Affairs of the East India Company
Minutes of evidence: 11 May 1830


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'Affairs of the East India Company: Minutes of evidence: 11 May 1830', Journal of the House of Lords: volume 62: 1830, pp. 1058-1065. URL: Date accessed: 22 November 2014.


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Die Martis, 11 Maii 1830.


The Lord President in the Chair.

Robert Davidson Esquire is called in, and examined as follows:

In what Situation are you?

I am a Merchant in London; I was originally an Indigo Planter in India.

At what Time did you first go to India?

In 1804.

When did you quit it?

In 1816.

Did you go out originally as an Indigo Planter?

No; I went out to push my Fortune in Mercantile Pursuits.

You went out with a view to Commerce?


Not in the Employment of The East India Company?


Did you go out under a Licence from The East India Company?

No; Licences were not then usually granted.

Was it possible at the Time to go to India without a Licence?

Yes, it was; irregularly, I believe.

To what Place did you first go?

To Calcutta.

In what Branch of Business did you first engage?

In Mercantile Business a short Time, and afterwards I went into the Indigo Planting.

How long did you reside in Calcutta, and at what, other Place did you chiefly reside?

Chiefly at Bhangulpore.

How far is that up the Country?

From 250 to 300 Miles from Calcutta.

When did you first settle at Bhangulpore?

In 1807, I think.

Was that with a view to the Cultivation of Indigo?

It was.

You never removed afterwards to any other Place?

No; I came from that Place to England.

Were you employed by any House of Agency, or was it on your own Account?

It was on my own Account.

Had you any Partner?

I had a Partner Part of the Time.


You were not concerned in any House of Agency in Calcutta?


Did you receive Advances from any House of Agency?


Did that from a large Portion of the Capital then invested?

A very large Portion.

What Interest did you pay?

The Interest was some Part of the Time Ten per Cent. and Part of the Time Twelve per Cent.

What was the Extent of the Plantation you formed?

Very extensive. I fancy my Indigo Plantations extended in Patches over Sixty or Seventy Miles along the Banks of the River on both Sides, from above Bhangulpore to Rajemhal.

Had Indigo been planted there before?

Yes; not to the same Extent; I extended the Concern.

Can you state the Number of Acres?

I believe I have had as much as a Hundred thousand Begas on my List; some Part of my Plantations were in Bengal Proper, where the Bega was small, but it is larger up the Country. They were about Two to the Acre, I should think, on the Average.

Will you describe generally the System of Cultivation you pursued?

The System of Cultivation I generally pursued was by Advances to the Ryots; and they either delivered the Weed at the Factory, or I removed it at my own Cost.

What Interest had the Ryots themselves in the Cultivation?

They had an Interest; they received a stated Price for it in proportion to the Quantity delivered.

What was the Nature of the Agreement you made with the Ryots?

The Nature of the Agreement I made with the Ryots was for them to receive so much Money in advance, and they agreed to deliver so much of the Weed at a certain Price.

Did you find a great Disposition on the Part of the Ryots generally to engage in the Cultivation?

Very much; I never had the smallest Difficulty in my Part of the Country, in getting as much cultivated as I was disposed to take.

Is it a System of Cultivation that requires any particular Degree of Skill?

In the Cultivation good Culture, but no particular Skill; it required Skill in the Manufacture, but not in the Cultivation.

Have you observed any Difference in the Habits of the Ryots engaged in that Species of Agriculture as distinguished from others of the Population?

No, not at all.

Are there any Obstacles to the Extension of the Cultivation of Indigo in India, which you conceive might be removed?

I conceive that Permission to hold Lands would be a great Advantage. The Extension of the Cultivation of the Article must depend upon the Remuneration or Price which it meets with in the great Market of the World.

What is the Interest you had, yourself, in the Lands you cultivated?

I had no Interest at all in them.

You had, probably, a Lease of the Ground on which your Manufactory was established?

Yes, a perpetual Pottah.


Are you of Opinion that if Leases were granted a material Extension of the Cultivation would take place?

I think it is extremely probable, if the Article maintains its Price, or rather advances in Price; it must depend upon that Point.

What is the Duration of Lease you would think requisite to give the utmost Encouragement to the Cultivation?

I should think that holding Lands in Fee Simple would be indispensable, not only in the Cultivation of Indigo, but for the good of the Native Population.

You think that a long Term of Years would not be sufficient for the Purpose?

A long Term of Years would not be so good as a Perpetuity.

You had Reason to be satisfied with the Industry and Regularity of the Native Population, as far as you were concerned?

Very much so in general; I think them an exceedingly amiable and interesting Race of Men.

Should you, from your general Observation on the Character, conceive them capable of Employments of a higher Description than those they are generally permitted to exercise?

In the Progress of Events and Time, and with improved Education, particularly by their being instructed in the useful Arts and Sciences common in Europe, with which they are at present unacquainted, I think they certainly would be.

Was the District you inhabited peaceable during the Time you resided there?

Perfectly so. There was One Occasion, upon which a House Tax in the Town of Bhangulpore itself, during the Government of Lord Minto, on which a good deal of Ferment was excited in consequence of Misapprehension on the Part of the Native Population, and the Fear of the Oppressions of the subordinate Officers, when a little popular Excitement appeared.

What was the Nature of the Tenure of Land in the District?

Generally held by Zemindars in chief, and by them relet to the Ryots on Pottah. The Conditions of a Pottah are so various, and so variously construed, it is a difficult Matter to define what the Tenure exactly is.

Form your Observation, should you consider that Species of Tenure favourable or unfavourable to the Improvement of the Country?

I think it would be requisite, in order to carry forward the Improvement of the Country, that that Tenure should be much better defined, and much more liberally extended.

Did the Taxation of Land, in that Part of the Country which fell under your Observation, appear to you to be pretty fair and equal?

The Government Assessment was very variable, and bore very differently in different Parts of the District. Taking it upon the whole, I should think it was decidedly too heavy; that it absorbed too great a Proportion of the net Produce of the Land.

Was that what was commonly called the permanent Settlement?

Yes; the permanent Settlement was applicable to that Part of the Country.

It has been stated in Evidence, that some of the Zemindars made a Profit equal to the Revenue?

