Page images
PDF
EPUB

cantonments, British Rule and discipline take their course ; beyond those limits, the lex loci, whatever that may be, good, bad, or indifferent, holds on its own way. For the police, and conservancy of bazars, grounds, roads, bridges, and the like, it has generally happened, that whatever cesses would, according to the custom of the country, have been levied by the Territorial Ruler, have, within such Residency or Agency precincts, been collected by the Presidency or Agency Kotwal, the native officer charged with the care of the bazars. Fines levied for misdemeanours, infractions of bazar rules, and the like, have usually been carried to the same account, as the proceeds of the bazar petty taxes. The Fund, thus formed, was expended at the discretion of the Resident or Agent, but for such purposes as were above set forth; sometimes with, and sometimes without, the form of rendering an account to the Territorial Chief of the gross receipts and expenditure. Sometimes mixed with, and sometimes separate from, the Bazar Fund, were the accidental receipts from incomplete establishments, analogous to the Towfir Funds, once prevalent amongst our Magistrates, but long since abolished by order of the Court of Directors.

We have before noted the higher species of jurisdiction, exercised in Central India, both by Residents and Political Agents. This is not limited to the private international cases before alluded to, but extends to the cognizance of the crime of murder, or of acts of gross cruelty and oppression on the part of Chiefs. The fines levied in such cases have been often heavy, and were then imposed with the sanction of the paramount authority, which occasionally directed their application. But even in this class of fines, the practice varied--some Political officers carrying them to the account of Government, whilst others, as would seem to have been the case at Indore, brought them to account in the Local Funds, disclaiming the right of the British Government to such sums, and acting on that opinion.

Finding the practice in the Political Department to vary, the Commissioners admitted to a certain extent, it would appear, the plea of the Resident. That some of the charges on the Fine Fund were of most doubtful propriety, such as that for the Ice pits and for the Band, was palpable. But, admitting the above mentioned plea, and the uncertainty of practice as to Judicial fines, there was no peculation, no misuse of Govern. ment money; and, though the love of state and show had drawn the Resident into these and other indiscreet modes of expenditure, the Commissioners, who probably confined them. selves to the points specified by the Governor-General, came to a conclusion, as evidenced by the second letter to Captain Harris, favourable to the integrity of the Resident, though not flattering either to his discretion, or to the clearness of his accounts. Their report, therefore, we must presume, exculpated him from the suspicion of dishonourable conduct, or of misapplication of Government money ; but it could not have approved of the irregularity of procedure, fairly attachable to several of these pecuniary acts, and still less could it have countenanced the latitude of discretion, which he had assumed, in the management of funds which, if not strictly belonging to the British Government, as he argued, were nevertheless a public trust.

We think their general views correct, and their opinion, based on the uncertainty of practice, sound; nay, we go further and doubt, whether a freer and more full inquiry, and a permission to Captain Harris to bring forward all that he wished, would, in the end, have modified their decision. But it must be borne in mind, that Captain Harris was not present during the proceedings; was not furnished with the refutation, which the Resident laid before the Commissioners; was not called upon to substantiate his allegations : in fact, was not at all treated like an accuser, any more than the Resident like an accused person. The Commissioners proceeded in their quasi-judicial investigation, as if they were simply inquiring, whether there were, or were not, grounds upon which Government ought to frame charges against a public servant. Viewed in this light, their proceedings would seem to have been unexceptionable. The Government however did not act, as if it regarded them in this light. Their report was treated as a Judicial decision; and the letter, which was addressed to Captain Harris, and which was given the run of the public Press, is penned exactly, as if there had been a fair open trial, and as if the accuser had framed charges, and, having had the opportunity, had failed to substantiate them.

Now we venture to doubt whether Captain Harris himself, after the assurances he had received, could have been more surprised, than the Commissioners must have been, at such an application, with respect to himself, of their opinions. And until their report is published, we shall, with the example of the GovernorGeneral's first letter before us, persist in doubting, whether any honourable man would have pronounced Captain Harris' conduct, as not coming within the limits of excusable error.

There is so remarkable a difference, such absolute contradiction between the Governor-General's views and opinions, as first communicated to Captain Harris, and those ascribed to the Governor-General in Council, in the final letter to the address of this officer, that, although in the latter communication advantage is taken of the expression “ defrauded the Government” to aggravate the conduct of Captain Harris, yet these two letters must be pronounced utterly irreconcileable. The GovernorGeneral in Council is put on his defence against the honest warmth and candour of the Governor-General. How is this to be accounted for ? Can we suppose a nobleman of the Governor-General's ability, tact and experience, so light in his opinions, that a weathercock turn of this kind is congenial to bis mind ? We give him credit for higher and nobler qualities, and for greater consistency of thought and action. We, in Calcutta, know the import of the words “in Council,"-have an inkling of the constitution of that body, of its tendencies, and how its powers are actually wielded. We are inclined, therefore, without any disparagement intended, to look upon these significant words "in Council," as the tail of the weathercock on this occasion. No such change was possible without its instrumentality.

