(71) Collections of revenues, increase of exportation, security of property, agency-houses, exchanges, commerce and situation of Calcutta, donies [[511-516]]
[] The heavy kists, or collections, of Bengal, are from August to January, in the proportion of two-thirds of the whole rent; the great crops in that quarter being cut after the rains. The gruff kists, which include the rubbee, or small harvest of white-corn, sugar, &c., come in between January and the beginning of May. The fruits, fish, &c., from April to July. In Bengal, the year begins in April; in Bahar, in September. All the collections are made in money. Mr. Grant, formerly Collector of Bhauglepore, published a small tract on the subject of the revenues, which may be strongly recommended to the reader.
It is to be feared that, however beneficial the existing system may be, and however equitable the arrangements made under the Mocurrery settlement have proved themselves, still the Company are not likely to be benefited [] in proportion to the assiduity they have displayed, or to the tenderness with which the rights of their subjects have been regarded.
This, however, is certain: that according as the enterprise of individuals may by degrees give additional value to the soil, by an immense increase of exportation from various parts of the country of a million of commodities, till lately either unknown or unheeded, so will the duties collected at the several chokies (custom-house stations) and at the several ports, together with the demand for British manufactures, be proportionally augmented.
It should be very generally made known, that the Company receive into their treasury all the realized property of persons demising in India, under letters of administration, or under the acts of executors, duly acknowledged and certified by the supreme courts of justice at the several presidencies. This effectually secures the interest persons in Europe may have in the estates of friends, &c., dying in India. So rigidly is this observed, that the relatives of any private soldier may fully ascertain how his property, if any, has been disposed of, and receive whatever sums may be forthcoming from the sale of his effects, &c.
Such a measure fully guards the principal of any sum left in the Company's treasury. At the same time, the most pleasing facility is given to individuals, thus enabling them, or their attorneys, to receive the interest, either at the presidency or in the moofussel (that is, from the Collectors) as may be convenient; but such can only be done under a specific power of attorney.
The generality of traders, who resort to distant inland markets near which to reside, or who in favourable situations become conspicuous as manufacturers whether of [] indigo, cloth, sugar, &c., have invariably some connection with one or more agency-houses at the presidency. On these they draw their bills, generally for hypothecated cargoes sent from the manufactory, either to be sold by them or to be shipped for Europe.
This, under a pure agency, is unexceptionable, provided the firm rests on the broad basis of absolute property, and does not play with the cash belonging to its less speculative constituents. Such may be said to be merely the bankers of those whose consignments they receive and transmit to England, without participating in the adventure; but confining themselves to a stipulated per centage on the amounts of invoices, according to the scale in common use.
Agency-houses are not confined to British subjects. The Portuguese, the Armenians, the Greeks, and others, form a portion of several firms of great respectability; or at least of those companies which, under different designations, insure the greater part of the vessels which either sail from India to Europe direct, or traverse the Indian seas, according to the state of the monsoons; carrying on a lucrative trade among the several Asiatic ports.
It must not be supposed that persons devoting their whole attention to the concerns of others, in such a climate, and where the expenses are very great, and from which it is an object with most adventurers and speculators to retire with a competency for some enjoyments during the decline of life, are to be remunerated in the same manner as though they had merely to attend their counting-houses in London for a very few hours daily. The Indian agent must keep a large establishment of sir-kars, podars, &c., and must maintain extensive connections in various parts of the country. Nay, he is often [] expected to have an apartment or two in his dwelling, devoted to the accommodation of such of his country correspondents as may occasionally visit the presidency.
Combining all these circumstances, his charges for commission ought to be such as, among us, would appear extravagantly high. The same causes operate towards raising the expenses of a suit in the supreme court of judicature equally above those of the British courts; though the latter are certainly high enough.
The terms of receiving or paying money, in exchange with Europe, China, or other parts, are completely arbitrary; being governed solely by the value of money to any particular firm at the time of negotiating. There have been instances of some firms declining to offer more than two shillings and sixpence for a sicca rupee, bills being given payable at six months after sight in Europe, while others, whose stability appeared equally solid, offered two shillings and ninepence for the same accommodation.
