Affairs of the East India Company: Minutes of evidence, 18 May 1830

Pages 1075-1081

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 Martis, 18 Maii 1830.


The Lord President in the Chair.

Dr. Patrick Kelly is called in, and the Correspondence and Papers relating to Samples of Tea procured for the Foreign Office by His Majesty's Consuls are put into the Hands of the Witness, and he is directed to prepare a Statement, shewing the Cost per Pound of the Samples of Tea received by the Commissioners for the Affairs of India from His Majesty's Consuls, and the Value affixed to the respective Samples by the London Tea Brokers, converting Foreign Weights and Monies into English Weights and Monies.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

Colonel John Briggs is called in, and examined as follows:

In what Situation have you been in India?

I have latterly held Civil Situations during the last Nine or Ten Years.

You were previously in the Company's Army?

I was.

You held for some Time a Situation in Candeish, did you not?

I did.

What was the Nature of the Power confided in you?

The Designation of the Situation was that of Political Agent; I had the whole Civil Management of the Country, as also the Political Controul.

What may have been the Population of the District under you?

I think it was about 460,000 Persons.

Was it in a very unsettled State when you went there?

It was in a very unsettled State, and had been so for the last Thirty Years previous to our taking Possession of the Country. It had been overrun by Bands of Freebooters; I believe there were at different Times about Eighty distinct Bodies, which had been in the habit of ravaging the Country; this was the Cause of its being very much depopulated. I think 1,100 out of, I believe, 2,700 Villages, for I merely speak from Recollection, were rendered desolate altogether; and those which remained were open to the Pillages of a Race of People denominated Bheels. These People are supposed by some to be the Aborigines of the Country; but they have been for a long Period attached to Villages as Guardians or Watchmen, with certain Immunities in Land and Fees from the People themselves. The Consequence of those Ravages deprived the Inhabitants of the Means of supporting the Bheels, who went into the Hills, and were in the habit of attacking the Villages. In order to secure themselves from these Assaults, the Villagers procured the Assistance of Foreign Soldiery, such as Arabs and Sindies, for their Protection. Many Villages, not able to do this, purchased the Forbearance of the Bheels by the Alienation of Lands, or rather Portions of the Produce, (a sort of Black Mail,) which they gave to the Bheels, to induce them to forbear their Attacks. At the Time we entered Candeish, the Arabs had gained very great Influence and Power in the Villages, as well as the Bheels. The latter had inspired great Terror by their Proceedings, and it became necessary, of course, to restore Order.


In what Manner did you proceed to tranquillize the Country?

After having obtained partial Possession of the Country, we found several Places in the Occupation of the Arabs, who refused to give them up after the War had ceased, holding them on their own Account. Measures were first taken to reduce the Power of the Arabs; any Arrears of Pay or Sums of Money due to them, and to which they appeared to have legitimate Rights, were inquired into, and paid; and they were eventually sent out of the Country. The Bheel Chiefs were then to be dealt with. Those Persons who had raised themselves to be Heads of Gangs were invited down by me from the Hills; an Examination was gone into of the Claims they had on the Villages for Black Mail, or whatever Immunities they might have established; and, according to the Nature of each Case, a Pension was allotted to the Chiefs, and Engagements made to induce their Followers to return to those Villages to which they originally belonged.

Were those Measures effectual?

They had the Effect of breaking up the Union that formerly existed among them, and enabled me afterwards to reduce those who reverted to their ancient Practices, which it would not have been so practicable to have done if we had done it in the first instance, before we obtained that Information. Their Numbers, when I came into the Country, amounted in the Estimate to about 5,000 of this Description, the Number was probably exaggerated, throughout the Country, under Forty or Fifty Chiefs. In the Course of Four Years, which was the whole Time I was in the Country, Military Operations were occasionally had recourse to at the Season of the Year when we could approach the Hills, for the Country was extremely unhealthy at Times. When we had recourse to these Measures we contrived to surround the Bheels, to cut off their Supplies, and to cause them to surrender without any Bloodshed. There were not, I think, above Fifteen or Twenty Persons killed or wounded during the whole Military Operations; and when I came away there was One Gang only that I recollect, of Forty Bheels in one particular District, whose Chief had just been killed in an Affray which had taken place with some Inhabitants of the Country passing through it, and this Gang was still in the habit of pillaging the Country. I do not recollect that there was any more united Gang than those Forty Persons. The rest of the Bheels returned to the Villages, and became the Village Police.

In what Manner was Justice administered, during this Time, in the Country?

Civil Justice was administered by the People themselves, under the Form of Proceedings called Punchayet. This is a sort of Court of Arbitration. When the Parties themselves agreed to conform to this Mode, the Cause was decided by Arbitration; but when the Parties did not agree to adopt this Plan, Persons were appointed by the Government to hold a Court, the Parties being previously required to abide by their Decision before any Proceedings were taken.

Did they appear to be satisfied with that Mode of administering Justice?

It was the Practice of former Governments before us. I think they appeared very well satisfied.

Was there any Right of Appeal to you?

Always. In all Cases there was a Right of Appeal, not against the Judgment of the Court, but against Corruption; for as the Parties themselves agreed to abide by the Decision, it was not thought right, in the Absence of any Expence attending it, to leave Appeal too open.

Were many Appeals required in Cases of Corruption?

No; indeed, I do not recollect One Case where a Decree was reversed; nor can I, at this Time, say that I recollect any Case of Investigation of the kind.

It did not appear, therefore, that Corruption had actually existed in the Conduct of those Civil Causes?

Certainly not, from the Nature of the Conduct of the Parties.


In what Manner was Criminal Justice administered?

