« PreviousContinue »
criterion as to the fitness of a colony for action independent of the mother country, is its readiness and capability to undertake its own defence. However this may be, the position of our colonies and that of India, with reference to the mother country, are widely different; and this difference should be carefully noted, if our policy is to be correctly deduced from existing facts.
We can best illustrate the importance of accurate views on this subject by showing what have hitherto been the results of a determination to find in India the same materials of self-government as exist in our colonies, and of a premature desire to relieve ourselves of some of the responsibilities which our conquests have entailed upon us.
In the desire to plant in India the seeds of self-government there was created in Calcutta the similitude of a Legislative Council, through which all Bills (including money bills) had to pass before they became law. Every member of this Council was a nominee of the Crown of England, or an official appointed by the local governor, nor was there the slightest appearance of an elective body, except that from each of the minor presidencies was sent one member, an officer in the civil service, nominated by the governor of the presidency, and supposed to represent the interests of his presidency. Anything less like a representative body could scarcely be conceived, and yet into this Council were introduced many of the parliamentary forms, and much of parliamentary language. We believe that the form given to this Council, and the reports of its debates, have been the source of a vast amount of misapprehension in the minds of Englishmen in regard to our Indian empire.
To show how entirely unlike is the government of India to that of our colonies, and how far India still is from having a government of its own, we need only refer to the history of this Council. Upon this subject we dwelt at some length in a former number,* and we are content to say in this place no more than that the utter incongruity of the mock parliament with the real state of India became so irresistibly apparent, that the Council was remodelled, and the semblance of a representative and independent body was wisely done away with.
If it were more clearly understood that the real government of India is the people of England, through the Queen's Ministry and the Parliament, that there is no other government, that the Governor-General and his Council are but their
* See Quarterly Review,' vol. cix., p. 598.
nominees, and that the solvency of the Indian exchequer is the solvency of the Crown of England, there could not be the same apathy in regard to Indian questions that now prevails. Something more accurate than a general idea that India is costing England an enormous sum of money, and that if we could only get rid of it we should get rid of a weakness, would prevail among well informed Englishmen. The real facts of the case, the enormous wealth and national advantages derived from the connexion of the two countries, the noble duty towards India which England is bound to discharge, and is in a great degree discharging, would be generally understood. In fact, the views of De Tocqueville, with which we commenced this article, would be those of every enlightened Englishman, accompanied by the assurance that instead of drawing on the national resources of England, as De Tocqueville was led to believe, India at the present time largely contributes to them.
It should be remarked that except through their representatives in the British Parliament, those who have property in India, whether in the form of salary or pension, of Indian security, or trading capital, have no control whatever over their own property. The 126,000 persons resident in England whom we have shown to have a large pecuniary interest in India, are entirely unrepresented in India and at the India Office. There is not in Europe a government more despotic than that of the Secretary of State for India, except for such control as is exercised by the Parliament of England. However imperfectly India is represented in the House of Commons, it is to the Parliament alone that the Indian creditor looks for his security. Before the government of India was assumed by the Crown, the Indian interest elected its own representatives at the India House, and had some control over the Indian administration, but this has been swept away, and why? because the government of India is now vested in the Ministry, responsible through Parliament to the people of England.
And not only do the English who are interested in the government of India look to the Parliament and Ministry of Englandthe government under which they live; the Princes and people of India do so too, to a degree that people at home are by no means aware of; and as education and knowledge extend, and intercourse between the two countries increases, this will be more and more the case.
When facts are rightly stated, it will be seen that there is not a Government, with the exception of England, whose finances are in so satisfactory a state as those of India ; none whose resources
are more capable of development, and none, we believe, whose people are so lightly taxed. As a good deal of misapprehension prevails on this subject, the following few observations on the accounts laid before Parliament may assist to give a clearer view of the real state of the case.
The revenue of India amounts to 46,547,4831., and after defraying local charges upon it to 36,895,3181. The costs of administration, including interest on the public debt, amount to 29,814,2111. ;* there is, therefore, a surplus of no less than 7,000,0001. sterling. This is the real state of the Indian finances; but the Government is carrying on extensive works of improvement, such as roads, bridges, railways, and works of irrigation. These works would in England either be carried out by private companies or by local associations, whether counties or parishes, and most of them would be executed on borrowed money. In India they are either executed by Government from current revenue, or, as in the case of railways, by money borrowed on Government guarantee, the interest being charged to current revenue. It is only because the sums of 5,685,8171. for public works, and 1,395,2851. for interest on railway and other companies are charged against revenue, that a small deficit of 263,3771. appears in the estimate for 1865; and this when the expenditure is swelled by the cost of the Bhootan war. Now, the revenues of India have steadily increased by no less than 1,000,0001. a year since the mutinies. To quote the words of Mr. Laing :
• The total revenues of India, which for three years before the mutinies (1854-57) averaged 31,980,0001. a year, was last year (1861) 43,000,0001.; and for the current financial year (1862-63), after remitting 1,300,0001. of taxation, it will exceed 44,000,0001. Of this increase of above 12,000,0001., not above 4,000,0001. is due to new taxes, so that the revenue of India has expanded by a million a year for the last eight years from its own inherent elasticity.' We do not precisely understand what was meant by `inherent elasticity,' and we conceive that a great deal is due to the de-. creasing value of the precious metals; but, at any rate, two years have now to be added to the series, and as the revenue of 1864-5 is estimated at 46,500,0001., the increase has still been upwards of 1,000,0001. a year.
