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The Indian Empire 



Cambridge University Press 





Maruzen Company Ltd 
All rights reserved 

^ THE 




The Indian Empire 


With chapters on the development 
of Administration 1818-1858 








This volume can ako be obtained 
as Volume V of 
The Cambridge History of the British Empire 



XHE previous volume narrated the expansion of British power down 
to the conquest of the Panjab and the Second Burmese War, and the 
development of the administrative system down to 1 8 1 8 under the 
guidance of Cornwallis in Bengal and of Munro in Madras. It thus 
displayed the expansion of British India almost to its modern limits, 
but dealt only with the earliest British attempts to build up a workable 
method of government. The present volume, in the first place, carries 
this latter development from 1818 down to the outbreak of the Indian 
Mutiny. This period, in which the supremacy of the East India 
Company was virtually uncontested, displayed great activity and 
produced notable reforms. The belief that the Company's govern- 
ment was obscurantist or reactionary lacks foundation. Without 
exception the governors-general took high views of their obHgations, 
while many of the Company's servants regarded themselves as pre- 
eminently the servants of India. Under them the administrative 
system took its final shape, with many local variations necessitated 
by variations in the land tenures of the British provinces; and this new 
system, in strong contrast with the system originally introduced by 
Cornwallis, was based upon the plan of securing the fullest and most 
detailed knowledge of social and economic conditions. In almost 
every province district administration embraced large elements of 
personal government; and many collectors of the period were till 
recent times remembered with reverence in the districts which they 
had ruled. As has been well said, had the Company's government 
perished in the Mutiny, the later period of its rule would have been 
long remembered as a golden age. But the development of good 
district government was by no means the sole achievement of that 
generation. Sati and thagi were suppressed, and female infanticide 
greatly lessened, while the introduction of the railway and the tele- 
graph, the extension of irrigation, the conservation of forests, the 
spread of missionary activity and the growth of western education 
brought India into contact of a new and fruitful kind with the external 

India's first answer to these beneficent changes was the Mutiny. 
In ultimate analysis that movement was a Brahman reaction against 


influences which, given free play, would revolutionise the mental, 
moral, and social condition of the country. It acted through the sepoy 
army because that was the only organised body through which 
Brahman sentiment could express itself; it acted through the Bengal 
section of the sepoy troops because that alone included numerous 
Brahmans and because its discipline was far more relaxed than that 
of either the Madras or the Bombay sepoys. But this weapon was 
broken by the very use to which it was put. The sepoys lost coherence 
with the loss of their English officers. With the exception of Tantia 
Topi no Indian leader of note emerged. Except in Oudh the sepoys 
found no popular support. India indeed still had no common con- 
sciousness. It was disunited, cloven into numberless mutually indif- 
ferent or even hostile sections by caste, creed and distance, just as it 
had always been. Therefore the force of the Mutiny was broken 
before help arrived from England; and when help at last came, the 
Mutiny was quickly crushed. If on the one hand it bequeathed to 
the survivors heart-breaking memories of slaughtered women, of 
broken trust, of wholesale executions, on the other tii e fact of its .^1^)- 
p ression exposed India to the more intense aB plicajtion-^f-tbose 

westemisijog^ forces which had provoked its ^ ccurreiice._ The 

Company vanished, but the queen's g overnment took its plac e_and 
^'^pj^y^^^^^ g^ ^^ con tr ol exercised from London. Foreign 
policy, almost completely limited to the protection of India from the 
Russian menace, was more closely than ever knit up with European 
poUtics. And the centre of interest tended to shift from external 
policy_Jij_^ntemar~Hevelopinent. India reached a "higher degree 
union thaiiinia3~5ver before" known. Under the pressure of 
poUtical fact the Indian states ceased to be the dependent but 
external allies of 1858 and became integrsd parts of a new empire 
of India. At the same time a new social phenomenon emerged. The 
spread of western education in the cities of India and the growing 
demand for administrative and professional services created a new 
class of society — educated in western knowledge and possessed of 
professional qualifications. This new class was essentially urban and 
almost exclusively Brahman. In English it possessed a common 
vehicle of thought. Railways and telegraphs brought the cities of 
India into new and intimate relations. The rise of an Indian press 
gave voice to common interests and aspirations. Hcjiee^merged^ 
new sense of unity, limited to a single class and not as yet touching 


rural India, but diffused throughout every city of the land. The 
British go vernment had in fact cr eated the conditions under which 
nationali st sentiment could arise. The purposes contemplated from 
afar by Company's servants like Thomas Munro were being realised 
by the servants of the crown. 

This poHtical was accompanied by a great economic development. 
Indian finance was handled by a succession of remarkably able men 
with prudence and foresight. Debt was incurred mainly for productive 
works which increased the wealth of the country in a degree incom- 
parably greater than their cost. Irrigation, railways, agricultural 
improvements, co-operative credit, all helped to create an India in 
which wealth was more widely diffused than it had been for many 
centuries, and permitted the development of a famine policy which 
gradually ended that great scourge of humanity. 

Such were two of the three main developments which mark out 
the two generations which followed the Indian Mutiny. The third 
consisted o f a series of efi brts, still actively continuing, to transform 
i nto an organic state the inorganic des^otimi_ which the crown had 
mheiiteSTlrom th e Company, and the Company^jfrom the former 
Indian governmen ts^ It was the greatest political experiment ever 
attempted. It had no precedent. The peoples of Asia had created 
great civilisations, and formed themselves into strong, well-knit and 
durable social groups, but their political organisation had seldom 
risen above the primitive community of the village. In this respect 
the history of the Aryan invaders of India is most instructive. They 
seem to have carried with them the same political gifts as their 
brethren displayed in classical Greece and Rome. They belonged 
to the stock which created the science and the art of politics. At the 
dawn of history they dimly appear in India organised in modes which 
might well have developed into an active political life. But their 
tribal institutions and self-governing townships withered and decayed 
under the Indian sun. The kings and emperors who arose after them 
were ever limited in their action by social and religious influences 
but never shared their power with political institutions. Therefore 
when the rising middle class of Indians began to demand political 
reform, and when the British government began to consider how best 
to give effect to this demand, neither side could turn for guidance to 
oriental political experience and were compelled to base their plans 
on the aHen ideas of the west. Hence the purely BritishJorgL-takeir 


alike b y the li^n^^rid^ of ^^^'^ TnrH^n ^National Congress and the 
pro^jsions ^ thcvarious statutes designed to change the nature of 

Such is the subject-matter of the following pages. It presses closely 

on the events of to-day. 

Incedis p>er ignes 
Suppositos cineri doloso. 

Perhaps the more accurate and sober the statement, the less likely it 
is to win general approval. But the present work may at least claim 
to gather together in a single volume not only a wealth of personal 
knowledge and experience but also the information scattered through 
a multitude of blue-books, of statutes, of acts of the Indian legis- 
latures; to present the views of poUcy uttered both by governors- 
general and secretaries of state and by Indian poUtical leaders; above 
all at the present moment it aspires to show clearly and firmly the 
historical background, without some knowledge of which poUtical 
decisions become matters of mere sentiment and chance. 

H. H. D. 
September 1932 



GOVERNMENTS, 1818-1857 

By H. H. DoDWELL, MA., Professor of the history and culture of the 
British dominions in Asia in the University of London. 


The Whig tradition i 

TheActofi8i3 i 

The reforms of 1833 3 

Legal anomaHes 5 

Legislative powers 5 

The law member 7 

The law comimissions 7 

The government of Bengal 8 

Recruitment of the covenanted service 9 

The position of Indians 10 

Slavery 11 

Relations of the Company and the board 12 

Recall of the governor-general 13 

Decay of the Company's position 15 

The Act of 1853 16 

Competitive examinations i6 

Reform of the legislature . . 17 

The effects of competitive examinations 19 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.G.S.L, late Reader in Indian History 
in the University of Oxford. 

Limits of the presidency 20 

Neglect of the local problems of Bengal 21 

Appointment of a lieutenant-governor 22 

Regulation system 22 

District organisation 24 

Police organisation 26 

The magistrate-and-coUector 28 

Effects of the Permanent Settlement 30 

Communications 31 

Thagi 33 

Dacoity 34 

Primitive tribes 35 

Mutiny in Bengal 35 

c H I VI b 




By A. BuTTERWORTH, G.S.I., formerly Chief Secretary to 
the Government of Madras. 


Annexation of Kumool 38 

Troubles in Canara 38 

Mopla rebellions 38 

Rebellions in the Gircars 39 

Human sacrifice 40 

Slavery 40 

Government of the presidency 41 

District organisation 42 

Courts of law 42 

Land-revenue system 44 

Revenue survey 49 

Malabar tenures 49 

Inam tenures 50 

Irrigation . 51 

District police 52 

Mohatarfa 52 

Salt revenue 53 

Abkari 54 

Reorganisation of the police 55 

Jails 56 

Civil surgeons 57 



By the late S. M. Edwardes, C.S.L, C.V.O. 

Growth of the presidency 58 

Early organisation 60 

The mamlatdar 61 

Taxation 62 

Administration of justice 63 

Reforms of 1830 67 

Bombay legislation 67 

Education 68 

Police system 69 

Administration of Sind 71 

Jails 73 

Public works and other departments 74 





THE PANJAB, 1818-1857 

By Sir Patrick Fag an, K.G.I.E. 


Formation of the United Provinces, etc 75 

The regulation system 76 

Its application 77 

Early police system 78 

Criminal law 79 

The land-revenue settlement . 80 

The village community 82 

Tenant-right . 83 

Irrigation 84 

Famines 84 

Abkari 86 

Municipalities 86 

The non-regulation system 87 

Panjab administration under Ranjit Singh 88 

The Board of Administration 90 

Early British administration in the Panjab 91 

Public works 92 

John Lawrence's administration 93 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.C.S.I. 

Warren Hastings's policy . . 95 

Charles Grant's Observations 97 

The Serampur Mission . . . . . . . . . . 98 

David Hare 99 

Indigenous schools in Bengal 100 

The discussions of 1813 102 

Foundation of the Vidyalaya 104 

Ram Mohan Roy's petition . . . . 105 

The Committee of Public Instruction , 106 

The orientalist controversy 107 

Elphinstone's efforts in Bombay 107 

Munro's Madras plan 108 

Alexander Duff's views 109 

Macaulay's minute . .111 

Orientalist opposition 112 

Adam's reports 114 

The Council of Education 115 

Thomason's scheme in the North-Western Provinces 116 

Slowness of progress 117 

The dispatch of 1854 118 





By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.C.S.b 


The Company*s chaplains 121 

Danish missionaries 121 

Policy of religious toleration 122 

Activity of Protestant missions 123 

Ecclesiastical establishments 124 

Disabilities of Indian Christians 125 

Religious festivals and temple endowments . 1 25 

Slavery 127 

Sacrifice of children at Sagar Island 1 28 

Female infanticide 1 29 

The question of sati 131 

Protests against permission 133 

Carey's description 134 

The nizamat adalat's report 1 35 

The rules of 1812-1815 . . 135 

Ewer's remonstrance 137 

Other protests 139 

Company's orders of 1823 ^39 

Ram Mohan Roy's petition 140 

Bentinck resolves to prohibit sati 140 



By the late S. M. Edwardes, C.S.I., G.V.O. 

The Surat squadron 144 

Early wars with Gheria 144 

The Bombay dockyard 145 

Growth of the Marine, 1740-72 146 

Capture of the /Janj^CT' 147 

Co-operation with Hughes 147 

Organisation of the Marine 147 

Marine regulations 148 

Services in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere 149 

The Indian Marine 150 

Later developments 151 

Marine surveys 151 




By Lt.-Col. Sir Wolesley Haig, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., G.M.G., G.B.E., 
M.A., Lecturer in Persian, in the School of Oriental Studies, in 
the University of London. 


Early garrisons 153 

Origin of sepoys 153 

Growth of the presidency armies 154 

Recruitment of European officers 157 

Recruitment of sepoys 158 

The reorganisation of 1 796 159 

Officers' pay 160 

Cadets i6i 

Military life 161 

Reorganisation of 1824 162 

The Barrackpore mutiny 162 

European and officers' mutinies 162 

The Vellore mutiny 163 

The Madras officers' mutiny 163 

Local and irregular units 165 

Demoralisation of the Bengal army 1 65 



By T. Rice Holmes, M.A., Litt.D. 

Revenue causes of discontent 167 

Nana Sahib's pension 167 

Dalhousie's annexations 168 

Railway and telegraph 169 

The attitude of the people 169 

The Bengal army 171 

The general service order 1 72 

Proselytising officers 173 

The greased cartridges 1 73 

Mutiny of the 1 9th and 34th Native Infantry 1 74 

Mutiny at Meerut 175 

Mutiny at Delhi 177 

Indecision of the authorities 177 

The position at Agra 178 

VAttitude of the civil population 1 79 

Conduct of the Indian princes . . 1 79 

Tayler at Patna 180 

Neill at Benares 181 

Allahabad 182 

Wheeler at Cawnpore 183 

The Cawnpore massacres 183 

Lawrence at Lucknow 184 

Havelock's campaign 187 



Outram joins Havelock 189 

Lucknow relieved 190 

John Lawrence in the Panjab 190 

Siege of Delhi 192 

Proposed cession of PeshavNTir 193 

Nicholson's march 194 

The storm of Delhi 195 

Sir Colin Campbell's march to Lucknow 196 

Tantia Topi 198 

The recovery of Lucknow 199 

Canning's proclamation 200 

Kunwar Singh 200 

Position in Bombay 200 

Mutiny in Central India 201 

Sir Hugh Rose's campaign 202 

Reduction of the Rohilkhand . . . 203 

^ The Mutiny not organised 204 

Dalhousie unjustly blamed 205 




By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.G.S.I. 

The East India Company's petition 206 

Parliamentary bills 207 

The Act of 1858 208 

The debates 210 

The Council of India 212 

The Amendment Act of 1869 214 

. Lord Salisbury as secretary of state 214 

^ General policy of the India Office 215 

I Attitude of parliament 216 

/ Morley and the Council of India 217 

I Lord Crewe's proposed reforms 218 

I The changes of 1 9 1 1 . . . 219 

I The Mesop>otamia Commission 220 

VMontagu's visit to India 222 

^The functions of parliament 222 

The functions of the crown 225 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.C.S.I. 


The governor-general 226 

Canmng's reforms 226 

The Councils Act of 1 86 1 228 

The portfolio system 229 



Subsequent changes in the governor-general's council . . . .230 

Powers of the governor-general 231 

The legislative council of 1853 233 

Inclusion of Indian members 234 

Other changes in the legislature 235 

The home government's control of legislation .237 

The Morley-Minto reforms 238 

The provincial governments 238 

Relations between the central and provincial governments . . . 240 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.C.S.I. 

Changes in the size of the province 245 

Position of the magistrate-and-collector 245 

Growth of Calcutta 246 

Honorary magistrates 246 

Courts of law 247 

Neglect of Eastern Bengal 247 

Communications in the province 248 

Tenancy legislation 249 

The bhadralok 251 

Trade and industry 251 

Political agitation and crime . 252 

The Bengal District Administration Committee 253 



By the late S. M. Edwardes, C.S.I. , C.V.O. 

Subordinate states in Kathiawar, etc 255 

Relations with border states 256 

The survey settlement 256 

Land-revenue in Sind 257 

The presidency government 257 

Judicial organisation 259 

Revenue administration 261 

Port trusts 263 

Public works 263 

Forests . 264 

Education 264 

Agriculture 265 

Miscellaneous departments 266 





Madras during the Mutiny 267 

Tidal wave at Masulipatam 267 

The Guntur famine 267 

Moplah rebellions 268 

Troubles in the Circars 268 

The Shanar riots 269 

Political agitation and crime 270 

Judicial organisation 270 

Revenue settlement 271 

Agriculture 272 

Forests 272 

Local self-government 273 

Communications in the province ... 274 

Provincial finance 275 




THE PANJAB, 1858-1918 

By Sir Patrick Fagan, K.C.I.E. 

Crime and police 276 

Judicial organisation 277 

Scheduled districts 278 

Land-revenue administration 278 

Tenant-right 281 

Record of rights 282 

Irrigation 283 

Famines 285 

Forests 286 

Excise 287 

Agricultural development 289 

Co-operative credit 290 

Local self-government 291 

The district officer 292 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.C.S.I. 

The rainfall 294 

Means of irrigation 295 

Early famines in India 296 

The Orissa famine 298 

The Bihar famine 300 



The famine of 1876-8 300 

The Strachey Commission 301 

The Famine Code 304 

Methods of rehef 305 

The famine of 1896-7 . 306 

The famine of 1 900 307 

The MacDonnell Commission 309 

The famine of 1907-8 309 

The growth of resistance to famine conditions 310 

The scarcity ofi9i8 311 



By H. R. C. Hailey, CLE. 

Reorganisation after the Mutiny 314 

The revenues 315 

Land revenues 315 

Opium 316 

Salt 316 

Customs 316 

Miscellaneous 317 

Income-tax 317 

Public works and irrigation finance 318 

Financial decentralisation . . -SiQ 

Currency and the fall in silver 320 

The course of finance, 1873-93 • 321 

Currency reform 322 

The gold exchange standard 323 

General course of finance, after 1893 325 

Revenues, 191 3-14 . . 327 

Public debt 327 

Development of the currency system 328 

War finance 330 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.C.S.I. 

Position after the Mutiny 335 

The Departments of Public Instruction . _ 336 

The universities 336 

The schools 338 

General position in 1865-6 339 

Progress of western influences . . .341 

Obstacles to the spread of rural education . . . . . . . 342 

The Aligarh College 344 

Female education 345 

Chiefs' colleges 345 

The Hunter Commission 346 

The educational services 348 

New universities 348 




Gur2on*s reforms 349 

The Universities Act of 1904 351 

The rise of political agitation 352 

Problems of the future 355 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.G.S.I. 

The Indian Civil Service 357 

Recruitment 358 

Indian competition 359 

The Statutory Civil Service 360 

The uncovenanted civil service 361 

The police service 362 

The public works department 362 

The finance department 363 

The forest service 364 

Miscellaneous services 364 

The Indian Medical Service 365 

Regulations regarding admission to the Indian Civil Service . . . 365 

The Public Services Conamission of 1886 366 

The question of simultaneous examinations 368 

Exchange compensation allowances 371 

Police reform 372 

Reorganisation of the public works department 373 

Curzon's other reforms 374 

Employment of military officers in civil offices 375 

Decline in popularity of the services 375 

Public Services Commission of 1912 376 



By the late Sir Francis Du Prje Oldfield, LL.M., Professor of 
Jurisprudence in the University of Manchester, formerly a 
Puisne Judge of the High Court of Madras. 

Confusion of the law 379 

The Indian High Courts Act of 186 1 380 

Later development of the courts 380 

The need of codification . . . 381 

The Indian law commissions 384 

The Civil Procedure and Criminal Procedure Codes 385 

Later codes 

Revision of the codes 3^ 

Sources of the codes 387 

The use of concrete examples 380 

Hindu law 389 

The Hindu joint family 390 

Hindu testamentary powers 393 

Other modifications of Hindu law 394 



THE INDIAN ARMY, 1858-1918 

By Sir Wolseley Haig, K.C.I.E., C.S.L, C.M.G., C.B.E., M.A. 


Transference of the Company's armies . 395 

The White Mutiny 395 

Reconstitution of the sepoy forces 396 

The local and general lists 396 

Military establishments 397 

Civil employment of military officers 397 

Reduction of the Madras sepoy regiments 398 

Disappearance of the presidency armies ....... 399 

The reorganisation of 1907 400 

The Imperial Service Troops 400 

Indianisation 401 

The reorganisation of 1922 401 

FOREIGN POLICY, 1858— 1918 



By H. H. DoDWELL, M.A. 

London control of foreign policy 403 

Dost Muhammad 404 

The Afghan war of succession 405 

The policy of masterly inactivity 406 

Russian expansion 407 

The purposes of Russia 408 

Diplomatic discussions 409 

Mayo and Sher 'Ali 409 

Northbrook and Argyll 410 

Seistan Boundary Commission 411 

Non-recognition of the Afghan heir 411 

Sher 'Ali and Kaufmann 412 

Salisbury's policy 412 

The occupation of Quetta 414 

The proposed Afghan mission 415 

The European situation 416 

Stolietoff's mission 417 

Chamberlain's mission . . . .417 

Attitude of the home government 418 

The Second Afghan War 419 

Cavagnari's murder at Kabul 419 

The reoccupation of Kabul 420 

Abd-ur-iahman 420 

Liberal policy 421 

Ripon's settlement 421 

Policy of the Second Afghan War 422 

Russia and Mr Gladstone 422 



The Russo- Afghan Boundary Commission 423 

The Panjdeh incident 424 

Delimitation of the northern Afghan frontier 426 

Tibet 426 

The Russian railways 428 

Habib-ullah 428 

The Anglo-Russian Entente 429 

The Third Afghan War 430 



By G. E. Harvey, I.C.S. 

King Mindon 432 

British agents in Burma 433 

Yunnan trade 433 

Withdrawal of the residency 434 

Thibaw's accession 435 

The massacre of the kinsmen 435 

The attempts of rivals 436 

The Franco-Burmese treaty 437 

The Third Burmese War 438 

The annexation of Upper Burma 439 

The effects of the annexation 440 

The government of Lower Burma 441 

District administration 442 

Recruitment among the Burmese 442 

Judicial administration . . 443 

Public works department 444 

Education 444 

Dacoity 445 

Immigration 446 

Crime 446 

Employment of the Burmese 447 



By C. C. Davies, Ph.D. 

The Sind frontier 448 

Jacob's policy 449 

The Panjab frontier 449 

Early Panjab policy and organisation 450 

Dera Ghazi Khan, the meeting-place of the two systems .... 452 

Reforms, 1872-S 453 

Relations with Kalat 454 

Sandcman and Baluchistan 455 

Possible lines of defence 456 

The Indus line 457 



The administrative and Durand lines 458 

Quetta 458 

Kandahar 459 

Difficulties of tribal control 460 

The forward policy 461 

Influence of the amir 46 1 

The Durand agreement 462 

Chitral 463 

Tribal risings of 1897 . 465 

Curzon's policy 466 

The North-West Frontier Province 467 

Tribal customs and the jirga system 470 

Land tenures 472 

The arms traffic 473 

The frontier during the late war 475 



By L. F. RusHBROOK Williams, M.A., Foreign Minister 
to H.H. the Maharaja of Patiala. 

The functions of the Indian army 476 

Attitude of the princes and the people 477 

Failure to take advantage of the initial enthusiasm 478 

Services overseas 479 

Consequent difficulties of administration 480 

Indian recruitment 481 

Provision of officers and medical personnel 482 

Munitions and supplies 483 

Financial help 483 

Revolutionary attempts 485 

The crisis of 19 18 485 

Attitude of the educated classes 486 

The declaration of 19 1 7 488 

The effects of the war 488 



By H. H. DoDWELL, M.A. 

Position in 1858 489 

Peculiarities of the Indian treaties 490 

Their constructive interpretation 491 

Their confirmation in 1858 492 

Attitude of the early viceroys 493 

The proclamation and the sanads of adoption . . . . . . 493 

The position of the crown 494 



Kashmir 495 

Successions in the Indian states 496 

Their mihtary forces 497 

Examples of internal interference : Alwar, Jabwa, Tank and Kalat . . 498 

The case of Malhar Rao Gaekwar 499 

The rendition of Mysore 501 

Common economic interests 503 

Obsolescence of the treaties 503 

Gurzon's policy 504 

Attitude of the princes 500 

The Imperial Service Troops 507 

The Ghamber of Princes 507 

Minto's change of policy 509 




By J. H. Lindsay, M.A. 

The ancient village self-government 511 

Village organisation 512 

The village headman 513 

The village police 514 

Famine relief 515 

Rural boards 516 

The Bengal ferry committees 516 

Local committees elsewhere 517 

Mayo's reforms 517 

Ripon's reforms 518 

The Bengal Local Self-Government Act 520 

Comparative failure of the rural boards 52 1 

The presidency towns 523 

Justices of the peace 523 

The question of conservancy 524 

Changes, 1863-7 525 

Reform in Bombay 526 

Reform in Calcutta 527 

Reform in Madras 528 

Early committees in the district towns 529 

The Municipal Act of 1850 530 

Later provincial legislation 531 

Ripon s reforms in the municipalities 534 

Octroi duties 535 

Non-official chairmen 537 





By Sir Richard Burn, G.S.L 


Social reforms 538 

Surendranath Banerjee . 538 

The Ilbert Bill . . .539 

The Arya Samaj and Theosophy 539 

The National Congress . . 540 

The Muslim attitude 541 

Dufferin's policy 541 

The Act of 1 892 543 

The principle of election 545 



By Sir H. Verney Lovett, K.G.S.I. 

The influence of the press 548 

Reactionary Hinduism 549 

B. G. Tilak 549 

The murders at Poona 550 

The partition agitation in Bengal 551 

The appearance of terrorism 552 

Unrest in the Panjab 553 

The India House conspiracy . . 553 

Attitude of the moderates 554 

Restrictions on the press 554 

The split of the congress • . 555 

The prosecution of Tilak 555 

Outrages in Bengal 556 

Gokhale accepts the reforms 557 

Hindu character of the extremist movement 559 



By Sir Richard Burn, G.S.I. 

Lord Minto's appointment 560 

Congress proposals 560 

Discussions with Morley 561 

Repressive measures 562 

Minto's proposals 563 

Morley's criticisms . . 565 

The King's message of 1908 565 

The Muslims demand separate representation 566 

Discussions in parliament 567 

Indian members of council ■ . . . . 569 

Method of election 570 

Budget procedure , , 572 




By Sir Richard Burn, C.S.I. 


Further restrictions on the press . . 574 

Political crime 575 

The Delhi Durbar . . . . . 575 

The change of capital and revocation of the partition of Bengal . . 576 

Muslim dissatisfaction 576 

Attempt on Lord Hardinge and the spread of revolutionary crime . . 578 

Working of the new councils 579 

Proposed executive councils in the United Provinces 579 

Indians in South Africa 581 

Revolutionary attempts during the war 582 

The Khilafat agitation 583 

The Home Rule League 584 

Criticism of the Press Act 584 

The Rowlatt Committee and consequent legislation 585 

By Sir Richard Burn, C.S.I. 

Sir S. P. Sinha's views 587 

Lord Chelmsford's questions 587 

The Declaration of 1 91 7 . 589 

The Commonwealth of India scheme 589 

Mr Curtis 's activities 591 

Montagu's visit to India 592 

The Montagu-Chelmsford Report 592 

The heads of provinces scheme 594 

The Southborough Committee 595 

TheActofi9i9 595 

Dyarchy and finance 596 

Changes in the Government of India 598 

The Council of State 599 

The size of the new councils 599 

Communal representation 600 

Position of the secretary of state 601 

The high commissioner for India 602 

Rules under the act 602 

Importance of the reforms 603 

Bibliographies 605 

Chronological Table . 635 

Index 639 


GOVERNMENTS, 1818-1857 

XHE imperial legislation relating to India in the first half of the 
nineteenth century is above all remarkable for the consistency of its 
course and the steady development of the policy which it was designed 
to promote. From the great India act of 1784 down to the statute 
which at last in 1858 abolished the administrative functions of the 
East India Company, there was a gradual, persistent evolution, in- 
spired by a common group of ideas, directed to a common object, and 
founded on principles in origin free alike from heady enthusiasm and 
obstinate fear of reformation. The principles were derived from Burke, 
but greatly modified by Whig traditions. Burke, of course, though 
long a follower of the party, had never been a real Whig. He lacked 
the background — the orderly conduct of a great estate — which was 
essential to the formation of the true Whig character. His zeal and 
sympathy were not balanced by the practical experience of directing 
men and managing great affairs. He was a poor judge of character, 
unable to detect the shallowness of Francis, and a poor judge of events, 
unable to gauge the nature of Indian developments. Neither his 
mistaken enthusiasm, nor Fox's party spirit, nor Sheridan's venal 
rhetoric, was in fact capable of forming a system on which the nation's 
Indian affairs might well and wisely be controlled. That was left to 
men who, no longer of the party, had carried with them much more 
of its spirit than remained behind. The ideas and purposes of the 
legislation carried through by Pitt and Dundas and Buckinghamshire 
have already been described. ^ But it will be convenient here to begin 
with the ideas of 181 3, for these appear and reappear not only in 
legislative principles but also in the actual administration of the period, 
so that they form the most appropriate introduction to the present 

The most notable expression given to the ideas current in 181 3 was 
assuredly the great speech delivered by Lord Grenville,^ to which 
even forty years later men turned back for inspiration and guidance. 
Like his successors, he was struck by the strangeness of the task. "On 
precedents we can here have no reliance. The situation is new; the 
subject on which we are to legislate knows no example. Our former 
measures would be deceitful guides." Nor had the time come for any 
final regulation of this most perplexing matter. Three points, he 

^ Vide V, 313 sgq.y supra. 
2 Hansard, xxv, yiosqq. 


said, required special attention. The first was the need of declaring 
the sovereignty of the British crown in India, as 

the orUy solid basis on which we can either discharge our duties or maintain our 

rights The British crown is de facto sovereign in India. How it became so it is 

needless to enquire. This sovereignty cannot now be renounced without still greater 
evils, both to that country and to this, than even the acquisition of power has ever 

yet produced. It must be maintained That sovereignty which we hesitate to 

assert, necessity compels us to exercise. 

But it should be exercised first to provide for the welfare of the Indian 
population, next, but ranking far below the first, to promote the 
interests of Great Britain. In Grenville's eyes there was no conflict 
between the two. "Pursued with sincerity and on the principles of 
a just and liberal policy, there exists between them a close connection, 
a necessary and mutual dependence." Oppression must be prevented, 
light and knowledge must be diffused. The government must be 
separated "from all intermixture with mercantile interests". But it 
would be fatal to the constitution of Great Britain if the Company's 
patronage were ever vested in the crown or exercised by any political 
party. Perhaps, he suggested, writers might be chosen "by free com- 
petition and public examination from our great schools and univer- 

The act then passed was far less comprehensive than the speaker 
desired. The Company was again entrusted for a further period of 
twenty years with the administration of the Indian territories. Its 
trade was continued. But it lost the monopoly of the Indian trade; 
British-born subjects were to be admitted under less arbitrary re- 
strictions; the sovereignty of the British crown was asserted; and 
provision was made for the development of an educational policy. 
Then with an easier conscience the legislature abandoned for twenty 
years the difficult and unfamiliar study of Indian problems. One might 
suppose that the words of Grenville had been forgotten. But it was 
not so. The general ideas which he expressed continued to dominate 
the minds of legislators not only in 1833, but in 1853 as well. The 
sovereignty of the crown was not only asserted but was reinforced. 
The Company was maintained in its functions, but its structure was 
transformed, and its mercantile interests eliminated. Great efforts 
were made to improve the administration in India; and at last the 
method of selecting the administrative service first advocated by 
Grenville was adopted. 

But this consistency of effort exhibited also the defects of its qualities. 
Admirable as were the idesis of Grenville in their time and place, they 
were liable to exhaustion by the development of affairs. The time was 
to come when they would be inadequate guides, when they would 
need to be replaced by a new set of ideas, when the changes intro- 
duced by this consistent policy would require recognition. But un- 
luckily the act of 1853 exhibits no inclination to set off on a new 


departure. Its changes were few, stereotyped, imperfect. The motive 
powers of the ideas underlying it were in fact exhausted, and no new 
ideas were as yet powerful enough to take their place. 

Neither of the acts of 1833 and 1853 was in any way intended to 
be definitive. The need of caution was still deeply felt. As Macaulay 
said in the debates on the bill of 1833, "We are trying. . .to give a 
good government to a people to whom we cannot give a free govern- 
ment". Even James Mill, that zealot of representative institutions, 
had declared them to be utterly out of the question. Therefore 

we have to engraft on despotism the natural fruits of liberty. In these circumstances, 
Sir, it behoves us to be cautious even to the verge of timidity. . . .We are walking 
in darkness — we do not distinctly see whither we are going. It is the wisdom of 
a man so situated to feel his way, and not to plant hLs foot till he is well assured that 
the ground before him is firm. ^ 

Twenty years later he was still the advocate of reform with caution. 
"Such a bill", he declared, "ought to make alterations, and yet it 
ought not to be final. The bill. . .ought to be a large yet cautious step 
in the path of progress. "^ He seems not to have noticed that the steps 
were becoming shorter, or that the rate of progress was slowing down. 

The ideas underlying the bill of 1833 were most clearly expressed 
in the speech of Charles Grant, afterwards Lord Glenelg, and at 
that time president of the Board of Control. The first point which 
he emphasised was the need of abolishing the Company's trading 
activities and reducing it to a purely administrative body. The union 
of the characters of sovereign and trader, he observed, was "calcu- 
lated to give a false impression of the character of the government".^ 
In the second place he put the need of improvement in the govern- 
mental machinery in India. The presidency of Fort William was 
overgrown and should be divided into two. Perhaps the governor- 
general should not be required to supervise the whole conduct of 
affairs and at the same time to administer a particular government; 
certainly he ought to be invested with higher powers of control over 
the subordinate presidencies. In the third place the laws should be 
amended, the legislatures improved, the anomalous and conflicting 
judicatures reformed. Slavery should be abolished, and Europeans 
admitted freely into the country.* 

To a large extent these projects were carried into law. "This 
political monster of two natures — subject in one hemisphere, sovereign 
in another",^ was made much less anomalous by being required with 
all convenient speed after 12 April, 1834, to close down its commercial 
business, and to pension or otherwise provide for its commercial 
servants, under the superintendence of the Board of Control.® Its 
capital became a charge on the territorial revenues and provision was 

^ Hansard, 3rd Ser. xix, 512-13. ^ Idem, cxxviii, 741. 

^ Idem, XVIII, 705. * Idem, xviii, 727 sqq. 

^ Macaulay, idem, xix, 509. ® 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, ss. 4, 6. 



made for its repayment in forty years, or earlier should the govern- 
ment of the Indian territories be taken away from it.^ This was in 
fact making leisurely provision for the time when the Company might 
at last be aboUshed. But at the moment aboUtion was regarded as 
premature, for the old jealousy of the executive was still strong. 
Macaulay expressed the general attitude with customary point and 
vigour. Authority ought not to be vested in the crown alone, for in 
such matters parliament could not provide the necessary criticism and 

That this house is, or is ever likely to be, an efficient check on abuses practised in 
India, I altogether deny What we want is a body independent of the govern- 
ment, and no more than independent — not a tool of the Treasury, not a tool of the 
opposition. . . .The Company. . .is such a body.^ 

The problems connected with the Indian governments were less 
easy of solution. The original bill declared that "the whole civil and 
military government of all the said territories and revenues in India 
shall be. . .vested in a governor-general and counsellors. . .".^ But 
this proposal met with criticism in both the Commons and the Lords. 
It was felt that it would overwhelm the Supreme Government with 
unnecessary detail and strip the subordinate governments of all 
authority and credit.^ It was therefore decided to moderate the 
section, so as to give the governor-general and council, not the whole 
government, but "the superintendence direction and control ".^ 
Another proposal directed to the same end had also to be materially 
modified. The bill proposed that in future the subordinate pre- 
sidencies should be administered by governors only, though per- 
mitting the Company to appoint councillors where necessary. At the 
same time an additional Company's servant was to be added to the 
governor-general's council, making four in all, designed (it seems) 
to permit the appointment of a representative from each of the four 
contemplated presidencies.* This last change would have been a 
great improvement, for the governor-general's council possessed no 
personal knowledge of the subordinate presidencies. But it was 
thought that the change would lead to too much interference on the 
part of the central government. The connected proposal to abolish 
the subordinate councils was eminently distasteful to the Company, 
for it would have diminished the value of its patronage. The addi- 
tional Company's servant on the supreme council was therefore 
dropped, while the existing form of presidency government was 
continued, though the Company was empowered to suspend the 
councils or diminish the number of councillors.'' 

» 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, ss. 11-17. 

" Hansard, 3rd Scr. xdc, 513, 516. * Bill, s. 30, 

• Hansard, 3rd Scr. xdc, 543; of. xx, 322. 
» 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, s. 39; cf. s. 65. 

• Hansard, 3rd Scr. xvin, 750; Bill, ss. 37, 39, 55, 56. 
' 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, ss. 40, 56, 57. 


The draft provisions regarding legislation were more successful in 
procuring parliamentary adoption. At this time each of the three 
presidencies enjoyed equal legislative powers; though the governor- 
general possessed a legal right of veto over the legislation of the 
subordinate governments, it had in fact been little exercised. ^ Thus 
had come into existence three series of regulations, as these enactments 
were called, frequently ill-drawn, for they had been drafted by 
inexperienced persons with little skilled advice; frequently conflicting, 
in some cases as a result of varying conditions, but in others merely 
by accident; and in all cases enforceable only in the Company's courts 
because they had never been submitted to and registered by the king's 
courts. Besides these were the uncertain bodies of Muslim and Hindu 
law, uncertain because of a variety of texts and interpretations, and 
still more uncertain because of the varying application which they 
received in the courts themselves. Lastly came English statute and 
common law and equity, applied by the king's courts. These con- 
flicting series of laws were enforceable by two different and generally 
hostile judicatures, with ill-defined jurisdictions. In general the king's 
courts exercised jurisdiction within the limits of the presidency towns 
of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, while the Company's courts 
exercised jurisdiction over the dependent territories. But apart from 
this territorial jurisdiction, the king's courts possessed a personal 
jurisdiction over British-born subjects, in some cases involving juris- 
diction over Indian-born subjects. This particular aspect of the 
matter was clearly destined to be of growing importance. The doors 
of India, as the directors said, were to be "unsealed for the first time 
to British subjects of European birth ". Englishmen, who had till then 
resided in India on sufferance, were to acquire a right to reside and 
even to acquire land there. Since the Company's trade was to cease, 
a large number of merchants and traders were expected to settle in 
India to take advantage of the change. 2 It was evidently inexpedient 
that the two classes of subjects, Indian and English, should continue 
to live under separate laws administered by separate courts or that the 
latter when accused of wronging the former, or accusing the former 
of wrong, should be able to insist on the issue being tried by a strange, 
unsuitable and probably very distant court. 

For these various and cogent reasons it was resolved to modify the 
legislative authority in India, to extend its legislative competence, 
and to prepare for a general reform of the judicial system. The 
subordinate governments, it was felt, should lose their legislative 
authority altogether — a measure which appears the more natural 
when it is remembered that it was also intended at first to abolish 
their councils. The existence of three legislatures had added much to 
the complexity of the legal system, the simplification of which would 

^ Hansard, 3rd Ser. xviii, 727. 

* Dispatch to the Government of India, 10 December, 1834 (Ilbert, ist ed. Appendix). 


be aided by concentrating all legislative authority in a single body. 
This change was also supported by the proposed extension of power, 
which parliament would concede least unreadily to the governor- 
general and his council. It was therefore decided to transfer all power 
of making laws to them ; and it was thought that the need of special 
laws to suit local peculiarities would be sufficiently met by empowering 
the presidency governments to submit to the governor-general and 
council draft laws to be enacted or not as might seem best.^ 

The powers granted to the governor-general and council were much 
wider than any till then entrusted to an Indian legislature. They 
could make laws to repeal, amend or alter 

any laws or regulations whatever now in force or hereafter to be in force in the said 
territories . . . , and to make laws and regulations for all persons, whether British 
or native, foreigners or others, and for all courts of justice, whether established by 
His Majesty's charters or otherwise, and the jurisdiction thereof, 

except that they could not modify the new act, the mutiny act, any 
future act of parliament relating to India, or the sovereignty of the 
crown. But apart from this limitation all their acts should possess 
"the same force and effect" as any act of parliament, and "shall be 
taken notice of by all courts of justice whatsoever within the said 
territories ".2 

These were full powers for a dependent legislature. Their particular 
importance lay, however, in one main point. Till 1833 no Indian 
legislation had the least effect in the Supreme Courts. It is true that 
provision had been made by which an Indian regulation would 
become binding on those courts once it had been registered by them. 
But such registration had lain wholly within the pleasure of the courts 
themselves; and the Indian governments had steadily refused to 
recognise the veto in effect entrusted to the courts by refusing to 
submit their acts for registration. Their legislation had thus been 
binding on Indian residents outside the presidency towns and on the 
Company's courts established in the Mufassal, but not binding on 
either Indian or European residents at government headquarters or 
the king's courts established there. Now it became equally binding 
on all classes of inhabitants, whatever their place of residence, and 
on all courts of law, whatever the authority by which they were 
constituted. In order to complete its powers the new legislature was 
authorised to modify or define the jurisdiction even of courts erta- 
blished by royal charter, though the latter might not be abolished 
without the previous sanction of the home authorities.^ 

One object of the earlier statutes requiring regulations to be 
registered in the Supreme Courts before becoming enforceable in the 
presidency towns had been to secure the criticism of the respective 
benches before the laws adopted by the Company's governments 

> 5 & 4 Will. rV, c. 85, ss. 59, 65. « Identy ss. 43, 45. 

' Idemt 8. 46. 


became universally valid. Experience had indeed shown that the 
presidency governments needed more expert advice on legislative 
drafts than could be provided by law officers chosen from the local 
bar. The new act for the first time made provision for this. An 
additional member of council was to be appointed by the Company 
with the approval of the crown. The definition of his qualifications 
was purely negative. He was not to be a member of the Company's 
civil or military service. The only formal indication of the part he 
was to play consisted in the declaration that he was to have rights 
of speech and vote only at meetings of the council for the consideration 
of legislative business.^ The office thus obscurely defined was that of 
law member. The appointment was important in two ways. It con- 
stituted the first step taken in India towards the establishment of a 
legislature separate from the executive; and it provided the council 
with a legal expert to criticise, amend or draft legislative proposals. 

"The concurrence of the fourth member of council may be wanting to a law ", wrote 
the directors, "and the law may be good still; even his absence at the time of 
enactment will not vitiate the law; but parliament manifestly intended that the 
whole of his time and attention, and all the resources of knowledge or ability 
which he may possess, should be employed in promoting the due discharge of the 
legislative functions of the council. He has indeed no pre-eminent control over 
the duties of this department, but he is peculiarly charged with them in all their 
ramifications. "2 

And although he was entitled to sit and vote only when laws were 
under consideration, the Company advised that he should be per- 
mitted to sit at the executive meetings of the council. 

"An intimate knowledge", it wrote, "of what passes in council will be of essential 
service to him in the discharge of his legislative functions. Unless he is in the habit 
of constant communication and entire confidence with his colleagues ; unless he is 
familiar with the details of internal administration, with the grounds on which the 
government acts and with the information by which it is guided, he cannot 
possibly sustain his part in the legislative conferences or measures, with the know- 
ledge, readiness and independence essential to a due performance of his duty."^ 

The advice was followed. Macaulay (the first law member) and his 
successors were summoned to the ordinary as well as to the legislative 

The third measure taken in this connection was the creation of an 
entirely new body. The governor-general in council was directed 
to appoint "Indian law commissioners", who were to enquire into 
the jurisdiction, powers and rules of all courts and police-establish- 
ments, all forms of judicial procedure, and the nature and operation 
of all laws, civil and criminal, written or customary, and to propose 
any necessary alterations, due regard being had to the rules of caste, 
and the religions and manners of the people. They were to follow 
such instructions as they should receive from the governor-general 
in council, and to draw the pay that the latter should appoint in the 

' 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, s. 40. ^ Dispatch, lo December, 1834, ut supra. * Idem. 


scale next below that enjoyed by members of council.^ Thus came 
into existence the first Indian Law Commission. It was designed to 
fulfil a double object — to unravel the tangle of existing laws and to 
aulvise on new projects of legislation. In both points the new body 
(over which Macaulay and his successors presided without additional 
pay) achieved much. It was employed by the new legislature to 
consider and report on projected laws submitted by the subordinate 
governments, and its reports form an interesting and very valuable 
part of the legislative proceedings of the period. But its other and 
indeed its principal object proved more difficult than had been 
expected. Macaulay in 1833, with his usual lucid and specious gift 
of statement, persuaded himself and the House of Commons that the 
ideal moment had come in which to codify the Indian laws, and that 
codification would be a relatively easy, rapid process, which should 
be undertaken without delay. When he became law member, and 
presided over the commission, he laboured hard to fulfil his promises. 
He produced the first draft of the Penal Code. But that remained 
a project until, having been reconsidered, amended, and much 
improved, it was at last enacted in 1861. The first Indian Law Com- 
mission thus only laid foundations on which other legislators were to 

The act of 1833 dealt with two other matters of great importance 
— the mode of administering the presidency of Fort WilHam and the 
position and recruitment of the Company's civil service. Reform of the 
government of Bengal was long overdue. The conquests and policy 
of Wellesley had greatly expanded the territories of a province already 
over-large. The Agra districts not only lay at a great distance from 
the centre of government but also included the imperial city of 
Delhi adjacent to the powerfiil state of Ranjit Singh in the Panjab. 
Need therefore existed of a strong and vigilant local authority. Nor 
was this all. The governor-general in council was responsible for 
the general administration and policy of all British India as well as 
for the particular administration of Bengal. This burden was in fact 
more than he could bear. The detail of Bengal administration tended 
therefore to be relegated to subordinate authorities. The Bengal 
Board of Revenue acted largely as the government of the province. 
A great part of the administration was thus entrusted to revenue 
servants bred up in a revenue system which more than any other 
discouraged famiHarity with the customs and life of the people. 

To this unfortunate system, the evils of which were at the time but 
partially recognised, the act applied two palliatives. It declared that 
the territories under the presidency of Fort William were to be divided 
into two governments. 2 This involved the appointment of a separate 
governor, but did not necessitate the appointment of a council.^ 

1 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, as. 53-5. » Idem, s. 38. 
• Id$m, 8s. 56, 57. 


In regard to the dual position of the governor-general in council, 
though Charles Grant had half-admitted the evils of the existing 
system/ nothing useful was done. The governor-general was declared 
the governor of the Bengal Presidency. This involved a ridiculous 
complication of functions. Till the passing of the act of 1833 the 
governor-general of Bengal in council had also been the superin- 
tending government of all British India. But now, in order to mark 
the new powers and sta!us of the superintending government, it 
received a new designation — the governor-general of India in 
council 2 — so that while the governor-general and council had 
become the central government, the governor-general alone con- 
stituted the government of Bengal. The governor-general in council 
thus had powers of superintendence, direction and control over the 
governor-general, while the governor of Bengal could overrule the 
council of India. "A state of things may perhaps occur", the Com- 
pany observed, "which may in some cases occasion embarrassment."* 
However, another section of the act permitted the governor-general 
in council to appoint an ordinary member of council deputy-governor 
of Bengal ; and in actual practice the senior ordinary member was 
generally so appointed. This avoided the absurdity of the legal posi- 
tion ; but did nothing to improve the administration of the province, 
which remained under a minimum of supervision for another twenty 
years. In these matters the provisions of the act were far from ade- 
quate to the needs of the country. 

In regard to the recruitment of the Company's civil service the act 
contained provisions of far-reaching but not immediate importance. 
As has already been noted, Lord Grenville twenty years earlier had 
suggested competition as providing the best means of recruitment. 
This project was now introduced in a carefully limited form. The act 
directed that estimates of probable vacancies in the civil service should 
be sent to England annually; the estimates were to be considered by 
the board, which was to certify to the court of directors what number 
of nominations — not less than four times the number of expected 
vacancies — might be made. The nominees were then to be examined 
under rules to be made by the board and a quarter selected for 
admission to the Company's college at Haileybury. After three years' 
studies there, they were to be re-examined and the appointments 
made accordingly.* This system, had it been carried into operation, 
would have preserved the advantages of nomination while it intro- 
duced those of competition. It would have excluded the bad bargains 
who have always been the misfortune of every system of patronage ; 
it would also have excluded the very clever men, with no interest in 
India but as a field for their talents, who have been the bane of the 
system of open competition. Unfortunately the directors of the day 

1 Hansard, 3rd Ser. xvin, 727. ^ 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, s. 39. 

' Dispatch, 10 December, 1834, ut supra. * 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, ss. 103-8. 


felt more acutely the diminution in the value of their patronage than 
the advantage of being obliged to exercise their patronage wisely. 
They hated this infringement of their former privilege. They were 
quite incapable of rebutting the eloquent arguments with which in 
the House of Commons Macaulay developed, amplified and defended 
the plan which he had borrowed and adapted from Grenville's original 
proposal. But though they might be reduced to silence, their hearts 
were obstinately unconvinced. In the following year they succeeded 
in persuading the easy-going president of the board to move an 
amending bill permitting them to defer the execution of these 
directions. Macaulay, the one convinced and influential advocate of 
the competitive principle, had then left England to take up his new 
office of law member. The proposal was thus smuggled through with 
little consideration, and the first serious attempt to trench upon the 
directors' privilege ended ignominiously and without trial. This was 
a great misfortune. Unrestricted competition, as afterwards adopted, 
has not lacked its disadvantages. But the plan of 1833 might have 
worked greatly to the welfare of India. 

Beside this fruitless provision should be set another, equally bene- 
volent and even less operative. No Indian subject of the crown 
"by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, colour, or any 
of them", should "be disabled from holding any place, office, or 
employment under the said Company". ^ Clearly this did not mean, 
and was not designed to mean, that all oflfices were in future to be 
thrown open indiscriminately to Indians. The clause of the act of 
1 793 declaring that none but covenanted servants of the Company 
could hold any civil office carrying over ;,(^8oo a year salary still 
remained law;^ so that except for the new councillorship, which W2is 
evidently intended to effect a very different object,^ none of the 
higher civil offices were in law open to Indians until Indians were 
included in the covenanted civil service. The object of the section, 21s 
the directors rightly observed, was 

not to ascertain qualification, but to remove disqualification. It does not break 
down or derange the scheme of our government as conducted principally through 
the instrumentality of our regular servants. . . . But the meaning of the enactment 
we take to be that there shall be no governing caste in British India; that whatever 
other tests of qualification may be adopted, distinctions of race or religion shall 
not be of the number. . . . You well know, and indeed have in some important 
respects carried into effect, our desire that natives should be admitted to places of 
trust as freely and extensively as a regard for the due discharge of the functions 
attached to such places will permit. . . . Fitness is henceforth to be the criterion of 
eligibility.. . .There is one practical lesson which. . .the present subject suggests to 
us once more to enforce. While on the one hand it may be anticipated that the 
range of public situations accessible to the natives and mixed races will gradually 
be enlarged, it is, on the other hand, to be recollected that, as settlers from Europe 
find their way into the country, this class of persons will probably furnish candidates 
for those very situations to which the natives and mixed races will have admittance. 

» 3 & ^ Will. IV, c. 85, s. 87. « 33 Geo. Ill, c. 52, s. 57. 

• Cf. Hansard, 3rd Scr. xix, 664. 


Men of European enterprise and education will appear in the field ; and it is by 
the prospect of this event that we are led particularly to impress the lesson already 
alluded to on your attention. In every view it is important that the indigenous 
people of India, or those among them who by their habits, character or position 
may be induced to aspire to office, should as far as possible be qualified to meet 
their European competitors.^ 

The clause therefore became the basis of that educational policy 
which took shape, in the years immediately following, under the 
influence of Macaulay more than any other individual. 

At a time when the slave question was so prominently in the minds 
of all men, it was inevitable that the act should attempt to deal with 
slavery in India. The act as originally introduced directed that 
slavery in the Company's territories should be brought to an end by 
12 April, 1837, or earlier if possible. ^ A little consideration, however, 
soon made it evident that the question of slavery in India was a 
different matter from slavery in the West Indies. In India it was 
complicated by caste, by Hindu custom, by Muslim law. A greater 
latitude of action was therefore accorded to the government of India. 
Instead of requiring abolition by a fixed date, the act only directed 
the governor-general in council to take the matter into considera- 
tion, to mitigate the position of slaves in India as soon as possible, 
and to abolish slave status at the earliest practicable moment. ^ The 
Company's instructions under this head were shrewd and cautious. 
It pointed out that remedial measures should be so framed as to leave 
untouched the authority recognised by both Hindu and Muslim law 
in the heads of families. Of real slavery in India, predial slavery 
occurred only in certain limited areas, while domestic slavery was 
mild. The first reform which it recommended was to make the 
punishment of injuries inflicted on slaves as heavy as if they had been 
inflicted on free persons; while it was suggested that emancipation 
should only be effected where it was desired by the slave, and should 
always be "a judicial proceeding, investigated and decided by the 
judge".* In social as in political affairs, India was not to be made the 
subject of wholesale experiments. 

As a whole the act, while very imperfect, was permeated by the 
liberal ideas of the age, and some contemporary comment fell far 
short of justice. Shore, for example, who should have known better, 
observed, "Provided each party could gain its own selfish and short- 
sighted objects, the government of India was thrown into the bargain 
with as much indifference as if the people in question had been a herd 
of cattle".^ The act which approached the slavery question with wise 
caution, which sought to introduce competition into the recruitment 
of the civil service, which abolished the Company's trading rights, and 
envisaged though in an over-sanguine spirit the increased employ- 

^ Dispatch, 10 December, 1834, ut supra. ^ Bill, s. 88. 

^ 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, s. 88. * Dispatch, 4 December, 1834, ut supra. 

^ Notes on Indian Affairs^ i, 390. 


ment of Indians and the reform of the Indian law, was a good deal 
more than a corrupt bargain between two parties in the British 
parliament. Its defects were of a very different nature. It did not 
sufficiently reorganise the Indian government. The governor-general 
should, as had been at first proposed, have been given the assistance 
of a councillor from each presidency, and should have been wholly 
freed from the duties of local administration in Bengal. Legislation 
and administration were both over-centralised. In short the act 
imposed on the government of India duties too extensive and detailed 
to be carried out by a single group of men. It was probable, there- 
fore, that the coming years would be marked by an excessive uni- 
formity of policy and a decline in the efficient working of the adminis- 
trative machine, due to the development of centralisation in advance 
of communications. 

The Home Government under the act remained almost as it had 
been before, though it was in fact little understood. Indeed the 
debates of 1853, when the constitution came up once more for recon- 
sideration, revealed the most singular differences of opinion. Some 
declared that India had been governed by the board, others that it 
had been governed by the Company. In one way at all events the 
provisions of the statutes had been considerably modified by usage. 
The offices of governor-general, of governor, and of fourth member 
of the governor-general's council, were to be filled by the Company's 
appointment, subject to the approval of the crown. Further pro- 
vision had been made in 1833 that vacant governorships or seats in 
council must be filled by the Company within two months after the 
receipt of the notification, otherwise its right of appointment would 
pass to the crown, and persons so appointed would not be liable to 
recall by the Company.^ It was therefore expected that normally 
names would be proposed by the directors for the approval of the 
minister, who would exercise a veto over their proposals. But the 
time limit of two months, within which the directors had to propose 
an acceptable name unless they were to forfeit that exercise of their 
patronage, greatly though perhaps undesignedly increased the 
minister's influence in this matter; with the result that in practice 
names came to be proposed by the minister, and the Company's 
power of appointment came to be in effect a right of veto. ^ 

This became evident almost as soon as the act came into force. 
Bentinck announced his intention of coming home, and the directors 
were eager to secure the succession as governor-general to their very 
distinguished servant, Sir Charles Metcalfe. Charles Grant, still 
president of the board, objected, and a long correspondence ensued, 
in the course of which the limited two months almost passed away, 
and finally the chairman of the court was reduced to writing to the 
president of the board that he could not accede to any further delay 
1 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85, s. 60. * Gf. Hansard, 3rd Scr. cxxdc, 48. 


in proposing the name of a possible successor.^ The power of nomina- 
tion had already passed out of the Company's hands. 

While this question was still at issue, a change of ministry took 
place, Lord Heytesbury was proposed by the new president and 
accepted by the court of directors. But before Heytesbury had sailed 
for India, Melbourne came back into office and resolved that a 
ministerial supporter should be rewarded with the governor-general- 
ship of India. This was described as a marked breach of precedents. 
But while it was agreed that a governor-general exercising his office 
in India should not be recalled by a mere change of ministry at home, 
it was much less clear that a governor-general who had not yet sailed 
from England should as a thing of course be permitted to take up his 
office under a government other than that which had nominated him. 
The earlier cases — Minto's and Bentinck's — did not illustrate this 
position at all. The court of directors did their utmost to prevent 
Melbourne from acting on his resolve. They declared their fear and 
alarm at any measure which would render "the high and responsible 
station of governor-general of India subservient to political purposes 
in this country". 2 But in such cases they were really helpless and 
were obliged to acquiesce in a change. The discussions ended in the 
selection of the unfortunate Auckland as the new governor-general. 

The reader must not, however, hastily conclude that the Board 
of Control could impose the man of its choice on the court of 
directors. The latter possessed and retained down to the end of its 
political existence the power of recalling any office-holder in India, 
including all governors and the governor-general himself. Even the 
most aggressive of presidents was therefore obliged to refrain from 
proposing persons who would be really unwelcome to the court of 
directors. On at least two occasions within the period covered by the 
present chapter was the recall of the governor-general seriously con- 
sidered, and on one of these it was actually effected. The first case was 
that of Lord Amherst. In 1825, when the news of the Burma War 
was followed by that of the Sepoy mutiny at Barrackpore, the directors 
were so seriously disturbed at the course events were taking that they 
debated the propriety of recalling the governor-general immediately. 
The president of the board, Wynn, being unable to dissuade them 
from this course, Canning was employed to take the matter up with 
them, in Lord Liverpool's absence; and he succeeded in smoothing 
matters over with a promise that the papers should be laid before the 
Duke of Wellington for his opinion. ^ The second case was that of 
Lord Ellenborough in 1844. Despite his great talents Lord Ellen- 
borough notably lacked the art of managing others. On arriving in 
India he speedily quarrelled with the whole civil service, preferring 
to employ soldiers wherever he had any choice, conducting his 

* Kaye, Life of Tucker^ p. 480. * Kaye, op. cit. p. 460. 

* Canning to Liverpool, 3 October, 1825. Brit. Mus. Add. MSS, 38193, f. 233. 


political correspondence through his private, instead of through the 
political, secretary, and quitting Calcutta in order that he might 
avoid having to communicate his plans to the members of his council. 
This not only increased the difficulties of his work in India, but also 
indisposed the directors who resented the slight thus cast upon their 
relations and proteges. Incidentally the same cause inspired the 
peculiar acrimony with which Kaye, usually a fair-minded man, 
approached every aspect of Ellenborough's conduct. Then too, the 
governor-general's impulsive character could not submit to be bound 
even by the rules which he himself had laid down. When president 
of the board in 1830 he had ordered that no public works costing 
over 10,000 rupees should be undertaken without the previous 
sanction of the East India Company; but now he established new 
and expensive cantonments on his own authority.^ His Sind policy 
provoked strong criticism. Above all he regarded both the Board of 
Control and the court of directors with a scorn far too great to be 
concealed. 2 In 1843 his close friend, Wellington, had urged him 
earnestly to display greater prudence.^ But this was in vain. Early 
in the following year the directors resolved that he should be recalled. 
Though there was much truth in the queen's view that this was unwise 
and ungrateful,* the governor-general's conduct had exhibited too 
many irregularities for the ministry to be able to make any effective 
defence. Peel therefore acquiesced in his recall, but at the same time 
gave him a step in the peerage and the Grand Cross of the Bath. With 
these solatia Ellenborough came home. 

In its way this episode was as significant as Auckland's appointment 
had been. If the latter showed that the ministry possessed the real 
power of nomination, the former proved that the Company's veto 
was no empty form, for no ministry would venture to insist on tlie 
appointment of a governor-general or governor who might be recalled 
before he had even landed in India. 

In fact the Company retained and continued to exercise a con- 
siderable share in the authority exercised by the Home Government. 
It is true that matters of foreign policy, of war, peace, and alliances, 
had slipped altogether from its control; and the only way in 
which it could mark its disapproval was the extreme course of 
recalling a peccant governor-general. As Wood observed in the 
debates of 1853, the responsibility for Indian foreign policy lay 
exclusively with the president of the board and through him with the 
cabinet.** But in fact this was the branch of policy in which an 
effective home control was least practicable. Macaulay's words — 
"India is and must be governed in India. This is a fundamental law 
which we did not make, which we cannot alter, and to which we 

* Cf. Colchester, Ellenborough's Indian Administration, p. 369. 

• Law, India under Lord Ellenborough, pp. 104, 165. * Colchester, ut supra. 

« Queen Victoria's Letters, 11, 9. » Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxix, 764. 


should do our best to conform our legislation" — while generally true, 
were peculiarly true of foreign affairs. The war in Sind, the war with 
Sindhia, the war with Burma, the wars with the Sikhs, were begun, 
conducted, and concluded on the responsibility of the governor- 
general of the day. So that the province in which at London the 
authority of the board was uncontested was also that in which its 
authority could be least exercised. 

In all other matters the policy of the court of directors had to be 
taken into serious consideration. The actual relations between the 
court and the board in this period cannot be determined with pre- 
cision, for the original and vital conferences, in which their respective 
views were stated and discussed between the president and the chairs, 
have left no record other than an occasional private letter. Regular 
documentary evidence (in the "previous communications") only 
appears as a rule when the principal points of difference have been 
cleared away. The best account (so far as the present writer is aware) 
of these relations is contained in a letter of St George Tucker, who 
had enjoyed prolonged experience in his repeated tenure of the chair- 
manship of the Company. 

*'The Board", he writes, "have. . .a general and absolute restraining power; but 
they cannot propel us forwards if we choose to resist. Our vis inertiae alone is sometimes 
sufficient to arrest their proceedings. The present government have on more than 
one occasion resorted to a high judicial tribunal for the purpose of coercing us by 
a mandamus', but they signally failed. On a late occasion they ordered us to dismiss 
all the judges of our court of Sudder Diwanny Adawlut (the head court of appeal 
in Bengal) — we refused — they threatened to dismiss them by their own authority — 
they were told that this could only be done by a mandate of recall under the sign 
manual; but they were not prepared to undertake such a responsibility, and the 
case was closed by a peevish censure. 

"The court of directors still by law retain the initiative; and although by the 
connivance of their organs this privilege may be rendered of no avail, it has hereto- 
fore been asserted with very salutary effect. We are also at liberty to protest, and 
to expose to public view instances of maladministration; so that, as long as the 
court shall be filled by independent and honourable men, they may, not only by 
their knowledge and experience, assist in giving a proper direction to the machine 
of government, but they can also exert a wholesome influence in checking the 
career of an unscrupulous government."^ 

Tucker's letter ends on a melancholy note. " I feel most painfully", 
he adds, *'that we are gradually sinking." There was, no doubt, 
a steady growth during the twenty years following 1833 of the idea 
that direct crown government was the inevitable and desirable end. 
In 1833 that idea had been cherished by extremists on the one side 
like Ellenborough and on the other like J. S. Buckingham. In 1853 
the idea was much more widely held. That fact of itself would no 
doubt have tended to make the president of the board more assertive 
of his powers and more disposed to push them to their extreme length. 
But the position of the Company seems to have remained strong 

1 Kaye, op. cit. p. 483. 


enough to permit an obstinate resistance. At all events the legislators 
of 1853 clearly felt that the Company would not decline into a mere 
consultative council without a material change in the existing law. 
The new act provided for the reduction of the directors from twenty- 
four to eighteen, and for the immediate appointment of three (rising 
gradually to six) by the crown. Since at the same time the quorum 
of directors was lowered from thirteen to ten, it would be possible for 
the crown nominees to constitute the majority in a thinly attended 
court. ^ The intention evidently was to prepare for the time when the 
Company should lapse and its functions be entrusted to a consultative 
council. This was frankly recognised in debate. Sir James Graham, 
for example, "beheved that the introduction into the direction of a 
small proportion of directors nominated by the crown would form the 
nucleus of a consultative body hereafter which should be the council 
of the sole minister of India named by the crown ".2 It is clear 
therefore that the plan which was adopted in 1858 was no newly 
found expedient, but rather a solution towards which men had been 
consciously working. 

Affairs in another direction also had moved so far as to abrogate 
the chief reason which had demanded the maintenance of the 
Company. Ever since 1781 the main obstacle to the Company's 
abolition had been the exercise of the Indian patronage, which no 
one save Fox had dared seek to appropriate. Grenville in 181 3 had 
indicated an avenue of escape from the dilemma. Macaulay in 1 833 
had attempted to open up the avenue. Now in 1853 it was decreed 
that the directors' patronage should cease, that the Board of Control 
should prepare rules for the examination of candidates for the civil 
service, that all natural-born subjects of Her Majesty should be 
eligible to compete, subject to the rules that the board should prepare, 
and that all appointments should be made on the results of the 
examination.^ Given the success of this experiment, men naturally 
began to look for the disappearance of the Company according to 
plan in 1873. The Mutiny merely accelerated the foregone and care- 
fully anticipated course of events. 

Two other small points show how definitely opinion had developed. 
When the presidency of the Board of Control had been first instituted, 
it had been held in conjunction with other important offices, and 
carried a salary of ^(^2000 a year. When in 1810 it had come to be held 
alone, the pay had been raised to ;;(^5000, but in 1831 "in a hot fit of 
economy"* had been reduced to £3500. It was pointed out that the 
post had become either a mere stepping-stone to something better or 
a refuge for the poHtically needy, that the president "did not fill that 
office in the cabinet which he ought to do", that there would be 
constitutional objections to making him a secretary of state, but that 

* 16 & 17 Vic. c. 95, ss. 2-6. * Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxix, 70. 

• 16 & 17 Vic. c. 95, ss. 36-42. * Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxdc, 38. 


at all events his salary should be raised to the same level. ^ It was 
therefore resolved that his salary should not be less than that of a 
secretary of state^ — another preparatory step for the change of 1858. 
At the same time the approval of the crown became in future necessary 
for all appointments of councillors, whether to the governor-general's 
council or to those of the subordinate governments. 

The act of 1853 thus strengthened the position of the crown half of 
the Home Government and reflected the growing anticipation of the 
time when it would be the sole organ of government. Other pro- 
visions dealt with the government in India. Some of the most 
important modified the governor-general's council. The law member 
became an ordinary member, entitled to speak and vote at all meetings, 
legislative or executive, of the council,^ thus removing a disability 
against which Macaulay had strongly protested. The legislative 
authority of the governor-general was materially enlarged. Under 
the act of 1833, while the governor-general at executive meetings 
could act with one member only and could overrule the decisions 
taken by a majority, at legislative meetings his presence was not 
necessary, these three ordinary members could act without him, and 
he had merely a casting vote. Under the new act no law was to have 
force until it had received his assent, so that he was given a power of 
veto which till then had been lodged only in the home authorities. 
A long step was also made towards further differentiating the legis- 
lature from the executive. Under the act of 1833 the distinction 
between the two had consisted only in the right of the law member 
to speak and vote. Now a large relative increase in the council was 
made for legislative purposes. Certain additional persons were to be 
added under the statutory title of "legislative councillors". These 
were to consist of a member nominated by each governor or lieutenant- 
governor, from among the civil servants of at least ten years' standing, 
the chief juHice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, one of the puisne 
judges of the court, and, if the Company authorised the step, two 
more civil servants of at least ten years' standing nominated by the 
governor-general.* Thus the legal element was greatly strengthened^ 
and new provincial elements appeared. An attempt was made in 
committee in the House of Commons to amend the section so as to 
introduce on to the council European and Indian non-officials. But 
this proposal was defeated by the opposition of the president of the 
board. Sir Charles Wood, who, while favouring the extension of the 
administrative employment of Indians, declared truly enough that 
no two Indians could be found to represent adequately the diversity 
of Hindu and Muslim society.^ It was afterwards averred that the 
absence of Indians on the legislative council had facilitated legislation, 

^ Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxix, 822, 854. ^ 16 & 17 Vic. c. 95, s. 33. 

^ Idem, s. 21. * Identf s. 22. 

^ Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxix, 418 sgq. 


which by algirming Hindu sentiment had assisted to provoke the 
Mutiny. But that criticism, while just in itself, probably misses the 
principal defect of the new arrangement. The natural English desire 
to create an Indian legislature visibly separate from the executive led 
inevitably to the formation of a body free in theory but shackled in 
practice. There was in fact no immediate need to separate executive 
and legislature. A method, preferable because more elastic and more 
eaisily capable of development, would have been to leave the actual 
legislative organ untouched, but to have attached to it a consultative 
committee, on which many classes and interests could have been 
represented and on which there would have been no need of that 
irritating official bloc, the sole purpose of which was to preserve the 
executive control over legislation in bodies which had been tech- 
nically invested with legislative power. 

Another change of some interest in the legislative sphere was also 
made. The former act had authorised the establishment of law com- 
missioners in India mainly in order to accomplish the codification of 
Indian law. This body, though far from inactive, had achieved little 
beyond drafts that still awaited final revision. Owing to complaints 
from the government of India that it cost far more than it was worth, 
it had not been maintained at its full strength, and had been reduced 
to one member and a secretary in addition to the law member of 
council who acted as its president.^ The new act therefore recited the 
fact that, although numerous reports had been sent to England, no 
final decision on them had been taken, and authorised the crown to 
appoint persons in England to examine these recommendations and 
such other matters as might be referred to them with the approval of 
the board, and to report what legislation might be expedient. ^ 

The Law Commission was thus reconstituted and transferred from 
Calcutta to London. This change led to mixed good and evil. As will 
be seen from a later chapter,^ it at last led to the enactment of codes 
— the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Civil Procedure 
Code — which form landmarks in the history of Indian legislation. 
But its establishment carried with it a hint of a changing attitude 
towards the legislative authority. The Home Government now had 
to its hand an instrument by which at more than one period they 
hoped to control not merely the general policy but also the detail of 
legislative enactments. From the first Wood seems to have regarded 
the new legislative council as a tool for the shaping of his projects, 
and speedily fell out with Dalhousie over the degree of authority and 
independence which the legislative council should enjoy,* and though 
in 1861 the authority of the council was materially reduced, like 
disputes broke out between the Duke of Argyll and Lord Mayo.^ 

* Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxdc, 562. 

* 16 & 17 Vic. c. 05, s. 28. • Vide pp. 379 sqq.y infra. 

* Lcc-Warncr, L\fe of Dalhousie, n, 236. • Pari. Papers, 1876, lvi, 22 sqq. 


The changes introduced into the administrative structure in India 
were similarly mixed. The great province of Bengal was at last 
provided with a separate government. The act permitted the appoint- 
ment of a special governor or lieutenant-governor. ^ The latter, as 
the cheaper appointment, was of course preferred. Provision was 
also made for the creation of a new province if necessary. ^ But against 
these improvements must be set the change made in the relative pay 
of lieutenant-governors and of ordinary members of the governor- 
general's council. Till 1853 membership of the latter had been the 
highest point within reach of the civil service. But now the annual 
salary of the councillor was reduced to 80,000 rupees, while that of 
the lieutenant-governor was raised to 100,000. The ill-effects of this 
alteration still continue to be felt. The governor-general was deprived, 
or relieved, of that independent, disinterested advice which might be 
expected so long as his council did not look to him for further promo- 
tion and dignity. But now the councillors were by law provided with 
a motive for acquiescing wherever possible with the governor-general's 
views, and the council of the Supreme Government lost the supreme 
position commensurate with its dignity and duties. 

In another respect also the act led up to an unfortunate situation. 
Macaulay declared he was disposed to judge the bill by the effect 
which he anticipated from the introduction of open competition on 
the civil service. He seized the .occasion to deliver a most eloquent 
defence of that system of selecting public servants. ^ Lord Stanley in 
committee drew pointed attention to one weak side of the plan. 
Unlimited competition which, in fact, would exclude all Indians 
from participating he regarded as a step back, not a step forward, 
for, he said, "while the old system could not have been permanent, 
the present plan would not be felt as an abuse in this country, what- 
ever it might be in India, and it would therefore be allowed to con- 
tinue without improvement".^ But this forecast, which subsequent 
events confirmed in every letter, fell unregarded. 

It has been said that this act of 1853 was mainly based on a memo- 
randum prepared by Dalhousie in 1852.^ That does not seem to have 
been the view of Dalhousie himself "The India bill is a wretched 
thing", he exclaims; "no wonder Lord John wished to have nothing 
to do with it. "6 Its great fault lay in its clinging too closely to the 
ideas which forty years earlier had been wise, far-sighted, liberal, 
which even twenty years before had been sound and progressive, but 
which had come to need a revision, expansion, reorientation, which 
they were not destined to find, either in 1853 or in 1858. 

^ 16 & 17 Vic. c. 95, s. 16. 2 Idern^ s. 17. 

' Hansard, 3rd Ser. cxxviii, 745 sqq. * Idem^ cxxix, 784. 

^ Lee- Warner, op. cit. 11, 219. ^ Private Letters of Dalhousie^ p. 260. 



I 818-1858 

An 1 81 8 the governor-general was also ex officio governor of Bengal. 
His title was governor-general of the presidency of Fort William in 
Bengal. In 1833 he became "Governor-General of India". 

In 1 81 8 the presidency of Fort William in Bengal included Bengal, 
Bihar, Orissa, Benares and "the ceded and the conquered provinces" 
which, including Benares, were styled in 1834 the province of Agra 
and in 1836 the North-Western Provinces. Between 181 8 and 1858 
the presidency received the following accretions : 

{a) the Sagar and Narbada territories, first placed under an 
agent to the governor-general and then added to the North-Western 
Provinces ; 

{b) Assam, Arakan and Tenasserim, ceded in 1826 by the king of 
Burma after the Treaty of Yandabo; 

[c) pieces of Dutch territory at Fulta, Chinsura, Calcapur and 
Dacca, ceded in 1824 under a treaty signed in London between Great 
Britain and the Netherlands; 

{d) the town of Serampur, sold to the East India Company by the 
king of Denmark in 1845; 

{e) an enclave in Sikkim, which was presented to the East India 
Company by the raja of Sikkim in 1835 and became the site of 

(/) a belt of land between the north boundary of Bengal and 
Darjeeling, ceded after the Sikkim expedition of 1850. 

In 1836, however, the North-Western Provinces, while remaining 
part of the Bengal Presidency and styled the Upper Provinces of 
Bengal, ceased to be administered from Calcutta and were placed 
under a lieutenant-governor, without a council, who was given the 
powers of a governor with certain reservations. And in 1854 Bengal, 
Bihar, Orissa and Assam, styled the Lower Provinces of Bengal, were 
entrusted to the charge of a lieutenant-governor without a council. 
Tenasserim remained directly under the governor-general in council, 
and Arakan was at first made over to the lieutenant-governor 
of Bengal but was soon retransferred to the Supreme Govern- 
ment. At the close of our period the lieutenant-governor of "the 
Lower Provinces" of the Bengal Presidency held charge of the 
following territories: 


Area in 
square miles 

Bengal 85,000^ 

Bihar 42,000 

Orissa 7,000 

Orissa (tributary mahals) 15,500 

Ghota Nagpur and tributary states 

on south-west frontier 62,000 

Assam 27,500 

It is difficult to realise that these wide territories were long ad- 
ministered by over-burdened governors-general in council who 
further held charge of the opium manufacture, whether carried on in 
Bengal or in the North-Western Provinces ; of the Bengal salt manu- 
facture ; of the marine and pilot establishments ; of educational and 
other institutions in Calcutta with its large European population. 
Eastern Bengal moreover, for reasons which will be apparent later 
on, has always presented peculiarly difficult problems to governments, 
whether Moghul or British. Altogether we can understand that the 
necessity of placing the Bengal Lower Provinces under a local govern- 
ment was realised long before it was officially recognised. But for 
many years governors-general were so fully occupied with expanding 
or consolidating empire, with financial and other anxieties, with 
prolonged and sometimes irritating dispatches from the directors and 
the Board of Control, that they found little time for careful attention 
to the needs of provinces inhabited by a population traditionally 
unwarlike and apathetic. That Bengal was under-administered, that 
its conditions demanded continuous and thoughtful care, if abuses 
were not to grow and multiply, was doubtless true. But what 
of this, when the responsible government was preoccupied with 
French intrigue in the peninsula, or a Maratha war, or trouble with 
Sikhs and Afghans; when the directors were insisting on strict eco- 
nomy, or parliament was interested in some spectacular phase of 
Indian affairs? Now and then, indeed, as we shall see, a governor- 
general would suddenly awake to the existence of unsatisfactory 
conditions in the capital province and would resolve on drastic 
reform. But soon his attention was perforce directed elsewhere, and 
in any case his span of office was brief. His successor arrived pre- 
occupied with large general interests. And so Bengal remained 
generally neglected until her crying needs compelled particular 
remedies. In 1826 Sir John Malcolm had urged the advisability of 
separating the duties of the governor-general altogether irom those 
of "the local government of Bengal", and so "withdrawing his high 
name from those minor acts which must always agitate a community 
composed like that of Calcutta". Seven years later, by the Govern- 

1 Figures taken from Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Administration Report (1855-6). 


ment of India Act of 1833, the governor-general was empowered to 
appoint a member of his council to be deputy-governor of Bengal 
when absent from Calcutta himself, and to invest the deputy with the 
whole or part of a governor's powers. As British India expanded and 
governors-general were necessarily often absent from Bengal, the 
capital province passed more and more into the charge of deputy- 
governors selected, as a rule, only because they happened to be senior 
members of council. Writing in 1852 George Campbell observed that 
the existing deputy-governor of Bengal had served with credit in the 
army for fifty-two years, but had never enjoyed experience of civil 
affairs. He was the latest of nine successive governors (i.e. governors- 
general or deputies) who had administered the province for the past 
twelve years. ^ "It is no wonder", Campbell added, "that such a 
government is inefficient, that nothing has generally been done 
beyond mere routine, and that Bengal has suffered in consequence. "^ 
What was apparent to Campbell was equally apparent to Lord 

"Parliament", said that indefatigable proconsul, "has lately supplied a remedy 
for that great deficiency^ which pervaded the entire system and was felt in every 
department of the administration. I mean the want of a lieutenant-governor who 
should be able to devote the whole of his time and capacity to the Lower Provinces 

On Dalhousie's recommendation, when the Company's charter was 
renewed in 1853, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam became the charge 
of a lieutenant-governor. On 28 April, 1854, F. J. Halliday took over 
the new office. 

By far the greater part of the province of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa 
was governed on a system laid down by elaborate regulations which 
since the days of Hastings and Cornwallis had gradually been evolved 
at Calcutta. But much territory had been added to the British 
dominions in Northern India since those early days ; and it was plainly 
impossible to govern all the new peoples in accordance with the letter 
of the law in the older provinces. Within those provinces, too, were 
primitive races, distinct from the ordinary population, who, without 
protection, fell easy victims to grasping money-lenders, tyrannical 
police, rapacious landlords and pleaders. For simple peoples, as 
simple a system of administration as possible must be devised which 
would bring them closely into touch with British officers, and would 
conform with the spirit but not with the letter of the Bengal regula- 
tions. Arrangements were made accordingly whereby the peoples of 
newly annexed territories or of tracts inhabited by aboriginal tribes 
were governed under a "non-regulation" system. Sometimes, too, 

* Lord Curzon, however, says: "Eight such appointments with the title of President of 
the Council of India and Deputy Governor of Fort William and the Town of Calcutta 
were made between the years 1837 and 1855". (British Government in India, 11, 74.) 

* Modern India and its Government, p. 228. 

* Minute dated 24 April, 1854. 


it was found necessary to withdraw particular districts in the older 
provinces from the operation of the general regulations and to govern 
them on less elaborate principles. In Bengal, for instance, on the 
north-eastern frontier of Rangpur this plan was necessarily followed.^ 
Assam, Arakan and Tenasserim were made non-regulation territories ; 
and so were the south-west frontier tracts of Orissa and the tributary 
mahals. So were later the Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts and the 
hill tracts of Ghittagong. The British executive in non-regulation 
territories was composed of military as well as of civil officers. But 
our main concern is with the more complex regulation system, which 
prevailed over the greater part of the Lower Provinces of the Bengal 

Cornwallis had left Bengal proper, which then included some areas 
now in the province of Bihar and Orissa, divided into sixteen very 
large districts. These districts were gradually brought under sys- 
tematic management. At first they were suffering badly from the 
effects of years of chaotic administration combined with the devasta- 
tion wrought by the famine of 1769-70. From a modern point of 
view, they had so far hardly been administered at all. For long 
centuries there had been vague confusion varied by the consolidation 
of some central power strong enough to enforce payment of revenue 
and raise military levies when required. In later years there had been 
Maratha raids, wars, Olive's dual system of governing, later experi- 
ments, and the appalling ravages of a severe famine unmitigated by 
remedial measures. The consequences of so dismal a past were 
grievous; and systematic administration could only make way by 
degrees. When it began, tracts of culturable land were overgrown 
with jungle and infested with wild beasts. Banditti were swarming, 
and freebooters from over the border made frequent incursions into 
Bengal and Bihar. As years rolled on, it became plain that districts, 
territorial units of administration, must be increased. Commerce, 
business, reference of quarrels to the law courts, grew rapidly; culti- 
vation extended far and wide ; the ownership of land passed largely 
from the hands of the big zamindars into those of new families and 
proprietary communities; it became necessary to subdivide all dis- 
tricts into police-circles and not into large estates of individual 
zamindars. Here and there non-regulation charges were created 
because a simpler form of government was required for aboriginal 
tribes. Two districts, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, were formed from 
new territory. Elsewhere grave defects in existing boundaries, re- 
vealed by survey operations, necessitated transfers of villages from 
one district to another. Arrangements were made whereby in every 
district civil and criminal and revenue jurisdictions might become 

Examining the history of the Lower Provinces from Cornwallis*s 

1 Bengal Administration Report (1911-12), Historical Review, p. 98. 


days to these, we find the number of districts increasing before, 
during, and after our period.^ Bengal alone now contains twenty- 
eight districts. 

In 1818 the magisterial and police control of a district in the Lower 
Provinces vested in a judge-magistrate^ or in one of those district 
magistrates whose appointment had been sanctioned by a permissive 
regulation passed in 1810. Police administration in all districts was 
supervised by four superintendents of police posted since 1808-10 at 
Calcutta, Dacca, Patna and Murshidabad. The collectors of districts 
presided over fiscal arrangements only, under the supervision of the 
Board of Revenue at Calcutta. In 1829 the government of Lord 
William Bentinck decided to appoint "commissioners of revenue and 
circuit". Each commissioner was placed in charge of a division 
embracing several districts. In subordination to the Board of 
Revenue, he supervised the work of his collectors ; and in subordina- 
tion to the government he superintended the administration of the 
judge-magistrates and district magistrates. He possessed wide execu- 
tive discretion, was also sessions judge and held assizes in each district 
of his division. The duties of the judges of the provincial courts of 
appeal and of the four superintendents of police were made over to 
him; and these officials were abolished. In 1831 further changes were 
ordained. Sessions work was transferred from the commissioners to 
the district civil judges, who made over their magisterial duties to the 
collectors. For a brief period the magistrate and collector reappeared 
in Bengal. But in 1837 it was decided once more to divide his func- 
tions; and separate district magistrates were revived. Almost every 
district had its civil and sessions judge, its collector and its magistrate; 
but one judge sometimes presided over the civil and criminal judicial 
work of two districts. The rank of the judge was superior to that of 
the collector and the rank of collector was superior to that of the 
district magistrate. In 1845 officers holding simultaneously the posts 
of collector and magistrate survived in three Orissa districts only. 

The leading officers of a district were supported by assistants 
belonging to the covenanted civil service, and by deputy-collectors 
and deputy-magistrates, principally natives of the country but often 
Europeans or Eurasians, belonging to the uncovenanted services 
recruited by the Government of India. At every district headquarters 
there were a magistrate's office and a collector's office, which included 
a treasury, both with ministerial establishments. There were the 
courts of assistant and deputy-magistrates and collectors and the 
court of the judge. If instalments of land revenue were not paid into 
the treasury by appointed dates, estates of defaulters were sold at the 
collector's office under "the sunset law". 

^ Rai Manohan Chakrabatti Bahadur, Summary of the changes in the jurisdiction of districts 
in Bengal (1757- 191 6). 

* Mill and Wilson, History of India, vii, 285. 


The post of deputy-collector was legally established by Regulation ix 
of 1833,^ and that of deputy-magistrate, with or without police 
powers, by a regulation of 1 843. ^ To these posts persons of any religion, 
colour, descent or place of birth might be appointed. Desiring to give 
collectors and magistrates special assistance from senior subordinates 
who would be entrusted with powers wider than those which could 
be conceded to ordinary assistants, covenanted or uncovenanted, the 
government of Lord William Bentinck created a rank of "joint 
magistrate " to which senior covenanted assistants might be appointed. 
Later on, with the double object of increasing magisterial control 
over the police and of bringing justice nearer to the doors of the 
people, joint magistrates were posted to the charge of subdivisions of 
districts with the title of " subdivisional officer". These officers 
resided in their subdivisions. Afterwards assistant and deputy-magis- 
trates also were posted to subdivisions which were originally created 
in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Located with regard to the posi- 
tion of important villages or markets, or in the centre of some out- 
lying part of an extensive district, or in a tract where some big 
zamindar was playing the tyrant, they developed piecemeal under 
pressure of varying circumstances. Even in 1856 there were in the 
whole province only thirty- three subdivisional magistracies.^ 

We have seen that in 1845 only three magistrates-and-collectors 
remained. But the union of magisterial and fiscal functions also 
survived in eight "independent" joint magistrates who presided over 
eight minor districts, offshoots from older districts, and subdivisions 
still in regard to revenue business, but separate charges in other 
respects. Taxes were paid in at the parent headquarters treasury; but 
the "independent joint magistrate", although merely a sub-collector, 
possessed all the powers of a district magistrate. These arrangements 
were designed to secure more vigilant and effective magisterial super- 
vision for remote tracts where crime was rampant.* Seven of these 
semi-districts were converted into ordinary district charges in 1861. 

From 1837 to 1854 the experiment was tried of transferring the 
supervision of the police from the commissioners to a provincial 
superintendent whose headquarters were at Calcutta. Assam, how- 
ever, and the non-regulation portion of Orissa were excluded from 
his jurisdiction. In 1850 Chittagong was also excluded; and in 1854 
the office of superintendent was abolished, and the duties were re- 
transferred to the commissioners. 

Thus at the close of our period we have district administration in 
Bengal superintended by commissioners and conducted generally by 
collectors and district magistrates assisted by joint magistrates, 
deputy-magistrates and deputy-collectors. The judicial decisions of 

^ Historical Summary, Bengal Administration Report (1911-12), pp. 45-6. 

2 Idem. 

^ Buckland, Bengal under the Lieutenant-Governors, i, 26, 219. 

* Historical Summary, Bengal Administration Report (1911-12), p. 47. 


all magistrates were, except in petty cases, appealable to the district 
judges, who combined the functions of sessions judge with those of a 
civil judge. As civil judges they heard appeals from the decisions of 
subordinate Indian judges. Anxious to give the natives of India a 
more honourable share in the administration. Lord William Bentinck 
had very largely increased the jurisdiction of Indian judicial officers 
appointed to try civil suits. He created a new rank of "principal sadr 
amin^' with power to try original suits up to a value of Rs. 5000, and 
decided that in respect of suits for property above a certain value 
appeals from tlie decisions of the principal sadr amins should lie not 
to the civil and sessions judge but to the sadr court, the chief (Com- 
pany's) tribunal of the province. The lowest grade of judicial officer 
in civil cases was that of the munsiff, who had succeeded the "native 
commissioner" of Cornwallis's days. His decisions were appealable 
to the district judge. 

The districts, averaging toward the end of our period about 3000 
square miles in area, were each divided into from fifteen to twenty 
thanas (police-circles). At each tkana headquarters was an officer 
styled daroga, supported by a clerk, a sergeant and from twenty to 
fifty armed men, all badly paid. In any considerable outlying town 
was a small resident force of police under a petty officer. In all villages 
were chaukidars (watchmen) supposed to keep guard at night, to notice 
the movements of bad characters, to apprehend felons caught 
flagrante delicto, and to report all important matters at the thana 
headquarters. Chaukidars generally were appointed by tlie zamindars 
of their villages, and any appointment might be vetoed by the district 
magistrate. But Regulation xiii of 1 8 1 3, which was the first municipal 
enactment in Bengal, provided for the appointment in large towns of 
chaukidars who were to be paid by the residents, the preamble laying 
down the principle that the people for whose benefit and protection 
such an establishment might be entertained should defray the charge 
of their maintenance.^ Ordinary village chaukidars were remunerated 
by the state for watch-and-ward, but in many respects were the 
private servants of the zamindars from whom they held chakran 
(service) lands upon which the government possessed a limited lien. 
This arrangement worked badly. The chaukidars were useless and 
corrupt, the supple tools of the zamindars. Although by regulations 
passed in 1808 and 1812^ the latter were liable to heavy penalties and 
even to forfeiture of their lands if they failed to give early information 
of the commission of offences or afforded countenance to robbers, 
they had only to establish friendly relations with the police darogas to 
reign as they pleased over weaker neighbours and reap ample profits 
from the villainies of banditti. The British officers, who sdone could 
prevent such malpractices, were scanty in number, hampered by a 

^ Bengal District Administration Committee Report (191 3-1 4), p. 97. 
« Mill and Wilson, op. cit. vii, 288. 


faulty and unstable administrative system and served by corrupt and 
ill-trained subordinates. Moving about was often difficult and 
generally slow. Lawlessness and violence were frequent and easy.^ 
In 1855 the first lieutenant-governor. Sir Frederick Halliday, sub- 
mitted to the Supreme Government specific proposals for improve- 
ment in the pay of the regular district police, admitting that " the 
outlay though considerable could not be regarded as final, as the 
police establishment was numerically weaker than it should be for the 
protection of property and the preservation of good order". In 1856 
he further pressed the question, urging the importance of raising the 
tone of the whole administration of criminal justice in Bengal. The 
police were bad and the tribunals were inefficient. These two circum- 
stances acted and reacted upon each other. The thirty-three sub- 
divisional magistrates were too few to exercise adequate control. The 
village chaukidars were extremely corrupt. 

"Whether right or wrong", he wrote, "the general native opinion is that the 
administration of criminal justice is little below that of a lottery, in which, however, 
the best chances are with the criminals ; the corruption and extortion of the police 
cause it to be popularly said that dacoity is bad enough, but the subsequent enquiry 
very much worse." 

Halliday recommended five indispensable measures : [a) the improve- 
ment of the character and position of the village chaukidars', (b) ade- 
quate salaries and fair prospects of advancement for the regular 
stipendiary police; {c) the appointment of more experienced officers 
as district magistrates who should be of a standing not inferior to that 
of the collectors ; [d) the appointment of one hundred more deputy- 
magistrates, and the investment of all magistrates with judicial and 
executive powers; {e) improvement in the criminal courts of justice. 
He dwelt on the necessity of good roads and of a popular system of 
vernacular education. In communicating with the court of directors 
on the whole subject the Government of India recommended a 
movable corps of military police for each division in the Lower 
Provinces. After the Santal insurrection, which will be noticed 
later, the lieutenant-governor, in reply to a reference from the 
Supreme Government, advised the formation of a body of well- 
organised and officered military police for the internal defence of 
Bengal. The corps was raised and was afterwards expanded during 
the Mutiny, drawing recruits largely from the hardier races of Upper 
India. The proposals of the lieutenant-governor did not bear general 
fruit until after 1858; but in 1856 he succeeded in procuring the 
passing of a Chaukidari (or village police) Act which provided for the 
watch-and-ward of those larger towns and villages to which it was 
applied. In them chaukidars were appointed by the district magistrates 
on such salaries as they thought fit. The cost was recovered from the 

1 Buckland, op. cit. p. 23. 


inhabitants, in proportions assessed by panchayats, committees of five 
leading men. Any surplus available from tax-funds was spent on 
sanitary and other improvements. 

Halliday desired the union of judicial and executive power in all 
magistrates. He considered, too, that each district should have one 
head only. The office of magistrate-and-collector should be revived. 
The case for this reform had been trenchantly stated by Dalhousie. 
When in 1854, enumerating the defects which called for removal 
in Bengal, that great governor-general gave the first place to "the 
separation of the offices of collector and magistrate contrary to the 
system which had long prevailed in the lieutenant-governorship of 
the North-Western Provinces".^ 

These views were warmly advocated by Halliday; and Dalhousie's 
successor, Canning, recorded, in a minute dated 18 February, 1857, 
that as regarded the people, the patriarchal form of government was 
most congenial to them and best understood by them ; and as regarded 
the governing power, 

the concentration of all responsibility upon one officer cannot fail to keep his 
attention alive, and to stimulate his energy in every department to the utmost 
whilst it will preclude the growth of those obstructions to good government which 
are apt to spring up where two co-ordinate officers divide the authority.^ 

This decision was endorsed by Lord Stanley, secretary of state for 
India, in a dispatch dated 14 April, 1859. The change was rapidly 
carried out, and at the same time seven of the eight "independent" 
joint magistracies were converted into districts. 

The reform was one of great importance. The magistrate-and- 
collector, or district officer of our period in Bombay, Madras and the 
North-Western Provinces, was practically a local governor, exercising 
a wide-ranging superintendence over his district and regarded by its 
people as their helper and ruler. In discharging his responsibilities he 
derived great advantage from the combination of his powers. During 
the hot season he remained at his headquarters unless called to some 
outlying place by an emergency. But at the beginning of the cold 
weather he "went into camp", i.e. toured over his district with tents 
and a small office establishment. Halting here and there, he visited 
and inspected police-stations, superintended police arrangements 
generally, visited schools, examined all matters connected with the 
expenditure of local funds and the welfare of the people. As collector 
he presided over a large revenue and land-records establishment 
distributed throughout his district, and devoted careful attention to 
the doings of officials responsible for the collection of revenue and the 
proper maintenance of village accounts and registers. In the North- 

* Dalhousie's minute is quoted in full in Chakrabatti's Summary of the changes in the 
jurisdiction of districts in Bengal. 

* Buckland, op. cit. pp. 24-5. 


Western Provinces his district was divided into tahsils (revenue sub- 
divisions which were distinct from police-circles), each with a head- 
quarters office and treasury, presided over by a tahsildar or sub-collector 
of revenue who was invested with petty magisterial powers and in 
education and status was decidedly superior to the average thanadar 
(police-station officer) . The revenue was paid into the tahsil treasuries ; 
and through the tahsildars the district officer was kept in constant 
touch with rural affairs. Subordinate to the tahsildars were kanungos, 
travelling inspectors of the registers kept up by patwaris (village 
accountants) . The energy and practical ability which were necessary 
qualities for a good district officer were essential also for a good 

"The magistrate", says Campbell, "m.ay be considered the delegate of the ruling 
powers of the government, the collector its agent in everything that concerns its 
own interests and the interests of those connected with it in the land ; but the two 
duties are intimately connected, and the functions materially assist and affect one 

A magistrate-and-collector was kept in check by a liberal, widely 
understood, and freely exercised power of appeal from his decisions. 
He was in all executive and revenue matters subordinate to his com- 
missioner and was liable to see his judicial decisions in criminal cases 
upset by the sessions judge. Yet in fact he possessed great influence and 
powers of initiative, and to the people he represented the one em- 
bodied authority whom they could easily and frequently approach. 

In most Bengal districts, however, during the twenty years which 
preceded the Mutiny there was no such representative of the govern- 
ment possessed, by virtue of his office, of pre-eminent power and 
responsibility. It was the duty, the inspiring duty, of no one servant 
of the Company to watch over and promote the general welfare, from 
every point of view, of the people committed to his charge. And as 
one legacy of the Permanent Settlement was the payment of all 
revenue into the district headquarters treasury, and another was a 
complete absence of any attempt to register either the tenures and 
the holdings of cultivators or any changes in the ownership of land, 
no Bengal collector enjoyed the assistance of tahsildars^ or of any 
subordinate revenue staff. All orders from headquarters to outlying 
parts of the district travelled through the corrupt and oppressive 
police. These administrative shortcomings, and the long years which 
elapsed before Bengal became the sole charge of a whole-time 
governor, combined with other consequences of the Permanent 
Settlement and a wide lack of communications to bear hardly on 
rural populations. 