When I first went into the Country I misapprehended the Instructions I had received, and fell into the Practice of trying all Criminal Cases for upwards of Two Years by a Jury. The System was subsequently altered by the Bombay Government when Candeish was placed under its Authority. The Jury was composed principally of Landholders and influential Men in the Country, who had to decide upon the Fact, while the Native Law Officers, who sat on the Bench, promulgated the Law, and I then passed Sentence according to my own Judgment, and in accordance to the Nature of the Sentence awarded by the Native Law Officers. This was sometimes not consistent with our Notions of the Administration of Justice, such as Mutilation or other Modes of Punishment, and it was not thought proper therefore to adopt it.

In such Cases you commuted the Punishment?

Yes; entering at the same Time on the Proceedings what the Native Law Officers had promulgated as Law. Those Proceedings were then sent up to Government; and they were not carried into Effect, in Cases of Life and Death, until confirmed by the Head of the Government, for Candeish was then under the sole Commission of Mr. Elphinstone.

Who examined the Witnesses in this Court?

The Witnesses were examined by the Jury as well as by the Judge. The Jury were competent to put any Questions they chose, and I found them exceedingly useful in eliciting Evidence that it would have been impossible for me as a European to understand the Bearing of.

How were the Jury selected?

They were selected from the Landholders and other Persons of Influence.

By whom were they selected?

By myself; a great Number of Names were sent in, and I selected a Number from them.

Did you understand the Language in which the Proceedings were carried on?

I believe as perfectly as an European can be supposed to do.

Did the Jury appear to take a great Interest in the Investigation of the Truth?

The Jury took a great Interest in the Investigation of the Truth, and it appeared to me an exceedingly proper Mode of administering Justice; its Effect was very good indeed.

Was it new to the Country, and introduced by you?

The Trial by Jury was quite new, inasmuch as there had been a Series of Anarchy for Thirty Years before; I do not think the System is quite new among the Natives of India under good Administration. Criminal Justice by a sort of Juries I think frequently prevails under the best Native Governments, and in fact it does so under the Government of Sattarah. There are always Three or Four Assessors on the Bench, so that, though not a Jury, there are always several Voices in the Administration of Criminal Justice.

Did the People appear to be satisfied with that Administration of Justice?

I apprehend that they were quite satisfied.

Was any Change subsequently introduced into the Mode of administering Justice?

The System of Jury was abolished, and the whole Onus of the subsequent Investigation lay upon me as the Judge of the Court.

Did the People appear to be equally well satisfied with that Mode of administering Justice?

They made no Complaint of it.

Were you yourself equally satisfied?

Certainly not.


You felt that a very great Responsibility was thrown upon you?

Yes, I felt too heavy a Responsibility; I can mention One particular Case which will elucidate the Subject. There was an Instance in a remote Part of the Country where a great Land Proprietor, and a Man who had extensive Influence and Possessions, was said to have put his Wife to Death. The Circumstance was reported to the Chief Native Authority, who required him to appear before him to account for his Conduct. This was a Proceeding to which Men of his Station had not been accustomed under their own Government. He refused therefore to go; and on that Evening, in a State of Intoxication, he, together with his Brother and several others, in passing through the Town on Horseback, attacked the Individual who gave the Information, and killed him. The Murderer then went off to the Hills in the Neighbourhood, and raised a Party of Followers, for his Protection probably as much as any thing else, but it was supposed for the Purpose of attacking the legitimate Authorities. I immediately moved a Body of Troops against him; but perceiving from the Reports I had from the local Officers, that he was not very popular, I thought it better, instead of carrying the Measure so far as to go to War, to procure his Seizure. I offered a Reward therefore of One hundred or Two hundred Pounds for the Seizure of the principal Persons engaged in this Insurrection. In the Course of a Fortnight, without any other Military Operations, the Two Brothers were brought in to the Officer commanding the Detachment. Depositions of the whole Case were taken, and the Parties were sent in to be tried on the Spot. They were tried by Jury. The Jury discriminated between the Guilt of the elder Brother, who had actually committed the Murder, and his younger Brother, who was only present, but went off with him into the Hills. They found the elder Brother guilty of Murder, and he was executed on the Spot where the Crime was committed. In respect to the younger Brother, they acquitted him either of being accessary to the Murder, of which there were no Proofs that he had been a Party, though he was present, but there was no Proff of his being an Accomplice, nor was any Evidence adduced that he had been at the Head of any particular Party in attacking the Government. It was only proved that he with the rest of the Family, had gone off with his Brother. The Jury declared, that, according to the Practice of a Native Government, it was exceedingly likely, that not only his Brother, but the whole of the Murderer's Family, Women and Children, would have been seized had they not gone off together, and that the younger Brother therefore was no more guilty than the other Parties; that although he was an Adherent, and might have been engaged in the Insurrection, it did not appear that he had been guilty of any overt Act; and, in consequence, they considered that, although his Intentions might have been bad, there were no Proofs of it; and they acquitted him accordingly, in spite of any thing I could say; for I considered that having gone off with his Brother, and being known to be with the Body engaged in Insurrection, he was guilty as well as his Brother, though in a lesser Degree. The acquitted Chief was afterwards reinstated in all the Family Estates, and continues, I believe, a good and respectable Subject.

Did the Juries usually evince the same Discrimination in the Shade of Guilt of the Persons brought before them?

I think usually. The Person just mentioned was a Landholder of Rank, as well as the Persons who tried him; and he was One of their Peers in every respect.

What Police Force had you for the Purpose of reducing the Country to Order?

We had a very large Establishment called Sebundies, a sort of Local Militia; they could hardly be considered Police. I consider the Police of the Country those that belong to Villages; the local Militia had little or no local Information, and only went where they were sent by the Civil Authorities. I relied chiefly upon the Village Police for the Preservation of the Tranquillity of the Country.

Was the Village Police efficient?

The Village Police were very efficient, particularly when the Bheels came in.


What Number of Sebundies had you?

I cannot answer that Question; I think there were at first Two or Three thousand, and latterly only about Eight hundred.

What regular Military Force was there in the Country?