This revenue is raised in a manner as little oppressive to the people as any national income in the world. One-half is the share possessed by the State in the rent of land. The whole
* See Parliamentary Papers, 15th May, 1865, Part II., Nos. 2 and 3.
taxation * The annual taxation per head is in Great Britain, 21. 6s. 8d. ; Holland, 21. 68. 8d.; France, 21. ; Austria, 11. ; Spain, 17. 108.; Russia, 168. 8d.; Italy, ll. See 'Quarterly Review,' No. 236, p. 401.
taxation is reckoned by Mr. Laing at only 3s. 6d. per head in Bengal, and 4s. 6d. in Madras; and if half of this be viewed as rent, about 2s. per head is all that is raised by taxation properly so called.*
When it is remembered that the works upon which for many years past 5,000,0001. a year have been expended are gradually becoming remunerative, that the net receipts from railways already pay 1,300,0001, of the guaranteed interest: that in one Presidency alone—that of Madras—cultivation has extended at the rate of balf a million of acres a year for the past seven or eight years,f no fears can arise as to the future solvency of the Indian exchequer.
The future resources of India are quite incalculable. We have already seen her replacing with her produce the hemp and linseed of Russia, and the cotton of America. She is rapidly preparing to substitute her tea for that of China. Should England ever be cut off from her usual sources of supply of sugar, coffee, silk, wool, or iron, in a few years India could make good the deficit. Even now, India supplies a fair proportion of these articles, and Indian labour produces a large proportion of the supply from our colonies. So long as England and India are allied, England is independent of the rest of the world.
The area of land available for cultivation, but still uncultivated, is enormous. We have said that the cultivation of the Madras Presidency has expanded at the rate of half a million of acres a year for the last eight years, but still a large proportion of the cultivable area is uncultivated ; and not only is the area of cultivation capable of this extension, but the produce of cultivated land may be enormously increased. Wherever water is applied to the soil of India, the produce is multiplied tenfold, and the revenue raised by the Government is greatly increased.
With wealth thus augmented, India will purchase the manufactures of England, and especially the fabrics of Manchester, to an extent of which the present demand is but a fraction. A report made by Colonel Baird Smith, on the famine in the North-West Provinces in 1861, affords some valuable data on this subject. It fell within the scope of his commission to inquire into the state of trade with England, and especially the trade in Manchester piece goods, and the following interesting facts were elicited by him :
† The annual Reports of the Board of Revenue show the following increase in the cultivated area of the Madras Presidency :
'The chief consumers of English cloths are all classes near to open and easy lines of communication, be they by land or water; a comparatively small section of agriculturists, being the upper grades of the class, at a distance from such communications; a very large proportion of the inhabitants of towns and cities everywhere; and of course the whole of the European community. The mass of the agricultural, and the poorer non-agricultural classes, have scarcely yet become the customers of Manchester at all, though it is merely a question of time and internal improvements of roads and rivers when they shall become so.'—p. 19.
· Few causes act more directly on the free spread of Manchester goods than communications of any kind. It is along the best of these that English cloths have most largely commended themselves to the people, and the interest of the manufacturing districts is most direct and personal in the state of the roads and rivers of India.'—
It will give, then, a strong impression of the possible extension of this trade, and one highly gratifying to our insular selfishness, to learn that in the most favoured districts, having direct communication by water with Calcutta, Colonel Baird Smith found that about half the population are already clothed in the fabrics of Manchester! Even there the other half of the population will become the customers of Manchester as the means of communication are extended ; and the increase of trade must be immense when a system of roads, canals, and railways shall have been constructed to open out provinces remote from the natural advantages possessed by the districts on the banks of the Ganges and the Gogra. Again, to quote the words of Colonel Baird
* Every reduction in the price brings a new stratum of society into the class of consumers;' and 'I sincerely rejoice in the financial policy which will in time relieve the Manchester goods trade from the pressure of customs duties greater than are required for revenue only.
These extracts will give some idea of the increase which is possible, when a wise policy shall have encouraged to the utmost the agriculture and commerce of the country.
We cannot here refrain from a short digression on an important question which has lately occupied the public press, namely,