Affairs of the East India Company: Minutes of evidence, 26 February 1830

Pages 925-931

Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].

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In this section

Die Veneris, 26 Februarii 1830.


The Lord President in the Chair.

John Walter Sherer Esquire is called in, and examined as follows:

What was your Situation?

I was the Accountant General in Bengal.

For what Period did you hold that Situation?

From January 1816 to December 1822.

What were your peculiar Duties in the Situation of Accountant General?

To advise the Government on all Financial Concerns; to keep them acquainted with the Receipt and Disbursements of the Country; to provide Funds for the Service in every Quarter; and to superintend the Accounts of all the Departments.

If any new Charge was proposed in any Department, was it your Duty to report on that proposed Charge before it was sanctioned by the Government?

No. If it was in the Board of Revenue it would be discussed in the Board of Revenue, and be settled by the Government there; and so of other Departments.

Is there in Bengal any Officer who intervenes between the Board proposing an Increase of Charge and the Government who have to sanction it?

No; but Government refer all general Financial Questions to the Accountant General, for his Report.

When any Increase of Charge of any Description is proposed, is it referred to the Accountant General, for his Opinion?

No, it is not.

Is there any other Officer to whom any Proposition of Increase would be referred?

No; no Financial Officer that I am aware of. The Auditor would report the Circumstance, and bring it again under the Notice of the Government when it was charged, and state the Authority and the Grounds of the Charge, and get it again sanctioned in the course of the Process of auditing and passing.

Would it be his Duty to give his Opinion as to the Propriety of sanctioning the increased Charge?

No. If it has the Authority of the Government it is passed under that Authority; if it has not the Authority of Government, he calls the Notice of Government to it, and remarks upon it according to his Information.

But neither the Accountant General nor the Auditor could form any Check whatever on the Increase of Charge?

No; the Grounds of it originated in some other Department.

Nor is there any Check on any Increase of Charge, other than that of the Government itself?

No; except that the Accountant General and the Auditor would, in their respective Departments, bring to the Notice of Government any Extravagance which they might notice. That they consider themselves authorized to do, but it is not a specific Part of their Office.

Did any considerable Increase of Charge take place during the Time you held the Situation of Accountant General; of Civil Charge especially?

No very considerable Charge; there was an Increase in the Charge of Interest, a Military Increase. There was a new Board instituted in Bahar, and Two or Three new Collectorships, and a few Embassies to Foreign Courts, and Charges of that kind, but nothing further.


Was the permanent Civil Charge, independent of those fluctuating Charges to which you have referred, considerably greater, when you left the Situation of Accountant General, in 1822, than it was in the Year 1816 in the old Provinces which were in our Possession in 1816?

No; I am not aware of any considerable Increase.

Did the Expence of collecting the Revenue increase during that Period?

I think there were considerable Surveys carried on during that Period, and Deputation Services, which of course increased the Revenue Charge somewhat.

That would increase the extraordinary but not the permanent Charge?

No; I am not aware of any Increase of the permanent Charge, in the Rate of Charge.

Did it appear to you that at that Period the Establishment for the Purpose of collecting the Revenue was deficient?

I considered it adequate. In fact the Estimate, as formed for the Year 1823, before I quitted India, involved a Decrease of Charge, both at Madras and in Bengal; and the Estimate was realized, as appeared by Accounts dated Thirteen Months after I left Bengal.

Was there any Increase of Charge in the Judicial Department?

I am not aware at present; there may have been, but nothing of Magnitude, to my Recollection.

Did it appear to you that the Judicial Establishment was adequate to all the Purposes that were required?

I heard no Complaints to the contrary. I have not a personal Knowledge of that.

At the Period at which you quitted your Employment, did it appear to you that there were some Charges capable of Diminution?

I think a Revision of the Establishment was anticipated at that Period, with a view to any possible Reduction; but I do not think there was much Prospect at that Time of Reduction.

Was there a Deficiency of the Revenue in the first Years of your Charge; was there an Excess of Expenditure, taking India and England together?

Yes, there was; the Indian Surplus was very low in the first Year compared to the Year I quitted.

In the Year in which you quitted your Situation, namely 1822, was there a Surplus, with a view to both the Indian and the Charges in this Country?

A very considerable Surplus; after providing for the Home Charge there was a Surplus applicable to the Reduction of Debt at that Period.

At the Period at which you quitted your Situation, did you see any Reason for increased Charges in any of the Civil Departments which came under your View?

It was in prospect to revise the Establishments, with a view to Reduction, at that Period. Though much Reduction was not anticipated, still it marked that the Government regarded the Establishments as adequate at that Time, since they were going to revise them, with a view to Reduction.

Did you see any Department in which it appeared to you Reduction could take place without Detriment to the Public Service?

No; I should have considered it my Duty to bring it to the Notice of the Government directly, if I had seen that to be practicable.

Was not that the Object of the Revision then in contemplation?

Yes; it was in contemplation to form Committees to inquire whether Reduction was practicable.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

Samuel Swinton Esquire is called in, and examined as follows:

What is your Occupation?

I was in India for Thirty-three Years.

In what Capacity?

As a Civil Servant.


