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The plan of April divests the Company of all property in Bengal goods transported to Europe: but in recompense they are freed from all the risk and expense, they are not loaded with interest, and they are not embarrassed with bills. The plan of May reinstates them in their old relation : but in return, their revenues in Bengal are charged with an interest of eight per cent on the sum subscribed, until bills shall be drawn; they are made proprietors of cargoes purchased, under the disadvantage of that interest, at their own hazard; they are subjected to all losses ; and they are involved in Europe for payments of bills to the amount of eighty lacs of rupees, at two shillings the rupee, – that is, in bills for eight hundred thousand pounds sterling. It is probably on account of the previous interest of eight per cent that the value of the rupee on this scheme is reduced. Mr. Hastings and his colleagues announce to Lord Macartney no other than the foregoing alteration in their plan.
It is discouraging to attempt any sort of observation on plans thus shifting their principle whilst their merits are under examination. The judgment formed on the scheme of April has nothing to do with the project of May. Your Committee has not suppressed any part of the reflections which occurred to them on the former of these plans: first, because the Company knows of no other by any regular transmissions ; secondly, because it is by no means certain that before the expiration of June the Governor-General and Council may not revert to the plan of April. They speak of that plan as likely to be, or make a part of one that shall be, permanent. Many reasons are alleged by its authors in its favor, grounded on the state of their affairs; none whatever are assigned for
the alteration. It is, indeed, morally certain that persons who had money to remit must have made the same calculation which has been made by the directions of your Committee, and the result must have been equally clear to them, - which is, that, instead of realizing two shillings and twopence the rupee on their subscription, as they proposed, they could never hope to see more than one shilling and ninepence. This calculation probably shook the main pillar of the project of April. But, on the other hand, as the subscribers to the second scheme can have no certain assurance that the Company will accept bills so far exceeding their allowance in this particular, the necessity of remitting their fortunes may beat them back to their old ground. The Danish Company was the only means of remitting which remained. Attempts have been made with success to revive a Portuguese trade for that purpose. It is by no means clear whether Mr. Hastings and his colleagues will adhere to either of the foregoing plans, or, indeed, whether
investment at all to that amount can be realized; because nothing but the convenience of remitting the gains of British subjects to London can support any of these projects.
The situation of the Company, under this perpetual variation in the system of their investment, is truly perplexing. The manner in which they arrive at any knowledge of it is no less so. The letter to Lord Macartney, by which the variation is discovered, was not intended for transmission to the Directors. It was merely for the information of those who were admitted to a share of the subscription at Madras. When Mr. Hastings sent this information to those subscribers, he might well enough have presumed an
event to happen which did happen, - that is, that a vessel might be dispatched from Madras to Europe: and indeed, by that, and by every devisable means,
he ought not only to have apprised the Directors of this most material change in the plan of the investment, but to have entered fully into the grounds and reasons of his making it.
It appears to your Committee that the ships which brought to England the plan of the 8th of April did not sail from Bengal until the 1st of May. If the change had been in contemplation for any time before the 30th of April, two days would have sufficed to send an account of it, and it might have arrived along with the plan which it affected. If, therefore, such a change was in agitation before the sailing of the ships, and yet was concealed when it might have been communicated, the concealment is censurable. It is not improbable that some change of the kind was made or meditated before the sailing of the ships for Europe: for it is hardly to be imagined that reasons wholly unlooked-for should appear for setting aside a plan concerning the success of which the Council-General seemed so very confident, that a new one should be proposed, that its merits should be discussed among the moneyed men, that it should be adopted in Council, and officially ready for transmission to Madras, in twelve or thirteen days. In this perplexity of plan and of transmission, the Court
Directors may have made an arrangement of their affairs on the groundwork of the first scheme, which was officially and authentically conveyed to them. The fundamental alteration of that plan in India might require another of a very different kind in England, which the arrangements taken in conse
quence of the first might make it difficult, if not impossible, to execute. What must add to the confusion is, that the alteration has not the regular and official authority of the original plan, and may be presumed to indicate with certainty nothing more than that the business is again afloat, and that no scheme is finally determined on. Thus the Company is left without any fixed data upon which they can make a rational disposition of their affairs.
The fact is, that the principles and economy of the Company's trade have been so completely corrupted by turning it into a vehicle for tribute, that, whenever circumstances require it to be replaced again upon a bottom truly commercial, hardly anything but confusion and disasters can be expected as the first results. Even before the acquisition of the territorial revenues, the system of the Company's commerce was not formed upon principles the most favorable to its prosperity ; for, whilst, on the one hand, that body received encouragement by royal and Parliamentary charters, was invested with several ample privileges, and even with a delegation of the most essential prerogatives of the crown, on the other, its commerce was watched with an invidious jealousy, as a species of dealing dangerous to the national interests. In that light, with regard to the Company's imports, there was a total prohibition from domestic use of the most considerable articles of their trade,- that is, of all silk stuffs, and stained and painted cottons. The British market was in a great measure interdicted to the British trader. Whatever advantages might arise to the general trading interests of the kingdom by this restraint, its East India interest was undoubtedly
injured by it. The Company is also, and has been from a very early period, obliged to furnish the Orddance with a quantity of saltpetre at a certain price, without any reference to the standard of the markets either of purchase or of sale. With regard to their export, they were put also under difficulties upon very mistaken notions; for they were obliged to export annually a certain proportion of British manufactures, even though they should find for them in India none or but an unprofitable want. This compulsory export might operate, and in some instances has operated, in a manner more grievous than a tax to the amount of the loss in trade: for the payment of a tax is in general divided in unequal portions between the vender and consumer, the largest part falling upon the latter; in the case before us the tax may be as a dead charge on the trading capital of the Company.
The spirit of all these regulations naturally tended to weaken, in the very original constitution of the Company, the main-spring of the commercial machine, the principles of profit and loss. And the mischief arising from an inattention to those principles has constantly increased with the increase of its pow
For when the Company had acquired the rights of sovereignty in India, it was not to be expected that the attention to profit and loss would have increased. The idea of remitting tribute in goods naturally produced an indifference to their price and quality, — the goods themselves appearing little else than a sort of package to the tribute. Merchandise taken as tribute, or bought in lieu of it, can never long be of a kind or of a price fitted to a market which stands solely on its commercial reputation.