They do in some Cases.

In what Mode did the rich Zemindars, with whom you had Intercourse, spend their Income?

A great many of them were very much in the Leading-strings of the People about them; a great many of them were in Debt and Difficulties; and a great many of them squandered away a large Portion of their Income in Litigation.

Did the Ryots shew a Disposition to consume Articles of Luxury, as far as lay within their Reach?

If they had had the Means, I think they were very anxious to get Clothes, Hardware, Glassware, and Articles of that Description.


Were any of the Ryots enabled to accumulate any thing like Capital?

In some Cases. I have known Instances of Ryots being worth Three or Four thousand Rupees.

How did they generally employ the small Capital so accumulated?

It is a very important Part of the Duty of a Hindoo to establish his Family in Life; to marry them properly, to settle them advantageously; and Funerals are very expensive.

Do they, in any Instance, shew a Disposition to embark it in Commercial and Agricultural Speculations?

Sometimes I think they do. I think they are not averse to Things of that kind, where they see a feasible Opportunity.

Are there Instances in which they have done that properly?

There are Instances in which they have embarked in the Cultivation of Indigo, in the Cultivation of Cotton, Tobacco, and other Articles of their own Growth.

Were the Ryots much in the habit of discussing the Measures and System of the Government, as applicable to their own Condition?

No, they were not; they were generally very subservient.

Does the same Observation apply to the Zemindars?

The Zemindars, of course, having more Opportunities of Information, are a little more desirous of knowing what is going on in the World at large. Since I have left India, I understand a very considerable additional Curiosity has been excited in their Minds, in consequence of the more extended Intercourse they have had with Europeans.

Have any unfavourable Circumstances connected with that Intercourse fallen under your Observation?

None of any Importance.

Do you conceive the Intercourse as beneficial to the Natives, so far as it has hitherto taken place?

Most assuredly; I think they have been most particularly benefited by it.

Do you conceive that a more extended Settlement of Europeans in the Country would not lead to Disputes between them and the Natives?

I do not think it would; any material Cases of Disputes which have hitherto taken place between the Natives and the Indigo Planters, for instance, have chiefly arisen from the Circumstances in which those Indigo Planters have been placed. Those Circumstances I conceive to be the Denial of the Power of holding Lands, and the Use that is made of it by Natives in Boundary Disputes; the Cloak made of European Influence, or whatever Power an European may have in assisting them to carry through the Disputes, which are numerous, with their Neighbours, about Boundaries or about Fields. Natives frequently get into Disputes, and they enlist Europeans in their Cause. Other Natives enlist other Europeans in their Interest in opposition.

Disputes are not common, in which Europeans are embarked exclusively on one Side and Natives on the other?

I should suppose not; they have never come within my Knowledge; I do not recollect any Cases of that Nature.

Do the Natives in general repose as much or more Confidence in Europeans, in the ordinary Transactions of Business and of Life, as they do in each other?

I think more.

Have you had any Opportunity of observing any other Species of Cultivation, such as Cotton, Sugar and Silk, in the course of your Residence?

I am not practically acquainted with the one or the other; I generally saw them growing in the Country.

Can you state, generally, in what Branches of Speculation Europeans have been most successful?

I think Indigo has been the most important and the most successful.


To which Species of Cultivation do you consider that the Power of holding Land is most essential?

To Indigo it must be very essential; and to Cotton, Silk, Tobacco and various other Articles.

Are you aware of any other Circumstances, besides the Want of the Power of holding Land which you have stated, that have proved Obstacles to the Cultivation either of Indigo, Cotton, Silk or Sugar?

I should think that, indirectly, the defective Administration of Justice must have an Influence upon the Production of all those Articles, and the Want of free Permission for Europeans to settle and colonize.

Have you any Reason to think that Coal is to be found to any Extent in that Country?

It is found; and I have understood it is likely to be found to a greater Extent than it has been; but I have no practical Knowledge on this Subject.

Are you of Opinion that any Means might be found of increasing the Facility for finding Remittances to England beyond what now exist?

Undoubtedly, if the China Monopoly were to be given up, from India direct; also by the increased Production of Articles suitable to the Consumption of England-Silk, for instance, is a very important Article; Cotton, by an improved Cultivation of it, if it were practicable. I am not sanguine, however, in the Expectation of a very large Increase in the Cultivation either of Cotton or of Sugar in India.

Why not?

From the Way in which the Land is at present pre-occupied in raising other Articles of Export, and the necessary Means of Subsistence for the dense Population; but I do not know what might arise from an improved Cultivation and a better System of Agriculture.

Is it from Want of Capital you conceive such an Extent of Cultivation would not take place?

I think Want of Capital, in the first instance, would be a Difficulty; but an important Part of the Production of Cotton in America is on the alluvial Lands of the Mississippi; the Cotton produced there, almost without Labour, comes, of course, into competition with India Cotton. I give my Opinion on this Point, however, with great Diffidence, because it is a thing which has never been fairly tried.

Do you know the relative Price of Labour between the Banks of the Mississippi and India?

There is no Comparison in the Price of Labour; but the relative Price of Labour does not come into operation. The Article of Cotton, I have understood, is produced in that Part of America almost without Labour; they have nothing to do but to scatter the Seed on the alluvial Lands of the Mississippi.

Does not the Labour of the gleaning and the manufacturing form a very large Proportion of the Price?

The gathering forms a certain Proportion; there are Machines, I understand, used in America, by which the Labour of cleaning is very much facilitated.

When you say that the Experiment has not been fairly tried, to what do you refer?

I refer to this-that, to the Cultivation of Cotton fairly, Persons must have the Right of occupying those Lands freely, and have a Right of erecting Buildings, and free Egress, and every thing belonging to a free and extended Commerce.

Cannot they erect Buildings as well for Cotton as for Indigo?

They would require to hold Lands for that Purpose.

Do they require to hold Lands for the Purpose of carrying on that extensive Cultivation of Indigo which has been carried on?

I carried it on, but not under Circumstances giving the Cultivation of the Article its full Advantages; nor would it be practicable to do so, if any other Country were discovered producing it with greater natural Advantages.