The government of Gornwallis had recognised its duty "to protect 
all classes of people and more particularly those who from their 

^ Tahsildars were abolished in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1802. 


situation are most helpless".^ It had reserved power to enact such 
regulations as might be thought "necessary for the protection and 
welfare of the dependent ' talukdars ' (sub-proprietors), ryots (tenants) 
and other cultivators of the soil". It had ordered that zamindars 
should give their tenants written leases and that village accountants 
should keep the accounts of the ryots in registers. But these orders 
were never carried out. Subsequent governments contented them- 
selves with facilitating collection of land revenue by enabling 
zamindars to employ, instead of civil suits for the recovery of arrears 
of rent, such summary processes as arrest, imprisonment or distraint 
of property. These concessions to the landlords were unaccompanied 
by any attempt on the part of the government to secure the rights of 
the tenants by registering their holdings, rents or customary privileges. 
At first, indeed, tenants were protected by the existence of a large 
culturable and uncultivated area. They were in demand. But as the 
country settled and population increased, competition for holdings 
intensified, and opportunities for rack-renting arose. Summary eject- 
ments became frequent. If the victims appealed to the collectors they 
were referred to the civil courts, where they were unable to produce 
written leases in support of their assertions and could not refer the 
presiding officers to any government record of their rights and holdings. 
Being in every suit the weaker and the poorer party, they obtained 
little or no assistance firom the vakils (pleaders), who were ready to 
appear for the zamindars. From the latter they received little or no 
generosity. Many of the big landlords had given place to new men or 
to proprietary communities, or had leased or mortgaged their villages 
to money-lending families. Expanding cultivation, rising rents, the 
fixed and unalterable government demand, the powerlessness of 
tenants in the civil courts, and the tendency of estates to split into 
numbers of shares, enhanced the market-value of landed property. 
Zamindars, lessees, sub-lessees, mortgagees, sub-mortgagees increased 
and multiplied. In village after village layers of middlemen inter- 
posed between the cultivators and the zamindars, who were re- 
sponsible to the government for payment of revenue. All these 
interlopers, and the persons from whom they derived their titles, 
endeavoured to screw as much profit as possible from the tenants, 
who were squeezed, rack-rented, and driven more and more to the 
money-lenders. The scramble among those over him for profits from 
his labours tended to drive the Bengal cultivator nearer and nearer 
to the wall. But he was sustained by long practice in self-protection; 
he was favoured by the copious rainfall, the fertilising rivers and the 
rich soil of his province. Thus it was that in 1852 an observer noted: 

What strikes me most in any village or set of villages in a Bengal district, is the 
exuberant fertility of the soil, the sluttish plenty surrounding the cultivator's abode, 
the fruit and timber trees, and the palpable evidence against anything like famine. 

* Regulation i of 1793. 


Did any man ever go through a Bengali village and find himself assailed by the cry 
of want or famine? Was he ever told that the ryot and his family did not know 
where to turn for a meal; that they had no shade to shelter them, no tank to bathe 
in, no employment for their active limbs? That villages are not neatly laid out 
like a model village in an English county, that things seem to go on, year by year, 
in the same slovenly fashion, that there are no local improvements, and no advances 
in cultivation, is all very true. But considering the wretched condition of some of 
the Irish peasantry, or even the Scotch, and the misery experienced by hundreds 
in the purlieus of our great cities at home, compared with the condition of the 
ryots, who know neither cold nor hunger, it is high time that the outcry about the 
extreme unhappiness of the Bengal ryot should cease. ^ 

There is often, however, in Indian villages much which does not 
catch the eye of a superficial observer but nevertheless gravely affects 
the happiness of the cultivators. It is not good for simple and illiterate 
peasants to be driven to distant law courts to plead for ordinary 
consideration, and when they have arrived at their destination, to 
find themselves at a serious disadvantage through the absence of 
registers which should record their status, their rents, the particulars 
of their holdings. It is not good for them to be placed at the mercy of 
rapacious landlords, pleaders and court underlings. It is not good 
for them to be expelled from their ancestral fields for no fault what- 
ever, to see their rights ignored because a paternal government has 
not troubled itself to ascertain and record those rights. As long 
ago as 1822 Lord Hastings, in the midst of a thousand cares, found 
time to ponder over these things. On i August, 1822, his government 
proposed to the court of directors that a survey should be undertaken 
and a record of rights prepared in the permanently settled districts 
of Bengal "as being the only real means of defining and maintaining 
the rights of the ryot". But for the next thirty-seven years all that 
was ever done was to refer aggrieved tenants to the civil courts, 
where their chances of success or fair play were obviously indifferent. 
Surveys of districts indeed began in 1834-5, but these were not 
cadastral, from field to field, as were surveys in the neighbouring 
North- Western Provinces. In the Lower Provinces village boundaries 
were demarcated, and useful statistics were prepared; but nothing 
was done to secure the position of the cultivators. In short, the revenue 
system bequeathed to Bengal by Cornwallis did not conduce to the 
happiness or content of the people, and its defects and omissions 
tended to obstruct free and beneficial intercourse between district 
officers and the rural population of the province. 

Roads were a matter of peculiar difficulty even in western Bengal, 
where in seasons of heavy rainfall and high floods wide tracts became 
sheets of water. But eastern Bengal was at all times largely a water 
country. Its features were thus described by the District Adminis- 
tration Committee of 191 3-14: 

Those members who have previously been unacquainted with Eastern Bengal 
are convinced that no one who has not travelled over its rural areas is likely to grasp 

^ Kaye's Administration of the East India Company , p. 194. 


its difficulties. Communications are more scanty and more inefficient than in any 
part of India known to us. Traversed by mighty rivers, and tributary streams, 
visited by abundant rains, these eastern districts are mainly a water-country which 
yields rich harvests of rice and jute to a teeming population, partly concentrated 
in a few towns, but mainly scattered over a number of villages. The villages, often 
close to marshes or winding along the banks of some tortuous stream, generally 
consist of scattered homesteads, built on whatever rising ground may be available. 
Often the houses are hidden in thickets of bamboos, fruit-trees and undergrowth. 
In the rains vast tracts of the country are completely submerged ; the houses, each 
on its own section of naturally or artificially raised land, stand up like islands in 
the flood; and only a few of the more important roads are out of water. Boats are 
the ordinary means of transit, and markets spring up on the banks of waterways. 
Even in the drier weather the country is intersected by streams and creeks. It is 
easy for wary dacoits to choose their time and prey, to effect their purpose and to 
disappear, leaving no tracks behind.^ 

It was long held to be doubtful whether the terms of the Permanent 
Settlement precluded the imposition of cesses or rates on the zamin- 
dars in order to provide means of extending elementary education 
and of making and maintaining roads. The zamindars themselves 
stoutly maintained that the levy of any such impost would be unjust 
and contrary to the pledges given them by the government of 
Cornwallis. This plea was long debated and not rejected till 1870. 
For years, too, the governor-general in council, hard pressed by 
war expenditure, failed to appreciate the importance of good roads 
in Bengal. Some idea of the backward state of communications may 
be formed from the facts that even in 1855-6 four streams on the 
Grand Trunk Road (from Calcutta to North-Western India) re- 
mained to be bridged, and that only then was a project for bridging 
the Hughli at or near Calcutta considered. 2 Sir John Strachey 
describes conditions existent in Bengal about 1 854. 

There were almost no roads, or bridges or schools, and there was no proper 
protection to life or property. The police was worthless, and robberies and violent 
crimes by gangs of armed men, which were unheard of in other provinces, were 
common not far from Calcutta.^ 

But a better era was dawning. Dalhousie fully appreciated the 
need of improved communications. He transferred the charge of 
public works from inefficient military boards to provincial govern- 
ment departments. His engineers metalled a longer mileage of roads 
than had been constructed by the four preceding governors-general. * 
Before he resigned office a system of trunk lines had been sketched, 
and the first section of the East India Railway had been opened; the 
modern postal system had been inaugurated; a telegraph line ran 
from Calcutta to Agra. Modem India had begun to take shape. 
Before observing the violent storm which attended its birth, we must 
notice certain kinds of epidemic crime which, encouraged by adminis- 

* Bengal District Administration Committee Report (191 3-1 4), p. 12. 
' Buckland, op. cit. p. 29. 

* Strachey, India, p. 420. 

* Hunter, "India of the Qjieen". Gf. Imperial Gmctteer, m, 366. 


trative deficiencies and lack of communications, long afflicted the 
districts of Bengal. 

In 1853 Kaye remarked of the India of his day: 

hundreds of its natives disappear; and their disappearance is either hardly noted, 
or it creates no astonishment or alarm. A journey in India is a matter of many 
months; and numerous are the perils which beset the path of the unprotected 
pedestrian. Hence it was that whole hecatombs were sacrificed to the goddess 
Devi, and no one took account of the victims. 

He refers to the monstrous crimes of the thags (literally "cheats") 
who for years infested every part of India except the Konkan in the 
Bombay Presidency. They were a fraternity of murderers who bore 
a name earned apparently by their disguises and crafty methods of 
procedure. Before starting on expeditions to rob and murder, they 
invoked the aid of the Hindu goddess of strength and destruction, 
Kali alias Devi alias Bhawani, consecrating to her the weapons of 
their trade, the strips of cloth used in strangling their victims and the 
pickaxes with which the graves of these poor people were dug. 
"A thag", wrote Captain Sleeman, "considers the persons murdered 
precisely in the light of victims offered up to the goddess." 

It was some time before the Supreme Government awoke to the 
fact that within their own home territory organised bands of pro- 
fessional and hereditary robbers and murderers, recognised and 
indeed to a certain extent tolerated by their fellow-men, were com- 
mitting the most horrible crimes "with as much forethought and 
ingenuity as though murder was one of the fine arts, and robbery 
a becoming effort of human skill, nay even were glorying in such 
achievements as acts welcome to the deity". But when at last the 
position was understood, a thagi police department was organised 
under Captain, afterwards Sir William, Sleeman, one of the Com- 
pany's ablest servants. In the older provinces, however, to catch a 
thag was far easier than to procure his conviction, for thags "throve 
upon the legal niceties and the judicial reserve of the English tribunals 
and laughed our regulations to scorn ".^ So in 1836 a special act was 
passed by which any person convicted of belonging or having belonged 
to a gang of thags became liable to imprisonment for life. Thus all 
that was necessary to secure conviction was to prove association of 
an individual with these pests of society. Encouraging approvers, 
Sleeman and his officers by indefatigable and comprehensive opera- 
tions gradually put an end to thagi, rooting out what he justly calls 
"an enormous evil which had for centuries oppressed the people and 
from which it was long supposed that no human efforts could relieve 
them ".2 By 1852 the guild had been scattered, never again to re- 
assemble; but Bengal had been infested by river thags as well as by 

^ Kaye, op. cit. pp. 354-79; O'Malley, Bengal^ Bihar and Orissoy pp. 346-50. 
^ Quoted, Calcutta Review (i860), xxxv, 372. 



road thags, and even in 1854 as many as 250 boats manned by these 
miscreants were infesting the Ganges between Calcutta and Benares. 
The struggle against dakaiti or dacoity (brigandage) lasted even 
longer than that against thagi, and had not attained complete success 
at the close of our period. Warren Hastings had applied "an extra- 
ordinary and exemplary coercion"/ not only against dacoity but also 
against those whom he stigmatised as its "nursing-mothers", the 
zamindars and the police. The snake, however, was only scotched. 
In 1810 Lord Minto observed that "a monstrous and disorganised 
state of society existed at the very seat of that government to which 
the country might justly look for safety and protection". Bengal was 
far more subject to brigandage than more recent acquisitions and less 
civilised tracts. This anomaly was due to the riches of the country, 
its long security from invasion, its venal police and unscrupulous 
zamindars, who frequently regarded their estates "as fields to plunder 
in, extort and pillage". The dacoits had secured their posidon by 
systematic intimidation. 2 

"It is impossible", wrote Minto, "to imagine without seeing it the horrid 
ascendancy which they have obtained over the inhabitants at large of the countries 
which have been the principal scene of their atrocities. ... In truth the captains of 
the band are esteemed and even called the hakim or ruling power, while the govern- 
ment does not possess either authority or influence enough to obtain from the 
people the smallest aid toward their own protection." 

Minto initiated a vigorous campaign against dacoity; but in 1823 
the pest was so rife in the Purnea district that leases of estates were 
sought for in the expectation that profits would be swelled by shares 
from illicit plunder. Afterwards, with the aid of the recently organised 
thagi police-force, some gangs of dacoits were broken up ; but cap- 
tures seldom ended in conviction as victims feared to testify against 
their oppressors; so in 1843 an act was passed similar to that pre- 
viously directed against thagi. To secure conviction it sufficed merely 
to prove association with a gang of dacoits either within or outside 
the Company's territories before or after the passing of the new 
measure. Doubt, however, arose as to the applicability of this enact- 
ment to dacoits who did not belong to certain tribes therein specified. 
In 1 85 1 this doubt was removed by further legislation. Kaye tells us 
that even then by terrorism, by producing numerous false witnesses, 
and by availing themselves of the barriers which the complicated 
machinery of the law placed between "the eyes of the British func- 
tionary and the crimes which were committed around him", the 
dacoits were still glorying in their exploits "as sportsmen do". 

In 1852 Wauchope, the magistrate of Hughli, forwarded to the 
superintendent of police a list 0^287 dacoits belonging to three gangs 
which were concerned in eighty- three dacoities, adding that at least 

^ Bengal Revenue Consultations, 19 April, 1774. 

* O'Malley, op. cit. pp. 305-6; also Mill and Wilson, vii, 284. 


thirty-five gangs were then committing depredations near Calcutta. 
He was himself appointed special Dacoity Commissioner and, assisted 
by the new enactments, rapidly improved the situation. But the 
central difficulty of the situation was the fact that the sufferers were 
too apathetic to defend themselves individually, and even in 1 859 the 
Dacoity Commissioner was still indispensable. 

Among the best achievements of the Company's servants in parts 
of the Lower Provinces were the conversion of restless and savage 
tribes of aboriginals into generally law-abiding cultivators. The 
pacification of the Santals, of the Chuars or Bhumij of Manbhum, of 
the Larka Kols of Chota Nagpur, of the Khonds of the Orissa hills 
was effected not only by the exercise of superior force which alone 
could subdue rapine and bloody ferocity, but by methods of concilia- 
tion and kindness practised by certain British officers whose names 
still blossom in the dust. 

From time to time religious and agrarian agitation produced 
relapses into barbarism. Such a relapse was the Santal rebellion of 
1855, which arose from the resentment of a tribe of primitive culti- 
vators at their impotence to resist the exactions of Bengali and Bihari 
landlords. About 30,000 Santals overran a large expanse of country, 
roasting Bengalis, ripping up their women and torturing their 
children. The rising was quelled by a strong military force and after- 
wards the Santal Parganas were constituted a separate district and 
ruled on a simpler system designed to secure closer personal contact 
between British officers and the people. 

District administration in Bengal weathered the trials of the Mutiny 
right gallantly. When the storm broke there were in Bengal, Bihar 
and Orissa only 2400 European soldiers as against Indian forces of 
more than 29,000. In Calcutta there was a single British regiment. 
No other British troops were nearer than Dinapur, 380 miles away, 
where a regiment was employed in watching four Indian regiments 
and the great city of Patna.^ In June, 1857, Lord Canning found it 
necessary to pass a stringent Press Act, operative for one year, which 
was required rather for Calcutta and Bengal than for Upper India. 

"I doubt", he said, "whether it is fully known or understood to what an auda- 
cious extent sedition has been poured into the hearts of the native population of 
India within the last few weeks under the guise of intelligence supplied to them by 
the native newspapers. ... It has been done sedulously, cleverly, artfully. ... In 
addition to perversion of facts there are constant vilifications of the Government, 
false assertions of its purposes, and unceasing attempts to sow discontent and 
hatred between it and its subjects."^ 

Yet despite all adverse circumstances, despite a general lack of 
communications, despite defects of administrative organisation already 
noticed, although hardly a single district escaped either actual danger 
or the apprehension thereof, so little was the public peace disturbed 

^ Buckland, op. cit. p. 6. ^ Donogh, History and Law ofSeditwrij p. 183. 



that in submitting his final detailed report on the whole of that 
troublous period, the lieutenant-governor was able to state that "the 
outbreak, as far as the Lower Provinces are concerned, had been 
simply a military mutiny, and there has been at no time anything 
that can be called a rebellion in the sense in which that term may 
properly be used".^ 

The people of Bengal are for the most part, as Lord Canning said, 
"less warlike and turbulent than those of Upper India". But while 
large sections of them are timid, apathetic and peculiarly susceptible 
to the domination of unscrupulous terrorism, there were in 1857 many 
restless and truculent men who desired nothing more ardently than 
the overthrow of the one power which stood between the province 
and anarchy. Between all such and the achievement of their designs 
stood a small band of British officers and the general confidence of 
the people in the power and determination of the British government. 

Here, for the present, we must leave our subject, remembering that, 
so far, the educational policy adopted in 1835 had hardly touched 
Bengal outside Calcutta. Even in 1852 there were in the government 
educational institutions of the whole Lower Provinces upwards of 
11,000 pupils only, of whom 103 were Christians, 791 were Muham- 
madans, 189 were Arakanese, thags, and Bhagalpur Hill aborigines, 
while the rest were Hindus. ^ Action on the famous Education 
Dispatch of 19 July, 1854, had barely commenced when it was re- 
tarded by the outbreak of the Mutiny and consequent financial 
difficulties. State education was, later on, to bring in new problems; 
but to the gross ignorance which prevailed so widely within our period 
are largely to be ascribed not only certain monstrous evils mentioned 
in this chapter, but also the general incompetence and dishonesty of 
the poHce.^ The field for the selection of capable and trustworthy 
government servants was narrow and restricted. This circumstance 
naturally affected the efficiency of the law courts which were not 
guided by the carefully considered codes of law and procedure of a 
later day. The criminal law was then "a patchwork made up of 
pieces, engrafted at all times and seasons on a ground nearly covered 
and obliterated".* 

If we weigh these circumstances with the consequences of adminis- 
trative mistakes made far away in the past and postponements of 
Bengal interests to more immediately pressing considerations, if we 
remember the lack of communications and the physical features of 
the eastern districts, we shall rather wonder that things went as well 
as they did than cavil because they did not go better. 

It may be 2isked why, in view of the onerous nature of the task of 
district administration in Bengal, was no serious attempt made to 
introduce local self-government? Efforts were made, dictated largely 

^ Buckland, op. cit. p. 157. * Kaye, op. cit. p. 614. 

' Calcutta Review (1B60), xxxv, 37a. * Campbell, Modem India, p. 465. 


by sanitary considerations, to establish a municipal system in towns 
which were willing to accept one; but Campbell tells us that when 
a deputy-governor of Bengal had imposed a municipal constitution 
on a certain town, and the district magistrate tried to "carry out its 
details", he was "prosecuted" in the Supreme Court at Calcutta by 
some of the inhabitants and ordered to pay damages as a majority of 
the inhabitants did not desire the innovation. "Strange to say", 
remarks Campbell, "the unenlightened Indian public cannot be 
brought to understand the pleasure of taxing themselves and resolutely 
decline the proffered favour."^ Neither for sanitation, nor for main- 
taining an adequate system of watch-and-ward, nor for any similar 
purpose, was there any popular inclination to spend money. 

^ Campbell, op. cit. p. 261. 




J. HROUGHOUT this period the history of Madras was generally 
untroubled. But difficulties arose in the jagir of Kurnool over 
which the Company had acquired suzerainty in 1800. A disputed 
succession in 1 8 1 5 had led to the temporary occupation of Kurnool 
town; another vacancy in 1823 had involved the arrest of the heir for 
murder and the installation of Rasul Khan. His freaks might have 
passed unnoticed but for his buying cannons and repairing forts. Then, 
agitated by rumours of a general Wahabi conspiracy, the govern- 
ment, in 1839, sent commissioners with troops to make enquiries. The 
nawab took refuge with his Rohilla and Arab soldiers and a conflict 
ensued in which the Rohillas suffered severely. Rasul Khan was 
taken to Trichinopoly, where he diligently attended services at a 
Christian chapel until he was murdered by one of his servants. The 
nawab was probably mad, but the affair ended in the annexation of 
his state, which was administered as a non-regulation province by 
a commissioner or agent till 1858 when it was combined with other 
areas to form the present district of Kurnool. 

On the west coast Canara became involved in the Coorg War 
through Coorg holding part of the lowlands, and was the scene of a 
repulse with considerable loss of a small force advancing from the 
coast. The war resulted in the restoration to Canara of the patch of 
lowland, but some malcontents remained there and found occupation 
in 1837 in chasing the collector and his sepoys back to Mangalore 
where they did some damage, ill-armed as they were, before they 
were dispersed. 

Malabar had had an unusual spell of peace before the Moplahs 
(who include Malayali converts to Islam as well as the descendants 
of Arabs and Malayali women) in 1836 began a series of twenty-two 
disturbances within eighteen years. There was desperate fighting in 
1849 when all the sixty-four Moplahs "out** were killed and the 
outbreak of 1 852 was accompanied by hideous murders in which, for 
the first time, the Hindu women and children were not spared. 
Strange, of the sadr adalat, deputed to enquire, attributed the dis- 
orders to fanaticism and advocated stern repression. His mission was 
followed by the murder of ConoUy, the collector, and laws^ were 
passed for the better prevention of outrages and to deprive the Mop- 
lahs of their war-knives. The effect of these measures was dis- 
appointing, as will be seen later. 

» India Acts XXIII and XXIV of 1854 and XX of 1859. 



The north had not known peace for generations. It was reported 
in 1759 that the forms and even the remembrance of civil government 
seemed to have been wholly lost in the Circars. In Ganjam turmoil 
had been incessant. Family feud, mutual jealousy, resentment against 
civil decrees or revenue demands, hatred of the police — there was 
always some reason for a zamindar to be in arms, some occasion for 
troops to be contracting fever. Matters came to a head in the 
Parlakimedi zamindari where rival ranis had embroiled the hill chiefs 
in a feud of nineteen years' duration. In the midst of the trouble the 
estate came under the Court of Wards whose manager became 
involved in the fray, and other zamindaris were drawn in too. It was 
time to settle things once and for all. George Russell, of the board, 
was appointed special commissioner with extraordinary powers and 
a large body of troops. A special tribunal was set up to try prisoners. 
Russell proclaimed martial law. Forts were reduced, the rebels were 
defeated everywhere, some were hanged, others transported or con- 
fined as state prisoners, estate lands were sequestrated. By 1834 the 
trouble seemed over. But, at the beginning of the operations, 
Dhananjaya BhanjV raja of Gumsur, "that tyrannous monster", had 
been enlarged from captivity by the government, credulous of fair 
promises, and restored to his estate, and the opportunity seemed to 
him too good to be wasted. He withheld the revenue and defied the 
authorities. But the blood of the government was up. Russell was 
reappointed and the troops set in motion again. Dhananjaya fled for 
refuge to the Khonds in the hills. For the first time in history the 
Company's forces entered those fever-stricken tracts. Dhananjaya 
died, laying injunction on the Khonds not to allow his women-folk 
to be captured. In this they failed, but they overwhelmed the 
detachment in charge of Dhananjaya's belongings and killed several 
of the women to save them from anticipated dishonour. The troops 
spread over the country and returned to finish their work the following 
year. The rebellious chiefs were killed, hanged or transported. The 
Gumsur and Surada zamindaris were declared forfeit. For the first 
time since 1 768 Ganjam had a spell of peace which lasted until the 
Savaras in 1853, and again in 1856, descended from the hills to 
plunder and burn. They quieted down when their own huts and 
crops were burnt in retaliation. In the meantime there had been an 
outbreak in the Vizagapatam hills which involved military operations 
for three years. These troublesome Northern Circars, which covered 
almost the whole of the present five northernmost districts, had been 
held subject to an annual payment to the Nizam, until 1823, when the 
liability was capitalised and discharged. The condition of the adminis- 
tration moved the directors to order in 1 849 that the Circars should be 
placed under the direct charge of a member of the board as special 
commissioner, and this arrangement continued for five or six years. 

^ For his story see the Ganjam District Manual. 


Russell's operations had results still to be mentioned. One of these 
was the enactment of India Act XXIV of 1839, which withdrew the 
hill tracts of Ganjam and Vizagapatam from the operation of the 
ordinary courts and laws, and placed them under the sole control of 
the collectors of those districts, styled agents to the governor, an 
arrangement which still endures. Another consequence demands 
longer description. 

At that time strange and terrible crimes were moving under the 
surface of Indian life. Timorously but successfully the government 
had legislated against sati,^ never much in vogue in Madras. 
Female infanticide, though known among the Khonds, concerned 
that presidency little. In 1836 legislative and executive measures were 
initiated against thagi. That crime, too, was alien to Madras, though, 
in the 'thirties, gangs were at work in Anantapur, and sundry ruffians 
were hanged and gibbeted. The crime which Russell's campaigns 
brought into prominence (its existence had been reported nearly 
seventy years before) was human sacrifice as practised under the 
name of Meriah (Mervi) among the Khonds of Ganjam. The victims 
were bought or were dedicated as children to the earth-goddess. They 
were treated with veneration till their time came, often after a lapse 
of many years, and, on attaining maturity, a Meriah boy would be 
given a Meriah girl to wife ; the children born to such a couple were 
victims by heredity. Sacrifices were so arranged that each family 
should have at least once a year a strip of flesh for burial in the family- 
land to ensure good crops. When the victim's turn came, he or she 
was put to death after strange ceremonies and in revolting ways ; the 
flesh was stripped off, sometimes while the poor wretch was still 
alive, and distributed. This practice prevailed in the hills of Ganjam, 
Vizagapatam and neighbouring tracts. A military officer was deputed 
to stop it and tactfully won over the tribes. In 1842 two tribes agreed 
to give up the custom, if permitted to denounce the government as 
responsible for their apostasy. Other tribes followed suit, those of 
Boad celebrating their conversion by a grand, final slaughter of 
120 victims, just half the number immolated on a New Moon Day 
in 1 84 1. By India Act XXI of 1845 ^^^ Government of India placed 
the localities affected by the custom under the sole jurisdiction of 
special agents appointed by the governments of Bengal and Madras 
and the governor of Bengal, and made them amenable to rules framed 
by itself This arrangement lasted till 1861, but the last Meriah 
sacrifice in Madras seems to have occurred in 1855. It is reckoned 
that between 1837 and 1854 over 1500 destined victims were saved. 

A few words may be added here about slavery which, usually in 
a mild form, existed on the west coast and in the Tamil country. In 
the former area there were both predial and personal slaves, and 
there had been some export trade in slaves which, however, was early 

* Madras Reg. i of 1830. 


made illegal.^ In the latter area the slaves were predial only (apart 
from a certain amount of slavery "on contract") and the institution 
was already dying out in 1819.^ Nevertheless, certain classes of 
labourers used in some parts to be sold or mortgaged with the land 
until the passing of India Act V of 1843, which declared that no rights 
arising out of slavery should be enforced by the courts. Even in the 
present century, however, deeds of sale of land have occasionally 
contained a clause transferring to the purchaser the debt which 
bound the farm-labourers to the vendor by a chain hardly differing 
from that of slavery. 

By 1 803 the movements and hazards of half a century had secured 
to Madras a territory of a hundred and forty thousand square miles. 
The subsequent changes in the outline of the presidency have been 
few. Ganara gained a bit from Goorg in the war of 1834, but lost 
more by transfer to Bombay in 1862; the tributary state of Kurnool 
was annexed in 1839, and certain parings off the Gentral Provinces 
were allotted to Godavari in and after 1874. To these alterations may 
be added the cession to the Gompany in 181 8 of suzerainty over the 
Sandur state. 

The government was composed of a governor and a council of three 
senior merchants^ who had power to legislate*, but were in entire 
subordination to the governor-general in council at Fort William.^ 
Such was the position until 1833 when,^ with a view to centralise all 
authority in the governor-general of India in council, as he was thence- 
forward to be called, the power to legislate was withdrawn and the 
court of directors was authorised to reduce or abolish any provincial 
council. This last provision did not receive effect, for the directors, 
although they reduced the civilian councillors to two, counter- 
balanced this by adding the local commander-in-chief to the council.' 
In 1 786 a Board of Trade and a Board of Revenue had been esta- 
blished, each consisting of three members with a member of council as 
president. The former body looked after the commercial interests of 
the Gompany, but its business dwindled into insignificance after the 
abolition of the Indian monopoly^ and it disappeared in 1825. At 
the outset the Board of Revenue had, extra-legally, certain judicial 
powers. These were confirmed for parts of the country by Regulation i 
of 1803, but were extinguished soon afterwards. ^ It became by 
Regulation v of 1804 a Gourt of Wards for the presidency and had for 
many years control over religious and other endowments.^° Until 1887 

^ 51 Geo. Ill, c. 23, and Reg. ii of 1 812 (repealed by Reg. n of 1826). 
2 Revenue Board's Proceedings, 5 January, i8i8, and 25 November, 181 9. 
^ 24 Geo. Ill, c. 25, and 33 Geo. Ill, c. 52. Writers, factors and junior and senior 
merchants represented at the time the covenanted civil service. 
* 39 and 40 Geo. Ill, c. 79, and 47 Geo. Ill, sess. 2, c. 68. 
» 33 Geo. Ill, c. 52. * 3 & 4 Will. IV, c. 85. 

' Political Dispatch, No. 18, 27 December, 1833. 
8 53 Geo. Ill, c. 155. » Reg. it of 1806. " Reg. vn of 181 7. 


the united board exercised general supervision over revenue matters. 
In that year the portfolio system was introduced, the number of 
members was raised to four (the councillor-president had disappeared 
long before) and the various branches of the revenue administration 
were distributed among the members as commissioners. 

The country was, and is, divided into districts^ which have varied 
in number from twenty to twenty-six, and these again into taluks 
which now average about 700 square miles. At the head of the 
district stands the collector, who first appears on the scene in 1787. 
The twentieth century found him still the local representative of 
government; chief magistrate ; head of the Land Revenue and Forest 
Departments ; as president of the District Board, supervising roads, 
schools and hospitals ; possessed of a measure of control over the police 
and municipalities; as a revenue judge, exercising summary juris- 
diction in many matters. In his revenue capacity he is in direct 
subordination to the board, to which body appeals lie against many 
of his orders, executive and judicial. To collectors were assigned in 
1792 covenanted assistants, and, later on, fixed territorial jurisdictions 
were allotted to the assistant and subordinate collectors in the form 
of divisions made up of groups of taluks wherein they exercise most of 
the powers possessed by collectors. The taluks were from the first under 
Indian tahsildars; above them all the executive officers were English. 
No practical steps were taken to open the higher executive to natives 
of the country until India Act I of 1857 authorised the appointment 
of deputy-collectors, who occupy a position similar to that of 
covenanted divisional officers. 

A Supreme Court had been established in 1801 ^ but its jurisdiction 
was almost wholly confined to Madras town. The administration of 
justice up-country was conducted under the system introduced in 
1802-6 and modified by the legislation of 181 6. The reforms of the 
latter year were designed to reduce expense and hasten disposal by 
larger employment of native agency, to simplify litigation by reverting 
to earlier methods whereby civil and criminal cases were largely 
disposed of in the village, and to ensure greater control over crime by 
restoring to collectors magisterial powers and the supervision of the 
police. The central court for up-country purposes consisted of a body 
of judges presided over by a member of council.^ On its civil side this 
tribunal was called "sadr adalat"; on its criminal side, "sadr 
faujdari adalat". Below this body functioned four provincial courts 
dealing with most of the civil appeals and with suits over Rs. 5000; 
these bodies, as courts of circuit, disposed also of all the more im- 
portant criminal work.* In the district the principal civil judge was 

^ Formerly called zillahs, the taluks being styled districts. 
» 39 & 40 Geo. Ill, c. 79. 

' Regs. V and viii of 1802 and in of 1807. This court, as at first constituted, consisted 
of the governor in council. 
* Regs, rv and vn of 1802 and xn of 1809. 


the zillah judge, assisted sometimes by registers or assistant judges to 
whom actions might be referred for disposal.^ The presiding officers 
of all the above courts were European covenanted civilians, who were 
assisted on legal points by Indian law officers. ^ Below came three 
classes of native judges, namely, sadr amins to whom suits up to Rs. 300 
might be referred,^ district munsiffs who were authorised to deal with 
suits up to Rs. 200* and village headmen or munsiffs who had power to 
dispose of certain cases not exceeding in value Rs. 10 or, with the 
consent of the parties, Rs. loo.^ Both the district and the village 
munsiffs were required, on demand, to summon panchayats, or bodies 
of arbitrators, which had unlimited jurisdiction in respect of the 
classes of cases which might be referred to them.® 

Within the district the principal criminal jurisdiction was vested 
in the zillah judge to whom the register gave help as assistant criminal 
judge, but six months' imprisonment was the limit of the latter's 
powers."^ The collector as magistrate and his covenanted assistants as 
assistant magistrates had a very restricted power of punishment, their 
main duty being the arrest and commitment of offenders.^ Certain 
petty misdemeanours were punishable by tahsildars and village head- 
men.^ For want of anything better, the Muhammadan criminal law, 
as interpreted by the law officers and modified from time to time by 
enactment, was applied in the criminal courts until the Penal Code 
came into force in 1862. 

Such were the judicial arrangements as they stood in 1818; and of 
the reforms carried out in 1816 none was more important adminis- 
tratively than the severance of the unsuitable association of the judge 
with the magistracy and police, none more popular than the creation 
of the district munsiffs. ^^ It was, in fact, the popularity of these latter 
officers which rendered ineffectual the effort to revive the old method 
of adjudication by panchayats. Soon afterwards we find the directors 
pressing for a still more extended use of Indian agency and, as a con- 
sequence, provision was made for the establishment of " auxiliary " 
and "native" civil and criminal courts, possessing in defined areas 
jurisdiction on the same lines as that exercised by the zillah and 
criminal judge. ^^ The ^'auxiliary" judges differed from the " native " 
judges in that they had jurisdiction in respect of Europeans and 
Americans, but they disappeared in time, whereas the "native" 
judges, under changed titles (they were known as principal sadr amins 
after 1836), have lasted to the present day. It was at this point that 

^ Regs. II of 1802 and vii and xii of 1809. 

^ Abolished by India Act XI of 1864. They were also employed as sadr amins. 

' Regs, vii and x of 1809 and vni of 1816. 

* Reg. VI of 1816. ^ Reg. rv of 1816. * Regs, v and vn of 1816. 

' Reg. X of 1 81 6. The limit was raised to two years' imprisonment in certain cases by 
Reg. VI of 1822. 

8 Reg. IX of 1 81 6. » Reg. xi of 181 6. 

^" They took the place of the "native conmiissioners " of 1802 with jurisdiction up to 
Rs. 80. 11 Regs. I, n, vii and vni of 1827. 


a modified form of the English jury-system was introduced into the 
courts of circuit by Regulation x of 1827. 

A new phase opened with India Act VII of 1843. The provincial 
courts of civil appeal and circuit and the zillah courts were abolished 
and their civil and criminal powers were distributed between new 
"civil and sessions " judges of the zillah and the principal sadr amins 
(or the "auxiliary" judges); at the same time the powers of the 
magistrates were substantially enlarged. In the result, whereas in 
1802 no Indian could try a criminal case or deal with a suit valued 
at more than Rs. 80, an Indian judge might now adjudicate suits up 
to Rs. 10,000 in value and pass sentences of two years' imprisonment. 
There was an extension in the same direction later, ^ when district 
munsiffs were conceded a limited criminal jurisdiction. 

At the beginning of the present period the zamindari system pre- 
vailed in the Northern Circars, Salem, Ghingleput and certain other 
areas ; village leases in the Ceded districts, Nellore, the Arcots, Palnad, 
Trichinopoly, Tinnevelly and Tanjore ; ryotwari in Malabar, Canara, 
Goimbatore, Madura and Dindigul.^ 

As a revenue system, the zamindari settlement Wcis not a success, 
even where it had for basis the old estates of poligars ; as to the artificial 
estates, or muttahs, they came tumbling down almost as soon as they 
were set up. The process of decay was both rapid and long continued, 
so that we find the whole of the Guntur coUectorate and much of the 
Masulipatam coUectorate passing over from zamindari to ryotwari 
between 1835 and 1849, and now the system applies to less than one- 
fourth of the presidency. Certain features of the settlement call for 
further remarks. 

After long discussion in Bengal it was decided that the demand on 
the estates should be fixed in perpetuity. The principle of an un- 
alterable assessment is not in favour nowadays, but, throughout the 
first half of the last century, there prevailed in Madras, vaguely felt 
rather than definitely asserted, an idea that, in all forms of land- 
revenue settlement, fixity of demand should be aimed at. This view 
was not always endorsed by the court of directors, but it commended 
itself to the secretary of state as late as 1862, and in 1868 the Board 
of Revenue had nothing to say against a permanent ryotwari settle- 
ment. Though a rapid rise in prices led to the abandonment of the 
notion, it was not formally renounced until 1883.^ 

In investing zamindars with "the proprietary right of the soil", the 
legislature gave rise to misconceptions which had to be corrected later 
by a declaration that there was no intention to infringe the rights of 
third parties.* There never had been such intention, but the legisla- 

1 India Act XII of 1854. 

* Revenue Board's Proceedings, 5 January, 181 8. 

■ Ck)urt's Dispatch, 16 December, 181 2 {Revenue Selections^ 1820, vol. i^; Board's Pro- 
ceedings, No. 6369, 8 September, 1868; S. of S. Dispatch, 28 March, 1883, and Baden 
Powell, I, 340. * Reg. iv of 1822. 


tion of 1802^ gave insufficient protection to the cultivators, while 
granting to the zamindars powers of distraint and ejectment which 
could be challenged only through a regular suit. This defect led to 
Regulation v of 1822, which brought the collector in as a summary 
arbitrator between zamindar and occupier, an arrangement which 
worked with some success until the courts began to admit claims to 
determine rents on a competitive basis and to alter the customary 
modes of sharing the crops. Act VIII of 1865 was intended to settle 
these and other questions but caused much greater confusion by 
declaring that all contracts for rent, express or implied, must be 
enforced. The position was not made clear until the Estates Land 
Act, 1908, came into operation. This elaborate enactment brought 
the revenue courts into summary operation in all relations between 
zamindar and ryot, conferred, in express terms, right of permanent 
occupancy upon most of the zamindar ryots, and enabled others to 
secure that privilege by means of a small payment. The need for 
protecting the tenants had been mainly felt in the Telugu country; 
among the Tamils there had always been a much stronger sense of 
private property in land and the ryot's claim to occupancy right had 
generally been accepted. So much for the cultivators. The question 
whether the zamindars themselves did not need protection was con- 
sidered by Munro,^ but nearly eighty years elapsed before anything 
was done in that direction. Then, when debt and suits for partition 
had broken up various estates, it became a matter of concern to the 
government to preserve the rest. The case of indebtedness was met by 
authorising the government, on request, to place embarrassed estates 
under the Court of Wards. ^ The other threat had arisen from a change 
in judicial opinion, the courts receding from the position that im- 
partibility and inalienability attach by general custom to the ancient 
zamindaris, and holding that the existence of these attributes must 
be proved for each individual estate. This dictum gave rise to much 
ruinous litigation, but, after considerable delay, a remedy was pro- 
vided in the form of a law which imposed restrictions upon the 
alienation of specified estates, and declared them to be impartible 
and heritable by a single heir.* 

The decennial leases, introduced by the Madras Government "to 
become a fixed settlement if approved" and immediately condemned 
by the court of directors,^ were drawing to a close when the present 
period opens and did not everywhere run their full course. With the 
expiration of the last of them, the village lease system disappeared 
except in a few peculiar localities. The decennial leases had been 

^ Regs. XXV and xxxii of 1802. 

* Minute, 19 September, 1820. 
» Act IV of 1899. 

* Act II of 1904, replacing similar acts of 1903 and 1902; see also Srinivasa Ragha- 
vachari, Progress of the Madras Presidency y p. 245. 

* Dispatches, 16 December, 1812, and 16 December, 1813. 


granted on more lenient terms than the triennial ones, but the general 
result of the arrangement never came under review. According to 
the Board of Revenue the leases were working satisfactorily in 1818/ 
but the board was strongly prejudiced and the reports from individual 
districts are by no means suggestive of success. The board's bias in 
favour of village leases may, perhaps, be explained in part by the 
existence in portions of the Tamil country of a tenure to which they 
really seemed to be thoroughly well adapted. This tenure, commonly 
known as mirasi right, was decaying but sufficiently alive to engender 
a vast and enthusiastic correspondence in which the varying views of 
the government are generally in opposition to the varying views of 
the board. In this tenure the ownership of each village (subject to 
the usual claim of the state to a share of the produce) vested in a single 
mirasidar or, more commonly, in a body of mirasidars. From the tilth 
the mirasidars derived a share of the produce and, in some places, 
grain-fees also; over the waste they claimed certain privileges. The 
main controversy arose over the questions whether a ryotwari settle- 
ment should be made with the mirasidars or the actual cultivators, and 
whedier the mirasidars had a right to prevent the state from assigning 
the waste for cultivation. The former point may be considered to have 
been setded by the cautious instructions of the directors to respect 
the rights of the mirasidars but to be chary of ousting persons already 
recognised as owners, and to dispose of all disputes on their merits. ^ 
On the latter point the final decision was that the mirasidars had no 
power to keep waste out of cultivation, but should have the first 
refusal of any part applied for by a non-mirasidar.^ The government 
showed a disposition to go back on this decision, but was vigorously 
reproved by the board and overruled by the directors.* 

Officially the mirasi system is dead, but traces of it survive in 
Chingleput, where the ordinary assessment is in some cases reduced 
to allow of the payment to old mirasi families of sums in lieu of 
former claims upon the cultivators. 

Ryotwari falls into three stages, early, middle and late, and the 
only description common to all is that it is a mode of settlement with 
small farmers, so small, indeed, that their average holding is, on 
recent figures, only about 6 J acres. Nowadays the tenure is regarded 
as possessing the following properties: the registered occupier is, so 
far as concerns government, free to alienate, encumber and devise his 
land at discretion; subject to unimportant qualifications, he may at 
any time reUnquish any portion of his holding; he can never be ousted 
unless he fails to pay regularly the assessment fixed on the land or any 

* Prcx:cedings, 5 January, 181 8. The vigorous style of this paper, a masterly bit of work, 
shows the warm concern of the board in the result of the duel between village lease and 

' Dispatch, 1 8 August, 1824. 

* Dispatches, No. 8, 28 July, 1841, and No. 17, 3 July, 1844. 

* Dispatch, 17 December, 1856. 


other charge by law recoverable as land revenue,^ in which case his 
land may be attached and sold to the extent necessary to discharge 
the debt ; ^ no additional charge may be imposed on account of im- 
provements effected at the ryot's cost, but a separate charge may be 
made for minerals extracted; the rate of assessment is liable to 
alteration on the expiry of the specified period for which it has been 
fixed and then only. But these peculiarities have been of gradual 
growth ; not one of them can be said to have been universally applicable 
to early ryotwari which, introduced by Read, approved by the 
directors as an experiment, widely extended by Munro and others, 
was abruptly brought to an end in some districts by the zamindari 
settlement, in others by the village leases. 

The re-introduction of ryotwari between 181 3 and 1822 marks the 
beginning of middle ryotwari — a period of chaos. To begin with there 
was no proper basis of survey on which to construct it. Some sur- 
veying had been done in early ryotwari, and sometimes done well 
though unprofessionally, but large areas had not been surveyed at all 
and in others the survey had been mere pretence; there were no 
boundary marks, no maps and very few survey-records of any sort. 
In middle ryotwari nothing was done to cure these defects, and without 
a proper survey there could be no systematic assessment. 

By old custom the ryot and the state shared the crop or its cash 
equivalent. In theory the ryot generally got about half, in practice 
often only a fifth or less.^ Read assigned to the state one-third of the 
gross value of the crop on dry land and two-fifths on irrigated land ; 
Munro was forced, in the Ceded districts, to give the state nearly half 
but regarded one-third as the proper figure. Under the Company 
the assessment was always fixed in terms of money, but the rates 
attached to different soils had no very close relation to output, even 
where efforts were made to establish such relation. Extraneous 
matters were taken into consideration, such as the ryot's caste, his 
means, even his health ; and sometimes the starting-point was a lump 
sum for the district which was distributed among the villages and 
then individual demands had to be adjusted to make good the charge 
on the village. Also the classifier generally had an eye to the old 
revenue and in places there was little or no attempt to revise the 
current rates. On the whole the earliest assessments under the Com- 
pany were too high. The imposition upon early ryotwari of the 
zamindari settlement here and the village leases there made matters 
worse, the identification of certain rates with certain fields dropping 
out of sight. In fact the innumerable rates of middle ryotwari, 
although supposed to represent 50 per cent, on wet and 33 per cent, 
on dry,4 were usually only the traditional rates recorded in the village 

^ E.g. the tax on land leviable under the Local Boards Act. 

2 Act II of 1864, s. 44. * Revenue Board's Proceedings, 5 January, 181 8. 

* Cons. No. 951, 14 August, 1855 {SelectionSy Madras, New Series, vol. un). 


registers which had been open to manipulation by dishonest village 
accountants; and these traditional rates were in general excessive, 
varied from village to village, and were not based on any apparent 
principle. Thus the vice of immoderate assessment infected both early 
and middle ryotwari and many years passed before there was any 
systematic attempt to cure the evil. Under Indian rule the demand 
upon the land had been generally met because village officers and 
ryots conspired to defraud the state by concealing cultivation and in 
Other ways. Under the closer control of European officers, such 
practices became more difficult, and the effects of over-assessment 
were more felt. Even under these conditions agriculture might have 
made some progress, had it not been for the twenty-year spell of 
falling prices which began in 1830. The strain due to this cause 
combined with local customs to produce that multiplicity of methods 
which render middle ryotwari so complicated. The assessment might 
be determined by measurement or estimate of the crop on the ground; 
or might vary from year to year with the rise and fall of prices ; or 
might be fixed for the whole holding which was practically an 
unchangeable unit by reason of checks upon the surrender of portions ; 
or might be charged on the village, the ryots, village officers or 
collector determining the individual liabilities, with or without 
periodical redistribution of land or compulsory transfers of holdings 
on demand; or it might be settled with the individual in accordance, 
more or less, with modern principles. It was possible to find in vogue 
at the same time in one district half a dozen of these methods, all 
figuring as forms of ryotwari. But, if the growing poverty of the ryots 
conduced to the appearance of a variety of shifts for raising the 
revenue, it also forced on the authorities the abolition of objectionable 
taxes, various local reductions in rates of assessment and the discon- 
tinuance of mischievous practices which had come down to middle 
ryotwari from earlier times. From the outset the custom of holding 
one ryot responsible for the arrears of another was repudiated. Then 
the ancient but unauthorised practice of "inducing" ryots to take up 
more land than they wanted died out, and various checks on the firee 
surrender of land were removed. Ryots' improvements used to be 
taxed by the levy of higher rates on the valuable crops raised under 
private wells; but one concession after another was granted, until 
assessment became wholly irrespective of profits due to well-sinking. 
The old custom of granting advances to paupers to enable them to 
carry on cultivation had done much more harm than good, and was 
abandoned. And, as these practices disappeared, there went with 
them much of the monstrous system of " remissions " which had grown 
up in consequence of them and which had converted the annual 
settiement into a debasing scramble for charity. The various changes 
which brought the theory of ryotwari to its present form left un- 
touched, however, the main defect — an excessive, unequal and 


unsystematic assessment. It was not until 1855 that the government 
faced the long-overdue reform, and proposed to carry out a pro- 
fessional field-survey of the presidency accompanied by a detailed 
classification of soils and valuation of them for assessment.^ It was 
apparently anticipated that the work could be done once for all in 
twenty years, but the Survey and Settlement Departments have been 
busy ever since. 

The principles of settlement as laid down on this occasion are on 
lines essentially modern, but discussion ensued as to whether the state 
share of the produce should be calculated on the gross crop or on the 
value of the crop after deducting cultivation expenses and as to the 
period for which the assessment should remain unchangeable, and it 
was not until 1864 that it was decided that the government share 
should be limited to half the net value of the crop. The period of each 
settlement was then fixed at thirty years, though later it was left to 
the discretion of the government. Previously there had been no 
"period of settlement", the ryot holding on indefinitely, for, so long 
as it was the "general and unhesitating belief" that the ryotwari rates 
then in force could never be enhanced, that is, up to 1855,2 the need 
for fixing a period did not arise. Middle ryotwari ended in each 
district with the introduction of settlements under the scheme of 


This great reform involved the reconstitution of the Survey Depart- 
ment which, originating in 1 800 for trigonometrical and topographical 
work, had since 18 18 been employed on the latter only. The topo- 
graphical business was taken over, in 1886, by the Government of 
India, and the department, being then solely concerned with revenue 
survey, came under the control of the Board of Revenue in 1903, when 
also, to avoid periodical resurveys, the Land Records Department was 
fully organised for the purpose of maintaining boundary marks and 
indicating changes of ownership on the field-sketches. 

The ryotwari system of the west coast, as peculiar in some respects, 
demands a passing notice. Among the scattered farmers of the 
sequestered valleys of Malabar no village system could arise ; in a 
country where the rajas took their dues in military service alone no 
room could be found for zamindars. So firom the first ryotwari was 
applied. In 1805 it was proclaimed that the settlement would be with 
the principal landholders or janmis, but difficulties arose because many 
janmis had fled before the Mysore invasion, and the Mysore Govern- 
ment, in introducing a land-tax, had often settled with the principal 
occupants or kanomdars. As a consequence the latter were frequently 

^ Cons. No. 951, 14 August, 1855 {Selections, Madras, New Series, vol. liii). The govern- 
ment pointed out that in thirty-four years there had been hardly any extension of cultiva- 
tion and that of the registered arable land less than a half was under the plough. 

^ Revenue Board's Proceedings, No. 6369, 8 September, 1868. 

* For the general subject of the ryotwari system, of. Nicholson, District Manual of Coim- 
batore, chap. v. 


held responsible for the revenue until, in 1889, the High Court 
declared this practice to be illegal. That decision resulted in Act III 
of 1896 enabling the collector to determine in whom the ownership 
resided, and permitting in certain cases the joint registration of both 
landholder and occupant. But the position of the kanomdars is so 
peculiar that, in the theoretical distribution of the produce in 
Malabar, three persons are taken into account, instead of two only, 
namely, the state, the landholder and the occupant. The ryotwari 
of South Canara resembles in some respects that of Malabar. 

Yet another form of tenure calls for notice, as it prevails in not far 
short of a tenth of the presidency. Inams are grants, complete or 
partial, of the state's interest in land; they may be made in perpetuity 
or for a period, and commonly take the form of an assignment of the 
land-revenue derivable from a given area. They were freely granted 
in support of public offices or charitable or religious institutions, for 
the maintenance of Brahmans, or for personal and private reasons. 
In the anarchy of the eighteenth century, this mode of intercepting 
the public revenue attained monstrous dimensions, many grants being 
made by persons who had no authority to bestow them, while village 
officers transferred large areas to themselves as inam by mere altera- 
tion of the accounts. On British acquisition many of the obviously 
unauthorised assignments were cancelled and arrangements were 
made by Regulation xxxi of 1802 for an investigation of titles which, 
however, the collectors were mostly too busy to carry out. Again, in 
Regulation v of 1831, efforts were made to check the alienation of 
inams held by village and other officers, and in 1845 an order was 
passed to stay devolution by adoption, and to limit private charitable 
grants to existing lives. This last order created a disturbance. 
Narasimha Reddi, a disappointed claimant of a poligar family 
pension, secured a following among the ^'Kattubadi peons" of the 
Ceded districts, who anticipated a resumption of their inams and 
raised a rebellion in 1847. Troops had to be called out and some 
months passed before Narasimha was caught in the hills and hanged. 
The incident taught the need for caution, but it was impossible to 
tolerate indefinitely the serious loss of revenue due to former fraud, 
and the labour of investigating the incessant disputes which arose 
over the innumerable assignments. ^ A special commissioner was 
therefore appointed in 1859 to deal with the whole question on liberal 
lines, and an enormous number of inams were enfranchised in the 
next ten years, the government surrendering its right to resume, claim 
service, or restrain alienation in return for a quit-rent. There remain, 
however, many inams which, for various reasons, it has not been 
deemed proper to enfranchise. 

The leading principle of ryotwari, that assessment depends on the 
nature of the soil, not on that of the crop, though enunciated in a 

* Ck>n8. No. 951, 14 August, 1855 {Selections, Madras, New Scries, vol. un). 



draft regulation framed in 1817,^ did not receive eifect until late in 
the middle period when the special rates charged on "garden" lands 
began to disappear, and the principle must always be subsidiary to 
the primary division of cultivation into "dry" and "wet". There is 
clear justification for adopting the valuable rice-crop as the basis of 
the assessment on wet land, seeing that it owes its existence to water 
from public sources. Most of the irrigation is by "tanks" which vary 
in size from mere ponds to lakes covering over twenty square miles, 
and which number in the ryotwari area nearly 32,000 (exclusive of 
private reservoirs). Almost all the tanks antedate British acquisition 
but, with the exception of the Grand Anikat (dam) on the Kaveri, 
native works for the utilisation of river water are few and unimportant. 
The principal English irrigation works are the Upper and Lower 
Anikats on the Kaveri and Goleroon, the delta systems of the 
Godavari and Kistna, and the Periyar dam. The genius of Sir Arthur 
Cotton found its fullest scope on the Kaveri-Coleroon and Godavari. 
The Kaveri-Coleroon works were begun in 1836 and, with the re- 
modelled Grand Anikat, they provide water for nearly a million 
acres. The Godavari dam, first suggested in 1798, was begun in 1846 
and secures over half a million acres. Famine gave the impetus which 
started in 1850 the almost equally extensive Kistna system. The 
Periyar work is remarkable, not for the acreage served, but for diffi- 
culties overcome in carrying out its bold conception. The idea 
received the approval of "twelve intelligent men" deputed in 1798 
by a raja of Ramnad, was condemned later, was revived in the 'sixties 
and transformed into action in 1884. The dam, 176 feet high, was not 
finished until 1895. 

The origin of the Public Works Department which has done so 
much for Madras is to be found in the engineering branch of the 
Military Board established in 1 786, but at first irrigation works were 
in the hands of collectors who were later assisted by superintendents. 
A Maramat (Repair) Department was instituted in 181 9 under an 
Inspector-General of Civil Estimates for whom was substituted later 
the chief engineer in charge of the Military Board's engineering 
department. The Maramat Department was placed under the general 
control of the Board of Revenue in 1825, ^^^ ^^ later organised 
into divisions under civil engineers. The position as determined in 
1845 ^^s this: irrigation works, canals, civil buildings and minor 
roads and bridges were under the Maramat Department ; main roads 
were under a Superintendent of Roads; military roads and buildings 
and those in Madras town were under the Military Board. The 
executive officers of the Maramat Department were the collectors and 
their subordinates, over whom there was little professional super- 
vision. The arrangements generally were strongly condemned by a 
committee sitting in 1852 and six years later there came into being 

* Revenue Selectionsy 1820, vol. i. 



the Public Works Department in its modern form, as an agency for 
execution as well as supervision. The Maramat Department then 
disappeared, but the new department was reorganised again and 
again, the changes being mainly due to the difficulty in securing 
effective management of the scattered smaller tanks. Finally, about 
1882, there was a partial reversion to the old Maramat system, the 
revenue officers being made responsible for the ordinary repairs to 
minor tanks. 

At the British acquisition, the poligars, within their dominions, 
controlled the police and collected not only the revenue charged on 
the land but also a variety of other taxes. In theory they may have 
been regarded as mere agents of the Muhammadan government, 
occupying for their palayams the same position as the renters held 
outside the palayams and being remunerated by a commission on their 
collections ; in practice they were much more, collecting on their own 
behalf, and disgorging only under compulsion. When, however, the 
zamindari settlement came into operation, the government announced^ 
its intention to assume direct control of the police and taxation, and 
the history of the taxes concerned may now be traced into more 
recent times. 

The mohatarfa was a taix on trades and occupations. In any district 
it might be levied on more than a hundred classes of persons or things 
(for the implements of business were sometimes taxed), but its 
incidence and rate were matters of arbitrary distinction and often 
varied from village to village. *'It is a poll-tax, a house-tax, a cattle- 
stall-tax and a caste-tax. The beggar is taxed because he is a beggar ; 
the widow is taxed because she is destitute" — so it was said in 1842. 
Though many of these demands had been abandoned, enough re- 
mained to render mohatarfa a source of much oppression. The only 
thing to be said for it is that, if, in 1852, a million persons contributed, 
they did not contribute much. In some places the tax formed a rough 
income-tax on the profits of trade. This form, called visabadi, was 
brought under formal control by Regulation iv of 181 8. The govern- 
ment fixed the total demand on a district so as not to exceed 10 per 
cent, of the estimated profits of the traders therein; the collector 
divided this among the taluks and the contributors settled the 
individual demands among themselves. 

In Coimbatore one of the items of mohatarfa was tobacco. This was 
first abolished, and then revived, as a separate source of revenue, in 
1807, 'wben the sale of tobacco was made a government monopoly in 
Malabar and Ganara. Soon afterwards all the cultivation of tobacco 
there and in Coimbatore was prohibited except under licence. ^ There 
were subsequent changes of system, but in every form the tax was 
accompanied by fraud and "frightful abuses", while in Malabar 
smuggling arose on so large and determined a scale that troops had 

* Reg. XXV of 1802. '* Regs, vii and viii of 181 1. 


to be employed to deal with it. The tobacco monopoly and its 
accompaniments were abolished in 1852. 

Embarrassments due to the Mutiny led to a general Indian income- 
tax which was supplemented by a Licence Tax Act^ abolishing the 
mohatarfa tax and substituting a system of licences for carrying on 
trades, industries and callings. This act disappeared in later legislative 
shufflings, but, to make good the outlay on famine, the licensing 
system was revived in Madras, and persons carrying on businesses 
were required, if their incomes exceeded Rs. 200, to pay for licences 
fixed sums varying roughly according to their receipts. 2 This licence 
tax was a descendant of the mohatarfa. As an item of general taxation 
it was displaced finally on the revival of the income-tax in 1886; but 
the mohatarfa survives to this day in municipal areas in the form of a 
graduated tax on arts, professions and callings. 

The original mo^fltor/^ was a bad enough tax, but the inland sayer was 
far worse. This was a duty levied on articles of all sorts in transit and 
had developed into a national calamity. The rates were variable and 
capricious, there was no control over the tax-gatherers who charged 
practically what they chose, and revenue renters and poligars took 
to establishing posts and duties at pleasure, so that it was common for 
goods to come under charge at least once in every ten miles. The 
injury to trade was mortal. This wicked impost was replaced in 1803 
by frontier and town duties leviable ad valorem on specified goods 
crossing the frontier or passing into selected towns. ^ Madras town 
and the west coast came under separate rules which need not be 
detailed. The duties were for a time collected by official agency, but 
there was so much fraud that later the collection of the duties was 
farmed out.* Even in the form finally taken by this impost, it could 
not be otherwise than mischievous, and it was discontinued under 
India Act VI of 1844. 

Little need be said about the duties on sea-borne trade. They were 
put on a basis of law in 1803 ;5 passed from the control of the Board of 
Revenue to that of the Board of Trade in 1808;^ and were replaced 
under the former authority in 1825. The duties on coastal trade were 
abandoned in 1844, and in 1859'' ^ uniform tariff was substituted for 
the separate provincial rates theretofore levied. 

In Muhammadan times the tax on salt took the form of a share of 
the output of the salt pans, of a rent for privilege of manufacture, or of 
a transit duty on leaving the factory. The Company established a 
monopoly.^ Manufacture and sale were placed under the direction 
of a General Agent working under the Board of Revenue, but the 
immediate management was in the hands of collectors. The govern- 
ment fixed the price for sale to the public, while the agent settled the 

1 India Act XVIII of 1861. 2 Act III of 1878. 

' Reg. XII. See also amending and repealing Regs, xv of 1808 and i of 181 2. 
* Reg. V of 1 82 1. ^ Regs. IX and XI. ^ Reg. xv. 

' India Act VII. « Reg. i of 1805. 


sites of factories and the amount to be made each year. Actual 
manufacture was conducted by persons having a customary right to 
make salt, their interests in the output being converted into cash 
payments. The General Agent was soon got rid of, and the business 
went on under the board, collectors and their assistants being re- 
munerated for their trouble by a commission which lasted until 1836. 
To relieve government of the position of sole vendor, and in the hope 
of improving the quality of salt, an Excise Act was passed (VI of 
187 1). On the extension of this act to any place, the monopoly 
system ceased to apply there, manufacture was permitted under 
licence, an excise-duty became payable on removal from the place 
of storage, and distribution and sale were left to private arrangement. 
The monopoly was, however, retained in places as affording a means 
of controlling the price. From the first there had been much com- 
petition with the government salt through the manufacture in places 
of coarse salt out of saline earths. There was long discussion over the 
prevention of this practice which at times led to affrays with the 
police, and it was made an offence in 1878.^ In that year, too, 
collectors ceased to be immediately concerned with the salt revenue, 
a commissioner with a separate establishment taking over control. ^ 
Soon afterwards the Commissioner of Salt took charge of the Abkari 
Department also, and in 1887 he became a member of the Board of 
Revenue. In 1889 a new act replaced the old laws. This made 
no material change, for it continued both the monopoly and the 
excise system. There is also in vogue a third system under which 
licensees for general sale (as opposed to licensees for sale to govern- 
ment) can be required to deliver to government a specified quantity 
before proceeding to manufacture for sale to the public. Since 1882 
the rate of duty on salt has been determined for the whole country 
by the Government of India.^ 

The abkari tax, or tax on intoxicating liquors and drugs, is derived 
mainly from arrack (distilled as a rule from palm-juice or crude sugar) 
and toddy (fermented palm-juice). In continuing this old impost, 
the English administrators asserted from the outset the principle that 
consumption should be checked. The somewhat uncertain pursuit of 
this ideal led through such a bewildering jungle of enactments, rules 
and local practices, that the path taken can be indicated only roughly 
here. Pursuant to old custom Regulation i of 1808 contemplated 
leasing the right to make and sell arrack, but it also provided for the 
licensing of single shops. The collector was responsible and received 
a commission for his trouble. Later the law was extended to toddy* 
and an alternative system of direct official management was authorised. 
In practice there was no effective limit to the number of retail shops. 
These might be separately licensed, usually with a primitive still 

1 Act II. Act VI of 1878. * Act IV of 1889. 

• India Act XII. * Reg. i of 1820. 



attached/ or they might be opened under private arrangement with 
the lessee of the rights of manufacture and sale over a large area. 
Minimum sale-prices were prescribed but, as they had no relation to 
strength, they had little effect in regulating consumption. The obvious 
lack of control led in 1 869 to measures for suppressing outstills and 
concentrating manufacture in large distilleries. The contractor re- 
ceived the monopoly of manufacture and supply for a large area, paid 
stillhead duty, guaranteed a minimum revenue, agreed to observe 
certain price-limits and was responsible for keeping down illicit 
practices. The stillhead duty provided a means of controlling con- 
sumption, but the system did not answer expectations and "free 
supply" came in from 1884. Manufacture and supply were now 
separated from sale; anybody could get a licence for a distillery, 
arranging prices with the licensed vendors, and the government 
undertook prevention. Later came the "contract distillery system" 
under which the sole privilege of manufacture and supply in a given 
area is disposed of by tender, the successful tenderer having a mono- 
poly of supply of his own liquor to retail vendors at rates fixed by 
government and paying stillhead duty on all issues; the right of retail 
vend is sold annually by separate shops. This is the prevailing system, 
but in some parts the right of manufacture and sale is still rented out, 
the number of stills being limited as much as possible, and the number 
and sites of shops being fixed beforehand. The right to sell arrack has 
long been separated from that to sell toddy. Fermented toddy is now 
taxed in the form of rents for retail shops and (in the greater part of 
the presidency) by means of the tree-tax system under which a fixed 
fee is charged for each tree which it is proposed to tap under 

Act I of 1886 authorised the government to place abkari adminis- 
tration under a commissioner, and the Commissioner of Salt was put 
in charge of it. Since 1887 the commissioner of the two departments 
has been a member of the Board of Revenue. Finally excise advisory 
committees, containing a non-official element, were instituted to 
advise as to the location of shops. 

The withdrawal from the poligars of authority over the police was 
the most important abridgment of their powers effected by Regu- 
lation XXV of 1802, but the discharge of the kavalgars (watchers) and 
the resumption of many of their inams had unexpected results. 
Deprived of responsibility and emoluments, the kavalgars, who were 
largely recruited from criminal tribes, had no inducement to restrain 
the activities of their fellow-castemen. Though no longer recognised 
by the government, they continued to receive fees from the villagers 
and became intermediaries in a vast system of blackmail from which 
the southern districts have never been able to shake themselves free. 
The tribesmen steal (cattle as a rule), the owner approaches the 

^ In Tinnevelly district, in 1866, there were 3642 stills, and there had been more. 


kavalgar, restoration is arranged on terms, and the ransom is shared 
between the kavalgar and the thieves. 

The kavalgars had been at first succeeded by police darogas and 
thanadars, operating, as in Bengal, greatly to their own advantage, 
under the nominal supervision of the sedentary zillah judges. A reform, 
inspired mainly by Munro, was introduced by Regulations ix and xi 
of 1816. The general control was now vested in the collector as 
magistrate. The principal executive officers were the tahsildars, under 
the tide "heads of police", and all the members of their revenue 
establishments, clerks and peons, were at their disposal for police 
work. The prime agents of detection were the village watchers acting 
under the village headmen and accountants. But time revealed 
defects in this plan also. The superior revenue officers became more 
immersed in their growing revenue duties ; opportunities for mischief 
by underlings were doubled by their dual capacity. Crime, gang- 
robbery in particular, reached alarming proportions in some places. 
The report of the Torture Commission of 1855 rendered change 
imperative. The commission found torture to be a "time-honoured 
institution" and spoke of "that perfect but silent machinery which 
combines the forces of revenue demands and police authority"; wit- 
nesses did not hesitate to speak of the police as "the bane and pest 
of society". The force was now reconstituted on English and Irish 
lines. ^ Direct control by the district magistrate disappeared and the 
connection with the Revenue Department was sundered. The ad- 
ministration was vested in an inspector-general 2 assisted by deputies. 
The village watcher was retained. Each district was supplied with 
European officers as superintendents and assistants. This system has 
stood the test of time, which is not to say that the personnel does not 
admit of improvement. 

In natural sequence we come to the jails. Such institutions had 
been unknown before British rule, and for a long time afterwards any 
strong building was deemed suitable for the purpose. In these the 
death-rate generally exceeded 100 per mille.^ The rules of health 
were not understood; floggings for breach of discipline were too 
severe and frequent; still worse, perhaps, the system of paying daily 
subsistence allow^ances to prisoners meant that catering was left to 
jailors who made all they could out of it. These same officers had, in 
practice, the whole administration in their hands, for, although the 
zillah judge was charged with superintendence,* his occasional visits 
had little effect. It was not until 1855 that an Inspector-General of 
Prisons was appointed, and it was ten years later that the beneficial 
change of appointing the civil surgeons to be superintendents was 

* India Act XXIV of 1 859. The presidency town has been governed by a different series 
of enactments. 

* Called, at first, commissioner. 

' Macleane, Manual of the Administration, vol. i, chap. iii. 

* Reg. VI of 1802. Gf. India Act VII of 1843. 


carried out.^ A committee, appointed at the instance of Lord 
Macaulay, had, in 1838, advised, among other things, the building 
of central jails, but nothing was done in this direction until about 
1857. A second committee, reporting in 1864, laid stress on this 
matter and on ventilation, and thereafter there was much building. 
To the new central jails European officers were appointed as super- 
intendents and the civil surgeons were placed in medical charge. 
Health was improved by the provision of fixed diet-scales in 1867; 
behaviour, shortly afterwards, by a system of remissions. The mortality 
in the triennium ending 186 1-2 averaged 81 'O per mille, in the 
quinquennium ending 1884, 33-3, in the two years ending 1916-17, 
1 1 '5. These figures form a sufficient comment on the earlier adminis- 

The civil surgeons who have just been mentioned belonged to that 
beneficent body the Indian Medical Service, which was organised in 
1 786 as an establishment of surgeons and assistant surgeons under a 
Hospital Board. That board was replaced in 1857 by a director- 
general and other superintending officers, and in 1880 the Indian and 
Army Medical Departments (the latter concerned with the European 
soldiers) were put under a surgeon-general attached to the civil 
government. The commissioned officers of the Indian Medical Service 
who, when first associated with the civil administration, were styled 
zillah surgeons, became later the civil surgeons. The report of the 
royal commission of 1863 on the heavy mortality among English 
troops in India led to the creation in Madras of a Sanitary Commission 
which was soon replaced by a Sanitary Commissioner. That officer 
was then associated with the civil administration and took over the 
Vaccination Department which had been running independently 
since 1805. In 1883 the civil surgeons were supplied with assistants 
to enable them to tour and became the present district medical and 
sanitary officers who, besides being the chief physicians and surgeons 
of their districts, have administrative charge of the district jails and 
medical charge of the central jails, and are advisory and adminis- 
trative officers to the municipal councils and local boards to which, 
since 1871, has appertained the general control of medical institutions, 
vaccination and sanitation. 

1 Act II of 1865. 




U NTIL the commencement of the nineteenth century there was 
little or no increase in the territorial possessions of the Bombay 
Government, and consequently no alteration of the system of adminis- 
tration. Bankot was ceded by the Marathas in 1 755 in exchange for 
Gheria (Vijayadrug), which had been taken from Angria by a naval 
force consisting of vessels of both the Royal Navy and the Bombay 
Marine. Broach, which was captured by assault in 1772, had to be 
relinquished in 1779, and was not regained until 1803. The island of 
Salsette, and Karanja, Elephanta, and Hog islands in Bombay 
harbour, which had been transferred by Raghunatha Rao, the 
pretender to the Peshwaship, were likewise relinquished in 1779, and 
were not restored till the signing of the Treaty of Salbai in 1782. 
These changes, though politically of importance, did not involve any 
revision of the administrative arrangements, which had been applied 
since early days to the Company's factories and settlements. In the 
case of Surat, however, and the district surrounding it, the year 1 759 
witnessed the introduction of certain changes which lasted until 1800, 
when they were superseded by administrative arrangements based 
on the model of the district administration in Bengal. 

The presidency, in the year 1800, included the town and island of 
Bombay, the islands in Bombay harbour, the island of Salsette, the 
outlying station of Bankot (Fort Victoria) in the South Konkan, and 
the town and district of Surat. The local governor and council passed 
by the Regulating Act under the influence, and by the India Act under 
the control, of the governor-general and council of Fort William. 
Justice was administered by the Recorder's Court set up in 1798 to 
supersede the existing Mayor's Court and Court of Quarter Sessions. 
All British subjects resident within the territories subject to the 
Bombay Government, as also those resident in the territories of native 
princes in alliance with that government, were amenable to its juris- 
diction. The Recorder's Court continued to function until 1823 when 
it was superseded by a Supreme Court, composed of a chief judge and 
two other judges, and modelled on the Supreme Court of Judicature 
at Fort William. 

In 1799 another development occurred. Ever since 1759 Surat, 
though remaining under the nominal authority of the nawab, had 
been in fact administered by one of the Company's servants, at first 
styled " Chief for the Affairs of the British Nation and Gk)vernor of 


the Moghul Castle and Fleet of Surat", and later called "lieutenant- 
governor", subordinate to the governor and council in Bombay. In 
1799 the last nominally independent nawab died. The Bombay 
Government then arranged with his brother to assume the whole 
administration of the town and district, and by a proclamation of the 
governor of Bombay, 15 May, 1800, the district of Surat, as then 
existing, was placed in charge of a collector and a judge and magis- 
trate, one of whom, generally the judge, was also in political charge 
of the titular nawab and the petty chiefs of the neighbourhood, as 
agent to the governor of Bombay. ^ The same period witnessed also 
the establishment at Surat of a sadr adalat, a court of circuit and 
appeal, which ultimately exercised jurisdiction over all the Company's 
territorial possessions in Gujarat. It is clear that the system of ad- 
ministration thus introduced into Surat at the opening of the nine- 
teenth century was borrowed directly from the system initiated in 
Bengal by Hastings in 1772 and revised by Lord Cornwallis after 

With the nineteenth century came a rapid territorial expansion. 
First came cessions by Sindhia, the Peshwa, and the Gaekwar. And 
then the final downfall of the Peshwa in 181 8 gave the Company an 
enormous addition of territory, which included certain parts of 
Gujarat, the whole of the Deccan, except the small kingdom reserved 
for the raja of Satara and two parganas granted to the ruler of Kolhapur, 
the whole of Khandesh, the district of Dharwar including Belgaum, 
Ratnagiri, and Kolaba, with the exception of the Alibag taluka, which 
lapsed to the Company in 1840. The present Nasik district was divided 
between the collectorates of Khandesh and Ahmadnagar up to 1837, 
when the portion included in the latter district was formed into a 
sub-collectorate. It was finally constituted a separate district with an 
enlarged area in 1869. Between 1818 and 1858 the presidency was 
further extended by the lapse of certain native states, e.g. Mandvi in 
Surat, and Satara; and various territorial readjustments took place, 
such, for example, as the separation of the Ahmadabad and Kaira 
districts in 1833, and of Belgaum and Dharwar in 1836, and the 
conversion of Sholapur in 1838 into a collectorate, formed mainly of 
villages ceded by the Nizam in 1822. In 1848 the Bijapur district, 
which had formed part of the territory of the raja of Satara, lapsed 
to the Company, and in 1853 and 1861 occurred the lease and final 
transfer respectively by Sindhia of the Panch Mahals. More distant 
acquisitions by conquest were those of Aden in 1839 and of Sind in 
1847. In 1 86 1 North Kanara was transferred from the Madras 
Presidency to Bombay. 

At first the judicial and revenue administration of the Gujarat 
districts acquired from the Gaekwar and the Peshwa between 1800 
and 1803 ^^ entrusted to the agent of the governor-general at 

* Imperial Gazetteer of Indian Bombay Presidency, i, 331. 


Baroda, who, like the resident at Poona in regard to the Deccan, 
supervised the affairs of North Gujarat, so far as they concerned the 
Company and its relations with the native powers. In 1805 the 
resident's responsibility ceased, and these ceded areas were placed in 
charge of a collector armed with powers similar to those possessed by 
the collectors in Bengal. 

The great increase of territory which accrued from the conquest or 
annexation of the Peshwa's possessions in 181 8 necessarily involved 
the establishment of a more extensive administrative system. The 
newly acquired territories were divided into districts, organised and 
managed on the lines adopted in Bengal. In two respects, however, 
the Bombay arrangements differed from the Bengal system : first, no 
Board of Revenue was created ; and secondly, the districts were re- 
stricted in size, so as to allow of their being more easily administered 
than was the case with the large and unwieldy districts of Bengal. 
The task of introducing order into the conquered area was by no 
means easy. In Gujarat the intermingling of the Company's pos- 
sessions with the territories of the Gaekwar, nawab of Cambay, and 
the unsettled tributary land-holders of Kathiawar and Mahi Kantha, 
the restlessness of the Girasias and Mewasis within the British sphere of 
jurisdiction, and the turbulent character of a considerable portion of 
the population, offered formidable obstacles, which were overcome 
mainly by caution and good temper on the part of the Company's 
officers. Conspicuous among the latter were Colonel Walker and his 
assistants, who had charge of the area which developed in 181 8 into 
the two collectorates of Ahmadabad and Kaira.^ 

Judicial regulations were introduced early and gradually made their 
influence felt. For the purpose of revenue collection the Maratha 
practice of farming out the districts to the desais, and subsequently to 
the patels of the villages, was adopted for the first few years. Under 
this system the collector or his subordinate mamlatdar or kamavisdar 
had to make the best bargain he could with the desai for the annual 
revenue, and provided that the amount promised was duly realised, 
he did not concern himself with the methods of the desais and 
village officers, or with the manner in which the government dues 
were obtained from the peasantry. After 181 6, however, the ryotwari 
system was gradually re-introduced, and the talati or village ac- 
countant, who was appointed directly by the Bombay Government, 
superseded the desai and the patel. At the outset the position of the 
mamlatdar or kamavisdar in Gujarat was not wholly satisfactory. Though 
he was the collector's principal subordinate and the chief native 
official of the district for revenue and police matters, he was poorly 
paid and w2ls also subjected to much expense by an order requiring 
him, in his capacity of native police official, to attend the sessions. He 

* Minute of governor of Bombay, 6 April, 1 82 1 (Appendix to Report of Select Committee 
on Affairs of East India Company, 1 832) . 


was on this account frequently absent from the district at times when 
his revenue duties demanded his presence on the spot. These diffi- 
culties, however, were gradually obviated after the re-introduction of 
the ryotwari system, which brought the villages into direct contact 
with the officers of government, substituted for the former corrupt 
village accountants persons appointed direct by the government, and 
enabled the authorities in consequence to increase the revenue and 
distribute it more equally. There was better management and fuller 
assertion of the public rights, due largely to the comparatively small 
size of the districts, which admitted of adequate superintendence by 
the collector, and also to the actual manner in which the system was 
introduced, first by a commissioner, whose business was to enquire 
rather than to innovate, and secondly by collectors trained in his 
methods and acquainted with the actual state of everything which 
they were called on to improve.^ 

The settlement of the Deccan and Khandesh was entrusted to the 
capable hands of Mountstuart Elphinstone. So far as the revenue 
system was concerned, his main object was to preserve as far as 
possible unimpaired the practice of the Maratha Government, subject, 
however, to the abolition of the system of farming the revenue, to the 
levy of assessment according to the area actually cultivated, and to 
the imposition of no new taxes. Old taxes were for the time being 
retained, except where they were manifestly unjust or oppressive. The 
country, which in the days of the Peshwa had been divided up among 
many mamlatdars and kamavisdars, whose powers and territorial juris- 
diction varied greatly in extent, was placed under five principal 
officers, namely the collectors of Khandesh, Poona, Ahmadnagar, and 
the Carnatic, and the political agent at Satara. Each of these 
officials resided within the limits of his charge and devoted his whole 
time to its affairs. The straggling revenue areas of Maratha days were 
formed into compact districts, each yielding from Rs. 50,000 to 
Rs. 70,000 annually; and each was placed in charge of a mamlatdar 
on a fixed monthly salary of Rs. 70 to Rs. 150, with limited powers, 
who was bound to reside within the limits of his charge and was in 
all matters subordinate to one of the principal English officers or 

The duties of the mamlatdar consisted in supervising the collection 
of the revenue, managing the police establishment, and receiving 
civil and criminal complaints, of which the former were referred by 
him to panchayats and the latter to the collector. To assist him in these 
duties, he was furnished with a staff consisting of a sheristadar or 
record-keeper on Rs. 30 to Rs. 40 a month, an accountant and sub- 

^ Letter from M. Elphinstone, i6 August, 1832 (Minutes of Evidence before Select 
Committee on Affairs of East India Company, Rev. in, 1832) ; Minute, 6 April, 1821, by 
governor of Bombay on Ahmadabad and Kaira (Appendix, Report of Select Committee 
(Parliamentary), 1832). 


ordinate clerks. At first the Bombay Government found some diffi- 
culty in securing mamlatdars of the right type. In Poona and Satara 
they were chiefly respectable servants of the former government; in 
Khandesh, which had been wasted and depopulated, men had to be 
introduced from the Nizam's dominions or from Hindustan ; while a 
few men were borrowed from Madras to act as a check upon the 
Deccan officials. Below the mamlatdar was the patel, who was re- 
sponsible, together with the kulkami, for the revenue and police 
administration of the village. His powers were pro tanto reduced by 
the closer supervision exercised by the mamlatdar under the British 
system, while his emoluments were lessened by the reduction or 
abolition of the Maratha tax known as sadar warid patti. 

The sheet-anchor of the district finances was the land-revenue, 
other sources of income being customs (jakat), excise [abkari)^ fines 
paid on succession to property {nazar), fees paid for pasturage by 
nomad shepherds, and fees paid for permits to cut wood in govern- 
ment forests. The foundation of the agricultural assessment was the 
amount paid by each village in times when the people considered 
themselves to have been well governed. From this amount deductions 
were made for diminution of cultivation or for special reasons, and 
the final amount payable was apportioned among the ryots or agri- 
cultural population by the village officers. The chauth and babti of 
Maratha days were abolished, as also were arbitrary imposts like the 
jasti patti. Speaking generally, the assessments were made lighter, 
more definite, and more uniform; more liberal advances were made 
to the cultivator for land improvement or to assist him in seasons of 
scarcity; the practice of bringing false charges against him as a pretext 
for extorting larger contributions was sternly and actively prohibited. 

Owing to the difficulty of framing a tariff and to the collectors* 
absorption in revenue and magisterial duties, the customs were 
farmed for the first few years. The excise revenue, which yielded less 
than £1000 annually, was maintained at a low figure, as in the 
Peshwa's days, by express prohibition in Poona and the active dis- 
couragement of drinking elsewhere. Similarly, until the currency 
system was stabilised, the mint was farmed to a contractor. The salt- 
tax was unknown at the commencement of the nineteenth century, 
though the manufacture of salt was carried on in the coUectorate of 
Bombay by both government and private persons, and in other dis- 
tricts by various methods, the revenue so derived being recovered in 
the shape of rent, customs-duty, or duty on sales. In 1837 an act was 
passed establishing a salt excise-duty, whereupon all salt-works outside 
the island of Bombay were placed in charge of a Collector of Conti- 
nental Customs and Excise, and those in Bombay were supervised by 
the Collector of Land Revenue at the presidency. These two officials 
were responsible for the management and collection of the tax; but 
whereas the collector of Bombay had no separate staflf for the pur- 


poses of the salt revenue the Collector of Continental Customs was 
assisted by a deputy-collector and five assistant collectors. These 
arrangements continued until 1854, when the charge of all sea and 
land customs and of the salt excise of the whole presidency was trans- 
ferred to a commissioner, assisted by a European staff of three deputy- 
commissioners and ten uncovenanted assistants, and by an Indian 
staff at each of the chief salt-works. 

In regard to the administration of civil and criminal justice, the 
position in the year 181 2-13 may be briefly described, before pro- 
ceeding to later developments. At that date the possessions of the 
Bombay Government in Gujarat included the towns of Broach, 
Kaira and Surat. In each of those towns was an officer combining 
the functions of criminal judge and magistrate, with an assistant for 
magisterial duties. Above them was a sadr adalat, consisting of three 
judges, which served as a court of circuit and appeal, not only for the 
three above-mentioned places in Gujarat, but also for Salsette, ad- 
joining Bombay Island, which was administered by a single judge. 
For the hearing and disposal of civil causes, a native official, styled 
sadr amin, was appointed to each of the three Gujarat towns and 
Salsette, and an appeal from the decisions of these functionaries also 
lay to the sadr adalat in Surat. In Bombay, as previously mentioned, 
the superior court at this date was that of the recorder, which exercised 
both civil and criminal jurisdiction, while the lower courts were, for 
civil suits, the Small Causes Court for the recovery of debts not 
exceeding Rs. 175, which was established in 1799, and, for criminal 
cases, the courts of the senior, second and third magistrates of police,^ 
which were established by Rule, Ordinance and Regulation i of 181 2, 
and the Court of Petty Sessions, which was opened in the same year.^ 

The development which took place in consequence of the acquisi- 
tions and annexations of 181 8 and following years will be apparent 
from a survey of the provincial judicial arrangements of the year 
1828-9. By that date the system of combining judicial and magis- 
terial powers in one individual had been abolished, and magisterial 
jurisdiction, coupled with control of the police, had been vested in 
the collector of the district. As remarked by Sir John Malcolm, sound 
reasons existed for combining magisterial with revenue or territorial 
jurisdiction ; for under the actual form of administration introduced 
after 1818, the collector alone was in the position to possess full in- 
formation of the state of the district subject to his authority and of the 
character and condition of its inhabitants. ^ On the other hand the 
presidency was handicapped by two confficting systems of judicature, 
represented by the existence in Bombay of the Supreme or King's 
Court, which superseded the Recorder's Court in 1823, and the 

* The third magistrate was not actually appointed till 1830. 

* S. M. Edwardes, The Bombay City Police, pp. 25 sqq.; Bombay City Gazetteer, n, 220 sgq. 

* Minute by Sir J. Malcolm, 10 November, 1830 {Apf)endix, Report of Select Committee 
(Judicial), 1832). 


Company's courts, known as the sadr diwani adalat and the sadr 
faujdari adalat, which had been transferred from Surat to the capital 
of the presidency in 1827, towards the close of the governorship of 
Mountstuart Elphinstone. The Supreme Court had authority by 
letters patent to exercise civil, criminal, equity, admiralty and eccle- 
siastical jurisdiction within the island of Bombay and the factories 
subordinate thereto, and was invested with jurisdiction similar to that 
of the King's Bench in England. The adalats, on the other hand, 
which were wholly independent of the Supreme Court, superintended 
the administration of justice in all places outside the limits of Bombay 
Island. The sadr diwani adalat, consistingof four judges, a "register" 
and an assistant register, had no original jurisdiction, but its de- 
cisions were final except in suits relating to property worth more than 
Rs. 10,000, when an appeal lay to the King in Council; while the 
sadr faujdari adalat, consisting of the junior member of council as 
chief judge and three puisne judges, superintended all criminal and 
police matters in the districts and had power to revise all trials held 
by lower courts outside the limits of Bombay Island. The jury-system 
was confined to the jurisdictional limits of the Supreme Court. 

In Gujarat, under the jurisdiction of the sadr adalat, was a pro- 
vincial court of appeal and circuit, stationed at Surat and composed 
of three judges. This court served as a civil court of appeal, while one 
of the judges attached to it held a sessions every six months at Surat 
and other centres. Sentences of death, transportation, or imprison- 
ment for life passed by this court were subject to confirmation by the 
sadr faujdari adalat. The court was finally abolished in 1830. In each 
of the districts of Broach, Surat and Ahmadabad-Kaira^ was stationed 
a judge for both civil and criminal work, aided by an assistant judge 
or register, who decided such cases as the judge made over to him. 
Subordinate to the judge for the purposes of civil justice, there 
were in each district several munsiffs and in each headquarters town 
one or more sadr amins, who were remunerated by fees. In 1828-9 
the Bombay Presidency contained four sadr amins and seventy-nine 
munsiffs or native commissioners, from whose decisions an appeal lay 
successively to the district judge, to the court of appeal and circuit, 
and finally to the sadr diwani adalat. In criminal cases the district 
judge could award sentences of solitary imprisonment for six months, 
imprisonment with hard labour for seven years, flogging, public dis- 
grace, fine and personal restraint, subject to the proviso that in all 
cases where a sentence of more than two years' imprisonment was 
imposed, a reference had to be made to the court of circuit. Magis- 
terial powers were vested in the collectors of the four districts, 
Ahmadabad, Kaira, Broach and Surat, and extended to sentences of 
fine, simple imprisonment for not more than two months, flogging 

^ For judicial purposes this area was treated as a single district, but as two districts for 
revenue and magisterial work. 


not in excess of thirty stripes, and personal restraint. The native 
district police officers and the village police officers, subordinate to 
the collectors, also possessed limited powers of punishment in trivial 
cases. The former could impose fines not exceeding Rs. 5, or sentence 
delinquents to confinement for not more than eight days or to a period 
of not more than twelve hours in the stocks ; while the latter could 
punish petty cases of assault and abuse by confinement in the village 
chauki for not more than twenty-four hours. ^ 

The Konkan, divided for administrative purposes into North and 
South, was judicially administered on the same lines as Gujarat, 
except that in both portions the criminal sessions were held by one 
of the judges of the sadr faujdari adalat, while in civil matters there 
was no intermediate court of appeal, as in Gujarat, between the 
district (zillah) judge and the sadr diwani adalat in Bombay. Both 
the judges of the North and South Konkan had assistants, to whom 
they delegated such cases as they thought fit.^ 

The Deccan at this date (1828-9) was composed of three col- 
lectorates — Poona including Sholapur, Ahmadnagar and Khandesh. 
The policy of Mountstuart Elphinstone, who was appointed com- 
missioner for the settlement of the Deccan in 181 7 and became 
governor of Bombay two years later, was to interfere as little as possible 
with the system which he found existing in the conquered territory, 
and at the outset, except for modifications of procedure, the Maratha 
arrangements for civil justice were maintained more or less unaltered. 
All complaints that could not be amicably settled were referred in the 
first instance to the collector, who usually directed the mamlatdar to 
enquire into the facts and grant dipanchayat. Occasionally the collector 
or his assistant would hear and decide a case; but his function was 
generally limited to granting a new panchayat in cases where a decision 
appeared to be marked by injustice or to be due to corruption. In 
the course of his tours through his charge, the collector was bound to 
give audience to all classes for two hours daily, receive oral complaints, 
and revise the decisions of the mamlatdar, if this appeared necessary. 
In the large towns like Poona, civil justice was in the hands ofamins, 
who were empowered to grant panchayats and try cases referred to them 
by the collector, whenever both parties consented to this mode of 

In the sphere of criminal justice Elphinstone abolished the pateVs 
punitive powers, and the mamlatdar^ s powers were limited to sentences 
of fine not exceeding Rs. 2, and of confinement for twenty-four hours. 
All other criminal powers were vested in the collector, who corre- 
sponded in this respect to the sarsubehdar under the Maratha govern- 
ment. In practice a prisoner was formally and publicly brought to 

* Minute of John Bax on Judicial and Revenue system of Bombay, i6 June, 1829 
(General Appendix, Report of Select Committee (Parliamentary), 1832). 
2 Idem, pp. 12^ sqq. 

c H I VI «; 


trial before the collector. If found guilty, a sastri was called upon to 
declare the penalty according to Hindu law, which, if considered 
excessive according to European standards, was modified, and if light, 
was accepted by the collector. In Khandesh a kind of jury was 
assembled, which questioned witnesses and pronounced on the guilt 
of the accused ; while in Satara the political agent summoned re- 
spectable residents to serve as assessors at the trial. In all cases native 
exponents of the Hindu law were present in court, and where capital 
sentences or heavy punishment were involved, the collector had to 
report his decision for confirmation to the commissioner. ^ 

This system was shortly afterwards superseded by arrangements 
resembling, though not absolutely identical with, those followed in 
Gujarat. Thus in 1828-9 the Deccan districts were administered for 
judicial purposes by two district judges, one for Poona and Sholapur, 
and the other for Ahmadnagar and Khandesh. Each judge had an 
assistant, one being stationed in Sholapur and the other in Dhulia, 
who were vested with limited penal powers and were bound to refer 
all matters of importance to their superiors. Subject to the general 
authority of the sadr faujdari adalat in Bombay, the two judges held 
regular criminal sessions at Poona and Ahmadnagar, while their 
decisions in civil suits were subject to appeal to the sadr diwani adalat. 
The magisterial powers of the collector and his subordinates were the 
same as in Gujarat, the assistant collector being empowered to try 
such cases as the collector delegated to him, subject to the overriding 
powers of the latter in appeal. 2 

The Carnatic or Southern Maratha country, consisting of Dharwar 
and Belgaum, was administered on rather different lines, as the 
Bombay Regulations, which were published in 1827 and applied to 
the rest of the presidency, were not formally applied to this area till 
1830. The collector for the time being, aided by assistants and a regis- 
trar, exercised all the civil and criminal functions which elsewhere 
were performed by the separate departments of district judge, criminal 
judge and magistrate. Even after the application of the regulations 
in 1830, the oflftces of political agent, collector, judge and sessions judge 
were still united in one individual, while the assistant judge at 
Dharwar was vested with the powers of an assistant at detached 
stations (e.g. Dhulia) in other parts of the presidency. The civil and 
criminal work of the district was, however, placed under the general 
supervision of the sadr adalat, the criminal side of which served, as 
in the case of the Konkan, as a court of circuit. This difference of 
treatment probably was due to the fact that the management of the 
Southern Maratha country after 18 13 was conducted mainly by 
officers of the Madras Presidency, notwithstanding that the area con- 
cerned was nominally under the authority of Bombay. The district of 

* M. Elphinstone, Report on the Territories conquered from the Peshwa, Calcutta, 1821. 

• Report, Select Committee on Affairs of East India Company, 1832. 

REFORMS OF 1830 67 

Dharwar, including Belgaum, was permanently assigned to Bombay 
in 1830, when the Bombay regulations were formally applied to it. 

The judicial system in 1828-9, outlined above, had certain pro- 
minent defects, which may be summarised as absence of superin- 
tendence and supervision in the Deccan, and lack of homogeneity in 
the arrangements followed in the four main divisions of the presidency, 
viz. Gujarat, the Deccan, the Konkan and the Garnatic. A revision 
of the system, however, occurred in 1830, which resulted in the wider 
employment of Indians in the administration of civil law and in the 
duties of the English civil servant being limited to a greater extent 
than previously to the control and supervision of the inferior agents 
of government. By the end of that year almost all original civil suits 
had been made over for trial to natives of India, and special judicial 
commissioners were appointed for Gujarat and the Deccan, who 
toured throughout those areas and heard all complaints in regard 
to the administration of justice. Simultaneously the magisterial 
powers of the collector, assistant collector, and mamlatdar were ex- 
tended, and the collector, as chief revenue official of the district, was 
also empowered to take civil cognisance of suits relating to land and 
to decide claims and disputes regarding ownership, etc., subject to an 
appeal to the district judge. 

For the purposes of the ordinary revenue and judicial administra- 
tion of the districts outside the town and island of Bombay, the civil 
service cadre in 1828-9 was composed of six district judges, ten 
assistant district judges, ten collectors with magisterial powers, one 
sub-collector and magistrate, ten assistant collectors, seventy-nine 
^^ koomashdars^^ (i.e. kamavisdars or mamlatdars), four sadr amins, and 
seventy-nine munsiffs. At headquarters in Bombay were the chief 
judge and three puisne judges of the sadr adalat, a registrar, two 
secretaries and one deputy-secretary to government, an accountant- 
general, a sub-treasurer, a mint master and civil auditor, and a post- 
master-general. The Bombay Government consisted of the governor 
and three members of council, of whom one was usually the com- 
mander-in-chief of the Bombay army and the other two were civil 
servants of more than ten years' standing.^ 

By an act of 1807 the governor and council had been given the same 
power of making regulations, subject to approval by the Supreme and 
the Recorder's Courts, as had previously been vested in the Bengal 
Government, and the same power of appointing justices of the peace. 
By 1833 Bombay possessed a large code of regulations, commencing 
with Mountstuart Elphinstone's revised code of 1827, which embodied 
the results of twenty-eight years' previous legislation. This code had 
force and validity throughout the whole presidency, beyond the 
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. 

As regards other departments of the Bombay administration at this 

^ Report, Select Committee on Affairs of East India Company, 1832. 



date (1830) mention has already been made of the salt-revenue 
arrangements. The sea-customs administration was in charge of the 
Collector of Land Revenue in Bombay and of a custom-master and 
his deputy in Gujarat. A custom-master stationed in Salsette super- 
vised the customs of the two divisions of the Konkan, and in order to 
save the expense of establishments both the Gujarat and the Konkan 
customs were farmed out at this date. The post-office was still in its 
infancy and was little used by the Indian public. The mail was carried 
by runners; and government dispatches, which were conveyed free, 
were said in 1832 to exceed in bulk all private communications sent 
by post. ^ This is hardly surprising, when one remembers that it cost 
a rupee to send a letter from Bombay to Calcutta. It was not until 
the governor-generalship of Lord Dalhousie that the old inefficient 
postal arrangements were swept away and a uniform half-anna postal 
rate was introduced. 

