Abbildungen der Seite

neral state of the Company's affairs, and also to the conduct of their servants ín India. He had maintained a constant correspondence with his valued friend, Mr. Francis, who had, with the most benevolent intentions, employed his penetrating and vigorous mind in enquiring into the actual state of Indostan, and its causes, either in intrinsic circumstances, or the conduct of the Company's servants, in order to devise plans for at once meliorating the condition of the natives, and promoting the prosperity of British India.

Mr. Francis, after having been several years in India, had made himself so much master of the situation of the Zemindars, or landholders of that country, that he wrote a paper on the subject, which, both as a statement and a dissertation, does vey high honour to his talents, for both research and philosophy. A copy of this paper w.s sent by the author to Mr. John Burke, and by him communicated to Edmund, whos › answer contains the opinion he always he d

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

respecting property, concerning India landholders, as far as he then knew their securities and condition, and respecting European affairs.


Beaconsfield, Wednesday, Nov. 1777,

I give you a thousand thanks for the papers you have been so good as to put into my hands. I wished to keep them a little longer, but I husbanded my time as well as I could, and, when my company went to bed, spent the greatest part of the night in reading them. This morning I went through the whole. I don't know that I ever read any state paper drawn with more ability, and, indeed, I have seldom read a paper of any kind with more pleasure.

In general, I perfectly agree with Mr. Francis, that a nice scrutiny into the property and tenures of an whole nation is almost always more alarming to the people than advantageous to Government. It is never undertaken without some suspicion at least of an attempt to impose some new

burthen upon them.

Mr. Francis is a


better judge than I can possibly be of the politics which have given rise to such a measure. Upon that subject, therefore, I can form no opinion but what I take from his authority. The idea of forcing every thing to an artificial equality, has something at first view very captivating in it. It has all the appearance imaginable of justice and good order; and very many persons, without any sort of partial purposes, have been led to adopt such schemes, and pursue them with great earnestness and warmth. Though I have no doubt that the minute, laborious, and very expensive cadastre which was made by the late King of Sardinia has done no sort of good; and that, after all his pains, a few years will restore all things to their first inequality; yet it has been the admiration of all the reforming financiers of Europe; I mean the official financiers as well as the speculative. You know that it is this very rage for equality which has blown up the flames of this present cursed war in America. I am, for one, entirely satisfied

that the inequality which grows out of the nature of things by time, custom, succession, accumulation, permutation, and improvement of property, is much nearer that true equality, which is the foundation of equity and just policy, than any thing that can be contrived by the tricks and devices of human skill. What does it amount to but that, after some little jumbling, some men have better estates than others. I am certain, that when the financial system is but tolerably planned, it will catch in property spite of all its doublings, and sooner or later those who have most will pay most; and this is the effective equality, which circumstances will bring about of themselves, if they are left to their own operation.

This paper of Mr. Francis has given me one idea, which, I confess, I had not before (indeed it has given me several), and it is an idea which affords me satisfaction. I find that Mr. Francis thinks that the occupier of the soil, and not the Government, is the true proprietor of the land in Bengal. I

[ocr errors]

did not understand before, that a sort of custom had given them a preference; but that on the whole Zemindars did not stand on so good a footing as our copyholders in England, or even as the holders of churchleases. Their custom of annual letting seemed much to favour this notion. I am glad to find I was mistaken; for, whatever the practice may be, I am sure that every thing which favours the stability of property is right, and does much for the peace, order,

and civilization of any country.

I write with little consideration, and less
We make an

knowledge of the subject.
hundred blunders in a matter so very remote
from our situation, and our local circum-
stances and customs. But if I guess rashly
in such things, I do not persevere obstinately
in my errors. I am afraid that Mr. Francis
begins, by his distance, to make very nearly
as mistaken judgments on our affairs here,
as we do on his in India. He thinks, alas!
that Parliament troubles itself with these
matters. We were, indeed, busy enough

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »