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• our countrymen had then begun to transact-of their charac
ter, history, manners, religion, arts, literature and laws; as • well as of the physical circumstances of climate, soil and pro• duction, in which they were placed. 3. To deduce to the pre• sent times a history of the British transactions in relation to
India,' &c. &c. The matter is divided into six books. The First contains the commencement and progress of the British intercourse with India, till the establishment of the Company on a durable basis, by the act of Queen Anne. The Second book is on the Hindocs; the Third on the Mahomedans; and these three fill the first volume. The Fourth book comprises the period from 1708, till the change in the constitution of the Company in the year 1773. The Fifth book continues the history to the time of Mr Pitt's act in 1784, the second great change in the constitution of the Company; and the Sixth, which comprises the whole of the third volume, brings down the narrative to the conclusion of the Mahratta war' in 1805,-with which the history terminates.
The Company, in the name of which so great an empire is now governed, originated in a charter of Queen Elizabeth in 1600, and made its first adventure in 1601, for which 68,3731. were subscribed. An anecdote is preserved by Mr Mill, which will show, that, in their humble origin, they displayed a spirit of independence which would grace their higher fortune. While their patent of incorporation was still under consideration, an application was made from court for the employment of a Sir Edward Michelbourne in their projected voyage. The Committee, though standing in the situation of petitioners for a favour not yet conceded, -stated it to be their resolution not to employ
any Gentleman in any place of charge ;' and requested that
they may be allowed to sort their business with men of their own ' qualitye, lest the suspicion of the employm' of Gentlemen be
ing taken hold uppon by the generalitie, do dryve a great ( number of the adventurers to withdraw their contributions. (I. p. 14.) This unwarrantable aversion of the Generalitie' to a job, in which they persevered—for there was no Board of Control in those days—is a curious trait of the infancy of their Corporation : But, on the other hand, it is to be remembered that their mercantile dealings were profitable. The trade was, as is well known, carried on in the principles, pot of a Joint Stock, but of a Regulated Company--each subscriber managing his respective share of the property on his own account, subject only to certain general regulations. On the eight voyages managed in this manner, leaving out of account one small adventure which was wholly unfortunate, the average profits were no less than 171 per cent. In 1610 the Regulated was changed into a
Joint Stock Company; and the four first voyages conducted on this principle afforded an average profit of 874 per cent.;- -a falling off, compared with the profits of the Regulated Company. After this there are no distinct accounts of the profits: But in 1627 we find the Company stating that they had been obliged to contract a debt of 200,0001., and that their stock was at a discount of 20 per cent;—their 1001. shares selling at 801. About the same time we find them complaining of the envy and malice of the Dutch, who are chiefly accused of selling their goods so cheap, and buying Indian goods so dear, that they thrust the Company out of the markets of the East.' It soon appears, however, that 'this effect defective came by cause.
• From servants at a vast distance,' says Mr Mill, - and the servants of a great and negligent master, the best service could not be easily procured. For this discovery, the Directors were indebted, , not to any sagacity of their own, but to a misunderstanding among the agents themselves, who betraying one another, acknowledged that they had neglected the affairs of their employers to attend to their own, and, while they pursued with avidity a private trade for their own benefit, had abandoned that of the Company to every spe, cies of disorder.' I. p. 41.
The truth is, that they began thus early to clamour against all competition and free trade; and in 1639 complained to the King, that if the license given to a Sir W. Courton was not withdrawn, they would be compelled to abandon their trade altogether. The true effects, too, of a free trade, seem to have been well understood at the time, if not by the Company itself, at least by their intelligent rivals. For Cromwell baving granted a commission in 1657 to fit out four ships for the Indian tradie, under the management of a Committee, the measure, it seems, was misunderstood in Holland, -and it was supposed that the Protector had thrown entirely open the trade to the East.
· The interests of the Dutch Company made them see, in this supposed revolution, very different consequences from those which the English Directors made them believe or pretend that they beheld in it. Instead of rejoicing at the destruction of a joint stock in England, which thegought to have done, if by joint stock alone the trade of their rivals could be successfully carried on, they were filled with dismay at the prospect of freedom, as likely to produce a trade with which they would attempt competition in vain." I. p. 53.
From this time till 1667, the operations of the Company were very feeble;—they abandoned inany of their out-factories in India, and exhibited every symptom of a declining commerce, In particular years their exports did not amount to more than 20,0001. After 1667 their dealings were greatly enlarged; but we are still left in the dark as to the profits. At the time of the Revolution, the Royal authority under which the Company not
only traded, but had been in the habit of seizing their fellow, subjects in the East, and of trying their servants by martial law, began to be questioned; and the House of Commons at last denied the power of the Sovereign to restrain, without the sanction of Parliament, the freedom of trade. A new Association obtained an act of Parliament in its favour; but after some negotiations which are well known, the two Corporations were joined under the name of the United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies; -and in 1708, they were secured by Parliament in the exclusive possession of the trade to the East, till the expiration of three years notice after March 25th, 1726.