The educational administration of the Bombay Government at the 
opening of the nineteenth century was restricted to the grant of 
financial and moral support to the Bombay Education Society. In 
1822 this society decided to confine its activities to the education of 
European and Eurasian children, and thus indirectly gave birth to 
the Bombay Native Education Society, which became merged in 1840 
in a Board of Education. From that year till 1855 this society shared 
with various English and American missionary bodies the whole 
burden of the educational administration. It opened primary schools 
in the Konkan, Deccan, and Gujarat and trained masters to staff them. 
The experiment of placing these schools under the control of the 
collectors of the districts was tried in 1832, but proved unsatisfactory; 
and as it appeared likely that the management of the schools would 
suffer in the absence of a special supervising agency, a Board of 
Education was established in 1840, composed of a president and three 
European members nominated by the Bombay Government and three 
Indian members appointed by the Native Education Society. From 
1840 to 1855 this board directed the educational administration of 
the presidency, which was divided for this purpose into three divisions, 
each under a European inspector and an Indian assistant. In 1852 the 
Bombay Government increased its subsidy to the board from i J to 
2 J lakhs of rupees, whereupon the latter undertook to open a school 
in any village of the presidency, provided that the inhabitants were 
prepared to pay half the salary of the master and to provide a school- 
room and books. The opening and maintenance of girls' schools was 
still left to private enterprise; but with that exception the system 
founded by the board anticipated in many respects the principles laid 
down in the famous dispatch of the court of directors in 1854. It had 
prepared the way for a university by establishing institutions for the 
teaching of literature, law, medicine, and engineering, and had 

* Appendix to Report, Select Committee on Affairs of East India Company, 1832. 



introduced a system of primary schools, administered by the govern- 
ment, but mainly supported by the people themselves. These schools, 
indeed, formed the germ of the later Local Fund school system.^ 
Finally, in 1855, after receipt of orders from the governor-general 
in council on the directors' dispatch of 1854, the department of 
Public Instruction was formed with a full staff of educational and 
deputy educational inspectors. The further progress of the educational 
administration belongs to the period following the Mutiny and the 
assumption by the crown of full responsibility for the government of 

Before dealing with the administrative changes which marked the 
second half of the nineteenth century, the police system of the pre- 
sidency prior to 1858 deserves brief notice. As regards the town and 
island of Bombay, where the police arrangements differed ab initio 
from those prevailing in the rest of the presidency, it has already been 
stated that the earliest force for watch-and-ward was a militia, re- 
cruited about 1673 as a supplement to the regular garrison and 
composed chiefly of Bhandaris and other Hindus of lower caste. This 
force was commanded by native officers (subehdars) , who were posted 
at the more important points in the island. In 1771 this militia was 
relieved of military duties and formed into night patrols; but it 
proved so ineffective in preventing crime that it was reorganised in 
1779 and placed under the control of a European officer, styled first 
"lieutenant", then "Deputy of Police", and finally, in 1793, "Super- 
intendent of Police". The force at this date was composed of twenty- 
eight European constables and 130 nsitive peons. The continuance of 
serious crime and the gross inefficiency of this force led to the publi- 
cation in 18 1 2 of a regulation, vesting the control of police matters 
in three Magistrates of Police, assisted by a "Deputy of Police and 
Head Constable" as executive head of the force. This arrangement 
likewise produced little or no amelioration of conditions, despite a 
gradual increase in the numerical strength of the police force, which 
was controlled from 1835 to 1855 by a succession of junior officers 
chosen from the Company's military establishment. These officers, 
who were styled "Superintendents", possessed little or no aptitude 
for police work, were poorly paid for their services, and had no real 
encouragement to make their mark in civil employ. By 1855 the 
public outcry against police inefficiency and corruption had become 
so insistent, that Lord Elphinstone's government was obliged to hold 
an enquiry; and, after drastic punishment of the offenders, a new act 
(XIII of 1856) was passed for the future constitution and regulation 
of the urban force. A district police officer, of unusual capability, was 
appointed superintendent of the force; and he managed by 1865, 
when the title of the appointment was changed to that of Commis- 
sioner of Police, to bring crime under control and to lay the founda- 

^ Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island, iii, 103 sqq. 


tions of the efficient organisation now known as the Bombay City 
Police. 1 

The modern Bombay district police includes, as an essential part 
of its organisation, the ancient institution of the village watch, which 
consists of^ the patel, who is responsible for the police of his village, and 
the village watchman, whose duty it is to keep watch at night, find 
out arrivals and departures, watch all strangers, and report all sus- 
picious persons to the patel. Under native rule the patel was in the 
position of a police magistrate, and the watchman, who worked under 
his orders, was bound to know the character of every man in the 
village. When a theft occurred within village bounds, it was the 
watchman's business to find the thief 

He was enabled to do this by his early habits of inquisitiveness and observation, 
as well as by the nature of his allowance, which, being partly a small share of the 
grain and similar property belonging to each house, required him to be always on 
the watch to ascertain his fees, and always in motion to gather them. On the 
occurrence of a theft or robbery, he would often track the thief by his footsteps, 
and if he did this to another village, so as to satisfy the watchman there, or if he 
otherwise traced the property to an adjoining village, his responsibility ended. It 
then became the duty of the watchman of the new village to take up the pursuit. 
The last village to which the thief had been clearly traced became answerable for 
the property stolen, which would otherwise have had to be accounted for by the 
village in which the robbery was committed. The watchman was expected to con- 
tribute as much as his means allowed to the value of the goods stolen, and the 
balance was levied on the whole village. Only in particular cases was restoration 
of the full value of the property insisted upon. A fine was usually levied ; and neglect 
or connivance was punished by transferring the grant or inam of the patel or the 
watchman to his nearest relative, by fine, by imprisonment in irons, or by severe 
corporal punishment.^ 

This responsibility was necessary, as, after the decline of the Moghul 
power, the old police system fell into great disorder. Petty chiefs and 
zamindars, no longer fearing reprisals from above, took to ravaging 
and plundering their neighbours' lands, and their example was 
folld'wed by the village police. Most of the latter became thieves 
themselves, and many of the patels harboured criminals and connived 
at crime. Under the rule of the first six Peshwas, the village police 
were under the control of the mamlatdar or kamavisdar of the division 
or district; but after the accession of the last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, 
a new class of police inspector, styled tapasnavis, was created for the 
purpose of criminal investigation. These officials, who were inde- 
pendent of the mamlatdar, proved for the most part inefficient and 
almost invariably corrupt. 

When the East India Company first addressed itself to the task of 
administering the presidency, it retained the old village police system, 
but reformed it to the extent of transferring all police authority to the 
collector and magistrate and dividing each district into small police- 
circles, each of which was in charge of a daroga or head constable. The 

* S. M. Edwardes, The Bombay City Police, pp. 1-53. 

* Imperial Gazetteer of Indian Provincial Series, Bombay Presidency, i, 119. 


daroga was in command of about thirty armed men and also exercised 
authority over the village police. This system, which disregarded the 
patel and converted the watchman from a village servant into an ill- 
paid and disreputable subordinate of the daroga, proved an expensive 
failure and was abolished in 18 14 on the representations of Mount- 
stuart Elphinstone and Munro. When, therefore, he commenced the 
task of settling the Deccan in 181 8, Elphinstone insisted upon keeping 
the police powers of the mamlatdar and the patel as far as possible 
unimpaired, though all superior powers and authority were vested in 
the collector. The mamlatdar, whose duty it was to see that the villages 
acted in concert and with activity, was permitted, as previously, the 
use ofsilahdars (auxiliary horse) and sihbandis (militia) , with the double 
object of strengthening his position in keeping the peace and of pro- 
viding employment for the idle and needy. The practice of levying 
the value of property stolen was also retained for a time in a modified 
form calculated to obviate undue hardship. But the power of the 
mamlatdar and the patel to confine suspects for an unlimited period was 
abolished ; and, in general, the whole district and village system was 
improved by the closer and more constant supervision exercised by 
the European collector.^ 

The indigenous village agency controlled by the collector and 
magistrate, which lasted until 1848, was soon found inadequate for 
the miscellaneous duties imposed upon the district police agency, 
such, for example, as guard duty and escort duty. Moreover, it was 
incapable of dealing effectively with popular outbreaks and dis- 
turbances. Consequently the Bombay Government was obliged to 
augment the force in charge of the collector by additional corps 
commanded by military officers ; and it was from these corps, raised 
from time to time in emergencies, that the semi-military district 
police of modern times originated. Among the most noteworthy of 
these auxiliary police-forces were the Khandesh Bhil corps, raised and 
trained by Outram between 1825 ^^^ 1830 J the Ahmadnagar police 
corps, established by Sir John Malcolm's order in 1828, which did 
good service in the Ramosi rising of 1826-32 ; the Ratnagiri Rangers, 
formed in 1830 to oppose raids of Ramosis; the Thana Rangers and 
Ghat light infantry, established in 1833; the Surat Sihbandis, formed 
in 1834 on the model of the Thana corps; and the Gujarat Cooly 
(Koti) corps, which was raised by Lieutenant Leckie in 1838. Down 
to the year 1852, these corps took no part in ordinary police work, 
being confined in times of peace to the supply of escorts and treasury- 
guards, and in times of disturbance to the restoration and main- 
tenance of peace by force of arms. 

In 1848 the governor of Bombay, Sir G. Clerk, paid a visit to the 
recently conquered province of Sind, and there found that Sir Charles 
Napier had organised, on the model of the Irish constabulary, a new 

* Imperial Gazetteer (1907), vol. iv; Mountstuart Elphinstone, Report on the Territories 
conquered from the Peshwa; J. S. Cotton, Mountstuart Elphinstone. 


police system, the salient features of which were its separation from 
the revenue administration, the severance of police and magisterial 
functions, and a considerable standard of discipline. It appeared to 
the governor decidedly superior in its working to the system pre- 
vaiUng in the rest of the presidency, which was frequently denounced 
between 1825 and 1832, and in later years, as productive of corruption 
and inefficiency. Accordingly, in 1852 the arrangements prevaiUng 
in Sind were extended to the rest of the presidency; the commandants 
of the various police corps were appointed "district superintendents of 
police"; and, subject to the general control of the collector as district 
magistrate, they took over all executive police work from the revenue 
authorities. This was followed in 1855 by the appointment of a com- 
missioner of police for the whole presidency; but in response to 
representations from the collectors, this post was permitted to lapse 
on the retirement of the incumbent in i860, and the general super- 
intendence of the district police was then entrusted to the two revenue 
commissioners of the presidency. In the same year a commission was 
appointed to enquire into police administration and recommended the 
establishment of a well-organised and purely civil constabulary, super- 
vised by European officers and charged with all civil police duties, 
including the supply of guards and escorts. The village police were to 
be retained on the existing footing and brought into direct relation- 
ship with the civil constabulary. These recommendations were 
eventually embodied in the District Police Act of 1867, which re- 
mained in force until 1 890, when it was superseded by a new act. The 
latter act was extended to Sind in 1902. It only remains to remark 
that the experiment of placing the general superintendence of the 
police administration in the hands of the revenue commissioners 
proved unsuccessful, as these officials, even when their number was 
increased to three after i860, were far too busy to supervise effectively 
the work of the police; and ultimately in the year 1885 the adminis- 
trative control of the district police of the presidency, excluding Sind, 
was vested in a single official styled " the Inspector-General of Police ". 
In the year 1855-6, just prior to the Mutiny, the Bombay Presidency 
was divided for judicial purposes into eight districts (zillahs), and for 
revenue purposes into thirteen collectorates, exclusive of the island of 
Bombay. The total number of judicial officers was: three judges of 
the sadr adalat, exercising both civil (diwani) and criminal (faujdari) 
jurisdiction ; eight district and sessions judges ; three senior assistant 
judges at detached stations, who were usually invested with the same 
powers in routine matters as a district and sessions judge ; six assistant 
district and sessions judges; seven principal sadr aminSy whose juris- 
diction was limited to civil suits of Rs. 10,000; thirteen sadr amins, 
who could try original suits involving sums of Rs. 5000 or less ; and 
seventy-three munsiffs. A reform of the official estabUshments of these 
native judges was carried out during the year mentioned above, and 
as a result the subordinates of the native courts, who previously had 


been mere dependents of the native judges, paid by them and liable 
to dismissal at their pleasure, became servants of the state, paid by 
the Bombay Government and looking to the latter for employment 
and promotion. Magisterial work was performed by the collector and 
his assistants, in their respective capacities of district and assistant 
magistrates, both being empowered to award sentences of imprison- 
ment, with hard labour, not exceeding one year. All sentences, 
however, of more than three months' imprisonment by an assistant 
magistrate required the confirmation of the district authority. 

The administrative arrangements established in Sind, in 1847, 
differed in several respects from those of the rest of the Bombay 
Presidency. The head of the local executive administration in all its 
branches was the Commissioner in Sind, and the province was divided 
into three collectorates — Karachi, Hyderabad and Shikarpur, and 
two small independent revenue charges — -the North-Western Frontier 
and the Nagar Parkar district. Like the collectors in other parts of 
the presidency, the collectors in Sind possessed magisterial powers; 
but they differed from the former in presiding also over the adminis- 
tration of justice in the civil and criminal courts. They were assisted 
by deputy-collectors in charge of the subdivisions of the several 
collectorates, while the North-Western Frontier districts were under 
a Political Superintendent, who was also military commandant, aided 
by an assistant superintendent, whose powers and duties corresponded 
to those of the deputy-collector in the other districts. The Thar and 
Parkar district was managed until 1 856 by the assistant political agent 
in Gutch, and afterwards by an officer corresponding to the collector. 
For a few years after the conquest the revenue in Sind was collected 
in grain by actual division of the crop, the grain being then sold by 
the government at auction for artificially high prices. The natural 
tone of the market was seriously upset by this practice and was further 
disorganised by the habit of drawing grain for the troops at nominal 
prices from the government grain stores. By 1855-6, however, this 
objectionable system had been superseded in several districts by cash 
assessments, which were gradually adopted throughout the whole of 
Sind. The rules under which the revenues of that province were at 
this date collected were not defined by law, as in other parts of the 
presidency, and were determined by the commissioner in Sind with 
the approval and sanction of the Bombay Government.^ 

The jail system of the presidency had formed the subject of a 
special enquiry as early as 1 834, when regulations were issued for the 
improvement of prison discipline. The early Indian jail system was 
justly described as insanitary, demoralising, and non-deterrent, and 
was responsible for the appointment in 1838 of a commission which 
recommended radical reforms. Financial stringency, however, pre- 
vented these being carried out, and no appreciable change for the 
better took place until the appointment in 1855 of an Inspector- 

^ Report on the Administration of Public Affairs in the Bombay Presidency for 1855-6. 


General of Prisons in each presidency and the psissing of Act VIII of 
1856, which reheved the judges of the sadr faujdari adalat from the 
charge of jails. These measures led directly to improvements in jail 
buildings and in the discipline and health of prisoners. Subsequent 
progress in this department belongs to the period succeeding the 
appointment of a second Prisons Commission in 1864. 

The history of the pre-Mutiny period of the administration involves 
a brief reference to the Public Works, and the Ecclesiastical and 
Medical Departments. For several years the administration of the 
former was carried on under great disadvantages, owing to the want 
of experienced civil engineers. The court of directors endeavoured to 
relieve the difficulty by occasionally sending to Bombay a batch of 
men "with more or less experience in civil engineering", and at times, 
e.g. in 1855, the Bombay Government was able to secure in the 
country the services of a few professionally educated civil engineers. 
But the whole agency at their disposal was "lamentably small", and 
the department was not organised on a satisfactory basis until after 
the assumption of direct authority by the crown. ^ The Ecclesiastical 
Department owed its origin to the determination of the directors in 
early factory days to provide for the spiritual needs of their servants 
in India ; and as the number of these and of the European troops 
increased, the ecclesiastical establishment likewise expanded, until in 
1855-6 the number of clergy appointed for the Bombay diocese 
amounted to thirty-two. Subject to the general control of the govern- 
ment, the chaplains were directly subordinate to the bishop of the see, 
the first bishop of Bombay, Dr Carr, having been installed in 1838.^ 
The medical administration was likewise evolved from the system 
adopted in early days by the East India Company of sending 
" chirurgeons " from England for the care of their servants and troops 
in the "factories" and on the vessels trading with the East. The 
surgeons serving on the Company's Indiamen were often utilised 
in emergencies in India, as for example during the Maratha War 
of 1780, and to fill vacancies among their professional brethren 
attached to the factories and out-stations. The formation of these 
scattered medical officers in India into a single body, the Indian 
Medical Service, dates roughly from 1 764, the service being divided 
two years later (1766) into two branches, military and civil. Those 
in the latter branch were regarded as primarily army medical officers, 
lent temporarily for civil duties — an arrangement which was con- 
firmed in 1788 during the governor-generalship of Lord Cornwallis. 
The most important administrative change prior to the Mutiny con- 
sisted in throwing open the service to Indians in 1853 through the 
medium of competitive examinations, of which the first was held in 

^ Rep>ort on the Administration of Public Affairs in the Bombay Presidency for 1 855-6. 
* Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island^ 111, 245. 




,/\ VERY brief chronological resume of the successive territorial 
acquisitions which in less than a century extended the political 
responsibilities of the East India Company from the boundaries of 
Bengal to Peshawar is a necessary introduction to a study of adminis- 
trative development in the three areas, each approximately 100,000 
square miles, which are now officially known as the United Provinces, 
the Central Provinces, and the Panjab; and which will hereafter be 
collectively referred to as "the three provinces", (i) The districts 
around Benares were ceded in 1 775 by the ruler of Oudh, and (2) the 
" Ceded territories ", comprising most of the present United Provinces 
exclusive of Oudh, by his successor in 1801.^ (3) In 1803 Sindhia, 
the defeated Maratha chief, yielded the "Conquered territories", 
lying to the north of the last-mentioned tract and extending west of 
the Jumna ; and in the same year a portion of Bundelkhand was 
obtained from the Peshwa.^ (4) The successful Gurkha War of i8i6 
added the northern hill districts of the United Provinces, and (5) in 
1 81 8, after the third Maratha War, the Bhonsla raja of Nagpur 
surrendered the Sagar and Narbada territories, except a small area 
in the north already ceded by the Peshwa in 181 7.^ They are now 
included in the Central Provinces. (6) In 1809 the Sikh states to the 
east of the Satlej placed themselves under British protection. This 
arrangement was in practice coupled with a claim to escheat in 
favour of the suzerain on failure of heirs, and it led to gradual minor 
annexations up to 1846, the year which saw the conclusion of the 
first Sikh War. The remaining states, mostly very petty in status and 
area, were subsequently absorbed, except six of importance, which 
still survive as feudatories.* (7) The same year saw the acquisition of 
the Jalandhar Doab, the plain country between the rivers Satlej and 
Beas, together with an adjacent hilly tract. (8) The second Sikh War 
resulted in 1849 in the annexation of the Panjab up to the present 

1 Baden Powell, Land Systems of British India, i, 63; Field, Regulations of the Bengal Code, 
1875, pp. 9, 10; Administration Report of North-West Provinces, 1882-3, PP* 29, 30; Adm. Rep. 
of United Provinces, 1911-12,?. 14. 

2 Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 64; Field, op. cit. p. 15; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. pp. 30, 31. 

3 Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 68, 69; Imperial Gazetteer, x, 17; Adm. Rep. Central Provinces, 
1882-3, P- J I ; Adm. Rep. JV.-W. Provs. p. 32; House of Commons Papers, xviii, 533. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 43; Adm. Rep. M.-W. Provs. 1882-3, PP- 31-35 Adm. Rep. Panjab, 
1882-3, PP- 16-17; Panjab Settlement Manual, pp. 5, 6; Ibbetson, Settlement Report ofKarnal, 
p. 35- 


north-western frontier. ^ (9) In 1853 the Nagpur and Jhansi states 
lapsed to the British Government, 2 while (lo) Berar was assigned to 
it by the Nizam of Hyderabad and has been in its possession ever 
since.* (11) The process of expansion was completed in 1856 by the 
annexation of Oudh.* 

In 1836 the tracts (i) to (4) in the above resume were formed into 
the North-Western Provinces with an administration under a lieu- 
tenant-governor separate from that of Bengal, and to it tract (5) was 
attached until 1861, when it was included in the present Central 
Provinces, then newly formed under a chief commissioner. ^ The 
cis-Satlej states and the Jalandhar Doab, nos. (6) and (7), were after 
1846 each placed under a commissioner directly subordinate to the 
Government of India, and subsequently to the Resident at Lahore; 
but in 1849 they were absorbed in the new province of the Panjab.^ 
The lapsed state of Nagpur was included in the Central Provinces in 
1861, while Jhansi passed to the North-Western Provinces. Berar was 
administered by a commissioner until 1903, when it was attached to 
the Central Provinces.'' In 1858 the districts west of the Jumna, 
ceded in 1803 and known as the Delhi territory, were transferred 
from the North-Western Provinces to the Panjab,^ and from the latter 
in 1 90 1 the present North-West-Frontier Province was separated. 
Oudh on annexation was placed under a chief commissioner, the 
charge being amalgamated with the lieutenant-governorship of the 
North-Western Provinces in 1877.^ The combined areas are now 
officially known as the United Provinces (of Agra and Oudh) . 

The distinction between regulation and non-regulation areas, once 
of importance, has long since been practically obsolete. In 1 793^^ 
Lord Cornwallis, in pursuance of statutory legislative powers then 
existing, issued a revised code of forty-eight regulations for the presi- 
dency of Bengal, and it is this body of legislation which, with sub- 
sequent additions, was specifically known as the Bengal Regulations. 
In 1795 they were extended, together with the permanent settlement, 
to the Benares districts. ^^ To subsequent acquisitions, if formally 
included in the Bengal Presidency, the regulations applied auto- 

^ Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 70, 71 ; Adm. Rep. Panjaby 1882-3, PP- 28, 31. 
' Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 65-9; Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 1882-3, P- 1 1- 
' Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 49 and iii, 345; Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 1911-12, p. 17; Lord 
Dalhousie's Minute of 28 February, 1856, para. i8. 

* H.ofC. Papers, 1856, vol. xlv; Field, op. cit. p. 10; Adm. Rep. N.-IV. Provs. p. 34. 

* Field, op. cit. p. 15; Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 36; Government of India Resolution of 
2 November, 1861 ; Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 191 1-12, p. 1 1. 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1911-12, pp. 17-18. 

' Baden Powell, op. cit. iii, 346; Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 191 1-12, p. 18. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 45; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. p. 34; Adm. Rep. Punjab, 191 1-12, 
p. 20. 

' Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 42; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. p. 34. 

^" Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 81 ; Field, op. cit. pp. vi, 42; Fifth Report of Select Committee 
of House of Commons, 1812; Moral and Material Progress Report, 1882-3, p. 34; Campbell, 
Modern India, 1852, p. 34. 

^^ Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, p. 15; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 63; Fifth Report, 1812. 


matically in the absence of any special prescription to the contrary. 
For others there was, up to 1833, no legislative machinery, and all 
rules and ordinances needed for purposes of administration were 
issued by the governor-general purely in his executive capacity.^ 
Moreover, he was unfettered in the selection and recruitment of 
necessary staff, whereas in the presidency territories all offices had 
under statute to be filled by covenanted civil servants of the Com- 
pany. ^ The distinction favoured elasticity, rendering it possible to 
adapt the form of administration in new territories to diverse local 
conditions and to avoid undue complexity in backward tracts. Of 
the successive acquisitions enumerated above, (i), (2), (3) and (4) 
only were attached to the Bengal Presidency, and to these, except (4) 
and the Delhi territory,^ the regulations as a whole were applied, 
though with needful local modifications. The legislative changes made 
in 1833 have been noticed elsewhere. It was not until 1861 that 
regular legislation was possible for territories acquired after 1833.* 
For such, up to the later year, rules and ordinances were issued by 
the governor-general and by provincial authorities in their executive 

The type of administrative machinery which Lord Gornwallis's 
apprehension of the abuse of executive power led him to create in 
Bengal has already been described.^ The chief official in a district 
was the judge and magistrate. He disposed of civil litigation and of 
minor criminal cases, committing the more serious to the provincial 
courts of appeal and circuit, which were in turn subject to the control 
of the chief civil and criminal courts at Calcutta. The collector of the 
district was an almost purely fiscal officer, his sole function being the 
collection of revenue with prompt enforcement of penalties in case of 
default ; while most of his proceedings were open to challenge in the 
courts of his own district.^ 

This system, together with the regulations, was extended to the 
"Ceded territories" in 1803, and in 1805 to the "Conquered terri- 
tories" and to the Bundelkhand districts of Banda and Hamirpur;' 
the whole of these areas being placed under the direct control of the 
governor-general and subjected to the jurisdiction of the Calcutta 
courts. They were known as the Upper Provinces. This organisation 
was retained with little alteration until the period 1829-35, when 
drastic changes, similar in Bengal and in the Upper Provinces, were 
made by Lord William Bentinck. A new class of officers, designated 

^ Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 82. 

2 Imperial Gazette, iv, 42; 33 Geo. Ill, c. 52; Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, p. 36. 

^ Ibbetson, op. cit. p. 38, 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 89. 

5 Gf. vol. V, pp. 453 sqq., supra. 

« Bengal Reg. 11 of 1793; Adm. Rep. Bengal, 1911-12, p. 41; Field, op. cit. p. 172; 
Kaye, History of the Administration of the East India Company, 1853, pp. 387 sqq.-, Gampbell, 
op. cit. p. 180; Fifth Report, 181 2. 

' Field, op. cit. pp. 147-8. 


commissioners of divisions, was created, a division being an area of 
four or five districts and thus not too large for efficient supervision. 
The commissioners exercised full powers of control in all branches of 
fiscal, executive, and police work, being subject as regards the first to 
a board of revenue at Calcutta ; while in order to relieve the pro- 
vincial courts of appeal and circuit, which were congested with arrears, 
their criminal jurisdiction as courts of circuit was transferred to the 
new officers.^ In the next place, the unworkable extension which the 
limits of the jurisdiction of the principal courts at Calcutta had under- 
gone, as a result of the expansion of territory, necessitated the creation 
in 1 83 1 of similar separate courts at Agra for the Upper Provinces. 2 
To these new courts was transferred the remaining civil jurisdiction 
of the provincial courts, which thus came to an end in 1833. Finally, 
owing to the excessive burden which criminal jurisdiction on circuit 
was soon found to be imposing on the commissioners, it was trans- 
ferred to the district judges, who thus became in addition circuit, or 
sessions judges, while their magisterial powers, being incompatible 
with their new functions, were passed on to the collectors. The 
collector was thus invested with combined judicial and executive 
powers under the designation of magistrate and collector.^ The union 
has been retained up to the present day, except for a temporary return 
to separation in Bengal during the period 1837-59.* A subordinate 
Indian judiciary, with a more or less defined jurisdiction, had been 
growing up since the early period of British rule from among persons 
who were regularly employed as a semi-official paid agency for arbi- 
tration in civil suits. ^ In 1831 Lord William Bentinck increased its 
strength, raised its status, and enhanced its powers, so that it was soon 
dealing in courts of first instance with the greater part of the whole 
volume of civil litigation. It was in fact the forerunner of the modern 
provincial services. The criminal branch of the judiciary was also 
strengthened by the appointment, under an act of 1843, of persons, 
both European and Indian, other than covenanted civil servants of 
the Company to the post of deputy-magistrate.^ 

Lawlessness prevailed in the Upper Provinces for a long period after 
their annexation, and several years passed before insurgents ceased to 
disturb the Doab, the tract lying between the rivers Ganges and 
Jumna. The Pindaris were troublesome; the crime of thagi, described 
elsewhere, was rife; and pirates preyed on the river trade-routes. As 
late as 181 7 the fortress of Hathras in the Doab had to be reduced 

* Reg. 1 of 1829; Baden Powell, o/>. cit. i, 666; Field, o/>.«/. pp. 132, 154; //. ofC. Papers^ 
18^1-2, vol. xii; Kaye, op. cit. p. 347; Campbell, op. cit. p. 257. 

* Bengal Reg. vi of 1831 ; Field, op. cit. p. 149; Kaye, op. cit. p. 349. 

' Field, op. cit. p. 154; Kaye, op. cit. p. 348; Adm. Rep. Bengal, 191 1-12, p. 45. 

* Field, op. cit. p. 155; Canipbell, op. cit. pp. 2'igsqq.; Adm. Rep. Bengal, 191 1-12, p. 46. 
' Bengal Reg. xl of 1793; Field, op. cit. pp. 144, 156-9; Kaye, op. cit. p. 350; Adm. Rep. 

Bengal, 191 1-12, pp. 42, 45. 

* Field, op. cit. p. 159; Kaye, op. cit. p. 351 ; Adm. Rep. Bengal, 191 1-12, p. 46. 


by siege, and gang robbery was very prevalent about Saharanpur, 
while marauders from Central India infested the south-western 
frontier. By 1830, however, some degree of permanent peace was 
established. 1 During this period, and indeed for many years later, 
the district police system was merely a modified survival from the 
days of indigenous rule, when the maintenance of order in rural tracts 
was the duty of influential local land-holders and village communities ; 
while in large towns the responsibility lay on the kotwal, a government 
official who was in receipt of a substantial salary with many per- 
quisites, and who also provided his own staff. ^ In 1793 Lord Corn- 
wallis abolished the police duties of the zamindars of Bengal and 
appointed Indian police officers, termed darogas, each of whom, with 
a small force of armed men under the control of the district magis- 
trate, was placed in charge of an area some twenty miles square.^ 
This system was extended in due course to the Upper Provinces, 
though there the local responsibility of land-holders was maintained. 
For the preservation of law and order the district magistrate thus had 
under him a loosely organised body of purely local police and an 
agency of village watchmen, who were the dependents of land-holders 
and of village communities.* The darogas were paid partly by fixed 
salaries and partly by fees for each dacoit (gang-robber) arrested, 
with a percentage on the value of stolen property recovered, provided 
that the thief was convicted. ^ The system, though some improvement 
on its predecessor, was inefficient, while the magistrate, amid his 
judicial duties, was unable to supervise it properly. An attempt to 
improve it was made in 1829 by giving the new commissioners powers 
of control and superintendence. The wide prevalence of thagi and 
dacoity, for the suppression of which special agency had to be 
employed, clearly indicated the inadequacy of the existing system of 
district police. Such as it was, it continued without much change 
until 1 86 1. 

The general criminal law enforced in the Upper Provinces until 
the enactment of the present Indian Penal Code in i860 was, as in 
Bengal, Muhammadan law, very extensively altered as time went on 
by British regulations and judicial decisions.^ Some punishments had 
to be modified so as to render them deterrent rather than vindictive ; 
others, too lenient for serious offences, had to be made more severe. 
For many crimes, with which the Islamic system did not deal, addi- 
tional provision had to be made; while fantastic rules of procedure 

^ Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, p. 11. 

2 Imp. Gaz. II, 382-6; Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- 7^> Campbell, op. cit. p. 79; 
Report of Indian Police Commission, 1903, chap, i, pp. 4 sqq. 

^ Bengal Reg. i of 1 793, viii (4) , and xxvii of 1 795, v (4) ; Imp. Gaz. and Moral and Mat. 
Prog. Rep. loc. cit. 

* Bengal Reg. xx of 1 8 1 7 ; Campbell, op. cit. pp. 442 sqq. ; H. o/Q. Papers, 1 857-8, XLin, 75. 

^ Report of Indian Police Commission, 1903, p. 6. 

« Field, op. cit. p. 175; H. ofC. Papers, 1856, vol. xxv; Whitley Stokes, The Anglo-Indian 
Codes, I, 2. 


and evidence were abolished. Under such conditions the criminal 
law gradually became unmanageable in its bulk and complexity. In 
civil litigation questions of inheritance, marriage, caste, and other 
semi-religious matters were decided by Quranic law for Muham- 
madans and by the prescriptions of the sastras for Hindus. In cases of 
succession to landed estates, established custom, if such there were, 
was followed ; while in matters other than the above the courts were 
enjoined to act in accordance with equity.^ 

Fiscal necessity quickly and naturally focussed the attention of a 
new government on the assessment and collection of revenue, especially 
revenue from land. The requirements of this earliest branch of 
administrative activity went far to mould the framework of the whole 
administrative organisation and to determine its shape and character. 

The origin and nature of Indian land-revenue, and the Permanent 
Settlement of Bengal, have been described in another part of this 
work. Up to a time shortly before 1818 the views of British adminis- 
trators on land-revenue questions were dominated by the principles 
of that settlement. Its extension to the "Ceded" and "Conquered 
territories" was contemplated after their annexation, and indeed 
promised in 18072 subject to the sanction of the home authorities. 
But the directors, now grown doubtful about the propriety of the 
Bengal system and to some extent conscious of the prevailing ig- 
norance of the real nature of Indian conditions, hesitated to give their 
approval; and in 181 1, after local investigation by a Board of Com- 
missioners appointed in 1807, they definitely prohibited a permanent 
settlement, while directing the continuance of the system of provisional 
short-term settlements which had been made periodically since the 
annexations.^ These, based on no very definite principles, except that 
the state was entitled to the entire net assets of land, less a small 
allowance for the cost of collection, were far from being satisfactory, 
since the revenue to be paid was determined without actual enquiry 
into resources and income and mainly with reference to the excessive 
exactions of the displaced Indian rulers.* 

Assessment was often no more than the mere acceptance of the 
highest bid of a revenue farmer without regard to the rights of actual 
cultivators or of other persons, about which indeed little, if any, satis- 
factory enquiry was made. Harsh methods of revenue collection, 
adopted from the Bengal system and involving immediate sale of an 
estate on default in payment, aggravated the mischief, and often 
caused an inequitable loss of rights and interests in land, which 

1 Field, op. cit. pp. lyo sgq.; Imp. Gaz. n, 127; //. ofC. Papers, 1856, vol. xxv. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 15-17; Field, op. cit. p. 1 1 1 ; Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 191 1-12, 
p. 16. 

« Baden Powell, op. cit. p. 19; Kaye, op. cit. pp. 237-40; Field, op. cit. p. 1 13; //. 0/ C. 
Papers, 1 83 1-2, vol. n. » 

* Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, p. 16; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. 1882-3, PP- 42, 43; 
Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- ^28; Moreland, The Revenue Administration of the 
United Provinces, 1 911, pp. 31-3- 


under the improved system adopted later might have been pre- 

This state of things persisted in the Upper Provinces up to the 
period 1822-8. In the interval the Board of Commissioners continued 
its investigations with a view to the introduction of a better fiscal 
system. Ultimately in 18 19 its recommendations were presented by 
its secretary, Holt Mackenzie, in a famous minute, the first document 
to exhibit any adequate comprehension of land-tenures in Upper 
India and of the requirements of efficient land-revenue administra- 
tion. The recommendations were embodied in Regulation vii of 1822, 
of which the main prescriptions were: (i) a cadastral survey of the 
land; (2) a full record, after necessary adjudication, of all landed 
rights and interests; (3) a moderate assessment of land-revenue after 
adequate local enquiry; (4) recognition and protection of tenant- 
right. ^ In one form or another these principles subsequently governed 
land-revenue administration in all parts of Upper India; and in 
following their practical application — an operation technically termed 
a regular, as distinguished from a summary, or provisional settlement 
— it is important to recognise that indigenous Indian rights in land 
were without any precise legal definition; little more in fact than 
comparatively vague claims, supported by local custom and usually 
respected by rulers who aspired to be tolerably just. Frequently they 
were of kinds strangely different from those familiar to the early 
British administrators in their own country.^ The primary aim of the 
investigation of rights was to determine the persons, whether in- 
dividuals or quasi-corporate bodies, who were entitled to the profits 
of land-holding, and who would therefore naturally be responsible 
for the payment of the land-revenue, or with whom, in technical 
terms, a settlement could be made. It was true that under the exac- 
tions of the former rulers such profits had gradually vanished, but 
under a moderated state demand they would obviously revive and 
become the object of a legal proprietary right, limited, it might be, 
by the coexistent rights of other persons. The vague nature of the 
existing rights and the obliteration which they had suffered in the 
recent political chaos as well as from the mischievous methods of 
revenue administration, inherited from Bengal, which characterised 
the first twenty years of British rule in the Upper Provinces, rendered 
the adjudication a task of unusual difficulty. 

In the regulation of 1822* five-sixths of the net rental was prescribed 
as the standard land-revenue, a good deal less than that in force under 
native rulers but much higher than that adopted in later years. 

* Kaye, op. cit. pp. 240-7; Baden Powell, op.cit. 11, 118; H.ofC. Papers, 1831-2, xi, 156; 
Panjab Sett. Manual, pp. 8-10. 

^ Field, op. cit. p. 115; Bengal Reg. vii of 1822; H. Mackenzie's Minute of 1819; Baden 
Powell, op. cit. II, 20-4; Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- 128; Panjab Sett. Manual, 
pp. 1 1-12; Adm. Rep. M.-W. Provs. 1882-3, P* 42- 

^ Field, op. cit. p. 29. * Bengal Reg. vii of 1822. 

C H I VI 6 


Progress in carrying out the regular settlement was very slow. Besides 
the decision of questions involving vague rights and customs, it 
included the very difficult task of assessing land-revenue on a rental 
basis, while rents, even when they existed, were dubious in nature and 
amount. Rents paid in money were rare, so that rental calculations 
depended largely on estimates of the value of grain produce and of 
the cost of cultivation, a process which it was attempted to carry out 
holding by holding. In a few years it became clear that success on 
such lines was impossible. In 1 833, under the auspices of Lord William 
Bentinck, a simplified system was inaugurated, though the principles 
of 1822 were retained.^ It was elaborated during the next twenty 
years under the direction of two noted officers, R. M. Bird and James 
Thomason. The standard demand was reduced to two-thirds of the 
net rental, and a less theoretical method of assessment — known as 
"aggregate to detail" — was devised. The land-revenue was fixed with 
reference to general considerations affecting the tract under settle- 
ment, such as agricultural and economic resources, past fiscal history, 
and the level of money rents paid by tenants, or those estimated to be 
fairly payable, wherever such rents had come into common use. The 
gross assessment thus determined was distributed over individual 
villages with reference to their comparative capacities as ascertained 
by local enquiry. Theoretical estimates of rental based on assumed 
data were discouraged. The cadastral survey was carried out for 
every village on the basis of a prior scientific topographical survey 
executed by professional officers. ^ 

The regular settlement served to elucidate that much discussed, 
much belauded, and much misunderstood institution, the Indian 
village community. Its significant feature is the ownership of estates 
not by single individuals, but by groups of persons more or less closely 
connected. Completely joint or collective ownership and enjoyment 
of the entire village area is by no means an invariable incident. Some 
degree of communal control over it is commonly found, mainly in the 
type of village technically known as "zamindari", but severalty in 
the beneficial occupation of a part, at least, of the area is usual, the 
sizes of the several holdings corresponding to shares regulated by 
various definite and for the most part traditional methods.^ In 
Southern and Central India a somewhat different type of village 
community exists, technically known as "ryotwari", in which separa- 
tion of individual interests within the group is practically complete. 
In the North-Western Provinces the settlement was generally made 
with village communities of the zamindari type, the members being 
jointly as well as severally responsible. But in very many cases the 

* Field, op. cit. p. 117; Bengal Reg. ix of 1833; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. p. 43; Adm. Rep. 
Unit. Provs. 191 1-12, p. 17; Panjab Sett. Manual, pp. 12-13; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 25-7; 
Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- 128. 

" Baden Powell, op. cit. pp. 23, 38, 41 sqq. 

* Baden Powell, The Indian Village Community, London, 1896. 


body consisted of only a few persons, often indeed of a single individual, 
who, or whose predecessor, had been a revenue farmer of the village 
in the early years following annexation. A holder of a seignorial 
status over a community was generally compensated by a fixed annual 
sum payable by it.^ 

The subordinate rights of tenants, not members of the community, 
were also recorded and gradually protected. Only the barest reference 
is here possible to the subject of tenant-right, a highly controversial 
problem of Indian administration. The majority of indigenous Indian 
tenancies comparatively seldom originated in any definite contract 
between landlord and tenant : they were more frequently the relics of 
previous more complete tenures which under various influences had 
sunk to the status of a precarious occupancy, dependent for its con- 
tinuance on the vague right, traditionally recognised, of the first 
clearer of waste land and his heirs ; or on the fact that, when waste 
land was plentiful and cultivators comparatively few, there was little 
of that inducement to eject which came later under the altered con- 
ditions of British rule. An adequate treatment of tenant-right clearly 
required a classification of tenancies according to origin and an 
ascription to each class of the rights equitably appropriate to it. In 
the permanent settlement of Bengal no such treatment was attempted, 
and the security of tenants, though promised as an essential part of 
the settlement, 2 was left to the operation of agreements which it was 
vainly expected would be made between them and the landlords, 
while a regulation of 1 799 gave to the latter a harsh power of distraint, 
which produced much mischief Warned by the errors of Bengal, 
British administrators in the North-Western Provinces tried to define 
and protect the interests of tenants, but a definite classification was 
very difficult, and in practice a broad rule, apparently first suggested 
by Lord William Bentinck in 1832, was followed, under which a 
tenant on proving twelve years' continuous occupation of his holding 
was admitted to a permanent and heritable tenure at a judicially 
fixed rent.^ A rule so wide probably covered more cases than really 
deserved protection, but it was ultimately embodied in Act X of 1859, 
the earliest Indian legislation which defined and protected tenant- 
right, both in Bengal and in the North-Western Provinces. 

The first regular settlement of those provinces, excluding the 
Benares districts, which had already been permanently settled, was 
carried out district by district during the period 1833-42,* the revenue 
being assessed for a term which was generally thirty years. It avoided 

^ Moreland, op. cit. pp. 35-9; Baden Powell, Land Systems of British India, 11, 82, 83; 
Adm. Rep. M.-W. Provs. 1882-3, PP- 3^} 39* 

2 Bengal Reg. i of 1793, §8(1); Field, op. cit. p. 35; Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 403-5. 

^ Panjab Sett. Manual, pp. 97-9; Selections from Revenue Records of N.-W. Provs. 1822- 
33; Moreland, op. cit. pp. 55, 56. 

* Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- 128; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. 1882-3, P- 43; Field, 
op. cit. p. 118; Baden Powell, op. cit. n, 27. 



the radical defects of the permanent settlement of Bengal — haphazard 
assessment based on inadequate data, the absence of any record of 
rights or of any form of survey, and the insecurity of tenants. In the 
Benares districts they were gradually remedied, as far as possible, 
many years later, by the execution of cadastral surveys, undertaken 
in 1877,^ and by the preparation of a record of rights. 

The importance of canal irrigation for the agriculture of the Upper 
Provinces soon attracted the attention of British officers. Their first 
efforts were directed to the restoration of canals made by previous 
rulers rather than to the construction of entirely new projects. After 
a preliminary survey in 1809-10, work began in 181 5 on an old 
channel which had been originally made in the middle of the four- 
teenth century by Firoz Shah, the Tughlaq king of Delhi, for the 
irrigation of the arid tracts of Hissar and Sirsa, and which after various 
vicissitudes had ceased to flow during the period of Moghul decay. 
It was in reality a series of natural drainages connected by excavation 
rather than a true canal. 2 No special irrigation department was 
created, but the services of military officers were utilised and the 
strictest economy in expenditure was enforced. The restoration, carried 
out on lines far from scientific, was completed in 1827. The work, now 
known as the Western Jumna Canal, had a total length of 425 miles, 
including distributaries, and, besides providing Delhi with water, 
irrigated a considerable area in the Hissar district, which in 1807 had 
been an almost uninhabited waste. In 1822 work was undertaken on 
a similar but smaller channel from the left bank of the Jumna, con- 
structed early in the eighteenth century by a Moghul ruler. This 
project, now the Eastern Jumna Canal, with a total length of 155 miles, 
was completed in 1830, but it took several years longer to remedy 
defects which soon showed themselves.^ Meanwhile the directors of 
the Company, unimpressed with the importance of irrigation for their 
new territories, were loath to embark on costly schemes. Whatever 
expenditure was allowed had to be met from current revenue; the 
days of loan funds raised for productive works were yet far distant. 
It was not until 1854 that the first great original project, the Upper 
Ganges Canal, was completed, though it had been suggested as early 
as 1836. Famine served to emphasise its necessity. 

The Upper Provinces were in a part of India peculiarly liable to 
that scourge, the tract about Delhi having suffered thirteen visitations 
in the previous five centuries. The development of British famine 
policy has been sketched elsewhere in this volume. Its two funda- 
mental features, the existence of means for the rapid transport of food 
and a system of public works on which the mass of agricultural labour 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. ii, 40; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. 1882-3, P* 50« 

* Triennial Review of Irrigation in India, Calcutta, 1922, p. 24; Kaye, op. cit. pp. 278 sqq.; 
Imp. Gaz. Ill, 327 sqq. 

* Triennial RevieWy p. 25; Kaye, op. cit. pp. 283 sqq. 


suddenly thrown out of employment can earn a subsistence wage, did 
not exist, and indeed could not have existed under native rulers. Their 
famine measures were generally limited to a prohibition of grain 
export, penalties for private hoarding, and the distribution of a modi- 
cum of relief.^ There was thus no famine organisation, however crude, 
which the new rulers could inherit and utilise. Their own experience 
soon began. In 1803 the monsoon failed and famine visited the Upper 
Provinces. One-third of a million sterling of land-revenue was re- 
mitted and land-holders were assisted with advances, while bounties 
were given on import of grain. In 181 2 famine again appeared in 
the country lying west of the Jumna. In 1837-8 it prevailed in a 
severe form in a tract which held a population of twenty-eight 
millions, including twenty-one millions in the then newly formed 
North-Western Provinces. On this occasion the first definite efforts at 
famine organisation were made at a cost of nearly a quarter of a 
million sterling; the government definitely recognising its responsi- 
bility for the relief of the able-bodied, while leaving that of invalids 
and orphans to public charity. ^ Liberal suspensions and remissions of 
revenue, to the extent of nearly one million sterling, were given, 
though loans and advances to land-holders were discouraged. The two 
canals which had been recently reopened fully proved their value in 
the famine, which served to impress on the authorities the vast im- 
portance of irrigation, and in particular to secure attention for the 
famous project which subsequently became the Upper Ganges Canal, 
now irrigating large areas in the Doab. Originated by Colonel 
Colvin, it was elaborated by Sir P. Cautley of the Bengal Artillery, 
who ultimately constructed the canal. Work began in 1842 but it was 
interrupted by lack of funds and by other causes during the Afghan 
and Sikh wars. Irrigation actually commenced in 1 854, but operations 
were hampered by the Mutiny, and it was not until the famine of 
1 860-1 that the full supply of water could be utilised. Though it was 
one of the earliest of the British canals,^ and though defects in design 
had gradually to be rectified, portions of it are even yet unique in 
size and conception. Its total length, including branches and dis- 
tributaries, is over 3800 miles. It is still the largest single irrigation 
work in India and in 1919-20 it irrigated over one and a third 
million acres. 

Comparatively few public works, other than canals, some main 
lines of communications, and some necessary public buildings, were 
constructed during the early years of British administration. There 
was no Public Works Department; projects being executed through 
the agency of a Military Board, an inefficient arrangement which 
existed until 1854.* 

* Imp. Gaz. Ill, 477 sqq. 

2 Imp. Gaz. HI, 484, 501 ; Report of Famine Commission, 1880, p. 31 ; Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 
1911-12, p. 22. 
^ Triennial Review, p. 30; Kaye, op. cit. pp. 287 sqq. * Imp. Gaz. iv, 307. 


The indigenous system of liquor excise, termed abkari, was one of 
farm pure and simple, the unrestricted and exclusive right to manu- 
facture and sell spirituous liquor within a more or less defined area 
being usually leased to the local Moghul tax farmer, whether an 
official or a zamindar. Under the Company's government a similar 
system of leases of defined areas in favour of licensees was continued, 
but between 1790 and 1800 restrictions on the number and locality 
of shops and stills were introduced. ^ This modified system was 
extended to the Upper Provinces, but as early as 181 3, in order to 
secure greater control, central distilleries were established at con- 
venient places, generally the headquarters of districts, or of their sub- 
divisions, termed tahsils. Within these buildings the licensed distillers 
were required to carry on their operations, the right to sell at specified 
shops being separately licensed; though in order to cope with illicit 
distillation, an ever-besetting difficulty in Indian excise administra- 
tion, single stills were permitted in distant outlying areas, their 
licences covering both manufacture and sale. To such single detached 
stills the term "outstill", so common in Indian excise discussions, is 
properly applicable. In the Upper Provinces as well as in Bengal the 
new system was found unable to cope with illicit traffic, and after 
1 824 there was a general return to the system of farms or leases of 
specified shops in defined areas, with outstills where necessary. This 
arrangement, with minor modifications, continued in force in the 
Upper Provinces until after 1858. The attainment of the ideal, then 
only dimly perceived, of controlled consumption combined with high 
or even adequate taxation was incompatible with a volume of illicit 
traffic with which the administration of the time was quite unable to 

As in the case of spirituous liquor, the excise of opium, regarded by 
the Moghuls as a subject for state monopoly, took the form of a farm 
of the exclusive right to manufacture and sell. The manifold defects 
of this system, which the East India Company took over in 1773, 
caused its abandonment in 1 797, the government then assuming the 
monopoly of manufacture through its own agencies ; an organisation 
which was extended to the Upper Provinces and has been described 
elsewhere. 2 

Municipal self-government did not exist at the introduction of 
British rule.^ A pure exotic, it was planted very gradually and tenta- 
tively by the new-comers. Their first efforts were confined to the 
presidency towns, and it was not until 1850 that legislative provision 
was made for the constitution of municipal bodies in provincial towns. 
These consisted of the district magistrate, in whom all executive 

* Papers relating to Excise Administration in India printed in Government of India 
Gaz/etU of I March, 1890; Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- ^1^\ ^^P- ^^« ^v, 254; 
H. ofC. Paper Sy 1831-2, vol. xi. 

* Imp. Gaz. IV, 2A2; H. of C. Papers, 1 890-1, lix, 384. 

* Imp. Gaz. rv, 281, 284 sqq.\ Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- A^' 


authority was vested, and a body of nominated councillors, whose 
function was to assess rates in accordance with certain prescribed 
principles, and to assist the district magistrate with advice. Taxation 
might be a personal assessment on householders, or by rates on houses, 
and the proceeds were expended in the entertainment of town watch- 
men, simple sanitation, lighting and other local objects. The act of 
1850 was fairly widely applied, and apparently with a considerable 
degree of success, in the North-Western Provinces.^ 

Passing now from the regulation districts of that region, the re- 
mainder of this chapter will be concerned with non-regulation areas. 
To the explanation of the origin and general significance of that dis- 
tinction as already given, it may be added that the type of adminis- 
tration adopted in non-regulation areas was characterised by simple 
and more direct modes of procedure and by the greater accessibility 
of officials to the people; but chiefly by the union of all powers, 
executive, magisterial, and judicial, in the hands of the district officer, 
here termed deputy-commissioner in place of magistrate and collector, 
subject however to the appellate and supervisional jurisdiction of the 
commissioner of the division in all branches of work. ^ The system 
was paternal rather than formally legal, though legal principles were 
by no means set aside; and it largely depended for its success on the 
personal character, initiative, vigour and discretion of the local 
officers. Passing over the non-regulation Sagar and Narbada terri- 
tories, of which the early administration was not conspicuously suc- 
cessful,^ though law and order and a judicial system were established, 
we may proceed at once to an account of administrative development 
in the Panjab, the whole of which was always non-regulation. 

That province, as it exists at present, including the recently 
separated Delhi enclave, comprises cis-Satlej and trans-Satlej portions. 
The first consists of the Delhi territory, annexed in 1803, and of a 
tract, lying between it and the Satlej, which was gradually absorbed 
as a result of the protectorate assumed in 1809 and of the first Sikh 
War. The second comprises the annexations of 1846 and 1849, the 
Jalandhar Doab and the Panjab proper. In accordance with the 
policy approved on the retirement of the Marquis of Wellesley, the 
Delhi territory after its formal annexation was for long outside the 
sphere of direct British control, which it was sought to restrict to the 
eastern side of the Jumna, leaving the territory, which, as the result 
of recent war, was largely a deserted waste, in the hands of a ring of 
semi-independent chiefs, with whose administration the Resident at 
Delhi interfered as little as possible while endeavouring to maintain 
peace. The aggressions attempted by Ranjit Singh on the country 
east of the Satlej, foiled in 1809 by the Treaty of Amritsar, resulted 

^ Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, p. 54. 

2 Campbell, op. cit. p. 250; Kaye, op. cit. pp. 447 sqq.; Sir G. Aitchison, Lawrence, Oxford, 
1892, pp. 59 •^99-; imp. Gaz. iv, 54. 
2 Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 1882-3, P- i^- 


in the protectorate already mentioned, but even then administrative 
control over the Delhi territory was very slowly asserted.^ It was only 
in 1819-20 that the tract was divided into four districts under locally 
resident officers, a fifth being added in 1824. In 1832 they were 
definitely included in the North-Western Provinces for purposes of 
administration, which it was directed should be carried on in the 
spirit of the Bengal Regulations, though these were never, it appears, 
formally extended to them. The early revenue administration up to 
1828 was of the same highly unsatisfactory character as in other parts 
of the North-Western Provinces, but the tract was greatly benefited 
by the restoration of the Western Jumna Canal, especially during the 
famine of 1837-8, of which it felt the full force. Up to its union with 
the Panjab in 1858 its administration proceeded on the lines already 
described, a regular settlement being made between 1837 and 1842.^ 
The growth of the supremacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh over the 
trans-Satlej Panjab has been described elsewhere. Here we deal only 
with his administrative system.^ Immersed in war and diplomacy, he 
had no leisure for the creation of a stable polity. Beyond military 
organisation and conquest, the collection of revenue was his chief 
interest. To this all other branches of his administration were sub- 
ordinated, and to it the attention of all his officials was unremittingly 
directed. He appears to have utilised all known sources of taxation : 
imposts direct and indirect, on land, on houses, on persons, on manu- 
factures, on commerce, on imports and exports; all had a place in 
his fiscal system. The revenue of remote provinces was farmed to men 
of wealth and influence, or of vigour and capacity, and they were 
invested with powers of government in the exercise of which they 
experienced little interference, provided that revenue was regularly 
remitted. Military chiefs, who enjoyed the revenue of jagirs, or 
assigned tracts of land, on condition of furnishing armed contingents, 
also exercised practically unlimited authority in their jurisdictions. 
These farmers and jagirdars had under them local agents, or kardars, 
who exercised such administrative functions as were recognised, and 
of these the only one of importance was the collection of revenue. In 
tracts, neither farmed nor held in jagir, and known as khalsa, the 
kardars were under the nazim, or local governor of a group of dis- 
tricts, who was directly responsible to the maharaja and his informal 
council, or cabinet; but their positions depended largely on the 
influence which they could command at court, and on their success 
in collecting revenue. In Ranjit Singh's later years central control 
was much relaxed and the system of farming became more prevalent. 
Land-revenue was collected as a rule direct from the cultivator in the 
shape of a fixed share of the produce,* except in the case of crops, such 

1 Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1882-3, P- 23; Ibbetson, op. cit. pp. 34, 35; yl</m. Rep. Panjab, 191 1-12, 
pp. 16-17. * Ibbetson, op. cit. chaps, iv and v; Panjab Sett. Manual, p. 17. 

' Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, sect, i, pt 11; 1882-3, P- 25; H. ofC. Papers, 1849, vol. xli. 
* Panjab Sett. Manual, chap. iv. 


as sugar-cane and cotton, which could not readily be divided. In 
lieu of the actual share of the crop its estimated money value was 
sometimes taken, common shares being one-third and two-fifths, with 
one-half on the more fertile lands. Numerous additional dues in cash 
or kind were also collected, and cultivators of all grades were treated 
on the same footing without reference to any distinctions of superior 
or inferior rights on land, though occasionally the leaders of the village 
community received a measure of indulgence. Joint responsibility of 
its members for the payment of land-revenue was not enforced, except 
rarely when a few of its leaders were allowed to engage for a lump 
sum, and then they tended to assume the privileges of landlords 
towards the rest of the cultivators, who fell back into the position of 

There were no definite and regular courts of justice, though there 
was a judicial officer, termed the adalati, in Lahore. Private property 
in^ land of a kind was recognised and in principle upheld, and the 
general corporate existence and obligations of village communities 
were maintained, while disputes were settled to a minor extent by the 
local authorities, but mainly by private arbitration, resort to which 
by means of a comparatively organised system of committees, or 
panchayats, was widely practised. There were local police officers, but 
their functions were more often political and military than civil, their 
duty being to check local disturbances and to arrange for the move- 
ments of troops. There was no excise system, the production and sale 
of liquor being quite uncontrolled. All officials enjoyed much licence, 
but cultivators were not as a rule needlessly oppressed if they paid 
their revenue. The criminal law was unwritten and contained mainly 
two penalties, fine and mutilation. The first usually secured immunity 
from further punishment for almost any crime; the second when 
inflicted being reserved for offences such as adultery, seduction and 
robbery. Imprisonment was unknown and capital punishment rare. 
Ranjit Singh allowed his favourites great power, at first no doubt as 
a counterpoise to the influence of the leaders of the old Sikh con- 
federacies, but later from the compulsion of physical weakness. 
Excessive oppression, however, was restrained, and from the Satlej to 
the Indus general peace prevailed. His comparatively mild rule, 
though a military despotism, was not unsuited to the martial genius of 
his people, and not unpopular, except with tribes whose aristocratic 
traditions invited levelling repression from the Sikhs. But based on 
the goodwill of his army, it contained no element of permanence, and 
after his death in 1839 chaos rapidly ensued. 

The results of the Sikh wars — the temporary arrangements made 
in 1846 for the administration of the trans-Satlej Panjab, followed by 
its complete annexation in 1849 — have been narrated elsewhere. Here 
we are only concerned with administrative development.^ The 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, pp. 12-13; H. ofC. Papers, 1849, vol. xli. 


Council of Regency, during its existence in 1846-9, sought to repair 
and improve previous indigenous institutions rather than to introduce 
novelty; to preserve what order remained, while governing on the 
lines of a benevolent Indian ruler. Remedies were applied to crying 
evils — an idle and irregularly paid army; general official dishonesty; 
the absence of machinery for administering justice. Economy was 
enforced ; provisional summary settlements of land-revenue were made 
by British officers;^ regular salaries were paid to Indian officials in 
place of undefined perquisites; taxation was lightened and simplified 
and a budget framed. The administration of justice was entrusted to 
respectable persons; while the penal code, reduced to writing, was 
rendered more efficient and more humane. Heinous offences were 
tried by the council itself and appeals from subordinate authorities 
were entertained. European officers were deputed to visit outlying 
districts, while in the framing of rules and regulations influential and 
intelligent persons were consulted. The development of resources 
received attention, and plans for the repair of old and the construc- 
tion of new public works were prepared. But the process of restoration 
and improvement was rudely interrupted by the second Sikh War. 

Annexation afforded a clearer and a wider field for administrative 
effort, of which full advantage was taken by the selected body of 
exceptionally able officers, civil and military, whom Lord Dalhousie 
deputed to the new province, and of whom many had been trained 
in the best tradition of the North-Western Provinces. They included 
Henry and John Lawrence, John Nicholson, Robert Montgomery, 
Herbert Edwardes, Robert Napier, Richard Temple, Donald Macleod, 
and many others subsequently famous. It should never be forgotten 
that the Panjab was from the first organised as a British province on 
a basis of long administrative experience gained in Bengal and the 
North-Western Provinces during the previous half-century; an ex- 
perience which included serious errors to be avoided as well as notable 
successes to be repeated. 

Immediately after annexation a Board of Administration consisting 
of three members was constituted. Under the governor-general it 
exercised plenary authority in all departments of government. ^ The 
province was divided into seven, increased in 1850 to eight divisions^ 
each under a commissioner, and into twenty-four districts, each under 
a deputy-commissioner; the districts themselves being further sub- 
divided into smaller areas, termed tahsils, each in charge of an Indian 
civil officer, designated tahsildar. The non-regulation type of adminis- 
tration, at once simple, vigorous, and efficient, was adopted. Land- 
revenue organisation was one of the first objects of attention. A regular 
settlement was begun immediately after annexation, and was gradually 
completed district by district, though many years elapsed before this 

* Panjab Sett. Manual, p. 22; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 541. 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, sect, in; 1882-3, pp. 30-3; 1911-12, pp. 18-20. 


could be accomplished in the western frontier districts. In the mean- 
time revenue was assessed and collected under short-term and pro- 
visional summary settlements. A similar course was followed in the 
cis-Satlej districts recently attached to the province. The demands 
imposed in these summary settlements/ especially in the last- 
mentioned tract, based as they were on the revenue accounts of 
the previous regime, were comparatively heavy, but, thanks to the 
experience gained in other provinces, the Panjab escaped those harsh 
methods of revenue farming and collection which had been so mis- 
chievous elsewhere. The subsequent regular settlement was carried 
out on the principles which had been previously adopted in the 
North-Western Provinces, but subject to certain modifications due to 
local conditions. In the Panjab the village communities, often tribal 
in their constitution and usually of the so-called zamindari type, were 
generally more vigorous and better preserved than in the North- 
Western Provinces. It was therefore possible as a rule to accord to 
their members the status and rights of peasant proprietors, and to 
make a joint settlement with them in place of former revenue farmers, 
or usurping officials, or semi-feudal grantees, as in other provinces. ^ 
Communities analogous to the ryotwari type, where they existed, 
were treated by the same method. Previous political and social con- 
ditions had discouraged the growth of great landlords with a seignorial 
status over village communities. Where it happened to exist, it was 
converted, not into proprietary right, but into a right to receive 
merely a fixed quit-rent. The policy thus adopted has resulted in the 
Panjab being a country mainly of peasant proprietors. In the regular 
settlement the right of the state was asserted over the immense areas 
of waste land which then lay unoccupied in the trans-Satlej Panjab 
and which have since become the scene of extensive colonisation. 
A similar course was followed in the large forest areas in the hills.^ 

Tenant-right received attention, though it was not until some years 
later that definite principles were laid down after lengthy controversy. 
In the Panjab this right was not so much a relic of a previous quasi- 
proprietary position as the result of two facts ; first, that Sikh rulers 
made little practical distinction between different grades of status, so 
that members as well as non-members of the village community had 
often to bear jointly the same burdens; secondly, that established 
custom recognised some permanence of tenure in favour of cultivators 
who, or whose ancestors, though not included in the circle of the 
community, had assisted in founding the village and in clearing waste 
land.^ In the first regular settlement officers were given judicial 
powers for the determination of rights, and in such work they exercised 

1 Panjab Sett. Manual, p. 24; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 543. 

2 Panjab Sett. Manual, pp. ^Qsqq.; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, ^o^sqq.; Adm. Rep. Panjab, 
1849-51, sect. VII, pt I. 

^ Panjab Sett. Manual, p. 93; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 545 sqq. 
* Panjab Sett. Manual^ p. 100; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 703-5. 


a fairly wide equitable discretion, especially in questions of tenant- 
right, to which, following the practice of the North-Western Provinces, 
they commonly applied the twelve-years' rule. The assessments of 
land-revenue were based on general considerations similar to those 
previously recognised in the North-Western Provinces, but supple- 
mented by close local investigation.^ The task was rendered more 
difficult by the entire absence of economic money rents, then quite 
unknown in the Panjab. Moderation in assessment was impressed on 
all officials from the first, and it has been a salient feature of Panjab 
administration ever since. Except in the western districts of the 
province, the regular settlements were completed either before or 
shortly after the Mutiny. 

Strong measures were taken for the maintenance of law and order 
and for the suppression of such crimes as thagi, which prevailed to 
a limited extent, dacoity and robbery. 2 Civil police, seven thousand 
strong, were distributed over the province, on the general lines of the 
system of the North-Western Provinces, for the detection and prosecu- 
tion of criminals and for watch-and-ward in villages. In his control of 
them the deputy-commissioner was assisted by the tahsildars. The civil 
police were aided by a strong force of military police, some eight 
thousand strong including mounted men, under four European officers 
with Indian subordinates. The force furnished guards, patrolled the 
country, and helped in the prevention of crime and in the appre- 
hension of offenders. Local watchmen were also entertained and paid 
by the village communities. Jails were erected in every district. The 
province from the Satlej to the Indus was disarmed, some 120,000 
weapons of all kinds being surrendered ; and possession or sale of arms 
was prohibited except in the trans-Indus area.^ A similar measure 
was applied later to the cis-Satlej districts and to the Delhi territory. 
The criminal code was based on that in force in the Bengal Pre- 
sidency, with needful local modifications.* In 1855 a civil code was 
issued which, while not a legal enactment, included much of the 
custom and usage current in the province, thus serving as a useful 
guide to judicial officers \^ and though the Bengal Regulations were 
never in force, it was understood that their spirit should be followed 
wherever it was applicable. The administration of the districts now 
included in the North-West Frontier Province is dealt with elsewhere; 
it largely increased the responsibilities of the new government. 

One of its principal duties was to develop the resources and 
especially the communications of the province.® A Public Works 

^ Panjab Sett. Manual, pp. 25-8; Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 568-72. 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, sect, v; 1851-3, pp. 41-8; 1882-3, P- 32; H.ofC. Papers^ 
1857-8, XLiii, 75. 

' Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, p. 56; 1882-3, P- 32; H' ofC. Papers, 1849, xli, 75. 

* Whitley Stokes, op. cit. i, 2; Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, p. 63. 
^ Adm. Rep. Panjab, 185 1-3, pp. 88, 89. 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1849-51, sect. viii. 


Department, including a branch devoted to irrigation, was formed; 
the staff consisting mainly of military officers. A similar step was soon 
taken in the North-Western Provinces. At annexation roads of any 
kind were practically non-existent: but their construction in all 
directions was now systematically undertaken with reference to the 
routes of external and internal trade. Few of them were metalled, 
though most of them were lined with fine avenues of trees. Of 
metalled roads the most important was the main artery between 
Lahore and Peshawar, known as the Grand Trunk Road, the last 
link in a long chain of similar communications between Calcutta and 
Northern India. The development of canal irrigation was an object 
of special solicitude.^ From early times water from the numerous 
rivers of the Panjab had been utilised for agriculture by means of 
simple channels, partly natural, partly artificial, which, starting at a 
level higher than the low-water level of the stream, could flow only 
in the flood season. Without head-weirs of the modern type to ensure 
a perennial supply, and liable to be blocked by deposits of silt, these 
crude means had nevertheless served to irrigate considerable areas. 2 
Efforts were made soon after annexation to extend and improve these 
"inundation" canals, and a good deal was thus accomplished. But 
the most important achievement of the early years was the construc- 
tion of a perennial canal from the Ravi to irrigate the Bari Doab, the 
tract of country lying between that river and the rivers Satlej and 
Beas. Now known as the Upper Bari Doab Canal, it was begun in 
1 85 1 and opened in 1859. In later years it was greatly improved and 
extended, forming the first member of that unique system of irrigation 
for which the province is now famous. 

Such were some of the activities of the young administration. Other 
objects of its attention can only be mentioned — the erection of public 
buildings, schools and hospitals, the reform of the local currency, the 
suppression of female infanticide, the institution of a rudimentary 
municipal system. ^ In 1853, on the abolition of the board, John (later 
Lord) Lawrence was appointed chief commissioner as head of the 
local administration. Under him were a judicial commissioner and 
a financial commissioner, heads respectively of the judicial and revenue 
departments ; the former being also head of the police, supervising 
education, and controlling local and municipal funds ; an odd assort- 
ment of duties, but characteristic of that strenuous period. The cata- 
strophe of the Mutiny for a time arrested further progress. In that 
great crisis the province, except for a few limited areas, did not waver 
in its loyalty to its new rulers ; while the recruitment of some 70,000* 
Panjabi and frontier tribesmen under the British standards bore 

^ Imp. Gaz. in, 327. 

2 Triennial Review, pp. 33, 43; Kaye, op. cit. p. 300. 

^ Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1882-3, P- 33- 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1856-8, p. 43; Sir G. Aitchison, Lawrence, Oxford, 1892, p. 99. 


eloquent testimony to the high quality of the administrative results 
which had been achieved. 

Development in the areas latest acquired, the Nagpur state and 
Oudh, will be dealt with more conveniently in another chapter. Here 
it is sufficient to notice that as a result of the third Maratha War the 
former was virtually ruled from 1818 to 1830 by the Resident at 
Nagpur, Sir R.Jenkins, during the minority of the raja. His adminis- 
tration was broadly on the lines followed later in the Panjab by the 
Lahore regency from 1846 to 1849 — the utilisation of native institu- 
tions and agency under British supervision, which was mainly directed 
to the removal of abuses.^ Little change was made in the revenue 
system except that triennial were substituted for the previous annual 
settlements and that tenants received protection. At the end of the 
minority the raja maintained Sir R. Jenkins's methods until his death 
in 1853. Oudh immediately after its annexation in 1856 was placed 
under a chief commissioner as a non-regulation province, and a sum- 
mary settlement of land-revenue was made.^ Under the previous rule 
revenue farmers or managers, who were often also influential local 
chiefs, had commonly acquired, under the designation of talukdars^ 
2L seignorial or landlord status over village communities, and were 
therefore in a position to set up a plausible claim to proprietary right. 
In many cases it thus became a question whether a settlement should 
be made with them or with the subordinate communities.^ Lord 
Dalhousie, following the practice of the North-Western Provinces and 
of the Panjab, decided in favour of the latter, with the result that the 
talukdars were practically ousted from many of their estates, and their 
consequent resentment ranged many of them against the British 
Government in the great struggle of the Mutiny. 

^ R. Jenkins, Report on the Territories of the Raja of Nagpur , Calcutta, 1827, p. 299; Adm. 
Rep. Cent. Provs. 1882-3, P- HJ 1911-12, p. 11. 
2 Adm. Rep, N.-W. Provs. 1882-3, P- 34- 
^ Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, lOi^sqq.; Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, p. 18. 



When PIu's act of 1784 extended the control of the Bengal 
Government over the minor presidencies of Madras and Bombay to 
all points relating to peace as well as to war, it committed the general 
direction of domestic policy in British India to men who were liable 
to be impressed particularly by conditions in Bengal. ^ Yet the middle 
and upper classes of that province have always differed considerably 
from the same classes in Upper and Western India. They contain no 
martial element, and only a small minority of Muhammadans de- 
scended from Central Asian stocks. While the rural masses differ little 
intellectually from those in neighbouring provinces, the leading Hindu 
castes, Brahmans, Kayesthas (writers), and Vaidyas (physicians), 
have always been remarkable for exceptional literary and clerical 
ability. They have been quick to grasp opportunities and to assimilate 
new ideas. But when Warren Hastings took charge of Bengal in 1 772, 
these and all other classes of society had been long depressed by con- 
stant wars and tyrannical or chaotic administration. Learning of all 
kinds had slunk away into the background. Hastings, however, had 
entered the service of the East India Company 

with the advantages of a regular classical education, and, with a mind strongly 
impressed with the pleasures of literature. The common dialects of Bengal, after 
his arrival in that country, soon became familiar to him; and at a period when the 
use and importance of the Persian language were scarcely suspected, and when the 
want of that grammatical and philological assistance which has facilitated the 
labours of succeeding students rendered the attainment of it a task of peculiar 
difficulty, he acquired a proficiency in it.^ 

When appointed governor of Bengal, he lost no time in causing a 
manual of Hindu law to be prepared in Sanskrit by Brahman pundits 
and translated both into English and into Persian, the language of 
the law courts established by the Moghul rulers of the province. 
Approached in 1781 by some Calcutta Muhammadans with a request 
for the permanent establishment of a "Madrasa" (college) where 
young Muslims might acquire knowledge which would fit them for 
"the numerous offices of the British Government",^ then largely 
monopolised by Hindus, he responded favourably, purchasing a site 
out of his own pocket, laying the foundation stone and advising the 
directors to assign "the rents of one or more villages" in the neigh- 

^ It was not, for instance, until 1859 that a Bombay civil servant (Sir Bartle Frere) was 
appointed to the governor-generars council (Martineau, Life of Frere, 1, 295-6). 
2 Shore, quoted ap. Jones, Collected Works, n, 1 9. 
' Sharp, Selections, i, 8. 


bourhood as an endowment for the new institution. The subjects of 
instruction were to be the Muhammadan law and such other sciences 
as were taught in Muhammadan schools. The directors accepted 
Hastings's recommendations, and reimbursed him for the expense 
which he had incurred. The college became known as "the Muham- 
madan Madrasa" and was the first state-aided educational institution 
in Bengal. Hardly had it been founded when the bench of the Calcutta 
Supreme Court received a notable recruit in the person of Sir William 
Jones, ^jurist and scholar, the first of the great Orientalists, of those 
ardent enthusiasts who have done so much to spread abroad in 
Europe appreciation of Asiatic culture and learning. Jones has placed 
on record the "inexpressible pleasure" which he felt on approaching 
the shores of India; 2 and although his time was short, for he died at 
Calcutta in 1 794, he not only translated the laws of Manu and other 
famous Sanskrit works into English, but left so deep an impression on 
his Brahman friends that some could not restrain their tears when 
they spoke of "the wonderful progress which he had made in the 
sciences which they professed ".^ With the strong support of Hastings,* 
he founded the Bengal Asiatic Society which has since numbered 
among its members the great Sanskrit scholar Colebrooke, a civil 
servant who rose to be a member of the governor-general's council, 
and Horace Hayman Wilson, another famous Orientalist, who lived 
to complete Mill's history of British India and to be librarian at the 
East India House for more than twenty years. ^ In 1792 Jonathan 
Duncan, Resident at Benares, asked and obtained permission to 
establish a college in the holy city for the preservation and cultivation 
of the laws, literature and religion of the Hindus,® stating that 
although learning had always been cultivated at Benares "in numerous 
private seminaries", no public institution of the kind proposed had 
ever existed. The "permanency of a college" would tend to recover 
and collect gradually books still to be met (though in a very dispersed 
and imperfect state) of "the most ancient and valuable general learning 
and tradition now existing perhaps on any part of the globe". It 
would preserve and disseminate a knowledge of the Hindu law and 
become "a nursery of the future doctors and expounders thereof to 
assist European judges" in administering "its genuine letter and 
spirit to the body of the people". 

The British Government was sympathetic towards attempts to 
revive Indian learning, but entertained no idea of introducing any 
system of education. No state system then existed in England; and 
even Burke, the Company's most formidable critic, did not consider 

^ Hickey, Memoirs, in, 154-5. ^ Duff, Indian Missions, p. 196. 

' See the article on Jones in the Dictionary of National Biography, x, 1064-5, and Jones, 
op. cit. II, 307. 

* Jones, op. cit. 11, 19-28. 

* Foster, The East India House, p. 149. Cf. Memorials of Old Haileybury College, pp. 208-22. 

* Sharp, op. cit. p. 10. See also History of the Benares Sanskrit College, pp. 1-2. 


that either in letters, religion, commerce, or agriculture, had India 
need to learn from England.^ 

Among the Company's civil servants, however, there was one who 
thought differently. While serving in the commercial branch from 
1773 to 1790 and spending years among the people of an up-country 
district of Bengal, Charles Grant became profoundly concerned at a 
spectacle which presented certain distressing features, and, in con- 
sultation with two friends, prepared proposals for establishing a 
Protestant mission in Bengal and Bihar which he forwarded to William 
Wilberforce and other Evangelical leaders at home. Retiring from 
India with a fortune honestly earned, ^ he sat down to write a treatise 
entitled "Observations on the state of society among the Asiatic sub- 
jects of Great Britain, particularly with respect to morals, and on the 
means of improving it". Soon after his return he had come into 
contact with Wilberforce ; and when in 1 793 the Company's charter 
came before parliament for renewal, that great philanthropist en- 
deavoured to procure the insertion of clauses empowering the court 
of directors to send to and maintain in British India "schoolmasters 
and persons approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop 
of London ' for the religious and moral improvement of the native 
inhabitants ' ". The directors, however, objected that the governments 
of the three presidencies could not possibly be expected to establish 
missionary departments. The Indian people must be left to follow 
their own systems of faith and morals. The House of Commons agreed ; 
and Wilberforce temporarily abandoned his proposals, while Grant 
returned to his treatise.^ He was elected to the court of directors, and 
in 1797 laid it before that body, asking for its reception as "a business 
paper ". In powerful and trenchant language, animated, as a Muham- 
madan historian has pointed out,* by the purest desire of bringing 
about a "happier" state of things, he gave his impressions of social 
and moral conditions among Hindus and Muhammad ans in Bengal. 
The evils which he enumerated, the position of women, many of whom 
were doomed "to joyless confinement during life and a violent pre- 
mature death", the "perpetual abasement and unlimited subjection" 
in which the lower orders of Hindus were kept by the Brahmanical 
system and religion, were the results of dense and widespread ignorance 
among the people, and could be removed only by education, first of 
all by education in English, a key which would open to the people 
"a world of new ideas". First would come knowledge of the Chris- 
tian religion which would instil new views of duty. Every branch 

^ See his speech on Fox's East India Bill. In another passage, however, he charges his 
countrymen with having erected neither churches, hospitals, palaces nor schools in India. 

2 Ross, Cornwallis Correspondence, i, 306, 377, 475. 

^ It is contained in Pari. Papers, East India, vol. x, fourth part, 181 2-1 3, pp. 5-1 12, and 
was reprinted by parliament twenty years later. See Reports, Committees, E.I.C. 183 1-2 (4), 

vol. VIII. 

* Mahmud, History, p. 8. On page 3 the historian describes it as "a most valuable essay 
on the moral, intellectual and political conditions of India at that time". 

c H I VI 7 


of natural philosophy might follow in time, above all the principles of 
mechanics and their application to agriculture and the useful arts. 
Invention was torpid. The people needed mental quickening. Custom 
was their strongest law. The path which the first passenger had marked 
over the soft soil was trodden so undeviatingly in all its curves by 
every succeeding passenger, that when it was perfectly beaten, it had 
only the width of a single track. Even if the advantages to be derived 
from the spread of Christianity were progressive and partial, they 
would conduce toward the outward prosperity and internal peace of 
Hindu society. The change would correct *' those sad disorders which 
have been described and for which no other remedy has been pro- 
posed, nor is in the nature of things to be found". Grant advised 
the establishment by government of free schools for teaching English 
in various parts of the province and the substitution of English for 
Persian in judicial proceedings, in the administration of the revenue 
and other business. He discussed political objections to his suggestions 
and ended with the assertion that the English language was the best 
channel for the spread of general enlightenment. By planting our 
language, our knowledge, our opinions and our religion in our Asiatic 
dominions we would put a great work beyond the risk of contingencies ; 
we would probably wed the inhabitants of those territories to this 
country; but at any rate we would do an act of strict duty to them and 
a lasting service to mankind. If, however, English were not employed, 
the country languages might be used to spread abroad the truths of 
Christianity in which all "the other proposed meliorations" were 

Although no Orientalist himself. Grant greatly admired Jones's 
genius and depth of learning.^ But his own experience of India was 
not that of a scholar and a judge at headquarters. He had lived for 
years among the masses in the heart of Bengal. While he was gradually 
building up influence in London, an even more remarkable man was 
preparing to take a hand in the affairs of that province. 

In 1793 William Carey, ex-shoemaker and Baptist missionary, 
arrived at Calcutta, without a licence from the directors, resolved to 
preach Christianity in the native tongues at any cost. Throughout a 
considerable part of the eighteenth century Lutheran missionaries in 
Southern India had been looking after the schools established by the 
Company for the children of the Portuguese, Tamil and Eurasian 
Christians employed in their service. Free passages to India on the 
Company's ships had been given to these men. Schools for Indian 
boys established by Christian Swartz, a famous Lutheran mis- 
sionary, were subsidised by the Madras Government with the approval 
of the directors. 2 Throughout his career Swartz had enjoyed their 
favour. Carey, however, his companion Thomas, and other Baptist 
missionaries who subsequently joined them, were compelled to find 

^ Morris, Life of Grant, p. 83. * Penny, Church in Madras, i, 613. 


their way to Bengal in foreign ships, and began their work oppressed 
by grave financial difficulties and unsheltered by official authority, 
although Carey and Thomas owed their start to George Udny, a civil 
servant who eventually became member of the governor-generaFs 
council. The missionaries finally established themselves at Serampur, 
a Danish settlement sixteen miles north of Calcutta, set up schools 
for European and Indian boys, started a paper manufactory and a 
printing-press, and poured forth from the latter translations of the 
books of the Bible into various Indian languages. Carey was a linguistic 
genius and a diligent Orientalist as well as a great missionary. His 
noble character and single-minded piety won friends and favour in 
all quarters and deeply impressed Lord Wellesley, who appointed 
him Bengali lecturer in his new college for young civil servants. His 
chief coadjutors were Marshman, who had been master in a Baptist 
school, and Ward, an ex-printer of Hull. So persistent was the energy 
and so ardent was the spirit of these three men that in spite of many 
difficulties and set-backs, they not only gained converts and attracted 
pupils, but by their translations of the books of the Bible, which were 
widely diffused, they assisted in laying the foundations of Bengali 
prose literature.^ Their whole enterprise, conducted with remarkable 
financial ability, produced large profits which went to the common 

Another pioneer in education was David Hare, a watchmaker who 
settled at Calcutta in 1 800 and has been described by Lord Ronald- 
shay as " one of those persons disabled by temperament from accepting 
the dogma of religion but compelled by his heart to lead an essentially 
Christian life".^ Hare was a rationalist, and in the words on his 
tombstone, which is still visited by Indians on the anniversary of his 

adopted for his own the country of his sojourn and cheerfully devoted the remainder 
of his life with unwearying zeal and benevolence to one pervading and darling 
object, in which he spared no personal trouble, money or influence, viz. the educa- 
tion and moral improvement of the natives of Bengal. 

He studied Bengali, found it deficient for his purposes and conceived 
the idea of founding a school for the instruction of young Indians in 
Western literature and science. 

In 181 1, while Grant in England and Carey and Hare in Bengal 
were searching after new courses of education, Lord Minto and his 
colleagues, who included the great Sanskrit scholar Colebrooke, were 
attributing the evils of the time to the decay of the indigenous learning 
of the country. The government was already spending money on the 
maintenance of students of Sanskrit learning at Nuddea and on the 
support of the Hindu College at Benares. More money, they said, was 

^ Marshman, Carey, Marshman and Ward; Bishop Whitehead, Indian Problems, p. 144; and 
Thompson, Rabindranath Tagore, p. 6. 
^ Heart of Aryavarta, pp. ij-iS. 



required for each, and more colleges must be established for the en- 
couragement of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic literature. The Muham- 
madan Madrasa at Calcutta must be reformed. Some additional 
expense should be incurred with a view to a "restoration of learning". 
Minto had been personally generous to the Serampur Press, ^ and his 
government subscribed 10,000 rupees to assist the printing of the 
Scriptures in the Malay language; but such education as was going 
on in India was almost entirely independent of their patronage. In 
the background there were teachers and schools in no small number 
not only in Bengal but also in other provinces. Illuminating informa- 
tion on this subject is contained in the reports^ of William Adam on 
vernacular education in Bengal and Bihar and may be summarised 
before we go farther, for conditions in the capital province were 
roughly similar to conditions elsewhere.^ 

Indigenous education was private or public, elementary or higher, 
administered at home to boys and exceedingly rarely to girls, or 
administered to boys alone in schools which, in spite of serious defects,* 
were maintained and managed by the people themselves. In Bengal 
and Bihar the rudiments of learning were taught in patshalas by school- 
masters who generally belonged to the Kayestha or writer caste. The 
pupils were generally Kayesthas or Brahmans but sometimes belonged 
to the trading or land-holding classes; they were seldom Muham- 
madans. The teachers, who were poorly remunerated by presents, 
fees or perquisites, sometimes employed manuscripts but never text- 
books, reciting religious and mythological stories or rhymed arith- 
metical rules to pupils who learnt by rote and were kept in order by 
primitive methods of discipline which sometimes produced retaliation. 
The patshalas were not patronised by the well-to-do, who preferred to 
have their sons taught at home. 

Scholastic or higher education was Persian, Arabic or Sanskrit. The 
Persian schools {maktabs) were attended both by Muhammadans and 
by such Hindus as were attracted by the advantages to be gained from 
acquaintance with the language of the law courts. Instruction was 
given in Persian literature and grammar, in penmanship and in 
arithmetic. Arabic schools were either "formal" Arabic, intended 
exclusively for instruction in the formal or ceremonial reading of the 
Koran, or "learned" Arabic. The learned schools (madrasas) were 
intimately connected with the Persian schools. The Aiabic teacher 
taught Persian also to his pupils. The average duration of study was 
eleven or twelve years, and the students might be either boys or men. 
The courses, varying from one school to another, included rhetoric, 
logic, grammar, Muhammadan law, Euclid, branches of natural 

* Lord Minto in India, pp. 71-2. 

* Dated 1835-6-8. Copious extracts are quoted by Duff in an article on "Indigenous 
education in Bengal and Bihar", Calcutta Review, 1844. See also Adam, Reports, Long, 1868. 

' For an account of indigenous education in the Panjab sec Leitner's Report of 1883. 

* Adam, op. cit. pp. 19-20. 


philosophy and the perusal of treatises on metaphysics. There was no 
particular system of organisation or discipline. The teachers were 
remunerated by presents, fees and other means, at low rates. Printed 
books were not to be seen, but manuscripts were in constant use. In 
Bengal and Bihar there were no Urdu schools for Muslims corre- 
sponding to the Bengali and Hindu schools for the Hindus. 

In the Sanskrit academies {tols) the Hindu religion, philosophies, 
law and logic, were taught to pupils who were mostly Brahmans but 
sometimes belonged to the Vaidya or physician caste. Some tols were 
endowed, but most were established by individual Brahmans who 
were known as gurus (teachers). A guru would proclaim himself ready 
to instruct in a particular branch of learning and would gather round 
him a band of disciples {chelas) whom he would teach in his own house, 
or a friend's house, or a school-house, or in the open air after the 
fashion of ancient India. ^ His remuneration would not be fees but 
gifts from admirers, or pupils or parents of pupils. The pupils had 
previously been taught at home to read, write and do small sums. 
There were larger tols for the inculcation of particular branches of 
Sanskrit learning, either medical, philosophical, mythological, astro- 
logical, Tantric or Vedantic, where the courses of study occupied 

Of the gurus Adam drew a vivid picture i^ 

I saw men not only unpretending, but plain and simple in their manners, and 
though seldom, if ever, offensively coarse, yet reminding me of the very humblest 
classes of English and Scottish peasantry, living constantly half-naked, inhabiting 
huts which if we connect moral consequences with physical causes, might be sup- 
posed to have the effect of stunting the growth of their minds, or in which only the 
most contracted minds might be supposed to have room to dwell — and yet several 
of these men are adepts in the subtleties of the profoundest grammar of what is 
probably the most philosophical language in existence ; not only practically skilled 
in all the niceties of its usage, but also in the principles of its structure ; familiar 
with all the varieties and applications of their natural laws and literature, and 
indulging in the abstrusest and most interesting disquisitions in logical and ethical 
philosophy. They are in general shrewd, discriminating and mild in their 

There were no schools for girls ; but land-holders sometimes in- 
structed their daughters in writing and accounts with a view to 
rendering them less helpless in the event of early widowhood. It was 
difficult, however, to obtain from any land-holder an admission that 
his daughter was literate. 

"A feeling", writes Adam, "is alleged to exist in the majority of Hindu females, 
principally cherished by the women and not discouraged by the men, that a girl 
taught to write and read will soon after marriage become a widow, an event which 
is regarded as nearly the worst misfortune that can befall the sex, and the belief is 

"The study of Sanskrit grammar", Adam observes, "occupies about seven years, 
lexicology about two, literature about ten, logic about thirteen, and mythology about four." 
Trevelyan, Education of the People of India, p. 109. 

Adam, op. cit. p. 119. He says that "the Pundits are of all ages, from twenty-five to 


also generally entertained that intrigue is facilitated by a knowledge of letters on 

the part of females The Muhammadans participate in all the prejudices of 

Hindus against the instruction of their female offspring, besides that a large majority 
of them are in the very lowest grade of poverty, and are thus unable if they were 
willing to give education to their children."^ 

If, however, there was extremely little education of girls in either of 
the two great communities, the education of boys of particular classes 
was considered eminently desirable by the learned classes of both, and 
its mainly religious character was often emphasised by a preliminary 
ceremony or act of worship. ^ Except, however, for simple arithmetic 
and ability to read and write, it was directed to teaching Sanskrit to 
Hindus and Persian or Arabic to Muhammadans; the masses were 
for the most part, by general consent, consigned to ignorance, the 
prejudice against their instruction being "nearly as strong and as 
general in their own minds as in the minds of others".^ There was 
no promise of progress; and a new school of Hindus was springing up 
in Calcutta wJio were longing to escape from time-honoured restraints 
and long-standing evils. The boldest of these was a Brahman named 
Ram Mohan Roy, who burst out with a scathing denunciation of the 
popular Hinduism of his day : 

I have never ceased to contemplate with the strongest feelings of regret the 
obstinate system of idolatry, inducing, for the sake of propitiating supposed deities, 
the violation of humane and social feelings. And this in various instances, but more 
especially in the dreadful acts of self-immolation and the immolation of the nearest 
relations, under the delusion of conforming to sacred religious rites.* 

When in 181 3 the East India Company's charter came once more 
before parliament for consideration, Minto's views regarding educa- 
tion were laid before the Commons. Wilberforce and Grant then sat 
in the House. Both belonged to the famous Clapham brotherhood; 
and Grant's influence was strong on the court of directors. Speaking 
at great length and quoting from Grant's Observations, but now dis- 
carding all notion of government missionary establishments, Wilber- 
force said that mission work must be left to "the spontaneous zeal of 
individual Christians controuled by the discretion of the government ". 
There was no idea of proceeding by "methods of compulsion and 
authority". But mission work should not be substantially and in 
effect prevented. Parliament should "lay the ground for the promo- 
tion of education and the diffusion of useful knowledge ". Christianity 
was the appropriate remedy for evils which he enumerated. The way 
for its reception should be made straight.^ Moved largely by his 
forcible pleading, parliament declared that such measures ought to 
be adopted as might lead to " the introduction into India of useful 
knowledge and religious and moral improvements", and transferred 
the ultimate power of licensing persons desirous of proceeding to that 

* Adam, op. cit. p. 132. " Calcutta Review, 1867, xlv, 420. 

' Adam, ob. cit. p. 254. * Quoted ap. Anderson and Subedar, p. 1 7. 

' Hansard, 1813, xxvi, 832, 853, 1071, 1076. 

CHARTER ACT OF 1813 103 

country "for the purpose of accomplishing these benevolent designs" 
from the directors to the Board of Control, stipulating that the 
authority of the local governments respecting the intercourse of 
Europeans with the interior of the country should be preserved, and 
that the principles of the British Government on which the natives of 
India had always relied for the free exercise of their religion "must 
be inviolably maintained". At a late stage of the debates a clause 
was added which allowed the governor-general to direct that out of 
the territorial rents, revenue and profits of British India, after de- 
fraying the expenses of the military, civil and commercial establish- 
ments and meeting the interest of the debt, "a sum of not less than 
one lakh of rupees" should be set apart and applied to 

the revival and improvement of literature and the encouragement of the learned 
natives of India and for the introduction or promotion of a knowledge of the 
sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories in India. 

The author of this clause was " Bobus " Smith who had been advocate- 
general in Calcutta. ^ His draft, slightly modified by the president of 
the Board of Control, passed through parliament without opposition. 
It is perfectly clear that by " the sciences " he meant Western sciences. ^ 
As the directors said, addressing the governor-general on 3 June, 1814, 
the clause presented two distinct propositions for consideration. They 
went on, however, to give vague and inconclusive instructions. 
Learned Hindus should be left to continue their custom of teaching 
in their homes and should be stimulated by honorary marks of dis- 
tinction and pecuniary assistance. There were Sanskrit tracts on the 
virtues of plants and drugs which might prove useful to the European 
practitioner ; and there were treatises on astronomy and mathematics 
which, although they might not add new light to European science, 
might become 

links of communication between the natives and the gentlemen in our service, who 
are attached to the Observatory and the department of engineers, and by such 
intercourse the natives might gradually be led to adopt modern improvements in 
those and other sciences.^ 

The self-supporting character of the indigenous schools attracted 
warm approbation, and the teachers were recommended to the 
"protection" of the government. Enquiries were made as to their 
present state. The governor-general was asked to submit for con- 
sideration any plan calculated to promote the object in view. But the 
instructions were hazy, and the governor-general's mind was more 
seriously occupied by the Nepalese, Pindari and Maratha wars. So 
beyond writing a minute in favour of improving indigenous education, 
and patronising a Calcutta textbook society to supply the wants of 

^ Cf. Hickey, op. cit. iv, 275. 

2 Hansard, xxvi, 1087-8, Bills Public (2), Sessions 24 November-22 July, 1812-13 (11), 
p. 1 197; Howell, Education in British India, pp. 4-5; Mill and Wilson, History of British India^ 
vn, 397. * Sharp, op. cit. i, 24. 


a growing circle of schools, Lord Hastings did little. The society owed 
its origin to a pamphlet published by Marshman, the Serampur 
missionary,^ and was very liberally supported by the European com- 
munity of Calcutta. 

More missionaries, representing various societies, opened more 
schools. David Hare persuaded Sir Hyde East, Chief Justice, and 
other leading Europeans and Indians to establish a college for the 
tuition of sons of " respectable " Hindu parents in the English and 
Indian languages and in European and Asiatic science and literature. 
The college was first known as the Vidyalaya (home of learning), and 
afterwards as the Hindu College; finally it became "the Presidency 
College". Its teaching encouraged free thought in religion with 
results which were not altogether happy. ^ In establishing it Hare was 
assisted by Ram Mohan Roy, a Kulin Brahman, who has been called 
by a distinguished Bengali^ "the first brilliant product of European 
influence in India". Born in 1772 of a well-to-do family, he was 
deeply read in Sanskrit and possessed some acquaintance with Persian 
and Arabic. In 1790 he published a pamphlet condemning the 
"idolatrous religion of the Hindus", which must, he urged, be re- 
stored to its original purity. He laid before his countrymen "genuine 
translations of parts of their scripture, which inculcated not only the 
enlightened worship of one God, but the purest principles of morality ". 
In 1805 he entered the Company's service, and, assisted by John 
Digby, acquired a wide knowledge of English literature.* On retiring 
from government service in 18 14, he settled in Calcutta and devoted 
himself to the cause of social, religious and educational reform. In 
1 81 8 he began a vigorous campaign against sati, and later, supported 
by others, he struck a shrewd blow in the cause of Western education. 
Before Lord Hastings's departure in 1823, grants had been given by 
the government to two societies formed to promote vernacular educa- 
tion and improve the indigenous schools ;5 and afterwards, a "Com- 
mittee of Public Instruction" composed of civil servants,* with 
Horace Hayman Wilson, the Orientalist, as secretary, was appointed 

* Howell, op. cit. p. 12; Mahmud, op. cit. p. 25 ; Tzvelve Indian Statesmen^ P- 230 ; Marshman, 
op. cit. pp. 278-9. 

' See the evidence of J. W. Sherer, 19 July, 1832, paras. 1915-2252, Minutes of Evidence 
before Select Committee, i. Report Committees, E.I.C. 183 1-2 (5), vol. ix; also the Heart of 
Aryavarta, p. 46. 

* Dutt, Literature of Bengal, pp. 137, 139, 147. 

* Originally he had conceived a strong aversion to British rule in India but afterwards 
gave up "this prejudice" on the conviction that British rule would conduce "more speedily 
and surely to the amelioration of his countrymen". See Max Miiller's quotation, Bio- 
graphical Essay, p. 47. 

' The School-book and School Societies. The latter was guided by a managing com- 
mittee of sixteen Europeans and eight Indians. David Hare was secretary. It distributed 
books and examined and superintended certain schools. 

* Howell, op. cit. p. 14. The committee were bidden to suggest such measures as it might 
appear expedient to adopt, with a view to "the better instruction of the people, and the 
introduction of useful knowledge, including the arts and sciences of Europe". See History 
of the Benares Sanskrit College, pp. 50-3. 


by Adam, Hastings's temporary successor, and entrusted with the 
disbursement of the greater part of the annual one lakh grant. Arrears 
were paid in; and the committee prepared to organise a Sanskrit 
College which the government had decided to open in Calcutta. 
A college on Western lines was being gradually established by the 
Serampur missionaries, under the patronage of the king of Denmark 
and the governor-general, "for the instruction of Asiatic, Christian 
and other youths in Western literature and European science", while 
"Bishop's College", another missionary institution, had been founded 
at Calcutta in 1820 by means of subscriptions raised in England.^ In 
1823 ^ college had been founded and endowed liberally at Agra by 
a certain pandit Gangadhar without any pecuniary assistance from 
the government. Progress was in the air ; but hardly had the members 
of the new committee assembled when they were called on to consider 
a petition, addressed to Lord Amherst, by Ram Mohan Roy. Its most 
notable passages were these : 

"When this seminary of learning" (the new Sanskrit College) "was proposed, 
we understood that the government in England had ordered a considerable sum 
of money to be annually devoted to the instruction of its Indian subjects. We were 
filled with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European 
gentlemen of talents and education to instruct the natives of India in mathematics, 
natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy and other useful sciences which the nations 
of Europe have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the 
inhabitants of other parts of the world.. . .We now find that the government are 
establishing a Sanskrit school under Hindoo pundits to impart such knowledge as 
is already current in India. . . .The pupils will here acquire what was known two 
thousand years ago, with the addition of vain and empty subtilties since produced 
by speculative men, such as is commonly taught in all parts of India. The Sanskrit 
language, so difficult that almost a lifetime is necessary for its perfect acquisition, 
is well known to have been for ages a lamentable check on the diffusion of know- 
ledge; and the learning concealed under this almost impervious veil is far from 
sufficient to reward the labour of acquiring it. If it had been intended to keep the 
British nation in ignorance of real knowledge, the Baconian philosophy would not 
have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen, which was the best 
calculated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner the Sanskrit system of 
education would be the best calculated to keep this country in darkness, if such 
had been the policy of the British legislature. But as the improvement of the native 
population is the object of the government, it will consequently promote a more 
liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural 
philosophy, chemistry and anatomy, with other useful sciences which may be 
accomplished with the sum proposed, by employing a few gentlemen of talents and 
learning educated in Europe, and providing a college furnished with the necessary 
books, instruments and other apparatus."^ 

It does not appear that this petition produced any immediate im- 
pression, but it certainly bore fruit later on. 

There were other progressive Indians who thought with Ram 
Mohan Roy. Bishop Heber's journals and correspondence throw con- 
siderable light on currents of opinion at this time. In a letter dated 
Calcutta, October, 1823, he remarked on the friendly attitude of 

^ Whitehead, op. cit. pp. 166-7. ^ Sharp, op. cit. pp. 99-101. 


