Appeal from the Authority of the Collector in any of those Measures, for commuting the Payments in Kind for Payments in Money, or changing the variable Rate of Money Assessment to a fixed Money Assessment, except such as could be made to the Board of Revenue, or to The Governor in Council; and that under the Practices and customary Authority of the Revenue Officers under the Native Government, the Powers of the Collectors were certainly extensive. But if the Office of Magistrate had been continued under the Judges, and an Appeal allowed to the Judge from the Revenue Authority, in Cases of Dispute respecting the Amount of the Taxation, it is perhaps not easy to say whether the Work would have been accomplished with the same Facility or not.
Do you conceive in point of fact that the Combination of Authority you have described in the Collector has not been attended with Abuse or Oppression?
The Case may be stated thus: that the Collector in charge of the Ryotwarry Provinces has a large Body of Native Servants under his Controul; sometimes from 2,500 to 3,000 of different Grades; in those Cases the Difficulty is rather in controuling those Native Officers than probably in preventing Oppression on his own Part, for I am bound to say that in almost all Cases Collectors have shewn the greatest Disposition of Forbearance; but it is difficult on many Occasions to resist the Communications and Recommendations of the Native local Officers, as well as to prevent their Abuse of Authority in the several Departments intrusted to their Charge, for a Native Officer of Revenue is now not only an Assessor, but he is a Collector of the Portion of the Revenue over which he presides; he is Superintendent of the Police; he is Magistrate in Cases of minor Offences; he is empowered to inflict Criminal Punishment to the Extent, I believe, of Six Rattans in small Cases of Petty Theft, without being required to record Evidence, or without the Case being appealable to the Judge of Circuit; he is also of necessity Purveyor of Provisions for the Troops marching through the District; and he executes the Collector's Orders in every Branch of the Business intrusted to him. Numerous Instances have occurred during the Period I was in Office of great Abuses committed by those Native Servants in a great Number of Collectorships, and many Collectors have not been successful in all Cases in restraining those Abuses. It was this that led to that great Difference of Opinion which exists on the best Mode of collecting the Land Revenue of India; the one Party advocating that the Employment of Native stipendiary Servants to a great Extent all over the Country has an Advantage; while the other Party equally contend, on the other Side, that it is a System that is only calculated for the Acquisition of Revenue Knowledge in the first instance, and ought not to be continued as a permanent Measure of a wise and benevolent Government.
Do you conceive then the Authority of Magistrate to be chiefly necessary to the Collector for the Purpose of controuling his own Servants?
No; the Authority of Magistrate was added to that of Collector for the Purpose of confining all Authority to the Revenue Department in every Branch; and not only with a view to prevent any Clashing of Authority between the Collector and the Judge as Magistrate, but also, in the Opinion of some, as a better Measure of Government than having a separate Police and separate Native Collectors in the same District.
To what Extent did the Power of the Magistrate so vested in the Collector extend, without Appeal, in the Way of Punishment?
I am not quite certain that I can answer that Question. It is Ten Years since I quitted India, and those Regulations have undergone great Change since that Time. It extended only to Corporal Punishments, and Confinement to a moderate Extent, and to Commitments for Trial, according to Circumstances, with certain Cases open to the Judge of Circuit or the Criminal Judge; there is a Criminal Judge, though he is not a Magistrate, to whom there is an Appeal in certain Cases. All Felonies, except what a Magistrate as Police Officer may be considered as entitled to try, are tried by the Court of Circuit.
Can you state whether the Authority of the Collector as Magistrate extended to Fine and Imprisonment?
To Fine and Corporal Punishment, under the European Magistrate's Regulations.
During the Period of your Observations, were Punishments to that Extent extensively inflicted by the Collectors in the Exercise of that Authority?
I have no Means of answering that Question. I quitted India in the Beginning of the Year 1820, and the Regulation was issued only the latter End of 1816, so that it had not any great Operation at the Time I came away; and I do not recollect that it came under my Observation, not being in the Judicial Department at that Time.
Are you able, from your Observation there, or the Knowledge you have acquired since, to state what have been the Effects, beneficial or otherwise, of the Adoption of the Ryotwarry System, upon the Revenue, upon the Condition of the Natives, and the Improvement of the Soil?
