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America ; even to France, or the United States, if at peace with this country: for it must be presumed that in the owners or sus percargoes of such ships, not in the Company, or their agents, would remain the right of directing their ulterior destinations. Let us suppose, what would very frequently happen, that the commanders, or supercargoes, were also the owners of such ships ; and that, instead of embarking for any definite voyage, their view was to avail themselves of such favorable opportunities as might occur, of engaging in profitable adventures, without being very scrupullous about the means. Might not adventurers of this description, after having perpetrated the most flagitious acts, even robbery or piracy, against the natives of India, or other aets of a more public nature, affecting politically the interests of the East India Company, find impunity, or even welcome and protection, by taking refuge in France or America ? Might not many such adventurers, under the pretence of commerce, act as agents for, and be regularly employed to convey to India the emissaries of the powers at war with this country, or whose policy in peace is adverse to its prosperity? This, as every one is fully aware of, who knows the nature of man, and the state of India, is not to proclaim ideal or imaginary evils; but to anticipate certain and indubitable results. If there are, in this country, men base enough to aid French prisoners in escaping from captivity, is it'uncharitable to believe that there are others who would convey the emissaries of that nation to our East India colonies; seeing that the chances of detection and punishment are so much diminished by the distance? What securities could the East India Company, or the nation exact of the owners of ships, not in their service, especially those sailing from the out-ports, which might not easily be eluded ? Supposing securities were exacted, even to the full amount of the value of the ship, in case of any misconduct during the voyage, what degree of safety would be found in this measure? In case of detection, the real or ostensible owners might evade the impending storm, by taking shelter in a foreign or hostile port; or they might choose to abide the issue, having insured compensation for the forfeiture, from the individuals or the governments, whose projects their vessels were serving.
These are consequences which ought to be sufficient, indepen. dent of the risk of colonization, to alarm men of reasonable and • sober calculation. But when we reflect, that every one of these pri
vate ships might allow the whole of their British crews to quit them in India, to be replaced by Lascars, or foreign European sailors; or that, their discipline being necessarily inferior to that of the Company's ships, their crews might all abandon them; and that no precautions or restrictions, which it is possible to devise, can prevent these results in part; it must be obvious how rapidly the measure of laying open the Trade to India, to private ships, would accelerate the progress of colonization,
Nor could this progress be either prevented or impeded, as some have erroneously supposed, by any measures of the local governments, which would not bear a character of despotism inconsistent with the state of society in that part of our dominions. Persons having made a losing voyage by trade (which would be the case with a great many, if private ships were allowed) would be desirous, with the very best intentions, of repairing their losses by a residence in India. Others, having offers of an advantageous settlement, might clandestinely, or by connivance, quit their ships. Some might be left behind from sickness, and some abandon their situation in disgust. The number of persons who, actuated by one or several of all these various motives, or deterinined by other circumstances of accident or of choice, would seek to better their condition by remaining in India instead of returning with their ships to Europe, would, it may reasonably be expected, frequently bear a considerable proportion to the whole number of the crew; and having procured themselves an establishment, how could the local governments, while they conducted themselves as quiet, peaceable, and loyal subjects, oblige these persons, without appear: ing excessively rigorous, or even cruel, to relinquish the establishments which they had obtained, and to return to Europe? We are here supposing the local governments to have the means of ascertaining all persons so circumstanced, a thing evidently impossible, without the introduction of a system of police inconsistent with all ideas of British Government. If it were even practicable, by the strictest vigilance, to oppose at the commencement some sort of limits to the inundation of emigrants which would thus pour iwto India, it is evident that these limits could not
be long effectual.' The 'present restrictions being removed, the progress of emigration would increase in a geoinetrical ratio, the inducements to new colonists increasing in that proportion to the namber of the old ones.
