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(16) The Mocurrery or perpetual System of Revenue ((473-493)) [from Williamson 1810, omitted by Gilchrist]

[*the document* -- *discussion*]

((473)) The advertisements for the sale of lands, above alluded to, have sprung from the adoption of what is called the Mocurrery system, which originated with Mr. Thomas Law, formerly collector of Bahar, and now settled in America. That plam certainly wore a very specious appearance; because it purported to be a perpetual adjustment of the rents, which were before subject to augmentation, and held out to the land-holders the comforting assurance of being considered on a footing with proprietors in fee-simple, so long as they should pay the rents as settled by the Mocurrery agreement.

While the plan was in agitation, and under the consideration of Marquis Coruwallis, by whom it was adopted, the Board of Revenue, to which it was, pro forma, submitted, made ((474)) several very sensible and cogent remarks, which, however, had not the effect of causing it to be abandoned. Time has fully justified the objections stated by that Board, at which the present Lord Teignmouth, then Mr. Shore, presided; and we find, after many years of experiment that without reaping the smallest advantage themselves, the Company appear bound to perpetuate a resignation of their rights as proprietors of the soil, and of their interests as a body rationally entitled to derive an augmentation of rent, in proportion as the produce of the soil may become more valuable and more abundant.

This discussion has led me to the consideration of a most important topic; viz. the Revenue of Bengal, of which, and its manner of collection, I shall endeavor to give a summary; first presenting my readers with a copy of the Mocurrery, or permanent system.


To the Zemindars, Independent Talookdars, and other actual Proprietors of Land, paying Revenue to Government, in the Provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa.

In this original regulations for the decennial settlement of the Public Revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, passed for these provinces respectively, on the 18th day of September, 1780, the 25th day of November, 1789, and the 10th ((475)) day of February, 1790, it was notified to the proprietors of land with, or on behalf of, whom a settlement might be concluded, that the jumma assessed upon their lands under those regulations, would be continued after the expiration of the ten years, and remain unalterable for ever, provided such continuance should meet with the approbation of the Honorable Court of Directors for the affairs of the East India Company, and not otherwise.

The Marquis Cornwallis, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Governor-General in Council, now notifies to all Zemindars, Talookdars, and other actual proprietors of land, paying revenue to Government, in the provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, that he has been empowered by the Honorablc Court of Directors, for the affairs of the East India Company, to declare the jumma which has been, or may be, assessed upon their lands, under the regulations above mentioned, FIXED FOR EVER.

The Governor-General in Council accordingly declares to the Zemindars, &c., with, or on behalf of, whom a settlement has been concluded under the regulations above mentioned, that at the expiration of the term of the settlement, no alteration will be made in the assessment which they have respectively engaged to pay; but that they, and their heirs, and lawful successors, will be allowed to hold their estates at such an assessment, FOR EVER.

The lands of some Zemindars, &c., having been held k'has/1/ or let in farm, in consequence of their refusing to pay the assessment required of them, under the regulations ((476)) above mentioned, the Governor-General in Council now notifies to the Zemindars, &c., whose lands are held k'has, that they shall be restored to the management of their land, upon their agrecing to file payment of the assessment which has been, or may be, required of them in conformity to the regulations above mentioned, and that no alteration shall hereafter be made in that assessment, but that they, and their heirs, and lawful successors, shall be permitted to hold their respective estates at such an assessment FOR EVER: and he declares to the Zemindars, &c., whose lands have been let in farm, that they shall not regain possession of their lands before the expiration of the period for which they have been farmed (unless the fanners shall voluntarily consent to make over to them the remaining term of their lease, and the Governor-General in Council shall approve of the transfer), but that at the expiration of that period, upon their agreeing to the payment of the assessment which may be required of them, they shall be re-instated, and that no alteration shall afterwards be made in the assessment; but that they, and their heirs, and lawful successors, shall be allowed to hold their respective estates at such an assessment FOR EVER.

In the event of the proprietary right in lands that are, or may, become the property of Government, being transferred to individuals, such individuals, and their heirs, and lawful successors, shall be permitted to hold the lands, at the assessment at which they may be transferred, FOR EVER.

It is well known to the Zemindars, &c., as well as to the inhabitants of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, in general, that from the earliest times to the present period, the public assessment upon the lands has never been fixed; but that according to established rule and custom, the rulers of these provinces have, from time to time, demanded an encrease of ((477)) assessment from the proprietors of land; and that for the purpose of obtaining this encrease, not only frequent investigations have been made, to ascertain the actual produce of their estates, but that it has been the practice to deprive them of the management of their lands, and either to let them in farm, or to appoint officers on the part of Government, to collect the assessments immediately from the Ryots.

