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furnished to the several functionaries of Government. It would be desirable that they were more generally known to the people. It will deserve your consideration what measures can be taken for that end. One thing at any rate can be done; cheap copies in the language of the country ought to be everywhere ready for sale to all who have the desire to possess them.
33. Heretofore, you have been interested with extensive powers of superintendence over the legislation of the subordinate presidencies. But as these presidencies have had the right of legislating for themselves, your superintendence has been exercised only on rare and particular occasions. Now these legislative functions, with a reserve for certain excepted cases, are to be subordinate to those of the Supreme Government. The whole responsibility rests on you; and every law which has an especial reference to the local interests of any of those presidencies, and every general law in respect of its particular bearing and operation on such local interests, ought to be preconsidered by you with as deep and as anxious attention as if it affected only the welfare of the presidency in which you reside. You may, indeed, receive from the subordinate presidencies suggestions or drafts of laws, and these it may frequently be expedient to invite. But in no instance will this exempt you from the obligation of so considering every provision of the law as to make it really your own, the offspring of your own minds, after obtaining an adequate knowledge of the case. We say this, knowing as we do how easily the power of delegating a duty degenerates into the habit of neglecting it, and dreading lest at some future period, under the form of offering project laws, the subordinate presidencies should be left to legislate for themselves, with as little aid from the wisdom of the Supreme Government as when the power of legislating was ostensibly in their own hands.
37. In contemplating the extent of legislative power thus conferred immediately on our Supreme Government, and in the second instance on ourselves; in considering that on the use of this power the difference between the worst and the best of governments mainly depends; in reflecting how many millions of men may, by the manner in which it shall in the present instance be exercised, be rendered happy or miserable; in adverting to the countless variety of interests to be studied and of difficulties to be overcome in the execution of this mighty trust, we own that we feel oppressed by the weight of the responsibility under which we, with you, are conjointly laid. Whatever means or efforts can be employed on the occasion; whatever may be effected by true and active discussion, or by profound and conscientious deliberation; whatever aids can be derived from extrinsic counsel or intelligence, all or the utmost will be barely
commensurate with the magnitude of the sphere to be occupied, and of the service to be performed. We feel confident that to this undertaking your best thoughts and care will be immediately and perseveringly applied, and we invite the full, the constant, and the early communication of your sentiments in relation to it. On our part we can venture to affirm that no endeavours shall be wanting in promoting your views and perfecting your plans. Others also who are in a situation, by advice or exertion, to assist in the work will contribute to it, we hope, to the extent of their power; and we trust that, by the blessing of Divine Providence on our united labours, the just and beneficent intentions of this country in delegating to our hands the legislative as well as the executive administration of the mightiest, the most important, and the most interesting of its transmarine possessions, will be happily accomplished.
It was also necessary to define the powers of the GovernorGeneral in Council in the matter of the general administration of the country. It is true that former Acts of Parliament had given the Government of Bengal as complete a control over the other presidencies as it was possible for language to convey, but the control as a matter of practice was nominal rather than real. Another question for decision was whether the duties of the Supreme Government “should be exclusively those of general control and independence or whether it should have, in addition, the direct control over Bengal and, if so, whether the unwieldy Presidency of Bengal should not be divided into two by the formation of a presidency of Agra. On these questions expert opinion was divided. Lord William Bentinck and his colleagues approved the principle whereby the Supreme Government should control the actions of subordinate Governments, but the Governor-General did not carry his Council with him in his contention that the Supreme Government should continue to exercise direct control over Bengal1 and that Bengal should remain undivided.
I have to express my entire assent to the opinion that the Supreme Government of India should no longer remain charged with the local administration of any one of its Presidencies."-W. B. Bayley.
It seems indispensable that the Supreme Government should be relieved from the laborious occupation of local administration.”—Sir C. Metcalfe.
The Duties of the Government of India
Source.-Minute of Lord William Bentinck. Dated September 14, 1831. (Parliamentary Papers.)
The members of the Committee, as well as my two colleagues, Mr. Bayley and Sir C. Metcalfe, concur in the opinion that the local details pressing upon the time of the Supreme Government utterly preclude its performance of the higher and more important functions of its office. To this opinion I entirely assent.
The same concurrence of opinion exists as to the necessity of the Supreme Government being divested of all local charge, and that its duties should be confined to a general control of the subordinate presidencies, and that a distinct and a fourth government should be formed for the Upper Provinces.
Of the total inadequacy of a government stationed at Calcutta to control and superintend the administration in the Western Provinces, I have frequently had occasion to remark, and actual investigation has amply confirmed the justness of the opinion.
Upon the degree of control which it would be most salutary for the Supreme Government to exercise over the other presidencies, there appears to be no great difference of opinion. Hitherto, this control has been rather nominal than real. It has been confined to general measures of government, to political negotiations, to the making of treaties, to the declaration of war, to great financial arrangements, and latterly, to the confirmation of all regulations.