Hindus and Muhammadans towards mission schools, which, however, 
were very rarely attended by Muslim children. No objection was 
made to the use of the Bible as a class-book provided that the teachers 
did not urge their pupils to eat what would break their caste, or be 
baptised, or "curse their country's gods". Twenty schools had re- 
cently been established by Church of England missionaries. In 
December, 1823, he observed the increasing tendency "to imitate the 
English in everything". This had already led to important results and 
would lead to still more important results in future. Many wealthy 
Indians spoke English fluently and were tolerably read in English 
literature. In the Bengali papers, of which there were two or three, ^ 
politics were canvassed with a bias to Whiggism. Among the lower 
orders the same feeling was visible in a growing neglect of caste, and 
in an anxiety to learn and speak English, which, if properly encouraged, 
might in fifty years "make our language what Oordoo (Hindustani) 
is at present ".2 In 1824 Heber visited the Benares Sanskrit College, 
and after attending a lecture on astronomy wondered that such 
rubbish should be taught in a government college.^ 

The Committee of Public Instruction started with a credit of arrears 
of the government grant, but even so, suffered from narrowness of 
means. In the year 1824 the sum which could be spared for the Bengal 
Presidency was only £19,970. They decided to spend their money 
"on the best means of improving the education of the more re- 
spectable members of Indian society 'especially those who make 
letters their profession'". This they attempted to do by ignoring the 
indigenous schools and by printing in Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic, 
both original works and translations of such books as Hutton's 
Mathematics, Croker's Land Surveying and Bridge's Algebra. They 
further provided "literary endowments" for promising students 
of Indian classical literature, attached English classes to certain 
Orientalist colleges and started a few schools for teaching English. 
In fact they endeavoured to carry out the vague monitions of the 
directors, but soon found their path beset by eager applicants for the 
means of instruction in English. The situation has been described in 
these words by Charles Trevelyan, a young civil servant, one of their 
number who subsequently rose to high distinction: 

Upwards of 3 1 ,000 English books were sold by the school-book society in the 
course of two years while the committee did not dispose of Arabic and Sanskrit 
volumes enough in three years to pay the expense of keeping them for two months, 
to say nothing of the printing expenses. . . .Among other signs of the times a petition 
was presented to the committee by a number of young men who had been brought 
up at the Sanskrit college, pathetically representing that, notwithstanding the long 
and elaborate course of study which they had gone through, they had little prospect 
of bettering their condition ; that the indifference with which they were generally 

^ The first Bengali newspaper — the Samachar Darpan (mirror of news) — was issued from 
the Serampur Press on 31 May, 1818 (Marshman, op. cit. pp. 280-1). 
* Heber, Narrative and LetUrs, n, 306-7. ' Idem, i, 295-6. 


regarded by their countrymen left them no hope of assistance from them, and that 
they therefore trusted that the government, which had made them what they were, 
would not abandon them to destitution and neglect. The English classes which had 
been tacked on to the Sanskrit and other oriental colleges had entirely failed in 
their object. The boys had not time to go through an English in addition to an 
oriental, course; and the study which was secondary was naturally neglected. The 
translations into Arabic, also, appeared to have made as little impression upon the 
few who knew that language, as upon the mass of the people who were entirely 
unacquainted with it.^ 

Faced with such representations, the committee split into halves, 
the Orientalist and older party and the English, or younger, party ._ 
The first wished to continue the policy of "letting the natives pursue 
their present course of instruction, and of endeavouring to engraft 
European science thereon". The second desired to spend no more 
money on bounties to students of the Indian classical languages or 
on printing Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian books, but to devote all 
available funds to conveying to Indians, through the medium of 
English, the literary and scientific information necessary for a liberal 
education. Although for some time the knowledge so conveyed would 
be confined to a limited circle, it would soon penetrate to the outer 
community through the channel of a new vernacular literature. This 
doctrine became famous as "the filtration theory". Its advocates 
took inadequate account of the rigidity of Indian caste and occupa- 
tional distinctions. Neither party proposed to do anything for the 
indigenous schools, and both agreed that the vernaculars "contained 
neither the literary nor the scientific information necessary for a 
liberal education ".2 Bengal in fact stood at a parting of the ways. 

We must now briefly review events in Bombay and Madras. In the 
early years of the nineteenth century these presidencies greatly 
expanded and were fortunate enough to obtain as their governors two 
remarkable men who devoted much attention to education. Both 
presidencies had their own indigenous schools which roughly re- 
sembled those of Bengal and Bihar. In Bombay, where indigenous 
schools were far rarer than in Bengal,^ Mountstuart Elphinstone 
obtained the sanction of the directors to the payment on a reduced 
scale of the Dakshina allowances formerly distributed by order of the 
Peshwas to Brahmans of distinguished learning in the Hindu scrip- 
tures, selected after examinations held in the presence of the Poona 
court. The money was eventually devoted to the establishment of 
a Sanskrit College at Poona. Elphinstone was desirous of diffusing 
"a rational education which by removing prejudices and communi- 
cating British principles would pave the way for the employment of 
natives in the higher branches of the public service". He strongly 
deprecated any admixture of religion with state education. He aimed 

^ Trevelyan, op. cit. p. lo. 
* Trevelyan, op. cit. p. 2 1 . 

^ Elphinstone observed of these: "Reading is confined to Brahmans, Banyans, and such 
of the agricultural classes as have to do with accounts" (Adam, op. cit. p. 268). 


at encouraging, improving, and increasing schools for vernacular 
education and at establishing schools for the purpose of teaching 
English to those disposed to pursue it as a classical language and 
" a means of acquiring knowledge of European discoveries ". He con- 
templated the preparation of books on moral and physical sciences 
in the vernacular and "standard examinations" for public employ- 

"If there be a wish", he wrote, "to contribute to the abolition of the horrors of 
self-immolation and of infanticide, and ultimately to the destruction of superstition, 
it is scarcely necessary to prove that the only means of success is the diffusion of 

Before he resigned office, an English school, an engineering institution, 
and a medical school were opened in Bombay, and an English class 
was added to the Sanskrit College at Poona. The famous Elphinstone 
College represents subscriptions contributed in honour of his name 
by "princes, chieftains and gentlemen connected with the West of 
India as an endowment for three professors of the English language 
and of European arts and sciences ".^ His successor. Sir John Malcolm, 
recorded a minute in 1828 which expressed anxiety for the diffusion 
of instruction which would open the road to wider employment of 
Indians in posts of greater trust and responsibility. But for this 
purpose, Malcolm considered, no knowledge of English was necessary. 
"The acquisition of that would occupy a period required for other 
studies and pursuits." It was, however, essential that aspiring Indians 
should have the advantage of translations from English of scientific 
works and of books which would enable them to understand English 
principles of administration. 

In Madras Sir Thomas Munro started enquiries in 1823 which 
showed that among a population estimated to number 12,850,941 
there was one school to every 1 000 ; but only a very few females were 
taught in schools. 

"The state of education has", he minuted, "been better in earlier times; but 
for the last century it does not appear to have undergone any other change than 
what arose from the number of schools diminishing in one place and increasing in 
another, in consequence of the shifting of the population from war or other causes. 
The great number of schools has been supposed to contribute to the keeping of 
education in a low state, because it does not give a sufficient number of scholars 
to secure the services of able teachers." 

He commented on the poor quality and general ignorance of the 
teachers. 2 He was inclined to assist indigenous schools in certain 
cases, but not to interfere with them, and was anxious to establish 
a "normal" school in a central place for training teachers as well as 
two government schools in every district, one for Hindus and one for 

* Pari. Papers, E.T.C. 1832, general, App. i, p. 469. 

' Sharp, op. cit. i, 73-4. It is clear from a letter from Munro to Canning that he also 
contemplated the extension of a knowledge of English literature among the Hindus. 
Gleig, Life of Munro y n, 186. 


Muhammadans. But he died in 1827; and his scheme did not com- 
mend itself to the directors, who had now become anxious to have at 
their disposal "a body of natives qualified by their habits and acquire- 
ments to take a larger share and occupy higher positions in the civil 
administration of their country than had hitherto been the practice". 
The Madras scheme dissolved; but in that presidency a colloquial 
knowledge of English was more commonly found than in Bengal. 
Several distinct languages were spoken there, and English had been 
largely adopted as a common medium of intercourse. The mis- 
sionaries too were busy. Their activities in the whole educational field 
induced Charles Metcalfe to observe in 1834, when quitting the 
governor-general's council on promotion: "They seem destined by 
almighty Providence to be the chief instruments for improving and 
enlightening the inhabitants of this country through the means of 
education and moral instruction".^ 

In the year 1828 Lord William Cavendish Bentinck became 
governor-general. A Whig in politics, he was a courageous and 
zealous reformer. After careful investigation he summarily forbade 
sati against the advice not only of Horace Hayman Wilson, the most 
prominent Orientalist, but also of Ram Mohan Roy. Again despite 
Orientalist advice to the contrary, he established a new medical 
college for training Indian students entirely on Western lines. ^ He 
further meditated reforms in education, but decided first to obey the 
old orders of 18 14 and obtain definite information about the in- 
digenous schools. Unfortunately, however, he delayed action till 
January, 1835,^ the very year of his departure; and in the meantime 
the differences between the two parties on the Committee of Public 
Instruction had come to a head. The English party had been sup- 
ported in Calcutta by a forceful recruit in the person of Alexander 
Duff, a Scotch missionary who, arriving in India in 1829, had opened 
a secondary school, with the assistance of Ram Mohan Roy, and had 
already attracted numerous Hindu pupils. Duff urged vehemently 
that not only was Sanskrit unadaptable as a medium of modern 
education, but that, by an ordinance reckoned to be divine, three- 
fourths of the people, consisting of the mixed and lower classes, were 
forbidden the study of it. 

"There are", he argued, "scarcely any European works translated into Sanskrit; 
and even if there were, every term in that sacred tongue is Hnked inseparably with 
some idea, or sentiment, or deduction of Hinduism which is a stupendous system 
of error; . . .whereas in the very act of acquiring English, the mind, in grasping the 
import of new terms, is perpetually brought into contact with new truths and ideas 
so that by the time that the language has been mastered, the student must be tenfold 
less the child of pantheism, idolatry and superstition than before."* 

^ Kaye, Life of Metcalfe, ii, 229. Cf. Mahmud, op. cit. p. 39. 

2 Article, "Hindu Medicine and Medical Education", Calcutta Review, 1866, xui, 

* Article by Duff on "Indigenous education in Bengal and Bihar," Calcutta Review, 1844. 
Gf. Adam, op. cit. pp. 10-13. * Paton, Life of Duffy p. 66. 


Unlike Carey, Duff was no Orientalist, but he took pains to learn Ben- 
gali and arranged that his pupils should study their mother-tongue. 

These, then, were the issues which pressed for decision at Calcutta 
in the early 'thirties. 

(a) Should anything be done for mass-education; or should it be 
left to unaided indigenous schools? 

(b) Should all idea of grafting the modern learning of the West on 
the ancient learning of the East be abandoned as impracticable? 

(c) Should the filtration theory be adopted and all available funds 
be devoted to advancing Western knowledge among the upper classes 
through the medium of English? No one at Calcutta argued that the 
Bengal vernaculars would serve as a medium, although the govern- 
ments of Bombay and Madras were disposed to use their own very 
different vernaculars for the diffusion of general knowledge. The 
Calcutta Government, too, had recently substituted vernaculars for 
Persian in the law courts of the Bengal Presidency. ^ 

The filtration theory and the virtual supersession of the classical 
languages by English were advocated by advanced Hindus in 
Calcutta, by the followers of Hare and Ram Mohan Roy, by Duff 
and his missionary supporters, and by "the English party" on the 
Committee of Public Instruction. It is important to notice that the 
strongest influences in bringing this "English party" into existence 
were the petition of Ram Mohan Roy and the practical experience of 
the committee. In this way a policy was shaped which contemplated 
the eventual use of the vernaculars for the diffusion of Western know- 
ledge, but the immediate employment of English for this purpose, 
and of English alone. It commended itself to the directors who, 
from motives of economy as well as for reasons of policy, wished to 
see a substantial contingent of Western-educated Indians in the 
public services. 2 Their interest in indigenous schools had long since 
evaporated; and on 8 February, 1829, they had reminded the 
governor-general that the one lakh grant was to be placed at the 
disposal not of one alone, but of all three presidencies, and that it was 
only to be allotted "in the event of there being a surplus revenue after 
defraying all the expenses of government".^ 

Ram Mohan Roy had gone to England in 1830, where he was 
received with honour and gave evidence on Indian affairs before a 
select committee of the House of Commons ; but, to the bitter loss of 
his country, he died at Bristol in 1833.* In the same year parliament, 

* See Prinsep's Diary, ap. Sharp, op. cit. i, 133. It appears, however, from circular 220 
of the nizamat adalat dated 27 January, 1837, that while the dep>ositions of parties or 
witnesses were to be taken down in the languages in which they were delivered, Persian 
translations were to be annexed to the records if the latter were called for by the nizamat 
court {Circular orders of the Calcutta Nizamat Adawlat, 1846, p. 268). 

* Dispatch, 29 September, 1830. 

* Howell, op. cit. p. 20. Cf. Mahmud, op. cit. p. 47. 

* See The Last Days of Ram Mohan Roy, especially pp. 90 and 94, also Reports, Com' 
mittees, E.I.C. 183 1-2 (4), viii, 391. 


after prolonged enquiry, decided when renewing the charter of the 
East India Company to dissociate that body altogether from trade, 
to add a "legal member" to the governor-general's council, and to 
declare that no native of India would in future be debarred from 
office or employment by reason of religion, place of birth, descent or 
colour.^ On lo December, 1834, the directors informed Bentinck's 
government that every effort must be made to enable natives of India 
to compete for the public service with fair chance of success, "whether 
by conferring on them the advantages of education or by diffusing 
on them the treasures of science, knowledge and moral culture". 

In the autumn of 1834 Thomas Babington Macaulay, who had been 
appointed to the legal membership of the governor-general's council, 
arrived at Calcutta and was appointed president of the Committee of 
Public Instruction, which he found hopelessly divided between the 
Orientalist and the English parties. The Orientalists had lost a strong 
champion in H. H. Wilson, who had left India in January, 1833. 
Macaulay declined to take an active part in its proceedings until the 
government had passed judgment on the main issue in dispute ; but 
on 2 February, 1835, he presented a lengthy minute to Bentinck in 
support of the English party. In some passages he poured scorn on 
Oriental literature, of which he knew nothing. In others, while *^ 
asserting that he would strictly respect all existing interests, he pro- 
posed not only to stop the printing of Arabic and Sanskrit books, but y 
to abolish the Muhammadan Madrasa which had been founded by 
Warren Hastings and the Calcutta Sanskrit College. No stipends, he 
urged, should in future be given to students at the Benares and Delhi 
colleges. The funds thus set free would be given to the Vidyalaya at 
Calcutta and to the establishment of English schools in the principal 
cities of Upper India. With the limited means available it was im- 
possible to educate the body of the people. Endeavours should be 
made to form a class of persons "Indian in blood and colour, but ;( 
English in tastes, in opinion, in morals and in intellect". These would 
refine the vernaculars, enrich them with Western terms of science and 
render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the 
great mass of the population. 

Bentinck promptly noted his "entire " concurrence with Macaulay's 
views. In the previous month he had placed William Adam, editor 
of a popular Calcutta journal and ex-missionary, under the orders 
of the Committee of Public Instruction to conduct enquiries into 
the state of indigenous education in Bengal. In a minute dated 
20 January, 1835,2 he had observed, when appointing Adam, that a 
true estimate of the Indian mind and capacity could not be formed 
without the information which Adam was to collect. Adam, however, 
had barely begun when Macaulay's minute was laid before Bentinck's 

1 Cf. pp. 3 sqq., supra. 2 Adam, op. cit. pp. 10-13. 


colleagues with the governor-generars note of concurrence and an 
adverse memorandum drawn up by H. T. Prinsep, a civil servant 
of twenty-six years' service, Persian secretary to the government 
and member of the Committee of Public Instruction.^ But already 
the news had leaked out that the Sanskrit College and the Muham- 
madan Madrasa were to be abolished, and petitions against such 
proceedings, signed by thousands of Hindus and Muhammadans, had 
been presented. After a hot debate in council between Macaulay and 
Prinsep, it was decided on 7 March, 1835, that 

the great object of the British Government ought to be the promotion of Europ>ean 
y Uteratnre and science among the natives of India ; and that all the funds appro- 
priated to education would best be employed on English education alone. 

But no college or school of Indian learning, which enjoyed any 
popularity, would be abolished. Existing professors and students at 
such institutions as were under the committee's superintendence were 
to go on receiving their stipends. No more students, however, were 
to be supported during the period of their education and no money 
should be employed on printing Oriental works. All funds thus 
released should be employed "in imparting to the native population 
a knowledge of English literature and science through the medium of 
the English language". 

Prinsep's memorandum, 2 dated 15 February, 1835, was by 
Bentinck's order excluded from the record on the ground that its 
author was a secretary and not a member of council. But it survived 
and still gives the case for the Orientalists. The weightiest passages 
were those in which the author urged the veneration in which Sanskrit 
and Arabic were still held by Hindus and Muslims as communities. 
Bounties to students were, he contended, really scholarships, and in 
the Muhammad an Madrasa had been given for proficiency in English. 

"Undoubtedly", ran the memorandum, "there is a very widely spread anxiety 
at this time for the attainment of a certain proficiency in English. The sentiment is 
to be encouraged by all means as the source and forerunner of great moral improve- 
ment to those who jfeel its influence ; but there is no single member of the Education 
Conmiittee who will venture to assert that this disposition has yet shown itself 
extensively among the Mussalmans. It is the Hindus of Calcutta, the sirkars 
(accountants and commercial managers) and Kulin (Brahman) connections, and 
the descendants and relations of the sirkars of former days, those who have risen 
through their connexion with the English and with public offices, men who hold 
that a knowledge of English is a necessary qualification. These are the classes of 
persons to whom the study of English is as yet confined; and certainly we have no 
reason yet to believe that the Mussalmans in any part of India can be reconciled 
to the cultivation of it, much less give it a preference to the polite literature of their 
race or to what they look upon as such." 

* R-other of the remarkable James Prinsep, F.R.S., sometime secretary of the Asiatic 
Society of Bengal (see James Prinsep, Essays on Indian antiquities^ ed. by Edward Thomas, 
John Murray, 1858, i, iii). 

* Sharp, op. cit. i, 117. 



This passage elicited the following marginal note from Macaulay: 
"There is no good English scheme for the Mussalmans; and one of 
our first duties is to establish one'*. No such scheme was, however, 
established. The Muhammadans were opposed to the whole project, 
looking upon the exclusive encouragement of English as a step toward 
religious conversion.^ 

In a minute dated 20 May, 1835, laid before the council after 
Bentinck's departure, Prinsep called the resolution of 7 March " a rash 
act". The natives should (he said) be left to choose their own courses 
of education, and all should equally be encouraged by the govern- 
ment, who should however arrange "to give them the direction to 
true science and good taste in literature which the superior lights of 
Europe enable us to bestow". Any deviation from this principle of 
free choice and equal encouragement could only do mischief by 
exciting feelings of distrust and perhaps irritation. 

Macaulay remained president of the Committee of Public Instruc- 
tion till 1838. His writings show how seriously he took his voluntary 
and unpaid duties, and how earnestly he tried to lead the young 
generation to a knowledge of the best English literature, which he 
relied on as a strong cultural and religious influence. Unlike Grant, 
he took no particular thought for science or agriculture. European 
knowledge would soon, he thought, be exhibited in the vernacular 
languages. As things were going, in thirty years there would not be 
a single idolater among the respectable classes of Bengal. 2 His com- 
mittee began to establish Anglo-vernacular schools at the head- 
quarters of various districts. These were first known as "zillah" 
(district) schools and afterwards as "high" schools. The courses of 
study therein were mainly literary, an arrangement which accorded 
with Macaulay's own taste and with the inclinations of people whose 
traditional systems of learning were chiefly literary and religious. 

It is regrettable that such important issues as those involved in the 
decision of 7 March, 1835, had become "a watchword for violent 
discussion and personal feeling ".^ Had there been less heat in the 
whole contention, Macaulay would have been persuaded that he 
really had something to learn from the Orientalists, and that the 
whole past and present of the great religious and social systems, which 
he did not care to understand, forbade even the remotest possibility 
of their collapse within any measurable period of time. That in any 
case the new education would leave women untouched, that the 
Muhammadans were strongly averse to it, these and other obvious 
considerations were dismissed by him as negligible. It was unfor- 
tunate too that the results of Adam's enquiries were not available for 
Bentinck and his council. Had they been aware of the extent of self- 
supporting indigenous education, they might have cut the Gordian 

^ Mahmud, op. cit. p. 54. ^ Trevelyan, Life and Letters, p. 464. 

" Lord Auckland, ap. Sharp, op. cit. i, 147. 


knot in less trenchant a fashion. But their funds were extremely 
Limited, and in view of the ideas prevalent both in parliament and in 
Leadenhall Street, they naturally made a strong effort to push the 
kind of education for which there was evidently a clamant local 
demand. Macaulay and his minute precipitated a decision which was 
hardly avoidable. Yet the views recorded by Bentinck in his minute 
of 20 January, 1835, show that, after writing it, he was completely 
carried away by Macaulay's vigorous eloquence.^ 

Duff was better informed than Macaulay, for he viewed the situa- 
tion with some degree of Indian experience. He approved of the 
y decision of 1 835, but considered that the exclusion of religious teaching 
from the government schools would leave a void which the mis- 
sionaries must labour to fill: modern knowledge was like the ocean 
seen to roll its waters from shore to shore. But if like the ocean it had 
its gentle breezes, might it not have its storms and quicksands too?^ 
He returned to his work as a Christian educationist and achieved 
remarkable success. Believing his own creed to be true, he believed 
that it could be reconciled with everything else which is also true. 
With the power of a great personality he influenced the lives of many. ^ 

In spite of Bentinck's very definite declaration and Macaulay's 
prompt action, in Bengal only was the teaching of English con- 
tinuously preferred to all other educational objectives. Even there 
the pendulum swung back in some small degree. The decision to 
spend no more money on Oriental works was modified in 1838 and 
a grant of 500 rupees a month was allotted to the Asiatic Society of 
Bengal which enabled it to carry on the valuable Bibliotheca Indica 
series of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian texts.* The directors hesitated 
to make English a medium of teaching ; and had not the rage for 
learning English spread rapidly in Calcutta, the history of education 
in after years might have taken a somewhat different course. 

In March, 1836, Lord Auckland became governor-general and was 
faced by an attempted renewal of the controversy of 1835. Before his 
arrival restrictions on the press had been removed by Metcalfe, and 
journalism had thus been greatly stimulated. Now Adam's reports 
began to come in and afforded food for much reflection. Accurate 
information regarding the indigenous systems was at last provided; 
there were no vernacular textbooks ; the miserable condition of the 
schools was emphasised ; the possibility of converting them into some- 
thing better was insisted on. They should be left in the hands of the 

* Adam, op. cit. p. lo. We may note that on 28 December, 1855, Max Muller was given 
an interview by Macaulay when the Professor, "primed with every possible argument in 
favour of Oriental studies, had to sit silent for an hour while the historian poured out his 
diametrically opposite views, and then dismissed his visitor who tried in vain to utter a 
single word. *I went back to Oxford', he said, 'a sadder and a wiser man'". Life of Max 
Muller, edited by his wife, i, 162, Longmans, Green, 1902. 

2 Duff, op. cit. p. 265. 
' See Paton, op. cit. 

* Centenary Review of Asiatic Society of Bengal (1784- 1883), p. 59. 


people, but assisted in various ways. This should be the supreme 
objective. Western knowledge was much needed, but nowhere should 
English be a medium of instruction. At present a class of men was 
being produced who stood apart from both their fellow-countrymen 
and the British, and found inadequate scope for their attainments. 
The masses were left in ignorance; so industry languished; crime 
flourished; the support of the people for salutary measures could not 
be counted on. The press was now free; the civil and political rights 
of the people had been enlarged ; but the government should, by a 
general system of instruction, timely established, teach the people 
"the proper use of the mighty instrument which had been placed in 
their hands and of the various franchises that had been and might be 
from time to time bestowed".^ Auckland was impressed by Adam's 
arguments but saw that to accept them would mean delay and open 
up vistas of heavy expenditure; the filtration theory must now be 
fully tested. Money too was scarce. Only ^24,000 was annually 
available for the whole Bengal Presidency. So the governor-general 
wrote a minute ^ of prodigious length, adhering to the filtration theory 
but emphasising the importance of providing a larger number of good 
vernacular class-books. Orientalist colleges must be kept in funds; 
but nothing could be done at present for the indigenous schools. In 
a dispatch of 20 January, 1841, the directors agreed with him; but 
abandoning to some extent the views of Macaulay and Bentinck, they 
stated that the diffusion of European knowledge need not necessarily 
be through English. Vernacular translations of English books would 
serve for the purpose. 

In 1842 the Committee of Public Instruction was superseded by 
a Council of Education composed partly of Indian gentlemen. This 
body's activities were mainly limited to Calcutta. Outside the capital 
the government was responsible; and in April, 1843, the control and 
management of educational institutions in the Upper Bengal or the 
North-Western Provinces were made over to the lieutenant-governor. 
Sir G. Clerk, who in August attacked the accepted policy, laying 
stress on the difference between the habits and customs of the in- 
fluential classes in the upper and the lower provinces. In the former 
the native gentry neither countenanced nor supported the govern- 
ment schools. In 1844 Lord Hardinge's government announced that 
candidates qualified by a knowledge of English would be preferred 
for the public service.^ Examinations were instituted by the Council 
of Education and students who qualified therein were enrolled as fit 
for (although not necessarily entitled to) employment. The distinction 

^ Adam, op. cit. pp. 341-2. ^ Sharp, op. cit. i, 160. 

^ In 1 830 the government of the Bengal Presidency had notified "that in the nomination 
of government vakils (agents) in the native courts and of agents with the Commissioners", 
familiarity with English would constitute a recommendation to preference unless on special 
grounds this rule was disregarded. It is, however, doubtful if it was ever acted on. History 
of the Benares Sanskrit College, p. 73. 



was not appreciated, and those who were unsuccessful in obtaining 
such posts as they desired resented the disappointment. Western 
education, however, had been clearly declared a passport to govern- 
ment service, the most coveted of all professions. 

Anglo-vernacular schools were established in outlying districts of 
Bengal, and in 1844 some vernacular village schools were started 
which ended in failure. The indigenous vernacular schools were left 
out in the cold; they neither improved in quality nor declined in 
number. From considered reluctance to infringe in any way on social 
custom and on long-standing ideas regarding the seclusion or sub- 
jection of women, the government stood aside from the efforts of the 
missionaries, of David Hare, and of a few private societies and in- 
dividuals, to promote female education. The missionaries started day- 
schools for girls, boarding establishments for orphans and domestic 
instruction in the families of the middle and higher classes. The results 
were small; but the main credit of a great initiative rests with them.^ 
From Leitner's Report it appears that there was far more indigenous 
female education in the Panjab than there was in the older provinces. 
A school for girls was in 1849 established and maintained in Calcutta 
by J. E. D. Bethune, member of the governor-general's council and 
president of the Council of Education, who spent his money freely on 
the undertaking. 2 Dalhousie considered that this generous example 
was likely to be followed by Indian gentlemen and that schools for 
girls could be promoted by district officers. The directors, however, 
threw cold water on this idea as they were unwilling to alarm con- 
servative Indian opinion. After Bethune's untimely death, the ex- 
penses of his school were borne first by Dalhousie and afterwards by 
a fund raised by public subscription to carry on Bethune's work. 

While Western education was acquiring increasing momentum 
among the Hindus of Bengal, it progressed very slowly in inland 
^ provinces where government servants were practically the only 
European residents. James Thomason, lieutenant-governor of the 
North-Western Provinces from 1843 to 1853, was anxious to promote 
rural education^ "enlisting the persons whom the people may them- 
selves select as teachers, and support for that purpose". Enquiries 
had disclosed the fact that in these provinces only 64,335 (50,026 
Hindus and 14,309 Muhammadans) out ofa population of2 1,630, 167 
were in receipt of any education. Eventually a halqabandi (circle) 
school system was devised whereby villages were grouped in circles 
of five, the land-holders of each group undertaking to pay for a school 
by a voluntary cess of i per cent, on the land-revenue. This system 
was in 1852-3 introduced into eight districts and was afterwards 

* Richey, Selections from the Educational Records, p. 34; Adam, op. cit. pp. 335-7. 

* Calcutta Review, xxi, 513. 

* Richey, op. cit. p. 61 ; also a memorandum by R. Burn, Census Superintendent North- 
Wcstcm Provinces and Oudh (unpublished) . 


extended as other districts came under land-revenue settlement. The 
scheme, as sanctioned by the directors, involved the levy of a cess of 
I per cent, on the rent, which was deducted before the revenue was 
calculated, so that payment was shared by the government and the 
land-holder. In Bombay the government ignored the filtration theory, 
and endeavoured primarily to promote education through the ver- 
nacular, admitting to education in English those who sought it and 
"had the capacity to acquire European learning ".^ Throughout the 
southern presidency missionary enterprise was busy. English, Scotch, 
Americans and Irish Presbyterians vied with each other in honourable 
rivalry. 2 In 1839 Lord Elphinstone, governor of Madras, advocated 
the establishment of a university open to students who possessed some 
knowledge of English. The institution came into existence as a school 
which in 1852 bore the title of the " Madras University High School". 
It was then the only state or state-controlled school or college in the 
presidency. But the gap left by the government had been filled by 
missionaries of various denominations, Jesuit fathers, Wesley ans and 
the English, Scottish and American Churches. The number of mis- 
sionary schools in Madras exceeded those in all other presidencies put 

Kaye tells us that the state educational expenditure in 1853 
amounted to about £70,000. For many years, as Dalhousie observed, 
the public finances had been "in a condition which clogged the action 
of the government".* In Bengal the government was maintaining- 
thirty colleges and schools in which English was taught, but only 
thirty- three vernacular schools against Bombay's 233. Among the 
most successful government institutions were the Medical College 
started by Bentinck in Calcutta, and the Thomason Engineering 
College at Rurki in the Nor th-Wes tern Provinces. Throughout India 
the Hindu aristocracy held aloof from the new learning. Their literary 
tastes were satisfied by the poetry of their race ; and they had no 
inclination to send their sons to schools where social contact with boys 
of a lower order would mean contamination. The Muhammadans, as 
a body, also stood outside. They had never felt disposed to do anything 
else. Proud of an imperial past, attached to their own classics,^ they 
held that religious and secular instruction should go together. Their 
young men were freely employed in administrative posts, but despised 
clerical and office work. 

As the time approached for another revision of the Company's 
charter, it became more and more apparent that uniformity and 
constancy of aim were lacking in the educational policies of the various 
provincial governments. The situation was reviewed by Dalhousie, 

^ Richey, p. i8. * Report of the Education Commission 0/1882, pp. 12-13. 

' Madras Administrative Report, 1855-6; Richey,o/>.«7. p. 183. See also Satthianadhan, 
History of Education in Madras, pp. 38-g, and Report of the Education Commission of 1882, p. 10. 
* Richey, op. cit. p. 113. 
^ Report of the Education Commission of 1882, p. 483. 


who forwarded proposals to the directors. A parliamentary com- 
mittee was appointed and examined a number of witnesses, including 
such veterans as Trevelyan and Duff. Sir Charles Wood, president of 
the Board of Control, after much deliberation, forwarded a scheme to 
India through the court of directors (dispatch 49 of 19 July, 1854) 
which imposed upon the government the task of "creating a properly 
articulated scheme of education, from the primary school to the 
university". As state schools and colleges were intended to benefit 
the general population, the instruction which they gave must ob- 
viously be "exclusively secular"; but 

every honest educational agency, whether religious or not, should be encouraged 
to the utmost, under the inspection and direction of a government department, and 
with the encouragement and assistance of the local officers of government, upon 
the value of which emphasis was laid.^ 

The filtration theory was unsatisfying. The indigenous schools were 
no longer to be left to themselves, but "made capable of imparting 
correct elementary knowledge to the great mass of people". The 
methods adopted in the North- Western Provinces for promoting rural 
education were commended for general imitation. A regular system 
of scholarships must be instituted to connect lower schools with higher, 
and higher schools v/ith colleges. Voluntary effort must be supported 
by grants-in-aid from the state awarded with entire impartiality. 
Female education must be frankly and cordially supported. It might 
be anticipated that eventually state education would become educa- 
tion supported where necessary by state grants-in-aid. 

Universities would be established at Calcutta^ and Bombay and 
would be allowed at Madras or elsewhere provided a sufficient number 
of colleges were forthcoming. They would be examining bodies on 
the model of the London University, depending, so far as teaching 
was concerned, upon the various colleges, whether maintained by 
government or voluntary effort. But professorships should be insti- 
tuted for instruction in such subjects as law and civil engineering. It 
would greatly encourage the cultivation of the vernaculars if chairs 
were also founded for promoting the study of these languages and 
perhaps also of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian. The acquisition of 
degrees would bring highly educated young men to the notice of the 
government and facilitate selections for the public services. 

The particular attention of the government should be given to the 
diffusion through the schools of useful and practical knowledge 
among the people generally. So far state energies had been too ex- 
clusively directed toward "providing a very high degree of education " 
for classes who were often able and wilHng to bear at least a con- 
siderable portion of the cost themselves. More could be done to 

^ Calcutta University Commission Report, i, 40, 

2 A scheme for a university at Calcutta had been proposed in 1845 by the Council of 
Education, but had remained in abeyance. 


prepare good vernacular class-books containing European informa- 
tion. Teaching of English, where there was a demand for it, should be 
combined with careful attention to the vernaculars, but English alone 
possessed a sufficiently supple and extended vocabulary for conveying 
the elements of Western sciences. This exhaustive dispatch concluded 
with the observation that no sudden or speedy results could be 
expected from the adoption of the wide measures prescribed. The 
outcome depended far more on the people themselves than on the 

No time was lost in acting on these orders, ^ which, in Dalhousie's 
words, "set forth a scheme of education for all India far wider and 
more comprehensive than the supreme or any local government could 
have ventured to suggest". Departments of public instruction were 
organised; and in 1857 examining universities were established at 
Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. But work had hardly begun when 
the Mutiny intervened ; and it is natural to enquire whether British 
educational policy had contributed to produce that great struggle. 
Kaye replies in the affirmative,^ pointing out inter alia that the policy 
of the dispatch of 1854, relying partly on missionary aid, and aiming 
at penetrating even to the zenanas, was in fact a challenge to Brah- 
manism, and that the tendency of educational measures from 1835 
onwards had been to curtail Muhammadan emoluments and Muham- 
madan dignity. Outram considered that the crusading, improving, 
spirit of the past twenty-five years was bound to cause a resounding 
clash. ^ It certainly gave the instigators of rebellion one of the prin- 
cipal texts from which they preached. But features in various outbreaks 
revealed unmistakably the full extent of the dangers which spring from 
unbounded and credulous ignorance. Lord Canning had received 
a disagreeable shock from the attitude of the Bengali press at the very 
crisis of the empire's fate;* but he never faltered in pursuing the 
educational policy laid down in 1854. 

Among many subjects of importance none can have a stronger claim on our 
attention than that of education. It is one of our most sacred duties to be the means, 
as far as in us Hes, of conferring upon natives of India those vast moral and material 
blessings which flow from the diffusion of useful knowledge, and which India may, 
under Providence, derive from her connection with England. 

So ran the preamble of the dispatch of 1854. The pioneers of this 
policy were Grant and Carey. Wilberforce lent his powerful aid ; the 
unremembered Robert Smith suggested the clause which proved the 
starting-point for a great undertaking; Hare by his devoted labours 
earned the lasting gratitude of Bengali Hindus ;^ Ram Mohan Roy 

^ See Calcutta Review^ i860, xxxv, 401-26. 
^ History of the Indian Mutiny ^ i, 131-43. 

* Lee-Warner, Dalhousie, 11, 355. 

* Donogh, Law of Sedition in Indian p. 182; Kaye and Malleson, History of the Mutiny ^ 
III, 13. 

^ Banerjee, A Nation in the Making, pp. 1-2. 


prepared the way for Bentinck and Macaulay. A Hindu movement 
in Calcutta, due largely to the persevering efforts of the missionaries, 
combined with the general trend of political thought in England, with 
the eloquent pen of Macaulay and with the inclinations of the governor- 
general to produce the decision of 1835 which was in the circumstances 
natural but broke violently with the past, took no account of the 
indigenous vernacular schools or of the importance of preserving as 
far as possible their self-supporting character, and encouraged ten- 
dencies which, as years went on, passed beyond control. The new 
policy was carried into effect in Bengal by a brilliant Whig politician 
who possessed no knowledge of the history of Indian thought and no 
understanding of the Indian mind. The years which followed 1835 
V were years of varying opinion, uneven direction, and scanty expendi- 
ture. Then a great governor-general found time to consider education 
and corresponded with a president of the Board of Control, who, con- 
vinced of the supreme importance of the subject, gave it elaborate 
attention, and pricked out a chart for future guidance. His chief 
desire was that England should do her duty by those many millions 
for whose welfare she had undertaken responsibility, that they should 
be less and less cramped and plagued by the evils which spring from 
ignorance and tyrannical superstitions, that while the ancient learning 
of India should still be held in honour, her peoples should no longer 
be penned behind those barriers of stationary thought which for long 
centuries had been so powerfully restrictive. But he saw clearly that 
whatever the government might attempt, the eventual issues lay with 
the people themselves. 



JJ Y the charter of 1698 parliament provided for the maintenance of 
ministers and schoolmasters in all the Company's garrisons and 
superior factories. The ministers must learn Portuguese within one 
year of their arrival in India and must apply themselves to acquire 
knowledge of the native languages in order to be able "to instruct 
the gentoos that shall be servants or slaves of the Company or of their 
agents in the Protestant religion". In 1700 the directors communi- 
cated to their "commanders of ships and agents of factories" a form 
of prayer, sanctioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop 
of London, which contained the supplication 

that we adorning the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour in all things, these Indian 
nations among whom we dwell, beholding our good works may be won over to love 
our most holy religion, and glorify thee, our Father which art in Heaven.^ 

Forty years before, when asking certain doctors of Oxford and Cam- 
bridge for assistance in procuring the services of a chaplain for their 
settlements, the directors had expressed a vague desire "to endeavour 
the advance and spreading of the Gospel in India ";2 but whatever 
might be the views of the day in Leadenhall Street, the governors and 
councils at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay were by no means inclined 
to missionary enterprise. The records of the India Office contain a 
bitter complaint written about 1702, by Benjamin Adams, chaplain 
of "the Bay" (of Bengal), emphasising the great discouragement and 
disadvantage under which the "missionary clergy" abroad were 
living, and the opposition which they met from their own chiefs.^ The 
majority of the scanty staff of chaplains who were sent out were 
engaged for periods of three, five, or seven years ; they were often 
incapacitated by illness; they often refrained from learning Portu- 
guese, and in the ordinary course of their duties they had small 
occasion to learn thoroughly any Indian language. A more pressing 
care was the religious instruction of the "children of mixed parents" 
among their congregations. In Madras these would largely have been 
left to French or Portuguese Roman Catholic priests, had not other 
teachers come forward. For political and religious reasons the governor 
and council were glad to obtain assistance from the Lutheran mis- 
sionaries of Tranquebar, Danish and German, who received generous 
financial support from the British Society for Promoting Christian 

^ Hyde, Parochial Annals, Appendix A, and Penny, Church in Madras, i, 125. 
^ Sainsbury, Court Minutes, 1655-9, P« 227. 
^ Hyde, op. cit. p. 75. 


Kjiowledge. In gratitude for services, both in teaching the children 
of the Portuguese, Tamils and Eurasians employed by the Company's 
merchants and factors, and in ministering to the Company's soldiers, 
British, Swiss, Hanoverians and other Germans, these men received 
free passages to India from the directors, and their goods were con- 
veyed free of charge. The most notable among them was the German 
Pietist, Christian Swartz, who was employed by Sir Thomas 
Rumbold on a secret mission of peace to Hydar Ali in 1779, and 
afterwards accepted a chaplaincy, continuing all his missionary 
activities.^ A monument erected after his death in the fort church at 
Madras at the expense of the Company testifies that for fifty years he 
^'went about doing good", and that in him "religion appeared not 
with a gloomy aspect or forbidding mien, but with a graceful form 
and placid dignity". 

While German and Danish missionaries were thus honoured in the 
comparatively small presidency of Madras, the problems of managing 
vast territories peopled by multitudes of various religions were pressing 
heavily on the rulers of Bengal. By the regulations of 1793 the 
governor-general in council promised to "preserve the laws of the 
Shaster and the Koran, and to protect the natives of India in the free 
exercise of their religion ". All rites and customs were to be tolerated ; 
all endowments were left untouched; all religious liabilities created 
by former rulers were accepted as trusts. As we saw in our last chapter, 
when in 1793 the Company's charter came up for renewal, Wilber- 
force failed to persuade parliament to impose missionary responsi- 
bilities on the court of directors, and William Carey and his coadjutors 
made their way to India without licences from that body. Once at 
Serampur they could claim protection from the Danish flag. But they 
owed their subsequent success very largely to Lord Wellesley's favour, 
for he not only appointed Carey teacher of languages in the new 
college for young civil servants, but personally subscribed ;,(^8oo2 to 
the building of a church at Serampur, subsidising too the translation 
of the Christian Scriptures into Indian languages, " to give the learned 
natives access to the sacred fountain of divine truth". He "thought 
that a Christian governor could not have done less, and knew that a 
British governor ought not to do more".^ 

In religion as in other matters Wellesley pursued a policy of his 
own; but he left India in 1805 and his successors were inclined to 
reverse this policy. The Serampur missionaries, too, had been greatly 
encouraged and conducted their operations with less discretion. 
Friction with the government began, and was intensified by the news 
of the mutiny at Vellore in 1806. There was no apparent connection 
between this event and any missionary activities,* but the Madras 
authorities stated that malicious reports had been current that it 

^ See V, 282, supra. ^ Marshman, Cartj)^ Marshman and Ward, p. 170. 

' Hansard, xxv, 697-8. * Mill and Wilson, History 0/ British Indian ^/ii, loi. 


was the wish of the British Government to convert the people of the 
country to Christianity by forcible means. From 1807 to 1813 mission 
work was an object of nervous apprehension to the government at 
Calcutta; and missionaries without licences from the directors were 
on various occasions deported from or refused permission to land in 
British India. ^ Meantime, however, Methodists and Evangelicals 
were vigorously stimulating religious enthusiasm in England. The 
"Particular Baptist Society" which supported Carey and his col- 
leagues had received subscriptions from Christians of other de- 
nominations and a remarkable testimonial from the Quarterly Review,^ 
Wilberforce and the Clapham sect had procured the stoppage of the 
slave-trade. The Church Missionary Society, the Bible Society, the 
London Missionary Society and other religious associations, new and 
old, were gathering increased support. Charles Grant's influence was 
powerful in Leadenhall Street. When Lord Minto's government sent 
home an account of its differences with the Serampur missionaries, 
it had been told that the directors were not averse to the introduction 
of Christianity, but to any imprudent or injudicious attempt to 
introduce it by methods which irritated other religious prejudices. 
It was enjoined to abstain from all unnecessary and ostentatious 
interference with the proceedings of the missionaries. 

"On the other hand", wrote the court, "it will be your bounden duty vigilantly 
to guard the public tranquillity from interruption, and to impress upon the minds 
of all the inhabitants of India, that the British faith, upon which they rely for the 
free exercise of their religion, will be inviolably maintained."^ 

When the Company's charter came under revision in 181 3 the tide 
in England was flowing in favour of the missionaries. It was urged 
that the real question was not whether the natives of India should 
continue to enjoy complete religious toleration, but whether that 
toleration should be extended to the teachers of Christianity. Quite 
apart from any doctrinal considerations, the spread of Christianity 
had always meant moral progress; and the existence of such customs 
as widow-burning and female infanticide showed that moral progress 
was urgently required in the interests of humanity. It had been said 
that the British empire in India was insecure and might easily be 
upset by religious agitation. Indeed it was — a column upon sand 
was but a feeble emblem of its insecurity. But even worldly policy 
demanded that India should be "trained up in civilisation and 
Christianity, like a child by its guardian, till such tutelage was no 
longer needed". At present 

if England were dispossessed of its dominion in India nothing would be retained of 
aU we could have taught but that improved discipline which the people would 

^ Stock, History of the Church Missionary Society, i, 99. 
^ "Baptist Missions", Quarterly Review, February, 1809, i, 225. 

3 Dispatch, 7 September, 1808; Kaye, History of Christianity in India, pp. 513-18; 
Quarterly Review, March, 181 3, ix, 236. 


exercise first to our destruction and then to their own. Not a trace of our language 
would remain; and for our religion the Hindoo historians would argue that we 
had none. 

Such were the arguments on one side. With variations they were 
pushed so vehemently that petitions loaded the tables of the houses 
of parliament from religious bodies of all kinds. ^ On the other hand 
it was argued that in the matter of religion the natives of India were 
peculiarly sensitive. Evidence on this point, taken by a committee 
of the Commons so far back as 1781, had elicited the unanimous 
opinion that "any interference with the religion of the natives would 
eventually insure the total destruction of the British power". On no 
account should missionaries be employed or maintained by the 
government. They might go to India as they had gone heretofore or 
under new restrictions; they might preach, translate and teach at 
their own risk; but no sanction should be given by government to 
their proceedings, and no attempt should be made to tie the hands of 
government from restraining their activities. 

As has been shown in the last chapter, Wilberforce had abated the 
demands of 1 793, and now gained his main point, for not only were 
missionaries allowed to appeal to the Board ojf Control against refusals 
by the directors to allow them to proceed to India, but resolutions 
were incorporated in the new charter act which favoured the adoption 
of a policy of promoting religious and moral improvement. The 
Company's Anglican establishment was placed under the super- 
intendence of a bishop and three archdeacons, for whose maintenance 
adequate provision was to be made from Indian territorial revenues. 
On 8 May, 18 14, the first bishop of Calcutta was consecrated in 
Lambeth Palace privately in order to avoid offending Indian religious 
susceptibilities, which were in fact totally unruffled by this event. ^ 
Between the years 181 3 and 1833 Christianity gained converts; 
missionaries of various denominations considerably increased and 
maintained friendly relations with the people and with the authorities. 
When the charter was again renewed in 1833, arrangements were 
made for the establishment of the episcopal sees of Madras and 
Bombay. Missionaries were enabled to proceed to India without 
licence from any authority, and rendered invaluable assistance to the 
government in educational enterprise. Under the scheme of 1854 
their schools became eligible for grants-in-aid. While, moreover, the 
directors declared that education must be purely secular in state 
schools and colleges, they understood that bibles were placed in the 
libraries of these institutions, and had no desire to prevent any 
explanations which pupils might spontaneously ask from teachers on 
this subject provided that such information was given out of school 

* Mill and Wilson, op. cit. vn, 389-96, 401. 

* Kayc, British Indiay pp. 646-7. 


But in other respects relations were less harmonious. Com- 
plaints were made of the disabilities imposed on Indian converts to 
Christianity by the government's regulations and of official en- 
couragement accorded to idolatrous ceremonies and practices.^ The 
fact was that succeeding to the thrones of Indian rulers, the British 
Government had sanctioned by regulations certain usages repugnant 
to Christian prejudices. Converts to Christianity were legally subject 
to disinheritance; and native Christians, whether Protestants or the 
Roman Catholics who were very numerous in Southern India, 
suffered from civil disabilities and restrictions, while Hindu and 
Muhammadan religious usages, institutions and ceremonies were 
treated with profound official deference. Troops were turned out and 
salutes were fired when festivals occurred. ^ The British Government 
administered Hindu and Muhammadan religious endowments and 
levied pilgrim taxes in order to pay for keeping temples in order, for 
supporting priests and for providing guards on particular occasions; 
it repaired sacred buildings and managed landed estates the net 
proceeds from which went to ministers of temples and mosques. As 
meantime only scanty sums were allotted to the service of the religion 
which the rulers of the country themselves professed, the contrast gave 
point to the charge that these rulers neither had nor cared for any 

In the year 1832, however, with the object of affording relief to 
Christian converts, the government passed a law which protected all 
persons who should change their religion from consequent loss of 
property. This measure evoked Hindu protests, although the Muham- 
madans in the day of their power had not only protected but en- 
couraged Muslim converts. The protests were disregarded; but the 
new law applied only to the Bengal Presidency; and in 1845 the 
bishop of Bombay represented that within his diocese native Christians 
were indeed protected from violence by the courts of justice, but 
derived no other benefit whatever from these institutions. Such 
grievances were finally disposed of by Lord Dalhousie's government 
in 1850, which passed an act rescinding all laws and usages throughout 
India which inflicted upon any person forfeiture of rights and property 
by reason of renunciation of or exclusion from the communion of any 
religion. The act evoked loud complaints from Hindus, not un- 
naturally, as under Hindu law inheritance of property was attended 
by religious and ceremonial obligations. But the new measure stood. 

The hopes and enthusiasm which animated the Board of Control 
in 1833 stimulated general reform in India. Charles Grant, afterwards 
Lord Glenelg, was president, and on 21 February addressed the 
governor-general in council through the court of directors ordering 

^ E.g. Peggs, India's Cries to British Humanity, 1830. 

'^ Tucker, Memorials of Indian Government, p. 358. See also Kaye, History of Christianity in 
India, chap, x; Lyall, op. cit. chap. x. 


the abolition of the pilgrim tax in every province and the cessation 
of the practice of employing government servants in the collection, 
management or custody of religious funds or offerings. No public 
servant was to receive any sort of emolument from any such source. 
The police posted on duty at religious festivals with a view to the 
peace and security of pilgrims and worshippers must be paid out of 
general revenues. Indians should be left to themselves in all matters 
relating to their temples, their worship, their festivals or their cere- 
monial observances. The dispatch called for further information and 
added : 

We are holding up a standard to which you are ultimately to conform your 
policy rather than laying down a rule to which you are instantly and without 
respect of circumstances to conform. . . . Such explanations should be given to the 
natives as shall satisfy them that so far from abandoning the principles of a just 
toleration, the British Government is resolved to apply them with more scrupulous 
accuracy than ever ; and that this proceeding is in truth a recurrence to that state 
of real neutrality from which we ought never to have departed.^ 

The dispatch, which had been long in incubation, was received by 
the government of India without enthusiasm, and remained for some 
time a dead letter. But regulations which insisted on the firing of 
salutes, on official attendance and homage^ at Hindu and Muham- 
madan festivals, were resented not only by chaplains and missionaries 
but by members of the Company's services ; and a memorial which 
received 200 signatures from official and non-official Europeans was 
presented to the Madras Government through the bishop to be 
forwarded to higher authority. The memorialists petitioned that the 
instructions of 1833 should be carried out and were strongly supported 
by Bishop Corrie, who thus incurred the displeasure of the local 
government, but appealed to the governor-general. Strong feeling 
was aroused both in India and England; and eventually on the 
initiative of Sir John Cam Hobhouse, president of the Board of 
Control, a dispatch was addressed by the directors to the government 
of India dated 8 August, 1838, which insisted both that no more time 
should be lost in obeying the instructions of 1833 and that arrange- 
ments should be made 

for relieving all our servants, whether Christians, Muhammadans or Hindus, from 
the compulsory performance of acts which you may consider to be justly liable to 
objection on the ground of religious scruples.^ 

The government of India obeyed, and issued orders which put an end 
to the attendance of troops or military bands at native religious 
festivals or ceremonies and to all firing of salutes on such occasions. 
Public officers were, as far as possible, to abstain from all connection 
with the ceremonies of the Hindu and Muhammadan religions. But 

* Kayc, History of Christianity in India, p. 418. 
' Idem, p. 421 n.; Peggs, op. cit. pp. 259-60. 

' Pari. Papers, 1839, xxxix, 189; Kaye, op. cit. pp. 428-9; also Tucker, op. cit. 
PP- 353-69- 


the administration of religious endowments was interwoven with the 
revenue system of the country, and the tenants of landed estates which 
belonged to religious establishments had always been accustomed to 
look to the government as their working landlord and could not be 
summarily handed over to unreliable substitutes.^ New agencies of 
a trustworthy nature were hard to find, and complaints were made 
that, to the grave injury of the Hindu and Muhammadan religions, 
obligations were being shuffled off which had always been considered 
binding.^ It was not until the year 1863, when the government of 
India had been transferred to the crown, that an act was passed 
which relieved public servants from all duties which embraced the 
superintending of lands assigned for pious uses or the management 
in any form of religious establishments belonging to the Hindu or the 
Muhammadan religions. The cry of "religion in danger" which V 
undoubtedly contributed to the outbreak of the Mutiny was partly 
produced by a feeling that the ancient faiths of the country were losing 
exclusive privileges. But it must be admitted that the Company's 
conciliatory policy had been carried to extreme lengths and called 
for modification.^ 

In tolerating all Indian rites and customs the British Government 
soon found itself confronted by difficult problems. One was not felt 
to be pressing. Slavery had long been an established institution not 
only in India but in our American colonies. Mr Moreland, in his 
valuable studies of economic conditions under the Moghul Empire, 
accepts it as 

a Hindu institution, though in Akbar's time at least it did not secure the approval 
of all Hindus, and the text-writers refine and distinguish according to their practice 
regarding its origin and incidents.* 

The Ain-i-Akbari shows that slavery was also recognised by Muham- 
madan law. In the first year of Warren Hastings's rule in Bengal a 
regulation was passed which condemned the families of convicted 
dacoits (brigands) to be sold as slaves. The "Committee of Circuit", 
in proposing this legislation, observed: 

The ideas of slavery borrowed from our American colonies, will make every 
modification of it appear in the eyes of our countrymen in England a horrible evil. 
But it is far otherwise in this country ; here slaves are treated as the children of the 
families to which they belong and often acquire a much happier state by their 
slavery than they could have hoped for by the enjoyment of liberty.^ 

But these hues are too roseate, for we find Sir William Jones remarking 
to a Calcutta jury in 1 785 : 

Hardly a man or woman exists in a corner of this populous town who hath not 
at least one slave child either purchased at a trifling price or saved for a life that 

1 Pari. Papers, 1841 (5), xvii, 741-51. ^ Lyall, op. cit. (ed. 1884), p. 282. 

' See Macau lay's speech on the Gates of Somnauth, Speeches on Politics and Literature 
(Everyman's Library), especially pp. 204-5. 

* Moreland, India at the death of Akbar, p. 91. Cf. also From Akbar to Aurangzeh. 

^ O'Malley, History of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, p. 359. Cf. Peggs, op. cit. pp. 366-8. 


seldom fails of being miserable. Many of you, I presume, have seen large boats 
filled with such children coming down the river for open sale at Calcutta. Nor 
can you be ignorant that most of them were stolen from their parents or bought for 
perhaps a measure of rice, in time of scarcity. ^ 

The truth is that the treatment of slaves, domestic and agricultural, 
varied in different parts of the country ;2 in most provinces, however, 
it was common for very needy members of the humbler classes to sell 
themselves or their children into slavery in order to obtain a bare 
subsistence. But purchasers would often restore such children to their 
parents in better times. The abolition of the slave-trade by the British 
parliament in 1807 marked the beginning of a new era. In 1789 the 
government of Lord Cornwallis had forbidden by proclamation the 
collection of children and adults for the purpose of exporting them as 
slaves to different parts of India or elsewhere, a practice in which 
"many natives and some Europeans" had been involved.^ In 181 1 
the importation of slaves from any other country into India was 
forbidden. Vigorous efforts were made to suppress the trade that had 
grown up.* In 1832 the purchase and sale of slaves brought from 
one district to another was made a penal offence. The charter act 
of 1833 required the governor-general in council to take steps for 
extinguishing slavery as soon as emancipation should be safe and 
practicable. India Act V of 1843 prohibited the legal recognition of 
slavery; and keeping of or trafficking in slaves became a criminal 
offence under the Indian Penal Code enacted in i860. 

The abolition of slavery came gradually, pushed on by humanitarian 
movements in England ; but it appears that at no stage was emanci- 
pation opposed by any section of Indian society, although it was 
accompanied by no payment of compensation to slave-owners. We 
pass on to two remarkable customs of another kind which from the 
outset were strongly opposed to Western ideas of humanity and 
civilisation. One was sanctioned by use and wont among a powerful 
caste. It was from its nature elusive, practised in domestic privacy 
and therefore most difficult to stop. But it was not authorised by 
religion. The other was practised in public and was protected both 
by religious tradition and by priestly authority. 

In the year 1802 Lord Wellesley's government, after requesting 
William Carey ^ to investigate the nature of such religious sanction as 
existed for throwing Hindu children, in fulfilment of vows, into the 
sea at Sagor Island to be drowned or devoured by sharks, decided 
to put a stop to the practice. Not only were children sacrificed in this 

1 O'Malley, op. cit. p. 359. 

* Pari. Papers, 1831-2, ix, App. I, A, pp. 303-4, and 1834, xliv, i 71-211. Also 
Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, 11, 227-9. Sir R. Burn writes: "The practice of taking a loan 
and becoming practically * adscriptus glebae ' continued quite lately in Oudh ". Cf. Report, 
Linlithgow Agricultural Commission, pp. 433-5. 

' Peggs, op. cit. p. 407 n.; Ross, Cornwallis Correspondence, i, 547. 

* Peggs, op. cit. pp. 423, 429. 

* Marshman, op. cit. p. 75. 


manner at Sagor and other places for the supposed benefit of 
survivors ; but old men and women voluntarily threw away their lives 
in this fashion, although the custom was little countenanced either 
by the religious orders or by the great body of people who, on the 
contrary, considered it a pious act to rescue and bring up a castaway 
child. By Regulation vi of 1802 child sacrifice of this kind was 
declared to be murder.^ 

But when a practice of killing female children was discovered to be 
widespread among varieties of Rajputs in different parts of the 
country, a far more troublesome and elusive problem presented itself 
Jonathan Duncan, resident at Benares, when travelling on the frontier 
of the Jaunpur district in 1 789, discovered that murders of this kind 
had long been systematically practised by a Rajput tribe called 
Rajkumars through the simple method of causing mothers to refuse 
nurture to some of their female children. The custom was freely 
admitted in conversation and though general was not universal as 
"paternal affection, or some other circumstances, had prevailed on 
the fathers of Rajkumar families to bring up one or more of their 
female issue"; but the instances where more than one daughter had 
been spared were very rare, and only one village furnished a complete 
exception to the general rule. The same practice prevailed, though 
to a less degree, among a smaller tribe, also found within the province 
of Benares, called Rajbanses. The motive of such crimes was desire 
to shun the disgrace which must ensue from failure to provide 
daughters with adequate marriage settlements. On 23 December, 
1789, Duncan, writing that he had induced the Rajkumars to enter 
into a covenant whereby they undertook to renounce "this horrid 
practice", forwarded a translation of the covenant which stated that 
infanticide, although customary among the Rajkumars, was highly 
sinful according to the "Bretim Bywunt Puran" and was held in 
detestation by the British Government. The Rajkumars therefore 
agreed not to commit any longer such detestable acts. Those who 
committed them would be outcaste and would suffer the punish- 
ments prescribed by the above-mentioned Purana and the Shastras.2 

Infanticide among the Rajkumars was declared to be murder by 
Bengal Regulation xxi of 1795. Regulation iii of 1804 extended this 
declaration to the newly ceded provinces. But, in spite of covenants 
and regulations, on 30 April, 181 6, Shakespear, acting police super- 
intendent of" the Western Provinces ", reported that Rajkumars were 
still killing their female infants " to nearly the same degree as formerly, 
though a greater degree of caution was preserved to prevent de- 
tection". In the meantime Duncan, who had become governor of 
Bombay, had learnt that the practice was very general among the 

^ Pari. Papers, 1824, xxin, 137. 

2 Pari. Papers, 1824, xxiii, 7-8; Calcutta Review, 1844, i, 377; Kaye, British India, pp. 
555~^J arid Twining, Travels in India, p. 327. 



Jharija (Jadeja)^ Rajputs of Cutch and Kattiawar. The matter was 
carefully investigated by Colonel Walker, political resident at 
Baroda, who reported on 15 March; 1808, that throughout Cutch 
there might be six or eight houses wherein the masters of Jharija 
families brought up their daughters ; otherwise female infanticide was 
general among Jharijas not only in Cutch but throughout the province 
of Gujarat. From the reports of natives best acquainted with the 
country the number of Jharija families inhabiting Cutch and Kattia- 
war was estimated at 125,000 and the number of female infants yearly 
destroyed at 20,000. Colonel Walker also reported that infanticide 
was practised among the Rah tor Rajputs of Jaipur and Jodhpur as 
well as by Jats and Mewats. The practice had never been interfered 
with by any previous government. From the Jharijas he succeeded 
in obtaining a covenant whereby, like the Rajkumars, these people 
pledged themselves to abandon such practices. Nine years later, 
however, it was ascertained that the pledge had not been observed. 
There could be no doubt that infanticide was still prevalent among 
the Jharijas of Gujarat. In one taluka not one female child was to be 
found among 400 families. 2 

In spite of constant and varied efforts and activities which are 
chronicled in the parliamentary papers of certain years, the preven- 
tion of female infanticide among tribes and classes addicted to this 
habit long baffled British officers and administrations, to the serious 
concern of the court of directors. The difficulty, both in British 
territory, and to a far greater degree in native states, was to bring 
specific instances to light without espionage, or encroachment on 
domestic privacy. In every case of infanticide the mother either 
refused nurture to the child or rubbed the nipples of her breast with 
opium.3 The victim died in the home by order of the father, who was 
apprehensive of being compelled later on to choose between the dis- 
grace of being unable to arrange her marriage and the ruinous expense 
of accomplishing it satisfactorily.* 

"Although religion", says Tod, "nowhere authorizes this barbarity, the laws 
which regulate marriage among the Rajputs powerfully promote infanticide. Not 
only is intermarriage prohibited between families of the same clan (campa), but 
between those of the same tribe (goto). . . .Many virtuous and humane princes have 
endeavoured to mitigate an evil in the eradication of which every parental feeling 
would co-operate. Sumptuary edicts alone can control it, and the Rajputs were 
never sufficiently enamoured of despotism to permit it to rule within their private 
dwellings." 5 

Mountstuart Elphinstone, when governor of Bombay, minuted on 
9 January, 1821, that as long as the practice was congenial to the 
general feeling of the classes concerned it could not be effectually 

^ Imperial Gazetteer , xv, i66. * Pari. Papers, 1824, xxra, 108-9. 

' Cf. Raikes, Notes on the North-Western Provinces of India, p. 12 n. 
* Cf. Census of India 1901, i, 425. See, too, Raikes, op. cit. pp. 8-9. 
« Tod, Rajasthan (ed. 1880), i, 547. 



checked. Moreover we professed to have no concern with the civil 
government and internal police of native states. We might be sure, 
however, that a continuance of tranquillity and good order would 
gradually cause the discontinuance of a practice repugnant to natural 

The policy, however, of the Company's governments was by no 
means one of laissez-faire. From time to time the subject engaged the 
particular attention of the directors. The parliamentary papers of 
1843 show the vigorous nature of the preventive action taken in 
British territory.^ In native states infanticide weakened before the 
energetic and constant endeavours of military political officers such 
as Wilkinson, Willoughby, Erskine, Jacob, Pottinger and Melville. 
The record of their labours moved Alexander Duff, who was no 
respecter of persons, to write in 1844: 

If ever political agents, members of council, governors, governors-general and 
courts of directors shall be arraigned at the bar of an impartial posterity, they may 
rest assured that their best exculpatory evidence will be found, not in the brilliant 
records of their civil diplomacy or military exploits, but in such humble, noiseless, 
and unpretending volumes which, like the parliamentary papers on infanticide, 
portray their strenuous and unwearied exertions in the sacred cause of humanity.^ 

Everywhere infanticide gradually yielded to the spread of Western 
ideas; but even in 1870 the central government felt themselves com- 
pelled to combat it by passing an act^ which enabled the application 
of stringent rules for compulsory registration of births, and regular 
verification of the existence of female children for some years after 
birth, in places where such measures appeared desirable. We must 
now turn to another custom, the suppression of which should for all 
time redound to the credit of Lord William Bentinck. He struck the 
final blow, but there were others who prepared the way. 

Brahmanical tradition teaches that when children of high-caste 
Hindus reach the age of eight to twelve, boys should go to a guru for 
education and girls should marry. The duty of the latter is wifehood and 
motherhood. Should a woman lose her husband, she is not permitted 
to remarry although a widower may remarry at any time. A widow, 
on the other hand, must lead a life of strict retirement. But throughout 
India, before the year 1829, an alternative was open to her. She 
might immolate herself on her husband's funeral pile and follow him 
into a new life. She would then be called a sati, a faithful wife, and 
would be honoured for her choice. The term sati or suttee has been 
transferred by Europeans from the widow to the custom of burning 

^ See report, 28 January, 1841, of the proceedings of Robert Montgomery, then district 
magistrate of Allahabad, Hindu Infanticide, Accounts andpapers, 1843, p. 59. See also Raikes, 
op. cit. pp. 18-22. 

2 Calcutta Review i 1844, i, 435. 

3 Act VIII of 1870. Gf. Sir Michael O'Dwyer, India as I knew it, p. 102. Regulations 
under Act VIII of 1870 were abolished in the United Provinces early in the present 



her with her husband's corpse, a practice which comes down from 
remote ages and was much in vogue under the Moghul Empire, 
ahhough certain emperors and "subahdars" took pains to see that 
victims suffered only by their own free will.^ Sati, however, was never 
a universal custom in any caste, although the detailed returns which 
were laid before parliament in the ten years which immediately 
preceded its abolition show that it was practised in some degree by 
lower as well as by higher castes. 2 

When in 1772 Bengal came directly under British government^, 
Warren Hastings, who held in high respect all customs interwoven 
with religion even if "injudicious or fancifur',^ directed a body of 
learned Brahmans gathered together from every part of the province 
to prepare from the Shastras an authoritative manual of Hindu law. 
Passages in this manual encourage sati; and other passages in Cole- 
brooke's translation of the digest of Hindu law, which was compiled 
under the superintendence of Sir William Jones, declare that the sati 
enjoys delight with her husband for thirty-five million years and 
expiates the sins of three generations on the paternal and maternal 
side of her husband's family. 

No other effectual duty is known for virtuous women at any time after the deaths 
df their lords, except casting themselves into the same fire. If a woman in her 
successive transmigrations declines doing so, she should not be exempt from shrinking 
again to life in the body of some female animal.* 

Such passages explain why in view of a clear promise to "preserve 
the laws of the Shaster and the Coran, and to protect the natives of 
India in the free exercise of their religion", the government of Bengal 
was slow to interfere with the celebration of a rite strongly opposed 
to every humanitarian principle. But the Supreme Court refused to 
tolerate it within the limits of their immediate jurisdiction; and 
inhabitants of Calcutta who wished to perform it were compelled to 
do so in the suburbs.^ It was prohibited by the Danes at Serampur, 
by the Dutch at Chinsura, by the French at Chandernagore, but 
residents of these places could do as they pleased outside settlement 
boundaries. Sati was allowed in the Madras Presidency, but between 
the years 1770 and 1780, at any rate,^ was not tolerated within the 
scattered settlements which at that time were presided over by the 
government of Bombay. It was practised by the Rajputs of Gujarat 
and by the Marathas but was discouraged by Baji Rao, the last of 
the Peshwas, who took upon himself the charge of supporting widows 
who yielded to dissuasion. 

* Bernier, Travels (Constable and Smith), pp. 306-15; Foster, Early Travels in India^ 
p. 119; Thompson, Historical and Philosophical Enquiry. 

• Cf. Census of India, 1901, vol. i, paras. 703-9, vol. xvi, para. 1 1 1. 

* Gleig, Memoirs, i, 403-4. 

* Colebrooke, Digest (1801), n, 452. 

• Pari. Papers, 1821, xvni, 100. 

• Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, i, 57, n, 26. 


On the annexation of the Peshwa's dominions, Mountstuart 
Elphinstone, in reply to a representation from Pottinger, collector of 
Ahmadnagar,^ that "the exercise of a very trifling degree of authority 
would put a stop to this perversion of reason and humanity", de- 
clined on 18 August, 1 818, to sanction the smallest interposition of 
authority in a cause so clearly connected with the religious prejudices 
of the Hindus. Brahmans, however, might be employed to dissuade 
widows from sati, and when dissuasion was successful, subsistence 
allowances might be granted to the widows. A Bombay regulation 
even legalised sati, declaring that assistance at rites of self-immolation 
was not murder. But the centre of British administration in India wais 
Calcutta; and the policy followed there must be clearly traced. 

Sati in the capital presidency excited no particular protest until on 
28 January, 1 789, M. H. Brooke, collector of Shahabad, thus addressed 
Lord Gornwallis: 

Cases sometimes occur in which a collector, having no specific orders for the 
guidance of his conduct, is necessitated to act from his own sense of what is right. 
This assertion has this day been verified in an application from the relations and 
friends of a Hindu woman for my sanction for the horrid ceremony of burning her 
with her deceased husband. Being impressed with the belief that this savage custom 
has been prohibited in and about Calcutta, and considering the same reasons for 
its discontinuance would probably be valid throughout the whole extent of the 
Company's authority, I positively refused my assent. The rites and superstitions of 
the Hindu religion should be allowed with the most unqualified tolerance, but a 
practice at which human nature shudders I cannot permit without particular 
instructions. I beg therefore, my Lord, to be informed whether my conduct in this 
instance meets with your approbation. 

Brooke doubted whether any promise of religious toleration could 
absolve the British Government from prohibiting a practice "at 
which humanity shuddered". But his main question was not an- 
swered. He was merely informed that while his action was approved, 
it must in future be confined to dissuasion and must not extend to 
coercive measures or to "any exertion of official powers". The public 
prohibition of sati would probably increase Hindu veneration for it. 
It was hoped that the practice would decay and disappear. 

On 1 7 May, 1 797, James Battray, magistrate of Midnapur, reported 
that he had succeeded in preventing the sati of a child-widow aged 
barely nine. But he feared that, sooner or later, it would be accom- 
plished as her head had been filled with superstitious notions of 
the propriety of the act. He was told to do his best to dissuade 
her. Elphins tone's and Battray's letters show that on both occasions 
magistrates were approached formally, and that their decisions were 
obeyed. In spite of the Brahmans and the Shastras, there was, as is 
apparent from much other evidence, a wide inclination to ask for and 
accept the order of temporal authority. This vantage-ground was 
definitely abandoned by the governments of Lord Gornwallis and 
Sir John Shore. 

^ Pari. Papers i 1821, xviii, 65. 


In 1 798 William Carey witnessed a sati in a Bengal district which 
he vividly described in his diary. ^ 

We were near the village of Noya Serai. Being evening, we got out of the boat 
to walk when we saw a number of people assembled on the riverside. I asked them 
what they were met for, and they told me to burn the body of a dead man. I en- 
quired if his wife would be burned with him ; they answered Yes, and pointed to 
the woman. She was standing by the pile which was made of large billets of wood, 
about 2^ feet high, 4 long and 2 wide, and on the top of which lay the dead body 
of her husband. Her nearest relations stood by her, and near her was a small basket 
of sweetmeats. I asked them if this was the woman's choice, or if she were brought 
to it by any improper influence. They answered that it was perfectly voluntary. 
I talked till reasoning was of no use, and then began to exclaim with all my might 
against what they were doing, telling them that it was a shocking murder. They 
told me it was a great act of holiness, and added in a very surly manner, that if 
I did not like to see it I might go further off. ... I told them that I would not go, 
that I was determined to stay and see the murder, and that I should certainly bear 
witness of it at the tribunal of God. I exhorted the woman not to throw away her 
life ; to fear nothing, for no evil would follow her refusal to burn. But she in the 
most calm manner mounted the pile, and danced on it with her hands extended as 
if in the utmost tranquillity of spirit. Previous to her mounting the pile, the relation 
whose office it was to set fire to the pile led her six times round it. ... As she went 
round she scattered the sweetmeat above-mentioned among the people, who 
picked it up and ate it as a very holy thing. This being ended, and she having 
mounted the pile, and danced as aforesaid (n.b. the dancing only appeared to be 
to show us her contempt for death, and to prove that her dying was voluntary), 
she lay down by the corpse, and put one arm under its neck and the other over it, 
when a quantity of dry cocoa leaves and other substances were heaped over them 
to a considerable height, and then ghee, or melted preserved butter, poured on the 
top. Two bamboos were then put over them and held fast down, and the fire put 
to the pile, which immediately blazed very fiercely. . . . No sooner was the fire 
kindled than all the people set up a great shout — "Harree Bol. Harree Bol". It 
was imjK)ssible to have heard the woman had she groaned or even cried aloud, on 
account of the mad noise of the people, and it was impossible for her to stir or 
struggle on account of the bamboos which were held down on her like the levers 
of a press. We made much objection to their way of using these bamboos, and 
insisted that it was using force to prevent the woman from getting up when the 
fire burned her. But they declared that it was only done to keep the pile from 
falling down. We could not bear to see more, but left them, exclaiming loudly 
against the murder, and full of horror at what we had seen.^ 

The Serampur missionaries, after investigations which covered a 
radius often miles from Calcutta, found that more than 300 satis had 
taken place within six months,^ and Carey, after searching the Shas- 
tras, decided that the practice was encouraged rather than enjoined. 
He laid his findings before his friend Udny of the civil service, who 
was then a member of Wellesley's council. On 4 January, 1805, 
J. R. Elphinstone, magistrate of the Bihar (now Gaya) district, 
reported to government that he had prevented the sati of a girl be- 
longing to the Baniya (grain merchant) caste at the private request 
of her friends. The victim had been found by the police-inspector, 
who arrived on the spot only just in time, in a state of stupefaction 
or intoxication. Elphinstone was not aware of any order to prevent 

* Cf. Twining, op. cit. pp. 462-8. 

' Walker, Life of Carey, pp. 245-6. Cf. Forbes, Ras Mala, 11, 434. 

' Marshman, op. cit. p. 99. 


such barbarous proceedings and asked for instructions. By order of 
Lord Wellesley the letter was forwarded to the "Register" of the 
court of nizamat adalat, which was held generally responsible for 
the detection and prevention of crime within the presidency. The 
governor-general requested that body to ascertain whether this un- 
natural and inhuman custom could be abolished altogether. How 
far was it really founded on religion? Surely at any rate something 
could be done to prevent the drugging of victims and to rescue those 
who from immaturity of years or other circumstances could not be 
considered capable of judging for themselves. This letter is dated 
5 February, 1805.^ The judges of the nizamat adalat on 5 June, 
1805,2 forwarded the views of the pundits whom they were wont to 
consult on questions of Hindu law. The latter advised that a woman 
belonging to the four castes (Brahman, Khetri, Vaishya and Sudra) 
might, except in particular cases, burn herself with her husband's 
body and would by so doing contribute essentially to the future 
happiness of both. The exceptions were women in a state of pregnancy 
or menstruation, girls under the age of puberty, women with infant 
children who could not provide for their support by other persons. 
To drug or intoxicate a woman in order to induce her to burn herself 
against her wish was contrary to law and usage. In sending on these 
opinions the judges advised that while the custom could not be 
abolished generally without greatly offending "religious prejudices", 
it might be abolished immediately in some districts, where it had 
almost fallen into disuse,^ and checked or prevented in others on 
lines indicated by the replies of the pundits. They recommended a 
policy of mingled abolition and compromise. It is possible that 
Wellesley would have declared for wholesale abolition,* but he made 
over charge of office on 31 July, 1805, and left India, taking with him 
his valiant and strenuous spirit. 

For seven years after his departure the reply of the nizamat adalat 
was pigeon-holed in the government secretariat, although in 1807 
Lord Minto observed that widow-burning was extremely prevalent, 
especially in the neighbourhood of Calcutta.^ The sepoy mutiny at 
Vellore in 1806 had opposed a new obstacle to the adoption of any 
resolute policy by suggesting apprehension of danger from the army 
should sati be forbidden. Then on 3 August, 181 2, Wauchope, 
magistrate of Bundelkhand, raised the old question once more in a 
letter to the register of the nizamat adalat, and asked for instructions. 
Forwarding this letter to the government the court requested orders 
on their communication of June, 1805. After three months of cogita- 
tion the governor-general in council replied in December that as 

^ Pari. Papers, 1821, xviii, 24-6. 

2 Idem, p. 28. 

' Peggs, op. cit. p. 54. 

* Wilberforce inclined to this view. See Deanville, Life of William Carey, p. 247. 

* Lord Minto in India, p. 96. 


sati was encouraged by Hindu doctrine, it must be allowed in those 
cases in which it was countenanced by religion and prevented when- 
ever it was not.^ The court's original suggestion, that in some districts 
the sacrifice might be prevented immediately, was ignored. Magis- 
trates and public officers were to prohibit compulsion, intoxication or 
drugging of victims. They must forbid the sacrifice of girls under the 
age of puberty and of pregnant females. The police must act on these 
principles, obtaining as early notice as possible in every case. In 181 3 
these rules were circulated, and in 181 5 they were supplemented by 
instructions for the submission by district magistrates of annual reports 
and returns of satis. In 181 7 further orders were issued prohibiting 
the burning of mothers who had infants at the breast or children under 
four years, or under seven unless responsible persons would take 
charge of the orphans. Brahman widows, in accordance with the 
Shastras, could only become satis on the funeral pyres of their hus- 
bands and not elsewhere. Relatives must invariably give notice to 
the police of impending satis, or would become liable to fine and 
imprisonment. Till then no such obligation had been imposed. 

The rules of 181 2, 181 5 and 181 7 were merely "circular orders" 
issued by the government to its officers through the nizamat adalat; 
they were thus devoid of legal sanction and conceded so much to the 
custom at which they were aimed as to produce the impression "that 
to a certain extent the practice of suttee was approved by the govern- 
ment ".2 Colebrooke, the Orientalist, w2ls in 181 2 one of Lord Minto's 
councillors, and afterwards justified these orders by stating that any 
attempt to repress the rite by legal enactment would have been re- 
sisted. Perseverance in carrying it out would have become a point of 
honour.3 After-events, however, hardly support this excuse. As the 
fruits of timidity and irresolution became increasingly apparent, the 
government's attitude was severely criticised both in missionary pub- 
lications and in reports from its own officers. The interest of religious 
and humanitarian societies in the United Kingdom was stimulated 
by missionary pamphlets; and in course of time the contents of official 
reports and returns penetrating to Westminster became generally 
known. In 1813 Wilberforce reminded the Commons that humanity 
consisted not in a squeamish ear, but in being forward and active in 
relief. For years, however, governments in India were allowed full 
discretion in dealing with sati. Expressing a lively faith in the re- 
generating influence of widening knowledge, they clung tenaciously 
to a threadbare and discredited policy. And while correspondence 
went on the toll of victims mounted in Bengal. The frequency of sati 
in the districts round Calcutta raised the figure for cases reported in 
the chief presidency far above the numbers in Madras and Bombay. 

^ Pari. Papers, 1821, xviii, 29-30. 

2 Statement of the Directors to the Privy Council, 1832. Peggs, op. cit. pp. 57, 59-60. 

■ Colebrooke, Life of Colebrooke^ p. 285. 


It varied from 378 in 1815 to 839 in 1818, 654 in 182 1, 557 in 1823, 
639 in 1825, 5^7 ^^ ^^27 and 463 in 1828. On 3 December, 1824, 
the chief judge of the nizamat adalat at Calcutta observed that 
many women were burnt without the knowledge of police officers, 
"and in many instances the act was illegal from circumstances which 
deprived it of the restricted sanction of the Shaster'*.^ In 1819 the 
adalat had observed that it is doubtful whether 

the measures publicly adopted with the humane view of diminishing the number 
of these sacrifices by pointing out the cases in which the Hindu law is considered 
to permit them have not been attended with a contrary effect to the one intended. 
A spirit of fanaticism may have been rather inflamed than repressed.^ 

In this view the government concurred and contemplated the possi- 
bility of cancelling the orders of 181 2, but were subsequently cheered 
by the fact that in 1821 five widows were saved from the flames by 
the presence of the police and four were induced by persuasion to 
draw back at the last moment, whereof one only "was not affected 
by the instrumentality or assistance of the police". The particulars of 
the five rescues are significant. One widow, after ascending the pile 
and feeling the flames, was saved by the presence of the police. The 
second was rescued just before ascending the pile. The third, having 
left the pile, was saved by the police against the will of her relatives. 
The fourth came off the pile scorched and died two days afterwards. 
The fifth descended from the lighted pile and was saved by the police.^ 
The year 1 82 1 was in this respect unusually successful. In 1 82 7, on the 
other hand, only one woman, a girl of sixteen, was rescued by police 

The central government not only kept the directors in touch with 
their proceedings but regularly forwarded reports from numerous 
judges and executive officers, some of whom were content to wait for 
a change in the attitude of Hindus toward sati, while others criticised 
the accepted policy in scathing terms, strongly advocating complete 
prohibition as the only satisfactory expedient. One of the latter, who 
well deserves to be remembered, is Walter Ewer, superintendent of 
police. Lower Provinces, who on 18 November, 18 18, addressed the 
judicial secretary to the government.* He began by urging that satis 
were very seldom voluntary, for few widows would think of sacrificing 
themselves unless overpowered by force or persuasion; very little of 
either was needed to overcome the physical or mental powers of the 
average victim. A widow who would turn with natural and instinctive 
horror from the first hint of sharing her husband's funeral pile, would 
be gradually brought to pronounce a reluctant consent "because dis- 
tracted with grief at the event, without one friend to advise or protect 
her, she is little prepared to oppose the surrounding crowd of hungry 
Brahmans and interested relatives either. by argument or force". 

^ Pari. Papers, 1825, xxiv, 147. ^ /^^^^ 1821, xviii, 242. 

* Idem, 1824, XXIII, 43. * Idem, 1821, xviii, 229. 


Accustomed to attach implicit belief to all the assertions of the former, 
she dared not, if she was able to make herself heard, deny that by 
becoming sati she would remain so many years in heaven, rescue her 
husband from hell, and purify the family of her father, mother and 
husband ; while on the other hand, disgrace in this life, and continued 
transmigration into the body of a female animal, would be the certain 
consequences of refusal. 

In this state of confusion, a few hours quickly pass and the widow is burnt before 
she has time even to think on the subject. ^ Should utter indifference for her husband 
and superior sense enable her to preserve her judgment, and to resist the arguments 
of those about her, it will avail her little, — the people will not on any account be 
disappointed of their show ; and the entire population of a village will turn out to 
assist in dragging her to the banks of the river, and in keeping her down upon the 
pile. Under these circumstances nine out of ten widows are burnt to death. 

Ewer then urged that the sacrifice was more frequently designed to 
secure the temporal welfare of the survivors than the spiritual benefit 
of the widow or her husband. The son had no longer to maintain his 
mother ; the male relatives, as reversioners in default of male issue, 
came in for the estate which the widow would have held for life; the 
Brahmans were paid for their services, and were interested in main- 
taining their religion; the crowd attended the show with the savage 
merriment exhibited by an English crowd at a boxing match or a 
bull-bait. Sati was indeed recommended by the Shastras, but was 
not hinted at by Manu, or other high authorities which prescribed 
the duties of a widow. The recommendation, too, where found in the 
Shastras, was addressed to the widow and not to her relatives. It was 
no part of their duties to persuade or force her in the matter. The 
unhappy victims themselves were uneducated and unacquainted with 
the Shastras. What the government was really doing was authorising 
the sacrifice of widows by their relatives. The custom, too, might almost 
be called local. In the years 1815-17, 864 satis had been performed 
in five districts of Bengal — Burdwan, Hughli, the Jungle Mahals, 
Nuddea and the suburbs of Calcutta, while in the same period only 
663 took place throughout the rest of the empire including the holy 
city of Benares, in which only forty-one sacrifices of that nature were 
performed, although its population was almost exclusively Hindu, 
and it was a place where every meritorious act was of double value. 
Regarding standing orders Ewer wrote : 

It appears to me that if the practice is allowed to exist at all, the less notice wc 
take of it the better, because the apparent object of the interference of the police is 
to compel the people to observe the rules of their own Shasters (which of themselves 
they will not obey) by ascertaining particular circumstances of the condition of 
the widow. 

The police enquiries, he added, opened the widest door to extortions. 
Even if such interference in some cases induced compliance with the 

* Cf. Bcrnicr, op. cit. pp. 313-15 (ed. Constable). 


rules of the Shastra, the official attendance of the daroga stamped 
every regular sati with the sanction of government ; and authorising 
a practice was not the way to effect its gradual abolition. Whenever 
"illegal" satis had been prevented by the police, no feeling of dis- 
satisfaction had been excited. He believed that the custom might be 
totally prohibited without exciting any serious or general dissatis- 

Ewer's views received a trenchant endorsement from Courtney 
Smith of the nizamat adalat, who on 2 August, 1821,^ recorded in 
a judgment that the government, in modifying sati by their circular 
orders, had thrown the ideas of the Hindus on the subject into complete 
confusion. They knew not what was allowed and what was interdicted, 
and would only believe that we abhorred sati when we prohibited it 
in toto "by an absolute and peremptory law". They had no idea that 
we might not do so with perfect safety. In forwarding to government 
the returns of 1819-20 Smith urged that the toleration of sati was a 
reproach to British rule, and that its abolition would be attended by 
no danger. It could be abolished by a short regulation somewhat in 
the style of the regulation of 1802 against the sacrifice of children at 
Sagor.2 To interfere with a vigorous hand for the protection of the 
weak against the strong was one of the most imperious and paramount 
duties of every civilised state, from which it could not shrink without 
a manifest diminution of its dignity and an essential degradation of 
its character among nations. 

Similar protests came from other officers and from other parts of 
India. On 14 September, 18 13, Lushington, a Madras magistrate, 
informed his government that except to a few necessitous Brahmans 
who "received a nefarious reward for presiding at this infernal rite", 
the prohibition of sati would give "universal satisfaction". 

It is not surprising that, although such representations as these were 
accompanied by others of a soothing nature, the directors were ill at 
ease. On 17 June, 1823, they thus addressed the government of 

You are aware that the attention of parliament and the public has lately been 
called to the subject. It appears that the practice varies very much in different 
parts of India both as to the extent to which it prevails and the enthusiasm by 
which it is upheld.. . .It is upon intelligible grounds that you have adopted the 
rules which permit the sacrifice when clearly voluntary and conformable to the 
Hindu religion. But to us it appears very doubtful (and we are confirmed in this 
doubt by responsible authorities) whether the measures which have been taken in 
pursuance of this principle have not tended rather to increase than to diminish 
the practice. It is moreover with much reluctance that we can consent to make the 
British Government, by specific permission of the suttee, an ostensible party to the 
sacrifice ; we are averse also to the practice of making British courts expounders 
and vindicators of the Hindu religion when it leads to acts which not less as legis- 
lators than as Christians we abominate. 

1 Pari. Papers^ 1823, ^vii, 67. 

2 Idem, p. 63, 


They would not then press this reasoning, but the matter must be 
further considered. They would co-operate in any measures which 
"your superior means of estimating consequences may suggest".^ 

But the government over which Lord Amherst presided was 
"unwilling to abandon the hope that the abolition of suttee might 
at some future period be found safe and expedient". They based this 
hope on the fact that they had remarked already "that the more 
general dissemination of knowledge among the better informed Hindus 
themselves might be expected to prepare gradually the minds of the 
natives for such a measure ".^ 

The allusion here is clearly to the campaign against sati led by the 
Brahman reformer Ram Mohan Roy, mentioned in the last chapter. 
When in 1818 some Hindus had petitioned against the orders which 
the government had issued restricting the practice of sati, Ram 
Mohan Roy had produced a counter-petition which contained these 
passages : 

Your petitioners are fully aware, from their own knowledge or from the authority 
of creditable eye-witnesses, that cases have frequently occurred when women have 
been induced by the persuasion of their next heirs, interested in their destruction, 
to burn themselves at the funeral pile of their husbands : that others who have been 
induced by fear to retract a resolution, rashly expressed in the first moments of 
grief, of burning with their deceased husbands have been forced down upon the 
pile and there bound with ropes and green bamboos until consumed with the 
flames; that some after flying from the flames have been carried back by their 
relatives and burnt to death. All these instances, your petitioners frankly admit, 
are murders according to every Shzister as well as to the commonsense of all nations. 

Ram Mohan Roy, at grave personal risk, endeavoured to stop satis 
by tracts and other methods of dissuasion. He obtained support from 
some of his fellow-countrymen, but was bitterly opposed by the 
orthodox school under Raja Radha Kanta Deb.^ So fierce were the 
feelings aroused that for a time the reformer went about in fear of his 
life and had to be protected by a guard.* 

In July, 1828, Amherst was succeeded by Lord William Bentinck, 
a reformer by temperament,^ who had been governor of Madras 
when the Vellore mutiny occurred and had now been instructed by 
the directors to consider definite measures for the immediate or 
gradual abolition of sati.^ After careful enquiry, within a year of 
taking office, he decided to put an end to the practice in British 
territory without delay, against the advice not only of Horace Hayman 
Wilson, the leading Orientalist of the day, but also of Ram Mohan 
Roy. With some qualms and careful explanations he recorded his 
determination in an elaborate minute which he placed before his 

* Pari. Papers, 1824, xxin, 44-5. * Iderriy 1825, xxiv, 153-4. 
» Peggs, op. cit. p. 89. 

* Pari. Papers, 1825, xxiv, 11; O'Malley, op. cit. pp. 342-3; Dutt, Literature of Bengal, 
pp. 143, 147. 

* Cf. Kaye, Life of Metcalfe, 11, 172-3. 

* Statement of the directors to the Privy Council (unpublished). 


council. He had elicited the views of fifty- three officers, mostly 
military, of whom twenty-four were in favour of immediate abolition, 
and fifteen principal civil servants, of whom eight held the same view; ^ 
he had also received two reports of the nizamat adalat with the 
unanimous opinions of the judges in favour of abolition, and returns 
of satis in 1827-8 exhibiting some decline of numbers. 

"If this diminution", he wrote, "could be ascribed to any change of opinion 
upon the question, or the progress of civilisation or education, the fact would be 
most satisfactory, and to disturb this sure though slow process of self-correction 
would be most impolitic and unwise. But I think it may be safely affirmed that 
though in Calcutta truth may be said to have made a considerable advance among 
the higher orders, yet in respect to the population at large no change whatever has 
taken place, and from these causes at least no hope of abandonment of the rite 
can be rationally entertained." 

H. H. Wilson, then secretary of the Hindu college (Vidyalaya), 

considers it a dangerous evasion of the real difficulties to attempt to prove that 
satis are not "essentially a part of the Hindu religion". I entirely agree with him. 
The question is not what the rite is but what it is supposed to be, and I have no 
doubt that the conscientious belief of every order of Hindus with few exceptions, 
regard it as sacred. 

Bentinck went on to observe that both Wilson and Ram Mohan Roy 
considered that abolition would cause general distrust and dissatis- 
faction. They considered that the practice might be gradually sup- 
pressed by increasing checks. By far the greater number of satis, 
however, occurred among the unmartial inhabitants of Bengal and 
after enquiry he had concluded that abolition would cause no trouble 
in the army. He observed that the judges of the nizamat adalat 
were unanimously in favour of it, and laid before his council the draft 
of the necessary regulation, concluding with the following sentences : 

The primary object of my heart is the benefit of the Hindus. I know nothing so 
important to the improvement of their future conditions as the establishment of 
a purer morality, whatever their belief, and a more just conception of the will of 
God. The first step to this better understanding will be the dissolution of religious 
belief and practice from blood and murder. I disown in these remarks or in this 
measure any view whatever to conversion to our own faith. I write and feel a 
legislator for the Hindu, and as, I believe, many enlightened Hindus think and 
feel. Descending from these higher considerations, it cannot be a dishonest ambi- 
tion that the government of which I form a part should have the credit of an act 
which is to wash out a foul stain on British rule, and to stay a sacrifice of humanity 
and justice to a doubtful expediency; and finally I may be permitted to feel deeply 
anxious that our course shall be in accordance with the noble example set to us by 
the British Government at home, and that the adaptation, when practicable to 
the circumstances of this vast Indian population, of the same enlightened prin- 
ciples, may promote there as well as here the general prosperity, and may exalt 
the character of the nation. 

Charles Metcalfe, the most prominent of the governor-general's 
councillors, while noting his concurrence, observed that he was not 
without apprehension that the measure might possibly be "used by 

^ Statement of the directors to the Privy Council. 


the disaffected and designing to inflame the passions of the multitude 
and produce a religious excitement", the consequences of which, 
once set in action, could not quickly be foreseen. But if the measure 
were not made "an engine to produce insurrection" in the early 
period of its operation, it would not cause danger later on. His fears 
or doubts were as to the immediate future and were not sufficiently 
strong to dissuade him from joining heartily "in the suppression of 
the horrible custom by which so many lives are cruelly sacrificed".^ 
On 4 December, 1829, sati was declared by Regulation xvii to be 
illegal in the Bengal Presidency and punishable by the criminal courts. 
Persons assisting a voluntary sacrifice would be deemed guilty of 
culpable homicide; but those convicted of using violence or compul- 
sion or assisting in burning or burying a Hindu widow in a state of 
stupefaction or in circumstances impeding the exercise of her free 
will, would be liable to sentence of death. A similar regulation was 
passed in Madras on 2 February, 1830. In Bombay Sir John Malcolm's 
government repealed that clause in their regulations which declared 
"assistance at the rites of self-immolation not to be murder ".^ 

On 19 December, 1829, a petition of remonstrance was presented 
to Bentinck signed by "several thousand persons, being zamindars, 
principal and other Hindoo inhabitants of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa etc." 
On 14 January, 1 830, the petitioners were informed that their remedy, 
if any, lay in appeal to the Privy Council. They did appeal, asserting 
that the obnoxious regulation interfered with their "most antient and 
sacred rites and usages" and violated "the conscientious belief of an 
entire nation". Abuses, if any, which might have arisen could be 
effectually prevented by a proper attention to Hindu opinion. They 
"wholly" denied, however, that such abuses existed. The regulation 
infringed the sacred pledge to keep inviolate the religion, laws and 
usages of the Hindus which was manifest throughout the whole tenor 
of parliamentary legislation. In reply the directors summarised the 
history of the past and stated their own unanswerable case.^ It was 
supported by petitions which Ram Mohan Roy had brought with him 
to England and had presented to parliament on behalf of his followers. 
The appeal was dismissed by the Privy Council in the presence of this 
true-hearted and courageous man ; and no trouble whatever resulted 
in India. For years sati continued in the Panjab until the fall of the 
Sikh Empire. In the Rajput states it gave way gradually to British 
insistence combined with spread of the knowledge among Rajput 
ladies that such things were not done in British territory.* Sati has 
been performed in our own time;^ and the circumstances which 

* Kaye, Life of Metcalfe, ii, 194. 

* Pari. Papers, 183 1-2, ix, 354. 

' Unpublished papers preserved in the India Office. 

* Article by E.J. Thompson, Edinburgh Review, April, 1927, pp. 274-86; and Suttee 
p. 106. 

* O'Malley, op. cit. p. 346; Thompson, Suttee, chap. ix. 


attended the case at Barh in the Patna district of Bihar in November, 
1927, show clearly that the rite, from its sacrificial character and 
appeal to belief in metempsychosis,^ still has power to thrill crowds 
of Hindus with reverence and sympathy. It has numbered among its 
victims women who have faced an agonising death with courageous 
self-devotion 2 in firm faith that they were answering the call of religion 
and honour, and in distaste for a life which offered no prospect of 
happiness. But it has also unquestionably brought about the murder, 
in circumstances of revolting cruelty, of many a helpless widow, of 
girls on the very threshold of life. Reviewing its history in British 
India from 1789 to 1829, observing the apparently small proportion 
of its victims to the general population even in Bengal, and the passive 
acceptance of abolition when at last abolition came, it is difficult to 
avoid the conclusion that a wrong keynote was struck at the very 
beginning which reverberated dismally through after-years, that 
Brooke, Ewer, Courtney Smith and other subordinate officers were 
right, that governors and councillors were wrong, and that Bentinck 
put an end to years of degrading, lamentable and unnecessary com- 
promise. At the same time we must remember that Bentinck himself, 
in his great minute, expressly exonerated his predecessors. *' I should '*, 
he wrote, "have acted as they have done." 

* Tod, Rajasthan, i, 635. Cf. The Times, 5 February, 1929. 