The Honorable Court of Directors, considering these usages and measures to be detrimental to the prosperity of the country, have, with a view to promote the future case and happiness of the people, authorized the foregoing declaration; and the Zemindars, independent Talookdars, and other actual proprietors of land, with, or on behalf of, whom a settlement has been made, or may be concluded, are to consider these orders, fixing the amount of the assessments, as IRREVOCABLE, and not liable to alteration by any persons whom the Court of Directors may hereafter appoint to the administration of their affairs in this country.

The Governor-General in Council trusts that the proprietors of lands, sensible of the benefits conferred upon them, by the public assessments being fixed FOR EVER, will exert themselves in the cultivation of their lands, under the certainty that they will enjoy exclusively the fruits of their own good management and industry, and that to demand will ever be made upon them, their heirs, or successors, by the present, or any future, Government, for an augmentation of the public assessment, in consequence of the improvement of their respective estates.

To discharge the revenues at the stipulated periods, without delay or evasion, and to conduct themselves with good faith and moderation towards their dependant Talookdars, and Ryots, are duties at all times indispensably required from the proprietors of land ; and a strict observance of those duties is now, more than ever, incumbent upon them, in return for the benefits which they themselves will derive from the orders now issued.

(478)) The Governor-General in Council therefore expects that the proprietors of land will not only act in this manner themselves, towards their dependant Talookdars, but also enjoin the strictest adherence to the same principles, in the persons whom they may appoint to collect the rents for them. He further expects they will regularly discharge the revenue in all seasons, and he accordingly notifies to them that in future, no claims or applications for suspensions or remissions on account of drought, inundation, or other calamity of season, will be attended to; but that, in the event of any Zemindar, &c., with, or on behalf of, whom a settlement has been made, or may be concluded, on his or her heirs, or successors, failing in the punctual discharge of the public revenue, which has been, or may be, assessed upon their lands, under the above-mentioned regulations, a sale of the whole of the lands of the defaulter, or such portion of them as maybe sufficient to make good the means, will positively and invariably take place.... [[MANY OTHER SECTIONS HAVE BEEN OMITTED HERE.-- FWP]]

.... ((488)) Dated at Fort-William, the 22nd day of March, 1793, corresponding with tlic 12th day of Cheyte, 1199, of the Bengal Era, and the 9th day of Shabaun, 1207, Higeree.

In order to comprehend the foregoing more fully, it is proper to state that when the mocurrery (or perpetual) system of revenue was originally proposed, the Governor-General in Council (Marquis Cornwallis) notified that it would be tried, in the first instance, for ten years only; whence the term "decennial settlement." But whether from an early conviction of its excellence, or that the Marquis felt anxious to ensure to the natives and, as he apprehended, to the Company also, those immense benefits attendant upon a final adjustment of so momentous and so extensive a concern, we see that previous to his return to Europe, he rendered the settlement as permanent as human ability could effect.

If report be true, the satisfaction he experienced on concluding the settlement, was afterwards greatly diminished when, on his re-appointment to India, he found that a thousand deceptions had been practised by the natives, notwithstanding every endeavor to frustrate such litigious or deceptive intentions; ((489)) that the Company's finances had been fettered very imprudently by that restriction which precluded Government from availing itself of growing resources; and that the Zemindars, independent Talookdars, and other actual proprietors of land, so far from considering themselves to be under any obligation to the Company, raised their heads with no little insolence, and in many instances even complained that enough had not been conceded to them.

The most mortifying fact was that full one-third of the landed property within the Company's provinces had actually been under the hammer. This was an evil which spoke for itself, and which no gloss, no colors, could conceal. That under such a government, property to the amount of millions upon millions should become thus exposed to transfer, was a reflection that could not fail to rankle in the mind of him who had expected to see content, prosperity, and loyalty teeming in every quarter! Never was the vanity of man more conspicuously displayed, or the mortification of disappointed zeal more grievously felt.

The abrogation of that incertitude which not only subjected the land-holder to imposition, but the revenue to much defalcation, was assuredly a most serious consideration; but in adopting those measures which might seem to have the most desirable tendency, it was necessary ((490)) to have a full idea of the views and dispositions of the persons on whom the most essential benefits were to be conferred. A deficiency of experience, or of insight into their true character, could alone have led the Marquis into an error from which the mode of extrication is, I believe, among the most pressing desiderata of the British government.

