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knowledge it must possess of the circumstances and true bearings of very many questions. Its business would be to preserve the system as already approved from innovation, to prevent all new expenditure, to prohibit all changes in the various details connected with the military establishment, which are for ever occurring in spite of the Court's orders, and especially so to superintend the general distribution of the troops of all the presidencies, as to make the whole act in unison for the general defence. But it is impossible for the Supreme Government to perform even the least part of these duties without knowing beforehand the intentions of the other Governments; and for its accomplishment it would be necessary to require that all reports of their proceedings, as is the case with all subordinate authorities, should be made direct, and in the first instance, to the Supreme Government, copies being sent for the information of the Honourable Court.
With respect to the constitution of the Supreme Government, it might be either left as it is, or with reference to the whole of India being now subject to British rule, and to the expediency therefore of its being regulated by one uniform system of policy, it might be thought preferable to compose it of the governor-general and one councillor from each of the three presidencies. The knowledge and experience of the whole would thus be combined for the general improvement. How much would the revenue settlements of Bengal have been promoted, if by such means the spirit of Sir Thomas Munro's superior management could have been infused, and practically brought to bear upon this branch of our administration ?
The Act of 1833, as has been seen from the summary quoted above, decided that the Presidency of Bengal should still remain under the direct control of the Supreme Government, and it was not until after the Act of 1853 that a Lieutenant-Governor was appointed for that province. A new Presidency of Agra was arranged, but it was eventually decided to have a lieutenant-governorship instead. At the same time the superintendence, direction, and control of the whole civil and military government of the Company's territories in India was vested in the Governor-General in Council. In their despatch referred to above, the Court of Directors laid down certain principles which should govern the relations between the Supreme and the subordinate Governments.
Relations between the Supreme and Subordinate Governments Source.
Despatch accompanying the Government of India Act, 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV, s. 5). Dated 10 December, 1834. From the Board of Directors, East India Company, to the Government of India. (Parliamentary Papers.)
We will proceed to consider the new relation in which you will be placed with reference to the Subordinate Governments, not by means of your legislative supremacy, but in other respects.
77. The words of the 39th clause are very comprehensive : “The superintendence, direction, and control of the whole civil and military government of all the said territories and revenues in India shall be vested in the said Governor-General in Council.”
78. The powers here conveyed, when the words are interpreted in all their latitude, include the whole powers of government. And it is of infinite importance that you should well consider and understand the extent of the responsibility thus imposed upon you. The whole civil and military government of India is in your hands, and for what is good or evil in the administration of it, the honour or dishonour will redound upon you.
79. With respect to the exercise of your legislative powers in the several presidencies, what we have adduced of a general nature on that subject will, for the present, suffice.
80. With respect to the other powers which you are called upon to exercise, it will be incumbent upon you to draw, with much discrimination and reflection, the correct line between the functions which properly belong to a local and subordinate government and those which belong to the general government ruling over or superintending the whole.
81. When this line is improperly drawn, the consequence is either that the general government interferes with the province of the local government, and enters into details which it cannot manage, and which preclude its consideration of more important objects; or that it withdraws its attention from the evidence of many things which may be right or wrong in the general course of the local administration, and thus partially deprives the State of the benefit of its superintendence and control.
82. It is true that the former Acts of Parliament which made the local government of Bengal a Supreme Government gave the Governor-General in Council a control and a superintendence over the other presidencies as complete and paramount as it was possible for language to convey, and this we must assume to have been the intention of the Legislature. In practice, however, the Supreme Government made little exercise of its superintending authority, and the result has been that even that little
exercise of it has been generally made when it was too late to be made with real effects, namely, after the Subordinate Government had taken its course, thus losing the character of control and responsibility, and retaining only that of ex post facto intervention-a sort of intervention always insidious, and in most cases nothing but insidious, because what was already done, however open to censure, was beyond the reach of recall and correction.
83. It is evidently the object of the present Act to carry into effect that intention of the Legislature to which we have alluded. Invested as you are with all the powers of government over all parts of India, and responsible for good government in them all, you are to consider to what extent, and in what particulars, the powers of government can be best exercised by the local authorities, and to what extent, and in what particulars, they are likely to be best exercised when retained in your hands. With respect to that portion of the business of government which you fully confide to the local authorities, and with which a minute interference on your part would not be beneficial, it will be your duty to have always before you evidence sufficient to enable you to judge if the course of things in general is good, and to pay such vigilant attention to that evidence as will ensure your prompt interposition whenever anything occurs which demands it.