2 Lepel Griffin, Ranjit Singh, pp. 66-7 ; Kincaid and Parasnis, History of the Maratha 
People, II, 301-4. 



XHE history of the Company's Marine commences in 1613, when 
a squadron was formed at Surat to protect the East India Company's 
trade from the constant aggressions of the Portuguese and the pirates 
who infested the west coast of India. Included in this squadron were 
the Dragon and Osiander, commanded by Captain Best, who ulti- 
mately broke the marine predominance of the Portuguese at Swally 
in January, 161 5. At that date the Company's naval forces comprised 
these two English ships and ten armed grabs or gallivatSy^ which may 
be held to have formed the original nucleus of the Bombay Marine. 
This small force gradually increased during the first half of the seven- 
teenth century, and during that period was engaged in a practically 
continuous and on the whole successful struggle with the Company's 
adversaries in India. In 1669, after the transfer of Bombay to the 
Company, a further development took place; the construction of 
small armed craft at Bombay, for the protection of the Persian Gulf 
and Arabian Sea trade, was commenced, among them being two 
brigantines built by a descendant of the Elizabethan shipwright, 
Phineas Pett; and in 1686 the whole marine establishment was finally 
transferred from Surat to Bombay, the marine stores being housed in 
Bombay castle and the ships anchored in Bombay harbour. After this 
date the Company's sea-forces were officially styled the Bombay 
Marine; an officer was regularly appointed "Admiral" every year; 
while a supply of men for both upper and lower decks was maintained 
as far as possible by drafts from England. The Marine suffered to some 
extent from the lawlessness and insubordination which marked the 
end of the seventeenth and the early years of the eighteenth centuries. 
Two vessels, the Revenge and Hunter, played an active part in Keigwin's 
rebellion of 1683 ;2 disease and financial embarrassment were re- 
sponsible for reductions of the strength of the force ; while desertion 
was so frequent that in 1 724 it was decided to keep the pay of all 
seamen two months in arrears. 

In 1 716 the Marine comprised one ship of 32 guns, four grabs with 
20 to 28 guns, and twenty smaller grabs and gallivats, carrying 5 to 
12 guns apiece. This force made an unsuccessful attempt to seize 
Gheria (Vijayadrug), the stronghold of Angria, in 171 7; and in the 
following year made a fruitless attack upon Kenery (Khanderi) island, 
under the command of Manuel de Castro, whom the president, 
Charles Boone, much to the annoyance of the English personnel, had 

* Cf. Hobson-Jobsoriy s.vv. * Strachey, Keigwin's Rebellioriy pp. 38-9. 


appointed Admiral of the Fleet for the occasion. Go-operation with 
the Portuguese seemed fated to end in disaster, for in 1722 a joint 
expedition by the Bombay Marine and a Portuguese land force against 
the fort of Alibag was badly defeated, owing largely to the mistakes 
and malingering of the Portuguese viceroy and his general and the 
poor quality of the Bombay troops. Commodore Mathews of the 
English Navy participated in this action with four English ships, 
which had been dispatched by the Home Government in 1721 to 
assist in clearing the Eastern seas of European pirates. A contem- 
porary writer gives an amusing description of Mathews's choleric 
treatment of the Portuguese authorities after the failure of the ex- 
pedition, ^ of which the only creditable feature was the bravery dis- 
played by the officers and seamen of the Company's Marine. During 
the first three decades of the eighteenth century the antagonism of 
the Portuguese, the Marathas, and the Sidi of Janjira obliged the 
Bombay Council to improve the strength and status of the Marine ; 
a pension scheme for the widows of officers and seamen was instituted; 
several new vessels were purchased ; and the crews of the Company's 
trading vessels were freely borrowed for the manning of their warships. 
Consequently by 1735 the annual expenditure on the Marine had 
increased to nearly two lakhs of rupees, and the fleet comprised seven 
large warships and a vRriGty of gallivats and smaller vessels. ^ 

From the earliest years of the Company's possession of Bombay, 
a marine establishment ashore, distinct from the force afloat, was 
maintained under the direction of the Commodore of the Marine, 
and included, among other officials, a storekeeper, a paymaster and 
a purser marine. The last-named was concerned with supplies of all 
kinds to the ships and indented for their cost by a monthly bill on 
the paymaster, who had "the charge and direction of watering and 
ballasting the Company's vessels and of purchasing what timber and 
coir were wanted for their service". An important step was taken in 
1735, when the Bombay Council decided to transfer their shipbuilding 
yard from Surat to Bombay, and brought thither with it Lavji 
Nasarvanji Wadia, the Parsi shipbuilder, who had been foreman of 
the Surat yard. His first duty was to select a site for a dockyard, the 
only dock available at that date being a mud basin, which filled and 
emptied with the tide. The first dock, constructed on the site chosen 
by Lavji, and known to-day as the Upper Old Bombay Dock, was 
eventually opened in 1 754. A second dock, the Middle Old Bombay 
Dock, was completed in 1 762 ; and a third, the Lower Old Bombay 
Dock, in 1765. For the next forty years these three docks were the 
boast of Bombay and the wonder of travellers like Grose (1750), Ives 
(1758) and Parsons (1775). Lavji Nasarvanji, who served as master- 
builder from 1735 to 1774 and was succeeded in office by his two 

^ Downing, History of the Indian Wars (ed. Foster), pp. 63-5. 
2 Bombay City Gazetteer, 11, 277. 


grandsons, made continual additions to the Company's fleet, and the 
reputation for strength and seaworthiness of the teakwood ships built 
by him and his grandsons was so widespread and so well deserved 
that the office of master-builder remained in the hands of the Wadia 
family until 1885, when the work of construction and repair was 
entrusted to an English chief constructor, trained in the royal dock- 
yards, with a staff of European assistants. The most notable member 
of the family was Jamshedji Bomanji, who, between 1793 and 1821, 
built several line-of-battle ships and frigates for the Royal Navy, 
besides war vessels and other craft for the East India Company. 
During his tenure of office he witnessed the completion in 1807 of a 
fourth dock, the Upper Duncan Dock, and the construction in 18 10 
of an outer or repairing dock, the Lower Duncan Dock, both of which 
were named after Jonathan Duncan, who was governor of Bombay 
from 1795 to 1811.^ 

Meanwhile the Marine, which in 1740 comprised a hundred 
officers and about two thousand seamen, who were chiefly English 
but occasionally deserters of other European nations, had commenced 
to lay the foundation of its subsequent reputation. In December, 
1 738, Commodore Bagwell, in command of four cruisers, heavily 
defeated Sambhaji Angria's fleet at the mouth of the Rajapur river;'-* 
in 1 739, after the fall of Bassein, Captain Inchbird of the Marine 
negotiated a treaty with the Marathas ;^ and in 1 756 a fleet of ten 
ships, under the command of Commodore James, co-operated with 
a royal squadron under Vice-Admiral Watson and a military force 
under Clive in a second attack upon Angria's fort of Gheria. The 
operations on this occasion were wholly successful ; the fort was cap- 
tured on 1 3 February, 1 756 ; and the piratical chief of the Konkan 
ceased from that date to figure in the politics of Western India.* On 
the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, Commodore James (who 
subsequently became governor of Greenwich Hospital) added to his 
reputation by capturing a French vessel in 1 756 and carrying her as 
prize to Bombay, and by voyaging round the coast of India in the 
height of the south-west monsoon, with the object of proving that 
communication between the eastern and western coasts of India was 
possible at all seasons.^ This feat of navigation, which enlarged the 
views of the authorities as to the potential value of the Marine, proved 
doubly advantageous to the English; for the commodore not only 
brought to Bengal the earliest news of the outbreak of war with 
France, but also lent the services of five hundred of his seamen to 
Watson and Clive, for their attack on Chandernagore in March, 

1 Bombay City GazetU^fy ii, 283 and n.; Campbell, Bombay Town and Island Historical 
Materials y 11, 1945^^. Cf. Low, Indian Navy^ i, 174-5. 

* Low, op. cit. I, 107. Cf. Forrest, Bombay Selections (Home Series), 11, 72-4. 

' Low, op. cit. I, 1 14. * Idem, i, 132 sew. 

' Madras Public Dispatch to the Company, 6 June, and Public Consultations, 3 May, 


1 757. 1 During the struggle between France and England, the Bombay 
Marine was employed in co-operating with the Royal Navy in various 
engagements off the Indian coasts, and in earning the title of "The 
Police of the Indian Seas" by hunting the pirates of Western India 
and the Persian Gulf It also laid the foundation of the present Marine 
Survey of India in 1772, when Lieutenant Robinson, in command of 
a schooner, a ketch and a patamar^ managed to explore and chart 
the coasts of Kathiawar, Sind and Mekran and a certain part of 
Arabia and Persia.^ 

In 1774 the Bombay Government, in pursuance of the agreement 
made with Raghunatha Rau,* determined to invade Salsette and take 
Thana by storm. This action was carried out on 28 December, 1774, 
by a Bombay force under General Gordon and a squadron of the 
Bombay Marine under Commodore John Watson, who was mortally 
wounded on the third day of the siege. Later on the Maratha War 
gave rise to another affair in which the reputation of the service was 
signally maintained by the Ranger, a small vessel commanded by 
Lieutenant Pruen, which was attacked in 1 783 by a Maratha fleet of 
eleven ships, under the command of the Peshwa's admiral, Anandrava 
Dhulap. The Ranger, which wais carrying several military officers as 
passengers, fought against these unequal odds until nearly every 
officer and seaman aboard was either killed or dangerously wounded, 
and being at last overpowered, was carried off to Vijayadrug, whence 
she was subsequently restored to the Company.^ In 1 780 the Marine 
formed partof Sir Edward Hughes's squadroninthe operations against 
Hyder Ali; two years later Commodore Armytage, in command of 
the Bombay and other ships, helped to capture Rajamandrug, Kun- 
dapur, Mangalore and other places on the Malabar coast; while 
vessels of the Bombay Marine rendered good service in 1 796 at the 
capture of the ports of Ceylon. In the pauses of the warfare engen- 
dered by the march of political events the Company's ships continued 
to harass their ancient foes, the pirates, and fought several engage- 
ments, of which the most noteworthy took place in 1797 between the 
Vigilant, commanded by Lieutenant Hayes, and four large vessels of 
the Sanganian pirates. The Vigilant was suddenly attacked while 
crossing the Gulf of Cutch on a political mission, but managed after 
three hours' desperate fighting to drive off the enemy with heavy loss.® 

In consequence of the steady growth of the Marine, the eighteenth 
century witnessed various administrative changes in the dockyard 
establishment. In 1 739 the post of Marine Paymaster was abolished, 
his duties being transferred to the Purser Marine, and about the same 
date a Superintendent of Marine was appointed on a salary of ^^220 
a year. The establishment over which he presided consisted at that 

* Low, op. cit. I, 138. But cf. Hill, Bengal in 1756-7, iii, 157. 

2 Gf. Hobson-Jobson, s.v. ' Low, op, cit. i, 185 sqq. * Gf. vol. v, p. 257, supra. 

* Low, op. cit. I, 158. * Ideniy i, 202. 



date of eight commanders, one of whom was styled commodore, 
a purser marine in charge of accounts and victualling, a master- 
builder, and other heads of departments. To these were added in 
1754 a master attendant, who twenty-three years later (1777) ranked 
as second senior officer of the Marine and acted as assistant to the 
superintendent for the control of port-dues and the sail-making and 
rigging establishments. In 1778 the office of Superintendent of 
Marine was abolished in favour of a Marine Board, advocated by the 
court of directors, which was not immediately constituted and only 
functioned for a short time. In its place the post of Comptroller of 
Marine was created in 1785 and was held in rotation by the two 
junior members of the Bombay Council, who were expected merely 
to exercise general supervision over the various officers of Marine and 
secure obedience to the policy of the directors, while all executive 
orders relating to daily marine and dockyard administration were 
issued by the governor in council. 

The valuable service rendered by the Bombay Marine during the 
second half of the eighteenth century was largely responsible for a 
revision of the Marine Regulations by the court of directors in 1798. 
Relative rank and retiring pensions were conferred upon the officers 
of the service, and the privilege of private trading, which had till then 
been allowed to all members, was formally abolished. The duties of 
the Marine were now defined to be (a) protection of trade, (b) sup- 
pression of piracy and general war-service, (c) convoy of transports 
and conveyance of troops, (d) marine surveying in Eastern waters. 
A Marine Board was established, composed of a civilian superintendent 
as president, a master attendant, a commodore and two captains, 
these four appointments being reserved for the four senior officers of 
the Marine. The remaining personnel at this date consisted of thirteen 
captains, thirty-three first lieutenants, twenty-one second lieutenants 
and thirty-seven volunteers. The regulations of 1 798 were amended 
by the issue in 18 14 of a warrant of precedence in India, by the pub- 
lication in 1820 of new regulations as to uniform, and by the tem- 
porary abolition of the rank of commander and the provision of 
additional captains' appointments in 1824. Later on, in 1827, a 
royal warrant was issued, conferring upon Marine officers equal 
rank, according to their degrees, with officers of the Royal Navy, 
within the limits of the East India Company's charter; by the issue 
of an Admiralty warrant empowering Bombay Marine ships to fly 
the Union Jack and pennant; and thirdly by an order that the 
appointment of superintendent, as head of the Marine Service, should 
in future be held by an officer of the Royal Navy. Finally, in 1 830, the 
title of the service, which included at that date twelve captains, nine 
commanders, fifty-one lieutenants and sixty-nine midshipmen, was 
altered to that of "the Indian Navy".^ 

* Low, op. cit. I, 2 1 3 sqq. 


The principal administrative changes after that date consisted in 
the appointment in 1 83 1 of a Controller of the Dockyard in super- 
session of the master attendant, the institution in 1838-9 as an 
integral branch of the Marine of a steam-packet service for the carriage 
of mails to Egypt; the gradual substitution of steamers for the old 
teak sailing vessels;^ and successive alterations in the numbers of 
the service, which was officially declared in 1847 to consist of eight 
captains, sixteen commanders, sixty-eight lieutenants, no midship- 
men, fourteen pursers and twelve clerks, fourteen masters and twenty- 
one second masters. The post of Superintendent of Marine disappeared 
in 1848, the holder at that date being styled Commander-in-Chief of 
the Indian Navy; and the broad pennant of the Indian Navy, which 
had till then been identical with that of the Royal Navy, was super- 
seded by a red flag with a yellow cross and the East India Company's 
cognisance of a yellow lion and crown in the upper corner nearest the 
mast. On the assumption by the crown in 1858 of direct rule in India, 
the title of the Indian Navy was changed to that of Her Majesty's 
Indian Navy; and in the following year the duties of the Controller 
of the Dockyard, which also included the administration of the port 
and other duties now performed by the Bombay Port Trust, were 
limited to the commercial work of the port, while his dockyard duties 
were transferred to a dockmaster, now known as the staff officer. In 
1863 a new code of regulations was issued; the name of the service 
was once again changed to the Bombay Marine ; and the recruitment 
of European seamen was prohibited, their places being taken by 
Indians belonging to the seafaring classes of the western coast — 
descendants, in fact, of the coast pirates with whom the Marine waged 
so fierce a struggle in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 

The war services of the Bombay Marine continued during the first 
half of the nineteenth century. It shared in the Egyptian campaign 
of 1 80 1, helped to guard the Bay of Bengal from French aggression 
in 1803, assisted at the capture of Mauritius in 18 10, and participated 
in the conquest of Java in 181 1. In 1813 it was employed against the 
Sultan of Sambar; in 18 15 it blockaded the piratical strongholds of 
Cutch and Kathiawar; it assisted in the attack on Suvarndrug and 
Madangadh during the third Maratha War; and it practically ex- 
terminated piracy in the Persian Gulf in 1819.^ The siege and capture 
of Mocha in 1820 offered the opportunity for a fresh display of prowess 
on the part of the Marine f in the following year four ships under 
Captain Hardy, Commander Stout and Lieutenants Dominicetti and 
Robinson reduced the Ben-ibu-Ali Arabs to submission; and in 1826 
Commodore Hayes and other officers of the Marine received the 
thanks of parliament for their "skilful, gallant and meritorious 

* Cf. Hoskins, British Routes to India, pp. 193 sqq. 

2 Low, op. cit. I, 310 sqq. 

' Dodwell, Founder of Modern Egypt, p. 60; Low, op. cit. i, 299 sqq. 


exertions" against Ava. Between 1830 and 1863 the Indian Navy 
was on practically continuous service in India and the Persian Gulf. 
The power of the Beni-yas Arabs was broken by Captain Sawyer of 
the Elphinstone in 1 835 ; in 1 838 the Indian Navy provided a blockading 
squadron at the mouth of the Indus ; it served under Admiral Maitland 
in the Persian Gulf and at the capture of Aden in 1839; it co-operated 
with the Royal Navy during the China War of 1840-2; the officers 
and crews of three vessels under Commander Nott fought at Miani 
and Hyderabad (Sind) in 1843. The Company's vessels carried 
troops to Vingurla during the insurrection of 1844-5 ^^ the Southern 
Maratha country; in 1846 the Elphinstone (Captain Young) shared in 
the capture of Ruapetapeka (New Zealand) ; during the siege of 
Multan in 1848-9 the Indus flotilla was provided by the Indian Navy; 
its vessels captured Bet island in 1850, played an important part in 
the second Burma War of 1852, suppressed piracy on the north-east 
coast of Borneo in the same year, and helped the Turks to defend 
Hodeida in 1856. 

On the outbreak of war with Persia in 1855, the sea forces were 
drawn entirely from the Indian Navy, with Rear-Admiral Leeke in 
command and Commodore Ethersay of the Company's service as 
second. Bushire was taken in 1855 and Muhammarah in 1857 — the 
latter operation, which had to be carried out under great difficulties, 
evoking from the governor-general in council a well-merited eulogy 
on the judgment, skill and discipline shown by all ranks. The Indian 
Navy distinguished itself during the military operations in South 
China and at the seizure of Perim island in 1857; it provided naval 
brigades for service ashore during the Mutiny, while Captain Jones 
of the Indian Navy held the Arab tribes of the Persian Gulf at bay 
during the same grave crisis. The tale of the active war services of 
the Bombay Marine forces ends with the China War of i860, when 
the attack on the Taku forts was led by the Coromandel, commanded 
by Lieutenant Walker. 

The organisation of the Indian trooping service in 1867 sounded 
the knell of the Indian Navy as a fighting force. The officers' cadre 
was then enlarged to include twelve commanders, ten first, eleven 
second, and seven third officers, and 109 engineers. One resident 
transport officer was appointed from the service. Ten years later 
(1877), however, in consultation with Captain (afterwards Admiral) 
Bythesea, the Indian Government effected a radical reorganisation 
of their naval establishment. The Bombay service was amalgamated 
with other marine establishments in India, under the title of Her 
Majesty's Indian Marine, the combined establishments being divided 
into a western division concentrated at Bombay and an eastern 
division at Calcutta; and the duties of the service were declared to be 
(a) transport of troops and government stores, (b) maintenance of 
station ships in Burma, the Andamans, Aden, and the Persian Gulf 


for political, police, lighting and other purposes, (c) maintenance of 
gunboats on the Irawadi and Euphrates, (d) building, repairing, 
manning and general supervision of all local government vessels and 
launches and all craft used for military purposes. In 1878 a naval 
constructor was appointed from England for the first time, and this 
was the prelude to the retirement in 1 885 of the last of the Wadias, 
whose connection with the dockyard as master-builders had lasted 
without a break for one hundred and fifty years. In 1882 the appoint- 
ments of Superintendent of Marine at Bombay and Calcutta, which 
were included in the reorganisation scheme of 1877, were abolished 
in favour of a single appointment of director, to be held always by an 
officer of the Royal Navy with Bombay as his headquarters, assisted 
by a deputy, chosen from the Indian Marine and stationed at Cal- 
cutta. The anomalous position of the officers and crews of the Marine, 
who were not subject to the provisions of the Naval Discipline Act 
and Merchant Shipping Act, was regulated by the passing of the 
Indian Marine Service Act, 1884 (47 & 48 Vict. c. 38), which enabled 
the governor-general in council to legislate for the maintenance of 
discipline; and simultaneously the post of assistant secretary to the 
Government of India (Marine Department), which had been created 
in 1880 and held by Admiral Bythesea, was replaced by that of 
assistant director of the Indian Marine. An Admiralty warrant of 
the same year (1884) sanctioned the use by ships of the Indian Marine 
as ensign of a blue flag with the Star of India in the fly, and as marine 
jack of a union jack with a narrow blue border. Finally in 1891 the 
title of the service was once more altered to that of " The Royal Indian 
Marine" by an order in council, which also provided that officers 
of the service, with the titles of commander, lieutenant and sub- 
lieutenant, should rank with, but junior to, officers of the Royal Navy 
of equal rank, and should wear the same uniform as the latter, with 
the exception of the device on epaulettes, sword-hilt, badges and 
buttons, and of the gold lace on the sleeves. 

This retrospect may fitly conclude with a brief notice of the Naval 
Defence Squadron and of the later progress of the Indian Marine 
Survey. The former, which was established at Bombay in 1871 for the 
defence of the Indian coasts, consisted in 1889 of two turret-ships and 
seven torpedo boats, commanded by officers and manned by crews 
of the Indian Marine. In 1 892 the squadron, which had been increased 
by the purchase of two torpedo gunboats, was placed under the com- 
mand of an officer of the Royal Navy, while the other officers were 
chosen partly from the Royal Navy and partly from the Royal Indian 
Marine. The crews comprised both bluejackets and lascars. In 1903 
the squadron was abolished, and the defence of India by sea was 
entrusted wholly to the Royal Navy. 

The history of the survey during the nineteenth century opens with 
the establishment in 1809 of a Marine Survey department in Bengal, 


which charted the east coast of Africa as far south as Zanzibar, the 
Persian Gulf and other seas, before it was abolished in 1828 during 
Lord William Bentinck*s administration. The work of the depart- 
ment, however, was considered sufficiently important to be carried 
on between 1828 and 1839 by two vessels, which explored the coasts 
of Africa and Socotra, the Maldive and Laccadive islands, and the 
mouth of the Indus. After 1844 comprehensive surveys were con- 
ducted on the Jehlam and Indus rivers, in the Gulf of Cutch and 
other parts of the west coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, on the 
Pegu coast and the rivers of Burma, and in Malacca and Sumatra. 
In 1 86 1 the control of the Indian Marine Survey was transferred to 
the Admiralty, but seventeen years later (1878) it was again organised 
in Calcutta as a department of the Indian Marine. The headquarters 
were transferred from Calcutta to Bombay in 1882, and a year later 
it was decided to reserve the appointments of surveyor in charge and 
his senior assistants for officers of the Royal Navy and to fill the junior 
officers' grades from the Royal Indian Marine. From 1894 the senior 
assistants' appointments were also thrown open to the latter service. 
Since its first establishment the Royal Indian Marine has performed 
much valuable work in the charting and delineation of the coasts of 
India, Burma, the Persian Gulf and Africa, besides materially ad- 
vancing scientific knowledge of the fauna of the Indian seas. 




X T was not for many years after its incorporation that the Company 
of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies found it necessary 
to employ military forces to protect its possessions and its interests, 
but guards of peons, undisciplined and armed after the native fashion, 
were enrolled in its factories, from the time when these were first 
established. These peons could hardly be regarded as soldiers, and 
were employed rather to add to the dignity of the Company's officials 
than for purposes of defence. Later in the seventeenth century pro- 
vision was made for the defence of the larger factories by the main- 
tenance at each of a small body of European soldiers, under an ensign, 
and a " gun-room crew " supplied by the Company's ships, to work the 
guns of the factory. 

In 1662 King Charles II sent out a small force to defend Bombay, 
which was part of the dowry of his queen, but the Portuguese did not 
vacate the factory until 1665, by which time the force had suffered 
severely from the climate, and numbered, besides Captain Henry 
Cary, who commanded it, only one ensign, four sergeants, six corporals, 
four drummers, ninety-seven privates and some details, including 
two gunners and a gunner's mate. In 1668, when the king leased 
Bombay to the East India Company, its garrison consisted of twenty 
commissioned and non-commissioned officers, 124 privates and fifty- 
four Topasses, or half-caste Portuguese, and this force eventually 
became the nucleus of the ist Bombay European Regiment.^ In 171 1 
the garrison of Madras consisted of 250 European soldiers and 200 
Topasses, and in 1748 various independent companies were embodied 
as a regiment, afterwards the ist Madras Fusiliers, in which Robert 
Clive received his first commission as an ensign.^ 

It is generally believed that Dupleix, in his war with the English 
Company on the east coast, was the first to employ Indian sepoys 
trained in the European manner, but this was not so. The French 
settlement of Mahe was founded in 1721, near the English settlement 
of Tellicherri, on the west coast, and it was here, in hostilities which 
lasted from 1721 to 1729, that the term sepoy first appears as the 
name of a military force in European service. They were condottieri, 
whose loyalty was not always above suspicion, but they had some 
knowledge of European methods of war, for a French royal officer 
described them as well trained.^ 

^ Foster, Factories, 1668-9, p. 67; Malabari, Bombay in the Making, pp. 188-97. 
* In 1748, G. B. Macleson, Lord Clive, p. 33. 
' Dodwell, Sepoy Recruitment, pp. 2, 6, 7. 


Dumas, the predecessor of Dupleix, first employed on the east 
coast sepoys from the west coast. In 1 744 the council at Pondichery 
considered the company of sepoys to be hardly worth its pay, but the 
outbreak of war with the English Company obliged them not only to 
retain it, but to obtain another company from Mahe.^ The French 
captured Madras in 1 746, and the English Company was obliged to 
turn its attention to the organisation of a force for the defence of its 
possessions. In 1748 Captain Stringer Lawrence of the 14th Foot, 
the "father of the Indian Army", arrived at Fort St David, then 
temporarily the Company's principal factory on the east coast, with 
the king's commission as major, to command all the Company's 
troops in the East Indies. He embodied the Madras European 
Regiment and enlisted 2000 sepoys, "at first scarcely better disciplined 
than common peons ", who were organised in independent companies, 
but his activities were arrested by his capture by the French. Admiral 
Boscawen, who arrived at Fort St David with orders to assume the 
command both at sea and on land, sent him to attack Ariancopang, 
near Pondichery, where he was taken and was detained until the 
Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, concluded in October, 1748, led to a cessa- 
tion of hostilities and the restoration of Madras to the English Com- 
pany. The organisation of the Company's forces then proceeded ; the 
sepoys were placed under an English commander ^ and the "gun- 
room crews" were superseded by two companies of artillery from 
England, one at Fort St George and one at Fort St David. Lawrence 
was granted leave to England, and his task was carried on by Robert 
Clive, now a captain. His great feat of capturing and defending Arcot 
in 1 75 1 was performed with 200 European soldiers and 300 sepoys, 
and the conduct of the latter proved how greatly their military spirit 
had improved under Clive. The quality of Eastern troops always 
depends largely on the character of those by whom they are led. 

Lawrence returned from England, and the hostilities between the 
two Companies continued in India, though their countries were at 
peace. In September, 1 754, a squadron of six ships under Admiral 
Charles Watson, with the 39th Foot {Primus in Indis) under Colonel 
John Adlercron, and a detachment of Royal Artillery, arrived at 
Fort St George,^ and in the following year Clive, who in 1753 had 
gone to England for reasons of health, returned with the king's com- 
mission as a lieutenant-colonel, and assumed charge of Fort St David 
as governor. Late in 1756 he was obliged to proceed to Bengal, in 
order to recover Calcutta, and the troops which accompanied him, 
or joined him later, consisted of detachments of the artillery, of the 
39th Foot under Major Eyre Coote, and of the Madras and Bombay 
European Regiments, and a force of sepoys from Madras; and he had 
also at his disposal the Bengal European Regiment recently enrolled 

* Dodwell, op. cit. p. 5. * Idem, p. 8. 

• Love, Vestiges of Old Madras y 11, 447. 


by Major Killpatrick/ and a force of Bengal sepoys. His campaign 
in Bengal will be noticed later. 

In 1757 the Seven Years' War broke out, and the two Companies 
were again involved in hostilities in India. The war had not been 
unforeseen, and the Madras Council was fully aware of the risk which 
it ran in detaching so large a force, with its best officer, to Bengal, but 
the plight of that presidency admitted of no delay. In June, 1 758, 
the French, under Lally, captured Fort St David, and in December 
occupied the Black Town of Madras and opened the siege of Fort 
St George, but were obliged to retreat on the arrival of a British 
squadron in February, 1 759. 

Till then the sepoys had been organised in independent companies. 
But the important development of organising them in battalions was 
now introduced. The English Company had decided on the measure 
before war broke out, but had had no opportunity of accomplishing it. 
Lally's siege had provided further evidence of the difficulty of con- 
trolling independent companies, and early in 1 759 Lawrence presided 
over a committee, whose proposals provided for a sepoy force of 7000 
men, formed into seven battalions, each consisting of a grenadier com- 
pany and eight battalion companies, each company commanded by a 
subadar, with a jamadar and a due proportion of non-commissioned 
officers. Each battalion was commanded by a native commandant, 
but its training was the care of two British subaltern officers and three 
sergeants, and three inspecting captains were appointed to supervise 
the training of the whole force, which was the real foundation of the 
Indian Army as it exists to-day. ^ 

Clive's victory at Plassey, and the deposition of Siraj-ud-daula, 
established the Company as the predominant authority in Bengal, 
and the maintenance of its power required a respectable military 
force. The 39th Foot was recalled to Europe, but all ranks were 
permitted to volunteer for the Company's service, and five officers 
and about 350 men were transferred to the Bengal establishment, the 
officers receiving a step in rank.^ The two companies of the Bombay 
European Regiment and the detachment of the Madras European 
Regiment were also transferred to Bengal,* and a few battalions of 
sepoys were raised, to each of which were posted two officers from 
the European Regiment. 

The armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay now developed in- 
dependently. Communication between the three presidencies was 
difficult and tedious, and each was confronted with dangers which 
necessitated a rapid increase in and improvement of its armed forces. 
In Bengal the outbreak of war between the Company and Mir Kasim, 
his massacre of 2000 sepoys at Patna, and of about two hundred 
Britons there and elsewhere, and his alliance with the Nawab- 

^ Innes, Bengal European Regiment, pp. 15, 1 6. ^ Love, op. cit. 11, 566. 

' Idem, II, 513. * Innes, op. cit. pp. 69, 70. 


Wazir of Oudh and the Emperor Shah 'Alam against the Company 
led to a great expansion of the Bengal army, and Clive, during his 
second term of office in Bengal, which ended in 1767, reorganised 
both the army and the civil administration.^ In the Madras 
Presidency the wars with the principality of Mysore, and in Bombay 
the Maratha wars, lasting from 1775 to 1782, led in like manner 
to great increases in the presidency armies. Thus, in Bengal the 
number of sepoy battalions rose from one in 1757 to nineteen in 
1764. The native ranks in each battalion consisted of a commandant, 
an adjutant and ten companies, two of which were grenadiers, each 
company commanded by a subadar, with three jamadars, and con- 
sisting of five havildars, four naiks, two tomtoms and seventy sepoys. 
Each company had its own stand of colours. ^ Besides these sepoys, 
there were on the strength of the Bengal army in 1765 four companies 
of artillery, twenty-four companies of European infantry, a troop of 
hussars, and about 1200 irregular cavalry.^ After the conclusion of 
peace the hussars were dismounted and incorporated with the 
European infantry, all the irregular cavalry, except 300, were dis- 
missed, the European battalion, 1600 strong, was augmented and 
formed into three single-battalion regiments of nine companies each, 
and each consisting of 73 1 rank and file with the same establishment 
of officers as a king's regiment of the line, and three more battalions 
of sepoys were raised. Clive then organised the Bengal army in three 
brigades, each consisting of a troop of irregular cavalry, a company 
of artillery, a battafion of European infantry, and seven battalions 
of sepoys.* In the Maratha War six sepoy battalions from the first 
brigade were ordered to the West of India, but six new battalions 
were raised to take their place in Bengal, and several battalions 
trained by British officers for the Nawab-Wazir of Oudh were 
incorporated in the Bengal army. 

In 1 780, in consequence of the defeat of Colonel Baillie and the 
invasion by Hyder Ali of the Lower Carnatic, the Bengal Government 
increased its military establishment by raising the strength of each 
sepoy battalion to 1000 and dividing it into two battalions of five 
companies. A major commanded each regiment, a captain each 
battalion, and a lieutenant each company. 

During the war in the Carnatic^ the Bengal Presidency assisted the 
Madras Presidency with both European and native troops, and in 
1785 the Bengal army was reorganised. Each of the two-battalion 
regiments of sepoys was amalgamated into a single-battalion regiment 
often companies, and the army was divided into six brigades. Each 
of the three European battalions was divided into a two-battalion 
regiment, allowing one European battalion to each brigade,® the 

* Inries, op. cit. pp. 229, 230. ^ Williams, Bengal Infantry, p. 5. 

• Broome, Bengal Army, p. 431. * Idem, pp. 533-40. 

' Vol. V, p. 284. " Innes, op. cit. p. 280. 


other troops assigned to each brigade being a company of artillery, 
with lascars, and six battalions of sepoys. These orders remained in 
force until 1796. 

In 1765 the Madras establishment of seven battalions of sepoys was 
increased to ten battalions, each 900 strong, a captain, a lieutenant 
and an ensign being posted to each battalion ; ^ and in the following 
year, when the Northern Circars (Sarkars) fell into the Company's 
possession, eight new battalions were raised there. These, known as 
the Circar battalions, were numbered separately from the Carnatic 
battalions. They invariably served, in time of peace, in the Telugu 
country, where they were raised, and were inferior, both in discipline 
and courage, to the Carnatic battalions. ^ The military force of the 
Madras Presidency grew throughout the Mysore War, and was re- 
organised in 1784, when the distinction between the Carnatic and 
Circar battalions was abolished, the former being numbered from 
I to 21, and the latter from 22 to 29, while the raising of new bat- 
talions brought the number up to thirty-five ; but in 1 785 the number 
of battalions on the Madras establishment was reduced to twenty-one, 
the Circar battalions being broken up and distributed among the 
battalions which were retained. This introduced a "mixed" system 
of recruiting, under which the composition of each unit was a matter 
of accident, "tempered from time to time by the predilections of the 
officer who commanded it". 

The Bombay army developed on a smaller scale. Its European 
soldiers were formed into a regiment during the War of the Austrian 
Succession, and before 1 796 its sepoy battalions had reached twelve 
in number. 

The recruitment of European officers for the Company's troops was 
at first a matter of difficulty. Until 1 748 and again later, when the 
seven sepoy battalions were formed, many sergeants were promoted 
to the rank of ensign, but such promotions gradually became excep- 
tional. "The great objection to these ranker-officers was their un- 
seasonable drunkenness" and a tendency to continue to associate 
with those of the rank from which they had risen. Both Clive and 
Coote observed these faults, and Coote remarked: "There is little 
dependence on this kind of men's behaviour, who are raised from 
sergeants to rank with gentlemen".^ A few young writers followed 
Clive's example, and received commissions. 

Mixed blood was not a disqualification for the Company's com- 
mission, which was often given to the sons of officers who had formed 
irregular unions in India, as an acknowledgement of their fathers' 
services, but colour was to some extent a bar, and later the Company 
required of cadets appointed in India a certificate that they were not 
the sons of wives or concubines of pure Indian blood.* Foreign 

1 Wilson, Madras Army, i, 224. ^ Dodwell, Sepoy Recruitment, pp. 25-7. 

^ Dodwell, Nabobs of Madras, p. 42. * Idem. 


officers, deserters and released prisoners of war were sometimes ad- 
mitted to the Company's service, and in some instances served it well, 
but naturally could not always be trusted when opposed to their own 
countrymen, and an attempt to maintain a Foreign Legion failed. 
A Frenchman who served in the ranks of the Madras European 
Regiment, but never received a commission, was Bernadotte, after- 
wards a marshal of France and king of Sweden. 

The most valuable source of recruitment was the royal army. 
Officers of king's regiments leaving India were permitted to volunteer 
for the Company's service, in which they usually received a step in 
rank,^ and when peace in Europe led to the reduction of regiments 
there was always a number of officers on half-pay and in reduced 
circumstances who were glad to accept employment under the East 
India Company. Such officers improved the efficiency, the social 
status and the military spirit of the officers in the Company's armies. 
When service in those armies became attractive the directors dis- 
couraged local appointments, and took the military patronage, as it 
became more valuable, into their own hands. They first sent out 
volunteers, who served in the ranks until vacancies occurred, and 
later, cadets, who were sent out as such, and received commissions as 
soon as they had acquired a sufficient knowledge of drill and military 

The native troops first employed against the French were Moplahs, 
and "Moors" and Hindus from Mangalore and Tellicherri. Later, 
in the Carnatic battalions, Muslims were the most numerous class, 
Tamils coming next. The "Telingas" of the Circar battalions have 
already been noticed, and in spite of their poor reputation as soldiers 
they continued to be recruited after the amalgamation of the Carnatic 
and Circar battalions, the classes in the mixed battalions coming in 
the following order in numerical strength: (i) Muslims, (2) Telingas, 
(3) Tamils, (4) Rajputs, Marathas and Brahmans, and (5) other 

Of the quality of the early sepoy force various opinions were ex- 
pressed, some very unfavourable, but the Carnatic regiments, at least, 
fought well when well led, and against the low opinion of them held 
by some of the Company's officials we may set the confession of Lally : 

You would be surprised at the difference between the black troops of the English 
and ours; it is greater than that between a Nawab and a cooly; theirs will even 
venture to attack white troops, while ours will not even look at their black ones.^ 

Nevertheless, the poor quality of recruits obtainable even in the 
Carnatic was noticed as early as in 1788, and in 1795 the Madras 
Government, probably in consequence of Lord Cornwallis's criticism 
of the produce of their recruiting grounds, proposed to draw recruits, 

^ Broome, op. cit. pp. 392, 393. 

* Dodwell, Sepoy Recruitment^ chap. vii. 

• Idenit p. 12. 


to the number of six or seven hundred annually, from Bengal and 
Bombay. The Bombay Government rejected the proposal, on the 
ground that the natives of their presidency would not willingly serve 
beyond its limits, and that they could not find, within those limits, 
sufficient recruits for their own army, but the Supreme Government 
agreed to supply recruits, not "stout Bengalese", as the originator of 
the scheme, in his ignorance of Bengal and its inhabitants, had sug- 
gested, but men more accustomed to military service. Two large 
drafts were supplied, but the scheme was an utter failure. Owing to 
the price of grain in the south, which was so high that a sepoy could 
hardly live on his pay, and the uncongenial surroundings, it was found 
impossible to keep the Bengal recruits with the colours, and they 
deserted in such numbers that recruitment in the north was aban- 

The Bengal army at first drew its recruits from the mixed classes 
of adventurers to be found in the Bengal provinces, and from 1776 
onwards from the kingdom of Oudh, enlisting chiefly Brahmans and 
Rajputs, described as a brave, manly race of people.^ 

It is not necessary to suppose that the discipline was exact, or the training perfect, 
but both were infinitely superior to anything possessed by the Company's opponents. 
The power of marching and manoeuvring in solid formations, and of concentrating 
fire, and the use of well-served guns enabled small bodies of the Company's soldiers 
to overcome the loosely arrayed hordes of their adversaries.^ 

In 1796 the armies of the three presidencies were, for the first time, 
completely reorganised.* To Bengal were allotted three, and to 
Madras two battalions, and to Bombay six companies of artillery, all 
with complementary companies of lascars. Bengal was to maintain 
three, and Madras and Bombay each two battalions of European 
infantry, of ten companies, and Bengal and Madras were each to 
maintain four regiments of regular native cavalry. The single- 
battalion native infantry regiments were formed into regiments of 
two battalions, of which Bengal had twelve, Madras eleven, and 
Bombay six, with a single battalion of marines. The establishment of 
British officers allowed to regiments of native cavalry and infantry 
was nearly the same as in king's regiments. The reorganisation had 
more than one serious defect. To the colonel commanding an infantry 
regiment was transferred most of the authority which should have 
been exercised by lieutenant-colonels commanding battalions, with 
the result that the latter officers lost the respect of the sepoys. Both 
Sir Thomas Munro and Sir John Malcolm^ considered the establish- 
ment of British officers excessive, and believed that it would diminish 
the sense of responsibility in the native officers. They would have 
preferred the allotment, made after the Mutiny of 1857, of six or seven 

^ Dodwell, Sepoy Recruitment, pp. 33-7. ^ Broome, op. cit. p. 503. 

^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, iv, 330. * Idem^ iv, 333. 

^ Malcolm, Political History, pp. 495-6. 


British officers to a battalion, to act as field officers and regimental 
staff, the command of companies being left to the native officers ; but 
the provision of British officers was less generous than it appeared to 
be. As the Company's territories extended, and it attended more 
closely to matters of administrative detail, Europeans were required 
for many duties for which the establishment of the civil service was 
insufficient, and with which its members were not well fitted to cope. 
Public works, the staff and commissariat of the army, "political", 
that is to say diplomatic service at the courts of ruling chiefs, surveys, 
the supervision of trunk roads, the administration of newly annexed 
territory, the command and control generally of contingents and 
irregular troops raised in native states and newly annexed territory, 
and, later, the control of the civil police, were provided almost en- 
tirely by officers of the army, and those deputed on such duties 
remained on the establishments of their regiments, which they rejoined 
when the regiment W2is ordered on active service, or when, by seniority, 
they succeeded to the command. Allowing, besides this heavy drain, 
for the number of officers on furlough, now, with pensions, granted 
for the first time, the number of officers actually on duty with a regi- 
ment of cavalry or a battalion of infantry was seldom more than half 
the establishment.^ 

The sources of recruitment have already been described. The 
quality of the officers was for some time poor, with several brilliant 
exceptions. This was partly due to the Company's treatment of its 
military officers, which was parsimonious in the extreme, and pro- 
duced many unfortunate results. The material inducement offered to 
tempt candidates was an initial salary of about ^120 a year, often in 
an expensive environment and a noxious climate. It was practically 
impossible for a young officer to keep out of debt. To set up the most 
modest of households cost about £200,^ and an extract from a junior 
officer's account-book shows his expenditure, in no way extravagant, 
to have been Rs. 265 a month, while his pay was Rs. 195.^ Sir Thomas 
Munro, who joined the Madras army in 1 780, and held a staff ap- 
pointment as a lieutenant, thus describes his attempts to live within 
his means: 

My dress grows tattered in one quarter whilst I am establishing funds to repair 
it in another, and my coat is in danger of losing the sleeves, while I am pulling it 
off to try a new waistcoat. 

Later, while holding a comparatively lucrative civil appointment, he 
writes : 

I have dined to-day on porridge, made of half-ground flour instead of oatmeal, 
and I shall most likely dine to-morrow on plantain fritters, this simplicity of fare 
being the effect of necessity, not of choice.* 

If the Company had many bad bargains it had largely itself to thank. 

* Official Army Lists. 2 Williamson, East India Vade Mecuniy i, 1 73. 

* Carey, Good Old Days ^ i, 233. * IderUy i, 229. 



Cadets were at first allowed to find accommodation for themselves 
in punch-houses, but were afterwards lodged in barracks, and sub- 
jected to discipline. Early in the nineteenth century a college was 
established at Barasat, fourteen miles from Calcutta, where they were 
instructed in drill and the Hindustani language, but the officers in 
charge of them lived at a distance, and except in class and on parade 
they were subjected to hardly any control or discipline. The ruin of 
many promising young men, the premature deaths of not a few, and 
the disgrace and shame that overtook no mean portion of the crowd 
of unfortunate youths, led to the closing of the college in 1811, and 
cadets were then posted to regiments, but, owing to the comparatively 
small number of British officers then doing duty with most native regi- 
ments, discipline was not sufficiently strict,^ and it would have been 
well for the Company's armies if Sir Thomas Munro's advice that all 
young men destined for native regiments should be attached for a year 
or two to a British regiment, in order to learn their duties and acquire 
military discipline, had been followed then, instead of much later.^ 
The college for cadets at Addiscombe was founded in 18 12. 

The life of regimental officers in cantonments far from presidency 
towns was insufferably dull and tedious. Books, book-clubs and news- 
papers were few; there was practically no civilised female society, and 
the monotony of the long hot-weather days, perforce spent indoors, 
was dreary. Some procured books for themselves, and studied their 
profession, the languages of the country, and history; some practised 
music and painting, and some indulged in sport, but the sole relaxa- 
tions of many were gambling and drinking. Their drink, beer, claret, 
sherry, madeira and brandy, was expensive, and, if indulged in to 
excess, unwholesome in the Indian climate. The mortality was great, 
and ill-health, gambling and drinking produced tempers ready to take, 
and equally ready to give, offence. Duels were not uncommon, and 
were sometimes fatal. Concubinage was the natural result of the 
absence of European women. 

The number of European women to be found in Bengal and its dependencies 
[early in the nineteenth century] cannot amount to two hundred and fifty, whilie 
the European male inhabitants of respectability, including military officers, may 
be taken at four thousand, 

writes one officer, in a book^ dedicated to the directors of the East 
India Company. "The case speaks for itself", he continues, "for, even 
if disposed to marry, the latter have not the means." Young officers 
could not be expected to accept a state of lifelong celibacy, and the 
native "housekeeper" was an established institution. From such 
unions, and from the marriages of European soldiers, sprang the class 
known first as East Indians, then as Indo-Britons, then as Eurasians, 

^ Carey, op. cit. i, 236-43. 

2 Buckle, Bengal Artillery, pp. 33, 34. 

' Williamson, op. cit. i, 453. 

c H I VI II 


and now, officially but inaccurately, as "Anglo-Indians". These 
irregular unions were recognised not only by the officers' comrades 
and superiors, but by the court of directors, who perceived that a 
body of officers living with native mistresses would cost them less than 
officers married to ladies of their own class and nation, and requiring 
provision for their families. After the introduction of the furlough 
rules, and as India became more accessible, the standard of morals 
gradually improved, and, though it was long before the native mistress 
ceased to be an institution, she retired by degrees into the background, 
and finally disappeared. 

In 1824 the armies of the three presidencies, having grown greatly 
in numbers during the third Maratha, the Pindari, and the Nepal 
wars, were again reorganised. The two-battalion regiments of native 
infantry were divided into single-battalion regiments, of which Bengal 
now had sixty-eight, Madras fifty- two, and Bombay twenty-four. The 
artillery was more than doubled in strength, and was divided into 
brigades and batteries of horse, and battalions and companies of foot, 
artillery. Bengal and Madras each had eight, and Bombay three 
regiments of regular native cavalry, and Bengal had, in addition, five, 
and Bombay three regiments of irregular cavalry.^ 

In the same year the firstBurmese War broke out, and three regiments 
of Bengal infantry, ordered to march overland to Arakan, providing 
their own transport, mutinied. Whether or not transport, as was urged 
on their behalf, was unprocurable, there is no doubt that it was most 
difficult to obtain, and most costly, and the men suspected that the 
order was a device to compel them to cross the "black water", and 
thus to break their caste. Their petitions were disregarded, they broke 
into mutiny, and they were "shot down and sabred on parade". The 
commander-in-chief protested against the finding of the court of 
enquiry that the mutiny was "an ebullition of despair against being 
compelled to march without the means of doing so", but it was 
certainly just.^ 

The Company's behaviour to its military forces was too obviously 
that of a group of traders towards their servants ever to command 
from them that unquestioning loyalty and obedience with which the 
royal troops served the king,^ and the record of disaffection and 
mutinies in its armies is a long one. In 1674 and 1679 the European 
force in Bombay mutinied in consequence of reductions in its pay,* 
and in 1683 Captain Richard Keigwin, commanding that force, 
having been deprived of his seat in council, and the allowances 
attached to it, rebelled against the Company, and declared that he 
held the fort and island of Bombay on behalf of the king. Vice- 
Admiral Sir Thomas Grantham eventually persuaded him, on the 

^ Imperial Gazetteer qflndiay iv, 336. 

^ Idem, IV, 336. 

' Malcolm, Political History, p. 484. 

* Malabari, op. cit. pp. 189, 190. 


promise of a free pardon, to surrender in accordance with the royal 
command, and he left for England.^ 

In 1758 nine captains of the Bengal European Regiment, resenting 
their supersession by officers of the Madras and Bombay detachments, 
which were incorporated with the regiment, resigned their com- 
missions together, but Clive dealt firmly with them. Six were dismissed 
the service, and the other three were restored, with loss of seniority, 
on expressing their contrition.^ In 1764 a mutiny in the Bengal Euro- 
pean Regiment, fomented by the large numbers of foreigners who 
had been enlisted, was suppressed,^ but was followed by a mutiny of 
the sepoys, who were discontented with their share of the prize-money, 
and with a new code of regulations and system of manoeuvres intro- 
duced by Major Hector Munro, then commanding the Bengal army. 
Munro quelled this mutiny with great, but not unnecessary severity, 
the leading mutineers being blown from guns in the presence of their 
disaffected comrades.^ 

The mutiny of the British officers of the Bengal army caused by the 
reduction of batta, or field allowance, has been described in volume v. ^ 
In 1 806 a mutiny broke out in the native ranks of the Madras army. 
Orders had been issued that the sepoys were to wear shakos instead 
of turbans, that they were to shave their beards, and that caste-marks 
and ear-rings were not to be worn on parade. The men regarded these 
orders as an attack on their religion, and the garrison of Vellore, 
where some of the Mysore princes were interned, hoisted the Mysore 
flag, and murdered their British officers and some of the European 
soldiers, but the remnant of these, under Sergeant Brodie, held out 
against them until a small force under Colonel Gillespie arrived from 
Arcot, blew open the gates of the fortress, cut down 400 mutineers, 
and captured nearly all the rest. There had also been trouble at 
Hyderabad, but Gillespie's prompt action crushed the mutiny.^ 

In 1809 a "white mutiny" broke out in the Madras army. Some 
of its senior officers had personal grievances, some allowances had 
been reduced, and the pay of the officers generally was less than that 
of those on the Bengal establishment, but their chief complaint was 
that the officers of the king's service monopolised the favours of the 
local governrnxcnt, and held most of the staff appointments and 
"situations of active trust, respectability, and emolument", as they 
were described by Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Arthur St Leger, one 
of the leaders of the movement. The relative status of the officers of 
the king's and the Company's services had long been a thorny ques- 
tion, and the case for the Company's officers was thus moderately 

^ Vol. V, p. 102, supra. 

2 Innes, op. cit. pp. 71, 72. 

' Idem, pp. 1 79784. 

* Broome, op. cit. pp. 458-61. 

^ Pp. 1 78-80, and Broome, op. cit. chap. vi. 

" Wilson, op. cit. ui, chap, xviii. 


stated by Colonel (afterwards Major-General Sir John) Malcolm, 
writing in 1811 : 

If it [the British Empire in India] cannot afford to give high pecuniary rewards,' 
it should purchase the services of men of birth and education ; and remunerate the 
great sacnfices which they make in entering the native army of India by approba- 
tion, rank, and honours ; and, instead of leaving them in a state of comparative 
obscurity, depressed by the consideration that they are an inferior service, and that 
military fame, and the applause of their King and country, are objects placed 
almost beyond their hopes; their minds should be studiously elevated to these 
objects; and they should be put upon a footing which would make them have an 
honourable pride in the service to which they belong. This they never can have 
(such is the nature of military feeling), while they consider themselves one shade 
even below another, with which they are constantly associated.^ 

The officers of the Madras army had long been discontented, and 
the commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-General Hay Macdowell, who 
sympathised with them, had done nothing to allay their discontent, 
and had left for England before it reached its climax. Sir George 
Barlow, the governor, at first acted injudiciously, and at Masulipatam 
the officers of the European Regiment openly defied the orders of 
government. The mutiny spread to Gooty, Secunderabad, Jalna, 
Bellary, Cumbum, Trichinopoly, Dindigul, Madras, Pallamcottah, 
Cannanore, Quilon and Seringapatam, the troops in the last-named 
place rising in arms against the government. Treasure was seized, 
acts of violence were committed, and the intention of the mutineers 
appeared to be the subversion of the civil government. At length 
vigorous action was taken. European troops were obtained from 
Ceylon, and the officers who were in revolt were called upon to sign 
a test, or declaration of obedience. The influence of the governor- 
general. Lord Minto, and of such officers as Colonels Close and Conran, 
of Colonel Montresor and Captain Sydenham at Secunderabad, and 
Colonel Davis at Seringapatam, the fear lest the king's troops should 
be employed against them, the lukewarm support of the sepoys when 
they understood that the quarrel was not theirs, and the removal of 
many officers from their regiments, when their places were taken by 
king's officers, brought them to reason. Eventually no more than 
twenty-one were selected for punishment, as examples to the rest. Of 
these one died, four were cashiered, and sixteen dismissed the service; 
but of those cashiered three, and of those dismissed twelve, were after- 
wards restored. This leniency amounted to an admission that the 
offence of the officers, grave though it was, was not unprovoked. ^ 

The growth of the presidency armies failed to keep pace with that 
of the Company's territories and responsibilities, and it was found 
necessary to raise local corps, " more rough and ready than the regular 
army ",^ for the defence of new territories and the protection of native 
ruling chiefs. In the Mysore and Maratha wars the Nizam, as the 

* Malcolm, Political History , pp. 482, 483. 

* Malcolm, Observations; Cardcw, White Mutiny. 
' Imperial Gazetteer of India^ iv, 337. 


Company's ally, had provided contingents of troops, and Arthur 
Wellesley had found the contingent provided in 1803 inefficient and 
useless. As the Company maintained by treaty a large subsidiary 
force for the protection of the Nizam and his dominions, it was entitled 
to demand that he should provide troops fit to take the field with it 
and this demand led to the establishment of the Hyderabad con- 
tingent,^ a force of four regiments of cavalry, four field batteries and 
six battalions of infantry, officered, but not on the same scale as the 
Company's regular troops, by "respectable Europeans ".^ 

The fighting qualities of the Gurkhas were discovered in the Nepal 
War (1814-16),^ and a few irregular battalions of Gurkhas were 
raised. The first, the Malaon Regiment, was incorporated in the line, 
in 1850, as the 66th Bengal Native Light Infantry, but in 1861, after 
the Mutiny, it and four other Gurkha battalions were removed from 
the line and numbered separately. 

In 1838, when the Company foolishly undertook the restoration of 
Shah Shuja to the throne of Afghanistan,* an irregular force was 
raised in India for his service, and the 3rd Infantry, which had dis- 
tinguished itself in the defence of Kalat-i-Ghilzai,^ was retained in 
the Company's service, at first as an irregular regiment, but after the 
Mutiny incorporated in the line as the 12th Bengal Native Infantry. 

In 1846, after the first Sikh War,^ a brigade of irregular troops was 
raised for police and general duties on the Satlej frontier, and to it was 
added the Corps of Guides, a mixed regiment of cavalry and infantry, 
which was incorporated in 1849, after the second Sikh War,' in an 
irregular force, known later as the Panjab Frontier Force, raised and 
formed for duty in the Panjab and on the North-West Frontier. It 
consisted at first of three field batteries, five regiments of cavalry, five 
of infantry, and the Corps of Guides, to which were added shortly 
afterwards a company of garrison artillery, a sixth regiment of Panjab 
infantry, five regiments of Sikh infantry, and two mountain batteries, 
and in 1876 all its artillery was converted into mountain batteries. 
This force, which did excellent service against the mutineers in 1857 
and 1858, remained under the control of the local government of the 
Panjab for many years before it was placed under that of the com- 

A local force was raised after the annexation of Nagpur in 1 854, 
and the Oudh Irregular Force after the annexation of Oudh in 1856, 
but the former disappeared in the Mutiny, and the latter was broken 
up shortly after it. 

The history of the great Mutiny of the Bengal army, which raged 
for nearly two years, is recorded in the following chapter. The in- 
eptitude of senile and incompetent officers, and the pathetic con- 

^ Burton, History of the Hyderabad Contingent, chap. iv. ^ Idem. 

3 See vol. V, pp. 377-9. * Vol. v, pp. 495-521. ^ Idem, p. 515. 

« Idem, pp. 548-53- ' Jd<^m, pp. 555-7. 


fidence of old colonels, in whom esprit de corps was so strong that even 
while regiments lying beside their own were butchering their officers 
they refused to believe in the possibility of treason in their own men, 
made the tragedy more ghastly than it need have been. The de- 
moralisation of the Bengal army was due to more than one cause. The 
great additions recently made to the Company's dominions demanded 
for the administration of the newly acquired territory, and for the 
irregular troops and police required for its defence and for the main- 
tenance of peace and order, a far larger number of British officers 
than the civil service could provide, and the principal source of 
supply was the Bengal army. Those to whom the government of the 
new territories was entrusted refused to be satisfied with any but the 
most active and zealous officers whom the army could supply, and 
the army was thus deprived of the services of a large number of its 
best officers, the insufficient number left for regimental duty con- 
sisting, to some extent, of the Company's bad bargains. Another 
reason for the decay of discipline was the system of promotion, which 
was regulated solely by seniority, so that many failed to reach com^ 
missioned rank before the time when, in the interests of the service, 
they should have been superannuated, and were inclined to regard 
their promotion rather as a reward for long service than as admission 
to a sphere of more important duties. In the Madras and Bombay 
armies seniority, as a qualification for promotion, was tempered by 
selection, and the British officers refused to pander to the caste 
prejudices of their men to the same extent as the British officers in 
Bengal. Partly for these reasons, and partly owing to their dislike of 
the Bengal army and its airs of superiority, these armies remained 
faithful; and the irregular forces of the Panjab joined with glee in 
crushing the "Pandies", as the mutineers were called, from Pande, 
one of the commonest surnames among the Oudh Brahmans, which 
had been borne by a sepoy who had shot the adjutant of his regiment 
at Barrackpore, a few months before the Mutiny broke out. 



1 WISH", wrote the late Lord Cromer, "the younger generation 
of Englishmen would read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the 
history of the Indian Mutiny; it abounds in lessons and warnings.'* 

During the generation that preceded the Mutiny various influences 
were weakening the discipline of the sepoy army in the presidency of 
Bengal, and awakening discontent, here and there provoking thoughts 
of rebellion, in certain groups of the civil population. In considering 
the measures that produced these results it should be borne in mind 
that the mere fact of their having caused discontent does not condemn 
them. While some were injudicious, others were beneficial, and some 
helped also to minimise the disturbances to which discontent gave 

In the settlement of the North-Western Provinces, by which 
arrangements were made for the collection of the revenue, the re- 
sponsible officers, anxious to promote the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number, decided that the agreement should be concluded, 
not with middlemen, but with the actual occupants of the land, who 
were generally either single families or village communities. Ac- 
cordingly they deprived the talukdars, through whom the native 
government had collected the revenue, and who were really the 
territorial aristocracy, of the right of settling for any land to which 
they could not establish a clear proprietary title. At the same time 
holders of rent-free tenures, many of which had been fraudulently 
acquired before the Company's government was established, were 
required to prove the original validity of their titles ; and since even 
those whose estates had been obtained honestly were unable to pro- 
duce documentary evidence, the tenures were for the most part 
abolished, and the revenue was augmented for the benefit of the 
government.^ The sale law, under which the estates of proprietors 
were bought by speculators who were strangers to their new tenants, 
aroused no less bitterness ; and under Dalhousie the policy of re- 
sumption was developed. In Bombay, for instance, the Inam Com- 
mission enquired into a large number of titles to land and resumed 
a large number of estates. ^ 

In 1853 an event occurred which provoked resentment that was 
not immediately manifested. Baji Rao, the ex-Peshwa with whom 
Wellesley had concluded the Treaty of Bassein, died, and his adopted 
son, Nana Sahib, demanded that his pension should be continued to 

^ Cf. pp. 80-4, supra. 

2 Cf. Baden Powell, Land Systems of British India, iii, 302 sqq. 


him. In accordance with the terms of the original agreement the 
demand was rejected, ahhough the Nana was allowed to retain rent 
free the Peshwa's landed estate. 

The annexations which Dalhousie carried out under the title of 
lapse, and by which he not only consolidated the empire, strengthened 
its military communications, and increased its resources, but also 
benefited millions who had suffered from misgovernment, caused 
uneasiness to many who had submitted without any sense of injustice 
to annexation that had followed conquest, and in one case provoked 
passionate indignation. Under this right, Dalhousie annexed Satara, 
Nagpur, Jhansi, and several minor principalities. The annexation of 
Oudh was of a different kind. Misgovernment so scandalous that 
even Colonel Sleeman and Henry Lawrence, those sympathetic 
champions of native rulers, urged that the paramount power should 
assume the administration, impelled the Board of Control and the 
court of directors to insist upon a peremptory course which Dalhousie, 
remembering the fidelity of the king of Oudh, was reluctant to adopt. 
He urged that merely to withdraw the British troops by whose support 
the king had been maintained upon the throne, on the ground that 
he had not fulfilled the conditions of the treaty concluded by Wellesley, 
would compel him to accept a new treaty which should provide for 
the administration by British officers in his name; the directors 
decided that he should be required to accept such a treaty with the 
alternative of submitting to annexation. As he rejected the proffered 
treaty, which, while it vested the government in the Company, 
guaranteed to him the royal title, an adequate pension, and main- 
tenance for all collateral branches of his family, Oudh was forthwith 
annexed. Though Muhammadan pride was doubtless offended, such 
discontent as the annexation aroused mattered little in comparison 
with the manner in which it was carried into effect. Perhaps it was 
of no great moment that the revenues of the province were not 
exclusively appropriated, as Sleeman and Lawrence had recom- 
mended, to the benefit of the people and the royal family ; nor would 
it be just to blame Dalhousie because he decided that the provisional 
settlement of the revenue should be made with the actual occupants 
of the soil, and because the talukdars, although their claims were for 
the most part examined with scrupulous fairness, resented the de- 
cisions that compelled them to surrender their villages, and the 
restraint that forced them to cease from controlling their neighbours. 
What did cause indignation was that after the departure of Dalhousie, 
orders which he had given were disregarded. For more than a year 
no allowances were paid to the king's stipendiaries, among whom 
were some of his relations ; the officiating chief commissioner took 
possession of a palace which had been expressly reserved for the royal 
family; the officials employed by the late court were excluded from 
pensions; the disbandment of the king's army had thrown professional 


soldiers upon the world with inadequate means of support; and in 
many cases the demands of the settlement officers were excessive. 
Nothing was done to guard against the disturbances which adminis- 
trative changes might produce. Although Dalhousie had resolved to 
disarm the country and raze every fort, his successor did nothing,^ 
and supposed that one weak regiment of infantry and one battery of 
artillery would be sufficient to keep the peace. 

More provocative than settlements and annexations were other 
measures by which Dalhousie endeavoured to confer upon India the 
benefits of Western civilisation. In the railways which he began to 
construct, the telegraph wires by which he connected Calcutta with 
Peshawar and Bombay, and Bombay with Madras, the canal which 
he linked to the sacred stream of the Ganges, Brahmans fancied that 
sorcery was at work. The more conservative elements of native society 
suspected the European education by which he hoped to enlarge the 
minds of the young, but by which the priests felt that their power was 
endangered; and laws such as thatpermitting the remarriage of Hindu 
widows, which he contemplated and which his successor passed, gave 
deep offence. 

Since it is impossible to describe by any comprehensive generalisa- 
tion the sentiments of a vast heterogeneous population, divided into 
numerous groups, the respective characteristics of which were more 
dissimilar than those of the peoples of Europe, let us approach the 
subject from different points of view. The Hindus, except in so far as 
they had been offended by the measures of Dalhousie, were not 
antagonistic to the government on the score of religion. While some 
Muhammadans admired the strength and the justice of British rule, 
others — notably the Wahabis — resented the loss of the supremacy 
which their forefathers had enjoyed, and hoped to destroy as enemies 
of Islam the aliens who had seized it. The mercantile and shop- 
keeping classes, indeed all who knew that their position and pros- 
perity were staked upon the continuance of orderly rule, were dis- 
posed to support the British Government so long as it could keep the 
upper hand and secure to them the enjoyment of their gains. The 
magnates who had lost their lands were naturally resentful. The 
countless millions who lived by tilling the soil did not care what 
government might be in power, if it protected them and did not tax 
them too heavily; but in some districts, especially in Bengal, they had 
suffered so much from the venality of the police and the harpies who 
infested the courts of justice that they were ill-disposed. In some parts 
of the peninsula, notably in the Panjab and Rajputana, the people 
were aware that they had profited by British rule. Ponder these words 
of Sir John Strachey : 

The duty was once imposed upon me of transferring a number of villages which 
had long been included in a British district to one of the best governed of the native 

^ Lee-Warner, Dalhousie^ ii, 338-9; Baird, Private Letters of Dalhousie, pp. 401-3. 


states. I shall not forget the loud and universal protests of the people against the 
cruel injustice with which they considered they were being treated. Everyone who 
has had experience of similar cases tells the same story. Nevertheless I cannot say 
that our government is loved; it is too good for that. 

Reforms which interfered with native usages were resented as meddle- 
some. Differences of colour, of religion, of custom, and of sympathies 
separated the masses, which differed so widely among themselves, 
from the ruling class. It is true that the more thoughtful acknowledged 
that the British government was juster, more merciful, and more 
efficient than any that had preceded it : but still many thought regret- 
fully of the good old times, when, if there had been less peace, there 
had been more stir, more excitement, and a wider field for adventure ; 
when, if there had been less security for life and property, there had 
been more opportunities for gratifying personal animosities and 
making money; when, if taxation had been heavier, there had been 
some chance of evading it; when, if justice had been more uncertain, 
there had been more room for chicanery and intrigue. The rulers 
did not conceal their sense of racial superiority, and the French critic 
who described their administration as "just, but not amiable" probed 
a weak spot. Though the examples of Henry Lawrence, and John 
Nicholson, and Meadows Taylor, prove that individuals could win 
personal loyalty and even devotion, there was no real loyalty, except 
in the rare instances of such men as the illustrious Muhammadan, 
Sayyid Ahmad Khan, towards the alien government. For efficiency 
was not enough to keep India contented ; and since, as Lord Cromer 
wrote, the Englishman is 

always striving to attain two ideals, which are apt to be mutually destructive — the 
ideal of good government, which connotes the continuance of his own supremacy, 
and the ideal of self-government, which connotes the whole or partial abdication 
of his supreme position — 

there were Anglo-Indian statesmen, even before the Mutiny, who 
desired to associate Indians with British rule. As early as 1818 Lord 
Hastings looked forward to a 

time not very remote when England will. . .wish to relinquish the domination 
which she has gradually and unintentionally assumed over this country, and from 
which she cannot at present recede;^ 

a few years later Sir Thomas Munro declared that eventually it would 
"probably be best for both countries that the British control over 
India should be gradually withdrawn ";2 and Dalhousie, the most 
autocratic of governors-general, urged in vain that parliament should 
authorise him to nominate an Indian member to his legislative council.^ 
Sayyid Ahmad Khan, one of the wisest of Muhammadans, after- 
wards declared that the absence of such members, who would have 
kept their colleagues in touch with popular sentiment, prevented the 

^ Private Journal y ii, 326. * Gleig, Life of Munro, iii, 388. 

* Lee-Warner, op. cit. 11, 232. 


government from knowing that laws which they enacted were mis- 
chievous, and that their motives would be misunderstood.^ The 
antagonism aroused by the ever-increasing pressure of Western civili- 
sation during the period of Dalhousie's rule was little realised. 

This antagonism, however, would never have provoked serious dis- 
turbances so long as the sepoy army remained under control. Even 
in earlier days isolated mutinies had occurred in consequence of the 
credulity that dreaded attacks upon caste and religion. The moral of 
the force was gradually weakened when the best British officers were 
allured from regimental duty by the prospect of political employ and, 
in consequence of the centralisation of military authority, com- 
mandants were deprived of powers which they had exercised in the 
days of Malcolm. But it was from the time of the Afghan, War that 
native officers, who understood the feelings of their men, dated the 
deterioration which made even optimists anxious. Hindus were 
prevented by the cold climate from bathing as their religion enjoined, 
obliged to eat food and to drink water which they regarded as impure, 
and compelled on returning to India to pay for readmission to the 
caste which they had thus lost; Muhammadans were offended by 
being obliged to fight against men of their own creed ; and all alike, 
affected by the calamities of the war, lost their traditional faith in the 
invincibility of their leaders. ^ The sepoys, indeed, fought well in Sind 
and in the two Sikh wars, though in the second the disorderly conduct 
of certain Bengal regiments astonished a competent observer; but the 
general cessation of fighting that followed the annexation of the 
Panjab left a mercenary army idle, restless, conscious of power, and 
ripe for mischief; and discontent, caused by the withdrawal of pe- 
cuniary allowances granted for extraordinary service, led to individual 
outbreaks. 3 Dalhousie was well aware of this deterioration. "The 
discipline of the army", he wrote to the president of the Board of 
Control, "from top to bottom, officers and men alike, is scandalous."* 
Unprejudiced observers urged that in each regiment men of different 
races should be enlisted, so as to lessen the risk of mutinous combina- 
tion; but, as John Lawrence afterwards wrote, "Reform was im- 
practicable, for the officers would not admit that any was necessary, 
and nobody not in the army was supposed to know anything about it". 
"The Bengal army", as the same authority remarked, "was one great 
brotherhood, in which all the members felt and acted in union." 
Recruited for the most part from Oudh and the North-Western 
Provinces, they shared the discontents of the civil population. The 
predominance of men of high caste or, at least, the deference that 
was yielded to their prejudices, was fatal to discipline. A native 
officer of low caste might often be seen crouching submissively before 

^ Causes of the Indian Revolt, pp. 1 1-12. 

2 Cf. Holmes, Indian Mutiny^ pp. 55-6. 

3 Idem, pp. 57 sqq. 

* Cf. Lee-Warner, op. cit. n, 257 sqq.; also Baird, op. cit. pp. 168, 355. 


the Brahman recruit whom he was supposed to command ; but men 
of low caste who would have been glad to serve were often rejected. 
"High caste — that is to say mutiny", wrote Sir Charles Napier, who 
warmly praised the sepoys of the Bombay and Madras presidencies, 
*'is encouraged"; "some day or other", he prophesied of Delhi, 
"much mischief will be hatched within those walls, and no European 
troops at hand. I have no confidence in the allegiance of your high- 
caste mercenaries".^ The disproportion between the numbers of the 
British and the native troops was glaring. At the close of Dalhousie's 
administration the latter amounted to two hundred and thirty-three 
thousand, the former, who, moreover, were so distributed that their 
controlling power was impaired, to less than forty-six thousand, and 
the disproportion was increased in the same year in consequence of 
the Persian War. Dalhousie, pointing out that the Crimean War had 
begotten rumours injurious to British prestige, pleaded earnestly for 
a diminution of the native and a corresponding increase of the British 
troops ; but for more than two years his suggestions were not brought 
formally under the notice of the directors. ^ 

Another reform, which Dalhousie had planned and his successor 
carried out, intensified the fears which the Bengal army had long felt 
for their caste. Six regiments only were liable for general service, of 
which three were in 1856 quartered in Pegu. Two were entitled to be 
relieved within a few months; but none of the other three was 
available. It was therefore impossible under the existing regulations 
to send regiments by sea to the Burmese coast, and the overland route 
was in part impassable. The Madras army was enlisted for general 
service ; but the presidency was unwilling to arouse discontent among 
its own troops by calling upon them to garrison a country which lay 
properly within the sphere of the Bengal army. Confronted by 
necessity, the governor-general issued a general order, decreeing that 
no recruit should thenceforward be accepted who would not under- 
take to go whithersoever his services might be required. "There is 
no fear", he wrote a few months later, "of feelings of caste being 
excited by the new enlistment regulations" ;^ but, being a new-comer, 
he did not realise that the Bengal army was a brotherhood, in which 
y^ military service was hereditary. Recruiting officers complained that 
men of high caste, whose religious scruples were aroused by the 
thought of being liable to cross the sea, had begun to shrink from 
entering the service which their fathers and their brethren had flocked 
to join, and old sepoys were whispering to each other their fears that 
the oaths of the new recruits might be binding also upon themselves. 
Two other changes, apparently trivial, increased the prevalent dis- 
content. Sepoys declared unfit for foreign service were no longer to 

* Th£ TimeSy 24 July, 1857, and History of the Siege of Delhi by an Officer who served there, 
p. 10 n. 

* Lec-Wamcr, op. cit. 11, 285. * Holmes, op. cit. p. 76. 


be allowed to retire on pensions, but to be employed in cantonment 
duty, and all sepoys were thenceforth to pay the regular postage for 
their letters instead of having them franked by their commandant. 
The men were now in a mood to believe any lie that reflected dis- 
credit upon the government. Seeing that the warlike Sikhs were 
favoured by the recruiting sergeants, they fancied that a Sikh army 
was to be raised to supersede them. Agitators assured them that 
Lord Canning had been sent to India to convert them, and pointed 
to the General Service Enlistment order as the first step. A manifesto 
recently published by missionaries was interpreted as an official in- 
vitation to embrace Christianity, and when the lieutenant-governor 
of Bengal issued a reassuring proclamation, the bigoted Muham- 
madans of the Patna division refused to believe him.^ Certain British 
officers, indeed, preached the Gospel to their men with the enthusiasm 
of Cromwell's Ironsides, and incurred the displeasure of government 
by their proselytising zeal.^ Meanwhile the Nana Sahib, dilating 
upon the annexation of Oudh, was trying to stir up native chieftains 
against the British, and there is reason to believe that he and other 
disaffected princes had long been tampering with the sepoys. ^ British 
officers, who no longer kept native mistresses, knew little of what was 
disturbing the minds of their men; but even in the Panjab rumours 
were current of approaching mutiny. Finally, an old Hindu prophecy 
was circulated; in 1857, the centenary of Plassey, the Company's rule 
was to be destroyed.* 

The incident that precipitated the Mutiny is known to all the world. 
One day in January, 1857, a lascar at Dum-Dum, near Calcutta, 
asked a Brahman sepoy to give him some water from his drinking cup. 
The Brahman refused, saying that the cup would be contaminated 
by the lips of a low-caste man : the lascar retorted that the Brahman 
would soon lose his caste, for cartridges, greased with the fat of cows 
or swine, were being manufactured by the government, and every 
sepoy would be obliged to bite them before loading his rifle. It needs 
a sympathetic imagination to gauge the shock under which the mind 
of that Brahman reeled. Greased cartridges had been sent to India 
from England four years before. The adjutant-general of the Bengal 
army warned the board, which was then vested with military authority, 
that none should be issued to native troops until it had been ascertained 
that the grease was inoffensive; but the warning was neglected. The 
cartridges were issued to certain regiments, merely to test how the 
climate would affect the grease, and were accepted without demur. 
In 1856 similar cartridges, to be used with the new Enfield rifle, began 
to be made up in India, and Brahman workers handled the grease 

^ Kaye, Sepoy War (ed. 1872), i, 472-3. 

* Gf. Canning to Granville, 9 April, 1857 (Fitzmaurice, Life of Granville , i, 245); also 
Memorials of Sir H. B. Edwardes, 11, 251 n.; Holmes, op. cit. p. 78. 

^ Kaye, op. cit. i, 579. 

* Holmes, op. cit. p. 79. Gf. Meadows Taylor, Story of my Life (ed. 1920), p. 340. 


without complaint; but, after the lascar blurted out his taunt, no 
cartridges greased either with beef-fat or with lard were ever issued 
to any sepoys, except to one Gurkha regiment, at their own request. 
Nevertheless the delusion, due to the neglect of the adjutant- 
general's warning, was ineradicable.^ The story rapidly spread. The 
Brahmans of Calcutta and the agents of the king of Oudh, who was 
living in the suburb of Garden Reach, eagerly turned it to account. ^ 
The responsible officer at Dum-Dum promptly reported it, and 
General Hearsey, commanding the presidency division, appended to 
the report a recommendation that the sepoys at Dum-Dum, where 
alone the new cartridges were immediately to be issued, should be 
allowed to grease their own ; but in consequence of official delay, he 
was not informed of the approval of his suggestion until 28 January, 
and by that time the sepoys at Barrackpore, convinced that the story 
was true, were setting fire to officers' bungalows. The governor- 
general directed that greased cartridges might be issued at rifle depots, 
provided that the lubricant were composed only of mutton-fat and 
wax; but it soon became evident that such precautions were futile. 
On 26 February the 19th Native Infantry at Berhampore, whose 
suspicions had been allayed by the explanation of their commandant, 
took alarm on hearing from detachments of the 34th, which had been 
foolishly allowed to march thither from Barrackpore, that the lascar 
had told the truth, and refused to receive their percussion caps for the 
next day's parade. The commandant, instead of explaining the un- 
reasonableness of their fears, threatened them with condign punish- 
ment, but, having no means of enforcing his threat, was obliged to 
forgo the parade. The men continued to perform their ordinary 
duties; but their disobedience could not be ignored, and, as it was 
impossible to punish it without British troops, the governor-general 
sent for the 84th Regiment from Rangoon. Meanwhile the sepoys at 
Barrackpore were becoming more and more excited. Though they 
had been allowed to grease their own cartridges, they fancied that 
the cartridge paper must contain objectionable fat, and when, after 
analysis, it was declared to be harmless, they refused to credit the 
report. Hearsey, who thoroughly understood the sepoys' mentality, 
tried in vain to convince them that there was nothing to fear. Canning 
accepted a suggestion that they should be allowed to avoid tasting 
the paper by pinching off the ends of the cartridges ; but, as might 
have been expected, the concession was useless. Hearsey had thought- 
lessly told the 34th that the mutinous 19th was to be disbanded, and 
they disregarded his assurance that no punishment was in store for 
them. On 29 March a sepoy named Mangal Pandy murderously 
attacked the adjutant; while others belaboured their officers with the 
butt-ends of their muskets, one alone came to the rescue ; and the 

^ Gf. Kaye, op. cit. i, Appendix, Addendum. 
* Idem, I, 493. 


mutiny was quelled only by the prompt intervention of Hearsay. 
Next day, British troops having at length arrived, the 19th was dis- 
banded at Barrackpore, and cheered the old general as they marched 
away; but the 34th, whose offences had been far graver, were dif- 
ferently treated. Though Mangal Pandy was executed after the lapse 
often days, the men who had struck their officers were left unpunished 
for five weeks. The governor-general, fearing that prompt retribution 
would intensify the mutinous temper of the army, wasted several days 
in discussing with his council the justice of inflicting punishment, and 
finally, when the remonstrances of General Anson, the commander- 
in-chief, impelled him to come to a decision, spent four more days in 
weighing the claims of individuals to mercy. 

Meanwhile the news of the growing unrest was awakening Muham- 
madan fanaticism at Delhi, where there were no British troops. It was 
believed that Russian invaders would soon expel the British from 
India, and the titular king's courtiers looked forward to a general 
mutiny which would restore his sovereignty.^ At Ambala, where the 
native officers in the school of musketry, though they avowed that 
they and their men were satisfied that the cartridges were harmless, 
begged to be excused from using them lest they should be treated as 
outcasts, the decision that they must be used was followed by incen- 
diarism; and at Lucknow an irregular regiment broke into open 

On 6 May the mutinous 34th was disbanded. Stripped of their 
uniforms, the men trampled under foot their caps, which, as they had 
paid for them, they had been allowed to retain, and left the parade 
ground in a bitter mood. When the order for their disbandment was 
read aloud at the military stations in Northern India, the sepoys, on 
learning that the crime, so solemnly denounced, had been punished 
not by death, but by mere dismissal, did not conceal their contempt 
for the government. 

"Lord Dalhousie", said the late Marquess of Tweeddale, who had 
served under him, "would have stopped the Mutiny." If the judg- 
ment was hasty, it pointed to an opinion which unprejudiced ob- 
servers deliberately formed. Endowed with many noble qualities, 
Canning lacked robustness of character. He could never decide, even 
on the most urgent questions, until he had anxiously investigated 
every tittle of evidence : his conscientiousness degenerated into scru- 
pulousness; and he was more ready to take precautions against 
injustice to the innocent than to punish the guilty. While he was 
trying to coax the sepoys into obedience, he failed to see that to reason 
away each successive development of morbid fancy would only 
stimulate its fertility. But he was about to receive a rude awakening. 

At Meerut, some forty miles north-east of Delhi, two regiments of 
native infantry and one of native cavalry were quartered, together 

^ Holmes, op. cit. p. 91. 


with a battalion of the Goth Rifles, a regiment of dragoons, a troop of 
horse artillery, and a light field battery — the strongest British force 
at any station in the North-Western Provinces. On 23 April Colonel 
Smyth, of the native cavalry, one of the few British officers who had 
discerned the growing disloyalty of the Bengal army, ordered a parade 
of the skirmishers of his regiment for the following morning, intending 
to take advantage of the order for pinching off the ends of the cart- 
ridges to give a final explanation to the men. The cartridges that were 
to be issued were of the kind which they had long used. Smyth 
explained that the order had been framed in consideration for their 
scruples ; but of ninety skirmishers five only would even touch the 
cartridges. Smyth broke off the parade and ordered a native court of 
enquiry to assemble. It appeared from their report that the mutineers 
had been influenced not by suspicion of the cartridges, but by fear of 
public opinion. By order of the commander-in-chief they were tried 
by a native court-martial and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, 
half of which was remitted in favour of the younger men by General 
Hewitt, the commander of the division. On Saturday, 9 May, the 
mutineers' sentences were published in the presence of the whole 
brigade. As the men were being led away, they yelled out curses at 
their colonel; but the jail was left without a British guard. During 
the rest of the day there was extraordinary stillness in the quarters of 
the native troops. A native officer reported to an English subaltern 
that the men were determined to release their comrades; but the 
colonel and the brigadier, Archdale Wilson, ridiculed the story. On 
Sunday evening the British battalion was assembling for church 
parade when a cry was raised, "The Rifles and Artillery are coming 
to disarm all the native regiments ", and an outbreak was precipitated, 
which had not been definitely pre-arranged. Some hundreds of the 
troopers broke open the jail and released the prisoners. Smyth, 
thinking that it was his duty to warn Hewitt and Wilson, never went 
near his regiment; but Captain Craigie and Lieutenant Melville 
Clarke brought their own troops to the parade-ground in perfect 
order. The infantry regiments were listening quietly to the remon- 
strances of their officers when a trooper, galloping past, shouted that 
the Europeans were coming to disarm them ; the colonel of the 1 1 th 
was shot dead by men of the 20th; and the two regiments, joined by 
swarms of budmashes, dispersed to plunder and to slay. An officer 
rode to the telegraph office to warn the authorities at Delhi, but found 
that the wire had been cut. Hewitt, an infirm old man, did nothing. 
Wilson sent the dragoons, who were hastening to charge the mutineers, 
on a futile errand to the jail, and when, at the head of the artillery 
and the rifles, he reached the infantry lines, he found that the sepoys 
were not there. ^ 

^ Holmes, op. cit. pp. 96 sqq. and references there cited. Cf. Wilson's letters to his wife, 
ap. Journal of the United Services Institution of India^ 1923. 


On the morning of 1 1 May the cavalry rode into Delhi, entered the 
precincts of the palace, where they were joined by the king's de- 
pendents, and, after releasing the prisoners in the jail, proceeded with 
the infantry, which presently followed them, to murder every Euro- 
pean whom they met and to fire every European dwelling which they 
passed. In the telegraph office, outside the city, two young signallers, 
hearing the uproar and being informed by native messengers of the 
atrocities that were being enacted, found time before they escaped 
to warn the authorities of the Panjab. The officer in charge of the 
magazine, after defending it for three hours, finding that he could no 
longer repel his assailants, blew up the stores of ammunition which it 
contained and destroyed some hundreds of mutineers ; but the briga- 
dier, without a single company of British soldiers, could effect nothing. 
One of his three regiments, indeed, remained respectful : but the others 
were mutinous ; several officers were murdered ; and at sunset, after he 
had waited vainly for succour from Meerut, he was compelled to 
retreat with the surviving officers and those women and children who 
were in his charge. The miseries suffered in that flight hardened British 
hearts to inffict a fierce revenge ; but the survivors told with gratitude 
of kindness shown to them in their distress by Hindus through whose 
villages they had passed.^ 

Two days after the seizure of Delhi the governor-general received 
the news. Immediately he sent for all the reinforcements within his 
reach, and empowered his trusted lieutenants, Henry and John 
Lawrence, to act as they might think best in Oudh and the Panjab; 
but, deluded by telegrams from the lieutenant-governor of the North- 
western Provinces, who predicted that in a few days all danger would 
be over, he rejected an offer from the governor of Bombay to send a 
steamer to England with dispatches. The commander-in-chief, who, 
like almost everyone else, had failed to understand the earlier symp- 
toms of mutiny, and was therefore unprepared, found himself ham- 
pered by want of transport and of stores. John Lawrence implored 
him to free himself for action by disarming the regiments at Ambala, 
and then to strike a decisive blow at Delhi; but, though the civil 
officers in the Cis-Satlej states, aided by loyal Sikh chieftains, collected 
carriage and supplies, he thought it best to wait for reinforcements. 
At length, overruled by the insistence of the governor-general, he 
moved from Ambala to Karnal, intending to march thence on i June ; 
but on 27 May he died of cholera. 

Sir Henry Barnard, who succeeded to the command of the army 
assembled at Karnal, marched immediately for Delhi. Brigadier 
Wilson, who had already left Meerut in obedience to Anson, was 
expected to join him. For more than a fortnight the force which he 
commanded had remained inactive. Hewitt had made no attempt 
to re-establish British authority; and the villagers in the surrounding 

^ Holmes, op. cit. pp. 104 sqq. and references there cited. 


country, believing that every Englishman in Meerut had perished, 
relapsed into anarchy. Wilson twice defeated mutineers who had 
advanced from Delhi to oppose him, and on 7 June, reinforced by a 
Gurkha battalion, joined Barnard, whose troops had avenged the 
sufferings of British fugitives by many cruel deeds, a few miles north of 
the city. Next day the mutineers, who had occupied a strong position 
on the north-western outskirts, were again defeated ; and the victors, 
encamping on the Ridge, looked down upon the high wall, with its 
bastions and massive gates, which encompassed the imperial city, the 
white marble dome and tall minarets of the Jamma Masjid, the lofty 
red walls and the round towers of the palace overhanging the sparkling 
waters of the Jumna. They had boasted that they would recapture 
Delhi on the day of their arrival ; but on the Ridge they were to 
remain for many weary weeks. To understand what they achieved 
and suffered, it is necessary to trace the outline of events in other parts 
of the peninsula. 

The effects of the outbreak at Meerut had been instantly felt in the 
Doab — that part of the North-Western Provinces which extended 
between the Jumna and the Ganges. After Wilson marched to join 
Barnard, the only British troops available were one regiment and one 
battery at Agra, the headquarters of the government. The lieutenant- 
governor, John Golvin, who, on hearing the news of the seizure of 
Delhi, proposed to take refuge in the fort, was soon persuaded that 
there was no real danger. His subordinates, however, were becoming 
convinced that, although he had proved himself an excellent adminis- 
trator in times of peace, he lacked the qualities required to cope with 
difficulties which it was impossible wholly to overcome.^ After a 
succession of mutinies in outlying stations he issued a proclamation, 
for which Canning ordered him to substitute another, more precisely 
worded, promising lenient treatment to all mutineers who would give 
up their arms, except those who had instigated revolt or taken part in 
the murder of Europeans ; but it was answered by another mutiny, 
and on the following day, yielding to the magistrate, he ordered the 
native regiments at Agra to be disarmed. Had he done so a fortnight 
earlier, a wing of the British regiment would have been set free, and 
much disorder might have been prevented. The infection had already 
spread to Rohilkhand. Before the end of the first week in June every 
regiment in that division had mutinied; many Europeans had been 
murdered; Khan Bahadur Khan, a Muhammadan pensioner of the 
government, had proclaimed himself the viceroy of the king of Delhi; 
and as he was not strong enough to keep the peace, anarchy was 

The history of the Mutiny in the Doab and in Rohilkhand furnishes 
the most important evidence for determining the nature of the rising. 
The hesitating demeanour of many mutineers, the practical loyalty 

* Holmes, op. cit. pp. 568-73. But cf. Golvin, Life of J. R. Coloin, pp. 190 sqg. 


of others, which cannot be explained away on any theory of dissimula- 
tion, up to the very day of mutiny, the fact that few detachments 
committed themselves until the news that others had done so or the 
infection of civil disturbances overcame their fidelity, and that some- 
times a mere accident occasioned the outbreak, prove that, however 
carefully the ringleaders may have endeavoured to secure concerted 
action, the movement was most imperfectly organised. "Sir*', said 
a loyal Brahman sepoy to a British officer, "there is one knave and 
nine fools ; the knave compromises the others, and then tells them it 
is too late to draw back." 

Historically, however, it is more important to learn how the civil 
population acted than to analyse the phenomena of the Mutiny itself 
When the defection of the Bengal army threatened the raj with 
destruction, Hindus and Muhammadans alike, though, notwith- 
standing their grievances, they acknowledged its benevolence, justice 
and efficiency, relapsed into the turbulent habits of their ancestors. 
Rajas summoned their retainers and proclaimed their resolve to 
establish their authority as vassals of the king of Delhi. Muhammadan 
fanatics waved green flags and shouted for the revival of the supremacy 
of Islam. Rajputs and Jats renewed old feuds and fought with one 
another to the death. Gujars robbed the mail-carts, plundered peace- 
ful villages, and murdered the villagers. The police, who had 
generally been recruited from the dangerous classes, felt that nothing 
was to be gained by supporting a doomed government, and joined 
the criminals. Dispossessed landowners assembled their old tenants, 
and hunted out the speculators who had bought up their estates. 
Insolvent debtors mobbed and slaughtered the money-lenders. Sati 
and other barbarous customs revived. Public works ceased; civil 
justice could only be administered in a few favoured spots ; education 
was either stopped or frequently interrupted. In short, excepting the 
summary administration of criminal justice and a partial collection 
of the revenue, the organism of government was paralysed.^ 

On the other hand, many landowners were passively, and some few 
actively, loyal. More than one moulvi had the courage to proclaim 
that rebellion was a sin, and a fair proportion of Indian officials, some 
at the cost of their lives, stood resolutely at their posts. Finally, except 
hardened criminals, hereditary robbers, and those who knew that they 
could expect no mercy, the people acquiesced readily enough in the 
re-establishment of regular government. 

Much depended upon the protected princes, and fortunately 
Sindhia, influenced by his prime minister, Dinkar Rao, and the 
political agent. Charters Macpherson, remained steadily loyal, 
keeping the Gwalior contingent and his own army, both of which 
were ripe for mutiny, inactive within his territory. In Rajputana, the 
inhabitants of which, under loyal native rulers, were generally well- 

1 Gf. e.g. Durand, Life of Sir A. Lyall, p. 69. 



disposed, the eldest of the famous Lawrence brothers upheld British 
authority, despite mutinies at Nimach and Nasirabad, throughout 
the crisis ;i but at Agra towards the end of June the approach of the 
mutineers compelled Colvin to remove the English women and 
children into the fort, where he had hitherto forbidden them to take 
refuge. Brigadier Polwhele, the military chief, who, believing that 
the mutineers intended to join their comrades at Delhi, had resolved 
to remain on the defensive, allowed himself to be persuaded to attack 
them, and suffered a defeat: but the garrison, thanks to Sindhia and 
Dinkar Rao, who still contrived to keep their troops inactive, escaped 
a siege; and throughout the summer volunteers, raised by the magis- 
trate and collector of Meerut, did much to restore order in his 
district. 2 

Meanwhile important events occurred along the line between 
Calcutta and Delhi. Fortunately, during the three weeks that followed 
the outbreak at Meerut, the sepoys remained absolutely passive. But 
the governor-general, deceived by this lull, failed to take full ad- 
vantage of it. Rejecting offers made by various bodies to serve as 
volunteers for the protection of Calcutta, on the ground that "the 
mischief caused by a passing and groundless panic had already been 
arrested",^ he refused to disarm the sepoys at Barrackpore because 
he trusted the profession of loyalty which they were careful to make, 
and feared that the troops at other places might be exasperated. 
Towards the middle of June he found it necessary to authorise both 
these measures, which, if they had been adopted in time, would 
have enabled him to send two British regiments to threatened stations. 
Meanwhile, however, he had been diligently preparing for the arrival 
of the expected reinforcements ; and the undeserved odium which he 
incurred by the famous "Clemency Order" and various local enact- 
ments in no respect weakened his authority. 

Fortunately Patna, the most important provincial town in the 
Presidency of Bengal, was in strong hands. William Tayler, the com- 
missioner, had had a dispute with the lieutenant-governor, Frederick 
Halliday, who intended to transfer him, on the first colourable pretext, 
to another post. There was not a single British soldier at Patna, and 
at Dinapore, only ten miles off, the British regiment was detained by 
the necessity of watching the sepoy troops, which Canning refused to 
disarm. A Sikh battalion, which Tayler summoned to his assistance, 
arrived on 8 June; but the commandant reported that it had been 
insulted on the march by the rural population. Halliday insisted that 
a mutiny of the Dinapore sepoys was inconceivable, and General 
Lloyd, the commander of the division, whom Tayler urged to disarm 

* Cf. George Lawrence, Reminiscences , pp. 278 sgq. 

2 Major Williams, Narrative, pp. 11, 12, 14; Dunlop, Service and Adventures with the 
Khakee Ressalah. 

• Cf. Pari. Papers t 1857, xxx, 20-3. 

PATNA i8i 

them, replied that he could keep them under control. Left to his own 
resources, Tayler arrested three moulvis, who directed the Wahabis 
— the most dangerous Muhammadans in the city — knowing that he 
would thus ensure the obedience of their disciples, and, feeling that 
he was now master of the situation, required all the citizens to sur- 
render their weapons. A riot which broke out on 3 July was sup- 
pressed by the Sikhs, and the ringleaders were hanged. ^ Supported 
by three Indians, who gave him information which only natives could 
obtain, Tayler was able to keep order in the city; but the outlying 
districts were still imperilled. British troops were about to pass through 
Dinapore; but Canning left Lloyd to decide whether he would use 
them. Unable to nerve himself to take the decisive step, the latter 
thought it enough to remove the percussion caps from the magazine, 
and afterwards, though the British force was then at dinner, ordered 
the sepoys to surrender those which they carried. They replied by 
firing on their officers, and, joined by a Rajput noble, Kunwar Singh, 
who had been ungenerously treated by the Revenue Board of Bengal, 
made a raid upon Arrah, the chief town of the most turbulent district 
in the Patna division. The European residents, warned of their 
approach and reinforced by fifty Sikhs, whom Tayler had sent to their 
assistance, took refuge in a small building, which had been fortified 
and provisioned by its provident owner. A force sent by Lloyd to the 
rescue was ambushed and overwhelmed ; but the little garrison con- 
tinued to repel every attack. Major Vincent Eyre of the Bengal 
Artillery, who, though he had been ordered to proceed to Allahabad, 
assumed the responsibility of attempting to succour them, and per- 
suaded the commandant of an infantry detachment to serve under 
him, defeated the rebels near Arrah, thus not only relieving the 
garrison, but quelling an insurrection which had threatened the whole 
of Bengal and restoring the safety of communication between Calcutta 
and the north-west. ^ Before this success, however, Tayler, foreseeing 
that if the garrison should be overpowered, the besiegers would over- 
run the province of Bihar, ordered the district officers at the most 
exposed stations to withdraw to Patna. ^ Halliday, stigmatising the 
order as an act of cowardice, dismissed him from his post ; but at a 
later time, while many of the foremost men in India declared their 
conviction that he had saved Bihar, two ex-members of Canning's 
council, retracting the censure which they had joined in passing upon 
him, added their testimony to the value of his services, and the chief 
of the three moulvis whom he had arrested was sent to the Andaman 
Islands as a convicted felon. While Tayler was crushing rebellion in 
Bihar, the valley of the Ganges was in peril. In Benares, as dangerous 
a stronghold of Brahminical as Patna of Muhammadan fanaticism, 

^ Tayler, Thirty-eight Tears in India, ii, 237 sqq. 
2 Holmes, op. cit. pp. 195 sqq. and references. 
' Tayler, op. cit. 11, 242 sqq. 


there were only thirty English gunners to watch the 37th Native 
Infantry, a regiment of Irregular Cavalry, and the Ludhiana Sikhs. 
On 4 June it was known that the sepoys at an outlying station had 
mutinied, and as a hundred and fifty British soldiers from Dinapore 
were by this time on the spot, Colonel Neill of the ist Madras 
Fusiliers, who had arrived on the previous day with a detachment of 
his corps, persuaded the brigadier to disarm the Bengal regiment. The 
affair, for which the brigadier declared himself responsible, was mis- 
managed. Panic-stricken by the approach of the British troops, the 
men fired at their officers ; the Sikhs, some of whom were disloyal, 
while the rest were apprehensive of treachery, charged the guns ; and 
a disaster was barely averted by a swift discharge of grape. The 
sedition that followed in the city was suppressed by the judge, aided 
by influential Indians ; Neill put to death all the mutineers who were 
caught; and in the surrounding country, which was placed by the 
governor-general under martial law, rebels, suspects, and even dis- 
orderly boys were executed by infuriated officers and unofficial 
British residents who volunteered to serve as hangmen. 