The Military Force in the Cantonments at Maligaum consisted of an European Regiment, Two Battalions of Native Infantry, and some Artillery.

Was it necessary to emply a large Portion of that Force in reducing the Bheels, and bringing the Country into a State of Tranquillity?

The Force was never employed in actual Military Operations, except in the Reduction of the Town of Amulneer, after the Peace; but they were frequently employed in surrounding and embracing the Haunts of the Bheels, in order to reduce them to Subjection. On these Occasions, the Orders the Officers received were not to fire upon them, if they could possibly take them. They were mostly armed with Bows and Arrows; they were found to be a very contemptible Enemy; and, for the Purpose of sparing Bloodshed, they were not fired upon.

In what Manner was the Revenue Administration of the Country carried on?

The principal Source of Revenue, as your Lordships are aware, is from the Land. A Settlement was made with Villages, in the first instance, and the Villages afterwards distributed the Assessment among the Inhabitants.

In what Manner was the Amount of Revenue assessed in each Village distributed, shewing what each had to pay?

An Average was taken of the actual Collections of Ten Years, which was supposed to be the Amount each Village was calculated to yield. My Instructions were to adopt the Ryotwarry System, which had been adopted by Sir Thomas Munro in the Madras Provinces; but there was a Measure necessarily connected with the Ryotwarry System which it was not possible for me to carry into Effect. It was necessary, in the first instance, to ascertain by Measurement the Extent of the Lands, and afterwards to assess each Field. The cultivated Land was, however, measured Three successive Years during the Time I had Charge of Candeish, and the Assessments were made by the Villagers themselves, the whole Amount being fixed at the Average of that which the Lands had produced for Ten Years.

In that Settlement, who negociated on the Part of the Village?

The legitimate Heads of Villages. They are in that Part of the Country denominated Potails. It was through them that the Village carried on its Communication. They are, in fact, the hereditary Chiefs of the Villages.

Did not the principal People appear to submit quietly to whatever Arrangement the Potails entered into for them?

Yes, they usually appeared satisfied with the Arrangements before they were definitive.

Did the Potails remonstrate against the Settlement on the Average of the Ten Years preceding?

Neither they nor the People remonstrated at first, for this Settlement bore such a strong Contrast to the Manner in which they had been treated before, that they were exceedingly glad of any Measure that had the Appearance of Justice and Moderation. They subsequently complained very much of the Average of Ten Years being taken, in consequence of the great Difference which took place in Three Years in the Rise and Fall of Produce. The Assessment being made in Money, it became heavy the Moment the Price of Grain fell. When I went into the Country, the common Grain of the Country sold at about Four Shillings a Bushel; when I left the Country in Four Years, such had been the Increase of Cultivation and the little Demand, probably from the Absence of Cavalry and other Circumstances, that the same Grain had fallen off to Sixteen Pence a Bushel; it was quite impossible, therefore, that the Villages could pay the same Amount in Money the Fourth Year as they had done in the First Year. The Revenues of Candeish consequently fell off very much, though the Cultivation did not; and I have Reason to believe that they have fallen off much more since, and have never recovered.


When the Potails had agreed with the Government what the Village was to pay, in what Manner did they assess the individual Payers?

They assessed them according to the Quantity of Land each Individual cultivated, and according to the Nature of that Land, as well as with regard to its productive Qualities as also with reference to its Proximity to the Village, and other Circumstances.

Did that Assessment of the individual Payers very from Year to Year?

It did vary from Year to Year. I endeavoured to fix it, but it was changed annually in every Village by the People themselves; and I found it impossible to carry into Effect any permanent Money Assessment of the Land; and, I believe, it is impossible to render it so, where the Assessment forms so very large a Proportion of the Produce as our Assessment does.

If any individual Payer felt aggrieved, had he any Power of appealing against the Potail's Decision?

Yes. Eight or Ten Villages were under Charge of a Junior Civil Officer; he might appeal to him, and from him he might appeal to the Head of the District, and from the Head of the District to me.

How many Assistants had you when you were first sent to that Country?

I had only One Assistant at first. I had subsequently a second Assistant sent up, for the Purpose of examining the Rights of certain Individuals to Exemption from Payment of the Land Tax. The Orders of Government required me to do it, and I thought it ought to be investigated, but stated my Inability to go into a Matter of so important a Nature. I thought it necessary, therefore, to have an additional Assistant. That Gentleman joined me, and after being Six or Seven Months in the Country he died. I had subsequently Two more Assistants sent up, and after that some more were sent up.

Did you find you went on as well with One as with Three or Four more?

Yes. For the young Men who joined me were not of much Use; they were rather sent up to learn than to perform any important Duties.

Have you any Means of calculating the general Expence of the Government of that District?

I think it is on Record the Proportion that the Civil and Judicial Expences bear to the whole Amount of the Revenue, but I do not recollect the Amount.

What was the Receipt of the Revenue from the District?

It produced between Seventeen and Eighteen Lacs of Land Revenue the first Year; and in the Fourth Year, when I went away, I made the Settlement Eleven Lacs only, in consequence of the Variation in the Price of Grain. I understood it fell off subsequently to as low as Six Lacs.

If, therefore, in that Country, or in others similarly situated, there appears to be a Falling-off in the Revenue, the Committee are not from that Circumstance to imagine that the Country is deteriorated in Cultivation, or that the People are in a worse State than when they paid more?

We are always desirous of keeping up the Revenue as much as possible, therefore I think that, though not able to realize the whole Amount, we press so much upon the Inhabitants it must lead eventually to the Falling-off of Cultivation.

In this Case, if the Revenue had been paid in Kind in the last of those Four Years, the Receipt in Kind would have been greater than in the first Year, when the Amount in Money was higher?

Certainly; there would have been much more Grain yielded to Government than in the first Year.

And the Country appeared to improve in Prosperity, notwithstanding the Falling-off in the Revenue?

I think very much, for a vast Number of Villages, which had been deserted before, were repopulated.


That Prosperity would only be checked by attempting to obtain the same Revenue in Money from the Country in which the Price of Grain had fallen so much since the Revenue was first assessed?

Just so.

What was the Proportion of the Produce required to be paid to the Government at the Two Periods you have spoken of?

Really I cannot state what was the exact Proportion; my Instructions were to realize a certain Sum of Money equivalent to the Average of Ten Years former Collections. I believe that latterly the Assessment must have taken at least One Third, probably more; it is assumed that under the Native Government they are in the habit of taking a Half.

Do you mean One Third of the Gross Produce?

Yes. Here is a Document which I beg leave to read. It is "An Account of actual Collections under the Nabob of Arcot's Government, realized from the Village of Utramalur, in the Province of Arcot, in the Year 1742, derived from the Village Books." This was published in The Asiatic Journal; there is not the least Doubt, I believe, of its Correctness. The Produce of this Township being Rice, chiefly raised by Irrigation from a Tank built and repaired at the Government Expence, it claimed to share Half of the Crop with the Cultivators.

Total Produce 71.914 Cullums of 4½ Bushels at One
Pagoda per Cullum is, say 71.914
Alienated in Tythes, Payments made to
Village and District Officers, and for sundry
Village Expences 13.760
Alienated to Strangers by Government 4.368
Payable in Fees to Village Officers 3.071
Balance to be divided 50.715
Paid to Government A.D. 1742 25.141
Remainder to Cultivators 25.141
Surplus Balance to Village 433

One Third of the Produce is first cut off from the Gross Produce, leaving Two Thirds to be divided. Actually paid to Government 25.141 Pagodas, leaving a Balance of 433 Pagodas in favour of the Village, more than Half. The Land being cultivated by Irrigation from the Tank which was kept up at the Expence of Government, and a certain Portion of Capital being thus vested by Government in the Cultivation, the Government has in consequence a Right to derive some Advantage directly from that vesting of Capital. The Practice, however, was only to take One Sixth of the Produce of Land not cultivated by Irrigation. Had the Village of Utramalur been cultivated without the artificial Aid of Water, and the Government only have claimed One Sixth, the following would have been the relative Proportions.

Total Produce, as above 71.914
Alienations to Village and District Officers 13.760
To Strangers 4.368
Fees to Village Officers 3.071
Balance 50.719
Government Tax, being One Sixth 8.4532/3
Balance to Village 42.285⅓
Total 50.719


A Village under the British Government, in the latter Case, would be assessed, according to the most moderate Ryotwar System, in Money, at Thirty or Forty per Cent. of the Produce of each separate Field; and such an Assessment is, I believe, actually in progress now in the Deccan.

That is a greater Proportion?

Certainly; by the Difference between One Sixth and Thirty or Forty per Cent.

Was the Proportion of Rent which you, under the Direction of Government, obtained in Candeish, the same as had been previously obtained by the Native Government?

During the last Thirty Years there has been no Rule. The Districts were put up for Contract, as Tolls are in this Country, by the Native Government; the Person who bade highest had the District made over to him; the Person who got Charge of the District was to get the Revenue in the best Way he could. It frequently happened, before the Year was up, the same District was put up and sold to another Person; and there was a Contest between the Two Contractors which should realize the Money.

That System was an Innovation?


What was the Proportion on the more ancient System?

In that Part of India the System of taking any Proportion of the Produce has long been abandoned; but the Principle on which the ancient Native Government always administered the Country, and realized the Revenue, was by taking a certain Portion of the Produce, and then converting that Produce into Money, which varied every Year. We seem to have overlooked this Principle, and to have fixed the Revenue in Money, which in fact is the most variable Impost which can be put on the Land, when it comes to be so onerous as to embrace the whole Rent. Rent of Land must vary according to Circumstances.

Does our System, as now administered, leave less to the Cultivator than the ancient System of the Native Government?


Is not that the Case in some Years and not in others, according as the Price varies?

It may be so, certainly.

If the Price should rise, more would be left to the Cultivator than under the former System?

Yes; if it were an Assessment in Rent, it would be possible to realize it, but an Assessment on the whole Produce must necessarily be fluctuating.

Do you consider the Assessment, as now regulated, too high, or moderate?

I consider the Assessment, as now regulated, a great deal too high; and I consider that the Principle of the Assessment has been entirely abandoned.

So high as to impede the progressive Prosperity of the Country?

So high as to prevent the Existence of Landed Property in most Cases.

Had you any Opportunity of seeing the Effect of the Ryotwarry System?

I was instructed to carry into Effect the Ryotwarry System, but I found I could not do it.

Is it your Opinion that it would be impossible to apply, in India, any one System of collecting Land Revenue universally?

Yes, I think it would be quite possible, and quite practicable, to introduce a System of assessing whole Villages, and allowing whole Villages and Communities to assess themselves; and I think it is likely such an Assessment would be permanent, if we gave up to the Inhabitants of the Country the waste Land, which the Government now claim, I think unjustly, to themselves.


Do you mean, in this Answer, an Assessment in Money or an Assessment in Produce?

An Assessment in Money.

Could you effect any such Settlement where the Village Constitution had been entirely destroyed?

I think there are in every Village in India the Ingredients for such a Settlement among the People themselves. I think the Village Communities and the Corporations still exist. In the Work I have written on the Subject, I have asserted nothing from my own Experience, but have quoted from others who have written on the Subject; and it appears to me that those Village Corporations and Communities do exist in every Part.

Do they exist in Bengal?

Yes; it is stated by Sir Edward Colebrook, Mr. Fortescue and others.

Have they not been destroyed by the Zemindarry Settlement?

Yes; I ought to have excepted that. I understand that the Zemindarry Settlement Lord Cornwallis introduced in 1793 has had the Effect very much of breaking up Village Communities, though not altogether of destroying their internal Constitution.