Do you think it essential to the Interests of the Merchant Manufacturer, that he should raise the Articles he manufactures?

No, I do not think it essential. If he can do it through the Ryots, it is not necessary; but there are many Cases where he cannot do it.

Is it not as open to the English Speculator, to make Advances to Ryots for the Delivery of Cotton, as it is for the English Speculator to make Advances to the Ryots for the Delivery of Indigo, and to have a Cotton Manufactory instead of an Indigo Manufactory?

Yes; but Cotton is an Article that requires Occupation for several Years. The Erection of Works for Cotton, Sugar and several other Articles must be done with some view to Permanency.

If a remunerating Price were obtained for Cotton, would it not be for the Interest of the Merchant Manufacturers to make an Agreement for several Years with the Ryot, and the Ryot to enter into that Agreement?

Yes; no doubt of it.

What Obstacle practically exists, then, to the engaging in the Production and Manufacture of Cotton, in the same way as the Production and Manufacture of Indigo are carried on now?

I do not see that there is any material Difference, except that the one occupies the Ground longer than the other, and that Indigo Cultivation is not now carried on to the best Advantage, in consequence of those Circumstances. In Cotton and Sugar the Investment of fixed Capital would be much greater.

At what Period does a Cotton Plantation come to Maturity?

I believe in some Parts of India Cotton is nearly an Annual; but the best Description of Cotton, the American Cotton, does not bear, I believe, for Two or Three Years.

Is the Indigo an annual Plant?

Very much so in the Lower Provinces; it is generally inundated, and hence it is generally at an End in the first Year: but it is not necessarily an Annual in the Upper Provinces and Parts of the Country out of the Reach of Inundation; it lasts for Two or Three Years.

Have you had Occasion to observe in the Country, while you were there, any Diminution in the Proportion of the Mohamedan Religion to Hindoo?

I have understood there is a material Diminution now going on.

You speak from general Understanding, and not from practical Observation?

Just so.

Do you mean generally speaking?

Yes, I believe generally.

What Description of Religion is most favourable, from your Observation, to the general Industry and Improvement of the Country-the Mohamedan or the Hindoo?

The Mohamedan has fewer Prejudices than the Hindoo; the Hindoo again is a docile Creature. I think practically, so far as the common Business of Life goes, the Religions or Creeds of the People do not come prominently into contact with Europeans in their Commercial Operations. I should say decidedly, with reference to the State of Society among the Hindoos, that it is very artificial, and consequently a very bad Order of a great Community.

Was any Improvement effected in the District in which you resided, in the Education and Acquirements of the Natives?

I am not aware of any.

Are you of Opinion it would be easy to effect much Improvement?

I am; it would in my Opinion not be difficult.

State the Nature of those Improvements which you think it would be easy to produce?

I should propose improved Instruction; they have common Schools, but they do not appear to produce material Effects at present.


What Measures would you propose?

I should propose, that they should have an Opportunity of learning all the Arts of useful Life, in which Europeans are so superior -Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, Mechanics and the Application of Mechanics to the Arts, with more extended Intercourse with Europeans.

Would you teach Philosophy and Mechanics in the Village Schools?

It could hardly be done in the Village Schools, but there are various Cities in which it might be done.

Is it not already done in the Cities?

I have not had any Opportunity of seeing it.

Had you no Lease of Land for the Purpose of growing Indigo on your own Account?

Some of my People had.

What do you mean by your People?

My Servants.

Were they Natives or Europeans?


If you could have had a Lease, should you have got one?


If you had had a Lease of the Lands yourself, how would you have proceeded to effect the Cultivation of the Indigo; would it have been by hiring Persons at daily Wages to cultivate it on your own Account, or would the Ryots have cultivated it upon their Account, as they generally do?

The great Object, I think, of a Lease in a Case of that kind to the Planter personally, would be, to prevent being obtruded upon by other Europeans in the Production of the Article. I should not have proceeded to have employed People to cultivate the Land myself in the common Way that a Farmer would do in this Country; I should have endeavoured to do it through the Ryots, if practicable.

Upon the System of making an Advance, in the first instance, to the Ryots?

Exactly so.

You think that a Lease would have given you more Protection against the interloping of other Europeans than was afforded to you by the legal Rights you acquired by means of your Advance?


Then would you have both Lease and Advance?


Then would not you oust the Ryot who now has the Lease?

No, decidedly not; I should have done every thing to improve the Condition of the Ryot; I think he would have prospered more as my Tenant than as Tenant of the Native Zemindar.

The Object of the Lease is to prevent those Contests which arise between Europeans?

Yes; and giving Permanency to a Person's own Property.

Did you carry out any Capital to India?

I think very little.

Do you know any Indigo Planter who did?

Very few.

They carry on their Speculations with Advances made by the Agency Houses?

Yes, generally.

At an Interest of Ten or Twelve per Cent?

It was at that Rate at that Period; now they can get Advances at from Six to Eight.


Are you aware what Interest those Agency Houses allowed to their Customers at the Time they took that Interest from you?

I think they allowed, probably to their Constituents, One or Two per Cent. less than they charged to me.

Did you still, when you paid that Interest, carry on your Speculation to a Profit?

Yes, if the Seasons were favourable, and the Markets tolerably good.

Has it been more or less profitable since that Time?

Since that Time it has been more profitable; but I should distinguish between the Parties sending it to England and selling it on their own Account on the Spot. I should think that those sending to England recently, and realizing the low Prices obtained here of late, could hardly have obtained the Cost of Production.

You do not apprehend that a State of Things like that can last- a high Price in India created by the Expectation of realizing a high Price here, but ending in Disappointment?

The high Price in India has not been produced by the Expectation altogether of a high Price here; it has been enhanced, in some measure, by the Necessity of People to obtain Remittances from India in Return for Goods sent out, and by the Competition they meet with in The East India Company as Purchasers of the Article there.

Can you state the Difference between the Bullion Price of Indigo in India and in England?

I should think in some Instances it must be from Twenty to Forty per Cent.

What is the Expence of transmitting Bullion to England?

I should think not Eight per Cent; Bullion in India is not obtainable with great Facility.

Except in Calcutta, you have nothing but Coin?

