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accumula.

India.

CH A P. quired were rarely amassed but by a long and perXI.

fevering attention to trade ; moderate wealth was 1772. the progressive effect of certain intellectual and mo· ral qualities, skilfully and steadily exerted for a long

course of years, forming and determining the chaInfluence of racter, while they filled the coffers. By the vast tions in la- acquisitions in India, immense fortunes had been

accumulated almost instantaneously: adventurers of very limited merit in three or four years had returned with ten times the wealth that able, prosperous, and eminent merchants were able to collect by the efforts of a long and industrious life. The view of such astonishing acquisitions dazzled many traders, and instead of submitting patiently to former modes of commercial process, they would become opulent by compendious means : with this intent, they engaged in

hazardous adventures in the funds *, monopolies, Stock and various other objects. Not having actual projobbing.

perty for carrying on such extensive plans, they were obliged to proceed upon truít; and, as men of real wealth were not the most likely to risk their money on doubtful schemes, combinations of indigent adventurers were formed for maintaining a fictitious credit by interchange of bills. Some of these actually succeeded in acquiring a capital; others kept themselves so long afloat, as to impress the world with an opinion of their ultimate responsibility, and thus found means to involve wealthy men in their projects. From the eastern accumulations

Fictitious credit,

* Though stock-jobbing had prevailed ever since the establisi. ment of the national debt, the great fluctuation of India stock about this time afforded more scope than usual for this species of gambling.

and

XI.

ticipated iny and need yugality and

and manners, came also an enormous increase CH A P. of luxury; this evil did not so readily affect the substantial merchant, who in making his fortune 1772. had formed his habits to frugality and moderation, as the visionary and needy projector, whose fancy anticipated immense profits, and whose actual poffeffions could not possibly suffer the smallest loss. The failures of this year were chiefly imputable to ex- Extravagant travagant projects in trade, stock-jobbing, and enor- wir hatur mous paper credit without capital mutually acting capital. and re-acting, severalty and jointly, the effects and causes of luxury and profusion. These disasters, springing from unwarrantable adventure, extended their consequences to men totally unconcerned in such wild and destructive schemes. Bank. ers, in particular, were a class of traders, who, from the nature of their business, had many customers among persons requiring much accommodation by discount, and some of these sustained very great losses. The bank, in a state of general distrust, having refused the usual discounts, men of considerable property were embarrassed, as they could not raise money to discharge engagements formed on the faith of customary accommodation, and for several months trade was stagnant. Although many of the commercial sufferers were distressed, not from want of property, but the stoppage of its usual convertibility, no measures were proposed by mininisters for supporting the mercantile credit of perfons, who, by temporary assistance, might have been preserved from ruin. Greatly, however, as these insolvencies obstructed trade at the time, they did not prove ultimately injurious ; for, by in

14

culcating

XI.

mation of
lord North
for com
mc.cial skill.

CH A P. culcating caution and reserve, they rendered credit

more discriminatę, and discouraged the desperate 1772. schemes of gamblers, and other unprincipled or in

fatuated speculators. This beneficial effect, however, they owed to the natural course of commercial confidence, without any aid from the policy of admi

nistration. High c?i- Lord North had now acquired a stability and

power, much greater than any of his predecessors since the resignation of Mr. Pitt. In the ministry there was none of that distraction of counsels, which contributed so much to the inefficiency of former administrations. The first lord of the treasury excelled most members in parliamentary eloquence, and he had already acquired great reputation for financial skill. From the return of tranquillity to the greater part of America, and the diminution of licentiousness at home, his political talents were generally respected. The opponents of government, though still paramount in genius and eloquence, were very much diminished in number, and less severe and vehement against a minister whom they could not help thinking well-qualified for his office, and throughout the nation lord North was become the object of esteem and confidence.

The subject about to occupy chiefly the ensuing the India session of parliament was the affairs of India, in the

investigation of which a committee of the house was employed during the summer. Though the concerns of the company had been brought under the cognizance of parliament so early as 1767, no measures of correction and regulation had been adopted, except to refcind their acts, restrict

Affirs of

coinpany,

their dividends, and obtain from them an an. C H A P.

XI. nual sum of money on stipulated conditions. In- ja quiry and investigation now afforded abundant 1772. proof, that a comprehensive and radical reform was indispensably necessary to the interests of the company, the honour of England, the welfare and even existence of the natives, and the salvation of British India.

An immense accession of territory had unavoid. Its pecuniably compelled the company to repose very great trust rasīmenis. in their servants, and this confidence had been most grossly and flagrantly abused. The company's officers were guilty of complicated and extensive malversation; their ambition and extravagance had involved their employers in unnecessary and enormous expences; and their extortion, peculation, and iniquity, made a considerable diminution in the income of their masters. To enter on a particular detail of the multifarious means which were employed by the company's servants for defrauding and plundering the natives of India, would far exceed our limits; but a short sketch of the character, system, and leading consequences of the peculation is a necessary part of our history, as a momentous fact belonging to our subject, marking the principle, spirit, and operation of British avarice in India, and ascertaining the necessity for a control to restrain and prevent such flagrant and destructive wickedness. It was before observed, that the plunder of India Conduct of was conducted by our countrymen according to mercantile modes, and this remark our present account will farther illustrate. The chief servants of the company made it their first business to inform them.

nary embar

selves

its fervants,

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1772.

CH A P. felves of the most valuable and marketable commo

dities in the provinces which they were employed to govern, for the benefit of their masters ; they found that sait, betel, and tobacco, were the most productive merchandises ; and, accordingly, they very deliberately formed what they called a commercial association for inland traffic in those articles. The principle of the co-partnership was very simple, being only that the said associators, namely the council of Calcutta, its friends and favourites, should have the sole power of buying and selling those commodities. Thus did fervants, without any authority from their masters, who had indeed no right to grant such power, establish by their own will, and for their own benefit, a monopoly of the absolute necessaries of life, throughout three large, populous, and opulent provinces. Having no competitors, they bought and fold at their own price: impoverishing the people, they rendered them unable to pay the stated exactions of the company; and thus, in robbing the Tatives, they defrauded their own employers. Not fatisfied, however, with commercial pillage, they turned their views also to territorial estates. The zemindars, or landed proprietors, held their posseffions on leases, the validity of which had never been doubted, more than any other legal security for property. The company's fervants, however, destroyed this right, deprived the proprietors of their lands, sold them to the highest bidders, and shared the profits among themselves, according to their respective rank and influence in this combination of rapine. The land-holders, deprived of the secure expectation of reaping the fruit, neglected to cul.

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