Much pains have been taken to prove that the zamindar, &c., were the legitimate proprietors of the soil; but a very slight inspection of the forms of ancient grants made by the Emperors of Hindustan must satisfy the most scrupulous, that no person whatever occupied the soil, except by tolerance of that power under which it was protected. Until our acquisition of the Dewany (i.e. of the government of the provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa), no fixed tenure, beyond the will of the ruling despot, was known, or even claimed; to have asserted such a right would have been to provoke immediate castigation, and removal from the lands.

Even in the times of our own governors, no hesitation was made respecting the banishment (for it virtually was one) of those who either assumed a decided claim to the property, or who from whatever cause, whether rebellion, mis-management, or unwillingness to pay their rents, fell in arrears. Such men were always displaced, and others were appointed in their ((491)) stead, as a mere matter of course. "Saheb ke koosy" (its master's pleasure) was the patient response of the offender; who, whatever might be his feelings or his opinions, felt the expediency of being perfectly passive on such an occasion.

I believe the records will prove that Mr. Hastings, during the ten years he was in the chair, made a very free use of this well-understood authority; yet so far were the natives from thinking him unjust or over severe, that when the intelligence of his being acquitted by parliament was received in India, such was the pleasure felt by all classes, that addresses of congratulation were poured in from every part of the country! This was a compliment that never had been paid by the natives to any of our governors, even when about to return to Europe; a period at which it might be expected some adulatory addresses might, by great influence, be obtained: no: it was the spontaneous flow of gratitude, pity, and admiration; such as never would have been forth-coming, if the ejectment of a zemindar from his soil had been considered as the expulsion from an hereditary or established right, rather than as the removal of tenants-at-will.

It certainly must appear curious that we receive eleven-sixteenths of the produce of the soil from its proprietors! Such is indeed the case, taking all upon an average. The peasantry ((492)) in a number of instances pay more; especially where middle-men (a class of people by no means scarce in India) are concerned. These are the same harpies all over the world; never failing to reduce the industrious to distress, and to seize upon the all of those most unfortunate beings whom want of experience, or of interest, may place at their mercy!

The old system of farming out the country to particular persons, many of whom rented of the Company to the amount of fifty lacs (upwards of £600,000.), was productive of the greatest evils with which an industrious but indigent population could have to contend! Under that mode, it was impossible for Government to make certain of its rents, which were generally remitted in part to the great farmers, lest they should in bad seasons oppress the Ryots, and drive them either to despair, or out of the country. This was intended as an act of generosity on the part of Government, which had not the means of enforcing arrears, otherwise than by the sale of a farmer-general's property, whence but a small portion could be expected to result; but unhappily, no alleviation of consequence was extended to the real agriculturist; who, being subject to a very summary process, was often compelled to embrace ruin, rather than to suffer all the penalties inflicted by an avaricious and obdurate creditor. 

((493)) That such should have been the case under the immediate eye of Government, may excite much surprize; but it must be considered that under the farming system, the least interference would have instantly been the signal for universal clamor, and that it would have proved beyond the power of all the civil servants throughout the Company's territories to have even registered, much less to have heard and settled, all the references which would have been made.

This difficulty could not fail to be greatly augmented by the extreme deficiency then existing of Company's servants in every part of India; for in each of the zillahs, or districts, only a collector, with an assistant perhaps, was stationed. In one instance, I recollect passing by a civil station, when marching from one province to another, when the resident-surgeon was under the necessity of requiring an officer of our corps to aid him in examining the accounts of the factory, which he had been obliged to make out; the president and his assistant being both absent on public business. This occurrence afforded not only much amusement, but a wide scope for observation regarding the paucity of Europeans employed at the out-stations.

In those days, the collector had abundance of duty to perform; for he was not simply to settle all accounts respecting the revenue, and in some instances, of manufactures provided for the Company's ((494)) homeward cargoes, but the whole of the criminal, as well as of the civil, code of justice, were under his control: whatever petty offences were committed, or whatever disputes arose among the inhabitants, became equally his province to enquire into. Fortunately, the banian, or dewan, employed, used to take a very considerable portion of such toil off master's hands, and to prevent, by a kind of petty adaulut, or tribunal, held in some corner of the office, or perhaps at his own house, thousands of references to his principal. The chief renter of the zillah being often employed as banian to the collector, it is easy to imagine to which side justice, as it was called, used to incline.

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/1/ In hand, or in trait.


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