No, nothing but Coin; People of course in buying an Article, however, at such a Distance, do not know at the Time they buy that it will be so much depressed in England as it is when it arrives; but the excessive Production has been stimulated by those Two Circumstances-the Necessity of the People to obtain Remittances, and by the Competition of The East India Company; these in turn have produced an Over-supply in Europe, which effectually depresses the Market.

When those who had given the same Price for Indigo in India heard that they had lost by the Remittances Forty per Cent. do you apprehend they would give the same Sum another Year?

I apprehend not.

Then, practically, those Indigo Speculations in India have been carried on, not by Capital remitted from England, but from the accumulated Savings of the Military and Civil Servants of the Company, who have deposited those Savings in the Hands of Agency Houses, which Agency Houses have lent their Money to the Speculators in Indigo?

I should say that a very small Proportion of the accumulated Capital of the Agency Houses in India can be the Savings of the Civil and Military Servants of the Company; that a large Proportion of it is Native Capital, and the Capital of the Houses themselves. Old established Houses in Calcutta have large Capitals.

Is a large Amount of Native Capital engaged in those Houses of Agency which bear the Names only of English Partners?

In various Ways, I should think, they may have extensive Transactions with them, which answer the Purposes of Capital; I should not say that they are Partners in the Business, nor do they lend their Capital collusively, but they have bonâ fide Transactions which in their Nature answer all the Purposes of Capital.


It was not your own Capital with which you carried on this Speculation in India?

It was not my own Capital with which I began.

You began with borrowing Capital at Ten or Twelve per Cent?

I did.

You were able, notwithstanding the Burthen of that Interest, to apply it profitably?

I was.

So that if you had applied Capital of your own, instead of borrowing it in India at a very high Rate of Interest, the whole Speculation would have been still more profitable?


Should you have been ready to embark in the Speculation with your own Capital, as well as with the Capital you borrowed?


Would it not have been considerably more profitable to you, if you had been so able?

Yes; undoubtedly.

What Circumstances are there which deter Capitalists from so embarking their own Capital from England in a Speculation of that kind?

I think the Difficulty of settling in the Interior of the Country is one.

The Restrictions under which Europeans are placed?

Yes, the Restrictions under which the Europeans are placed.

Are you of Opinion, that if those Restrictions were removed, many Persons of Capital in England would be found disposed to embark their Capital in a Speculation of that kind?

That would depend on the expected Advantages.

With the present Advantages?

I think it possible they might with the present Advantages; I think it is possible and likely that they would. When Capital is so redundant as in England, they might very likely turn their Attention to Things of that Nature.

State what Restrictions you desire to see removed?

I should propose that Europeans should be at liberty to go to India, and settle in India, without any Restrictions.

Where an European has Permission to go to India, what Restrictions should you wish to see removed when he was there?

I should wish to see him permitted to hold Land, and, generally, enjoy all suitable Privileges.

On Freehold?


Do you think that if Europeans were permitted to hold Lands, the Situation of the Ryot, who cultivated under them, would be materially improved?

I think it would be improved; for that would lead to an improved Administration of the Land of which he became possessed.

If an European were so allowed to hold Land, would he not displace all the small Leaseholders, the Ryots?

I think the Number of Europeans who can go to India, on any Principle which is feasible, will be very small. There cannot be an Emigration of common Labourers; it must be an Emigration of Capitalists and Artisans.

You think that if the Restrictions were removed, the Benefit would not be great, the Number of Persons being limited?

The Benefit would arise from the Capital, and the different System introduced, rather than from the Number.


Would not the Occupation of Land by European Freeholders displace the Ryot Leasholder?

I think not.

Would he give Leases to the Ryots?

I think he would; it would be decidedly his Interest and his Duty to do so.

That Expectation of Advantage to the Ryot is derived from the Supposition that the European Speculator, who went out to make a high Interest for his Money, would deal more liberally than the Native Zemindars?


Is the Situation of the Ryots who cultivate Indigo for the Indigo Planters superior to that of other Ryots engaged in the Cultivation of other Articles of Agricultural Produce?

I do not know that there is any very material Difference. Indigo is not the only Article of a Ryot's Production. I think, in the Comparison between those who do cultivate and those who do not, that those who cultivate Indigo are rather best off.

In what Way did you obtain a Lease of the Ground on which your Factory stood?

I obtained it from a Zemindar; it was a Perpetuity.

You, who went out without the Permission of the Government, obtained Possession of Lands held in Perpetuity?

Yes; I had the Permission of the Local Government.

Therefore the Restriction did not personally affect you?

No; Europeans were permitted to hold Land to the Extent of about Twenty Acres or Fifty Begas, in One Spot, in Perpetuity, by express Permission of Government.

Have not the Ryots certain Rights in the Lands they occupy and cultivate?

I think they may be considered, practically, almost as Tenants at Will.

Are they not understood to have certain legal Rights?

Under the Government antecedent to ours; the Mohamedan Government was generally in the habit, I have always understood, of considering the Ryots, as long as they paid their Rents, prescriptive Tenants.

Is there not, practically, in different Parts of India, great Variety of Rights possessed by cultivating Ryots?

They have various Rights.

Have not those Rights been very imperfectly ascertained?

They are exceedingly complicated and difficult to be ascertained.

Would there not be some Fear that the Rights, when not clearly ascertained, might be violated by the Leases from the Zemindars to Europeans?

I conceive the Rights possessed by the Ryots antecedent to the Lease would not be vitiated by such Leases.

Might not the granting Leases by Zemindars to Europeans lead to much Contest and Litigation?

I conceive not more than at present. There are no Persons more fond of Litigation than the Hindoo Zemindars.

If there were many European Settlers in the Country, under what Law do you think it would be expedient to place them, civilly and criminally?

That is a very difficult Question to answer. We are hardly satisfied with our own Laws at Home. It would be very presumptuous to give an Opinion off hand, what particular Code I should recommend to be applied in a Case of that kind; it would require great Consideration and considerable Investigation.


Is not that a Question, practically, of very great Difficulty?