Neill had already pushed on for Allahabad, which, standing at the 
confluence of the Jumna and the Ganges, commanded the communi- 
cation between the lower and the upper provinces of Northern India. 
Yet, though Outram had implored both Canning and Anson to 
provide for its safety, it had been left without a single British soldier 
until, after the outbreak at Meerut, sixty invalid artillerymen arrived. 
On 19 May the 6th Native Infantry volunteered to march against 
Delhi ; on 6 June, after their confiding colonel had read to them a letter 
in which the governor-general expressed his gratitude for their offer, 
they mutinied, and murdered five of their officers. Sedition, pillage and 
arson followed ; the railway works were destroyed ; and the telegraph 
wires were torn down. The fort, indeed, was saved by Captain 
Brasyer of the Ludhiana Sikhs, who, constraining his men, though 
they had just heard of the slaughter of their comrades at Benares, to 
support him, disarmed a company, forming part of the garrison, of 
the regiment that had mutinied ; but though a detachment of the 
Madras Fusiliers arrived on the next day, anarchy was rampant when 
Neill appeared with forty of his men. Within a week, despite physical 
prostration, he restored order in the fort, where British volunteers 
were demoralised by drunkenness, and by ruthless severity suppressed 
all disturbance in the districts. Conjointly with Brasyer he had saved 
the most important post between Calcutta and Cawnpore, and con- 
verted it into an advanced base. But while he strove to discriminate 
between the innocent and the guilty, volunteers and Sikhs slaughtered 
every Indian whom they met, and villages, from which harmless old 
men and women with infants at their breasts were forced to flee, were 
remorselessly burned. The Old Testament was then revered, and 
Neill, who was preparing to dispatch a column to Cawnpore under 


Major Renaud of the Madras Fusiliers, gave him instructions (which 
Havelock approved) in the spirit of Joshua.^ 

The garrison of Gawnpore consisted of four sepoy regiments, with 
which were associated fifty-nine British gunners and a few invaHds. 
Sir Hugh Wheeler, who commanded the division, determined imme- 
diately after the outbreak at Meerut to secure a refuge for the non- 
combatants. The only defensible position was the magazine, a strong 
roomy building, protected on its northern side by the Ganges; but 
Wheeler decided against it on the ground that before he could occupy 
it he would be obliged to withdraw its sepoy guard, which might 
precipitate a rising. The sepoy regiments, if they mutinied, would, he 
believed, hasten at once to Delhi, and, at the worst, he would only have 
to repel a mobof budmashes before succour should arrive. Itis probable 
that, if he had waited for reinforcements, which he was soon to receive, 
he could have occupied the magazine without resistance ; but he con- 
tented himself with throwing up an entrenchment, which any active 
lad could leap over, near the north-eastern corner of the town. On 
4 June the native cavalry, followed by the ist Infantry, mutinied. 
Next day, the 56th was persuaded to join them. The bulk of the 53rd 
was still standing its ground when Wheeler impulsively ordered his 
artillery to fire, and all but eighty, who to the last remained faithful, 
fled. The Nana Sahib, whose palace was near Gawnpore, promised to 
lead the mutineers to Delhi, but, influenced by one of his advisers, 
persuaded them to remain and besiege the entrenchment. 

For three weeks the little garrison — some four hundred English 
fighting men, more than seventy of whom were invalids, with the 
faithful sepoys, defended their women and children against a con- 
tinuous fire, enduring hunger, thirst, exposure to the midsummer sun, 
the torture of wounds for which they had no remedy, and, finally, 
despair. On the seventh day and on the centenary of Plassey the 
besiegers attempted an assault, but were resolutely repelled. Two 
days later the Nana offered a safe passage to Allahabad to every 
member of the garrison "who had not been connected with the acts 
of Lord Dalhousie". Wheeler reluctantly accepted the offer. Next 
day terms of surrender were arranged, including a proviso that the 
defenders should be allowed to retain their arms ; but the guns were 
to be delivered over to the enemy. On the morning of the 27 th a wan 
and ragged company quitted the entrenchment, and, surrounded by 
a great crowd of onlookers, proceeded to embark on thatched barges, 
which the Nana had provided. Tantia Topi, his trusted counsellor, 
superintended the arrangements. 

Immediately afterwards the thatch, strewn with glowing cinders, 
burst into flame ; grape-shot and bullets, fired by sepoys who had been 
posted behind cover, poured into the throng; troopers rode into the 
water and sabred the women. Suddenly a messenger from the Nana 

1 Gf. Kaye, op. cit. ii, 268 n. 


ordered that no more women or children were to be killed, and the 
survivors, a hundred and twenty-five, were dragged back to the town. 
The only boat that escaped, without oars, rudder, or food, was fired 
upon by sepoys who moved along the bank. On the third day it 
drifted into a side current. Descrying villagers and sepoys about to 
attack them, two officers, a sergeant, and eleven privates leaped 
ashore, scattered the crowd, and fought their way back — to find that 
the boat had drifted far away. The officers, Mowbray Thomson and 
Delafosse, who with two privates alone survived the ordeals of that 
day, found shelter, after swimming six miles, with a friendly raja of 
Oudh. The boat was overtaken, and the passengers — wounded men, 
women and children — were brought back to Gawnpore. The women 
and children were incarcerated in one building with the hundred and 
twenty-five who had survived the first massacre; the men were put 
to death. A few days later the captives were transferred to a small 
house called the Bibigarh, where, with fugitives from the Doab, whose 
companions had been already slain by order of the Nana, they were 
subjected to the grossest indignities. On 15 July the Nana heard that 
his troops had been defeated by an avenging army. The few men who 
had been suffered to live thus far were instantly killed in his presence ; 
the women and children, after sepoys had refused to shoot them, were 
hacked to death by a band of ruffians. Perhaps, as it has been alleged, 
he was persuaded by a woman in his zenana to permit the final 
massacre; at all events it is probable that revenge for the cruelties 
committed by Englishmen and Sikhs at Benares, at Allahabad, and 
on Renaud's march, was one motive for the tragedy of Gawnpore.^ 

Throughout the Mutiny Gawnpore was linked closely with Luck- 
now, the capital of Oudh. Sir Henry Lawrence, who had been 
appointed chief commissioner in January, speedily redressed the 
wrongs committed by his predecessor. He had spent his official life 
in toiling for the welfare of Indians; his sympathetic nature won their 
devotion and the love of his own countrymen; and no one was better 
fitted to prepare for the ordeal which he foresaw. "I have struck up 
a friendship", he wrote to Ganning, "with two of the best and 
wealthiest of the chiefs, and am on good terms with all." He im- 
prisoned a moulvi, who preached a holy war at Faizabad. But he 
knew that with the sepoys conflict was inevitable ; and a durbar, held 
in his private garden before he heard of the outbreak at Meerut, in 
which he exhorted representatives of the sepoy regiments to pay no 
heed to agitators, and rewarded individuals who had proved their 
fidelity, was regarded by those who attended it as a sign of fear. 

Lawrence intended that the Europeans, in case a siege should 
become inevitable, should take refuge in the residency and its out- 
lying buildings, which stood on a plateau bounded on the north by 
the Gumti, a tributary of the Ganges. The roof of the principal 

* Cf. Holmes, op. cit. pp. 227 sqq. and references. 


edifice commanded a view of the city and its environs. Eastward and 
westward along the southern bank of the river extended an irregular 
space, covered by palaces and mosques, surrounded with gardens: 
beyond them a vast maze of sordid streets stretched southward and 
eastward as far as a canal, which entered the river three miles east 
of the residency and was crossed by the Gawnpore road. 

Lawrence began his preparations by amending the distribution of 
the troops. The only British regiment — the 32nd Foot — was quartered 
in barracks about a mile and a half east of the residency, while five 
regiments of native infantry and one of cavalry were located at various 
points within the city and on both sides of the river. On 16 May 
Lawrence, yielding to the financial commissioner, Martin Gubbins, 
and the military authorities, moved a detachment of the 32nd to the 
residency, then at the mercy of a sepoy guard. Next day he trans- 
ferred the women and children of the regiment to the residency, sent 
the remaining companies to watch the native troops in a cantonment 
north of the river, and stationed a corps of Europeans and picked 
sepoys in the Machi Bhawan, a dilapidated fort, west of the residency, 
which would overawe the city and might be useful as a temporary 
post. Two days later, having been invested at his own request with 
plenary military power, he assumed command of the whole force in 
Oudh. He had already begun to repair the Machi Bhawan; a few 
days later he set to work on the residency and its annexes ; and soon 
afterwards the English ladies were warned to take refuge there with 
their children. Gubbins urged him to disarm the native regiments; 
but, fearing that to do so would impel the troops at outlying stations 
to mutiny, and knowing that loyal sepoys would be needed to aid in 
defending the residency, he refused. On the 30th mutiny broke out 
in the cantonments north of the city, and three officers were murdered ; 
but more than five hundred sepoys sided with the British ; and, although 
on the next day there was a rising in the city, Lawrence had posted 
a force to guard the connecting road, and thus prevented the mu- 
tineers from abetting the rioters. "We now", he wrote to Canning, 
"know our friends and enemies." 

Nevertheless the mutiny produced disastrous eflfects. Hitherto the 
country districts had been tranquil: the courts of justice remained 
open : and the revenue was punctually paid. But in the first few days 
of June the sepoys at every station rose. Many officers, many Euro- 
peans, were murdered ; but many fugitives owed their lives to Indians 
whose hearts had been won by the sympathy with which Lawrence 
redressed their wrongs. The talukdars, of course, ejected those upon 
whom their estates had been bestowed, plundered rich citizens, and 
wreaked vengeance upon old antagonists; but very few aided the 
mutineers, and some actually sent supplies to Lawrence for provi- 
sioning the residency. 

Meanwhile in Lucknow mutineers were being daily hanged, and, 


although after the outbreak the Indian merchants no longer carried on 
business, the administration of justice was not interrupted, and order 
was fairly well maintained. But under the grievous announcements 
from the districts Lawrence's health broke down, and he was forced 
to delegate his powers to a council, of which Gubbins was appointed 
president. Three days later, hearing with indignation that his col- 
league was bent upon getting rid of those sepoys who had not yet been 
disarmed, he resumed his authority, and devoted himself, despite 
a mutiny of the military police, to the work of strengthening the 
residency. Gubbins, however, was constantly urging him to attack the 
rebels assembling in the neighbourhood ; and gradually, perhaps sub- 
consciously, he allowed himself to be persuaded.^ On the last day of 
June, although his preparations were incomplete, he marched in a 
north-easterly direction against the advanced guard. Before the 
march began the British troops who formed a part of his force were 
exhausted by many days and nights of labour ; and they had advanced 
little more than three miles when the colonel, supported by one of 
the surgeons, declared that they were unfit to go into action. Brigadier 
Inglis, to whom this protest had been made, was asked by Lawrence's 
aide-de-camp whether they could go on, and replied, evasively but 
significantly, "Of course they could, if ordered". About a mile 
farther, near the village of Chinhat, they encountered the enemy and 
suffered an overwhelming defeat, but succeeded, though with the loss 
of one-third of their number, in reaching the entrenchment. In a 
scene of terror and confusion the siege began. Next day by Lawrence's 
order the Machi Bhawan was blown up, and, while the mutineers 
were plundering the city, the detachment that had occupied it 
marched noiselessly to reinforce the garrison. On 2 July, while Indian 
servants, tempted by extraordinary rates of pay, were working 
feverishly at unfinished bastions and terrified women were praying 
in their rooms, Lawrence, who, despite his final error, had made a 
defence possible, was mortally wounded by the bursting of a shell ; 
and two days later, after giving his last instructions to Inglis and 
imploring him never to surrender, he died, mourned by all. 

Less than a thousand British soldiers, aided by about a hundred and 
fifty civilians and seven hundred loyal sepoys, were now besieged by 
some ten thousand disciplined troops and a band of talukdars' re- 
tainers. Fortunately, the besiegers were under incompetent leaders, 
whom they treated with contempt. The entrenchment, about a mile 
in circuit, enclosed detached houses and other buildings, the defences 
of which — mud banks and trenches, palisades, crows'-feet, and similar 
obstacles — were still incomplete. On the east, south and west, how- 
ever, outlying buildings served as a protection against artillery, and 
made it impossible for storming parties to advance in strength : the 
one open space where the besiegers could assemble for a general 

» Gf. Kaye, op. cit, in, 669-71. 


assault or plant batteries to breach the defences was on the north, 
where a high bank, scarped and strengthened by a parapet, formed 
the strongest part of the position. Still, no place within was safe. 
Though the gunnery of the besiegers was erratic, sharpshooters kept 
up a galling fire from the surrounding houses. Numerous mines were 
sunk with the object of breaching the defences ; but almost all were 
stopped or destroyed before they could reach their aim. On 2 1 July 
a sepoy pensioner, named Angad, made his way into the entrench- 
ment, and announced that Havelock, having thrice defeated the Nana, 
was in possession of Gawnpore; but weeks passed away, and the 
expected relief did not arrive. Three several assaults were vigorously 
repelled; but the defenders, whose numbers daily diminished, were 
becoming exhausted by incessant toil, and disease still further wasted 
their ranks. The chief of the commissariat was disabled; and though 
there was actually sufficient grain to last for many months, Inglis 
supposed that the stock was nearly exhausted, and reduced the rations. 
Towards the end of August Angad appeared with a letter containing 
the warning that Havelock could not arrive before twenty-five days 
and the ominous injunction, "Do not negotiate, but rather perish 
sword in hand". On 16 September, when more than a third of the 
British soldiers had fallen, he was sent out with dispatches for the last 

Henry Havelock, who had fought with distinction in Burma, 
Afghanistan, Gwalior and the Panjab, had abandoned the ambition 
which he had qualified himself by constant study to fulfil, when, old 
and physically feeble but in spirit indomitable, he was appointed to 
command an army for the relief of Gawnpore and Lucknow. A few 
hours before the siege of the residency began he reached Allahabad. 
On the same day Renaud started for Gawnpore at the head of the 
little column which Neill had organised ; on 3 July the destruction of 
Wheeler's force was announced, and a few days later Havelock, with 
a thousand British soldiers, a hundred and thirty of Brasyer's Sikhs, 
twenty volunteer troops and six guns, began his march. Gharred 
ruins of forsaken villages, corpses hanging from trees along the road, 
testified that Renaud had even exceeded his instructions. On the 
1 2th Havelock overtook him; within the next three days, although he 
was obliged to reinforce Neill with a hundred of the Sikhs and to 
disarm Renaud's mutinous cavalry, he gained three victories ; and on 
the 1 6th, beneath the fiercest sun which the soldiers had yet felt, he 
defeated five thousand men, whom the Nana himself commanded. 
Next day the victors entered Gawnpore and, hurrying to the Bibigarh, 
saw bullet-marks, sword-cuts, clotted blood, shreds of clothing, and 
women's long tresses — the signs of the final massacre. 

A week elapsed before Havelock was able to push on. Neill, who 
arrived on 20 July, was to defend the recovered city; and Havelock, 

* Gf. Holmes, op. cit. pp. 244 sqq. 


being unable to place more than three hundred men at his disposal, 
fortified the position close to the river, which he ordered him to 
occupy. The bridge had been destroyed by mutineers, and it was with 
great difficulty that the passage of the river, which, swollen by the 
rains, was flowing with torrential force, was accomplished in suc- 
cessive trips by boats. On the 25th Havelock, whose force now num- 
bered fifteen hundred, resumed his march. After two more victories 
he had advanced about half the way when, reflecting that his little 
army was daily wasted by cholera and the enemy's fire, that the 
recent mutiny at Dinapore would delay reinforcements, and that, if 
he persisted, hundreds must still fall before he could approach the 
residency, he reluctantly decided to return. From Mangalwar, only 
five miles from Cawnpore, which he reached on the last day of July, 
he wrote to inform Neill that he could not attempt to relieve Lucknow 
until he received a reinforcement of a thousand men and another 
battery of guns. Aglow with indignation, Neill presumed to admonish 
his superior, who sternly replied: "Understand. . .that a considera- 
tion of the obstruction which would arise to the public service . . . 
alone prevents me from placing you under immediate arrest". 
Nevertheless, reinforced by no more than one company of British 
infantry and a half-battery, and hearing from Calcutta that for two 
months he must expect no more, he once more set his face towards 
Lucknow, advanced to the point which he had reached before, and 
there gained his seventh victory. But the reasons that had before 
compelled him to retreat were hardly less cogent now. The mutinous 
Gwalior contingent was reported to be threatening Cawnpore; the 
zamindars, encouraged by his recent retirement, were arming their 
matchlockmen ; the cholera was unabated. Anxiously considering 
what his duty required, he returned again to Mangalwar. The resolve, 
as he himself recorded, was the most painful that he had ever formed. 
Meanwhile Neill, believing that "severity at the first is mercy in 
the end", had determined to avenge the massacre in the Bibigarh by 
a punishment that should never be forgotten. Every prisoner whom 
he considered especially guilty was to remove the stain of blood from 
an allotted space. "The task", so ran the order, 

will be made as revolting to his feelings as possible, and the Provost-Marshal will 
use the lash in forcing anyone objecting to complete his task. After properly 
cleaning up his portion, the culprit is to be immediately hanged. 

But Neill, who had told his chief that his retreat had destroyed the 
prestige of England, was compelled to appeal to him for help ; for 
four thousand rebels were threatening to overwhelm his little force. 
Havelock, resolved to show that he was undismayed, first advanced 
again and routed them, then recrossed the Ganges and re-entered 
Cawnpore. The talukdars of Oudh, who, with a few exceptions, had 
hitherto remained passive, now began for the most part, under 
pressure from the rebel durbar, to send their retainers into the field. 


Three days after his return Havelock defeated the force which had 
threatened Neill, but on the next day learned that he had been super- 
seded by Sir James Outram, who, moreover, was appointed chief 
commissioner of Oudh. Reinforcements were by this time coming up 
the Ganges. On 15 September Outram reached Gawnpore, and on 
the following day issued the famous order in which he announced his 
intention of leaving to Havelock the honour of relieving Lucknow 
and of serving under him as a volunteer. But in the emotional nature 
of Outram generosity was not quite unalloyed : he intended to be not 
only a volunteer, but a counsellor with a decisive voice. 

Havelock's force, now more than doubled, numbered about three 
thousand two hundred men. A floating bridge was thrown across the 
Ganges; and on 21 September the final advance began. Havelock 
had learned from Angad that if the defenders of the residency were not 
relieved before the end of the month, they would have no meat left. 
Driving the rebels before them, the troops on the 23rd captured the 
Alambagh, a strong place two miles from Lucknow, where they were 
heartened by the announcement that Delhi had been taken by 
assault. Next day, while they were resting, Havelock and Outram 
considered what plan they should adopt on the morrow. Although 
rains had made the open country impassable for the heavy guns, 
Havelock argued that the best course would be to cross the Gumti, 
then, after a detour, to recross it by a bridge north of the residency, 
and, thus relieved from the perils of street-fighting, to traverse the 
narrow space that separated the bridge from the entrenchment. 
Outram dissented from this view, and, though he had resigned the 
command, dictated to a staff-officer the orders for the advance. The 
troops were to cross the canal by the Gharbagh bridge, south of the 
city, then, avoiding the direct road, where the rebels were prepared to 
resist, turn to the right along the bank, and, keeping outside the city, 
move past the palace to their goal. Havelock, who had been made 
apparently responsible for what he did not approve, was obliged to 
give way. 

The morning of the 25th was beautifully fine. Havelock rose early 
and spent some time in prayer. The column advanced under fire to 
the bridge, which was commanded by sharpshooters and defended 
on the farther side by five guns. The Madras Fusiliers carried it with 
a rush. While the 78th Highlanders held the bridge-head, the rest of 
the column crossed, and pushed on almost unopposed till they came 
within three-quarters of a mile from the residency, when they were 
met with a heavy fire from the Kaisar Bagh ; but, replying as best they 
could, they soon found shelter in a court beneath the walls of the 
Ghattar Manzil. The Highlanders, who had diverged by a shorter 
road, presently appeared and found themselves at the head of the 
column. While soldiers, camels, guns and litters bearing wounded 
men were thronging into the court, Outram and Havelock were 


observed in animated discussion. Outram, arguing that the enemy 
would expect the column to advance through the streets, desired to 
halt for the night, thus allowing the rear-guard to close up, and to 
move on next morning through the successive courts: Havelock, 
seeing that the enemy would then have time to occupy the courts, 
sharing in the ardour of the soldiers, and fearing that the rebels might 
succeed by a desperate effort in overpowering the garrison, implored 
him to push on. The discussion waxed warm. Outram lost his temper ; 
but he gave way. "Let us on then", he cried, "in God's name." 
Highlanders, Sikhs, and Madras Fusiliers moved successively out of 
the court; Neill fell from his horse at the exit, shot through the head; 
but the column, plunging under a hail of bullets from adjoining 
houses through trenches which had been cut across the road, and 
descrying the flag waving on the roof of the residency, struggled un- 
falteringly on till they entered the entrenchment. But though the 
garrison had been reinforced, they had still to wait for the relief that 
would enable the non-combatants to be removed to a place of safety. 

Even more important were the events that occurred at Delhi, the 
head-centre of revolt, and in the Panjab, with which it was throughout 
connected. The officers whom Dalhousie had selected to administer 
that province were a harmonious brotherhood. Except in the Pesha- 
war valley, which was exposed to the raids of turbulent borderers, the 
people had been disarmed ; but in the matter of land-revenue they 
had been generously treated.^ Between Sikhs and Hindustanis there 
was a national, between Sikhs and Muhammadans a religious, anti- 
pathy. A perennial danger had been removed when Herbert Edwardes 
won the consent of Dost Muhammad, the amir of Afghanistan, to a 
treaty of alliance. The sepoys numbered thirty-six thousand : but ten 
thousand British soldiers were quartered in the province; and the 
Panjabi Irregulars, some thirteen thousand strong, next to the Gurkhas 
the finest native troops in India, were an additional source of strength. 

When the telegram announcing the seizure of Delhi reached Lahore, 
John Lawrence was away; but the judicial commissioner, Robert 
Montgomery, was a man of action, and the military officers supported 
him. The sepoys at the neighbouring cantonment of Mianmir, 
though they outnumbered the Europeans by eight to one, were 
adroitly disarmed ; the native portion of the garrison of Lahore was 
treated likewise; and on the same day Montgomery sent letters of 
warning and instruction to the principal civil officers, nearly all of 
whom justified his confidence. Though a mutiny broke out at Feroze- 
pore, where the commandant failed to follow the example of Mian- 
mir, three important stations — Amritsar, where the rural population 
were thoroughly loyal, Kangra, which dominated the hill-country on 
the north, and Phillaur, commanding the Grand Trunk Road — were 
instantly secured. 

* Cf. Holmes, op. cit. pp. 33-4; also p. 91, supra. 


Meanwhile momentous decisions were formed at Peshawar. 
Herbert Edwardes, the commissioner, John Nicholson, the deputy- 
commissioner, who had so tamed the lawless frontiersmen of Bannu 
that in the closing year of his rule there was not a single attempt at 
crime, Sydney Cotton, the brigadier, and Neville Chamberlain, the 
commander of the Panjabi Irregulars, met in a council of war. The 
principal resolutions, confirmed in due course by Lawrence, were that 
a movable column should be formed to repress mutiny wherever it 
might occur, and that recruits should be enlisted from the province 
and the frontier, to absorb and utilise the lawless. During the next 
few days Nicholson, in the absence of Edwardes, who had been sum- 
moned to confer with Lawrence, set a watch over every ferry on the 
Indus ; but before Edwardes returned treasonable letters addressed to 
sepoys were intercepted, and when Nicholson tried to persuade the 
chiefs of the valley to raise their followers, the answer was significant : 
" Show us that you are the stronger, and there shall be no lack of aid ". 
At midnight on 21 May Edwardes and Nicholson heard that the 
55th Native Infantry at Naushahra had mutinied. It seemed probable 
that a detachment of the same regiment at Mardan had followed their 
example, and that the troops at Peshawar would soon be infected. 
The two friends instantly awakened Cotton, who agreed with them 
that the infantry regiments must be disarmed; and in the morning 
all, except those who were needed to carry on the work of the station, 
were forced, despite the protests of their officers, to pile arms. Imme- 
diately afterwards a multitude of men, protesting their loyalty, eagerly 
offered to enlist. It was now possible to act against the 55th at 
Mardan, who had been joined by the mutineers from Naushahra. 
Flying before the force that marched against them, they were hunted 
by Nicholson, who with his mounted police was alone able to overtake 
them, into the hills adjoining Kashmir, where the survivors were 
destroyed by the hill-men, or enslaved, or executed after they sur- 
rendered in despair. Meanwhile Edwardes and Cotton, compelling 
the disarmed sepoys to attend, were hanging or blowing from guns 
deserters and mutineers ; and, having proved themselves the stronger, 
they had no difficulty in enlisting the recruits whom they required. 

Not every station, however, was so firmly held. At Jalandhar, in 
the opposite extremity of the province, the brigadier neglected to 
disarm his sepoys, and when they mutinied delayed to pursue them; 
but the deputy-commissioner of Ludhiana, through whose district 
they passed on their way to Delhi, did all that one man could to repair 
the error, and speedily put a stop to the commotion which their 
presence caused. Lawrence, fearing that the sepoys at Multan would 
rise as soon as they heard of the mutiny, and knowing that the loss of 
that station would involve the loss of the Southern Panjab, determined 
to disarm the garrison, although, for want of an adequate British force, 
he had hitherto shrunk from the attempt. Major Crawford Chamber- 


lain, in whom he had more confidence than in the commandant, was 
entrusted with the duty, which he successfully performed. "The dis- 
arming at Mooltan", said Lawrence, "was a turning point in the 
Punjab crisis, second only in importance to the disarmings at Lahore 
and Peshawar." 

Lawrence was thinking not only how he could save the Panjab, but 
how he could contribute to the recovery of Delhi. As soon as he saw 
that the Panjabi soldiers had no fellow-feeling with the Hindustanis, 
he resolved to compensate for the losses entailed by mutiny and de- 
sertion by augmenting their numbers ; and from first to last thirty-four 
thousand Panjabi troops were raised. A 6 per cent, loan, to be repaid 
within one year, first opened by the commissioner of the Cis-Satlej 
states, was soon extended to the whole province ; and though bankers 
and merchants were chary in contributing, the chiefs who had helped 
the government with their arms subscribed liberally. The police, loyal 
from the outset, were strengthened. Criminals were ruthlessly 
punished, and every plunderer who was caught was forced to make 
restitution; but there was no great increase in violent crime. The 
treasure in the various stations was secured with the loss of not more 
than ten thousand pounds. Some districts remained absolutely tranquil 
throughout, and the comparatively few disturbances that arose, 
generally from distrust of the stability of British rule, were mostly 
traceable to the machinations of Hindustanis, large numbers of whom 
were expelled. Nearly all the civil courts remained open; the revenue 
was paid almost in full; and attendance at the government schools 
was but little diminished. In the Cis-Satlej states, where it was not 
less important to maintain order than in Peshawar in order to repel 
the influx of mutiny from the east, the task was exceptionally difficult. 
The mixed population, more akin to the Hindustanis than to the 
Panjabis, sympathised with the mutineers, and violent crimes in- 
creased alarmingly : but the commissioner, Barnes, supported by the 
rajas of Patiala, Nabha and Jhind, and by the Sikh portion of the 
inhabitants, stamped out every symptom of revolt; and by the end of 
July the crisis was over. So successfully, in short, was the Panjab 
ruled that Lawrence, loyally aided by Bartle Frere, the commissioner 
of Sind, who sent battalion after battalion to support him, was able 
to supply the army at Delhi with stores of every kind and to reinforce 
it by troops of all arms, British and Panjabi. The Guides, that famous 
corps of frontiersmen which left Mardan when the seizure of Delhi 
was announced, marched for three weeks at the rate of twenty-seven 
miles a day, encamped on the Ridge on the day after Barnard arrived, 
and within three hours engaged the mutineers. Twenty-eight years 
later a civilian, himself destined to rule the Panjab, listened in his 
novitiate to Sikhs who proudly related how they had fought for the 
raj in the days of Nicholson.^ 

* O'EKvyer, India as I knew it, p. 40. 


But when Barnard took command, his army, far too small to invest 
Delhi, could not attempt without siege artillery to breach the walls. 
All that he could do was to cling to the Ridge; and with this object 
he posted piquets at various buildings, the most important of which 
were Hindu Rao's house on the right and the Flagstaff Tower on the 
left. On the fourth day Metcalfe House, between the Ridge and the 
city, was captured and placed in communication with the Flagstaff 
Tower, and Barnard was persuaded to sanction a plan for a coup-de- 
main; but an accident prevented it from being attempted, and an 
amended plan was so strongly opposed by his advisers that he declined 
to accept it. In the next week, however, the assailants made some 
progress. The possession of Metcalfe House had made it impossible 
to turn their left; successive attempts to capture Hindu Rao's house 
were repulsed ; and although the mutineers made a great effort on the 
centenary of Plassey, they were expelled from an important building 
in the suburb of Sabzi-Mandi, south-west of the Ridge, the loss of 
which prevented them from attacking the British rear without a long 
detour. Reinforcements had already begun to arrive; and Colonel 
Baird Smith, who on 3 July took over the post of chief engineer, 
destroyed several bridges over canals on the rear and the south-west 
of the Ridge, and thus made the position comparatively secure. But 
the mutineers also had been reinforced; many British soldiers had 
fallen or succumbed to disease; and on the 5th Barnard, who, though 
he failed to inspire confidence, had won the affectionate respect of all, 
died of cholera. A few days later his successor. General Reed, who 
had long been in poor health, resigned in favour of Wilson. 

Some weeks earlier Lawrence had informed Edwardes that he 
intended, if the army at Delhi should appear in danger of failing, to 
send the British troops in the Peshawar valley to help them and invite 
the amir of Afghanistan to occupy the valley on the understanding 
that, if he proved faithful, it should be ceded in perpetuity. Edwardes 
was amazed. The amir, he insisted, would regard the offer as signi- 
fying the end of the British raj, and would follow the retreating troops 
as an enemy. To cede Peshawar would involve the loss of the Panjab; 
but all would be well if we maintained the capitals on the sea and the 
frontiers, for "Between the two it is all a family quarrel, an insurrec- 
tion in our own house". Finally he declared that rather than obey an 
order to abandon Peshawar, he would feel bound by conscience to 
resign and explain his reason to the government. Canning, to whom 
Lawrence appealed, saw that to abandon territory would be fatal, 
and decided, just before Wilson took command, in favour of Edwardes.^ 

Meanwhile fresh bands of sepoys had been streaming from all 
quarters into Delhi. Their officers were unable to control them. 
Hindus quarrelled with Muhammadans; both plundered the shops, 

* Gf. Bosworth Smith, Life of Lord Lawrence, ii, 49 sqq. ; Cunningham, Earl Canningi 
pp. 122-4. 

CHI VI 13 


debauched the wives and daughters of respectable citizens, and treated 
the aged king with gross disrespect ; while all who had anything to lose 
lamented the downfall of the British raj.^ It was the custom that each 
successive band should go into action after its arrival; and fighting 
on the Ridge was maintained without a pause. In six weeks there 
were more than twenty combats. The British troops cheerfully en- 
dured the discomfort of water-logged tents, kept up their spirits by 
riding pony-races or playing cricket, and, though many of them treated 
the camp-followers with a cruelty which Wilson could not wholly 
check, fraternised cordially with their gallant comrades, the Gurkhas 
and the Guides. Foot by foot they added to their ground until Sabzi- 
Mandi was completely in their power; and by the end of July in- 
variable defeat was weakening the confidence of the enemy. Still, 
Delhi remained in their possession; and the Panjabis were losing 
confidence in the British power. 

Nicholson, who had taken command of the Movable Column, 
almost immediately found it necessary to disarm two of the regiments. 
On 8 July, hearing at Amritsar that an outbreak had occurred at 
Jehlam, he disarmed a third; and two days later, learning that the 
garrison of Sialkot had broken loose, he disarmed a body of his own 
cavalry belonging to one of the mutinous corps. His remaining force 
consisted of no more than one untried British regiment, a few Panjabis 
and undisciplined police sowars, and nine guns ; but within the next 
two days, after covering forty-four miles in a single march, he defeated 
the Sialkot mutineers on the Ravi, near Gurdaspur. Four days later 
he annihilated the survivors, who had sought refuge on an island in the 
river, and on the 24th set out for Delhi. On the last day of the month 
a body of sepoys who had murdered four of their officers at Lahore 
was beaten on the Ravi by native police and villagers; and on the 
following day Frederick Cooper, the deputy-commissioner of Amritsar, 
who had captured the survivors, put them all to death, and thus 
(Montgomery declared) saved the Lahore division. 

Other dangers were not less successfully overcome. Edwardes 
compelled the capitalists of Peshawar, who shrank from supporting 
a government which they no longer trusted, to contribute four 
hundred thousand rupees to the loan; disturbances on the border 
were suppressed, partly by force, partly by tactful management; and 
at Peshawar, where one of the disarmed regiments, stimulated by a 
fanatic, seized the weapons belonging to newly raised irregulars, seven 
hundred mutineers were either slain in pursuit or summarily executed. 
Nevertheless, disbelief in the vitality of British power was begetting 
disaffection in the Panjab, now denuded of so many troops. 

About a fortnight after Nicholson arrived at Delhi it became known 
that the siege-train was at last approaching. A strong body of sepoys 

^ Cf, Metcalfe, Tu)0 Native Narratives of the Mutiny in Delhi; Press List of Mutiny Papers y 


marched to intercept it; but Nicholson signally defeated them, and 
on 4 September the train arrived. Wilson was ill and overwrought, 
but, influenced by Baird Smith, who, though he was suffering intense 
pain from a neglected wound, and was weakened by chronic dysentery, 
had established an ascendancy over him, he consented to prepare for 
the assault.^ The mutineers were still twice as numerous as their 
opponents, and only the lack of a directing mind, who would have 
concentrated on the decisive point forces that were wasting their 
strength elsewhere, prevented the disparity from being overwhelming. 
Within the next few days the engineers, protected by the fire of field- 
guns on the Ridge, constructed four siege batteries opposite the 
northern face of the city; and the gunners, working under a galling 
fire of musketry (for the hostile guns were soon silenced), destroyed 
the bastions and breached the curtain. On the 13th Wilson and Baird 
Smith arranged the plan of operations. The first and second columns 
were to storm the breaches, the third to penetrate the city through 
the Kashmir gate, after it had been blown open, the fourth to expel 
the enemy from the western suburbs and then to enter the city by the 
Kabul gate, opened by their comrades from within. The command 
of the operations was entrusted to Nicholson. The breaches, examined 
under the starlit night, were reported practicable; and Wilson, 
accepting the advice of Baird Smith, ordered the assault to be de- 
livered at dawn. 

About three o'clock the whole camp was astir. Sikhs, Pathans, 
Gurkhas and Kashmiris stood side by side with Englishmen. The 
mutineers had filled up the breaches in the night, and it was necessary 
for the batteries to reopen; but at length the impatient troops were 
permitted to advance. The first two columns under a fire of musketry 
and an avalanche of loosened stones, by which many of the ladder- 
men were killed, fought their way into the city; the third, followed 
by the reserve, achieved its aim; but the fourth, disorganised and 
disheartened by the disablement of their commander, failed, and 
Hindu Rao's house, threatened by their emboldened opponents, was 
with difficulty saved. Meanwhile Nicholson, seeing that the mutineers 
in the city were regaining courage, attempted, despite the failure of 
the fourth column, to assault the Lahore bastion, which the com- 
mander of the second had neglected, in default of express orders, to 
attack; but the cannonade which he encountered was so appalling 
that his men shrank from the final rush, and while he was appealing 
to them he fell mortally wounded. The result of the day's fighting, in 
which about one-fourth of the attacking force had fallen, was that the 
space between the north-eastern angle of the city and the Kabul gate 
was in British hands. Wilson was so dissatisfied that he spoke of with- 
drawing the troops altogether ; but Baird Smith and Neville Chamber- 
lain induced him to hold on. 

1 Gf. Vibart, Richard Baird Smithy pp. 49 sqq.y 121 sqq. 



Next day many of the British soldiers, finding bottles of beer, wine 
and spirits which the mutineers had purposely left in deserted shops and 
on the pavements, became helplessly drunk; while of those who were 
not exposed to or resisted this temptation many were enticed into dark 
alleys and killed. Infuriated by this, their comrades, though they 
treated women and children with forbearance, showed no mercy to 
the men. By the 19th the city was completely mastered. The king 
had been persuaded by a traitor to remain with his family at the tomb 
of Humayun outside the city, where he was captured by Hodson, the 
famous leader of light horse, who also shot the old man's sons after they 
had surrendered. "This sad act was most uncalled for", wrote Hope 
Grant, rejecting the plea of a possible rescue. ^ 

Though the recovery of Delhi, which, like the relief of Lucknow, 
had been accomplished without reinforcements from England, ended 
hopes of resuscitating the Moghul Empire, and in the Panjab restored 
waning confidence in British power, it was too late to produce all the 
results that had been expected. A column, dispatched from Delhi 
through the Doab, burned villages, drove mutineers before it, and at 
Agra defeated a force which had alarmed the garrison ; but the bands 
which it had scattered returned after it passed and renewed their 
depredations. In the spring of the next year the king of Delhi, found 
guilty of rebellion and complicity in murder, was sentenced to im- 
prisonment for life : but John Lawrence, pleading with Canning for 
the citizens, many of whom had been tried and executed by a merciless 
commission,^ insisted that the great mass were innocent; and the 
territory of Delhi was placed under his control. It remained for the 
veteran. Sir Colin Campbell, who had been appointed commander- 
in-chief, to paralyse the surviving energies of the revolt. 

His first aim was to relieve Lucknow. Havelock had been only just 
in time to avoid encountering mutineers from Delhi, who reinforced 
the besiegers, and to prevent their overwhelming the garrison. Within 
two days after his arrival the troops that had not been able to join in 
the final advance made their way into the entrenchment. Outram, 
in order to accommodate the multitude under his command, seized 
and occupied the palaces along the Gumti, and in frequent sorties 
destroyed hostile batteries; but his force was not strong enough to 
remove the non-combatants, for whom, moreover, he was unable to 
procure carriage, and he found that there was enough food to last 
several weeks. Lack of vegetables, however, produced scurvy, while 
the soldiers had no tobacco, and the cold autumnal air penetrated 
their summer clothing. Meantime Sir Colin was providing for the 
equipment of his expected reinforcements, securing the road, which 
was infested by rebels in Bihar, and, since the railway was open only 
as far as Raniganj, arranging for transport thence to Allahabad. On 
3 November he reached Cawnpore. Tantia Topi with the Gwalior 

^ Holmes, op. cit. pp. 384-7. * Cf. Metcalfe, dp, ciL p. 72. 


contingent, which Sindhia could no longer restrain, was threatening 
that city; but Sir Colin, rejecting the advice of Outram, who urged 
him to secure its safety first, resolved to advance, and contented him- 
self with leaving a detachment under General Windham to oppose 
Tantia. On the 13th his force, numbering about five thousand men, 
encamped at the Alambagh. The chief engineer advised him to adopt 
the plan which Havelock had proposed — to cross the Gumti and 
recross it near the residency. Though this route traversed open ground, 
where the heavy guns could act and the enemy were not prepared, 
he preferred the advice of Outram, who recommended him to cross 
the canal near its junction with the river, and thence to follow the 
route by which the main body had advanced in September. On the 
1 6th the army crossed the canal. The enemy, deluded by a recon- 
naissance which Sir Colin had made on his left, offered no opposition 
till the advanced guard, moving in a narrow lane, was deluged by a 
hail of bullets from the Sikandar Bagh on its right. For the moment 
the situation seemed almost desperate: but by herculean efforts a 
troop of horse artillery clambered up the bank on the side of the lane; 
heavy guns were dragged through an opening which the sappers cut ; 
and within an hour a breach appeared. The defenders, trapped 
between the assailants and others who had forced an entrance through 
a door, were gradually overpowered, and by sunset the survivors, 
crowding into the towers at the angles of the building, were utterly 
destroyed. Nearer the residency, the Shah Najif, a large mosque, 
standing in a garden surrounded by a wall, withstood the heaviest 
artillery, and Sir Colin had ordered the guns to be withdrawn when 
a Highland regiment passed through a cleft which had fortunately 
been discovered in the wall, and found that the garrison had fled. 
Havelock had already captured buildings on the east of the residency: 
next day the only remaining strongholds that barred the advance 
were stormed ; and in the afternoon the relieving army joined the 
garrison. Two days later. Sir Colin having secured his left flank, the 
women and children, the sick and the wounded, were removed. 
Outram and Havelock besought him to seize the Kaisar Bagh and 
thus re-establish British supremacy; but, although the formidable 
citadel was breached within three days, he refused to leave behind 
the small force for which they asked, insisting that his entire army 
would be needed to secure Cawnpore. The garrison therefore 
evacuated the entrenchment; and two days later Havelock, weakened 
by privation, succumbed to dysentery. On the 27th Sir Colin, leaving 
Outram at the Alambagh to withstand the rebels until he should 
himself return to crush them, marched with the convoy for Cawnpore. 
The low tremulous sound which tells that artillery is at work at some 
distant place was plainly heard. 

Sir Colin had ordered Windham to occupy and strengthen the 
entrenchment which Havelock had constructed, to send on to Luck- 


now any British infantry that might join him, and, if Tantia should 
threaten to attack him, to extend his force conspicuously in advance 
of the entrenchment, but not to assume the offensive unless there 
should be no other way of saving the position from bombardment. 
Learning that Tantia was near, Windham obtained leave to retain 
a portion of the expected reinforcements ; but within the next few 
days various reports led him to fear that his chief had suffered a 
reverse. Knowing that if he himself should be attacked, the defensive 
display prescribed by Sir Colin would be of no avail, he had prepared 
and forwarded for approval a plan for destroying two of the most 
important posts which Tantia occupied ; but, owing to the interruption 
of communication, he received no reply. Though he shrank from 
executing this plan on his own responsibility, he attacked and defeated 
a detachment which Tantia personally commanded, but immediately 
retreated and selected a more defensible encamping-ground, west of 
the town. Hearing that all had gone well at Lucknow, he hoped that 
Tantia would not venture to attack him before Sir Colin returned. 
Tantia, however, knew that Windham would not have followed up 
a victory by retreat if he had not felt anxious ; his own force was 
enormously superior; and in the next two days he twice defeated 
Windham, who failed at the critical moment to support his best 
officer, and was ill-served by another. Sir Colin, who received urgent 
letters on his march, rode on, fearing that the bridge might have been 
destroyed, in advance of the column, and at sunset saw the battle still 
raging and flames rushing up above the city. But Windham had pre- 
served two vital points : not only the bridge, but also the entrenchment 
remained intact. Next morning Tantia opened fire upon the bridge; 
but his artillery was overpowered, and Sir Colin's army, with the 
convoy, safely crossed. For a week he remained on the defensive, 
to allow the convoy to get out of danger ; but on 6 December he gained 
a victory which would have been decisive if the chief of the staff had 
not missed a chance of cutting off the retreat of two-thirds of Tantia's 

While Sir Colin, kept inactive by want of carriage, was awaiting 
the return of the carts that had transported the convoy to Allahabad, 
he thought out his plans for the rest of the campaign. Before he could 
reconquer Rohilkhand and Oudh, it was necessary to get control of 
the Doab. As three of the important points — Delhi, Agra and Alla- 
habad — were already in his possession, it only remained to secure the 
fourth, Fatehgarh, on the Ganges, east of Agra. This was accomplished 
by converging columns, which drove numbers of rebels into Rohil- 
khand, whereon many of the villagers supported the re-established 
civil officers. Sir Colin desired to utilise the remaining months of cool 
weather for the reconquest of Rohilkhand; for, knowing that the 
subjugation of Oudh would require a longer time, he was unwilling 
to expose his troops to the hardships of campaigning in the summer, 


and he believed that it would be safe to wait until the autumn if the 
rebels were prevented from invading other provinces. But Canning 
pointed out that military must give place to political reasons. To 
restore order in Rohilkhand, which had long been under British rule, 
was a matter of police: Oudh represented a deposed dynasty, and all 
India was waiting to see whether the British could regain their 
sovereignty. Sir Colin loyally obeyed. In order to maintain his hold 
upon the Doab and to cover the march of reinforcements to Cawnpore, 
where they were to concentrate before advancing against Lucknow, 
he retained the position at Fatehgarh, and made an arrangement with 
John Lawrence, in accordance with which a force was to hold 
Rohilkhand in check until it should be time to reconquer it. 

Ever since Sir Colin left Lucknow, Outram had defended the 
Alambagh against a force which outnumbered his in the proportion 
of thirty to one, thus nullifying the activity of a hundred and twenty 
thousand rebels, preserving the safety of Cawnpore, and preparing 
for Sir Colin's return. On 28 February, 1858, Sir Colin left Cawnpore, 
where he had been superintending preparations for the siege of Luck- 
now, and marched to Banthira, near the Alambagh, where the whole 
army — the most powerful that a British general had ever commanded 
in India — was assembled. A Gurkha force, under Jang Bahadur, the 
virtual ruler of Nepal, and a column under General Franks, which 
had conjointly enabled the civil authorities to resume their work in 
the Benares and Allahabad divisions, were coming to take part in the 
siege. Lucknow had been strengthened by the destruction of the 
bridges over the canal and by three successive entrenchments which 
protected the eastern side of the city, the innermost covering the 
Kaisar Bagh. But the rebels had made one fatal blunder. As neither 
Havelock nor Sir Colin had operated beyond the Gumti, they had 
neglected the defence of the northern side. Sir Colin accordingly 
adopted a plan devised by the chief engineer. Brigadier Robert 
Napier. While he himself crossed the canal and, turning the enemy's 
right flank, moved against the Kaisar Bagh along the Hazrat Ganj, 
by which the Highlanders had advanced in September, Outram was 
to cross the river and take the left flank in reverse. Aided by Outram's 
enfilading fire. Sir Colin's force found the first line of works abandoned, 
then, turning the others, sapped through the houses on the left of the 
Hazrat Ganj, and finally captured the Kaisar Bagh, the Chattar 
Manzil, and other palaces on its right; but three successive oppor- 
tunities of cutting off large rebel bands were lost. Outram, who asked 
leave to recross the river and attack the rebels while they were de- 
moralised by the loss of the citadel, was forbidden to do so unless he 
would promise not to lose a single man ; and in the next few days some 
thirty thousand were allowed through mismanagement to escape. 
When, on 2 1 March, the city was again in British hands, the province 
remained in possession of the enemy. 


Meanwhile Canning had committed an error which made re- 
conquest still more difficult. Before the siege began he forwarded to 
Outram a proclamation, to be addressed after the capture of the city 
to the civil population, confiscating all lands except those held by a 
few loyalists, offering immunity from disgrace to all who had not 
murdered Europeans and who should instantly submit, but warning 
them that for any additional boon they must trust to the mercy of the 
government. Outram, reminding him that in the original settlement 
the talukdars had been unjustly treated, declared that if nothing more 
than their lives and freedom from imprisonment were offered, they 
would be driven to wage a guerrilla war, whereas if the possession of 
their lands were guaranteed to them, they would assist in restoring 
order. The only concession which Canning could be induced to make 
(though John Lawrence had pleaded for an amnesty to all mutineers 
and rebels who had not committed murder) was to insert a clause 
promising that those who would support the government immediately 
might expect a large measure of indulgence. The promise was generally 
disregarded, and the bolder spirits determined to resist to the last. 

Before the recovery of Lucknow, Kunwar Singh, undaunted by the 
defeat which he had suffered near Arrah, had taken advantage of the 
withdrawal of troops, who were needed for the siege, to invade the 
Benares division. Sir Colin sent a force to the rescue, and soon after- 
wards the old Rajput died; but throughout the summer and the 
autumn his followers maintained a guerrilla war in western Bihar. 
The lack of the amnesty for which Lawrence pleaded was sorely felt. 
"We must cling together", said a prisoner, "for when we go home we 
are hunted down and hanged." Detached parties, when they could 
be brought to action, were invariably defeated; but the rebels, as a 
whole, were too swift to be caught. When they were confined by seven 
converging columns within a narrow space, and success seemed 
certain, one column was delayed, and the entire body escaped through 
the gap. It was not until October, when the younger Havelock per- 
suaded his chief to try the effect of mounted infantry, whom he had 
himself hastily trained, that they were driven into the Kaimur hills, 
where, before the end of the year, their organisation was destroyed. 

To understand how Sir Colin was able to undertake securely the 
reconquest of Rohilkhand and Oudh, it is necessary to trace the course 
of events in the Bombay Presidency and the central provinces. Lord 
Elphinstone, the governor of Bombay, equipped a column to support 
the Central India Agency, and throughout the Mutiny regarded the 
interests of his own charge as subordinate to those of the empire. The 
Bombay army, on the whole, was tolerably staunch. In Bombay itself, 
though the sepoys were in a mutinous temper, order was preserved 
by the skilful management of the superintendent of police. A plot 
was discovered in the recently annexed state, Satara, and the con- 
spirators were punished. But the principal danger was in the southern 


Maratha country, where many landowners had been aggrieved by 
the action of the Inam Commission, and the people were excited by 
the momentary triumph of the Nana. A mutiny occurred at Kolha- 
pur; intercepted letters revealed a Muhammadan conspiracy; and 
emissaries from the Nana caused a local rebellion: but order was 
restored by Colonel Le Grand Jacob, whom the governor had en- 
trusted with discretionary power. ^ 

In Central India the most important point was Indore, the capital 
of the Maratha prince, Holkar, who, in the absence of the agent. 
Sir Robert Hamilton, was under the supervision of Colonel Durand. 
The only British troops available were the gunners of a single battery 
at the neighbouring station of Mhow; but on hearing of the outbreak 
at Meerut, Durand summoned a detachment of Bhils and a force 
belonging to the contingent that protected the begam of Bhopal, 
while Holkar contributed a small force. Towards the end of June 
Durand learned that the column which Elphinstone had equipped 
could not advance, and on i July Holkar's troops, who were imme- 
diately joined by the infantry of the Malwa and Bhopal contingents, 
mutinied. The Bhils and the Bhopal cavalry did nothing, and Durand 
was forced to retreat with the women and children under the escort 
of the cavalry who, though not actively mutinous, refused to remain. 
To reach Mhow was impossible, for the approach to the road was 
commanded by the mutineers; and the cavalry insisted on going to 
Sehore in Bhopal. The commandant at Mhow, however, supported 
by Holkar, who, if he had before been half-hearted, now proved him- 
self loyal, assumed the duties of the agent and restored order in his 
own district, though in the surrounding country anarchy was rampant. 
Durand himself, moving southward from Sehore, joined the column 
dispatched by Elphinstone, which he thenceforth commanded, at 
Asirgarh, and returned to Mhow, where he was kept inactive by stress 
of weather. When the dry season began he marched northward, 
quelled the insurrection in Malwa, and in December returned to 
Indore, where, before transferring his charge to Hamilton, he insisted 
that all who had been concerned in the mutiny should be punished. ^ 

Another Maratha, the widow of the raja of Jhansi whose dominions 
Dalhousie had annexed, had already planned revenge. Within a 
month of the outbreak at Meerut the garrison mutinied ; a general 
massacre of Europeans followed ; and the rani, buying over the sepoys, 
who had threatened to set up a rival, fortified her city, raised an army, 
and prepared to defend her country to the last.^ 

In Bundelkhand, although many of the chiefs rebelled, Lieutenant 
Osborne, the political officer at Rewah, conducted affairs so skilfully 
that communication between Bombay and Calcutta remained un- 

^ Gf. Jacob, Western India before and during the Mutinies, pp. 148 sqq. 
2 Gf. H. M. Durand, Life of Sir Henry Durand, i, 197 sqq. 
^ Holmes, op. cit. pp. 491 sqq, and references there cited. 


broken. In the Sagor and Narbada territories, south of Bundel- 
khand, disturbances were general, but farther south, in the recently 
annexed province of Nagpur, the authorities sternly repressed the 
first symptoms of disorder. In Hyderabad, where were congregated 
numerous Muslim fanatics, the resident. Major Davidson, supported 
by the Nizam's able minister, Salar Jang, kept the peace, despite active 
propaganda; and a band of Rohillas, who attacked the residency, was 
scattered by a shower of canister from the Madras Horse Artillery, 
who, like all the troops of that presidency, were staunch.^ It was 
reserved for Sir Hugh Rose to restore British supremacy in the heart 
of the peninsula and to prepare the way for the final efforts of Sir Colin 

In accordance with a plan formed by Sir Robert Hamilton, a 
Bombay column, under Rose, was to march from Mhow by way of 
Jhansi to Kalpi, while a Madras column, under General Whitlock, 
marched northward across Bundelkhand. Leaving Mhow on 
6 January, 1858, Rose joined his 2nd brigade at Sehore. Capturing 
rebel forts and defeating all whom he encountered in the field while the 
ist brigade on his left cleared the great road from Bombay, he was 
within a day's march from Jhansi when he received a dispatch from 
Sir Colin, ordering him to turn aside and succour a chief who was 
besieged by the Gwalior contingent under Tantia Topi. Fortunately 
Hamilton, who, as a political officer, ventured to use his own discre- 
tion, directed him to disregard this order, and two days later the siege 
of Jhansi began. Within the next four days the whole of the ist brigade 
and the siege-train arrived. Even at night the besiegers lay on their 
arms and by day were dazzled by the glare and half-stifled by the 
scorching wind. The besieged never ceased firing except at night, and 
even women were seen working in their batteries. The siege had lasted 
nine days when Tantia appeared with twenty-two thousand men. 
Without suspending the bombardment, Sir Hugh collected all the 
men whom he could spare, and on the following day defeated him. 
Two days later, after a desperate resistance, the city was taken by 
assault, and on the following night the rani, quitting the fort, rode 
with a few attendants for Kalpi. After halting for nearly three weeks 
to collect supplies and ammunition. Sir Hugh, though the sick list 
was daily lengthening, resumed his march, defeated Tantia again in 
the battle of Kunch, and prepared to finish the campaign. Whitlock, 
partly owing to his own inactivity, was too late to join him ; but Sir Colin 
sent a force to his support. Half of his own troops were sick, all were 
ailing, and he himself had suffered repeatedly from sunstroke; but on 
22 May a final victory gave him possession of Kalpi. He was looking 
forward to a period of rest which might enable him to recruit his 
health when he heard of an event which caused a sensation throughout 
India. The rani and Tantia, boldly marching with the remnant of 

^ Holmes, op. cit. pp. 498 sqq. Cf. Meadows Taylor, op. cit. p. 382. 


their force to Gwalior, where Sindhia's army deserted to them, seized 
the fortress and proclaimed the Nana as Peshwa. The main artery of 
communication between Bombay and the North-Western Provinces 
was in danger. Sir Hugh instantly took the field again, won a battle 
on the outskirts of Gwalior, in which the rani, whom he esteemed as 
"the best and bravest military leader of the rebels'*, fell, defeated 
Tantia on the following day, and restored Sindhia to his throne. 
Tantia with four thousand men fled into Rajputana, and during the 
next eight months, crossing and recrossing the Chambal, the Nar- 
bada, and other rivers, doubling again and again like a hunted 
hare, but still hoping to find support for his master, he contrived, 
thanks to the marvellous speed of his followers, to escape the many 
columns that pursued him. Early in 1859 the fugitives who had not 
dispersed surrendered, and a few weeks later Tantia, betrayed as he 
wandered in the jungle by a feudatory of Sindhia, was taken in his 
sleep. Condemned by a court-martial on the charge of rebellion, he 
was hanged on 18 April at Sipri in the Gwalior state. ^ 

The campaign of Sir Hugh Rose had relieved Sir Colin Campbell 
from anxiety for his rear. After the recapture of Lucknow he pro- 
posed to undertake forthwith the reconquest of Oudh, which his own 
remissness had made necessary; but Canning replied that the Hindus 
of Rohilkhand, who were almost all friendly, might turn against the 
government if it delayed to overthrow Khan Bahadur Khan. Three 
columns, supported by that which had guarded Fatehgarh, converged 
on Bareilly, and by the end of May, although the moulvi of Faizabad, 
who had led the assailants of Outram at the Alambagh, gave con- 
siderable trouble, Rohilkhand was completely subdued. In Oudh, 
where the peasant cultivators, hardly noticing the movements of the 
rebels, were busy in the fields, the mutineers, the troops of the deposed 
king, the talukdars' clansmen, and the Muhammadan zealots formed 
distinct groups. A force which had been detached by Sir Colin did 
what was possible, and many talukdars, trusting to the assurances of 
Montgomery, who had succeeded Outram, that their land should not 
be confiscated, tendered their submission; but the number that re- 
mained in arms was still considerable. In October, when the weather 
became cool, and the sepoys had mostly dispersed. Sir Colin began 
his campaign. Success was less swift than it might have been if he had 
followed the advice of Outram, who, pointing to the example of the 
younger Havelock, urged him to form a corps of mounted infantry; 
but the cordon with which he surrounded the province was of over- 
whelming strength, and by the end of December the rebels had been 
driven into Nepal. Still, in many parts of the peninsula small columns 
were employed in hunting down marauders ; and it was not until the 
end of 1859 that India was restored to something like its normal state. 

It remains to consider certain questions relating to the Mutiny, the 

1 Cf. Holmes, op. cit. pp. 503 sqq. and references there cited. 


isolated rebellions connected with it, and the disturbances to which it 
gave rise among the civil population. Before the story of the greased 
cartridges was circulated, there was no definite plot for a general 
rising of the Bengal army, and it is improbable that such a plot wais 
formed even after the first mutinies. For, though Cracroft Wilson, 
the judge of Moradabad, collected evidence which convinced him 
that 31 May had been fixed for a simultaneous revolt, and that the 
plan was marred by the premature outbreak at Meerut, John Lawrence 
found in the numerous intercepted letters written by sepoys not the 
faintest hint of an organised conspiracy, while none of the faithful 
sepoys, none of the condemned mutineers who might have saved their 
lives by disclosing it, if it had existed, knew anything about it. In 
reply to questions put to prisoners in the North-Western Provinces, 
the cartridge, and it alone, was named as a grievance. 

While the mutineers lacked a head, many were half-hearted and 
fought reluctantly against the leaders whom they had been accus- 
tomed to obey ; and between the various groups there was a want of 
concert. Sikhs, Panjabis, Gurkhas fought whole-heartedly against 
them. Even so, however, the prospects of the British would have been 
almost desperate if Indian princes — particularly the rajas of Patiala, 
Jhind and Nabha — had not given invaluable aid. Colin Campbell 
made serious mistakes and lost precious opportunities ; but his critics, 
who contrasted him with the men who, without help from England, 
had repelled the first onslaught of the mutineers, and complained 
that with forces enormously superior he was slow in extinguishing the 
revolt, forgot that his task, in itself even harder than theirs, was 
rendered still more difficult by the delay in offering an amnesty and 
by the confiscation proclaimed by Lord Canning. 

Although many whose pride was offended by the domination of an 
alien and infidel race, or who had personal objects to gain, desired 
the overthrow of the British raj, diversities of race, rank, status, aim 
and, above all, religion made it impossible for them to combine. 
Aggrieved chiefs, such as Kunwar Singh, dispossessed land-holders, 
villagers who objected to taxation, hereditary thieves, budmashes of 
every kind took advantage of the prostration of authority to redress 
their grievances, to rob, or to gratify private animosities; but civil 
disturbances, except in a few isolated regions and on the part of a few 
embittered or fanatical groups, never amounted to rebellion. After 
the Mutiny broke out, the titular king of Delhi was proclaimed head 
of a movement by which Muhammadan zealots hoped to regain 
supremacy; but this probably deterred many to whom Muhammadan 
rule was abhorrent from supporting the mutineers. The Nana, pro- 
fiting by the military rising which he had helped to encourage, 
became the representative of those Marathas who desired to restore 
the power once exercised by the Peshwa. Among the states which 
Dalhousie had annexed rebellion broke out in Jhansi and Oudh 


alone ; and in Oudh it was due not to annexation, but to the harshness 
with which the talukdars were treated, to the failure of Havelock's 
earlier attempts to relieve the residency, to the abandonment of 
Lucknow, justifiable though it may have been, by Sir Colin Campbell, 
to the errors which he committed during the siege, and to Canning's 
impolitic proclamation. These rebellions arose in consequence of the 
Mutiny, and there is no evidence that any of the rebels, except the 
Nana, conspired before it began. 

Dalhousie, except in so far as he had failed to remedy the indisci- 
pline of the army, which was rather the business of the commander- 
in-chief than of the governor-general, and had neglected to safeguard 
Delhi and Allahabad, was unjustly blamed, and has been fully 
vindicated. Even the annexation of Jhansi would have been harmless 
if it had been supported by armed force ; the increase of European 
troops, for which he had in vain pleaded, would have at least averted 
the worst calamities of the Mutiny; while by the construction of roads 
and telegraphs, and by the administration which he bestowed upon 
the Panjab, he contributed much to the power by which the Mutiny 
was quelled. 

Even before the reconquest of Oudh an event had occurred which, 
while it marked the restoration of British supremacy, inaugurated a 
new period of Indian history. The East India Company, upon which 
all political parties in England agreed in throwing the blame of the 
Mutiny, was abolished; and India was to be ruled in the name of the 
queen. A proclamation, prepared under her direction, announced 
that the government of India had been assumed by the queen; that 
Lord Canning was to be the first viceroy, and that all officers who had 
been in the service of the Company were confirmed in their offices ; 
that all treaties made by the Company with Indian princes were to 
be maintained; that the queen desired no extension of territory, 
promised full religious toleration to her Indian subjects, and would 
always respect their ancient usages; that she offered pardon to all 
rebels and mutineers who had not directly taken part in the murder of 
Europeans ; and that she would constantly endeavour to promote the 
prosperity of her Indian dominions. 



X HE government of India is an amazingly complex and dual form of adminis- 
tration. It has two chiefs, the secretary of state here, the man at the desk and on 
the front bench in this country; and the viceroy, the man on the spot in India. It 
is the latter who, at any rate in India, is invested with paramount power; but the 
final responsibility rests with the secretary of state. ^ 

In his British Government in India Lord Curzon further observes : 

This dualism has arisen not merely fcom the simultaneous existence of one half 
of the government in England, and the other half in India, for that is a feature of 
the administration from a sovereign centre of all dependencies or dominions, but 
from the subdivision of that authority both in England and in India.^ 

The subject of this chapter is the history of the London branch of 
British administration in India from 1 858, the memorable year which 
was marked by the end of the Mutiny and the proclamation of Lord 
Canning as first viceroy and governor-general for the crown, to 19 18, 
the year which saw the conclusion of the great war. 

In February, 1 858, a weighty and dignified petition^ was presented 
to both houses of parliament on behalf of the East India Company. 
It failed to avert the impending sentence, but certainly influenced 
subsequent legislation. 

The petitioners assumed that the minister of the crown who would 
henceforward conduct the home portion of the administration of 
India would be assisted by a council composed of statesmen ex- 
perienced in Indian affairs. The knowledge necessary for governing 
a foreign country, and in particular a country like India, could not 
possibly be possessed by anyone who had not devoted a considerable 
portion of his life to the acquisition of it. The council should be 
qualified not only to advise the minister, "but also by its advice 
to exercise a certain degree of moral check". The minister would 
generally be unacquainted with India and would constantly be ex- 
posed to solicitations from individuals and bodies 

either entirely ignorant of that country or knowing enough of it to impose on those 
who knew still less than themselves and having very frequently objects in view 
other than the good government of India. 

British public opinion was necessarily unacquainted with Indian 
affairs and therefore liable to be misled. The responsible minister's 
council should, therefore, derive sufficient weight from its constitution 

* Lord Curzon, Hansard, 13 July, 191 7, xxv, 1027-8. 

* II, 67. 

* Hansard, 1858, cxLvm, Appendix. 


to be a substantial barrier against inroads of self-interest and ignorance 
in England from which parliament could hardly be expected to afford 
a sufficient protection. The council must be so constituted as to be 
personally independent of the minister, and should feel itself responsible 
for recording an opinion on any Indian subject and pressing that 
opinion on the minister whether it was agreeable to him or not. The 
minister when overruling his council must be bound to record his 
views. Thus the council would be a check and not a screen. Otherwise 
it would merely serve to weaken the minister's responsibility and "to 
give the colourable sanction of prudence and experience to measures 
in the framing of which these qualities have had no share". 

A council composed of crown nominees would not preserve the 
independence of judgment which had marked the court of directors. 
If a substantial portion of the old spirit was to remain, a majority at 
least of the council which w^ould assist the new minister for India 
should hold their seats independently of his appointment. That body 
should not be smaller in numbers than the existing court of eighteen 
directors. The petitioners went on to plead for the continuance of 
the existing system, to urge that the present home government of India 
was not really a double government, as the final word always rested 
with the cabinet, and that a new arrangement which in any way 
checked the minister's discretion would be liable to a similar reproach. 
This reproach, however, originated 

in an entire misconception of the functions devolving on the home government of 
India, and in the appHcation to it of the principles applicable to purely executive 

The executive government of India was and must be situated in India 
itself. The court of directors was not so much an executive as a 
deliberative body. Its principal function and that of the home govern- 
ment generally was not to direct the details of administration, but to 
scrutinise and revise the past acts of the Indian government; to lay 
down principles and issue general instructions for their future guidance 
and to give or refuse sanction to great political measures which were 
referred home for approval. Such functions admitted of and required 
the concurrence of more judgments than one. They were more 
analogous to the functions of parliament than to those of an executive 
board; and it was considered an excellence in parliament to be not 
merely a double but a triple government. The petitioners ended by 
praying that no change should be made in the constitution of the 
Indian government until the conclusion of "the present unhappy 
disturbances or without a full previous enquiry into the operations of 
the present system". 

But both the great political parties in parliament were resolved 
that there should be no delay in completing the process which had 
definitely begun in 1853. It was an obvious anachronism that a 

2o8 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

chartered company should take part in administering a great empire. 
. It was wrong that there should be a Company's army and a royal 
army, an Indian and a royal navy. In India itself the prestige of the 
Company had lately suffered irretrievable damage.^ Immediately 
after the presentation of the Company's petition, Lord Palmerston, 
then prime minister, introduced his bill for transferring the govern- 
ment of India entirely to the crown. ^ But when the bill had been read 
a second time he was turned out of office on the Conspiracy to Murder 
Bill, and was succeeded by Lord Defby. Then Disraeli, who came in 
as Derby's chancellor of the exchequer, introduced a new bill which 
provided the Indian minister with a council composed partly of 
crown nominees and partly of persons to be elected by two con- 
stituencies, one consisting of men who had served in India or possessed 
financial interests in that country, the other made up from the parlia- 
mentary electors of the leading commercial cities of the United 
Kingdom, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast. 
These proposals, for which Lord Ellenborough, then president of the 
Board of Control, was largely responsible, were received with general 
ridicule^ and were dropped. Ellenborough's dispatch to Canning 
regarding the Oudh proclamation caused his own resignation. His 
successor. Lord Stanley, piloted certain resolutions through the House 
of Commons which formed the basis for a measure destined to regulate 
the government of India from London for sixty-two years.* Its main 
provisions were: 

[a) The place of the Board of Control and court of directors would 

/be taken by a secretary of state in council. The new secretary would 

be assisted by a "Council of India" consisting of fifteen members, of 

/ whom eight were to be appointed by the crown and seven were to be 

S^ elected by the directors of the East India Company. The majority of 

both appointed and elected members were to be persons who had 

served or resided in India for ten years at least, and had not left the 

country more than ten years before their appointment. Future 

appointments or elections were to be so regulated that nine at least 

of the members of council should hold these qualifications. Future 

vacancies in crown appointments would be filled by crown nominees ; 

vacancies among the seven members elected by the directors would be 

filled by persons co-opted by the council. No member could sit or 

vote in parliament. All would hold office during good behaviour and 

could be removed only on petition by both houses of parliament. 

{h) The council would conduct Indian business transacted in the 
United Kingdom and would correspond with the Government of 
India, but would not possess the initiative which had all along rested 
with the court of directors. It could give its opinion only on questions 

^ Martineau, Lift of Frere, i, 230. 

« Hansard, 1857-8, gxlviii, 1276. 

' Ideniy GXLix, 1675; cf. also 1677. 

* Monypenny and Buckle, Life of Disraeli, iv, 138, 164-5. 

THE INDIA ACT OF 1858 209 

referred to it by the secretary of state, who would preside over meetings 
with power to overrule should he be unable to obtain agreement. In 
such an event he might require that his opinion and the reasons for it 
should be entered in the minutes of the proceedings, and any member 
who had been present at the meeting could exercise the same privilege. 
. {c) The secretary of state might constitute committees of his council 
for the more convenient transaction of business, and might distribute 
departments of business among those committees. He would direct 
the manner in which all business should be conducted. The council 
would meet once at least every seven days and could do no business 
without a quorum of five. 

{d) Communications from the secretary of state to the governor- 
general, and orders proposed to be made in the United Kingdom by 
the secretary of state, must, subject to certain provisions, be either 
submitted to a meeting of the council or be deposited in the council- 
room for seven days before issue. Any member of council might record 
his opinion on any such communication or order in a minute-book 
kept for the purpose, and a copy of such entry would be sent forthwith 
to the secretary of state. If a majority minuted against a communica- 
tion or order, the secretary of state must, if adhering to such com- 
munication or order, record his reasons. 

{e) Orders of the secretary of state relating to expenditure and 
loans required the concurrence of a majority of the Council of India. 
The revenues of India, which would be charged with a dividend on 
the Company's stock and with their debts, could only be used for the 
purposes of the government of India. Clause 41 of the act provided 
that no grant or appropriation of any part of such revenues or of any 
property coming into the possession of the secretary of state in council 
should be made without the concurrence of a majority of votes at a 
meeting of the council. All powers of issuing securities for money in 
the United Kingdom vested in the secretary of state in council must 
be exercised by the former with concurrence of a majority of votes at 
a council meeting. 

(/) The salary of the secretary of state and the cost of his office 
would be charged to the revenues of India. A statement of "moral 
and material progress " would be annually submitted to parliament. ' 
The secretary of state would every year lay Indian accounts before 
parliament, on occasions which became famous as "budget debates ", 
although in fact they were simply reviews of Indian affairs. 

(g) It was provided that urgent communications or orders which 
did not, under the terms of the act, require the concurrence of a 
majority of council votes, might issue on the authority of the secretary 
of state alone without reference to the council. But in such cases the 
secretary would record the reason for urgency and give notice thereof 
to the members of the council. 

(h) Orders concerning the levying of war or the making of peace. 

210 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

or the treating or negotiating with any prince or state, which virtually 

gave effect to cabinet decisions and did not require the support of a 

majority of council votes, might be marked as "secret" and sent off 

on the authority of the secretary alone without any notice or reference 

to the council. "Secret" dispatches from the governor-general in 

council or the governors of Madras or Bombay relating to such 

matters need not be communicated to the Council of India. 

j (t) Appointment to the offices of governor-general and governors 

/of presidencies vested in the crown. The governor-general would 

V appoint lieutenant-governors to provinces subject to the approval of 

Her Majesty. Members of the various councils in India would be 

appointed by the secretary of state in council. 

{j) The naval and military forces of the Company were transferred 

, to the crown, their separate local character being retained. It was 

/ directed by clause 55 that except for the purpose of preventing or 

j repelling invasion, or under other sudden or urgent necessity, Indian 

revenues should not be applicable for military operations outside 

India without the consent of parliament. 

The basic principles of the bill were fully discussed in parliament. ^ 
The object was to vest full charge of the government of India in the 

! crown *'in order that the direct superintendence of the whole empire 
might be placed under one executive authority". The new secretary 
1; of state would be a member of the cabinet. His individual responsi- 
» bility was essential. His decision would be final on all matters. But 
he should not be allowed to choose all his councillors, for the council 
should possess considerable independence. ^ It must exercise "moral 
control".^ As Sir Henry Maine subsequently observed, the ultimate 
power of the secretary of state was regarded with apprehension by 
certain speakers in the House of Commons. On 23 June the directors 
drew up a letter criticising the bill and stating that in their opinion 
the council should have more than a consultative voice in all questions 
regarding expenditure. In such cases the secretary of state should not 
be able to exercise his overruling power. Precautionary provisions 
were then engrafted on the bill and appeared as clauses 41 and 55.* 
The semi-independent status accorded to the Council of India by 
the cabinet was approved by Mr Gladstone for the opposition.^ In 
order "to clothe this new body with all the moral weight and influence 
that was consistent with retaining intact the responsibility of the 
secretary of state", he recommended that its first members should be 
named in the bill. Each nomination would thus receive the express 
approval of parliament. This would give the council a start which 
would secure for it a good character hereafter. It needed all possible 
weight at this time of transition from one form of government to 

^ Hansard, 1858, cxldc, cl. ' Ideniy gl, 2066. * Idem, cli, 323. 

* Unpublished memorandum, dated 8 November, 1880. 

• Hansard, cli, 470, 757-8. 

THE DEBATES OF 1858 211 

another and there were precedents for such procedure. The proposal 
was rejected by the cabinet, mainly on the ground that, if accepted, it 
would deprive the court of directors of the power of electing any 
members of the new body. The government wished to avoid needless 
changes. It had found in the court of directors a council in being 
which consisted partly of crown nominees and partly of persons elected 
by the Company's court of proprietors. It would practically con- 
tinue this council, increasing the number of nominees and reducing 
the number of elected members so as nearly to equalise the two 

Both the cabinet and parliament desired to deal tenderly with the 
Company which had fallen before "the inevitable consequences of 
time, change and progress",^ and to set up a substantial barrier 
against inroads of unbalanced sentiment and attempts to debit the 
revenues of India with unfair charges. India must not be brought 
into the cockpit of party politics. The members of the Council of India 
must be "neither the masters nor the puppets but the valuable 
advisers of the new minister".^ 

While, however, the council would be invested with an appreciable 
degree of independence and would be so large as to represent the 
various presidencies and public services in India, it would have no 
powers of initiative, and would, in the main, confine its attention to 
such questions of policy and matters of first-class interest as were laid 
before it by its president, who in "secret" affairs could act by himself 
entirely apart from his councillors.* He was a member of the cabinet 
which could not be forced to take into its confidence any given 
number of persons whom it did not wish of its own accord to con- 
sult. The president of the Board of Control had always possessed 
the privilege of communicating with the governor-general through 
the secret committee of the court of directors in regard to "secret'* 

Secret orders, however, concerning the levying of war and other 
matters might involve considerable expenditure from Indian revenues. 
It was somewhat difficult to see how members of council could in such 
cases discharge their statutory responsibilities. 

While it was hoped that all these arrangements would conduce to 
the better government of India, the cabinet was convinced that, in 
Lord Derby's words, "the government of India must be, on the whole, 
carried out in India itself".® Interference should be on as small a 
scale as possible; although, apart from the large amount of Indian 
business which was necessarily transacted in England, since parlia- 
ment was responsible to the nation for the administration of India, it 
must discharge its responsibilities conscientiously. 

^ Hansard, cli, 759-60. 2 idem, cxlix, 820. 

^ Idem, CLI, 1454-5. . * Idem, cli, 1457-8. 

^ Lee-Warner, Dalhousie, 1, 107-8. * Hansard, cli, 1448. 



212 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-19 18 

The Act "for the better government of India" (21 &22 Vict. c. 106) 
received the royal assent on 2 August, 1858; and a month later the 
directors issued their last instructions to their servants in the East and 
in memorable words commended their splendid trust to the care of 
the sovereign of Great Britain. 

Let Her Majesty appreciate the gift — let her take the vast country and the 
teeming millions of India under Her direct control; but let Her not forget the great 
corporation from which she has received them nor the lessons to be learnt from its 

Lord Stanley, afterwards Earl of Derby, who, as president of the 
Board of Control, had piloted the bill of 1858 through the House of 
Commons, was the first secretary of state for India. With the board's 
two secretaries, he migrated to a new India Office which took the 
place of the Company's East India House. ^ The secretaries became 
the first Parliamentary and Permanent Under-Secretaries of State for 
India. Resigning in 1859 with the Conservative cabinet, Stanley was 
succeeded by Sir Charles .Wood, who, as president of the Board of 
Control, had been responsible for the Charter Act of 1853 and the 
education dispatch of 1 854, and now held office till 1 866 with excellent 
results. He was a single-minded man,^ of great knowledge, patience 
and judgment, and was largely responsible for the success with which 
Indian affairs were conducted during a very difficult period of transi- 
tion and reconstruction. The arrangements for the councils of the 
governor-general and those of the governors of Madras and Bombay, 
the setting up of new High Courts of Judicature, the reorganisation 
of finances, the codification of the law, railway extension, the amal- 
gamation of the queen's and the Company's British regiments, the 
determination of the number of British troops to be quartered in India, 
the adjustment of numerous confficting interests, all demanded careful 
consideration in London. The council was a very strong one, including 
ex-directors and men who had earned distinction in the Mutiny 
period. Although there were necessarily differences of opinion and 
outlook from time to time, although the transaction of business by 
committees sometimes caused irritating delays, although time was 
sometimes wasted over triffing financial questions which could better 
have been decided in India,^ some years after quitting office Wood, 
who had meantime become 'Lord Halifax, told the House of Lords 
that any secretary of state who firmly and honestly discharged his 
duties would never experience the slightest difficulty with his council.* 
On a subsequent occasion he 

deprecated any measure which could diminish the independence and self-respect 
of the council, for a strong council was needed to give the secretary of state the 
support requisite for resisting party pressure, a pressure not always applied in a 
manner beneficial to India.^ 

1 Foster, East India House, pp. 153-4. * ^^- Hansard, cxLvm, 1298. 

* Martineau, op. cit. i, 447. * Hansard, cxcv, 1085. ' Ideniy cxcvi, 693. 


In 1 866, however, a more brilliant and impulsive, but less patient and 
experienced, secretary of state presided at the council-board. Lord 
Salisbury (then Lord Granborne), while in office, avoided an open 
breach with his council. But afterwards, when speaking in the House 
of Lords as Marquis of Salisbury on 1 1 March, 1 869, on " the Governor- 
general of India Bill", he expressed his belief that the "tutelage" in 
which the secretary of state for India was held by his council was 
injurious to the good government of that country. In such matters 
as railway guarantees and other commercial affairs the council's 
"veto" was a protection, but, with that exception, responsibility 
should lie with the secretary of state alone. Opportunity should be 
taken of another bill then pending to clear up "the mystery" which 
enabled the council, under cover of vetoing money questions, to inter- 
fere in every other measure on the plea that it involved money con- 
siderations and thus to become "an incubus on the minister ".^ 

On this occasion Lord Salisbury was followed by his successor in 
office, the Duke of Argyll, who assured him that there was no mystery. 
The true interpretation of the law was that the secretary of state was 
"absolutely supreme" in financial, as in other matters, and could 
overrule his council whenever he thought fit to do so. The duke was 
aware of no case in which the council had set up its authority in 
opposition to the will of the secretary of state. On 1 9 April, in bringing 
forward the "Government of India Act Amendment Bill", he ex- 
plained to the House the history of clause 41 in the act of 1858 which 
had given rise to Lord Salisbury's contention. Considerable discussion 
followed, and extended over 29 April, when the bill was read a second 
time, to 13 May, when Lord Salisbury moved and withdrew an 
amendment. The subject revived in a debate in the House of Com- 
mons on 17 August, 1880, when it was raised by Fawcett, the econo- 
mist, afterwards postmaster-gen eral.^ The view eventually taken was 
that the true intentions of parliament in enacting clause 41 of the act 
of 1858 were to impose constitutional restraint on the powers of the 
secretary of state with respect to the expenditure of money, but by no 
means to extend the effective assertion of this restraint to all cases, 
especially where imperial questions were concerned. The secretary of 
state was a member of the cabinet and in cabinet questions the views 
of the cabinet must prevail. It was never intended that the council 
should be able to resist the cabinet by stopping supplies. Vis-d-vis the 
secretary of state, as representing the latter, the Council of India 
possessed no veto. As Sir Henry Maine expressed it, "any such 
power given to the council and exercised by it would produce before 
long a combination of both the great English parties to sweep away 
the council itself".^ 

In the course of the debate in the House of Lords on 13 May, 1869, 

^ Hansard, cxciv, 1074. 2 jjem, gclv, 1452. 

. ' Unpublished memorandum. 

214 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

the Duke of Argyll stated^ that Lord Salisbury had been moved to 
raise the question by the opposition which his council had offered to 
a project put forward by certain commercial bodies to which the 
secretary of state had agreed. The council had been supported by the 
Government of India, but had eventually given way. In any case, 
clause 41 of the act of 1858 survived Lord Salisbury's assault. 

The "Government of India Act Amendment Bill", which pro- 
duced the Lords debate of 13 May, 1869, contained proposals for 
altering the life-tenure of members of the Council of India to one of 
ten years, which might, for reasons of public advantage, be extended 
to fifteen years. The secretary of state justified his recommendation by 
the rapid changes which were taking place in India, largely as a result 
of extending railway communications, and by the need of not only 
intimate but recent Indian experience on his council.^ His views 
were accepted by the House. Lord Salisbury moved an amendment 
to the bill proposing that in future all members of the council should 
be appointed by the crown. None should be co-opted by the council 
itself. The amendment was carried and embodied in the bill, together 
with a provision transferring from the secretary of state in council 
to the crown the right of filling vacancies on the councils of the 
governor-general and governors in India . The general effect of the 
legislation and debates of 1869 was to strengthen the position of the 
secretary of state vis-d-vis his council. His position vis-d-vis the Govern- 
ment of India was fortified by the completion in 1870 of a direct 
telegraph line between India and England by submarine cable through 
the Red Sea. He could thus less than ever he confronted with accom- 
plished facts. 

For years after 1 869 the history of the Council of India was un- 
eventful. When Lord Salisbury again presided over the India Office 
(1874-7) his Afghan and North-West Frontier policy, especially the 
occupation of Quetta and the separation of the trans-Indus districts 
from the Panjab, was strongly opposed by members of his council who 
followed Lord Lawrence's lead.^ But a secretary of state who could 
rely on cabinet support could now certainly get his way. Although, 
according to Lord Salisbury's biographer, he was a believer "in the 
virtue of a single inspiration and in the evil of hampering it by the 
intrusion of competing ideas", he was exercised by the problem of 
combining an independence of initiative in the government of India 
with his own responsibility for final decision, and considered that 
it could be solved only by private correspondence between himself 
and the viceroy.* He carried this doctrine to lengths to which Lord 
Northbrook refused to follow him. 

Lord Northbrook recognised the subordinate position of the viceroy but held 
that parliament had conferred certain rights, not only on the viceroy, but on his 

^ Hansard, cxcvi, 700. 

2 Idem, cxcv, 1077-8. Gf. Martineau, op. cit. i, 356-7. 

■ Lady Gwendolen Gccil, Life of Lord Salisbury, 11, 159. * Idem, pp. 65-6. 


council, which differentiated the latter in a very notable degree from subordinate 
officials. ^ 

Lord Cromer has stated that Lord Salisbury was disposed to reject, 
and, he thought, to underrate, the value of the views of Anglo-Indian 

This does not appear to have been the practice of some of his 
successors. Lord George Hamilton, who first as under-secretary and 
afterwards as secretary of state introduced thirteen Indian budgets in 
the House of Commons, writes that the Council of India was really a 
cabinet with the important exception that its procedure and powers 
were prescribed by an act of parliament. It had absolute control over 
Indian expenditure. It preserved an unbroken record of the reasons 
for expenditure of all kinds and performed the business of checking 
far more effectively than the treasury, obtaining better results from 
the expenditure sanctioned. ^ Lord Randolph Churchill found the 
council "an invaluable instrument".^ 

As regards the general policy of the India Office in the latter years 
of the nineteenth century, although relations between India and 
England had become more intimate, involving a constantly increasing 
degree of interference, and though the cases in which final orders 
could be passed in India had become less frequent, yet the secretary 
of state did not constantly interfere in the ordinary work of Indian 
administration, but mainly confined his action to answering references 
from the Indian government. Apart from great political or financial 
questions, the number or nature of these references depended on the 
character of the governor-general for the time being. The secretary 
of state initiated almost nothing. In domestic affairs the Indian 
government was almost independent so long as it was content to 
carry on without largely increasing the cost of existing establishments 
or incurring new and heavy charges. The secretary of state had no 
disposition to interfere needlessly in the details of administration in 
India, but was sometimes subjected to pressure which could with 
difficulty be resisted. On such occasions the council was extremely 
useful. It further assisted in preserving continuity of administrative 
principles in India where the official personnel was necessarily always 

The views of the majority of the Council of India on the subject of 
divided control of the India army provoked the impatience of Lord 
Ripon who, at the close of the first year of his viceroyalty, complained 
of the increasing interference of the India Office which he ascribed to 
the "subordinates ", and the fact that Lord Hartington, then secretary, 
was overworked with other than Indian business. But had the same 

^ Mallet, Life of Northbrook, p. 91. 

^ Parliamentary Reminiscences and Reflections (i 874-1 880), pp. 307-8. 

' Winston Churchill, Life of U)rd Randolph Churchill, i, 475. 

* Strachey, Indiay pp. 74-81 (191 1 ed.). 

2i6 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

viceroy received the warning drawn up by Sir Henry Maine, the most 
prominent member of the then existent Council of India, relating to 
the projected Ilbert bill, he might have been saved from a course of 
action which he lived to regret bitterly. The council had in 1883 
desired Lord Hartington, then secretary of state, to transmit Maine's 
"secret" memorandum to the viceroy; but this was not done, and 
they were subsequently consoled by Lord Kimberley, Hartington's 
successor, with the just reminder that they should formally have 
conveyed the warning themselves.^ 

Meantime the constitution of the council was slightly altered. In 
1876 the secretary of state was allowed to appoint not more than three 
special experts (legal or financial) on the old tenure of good behaviour. 
In 1889 he was allowed to abstain from filling vacancies until the 
number of members should be reduced to ten. Reduction was asked 
for in the interest of economy. In the previous year the council had 
been joined by one of its most distinguished members, Sir Alfred 
Lyall, described by Lord George Hamilton as his "right-hand 
adviser", who held office for fifteen years and has left us some passing 
impressions of its proceedings. Fresh from governing great provinces 
he wrote: 

The India Office is comfortable and convenient, but rather depressing: in the 
first place, death visits the council rather frequently : secondly, we have all rather 
the look of old hulks laid up in dock, and are men who have said good-bye to active 
service; thirdly, the distance and difference between London and India makes one 
feel as if looking at things through a glass darkly, and not face to face, and in a year 
or two I shall begin to distrust my own judgment. ... In council we stand up and 
orate, which breaks down desultory discussion, but is no good for thrashing out 

Again, he says "one can prevent some mischief but do little good on 
the council". A year later, however, he liked his work, found that it 
gave him enough to do and even more than he cared for. In 1894, 
with all his colleagues, he protested vainly and vigorously against the 
exclusion of cotton goods from the general import duty of 5 per cent., 
as a serious concession to British interests which would damage Indian 
confidence in the British Government. 

Neither parliament nor the secretary of state was inclined to inter- 
fere with the administration of India as long as all went well and 
Indian affairs hardly touched British politics. Between 1880 and 1905 
so little did parliament seriously concern itself with Indian domestic 
business that in 1889 and 1891 the secretary of state was able to dis- 
regard resolutions of the House of Commons relating to the opium 
trade,^ and in 1894, after consulting the Government of India, he 
declined to take action on another resolution of the same House in 
favour of simultaneous examinations in England and India for ad- 

* Wolf, Life of Ripon, ir, 137-9. ^ Durand, Life of Lyall, p. 322. 

■ Debates of 3 May, 1889, and 10 April, 1891, Hansard, cccxxxv, cgclii. 


mission to the civil service.^ The general feeling in this country was 
that Indian affairs were safe in the hands of the Indian government; 
and as late as 1904 Lord Curzon, after his first term of office, struck 
no jarring note when he asked that his government might not be 
bothered with "an excessive display of parliamentary affection" and 
declared that the ideal party in England for people in India was the 
party which would act "both as the impartial umpire as well as the 
superior authority in the disputes that sometimes arise between us, 
and that will not unduly favour the home country at our expense". 

A year later, however, the viceroy resigned in consequence of a 
difference with the Home Government and secretary of state, the bitter- 
ness of which is recalled by some of his last words. ^ The quarrel came 
as a climax to various disagreements, and at one time Lord Curzon, 
with evident injustice, ascribed to the members of the Council of 
India "a desire to thwart and hinder his work".^ After his departure 
a new era began. The partition of Bengal produced a violent agita- 
tion ; a revolutionary movement gradually emerged into view ; a 
scheme of wide constitutional reform was projected; and in 1907! 
John Morley, then secretary of state, desiring to add two Indian 
gentlemen to his council, introduced and carried through parliament 
a bill which empowered him to increase the strength of that body 
from twelve to fourteen. No member would be appointed who had 
been absent from India for more than five years; and no member 
would hold office for more than seven years. Salaries of members 
were reduced from £1200 to ;^iooo. 

General J. H. Morgan says that no more autocratic secretary for 
India ever reigned at Whitehall,* none ever consulted his council less, 
and none ever admonished a viceroy more. It must be remembered 
that Morley was subjected to considerable pressure from the left wing 
of his own party. But there is ample evidence to support General 
Morgan's views, both in a letter from Lord Minto to Lord Stamford- 
ham dated 5 July, 1910,^ and in Morley's own Recollections. Yet it is 
evident that at one time Morley was anxious not to depress but to 
elevate the position of the Council of India. In August, 1907, he 
invited Lord Cromer to join^ it and Cromer consented. Then the 
secretary of state discovered that the act of 1858 forbade the appoint- 
ment of anyone "capable of sitting and voting in parliament". He 
wrote to Minto on 23 August, 1907, that he would propose to the 
cabinet that the law should be altered, for Cromer would "give to my 
council a strength and authority in the public eye, of which, if we are 
in for troublesome times, we shall stand in much need". The project, 
however, unfortunately fell through ; and Morley was left with coun- 
cillors, none of whom individually carried weight in parliament. 

^ Pp. 368-70, infra. ^ British Government in India, ii, 255. 

' Ronaldshay, Curzon, 11, 237. * John Viscount Morley, an appreciation, p. 32. 

^ Buchan, Memoir of Lord Minto, p. 311. * Morley, Recollections, 11, 233. 

2i8 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

Regarding some of these as reactionary, he opened his doors wide to 
irresponsible advisers;^ and finding no particular difficulty in getting 
his own way, absorbed in the fascination of his task, gathered more 
and more power into his own hands, much to the vexation of a long- 
suffering viceroy.^ 

The close of the Morley regime found the late Mr E. S. Montagu, 
as parliamentary under-secretary, enquiring into the conduct of 
business at the India Office. The Marquess of Crewe, its new head, 
introduced proposals for reform which appear to have largely 
emanated from Montagu, and were rejected by the Lords after an 
illuminating debate. 

On 3 1 July, 1 9 1 3, in answer to a question put by Viscount Midleton, 
Lord Crewe announced his intention of introducing proposals for 
legislation which would facilitate and quicken India Office procedure 
by making the transaction of council business by committees excep- 
tional and no longer usual. ^ Members of council would now be 
attached to particular departments. They would be reduced to eight 
or ten, the two Indian members being retained, and would become 
whole- time servants, their salaries being raised once more to jf 1200. 
They must possess recent experience, and, if qualified by official 
service, would sit on the council in the concluding years of their active 
service and not in the first years of their retirement. The secretary of 
state emphasised the value of the council, which assisted him by 
enabling matters to come up for decision in a more compact and 
concentrated way than they did in other offices. He derived marked 
advantage in case of a difference of opinion and a discussion on a 
particular subject in council, from being obliged to present that sub- 
ject in a more accurate form than he probably would do if he had 
only to argue the pros and cons of it with himself Moreover, and 
this was by no means the least important point, the council greatly 
strengthened the position of the secretary of state in dealing with the 
government of India, especially if he were a new-comer to office. 

If the existence be conceived of a viceroy backed by a body of local experts of 
long practical experience, then, I think, the secretary of state would need to be a 
Bismarck to hold his own in any controversy against so powerful a combination as 
that, and the only result, as I think, would be that India might be brought more 
often than it is into the cockpit of parliamentary politics. 

The council's financial powers were such that in theory it might make 
the government of India under our parliamentary system almost 
impossible; theoretical possibilities, however, need not alarm practical 
men who were anxious to agree if they could. A proof of this was that 
in matters not financial "in which the secretaiy of state could overrule 
his council", such a step had been taken only "on the very rarest 
occasions". In 1914 Lord Crewe introduced a "Council of India" 

* Cf. Hansard, cxcv, 1083. * See Buchan, op. a/, p. 312. ' Hansard, xiv, 1574-86. 


bill based on these views and including two novel proposals : (a) for 
imposing statutory obligation to appoint two persons domiciled in 
India to the council, selected from a list drawn up by the non-official 
members of the imperial and provincial legislative councils in British 
India; (b) for amplifying the list of "secret" matters with which, 
under the act of 1858, the secretary of state could deal exclusively. 

The bill was rejected by a large majority of the Lords. It was 
strongly condemned by Lord Gurzon as designed to withdraw from 
the council's cognisance an enormous number of questions covering 
the whole sphere of Indian government and to reduce that body, 
which by its passive acquiescence in the removal of the capital from 
Calcutta to Delhi had already shown itself flexible and pliant, to "an 
impotent and costly sham".^ In proposing to compel the secretary 
of state to choose two Indian politicians as his councillors, it was for- 
gotten that the council was a body of experts, not one of politicians 
or public speakers. 

Lord Curzon's reference to the Delhi policy takes us back to certain 
incidents of the year 1 9 1 1 which formed an extraordinary episode in 
the constitutional history of British India. ^ 

In 1876 Disraeli's government introduced a Royal Titles bill which 
was intended to mark the new relation which, since 1 858, the sovereign 
had occupied towards her subjects in India. The bill passed through 
parliament by a very large majority; and in Mr Buckle's words: 

The world understood that a new pledge had been given of the determination 
of the British crown to cherish India ; and her princes and peoples understood that 
their sovereign had assumed towards them a nearer and more personal relation.^ 

At a great durbar held at Delhi on i January, 1877, Queen Victoria 
was proclaimed "Queen-Empress of India". On i January, 1903, 
at a second Delhi durbar her successor was proclaimed "King- 
Emperor". On 12 December, 191 1, there was a third Delhi durbar, 
distinguished beyond its predecessors by the presence of the sovereigns 
themselves and by the remarkable announcements which were made, 
on the advice of his ministers, by the king-emperor. Up to that time 
all changes of signal importance in the government of India had taken 
place after full discussion in parliament and under parliamentary 
sanction. Now, however, changes of great moment were proclaimed 
of which parliament had no previous cognisance. At the durbar His 
Majesty announced that the capital of India would henceforward be 
Delhi and not Calcutta ; the partition of Bengal, which had caused 
such bitter controversy, would be revoked; Bengal would be one 
province under a governor in council ; a new province of Bihar and 
Orissa would be created; Assam would once more be the charge of 
a chief commissioner. These measures, which necessarily involved 
heavy expenditure and far-reaching consequences, naturally pro- 

^ Hansard, xvi, 484. 2 Gurzon, op. cit. 11, 1 19. 

3 Life of Disraeli y iv, 93, 167; v, 471. 

220 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

voked the criticism that the cabinet had "used the authority of the 
sovereign to settle in their own way an issue of an acutely controversial 
character".^ They originated with the governor-general in council, 
found favour with the secretary of state and the Asquith cabinet, and 
were therefore accepted by the Council of India, who can hardly have 
obtained an opportunity to give even a passing thought to the large 
issues and heavy expenditure involved. Approval was transmitted to 
the governor-general ; and parliament only became aware of all that 
was contemplated after His Majesty had made the announcement. 
Lord Crewe argued inter alia that in fact the action taken was ad- 
ministrative and did not require parliamentary sanction. The original 
partition of Bengal had been carried out without reference to parlia- 
ment. But in fact these later changes were of far greater moment even 
than that ill-starred measure. 

In the third year of the last war, the Council of India and the India 
Office came prominently before the nation. The management and 
conduct of the campaign in Mesopotamia had been originally en- 
trusted to the government and military authorities in India. The 
commission of enquiry which was appointed, after the capture of 
Kut-el-Amara by the Turks, and sat in London, commented un- 
favourably on the India Office organisation and on the substitution of 
private telegrams from the secretary of state to the viceroy for public 
telegrams which would have passed through or been communicated 
to the Council of India. The practice had so much developed of recent 
years as to make the private telegrams "almost the regular channel of 
official inter-communication ".2 There were strong and obvious ob- 
jections to this procedure. The private telegrams, moreover, did not 
always remain in the office, for Lord Morley had taken his away. 
Neither the Council of India nor the governor-general's council had 
been kept in touch with the varying fortunes of the Mesopotamian 
expedition, the control of which had been 

narrowed down to two high officials, both heavily charged with many other anxious 
and pressing duties, and both permanently stationed in localities which had little, 
if any, private or personal touch with the forces campaigning in Mesopotamia.* 

The conclusions of the commission were debated in both houses 
of parliament and led to the resignation of the secretary of state, 
Mr Austen Chamberlain, who had succeeded late to a situation created 
by others. His predecessor, Lord Crewe, contended in the House of 
Lords that the policy of the expedition all through was a matter for 
the cabinet and the cabinet alone.* His own private telegrams of 
importance relating to this matter had been made official and were 
preserved at the India Office. 

Lord Islington, under-secretary of state, admitted that private 
telegrams had been excessively employed.^ In future they would be 

* Lord Curzon, ap. Hansard, xi, 142. * Report of Mesopotamia Commission, p. 102. 