As I have already explained, the Ryotwarry System first commenced to be carried into Effect in the Year 1801 extensively; for the first Ryotwarry Assessment the Surveys that were made were certainly conducted in a very imperfect Manner, and it is much to be feared that in their Results they were excessively oppressive. I have already stated, that there was no Appeal, except to the Board of Revenue or The Governor in Council, from the Proceedings of the Collectors, in conducting those Surveys; the Consequence was, that they were conducted upon different Principles in almost every Province, and in their Results were generally exceedingly high; that is, that the Assessment was much heavier than the People could afford to pay. It did not leave those who had, under the Native Government, for a long Period of Years, been in the habit of rendering the Dues of Government in Kind, to continue that Practice; it did not permit those who had paid a variable Money Rate, arising out of Circumstances of Climate and of Soil, to continue that variable Rate; it compelled them to accept the Terms of Commutation offered by the Collector. It is true, that at a subsequent Period considerable Modifications and Reductions have taken place in most of the Ryotwarry Provinces; but much remains to be done in order to effect the original Object of the Ryotwar Assessment, which has been declared by the Government, by the Board of Revenue, and by the Collectors, to be in Theory a moderate Assessment on each Field, to be paid in Money under all Circumstances, with whatever it may be cultivated. The former Theory of the Ryotwar was to leave the People to cultivate as little Land as suited their Convenience; to convert the Field that then was without the Means of Irrigation, by digging a Well, into a Garden; to raise a superior Produce of Sugar, Tobacco, or any other Article, as it might suit their Purpose, on the Fields that had this fixed Money Rent. The Practice has unfortunately differed from this; it was found that the Rates were so variable and so unequal, that it became necessary for the Cultivators to abandon very often good Land, on account of the high Rate of Assessment upon it, and to take to inferior Soils. This took place in the Province of Dindigul to a very great Extent indeed, and has more or less been the Case in almost every Ryotwar Province; so that it became necessary, to meet the Reductions of Revenue that would result from this Abandonment of Land, to compel the Ryots to take a certain Quantity of what was considered good and what was considered bad Land, in their Engagements for their annual Cultivation. This is of course an Arrangement that they would not have consented to had there been a Third Party appointed to decide the Case between them, or had not the Authority of the Collector been considered such as it was, useless to resist. In one small Province of Letwaid, Part of the Carnatic, the Ryotwarry may be said to have been established on correct Principles; it yielded Six-from Six to Seven hundred Pounds annually. It was a small District attached to a Collectorate under the permanent Settlement. He had much Time and Leisure to bestow upon it. The Reduction of One Fourth he made was a Sum that attracted very little Notice. He proceeded also upon the Principle of making a large Deduction for the Expences of Cultivation, so that when the Assessment was concluded the Government Tax was only Two Fifths-the Ryots were left with Three Fifths of the Gross Produce; but unless the Price of Produce had been taken at a very moderate Valuation, even this Deduction in favour of the Ryots might not have been probably beneficial, but the Result of the whole has been certainly most satisfactory. I was in that Province on a Tour of Pleasure in 1817; and adverse as I had in general been to the Ryotwar System, I have every Reason to say that in this Province at least it has tended exceedingly to promote the Welfare of the Ryots; and if there are no great Fluctuations in Price, which I very much fear there will be, it will also tend to increase the Revenue of Government. In Canara, which was originally acquired in 1799, after the Fall of Seringapatam, the Revenue had been paid Time immemorial by Proprietors of Land holding their Estates upon quite a different Principle to that which existed in other Parts of India, inasmuch as each Man has his separate Farm; he has his Rice Lands, his Pepper Vines, his Garden Land and others, in one contiguous Farm; and although that Country is not irrigated, yet the abundant Rains of the Southwest Monsoon render the Produce much more certain than elsewhere; they have also had a very abundant Export Market in that Province, which has now been in our Possession very nearly Thirty Years. There has been no very considerable Increase of Revenue that I am aware of; on the contrary, at one Time it was decreasing. It was Sir Thomas Munro's Opinion that the Land Revenue of that Province ought to have been reduced lower than he ever reduced it; unfortunately, the Necessities of the Government, which periodically occur, have prevented these Reductions taking place. Up to this Time, the Export is pretty nearly the same, but the Price has considerably fallen. There has been, I apprehend, an increased Difficulty in collecting the Land Revenue of this Province, though it may be considered the most moderately assessed of any under the Madras Presidency. The Export Trade of Rice to Arabia and Foreign Ports has unfortunately been prevented in Seasons of Home Scarcity. I should explain: there is no Manufacturing Population in Canara; it is chiefly Agricultural; but occasionally, when Troops are stationed there or in the Neighbourhood, there have been Complaints of Prices rising, when Exports have been carried to an Extent to raise the Home Price; the Consequence has been, in my humble Opinion, an unfortunate Tampering with the Trade, so that the Cultivators there have at one Time been deprived of the Advantages of high Price, and subjected to the Loss of low Price; and a Danger may arise, if this Practice continues, of inducing the Merchants to go to Bengal and other Ports in search of Grain. The Land Assessment of Canara, being in Money, will require to be reduced. It does not necessarily follow, that to perform all the Ryotwarry Assessments and Surveys well, that those extensive Powers should be held by Collectors, or that there should be no Appeal from their Proceedings; on the contrary, it is more than probable that great Advantages would result from placing the Collectors and their Native Officers under certain Controul in their Assessments, and giving the People Invitation and Opportunity to apply to a Third Party to settle Disputes between them. Under this Impression, the Board of Revenue at Madras prepared in 1818, just before I quitted that Board, a Regulation for a Ryotwarry Assessment and Collection in every Province, and the utmost Pains were taken to render it perfect, by submitting it to Sir Thomas Munro, to all the Collectors who were Advocates for the Ryotwarry System, or had been instrumental in conducting it; and the Rules were intended to be enacted in the Mode and Manner prescribed by Act of Parliament. Sir Thomas Munro's written Opinion to the Government of Saint George was, that it would be better to send this Regulation as Instructions to the Collector rather than as Law, and that Recommendation was followed, for I am not aware that to this Day any Law has been passed for the Guidance of Collectors, in assessing and collecting under the Ryotwar Plan. The Errors of the Ryotwarry, therefore, I beg to explain, are not a necessary Consequence of that System. It may be done well, provided the local Circumstances admit of it; but there is a great Difference of Opinion, whether all Districts under the Government of Fort St. George, so variously situated as to Climate and to Water, are equally adapted for the Introduction of this System.
You are of Opinion then that a great Part of the Evil of the Ryotwarry Settlement has arisen from the unequal and oppressive Estimate of the Value of Land which formed the Basis upon which it was introduced?
Most unquestionably. The anxious Desire of the Officers of Revenue to keep up the Revenue, at the Beginning, necessarily led to a heavy Assessment in the End. Sir Thomas Munro's Plan, the most moderate of all, was to take the Average of past Collections, and to divide it upon Districts, and then on Villages, leaving the Villages to assess their own Fields; the Collector revising the entire of the Assessment. I wish to explain, that in the Province where Ryotwar was first attempted, where there was One European Superintendent and Three Assistants, they being at that Time Men of mature Age-for Sir Thomas Munro, when he entered on that Service, was at the Age of Thirty-the Assessment of the Three Subdivisions varied in the Degree of Three and a Half per Cent. above the past Collections; in one, Twenty-nine and a Half; in another, Thirty-six and a Half; the most moderate, it is due to Sir Thomas Munro to say, was in his Division. The Rates were not revised 'till the District was sold under the permanent Settlement. The Purchaser of those Estates had, it is understood, as well from Necessity as Policy, reduced those Rates in the largest Proportion of the Provinces over-assessed.