It is certainly, practically, difficult, but I think not insuperable, with a Disposition to meet the Difficulties of the Case. The Difficulty does not apply so much to the State of the Natives as to the Privileges and Rights of the British Subject, as he stands at present; whether it might be eligible or practicable to increase or restrict those Rights in any degree, especially in the Administration of Justice.

Has there not been great Difficulty in obtaining Returns for the Exports of British Manufactures to India?

There has.

Do you apprehend that, in consequence of the greater Cultivation of Indigo, and the Extension of Indigo Manufactories, a smaller Amount of British Capital has been remitted from India of late Years than had been previously; is it not retained in India for the Purposes of obtaining a large Interest rather than remitted in Gross to England, as it used to be formerly?

I do not know; that is a Question to which I have not much turned my Attention; that is a Matter that would require a little Consideration. I have seen considerable Sums coming Home of late, and it is very possible and exceedingly likely that large Sums may also have been retained. I am aware that considerable Sums have been allowed to remain there, tempted by a higher Rate of Interest.

Is it not more the Practice now than it used to be, to leave the Fortune which may have been accumulated in India, and to remit the Interest, than to remit the whole?

I should think not; that has always been very much the Case.

Until the recent unhappy Occasion, Confidence stood very high; I refer to the Failure of the House of Palmer and Company.

You have not been in any other Part of India than Bengal?

No, I have not, to reside.

When did you leave India?

In the Year 1816.

Is not the Quality of the Indigo now grown in Bengal very much improved as well as increased in Quantity?

Yes, it is decidedly improved and increased.

Before it was cultivated by Europeans, was it not of inferior Quality to any other?

Yes; a very inferior Article.

Is there any now grown in any other Part of the World superior to that?

No, decidedly not.

Do you apprehend that the Quality of the Indigo Weed has been improved of late Years?

No; the Manufacture has been improved.

In point of fact, there are no such Persons as European Indigo Planters?

There are in some Parts of the Country, where they possess the Bullocks and Ploughs, and hire the Ploughmen, in the regular Way that a Farmer does in his Cultivation here.

The Ploughmen are Natives?


Are they Servants of the Company, or Individuals under Licence from the Company?

The European Planters are Individuals under Licence.

Do you know the Number of Europeans who are employed in the Cultivation of Indigo throughout the Country?

I do not; I should not think they exceed 500 to 1,000 Persons.

Have any of those Persons who cultivated Indigo on their own Account Leases?


I fancy they have Leases in the Names of their Servants; that is the Way in which they usually manage any thing of that kind; where they cannot do it directly, they must do it indirectly, which places them at the Mercy of their Servants.

It would be an Advantage to them to be able to hold the same Lease in their own Names?

No doubt it would.

Are you aware that they are now in Possession of that Advantage?

I am aware that they have been very recently.

Is Indigo liable to great Injury from Fluctuation of Season?

Very much so; it is liable to great Casualties.

Has that Liability been diminished by improved Modes of Culture?

I should hardly think that at present it has. That the aggregate Production of the successive Crops at large has been rendered more equable upon the Average, in consequence of its greater Extension over a Variety of Soils, in some greater Variety of Climate, I think is exceedingly probable; but that any material Improvements have taken place in Cultivation I hardly imagine.

What does it chiefly suffer from?

In the first instance the great Difficulty, in the Cultivation of Indigo in the Lower Provinces, is the Want of Rain to sow in proper Season; if it is not sown in the proper Season, it will be overflown before it is ready. A subsequent and greater overflowing usually takes place from the End of July to the Middle or End of August.

Do you not therefore apprehend, that if Europeans had a more permanent Interest in the Cultivation of those Lands than they have now, those Chances of Injury from Seasons would be diminished?

It is possible; I think they would improve that Part of the Land which is out of the Reach of Casualty of that Description, and appropriate the Remainder more judiciously. The Agriculture of India at present is altogether miserably defective, from the extreme Subdivision of Land, and the Want of accumulated Capital. There are very few Ryots who have any Capital of consequence.

Do you not also think that such an increased Interest on the Part of Europeans in this Land would rather lead to the Adjudication of those undefined Claims you have spoken of as existing among the Natives, than to an Increase of them?

Undoubtedly; that it would lead to their Adjustment by Compromise and otherwise. Europeans, in general, are not found of Litigation in that Country.

Are not the Implements of Husbandry used in the Cultivation of Indigo of a more simple and less expensive kind than are required for the Cultivation of Sugar or of Cotton?

Yes, I should think they are; the Land, as at present cultivated, is cultivated with the same Instruments for all Productions. What Improvements European Capital, Skill and Talent might introduce, it is impossible for me to foresee. I think it possible they might ere long use more complicated Instruments in manufacturing and cultivating Indigo.

Independently of the Slowness of Return in the Case of Sugar or of Cotton, the superior Descriptions of the Implements of Husbandry would require a larger Expenditure of Capital than for the Cultivation of Indigo?

Yes; there must be more expensive Implements and Buildings for Sugar and other Articles.

You have stated that you thought the Land was in many Instances overtaxed; have you not found that the Burthen of Taxation was less felt in those Parts of the Country in which Indigo was cultivated?

I think it would be least felt in those Parts of the Country which were most improved, and those are most improved where Europeans have had most Intercourse and Connection with the Natives, and particularly in Indigo.

Is the Cultivation of Indigo carried on in that Part of the Country not under the perpetual Settlement?

Yes, it is in the new Provinces to the Westward; but I believe it is now rather leaving that Part of the Country.


Have you had any Opportunity of seeing Surat Cotton?

I have.

Is that not considered superior to most which grows in India?

It is considered superior to Bengal. But the fine Dacca Muslin is manufactured in Bengal, which we have been totally unable to equal in England.

Is not the Cotton which produces the Dacca Muslin grown only on a Tract of Ground about Forty Miles in Extent by Three in Breadth?

I have heard that; but I have heard that questioned very generally; I do not know the thing to be either true or false.

Do you know what the Peculiarity of the Soil of Dacca consists of?

I do not.

With how many different Ryots did you contract for the furnishing the Indigo you manufactured?

A vast Number. I think from Five to Ten Begas a Ryot would be to the Extent of their average Cultivation.

When you state that you had under Indigo Cultivation 100,000 Begas, do you mean that the Ryots with whom you contracted possessed that Extent of Country, or that the Indigo was cultivated on that Extent?