In what Situation were you?

I was a Commercial Resident at several Stations; latterly I was in Malwa as Opium Agent.

The Agent employed by the Government?


You at one Time held the Situation of Chief of the Board of Salt, Opium and Customs, did you not?

I did.

Can you explain to the Committee the Nature of the Monopoly of Opium in the Provinces of Bahar and Benares?

I could not explain them; they were fully reported in the Reports at the India House; it requires a great deal of Detail to do so; they are fully explained in the Records at the India House.

The Committee wish to know in what Manner the Cultivation of Opium is regulated; how the Company acquire the Opium, and in what Manner they make their Profit upon it?

The Advances are made to the Ryots, and those Ryots deliver the Opium in a pure State to different Gomasters, who forward it from Time to Time to the principal Station at Patna, where it remains some Time stored, and is afterwards made up into Cakes, and is then sent down to Calcutta.

Are other Persons than the Officers of Government permitted to purchase Opium?


Is there a fixed Price for the Opium?

Yes; Three Rupees a Sier.

When was that Price fixed?

I cannot recollect. It was formerly only Two and a Half. It was raised to Three Rupees, I think, in the Year 1819 or 1820; but I cannot state the exact Period.

Do you know why the Price was raised?

It was raised because the Ryots were not satisfied with the Price they then received, and to encourage Cultivation.

Are you aware whether the Quantity sent has increased much of late Years?

It has certainly increased.

Can you state to what Extent?

No, I cannot.

What Price do the Government obtain for the Opium for which they pay Three Rupees a Sier?

That is according to the Demand. It is sold at Public Sale, and sometimes it sells higher and sometimes lower, according to the State of the Market, or the Demand in China.

Has the Demand in China increased much of late Years?


Can you state to what Extent?

I cannot, from Memory.

Do you know what Circumstances have led to that Extension of Demand in China?

I cannot state that; it never came before me officially.

Has the Opium of Bahar and Benares maintained its Reputation of late Years?

Certainly not.

To what Circumstances do you attribute that?

To its not being brought in a pure State to the Market, I believe.

Is that the Fault of the Ryot, or the Government Agent?

It probably arises from some Fraud, but where that Fraud is I cannot tell; it must arise from Fraud.


Was any Person sent down into the Country to ascertain with whom that Fraud originated?

Not to ascertain with whom that Fraud originated; but I believe Persons were sent to endeavour to have it brought as pure as possible to the Market, and to reject it if it was in an impure State.

Did the Depreciation of the Opium take place before it came into the Hands of the Government Agents, or subsequently?

I should rather imagine previously to its coming to the Government Agents Hands.

Is there not a Manufacture of the Opium after it comes into the Hands of the Government?

None, but its being made up into Cakes.

Is any Art required in making it up into Cakes?

It requires that the Person should be conversant with it.

Does the Opium depend at all on the Degree of Perfection with which that Operation is performed?

No; I believe it is solely with regard to the Pureness of the Opium.

Do you know the relative Price in the Market of the Bahar and Malwa Opium?

I cannot say; the Malwa Opium generally sells in China Two or Three hundred Dollars a Chest higher than the other.

What is the Price of a Bahar Chest of Opium?

That depends entirely upon the Market; it sells from 2,000 to 4,000 Rupees.

You state that the Malwa Opium sells for Two or Three hundred Dollars more than the Bahar; what was the Price of the Bahar Opium?

I cannot state that from Memory.

Have not the Advances to the Ryots increased very much of late?

I am not aware that they have.

What Proportion of the whole Price of the Opium is advanced previously to its Delivery into the Hands of the Government Agent?

I believe generally the whole of the Three Rupees is advanced previous to its Delivery to the Government Agent; but I refer you to the Regulations.

For what Purposes were you sent as Opium Agent into Malwa?

Previous to my being sent there, the Agent who was employed by the Bombay Government had purchased the Opium at uncommon high Rates; it was supposed that by a different kind of Management the Opium might be purchased at lower Rates, and generally rendered more advantageous to the Government.

What Measure did you adopt on being deputed into Malwa?

It is so long a Period, and as I have not the Papers by me to refer to, perhaps it will be better that I should refer your Lordships to the Reports which are in the India House; they are very full.

In consequence of any Recommendation on your Part, were any Treaties entered into with any of the Princes of Malwa?

Yes, there were.

State the Nature of those Treaties?

The Object of those Treaties was to make the Native States participate in the Advantages which were derived from the Opium Monopoly; but I cannot speak further, and state all the Circumstances of those Treaties, but generally they gave them some Advantages.

Did they contain any Stipulation on the Part of the Native Prince for diminishing the Cultivation of Opium in his Dominions?

They did; on every Thousand Surat Maunds of Forty Pounds less Produce they were to receive a Sum of Twenty thousand Rupees as a Bonus.

What further Advantage was the Prince to receive?

If my Memory serves me right, he was also to receive the Profits on Five Chests in every One hundred Maunds.


Did he further stipulate to furnish any Quantity of Opium at a certain Price to the Company?

He did.

Was that Price much below the Price at which it had been obtained by the Bombay Agents?


Can you state the Difference?