Supposing it to be practicable, from Experience, to arrive at a just Estimate of the Average Value of the Land, do you still think there are Districts to which, from the Circumstances of the Seasons, a Ryotwarry Settlement would not be usefully applicable?
One great Objection of the Ryotwarry Plan arises from the Interference with Village Concerns, and the Separation of the joint Interests of the Ryots; that Interest is materially connected with the Means of Irrigation. The Land is not so much the Question of Interest as the Water, for without it, in the South-east Monsoon, Land would be of very little Value; of course, in each Village the Land that is nearest the Works of Irrigation is the most productive. If a large Reservoir is only Three Quarters full one Year, or Half another, it still will bring to Maturity the Crops immediately under its Bank. Those Lands, therefore, instead of being the Property of any one Person in the Village Community, are the joint Property of the whole Community; the Occupation of them is assigned to the Community either annually or at Periods of Three or Four Years, and is settled by Lots amongst themselves; so that a Portion of that which is not liable to Drought, and that which is less liable to Drought, and that which never fails, is allotted to each Class of Cultivators, in proportion to his general Interest in the Village. In all the Cases in which I was personally employed no such things as Ryotwar had ever been heard of or applied for. I was present at the making of a Three Years Village Lease in the Jaghire Lands alluded to before; and I have made Village Settlements myself upon the Produce of Two Years; the first being a Year of comparative Drought, and the other a Year of short Produce. In that Year a Tank Five Miles long and Fifteen Miles in Circumference, watering nominally Fifty Villages, but say Thirty Villages, was completely dry, and the Bed of it sown with Indian Corn. I know another Instance where the Lands of another Village produced in the Proportion of Seventy-four in one Year to Two thousand five hundred in the next. Under these great Fluctuations, and under the Works that are to be performed in common for preserving the Sources of Irrigation and the Means of Irrigation in repair, it seems extremely difficult to understand how the Ryotwarry Assessment on the Field of the Individual, the Collection of it from each Cultivator, can be either acceptable or beneficial to a Village Community so situate. In the Districts above the Ghauts, to shew how distinct the Nature of the Cultivation is, the Hamlets attached to Villages are quadrupled and quintupled the Number they are below the Ghauts, shewing that the Inhabitants separate themselves upon Land that is not irrigated, and carry on their Cultivation, as may naturally be supposed, separate and distinct. Any Person who can procure a Plough, or borrow one, can, above the Ghauts, under the superior Abundance of the South-west Monsoon Rains, cultivate a few Acres of Land; but such is not the Case below the Ghauts. And it is very rarely that the Government have succeeded in obtaining Persons whom they have been desirous of pensioning; for instance, the Nabob's Army when it was dismissed; the whole of them were offered waste Land to cultivate, on what may be said to be their own Terms; but I know not a single Instance where the Offer was accepted. I merely mean to shew by this, that the Nature of Cultivation above and below the Ghauts is quite distinct even in its Effects on the Return to the Cultivator; and that therefore, though the Ryotwarry may be exceedingly applicable and probably beneficial in Districts above the Ghauts, it may be very doubtful whether it is adapted to Provinces below the Ghauts; indeed so much so, that I believe in the Province of Tanjore, one of the most fertile under the Madras Government, and most productive possessed by Landed Proprietors, to use that Term as far as regards the Ryots, who have a very valuable Property in the Land, and have been always able to secure the Benefit of it, the Attempt at Ryotwar has been abandoned, and the Village Leases, triennial or quinquennial, have been substituted; but I am bound to say, that in the Northern Division of Arcot, also a Part of the Carnatic, and in the Southern Division, the Ryotwarry has been attempted, and local Surveys, conducted in the Manner I have described, have been reduced by subsequent Collectors; and it is understood, that even in the irrigated Villages in those Districts Ryotwarry is considered by the Gentlemen who made those Reductions, and had the Conduct of the Revenue Affairs of that Province, to be as well adapted to that Province as any other; so that upon this Subject there still exists a very great Difference of Opinion.
What are the Advantages of the Zemindarry System, as compared with the Ryotwar, as applicable to any particular District?
