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The indifference of the mercantile sovereign to his trading advantages naturally relaxed the diligence of his subordinate factor-magistrates through all their gradations and in all their functions; it gave rise, at least so far as the principal was concerned, to much neglect of price and of goodness in their purchases. If ever they showed any extraordinary degrees of accuracy and selection, it would naturally be in favor of that interest to which they could not be indiffer ent. The Company might suffer above, the natives might suffer below; the intermediate party must profit to the prejudice of both.
Your Committee are of opinion that the Company is now arrived at that point, when, the investment from surplus revenue or from the spoil of war ceasing, it is become much more necessary to fix its commerce upon a commercial basis. And this opinion led your Committee to a detailed review of all the articles of the Indian traffic upon which the profit and loss was steady; and we have chosen a period of four years, during the continuance of the revenue investment, and prior to any borrowing or any extraordinary drawing of bills, in order to find out how far the trade, under circumstances when it will be necessary to carry it on by borrowing, or by bills, or by exportation of bullion, can be sustained in the former course, so as to secure the capital and to afford a reasonable dividend. And your Com mittee find that in the first four years the investment from Bengal amounted to 4,176,5251. ; upon 2,260,2771. there was a gain of 186,3371., and upon 1,916,2481. a loss of 705,5661.: so that the excess of loss above gain, upon the whole of the foregoing capital, was in the four years no less than 519,2291.
If the trade were confined to Bengal, and the Company were to trade on those terms upon a capital borrowed at eight per cent Indian interest, their revenues in that province would be soon so overpowered with debt, that those revenues, instead of supporting the trade, would be totally destroyed by it. If, on the other hand, the Company traded upon bills with every advantage, far from being in a condition to divide the smallest percentage, their bankruptcy here would be inevitable.
Your Committee then turned to the trade of the other factories and Presidencies, and they constantly found, that, as the power and dominion of the Company was less, their profit on the goods was greater. The investments of Madras, Bombay, and Bencoolen have, in the foregoing four years, upon a capital of 1,151,1761., had a gain upon the whole of 329,6221. The greatest of all is that of Bencoolen, which, on a capital of 76,5711., produced a profit of 107,7601. This, however, is but a small branch of the Company's trade. The trade to China, on a capital of 1,717,4631., produced an excess of gain amounting to 874,0961., which is about fifty per cent. But such was the evil influence of the Bengal investment, that not only the profits of the Chinese trade, but of all the lucrative branches taken together, were so sunk and ingulfed in it, that the whole profit on a capital of 7,045,1641. reached to no more than 684,4891., that is, to 189,6071. less than the profit on the Chinese trade alone, - less than the total profits on the gainful trades taken together, 520,7271.
It is very remarkable, that in the year 1778, when the Bengal investment stood at the highest, that is, so high as 1,223,316l., though the Chinese trade pro
duced an excess of gain in that year of 209,2431., and that no loss of moment could be added to that of Bengal, (except about 45,0001. on the Bombay trade,) the whole profit of a capital of 2,040,7871. amounted only to the sum of 9,4801.
The detail of the articles in which loss was incurred or gain made will be found in the Appendix, No. 24. The circumstances of the time have rendered it necessary to call up a vigorous attention to this state of the trade of the Company between Europe and India.
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 preëmption 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 preëmptions, 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 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 customhouses 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 apprised 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: 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 concurred, and