The Bombay Agent had paid from Sixty-five to One hundred and odd Rupees for a Punsury, which is Five Siers; a Punsury contains Ten Pounds English Weight.

What did you pay under the Treaty?

Thirty Rupees.

What was the Value of the Halee Rupee current in Malwa?

From Seven to Eight per Cent. inferior to the Sicca Rupee at the Mint.

Is the Sier of Malwa the same as the Sier of Bengal?

The Sier at which I bought Opium was the same with that at Patna; I believe the Sier current in the Bazaar is different.

Paying therefore Three Rupees a Sier for Opium in Bahar, and under the Treaty Thirty Rupees for Five Siers at Malwa, you paid Twice as much in Malwa as you did in Bahar?


Can you state the selling Price at Bombay of the Pensury of Five Siers in Malwa, for which you have paid Thirty Rupees?

I cannot, from Memory.

Can you at all state, whether the Price of the Malwa Opium, when sold by the Company, bore the same Relation to the Price of Bahar Opium, when sold by them, that the original Prices paid by them for the Malwa Opium bore to the Price paid by them for the Bahar Opium?

No, I cannot state the Prices; I have no Recollection of them. I had nothing to do with the Sale of Opium; it never came before me officially.

Do you know whether that Provision of the Treaties of which you have spoken, by which the Cultivation of the Poppy was to be diminished in the Territories of those Princes, was carried into Effect?

While I was in Malwa it was, by slow Degrees - I think it was real - I am led to say so from my own personal Observation - it was reduced in some Places.

Are you aware whether, previous to the Formation of those Treaties, any great Extension of the Cultivation of Opium had taken place in Malwa?

I believe it had.

Can you state to what Extent?

I cannot.

Had the Prices been such as to encourage Cultivation to a great Extent?


You are aware that since you have left Malwa there has been represented to the Government to be so much Discontent on the Part of the Ryots in Malwa, and so much Disinclination on the Part of the Prince to the Continuance of those Treaties, that it has been recently determined by the Government to give them up?

I have heard that.

Are you aware that it was represented that in point of fact the Cultivation was not very much diminished; that the Dissatisfaction of the People was very great; that a Contraband Trade was carried on to a very great Extent through those Countries with which we have not formed Treaties; and that Opium was carried in such Quantities through the Territories, particularly the Oudepoor, to the Indus, and thence to the Ports of Din and Demaun, as practically to interfere to a very great Extent with the beneficial Consequences which were expected from those Treaties?

I have heard that; but I cannot say any thing further. I can only reply to what occurred when I was in Malwa.


Will you state with what Native Princes the Treaties have been concluded?

Holkar was one; Boondee; Kotah; Oudepoor; and all the petty Chieftains in Malwa.

There was however no Treaty with Scindia?


And without having a Treaty with Scindia, from the particular Position of his Territories, it was found to be impossible to confine the Opium to Malwa, to prevent the Exportation?

It was difficult, but not impossible.

Those Treaties being now abandoned, no Restriction being any longer placed on the Extent to which the Poppy may be cultivated in those Districts, and the Transport of Opium being perfectly free through all the Dominions not positively subject to the British Power, what Effect do you apprehend that will have upon the Benefit to the Government of India from their Monopoly of Opium in Bengal?

I apprehend it will almost entirely endanger it; that the Monopoly can barely exist under it.

You think that the Quality of the Malwa Opium, and the Price at which it can be furnished to the Canton Market, is such as to make it almost impossible for the other Governments of India to realize any considerable Profit upon their Opium from Bahar and Benares?

They will still derive a considerable Profit, but not any thing equal to what they did upon the Monopoly.

Are you aware whether the Quality of Malwa Opium had improved very much previous to the Formation of the Treaties?

I was deputed in consequence of the Malwa Opium being very much inferior and very much adulterated. One of the Objects of my Mission was to endeavour to have it brought in a purer State to the Market; I succeeded; and to that I attribute the Malwa Opium being now considered so much superior to the Patna.

Before your Deputation into that Country, did the Price of Malwa Opium bear a different Proportion to the Bahar Opium to that it has done since?


Was it superior or inferior?


What is the Size of the Chest?

There are Two Maunds in a Chest; there are Forty Siers in a Maund.

The Treaties being given up with those Native Princes, do you think it will be possible for the British Government to throw any material Impediment in the Way of the Transport of the Malwa Opium to the Coast?

Impediment they may throw; but no Restrictions will be so effectual as those which the Treaties gave us.

Will the Impediments which they can still throw in the Way of the Carriage of Malwa Opium to the Coast be such as to give them, as Purchasers in the Malwa Market, a material Advantage over their Competitors?

Certainly some Advantage.

By what Route will it now be possible to carry Malwa Opium to the Sea, avoiding the Territories of the Company and their Tributary States?

Speaking from Memory, I feel it difficult to give an Answer; but I fancy through the Oudepoor States.

Must it go to the Indus?

I do not think that is necessary, but that is the principal Route.

Where could they touch the Sea?

I do not at this Moment recollect.

Will you refer to the Map, and see whether there are any Countries, not under the Government or Influence of this Country, through which the Opium might be carried to the Sea?