When the Company first acquired Territory, they found an intermediate Agency existed every where. Wherever Territory has been acquired by Conquest or by Cession, at a later Period, that Agency has also existed; the Agency has in many Cases been permanent, in others only temporary. In all the Provinces acquired in Malwa, it is stated that the Revenue was collected by intermediate Agents, under the Denomination of Jaghiredars, or of Renters, as they are called, Farmers of the Revenue, many of whom have continued for a long Period of Years under the Native Government to hold the Land Revenue. There is, as far as I have been able to trace from Investigation and from Inquiry, no Evidence whatever of either the Hindoo or Mohamedan Government having collected the Land Revenue by Ryotwarry, that is, by Means of their own stipendiary Officers. I have already stated, that in the Madras Provinces Ryotwar was not practised' till the Acquisition of Territory in 1799; that in the Northern Circars, a Territory yielding from Twenty-five to Thirty Lacs of Pagodas, it had been the uniform Practice to make Engagements with the Zemindars; it became necessary therefore to consider whether it was expedient to remove those Parties for any better System, or to continue them in Possession. Few Persons doubted the Expediency of making a permanent System, which might supersede the periodical annual Settlements which had been made with them. Upon that Point there appears to have been very little Doubt. But when it became a Question whether those Zemindarries should be sold for Arrears, and those came into Possession of a Third Party not originally Zemindars, the Principle came under Discussion, whether it would not be equally advisable to extend this Mode of Settlement to other Territories, and to create Zemindars where they did not exist, that is to say, to place a Landed Interest between the Government and the Proprietor of the Soil; for, admitting that the Ryots had the best Right to be called Proprietors, and that it was perhaps an Error to call the Zemindar Proprietor, yet still we had abundant Evidence that there is a beneficial Interest belonging to both Parties. We had numerous Applications; and numerous Grants have been made to Civil, Military and Commercial Native Officers in every Department of the Government; and One, Two, Three and more Villages were granted as a Reward for meritorious Services. It is evident, therefore, that it is a Property which Natives covet, and which they are extremely desirous to possess. Those Grants have been made without any other Stipulation in favour of the Ryots than that the Grantees should deal justly towards them, previously to the Courts of Justice being established, and by placing them under the Courts since the Courts have been established. In the Province in which I resided so many Years, there were at least Three hundred Villages of this Description. I have every Reason to say, that they were as well administered in their Revenue Capacity as those under the European Collectors; and I might add, that the Ryots in those Villages have been less harassed by the Changes which have taken place under European Management than in the Villages which have continued under the European Collectors and Superintendents. They have continued to pay their Revenue in Kind or in Money, according to local Circumstances, to those created Zemindars. In Principle, there can be no Distinction whether One Village is placed under a Zemindar, or Ten, Thirty or an Hundred are placed under another. It is therefore unjust to one Village to place them in that Situation, or it is not unjust to place the whole. In this Province of the Jaghire, there being no Zemindars, except in the Instance of Three hundred Villages I have named, the District was divided into small Estates, consisting of Ten, Twenty, Thirty, or according to the Number of Villages. The Rights of Government in those small Estates were declared to be transferrable to Parties who were to become Purchasers; the Estates were put up to Sale; I was present at the Sale; I was not in Authority at the Time; I went there as a Visitor; and I saw great Competition, and an anxious Desire was shewn to become possessed of this Landed Superiority, and much Competition was excited. A large Body of Ryots were present, with great Numbers of whom I had, from long Residence in the Country, been acquainted. I have not the least Recollection of there being the slightest Complaint of the Government doing an Act of Injustice by transferring them to the Authority of a Third Party; or that they expected to suffer more Injustice from them, or less Justice from them, than they had received from the European Authority. Unfortunately, the Assessment, as in every other Attempt which had been made at Madras, was too high. Most of those Purchasers failed to perform their Contract, and many of the Villages have come back into the Possession of the Government. The Advantage, therefore, in this Case, was, the withdrawing the European Collectors from all direct Interference with the Cultivators of the Soil; placing them under Persons of their own Habits and Customs, capable of listening to their Complaints, and of redressing them, it being their Interest so to do; and introducing that System which has been in general Practice throughout India, in the Advantages of a Third Party, a Judge, to decide between them; and the Collector, if necessary, to add Weight to the Decision, being no longer the Creator or Assessor of the Revenue; and permitting the Management to be conducted according to the mutual Interest of the Parties; declaring that the Purchaser had no Right to levy any extra Rate of Demand, or any Addition to existing Rates. Of course, under this Management, Native Servants were to be employed, as well as under European Collectors, particularly if any of the Estates are extensive; but the Controul of the Native Servants would be under the Superintendence of a Native, accustomed to their Habits, knowing their Practices; and in small Estates it enabled the Parties to employ their own Relatives in the Collection of the Revenue; it permitted Commercial Men, Natives as well as Europeans, to negociate with such intermediate Persons for the Introduction of any other Culture than that of edible Grain; it permitted all Parties who might possess Money, whether acquired by Trade or any other Means, or even Native Servants who might have obtained Money by improper Practices, to invest Money in those Landed Superiorities. Those were considered Advantages which counterbalanced any of the Evils which were supposed to arise out of the Question. The Evils are certainly not few, but they have arisen in a greater measure from the Errors which have arisen in the making of Settlements than in the Principle itself, and it has happened in every one, whether permanent Grants to the Zemindar, or Village Leases, or Ryotwar, -One Circumstance has pervaded them all -they have all failed upon that Ground chiefly. The great Question is, which is best calculated to effect the Object of good Government. The Evils of Over-assessment have led to much public Correspondence, arising out of the Sale and Sequestration; the Estates are liable to be subdivided for the Liquidation of private Debt under Decrees of Courts of Justice, and certain other Causes incidental to the Management of them when they come under the Hands of the Collector, or when the Collector sold, under the then existing Settlement. It was the Principle of a permanent Settlement with the Zemindars, to take Two Thirds of the gross Collections in Money of the previous Year as a Standard; but it was not permitted to the Zemindars to point out how injuriously that might affect their Interests as far as regarded the Change in local Circumstances, and so forth; there was no Third Party appointed as a Referree. The Evils that have arisen under the permanent Settlement may be obviated, should that be a System which is declared to be the best to be adopted, hereafter. Other Objections are made to it, as closing the Door to the Attainment of Revenue Information, leaving the Collectors in the Dark when they have any Duty to perform, or in respect of any Estate or Zemindarry that may fall into their Hands. This is certainly true, but it does not necessarily follow that it should be so, for there cannot be the least Difficulty in carrying on Surveys under the Zemindarry Settlement as well as any other. No Objection would be made by a Zemindar to a Survey being made of his Territory, or it might be provided for in the first Instance; all that he would object to would be, that you should not interfere with him in the Assessment of his Ryots, or the Alteration of the Demand Government had made upon him. The Abandonment of the permanent Settlement being resolved on -positive Orders exist that it should no longer be attempted-it is not perhaps of great Importance to say more upon the Subject. I wish to add, that the Zemindarry System is supposed to be preferable in Lands that are liable to great Fluctuations, from the Money Contract being upon a greater Scale, and in most Cases supposed to be made, or at any Rate able to be made, with Persons of Capital, which no Ryot, either under the Ryotwar or a Village Lease, can possibly possess. It also enables the Individual to controul Circumstances of Remission, in Cases of Drought, with much greater Success than the European Offiers can; and it must be evident that any Contract in Money, with whomsoever made, must be liable, more or less, to the Circumstances of Season and of Drought to a great Extent; and though under the permanent Settlement it was not intended that Remission should be granted, except in very peculiar Circumstances, yet as far as regards the Cultivators themselves, it would be absolutely necessary that those Remissions should be annual or periodical, to a certain Extent, in almost every Province. It was also thought that the Works of Irrigation would be better looked after, and better managed, under Individuals, whose Interest was so materially connected with them, than under the Officers of Government; that the Abuses which had been practised in carrying those Repairs into Execution, with the Frauds committed in the Advances of Money to aid Cultivation, where they had been made to poor Ryots, would be rendered unnecessary on the Part of Government; at least that the Frauds and Embezzlements in Repairs to which Government had been subjected while carrying them on under the Controul of their own Officers would also be prevented. For these and many other Reasons, following up the Principles laid down by the Bengal Government, and the Court of Directors and Authorities in England, at One Time, it was considered desirable to extend this System generally. It has its Evils -it has its Good.