84. In general it is to be recollected that in all cases where there are gradations of authority the right working of the system must very much depend on the wisdom and moderation of the supreme authority and also of the subordinate authorities. This is especially true of a system so peculiar as that of our Indian Empire. It was impossible for the Legislature, and it is equally so for us in our instructions, to define the exact limits between a just control and a petty, vexatious, meddling interference. We rely on the practical good sense of our GovernorGeneral in Council, and that of our other Governors, for carrying the law into effect in a manner consonant with its spirit, and we see no reason to doubt the possibility of preserving to every Subordinate Government its due rank and power, without impairing or neutralising that of the highest.
87. The division of the Bengal Presidency into two presidencies will require some temporary proceedings of a particular nature. When the Government of Agra is once established, and the arrangements for conducting its administration are completed, it will proceed in the same train as the other governments, but in the meantime these arrangements will require much of your care.
93. We have also informed you that we have not thought it necessary or desirable to appoint a separate council to assist
the Governor-General in the local administration of the Presidency of Fort William. Under this arrangement the GovernorGeneral has functions of two sorts to perform in regard to Bengal ; to co-operate with his council in controlling the Bengal Government, and to carry on that Government alone, if without a council, or as president of the council, if he has one.
94. It is very evident how important a duty you will have to perform in maturing a scheme by which the separate duties of the Governor-General may be performed with least detriment to one another. The time which he bestows upon the one must necessarily be withdrawn from the other; and it will be incumbent upon you with the utmost diligence to consider in what way this division of the time and attention of the GovernorGeneral, and the limited portion of both which he can divide to either class of his duties, can be prevented from producing evil consequences.
95. There is also something peculiar in the position in which you will stand with respect to the superintendence and control of the Bengal Government. It is in this case your own president whom you will have to control, and a state of things may perhaps occur which may in some cases occasion embarrassment. In order to obviate possible evil, you will do well to meet the exigency before it shall arise. Much difficulty would thus be removed, because by adherence to pre-established rules all insidiousness would be taken away.
97. The Legislature has left the seat of the Supreme Government, both permanent and temporary, to its own choice. The important circumstance, however, of making the GovernorGeneral local Governor of Bengal renders it necessary that his habitual residence should be in the place where he can best perform both sets of his duties; that is in Bengal. We have no doubt, therefore, that you will concur with us in thinking the seat of the Supreme Government should be at Calcutta, where your records are now deposited, and where the requisite buildings, public and private, already exist.
101. We have thus touched upon the more comprehensive of your legislative and superintending duties, and have directed your attention to the subjects which we think most immediately call for consideration and arrangement with the hope of making our suggestions intelligible, and showing on which subjects we desire the benefit of your reflections in return.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
The Importance of the Law in the Development of an
Source.-“Administrative Problems of British India.” M. Chailley.
(Macmillan.) In the vast field of Indian policy which we are considering, it is in the sphere of law that the English have afforded the highest example of scruple, ingenuity, and tenacity, and it is here that the reader who seeks for practical instruction will find most to learn. Not that the work has been entirely satisfactory, or that colossal errors have not been committed
— the British do nothing by halves. But their very errors, and the successive ideas which have influenced them, are lessons in themselves, and I will add that if the criticisms of the law which England has given to India be candidly examined, one is led to ask whether any other nation would have done better, or would even have sought to avoid the mistakes committed.
The work was complex. Iti implied anxiety to maintain part of what had been combined with a generous desire to introduce part of what ought to be. Frequent and grave mistakes may have been made in the application of such a combination, but the attempt was, at least, honourable. Men have done what they could ; it was for time to do the rest. The law may occasionally be in advance of the peoples, but, if so, the peoples are marching to overtake the law.
Clive, the true founder of British dominion in India, had changed trading settlements into a territorial dominion, and henceforward the East India Company was more concerned with the cares of government than with mercantile motives. It had to conduct, preserve, and administer an entire people. In a few years these new duties altered the old conceptions. The laws of England lost their character of universality in the
1 Our italics.