Would not a Ryotwarry Settlement in a short Time equally destroy the Village Communities?

I think it would. I find in all Villages Three Classes of Cultivators: one Cultivator, who has a Right of selling his Land and of paying a certain fixed Sum to Government; another Cultivator, who has not a Right of selling his Land, but a Right of Occupancy ad infinitum, so long as he pays a certain Sum to Government, and a certain Portion also in Fees to the first Description of Cultivator; there is also a Third Cultivator, who comes from other Villages, and cultivates, by Agreement, from Year to Year. Those Persons have quite distinct Rights; and I think any Ryotwarry Settlement which gave to all Classes the same Rights would be doing Injustice to other Parties.

Where such a Variety of Rights exists in the Village, would it not be very inconvenient for an European to obtain a Lease of any large Portion of Land thus circumstanced?

I do not know how any Europeans could occupy Lands in India, unless the Government were to give up the waste Lands, which they now claim under the Zemindarry Settlement, or in Places where Zemindarry Settlements have been made, and the whole of the Land had been made over to the Zemindars as Proprietors, in the permanent Settlement of Bengal.

Do you conceive it would be possible for either of the Classes of Cultivators you have alluded to to lease to any others?

No. I think Lands might be leased to Europeans or any other Persons, provided they took them piecemeal; but the Assessment is now so onerous, it leaves no Landlord's Rent.

The Land is now almost infinitely subdivided among those small Proprietors?

Yes; but as the whole Land belongs to the Village Community, the hereditary Rights of Individuals continue, I think for a longer Period than Entails in England.

But the same Right that any Proprietor would have, as you describe, to sell his Property to another, would enable him to let that Property?

Certainly, if the Assessment were low enough.

There would be no Difficulty arising from the different Nature of the Cultivation?

None whatever; the only Difficulty is that we require to make the Assessment lighter, to leave a Surplus as a Landlord's Rent.

In most Parts of India, if a Man were desirous of obtaining on a Lease 500 Acres, must he not have Leases from Two or Three hundred Proprietors, all possessing different Rights?


In many Parts of India I think he would be able to obtain it from the Village as a Corporation altogether, as a Community; certainly it would be necessary for the whole of those Persons to agree to give up their Rights in the particular Portions of Land belonging to them, but the Agreement would be made essentially by the whole Village.

The Villagers would stand in the Degree of Landlords, and at the same Time of Labourers, to their own Tenant?

If the Person who occupied the Land were to employ them as the Cultivators, certainly.

If he did not, what would become of them?

They could not part with the Land to another, if they were not able to derive any Advantage from it themselves.

If they did not remain on the Land, how could they obtain the Rent from the Person to whom they let it, or how could they exist, having no other Subsistence than the Rent they received?

If the Land was rented of them they would receive the Rent, and that would be the Means of their Subsistence; it would not be a necessary Consequence that they should continue to be Cultivators, if they had a Surplus Rent.

You state that there is no Surplus Rent?

At present, where there is no Surplus Rent, such a State of Things cannot exist.

Are there any Individuals who possess in their own Right any considerable Portion of Land?

Certainly; a great Number of Individuals possess Lands in Candeish, where the Rights of the ancient Freeholders have been usurped; some possess Lands which they hold exempt from Payment to the Government; those Lands they let to other Persons. I myself, by way of Experiment, occupied Fifty or Sixty Acres of Land, and paid a Rent for it, and kept the Accounts.

Did you hold that from One Individual?


Had he more Land of the same kind that he could have let?

I believe that I rented the whole of his hereditary Estate.

How did you cultivate it?

Through the Agency of the Natives; I had a Native Bailiff under me, who managed the Concern.

Just as you would have managed Sixty Acres in England?


Paying the Labourers weekly Wages?

Paying the Labourers monthly Wages.

Did you find any Disinclination on their Part to be so employed?

None whatever.

Is it not a common Occurrence for various Individuals to have different Rights upon the same Piece of Land?

Yes; a Person who is a Proprietor in some Parts of the Country sometimes sublets his Land. In the Provinces of Madras it is very common, where the Rents are not very onerous. There he sublets to another Person, who pays him a very small Fee as a sort of Landlord's Rent, and pays the Assessment of the Government; therefore in those Two Cultivators there is an essential Difference, one is the Proprietor and the other a Copyhold Tenant.

Where was it you occupied this Land?

I had Sixty Acres in the Vicinity of Sattarah.

Supposing that you had wished to occupy a larger Extent of Land, could you have obtained it there?

Yes, certainly.

There were Individuals who held Land in such a Way as to be able to let it to you?


Yes; my Landlord was a Person of Family which had been reduced. The Land had lain fallow for a long Time, and he was in the habit of letting it to the Potail of his Village, who gave him little or nothing for it. I was anxious to get some Land of this particular Tenure, that I might ascertain the Portion of Produce I could have afforded to pay to Government as a Cultivator.

How much could you have afforded to pay?

I think the Surplus Average Profit of Three Years was about Twenty-five per Cent, which was all. I had to pay to the Landlord his Rent, and what I should have had to pay to the Government, but the Government would have taken a much larger Sum than I paid to him.

What was the Government Demand upon that Land?

The Government Demand upon that Land, I think, would have been about Three or Four Rupees a Bega.

What Proportion of the Gross Produce?

It would have been nearly Half the Gross Produce.

You paid Twenty-five per Cent. of the Gross Produce to the Landlord?

That was all the Surplus I had to enable me to pay the Landlord.

That Twenty-five per Cent. pays for the Expences of Cultivation?

No; I did not pay so much as Twenty-five per Cent. to the Landlord; I think, not above Twenty per Cent. About Twentyfive per Cent. was the Profit, after deducting the Expence of Cultivation. If I had had to pay the Tithes and Taxes, Village Expences, and so on, I should have been ruined; I should not have been able to pay the Landlord what I did. But I had but little Time to attend to it, and I did not understand the Nature of Agriculture much. To have continued it, I suppose, would have been a very losing Concern.