Have the Zemindars been in general found possessed of sufficient Capital to do Justice to the Advantages of the Zemindarry System, as affording the Means of meeting the Changes arising from the Inclemency of the Seasons?
Zemindars, in the old Territories of Madras, must be taken in the Light of Princes; they were Rajahs; they were brought up in all the Pomp and Ceremony of a Petty Court; they were certainly not the best calculated for a good Revenue Administration, but they were not fit for any other Administration; and, after all, it was necessary to continue them. Where the Estates were settled, or where the Zemindars were created, those who bought them, or had them conferred upon them, knew perfectly well what they undertook, and were perfectly competent to the Management of them; so far then -I do not mean to say that the Zemindars hereditary and Zemindars by Purchase have not occasionally been guilty of Oppression, or that they have not occasionally mismanaged their Districts -but I mean to say that, generally speaking, when People have understood their own Interests, they have in general followed that Course of Measures which was likely to promote it. I can only speak from Hearsay; but with all the Errors of the Bengal System, I believe the Southern Provinces, so far as I have been able to learn, are in a flourishing Condition, far superior to any of the Territory under the Madras Government, both as regards the Produce and the internal Commerce and Export of the Produce of the Soil. So far as regards the Northern Circars, the Success, with reference to the Revenue, the Tranquillity, Reduction of the Troops, and the Power of Collectorial Interference with Ryots, has been eminently successful; and in progress of Time, when a better educated Race of Men rise to the Management of their Patrimonial Estates, I look forward to very satisfactory Results. In Three large Western Zemindarries, settled in 1802, there has been, so far as I have been able to learn, no Default of Payment whatever, nor any vexatious Interference with the internal Management of the Country, nor any Complaints made, more loud or unusual than in other Parts, of Oppression on the Part of those great Western Zemindars.
Can you state whether the respective Merits of the different Revenue Settlements are the Subject of frequent Consideration among the Natives themselves, and whether the more intelligent give a Preference, with reference to their own Condition, and the Improvement of their Property?
One of the great Difficulties which attend a just Consideration of these important Questions arises out of the little Communication which had been had with the Natives on the Subject. They were not asked whether they liked Ryotwar, and certainly were not asked whether they liked Zemindars better, or a Village Lease, except in the Case of Tanjore; there the Committee, of which I was one, did apply to the Natives, to know whether they would prefer Village Lease to Ryotwar, and they gave the Preference to Village Lease. In those Cases where I have had personal Communication with them, I have Reason to know that in all irrigated Lands they would prefer paying the Revenue they owed according to the Hindoo Practice. I also know that great Difficulties did oppose the Introduction of Payment in Grain or Payment in Kind in those Provinces where Ryotwar was first attempted, such as the Countries ceded by Tippoo in 1799, and The Nizam in 1800; but those Difficulties were of course removed by the Collector not permitting any other Course of Assessment to prevail. I believe that in all the Cases where it has been optional with the Parties, they have uniformly preferred the Payment in Kind to the Payment in Money; but I am bound to explain that this Objection probably has been chiefly founded upon the high Rate of Demand in Money, rather than a Reluctance to pay in Money. It is not improbable the Money Payment might be so much reduced as to make it acceptable to all Classes. The Question then would be narrowed into, whether it should be an Assessment individually, or whether it should be by Villages collectively; and if it were left optional also, and left to the Consideration of the Natives, the Question would be still further simplified; and we should proceed, leaving it entirely optional, for that would be the true Ground of Assessment -entirely optional with the Parties to accept the Terms proposed to them, or on their Refusal to pay collecting agreeably to the previously established Rates. Were such a Course pursued, we should be sure we were not doing an Act of Injustice. When the Terms were accepted, it would then only resolve itself into the Practicability of the Payment in Kind enduring with any sort of Justice under the great Fluctuations of Produce, the great Diminutions of Commercial Capital, and other Causes, which have reduced the Value of Produce under the Madras Presidency.
Which of the Systems has been found most favourable to the Introduction of a new Species of Culture, and to the Promotion of internal Commerce and Exchange of Commodities?
