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ous expense of legal proceedings; and he clearly points out the encouragement which it affords to oppression. His reasoning claims attention, because it is universally applicable. But, to the purpose before us, it is also important to observe, that in some countries the expedient which drives the poor from courts of justice, may be less felt as a grievance, from the sympathy which exists between the poor and the rich, and the moral checks which public feeling provides against oppression,but that in India none of these palliatives operate; and it is seen in its naked mischievousness, as a plan to deprive of the chief benefits of civil society, those who stand most in need of its protection.
But the matter unfortunately is not a subject of speculation, but of experience. For the honour of the British character, there have not been wanting in India, Judges, from whose enlightened minds the Bengal government might have derived instruction, and from whom no Legislature need have been ashamed to ask it. They have had the means of observing the effect of this expedient, and the honesty to declare it. Sir Henry Strachey observes, that exaction of revenue,' which he has described as the prevailing crime in Hindostan, and against which the unhappy peasant can only seek redress in a court of justice, • is peculiarly difficult of proof.'. The production of many witnesses, and many documents, is therefore necessary; but, on the production of each of these, a tax is levied on the plaintiff. It is not the original fee,' he says, on the institution
of the suit, but the subsequent charges on exhibits and on
witnesses, that appear to me intolerable. I have often seen "a suitor, when stripped of his last rupee, and called upon for
the fee on à document, produce in court a silver ring, or other ' trinket, and beg that it might be received as a pledge; and, • after all, perhaps cast for want of money to bring proof.' As to the pretence, that the expense checks litigiousness, he asserts, that scarcely in five cases out of a hundred are the demands of the plaintiff false or frivolous; and he observes, that ' a man is disabled from sustaining expense in proportion as he ' is poor, and not in proportion as he is litigious.'- It is my • opinion,' he says, that the nearer we approach to the rule, • of granting to all speedy justice without any expense what• ever, the nearer we shall, in our judicial system, approach
perfection. It will not, I imagine, be denied, that it is desir• able the least tedious and least expensive mode of obtaining
redress should be open, where an injury has really been suf: • fered. When a poor man has been oppressed, he should be • freed from trouble and expense, and assisted and encouraged
• as much as possible in prosecuting his complaint. He is not, • in such a situation, a fair object for taxation. It does not
become the ruling powers to add to his misfortune, by levy• ing impositions upon him.' The Judges of the Court of Appeal at Moorshedabad, (Mr Colebrooke, Mr Pattle, and Nir Roche), in their Report in 1802, say, 'The increased expense • of lawsuits has never been found to check litigiousness: On • the contrary, it has been generally observed, that litigiousness . is encouraged thereby; in the hope that the certainty of the • expense, added to the uncertainty of the result, might deter * parties from defending even just rights. On comparing the
half-yearly reports of the several adauluts in this division, it • does not appear that the number of suits filed, since the esta• blishment of the fees and stamp-duties, differs much from the • number filed in a similar period previous thereto.' This expedient failed, therefore, even of producing the effect of ren dering the quantity of business manageable. In spite of repeated augmentations of law expenses, the Judges have been quite unsuccessful in their endeavours to keep down the number of causes. In 1803 the Directors remarked, in one of their despatches, on the almost incredible number of causes undecided ;) that “to judge by analogy of the courts of Europe, they would • be induced to think so great an arrear could scarcely ever • come to a hearing :' And at so late a period as March 1812, notwithstanding some palliatives which had been adopted, they say-We should be sorry, that, from the accumulation of such
arrears, there should ever be room to raise a question, whe• ther it were better to leave the natives to their own arbitrary • and precipitate tribunals, than to harass their feelings, and in* jure their property, by an endless procrastination of their suits, • under the pretence of more deliberate justice.'
As to the very obvious remedy of increasing the number of courts, this was of course suggested in the Committee of the House of Commons; but the remark which they made on it (in 1812) will be instructive to those, if any such yet remain, who, in defiance of reason and of 60 years' experience, look forward to the receipt of a surplus revenue from India. An aug• mentation,' they say, of the number of European Judges
adequate to the purpose required, would be attended with an • augmentation of charge which the state of the finances is not • calculated to bear; and the same objection occurs to the ap
pointment of assistant Judges.' We have seen that the revenue actually levied was so great, in comparison of the ability of the country to pay it, that the means adopted to enforce payment involved the whole body of the Zemindars in ruin; yet even this revenue is insuflicient, under the expensive system of
administration which we have established, to enable us to per form to the natives the first duty of rulers—the distribution of justice.
The effects of Lord Cornwallis's reforms in penal judicature, and in the police, have not been more fortunate. In consider ing the increase or dimination of crimes, the tests of the merits of a reform of criminal judicature and police, the attention is naturally drawn, in the first place, to those offences which most immediately threaten the security of property and life. In Hindostan, bands of robbers, called, in the language of the country, decoits, combined in numbers which it is impossible for any personal strength or courage to resist ; commit crimes, in comparison of which, all other violations of the law shrink into insignificance. Mr Dowdeswell, the secretary to the Government, in a Report which he framed in 1809, on the general state of the police of Bengal, says,
Were I to enumerate only a thousandth part of the atrocities of the decoits, and of the consequent sufferings of the people; and were I to soften that recital in every mode which language would permit, I should still despair of obtaining credit, solely on my own authority, for the accuracy of the narrative......Robbery, rape, and even murder itself, are not the worst figures in this horrid and disgusting picture. An expedient of common occurrence with the decoits, merely to induce a confession of property supposed to be concealed, is, to burn the proprietor with straw or torches, until he discloses the property, or perishes in the flames; and, when they are actuated by a spirit of revenge against individuals, worse cruelties, if worse can be, are perpetrated by those remorseless criminals. If the information obtained is not extremely erroneous, the offender, hereafter noticed, himself committed fifteen murders in nineteen days; and volumes might be filled with the atrocities of the decoits, every line of which would make the blood run cold with horror.