* Idem, p. 103. * Hansard, xxv, 929. * Idem, 952. 


fewer and wherever possible would be made "official" after dispatch. 
The India Office was not established or equipped for the conduct of 
an extended campaign outside India. ^ 

Lord Curzon said that without the machinery of private letters and 
telegrams the government of India, an "amazingly complex and dual 
form of administration" which had two chiefs, could not go on. Still 
these communications should not be employed to such an extent as to 
leave the Council of India at home in ignorance of what was being 
done. The secretary of state and the viceroy must not become "a kind 
of concealed duumvirate". They would gain by acting with, and not 
without, their councils. In the Commons Montagu, who was then 
out of office, had attacked the government of India as too wooden, 
inelastic and antediluvian for modern purposes. The British democracy 
had never enjoyed an opportunity of trying to rule India. Even if the 
House of Commons were to give orders to the secretary of state, that 
minister could be overruled by a majority of his council in vital 
matters. He knew of one case in which 

it was a very near thing, where the action of council might without remedy have 
involved the government of India in a policy out of harmony with the declared 
policy of the House of Commons and the cabinet. 

The whole system of the India Office was designed to prevent control 
by the House of Commons, for fear that there might be too advanced 
a secretary of state. The statutory organisation of the office produced 
an apotheosis of circumlocution. The whole system of governing India 
must be explored in the light of the Mesopotamian Commission 

Mr Chamberlain explained that both Lord Crewe and himself had 
acted in relation to the Mesopotamian campaign as spokesmen of His 
Majesty's government. Supreme control had been exercised by the 
secretary of state on behalf of and by direction of the cabinet. The 
India Office was not organised to conduct military operations and never 
attempted to do so. It would therefore have been better if from the 
first the control exercised on behalf of His Majesty's government had 
been vested in the General Staff or Army Council. All the private 
telegrams on which the commission had commented related to the 
levying of war, and might, under the act of 1858, have been marked 
"secret" instead of private, and then the commission's criticisms in 
this connection would have gone by the board. Nothing but injury 
could come to national, imperial and Indian interests by mixing up 
a debate on a military breakdown, or alleged military mismanage- 
ment, with the question of the whole future fabric of Indian govern- 
ment. His Majesty's government were already considering a dispatch 
from the Government of India on reforms in the political system of 
that country. 

^ Hansard, xxv, 956, 1027-8. 2 /^^^^^ ^cv, 2199-210. 

222 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

Immediately after the Mesopotamia debates Mr Austen Chamber- 
lain resigned and was succeeded by Mr Montagu. The declaration of 
20 August, 191 7, shortly followed, and late in the same year, at the 
invitation of the viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, the secretary of state 
arrived in India. After preHminary conferences at Delhi, he toured 
to Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, accompanied by the viceroy, the 
home member of the governor-general's council and two members of 
the Council of India, one British and one Indian. On the conclusion 
of the tour, further consultations were held; and it was not until about 
the end of April, 1918, that Mr Montagu returned to England. The 
purpose of his visit had been to determine on the spot, and in con- 
sultation with the viceroy, what steps should be taken in the direction 
of establishing in India government responsible to the Indian peoples. 
The joint report of Mr Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, published in 
July, 191 8, was framed after prolonged discussion with the council of 
the governor-general and met with unanimous support from the 
Council of India as "on the whole recommending the measures best 
adapted to ensure safe and steady progress in the desired direction". 
It formed the basis of the act of December, 191 9, which materially 
changed the constitution under which India had been governed since 
the end of the Mutiny. 

We have noticed the parting advice of the directors of the East India 
Company and the main principles which underlay the legislation of 
1858. It was parliament which deliberately organised the system de- 
nounced by Mr Montagu in 191 7. It was parliament which, desiring 
to accord all possible independence to the Council of India, arranged 
for that body to contain first an elected and then a co-opted element. 
When the legislation of 1 869 had invested the secretary of state with 
power to appoint all his councillors and with certain other powers of 
appointment, the council declined in importance, but for long main- 
tained a strong position as an advisory and, in some measure, a con- 
trolling body. Under the Morley regime a further decline set in, which 
apparently accelerated rather rapidly. 

While defending his proposals to the House of Lords in 1914, 
Lord Crewe asked consideration for "the perpetual and in some 
respects ever-increasing control of parliament, the ever-increasing 
force of public opinion in India, and the power of the press in England 
and India". With regard to the influence of parliamentary control on 
the working of the India Office, Lord George Hamilton remarks : 

The moment a crisis occurs, then the department affected which, for the time 
being, is working at the very highest tension, is bombarded with questions, inter- 
pellations, and demands for returns, which not infrequently absorb many hours of 
attention from the very officials who are best qualified to deal with the emergent 

But in pre-war days crises were infrequent, and Lord Crewe's plea 

^ Parliamentary Reminiscences and Reflections (1886-1906), p. 259. 


for changes which cut at the root of the basic principle of the act of 
1858 is hardly reconcilable with the testimony of the Montagu- 
Chelmsford Report that parliamentary interest in India was neither 
well-informed nor well-sustained. 

Parliament, according to Mr Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, 
should have devised a substitute for the prolonged inquests which 
preceded periodical renewals of the Company's charter. Its omission 
to do this was largely responsible "for our failure, in the face of a 
growing nationalist feeling in India, to think out and work at a policy 
of continuous advance".^ Was this omission then a grave mistake? 

The parliamentary inquests of pre-Mutiny days did much good. 
They belonged to times which were more leisurely than our own, 
when the East India Company and its servants were well represented 
in parliament, and some front-rank statesmen carefully studied Indian 
affairs. Several speeches, for instance, delivered in the House of 
Commons on the East India Company bill of 1853 are remarkable for 
their intrinsic value as well as for the position of the speakers in public 
esteem. It is instructive to compare the debates on that measure with 
the debates on the Government of India bill of 191 9. In 1853 the bill, 
which had been prepared after long enquiries by committees of both 
houses, was brought in on 9 June after three nights of discussion 
distinguished by remarkable speeches by Wood,^ then president of 
the Board of Control, by John Bright and by Sir James Hogg, chair- 
man of the court of directors. The second reading lasted four nights.^ 
Among the speakers were Macaulay, Cobden, Bright, Disraeli and 
Lord John Russell. The bill was afterwards before a committee of the 
whole house for eight nights, and was read a third time and passed 
on 2 9 July. * The Government of India Bill of 1 9 1 9, on the other hand, 
was presented to the House of Commons on 29 May, was read a 
second time on 5 June^ and was on that day sent to a joint committee 
of both houses on which the lower house was represented by seven 
members. The bill was recommitted on 3 December, 1919, considered 
by the Commons on that day and the next, and was read a third time 
on the 5th.^ The president of the Board of Education was the only 
member of the cabinet beside the secretary of state who made any 
contribution to the debates. The leaders of the Independent Liberal 
and Labour parties made brief speeches. There was little inclination 
to examine in detail the weighty recommendations of the joint com- 
mittee. The debates were meagre. 

Between 1858 and 1914 two processes were accelerating. In 
England, domestic, Irish and foreign affairs were making more and 
more insistent demands on the time and thoughts of members of 
parliament; in India administration was becoming more elaborate 

^ Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms. 

2 Hansard, cxxvii, 1093, 1095, 1195, 1230, 1277, 1299, 1352- 

' Idem, cxxviii, cxxix. * Idem, cxxix, 1009-45. 

^ Idem, cxvi, 2295-411. * Idem, cxxii, 429-538, 649-790. 

224 THE HOME GOVERNMENT, 1858-1918 

and complex. There was no longer a court of directors with re- 
presentatives and friends in the House of Commons. Secretaries of 
state for India were increasingly left by preoccupied cabinets and 
over- busy parliaments to shape their own policy. They gradually 
emancipated themselves from their council and became more absolute 
until, shortly after the close of our period, a secretary of state^ ven- 
tured on a remarkable departure in policy without cabinet sanction 
and was compelled to resign office. It is certain that none of his pre- 
decessors desired that periodical parliamentary inquests of the old 
kind should be renewed. The idea was considered and abandoned by 
Lord Morley,^ who was fully aware that whereas those enquiries were 
held in an atmosphere altogether remote from India, in widely 
different times, and were therefore unproductive of any racial excite- 
ment in that country, conditions so favourable to searching and fruit- 
ful investigation had gone for ever. Perchance, too, he had read these 
weighty words of Sir Henry Maine : 

It would not be thought a very safe or happy constitutional rule for any civilized 
European country that all its political, judicial, administrative and even social 
institutions (for these last in India cannot be wholly separated from the others) 
should be thrown into the crucible every twenty years. But if this experiment is 
to be tried, why of all countries should it be tried on India? 

Maine argued that in view of the intense conservatism of the Indian 
masses, of their singular liability to agitation and panic, they were 
unlikely to be favourably impressed by the knowledge 

that everything connected with the system under which they lived was to be brought 
into question and that everybody was to be heard against it. Such enquiries were 
formerly comparatively innocuous because in fact the people of India knew little 
about them. But India had now been brought close to our shores by the electric 
telegraph and the canal, and there are many agencies, unknown even in 1853, 
which spread through the people more or less distorted representations of what is 
doing in England.^ 

He went on to suggest that the remedy for parliamentary ignorance 
of Indian affairs might be the constitution of a joint committee of both 
houses, which would be brought into contact with Indian finance and 
would create gradually a class of members familiar with Indian 

Such a joint committee now sits. But if the parliaments of the period 
of 1 858-1 91 8 failed, for obvious reasons, to study Indian affairs with 
much care or thoroughness, they kept their eyes firmly fixed on some 
essential principles of policy. They trusted their agents and treated 
their servants with fairness and consideration. They dealt in a 
generous and non-party spirit with such proposals for constitutional 
reform as were put before them by responsible ministers. In financial 
questions they desired to treat India with ample fairness. There is no 
more striking instance of this than the attitude of parliament in regard 

* The late Mr E. S. Montagu. ' Morley, Indian Speeches, pp. 22, 50. 

* Minute by Sir H. Maine, 8 November, 1880. 


to the apportionment of the cost of employing Indian troops outside 
India on occasions when the interests of the people of that country did 
not appear to be directly affected.^ Even in the financial year 191 3-14 
the contribution of India toward the upkeep of the imperial navy, 
from which she was soon to benefit so feelingly, was only £1 64,000. ^ 
This considerate spirit met with a just and welcome reward when on 
the outbreak of the great war a resolution was moved by a private 
member on the viceroy's legislative council and carried unanimously, 
stating that India would "desire in the present emergency that she 
should be allowed not only to send her troops but to contribute the 
cost of their maintenance and pay".^ 

It is certain that no measure ever passed by parliament has better 
fulfilled its purpose than the Royal Titles Act. Lytton Strachey 
remarks of our English polity that it was in the main a common-sense 
structure; but there was always a corner in it where common sense 
could not enter, where, somehow or other, the ordinary measurements 
were not applicable and the ordinary rules did not apply. "So our 
ancestors had laid it down, giving scope, in their wisdom, to that 
mystical element which, as it seems, can never quite be eradicated 
from the affairs of men." It is certain that like our own mind, and to 
a far greater extent, the Indian mind craves for "an unexplored 
inexplicable corner" in a polity. And if there is something which 
awakens a feeling of the bonds which unite mankind in the thought 
of the connection between the Indian people and ourselves, it is 
certain that without a symbol of unity which will appeal to both alike, 
that feeling would rapidly dwindle. The crown worn by Queen 
Victoria and her successors has been far more than a mere symbol of 
unity. It has been a strong power* and a reconciler in India. 

* Cf. Hansard, 1882, cclxxiii, 255-307. ^ idem, 1914, lx, 347. ^ Idem, lxvi, 956. 

* Gf. Maconochie, Life of an Indian Civil Servant, p. 125; Lawrence, The India We Served, 




The Central and the Provincial Governments 
IN India, 1858-1918 

J. H E chief of the government in India, the man on the spot there, 
was first styled "viceroy and governor-general" in the famous pro- 
clamation of 1858. The title of viceroy was not conferred on the 
governor-general by any parliamentary statute although it is used in 
the warrants of precedence and in the statutes of the knightly orders. 
Where the governor-general is regarded as the representative of the 
sovereign he is spoken of as viceroy ; where he is referred to as the 
statutory head of the Government of India he retains his original 
title. 1 

The superintendence, direction and control of the civil and military 
administration were still vested in the governor-general in council, 
who was now required by the Government of India Act of 1 858 
(21 & 22 Vic. c. 108) to pay due attention to such orders as he might 
receive from the secretary of state. One of the most arduous tasks 
before Lord Canning and his council was the preparation of pro- 
posals for reshaping the central government and the governments of 
Madras and Bombay. New machinery for legislation had also to be 

The New Executive Councils 

The changes to be made in the executive councils, and more par- 
ticularly in his own council, had for some time engaged Canning's 
anxious thought. He corresponded first with Stanley and then with 
Wood on the subject, and, although the letters exchanged were 
private and confidential, their drift can be clearly gathered from 
minutes preserved in the India Office and from Canning's corre- 
spondence with Lord Granville. ^ He was evidently dissatisfied with 
the Bengal civil servants who had been his original councillors ; and 
it was only when James Wilson arrived from home as financial mem- 
ber, and Bartle Frere joined the council from Bombay, that his ideas 
gradually changed. He was still more dissatisfied with the system of 
collective business which he found in operation. The council was 
working as a board and deciding all questions by a majority vote, the 
governor-general possessing an overruling power in matters of grave 
importance. Canning wrote to Stanley that, as he was personally 

* Gurzon, British Government in India, ii, 49; Strachey, India, p. 50. 
' Fitzmaurice, Life ofCranvilU, vol. i, chaps, vii, xiv. 


responsible for everything, he would manage better if he were relieved 
from the necessity of discussing questions with a council. Let the 
government of India be vested solely in the viceroy and let him be 
able to appoint secretaries to assist him. He would consult the secre- 
tary of the department concerned as to particular business, and should 
there be a conflict of opinions, he would admit other secretaries to the 
discussion. To such an arrangement there were two objections — first 
the impossibility of leaving a glorified secretary to carry on the 
supreme government in Calcutta when the governor-general left the 
Bengal Presidency, and second the difficulty of providing for the 
conduct of relations with the legislative council and for the manage- 
ment of that council. He made suggestions for overcoming these 

Stanley was inchned to agree in principle and laid the matter before 
a committee of his council, which, on 23 May, 1859, decided by a 
considerable majority that the executive councils at Calcutta, Bombay 
and Madras, should all be remodelled on this basis. The "officers of 
the departmental secretariats" would be the responsible advisers or 
councillors of the governor-general and of local governors. But 
methods for carrying this idea into effect had still to be considered. 
On 18 June, 1859, Stanley gave place to Wood, who appointed a fresh 
committee to deal further with the matter. A majority of this com- 
mittee held that the main principle had been accepted. The govern- 
ment of India should be vested by law in the governor-general alone. 
He should be assisted by as many secretaries as might be thought 
necessary. The pay of each secretary would be 65,000 rupees per 

Secretaries would be nominated by the governor-general, subject . 
to confirmation in office by the secretary of state. The governor- n 
general would be able to consult any or all of his secretaries as he ' ^ 
pleased, but would take decisions himself. 

These resolutions, however, provoked strong memoranda from 
H. T. Prinsep, the protagonist of the Orientalists in 1835, who was 
now one of the dissentients. He pointed out that in fact Canning's 
proposals went far towards "unmitigated bureaucratic despotism", 
and that "for the sake of independence" the advisers of the governor- 
general or governor ought always to be selected by superior authority. 
He urged other considerations. The confidential reports of the two 
committees were sent out to India and were strongly criticised there, 
notably by Frere, who minuted on 29 December, i860, that what the 
governor-general had always wanted was not fewer and less re- 
sponsible but more and more responsible advisers, always preserving 
the power to act entirely on his own view without hindrance from 
their dissent. There should be a proper division of labour, each coun- 
cillor having his own department to which he could devote his con- 
tinuous attention instead of all consulting or pretending to consult 



on every matter, gieat or small, as used to be the theory and pretended / 
practice. Canning had already effected an improvement in pro-y/ 

In a letter to Wood of 15 May, i860, Frere had already urged that 
the proposals of the two Council of India committees would, if adopted, 
both add to the governor-general's work and seriously diminish his 
ability to do it. They would also tend to draw more power to England, 
rendering it impossible for the governor-general to take any important 
step without the approval of a majority of the council of the secretary 
of state, a most undesirable denouement as India was changing even 
faster than England and the Indian experience of even ten years ago 
was misleading. He did not speak of the experience of such statesmen 
as Mountstuart Elphinstone, whose wisdom was never obsolete. 

Frere showed his letters to Canning; and combined with actual / 
experience of intervention from the India Office his arguments went / 
far to change the viceroy's mind.^ Canning had introduced the port- / 
folio system of doing business into his council. The ordinary work of 1 
departments was now distributed among the members and only the 
more important cases were referred to the governor-general or dealt 
with collectively. Moreover the reform of th,e legislative council was 
now bulking largely before his eyes. In a letter to Wood of 4 February, 
1 86 1, he abandoned the proposal that secretaries should take the 
places of councillors. The main point would now be that each coun- 
cillor should be identified with a department and should be able to 
deal witii something more than technicahties. Boxes would no longer 
go round carrying papers which could be disposed of without circu- 
lation. *'We have", he wrote, "reformed ourselves a good deal, but 
I should like to see the new status of members recognised by Act of 
Parliament." The dispatch was going by that mail. The proposals 
were in "as quiet a form as possible". The reform of the legislative 
I council was "now far more pressing than that of the Executive 
j Council". 

Wood had originally contemplated a bill for each of these reforms 
but instead on 6 June, 1861, introduced one which dealt with both. 
The Mutiny, he said, had aggravated the difficulties of administration. 
In fact it would be folly to shut our eyes to the increasing difficulties 
of our position in India, and for this reason we should put all our 
institutions there on the soundest possible foundation. In the Lords 
Earl De Grey and Ripon,^ under-secretary of state, explained that 
the policy was "to limit the changes as much as possible and to make 
those only which experience showed to be necessary". 

The Councils Act of 186 1 (24 & 25 Vic. c. 74) established a governor- 
ll general's executive council of five ordinary members. In 1853 the 

* See Canning to Frere, 24 October, i860, Life of Frerey i, 358. 

2 Afterwards secretary of state for India, 1866; viceroy of India, 1880-4. Hansard, 
9 July, i86i,p. 586. 


legal member had been permitted to sit and vote at all council 
meetings. He had become a fourth ordinary member. But the dis- 
organisation of public finances caused by the Mutiny had led to the 
appointment of a trained financier as fourth member. A jurist, 
however, was also needed, as the law was in process of codification, 
and even the Penal Code, which had originally been drafted by 
Macaulay, was still incomplete, so a fifth member was added to the 
council. Of the five members three must have served the crown or 
the Company in India for not less than ten years. One of these was 
a military member, always a distinguished soldier; the other two were 
civil servants who up to the year 1859 had always been selected from 
the Bengal Presidency. The fourth member was a financial expert, 
who might or might not have served the crown or the Company 
previously; and the fifth or legal member was a barrister of England 
or Ireland, or a member of the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland of at 
least five years' standing. The commander-in-chief might be, and in 
practice always was, an extraordinary member who divided with the 
military member the responsibility for the military administration of 
the country. He was the executive head of the army and was charged 
with its organisation and preparation for war as well as with questions 
of promotion. His office was known as army headquarters and was 
distinct from the military department of the government which, ,. 
presided over by the military member, concerned itself with the I 
control of supply and transport, with ordnance, remounts, clothing, 
medical stores, military works and military finance, and above all 
with the preparation of the military budget. Proposals for military 
reform or expenditure went from army headquarters to the military 
department of the Government of India where they were noted on, 
and, if involving expenditure, further proceeded to the finance depart- 
ment. Finally they reached the viceroy through the military member 
of council. If the viceroy, the military member and the commander- 
in-chief were in general agreement, the proposals were carried out. 
But if there were disagreement a proposal was either referred back 
for further consideration or was laid before the governor-general in 
council, debated on, and accepted or rejected by a majority of votes. 

Every ordinary member of the governor-general's council, assisted 
by a secretary, under-secretaries and a sufficient office establishment, 
presided over certain departments of the central government. The 
governor-general himself held charge of the foreign department which 
conducted the correspondence of India with neighbouring powers ; 
he kept the London cabinet informed on questions of Asiatic policy , 
connected with India, and supervised the affairs of the native states. ^ 
The British representatives at the courts of ruling princes were the 
agents of the governor-general and not the representatives of the 
Government of India. 

The distribution of departments among ordinary members of 


council was a matter of custom, not of law. The act of 1861 conferred 
on the governor-general the power to make rules and orders for the 
more convenient transaction of business in his council other than the 
business at legislative meetings, and provided that every order made 
and every act done in accordance with such rules and orders must be 
treated as being the order or act of the governor-general in council . ^ 
Canning's reforms in the conduct of business were thus sanctioned by 
statute and the portfolio system was firmly established. Councillors 
were able to dispose of unimportant cases belonging to their depart- 
ments in the name of the Government of India. Cases in which two 
departments differed, or a member proposed to overrule a local 
government, or important issues were involved, were laid before the 
viceroy together with the views of the members in charge and of their 
secretaries. Differences of opinion between a member and the viceroy 
were referred to a full council, where decision was taken in accordance 
with the views of the majority. If opinions were equally divided the 
president had a casting vote. But if a measure were proposed which 
seemed to the governor-general to affect essentially the safety, tran- 
quillity or interests of "the British possessions in India", he could 
overrule the majority of his council. In such cases any two members 
of the dissentient majority might require the transmission to the 
secretary of state of the decision taken together with their minutes of 
dissent. This overruling power of the governor-general's, which came 
down from the acts of 1786 and 1793, was reaffirmed and slightly 
expanded by an act of 1870. But however widely the views of a 
\dceroy might originally differ from those of a majority of his coun- 
cillors, there was almost invariably a compelling desire for compro- 
mise. ^ 

If the governor-general in council declared it to be expedient that 
he should visit any part of India unaccompanied by his council, he 
could in council appoint a member to preside at meetings held in his 
absence, with all the powers of the governor-general except those 
relating to legislation.^ Should the governor-general be absent from 
a council meeting through indisposition, the senior ordinary member 

Thus the Government of India became a cabinet government pre- 
sided over by a governor-general, business being carried on depart- 
mentally and the governor-general taking a more active and particular 
share in it than is taken by a prime minister in a Western country or 
than had been taken by any of his predecessors. The system remained 
unaltered during our period. But a sixth ordinary member was 
provided, by act of parliament, in 1874, to preside over the depart- 

^ Ilbert, Digest, sec. 42 (2), p. 103. 

* See, for instance, Wolf, Life of Lord Ripon, 11, 50. Lord Curzon wrongly adds the aban- 
donment of Kandahar to the instances in which a viceroy overruled his council {op. cit. 

", 73)- 

• Ilbert, Government of India, pp. 187-8, clauses 45-6. 


ment of public works. In 1904, on the recommendation of the 
secretary of state, the power of appointing a member to this particular 
department was converted into a general power, and the public works 
member was replaced by a member for commerce and industry. 

The next change in the personnel of the council came after warm 
discussion and led to the resignation of Lord Curzon in 1905. The 
commander-in-chief, Lord Kitchener, had advocated the abolition of 
the military member and the replacement of the military department 
of the Government of India by an army department presided over by 
the commander-in-chief This proposal was strongly resisted by the 
viceroy and the ordinary members of his council on the ground that, 
if adopted, it would concentrate military authority in the hands of 
the commander-in-chief and would subvert the supremacy of the civil 
power by depriving it of independent military advice. Lord Kitchener, 
however, maintained his views, urging that proposals from the 
commander-in-chief should not reach the Government of India 
through any second military adviser, who must necessarily be his 
junior in rank and his inferior in experience. Eventually Lord 
Kitchener's contention was in substance accepted and was followed./ 
by Lord Curzon's resignation. The commander-in-chief became the ^ 
viceroy's sole adviser on all military questions. For a short period 
there was a military supply member of inferior status to the former 
military member; but this arrangement, as Lord Morley said, 
** proved good neither for administration nor economy". It ceased 
in 1909, and the vacancy at the council-board was filled in 1910 by 
a newly appointed member in charge of education and sanitation. 
For the closing years of our period and throughout the great war the 
council consisted of 

{a) the commander-in-chief (extraordinary), 

[b) the home member, 
/ [c) the financial member, 
' [d] the legal member, 

{e) the commerce and industry member, 

(/) the education member, 
all holding office for five years. 

In the year 1909, on the recommendation of the viceroy and the 
secretary of state, a distinguished Hindu barrister, Mr (afterwards 
Lord) Sinha, was appointed legal member by the crown. He was 
succeeded by a Muhammadan barrister; and when the latter had 
completed his term of office, a Hindu high court judge was appointed 
education member of the central executive. 

The viceroy and governor-general, although invested with para- 
mount power in India, was the governor-general in council and, 
unlike the secretary of state, possessed a very limited power of separate 
action. Rarely, however, did viceroys wish to dispense with the 
assistance of their colleagues. John Lawrence was much vexed by 


opposition from certain councillors; but he came to the viceroyalty 
a tired man/ had long been accustomed to govern alone in the 
Panjab, and was worried by the atmosphere of rapid evolution and 
frequent argument which he found in Calcutta. There is much truth 
in a sentence of Frere's on 20 March, 1868: 

no Governor-General since the time of Olive has had such power and opportunities ; 
but he fancies the want of progress is owing to some opposing power which only 
exists in his own imagination.^ 

Lord Minto complained on 3 July, 19 10, that he had 

constantly felt that he must depend upon himself alone with the exception of one 
or two advisers he had managed to secure and that the councillors sent him by 
Lord Morley were not only useless but mischievous. 

But Minto evidently wrote under the influence of intense irritation 
with a secretary of state who "arrogated to himself complete in- 
dependence" in making appointments to the council and would give 
little or no weight to the governor-generaFs objections.^ As a general 
rule, viceroys and their councillors were drawn together, not only by 
identity of aim but by force of circumstances, by the logic of the 
palpable facts which encompassed all alike. Unity was generally 
achieved, for without it lay no salvation. Thus we see one of the 
strongest of viceroys. Lord Northbrook, jealously upholding the 
statutory rights of his council and refusing to be led into courses 
which might infringe those rights.* We find Lord Ripon, even when 
fully conscious of serious differences which separated him from the 
majority of his councillors, observing "There is a very strong desire 
to support the Viceroy, of which I have much proof ".^ We see Lord 
Curzon emphasising the gain to a viceroy of acting with, and not 
without, his council,® and Lord Minto asserting, in opposition to 
Lord Morley, the right of the Government of India, as a body, to be 
consulted about the Anglo-Russian agreement.' There were ex- 
tremely few decisions for which the viceroy's council did not share 
responsibility with their president. Notable exceptions were the 
abolition of import duties on the coarser kinds of cotton cloths in 
Lord Lytton's days and the levy of a countervailing excise duty on 
Indian cotton goods in the time of Lord Elgin. In both instances the 
viceroy's action was due to pressure from the London cabinet; and 
on the second occasion his council protested so strongly against a 
measure which they considered unjust to Indian interests that the 
secretary of state. Sir Henry Fowler, considered it necessary to convey 
a weighty warning. 

* Bosworth Smith, Life of Lord Lawrence y ii, 429-41, 589. 

* Life ofFrere, n, 40 (Frere to Florence Nightingale). 
' Buchan, Memoir of Lord Minto, p. 31 1. 

* See Mallet, Life of Lord Northbrook, p. 91. 

^ Wolf, op. cit. II, 50. ' Curzon, op. cit. 11, 74, 1 12-19. 

' Morley, Recollections y 11," 178-9. 


"A Government", he wrote, "whether in Downing Street or Calcutta, must act 
as a homogeneous body, not as representing certain political opinions, but as 
representing an executive authority which cannot act, whether in administration 
or legislation, efficiently unless they act unitedly. . . . The existing law subjects the 
Government of India to the control of the Imperial Government, and the Secretary 
of State, who exercises that control, is responsible to Parliament. He cannot hold 
office if the House of Commons disapproves of his official conduct. India is by the Act of 
Parliament governed by and in the name of the Queen, and she governs by the 
advice of a responsible minister. ... So long as any matter of administration or 
policy is undecided, every member of the Government of India is at liberty to 
express an opinion; but when once a certain line of policy has been adopted under 
the direction of the Cabinet, it becomes the clear duty of every member of the 
Government of India to consider not what that policy ought to be, but how effect 
may best be given to the policy that has been decided on ; and if any member of 
that Government is unable to do this, there is only one alternative open to him. . . . 
The Cabinet have decided that the English precedent applies, and therefore that 
the members of the (Viceroy's) Executive Council must, just as members of the 
Cabinet do here, vote together (at legislative meetings) in support of Government 
measures. If they are unable to do this, then the English precedent applies and the 
objecting Member resigns before he either abstains from voting or votes against 
the measure."^ 

These instructions were followed by the governor-general's coun- 
cillors; but time brings its revenges, and in 1916 the reversal of the 
policy imposed on the Government of India in 1 894 was initiated by 
that government and assented to by the secretary of state. 

— The New Legislative Councils — 

No government can govern effectively unless it can legislate. The 
subject of machinery for legislation was anxiously considered in 
Calcutta and in London. In 1853 Wood, as president of the Board of 
Control, had proposed and carried through parliament a measure 
designed to provide that the governor-general's council, enlarged for 
legislative purposes, should be simply a body which would assist the 
supreme government in making laws.^ But Dalhousie started this 
body off with 136 standing orders and a Hansard of its own. Its 
debates were public. Of its additional members one was the Chief 
Justice of Bengal, another was one of the judges of the Supreme 
Court. The remaining additional members were officials from distant 
provinces who were not indisposed to import fresh ideas into the close 
atmosphere of Calcutta.^ Somewhat to the consternation of Wood 
the council soon showed signs of considering itself "the nucleus of a 
constitutional parliament".* Dalhousie, one of the most arbitrary of 
governors-general, had viewed the prospect with no qualms.^ But, 
as time went on, his successor found the debates sometimes embar- 
rassing. He thought it "to be regretted that the Council was on its 

^ Mrs R. Hamilton, Life of Lord Wolverhampton, pp. 315-17. 

2 Wood to Dalhousie, 23 December, 1854 (Lee- Warner, Life of Dalhousie, 11, 237). 

^ See Life of Frere, p. 309. 

* See speech by Lord Ripon, under-secretary of state, Lords' Debates, 9 July, 1861. 

^ See Lee-Warner, op. cit. 11, 234-5. 


first creation invested with forms and modes of procedure so closely 
resembling Parliament".^ Frere, who had to pilot government bills 
through the council, agreed and considered that the judges did the 
mischief 2 In writing to the secretary of state he illustrated this view 
and found his correspondent entirely sympathetic. The existing 
council must go. But what was to take its place? Even as late as 
i8 February, 1861, Wood was uncertain. No one in 1853, he wrote, 
had dreamt of "a debating body with open doors and even quasi- 
independence". Lord Dalhousie began wrongly and everything had 
gone in the direction of fostering the notion of the council's being "an 
independent legislative body ". It was all wrong and very unfortunate 
because there was always a sympathy in England for independent 
deliberation. Representative bodies, in any real sense, were impossible 

^ in India, and he did not think that "any external element would 
really do good". It might satisfy the English at Calcutta to have an 
English merchant or planter in the council, but he was not sure that 
it would improve the legislation ; and Indians could not be put in who 
were "in any sense the exponents of active opinion, or who could take 
any part in the deliberations". 

Frere, on 10 April, 1861, drew a vivid picture of racial tension 
which had followed on the Mutiny and of European non-official 
impatience of official legislation, urging strongly that it was impossible 
to recede^ and that, in view of the courseof events since 1853, Dalhousie 
was in the main right. Had he not taken the line which he took, 
things would have been worse than they were. The proper course 
now was to assist the viceroy with a sort of senate able to advise him 
in framing laws which could be of general application to all parts of 
India and in confirming or annulling laws shaped by the provincial 
legislatures which had been abolished in 1833 but must now be 
restored. Whether "any external (legislative) element" on the 
governor-general's council would really do any good or not was no 

V longer a debatable question. Such an external element was essential. 

"The days", he wrote, "are gone when you could govern India without much 
caring what the Europeans and Europeanised community say or think of your 
measures, and unless you have some barometer and safety-valve in the shape of 
a deliberative Council, I believe you will always be liable to very unlooked for and 
dangerous explosions.'* 

He also urged that the new legislative bodies would make fatal 
mistakes unless they were assisted by Indian members.* 

Canning agreed with Frere, and Wood largely accepted these views, 
but in a pessimistic mood. Writing to Frere on 17 August, 1861, he 
ended thus: 

^ The governor-general to the secretary of state, 9 December, 1859. 

* Frere to Wood, 21 April, i86i {Life of Frere y i, 331. See also pp. 327 and 356). 

* Correspondence, Life of Frere ^ i, 336. 

* Idem f pp. 336-41. 


The future government of India is a problem of the most serious import, utterly 
unexampled in history, and one of which it seems to me very difficult to foresee the 

In addressing the House of Commons on 6 June, 1 86 1 , ^ he had pointed . 
out the impossibility of reverting to a system by which the executive / 
government alone legislated for India. Nor could the English in India 
have a representative body to frame the laws by which they should 
be governed. It was equally impossible to assemble in India in one 
place persons who would be real representatives of the various classes 
of the Indian populations. The residents of the towns no more 
represented the general Indian population than a highly educated 
native of London represented a highland chieftain or a feudal baron 
of six centuries ago. The legislative arrangements which he proposed 
were based on Canning's recommendations. They became law and 
were these. 

For purposes of legislation the council of the governor-general was 
reinforced by additional members, not less than six or more than 
twelve, nominated by the governor-general and holding office for two 
years. Of these additional members not less than one-half were non- 
official (in no government service). Should the council meet for 
legislative purposes within a lieutenant-governor's province, the 
lieutenant-governor became an additional member. The functions of , 
the council when meeting for legislative purposes were strictly limited i 
to the consideration and enactment of laws. It could transact no V 
other business. It could entertain no motion except one for leave to 
introduce a bill or having reference to a bill actually introduced. 
Measures relating to the public revenue or public debt, religion, j 
military or naval matters, or foreign relations could be introduced 
only with the sanction of the governor-general. His assent was re- 1 
quired to every act passed by the council ; and any such act might be 
disallowed by the sovereign, acting through the secretary of state. 
While the legislative power of the governor-general in council was 
wide, it should not affect certain parliamentary enactments, or the 
general authority of parliament, or any part of the unwritten laws or 
constitution of the United Kingdom whereon the allegiance of the 
subject or the sovereignty of the crown might depend. In order to 
remove all doubts respecting the validity of rules or regulations 
sanctioned by executive orders of the governor-general in council 
for the more lately annexed or non-regulation provinces, a clause was 
introduced declaring that no such rules or regulations should be 
deemed invalid by reason of not having been made in conformity with 
the provisions of the charter renewal acts. 

Mr A. H. (afterwards Sir Henry) Layard proposed in the House 
of Commons to insert an injunction directing that a certain number 
of the additional members of the council, when sitting as a legislative 

^ Hansard, clxiii, 638-9. 



body, should be natives of India. ^ But the secretary of state con- 
sidered it undesirable to make statutory distinction in this connection 
between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects. ^ Some of the 
additional members appointed would certainly be natives of India. 

The act conferred on the governor-general one power of a novel 
/character. He was enabled to frame and issue on emergency, without 
his council, ordinances which would not remain in force for more than 
six months. Such a power had been urgently required on certain 
occasions in 1857-8. Long afterwards ordinances were resorted to in 
the first month of the great war, when the legislative council was 
not sitting and immediate action was required in certain directions. 
The power of issuing ordinances was vested in the governor-general 
alone in order that the responsibility might be solely his. But the 
reasons for such exceptional procedure should always be recorded and 
should be submitted to Her Majesty's Government together with the 
ordinance itself.^ 

The power of legislation which had been taken from the governors 

in council of Madras and Bombay by the Charter Act of 1833 ^^^ 

restored in 1861. For legislative purposes these councils also were 

expanded by additional members. No line of demarcation was drawn 

between subjects reserved for the central and those allotted to the 

local legislatures ; but while local legislation in certain cases could not 

be undertaken without sanction from the governor-general, all acts of 

local legislatures required his subsequent assent as well as that of the 

local governor and were subject to disallowance by the crown. The 

I governor-general was directed to establish a legislative council in 

Bengal and empowered to set up similar councils in the North- 

j Western Provinces and the Panjab when the time was ripe. Councils 

> were established in Bengal in 1862, in the North- Western Provinces 

in 1886, and in the Panjab and Burma in 1898. 

The legislative councils established by the act of 186 1 were com- 
mittees by means of which the executive government obtained advice 
and help in legislation. \Vhile the government enacted the laws 
through its council, the public had a right to make itself heard, and 
the executive was able to defend its legislation. When the laws were 
u once made they were binding on the government as well as on the 
^ \ public. They had been made in a manner which ensured publicity 
.A y and discussion and could only be changed by the deliberate and 
* public process by which they had been made. The councils could only 
deliberate on the legislation immediately at issue. They could not call 
for information on other subjects or impugn acts of the administra- 

In the year 1870 there was a discussion^ between Lord Mayo's 

•'*. Hansard, CLxra, 1016, 18 June, 1861. * Idem, p. 1027. 

» Ilbert, Digest, pp. 215-16, 566, para. 26, Wood's dispatch of 9 August, 1861. 
* See Report on Constitutional Reforms, 191 8, p. 54. 
' See Accounts and Papers, 15, East India, 1876, LVi, 6-10. 


government and the Duke of Argyll, then secretary of state, the former 
claiming that they had been endowed by section 22 of the 1861 
Councils Act with legislative discretion which they should exercise to 
the best of their judgment. The secretary of state could, of course, 
disallow any law which they passed. They could not, however, he expected 
to introduce any measure of which they disapproved. 

Any other view would invest the Secretary of State with the character of the 
legislator for British India and would convert the Legislative Council into a mere 
instrument to be used by him for that purpose. 

On 24 November, 1870, the duke replied that theoretical incon- 
veniences were inseparably connected with the working of such a 
machinery of government as that through which the empire of India 
was ruled from England, but these could in practice be reduced to 
a minimum by mutual respect on the part of those concerned. One 
great principle underlay the whole system. The final control and direction of Ij 
1/ affairs in India rested with the Home Government. It made no real difference ' 
f^if its directions related to legislative affairs. If the crown's interposition 
were limited to a veto on acts passed in India, the queen's government 
would be helpless to secure legislative sanction for any measures, 
however essential it might deem them to be, for the welfaie or safety 
of the Indian Empire. It followed, then, that this government must 
hold in its hands the ultimate power of requiring the governor- 
general to introduce a measure and requiring the members of the 
Indian government to vote for it. This was the practice in all parts 
of the queen's dominions where the authority of the legislative body 
was not derived from the principle of popular representation. It 
was a question of abstract right, not of ordinary procedure. It was 
only necessary to bear in mind where the seat of ultimate authority 
was placed in order to secure on both sides that fairness and modera- 
tion without which no political constitution could work with smooth- 
ness and success. Lord Mayo's government on i February, 1871, 
accepted this doctrine, as it defined a principle which they had never 
intended to question; they were glad, however, to hear that the 
ruling would not be applied to ordinary procedure but only "with 
great deliberation and on the rarest occasions". 

The enlargements of the legislative councils in 1892, 1909 and 191 9 
are described in later chapters. Those of 1892 were made in response 
to the demands of "^a limited but important section of Indian opinion " 
and established the fact of election to the councils by certain public 
bodies ; but the government nominated a majority of the members of 
each council and maintained official majorities on the ground that no 
administration which did not possess sufficient power to carry out 
whatever measures it considered to be for the public interest could 
remain at the head of affairs among the different Indian nationalities.^ 

^ See Lord Dufferin's picture of the India of his day, Report on Constitutional Reforms, 
1918, p. 117. 


The Morley-Minto reforms were the first real breach in the system 
of 1 86 1. The king's proclamation of 2 November, 1908, had an- 
nounced that "the principle of representative institutions which had 
from the first been gradually introduced" would now be "prudently 
extended". The reforms conceded non-official majorities on the 
provincial legislative councils composed mainly of elected members, 
but also of persons nominated by the governments concerned. They 
allowed any member to divide his council on financial questions and 
all councils to discuss matters of public importance and to make re- 
commendations to the executive governments. But on the imperial 
legislative council the official majority was retained. This reservation 
was justified by Morley on the ground that the new councils were not 
designed to pave the way to the establishment of a parliamentary 
system, a goal to which he would not "for one moment aspire".^ But 
by establishing non-official majorities on provincial legislative councils 
and by admitting an Indian gentleman to a seat on the governor- 
general's executive council, the core of authority in India, a step 
which was taken, with some searchings of heart, ^ on the viceroy's 
recommendation, the way was prepared for further developments 
which were to follow with unexpected rapidity under the pressure of 
movements which are described in later chapters. 

The Provincial Governments 

The following are now the major provmces of British India : 

Province Population (1921) 

Madras 42,300,000 

Bengal 46,700,000 

United Provinces of Agra and Oudh 45,600,000 
Bihar and Orissa ... ... ... 34,000,000 

Bombay 19,300,000 

Assam ... ... ... 7,600,000 

Panjab 20,700,000 

Central Provinces and Berar ... 13,900,000 
Bm-ma 13,200,000 

The minor provinces are: 

The North-West Frontier Province 2,250,000 

British Baluchistan 422,000 

Ajmer-Merwara 496,000 

Coorg ... ... ... 164,000 

Andaman and Nicobar Islands ... 27,000 

Delhi 486,000 

Thus the total population of British territory in India is 247 millions. 

Between the years 1858 and 1918 changes were made in the titles, 
boundaries and governments of certain provinces originally without 
any friction or difficulty, but on one occasion resented by a local 

* Morley, Indian Spucfus, p. 9a. ' See Morley, RecolUctions, 11, 301-3. 


government^ and on another raising an unexpected but violent storm 
of local fury. 2 

Madras and Bombay remained under a governor in council 
throughout. Distinguished by the traditions of their old independence 
and by the presence of great seaports, they still retained some relics of 
their original pri\dleges. Each government could correspond directly 
with the secretary of state if no financial considerations were involved. 
Each could appeal to him against orders of the Government of India 
and possessed full discretion in selecting men for important provincial 
offices. Both were less liable to supervision than other provinces in 
the administration of forests and land-revenue. In 1909, under the 
Morley-Minto reforms, the executive council of the governor in each 
was increased by the addition of an Indian member. In emergencies 
the governor could overrule his colleagues, but ordinarily questions 
were decided by majority votes. 

Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam remained under one lieutenant- 
governor until 1874, when Assam was constituted a separate province 
and placed under a chief commissioner. 

In the year 1 905 Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam were converted 
by the ill-fated "Partition" into two provinces under lieutenant- 
governors, one composed of Western Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the 
other of Eastern Bengal and Assam. In 19 10 the lieutenant-governor 
of Western Bengal was given an executive council of two British civil 
servants and one Indian non-official. 

In 191 1 Lord Curzon's partition was set aside. The two new pro- 
vinces became three. Bengal became the charge of a governor in 
council; Bihar and Orissa were placed under a lieutenant-governor 
in council ; Assam was entrusted to a chief commissioner. 

At the commencement of our period the present United 
Provinces of Agra and Oudh were two pro\dnces under separate 
administrations. The Agra Province was known as the North- 
Western Provinces and was under a lieutenant-governor. Oudh was 
the charge of a chief commissioner. In 1877 the offices of lieutenant- 
governor of the North- Western Provinces and chief commissioner of 
Oudh were united in the same person. In 1902 the provinces were 
named the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in order to avoid all 
confusion between their title and that of the then newly-created 
North- West Frontier Province. 

The chief commissioner of the Panjab became a lieutenant- 
governor in 1859. In 1 90 1 the frontier districts of the Panjab beyond 
the Indus were formed into a separate charge under a chief com- 
missioner and called the North- West Frontier Province. 

The Central Provinces were formed in 1861 by combining the 
Sagor and Narbada territories with the Nagpur territories in one 
charge under a chief commissioner. Berar was placed under the same 

^ See Ronaldshay, Life of Lord Curzon, vol. ii, chap. viii. * Idem, chap. xxiv. 


administration when, in 1902, it was leased in perpetuity to the 
British by the Nizam of Hyderabad. 

Lower Burma became the charge of a chief commissioner in 
i860. In 1886 the kingdom of Upper Burma was added to it after 
the third Burmese War, and the whole was called the province of 
Burma. In 1897 the chief commissioner became a lieutenant- 

The six minor provinces are under chief commissioners. The North- 
West Frontier Province was carved out of the Panjab in 1901. British 
Baluchistan was incorporated in British India in 1887. The Andaman 
and the Nicobar Islands were united under a chief commissioner in 
1872. The city of Delhi with a small area surrounding it was con- 
stituted an "administrative enclave" under a chief commissioner in 
1 91 2 when the imperial capital was transferred there from Calcutta. 

Relations between the Central and the 
Provincial Governments 

The central government necessarily kept in its own hands functions 
which concerned the whole empire. It also exercised financial, 
legislative and administrative control over the provincial govern- 

The Charter Act of 1833 had centralised the administration of the 
country's finances in the hands of the Government of India, The act 
of 1858 vested the superintendence of the revenues and expenditure 
of the country in the secretary of state in council. More than 
5(^42,000,000 were added to the public debt by the troubles of 1857-8 ; 
all branches of the administration needed reorganisation, and im- 
provements of every kind were called for. An efficient system of 
public accounts and strict financial control was absolutely necessaiy ; 
and James Wilson, financial secretary to the treasury, was dispatched 
to India as member of the governor-generars council and lived just 
long enough to lay the foundations of a system under which the 
central government was to retain in its own hands an extensive 
measure of financial control. Rules of great stringency were imposed. 
But the central government possessed neither time nor knowledge 
sufficient to exercise such far-reaching responsibility in many details 
which should have been left to the discretion of local governments ; 
and much wrangling and waste of time resulted from these rigid 
arrangements. For some years the central government, which was 
itself subject to the secretary of state in all such matters as related 
to borrowing, changes of taxation and general fiscal policy, main- 
tained this meticulous control. But friction increased; and after 
careful deliberation, a system of financial decentralisation was in- 
augurated by Lord Mayo which was afterwards developed with 
beneficial effect. Even at the end of our period, however, special 


revenues were assigned to each province by the central government, 
and were shown with corresponding expenditure in the imperial 
budget while each provincial budget required the approval of the 
central government, whose sanction was requisite for proposals in- 
volving large expenditure and the creation of posts. The responsi- 
bility of that government to the secretary of state was firmly insisted 
on. In 1907 Lord Morley appointed a Decentralisation Commission 
to simplify relations between the central government and its sub- 
ordinate and co-ordinate parts ; but this body proposed no material 
change in financial relations between the central and provincial 
governments. The secretary of state himself continued to hold the 
central government in strict financial subordination. He watched 
the expenditure of Indian revenues "as the ferocious dragon of the 
old legend watched the golden apples".^ Held in such rigid sub- 
ordination, expected to keep down provincial charges, sharing in 
provincial proceeds, controlling provincial taxation, the central 
government could not effectively decentralise finance. 

While legislating for British India, that government also controlled / 
provincial legislation. Local legislatures, however, made laws "for / 
the peace and good government" of their provinces on condition that 1/ 
no such laws affected any act of parliament, or, without previous ^ 
sanction, any act of the governor-generars legislative council. They 
could not, without the previous permission of the governor-general 
in council, consider any law affecting the religion or religious rites 
and usages of any class of British subjects in India, or regulating 
patents or copyright, or affecting the relations of the government with 
foreign princes or states. Their discretion was further curtailed by the 
fact that the field open to them was largely covered by acts of the 
imperial legislative council. That body still exercised its powers in , 
matters which were handled for all provinces on uniform lines such ' 
as Penal and Procedure Codes, laws for prisons and police, for forests, 
mines, factories and the preservation of the public health. Every 
local act required the subsequent assent of the governor-general; and 
local governments submitted all projects for legislation to the central 
government and secretary of state for approval. Provincial legisla- 
tures were still in theory expansions of the executive government for 
the purpose of law-making. ^ 

Every provincial government was required to obey the orders of . 
the governor-general in council, and to keep him constantly and / 
diligently informed of its administrative proceedings and of allW 
matters which ought to be reported to him. He was required by 
statute to control all its proceedings.^ The reasons for so much cen- 
tralisation of authority are thus explained in the Montagu-Chelmsford 

^ Morley, Indian Speeches, p. 46. ^ Report on Constitutional Reforms, 191 8, p. 98. 

^ Seesection45, Government of India Act, 1 91 5 (which consolidated all previous statutes) . 

CHI VI i6 


It is easy to see that in many respects India is one single and undivided country, 
in which much work must be done on uniform lines. The main Services which 
execute the orders of provincial governments have been recruited from England 
on terms guaranteed by the Secretary of State, with the result that many questions 
affecting them cannot be determined by any provincial government. Again the 
development of trade and industry and science throughout India has favoured the 
tendency at headquarters to formulate and pursue a uniform policy. Business and 
industry might be seriously hampered if (even with one law for India) the provinces 
were left to administer such matters as statistics, patents, copyright, insurance, 
income-tax, explosives or mining on different lines. Particularly in the more 
scientific spheres — such as bacteriology, or agricultural and veterinary science — 
advance has tended to concentration, because the expert services were much too 
small to be organised on a provincial basis, and also because the experience and 
resources of any one institution would not be fully used unless they were placed at 
the disposal of the whole country. Moreover in the past the Government of India 
have regarded themselves as distinctly charged with the duty of framing policy 
and inspiring reforms for the whole of India. ^ 

The central government, with the sanction of the secretary of state, 
frequently appointed commissions of enquiry to report on such 
questions of grave concern as famine, irrigation, police or education. 
After consultation with provincial governments regarding recom- 
mendations contained in the reports of such commissions the Govern- 
ment of India formulated decisions which were often accompanied 
by grants earmarked for the purpose of carrying out reforms. Such 
reforms sometimes included the appointment of new advising or 
inspecting officers at headquarters and then tended to encourage 
interference with local discretion. In any case the report of a com- 
mission enabled the central government to take careful stock of a 
critical situation, and to shape new policy. 

The whole position was aptly summed up by Lord Morley's 
Decentralisation Commission: 

Among the important matters which the Central Government retain in their 
own hands are those relating to foreign affairs, the defences of the country, general 
taxation, currency, debt, tariffs, posts and telegraphs, railways and accounts and 
auditing. Ordinary internal administration, police, civil and criminal justice, 
prisons, the assessment and collection of the revenues, education, medical and 
sanitary arrangements, irrigation, buildings and roads, forests and the control over 
municipal and rural boards fall to the share of provincial governments. But even 
in these matters the Government of India exercise a general and constant control. 
They lay down lines of policy and test their application from the administration 
reports and returns relating to the main departments under the Local Governments. 
They also employ expert officers to inspect and advise upon a number of depart- 
ments which are primarily administered by the Local Governments, including 
Agriculture, Irrigation, Forests, Medical, Sanitation, Education, Excise and Salt, 
Printing and Stationery, and Archaeology. 

The control of the Government of India is, moreover, not confined to prescription 
of policy and to action taken upon reports and inspections. It assumes more specific 
forms. They scrutinise, and when necessary, modify the annual budgets of the 
Local Governments. Every newly created appointment of importance, every 
material alteration in service grades, has to receive their specific approval, and in 
many cases reference to the Secretary of State is likewise necessary. . . . Moreover 

^ Report on Constitutional Reforms ^ 191 8, p. 99. 


the general conditions of Government Service, such as leave, pension and travelling 
allowance rules, and the Public Works and Forest Codes are all strictly prescribed 
by the Central Government, either suo motu or on instruction from the Secretary 
of State. Lastly there is a wide field of appeal to the Government of India, as also 
the Secretary of State, from persons who may deem themselves aggrieved by the 
action of a Local Government. 

The essential point to be borne in mind is that at present, even in matters pri- 
marily assigned to the Provincial Governments, these act as agents of the Govern- 
ment of India who exercise a very full and constant check over their proceedings. 

Public policy and legislation were everywhere controlled by the 
central government which was, in its turn, dominated by its re- 
sponsibility to parliament through the secretary of state. Both policy 
and laws were latterly much influenced by Indian councillors; but 
the last word and the whole responsibility lay with the British govern- 
ment. The basic principle was defined by Lord Dufferin: 

It is absolutely necessary, not merely for the maintenance of our own power, but 
for the good government of the country and for the general content of all classes, 
and especially of the people at large, that England should never abdicate the supreme 
control of public affairs, or delegate to a minority or a class, the duty of providing 
for the diversified communities over which she rules. ^ 

Tradition and practice operated to demarcate "spheres of in- 
fluence" for the central and the provincial governments, but the 
demarcation was neither clear-cut nor legally recognised. As the 
major provinces were really different countries, their governments 
necessarily exercised considerable liberty in the- management of 
domestic affairs. Differences of opinion periodically arose as to the 
lengths to which this liberty should go. Provincial governors sometimes 
complained of vexatious interference. ^ Lord Curzon, on the other 
hand, complained in 1901 that in respect of educational policy the 
local governments had become a "sort of heptarchy", and at another 
time proposed to reduce Madras and Bombay to the status of pro- 
vinces in the charge of lieutenant-governors.^ Yet no constitution can 
work successfully in a sub-continent so vast and various as India which 
does not concede a large degree of discretion to provincial rulers. The 
best of these were willing to trust their executive officers ; and they 
were certainly justified in expecting a generous measure of confidence 
from their own superiors. This, as a rule, they received; but we find 
Lord Morley writing to Lord Minto on 15 July, 1909: 

All that you say about lieutenant-governors fills me with sympathy, compre- 
hension and holy rage. You have now three capable men below you, each of them 
bent in a more or less quiet way on having his head, and each entitled to have his 
views respectfully considered, and nine times out of ten probably right, but the 
tenth time capable of bringing things into a dangerous mess. And then there is 
the weak man, who is a greater nuisance than the strong uppish man.* 

Lord Sydenham illustrates Morley's reluctance to rely on the con- 

^ Lyall, Life of Dufferin, ii, 203. 

2 Life of Frere, i, 441-2; Lord Sydenham, My Working Life, pp. 229-31, also 247. 

* Ronaldshay, op. cit. 11, 57-60, 416. * Morley, Recollections, 11, 263. 



victions of responsible rulers in personal and daily touch with facts ^ 
and realities. Morley certainly carried this feeling to excessive 
lengths. A uniform policy which sets the time for all subordinates is 
obviously necessary. But India is still the country of which Wood 
said in 1853, "On nearly all sides I find that there is the greatest 
difference between its various parts". Diversity of circumstances 
renders general conditions difficult to arrive at ; and provincial rulers 
who are not backward in pressing their convictions, even at the cost 
of jarring on doctrines and theories conceived in a very different 
atmosphere, are entitled to a full and unbiassed hearing. It is still 
true that 

there can be no successful government in India unless the fundamental fact of the 
immense diversities of Indian countries and peoples be recognised, and each great 
province be administered by its own separate government with a minimum of 
interference from outside.^ 

The Last Word 

We have seen the secretary of state growing in stature as years went 
by, anxious at times to play an energetic part in the actual governing 
of India, and reluctant to think that after all this must be the task of 
the men on the spot. Throughout our period it was the central and 
provincial governments who, working through the officers of the public 
services among vast Asiatic communities split into thousands of 
sections and possessed of traditions and usages of immemorial an- 
tiquity, gave shape and living form to the policies of distant parlia- 
ments and cabinets. It was they who brought India through the 
supreme trial of more than four years of a world-wide war. It was 
the governor-general in council who designed the arrangements of 
1 86 1, initiated the discussions which led to the constitutional changes 
of 1892 and 1909, and suggested the momentous declaration of 
20 August, 191 7, although he did not frame its terms. 

In Lord Birkenhead's words of 5 November, 1929,^ we find an 
echo of the Duke of Argyll's dispatch of 1870. 

"The authority and position of the secretary of state", said the late holder of 
that office, "are complementary of the authority and position of the viceroy. 
Sometimes the special atmosphere in which the viceroy lives, or the wholly different 
atmosphere in which the secretary of state lives, may be the corrective of a rash 
impulse, whether that be formed in Delhi or in Whitehall." 

Differences of opinion, he added, must sometimes arise between these 
high authorities. With good will on both sides these were almost 
invariably accommodated. The last word necessarily rested with the 
representative of the cabinet and parliament of this country. It is 
much to be regretted that so great a public servant as Lord Curzon 
found it so hard to accept this obvious consideration. But only on 
these terms can viceroys discharge their heavy and harassing re- 

^ My Working Life^ p. 226. * Strachey, India, p. 64. ' Hansard, Lords Debates. 




X HE sixty years which followed the suppression of the Mutiny were 
in Bengal years of rapidly increasing population, of growing wealth, 
of expanding communications, of widely extending knowledge and 
contact with Western ideas. In spite of a daily burden of increasing 
case-work, district officers and their subordinates were constantly 
called on to make fresh efforts in new directions, to push forward 
education, vaccination, sanitary improvement, local self-government, 
to throw all their energies into carrying out schemes devised by higher 
authority. But before proceeding with the history of district adminis- 
tration, we must observe the succession of changes which finally 
transformed the old Lower Provinces (Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and 
Assam) into the modern provinces of {a) Bengal, {b) Bihar and 
Orissa, and {c) Assam. 

The first of these changes was the transfer of Assam in 1874 from 
the charge of the lieutenant-governor of Bengal to that of a separate 
chief commissioner. The next in 1905 was the partition of Bengal, 
Bihar and Orissa into two new provinces of Western Bengal, Bihar 
and Orissa and Eastern Bengal and Assam. Each of these charges 
was committed to a lieutenant-governor ; and the lieutenant-governor 
of the western province was from 1910 assisted by an executive council 
which consisted of two British members and one Indian. In 191 2 
Assam was again handed over to a chief commissioner ; Bihar and 
Orissa were entrusted to a lieutenant-governor in council; and 
Bengal was made over to a governor in council. Each executive 
council consisted of two British members of the civil service and a 
non-official Indian gentleman. 

We have seen that from 1859 the magistrate-and-collector, or 
district officer, once more became sole head of the district. The police 
were his subordinates, although from 1861 they were managed and 
disciplined by a British superintendent, often supported by an as- 
sistant superintendent. These officers and their men belonged to a 
provincial force which was presided over by an inspector-general and 
two or more deputy inspectors-general with whom the district officer 
constantly corresponded. He also conducted business with the 
director of public instruction, with the opium agent, with the chief 
engineer, and, as time went on and communications extended, with 
the heads of other departments which gradually came into being, 
such as excise, jails, sanitation, land records. He had long been 
subordinate to a commissioner, but now was menaced by a variety of 


masters. Such a state of affairs was likely to lead to overmuch corre- 
spondence, to neglect of the real work of administration and to loss 
of touch with the needs of the people of his charge. Perceiving the 
danger, George Campbell, lieutenant-governor from 1871 to 1874, 
laid down emphatically the principle that heads of departments were 
on no account to dictate to district officers, who within their charges 
should, subject to the control of their commissioners, be supreme over 
everyone and everything except the courts of justice. The police, who 
were then their sole agency for all purposes connected with the peace, 
order and conservancy of their districts, the regulation of public 
assembUes and other administrative matters, must be employed with 
discrimination. Campbell was anxious to devise some other sub- 
ordinate agency which would relieve the police of such miscellaneous 
duties as attention to the state of the roads ; but he did not succeed 
in an attempt to do this. There was in Bengal no village record system, 
no collection of revenue by subdi visional Indian officials. It was, 
therefore, impossible to find sufficient employment for a new sub- 
ordinate executive establishment. 

The great and growing city of Calcutta was not included in a 
district, although it formed part of the charge of the commissioner of 
the principal or presidency division. Its stamps and customs were 
under the direct superintendence of the Board of Revenue. It 
possessed a special police establishment under the control of a special 
commissioner assisted by deputy commissioners. Criminal justice was 
administered by five stipendiary magistrates, and by a municipal 
magistrate appointed to try exclusively offences under the municipal 

Honorary magistrates had been appointed in some districts of the 
Lower Provinces in the year 1857 in order that the services and in- 
fluence of land-holders and resident non-official Europeans might be 
actively enUsted in support of the administration. Indigo planters in 
Bihar had in that stormy time been authorised to raise small bodies 
of police for the protection of their immediate neighbourhoods^ and 
in command of these had done good service. In 1859, when the 
' Mutiny was over, Sir Frederick Halliday abolished honorary magis- 
tracies ; but their value had been proved and on the suggestion of the 
Government of India, his successor. Sir John Peter Grant, appointed 
forty-five honorary magistrates in Calcutta and forty-five more in the 
mufassal or outlying districts. All of these were zamindars, European 
planters, or other persons of position ; they were generally invested 
\i with power to try minor cases only, and nowhere exercised control 
over the police. The system was extended in 1872-3 by Sir George 
Campbell, and again in 1889 by Sir Stuart Bayley, with a view to 
promoting habits of self-government. Benches of honorary magis- 
trates were estabHshcd in municipalities. Much good work was done 

^ Buck] and, Bengal under the Lieutenant-Governors y i, 74. 


by the honorary magistrates, and an accumulating burden of litiga- 
tion was somewhat lightened. 

Municipal boards and local cess committees, established at first 
under strict official control with very limited powers, developed in 
the 'eighties into municipal and district boards with wider responsi- 
bilities, containing an official element and generally presided over by 
district officers. Innovations transplanted from the West, they were 
at first hardly appreciated or understood except in large centres of 
population where municipal boards formed "an oasis of popular 
control in the midst of an official system",^ concerning themselves ^ 
with roads, schools, hospitals, sanitation and vaccination. The district 
boards excited no popular interest partly perhaps because no attempt 
was made to graft them on to the village ^^ chaukidarV^ panchayats, or 
councils of five, whose duties were still confined to assessment and 
collection of the local police rate levied for payment of the village 
chaukidars (watchmen). 

Civil and criminal courts were subject to the jurisdiction of the 
Calcutta High Court of Judicature which was established by letters 
patent on 14 May, 1862, and took the place of the old Supreme Court 
and the Company's "Sadr Adalat". Small cause courts for the trial 
of civil suits were set up in i860 under judges, who in 1867 were 
amalgamated with the "Principal Sadr Amins" and the munsiffs^ in 
a single provincial department, the higher grade of which was com- 
posed of "subordinate judges", and the lower oimunsiffs. The district 
and sessions judge presided over the civil and criminal courts of a 
district; but the district officer was expected to watch and supervise 
generally the proceedings of his subordinate magistrates. By Act X 
of 1859, to which we shall refer later on, original jurisdiction in suits 
between landlord and tenant was transferred from the civil courts to 
the (revenue) courts of the collector and his assistants. But this 
arrangement was cancelled by Act VHI of 1869 when suits for rent or 
ejectment of tenants returned to the civil courts. Suits and cases, the 
whole volume of work transacted by district establishments, increased 
very greatly during our period, particularly in Eastern Bengal, and 
led to proposals for the partition of certain districts which at first 
excited little or no popular opposition. 

But gradually there came a change. With a rapid extension of 
communications, of intercourse with England, of Western education, 
lawyers grew and multiplied. Local bars increased, developing not 
only at district but at subdi visional headquarters. In Mymensingh, 
for example, the local bar in 1872 consisted of fifty-two pleaders; in 
19 1 3 it mustered 403 pleaders and barristers, 384 mukhtars (law- 
agents) and ninety-six revenue agents. The population of that district 
indeed had almost doubled within the period; but legal business 
would not have afforded a livelihood, adequate or inadequate, to so 

^ Report on Constitutional Reforms, 1918, p. 104. ^ Qf^ chap, ii, supra. 


many had it not been stimulated by a liberal employment of touts. 
It increased enormously; and the energies of district and subdivisional 
officers were more and more confined to the business of trying cases. 
District officers were also oppressed by growing correspondence with 
the various provincial departments. Not only were they prevented 
from moving freely about their districts and becoming acquainted 
sufficiently with actual conditions, but the quality of their work at 
headquarters necessarily suffered. The eventual situation has been 
faithfully described by one of their number, ^ who wrote in 1 9 1 3 : 

As matters stand at present, we are neglecting the work which matters most 
because neglect does not show; and in order that we may do the work which is 
intrinsically of no greater importance, but which must have the preference because 
it comes more immediately to the notice of the government. It is because the mass 
of the people are so submissive to authority, and because they cherish an old belief 
that the British government desires to do justice, that they do not make their voices 
heard, when the district officer fails to secure them from such delay in obtaining 
justice in the criminal courts as amounts to a denial of justice, because he has no 
time to control the work of the courts ; when the district officer fails to give them a 
fair price for their homestead land acquired for a public purpose because he has 
not time to control the work of the "Land Acqusition Deputy Collector". . . .None 
of these defects come very prominently before the notice of government, because 
the people do not often complain; but the cumulative effect of these omissions, 
though slow, cannot fail to be far-reaching; and there is grave danger that the 
effect may become more rapid, now that ill-disposed people have got to work to 
persuade the masses that government does not care for their interests. ^ 

Partition or rearrangement of charges was the only effective remedy 
for such a state of affairs, but involved considerable initial expenditure 
of public revenues and for this reason excited adverse criticism. As, 
too, every partition implied some disturbance of vested interests, some 
apprehensions of loss of clients, some loss of custom to shops in 
particular towns; as after 1905 the agitation against the partition of 
Bengal struck a key-note which reverberated among the Hindu 
educated classes in every town throughout the province; however 
desirable a partition might be, it was always a signal for loud news- 
paper protest. But we have carried this part of our narrative far, and 
must return to the peaceful period which followed the Mutiny. 

It was recognised then that no more time must be lost in providing 
the Lower Provinces with improved communications, and that in 
order to finance a satisfactory scheme local rates must be introduced. 
The landlords, however, urged that when the permanent settlement 
was concluded, they were informed that no demand would ever be 
made on them, their heirs and successors, "for an augmentation of 
the public assessment in consequence of the improvement of their 
respective estates'*. They were therefore not liable to pay road or 
education cesses. The dispute was finally settled by the Duke of 
Argyll, secretary of state, who ruled in 1870 that 

rating for local expenditure is to be regarded, as it had hitherto been regarded in 
all provinces of the empire, as taxation separate and distinct from the ordinary 

^ Report of the Bengal District Administration Committee^ 191 3-14, p. 24. 


land-revenue; that the levying of such rates upon the holders of land irrespective 
of the amount of their land assessment involves no breach of faith on the part of 
the government, whether as regards holders of permanent or temporary tenures ; 
and that where rates are levied at all, they ought, as far as may be possible, to be 
levied equally without distinction and without exemption upon all holders of 
property assessable to the rate. 

Effect was given to this decision by the Road Cess Act passed in 1871, 
which authorised the raising of a local rate or cess for the construction 
and maintenance of roads and other means of communication, pre- 
scribing a valuation of land and a registration of the holders of landed 
interests. Landlords, lessees, mortgagees, sub-proprietors were required 
to present returns of receipts, and were informed that only rents 
returned would be realisable by process of law. Records and valua- 
tions of all landed property liable for payment of the cess were pre- 
pared. Cesses were to be spent entirely within the districts wherein 
they were levied.^ 

Tenants generally still suffered from the absence of any system of 
registration of their rights and holdings. Act X of 1859, the first 
tenant law passed for Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, named classes of 
tenants whose rents were unalterable, and conferred a right of 
occupancy on tenants who had held the same land for at least twelve 
years, either personally or through predecessors from whom they had 
inherited their holdings. It also limited the right of distraint which 
till then had been exercised by landlords in a very arbitrary fashion. 
But while doing these things, it failed adequately to secure the 
occupancy rights which it created. It further failed to safeguard the 
power which it conferred on landlords of enhancing occupancy rents 
which fell below prevailing rates. Above all it made no provision for 
any field-to-field survey, or for the preparation of records of rights. 
Thus the tenants, and indeed any party to a case on whom lay a 
burden of proof, still suffered from serious disabilities in law courts. 
Tenants too were frequently shifted by their zamindars from one 
holding to another in order to prevent their acquiring occupancy 
right in any holding. In 1872 serious trouble developed in the Pubna 
district, where landlords habitually exacted heavy cesses from tenants 
and even endeavoured to obtain written agreements to pay rents 
swollen by such unjust demands. The victims organised themselves 
for systematic resistance, proclaiming that they were rebelling against 
their tyrants and not against the government. Disturbances took 
place ; the neighbouring district of Bogra caught the contagion ; and 
outward peace was only restored by the mediation of the district 
officers, while discussions were started which eventually led to legisla- 
tion in 1885, when a new Bengal Tenancy Act superseded the act of 
1859. It was based on three principles, fixity of tenure for the tenant, 
an adjustment of rent which would enable the landlord to obtain his 

1 O'Malley, History of Bengal , p. 458. 


fair share of increment in the value of the produce of the soil, and 
settlement of disputes between landlords and tenants on equitable 
principles. It laid down the rule that occupancy right could be 
acquired in all land held by a tenant provided that for twelve years 
previously the occupier had held any land whatever in the village, 
and thus put an end to the zamindars' practice of shifting tenants 
arbiti'arily from one holding to another. It empowered tlie central 
government to order a survey and the preparation of a record of rights 
in any area, and permitted the provincial government to direct 
similar operations to be undertaken in any estate where they were 
asked for by either side or were considered necessary to compose 
disputes. A field-to-field survey, a preparation of records, and a 
settlement of occupancy rents began in North Bihar; and later on 
other surveys and settlements were begun in various Bengal districts. 
All these operations were conducted by a staff which worked under 
a director of land records. One-fourth of the cost was borne by the 
government and three-fourths by landlords and tenants concerned. 
In this way effective steps were at last taken to introduce system, 
justice and clarity into revenue administration in Bengal. A further 
act, passed by the provincial legislative council in 1895, required 
privileged tenants to register all changes in their holdings due to 
succession or transfer. Records of rights were to be revised periodically 
and not checked and maintained continuously after the fashion 
followed in the North-Western Provinces and Panjab. The results of 
these new measures were beneficial. 

We have now examined the system and framework of district ad- 
ministration in Bengal and have reviewed agrarian legislation. Field- 
to-field survey and settlement of occupancy rents, and preparation of 
a record of rights, when at last ordered by the government, were 
carried out under the supervision of the officers of the land records 
and settlement departments. The outside world knows nothing of the 
immense debt which rural India, and by far the greater part of India 
is rural, owes to these men who were always selected with particular 
care. Their devotion, their elaborate diligence, their tireless sympathy 
with the people, can be adequately appreciated only by those who 
have seen them at work or inherited the fruits of their labours. A very 
accurate idea of economic conditions in a fairly typical Bengal district 
may be gathered from a book written by the late Mr J. C. Jack, of 
the Indian civil service, a brilliant and devoted settiement officer. 
The people of Faridpur, the district of which he wrote, are favoured 
by a rich soil and generally live in comfort, obtaining sufficient sub- 
sistence from agriculture and fishing, but often get into debt, mainly 
by reason of their improvidence and lavish expenditure on marriages 
and other domestic ceremonies. They pay little in taxes. Many 
members of the cultivating classes enter menial or domestic service. 
The big landlords of the province are generally absentees ; the small 


or ordinary landlords, the co-sharers, the lessees, the mortgagees, 
sub-lessees, sub-mortgagees are seldom in contact with the land and 
content themselves with collecting their rents, having little or no 
inclination for farming of any kind. The small land-holders are largely 
intermingled with the professional and clerical classes, and all alike 
are known as bhadralok (respectable people), who live not only in 
towns as in other provinces, but also in villages. The original bhadralok 
were Brahmans, Kayesthas (writers) or Baidyas (physicians) ; but the 
spread of Western education and the practical advantages of university 
credentials have caused many members of lower castes to adopt 
bhadralok ideals. It is the bhadralok who have shown that consuming 
passion for English education which has distinguished Bengal. It is 
they who have established Anglo-vernacular schools in towns and 
villages on a scale unknown elsewhere in India, schools attended by 
throngs of youths, who look to the Calcutta University as their portal 
to a profession and a satisfactory marriage. Mr Jack says that in 
Faridpur the average income of the bhadralok is higher than that of any 
other class, largely because the lawyers are all bhadralok and "an able 
lawyer will make ^wq or ten times as much a year as an equally able 
doctor, while even an incapable lawyer will make a better income 
than most capable members of other professions". Competition, 
however, is keen ; and in Faridpur and elsewhere many bhadralok live 
in poverty. The strong position of this class in rural areas is un- 
challenged by any martial caste. There are none of the army pen- 
sioners who count for so much in many districts of other provinces. 
The agriculturists are generally timid or apathetic; and, as we have 
seen, in earUer times bands of brigands battened on numbers of 
unresisting victims. Between the years 1905 and 191 6 brigandage and 
terrorism were revived and practised by bhadralok youths known as 
"political" dacoits. 

Internal trade in Bengal depends largely on means of communica- 
tion, which improved greatly within our period, but were defective 
even at its close. In the eastern portion of the province trade is mainly 
carried on boats. Fishing and weaving are the principal industries; 
but weaving has suffered greatly from the introduction of factory- 
made goods and from the ravages of malaria among workmen ab- 
sorbed in sedentary pursuits. Mr Jack observes that weavers have 
taken largely to agriculture or domestic service. From i860 onwards 
Calcutta and its neighbourhood were largely affected by a remarkable 
expansion of foreign trade, a general increase of prices, and a rise in 
the standard of living. Large industrial works were started, conducted 
by machinery and affording employment to numbers of labourers 
who came from villages and returned to their lands at certain seasons. 
In 1 88 1 there were nineteen jute mills with 39,000 operatives; in 191 1 
there were fifty-eight jute mills and 200,000 operatives. Coalfields 
were developed at Raniganj, Jherria and Giridih; but inland centres 


of industry were few; the villages remained the chief units of economic 
life and village lands were parcelled out in small holdings. Various 
parts of the Lower Provinces have been visited by drought from time 
to time. The most notable of these visitations was the terrible Orissa 
famine. ^ 

Toward the close of the viceroyalty of Lord Gurzon it became 
increasingly apparent that the Lower Provinces generally, and the 
eastern half of Bengal particularly, were administratively starved. 
Service for Europeans in these eastern districts was generally solitary 
and unhealthy. Its unpopularity encouraged a tacit assumption that 
this rich and fertile area with its teeming populations required no 
more than a meagre official establishment. Its communications were 
bad ; its government buildings were mean and inadequate ; its police 
stations were few. It contained no troops and no mounted police. 
Several of its districts were too large for administration by a single 
magistrate-and-collector. Its agricultural population was becoming 
richer and more litigious; its law courts and district establishments 
were over-burdened with work ; its scattered schools and colleges were 
multiplying and producing a growing throng of young men who 
turned their faces persistently towards government service or the 
overstocked bar. Disappointment bred discontent which was ag- 
gravated by political and newspaper teachings that foreign rule was 
the source of the mischief Meantime civil servants, and especially 
those whose lot lay in Eastern Bengal, were generally tied to their 
desks and found little time for informal contact with the people of 
their districts. In the extensive Dacca and Chittagong divisions with 
their population of 17 J millions, there were toward the close of the 
year 1907 only twenty-one British covenanted civil servants and only 
twelve British police officers. And while Eastern Bengal was so 
scantily manned, the whole of the Lower Provinces needed a larger 
administrative staff, more liberal financing and the attention of more 
than one provincial administration. Thus the first partition of the old 
Lower Provinces came about. For reasons with which this chapter is 
not concerned, it was intensely unpopular with congress politicians 
and the leaders of the Hindu bhadralok. A boycott of European goods 
was proclaimed ; schoolboys and students were enlisted in picketing 
operations. Within the years 1906-9 no less than 557 resultant dis- 
turbances came before the criminal courts of the new province of 
Eastern Bengal and Assam, and in most of these disturbances school- 
boys and students were concerned. But the worst was yet to come. 
Young men belonging to the English-educated classes had for some 
time been engaged in revolutionary conspiracy, and armed with 
bombs and pistols commenced subterranean intermittent warfare 
against the government and society, organising gangs for the per- 
petration of "political" dacoities, the proceeds of which went to 

* Cf. chap, xvii, infra. 


finance their campaign. The terrorism which they were soon able to 
exercise showed that the character of the village people had altered 
little since the far-away days of the first Lord Minto. The principal 
theatre of their operations was Eastern Bengal ; and the government 
of that province was long unable to obtain sympathetic recognition 
of its needs from higher authority.^ As late even as 18 May, 1908, 
the chief secretary of Eastern Bengal and Assam addressed the 
Government of India in the following terms : 

Every branch of education, every department of administration, makes urgent 
demands upon the revenues of this ill-equipped province ; and the normal income 
barely suffices to meet the necessary items of expenditure.^ 

The situation grew worse and at last forced recognition from Simla 
and Whitehall. Adequate legislation was undertaken; the police 
were strengthened materially in Eastern Bengal; the number of 
British officers was increased, and schemes for administrative and 
educational reforms were under discussion when the sudden alteration 
of the partition in December, 191 1, remanded all such plans for 
further consideration in altered circumstances. Bengal became one 
province again but was still plagued by revolutionary crime. At last 
on 23 October, 191 3, the central government appointed a committee 
consisting of five experienced executive officers (one from Bihar and 
Orissa, one from the United Provinces, one from the Central Pro- 
vinces, and two from Bengal) to examine the conditions prevailing 
in the districts of Bengal; to compare them with those existing in other 
provinces ; and to report in what respect the administrative machinery 
could be improved, 

whether by the reduction of inordinately large districts, by the creation of new 
subordinate agencies or otherwise, with the object of bringing the executive officers 
of government into closer touch with the people. 

After extensive touring in Bengal and neighbouring provinces, the 
committee submitted their conclusions in a detailed report. They 
found that for some years a succession of revolutionary outrages had 
obstructed and unsteadied the administration of certain districts; that 
terrorism had been rampant; that Bengal district officers were, from 
causes beyond their control, somewhat out of touch with the people. 

"A district officer", they wrote, "or a police superintendent who is over-worked 
and borne down by a load of office and inspection duties, cannot be reasonably 
expected either to become well acquainted with the people of his district or to 
exercise over his subordinates that watchful and sympathetic control that is essential 
to good administration. Still less can he be expected to devise or ascertain how 
progress is attainable. Such matters require careful and deliberate reflection and 
for this there is no time. The subordinate staff suffer with him, and it is idle to 
expect officers overburdened by routine work to spare time for tours or interviews 
with people whom they are not obliged to see. Their days are entirely occupied 
with endeavouring to keep pace with those duties which they must perform."^ 

' Report of the Bengal District Administration Committee, 191 3-1 4, chap. ii. 
^ Idem, p. 17. 3 j(fgf„^ p 18. 


The committee proposed the following remedies : 

(a) partitions or rearrangements of certain districts or subdivisions ; 

(b) development of a village watch-and-ward and self-government 
organisation by means of "union panchayats" under the control of 
circle officers who would be subordinate to the subdivisional magis- 
trates and would in some degree fill the place of the subordinate 
tahsil agencies in neighbouring provinces; 

{c) reforms in connection with the management of Anglo- 
vernacular schools ; 

(d) measures calculated to promote industrial development; 

(e) the appointment of more European deputy directors of agricul- 
ture for demonstration work. 

The report was published by the Bengal Government in 19 15. The 
war was then in progress and money was needed in new directions. 
Effective measures were taken under the Defence of India Act to 
suppress revolutionary conspiracy; but in all other respects reform 
was tarrying in Bengal in November, 1918. 

In no province had the difficulties of district officers been so 
harassing. The causes lay partly in the careless neglect with which, 
as we have seen, the province was treated in the far-away past under 
the vague impression that because its population contained no martial 
element its problems could wait. In later times Bengal district officers 
were also called on to suffer for short-sighted economy in high quarters 
and for an obstinate reluctance there to face facts which they never 
failed faithfully to represent.^ 

^ Chirol, Indian Unrest y pp. 96, 315; Morley, Recollections, ii, 212, 312; Bengal District 
Administration Committee Report (19 14), p. 17. 




X N Bombay, as in other provinces, the main features of the adminis- 
trative machinery had stood the test of time, and its practical working 
had become stereotyped. The history of the second half of the nine- 
teenth century is, therefore, in the main concerned with the improve- 
ment of the administrative organisation bequeathed by the Company 
and its adaptation to the rapid intellectual and material advancement 
of the people of Western India. Until very recent times the Bombay 
Government maintained and conducted relations with a host of petty 
Bhil, Rajput and other chiefs too insignificant to be dealt with directly 
by the Government of India. The officials charged with the duty of 
arranging terms with the Indian princes and land-holders in the earlier 
years of the nineteenth century had been persuaded to treat the de 
facto exercise of civil and criminal jurisdiction by a land-holder as an 
indication of quasi-sovereign status. The pol itical agents , who were 
ultimately enrolled in a separate political cadre7were from the begin- 
ning chosen generally from among the officers of the Company's 
military forces, except in the case of small isolated states contiguous 
to British districts, when the collector of the district was appointed 
ex officio political agent of the state concerned. By the opening of the 
period under review the system had become firmly established, the 
functions of the agent varying from the mere giving of advice and 
exercise of general surveillance to an actual share in the administra- 
tion of the state. 

In the case of the peninsula of Kathiawar, which comprised no less 
than 193 separate states, the Bombay Government in 1831 established 
a criminal court, presided over by the political agent, to assist the 
durbars of the several states in the trial of serious crimes; but subject 
to this innovation, their interference with the judicial administration 
of the peninsula was restricted up to 1863 merely to diplomatic 
representation. By the latter date, however, the criminal jurisdiction 
of all the chiefs had been defined and classified, and each of the four 
divisions {prant), into which the peninsula was formed for adminis- 
trative purposes, was placed in charge of an assistant to the political 
agent, empowered to exercise residuary jurisdiction with wide civil 
and criminal powers. Later years witnessed further developments, 
such as the appointment of a deputy to each of the four assistant 
political agents, stationed at the headquarters of each prant and 
exercising subordinate civil and criminal jurisdiction; the alteration 
in 1903 of the designation of the political agent and his four assistants 


to those of agent to the governor and political agents of the prants 
respectively; the appointment of a member of the covenanted civil 
service as judicial assistant to the agent to the governor, in order to 
assist him in the disposal of grave criminal cases, remitted to his court 
from the prants, and of civil and criminal appeals ; and the appoint- 
ment as ex officio assistant political agent of a superintendent of 
managed estates. The agent to the governor was also placed in control 
of a small police force for watch-and-ward duty in the various thanas 
and civil stations of the agency ; but outside that area it has always 
been customary to hold the chiefs and land-holders responsible for the 
preservation of order and for indemnifying losses due to crime within 
the limits of their respective territories. 

The task of administering the border states of Gujarat and Raj- 
putana, which contain large numbers of wild tribes, was for many 
years one of great difficulty — so much so, indeed, that in 1 838 the 
Bombay Government established a system of border panchayats, with 
the object of exercising a check upon continual border raids and of 
providing a tribunal of speedy justice for these primitive tribesmen. 
The experiment proved so successful that in 1876 these panchayats 
were converted into regular courts under two British officers, one of 
whom represents the Rajputana state and the other the Bombay state 
concerned. These courts still exist and meet as occasion demands.^ 

Another department of the administration which was established 
during the Company's regime and continued to function for several 
years after its demise was that of the survey settlemen t. The settlement 
of the revenue demand from each occupant of landlinder the ryotwari 
system was a necessary consequence of the political pacification of the 
country and of the increase of cultivation and internal trade thereby 
engendered. The ryotwari system had existed in Bombay and Madras 
from ancient times, but the accounts relating to it had either been lost 
or fallen into confusion during the later years of Indian rule. After 
the first few years' administration, therefore, the Bombay Govern- 
ment organised a Survey Department, which, after measuring and 
mapping every holding, proceeded to classify the fields according to 
depth and quality of soil, situation, and natural defects, placing each 
field in a class corresponding to a certain *'anna valuation" or 
fractional share of the maximum rate calculated in sixteenths. Sub- 
sequently villages were grouped into blocks on the basis of their 
propinquity to markets and high roads and other economic condi- 
tions, the maximum rates for each block being fixed in relation to 
these conditions and to average prices. The survey department, which 
was established in 1835, imposed at the outset assessments which were 
too high and caused much distress. They were therefore reduced, and 
a further enquiry was set on foot, which resulted in the formulation 
by the department in 1847 of the principles which still form the basis 

^ Imperial GazetUer, Provincial volume i, Bombay, pp. 86-8. 


of the Bombay land-revenue system. Incidentally the operations of 
the department brought to light many cases of land held rent free 
without authority, which were subsequently investigated and adjusted 
by an Inam Commission appointed in 1852. The settlement of the 
presidency was completed in 1882, except in the districts of North 
Kanara and Ratnagiri, which were completed in 1891 and 1893 
respectively, and the special survey department was then abolished, 
the future revisions of the settlement, which take place every thirty 
years, being entrusted to the assistant or deputy-collector in charge 
of the subdivision of a district. 

The arrangements in Sind were different, owing to the fact that 
the ryotwari tenure in that region was less common than the zamin- 
dari, under which the land-holder (zamindar) supplied seed, plough, 
cattle and labour, divided the crop with the actual cultivator, and 
paid the assessment in kind out of his share of the crop, after deducting 
the value of the seed advanced. For several years after the annexation 
of the province, the revenue was collected in kind, as previously 
remarked; but during the governorship of Sir Bartle Frere (1862-7) 
cash payments were everywhere introduced, and a regular survey was 
commenced in 1863. The operations of the survey department and 
the progress of irrigation resulted in 1882-3 i^ the province containing 
three types of settlement — the original, the revised, and the irriga- 
tional, and of these the last-named, which bases the assessment of land 
on the method of irrigation adopted, was eventually (1902-3) applied 
to the whole province. 

In order to avoid the huge volume of detail involved in a survey of 
the growth of the departmental administration of Bombay since 1858, 
it seems advisable to give a succinct account of the main features of 
the Bombay administration, as it existed in the year 19 14. The out- 
break of war in that year involved a variety of new burdens in the 
sphere of daily administration, which were successfully shouldered 
until the close of military operations ; and the general results of the 
armistice had hardly had time to make themselves felt, before the 
whole problem of administration was subjected to revision in con- 
nection with the publication and adoption by parliament of the con- 
stitutional reforms associated with the names of Mr E. S. Montagu 
and Lord Chelmsford. 

In 1 9 14, then, the Bombay government consisted of a governor, 
appointed under the Government of India Act of 1833, and three 
ordinary members of the council appointed under the Indian Councils 
Act of 1909. Of the ordinary members two had to be persons who at 
the date of their appointment had been in the service of the crown in 
India for at least twelve years. In accordance with the spirit and 
letter of the Morley-Minto reforms, which underlay the act of 1909 
(9 Edw. VII), the appointment of third ordinary member was given 
to an Indian. 



In order to diminish the pressure of business, advantage was taken, 
in the discharge of the executive and judicial functions, of the special 
requirements of the different members of the government. The 
governor himself, for example, might dispose of the business of the 
poHtical department (except civil, criminal and poHtical cases), of the 
public works department (except railways) , of the general department, 
relating to volunteers, cantonment and miscellaneous military matters, 
and of the legal department, regarding matters pertaining to the 
legislative council. The responsibility for the efficient administration 
of revenue, financial and railway affairs was usually accepted by the 
revenue member; while the work of the judicial department, in which 
were included all questions concerning the urban and district police, 
the work of the educational, marine and ecclesiastical departments, 
and the remaining business of the political department and of the 
general department — the latter including the important subjects of 
local self-government and public health — would be usually divided 
between the other two ordinary members of council. Questions which 
presented no special difficulty were disposed of by the members in 
charge of the department in which they occurred; on more important 
questions and in cases involving heavy expenditure, the opinion of a 
second member was sought; and if there were any difference of 
opinion, or if any case of peculiar difficulty or general public interest 
arose, the matter was settled according to the balance of opinion either 
as recorded by the different members or after discussion at the meeting 
of the executive council. Ordinarily the opinion of the majority was 
decisive at such meetings of the council. But in the case of an equality 
of votes on any question the governor or other person presiding had 
two votes or the casting vote. In any grave political emergency, 
however, affecting the safety or tranquillity of British rule, the governor 
was empowered under section 47 of the East India Company Act of 
1 793, which had never been repealed, to set aside even the unanimous 
opinion of his councillors, his orders in such cases having the validity 
of orders passed by the whole council. 

All papers connected with public business reached government 
through the secretariat, where they were properly arranged and sub- 
mitted to the members in charge of the departments to which they 
belonged, together with all available material for forming a decision 
in the shape of former correspondence, acts, or resolutions relating to 
the subject, and also with the recorded opinions of the secretary or 
under-secretary of the departments concerned, or of both. The 
secretariat was composed as follows: for the revenue and financial 
departments a secretary and an under-secretary who were covenanted 
civilians, and two assistant secretaries belonging to the uncovenanted 
service ; for the political, judicial and special departments a covenanted 
secretary and an under-secretary and two uncovenanted assistant 
secretaries; for the general, educational, marine and ecclesiastical 


departments a secretary who was a covenanted civilian, and an un- 
covenanted assistant secretary ; for the legal department a covenanted 
secretary who was also remembrancer of legal affairs, a covenanted 
assistant remembrancer of legal affairs who was also ex officio secretary 
to the legislative council, and an assistant secretary who was chosen 
from the subordinate judges of the province; and for the public works 
department (which included a railway branch) a secretary, a joint 
secretary, and two under-secretaries, who were either royal or civil 
engineers, and two uncovenanted assistant secretaries. The senior of 
the three covenanted civilian secretaries to government was styled the 
chief secretary. There was also a separate department in charge of the 
chief secretary, assisted by the senior of the civilian under-secretaries. 

Reference has already been made to the relations between the 
Bombay government and the Indian states of the province. Up to 
the date of the constitutional changes involved in the passing of the 
Government of India Act of 1 919 all the Indian states in the Bombay 
Presidency were under the supervision of the Bombay government, 
with the exception of Baroda, where the resident political officer was, 
and is still, an agent to the governor-general. 

Under letters patent of 1865, the administration of justice through- 
out the regulation districts of the presidency was, and still remains, 
entrusted to the high court, consisting of a chief justice and seven 
puisne judges. This court possesses both ordinary and extraordinary 
civil and criminal jurisdiction, and exercises original and appellate 
functions. The appellate judges of the high court also supervise the 
administration of justice by the different civil and criminal courts of 
the regulation districts. Ordinary original jurisdiction is exercised in 
both civil and criminal matters arising within the limits of the city 
and island of Bombay. By virtue of its extraordinary jurisdiction the 
high court may remove and itself try any civil suit brought in any 
court under its superintendence, and may in criminal cases exercise 
jurisdiction over all persons residing in places within the jurisdiction 
of any court subject to the superintendence of the high court. Besides 
acting as an appeal court in civil and criminal matters, the high court 
also functions as an insolvency court and possesses the civil and 
criminal jurisdiction of an admiralty and vice-admiralty court in 
prize cases and other maritime questions arising in India. It has also 
been invested with testamentary jurisdiction, and has matrimonial 
jurisdiction over Christians. One of the judges of the high court 
officiates as judge of the Parsi matrimonial court; while matrimonial 
decrees by district courts require confirmation by the high court. 

The high court has no jurisdiction over the province of Sind except 
in respect of its powers under the Administrator-General's Act of 
1874, of probates and administrations, of decrees in matrimonial 
cases, and in respect of European British subjects. All the functions 
of a high court are performed by the court of the judicial commissioner, 



which replaced the former sadr court in 1906. A separate judicial 
commissioner for Sind was first appointed in 1866. By the commence- 
ment of the twentieth century the judicial work of the province had 
so greatly increased that the court was enlarged to consist of the 
judicial commissioner and two assistant judicial commissioners, one 
of whom must be a barrister of at least five years' standing and be 
qualified to deal with mercantile cases. The court serves also as a 
district and sessions court for the Karachi district and as a colonial 
court of admiralty. 

In addition to the high court of Bombay and the court of the 
judicial commissioner in Sind, four grades of courts administer civil 
justice throughout the presidency, namely, those of district and 
assistant judges and of first and second class subordinate judges. These 
subordinate judges date from the year 1868-9, when the old titles of 
sadr amin and munsiffwere abolished, and when at the same time the 
number and limits of the judicial zillahs or districts were altered, the 
appointment of judgeships and assistant judgeships were divided into 
grades, and a thorough redistribution of the subordinate courts took 
place, in order that the boundaries of their jurisdiction might corre- 
spond as far as possible with the talukas or revenue subdivisions of the 
presidency. In 19 14 the cadre of the district judicial department 
included seventeen judges, three joint judges, and seven assistant 
judges, all these officers being members of the Indian civil service 
except three district and three assistant judges, who belonged to the 
Bombay provincial service. The first and second class subordinate 
judges numbered respectively seventeen and eighty-nine. The regular 
judicial staff' was also entrusted with the work performed originally by 
a separate staff" of three judges (a special judge and two subordinate 
judges) under the Deccan Agriculturists' Relief Act of 1879, which 
was passed after the severe famine of 1876-8. Of the total staff* of 
subordinate judges four were employed exclusively in assisting the 
district judges in the inspection of the subordinate courts in their 
respective districts and in reporting on the working of the act above- 
mentioned. As regards the district judges, it may be remarked that 
those at Surat and Poona served also as judges of the Parsi matri- 
monial courts in those towns; while the judge of Poona, as "Agent for 
the Sardars in the Deccan", decided under Regulation xxix of 1827 
cases in which certain gentlemen of high rank are interested. For the 
easy recovery of small debts and demands, small cause courts, invested 
with summary powers, existed in Bombay and in six smaller towns, 
Ahmadabad, Nadiad, Poona, Surat, Broach and Karachi. The Deccan 
Agriculturists' Relief Act of 1879 was also responsible for the creation 
of appointments of village munsiffs and "conciliators", of whom the 
former are empowered within the area of one or more villages to 
dispose of petty suits up to Rs. 10 in value, and the latter endeavour 
to induce parties to agree to a compromise of matters in dispute or to 


a reference to arbitration. Other civil courts are those of the canton- 
ment magistrates, who in 1910 were empowered, as occasion might 
demand, to dispose of suits within a Hmit of Rs. 500, while in 1906 
mamlatdars were given jurisdiction in suits regarding the immediate 
possession of immovable property. 

The judicial arrangements outlined above did not apply to the 
scheduled districts, which may be defined as " those which have never 
been brought within, or have from time to time been removed from, 
the operation of the general acts and regulations and the jurisdiction 
of the ordinary courts of judicature". Excluding the Panch Mahals 
district, which was not included in the regulation districts until 1885, 
the scheduled districts included Sind, where the judicial system is 
almost identical with that of the rest of the presidency; Aden and its 
dependencies, in which the resident had rather more extensive powers 
than a district and sessions judge, and his assistants were usually vested 
with inferior civil and criminal jurisdiction; and lastly the villages of 
the Mewasi chiefs, over which the collector of the West Khandesh 
district, as ex officio political agent, exercised both civil and crimxinal 
jurisdiction, subject to appeal to and revision by the high court. 

The revenue administration of the Bombay Presidency was carried 
out by the following superior staff in 19 14: four revenue commis- 
sioners, including the commissioner of customs, opium, salt and abkari; 
eleven senior and ten junior collectors, including the collector of salt 
revenue and the collector of Bombay; seventeen first and eighteen 
second assistant collectors, some of whom were serving in the judicial 
branch and some were on special duty in Sind; sixty-one deputy- 
collectors, including the personal assistant to the director of agricul- 
ture, who were divided into six grades and were in charge of district 
treasuries or divisions of districts. In Sind, under the commissioner, 
the revenue administration was carried on by four collectors, two 
deputy-commissioners, six assistant collectors, and twenty-two deputy- 

The ordinary collectorate (or district), which has not altered 
appreciably since the beginning of the present century, is composed 
of twelve talukas or subdivisions, each of which contains about a 
hundred government villages, i.e. villages which have not been 
alienated and the total revenues of which belong to the state. Each 
village has its regular complement of officers, who are usually here- 
ditary, namely the patel^ the kulkarni or talati^ the mhar and the watch- 
man. The position and duties of these village officials, as well as of the 
other hereditary village servants, have already been explained in an 
earlier chapter. The revenue accounts of a village, which are simple 
and complete, are based upon the survey register. Every occupant is 
provided with a separate receipt book in which the total amount of 
his holding is entered, and the patel and kulkarni are bound, under 
heavy penalties, to record in it the sums he has paid. Every year what 


is termed the jamabandi of the village is made, which determines the 
total amount of revenue due from the village. This process brings the 
assistant or deputy-collector into annual contact with each village in 
his charge and enables him to acquaint himself with its wants and 
requirements; it enables the returns of cultivation and other registers, 
useful for statistical purposes, to be checked ; and it affords an oppor- 
tunity of examining the village accounts, verifying transfers of land, 
and generally of making such a scrutiny as will protect the individual 
cultivator from fraud. 