I do not think that any of the Systems have had a sufficient Trial to enable me to speak decidedly on that Point; and unfortunately the Attempts at the Introduction hitherto of a new Species of Culture have not been attended with very great Success. I have a List which I prepared some Time ago of the Attempts which were made. The Result is, that an Attempt was made in 1796 to 1803 to introduce the Culture of Sugar, under some Gentlemen, in the Ganjam Province; the Result was unsatisfactory; in fact, as far as it has hitherto gone, both for Silk and for Cotton, and other Things, all the Attempts hitherto made for an Alteration in the Nature of the Culture have not been attended with Success, with the single Exception of the Cultivation of Bourbon Cotton in the Province of Tinnivelly. In that Province, owing to favourable Circumstances of Soil and Climate, a considerable Extent of Ground is cultivated with superior Seed received from the Isle of France; but the Climate has opposed the Extension of the Culture of that Article. I should say, so far as my humble Opinion went, that the Zemindarry System was better calculated than any other, for the Introduction of the Culture of any Exotic, or introducing a better Species of Cultivation through the Means of Capital, to be employed either by Europeans or by rich Natives, inasmuch as much greater Facility would be afforded in conducting the Arrangement with the Zemindars than there would be with the Native Officers of the Collector, or with the Collector himself. Indigo, although cultivated under the Madras Presidency to a certuin Extent, is not an Article that has been attempted in every Part, or very generally; whether it might or might not, would depend entirely on the Views that Individuals might take upon the Subject; but certainly their Arrangements would be materially facilitated if they had to make their Agreements for Land, or with the Cultivators of the Land, unshackled by Arrangements with Revenue Officers in the Pay of Government. It does not follow that a Gentleman might not give considerable Encouragement, and might not facilitate, in certain Cases; but speaking generally, I should say that the Natives would prefer negociating with Natives for Land for those Purposes, to undertaking it under the Controul of a Collector. This is a List of Instances where, under the Madras Territory, Attempts have been made to cultivate Silk, Cotton, Cochineal and other Articles, during the Time I was in India.
The Witness delivers in the same; which is read, and is as follows:
Presidency of Fort St. George.
Can you suggest any Regulations under which the Growth of any Foreign Articles of Produce might be more effectually encouraged than it is at present?
The best Encouragement, I think, would be to leave the Parties to settle themselves the Terms on which the Land should be cultivated or should be procured, or to facilitate the Object of it by the Removal of Inland and Export Duties on the Article.
Would not the Settlement of a greater Number of Europeans, possessed of Capital, in the Country, tend to the increased Growth of other Produce?
I should certainly think the only Chance there is of much increased Growth taking place would be the Introduction of increased Capital, or Europeans setting the Example with the Introduction of increased Capital.
Should you apprehend any Influence to arise, as connected either with the Peace of the Country or the Happiness of the Natives, from an increased Settlement of Europeans for those Purposes?
None whatever, provided the Europeans were placed under adequate Controul, and were made amenable to local Laws for Cases not amounting to that which will bring them under the Jurisdiction of the King's Courts. Foreigners, not being British Subjects, are at this Time amenable to the local Courts; and the only Question would be as to the Number. I conclude, that in the first instance their Establishment must be very gradual. Of course, no Person, such as an Artisan or Labourer, or Person without Capital, can find Employment in any other Way than by superintending the Works of others.
Do you know of any Instance in which Europeans have settled in the Madras Territory?
Yes, I know of some; they are enumerated there.
Is there a favourable or an unfavourable Feeling generally prevalent among the Natives towards European independent Settlers?
I should say that the Number of those Settlers under the Madras Presidency bears no Proportion to those under Bengal. I do not know that at this Moment there is a single Settler in any of the Provinces under Madras, or that the Number exceeds Three or Four, at any Rate. There were Grants of Land, which may be called European Zemindarries, granted for the Cultivation of Indigo; and Parcels of Land granted for the Cultivation of the Mulberry for Silk, as enumerated in the List I have delivered in. There was also a Grant of Land for the Cultivation of Bourbon Cotton. It was obtained by Purchase from the Inhabitants of the Village; and what is singular, the Revenue on the Land belonged to the Temple of the Village; the Right of the Government therefore had to be purchased from the Officer of the Temple for the Time, and from the Cultivator of the Soil also. This Land, from the Abandonment of the Project, reverted as Revenue to the Temple, and the Land to the Cultivator. Disputes and Correspondence with the Collector, and with the Board, and with Government, did certainly take place to some Extent with those European Settlers; but I am not aware that it can be said, generally, that the Natives had any Objection to be placed in communication with Europeans, in Cases where they are under adequate Controul, or where they are Men of Education, and disposed, as they are in most Cases, to do Justice to all around them.
Are you of Opinion that Natives might not be more generally employed, and in Offices of a higher Description, than they are, both in the Administration of Justice and the Collection of the Revenue?
Certainly. I think that Natives may be gradually made fit for Employments in the higher Situations of Revenue, Judicial, Commercial and even Political. To a certain Extent, the Experiment has been tried, since the Regulations of 1816, of extending the Jurisdiction of the District Judges, with much Success. A further Experiment has been tried, of creating a Native Judge in the Town of Seringapatam, where an European Judge formerly presided; and I have no doubt that the Result will be satisfactory, wherever the Selection is properly made. There must be occasional Disappointment, no doubt; but unless a Commencement is made, no favourable Progress or Result can be expected. When I state this I also wish to state, that in the Revenue Department I should consider that a Native is quite as fit to be the Administrator of a Province, and of his own Concerns, as he was to be employed in those Situations of the Judicial Department; that consequently there appears, in my humble Opinion, a great Inconsistency in advocating, that in the Revenue Department no Man shall become possessed of a Territory, or have the Management of a Territory; that all our Institutions shall be Ryotwar, and all Money Revenue collected by means of stipendiary Servants. It would follow, that a Man, being capable of judging on the private Fortunes of others, and competent, in a Criminal Case, to act as a Juror, or probably in the higher Office of a Criminal Judge in minor Cases, was not fit to be trusted with the Management of Twenty or Thirty Villages as his own Property, without Fear of his oppressing those under him, or being guilty of Acts of Extortion and Injustice. I am therefore of Opinion, that it would be wise to promote the Natives to Offices of higher Trust in every Department, gradually, and under due Selections made for the Purpose. There is a College established at Madras for the Purpose of educating Pleaders in the Courts of Law, Officers and Pundits, and examining all those who are Candidates for Office in all those Laws. I think I have heard that it is intended to extend it to Revenue Officers to be employed in the Interior. Advantages have resulted from it in the Judicial Departments, and I have no doubt the Benefits may be made much more general.
What Education would you give in the College to the Persons intended for the Revenue Department?