Was your Profit only the Difference between the Twenty-five per Cent. and what you paid to the Landlord?

Yes; Twenty-five per Cent. included what I paid to the Landlord; it was what remained after paying the Expences of Cultivation.

Did you pay any thing to Government?


You paid no Village Dues?


Therefore the Result of your Experiment was, that being relieved from Government and Village Taxes you had but Twenty-five per Cent. left to pay Rent?

Yes; just so.

What would have been your Loss upon the Speculation, if you had paid the Government Tax and the Village Dues?

I could not have paid the Landlord any Rent if I had had to pay the Government Tax and Village Dues.

What would have been the Loss if you had been called upon to do so?

Possibly Ten or Twelve per Cent, or probably more. If the Government had taken One Half, the Loss would have been very considerable. I must have abandoned the Experiment altogether.

Have you observed any marked Preference in the Native Cultivator for one Mode or Principle of Assessment rather than another?

I think they prefer the Assessment I made in Candeish; the Assessment of the Village, and allowing the People to manage their own Concerns.

Who paid the Revenue to the Government when a Village was assessed?

It was paid through the Agency of the Potail, who collected, and sent it by one of the Village Servants to the Head Man of some greater Division of Eight or Ten Villages, and he sent it to the Head of the District. It was collected monthly, and sent to my Treasury.

Was there any considerable Expence of Collection?


There was no considerable Expence in the Collection of the Revenue, nor any permanent Servant sent round to Individuals for the Money. The Revenue was collected by the Potail, through the Agency of Village Servants.

In default of Payment by the Potail, how could you obtain the Revenue?

I must have ascertained what particular Individuals had failed in making their Payment, and must have distrained their Property.

Did it happen that you were called upon to do so on any particular Occasion?

On some Occasions I was obliged to do so, but not on many. The Principle of the Administration was to be very lenient; and whenever I recommended that Remissions should be made, and stated it to be impossible that the People could pay, the Remissions were given.

Had you any Opportunity of learning the Mode of administering the Government under a Native Prince?

I have resided, during the greater Part of the Time I was in India, in the Territories of several Native Princes, and have had Opportunities of conversing with the People. After the Battle of Mehidpoor I was for a short Time in charge of the conquered Districts of Holkar in Malwa, and I was for Four Years at Sattarah.

Was the District of Sattarah conducted entirely in the Native Mode?

Certain Regulations had been introduced under the Orders of Mr. Elphinstone, by my Predecessor, Mr. Grant Duff. Those Regulations were framed on the Native System, with very little Alteration on our Part; and I think, therefore, I may say, that the Administration of the Government of Sattarah, as it now exists, may be deemed a good Specimen of the Management of a Native Government.

Have the goodness to describe that Mode of Management, distinguishing the Judicial from the Revenue Administration?

The Country is divided into Districts, each yielding from a Lac to 1,50,000 Rupees, containing from One hundred and fifty to Two and even Three hundred Villages. Over this District is an Officer, called a Subahdar. That District is then subdivided amongst a great Number of other junior Officers, each having from Six or Eight to Twenty Villages under his Charge. The whole Civil and Judicial Business is conducted through those Officers, each Village having its own Native Institutions prescribed to them. The Village Institutions are so well known, as stated both in the Fifth Report and in my Work, that it is perhaps unnecessary to go into a Detail of them.

Then the same Officers possess Revenue and Judicial Power?

Yes. In the Collection of Revenue the Settlement is made with Villages by the Subahdar and the junior District Officers together, usually under the Superintendence of The Rajah himself, who makes a Tour every Year for that Purpose.

In what Manner is the annual Assessment fixed?

It is fixed with reference to the Sum yielded in former Years. In that Part of the Country (Sattarah) there has been an ancient permanent Assessment of Lands, which is recognized; the Lands which are cultivated every Year are assessed in that Sum; each particular Bit of Land is assessed according to the Rates of different Villages. Lands which lie waste are excluded from the Amount of annual Settlement. Lands which are only lately brought into Cultivation, or brought into Cultivation according to a certain Agreement, in an increased Ratio, until they have been cultivated for Seven Years, pay accordingly, when at the End of the Term, they pay the whole Amount of that which is considered the full Assessment.

The Assessment varies every Year?

Yes, the Assessment varies every Year.

Did it appear to you that Injustice was practised by those Native Officers in the Assessment of the Revenue on the Villages?


No, I think not. I think that the Villagers themselves, where the Assessment was left entirely to them, managed to satisfy each other. No doubt there were Partialities to certain Individuals, but I think that in this respect we are very apt, in going into those Investigations, to confound the Rights I have so often alluded to, of the different Description of Cultivators. In Sattarah the People appeared to be satisfied with the Arrangements, when the Distribution of the Assessment was made amongst themselves.

Was the Revenue paid in Kind, or in Money?

Always in Money.

Was it lower generally than the Assessment in our Provinces?

I think not. I think much the same; but the Country was falling off; and one Year particularly, when there was a great Drought, and there ought to have been a very large Remission, I was unable to induce The Rajah to consent to that Remission. The Consequence was, the Occupants left the Country, and did not return for Two Years; whereas, under the Government of the Putwurdhun Chiefs, they relinquished the Land Tax almost entirely in that Year; and the next Year the Cultivators were all present, and paid very largely, while in the subsequent Year The Rajah hardly got any Revenues.

Did the Putwurdhuns exact the Arrears of the former Year?

No, I think not.

Was the Punchayet used in the District of Sattarah?

The Punchayet was the only Mode of administering Justice.

Were you ever in the Territories of Kota or Bhopaul?