[The Witness refers to the Map.]

I think, looking to the Map, that it might get to the Gulf of Cambaya.


Can you state at what Profit a Ryot can grow Opium a Sier?

I cannot, from Memory.

Is it an Object much sought for by the Ryots; the Advances on Opium?

I had rather speak with regard to Malwa; there the Ryots derive very little Profit from it. As to Bahar, it is so many Years since I was in that Part of the Country that I do not wish to state from Memory.

Is any Opium grown by The East India Company?


Is any body at liberty to grow it that pleases?

Certainly not.

Under what Regulations is any one at liberty to grow the Poppy?

There is a Regulation of Government upon the Subject, to which I would wish to refer your Lordships, not bearing it distinctly in Mind.

Is it by Licence?

Under that Regulation it is.

Do you believe there is any illegal Sale of Opium going on in Bahar or Benares?

There may be a little Smuggling; to a trifling Degree.

What are the Penalties attached to such illegal Sale?

The Seizure of the Article, and a Fine, I believe; but I would rather refer your Lordships to the Regulations; I do not bear them in Mind.

Do you conceive it to be impossible for the Ryots to cultivate the Poppy, unless the Company begin by making them an Advance equivalent to the Price they afterwards give?

I must decline answering these Questions on Oath. Every thing is stated in the Regulations so fully, I would rather refer to them.

Would it be, in your Opinion, impossible for a Ryot to cultivate the Poppy, without borrowing the Money in the first Instance from the Company?

I apprehend they are too poor to do that.

It is a Cultivation which requires a considerable Expence both in Manure and in Irrigation, does it not?

Yes, a great deal of Care in the Cultivation, and it can be only in the finest Soils.

Is there any Restriction existing which would prevent a Person possessing a little Capital carrying on the Cultivation of the Poppy, and confining it to the Ryots?

It can only be cultivated by the Ryots; no Zemindar would ever think of doing it.

Do you mean that he has no Power of doing it by the Regulations of the Company?

He is by no means restricted, provided he chooses to enter into an Engagement to deliver the Produce to the Company at the stipulated Price.

So that the practical Result is, that no Person of Capital engages in the Cultivation of that Article?

Certainly none, that I know of.

Can you state the general Proportion between the Advance and the Produce?

I cannot.

Are Losses frequently incurred by the Failure of the Crop, and the Advance being less than the Crop will produce?

I cannot state the Extent, but they must be incurred in that as they are in other Things.

Does that stand over as a Debt to a future Season, or in what Manner is the Loss made up?

Sometimes it does, and sometimes it does not; there is a degree of discretionary Power left with the Agent.


Do you know into what Conditions a Person enters who undertakes the Cultivation of Opium in the Provinces of the Company?

He stipulates to deliver the Produce at a certain Price.

Any Person may cultivate it who does that?


By whom is that Price fixed?

It has been long established.

Is it fixed by the Company?

Originally by the Agent.

Does it undergo an Examination of Quality as well as of Quantity?


In what Manner do you calculate the Advances to be made to the Ryot?

It is generally ascertained what is the Quantity of Land he has that is equal to the Produce of a certain Quantity of Poppy, and it is tolerably well ascertained what an Acre will yield; and according to what he engages to deliver, he receives his Advances in proportion.

It is on an Estimate of former Years?


With respect to the Cultivation of Opium in the Provinces of Malwa under the independent Princes, and before the Treaties, was the Cultivation carried on under the Controul of the Prince in the same Manner as in our own Provinces under the Controul of the Company, or was it free to the Cultivator?

Under the Princes it was free to the Cultivator, but the Cultivator was generally under Restrictions of the Zemindars.

Were those Restrictions to deliver the Produce at a certain fixed Price?

I cannot tell exactly what their private Agreements were, but I know that Restrictions did exist.

Are you acquainted with the Circumstances under which Opium is grown in the Portuguese Settlements?

I am not.

Are you aware whether Opium grown in the Portuguese Settlements sells in China and elsewhere at the same Rate as the Opium sold by the Company?

I am not.

Can you state whether the Form of the Balls in which Opium is made up, and the Size of the Packages in which it is afterwards packed, has been lately altered, with a view to forward its illicit Introduction into China?

In Malwa the Cakes have always been the same; they are different from those made at Patna.

Has there been any Alteration that you are aware of lately made in the way of packing.

Not in Bengal, that I am aware of. I left the Board in 1823, and have been in Malwa since that Time.

The large Price given by the Bombay Agent for Malwa Opium was given before the Formation of any Treaty?


Can you tell what the Total Price to the Company was of the Malwa Opium under the Treaties, when they gave Thirty Rupees for a Punsury, and besides that a certain Premium to the Chief, and a certain Portion of the Profit upon Part of what they sold?

I cannot, upon my Oath, say exactly what it was, though I could, in a rough kind of way, probably state it.

Will you state your general Idea what it amounted to?

By the Chest, I believe it amounted to about 720 Rupees a Chest, including all those Charges, and the Allowance made to the Chief; but I beg to state that that I merely state from the Recollection of the Moment.

How many Siers does a Chest contain?


