« PreviousContinue »
As to the combination of this mode of remittance with the Company's investment, nothing can be affirmed concerning it until some satisfactory assurance can be held out that such an investment can ever be realized. Mr. Hastings and the gentlemen of the Council have not afforded any ground for such an expectation. That the Indian trade may become a permanent vehicle of the private fortunes of the Company's servants is very probable, – that is, as permanent as the means of acquiring fortunes in India ; but that some profit will accrue to the Company is absolutely impossible. The Company are to bear all the charge outwards, and a very great part of that homewards; and their only compensation is the surplus commission on the sale of other people's goods. The nation will undoubtedly avoid great loss and detriment, which would be the inevitable consequence of the total cessation of the trade with Bengal and the ships returning without cargoes. But if this temporary expedient should be improved into a system, no occasional advantages to be derived from it would be sufficient to balance the mischiefs of finding a great Parliamentary corporation turned into a vehicle for remitting to England the private fortunes of those for whose benefit the territorial possessions in India are in effect and substance under this project to be solely held.
By this extraordinary scheme the Company is totally overturned, and all its relations inverted. From being a body concerned in trade on their own account, and employing their servants as factors, the servants have at one stroke taken the whole trade into their own hands, on their own capital of 800,0001., at their own risk, and the Company are
become agents and factors to them, to sell by com mission their goods for their profit.
To enable your Committee to form some judgment upon the profit which may accrue to the Company from its new relation and employment, they directed that an estimate should be made of the probable proceeds of an investment conducted on the principles of that intended to be realized for 1783. By this estimate, which is subjoined, * it appears to your Com
* Estimate of the Sale Amount and Net Proceeds in England of
the Cargoes to be sent from Bengal, agreeable to the Plan re
ceived by Letter dated the 8th April, 1782. This calculation supposes the eighty lac investments will be equal to
the tonnage of five ships. 2. To custom
£ 320,000 * 1. By sale amount of € 3. freight
200,000 piece-goods and & 4. " 5 per cent duty on
£1,300,000 £1,300,000 65,000
Discount 6 per
cent allowed the
£ 653,315 ? 6. • Balance
£1,215,500 * 1. The sale amount is computed on an average of the sales of the two last years' imports.
+2. The custom is computed on an average of what was paid on piecegoods and raw silk of said imports, adding additional imposts.
• 3. The ships going out of this season, (1782,) by which the above investment is expected to be sent home, are taken up at 471. 5s. per ton, for the homeward cargo ; this charge amounts to 35,815l each ship ; the additional wages to the men, which the Company pay, and a very small charge for demurrage, will increase the freight, &c., to 40,0001. per ship, agreeable to above estimate.
4. The duty of five per cent is charged by the Company on the gross sale amount of all private trade licensed to be brought from India: the amount of this duty is the only benefit the Company are likely to receive from the subscription investment.
• 5. This charge is likewise made on private trade goods, and is little, if anything, more than the real expense the Company are at on account of the same; therefore no benefit will probably arise to the Company from it on the sale of the said investment.
16. This is the sum which will probably be realized in England, and is only equal to 18. 5d. per rupee, on the eighty lacs subscribed.
mittee, that, so far from any surplus profit from this transaction, the Bengal adventurers themselves, instead of realizing 28. 2d. the rupee, (the standard they fix for their payment,) will not receive the 18. 9d. which is its utmost value in silver at the Mint, nor probably above 18. 5d. With this certain loss before their eyes, it is impossible that they can ever complete their subscription, unless, by management among themselves, they should be able to procure the goods for their own account upon other terms than those on which they purchased them for their masters, or unless they have for the supply of the Company on their hands a quantity of goods which they cannot otherwise dispose of. This latter case is not very improbable, from their proposing to send ten sixteenths of the whole investment in silk, - which, as will be seen hereafter, the Company has prohibited to be sent on their account, as a disadvantageous article. Nothing but the servants being overloaded can rationally account for their choice of so great a proportion of so dubious a commodity.
On the state made by two reports of a committee of the General Court in 1782, their affairs were even then reduced to a low ebb. But under the arrangement announced by Mr. Hastings and his colleagues, it does not appear, after this period of the servants’ investment, from what fund the proprietors are to make any dividend at all. The objects of the sale from whence the dividend is to arise are not their goods: they stand accountable to others for the whole probable produce. The state of the Company's commerce will therefore become an object of serious consideration : an affair, as your Committee apprehends, of as much difficulty as ever tried the fac
ulties of this House. For, on the one hand, it is plain that the system of providing the Company's import into Europe, resting almost wholly by an investment from its territorial revenues, has failed: during its continuance it was supported on principles fatal to the prosperity of that country. On the other hand, if the nominal commerce of the Company is suffered to be carried on for the account of the servants abroad, by investing the emoluments made in their stations, these emoluments are therefore inclusively authorized, and with them the practices from which they accrue. All Parliamentary attempts to reform this system will be contradictory to its institution. If, for instance, five hundred thousand pounds sterling annually be necessary for this kind of investment, any regulation which may prevent the acquisition of that sum operates against the investment which is the end proposed by the plan.
On this new scheme, (which is neither calculated for a future security nor for a present relief to the Company,) it is not visible in what manner the settlements in India can be at all upheld. The gentlemen in employments abroad call for the whole produce of the year's investment from Bengal; but for the payment of the counter-investment from Europe, which is for the far greater part sent out for the support of their power, no provision at all is made: they have not, it seems, agreed that it should be charged to their account, or that any deduction should be made for it from the produce of their sales in Leadenhall Street How far such a scheme is preferable to the total suspension of trade your Committee can, not positively determine. In all likelihood, extraordinary expedients were necessary; but the causes
which induced this necessity ought to be more fully inquired into; for the last step in a series of conduct may be justifiable upon principles that suppose great blame in those which preceded it.
After your Committee had made the foregoing observations upon the plan of Mr. Hastings and his colleagues, transmitted to the Court of Directors, an extract of the Madras Consultations was a few days ago laid before us. This extract contains a letter from the Governor-General and Council of Bengal to the Presidency of Fort St. George, which affords a very striking, though to your Committee by no means an unexpected, picture of the instability of their opinions and conduct. On the 8th of April the servants had regularly formed and digested the above-mentioned plan, which was to form the basis for the investment of their own fortunes, and to furnish the sole means of the commercial existence of their masters. Before the 10th of the following May, which is the date of their letter to Madras, they inform Lord Macartney that they had fundamentally altered the whole scheme. Instead,” say they, “ of allowing the subscribers to retain an interest in the goods, they are to be provided entirely on account of the Company, and transported at their risk; and the subscribers, instead of receiving certificates payable out of the produce of the sales in Europe, are to be granted receipts, on the payment of their advances, bearing an interest of eight per cent per annum, until exchanged for drafts on the Court of Directors, payable 365 days after sight, at the rate of two shillings per current rupee, - which drafts shall be granted in the proper time, of three eighths of the amount subscribed, on the 31st of December next, and the remaining five eighths on the 31st of December, 1783."