Indigo was actually cultivated probably to that Extent of Land; it was not in one Part of the Country, but distributed in various Patches.

The Ryots with whom you made your Agreements possessed a much larger Number of Begas?


Did you ever find any Difficulty in enforcing your Contracts with the Ryots?

I have found Difficulty in enforcing them.

Had you any other Remedy but that of resorting to the Courts?


Are there any Instances in which Ryots let Lands to different Persons?


Are you aware of Measures being frequently adopted for forcing Ryots to cultivate Indigo?

I have heard of Circumstances of the kind, but I am not acquainted with any thing of that Nature myself.

Do you think that was a general Practice in the Districts where Indigo is cultivated?

I should think not.

From your Observations, should you decidedly say it was not so?

I should.

Down to what Period?

From 1807 to 1816.

If that Practice occurred, in what Manner would it be executed; who would force the Ryot to cultivate, - the Zemindar?

The Zemindar frequently exercises an Influence over his Ryots; and sometimes an European, like any other Man, probably has a Ryot in his Debt, and he teases and threatens to prosecute him, and thereby endeavours to force his Cultivation in the Way he desires.

Might it not be done also by the Influence of the Zemindar over the Ryot?


It is contrary to Law?


The Ryot has by Law a Power to cultivate his Land as he pleases?



Does not the Zemindar frequently let out his Land to Two or Three different Persons, who have subordinate Authority under him?

Yes, he does.

In those Cases are the Ryots more oppressed than under the Zemindar in chief?

It depends so much upon the personal Character of the Parties that I cannot say decidedly.

All those Persons must obtain a Profit independent of the Zemindar-the Zemindar, and then the Farmer under him?

It frequently becomes a Question whether the Ryot is to be plundered by the Officer of the Zemindar, or to pay the Farmer, who gets it in the Shape of a recognized additional Rent.

By what means did you induce the Ryots, with whom you were concerned, to cultivate Indigo rather than any thing else?

Nothing but the Advantage to themselves.

Would not the mere Circumstance of the obtaining an Advance for that Produce, rather than any other, induce them to cultivate it?

The Facility with which they get Money has, no doubt, some Influence.

You would not have advanced Money for any other Cultivation?


When you speak of the Cultivation of Indigo beyond the Lands of Bengal, in what Manner is the Revenue raised upon the Indigo in those Countries-the Revenue in chief?

The Revenue in chief is levied from the Zemindar in the Western Provinces, there being no permanent Settlement. The Land is usually given in Lease, in preference to the Person who has hereditary Zemindarry Right.

Is not the Revenue, in some Instances, on a Valuation of the Produce?

I believe the Commissioners for the Ceded and Conquered Provinces have been in the habit of letting the Lands for Terms of Years on some Footing of this kind; but this I do not know personally.

Did you, in many Instances, lose the Advances you had made to the Ryots?


Of the Quantity of Land under Indigo Cultivation, have you any Means of stating what Proportion is held by Europeans on Lease in the Names of Natives, and what Proportion is cultivated by Ryots, those Ryots contracting to furnish the Produce?

I think a very small Proportion can be held by Europeans on Lease.

Are you aware that those Europeans who have held those Leases have made greater Profits than those who have not?

I should think not; I do not think it is ever an Object of Profit. The most profitable Cultivation is through the Ryot, I apprehend.

Then the Object is Security?

Yes; to prevent the contracting bad Debts is one material Object.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

Sir Thomas Strange is called in, and examined as follows:

You were a Judge at Madras?

I was.

How long were you a Judge at Madras?


I was there in Two distinct Capacities; first, as Recorder, I was the Bearer of a Charter in the Year 1798. The Object of that Charter was to displace the Court of the Mayor and Aldermen that had existed at Madras for several Years previous, and to substitute for that a Court that was called the Court of the Recorder, composed of the Mayor and Aldermen, with the Recorder to preside, which Recorder I was. This Court continued about Three Years, when it was replaced by a Supreme Court, established in the Year 1801, on the Plan of the Supreme Court in Bengal. Under the Charter constituting that Court, I was appointed Chief Justice, together with Two Puisne Judges; and I continued to preside in that Court from that Period to 1816, when I obtained His Majesty's Leave to resign my Office, and to return to England.

What is the Extent of District over which you exercised this Jurisdiction?

I can scarcely tell in point of Miles. It was over the Town of Madras, with the Black Town and Triplicane, to an Extent beyond of some Miles, including a Number of adjoining Villages.

Was the Court also a Court of Appeal from inferior Courts?

No, not at all, in my Time. I am not sure whether, subsequent to my Retirement from Office, there has not been an Act of Parliament, giving a limited Jurisdiction to the Country Courts over the British Subjects spread over the Territory, from the Exercise of which there lies an Appeal to the Supreme Court; but, subject to this, there lay no Appeal in my Time from any Court whatever.

Of what Description were the Practitioners in your Court, Attornies as well as Counsel; were they exclusively European?

They were exclusively European. In the Mayor's Court there was but one Description of Practitioners; they practised both as Barristers and Solicitors; and the Court of the Recorder adopted them in that compound Character. They continued to practise both as Barristers and Solicitors 'till the Establishment of the Supreme Court. Then the Profession was divided, and an Option given to those Gentlemen to elect to be Barristers or Solicitors; but they were all Europeans.

Upon the whole, was there an Increase or Diminution of Litigation during the Period you had an Opportunity of Observation?

It increased considerably, calculating from the Time of my first Arrival in India to my Departure. There was a progressive though not constant Increase, sufficient to employ our Time abundantly.

To what Circumstances do you attribute that Increase of Business?

To the Change in the Judicature; the new Judicature attracting Business, I should think, exceeding what had existed antecedently.

Do you mean to say there was an increased Confidence in the new Judicature, which attracted the Attention of Suitors?

I should certainly say so, speaking with becoming Reserve.

Are you aware of any Improvements that might be introduced into the System of administering the Law in the Supreme Courts in India, and more particularly in that of Madras?

No, I cannot say that I am aware of any particular Improvement of which it is susceptible, except in diminishing the Expences which attend Litigation in that Court. If the Judges can succeed in doing that, it would certainly be a considerable Improvement.

