« PreviousContinue »
the Pindarris, and the establishment of comparative security of person and property, the various states regained speedily an average state of prosperity, at which they have ever since remained, far more permanently and with much less progress, than might reasonably have been anticipated. Were we to institute a comparison between the gross revenues of the states of Central India in 1825 and in 1850, it would be surprising how small the improvement demonstrable. The production of opium has been fostered by the demand for the drug-the high profits realized, and the portability of the article, encouraging the Malwa cultivators; but, highly favourable as is their soil and clime to the culture of some of the most valuable of agricultural products, none has met with the like attention. and energy as the poppy. Considering that the price of the necessaries of life is very moderate, labour cheap, failures of crops and famines almost unknown, land (uncultivated, but culturable) abundant-the causes, which have operated inimically to the increase of population and the extension of agriculture, must be forcible and constant. Some of these are patent and easily stated; others lie deeper, have moral sources, and are not so easily laid bare. Want of internal communications, and distance from the sea-board; heavy, vexatious transit duties; a general rule to take from the cultivator as much as can be taken without driving him from the soil; the system of farming whole districts on short leases to revenue contractors; the great positive poverty of the people; and the fact, that the balance of emigration and immigration is against the countries, which border provinces under the management and administration of the Indian Government and its officers, have all tended to retard the population and general improvement of Central India. The moral causes are likewise numerous, and to the full as operative. Since Lord William Bentinck's time, female infanticide cannot be reckoned as one of these; nor do the checks on marriage, numerous as the considerations of caste and family and expense of ceremony render these, operate very seriously in giving men a Malthusian spirit of anti-connubial caution. But any one, who has mixed with the different classes, forming the population of Malwa and the neighbouring countries, cannot fail to have observed that large families are rare; and that those, considered such, would scarcely be so regarded elsewhere. Reasons for this may be found in the dissipated habits of the larger towns, the general use of opium, and of various other deleterious drugs, besides no small consumption of spirits. But if the men can with justice be taxed with
indulgence in these and similar practices, there is such a general knowledge and practice of methods of procuring abortion, that it would be hard to say which of the two sexes frustrates nature most, or suffers most by the destruction of health and constitution. Whatever the combination of moral and physical causes, certain it is, that there cannot be a greater contrast, than the rapid increase of population during a period of 25 years in the United States, and its lagging pace in the countries of which we are writing.
If it be asked, What then has been the result of our two and thirty years supremacy in Central India? we must, we fear, turn a very moderate and probably disappointing reply. There are now comparative security of person and property, a curb on the violence and oppression of princes and chiefs, a curb too on the marauding habits of large classes of the people, and a general impression of the impartiality of the tribunals over which British Officers preside. The character of the Agents of the British Government stands high, as unbiassed, incorruptible judicial functionaries, though viewed with suspicion as political ones, from the apprehension that the tendency of our system is gradually to undermine the influence and authority of the chiefs, and, upon any plausible pretext, to absorb all petty states. This feeling is by no means incompatible with their acknowledging, that many of them owe to the Government of India all they possess, and that, but for our intervention, they must have been swallowed up by their potent neighbours and rivals. But they regard this to have been the policy of our rise, and are not at all sure that it may continue the policy of our empire, when freed from all external foes, but embarrassed by the financial difficulties, which have accompanied conquest.
Our mission cannot, therefore, be said to have altogether failed; though, if weighed in the balance of our opportunities and circumstances, it must be acknowledged to have very partially fulfilled its high duties.
That our agents have maintained the character and authority of the Government, which they represent, and have manfully laboured, though little heeded or encouraged, to do the good which was in their power, reflects credit on themselves, and on the Government, which they have served. It is something to have established confidence in our rule, and confidence in the general conduct and integrity of those, to whom the exercise of great and undefined powers are entrusted, and who, sensible of the weight and importance of the trust, have there, as elsewhere,
done their duty to their nation, and to their Government. The latter has no less a duty to perform to them. Their character and conduct are its own. The least, it owes them, is, that neither should be hastily called into question; and that, when this clearly appears to be an imperative duty, no matter whether the Officer be a Civilian or a Military man, publicity of investigation should mark the course pursued, in order that the guilt, or the innocence, of the functionary be as clear to the public, Native and European, as to the Government; and that the latter may escape suspicion of bias or partiality.
We are inclined to the opinion that in the late inquiry, which has formed the subject of much press discussion, the Government rather lost sight of these truisms, and acted neither warily nor wisely. As this has drawn, more than usually, public attention towards Central India, we shall for the satisfaction of our readers offer a few remarks upon the events, which gave rise to it; premising, that we find ourselves in the curious predicament of not being perfectly satisfied with any party-Government, accused, or accuser. The facts appear to be as follows.
