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INTERNAL TRADE OF BENGAL.

THE internal trade of Bengal has next attracted the inquiries of Your Committee.

The great and valuable articles of the Company's Investment, drawn from the articles of internal trade, are raw silk, and various descriptions of piece goods made of silk and cotton. These articles are not under any formal monopoly; nor does the Company at present exercise a declared right of pre-emption with regard to them. But it does not appear that the trade in these particulars is or can be perfectly free; not so much on account of any direct measures taken to prevent it, as from the circumstances of the country, and the manner of carrying on business there. For the present trade, even in these articles, is built from the ruins of old monopolies and pre-emptions, and necessarily partakes of the nature of its materials,

In order to show in what manner manufactures and trade so constituted contribute to the prosperity of the natives, Your Committee conceives it proper to take, in this place, a short general view of the progress of the English policy with relation to the commerce of Bengal, and the several stages and gradations, by which it has been brought into its actual state. The modes of abuse, and the means, by which commerce has suffered, will be considered

considered in greater detail under the distinct heads of those objects, which have chiefly suffered by them.

During the time of the Mogul government, the princes of that race, who omitted nothing for the encouragement of commerce in their dominions, bestowed very large privileges and immunities on the English East-India Company, exempting them from several duties, to which their natural-born subjects were liable. The Company's dustuck, or passport, secured to them this exemption at all the custom-houses and toll-bars of the country. The Company not being able, or not choosing, to make use of their privilege to the full extent, to which it might be carried, indulged their servants with a qualified use of their passport, under which, and in the name of the Company, they carried on a private trade, either by themselves, or in society with natives; and thus found a compensation for the scanty allowances made to them by their masters in England. As the Country government was at that time in the fulness of its strength, and that this immunity existed by a double connivance, it was naturally kept within tolerable limits.

But by the revolution in 1757, the Company's servants obtained a mighty ascendant over the native Princes of Bengal, who owed their elevation to the British arms. The Company, which was new to that kind of power, and not yet thoroughly

apprized

apprized of its real character and situation, considered itself still as a trader in the territories of a foreign potentate, in the prosperity of whose country it had neither interest nor duty. The servants, with the same ideas, followed their fortune in the channels, in which it had hitherto ran, only enlarging them with the enlargement of their power. For their first ideas of profit were not official; nor were their oppressions those of ordinary despotism. The first instruments of their power were formed out of evasions of their ancient subjection. The passport of the Company in the hands of its servants was no longer under any restraint; and in a very short time their immunity began to cover all the merchandise of the country. Cossim Ali Khân, the second of the Nabobs, whom they had set up, was but ill disposed to the instruments of his greatness. He bore the yoke of this imperious commerce with the utmost impatience: he saw his subjects excluded as aliens from their own trade, and the revenues of the prince overwhelmed in the ruin of the commerce of his dominions. Finding his reiterated remonstrances on the extent and abuse of the passport ineffectual, he had recourse to an unexpected expedient, which was to declare his resolution at once to annul all the duties on trade, setting it equally free to subjects and to foreigners.

Never was a method of defeating the oppressions of monopoly more forcible, more simple, or more equitable:

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equitable: no sort of plausible objection could be made; and it was in vain to think of evading it. It was therefore met with the confidence of avowed and determined injustice. The Presidency of Calcutta openly denied to the Prince the power of protecting the trade of his subjects by the remission of his own duties. It was evident that his authority drew to its period; many reasons and motives con-' curred, and his fall was hastened by the odium of the oppressions, which he exercised voluntarily, as well as of those, to which he was obliged to submit.

When this example was made, Jaffier Ali Khân, who had been deposed to make room for the last actor, was brought from penury and exile to a station, the terms of which he could not misunderstand. During his life, and in the time of his children, who succeeded to him, parts of the territorial revenue were assigned to the Company; and the whole, under the name of Residency at the Nabob's Court, was brought, directly or indirectly, under the control of British subjects. The Company's servants, armed with authorities delegated from the nominal Government, or attended with, what was a stronger guard, the fame of their own power, appeared as Magistrates in the markets, in which they dealt as traders. It was impossible for the natives in general to distinguish, in the proceedings of the same persons, what was transacted on the Company's account, from what was done on

their own; and it will ever be so difficult to draw this line of distinction, that, as long as the Company does, directly or indirectly, aim at any advantage to itself in the purchase of any commodity whatever, so long will it be impracticable to prevent the servants availing themselves of the same privileges.

The servants, therefore, for themselves, or for their employers, monopolized every article of trade, foreign and domestick; not only the raw merchantable commodities, but the manufactures; and not only these, but the necessaries of life, or what in these countries habit has confounded with them; not only silk, cotton, piece-goods, opium, saltpetre, but not unfrequently salt, tobacco, betel nut, and the grain of most ordinary consumption. In the name of the Country Government they laid on or took off, and at their pleasure heightened or lowered, all duties upon goods: the whole trade of the country was either destroyed, or in shackles. The acquisition of the Duanné, in 1765, bringing the English into the immediate government of the country in its most essential branches, extended and confirmed all the former means of monopoly..

In the progress of these ruinous measures, through all their details, innumerable grievances were suffered by the native inhabitants, which were represented in the strongest, that is, their true colours in England. Whilst the far greater part of the British

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