Can you state whether it was much less expensive at Madras than in the other Presidencies?

I think probably nearly on a Par, or rather less than in Bengal. The first Judges of the Supreme Court, as well as myself as Recorder, were particularly enjoined by the Court of Directors, and by the local Government, to make the Administration of Justice as economical to the Suitors as possible; especially with regard to the Establishment of the Court, in the Appointment of Officers and Salaries; and that Injunction was attended to, I think, as much as was consistent with the respectable Administration of Justice.

Did you administer Justice on the Principle of the English Law?


Generally so; but with regard to the Native, he was entitled to have administered to him his own Native Law, whether Mohamedan or Hindoo, according as he was Mohamedan or Hindoo, on Subjects of Inheritance and Contract; but subject to that, the British Law, modified to a certain degree, was administered to all.

You being called upon to administer Justice to the Natives of either Religion, what was the Course you pursued for acquiring the Practice of the Law which you were called upon to administer?

The ordinary Course has been to have Native Officers, Pundits for the Hindoos, and Moolvies for the Mohamedans; and to resort to them for Information on Points where Difficulties arose. It became a Question, on my Arrival at Madras, how far it would be proper we should adopt Officers of that Description, which never had existed in the Court of the Mayor and Aldermen; and upon that Question I was against adopting any such Officers. I was not governed entirely by the Consideration of Economy, but from an Apprehension I had conceived, that they were but blind Guides, and that we should be better without them; and, in point of fact, we had no Officer of that Description, neither in the Court of Recorder or in the Supreme Court that succeeded to it; for the Judges of that Court adopted the Idea I entertained, that we should have a better Chance upon the whole of arriving at Conclusions on Mohamedan and Hindoo Law otherwise than by having Persons of that kind to assist us; and in answer to the particular Question your Lordship has put to me, as to the Course adopted, not having Officers of that Description, the Course I took, and which was eventually pursued more or less, was, when a Question on Hindoo Law arose on which I had a Difficulty, I resorted for Information upon it to every Part of India. I had Correspondents in every Part of India, and had Persons whom I could trust to resort to; Europeans, Friends of my own, and others; and I was in the habit of addressing myself to the different Presidencies, stating a Case without naming Parties, or giving an Opportunity of knowing what the Cause was to which the Inquiry referred. I was in the habit of seeking Information in that Way on the particular Points that arose in the Course of any Cause; and according to that Information, having collected as much as I could, and digested it in the best Way I could, I extracted, according to the best of my Apprehension, the Law upon the Point in issue, and so administered the Justice of the Cause.

From subsequent Experience of the Operation, had you Reason to feel satisfied that that Course proved as effectual for the Ends of Justice, and as satisfactory to the Natives, as if the regular Appointment of Native Officers learned in the Law had been adopted?

Yes, I certainly think so. If I had not thought so, I should probably have proposed the Appointment of Officers of that Description; I was in the constant Habit, independently of Causes depending and Questions arising, of corresponding with such of the Judges in the Company's Courts with whom I was particularly acquainted, and of obtaining from them, from Time to Time, the Answers given to them by their Pundits, in Causes depending before them. Those Answers were transmitted to me by those Gentlemen from different Parts of the Territory depending upon the Government of Madras, and they occupied my Attention as they reached me, and were the Means, no doubt, of assisting me in acquiring the necessary Knowledge of the Native Law. I speak now more particularly of the Hindoo Law. With regard to the Mohamedan Law, we had not much to do with that at Madras, nor did I often receive Reports on Points of Mohamedan Law from the Interior; but by this Process I obtained in Time a considerable Number of the Opinions of Pundits. They were given, independently of any Cause depending in our Court, and so far I could trust them, which I could not perhaps have done implicitly under other Circumstances.

Have you ever had Occasion to consider, from the different Questions and Principles of Native Law that had been brought under your View, whether it would be practicable to frame a distinct Code of Native Law for the Assistance and Guidance of English Judges?


I do not know how to answer that Question. No doubt Ingenuity and Diligence might be employed in forming a Code of that Nature. Materials exist for such a Code to a certain Extent, in the English Language. There have been able Translations of authentic Treatises on some of the most important Subjects of Hindoo Law; and the Sanscrit Language is beginning now to be so extensively known among the Company's Servants in India, that there would be little Difficulty in selecting Persons who would be competent, from original Sources, to compile what might be fairly deemed a good practical authentic Code, that might be depended upon; and would be an useful Guide, no doubt, in the Administration of the Native Law, in the King's and the Company's Courts. Such a Work would need, I should think, to be the Result of combined Labour, and a very accurate Review, by very competent Authority, before it was promulgated and confirmed by the Government of the Country. It would be a Work of Time, a Work of Labour and Learning, but not an impossible Work.

Had you Occasion, from your Observation of the Conduct of the Natives in Judicial Proceedings, and of their general Capacity, to form an Opinion as to the Practicability of introducing the Trial by Jury amongst them?

I never formed an Opinion upon that Subject. That Idea arose subsequent to my retiring from Office, and I never have formed a decided Opinion upon it. I should have doubted about it, I think, had Circumstances led me to deliberate upon it.

When you say there are Materials existing for forming such a Code, do you allude to the Labours of Sir William Jones and Mr. Colebrook, or any other?

I allude to those, but I allude more particularly to the original Treatises. I allude to Sir William Jones's Translation of Menon, and Mr. Colebrook's Translation of the Treatises on Inheritance, and Mr. Sutherland's Translation of original Treatises on Adoption, with another Treatise on Inheritance by Mr. -- of Bengal. Those are all authentic Materials. There is, in addition to those, a Digest, which is familiar to every one who has had any thing to do with Hindoo Law; a great Mine of Hindoo Law, but not, perhaps, so useful a Book as it was intended to be.

Were there any Institutions under the Madras Presidency at which Natives might acquire a Knowledge of Mohamedan and Hindoo Law?

No, I do not think there were. With regard to the Mohamedan Law, we had very little to do with it at Madras, though there are a great Number of Mohamedans settled at Madras, but they are in Circumstances that do not lead them to be Suitors in our Courts. I scarcely recollect Instances of above Two or Three Suits in our Court, on the Part of Mohamedans.