It ought to contain 80 Siers or 160 lbs. A Chest contained only 140 lbs. of Opium, for the Siers with which the Chests are packed are what are called the Factory Weight. There are such a Number of different kinds of Maunds: the Bazaar Maund, 80 lbs.; the Factory Maund, 72 lbs. 11 oz. It is brought as near as possible to the Pecul Chest, containing 133 lbs.; but there is a considerable Allowance for Dryage of Opium.

Are you acquainted with the relative Properties and Qualities of the Turkish and East India Opium?

I am not.

You cannot state whether it is probable that a greater Importation of Turkish Opium into Canton would interfere with the Sale of the British Opium?

I cannot; I can speak only from Hearsay. It is of an inferior Quality, I understand.

Are you at all acquainted with the Circumstances of the American Trade in Opium?


Is it an easy Thing to measure the Quantity of Opium, in matter of Adulteration of Strength?

A Person who is accustomed to it can do it.

Complaints have been made that some of the Opium grown by the Ryots was adulterated?

That can be ascertained.

What happens when it appears to the Commercial Agent that it has been adulterated; does he require a larger Quantity, or refuse the Article?

If it is adulterated, he rejects it altogether.

What happens as to the Advance which has been made for it?

The Advance then becomes a Debt of his to the Person who made the Advance.

How is the Opium sold by the Company; by Sample, or otherwise?

Any Number of Chests are opened, and the Buyers have an Opportunity previous to the Sale of looking at it.

Is there not a Guarantee on the Part of the Company, that the Opium is of a certain Quality?

Certainly. The Guarantee is made by the Agent. The Agent sends down, with every Dispatch of Opium, a Guarantee of the Quality.

Is there any other Part of the East besides China to which there is a considerable Export of Opium from The East India Company's Possessions?

That is a Question I cannot answer, as the Subject never came before me officially.

Did you ever hear that there was any considerable Export to the Malay Islands?

I must beg to decline returning a hearsay Answer; there are a great many Things I may have heard that I cannot vouch for.

You do not know that there has been any large Export of Opium to the Malay Islands?

Officially, I do not.

Do you know how long the Zemindars have possessed the Liberty with respect to the Cultivation of Opium which you say they now have?

I do not.

Are you aware that formerly there was an extremely severe restrictive System pursued with respect to the Cultivation of Opium?

The same that exists now, I believe; I am not aware of any Alteration.

Has there not been a considerable Change within the last Twenty Years?

Not that I am aware of.


Was it not formerly the Case, that the Native Proprietors of Land were absolutely prohibited from cultivating Opium?

Where there was an Opium Agent, not. I believe that in certain Districts where the Opium grows, those Districts where inferior Opium grew were abandoned.

Was not that formerly the Case in Bengal, where the Opium was formerly almost exclusively grown?

The Provinces of Bahar and Benares are the only Two Districts where Opium is grown under the Bengal Presidency.

Formerly, were not the Proprietors of Land absolutely prohibited from growing it for themselves?

In other Districts beyond those of Bahar and Benares, in the Heart of Bengal, it is not allowed.

Are the Collectors of the Land Tax encouraged by the Government to collect Opium by any recent Regulation?

They are.

Can you state what Per-centage they are allowed to derive?

I forget that.

Do the same Regulations apply to Bahar and to Malwa?

No; they are entirely different.

Does any Opium grow in any District of the Company's in Malwa?

I am not aware of any.

The Witness is informed, That it is wished he should give the best Information in his Power, without regard to the Question whether it came within his Knowledge officially.

Are you practically acquainted with the Salt Monopoly in Bengal?

I was, but so many Years have elapsed since I left the Board, that probably my Memory will not serve me with regard to the Circumstances connected with it.

Can you state in what Manner that Monopoly was conducted at the Time you were acquainted with it?

So many Years have elapsed, I cannot charge my Memory with that.

By whom was the Salt manufactured?

By an Agent on the Part of the Government.

Was no other Person permitted to manufacture Salt?

No; the Molungees are the Persons who manufacture the Salt, under the Direction of the Agent.

Can you tell the Cost of the Salt to the Government?

I cannot now; it has varied a little since I left the Board.

Can you tell what Profit was made by the Government on the Salt?

I can state what the Amount of the Profit was on the Sales in Calcutta for some Years; I have a Memorandum of that; here I see that in the Year 1819 it was One Crore Eleven Lacs and 42,639 Rupees.

Is that the Gross Receipt, or the Net Profit?

That is the Net Profit. In the Year 1827-28 it was a Crore and 82 Lacs and 78,185 Rupees. Since the Formation of the Board over which I presided there was a regular Improvement in the Produce.

In what Manner was that Improvement effected?

By a more active Superintendence on the Part of the Officers of the Board.

Do you mean in the Prevention of Smuggling?


Can you state the Price at which the Salt manufactured by Government was retailed to the People?

It was sold to them in the Market at Monthly Sales to the highest Bidder.


Their Profit depended upon keeping the Supply within the Demand?

Exactly so.

Has the Supply increased of late Years?


To what Extent?

I cannot state the Extent.

Are you enabled to state the Price of any particular Quantity of Salt when retailed to the People?