Each taluka or subdivision of a coUectorate is in charge of a mam- 
latdar, whose duties have considerably increased since the first quarter 
of the nineteenth century. He is responsible for the treasury business 
of his taluka, and for seeing that instalments of revenue are punctually 
paid by the villages, that the village accounts are accurately kept, that 
the cultivators' payments are duly receipted, that the boundary- 
marks of the fields are in repair, and generally that the village officers 
are performing their duties properly. He functions as a subordinate 
magistrate and has also to supervise the administration of the local 
funds. With a view to giving him some assistance, a certain number of 
villages are placed under the supervision of circle inspectors and other 
members of the mamlatdafs official establishment; but he is expected to 
assure himself by personal examination that they are doing their work. 

Above the mamlatdar is the assistant or deputy-collector who is in 
charge of, on an average, three talukas, and is expected to travel about 
his charge throughout the seven fair-weather months of the year. He 
has to satisfy himself by direct personal inspection that the revenue 
work is regularly carried out; he sees that the revenue of each village 
is brought to account at the time of the annual jamabandi; he 
nominates the village officers; enquires into the needs of his talukas in 
respect of local roads, wells, planting of trees and so forth ; he hears 
appeals from the orders of the mamlatdars ; corresponds with them on 
matters concerned with the administration of their respective talukas, 
and generally supervises their proceedings. 

Above the assistant and deputy-collectors is the collector and magis- 
trate, who is in charge of the whole district. He has to travel through 
his charge during four months of the year, and besides superintending 
the revenues and magisterial work of his district he has to administer 
the excise and other special taxes and to supervise the stamp revenue. 
He is also ex officio district registrar and visitor of the district jail, and 
has important duties to perform in connection with municipalities and 
local funds, with the Land Acquisition Act (I of 1894), and with forests. 
On all questions of executive administration his opinion is invariably 

Finally general superintendence and control over the revenue ad- 
ministration are exercised by the three revenue commissioners (for 
the northern, central and southern divisions of the presidency) and 
the commissioner in Sind. During the fair season these officers are 


constantly moving about their divisions; judging for themselves of the 
requirements of the various parts of the country, of the manner in 
which the revenue administration and that of police are being carried on, 
and of the qualifications of the district officials. They entertain appeals 
from the collector's decisions and are the channel of communication 
between them and the government. ^ Speaking broadly, it may be 
said that, except for a general increase of business resulting from the 
progress of the presidency, for a few changes such as the introduction 
of local self-government in the form of partly elective local boards, 
and for administrative readjustments such as the creation of a third 
revenue division, the general system of revenue administration in 
force in 19 14, and also at the present date, is practically the same as at 
the date of the assumption of the government of India by the crown. 
The main features of the system can be traced back directly to the 
arrangements initiated by Elphinstone for the settlement of the 
Deccan and other territories taken from the Peshwa, and indirectly 
and with certain marked differences, mainly due to the differences in 
land tenures, to the arrangements in Bengal. 

During the period succeeding the year 1858 the administration and 
expansion of the chief ports of the territories controlled by the Bombay 
government were provided for by the establishment of the Bombay 
Port Trust in 1873, of the Karachi Port Trust in 1880, and of the Aden 
Port Trust in 1889. The plague which broke out in 1896 was directly 
responsible for the creation of the City Improvement Trust in 1898 — 
a body composed of members partly elected and partly nominated, 
which was charged with the duty of preparing a comprehensive 
scheme of improvement for Bombay, with particular reference to the 
better ventilation of densely crowded areas, the removal of insanitary 
dwellings, and the prevention of overcrowding. The act legalising the 
establishment of this trust provided for the nomination by the Bombay 
Government of three of the trustees, including the chairman, and for 
the appointment, as trustees ex officio, of the collector of Bombay, the 
municipal commissioner, and the general officer commanding the 
Bombay district. 

The public works department was gradually organised after the 
transfer of control to the crown, on the foundations laid by Lord 
Dalhousie for the whole of India in 1854. A considerable addition 
was made to the department in 1868-9, ^^^ by the year 1914 the 
establishment, including the railway branch, consisted of two chief 
engineers, the senior of whom was the secretary to government and 
the junior the joint secretary to government, six superintending en- 
gineers, including a sanitary engineer, thirty-eight executive engineers, 
and fifty-nine assistant engineers. The growth of official buildings and 
the introduction of electric power had also necessitated the appoint- 
ments of a consulting architect, an architectural draughtsman, 
and an electrical engineer, all of whom were employed on five years' 

^ Report on Administration of Bombay Presidency ^ 191 1 -12. 


agreements, as well as an electrical inspector and ten temporary 

Like the public works department, the administration of the forests 
of the presidency originated in the definite and prudent policy 
enunciated by Lord Dalhousie in 1855, and was gradually evolved 
subsequent to the year i860. The great famine of 1876-8 led to a 
revision of the provincial arrangements for forest conservancy, and 
to the introduction of legislative measures which placed the whole 
system of forest administration in Bombay on a secure and well- 
defined basis. For administrative purposes the presidency was divided 
into four forest circles, corresponding to the four revenue divisions, 
three of which were in charge of conservators and the fourth (Sind) 
in charge of a deputy-conservator. The controlling staflf was divided 
into an imperial service and a provincial service, of which the former 
had been reorganised in 1907 and the latter in 191 1. The imperial 
service, in accordance with that revision, was composed of three con- 
servators and twenty-four deputy and assistant conservators, and the 
provincial service of five extra deputy-conservators and twenty-three 
extra assistant conservators. Below these was the protective establish- 
ment of rangers, foresters and forest guards. As forest control and 
conservancy are regarded as a branch of the general administration, 
the central authority in forest matters has always been the com- 
missioner of the revenue division, subject to the general orders of the 
Bombay Government. In all professional and technical matters the 
professional forest officer has full control and responsibility; but in 
regard to such matters as the rights and privileges of the people in 
forests, the local supply of grass, grazing and fodder, and the general 
relations of the department with the people, control is vested in the 
collectors of the districts, to whom for these purposes the forest officers 
are subordinate. A comprehensive survey of the forests was com- 
menced in 1 888, and the work of forest settiement was completed 
before the close of the period dealt with in this review. The classifica- 
tion of the forests also into forest proper, fuel and fodder reserves, and 
pastures was completed throughout the presidency before the year 
1 91 4, though a working plans division is still maintained in each forest 
circle for the purpose of ascertaining the productive capacity of the 
forests and of preparing scientific proposals for the profitable ex- 
ploitation of the sylvan resources of the presidency. 

The salient features of the educational administration subsequent 
to 1858 were the introduction of the grants-in-aid code in 1865, 
designed for the benefit of any private primary or secondary school, 
which was controlled by a board of management and was not main- 
tained solely for private profit; the reorganisation in 1868 of the 
supply of trained schoolmasters; the foundation in 1890 of the joint 
schools committee to supervise and control primary education in 
Bombay city; and the amendment of the constitution of the university, 
founded in 1857, which synchronised with a declaration of the educa- 


tional policy of the Indian Government in 1903-4. Broadly speaking, 
education in the Bombay Presidency is imparted partly through direct 
official agency, partly through the medium of grants-in-aid. The 
Bombay Government in 191 8 maintained arts colleges in Bombay, 
Poona and Gujarat, a medical college, a college of science, an agri- 
cultural college, a veterinary college, a school of art, a law school and 
a college of commerce, as well as a model secondary school in Bombay 
and at the headquarters of each revenue district or collectorate. While 
the Bombay municipality is now responsible for primary education in 
the city, the majority of the primary schools throughout the presidency 
are maintained by the district and taluka local boards, who receive 
grants-in-aid from the government. The official staff responsible for 
the educational administration consisted in 19 18 of a director, an 
inspector in each of the four divisions of the presidency, and in each 
district or collectorate a deputy-inspector with assistants. 

The importance of agriculture as one of the chief factors in the 
progress of the presidency was recognised about 1884 by the organisa- 
tion of a separate department of land records and agriculture, pre- 
sided over by a director chosen from the ranks of the covenanted civil 
service. The activities of the department were for several years con- 
fined mainly to the simplification of revenue-settlement procedure 
and the improvement of the land-record system; and in connection 
with the latter branch of its duties a class of circle inspectors, who were 
subordinate to the mamlatdars of the talukas, was tentatively introduced 
about 1887. The agricultural work of the various provinces was 
eventually co-ordinated by the appointment in 1901 of an inspector- 
general of agriculture with the Government of India, and the increased 
attention paid to agriculture after that date led in 1 905 to the separa- 
tion of the appointments of director of agriculture and director of land 
records, and to the appointments of a deputy-director, an agricultural 
chemist and an economic botanist for the Bombay Presidency. The 
director of land records had ample work to perform in supervising the 
preparation of the "record of rights'* in land, which followed on the 
passing in 190 1-2 of a special Record of Rights Act as a complement 
to existing legislation governing the Bombay land-revenue system. 
A further attempt to advance the welfare of the agricultural worker 
and improve rural credit was made in 1904 by the passing of the 
Co-operative Credit Societies Act by the legislative council of the 
Government of India. In Bombay the task of organising and super- 
vising such societies under the terms of the act was entrusted to a 
registrar, aided by a staff of assistant registrars, auditors, and other 
officers. Shortly after the close of the period with which this chapter 
deals the Bombay Presidency contained 1648 agricultural credit 
societies, 2 1 1 non-agricultural credit societies, twelve banks, and fifty 
unions, while the capital of the agricultural and non-agricultural 
societies amounted respectively to 83 J and 62 lakhs of rupees. 

As regards miscellaneous departments of the administration it may 


be mentioned that the control of excise was vested at the close of 1 918 
in the collectors of the districts, subject to the general control of the 
commissioner of customs, salt, opium and abkari (excise). They were 
assisted in this branch of their duties by a special staff of assistants, 
inspectors, sub-inspectors, gangers, clerks, petty officers and menials. 
The salt department of the presidency proper was separately adminis- 
tered by the commissioner of customs and a special staff, while there 
were separate establishments for Sind and Aden, which were con- 
trolled respectively by the commissioner in Sind and the political 
resident. The customs administration of the port of Bombay was 
managed by a collector of customs and six assistants, and of the port of 
Karachi by a collector and two assistants, subject respectively to the 
general control of the commissioner of customs, Bombay, and the 
commissioner in Sind. The collector of land-revenue in Bombay, 
assisted by four inspectors of factories, was responsible for the adminis- 
tration of the Cotton Duties Act II of 1896. 

Excluding the military administration, railways, public works, etc., 
and special trusts created for developing ports and urban areas, it may 
be broadly stated that the various administrative appointments and 
establishments created between 1858 and 191 8, in response to the 
progress and requirements of the people of the presidency, were grafted 
upon, added to, or linked more or less closely for administrative pur- 
poses with the framework of the revenue organisation, which had been 
constructed, tested and improved during the first half of the nine- 
teenth century. The most important part of that framework was the 
district officer, who as collector was responsible for the revenue ad- 
ministration, and as magistrate supervised the inferior courts and 
directed the work of the police. The revenue organisation, while it has 
always served, and still serves "its peculiar purpose of collecting the 
revenue and keeping the peace", is, in the words of the Montagu- 
Chelmsford Report, 

so close-knit, so well established, and so thoroughly understood by the people, that 
it simultaneously discharges easily and efficiently an immense number of other 
duties. It deals with the registration, alteration, and partition of holdings; the 
settlement of disputes; the management of indebted estates; loans to agriculturists; 
and above all, famine relief. Because it controls revenue, which depends on agri- 
culture, the supreme interest of the people, it naturally serves as the general adminis- 
tration staff. 

Specialised services, such as the establishments for irrigation, roads 
and buildings, agriculture, industries, factories, and co-operative 
credit, may possess separate staffs which are under the control of their 
own departmental heads. But, "in varying degrees, the district 
officer influences the policy in all these matters, and he is always there 
in the background to lend his support, or, if need be, to mediate 
between a specialised service and the people".^ 

' Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms , 191 8, pp. 102, 103. 




X HE storm of the Mutiny raised only a couple of ripples in Madras. 
A hill-chief of Godavari, marching upon a private quarrel, proclaimed 
himself a forerunner of Nana Sahib, and strove to raise the country, 
but paid for the boast with his life. Between a dismissed tahsildar of 
Bellary and malcontents in Dharwar a plot was hatched to bring 
about a general rising. The rebels got possession of the fort of Kopal, 
but the place was stormed with heavy loss to the defenders and of the 
survivors seventy-seven were executed. 

The transfer of the government of India to the crown caused no stir 
whatever. The local annals are silent on the subject because methods 
and principles remained unchanged. 

Only a few events disturbed a period of general serenity. On 
I November, 1864, at Masulipatam, torrential rain preceded early 
darkness and a devastating wind. Towards midnight, at a cry "The 
sea is coming". Captain Hasted looked from his half- wrecked house 
on a "wild waste of luridly phosphorescent water, not in waves, but 
swirling, boiling, pouring round the house and lifted against it and 
over it in sheets by the raging wind". In a mass 13 feet above high- 
water mark, the Bay of Bengal had poured itself on the land. At 
midnight, with indescribable din and immeasurable fury, the waters 
rushed back. They had penetrated 17 miles inland, overwhelmed 
800 square miles and destroyed 30,000 people and countless cattle. 

The next event was much graver. There are seventeenth-century 
records of awful famines; the Guntur famine of 1833 "covered the 
country with human bones from Ongole to Masulipatam" ; the Orissa 
famine of 1865-6 afflicted a quarter of the presidency; but it may be 
doubted whether the tragedy of 1876-8 did not surpass all previous 
calamities of the sort. Of the 200,000 square miles affected more 
than a third fell within Madras, where the famine is charged with 
causing the death of nearly four million people and cost the state over 
800 lakhs. The material loss to the community at large was incal- 
culable and was made good only to a trifling extent from the huge 
Mansion House Fund, though most of that fund was laid out in the 
Madras Presidency. The calamity left its trace on the agricultural 
statistics for twenty-five years, and the population which had been 
advancing up to 1871 at the rate of about half a million a year showed 
no increase for the decennium ending with 1881 . The government has 
never ignored its duty towards the starving, though the succour given 
has not always been adequate or timely. Public relief, which dates back 


to the eighteenth century, has taken various forms: importation 
of grain through official agency; bounties, advances and guarantees 
of price to private traders ; opening of pubHc works ; gratuitous dis- 
tribution of food, cooked or uncooked. The great famine led to the 
preparation of a famine code which centres all famine operations in 
the collector and requires the maintenance for each district of a pro- 
gramme of the public works ready to be put into immediate operation. 
As a further preparation for sudden emergencies a scheme was intro- 
duced in 1907 for forming provincial famine funds by an annual 
credit of 2 J lakhs up to a maximum of 25 lakhs, and mention should 
be made here of the protective irrigation works on the Rushikulya 
river, which, completed about 1898, serves to afford some security to 
Ganjam, a region of frequent dearth. 

The Moplah sore was still festering in Malabar where outbreaks 
occurred in 1873 and 1880. A second special enquiry was made into 
the cause of these troubles and, as they were now ascribed in the main 
to the eviction of tenants, a law^ was peissed to ensure compensation 
for improvements to dispossessed tenants. Five outrages in the years 
1883 to 1885 emphasised the urgent need for action and four taluks 
were disarmed as completely as possible. A serious rising in 1894 was 
the starting-point for remedial measures in the form of roads to open 
up the fanatical zone, and of special, but not very successful, arrange- 
ments for the education of Moplah children. Before these could come 
into operation the outbreak of 1 896 occurred. After the usual pillaging, 
maltreatment and murdering of Hindus, the rebels took stand in a 
temple sanctified to them by the slaughter of 1 849, and there met the 
death they courted and merited. The temple was heaped with corpses 
and streaming with blood, the survivors slitting the throats of the 
wounded as they fell to prevent their capture alive. In all out of 
ninety-nine men, ninety-six were killed. The three left alive could not 
find any material grievance to plead. 

Off the coast of Malabar lies the southern group of the Laccadive 
Islands. Ever since the annexation of Malabar the misgovernment of 
the islands by the family of the Bibi of Gannanore to which they 
belonged had been a cause of trouble, and they had been taken over 
once but restored on promise of amendment. In 1 875 it was found 
necessary to sequestrate them in perpetuity to protect the islanders 
fi-om oppression. There was still no setded peace in the Northern 
Gircars. In 1865 the Khonds of the Ganjam hills rose, this time 
against the Uriya and Pano inhabitants, of whom they murdered 
many. It was thought necessary after this to arrange for the more or 
less permanent residence in the hills of European officers to prevent 
the exploitation and oppression of the Khonds by other classes. 

A more serious affair was the Rampa rebellion in the hills of 
Godavari. The trouble there began in 1835 on the death of the 

^ Act I of 1887; replaced by Act I of 1900. 


mansabdar charged with the maintenance of order, the muttahdars, or 
sub-chiefs, objecting to the arrangements for the succession. The 
quarrel was patched up in 1848, but the mansabdar then appointed 
entered upon a long course of oppressive acts for which he pleaded 
the authority of government. The police, too, were making themselves 
offensive to the muttahdars and the cup overflowed when the govern- 
ment forbade the free drawing of toddy and leased the toddy ^revenue 
to renters who demanded fees for tapping. After an initiatory sacrifice 
of several police constables and other obnoxious persons had been made 
to the gods, insurrection blazed out in 1879 over 5000 square miles. A 
guerrilla war followed ; isolated stations were attacked, villages looted 
and burnt, detachments of police and even troops forced to retreat, many 
money-lenders murdered. A large military force was assembled and 
in the following year the affair was over; the mansabdar was deposed 
and arrangements were come to with the muttahdars as to their tenure 
and duties. This outbreak led to a change in the administration of the 
hills of Godavari. They were withdrawn from the operation of the 
ordinary laws and placed entirely under the collector of Godavari, as 
government agent, in whom was vested both civil and criminal juris- 
diction. In short, these hills were put in practically the same position 
as those of Ganjam and Vizagapatam, though by means of a different 
enactment.^ Much later on steps were taken to protect the hillmen 
of these three tracts from the money-lenders by a law ^ checking the 
transfer of land in execution of decrees to persons not belonging to 
the hill tribes. 

In the centre things went quietly except at Salem, where the resent- 
ment of Hindus over the building of a mosque resulted in 1882 in two 
riots, the demolition of the building and a rather long tale of killed 
and wounded. 

In the south also religious prejudices were responsible for trouble. 
For a long time there had been growing hostility to the Shanars (or 
toddy-drawer caste) on account of their claims to novel religious 
privileges. The courts were resorted to, and an injunction obtained 
forbidding the Shanars of Kalugumalai from going in procession. This 
led in 1895 to a riot in which nine or ten were killed, followed by the 
imposition of punitive police on the locality. Four years later a 
Marava zamindar sued to restrain Shanars from entering the temple 
at Sivakasi. The Shanars retorted by burning many Marava dwellings. 
The Maravars thereon mustered in great force and attacked the 
enemy. Twenty-five persons were killed and there was much destruc- 
tion of Shanars' property. The Marava gangs were rounded up by se- 
poys and police and a punitive police was quartered on that locality too. 

The disturbances of the nineteenth century were due to religious 
quarrels or to local or personal causes, not involving, except in 1857, 
any direct challenge to the state. With the exception of sporadic 

1 The India Scheduled Districts Act, 1874. ^ Act I of 1917. 


disorder due to efforts to prevent the spreading of plague and of an 
outbreak against the police at Guntur, the troubles of the twentieth 
century were the outcome of an organised movement against foreign 
domination, propagated by the more educated classes and so, in the 
main, by Brahmans, and finding its principal source in Bengal. The 
unrest had its first overt expression in 1906 among the students at 
Rajahmundry; its next, soon afterwards, at Gocanada in a raid on 
the English club provoked by a trivial incident. Then, in 1908, a 
commercial failure at Tuticorin was worked up as an instance of the 
malignity of the rulers ; there were strikes, and Europeans were boy- 
cotted. Proceedings were taken against the instigators in the criminal 
courts with the result that there were simultaneous outbreaks at 
Tinnevelly and Tuticorin. A good deal of damage was done and the 
police had to resort to fire-arms. Three years later a seditious con- 
spiracy found vent in the murder of the collector of Tinnevelly. The 
war did not improve the situation, although the rural areas remained 
generally unaffected. Of the war itself the country saw nothing 
except in the form of some shells from the Emden which caused three 
deaths and some injury to property in Madras, and suffered therefrom 
mainly through the check on sea-borne trade. The attitude of the 
Indian press towards the war called for little criticism, but political 
agitation grew in extent and bitterness. By 191 8 three distinct 
political movements had become manifest; the earlier agitation of the 
Home Rule party, their later action culminating in the formation of 
the Madras Presidency Association, and a Labour campaign with, on 
the other side, a growing opposition to Brahman influence on the part 
of educated members of other castes. 

The legislation of 186 1 created ^ a high court which absorbed the 
supreme court and courts of sadr and faujdari adalat, thus becoming 
a court of appeal, reference and revision for the whole presidency. 
The passing of the Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes ^ also led 
to important changes : the Muhammadan criminal law disappeared, 
criminal jurisdiction became a subject of general legislation and the 
ordinary minor civil courts ceased to operate as criminal courts. 
A host of laws were repealed^ after the enactment of these two codes 
and the position determined in 1873* was this: the ziUcih civil and 
sessions judges became district and sessions judges with unlimited 
ordinary civil jurisdiction and power to pass any authorised sentence; 
the principal sadr amins became subordinate judges with civil juris- 
diction similar to that of the district judge; the jurisdiction of the 
district munsiffs was extended to Rs. 2500. The only subsequent change 
which need be noticed is the enlargement of the powers of the village 
civil courts and the establishment of village benches.^ 

» 24 & 25 Vic. c. 104. » India Acts XLV of i860 and XXV of 1 861. 

» Act II of 1869 and India Act XVII of 1862. 

« India Act III of 1873. ^ Act I of 1889. 


The new settlement department began to operate in 1857 under 
a director who, in 1882, took charge of the new department of agri- 
culture also. In 1887 the control of these two departments and of the 
inchoate land record department was assigned to a member of the 
Board of Revenue. The nature and development of "late ryotwari" 
have been sufficiently indicated already; the stage had now been 
reached in which "subject to the payment of a stated proportion of 
the produce, . . . the proprietary right of the ryot in the soil of his 
holding is absolute and complete".^ It remains only to explain how 
that "stated proportion" is determined. After a preliminary investi- 
gation of the general conditions of a district, the settlement officers 
classify the soil under "series ", "classes " and "sorts", small differences 
being ignored in order to form practically identical "blocks". The 
output per acre of the particular soil is then estimated in rice or a 
standard "dry" crop and this is priced on the average of a series of 
years ; the price is next reduced by about 1 5 per cent, to cover carriage 
to market and merchants' profits. The "commutation rate" so found 
is again reduced to allow for seasonal vicissitudes and uncultivable 
areas included in the fields. From the gross money value of the crop 
thus determined, the cost of cultivation is subtracted and not more 
than half the balance is taken as the assessment due to the state. The 
rates ascertained for the various kinds of soil are graded to avoid 
petty differences and, in applying them, consideration is paid to the 
position of the village and the quality of the irrigation. In the end a 
village settlement register is prepared. This contains particulars of 
every separate holding and one of the main duties of the land record 
department (which was properly constituted only in 1903) is to keep 
the register corrected up to date in order to facilitate subsequent 
settlements. Although the state nominally demands a sum not in 
excess of half the net value of the crop, the proportion actually taken 
depends, of course, in any year on the ruling price of grain. It was 
roughly estimated in 1855 that the assessment then amounted to half 
the gross produce on wet land and one-third on dry, but in 191 2 it 
was reckoned that the government was getting less than one-tenth of 
the gross produce. It is safe to say that for many years the government 
has not received the authorised half rate. It may be added that, in 
1 91 2, an average district contained 157,000 government ryots and 
107,500 survey fields. 

We may now pass under review sundry departments which attained 
importance during our second period only, leading off with agriculture. 
At the outset the Company was not wholly neglectful of this subject, 
but its efforts were principally directed to the introduction of exotics. 
With an eye to cochineal it encouraged the growth of prickly pear 
(the blacker sin of introducing it is Portugal's) . Bourbon cotton was 
introduced in the eighteenth century and before 1 850 there were other 

^ G.O. 1008, Rev. 21 September, 1882. 


earnest but unavailing attempts to improve the quality of the cotton 
grown. In 1865 an experimental farm W2is started at Saidapett, and 
there was some training of apprentices. Then a school of agriculture 
was started at the same place, and about 1886 this was developed into 
a college but the institution languished, and it was not until 1909 that 
instruction in agriculture was put on a firm footing by the opening 
at Goimbatore of a large agricultural college and research institute. 
On the administrative side development was even more discreditably 
tardy. The first step was taken in 1882 by the appointment of an 
agricultural expert to advise the director of settlement, but there was 
no real attempt to atone for a century's neglect until 1906, when a 
trained department was instituted and at once developed into an 
energetic and most important branch of the administration. It was 
enlarged in 1914, and two years later the control over it was trans- 
ferred from the Board of Revenue to government. 

Forestry is another subject which for long received inadequate 
attention. Naval demand for teak led to the appointment of a com- 
missioner on the west coast in 1806, and this was followed by the 
establishment of a sort of government monopoly of the timber trade; 
but this gave rise to so much discontent that the system and the 
commissioner were abolished in 1822.^ Malabar again received a 
special officer in 1847, ^^^ some control was established over the 
Anaimalai forest. Elsewhere collectors realised some revenue from 
permits and leases for cutting wood and grazing. In 1856 a conserva- 
tor was appointed and, three years later, a "Jungle Conservancy 
Department" was organised. The forests were then divided into 
"imperial" under the conservator and "jungle conservancy" under 
the collectors. The jungle conservancy had a separate establishment, 
derived funds from seignorage and grazing fees, and did some useful 
work, mainly in the way of making plantations and avenues. At first 
the conservator's establishment was not sufficient to do more than 
raise a little revenue; but from 1871 trained officers began to come out 
from England and were placed under the collectors to whom the 
conservator acted as adviser. Not until Act V of 1882 had declared 
certain acts to be offences could conservancy and not exploitation be 
treated as the end principally in view, and meanwhile much harm 
had been done to the forests. The forest department then became a 
branch of the revenue department, the jungle conservancy depart- 
ment was abolished, the trained European staff was organised into 
advisory conservators and district forest officers, who ranked as 
assistants to the collectors. 

The formal notification of "reserved forests", which began after 
the passing of Act V of 1882, was practically finished by 191 1, when 
nearly 20,000 square miles had been brought under more or less strict 
control. The mode of working these forests now adopted where feasible 

^ Munro*s Minute, 26 November, 1822. 


is to lease them out by coupes ^ in rotation, to contractors who make their 
own arrangements for removal and sale. Inevitably the department 
has been very unpopular, and, in an effort to improve relations, it 
was decided in 1910-11 to disafforest many small areas and to make 
over certain other minor reserves to village committees for manage- 
ment. Up to the end of our period this experiment was reported to 
have had a measure of success. 

The next subject for consideration is the local administrative bodies, 
the connection of which with education is dealt with elsewhere. 
In Madras town Streynsham Master's Civilian Scavenger, the 
Mayor and Corporation in silken robes, and George the Third's 
Justices of the Peace pass in succession across the stage, but it was 
when, in 1856,^ these last handed over charge to a body of com- 
missioners that the Madras Corporation started on its course. We 
need not follow its progress along the lines of extension of the elective 
principle, diminution of governmental control, enhancement of taxa- 
tion. Outside the city the first municipal institutions were of a 
voluntary character, the townspeople being left to ask for the applica- 
tion to their towns of an act^ which enabled the magistrate and persons 
appointed by government to raise taxes and see to the management 
of the streets and the prevention of nuisances. There was no active 
response to this invitation and, as townsfolk were not contribudng 
fairly to the general expenses, it was resolved to compel them to pay 
something towards the cost of the police. A Town Improvement Act^ 
was therefore passed and extended to numerous towns. This vested 
control of the streets, drains and so on in the district magistrate as 
president, the local public works officer and five or more persons 
appointed by government, rendered compulsory the levy of specified 
taxes to the point requisite to provide for certain purposes (including 
75 per cent, of the cost of the town police) and authorised discretionary 
taxation beyond that point for other purposes. The reluctance of the 
municipal commissioners to impose taxation beyond the compulsory 
limit led to a revised Towns Improvement Act.* There were now the 
collector as president, the revenue divisional officer and three or more 
commissioners ; provision was made for a system of election and a 
limit was put on the number of officials; education and medical relief 
entered into the list of purposes; liability for the police per contra 
disappeared ; ^ the government got power to enforce taxation through 
supervision of the annual budget. The present law^ severs the con- 
nection of the collector with the district municipalities, while leaving 
him a measure of control in emergencies ; the only ex officio councillor 
is the revenue divisional officer ; the minimum strength of the council 
is twelve; the maximum proportion of officials is one-fourth; the 

1 India Act XLV. 2 India Act XXVI of 1850. 

3 Act X of 1865. " Act III of 1871. 

^ This liability was reimposed by Act VII of 1878, but was enforced for a few years only. 

« Act IV of 1884. 



chairman may be appointed by government or by election ; a propor- 
tion (usually three-fourths) of the council must be appointed by 
election;^ taxation has been increased to meet the cost of water and 
drainage works. 

When British rule was established, there was not a single road of 
any length fit for wheeled traffic ; even the main streets of many of the 
largest towns were unusable by vehicles. Wheeled traffic was limited 
to rough farm carts on soHd wheels. At first there was a good deal of 
mihtary road-making, but the money spent on it was mostly wasted. 
Commercial roads were first considered in 1 8 1 3 ; and then there was 
not a road which was not either ill-made or decayed. Bridges were 
almost unknown. The inland commerce being then small, the Board 
of Revenue did not ask for more than a grant to enable collectors to 
keep up their district roads, and the government sanctioned 30,000 
rupees a year, with a promise (never fulfilled) of more. In 1825 
communications were put under the "maramat department" of the 
board, the management remaining with the district officers. Such 
improvement followed as was possible with a total annual allotment 
of httle more than one lakh, and it was reckoned in 1 848 that about 
90,000 travelling carts with "the European form of wheel" had come 
into being. In 1 845 a trunk road department under a superintendent 
was formed to take over the main highways from the maramat 
department. The new official was provided with funds but no proper 
staff, and the main roads shpped again from his paralysed hands into 
thoseof the collectors, who on their part were so starved that their whole 
road-grants totalled less than 10,000 rupees. In 1852 there was *' prob- 
ably not a single mile throughout the presidency equal to an ordinary 
English turnpike road", and there were certainly not a thousand miles 
on which one could comfortably drive at six miles an hour. When a 
proper public works department was created in 1858, the roads 
generally were entrusted to it, but imperial funds proved inadequate and 
it was resolved to find money for the minor roads from other sources. 
This was at first done by an addition to the assessment on ryotwariland, 
but the unfairness of such an arrangement led to Act III of 1866, 
which enabled government to levy a road-cess on all occupied land, 
whether ryotwari or zemindari. Then the question of providing for 
education came up and it was decided to have a general measure 
deaJing with rural roads, education and medical and sanitary im- 
provements. The Local Fund Act (IV of 187 1) was the result. This 
divided the country into circles (usually two to a district) which were 
placed under the collector as president of a board with a non-official 
element of half or more. The principal tax leviable under this act was 
a cess of one anna in the rupee on the annual rent value of all occupied 
land. With the help of contributions from this source the public works 
department continued to manage the roads until 1879, when the local 

^ Under the amending Act III of 1897. 


fund boards started their own engineering establishments and took 
complete charge. The general system of administration was revised 
by the Local Boards Act (V of 1884), which has since been amended 
on several occasions. The district now came under a district board 
with the collector as president (though in recent years there have been 
cases of non-official presidents), the revenue divisional officers as ex 
officio members, and other members either appointed by government 
or (from 1887) in part elected. The revenue division was placed under 
a taluk board with the revenue divisional officer as president or (from 
1 91 2) with an elected president. In 1909 the partial election of mem- 
bers of taluk boards was introduced. In the case of both boards a 
majority of non-official members is provided for and full executive 
authority is vested in the presidents. The law further enables the 
government to constitute villages and groups of villages into unions 
under the control of panchajats or committees. A house-tax may be 
raised in such unions, but the principal source of revenue is still the 
tax on the rent value of land. The main objects of expenditure have 
been roads, bridges, elementary schools and hospitals, in respect of 
all of which, since 1871, great development has taken place, attri- 
butable largely to the zeal and knowledge of the official presidents. 

The current century has produced its own minor departments and 
one of these promises to do much to relieve the farming class from the 
burden of debts incurred at extortionate interest from the money- 
lenders. The purpose of this department is to foster the growth of a 
system of co-operative credit societies, and so rapid has been the 
progress that in 191 7 there were in existence 2644 societies with a 
working capital of 235 lakhs. 

Such was the position at the end of our period : the mass peaceful 
and as contented as men ever are; on the surface some commotion 
crying for appeasement. The development of the administration since 
1 81 8 may seem to have been disappointingly slow in some directions; 
but it must be borne in mind that at the outset the presidency could 
not pay its way, and that for many years the resources available were 
very scanty. In 1825 Munro referred to the recurrent need of help from 
Bengal, and the Madras Public Works Commission in 1852 observed 
that Madras was invariably unable to provide its prescribed con- 
tribution towards "home charges" and was under constant pressure 
to economise. Only quite recently has the need for rigid economy 
ceased to hamper the government. 





LJ P to 1857 the development of administration had been in the main 
a process of improvisation, which responded to the varying conditions 
of the territories successively acquired rather than to the a priori re- 
quirements of any precisely defined system. The pacification after the 
Mutiny and the assumption of direct government by the crown 
inaugurated an era of reconstruction and assimilation which gradually 
substituted a regime of uniform lawfor one of discretionary regulations 
and diverse procedure, while preserving some measure of local ad- 
justment to the varied needs of a very heterogeneous population. The 
change obliterated the distinction between regulation and non- 
regulation areas, while restricting in the latter the discretion and 
power of the district officer ; and with improvement in communica- 
tions the activities of government began to manifest themselves 
through centralised departments rather than, as previously, through 
the comparatively unfettered initiative of local officers. The reform 
of the Indian legislature in 1861 and its subsequent activity have been 
described elsewhere. Here we confine ourselves to their effects on 
district administration. 

The enactment in 1859 of the Civil Procedure Code and in i860 
of the Indian Penal Code, followed in 1861 by that of the Criminal 
Procedure Code, was among the first-fruits of the new era. ^ The last 
two acts unified and simplified the criminal law, which in the three 
provinces had consisted of a confused medley of Islamic precepts, 
British acts and regulations, and judicial decisions. ^ The reform was 
of conspicuous benefit to administration. 

In 1 86 1 the first serious attempt was made to deal with the difficult 
problem of police by an enactment which embodied far-reaching 
reforms and which applied to all the three provinces. ^ Its principal 
feature was the constitution under each local government of a separate 
department of civil police, consisting of a formally enrolled homo- 
geneous provincial force, on the model of the Royal Irish Constabu- 
lary, distributed over the districts and placed under an inspector- 
general, who was himself subject to the direct control of the local 

* Whitley Stokes, The Anglo-Indian Codes, i, xii. 

* Whitley Stokes, op. cit. i, 2. 

' Moral and Material Progress Report, 1882-3, P- 7^; Imperial Gazetteer, iv, 387, 388; 
Report of Indian Police Commission, 1903, chap, i, pp. 9-13. 


government, and who was assisted by subordinate deputy-inspector- 
generals. Police administration in each district was placed in the 
hands of a superintendent, who was responsible for the working, 
discipline, and management of the force. But in order to combine the 
previous direct responsibility of the district magistrate with the intro- 
duction of departmental organisation, the superintendent was made 
subordinate to him in all that directly concerned the preservation of 
peace and the suppression of crime. The superior officers of the force, 
including the district superintendents, were Europeans. The districts 
were, as before, divided into convenient areas, each in charge of an 
Indian officer, of the rank of deputy-inspector, with a body of con- 
stables; a reserve under an inspector being maintained at headquarters. 
Village watchmen were retained, not as members of the force, though 
partially placed under the control of the local police officer, but as 
servants of the village communities, the headmen of which were 
legally bound to assist in the prevention and detection of crime. The 
powers of the police and much of their procedure were henceforth 
regulated by the provisions of the criminal procedure code, a limita- 
tion on previous methods, which, though desirable in itself, was 
probably of advantage to the criminal ; while the improved quality 
of the judiciary, combined with the growth of a legal profession, tended 
to raise the standard of proof required in criminal trials. The reformed 
system, though not without defects, was an improvement on its 
predecessor, and it remained without drastic change for the next forty 
years. Police, however, continued to be a weak point in the adminis- 
tration, while the strength and qualifications of the force did not keep 
pace with growing requirements and progressive conditions, nor did 
it secure public confidence. In spite of some minor improvements 
effected in 1888-9 ^^ enquiry made at the end of the century revealed 
a considerable increase in crime of the more serious kinds. A com- 
mission was appointed to investigate the whole subject of police 
administration, and it reported in 1903.^ While approving the fun- 
damental principles of the existing system, it criticised adversely the 
manner in which they had been practically applied, as well as the 
qualifications of all ranks of the force. It recommended many drastic 
reforms, most of which were introduced, ^ and in a few years secured 
highly beneficial results, as shown by the admirable manner in which 
the modern police force has acquitted itself during recent periods of 

Shortly after 1858 changes were made in the constitution of the 
judiciary. In 1 866 a high court was established for the North-Western 
Provinces under the provisions of an English statute of 1861,^ and a 

^ Report of Indian Police Commission, 1903, chap. ii. 

2 Government of India Resolution, 2 1 March, 1 905, on Report of Police Commission 
{Pari. Papers, 1905, Ivii, Accounts, etc. c. 2478). 

* Field, Regulations of the Bengal Code, 1875, p. 149; Imp. Gaz. TV, 146; Moral and Mat. 
Prog. Rep. 1882-3, p. 68. 


chief court with two judges for the Panjab. The constitution of the 
subordinate criminal courts was now regulated by the code of criminal 
procedure, the existing grades of sessions and magistrates' courts 
being retained. The collector kept his magisterial powers; but in the 
previously non-regulation areas, where such powers were wider, he 
was gradually relieved of the disposal of the increasing volume of civil 
litigation, except as regards suits between landlord and tenant; while 
the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the commissioners of divisions 
was transferred — in the Panjab as early as 1884^ — to divisional judges, 
who corresponded to the district and sessions judges of regulation 
provinces, and who in more recent years have been completely 
assimilated to them both in name and functions. The Indian judiciary, 
both criminal and civil, grew rapidly and for many years it has largely 
predominated in all grades except the highest, nearly the whole of the 
original civil litigation being in its hands. 

In 1859 the Panjab became a lieutenant-governorship,^ and in 
1 86 1, that year of notable changes, the Central Provinces was con- 
stituted a separate administration under a chief commissioner with a 
judicial commissioner as principal judicial authority.^ It comprised 
the Sagar and Narbada territories and the Nagpur state, together wdth 
certain other tracts acquired at various times. Its area, 100,000 square 
miles including Berar, is slightly less than that of the United Provinces 
and slightly greater than that of the Panjab. 

After 1 86 1 all provinces came within the sphere of the Indian legis- 
lature, though by no means identical laws applied to all. Some, such 
as the principal codes, did so ; others applied to certain provinces only. 
One result was the termination of any practical distinction between 
regulation and non-regulation areas so far as administrative principles 
and methods were concerned. The non-regulation system was replaced 
by the constitution of "scheduled districts" under two enactments of 
1870 and 1874.* In these areas only those legislative enactments were 
to be in force which the government might so declare, and it was 
further empowered to make special regulations for them. Both the 
United Provinces and the Panjab contain minor areas of this kind, 
mainly in the more remote hilly tracts. 

After 1 858 land administration shared in the general development, 
though without radical changes. The increasing prevalence of money-' 
rents in the North-Western Provinces gradually furnished a more 
accurate means of estimating the incomes of landlords, as well as the 
rental value of non-rented lands, with reference to rents actually paid 
or to those estimated to be fairly realisable ; thus affording a sounder 
basis for revenue assessment than the original rough " aggregate to 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1882-3, p. 646, and 1911-12, p. 31. 
' Adm. Rep. Panjab, 1882-3, P- 37- 

* Government of India Resolution, Foreign Department, of 2 November, 1861 ; Adm. 
Rep. Cent. Provs. 1882-3, P- i?- 

* Baden Powell, Land Revenue Systems of British India, i, 89-92; Imp. Gaz* iv, 131. 


detail" method. ^ Later, from 1878, as rent records became more 
plentiful and reliable, actual as opposed to estimated rents were used 
as data. In the second series of regular settlements, which began in 
1858 and was completed in 1882, the standard of assessment was 
reduced from two-thirds to one-half of net rental, though it is now 
exceptional for even one-half to be taken. In the Panjab, rents being 
comparatively rare and paid in kind, as is usually the case even now, 
the original method of assessment was retained. ^ But in the course of 
the next fifty years, as the renting of land became more common, 
increased stress was laid on a money valuation of the kind-rental 
received by landlords or, in the case of non-rented lands, of the kind- 
rental which they could fairly pay if rented; though in practice, 
especially towards the end of the period, in view of the preponderance 
of peasant proprietors as well as for other reasons, the actual state 
demand has usually been substantially below the theoretical standard 
as measured on a rental basis. Revenue assessment in the Panjab was 
and still is a matter of local knowledge and individual judgment 
rather than of arithmetical calculations from assumed data. In the 
specially insecure tracts in the south-west of that province systems of 
fluctuating assessment have been introduced, under which land- 
revenue is assessed at prescribed rates on such crops only as actually 
mature at each harvest.^ The wide extension of state canal irrigation 
in recent years has introduced complications into revenue adminis- 
tration with which it is impossible to deal here. For the actual con- 
sumption of water in irrigation specific water rates are charged, while 
the increased rental value of the irrigated land is assessed to land- 

In Oudh after the Mutiny the estates of the rebellious talukdars 
were formally confiscated, more in order to secure a clear field for the 
determination of rights and the protection of subordinate tenures than 
as a punitive measure. Accordingly their estates were returned to all 
who submitted ; and thereafter they held them as grantees of the 
government. By a reversal of the policy of 1 856, settlement of the 
land-revenue was made in most cases with the talukdars; subject 
however to the important proviso that where a subordinate village 
community, or even single members thereof, had succeeded in main- 
taining a virtual sub-proprietary status as against the talukdar, the 
annual sum payable to him was fixed in amount, the community or 
the single members retaining control of the land.^ This arrangement 
is known as a "talukdari" settlement. After a second summary 
settlement in 1858 the regular settlement of Oudh was begun on the 

^ Baden Powell, op. cit. n, 47-61, 66-8; Moreland, The Revenue Administration of the 
United Provinces, 191 1, pp. 41-5; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. 1882-3, PP- 43-4- 

2 Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 569-82 ; Panjab Settlement Manual, chap. vi. 

^ Panjab Sett. Manual, chap. xxvi. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, bk m, chap, iii; Adm. Rep. N.-W. Provs. 1882-3, p. 39; Moral 
and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- ^32' 


above lines in i860 and completed in 1873. In about one-third of the 
province, there being no talukdars, settlement was made with the 
village communities in the usual way. Certain special incidents of 
the talukdari tenure were regulated by legislation in 1869. 

The land-revenue administration of the Nor th-Wes tern Provinces 
was placed on a statutory basis by Act XIX of 1873 and that of Oudh 
by Act XVII of 1876. They were replaced by Act III of 1901, which 
applies to the present United Provinces (of Agra and Oudh) . The 
corresponding enactments for the Panjab were XXXIII of 187 1 and 
XVII of 1 887. All these deal with the powers and functions of revenue 
officers of all grades, with the principles and procedure of land-revenue 
assessment, and with the maintenance of records of rights ; but the 
subjects of tenancy and rent are regulated by separate enactments. 

In the newly constituted Central Provinces most of the villages were 
of the ryotwari type. Under the oppressive rule of the Marathas very 
many of them had been farmed, commonly to their own headmen, 
who were termed patels. Over groups of others various classes of 
persons, local tribal chiefs or their relatives, grantees of state revenue, 
and others, had acquired a proprietary status on quasi-feudal con- 
ditions as jagirdar or talukdar. Prior to 1861 summary settlements 
of various kinds had been made. It was decided at the regular settle- 
ment, which began in 1863 and was completed in 1870, to recognise 
all the above classes as proprietors, under the common designation of 
malguzar, or revenue-payer, and to make the settlement with them.^ 
This arrangement, however, in strong contrast to the Bengal system, 
was combined with an ample measure of tenant-right, by which a 
large majority of tenants received substantial protection. This form 
of settlement is known as malguzari. In the first regular settlement the 
assessment of land-revenue followed generally the *' aggregate to 
detail " method already described. ^ Tenants whose claims were based 
on length of time or on the expenditure of capital on improvements 
were recognised as full proprietors of their holdings, practically 
independent of the malguzar. Others with weaker claims were allowed 
an occupancy tenure, varying in its incidents, but in all cases affording 
security in respect of ejectment and rent, the latter being fixed at 
settlement but liable to periodical revision.^ The tenancy law was 
codified on the above principles by acts passed in 1883 and 1898, 
which also gave a measure of similar protection to ordinary tenants 
without occupancy right. The land-revenue law of the Central 
Provinces was embodied in Acts XVIII of 188 1 and XII of 1898.* 
In consequence of the special position of tenants rents have ceased to 
be the direct result of economic forces, so that the assessment of land- 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. ii, 385-8; Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 191 1-12, pp. 22, 23; Moral and 
Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, P- ^S?* 

2 Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 390. 

' Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 478-99: Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. 1911-12, p. 26. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 501. 


revenue is primarily the assessment of such rents as the settlement 
officer may consider reasonable in the circumstances of the tract 
concerned. The actual method employed, known as the "soil unit" 
system, is complex. Its main object is the equalisation of rent incidence 
with reference to the quality of soil, which is minutely classified by 
means of a proportionately numerical valuation in terms of an 
assumed common unit, known as the "soil unit". Having regard to 
certain general considerations a fair rent rate per unit is determined, 
and by a discreet application of this rate, more or less modified 
according to local circumstances, a fair rental for each holding and 
village is framed.^ The land-revenue due to the government is about 
one-half of the sum thus obtained. The land-revenue of Berar, which 
is not legally British territory, though it is attached to the Central 
Provinces, has been settled on the ryotwari system in force in the 
Bombay Presidency. ^ 

In all three provinces assets due to agricultural improvements 
effected by private labour and capital are exempted from assessment 
for a period of years sufficient to yield a remunerative return ; while 
the rigidity of the fixed land-revenue demand is mitigated by its 
suspension or, when necessary, by its ultimate remission, on occasions 
of widespread agricultural calamity. 

For many years after the Mutiny tenant right constituted a very 
intricate problem in the North-Western Provinces, Oudh, and the 
Panjab. The Bengal Act X of 1859 applied only to the first, but it was 
replaced by the successive North-Western Provinces Acts XVIII of 
1873 and XII of 1 88 1, though neither effected any change of prin- 
ciple.3 These acts protected certain tenants of long standing in the 
permanently settled Benares districts as well as tenants who had once 
been proprietors, and they maintained the twelve-years rule which 
has been already explained in another chapter. A certain measure of 
protection was also accorded to the interests of all tenants, while 
collectors and subordinate revenue officers were empowered to dispose 
judicially of suits between them and landlords. The later Act II of 
1 90 1 effected no radical changes. In Oudh the first tenancy law was 
the Rent Act XIX of 1868. In view of the wide protection afforded 
to sub-proprietors under the talukdari settlement, occupancy right was 
allowed only to those tenants who had lost proprietary right within 
the thirty years preceding annexation, but this being found to be 
insufficient,* a subsequent act (XII of 1886) went further by ensuring 
to all non-occupancy tenants a tenure for seven years without increase 
of rent; and even this measure has been found to be inadequate. 

In the Panjab in 1863 a controversy arose as to the propriety of the 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. ii, 415-31 ; Adm. Rep, Cent. Provs. 191 1-12, pp. 30-2. 
2 Adm. Rep. Cent. Provs. pp. 27, 33. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, p. 175; Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, p. 19. 

* Baden Powell, op. cit. 11, 246-9; Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. p. 19. 


methods by which tenant right had been treated in the first regular 
setdement. It led to a lengthy enquiry into the actual status of tenants 
throughout the province, of which the ultimate outcome was the 
Panjab Tenancy Act XXVIII of 1868.^ While saving, subject to a 
few -exceptions, all rights previously conferred, it abolished, for the 
future, acquisition of occupancy right by mere lapse of time. On the 
basis of existing custom and with reference to considerations of equity, 
five classes of cultivators were defined as eligible for such a right, its 
incidents varying with each class. The act also regulated the rents of 
occupancy tenants, and afforded some measure of protection to all 
tenants. It was considerably amended and amplified in details by the 
existing Act XVI of 1887. 

Mainly as a result of the famine of 1 860-1 the question of the 
extension of the permanent settlement to Upper India was revived 
after the lapse of fifty years. ^ An influential official school inclined 
to the view that such a measure would foster economic prosperity, and 
in 1862 the secretary of state. Sir Charles Wood, went so far as to 
accept it in principle. But further prolonged discussion of methods 
and details showed not only its impracticability but also its essential 
unwisdom, and in 1882 it was finally abandoned after it had been 
established that in permanently settled tracts prosperity was no 
greater than elsewhere. In recent years short-period settlements have 
been avoided as far as possible, and a general term of thirty years 
adopted, except in tracts where specially rapid development due to 
the construction of state canals is foreseen. 

Special measures for the organised collection of reliable information 
regarding the economic condition of a vast agricultural population, 
coupled with the maintenance of correct records of landed rights, were 
initiated in the last quarter of the century.^ Previous efforts in this 
direction had been confined to the occasion of a settlement of the 
land-revenue, so that by the expiration of its term, many years later, 
the statistics and records had necessarily become hopelessly out of 
date. In 1875 reform was initiated in the North-Western Provinces, 
and five years later a Famine Commission strenuously recommended 
the establishment of special departments in each province. These 
were constituted in 1880 under the designation of departments of land 
records and agriculture, each under a provincial director. Originally 
they had little concern with technical agriculture : their function was 
to secure the two main objects already indicated. Of the first the 
primary purpose is to obtain the earliest possible information of the 
premonitory symptoms of famine, though many other useful ends are 
also secured. By the continuous maintenance of correct records of 

* H. of C. Papers, 1870, vol. liii; Panjab Sett. Manual, p. 100 sq.; Baden Powell, op. cit. 
n, 705-22. 

* H. ofC. Papers, 1887, vol. l; Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 340-9; Panjah Sett. Manual, p. 254; 
Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, PP* ^^1~^9- 

' Baden Powell, op. cit. i, 349-60; Report of Famine Commission, 1880; Imp. Gaz- rv, 24. 


rights it was hoped to shorten the settlement operations periodically 
undertaken in each district, a hope which has been realised. The 
introduction of more scientific methods of cadastral survey has greatly 
promoted progress in this direction, while all transfers of right are 
promptly attested and registered, correct record being thereby facili- 
tated. As the result of the policy adopted, the three provinces now 
possess up-to-date land records probably unrivalled in the world, and 
containing detailed information about each one of several millions of 
fields and holdings and many thousands of villages ; while the usual 
duration of settlement operations in a district has been reduced from 
six years to little more than three. 

The importance of irrigation is indicated by the fact that the total 
area of crops irrigated by state canals in the Panjab and the United 
Provinces increased from seven and a half million acres in the first 
years of the present century to nearly eleven million acres in 1917-18,^ 
while the entire capital cost of the works in the latter year was approxi- 
mately twenty-two millions sterling. The greatest progress has been 
in the Panjab where the area irrigated quadrupled during the forty 
years ending 1918. It was in 1866,2 ^hen Lord Lawrence, as viceroy, 
inaugurated the policy of financing productive public works from 
loan funds, that the modern development of irrigation began. The 
first-fruits were the Sirhind^ Canal in the cis-Satlej-Panjab, which, 
originally proposed in 1841, was sanctioned in 1870 and opened in 
1882, with a total length, inclusive of branches and distributaries, of 
3700 miles ; the Lower Ganges Canal in the southern part of the Doab 
of the North- Western Provinces, sanctioned in 1872 and completed 
in 1878, and the Agra Canal, opened in 1874, which provides irriga- 
tion on the west of the Jumna. Between 1870 and 1876 the Upper 
Bari Doab Canal, and fifteen years later the Western Jumna Canal 
were greatly improved and extended. 

But the colony canals of the Panjab have been the most striking 
irrigational development of the period under review.* Their primary 
object was not to serve areas already cultivated, but to make possible 
the colonisation and development of the immense areas of waste 
crown land which existed in the province within recent years and on 
which large numbers of colonists selected from congested districts 
have since been settled on specific terms as lessees of the state. The 
encouraging results of two experiments made on non-perennial canals 
in the 'eighties led to more ambitious schemes. In 1890 work began 
on a perennial canal, with a head weir from the river Chenab, 
designed to irrigate the waste tract — termed Bar — lying between it 
and the Ravi. Now known as the Lower Chenab Canal, it has proved 

^ Imp. Gaz. Ill, 331 ; Statistical Abstract relating to British India, 191 7-1 8, p. 150. 

2 Imp. Gaz. TV, 329; H. of C. Papers, 1866, vol. Ln; 1867, vol. l. 

^ Triennial Review of Irrigation, 1918-21, Calcutta, 1922, pt m, chap. v. 

* Idem, pt in, chap. vi. 


to be one of the most successful irrigation systems in India, if not in 
the world. Its total length is nearly 2700 miles. Colonisation began 
in 1892, with the aid of a defective "inundation" canal, but the new 
canal was not complete until 1899. By 1901 the population of the 
tract had increased from practically nil to 800,000, while the area 
now annually irrigated exceeds two million acres. The yearly net 
revenue from the canal is nearly 40 per cent, of its capital cost of more 
than two millions sterling. The headquarters of the colony are at 
Lyallpur, one of the most flourishing towns in Upper India. The 
second Colony Canal, ^ the Lower Jehlam, in the tract between the 
rivers Jehlam and Chenab, though sanctioned in 1888 was not begun 
until 1898 and was opened in 1902. Its results have been satisfactory. 
At the beginning of the century a project was on foot for the irrigation 
of the lower portion of the Bari Doab from the river Satlej. Meanwhile 
a commission^ was appointed in 1901 for the formulation, after full 
enquiry into past results and existing needs, of a definite irrigation 
policy for India as a whole. It reported in 1903. It found in the 
Panjab one of the few tracts in which there was scope for the execution 
of large productive schemes, which would both be financially re- 
munerative and also augment the food supply of the country. It 
supported the proposal to irrigate the lower part of the Bari Doab 
while recommending the examination of an alternative scheme, 
suggested by Sir James Wilson, a distinguished civil servant, and 
Col. Jacob, an eminent irrigation officer, which substituted for a canal 
from the Satlej a chain of canals which would successively convey the 
water of the river Jehlam across the intervening Chenab and Ravi 
rivers to the lower Bari Doab. This scheme, now known as the Triple 
Project^ and comprising the Upper Jehlam, Upper Chenab and 
Lower Bari Doab canals, was ultimately approved. Its construction, 
which cost seven millions sterling, took ten years, from 1905 to 19 15. 
The first two canals supply water to the third while irrigating extensive 
areas in the tracts through which they pass. The total length of the 
canals with distributaries is 3400 miles and the area irrigated nearly 
two million acres. Colonisation was still in progress in 191 8. 

In the United Provinces the Betwa Canal, a protective work for 
insecure districts in Bundelkhand, was opened in 1885 and proved its 
value in the later famines. The Irrigation Commission recommended 
other protective but non-remunerative works, of which the Ken Canal, 
also in Bundelkhand, was opened in 1908. Up to 1907 there were no 
state irrigation works in the Central Provinces. Until 1896 a com- 
plete failure of rain had been unknown, but in the following famine 
years the tract suffered severely. The commission, holding that pro- 
tective irrigation was necessary, recommended the construction of 

* Triennial Review, p. 137. 

* Imp. Gaz. HI, 351 sq.; Triennial Review, pp. 109-10; Report of Indian Irrigation Commission, 
Calcutta, 1903« ^ Triennial Review, pp. 131 sqq. 


small canals, and also of reservoirs for the storage of local rainfall and 
of the comparatively precarious river supply. Up to 1918^ several of 
the latter had been completed, the most notable being the Ramtek 
tank in the Nagpur district with a capacity of 4000 million cubic feet, 
while three fairly large canals were still under construction. In 191 8 
several large new schemes for the Panjab and the United Provinces 
were being considered. Some of these have since matured, the most 
noteworthy being the Satlej valley project,^ with an estimated capital 
cost of nine and a half millions sterling. 

As a result of the extensive development which has been sketched 
above irrigation had by 191 8 become an important branch of district 
administration. Local work is in the hands of officers of the irrigation 
branch of the provincial public works department, but the collector 
is intimately concerned with its success and is generally consulted in 
all important developments. Moreover, he and his superiors, as land- 
revenue officers, have a preponderant voice in the determination of 
the rates charged for the consumption of canal water, while he is also 
responsible for the collection of the resulting demand, though its 
actual assessment at harvest time is usually made by irrigation officers. 
Ini9i7-i8net revenue from state canals in the Panj ab was i • 8 millions 
sterling, in the United Provinces £580,000, while in the Central 
Provinces there was none.^ 

Modern famine policy has been treated in another chapter, but a 
few facts may be added here.* In 1 860-1 severe famine affected an 
area of 50,000 square miles containing a population of twenty millions. 
It comprised the south-eastern Panjab and the west of the present 
United Provinces. The policy of relief on public works, initiated in 
1837-8, was retained and expanded, while poorhouses for the gra- 
tuitous relief of the incapable were opened for the first time. Remis- 
sions of revenue were comparatively small but considerable advances 
were made. Gratuitous relief appears to have been liberal : in the 
Hissar district of the Panjab, for example, its recipients were treble 
the number of persons on relief works. ^ The same tract was again 
severely attacked in 1868-9 by a famine which was far more wide- 
spread than the last. Distress was extreme, mortality great, and the 
destruction of cattle immense, while a heavy influx of starving multi- 
tudes from the feudatory states, which were without famine organisa- 
tion, greatly aggravated the situation and in fact broke down the 
relief system. In the United Provinces the state spent nearly Rs. 30 
lakhs in addition to heavy expenditure in the Panjab.^ In 1896-7 the 
same areas again suffered from intense famine, and the Central 
Provinces were for the first time affected. But on this occasion the 

^ Triennial Review, p. 128. ^ Jdem, p. 170. ' Statistical Abstract, 191 7-1 8, p. 150. 

* Imp. Gaz. HI, 485; Rep. ofFam. Comm. 1880, p. lo.^Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 191 1-12, p. 12; 
H. of C. Papers, 1862, vol. xl. ^ Gazetteer of Hisar District, 1892, p. 23. 

® Imp. Gaz. I"} 487; Rep. of Fam. Comm. 1880, p. 12; Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, 
p. 22. 


organisation, as testified by the subsequent Famine Commission of 
1898/ was far more efficient than it had been previously, while the 
agricultural population generally showed a power, hitherto unknown, 
of meeting the disaster. In the Panjab Hissar was again the most dis- 
tressed district, and it accounted for more than one-half of the total 
number relieved in that province, at one time as many as 1 5 per cent, 
of its total population being in receipt of relief Rs. 167 lakhs were 
spent in the United Provinces and Rs. 23 lakhs in the Panjab in addi- 
tion to heavy suspensions and remissions of land-revenue. ^ Once more 
in 1 899-1 900 the south-eastern Panjab and the Central Provinces 
were very severely attacked. Distress was more intense than in 1 896-7 
and cattle mortality, owing to a complete failure of fodder, enormous.^ 
In the Panjab the death-rates of the affected districts rose considerably 
but mortality from actual starvation was prevented. Relief operations 
in that province cost Rs. 48 lakhs, most of which was incurred in the 
Hissar district. The great development of irrigation and of communi- 
cations which has been achieved in recent years, the elaboration of 
a complete famine organisation, not only in British territory but also 
in the feudatory states, and, last but not least, the growth of general 
economic prosperity have gone far to vanquish one of India's direct 
and most persistent scourges. 

The forests of India are of the first importance, not only for their 
natural products but also through their influence on climate, rainfall, 
and water supply. As has been truly said they are "the head works 
of Nature's irrigation scheme in India". Under native rule unchecked 
destruction and wasteful misuse did untold damage. Up to 1855 
British attempts at management were sporadic and dominated by 
considerations of revenue, but in that year Lord Dalhousie inaugurated 
a policy of scientific conservation and regulated exploitation.* An 
inspector-general of forests was appointed nine years later, but it was 
not until 1869 that an organised forest department with a staff of 
trained officers came into existence. Indian forest lands are the 
property of the state, though generally more or less burdened with 
public or private customary rights of user, largely grazing, in favour 
of village communities or individuals; a feature which mainly decides 
the degree of conservation which can be applied. Those classed as 
"reserved" are important for purposes of scientific forestry. Forests 
are "protected " with a view to later reservation or in order to increase 
their direct utility to the agricultural population ; while in " unclassed " 
forests very few, if any, restrictions are enforced. The first legal basis 
for forest administration was the Indian Forest Act of 1865, which 
was replaced by the existing Act VII of 1878. It prescribes, inter alia, 

* Rfp. of Fam. Comm. 1898. 

* Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 191 1-12, p. 23; Adm. Rep. Panjab, 191 1-12, p. 24. 
3 Adm. Rep. Panjab, 191 1-12, p. 25. 

* Imp. Gaz. in, 107 sq.', Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, pp. 202 sqq.\ H. ofC. Papers, 
1871, vol. m. 


a procedure for the adjudication and record of public and private 
rights in forest lands and for their extinction in the reserves, if necessary, 
by compensation or exchange; the entire operation being known as 
a forest settlement. Each provincial government has a forest depart^ 
ment under a conservator of forests. For executive purposes there are 
deputy-conservators, or district forest officers, each in charge of a 
division, corresponding to a civil district, with an assistant and a 
subordinate staff. The collector is not concerned with technical forest 
work, but the deputy-conservator is under his control in all matters 
which directly concern the people, such as grazing in forests, levy of 
fees, and supply of forest produce. The collector, or a specially deputed 
officer, carries out forest settlement operations, often a lengthy and 
intricate business. Up to 1921 the Government of India controlled 
forest administration through its inspector-general. The main objects 
of the department are scientific improvement and regeneration of the 
forests, and, as subsidiary measures, protection from fire and from 
illicit grazing. Produce of various kinds is commercially extracted in 
accordance with prescribed working plans, which regulate this as well 
as other branches of forest technique. The United Provinces and the 
Panjab are not of great importance as measured by the proportion of 
forest to total area, which is 7 per cent, in each. In the Central 
Provinces, however, the figure is 20 per cent., the forest area consisting 
of 20,000 square miles of "reserves ".^ Former large areas of unclassed 
forest in the Panjab plains have been entirely colonised in recent 
years. The reserves in all three provinces are chiefly in the hills. 

Smuggled importation from feudatory states together with the wide 
prevalence of illicit distillation of alcohol, facilitated by the abundance 
of suitable material supplied by the cultivated sugar-cane and by the 
wild mahua tree {Bassia latifolia), long hindered progress in excise 
administration. But by 1918 much had been accomplished through 
restriction of supply to supervised distilleries and by improving the 
quality of the preventive establishment.^ An excise law, applying to 
the North-Western Provinces, was passed in 1856, which provided 
for central distilleries. But in view of their previous failure, it was not 
until 1863 that they generally displaced the system of farms and out- 
stills in the North-Western Provinces, though in Oudh they had been 
introduced in 186 1. A duty was levied on all spirituous liquor pro- 
duced, and the right of vend at specified shops was leased separately. 
By 1870 it became clear that the change had been too extensive, and 
in 1873 illicit traffic was found to be very prevalent. Again there was 
a reversion to farms and out-stills in many districts. Matters remained 
thus in the United and the Central Provinces until the early years of 
this century, farms and out-stills prevailing in one-third and nearly 

^ Statistical Abstract, 191 7-18, p. 157. 

2 Imp. Gaz. 11, 235; Pari. Papers, lxii, 60^ sqq.', Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, PP- 
1 70-1; Papers relating to Excise administration in India, Government of India Gazette j 
1 March, 1890. 


three-fourths of their respective areas. Throughout the Panjab, where 
previously there had been no excise restrictions, the farming system 
was in force for some years after annexation, but in 1863 it was en- 
tirely replaced by central distilleries, with separate licences for sale at 
specified shops. Under this system, which continued for nearly forty 
years, taxation was substantially increased, so that by 1890 illicit 
traffic was more rife than in the rest of India. In the early years of 
this century central distilleries gave place throughout the province to 
a few private distilleries of modern type located at selected places. 
Under direct official supervision and in mutual competition, they 
supplied spirituous liquor, after payment of duty, and at prices liable 
to government control, to local vendors, who were separately licensed 
for specified shops. The system was known as the "free supply" 
system. Only in two small areas, peculiarly situated, were out-stills 

With the passing of an Excise Act in 1896 matters had developed 
thus far when in 1905 the government referred the whole question of 
excise administration in India to a committee for review and for 
advice.^ In doing so it declared definitely that, while refusing to inter- 
fere with the moderate use of alcohol, its settled policy was to minimise 
temptation for the abstainer and to discourage excess among others ; 
and that no considerations of revenue could be allowed to hamper 
this policy. It held that the most effective means of pursuing this 
was as high a taxation of liquor as was possible without stimulating 
illicit production and resort to harmful substitutes. While recognising 
that uniformity of method was impossible, it regarded the continuance 
of extensive farm and out-still areas, of crude distillery systems, and 
of low rates of taxation as defects to be remedied as soon as possible. 
After a lengthy enquiry the committee in 1906 submitted with its 
report detailed recommendations for the future course of excise ad- 
ministration, most of which, with some modifications, are now in 
force.2 In each of the three provinces spirituous liquor is made in 
private licensed distilleries under official supervision. After payment 
of duty it is supplied to local licensed vendors under officially con- 
trolled arrangements and at regulated prices. Out-still areas have 
been reduced to a minimum in the United and the Central Provinces, 
and entirely abolished in the Panjab. Separate licences, containing 
many desirable prohibitions and restrictions, for the retail vend of 
liquor at specified shops are issued on fees which are generally deter- 
mined by auction. The duty is enhanced from time to time with the 
object of increasing the proportion borne by its yield to that of vend 
fees ; but the risk of stimulating illicit distillation hampers the process. 
On all foreign liquor, spirituous or fermented, import duty is levied, 

* Report of the Excise Committee, 1905-6, and Government of India Resolutions 
thereon, in Pari. Papers, 1907, lviii, 645 sqq. 

' Provincial Excbe Administration Reports for 1 907-8 and subsequent years. 


and sale is controlled by licences ; while the production of beer, mainly 
for European consumption, is also subject to excise regulations. The 
general Excise Act has been replaced by separate provincial enact- 

Opium was extensively grown in the Panjab before its annexation, 
but its cultivation, manufacture and sale were soon brought under 
control.^ The first was gradually restricted and is now prohibited 
except in a few small hill tracts, very little opium being at present 
locally produced. For public consumption opium manufactured by 
government agency is issued at a monopoly price to vendors licensed, 
on fees usually determined by auction, to sell at specified shops. In 
the United and the Central Provinces the supply is confined to such 
government opium. 

In 1893 a commission investigated the production, sale and con- 
sumption of drugs made from the hemp plant {Cannabis sativa).^ It 
did not recommend prohibition, but control and restriction. The 
control is enforced by a system of licences for sale similar to liquor 
licences. Cultivation has been greatly restricted, most of the supply 
being imported from Central Asia. 

Local excise administration is one of the more important duties of 
the collector. The work has grown greatly in volume and complexity 
in the present century ; the total net revenue of the three provinces 
in 1 91 7-1 8 being 2-2 millions sterling. 

Important developments connected with agriculture, with rural 
indebtedness, and with the closely allied subject of co-operation have 
taken place within recent years. As has been already stated the 
provincial departments of land records and agriculture, instituted in 
1880, had little concern with technical agriculture. In 190 1, as a first 
step towards its more scientific organisation, the Indian Government 
appointed an inspector-general of agriculture with a small staff of 
experts. During the next few years the subject of agriculture was 
separated from land records and provincial departments instituted, 
each under a director with a small staff, subsequendy increased by 
the addition of trained officers. The fundamental object of these 
departments is the development, by experiment and research, of 
improved agricultural methods and implements, of better qualities 
of seed, and of effective means of coping with crop diseases and insect 
pests. With the growth of the departments many experimental stations 
and demonstration farms had been established by 19 15 and were 
doing satisfactory work.^ Several cultural and manurial problems 
had been dealt with, greatly improved varieties of seed for important 
crops had been produced, and the introduction of better implements 
had begun. For the provision of sound agricultural training on 

^ Imp. Gaz. IV, 245; Report of Opium Commission, 1893, //. ofC. Papers, 1895, vol. xlii. 
^ Report of Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893, ^^^ Government of India Resolu- 
tion thereon of 21 March, 1895. 
* Annual Reports of Provincial Agricultural Departments. 



scientific lines, an essential feature of the entire scheme, provincial 
agricultural colleges, with research institutes attached, have been 
established; while a central college at Pusa in Bihar provides more 
advanced instruction. The three provinces have taken their full share 
in the progress, their colleges being located at Cawnpore, Nagpur, 
and Lyallpur respectively. The last, situated in the Chenab colony, 
is now a leading centre of research, experiment and instruction. 
Though the modern movement was started not in response to popular 
demand, but on the initiative of the government, the agricultural 
department has succeeded to a surprising degree in securing the con- 
fidence of the rural classes. The collector, though having no control of 
its technical operations in his district, is closely concerned with it on 
its administrative side and with its general results. 

Debt is an inevitable adjunct of peasant agriculture, but under an 
unhealthy system of credit, where numerous illiterate and often 
thriftless rural borrowers are in the toils of literate and astute money- 
lenders, it is apt to become both a fruitful economic evil and a political 
danger. The grant of freely transferable proprietary rights to the 
peasantry of the Panjab and of the United Provinces, combined with 
a novel moderation in the fiscal demands of the state, put at its dis- 
posal a volume of credit which grew with the value of land and of its 
produce. In the period 1 875-1 900 indebtedness increased rapidly, 
and with it the sale and mortgage of agricultural land. In the Panjab 
the evil had attained alarming proportions by the latter year. After 
very prolonged investigation and discussion a remedy was sought in 
legislation. The Panjab Alienation of Land Act of 1900,^ while not 
affecting transfers of land between members of the agricultural tribes 
of the province, narrowly restricts such transfers where the transferees 
are members of other classes, which include most of the professional 
money-lenders. The undue restriction of credit, the general fall in 
land values, the widespread evasion which some anticipated as 
necessary results of the measure, have not occurred. Credit is being 
placed on a more healthy basis by the co-operative movement noticed 
below; the rise of land values, though not necessarily beneficial to the 
rural population, has continued steadily, while the peasant himself 
now regards the act as an indispensable factor of his economic 
security. Its proper administration is one of the important duties of 
the deputy-commissioner. Similar legislation has not been found to be 
necessary in the United Provinces except in Bundelkhand, where it 
was introduced in 1903.^ 

It is, however, rural co-operation combined with improved agri- 
cultural practice, which is proving itself to be the most effective means 
of raising the economic condition of the peasantry. The subject is one 
which deserves a much closer study than is possible here. After a 

* Adm. Rep. Panjab, 191 1 -12, p. 49, and other extensive literature. 

* Adm. Rep. Unit. Provs. 1911-12, p. 20. 


preliminary period of investigation, with practical experiments in 
various parts of India, a Co-operative Credit Societies Act was passed 
in 1 904, which provided legal facilities for the formation and working 
of such societies. In the light of subsequent experience it was replaced 
by the Co-operative Societies Act of 191 2, an improved measure of 
wider scope, which, in addition to credit societies, provided for societies 
co-operative in the purchase of seed and implements, the marketing 
of produce, and in other activities. A rural credit society is broadly 
of the German Raiffeisen type, though with certain differences. Its 
membership is confined to a small specified area, and its function is 
to lend among its members for approved objects connected with 
agriculture, including reasonable domestic consumption, funds raised 
on their joint and several unlimited liability. A small entrance fee is 
charged, and in the Panjab and the United Provinces, but not in the 
Central Provinces, each member contributes in addition a small 
amount of share capital. Deposits are received from both members 
and non-members, and further capital is borrowed from other societies 
or from central banks, which form an integral part of the system and 
are in touch with the external money market. A committee of mem- 
bers constitutes the managing body, and as no paid staff is employed, 
working expenses are at a minimum; but borrowers are charged a 
rate of interest, which, though much less than that usually taken by 
money-lenders from single borrowers, allows of the accumulation of 
a reserve fund. The whole of the above resources are employed as 
working capital ; and an immense alleviation of rural indebtedness is 
being gradually effected, while the moral education in self-help, 
thrift, self-respect, and social solidarity which is being silently im- 
parted can scarcely be overestimated. Many societies for co-operative 
objects other than credit have been started. In each province the 
local government appoints a registrar with one or two assistants, who, 
with a trained staff, superintend and advise the societies in addition 
to performing statutory functions under the act.^ The figures for 
agricultural societies in 191 8-1 9 — United Provinces, 3177; Central 
Provinces, 3871 ; Panjab, 5087 — show the extent to which the move- 
ment has spread. It is one of the most effective economic and educative 
influences which have been introduced into India. 

The modern development of local self-government is described in 
another chapter. Beginning in 1873 with Lord Mayo's measures for 
the decentralisation of finance,^ it was placed by Lord Ripon in 
1 88 1-2 on a broader basis, with a largely increased elective element 
and with a limited degree of freedom from official control. In actual 
practice, however, most local bodies were dominated by the influence 
of the district officer, and, in financial matters especially, by the 

^ Annual Provincial Reports. 

^ Imp. GaZ' IV, 287 sqq.'y Pari. Papers, 1883, li, i sqq.-, Moral and Mat. Prog. Rep. 1882-3, 
PP- 59-63- 

1 9-2 


increasingly centralised control of the provincial government and its 
departments ; both being exercised in the interests of administrative 
efficiency, which otherwise, there can be little doubt, would have 
seriously deteriorated, there being then no public opinion competent 
to compel local bodies to discharge their responsibilities. The district 
officer was not merely the controlling guide of local bodies, but their 
main active element; their affairs forming a considerable part of his 
daily work; a position which continued until the Indian Decentralisa- 
tion Commission issued its report in 1909. It found that progress in 
local self-government had been hindered because local bodies, and 
more especially rural boards, had no real power and responsibility 
owing to want of funds and to excessive control. It made many drastic 
proposals for removing the trammels, the more important of which, 
after reference to provincial governments, the Indian Government 
accepted in 1915^ with certain reservations and modifications. As a 
general result central departmental control was much relaxed and in 
some respects abrogated ; local bodies have been placed in a freer and 
stronger financial position; while in municipalities official chairmen 
have for the most part disappeared. What the ultimate practical 
outcome will be in terms of public health and convenience remains 
to be seen. In the year 191 7-18 there were in the United Provinces, 
the Central Provinces and in the Panjab, 83, 57 and 100 munici- 
palities respectively, which contained in the case of the first two 6| per 
cent., and in the case of the third 8 per cent, of the whole provincial 
population. 2 

The important subject of education has been treated elsewhere. Its 
administration being for the most part in the hands of the provincial 
education departments, its connection with district administration 
has been mainly through the local bodies, who have helped to finance 
primary, and to some extent also secondary education, without, 
however, exercising much actual control over either. The function of 
the district officer has been to co-operate, advise and encourage on 
a basis of general interest, supervision and local knowledge. 

The main lines which the development of district administration 
has followed have now been sketched. Throughout the process the 
district officer — collector or deputy-commissioner — on the whole re- 
tained the position of principal local official of the government, in 
direct control, so far as his district was concerned, of its chief activities, 
and in direct touch with all others conducted by more purely depart- 
mental officials not wholly subordinate to him. The extremely multi- 
farious nature of his work has been indicated. His primary duties are 
the collection of revenue from the land and from other sources, and 
the exercise of judicial powers, criminal and revenue, both of first 
instance and in appeal. But police, jails, municipalities, rural boards, 

^ Government of India Resolutions 55-77, a8 April, 1915. 
* Statistical Abstract for 191 7-18, p. 98. 



education, roads, sanitation, dispensaries, local taxation, agricultural 
statistics, records of rights and irrigation are matters with which he 
is more or less daily concerned, directly or indirectly. He is also 
responsible for the maintenance and submission of correct accounts of 
extensive local receipts and expenditure, and for the safe custody of 
large amounts of public money. He must, moreover, be familiar with 
the social life of the people and with the natural aspects of his district. 
But the district officer who should seek to undertake personally the 
daily minutiae of all these subjects would be unwise, not to say in- 
competent. With a comparatively few of them to do so is inevitable, 
but the main, the most important work is continuous supervision and 
control of subordinates, combined with a broad view and a strong but 
kindly grasp of the changing aspects and the half-expressed needs of 
the mass of human beings committed to their care. Centralised 
control has doubtless increased; but the common complaint that it 
has harmfully restricted the initiative of the district officer is in the 
main an exaggeration. It has certainly increased his otherwise mani- 
fold preoccupations, and where he has not been provided with ade- 
quate staff the result has been harmful. But he has been able to 
succeed just in so far as he has appreciated the need for, and has 
skilfully arranged, wherever possible, a devolution of actual work to 
properly qualified subordinates. 



JL HREE hundred years ago the Dutchman, Francisco Pelsaert, 
travelling in Upper India, described in vivid language the relations 
between agriculture and the seasons : 

The year is here divided into three seasons. In April, May and June the heat is 
intolerable, and men can scarcely breathe, more than that, hot winds blow con- 
tinuously, as stifling as if they came straight from the furnace of hell. The air is 
filled with the dust raised by violent whirlwinds from the sandy soil, making day 
like the darkest night that human eyes have seen or that can be grasped by the 
imagination. Thus in the afternoon of 15 June, 1624, 1 watched a hurricane of dust 
coming up gradually, which so hid the sky and the sun that for two hours people 
could not tell if the world was at an end, for the darkness and fury of the wind 
could not have been exceeded. Then the storm disappeared gradually, as it had 
come, and the sun shone again. The months of June, July, August, September and 
October are reckoned as the rainy season, during which it sometimes rains steadily. 
The days are still very hot, but the rain brings a pleasant and refreshing coolness. 
In November, December, January, February and March it is tolerably cool, and 
the climate is pleasant. 

From April to June the fields lie hard and dry, unfit for ploughing or sowing 
owing to the heat. When the ground has been moistened by a few days' rain, the 
cultivators begin to sow indigo, rice and various food grains eaten by the poor. 
When all these are'oflf the land, they plough and sow again, for there are two harvests; 
that is to say in December and January they sow wheat and barley, various pulses 
and "alsi" (linseed) from which oil is extracted. Large numbers of wells have to 
be dug in order to irrigate the soil, for at that time it is beginning to lose its productive 
power. Provided the rain is seasonable and the cold is not excessive, there is a 
year of plenty, not merely of food, but in the trade of all sorts of commodities. * 

But if the rain is not seasonable, if the monsoon fails over large 
tracts which cannot be sufficiently irrigated from ponds, rivers, wells 
or canals, the crops which are the mainstay of the countryside must 
be sown in a much restricted area and will often be poor even there ; 
the grass which has been burnt up by the blazing sun and burning 
winds of March, April and May cannot revive, and both the milch- 
cows and the plough and transport cattle, which are the cultivator's 
working capital, are decimated. The water level falls; and the supply 
is tainted with noxious germs. The peasantry see their means of live- 
lihood vanish. If no remedy be forthcoming they must starve. 
Destitution will bring cholera and pestilence in its train ; and thousands 
of humble lives will be sacrificed. Such is famine in that grim shape 
which it has often worn. But nature sometimes relents; and man has 
done much to combat this king of terrors. 

The drought which follows a feeble monsoon may be mitigated by 
light winter rains; and in any case there are marked differences of 

* Pelsaert, Jehangir^s India, pp. 47-8. For an account of the climate and rainfall see 
vol. I, chap, i of this History. 


climate and inequalities of rainfall. The populations have accustomed 
themselves to this circumstance both in their density and in their 
selection of crops. There are wet provinces and dry provinces, wet 
areas and dry areas, sometimes within the same district; there are wet 
crops and dry crops. If communications are adequate there are 
flourishing tracts to come to the rescue of those less favoured. Rain 
never fails throughout the whole country, even though the monsoon 
sometimes disappoints not only regions inured to some degree of 
drought but those which are usually blessed with abundant rainfall. 

When the south-west monsoon is over the young winter crops, and 
in parts the later rice, need artificial irrigation; and if the rainfall has 
been deficient, the irrigation must be strenuous and constant. Rivers, 
wells, "tanks" (artificial ponds) are all requisitioned. But in a dry 
year, the supply from these sources shrinks, and canals, where they 
exist, are the greatest stand-by of all. Large-scale systems of canals, 
drawing supplies from rivers or artificial reservoirs, began with the 
consolidation of British rule; but the West Jumna Canal, in a dilapi- 
dated condition, was inherited from Moghul times ; and the Kaveri 
delta canal system in Madras comes down from remote antiquity.^ 
In the year 1919-20 the total area irrigated by canals in British India 
exceeded 27,000,000 acres. The total length of canals and distributaries 
was 66,754 miles. The estimated value of the crops watered by govern- 
ment irrigation works amounted to ^(^ 156,000,000, double the capital 
expenditure which these works had entailed. 

The storage of water and the regulation of its outflow are matters of 
supreme importance to Indian agriculture. Wells, tanks and canals 
play their part. But the wide extension of irrigation which marked 
the years 1858-1918 could not have been achieved without the skilled 
and devoted co-operation of the Indian forest service. To quote the 
words of one of its most distinguished members : 

It is by the agency of the forests that the surface-flow from the hills is restrained 
after heavy rain; that the water level is maintained at such a height that it can be 
reached by the primitive methods of the East; that the springs are kept supplied; 
and that perennial springs may be made to flow in the place of those water-courses 
trickling through dreary beds of sand, that would hardly be suspected of becoming 
later on in the summer turbulent and muddy torrents, often carrying devastation 
instead of blessing. ^ 

We need only summarise the history of famines before 1858. In 
ancient times scarcity owing to floods or drought was not infrequent 
and sometimes extended to a whole kingdom.^ But scarcities caused 
by floods have always affected comparatively small areas, and inunda- 
tions have left a fertilising silt. The great famines have been caused 
by drought. In his elaborate studies of economic life under the 

^ Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, p. io8; Knowles, Economic Development of the 
Overseas Empire, pp. 366-82; Moreland, From Akbar to Aurangzeb, pp. 195-6. 
* Eardley-Wilmot, Forest Life and Sport in India, p. 5. 
' Cf. vol. I, chap, viii, supra. 


Moghul emperors Mr Moreland has shown us that the famines then 
were marked, not only by widespread mortahty and desolation, but 
by suicide, voluntary enslavement and cannibalism.^ Before the "pax 
Britannica" was definitely established the miseries of such times were 
often aggravated by the ravages of armies. In 1802 the army of the 
Maratha chief, Jasvant Rao Holkar, marching to Poona from the 
north, laid waste the countryside. The Pindaris followed in its wake 
and reduced the Deccan to such depths of misery and want that 
human beings are said to have been devoured by the peasants. 
Emigrants passed into the Konkan leaving a trail of dead and dying 
behind them. The late rains failed ; the river at Poona was black with 
putrescent corpses; and "hunger, hand in hand with cholera, left 
many villages permanently desolate ".^ But, in any case, as long as 
districts were land-locked and populations were isolated, famine 
relief was largely regarded as hopeless. Almsgiving, storage of food 
grains in central towns, remissions of revenue, digging of wells, were 
palliatives occasionally resorted to. But no attempt was made to stem 
the full tide of starvation and ruin. Even when the government of the 
East India Company, recently established at Calcutta, was in 1 769-70 
first brought face to face with responsibility for some measure of 
relief, its dispatches, 

while breathing a tone of sincere compassion for the sufferings of the people, were 
busied rather with the fiscal results as affecting the responsibility of the Company 
towards its shareholders, than with schemes which would have seemed wholly 
visionary for counteracting the inevitable loss of life.^ 

There is no reason to dispute the finding of the 1880 Famine Com- 
mission that up to the end of the eighteenth century "the position of 
the British in India was not such as either to create any sense of 
general obligation to give relief, or to supply sufficient means of 
affording it". While the administration was endeavouring to find its 
feet, while wars frequently carried devastation into large tracts of 
country, while the effects of climatic disturbances on food crops were 
largely a matter of conjecture, while agricultural, economic and vital 
statistics were unknown, while it was difficult to transmit information 
speedily, while the absence of communications rendered the timely 
transmission of grain for long distances or in large quantities a very 
arduous or an impossible undertaking, while half-starved bullocks or 
heavy barges were the sole means of transport, famine was regarded 
as a calamity wholly transcending the powers of man to counteract 
or even materially to mitigate.^ The years 1 765-1 858 were marked 
by famines or scarcities in various parts of the country which were 
dealt with by such measures as seemed best to the local governments 

* Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, chap, vii; From Akbar to Aurangzeby chap. vii. 
2 Grant Duff, History of the Marathas (ed. Edwardes), ii, 368. 

^ Report of the Famine Commission, 1880; of. Hickey, Memoirs, iii, 343-4. 

* Gf. Kaye, British India, pp. 275-6, and Maconochie, Life in Indian Civil Service, pp. 9-10. 


or district officers concerned. No attempt was made to formulate any 
general system of famine relief or prevention, although such experi- 
ments as storage of grain by the government, penalties on hoarding, 
bounties on import, poorhouses, advances of money to encourage the 
sinking of wells, and relief works to afford employment, were under- 
taken at one time or another. The only business which can afford 
employment to Indian cultivators when tillage fails is earth-work, 
the excavation of reservoirs, the construction of irrigation embank- 
ments and the making of roads. But earth-works were never opened 
on an adequate scale. When in 1837 famine visited the upper reaches 
of the Ganges and the Jumna, the local government laid down the 
principle that while the state found work for the able-bodied, the 
whole community must, as in ordinary times, look after the helpless 
and infirm. The measures adopted were quite insufficient. Heavy 
mortality resulted; and violent riots broke out. Twenty years later 
came the Mutiny, which was followed by the complete transfer of 
government to the crown. 

The period with which we are now concerned was marked by a 
wide extension of railways ^ and other communications, by a rapid 
growth of trade and overseas commerce, by a great expansion of 
means of irrigation, by the development of an elaborate system of 
public instruction, by agrarian legislation mainly in the interest of the 
cultivators, by a gradual change in economic factors which, in spite 
of a great increase of population, very gradually modified the character 
of famines. 

The seasons of 1858-9 were irregular; and in i860 the monsoon 
practically failed over 48,000 square miles of the North-West Pro- 
vinces around Agra. Alwar and other Indian states were affected; 
and about half a million persons deserted the distressed tracts. 
The provinces were still suffering from the effects of the Mutiny; 
but their south-east districts and neighbour provinces had received 
plenty of rain and were able to supply abundance of food grains. 
Within the distressed area canals protected about 900,000 more acres 
than they had protected in 1837; around it communications had 
improved, and the East Indian Railway had progressed far enough 
to render useful service. Free- trade principles were followed ; and, as 
in 1837, it was declared that the state would provide employment for 
the able-bodied while voluntary agency should give charitable relief 
to the helpless and infirm. In fact, however, voluntary agency did 
very little ; and the government found it necessary to undertake almost 
the whole burden of relief. Able-bodied persons were organised in 
gangs, housed in temporary sheds and employed upon earth-works 
for roads or canals. Some helpless persons were relieved in their 
homes and others in poorhouses where light tasks were imposed upon 
the more capable inmates. The famine was on a small scale, but is 

* For the early history of railways in India see Quarterly Review, 1868, cxxv, 48-78. 


remarkable for the fact that then for the first time a special enquiry 
was held into the causes, area and intensity of such a calamity. While 
it was proceeding Colonel Baird Smith was deputed to examine these 
matters ; but his report did not lead to any formulation of general 
principles of relief 

We come now to the famine of 1866-7, which is known as the 
Orissa famine because in Orissa it assumed its most terrible form ; but 
it extended along the whole east coast from Calcutta to Madras and 
penetrated inland. This calamity proved a turning point in the history 
of Indian famines for it was followed by the investigations and report 
of a committee (presided over by Sir George Campbell^) which laid 
the foundations of a definite policy. 

The causes of the famine were the failure of the autumn rains, and 
consequently of the rice crops, of 1865, together with the almost com- 
plete absence of importation into Orissa of food from outside. The 
main stress of privation fell on the three British districts which form 
a comparatively narrow strip between the uplands and the sea and 
are intersected by rivers which swell enormously in the rainy season. 
There is a large pilgrim traffic by land to Jagannath in the dry season ; 
but commercial communications were then principally by sea from 
several small ports open the greater part of the year but inaccessible 
from the heavy surf and the prevalent winds after the breaking of the 
south-west monsoon. The country is almost entirely a rice or water 
country; but the supply of rain is generally ample, and there had been 
no previous famines since Orissa became British territory. In 1865, 
however, the monsoon ceased prematurely along the east coast, and 
two-thirds of the rice crop were lost. Food stocks were low, as export 
had been brisk of late years, but prices remained moderate for some 
time. The warnings of certain local officers were disregarded, and 
famine arrived like a thief in the night. 

"In April 1866", says Campbell, "the magistrate of Guttack still reported that 
there was no ground for serious apprehension. A few days later in May, he and his 
followers were almost starved. We compared it to the case of a ship where the stores 
are suddenly found to have run out." 

A panic had set in and stores were withheld from the market. Every 
Indian cultivator aims at growing and keeping his own food supply. 
The market supply is what he sells to pay his rent and meet his cash 
needs, but in times of scarcity even grain which can be spared is held 
up. Dealers also incline to wait for higher prices. If, however, im- 
portation from other districts is easily practicable, even a great failure 
of crops will not lead to a widespread hold-up of stocks. 

In Orissa panic arose suddenly. Importation was rapidly becoming 
impracticable; and the local government had been slow to appreciate 
the situation. Before anything effective could be done the monsoon 

* Cf. his Memoirs of my Indian Career, ii, 149-55. 


broke and Orissa was sealed up for several months. There was terrible 
suffering before adequate supplies could be obtained, although the 
cultivators procured or had saved sufficient to sow their autumn crops. 
In October the government poured in large supplies of grain, and 
some local hoards were brought out by the dealers. A good new crop 
was then being reaped, and the famine ended almost as suddenly as 
it had begun, except in certain tracts, where excessive floods wrought 
havoc. The Bengal government had provided such relief as it could 
at a cost of about one and a half millions sterling. But the commis- 
sioner of the division estimated that one-fourth of the population had 
died. Campbell's committee did not think this estimate excessive; 
but in the entire absence of statistics and of effective machinery for 
ascertaining the facts was unable to form an accurate judgment. The 
census of 187 1 showed an unexpectedly large population; and Gamp- 
bell afterwards doubted whether the famine mortality had not been 
exaggerated. The grain which poured in when the mischief was done 
was largely wasted and lay unused till it rotted. In Ganjam, a neigh- 
bouring district of the Madras Presidency, the situation had been 
easier, but a prolonged duration of high prices pressed hardly on the 
people and called for relief measures. The drought of 1865 extended 
in some degree to Bihar and Bengal where relief was inadequate and 
badly organised. 

GampbelFs committee reported that timely measures had not been 
taken to meet the terrible emergency which arose in May, 1866. The 
Bengal government had completely failed to forecast developments 
and had misled the central government. Blindly relying on the law 
of demand and supply, they had not considered the isolation of Orissa 
in the rainy season, and its customary dependence on its own food 
supply. It was essential to improve communications considerably and 
to initiate in Bengal the maintenance of land records and agricultural 
statistics which was carried out in other provinces by a subordinate 
revenue staff. The committee made recommendations which in some 
measure anticipated those of the royal commission of 1880. Their 
report produced a change of outlook; but Gampbell tells us that "the 
idea rather prevailed that the Orissa failure was a personal failure 
which need not occur again". John Lawrence, however, who was 
then governor-general, blamed himself bitterly for having accepted 
the facile assurances of the Bengal government, and, when famine 
again appeared elsewhere in 1868, declared in council that his object 
was "to save every life", and that district officers would be held 
responsible that no preventible deaths occurred. The old doctrine 
that the public would be responsible for the relief of the helpless and 
infirm was entirely abandoned. Money was borrowed in order to 
finance additional railways and canals. 

Drought and famine in 1868-9 affected parts of the North-Western 
Provinces and Panjab, but were more intense in wide stretches of 


Rajputana, and produced a great influx of emigrants into British 
territory, severely straining public charity and tending to swamp 
relief arrangements. The able-bodied were employed on large and 
small works. Extra mortality was estimated at 1,200,000 and ascribed 
mainly to cholera, smallpox and fever. 

In 1873 the monsoon ceased prematurely in Northern Bihar, 
causing a loss of much of the winter rice crop. Relief measures were 
planned on a scale unknown before. Sir George Campbell, then 
lieutenant-governor, wished to prohibit export of rice and other cereals 
from Bengal overseas, the failure of these crops being largely confined 
to the north-western districts of his charge. His idea was to save all 
that was available in the south-east, to dam it up and drive it north- 
ward. But the proposal did not commend itself to Lord Northbrook 
who was then viceroy, and the central government arranged to 
import 480,000 tons of rice mostly from Burma to the distressed area. 
Even so up to April, 1874, the imports of rice barely equalled the 
exports ; and during the whole famine year the exports of food from 
Calcutta were about two-thirds of the imports. Tasks were not strictly 
enforced on the relief works started in the distressed area, which con- 
sisted of 40,000 square miles with a population of 17,000,000. 
Gratuitous relief was given in villages on a very liberal scale. The 
whole cost was six and a half millions, although famine had been 
acute in two districts only: 800,000 tons of surplus grain remained on 
the hands of the government and were sold at a heavy loss. Relief 
was undoubtedly extravagant ; but, for the first time in Indian history, 
a serious failure of crops had not produced heavy mortality. 

The next drought soon arrived. It produced a famine of great 
magnitude and eventuated in an enquiry on a large scale which 
inaugurated a new era. 

The famine of 1876-8 resulted from two deficient monsoons and 
affected not merely rice areas but also tracts which were largely 
covered by dry crops. It lasted long, covering much Madras territory, 
part of the Indian states of Mysore and Hyderabad, and the Bombay 
Deccan, affecting also the Nor th-Wes tern Provinces and Oudh. The 
policy of the central government was to spare no efforts to save the 
population of the distressed districts, but not to attempt the task of 
giving general relief to all the poorer classes of the community. 
Agreed principles and methods of relief had not yet been formulated; 
operations were not conducted on any uniform plan; and in many 
tracts private trade was seriously hampered by imperfect communica- 
tions, for none of the areas most affected was then traversed by more 
than one railway line, while various districts were dependent for food 
on cattle transport from certain depots served by the railways. In 
Bombay deaths during 1877-8 were 800,000 in excess of the normal 
figure, although large relief works had been promptly opened for the 
able-bodied, and gratuitous relief was well organised. In Madras the 


government commenced by importing grain with the object of 
keeping down prices, but were checked by the central government on 
the ground that trade should not be interfered with. A few large 
works were opened; but the majority of the able-bodied were relieved 
by smaller works on which wages were much too high. Gratuitous 
relief was extravagant, and the viceroy, visiting the presidency in 
September, observed that the relief camps were "like picnics". "The 
people on them, who do no work of any kind, are bursting with fat and 
naturally enjoy themselves thoroughly."^ Lord Lytton saw that 
gratuitous relief urgently required efficient administration, and 
drafted in extra British civil and military officers from Upper India. 
Rain came later on in the autumn and relieved the situation; but a 
number of debilitated persons remained on the hands of the Madras 
government another year, until the autumn crops of 1878 were ripe. 
On II October, 1877, the viceroy wrote to Queen Victoria: 

Whilst the Madras famine has cost the Government of India over 10 milHons, 
the Bombay famine, under General Kennedy's management, has cost only four 
millions, although a much larger saving of human life has been effected in Bombay 
than in Madras.^ 

The Madras famine was otherwise remarkable for the fact that 
charitable contributions amounting to jCjSyOOO flowed in from Great 
Britain and the colonies. 

Lytton's government decided that famine relief called for clear 
thinking, and appointed a strong commission under General Sir 
Richard Strachey, which reported in 1880, formulating general prin- 
ciples and suggesting particular measures of a preventive or protective 
character. It recognised to the full the duty of the state to offer 
relief to the necessitous in times of famine, but held that this relief 
should be so administered 

as not to check the growth of thrift and self-reliance among the people, or to impair 
the structure of society, which, resting as it does in India upon the moral