In what Manner do the Pundits under the Presidency of Madras obtain a Knowledge of the Hindoo Law?

There were Pundits attached to the Sudder Adawlut, and others; they obtained it by their own diligent Inquiry; they were learned Natives.

There were no Colleges?

No; there was a College for Languages, I think, more than for Law; it was an infant Institution in my Time. I think it was occupied more in the Attainment of the Languages of that Part of India than of the Law, though they have Pundits attached to them. I know I was in the habit sometimes of consulting them.

Did the Company's Judicial Servants, with whom you were in the habit of consulting on Legal Subjects, appear to possess considerable Knowledge?

I cannot answer that Question from my Correspondence with them. I did not much enter into the Questions upon which they were in the habit of submitting to me the Answers of Pundits sent to them in the course of their Judicial Inquiries; but I do not think there were many of them who had made themselves much Masters of the Subject, independently of the Pundits.

They had no peculiar Opportunities afforded to them of acquiring such Knowledge?


No; there was One Person with whom I was intimate during all my Time, a Gentleman of the Name of Ellis, who died soon after my Time, who had the principal Charge of that College. He had taken great Pains to inform himself of Hindoo Law, and was a considerable Master of it; but I do not know any others who were distinguished by their Knowledge of Hindoo Laws among Europeans.

Do you think it would be possible to place Europeans and Natives on the same Footing in the Provinces, and to make them amenable to the same Courts?

I certainly think the general Administration of Justice in the Provinces ought to be according to the Law of the Natives exclusively.

To what Law, and to what Courts, would you make the Europeans amenable who might be resident in the Provinces?

There might be constituted Courts in the Interior, throughout the Provinces, corresponding with the Supreme Court at the Presidency; but then they must be composed of different Persons as Judges, to administer the English Law to Europeans as well as the Native Laws to the Natives. In the actual State of Things, I do not see how the same Law can be conveniently administered to the one and to the other Description of Persons.

Would it not, in Cases of a Civil Nature, be a very great Hardship upon the Natives to oblige them to come into the Supreme Court to have their Case decided by the European Law?

To be sure it would.

Do you think it would be advisable to extend the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court into the Interior?

By no means.

In the event of Europeans being in large Numbers resident in the Provinces, would not necessarily a very great practical Difficulty arise in determining to what Law and to what Courts they should be amenable?

The Difficulty exists, in proportion as the British Subject is dispersed throughout the Interior. In point of fact, they are under the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and must resort to that Court. In the actual State of Things, the Inconvenience is not felt at Madras, the Europeans of the Interior there being comparatively few, and having but rarely any Occasion to resort to the Courts.

Are they removed to any great Distance from the Presidency?

Not great; the Number is very limited; they are not in a Situation to be litigant Parties. The Inconvenience at present is not felt at Madras.

Do you apprehend it would be practicable to carry on the Business of the Supreme Court at Madras with a smaller Number of Judges?

I think it would. I think the Justice of Madras might be administered efficiently and satisfactorily by a single Judge, subject to the Contingency of Illness or of Death; that would be a Matter to be considered. An Arrangement might be made for Contingencies of that Nature; but subject to these, I think an able Person, carefully selected, would be sufficient, without the Assistance of Associates. I incline to that Opinion.

You were understood to say, that much more Confidence was placed in the Recorder's Court than had been placed in that of the Mayor and Aldermen; did it appear to you that the Recorder's Court possessed as much Confidence as the Supreme Court when it was established?

No, I cannot presume to say that; I have not the least Hesitation to say that the Court of Recorder possessed the Confidence of the Natives far beyond what the antecedent Court of Mayor and Aldermen had done. The Objection to the former Court was, that it was composed of the Mayor and Aldermen, though with a Recorder to preside. If there had been no Mayor and Aldermen, the Recorder would have been sufficient in my Opinion for the Administration of Justice; but there was such a Counteraction on the Part of the Mayor and Aldermen, that it became indispensable to displace them, and to substitute a Court of a different Description; then it occurred naturally to the Authorities at Home to establish a Supreme Court there; but I think the Business of the Court, always presuming that a very competent Person was appointed for the Purpose, might be satisfactorily administered by a single Judge.


Did your Situation at Madras afford you Opportunities of forming such a Judgment of the Native Character, as to enable you to form an Opinion of their Competence to fill high Situations in the Revenue and Judicial Departments?

They possess a very high intellectual Capacity; I speak more particularly of the Hindoos, with whom I have been more conversant.

Would it not be advantageous to establish a College in some Part of the Madras Territory, at which the Natives of higher Rank and Property might obtain a more perfect and more extensive Education, corresponding with that Law, than they are enabled to do at present?

Yes, I should think so, certainly.

Is not the Law, as now administered in the Provincial Courts, in a considerable degree influenced by European Regulations?

Yes; I believe they act principally upon Regulations that have been formed by The Governor General for Bengal, and The Governor and Council for Madras, under the Authority of Acts of Parliament. The Practice of the Provincial Courts in the Provinces is certainly regulated entirely by Ordinances of that Nature.

Do you conceive the Mohamedan Code, as administered in the Provincial Courts, is susceptible of a larger Infusion of the Principles of the English Law?

The Mohamedan Law has, in point of fact, been ameliorated by our Principles and our Feelings. If it had not, it is not a Law which would be fit to be administered, except among Mohamedans; they may be partial to their own Law.

The Mohamedan Law had never existed to any great Extent in the Territories of the Madras Presidency previous to our Assumption of Power?

I apprehend not, for the Mohamedans had not extended their Power in the Peninsula as they had done in the Bengal Provinces. There they were the ruling Power; but that was not the Case to the extreme Southward at all, I think.

Is Property so distributed, as far as you are acquainted with it, under the Madras Presidency, as to afford any Number of Persons who would be capable of becoming Candidates for Revenue and Judicial Situations?

I have no doubt that out of the Population of Madras there might be Native Individuals who might be selected capable of acting in Situations of that Nature. I speak more particularly of the Town of Madras, and the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, comprehending a good many Villages in the Neighbourhood.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

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