From Three to Four Rupees, that is, from Six to Eight Shillings a Maund, was about the Price; the Maund being Eighty English Pounds.

What do you apprehend had been the Cost of Manufacture of a Maund of Salt?

It varies according to the Place.

Do you apprehend it would be possible to increase the Salt Revenue by increasing the Quantity supplied to the People?

Certainly not.

You think the largest possible Revenue is effected by the present Limitation of Supply?

I apprehend it is; the Attention of the Board is always directed to the ascertaining the Quantity required.

Nevertheless the Amount has increased?

Yes; as the Population increases, their Sales increase in the same Proportion.

Are you acquainted with the Salt Monopoly at Madras?

I am not.

When you mention the Profit on Salt, what Rupee do you refer to?

The Sicca Rupee.

Is the Salt manufactured from Salt Springs, or Ponds into which the Water is admitted?

I do not know the Mode in which it is manufactured.

Do the Company carry on the Manufacture of Salt at all?

It is carried on by the Molungees, who manufacture under the Agent.

No other Person is permitted to make Salt?

None but the Molungees.

The Company have not only a Monopoly of Sale, but a Monopoly of the Manufacture also?

Yes, by Auction.

Has the Demand for Salt increased?

Certainly; it has regularly increased.

Has there been of late Years any Variation in the Price of Salt?

Not much, I apprehend.

So that, though the Demand for Salt has increased, the Public have not had it at a cheaper Rate?

The Quantity has increased in proportion; there has been a regular Increase.

The Supply has not increased in such a Proportion as to bring it at a cheaper Rate to the Consumer?

No; I am not aware that the Consumer has got it cheaper; it is sometimes Four Rupees and a Half, and sometimes Two Rupees and a Half, according to the Quality.

Can you state the Number of Labourers employed in this Manufacture?

I cannot.

Can you state the Mode in which they are paid?

I cannot.


Can you state whether they are generally in Debt to the Company?

I cannot.

Can you state what Proportion of Salt is consumed over and above that manufactured by the Government?

Not much; I think a mere Trifle.

You do not think so much as One Fourth?

No, nothing like it, I should think.

To whom are the Advances made?

To the Molungees.

Are there any particular Laws applying to that Description of People?

There is a Regulation respecting them.

If a Man has once been in that Trade, cannot he be always forced back to it, if it is necessary?

I believe not.

Is the Mode of preparing Salt that is pursued very unfavourable to Health?

Wherever Salt is made, it is always made in an unhealthy Situation.

If a Man has been a Molungee, and employed on Salt, can he ever cease to be a Molungee?

He certainly can.

He cannot be compelled to return to his Employment, if he leaves it?

No, unless he happens to have fallen into heavy Arrears.

Is their falling into heavy Arrears common?

That is according to the Character of the Individual.

Are the Molungees a particular Caste of Natives?

I am not aware that they are. A Man who has engaged to furnish One hundred Maunds of Salt is bound to do it; and if he cannot do it one Year he must do it the second Year.

Are you acquainted with the Administration of the Land and Sea Customs in Bengal?

I ought to be.

You were at the Head of that Board for some Time?

I was; and I was the Person who reformed the Custom Houses in Bengal.

At what Period was that?

The Reform began in 1814.

Have there been any considerable Reductions of the Transit Duty since that Period?

Since I left the Board, there have been.

At what Places in Bengal is the Transit Duty collected?

At the Custom Houses.

Where are those Custom Houses situate?

One Custom House is at Calcutta. In Chittagong there are Sea Custom Houses. The Collections of Chittagong are trifling. The Transit Duties are collected at Morshadebad, Hoogly, Patna, Dacca, Mirzapore, Cawnpoor and Feruccabad, so far as I recollect.

Are any restrictive Measures adopted for the Purpose of forcing the Goods into the Custom Houses of those Towns you have mentioned?

There are no Means adopted to force them; no Goods can pass the Chokies without paying them.

The Chokies extend into the Country?

There is a Regulation fixing the Extent of every Chokie.

From those Centres do those Chokies cover the greatest Part of the Chokies Country?

No; they only cover the Banks and Mouths of the Rivers.


The great Roads of Communication?

The great Roads of Communication only.

Are those Transit Duties collected at any very great Charge?

They must necessarily be so.

Are you aware that that Charge has increased largely of late Years, when compared with the Receipts?

The Receipts having diminished, the Charges will appear large in proportion; when the Receipts were larger the Charges formed a small Per-centage.

Do you know whether the Charges themselves have increased?

I am not aware that they have.

Have you been able, from your Situation, to discover the Effect produced on the internal Prosperity of the Country by the Transit Duties?


State the Effect you think they have produced?

I am not aware that they injured the Trade in any way of the fair Trader; they might affect the Smuggler, or the Man who wished to evade the Duties, but not otherwise.

Do you think they create no Embarrassment, or no Interference with the internal Communication of the Country, so as to diminish its Prosperity?

Certainly not, as far as my Observation went.

What would be the Effect of taking off the Transit Duty on Cotton?

It would enable the Cotton to come to the Calcutta Market at a lower Rate, certainly.

What is the Amount of Transit Duty on Cotton?