In the details of the administration of the subordinate presidencies the Supreme Government have no interference. The only knowledge they have of their proceedings is from the copies of their despatches to the Court, and by the published orders of the Government and of the Commander-in-Chief. The Supreme Government have, indeed, the power of issuing orders, if they observe anything in these communications deserving of strong disapprobation. But it would be highly inexpedient to use the power except in extreme cases, because the act being done, a public revocation of it places the Subordinate Government in some degree of embarrassment and humiliation; and the measure being under reference to the Court, the Supreme Government may be found in the same objectionable position with respect to its own superiors; and from the public proclamation of conflicting orders and sentiments much inconvenience must unavoidably arise.
The Subordinate Governments naturally enough stickle for their own independence. They objected strongly to their regulations being made subject to the sanction of the Supreme Government, though it would seem difficult to understand how
legislation, except upon occasions of public danger, or some other pressing emergency, can be otherwise than benefited by additional discussion and deliberation, by more enlarged experience, and by a comparison with the success of remedies applied to the same evils; and so the Honourable Court in their wisdom have ruled. But in all other proceedings of the administration, what disadvantage could arise from a prompt and immediate check upon any departure from uniformity of system, upon a non-compliance with the orders of the home authorities, an evasion of which is so encouraged and facilitated by the endless delay of repeated references to so distant an authority, and above all, upon lavish expenditure? In the Military Department instances daily occur of indulgences granted in one army, to which the officers and soldiers of the other, whether European or native, may have an equal right.
It might be assumed from the preceding remarks that I am in favour of a Supreme Government, as recommended by the Committee and my colleagues, whose duties should be exclusively those of general control and superintendence. But my concurrence only goes to the expediency of a more effective control in the Supreme Government over the other presidencies, and I consider this to be practicable, without the great change proposed of forming Bengal into two presidencies, to which there are great local and practical objections, and without incurring the great expense that this larger scheme would entail; although I entirely adopt the sentiments of Mr. Bayley that for so great an object as a much improved government of the immense empire, the additional charge, even at the highest scale, is not worth a moment's consideration.
My first objection is to the separation of the Presidency of Bengal into two separate Governments. It is true that there is a broad line distinguishing the Upper from the Lower Provinces; they are different in climate, in character, and in their political circumstances. They each ought to have within their reach those authorities, revenue and judicial, upon whom their rights and interests so materially depend. But in other respects there is a great mutual connexion between their general interests; one river pervades the whole territory from west to east; one port receives all its produce; Calcutta is the great exchange upon which the commercial and pecuniary transactions of the whole are carried on. For these, and for other reasons, it many would be very inconvenient to divide the control.
With respect then to the Bengal Presidency, all the territories at present constituting it should, in my opinion, be subject, as now, to a Governor-General in Council; but the seat of Government should be placed in the Upper Provinces, the scene of all its most important transactions, revenue, military, and political. No spot presents so many advantages for direct control, and for ready intercourse with the most distant provinces, and for the despatch of all business, as Allahabad. I annex to this minute a map showing its contiguity to our most important affairs. It is immediately adjacent to Oude, to the Saugur and Nerbudda territories, to Bundelcund; it has under its eyes the revenue settlements of the Upper Provinces, of such vast importance to the Government and to the people, and which could no longer so shamefully stagnate. Gwalior, Malwa, and Rajputana are all brought within easy means of immediate superintendence, and of personal communication if necessary. A steamer from Allahabad would reach Agra or Delhi on the Jumna, and any place equally distant on the Ganges, in four or five days. At Allahabad, also, the Government may have the advantage of the advice of the Commander-in-Chief in Council, as contemplated by the Legislature, whose head-quarters for the future always ought to be, and I may venture to predict always will be, in the Upper Provinces.
But to relieve the Supreme Government of the load of details which has hitherto so unworthily occupied its time, it is necessary that a subordinate authority, similar to that of VicePresident in Council, should, under the orders of the GovernorGeneral in Council, reside at the Presidency, superintending the revenue and judicial administration of the Lower Provinces, and of all our territories to the eastward, and conducting all the business at Calcutta. Having now been absent from Calcutta since October, and having reserved to myself a complete cognisance and control over the whole affairs of the Presidency, very much similar to what should be executed by the GovernorGeneral in Council if placed at Allahabad, I am, from this actual experiment, inclined to think that the Supreme Government would be enabled to devote sufficient attention to the general affairs of the empire without renouncing the direct management of the Bengal Presidency.
Nor would it seem desirable that a minute interference with the administration of the Subordinate Governments should take place; the interference should be rather of check, of a preventive and restraining, than of an active and meddling character. The Supreme Government should come in aid, and not in supersession of the home authority. It should supply that defect and weakness in the home direction arising from distance, from the delay in the issue of its orders, and from the imperfect