Of the effects that would result in this respect from laying open the Trade to private ships, some reasonable conjecture may be formed by contemplating the vumber of Europeans that have settled in India, from the Company's chartered ships, notwithstanding the strict bonds by which these are connected with their employers. In cases of irregularity the Company can withhold from the owners their freight; they can mulct the captains and deprive them of their commands; they can dismiss the officers from their service. But even the great power which the Company thus possess over the owners, captains, and officers of their regular ships has not always been sufficient to prevent their crews from forming a residence in India. How much more feeble then, or rather what a nullity would be their authority over private ships, of which the owners, commanders, and officers would, under the system proposed, be wholly independent of them ? - But the emigration to India would by no means be confined to those descriptions of persons, who might casually quit their ships in order to form a residence in that country. There are many circumstances, and among them the florishing and secure state of the British dominions, which now more than formerly produce à tendency to the colonization of Asia. Those who went with permission, at former periods, to the East Indies, under the denomination of free-mariners, or who casually remained there and settled as merchants or traders, with licenses from the Compáry, invariably went abroad with the view, after having realized a competency or a fortune, of returning to spend the evening of their days in their native country. Now, however, that fortunes are not so easily acquired, and that the mode of living among Europeans in India is considerably improved, many persons, who would have gone formerly with the intention of returning, will proceed to that country, assured of the stability of the British power, with a design of making it a permanent residence. .
Thus the British Empire itself, should this feeling extend, an effect which the measure in contemplation is admirably calculated
to produce, might suffer an alarıning depopulation : and it is no less reasonably to be expected that, under the existing pressure of war and despotism in other countries, an immense emigration would take place from almost all parts of the world, which would naturally concentrate in India, as being now the most favored asylum of peace, security, and plenty.
This result could not fail to be farther accelerated by the progress of events in South America, New South Wales, and other countries, which, from their position, would always, if navigation were unrestrained, havo a considerable intercourse with the Com pany's territories; and the additional intercourse, upon the return of peace, of the nations now in hostility with us, would powerfully contribute toward the same end.
Upon the whole, in reviewing this measure in all its bearings, the conclusion which we are obliged to form is, that if the object intended were to encourage emigration to India, a better or a more appropriate plan could scarcely have been devised for that purpose, than that of granting unlimited permission to private ships to trade to that country. And how, I would ask, is the permission to be limited ? If licenses from the Company should be deemed necessary, how can they, without the grossest inconsistency and injustice, be granted to some merchants, and to some ship-owners, but refused to others? If they should not be deemed necessary, then every person in the kingdom, who has the ability and the fancy to embark in such an undertaking, may fit out a ship for India, and dispatch her at whatever period he pleases.
Thus India would be colonized!
With respect to the effect which that result would produce on the permanency of its connection with Great Britain, no man, I should think, will be hardy enough to deny that it would prove ultimately fatal; and the only difference of opinion which could seasonably arise, would be respecting the precise period at which their separation would happen.
The next proposition is, that opening the Trade of India to private ships would be productive of irregularity, smuggling caredations, and even piracy in the Indian Seas ; that it would interfere materially with the Company's regular Trade to China, and even. endanger the permanency of, or entirely interrupt, the intercourse with that country.
Under the system of Open Trade proposed, there is not a doubt that, in so vast a range of coast many opportunities would occur, in places to which British laws and British protection have not yet fully extended, of plundering, over-reaching, or otherwise maltreating the mild and inoffensive inhabitants : and, although the natural love of justice would with many prevail over all temptations, yet there are others who would allow themselves to be seduced into acts of violence, treachery, or deception, which the facility of escaping punishment would render too alluring to be always resisted. However we may be advanced in refinement, I am not aware that, in respect to sound morals, the present times are much superior to what they were a century ago; and we know that, at that period, a regular system of piracy was organized by the interlopers, who frequented the Indian Seas to the great inconvenience and loss of the East India Company, and the imprisonmeut by the native powers, of their most valuable servants. Some of the piratical vessels, which then infested those seas, were even fitted out by British subjects, from New York, and other parts of America, then under our own dominion. It is true, the present state of India by land, and that of our naval power in the Eastern Seas, would render such projects now much more hazardous. But if, from these circumstances, private adventurers should seldom be daring enough to venture upon absolute piracy, they would still have sufficient temptations and opportunity to commit minor depredations.
The injury which would arise from this source to the Company's China Trade is equally certain, but of much greater importance, It was a judicions precaution of the Court of Directors, with a view to the safety of this trade, to desire that private ships might be prohibited from having access to the Molucca Islands, or Eastern Archipelago. But even this restriction, although undoubtedly some, would, I apprehend, be but a very slender security against
· Vide Bruce's Annals of the East India Company, Vol. II. pp. 804 and 210.