I cannot state that from Memory.

Is a very large Proportion of the Transit Duty collected on the Transit of Cotton?

A very large Proportion; but Cotton principally grows in Countries not our own, and it is paid on the Frontiers: a large Proportion at Agra; a small Proportion at Mirzapore; but the largest Proportion, I think, at Agra.

If the Duties on the Passage of Cotton through our Dominions were taken off, do you think it would be worth while to maintain the other Transit Duties, with the Establishment connected with them?

If it took off nothing but the Duties on Cotton, it would still be worth while.

Would it be possible, on taking off those Duties, to diminish the Charges of general Collection.

I apprehend not.

You cannot state what Proportion of the Duties consists of those levied on Cotton?

I cannot, from Memory.

It appears that in the Year 1826-27 the Receipt of Customs in Bengal was £330,970; can you state what Proportion of that arose from the Sea Customs, and what Proportion from the Transit Duties?

I cannot state that from Memory.

If the Transit Duties were entirely repealed, would there be any Necessity for keeping up the Custom House Establishments in the Interior at the different Places you have mentioned?

If the whole Transit Duties were repealed, many of the Custom Houses might be done away with; only the Frontier ones would remain then.

Supposing the Amount now levied by the Transit Duties were levied by any small Addition to the Sea Customs Duties, would you not get the same Amount of Revenue, without the Necessity for maintaining the same Establishment?


That must depend on knowing the Amount of the Transit Duties, and calculating the Sum to be laid on the Exports or Imports, to see whether they were equivalent. If Fourteen Lacs are taken from the Transit Duties, and Fourteen Lacs added to the Imports and Exports, it will come to the same thing.

If the whole of it was raised by Sea Customs, instead of a Portion by the Sea Customs and a Portion by the Transit Duties, would it not be possible to reduce the Expences of collecting the whole?

Yes, certainly.

Has there been any Diminution or Increase in the Amount of the Custom Duties within the last few Years?

I left the Board of Customs Seven Years ago; I cannot recollect what has occurred since.

Was there any Reduction of the Custom Duties during the Time you presided over that Board?

I am not aware that there was; there was a different System introduced.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

John Pascal Larkins Esquire is called in, and examined as follows:

What was the Situation you filled in India?

I filled various Situations.

Have the goodness to state them?

In the early Part of my Servitude in India I was in the Commercial Department, and filled the Situation of Assistant to the Opium Agent at Bahar; that was previous to the Year 1804. In 1804, I was called to the Presidency, for the Purpose of filling the Office of Sub-Export-Warehouse-Keeper under the Board of Trade. In 1811, I was promoted to a Seat in the Board of Trade. In 1818, on the Formation of a new Board of Customs, Salt and Opium, I was transferred from the Board of Trade to the new Board. During the Time I was Sub-Export-Warehouse-Keeper I held the Office of Reporter on External and Internal Commerce, and Inspector of Company's Investments of Silk and Piece Goods.

Are you aware of the different Price, in the Market, of Malwa and Bahar Opium?

I have a perfect Recollection that there was a great Difference in the Price between the Two, both in the Price at which they were provided and the Price at which they sold, both to the Speculators at Bombay and Calcutta and the Prices they realized at Canton or Places to the Eastward.

Can you state the Proportions?

I can hardly state them with that Confidence I would wish. The Malwa Opium became recognized by the Government so short a Time before I left India, I had not an Opportunity of obtaining so much Information regarding it as I had of the Bengal Opium.

Was that considered an Opium of superior Quality, or more adapted to the Canton Market?

The Impression upon my Mind is, that the Bahar Opium and the Benares, for I may speak of them as the same Article, was held in much higher Estimation at the Port of Canton than Malwa Opium; but I have understood since, that the Malwa Opium has realized nearly as high Prices as the Bengal, and in some Instances better. The Cost of the Malwa Opium has been much higher to the Company.

Has not the Bahar Opium lately deteriorated in real Value and Quality?

I am not prepared to answer the Question, as to what it has been very lately; but I had that Confidence in the Quality of the Article during the Time I had Charge of the Agency, which was for Two Years, and also while I was a Member of the Boards of Trade and Customs, Salt and Opium, that I should say nothing could be purer than the Agency Opium of Bengal.

Up to what Period do you speak?


Up to the Year 1825, from the Time the Agency was established; the Contract ceased about 1795 or 1796; I arrived in India in 1797, and joined the Agency in 1799; it had been about Two Years established at that Time.

At what Period was the Malwa Opium first exported in any Quantity?

That it is impossible for me to say, for it was a contraband Article for many Years; it was not recognized by the Company 'till 1819 or 1820, I think.

Are the Prices now given by the Company for Opium in Bahar, and the Prices at which they sell it, greater than they used to be?

There has been a great Variation in the Prices at all Times. I think the first Sales after it was established it produced about a Thousand Rupees a Chest; but I speak from a very imperfect Memory. I have known it as high as Four thousand.

What Rupee do you speak of?

The Calcutta Sicca Rupee.

Are you aware whether the Price has varied very much at Canton?

I believe in nearly the same Ratio as it has with us.