Our readers will have seen that, excepting perhaps the Commissioners, we consider all parties more or less wrong: Even the Commissioners would have acted more wisely, and would have had more credit with the public for impartiality, had there been less secrecy and a more reserved bearing towards the Resident. The Governor-General might, with advantage and propriety, have suspended his judgment, and not pledged him. self so early to opinions and assurances, highly favourable to the motives and conduct of Captain Harris. This officer would have lost no credit for the purity of his intentions, had he been more fair and above-board with his superior--animated by a more courteous, and a less bitter spirit, -and more discreet of tongue. But the decision of the Governor-General in Council with respect to Captain Harris appears to us—unless borne out by a very strong opinion on the part of the Commissioners, as to the inexcusability of his error in doing that for which the Governor-General applauded him-neither consonant with the assurances given to him, nor with the reproof and censure, which, it is whispered, was conveyed to the Resident, for the unwarrantable latitude of discretion he had assumed in the discharge of a public trust, and the confusion of accounts, which characterised the system he pursued, and which appears to have puzzled the Commissioners, as much as it must have done the unlucky Captain Harris, when he took charge of them. How was the latter to clear these of their obscurity ? Could he unauthorizedly assume the functions of the Commissioners, and collect information from various

quarters, by which to test the accuracy of the plea put forth by the Resident for his full discretion in the expenditure of local funds ? How was he to know the plea, before it had been made ? and what would the Residents and Political Agents have said and done, on receiving inquisitory mandates from the second or third assistant of the Indore Residency? The remarks upon

the previous investigation, which Captain Harris might have made, appear to us devoid of justice and expediency. The doctrine is a new one, that subordinates are at liberty to make such comprehensive inquiries, as the Commissioners were forced to make, before they could offer an opinion, whether the questionable entries involved serious culpability, or not. The matter could not have been so very clear, since the Governor-General, with the Resident's explanation before him, saw reason to appoint a commission of inquiry.

We cannot omit to notice, that, from the remarks of the Press, it appears that the letter to Captain Harris, after the investigation, was circulated (lithographed) from the Indore Residency, and thus found its way into the Local Newspapers—but unaccompanied by the letter to the Resident—strange omission, and one, which the Government ought, in our humble and unofficial opinion, to rectify, as it might serve to place their own conduct in a less objectionable point of view.

We have stated our opinions the more frankly, because we feel that Central India, unless very unlike other parts of our Empire, is not likely to be benefited by these proceedings. Too much, or too little, has been done: and the native community, princes, and people, must be in doubt, less of the conduct of the officers of the British Government, than of the principles which guide the latter in its measures toward its agents.

In our opinion, then, (to return from this digression), we have allowed to pass by us, unimproved, the finest opportunity for the introduction of wholesome comprehensive measures in behalf of Central India, which providence could have afforded us. Such another is not likely to recur. We have failed in thirty years to impress a forward movement, either morally or physically, amongst the people of large tracts of fertile country in the heart of our empire. They are the same poverty-stricken race we found them: and, except in the one article, opium, we have done nothing to develope the resources of the land. If we extend our view to the tracts south of the Nerbudda, matters are rather worse. The Nizam's country, its financial bankruptcy, and its abundant elements of confusion and disorder, cannot be conveyed to the mind of the reader by a sentence at the close of an article. Much trouble may boil over from that cauldron. Any remedy to these and other evils would be only preliminary; for we should then be still far from having made India the great rich cotton field of England-although by no means its best sugar manufactory. In a year like the present, when the home market apprehends a failure in the supply of American cotton, we read of some talk about India, and of projects in contemplation by men (of more energy and confidence, than knowledge) desirous of occupying this unworked field. But will these crude projects of men, who are ignorant of the difficulties against which they would have to contend, prove any thing more than talk ? English Capital has been slow to embark on this great theatre of action : for capital looks for security, and our system has bitherto offered it none. Our local mercantile character, thanks to ourselves, stands very low. The financial condition and prospects of the Government are any thing but smiling; and war has, ever since June 1838, so occupied the attention of our rulers, and consumed the resources of the State, that all great and statesman-like measures for the real improvement of India have long been in abeyance. We have been, and are, draining India of its wealth. English Capital might do much, under God's blessing, towards giving life to the dormant energies and productiveness of our Empire, could means be devised to afford it reasonable security: and we scarcely look for any great forward movement, until the wealth of England turns some of its streams to the fructification of "poor" India.

« PreviousContinue »