Mr Dowdeswell inserts the abstract of some trials, which completely establish that his general expressions are not exaggerated. The species of robbery which is committed by these bands, and so often accompanied with their horrid cruelties, obtains the name of decoity. This crime,' Sir Henry Strachey, in his Report as Judge of Circuit of Calcutta, in 1802, says, "has, I believe, increased greatly since the British admi
nistration of justice.' The convictions, he states, though digiously numerous, (for in the six stations of that division there were four thousand convicts confined, of whom nine-tenths are probably decoits), were very few in proportion to the number of those guilty of the crime. The Judge of Circuit of the Rajeshakye division says, in a letter to the
Register of the Nizamut Adaulut,
"That decoily is very prevalent in Rajeshakye, has often been stat
ed. But if its extent were known, if the scenes of horror, the murders, the burnings, the excessive cruelties, which are continually perpetrated here, were properly represented to Government, I am confident that some measures would be adopted to remedy the evil.
... It cannot be denied, that, in point of fact, there is no security for persons or property. Such is the state of things which prevails in most of the zillahs (districts) in Bengal. But in this it is much worse than in any other I have seen. I am fully persuaded that no civilized country ever had so bad a police as Rajeshakye has at present.'
Besides this overbearing and alarming crime, which has increased to such a degree as to draw from the Judges themselves the declaration, that there is no security for persons or property in that part of India which has been longest subject to the English power, all other offences are far from having diminished. • Since the year 1793,' says Sir Henry Strachey, "all • crimes are increased; and I think most crimes are still increas. ing. The present increase of crimes may perhaps be doubt• ful; but no one, I think, can deny, that immediately after
1793, (the year in which the reforms were effected), during « five or six years, it was most manifest and rapid; and that no • considerable diminution has taken place.' Murders from the slightest motives the murder of children for the sake of their ornaments, for instance—and the most barefaced perjuries, are the offences which most characterize the people. Not only have tangible crimes increased, but manners have suffered. Sir H. Strachey-the judge and magistrate of Burdwan—and the magistrates of the twenty-four pergunnahs, concur in stating, that the morals of the people have been deteriorated, rather than improved, since the introduction of the British system.
While immorality and crimes increase, and, most of all, those crimes which are accompanied with violence, it will be suspected that the plan of police is not very efficient. The darogahs who had been established by the new system, are allowed by the Committee of the House of Commons (1812) to have been not less corrupt, and much less efficient, than their predecessors the servants of the Zemindars. The Secretary of the Government of Bengal, whose Report we have before quoted, describes their avarice and addiction to every species of extortion,' as vices' which render thein a pest to the country.' While wealthy criminals can always purchase impunity,—it appears, by the addresses of the Judges, that the practice of extorting confessions is extremely prevalent--a practice facilitated by the extreme ignorance of the people. In 1807, the Zemindars and other principal inhabitants were vested with the same authority for the apprehension of offenders as the darogahs possessed; but from this plan so much mischief was found to result, that in 1810 it was abolished. Police spies and superintendants were established in 1808 ; but they, too, were found to engage as largely as the darogahs in the business of extortion; and, like their brethren in other places, to support imaginary crimes by false accusations, for the sake of obtaining the head-money which was given as the conviction of some species of offenders. In short, whatever class of natives was invested with the powers of the police, or by what names the officers were designated, being found utterly void of all principles of morality or honour, they only added to the number of the plunderers whom they were employed to repress.
Such are the melancholy results of the attempts to improve the condition of Bengal, described not by inimical observers or severe judges, but by the magistrates, who, from the prejudices of their situation, would be inclined to behold every indication of improvement under the auspices of a British administration with a favourable eye. Every person of rank and property reduced to the lowest condition, the cultivator exposed to intolerable exaction,-the Courts of Justice virtually closed against suitors,—the most terrible of crimes increased to that extent that no security for person or property can be said to exist,-minor offences not diminished, -dissoluteness of morals become more general,--and a police, of which the vices render it, instead of a benefit, a pest to the country ;-these, according to the highest authorities, are the characteristics of that part of India, where our reforms have had the longest time to operate.
To this picture must those open their eyes, who have been consoling themselves, on every act of aggression and conquest, however unjust in itself, with the reflection, that the extension of the British power was an extension of benefits and of security to the natives. One advantage has certainly attended the introduction of an English administration: The direct oppression which the superiors exercised, as of right, over their interiors, is lessened; but that oppression was much less terrible than the increased acts of violence and cruelty of the unlicensed plunderers who were kept in awe by the vigilance of the former rulers; nor can the occasional acts of violence, on the part of the native governments towards its higher subjects, bear a comparison with those regulations, which have produced a greater change in the landed property than was ever known before, and in a few years reduced the majority of the Zemindars to distress and beggary. Change must always be in itself an evil :- but in what instance has so great a change been effected with so little advantage to counterbalance it? We can do little more than press these facts on the attention of our readers, and recommend the acute examination of the causes