Upon the whole, the Demand has increased very greatly in China, has it not?

I am not prepared to answer that Question; I have not given much Attention to this Subject for the last Four Years.

Are you aware of the Difference in Quality and Property between the Turkey and the Indian Opium?

I remember (for when I held the Office of Reporter of External Commerce I made those Subjects a Matter of Inquiry for my own Information) that we considered them to stand thus: as A and B and C - A the Bengal Opium, B the Malwa, and C the Turkey Opium; I cannot speak further than that.

Is Opium exported to other Countries besides China?

Yes; to all the Eastern Ports and Islands.

Is there a great Quantity exported to Java?

I think, as far as my Recollection serves me, about Two Thirds of the Quantity exported from Calcutta goes to Canton, and the other Third to the Eastern Islands.

Is any Part of it exported by the Company?

No; they sell it all at their Sales by the Hammer in Calcutta.

Have you been in immediate Communication with the Ryots who grow the Opium?

I was Three Years attached to the Agency, and had Communication, of course, with all the Opium Districts under the Patna Residency, where the Cultivation was carried on.

What Price was then given to the Ryots for the Opium?

I think the Price has been increased, but I do not recollect at what Time the Increase took place; but I should say that at the Time I left India the Price was about Three Rupees per Sier.

Is that a Price which remunerates the Ryot for growing his Opium?

I can only answer that generally; my general Opinion is, that it was a fair Price to him.

Was it considered a Favour to allow any one to grow the Opium?

The Opium Ryots had some Advantages. They were not liable to be taken away from their Work, for little Irregularities, by the Courts of Judicature, 'till the Opium Season of Growth and Manufacture was over; after that they were liable.

Independently of this, was a pecuniary Profit given to the Grower on the Growth of Opium?

I cannot say that the Profit was great; it was considered Wages to the Grower -a remunerating Price.

What Proportion of Advance was generally made to him?


The earliest Advances were made in the Month of October, for the Purpose of enabling them to prepare their Lands, after the heavy Rains, for the Reception of the Seed; they had so much more when the Plant was above Ground.

The Advance took place by Instalments?


Was the whole Advance made before the Crop was taken in?

I think not the whole before the Crop was taken in.

In fact, Loss seldom occurred upon an Advance from the Crop not meeting it?

I think there were some trifling outstanding Balances in the Factory Books, but they were not very considerable.

Were the Applications for Leave to grow Opium considerable?

We have no Difficulty, generally speaking, in getting Lands; I have known a Difficulty at Times, but, in general, there were no Difficulties in getting Lands for Cultivation.

There was no Obligation to grow it?


Did you fix the Price that was to be paid to the Ryot?

It was generally a settled Price.

Did it not differ from Year to Year?

No, it did not.

On what Principle was it fixed?

I do not remember at this Moment; it was raised latterly to Three Rupees a Sier.

Did the Produce differ from Year to Year?

Very much.

Do you apprehend that the Advances and Charges will remain as high as they have been since the Year 1823?

I cannot say.

Was there any Limit in the Quantity of Land to be cultivated in each Year?


The Privilege was personal entirely?


Were there Instances of a Zemindar interfering in any way to prevent or to increase the Cultivation of Opium?

I really cannot say at this Distance of Time.

Was the Cultivation supposed to be unhealthy?

No, not at all; it is carried on in the finest Part of the Country.

Does it require any Skill?

No; no Skill in making it.

There is none required in cultivating it?

No; only Attention; not Skill.

Have you frequently detected Adulteration?

I have been present when we have rejected some small Quantity of Opium in consequence of Adulteration, but that very seldom happened.

Is any Quantity of it illegally sold?

It was sold so enormously high at the Sales in Calcutta that there was a great Inducement to the Natives to smuggle it.

Were they in the habit of doing so?

Yes; we frequently detected them.

What was the Penalty attached to that?

I forget; but there is a Rule and Regulation expressly for that Purpose.

Will you explain in what Mode the Company procure the Silk for their Investment for Europe and for China?


They send no Silk to China. The Company's Investment is provided by the Agency of their Commercial Residents; and the Silk is made by a Contract with the Men who rear the Cocoons.

Are they generally People of Property, or very poor?

I do not think it is at all a poor Class of People.

Are large Advances made on Silk?

Yes; considerable Advances are made, after the Engagement is settled by the Residents there, to enable them to advance to the Cultivators of the Mulberry Plant.

Have Endeavours been made by the Company to improve the Quality of Silk in India?

Great Endeavours.

Can you state their Nature?

They had a very intelligent Man there for many Years, who was well acquainted with the Manner in which the Silk was made in Italy, who introduced, I believe, Italian Filatures into Bengal.

Have they established any extensive Manufactories?

They have, but, at present, under no other Superintendence, I believe, than that of their own Residents.

Do they carry the Manufacture beyond Reeling?


Has the Export of Piece Goods by the Company decreased of late Years?

I apprehend, very much indeed.

Have the Piece Goods of India been supplanted by the Goods of England?

Very nearly; altogether, I should say.

Have you any Idea how many People have been thrown out of Employment by that Circumstance?

No, not the least.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned to Tuesday next, One o'Clock.