Captain Harris, during the absence on duty of another officer, received temporary charge of the Indore Treasury; and, whilst performing the duties thus entrusted to him, he became cognizant of entries in the accounts, which appeared to him of very doubtful propriety. As the books bearing these entries, whether very lucidly kept or not, had the sanction of his superior, who was responsible for their correctness, we think that Captain Harris's first step should have been to communicate with the Resident upon the subject of the items, which excited doubts, in order to ascertain whether or not a satisfactory explanation could be given. Captain Harris would not have been compromised by such a step: and it was due, and, in our opinion, imperatively due, to the rank and position of the Resident. Instead of adopting this course, Captain Harris seems to have drawn up a statement, founded entirely on the entries copied from the account books, and exhibiting an expenditure of upwards of Rs. 60,000 under a variety of headings, some of which, such as "pay of a band Rs. 3,000, ice pits Rs. 9,000," besides sundry others, wore a curious aspect. As the money was chiefly derived from the proceeds of fines of a judicial character, its application to purposes, apparently so immediately connected with the Resident's state and convenience, made the matter look the worse. The statement in question does not seem to have been in the form of regular charges: but, Captain Harris, suspecting misappli
cation of public money, brought to the notice of the Governor General the existence of these dubitable entries, leaving it to that high authority to act upon the intelligence, as might seem proper. Here again Captain Harris omitted to furnish the Resident with a copy of the communications, which he had made direct to the Governor-General. The latter however, apparently entertaining no scruples as to the propriety of Captain Harris's mode of procedure, after receiving and perusing his communications, wrote to him the letter, which has already appeared in print, and which assured Captain Harris that, even if the cases, which he had adduced, should eventually receive a satisfactory explanation from the Resident, they did appear to the Governor-General, as they then stood, to be so objectionable and so liable to question, that the Governor-General considered Captain Harris called upon absolutely by his duty, as an Officer of the Hon'ble Company, to bring the subject at once under His Lordship's notice. As if this were not sufficient, the letter proceeded to state that the Governor-General entirely approved of the manly and honest manner, in which Captain Harris had performed a painful and invidious duty, and was quite satisfied of the purity of the motives, on which he had acted. We think that the noble Marquis was somewhat precipitate in thus writing-and that, before expressing such strong opinions, he should have waited for fuller information, and a word or two from the opposite party. The letter however proves, that the statement of suspicious entries could not have been a series of charges; that the matter was left open for the Governor-General to adopt such a line, as he might deem fitting; and that it was so understood. Though wanting in caution, the candid avowal of opinion and the assurances made were the emanations of an honest mind, and did credit to the spirit, which dictated them. We are not inclined to cavil at a little warmth and readiness, in support of (what the Governor General deemed) manly honesty and uprightness.
The explanations of the Resident do not seem to have satisfied the Governor-General, who ordered a commission composed of Lieutenant Colonel Low and Mr. M. Smith to assemble at Indore, and to investigate the questionable entries. The Commissioners had, we are given to understand, extensive powers: and it was optional with them to extend their sphere of inquiry, and to enter upon a wider and more comprehensive investigation, if they saw reason.
We are not disposed to impugn the nomination of the Commissioners. Lieutenant-Colonel Low is a Political Officer of character and experience, and Mr. M. Smith, a Civil Officer,
whose course of service has been entirely in the Judicial Department. Both were competent by position and experience for the delicate duty entrusted to them: but the general opinion was that there should have been a third Commissioner-one wholly disconnected either with the Political or the Civil Service.
No inquiry could have been more carefully conducted, with respect to secrecy, than the investigation at Indore: and, as nothing has hitherto been made public by the Government, except the removal of Captain Harris, the details of the investigation are unnecessarily a mystery. It was however generally known, that the Commissioners, being furnished with Captain Harris's statement, the Resident's explanations, and the remarks and orders of the Governor-General, found, that, in the first place, they had to decide whether certain funds were, or were not, entirely at the discretion of the Resident, to spend as he pleased, without any obligation on his part to render any account at all to his own Government. This, we understand, was the Resident's assertion, coupled of course with entire willingness on his part to submit, for examination and report, the accounts of receipts and expenditure of such funds. The objection amounted to stating, This is not Government money, nor under its controul; nor is it entitled to call for an account of its disposal, though of course I am ready to give one." To ascertain how far this plea was valid, the Residents and Political Agents, both within and beyond the limits of Central India, were addressed, and requested to furnish information upon the nature of the Local Funds at their disposal, the manner in which these were expended, and the accounts rendered of such expenditure-and also, as to what had been the custom with respect to Judicial Fines.
The origin and character of the various Local Funds in existence were of course found to vary. Around most Residencies and Agencies, particularly where troops or Contingents have customarily been near them, there has usually been assigned, by the Territorial Chief, a circle, within which the Jurisdiction, Civil and Military, was to be undisturbed by the local authorities, and to remain under the administration of the Residents, Agents, or Commanding Officers, as the case might be. The object of such allotment was to avoid the continual conflict on matters of police and discipline, which would otherwise inevitably be of frequent occurrence. Experience has proved the necessity of such an arrangement; and it is very rare that such an infraction, as that which has lately taken place at Hyderabad, would pass without severe punishment. Within the precincts of the Residency and