In point of commerce, Calcutta may perhaps be properly classed with Bristol; making this allowance, that what the former wants in the number of vessels employed, is made up by their average tonnage being considerable, and the value of their cargoes far superior. The length of the voyage must likewise be taken into consideration. A vessel may, during profound peace, make three voyages within twelve months, from Bristol to America or the West Indies and back again, and the same either to the Baltic or to the Levant: whereas few Indiamen make more than one return to their moorings in the Thames under fifteen months; the majority are out from fifteen to twenty months.
Hence, all our British ports appear more crowded, taking the year round, than Calcutta, which from July to November, or even to January, often presents a forest [] of masts; while during the rest of the year, only such vessels as may be under repair, or have lost their season, or beat up the bay against the monsoon, are to be seen in the river.
It has been already explained that during half the year, that is, from about the middle of March to the middle of September, the wind is southerly, but then gradually changes to the northward, from which quarter it blows regularly for about five months, when it again gradually veers about to the southward. This gives name to the northerly and southerly monsoons, of which all navigators study to take advantage. Going with or against the monsoon, from Calcutta to Madras, or vice versa, often makes the difference of full five or six weeks, sometimes more; the trip being very commonly made in a week with the monsoon; but against it, sometimes occupying no less than three months.
Few ships make more than one trip within the year between Malabar and China, on account of the monsoon; but between the intermediate ports from Bombay to Calcutta, two trips may be considered the average. During the wars with Hyder and his son Tippoo, vessels made four trips within the year from Bengal to Madras; but such must not be considered a fair standard, three being considered a great exertion.
The town of Calcutta, which is estimated at a population of a hundred thousand souls, whereof not more than one thousand are British, is situated very advantageously for commerce. The Hoogly, navigable for ships of a thousand tons at least thirty-five miles above Calcutta, communicates with the Ganges,by means of the Cossimbazar river, and has communications with the whole of the Sunderbund Passages, either through Tolley's Canal, the creek called Chingrah Nullah, or the southern passage [] through Channel Creek. This is adopted by the greater part of the vessels conveying rice and salt from the Soonderbunds. These vessels are of a very stout construction, suited to those wide expanses of water they cross in that very hazardous line of navigation.
The average depth of water, within a stone's throw of the eastern bank, on which Calcutta ranges for several miles (including the suburbs, up to the Maharrattah Ditch), is from six to eight fathoms when the tide is out. At particular places, the water deepens very suddenly; but in most parts, a shelf abounding with mud runs out for sixty or seventy yards, down to low water mark; where the bank falls off, so that ships of any burden may moor within a very few yards. The great front thus given to the town affords innumerable facilities to those concerned in shipping; especially as the customhouse, which is on the quay belonging to the old fort, stands nearly centrical, in respect to the European population.
The donies, which are small craft intended for the coasting trade carried on principally by native merchants, commonly lie higher up, opposite the Chitpore m'hut, or temple. There, in tiers, much the same as the shipping in the Thames, these pariah vessels present a contrast with the superb edifices under British management, and at once characterise not only the ignorance, but the narrow minds, of their owners.
Few donies measure more than a hundred and fifty tons, or have more than two masts. Sloops are by far most common, and the generality are equipped with coir cordage, as well as with country-made canvas.
The greater portion of these vessels either return in ballast, after delivering their cargoes of rice at various ports in the Northern Sircars or in the Carnatic; or they [] bring light cargoes, composed chiefly of coir and cowries, from the Sechelles and Maldivies. To these they also, now and then, make a bold voyage, at favourable seasons, with small invoices of coarse cottons, fit for the use of those islanders.
Here and there we see a doney with some European on board to navigate her, but only natives are generally employed; and the Europe-ships, which arrive with crews from their respective countries, are often compelled to take a portion of lascars on board, for the purpose of aiding those who survive the pestilential miasma to which they are so inconsiderately--or, more properly, inhumanly--subjected, while lying at Diamond-Harbour, &c. Those who escape with their lives are usually much weakened by severe attacks of the ague, which they rarely lose till relieved by an alterative course of mercury, in conjunction with the change of air experienced by getting out to sea.