No, I was not. On the Subject of the Administration of the Punchayet under the Native Government, I shall be able, perhaps, better to explain the Native System if I read some Notes I have made upon that Subject. It appears to me, from all my Inquiries, that there were several Courts: First, the Village Court, in which the Potail and the Inhabitants of the Village decided all Cases by Arbitration; all Cases that had reference to the Inhabitants of the same Village. From this Court an Appeal lay to a certain District Officer, which in the Mahratta Country is called Desmook, recognized in all Parts of the Country as the District Officer. From the Desmook Appeals lay to the Subahdar, and eventually to The Sovereign.

In each Case was there the Use of the Punchayet?

Not in Appeal Cases. The following is the Mode of proceeding in these Courts: before a Plaintiff can have his Cause inquired into, he is obliged to give Security to prosecute and to make out his Case, on pain of Fine or Fee. The Defendant is then obliged either to satisfy the Plaintiff or to give Security for the Amount sued for. If the Cause is to be litigated, the Plaintiff and Defendant are bound over to appear on a certain Day, in Failure of which Judgment should go by Default. It frequently occurs, that the Parties join Issue on a particular Point, on which the Cause rests, and is decided. The Award being given, both Parties are required to give Security for Fulfilment before the Proceedings are closed; and if the Defendant be required to pay a certain Sum of Money, it was necessary for him to give Security for it. In these Proceedings all Witnesses are examined vivâ voce, and all Testimony is taken down in Writing, for the Facility of Appeals.

Are there Persons in the inferior Courts generally capable of taking the Evidence in Writing?

Yes, always. It usually happens that most of the Members can write. The Proceedings are all taken down in Writing; not only the Person signs his Name as the Person who has written out the Proceedings, but Two Witnesses are also necessary. In conclusion, all the Members of Punchayet are required to write that they have come to this Decision.

To what Extent is the Knowledge of Reading and Writing carried among the Natives of India?

It extends universally among the Brahmins, Shopkeepers and Merchants, not very generally, I think, among the other Classes; but there is no Instance of a Brahmin or Shopkeeper who cannot read and write.


Are there Schools maintained by themselves in almost every Village?

Yes; some Schoolmasters were sent up from the College of Bombay to The Rajah of Sattarah. They had been educated in certain elementary Schools at Bombay. The Rajah would not receive them; he said they were not Persons that would answer his Purpose at all; he said he had Plenty of Schools; and in the small Town of Sattarah, where the Population did not exceed 10,000 Persons, I was surprised to find that there were Forty Schools; in Candeish and in the Deccan generally, Schools are common, and all Brahmins, the Sons of Bankers and the Sons of all Shopkeepers, or any Persons who have any thing to do with Business, are taught Reading, Writing and Accounts.

Were all the Persons returned to you to serve on Juries, Persons capable of reading?

I admitted only those capable of reading and writing to serve on Juries.

What sort of Proportion of the Persons returned to you did you find capable of reading and writing?

All those that were returned to me were capable; I required them all to be Persons of that Description.

Have you any Doubt of a perfectly adequate Supply of Persons of that Description being found?

No, I think not; if it be desirable to adopt the System of Juries in India, there are certain Classes of People who, I think, should be bound to serve, such as Persons who have Immunities in Lands and other special Privileges, which they receive from our Government for doing in fact nothing, though they had Claims on their Services under the Native Government. Such Persons, I conceive, should be compelled to serve on Juries.

What is the Origin of those Immunities?

They have been granted by former Governments for Services performed or to be performed, and for the Support of Temples and Buildings, which have fallen into Ruins, or for the Support of Offices which have not been kept up.

You said you appointed the Jurors out of the Number of Persons returned to you; do you think that Mode is as satisfactory to the People as if the Jurors were selected by Lot?

I think it would not be so satisfactory as a System.

Is waste Land of the different Villages considered, under the Native Government, as belonging to the Community of the Village, or to the Government?

In the Mahratta Country, under The Peishwa, it was commonly considered as belonging to the Government. In some Parts of the Peninsula it is believed to belong to the Village Communities. I think in the Carnatic it has been shewn, by the Minutes of the Madras Board of Revenue, that the waste Lands belong to the Village Communities; and I have no Doubt, under the ancient Hindoo Government, that was the Case; but in a Country that has been for the most part conquered for 600 Years by the Mohamedans, very few of such Privileges have been allowed to remain. The further we go South, where the Mohamedans did not conquer, we find the Hindoo Institutions and the Rights of Landed Property more perfect.

Are the Cultivators of the Village bound down by any particular Mode of cultivating the Lands in that particular Village, or does each cultivate as he chooses?

It depends upon the Nature of the Land. Where the Lands are cultivated by Irrigation, the whole Land is considered as belonging to the Community; and they draw Lots for certain Portions, Part of which each cultivates.

Each Individual does not cultivate the same Land in each particular Year?


No, not in those Villages where the whole is distributed annually. I find this prevails in Italy, and also in Egypt, where the Practice of Irrigation extends very generally; for it is impossible to say how much Water can be afforded to each Field. It therefore becomes necessary to allot Fields to Individuals, according to the Proportion of Water which can be allotted to it. This seems to be the Cause of the Distribution of Lands annually to Individuals. This Practice, I believe, does not prevail in dry Lands, where the same Cause does not exist. There they cultivate the same Lands annually.

Are there any Rights similar to those existing on our Common Field Lands; any Rights of Pasture?

Yes; I think that extends throughout India. It has been particularly explained by the Board of Revenue of Madras, how those Rights extend, not only to the mere Pasture, but to the whole of that Part of the Common which the Village possess. That Right is called Gutcool, and is adverted to by Mr. Elphinstone and Mr. Chaplin in their Reports. In the Deccan those Rights are very frequently sold. With regard to the Right of grazing over the Common Lands of the Village, the Villagers will not allow the Cattle of other Villages to graze there.