When I stated that I believed it had been extended to the Revenue Department, I spoke from Hearsay. I do not myself know what Objects the Promoters of the Plan of Extension have in view; but I should say, that the great Outline and leading Principles of Revenue Administration might be laid down to Natives in the College, and the Necessity of departing from the Practices of the Native Government be pointed out; that the Object of the Government was to protect the Ryots under all Circumstances, and to make Justice a superior Consideration to Revenue: but so far as regards the Details of Revenue Management of the Country, they can be acquired only in the Interior Provinces.
The Instructions in the College would therefore be moral, not practical?
At what Period did you make this Paper of the Experiments of Europeans?
It was made at the Request of a Director, about Six or Eight Months ago, and I applied for it back again the other Day.
Have you any Information as to the Presidency of Madras, which would enable you to speak upon this Subject, subsequently to the Year 1805?
I quitted Madras in 1820; that is the latest Period to which I can speak; but I do not know of any Experiments, except an Indigo Plantation formed in the small Province of Tondamar, a small District excluded from all Jurisdiction of our Courts of Justice. There is a Manufacture of Indigo carrying on there, I am told, by an Individual. I believe that is the latest. That is the only one I personally know of.
Subsequently to the Year 1805, there appear to have been only Two Grants to Individuals for the Purpose of Experiment on Cultivation, one in Malabar in the Year 1808, to a Mr. Murdoch Brown, another in the Year 1812, in Barramahal, for Indigo Works; are you aware whether there have been any other Lands granted, except in those Two Cases, during the last Twenty-five Years?
I should say not; even the Applications have been very limited.
Are you aware of any Applications having been made and refused?
No; I rather believe that when they were made there has been no Reluctance that I am aware of; indeed, in the Southern Provinces, for the Cultivation of Cotton, there has been a Grant made in Tinnivelly to a Mr. Hughes, that has been extended, I believe, and he has since become the Contractor for the Supply of Bourbon Cotton in that Province, and the Commercial Residency has been abolished.
Can you say that any of the Land that had been thrown out of Cultivation, which was peculiarly liable to suffer from Fluctuation of Season, is under the Zemindarry System?
Yes, a great deal; almost all the Lands under the Zemindarry System are below the Ghauts, and therefore all irrigated Lands, to a certain Extent; not the whole, but a Proportion, are liable to a Fluctuation under the South-east Monsoon.
What has been the comparative Result of the Ryotwar System and the Zemindarry System, with respect to the Persons it affected?
I have endeavoured to explain, in the former Part of my Evidence, that the Ryotwar in the first instance was exceedingly ill done; that it was conducted without specific Rules, without specific Laws, or without the People being first adequately under the Protection of the Law. So far then, as I have stated, the Effect of the Ryotwar had been extremely injurious; but I wish at the same Time to add, that I believe the necessary Consequence of the Ryotwar, if well conducted, as I have illustrated in one small Province, has been attended with extremely beneficial Results to the People. I am therefore only desirous to draw the Attention of the Committee to the general Principles of the Two, that a Third Party should decide between the conflicting Opinions which exist among the Civil Servants of The East India Company, which of the Two Systems possessed the soundest Principles in themselves, not only as regards Revenue but the internal Government of the Country.
What has been the Result of your own Opinion on the most improved System of each, since the Period they have been commenced by Government; whether beneficial in the Places where the Ryotwar System has been established, or in those Parts of the Country where a Zemindarry Establishment had been made?
Both Systems having been very badly established under the Madras Presidency, great Evils have followed from both. Overassessment has been the Case in both Systems. The Zemindars have suffered under the Zemindarry System; but the Ryots have not suffered under the Zemindarry System the same as they have under the Ryotwar System, where that System was badly introduced.
Has not the Result of the Zemindarry System been to bring a vast Quantity of Land that was in the Possession of the Zemindars to Sale?
Considerably. It was the necessary Consequence of Overassessment, that the Land should be sequestrated when the Revenue could not be paid.
Can you state what Proportion that has been in that Part of the Madras Presidency where that System has prevailed?
The total Amount that was permanently settled amounted to Twenty-eight Lacs of Pagodas; but I cannot state the Quantity sold. Nearly the whole of the Jaghire sold under the permanent System has reverted to the Company, owing to the exorbitant Amount of the permanent Assessment.
You stated one of the Objections to the Union of the Power of the Collector and the Zillah Court was, that there was a Want of a Third Party to whom Reference could be made, which was a Court of Justice?
Do you recollect that one of the great Objects of making that Arrangement with respect to the Union of those Two Powers was, that the Courts of Justice to which the Ryots could previously appeal were found quite insufficient for their Protection?
I have heard that stated, certainly, and it has been very generally stated so in Bengal; but that certainly was not the Case at Madras. Either the People, from long Experience of European Character, or some other Cause, had found their Way to the Court; and I think that the Instances I have stated shew that they knew where to appeal when they were oppressed.
Were not the Courts found, in many Instances, in the Madras Territory, insufficient to defend the Ryots from Over-assessment and undue Collections, from the Poverty of the Persons, and from their Apprehension of incurring Resentment by appealing to the Court?
Certainly not, at Madras, to any Extent to deserve a general Answer: that particular Instances have occurred there is no doubt, but not to deserve a general Answer in the affirmative.
Was not that one of the Grounds on which Sir Thomas Munro placed that Separation?
It was so; he pledged himself, before the Courts were established, that that would be so. It was stated by one Party, that we had established Courts of Justice to which the People would not go; it was stated by another Party, that the People would be drawn to the Courts on all Occasions, and the Cultivation would suffer; it has been stated, that a great Inconvenience has arisen from letting in a Torrent of Arrears, consequently that the Courts of Justice, instead of taking up the Administration of Justice from the Period at which they were appointed, were over-burthened with Arrears. In these Three Propositions there is somewhat of Inconsistency; because, if there had been an Administration of Justice before the Courts had existed to any beneficial Purpose, there would have been no Arrear. Then, if we had created Courts to which the People would not go, there would have been no subsequent Business; the Appeals would have soon been disposed of. Then, if the Administration of Justice cannot take place when the People are under Zemindars, how can Justice be administered when the Ryots are placed under the Controul of subordinate Native Officers?