At the time of the new charter of the Company, its powers were thus distributed. All the proprietors who possessed 5001. stock assembled in a General Court, were invested with the supreme legislative authority. All laws and regulations, all declarations of dividends, all grants of money, were made by them. The executive power was vested in 24 Directors, chosen from among persons possessed of 20001. stock, by the General Court. It was their duty to act under the ordinances of the Proprietors, and to manage the business of routine. They had a Chairman and Deputy Chairman to preside in the courts. Mr Mill's remarks on this constitution are in themselves important, and form a good specimen of his manner of reasoning. After comparing this Corporation to the constitution of England, ho savs
In the constitution, however, of the East India Company, so much power was allotted to the democrátical part, that a small portion
appears to have been reserved to the other two. Not only were the sovereignty and the aristocracy both elective, but they were elected from year to year; that is, were in a state of complete dependence upon the democratical branch. Nor was this all." No decrees but those of the democracy were binding, at least in the last resort: the aristocracy, therefore, and monarchy, were subordinate and subject. Under the common impression of democratic ambition, irregularity and violence, it might be concluded that the democratic assembly would grasp at the whole of the power, would constrain and disturb the proceedings of the Chairmen and Directors, would deliberate with violence and animosity, and exhibit all the confusion, precipitation and imprudence which are so commonly ap scribed to the exercise of popular power.
The actual result is extremely different from what the common modes of reasoning would prompt common minds to infer. Notwithstanding the power which, by the theory of the Constitution, is thus reserved to the popular part of the system, all power has cen. tered in the Court of Directors; and the government of the Company has been an oligarchy in point of fact. So far from meddling to much, the Court of Proprietors has not attended to the common af: fairs, even sufficiently for the business of inspection : And the known principles of human nature abundantly secured that particular result. To watch, to scrutinize, to inquire, is labour ; and labour is pain. To confide, to take for granted that all is well, is easy, is exempt from labour, and, to the great mass of mankind, comparatively delightful. If they who transact, therefore, have only sufficient prudence to avoid those occurrences which are calculated to rouse the people for whom they transact, the people will allow them abundant scope to manage the common concerns in a way conformable to their own liking and advantage. It is thus that all constitutions, however democratically formed, have a tendency to become oligarchical in practice. The more numerous body, who constitute the democracy, see the objects of ambition at so great a distance, and the competition for them is shared with so great a number, that, in general, they make but a feeble impression upon their minds : The small number, on the other hand, entrusted with the management, feel so immediately the advantages, and their affections are so pow. erfully engaged by the presence of their object, that they easily concentrate their views, and pour their energies with perfect constancy in the selfish direction. The apathy and inattention of the people, on the one hand, and the interested activity of the rulers on the other, are, in politics, two powers, the action of which may always be counted upon ; nor has the art of government as yet exemplified, however the science may or may not have discovered, any certain means by which the unhappy effects of that action may be prevented.' II. p. 4.
In India, the Company's affairs were, at this time, and long continued to be, directed by three Councils, at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta—which were generally composed of the senior servants of the Company. But those persons were not debarred from holding subordinate situations; -and they consequently distributed among themselves the most lucrative places in their gift, no matter how incompatible with their functions as rulers. It seldom, if ever, happened, that some of each Council were not appointed chiefs of the more important factories, to which they transferred their residence; while, by their rank and power, they pretty securely defied all censure for malversation or negligence. We should not mention this practical instance of the incapacity of a Joint-stock Company to conduct a commercial concern with advantage to itself and to the nation, did we not recollect, that the trade of this country with the most populous empire in the world, and the sale of one of the most important articles of domestic consumption, is still monopolized by such a body.
In 1732, the charter of the Company was renewed, on the condition of their making some advances of money to the Government. But there had been so much opposition, that they thought it prudent not to provoke its renewal by allowing the
full period of their monopoly to expire ;--and accordingly, in 1744, when nobody was thinking of the matter, and when the Government was in great want of money, they made a proposal to lend the state a million at 3 per cent., provided the period of their exclusive privileges were prolonged to the expiration of three years notice from March 1780. The bribe was accepted; and the Company thus secured in their exclusive trade for half a century without discussion. To show the real motive of the transaction, which originated in no overflow of capital, the Company was authorized to borrow, on its own bonds, the million which it was to lend to the Government.
About the middle of the century, a new era began in India. The European companies had long been kept in awe by the prodigious numbers which the native powers could bring into the field; and having generally neither able officers nor experienced troops, had never ventured to try the effect of European discipline against enemies to whom they seemed so unequal. Some experiments of the French led the way to the conquest of Hindostan by their ancient rivals ;-much in the same manner as the expedition of the ten thousand and the campaigns of Agesilaus opened the Persian monarchy to the attacks of Alexander. A large army of the Nabob of Carnatic, in 1746, invested Madras, which was then in the hands of the French, by whom it had been taken from the English. A single French battalion, which was then in the town, attacked the army, astonished them by the rapid discharges of its artillery, and gained a decisive victory. The French, too, at Pondicherry first set the example of training sepoys in the European manner. The experience of the weakness of the native arinies against European discipline, and the facility of imparting that discipline to natives in the European service, are the two discoveries which have given India to the most energetic of the European nations who happened to have a footing there.
The history of the Company in its new character, as a Sovereign power, is one of the most instructive narratives which are anywhere to be found from the complete manner in which the motive of every transaction has been laid bare. From the distance of the scene from the seat of government in England, it has always been necessary that the local agents should immediately commit to writing their exposition of every occurrence. From the constitution, too, of the Presidencies or Councils in India, debates generally took place, in which reasons were urged for and against the different measures, which were afterwards recorded in the shape of Minutes. The Directors were also obliged to send out very full instructions in their letters; and all these documents have been open to inspection, whenever the British