Are the waste Lands included in the Village Valuation, or is there an extra Valuation?

They are included in the Valuation.

In the Territory of Sattarah, does the Government claim the waste Lands or not?

The Government, I believe, claims the waste Lands in all those Countries which have been subdued by the Mohamedans, who claimed them as Lands they were at liberty to give for the Support of Temples, and for the Support of other Institutions, such as Colleges and Schools; and those Rights which the Mohamedans assumed reverted to the Hindoo Government when the Hindoos recovered those Countries. But under the Hindoo Governments in the South of India, not conquered by the Mohamedans, particularly in Malabar, Canara, Travancore and the Southern Carnatic, I conceive there that those waste Lands belong to the Village Communities, and that this Right is fully recognized in those Countries.

If therefore we claim as Government a Right to the waste Lands, we claim that which has been exercised by our Predecessors the Mohamedans?


What Means of Education have the Native Gentlemen, Persons of a higher Description, in the Part of the Country you are acquainted with?

The Native Gentlemen, the Mahrattas particularly, neglect their Education very much; they are a good deal like the ancient Barons here, who thought more of War, and the Sword, and Field Sports, than of Education. When the Brahmins succeed to Territorial Property, they are educated as Brahmins in general are; but The Rajah of Sattarah always complained to me that he could get none of his Chiefs to allow their Sons to be educated; he found he had a great Difficulty in getting the young Nobles or Gentlemen of Family to learn any thing.

Are the Putwurdhuns educated?

Yes, all of them; they are Brahmins.

To what Extent has their Education been carried?

The Facility of reading and writing in the Books brought before them. They have their ancient Mythologies, and some few Histories of the Mahratta Government, which they are fond of reading or of hearing; but there is very little Encouragement to Literature among them. I think that the Natives generally, however, are desirous of receiving Information. On more than One Occasion I have found them so. I met Two Brahmins one Day sitting on their Horses reading, on their Journey, Books which had been printed in the College at Bombay. I asked them where they had got them, and if they bought them very cheap; they said they bought them very cheap at Poona. They were some of their own Stories.

Have you observed among the Gentlemen of higher Classes a Disposition to become acquainted with the English Language or English Literature?



Has The Rajah of Sattarah any Knowledge of English?

He has no Knowledge of English, and I think he would have a great Repugnance that any of his Family should learn it; that arises from a Jealousy of our Power, and the Fear of their assimilating too much to ourselves; he is exceedingly jealous of such an Assimilation and of our Rule, though he owes every thing to it; but the Feeling is natural.

What Language does he understand?

He speaks the Mahratta, which is his Native Language, and the Hindostanee; he has studied a little Sanskrit; he is a very intelligent clever Man.

Is Mutilation of Limb Part of the Hindoo Law as well as the Mohamedan?

It is.

Is the Authority of the Potail over the Village recognized by the Hindoo Law?

Yes, certainly, I believe in all Law Books. In the 8th Chapter of Menu it is said, in Verse 14, "He (The King) shall appoint a Lord of One Town, a Lord of Ten Towns, and a Lord of a Thousand," and so on. This I conceive to allude to a Potail.

Is the Potail appointed by The Sovereign or by the Villagers?

The Potail is originally, I believe, an elective Magistrate, but in the Course of Time he, in some Places, succeeded from Generation to Generation, instead of being elected by the People. The Office should be confirmed by The King. He is employed by the Village as the Representative of the People, and by The King as the Magistrate of the Village. When I was in Candeish I frequently removed officiating Potails from Office on Complaint of the People, and allowed them to elect another, whom I confirmed.

Does the same Jealousy as you have described in The Rajah, with respect to the Acquaintance with English Literature or English Habits, extend to other Chiefs and Persons of an inferior Description?

I think, generally, to the upper Class.

Not to the lower?

Perhaps not to the lower; they do not much think of it.

Does the Potail appoint the inferior Officers, or are they elected by the Natives?

I had not an Opportunity of knowing that, from seeing any Village newly created, but the Impression on my Mind is, that they were. In most Parts Villages appear to be divided into Six, Eight, Ten or Twenty original Shares; those were probably the original Proprietors of the whole Land; these Divisions have become minutely subdivided, the entire Shares being still recognized, and are called after the Names of the original Proprietors. Those Proprietors probably appointed the Village Officers, such as the Carpenter and Blacksmith, and other Village Officers known to exist in every Village. In India they have a curious Mode of retaining the Knowledge of the Limits of Villages, by apportioning Lands for domestic Officers on the Borders of the Village, beyond the ordinary Course of Cultivation. This being the Case in all Villages, it is very easy to recognize them, for each Man knows which is his particular Field.

Those Officers are all hereditary now?

They are.


Who supplies the Place of those Village Officers in the Bengal Territory, where the Zemindarry Settlement is established?

I do not know; but I believe those Village Officers still exist, except perhaps the Police. By the Regulations of the Zemindarry Settlement, the Zemindars were exempt from the Maintenance of the Police, which gave to them a Plea for seizing on the Lands appropriated to that Purpose. I conceive that much of the Decoity we hear of owed its Origin to the Dispossession of the Proprietors of their Lands. Thus dispossessed, they collected in Bands, and made War on the Villages wherein their Rights were taken away. I draw this Conclusion from what I have read, and from the Conversations I have had with Persons from Bengal, such as Mr. Fortescue and others. Such appears to me to have been the Origin of that peculiar System of Gang-robbery, and that much of it arose out of the Zemindarry Settlements.

Do you think that the System of Decoity did not exist before the Establishment of Zemindars?

I have no doubt that Gang-robbery existed in all Parts of India, but not that particular Description of Gang-robbery; nor was it ever carried to the Extent it has been in Bengal. I state this as a mere Matter of Opinion, but I know that similar Attacks on Villages are made in all Parts of India whenever Landholders have been deprived of their Rights.

The Witness is directed to withdraw.

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