The Ground upon which the Question proceeded, was not a Supposition that the Administration of Justice did not take place at all with respect to Ryots, but that it did not take place very beneficially for their Protection?
I meant, that the Administration of Justice is insufficient for the Protection of the Ryots, both under the one and under the other; but I think it will gradually lessen itself.
You stated, that the Assessment under the Ryotwar Settlement had been one of the great Defects of that System?
Do you recollect the Result of it at first, under Sir Thomas Munro?
Are you aware of any Means so effectual, for ascertaining the Capabilities of the Country to pay Revenue, as the Ryotwar System, supposing it to be well applied?
It is certainly well calculated to discover the Resources of a Country, from a Survey of every District to form a Record of Assessment and Collection; it did not follow, that because the Revenue Survey was necessary, to discover the Extent of the Land, under the Village System, and the general Resources of the Country from the actual Collections, that it was necessary to alter the Assessment that might have happened to pre-exist. The Assessments were on certain Principles; they might have been modified, and the Survey gone on; but in the Ryotwar was introduced the distinct and predominant Feature of assessing all in Money-assessing each Field, and the whole collected by the Officer of Government, and no intermediate Agent.
Was not it Sir Thomas Munro's Plan to establish the Ryotwar System in the first instance, for the Purpose of ascertaining the Capabilities of the Country, and afterwards with the avowed Intention of reducing the Assessment Twenty-five per Cent?
Certainly; it was his Object to reduce it in all Cases.
Then the Ryotwar System was carried into Effect according to his Advice and under his View, but the Reductions were not subsequently made; they were sold before the proper Reductions?
No; that District has not been sold; no Ryotwar District has been sold, except one.
He proceeded with that Intention?
Do you think, supposing that Reduction had been carried into Effect, they would have been too highly assessed?
In Money, certainly. I consider that in the Fluctuations of Price the Reduction of Twenty-five per Cent. will not meet the Fall in Price; and during the Time that the Triennial Leases, which were substituted, perhaps improvidently, in those Provinces, during Sir Thomas's Absence in England, the Result was, the Renters themselves greatly reduced Sir Thomas Munro's Rates; and though I learnt at a subsequent Time that the Twenty-five per Cent. was ordered, that will not, I fear, meet the Reduction in the Prices of edible Grain throughout the Presidency.
The Intention of Sir Thomas Munro was a Reduction to bring it to the Ability of the People to pay?
Yes; the only Question is, whether the Money Price can stand at all.
You stated that there were some Alterations made under the express Directions of the Government at Home?
That was under a Dispatch that went out in the Year 1813?
About that Time.
Was not the Purport of that Dispatch in order to make use of the Punchayets to a much greater degree than they had previously been used?
Has that been carried into Effect?
To what Extent?
It formed Part of the original Question; but it was Sir Thomas Munro's Opinion, that the Forms and Machinery of the Regulations greatly impeded its Establishment, and rendered it nugatory. The Result was, that in his amended Code he introduced other Regulations, which he thought fitter for the Purpose. The Result of that has not been satisfactory; but that Part of it which went to transfer the Native Commissioners for the deciding of Suits into District Judges, with fixed Salaries, has been attended with very good Results.
How far would the Modification of Punchayets to the Form of Juries be beneficial, in your Opinion, to the Administration of Justice in India?
In the Province in which I was placed in early Life there was no Provision for the Administration of Justice. I was directed on all Occasions to adopt the Principle of the Punchayets; and I so instructed others, when the Superior Native Officers were directed to use their Influence to refer Cases to Punchayet before the Parties came to the Collector. I have been called out to write a Letter, to go down to the Government Office, while investigating some Claim as to Landed Property. I used my utmost Endeavours to make the Punchayet efficient. I do not mean to say there were great Efforts made for the drawing up Regulations, as have been since done, but it was attempted to make the greatest possible Use of them; but I am bound to say the Result was exceedingly unsatisfactory, both to the People and to myself. I could seldom get the People to accept it, and when they did accept it, it generally came back with Two Decisions, one by one Half of the Punchayet, and the other by the other Half, with very often Charges of Corruption of one Party against the other; and I have often met with Cases of Punchayets with Decrees never carried into Effect under the proper Authorities. I do not mean to say, that under an Improvement this Judicature, if established on better Principles, may not be made an effective Instrument, and be usefully employed where they have not ultimately to decide in Courts both Civil and Criminal.
In your Opinion, are the Natives better satisfied with the Decisions they receive from the Native Officers, or from Europeans?
Undoubtedly from Europeans. Their uniform Language is, "We are here; pray decide it; do not send us to a Third Party." But whenever there is an Appeal from the Decision, it is absolutely necessary, to prevent Delay, that there should be Native Instruments employed in the first instance.
Supposing the same Case might be decided by an European or by a Native Jurisdiction; which Decision would they be most satisfied with?
I should say an European decidedly; though I have not been in the Judicial Department myself.
Do you think it would be a Benefit to the Administration of Justice, if there were a Native Juror, not exactly in the Shape of a Punchayet, but under the Superintendence of an European Judge?
I should say certainly the Experiment might be tried in those Districts where intelligent Natives might be procured to try Matters of Fact. The Trial of Native Soldiers by Native Officers in the Army proceeds pretty much upon the same Principle; a Body of Natives assemble to try Natives; and they might there, as they do here, try the Fact.
Do you happen to be acquainted with the Manner in which they have introduced the Trial by Jury in Ceylon?
No, I am not, except by Conversation.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned to Tuesday next, One o'Clock.