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It is next to impossible to put together a consistent and probable account of the transactions in Affghanistan, where important events seem to be on the eve of accomplishment. An extensive combination of Oosbeg and Tartar chiefs, supported by the Khan of Bokhara, and headed by the Wullee of Khoolloom, is stated to have been formed against Dost Mahomed Khan. The Khan of Bokhara, however, was very recently in amicable intercourse with the Dost, and the Wullee was his intimate friend and coadjutor. What has occurred to estrange them is not apparent. The ruler of Cabul, however, is said to be surrounded with enemies, and his capital is the hotbed of conspiracies. There seems no reason to doubt, from the concurrence of various accounts, that an action has taken place between the Oosbeg invading force and that of Dost Mahomed Khan, near Bameean; the result of the battle is, however, differently reported. With regard to this event, the most important of all, we must be content to wait till the next advices. The mere occupation of these restless chiefs is some advantage to our interests.
The domestic incidents of British India include two of a painful character,--the proceedings against the mutineers of the 64th Bengal N.I., and the riots occasioned by the salt-tax. Of the misguided sepoys of the 64th, thirty-eight have been sentenced by a court-martial to various severe punishments, six of the number being selected for execution. The chief cause of this mutiny appears to have been (according to the order of the Commander-in-Chief), the “disappointment of the men at not receiving a much higher rate of pay than they were entitled to by regulation and the orders of Government; and it is shewn in evidence, that they were promised certain specific advantages. This point," his Excellency adds, “will form the subject of further serious investigations.” A Court of Inquiry has, accordingly, been held upon Colonel Moseley, but its proceedings have not transpired. “That certain promises, not fulfilled, were held out by Colonel Moseley and other officers of the regiment," observes the Bombay Times, " can scarcely be doubted. Should it appear that the instructions communicated to the former by the adjutant-general of the army were such as to justify their being made, the blame, of course, attaches to a higher authority.” But if any promises were held out which were not fulfilled, the fact, in our opinion, very materially mitigates the guilt of the mutineers. It is very true, as laid down by the Commander-in-Chief, that “no hope or expectation of pecuniary advantages, from whatever quarter held out, can for a moment justify the military act of refusing to receive the regulated pay; and most especially that there can be no possible extenuation of open and violent mutiny, whatever may be the
circumstances of the case ;" yet ignorant natives of the East, who are taught to rely implicitly upon a white man's word, cannot be held to that rigid observance of the law of passive submission which is expected from the European soldier.
The other incident, the salt-tax riot, is, perhaps, as much to be deplored. Some details upon the subject of this tax may be required by European readers, in order to make the subject clearly understood.
The manufacture and original sale of salt are held as a Government monopoly, for the purpose of raising a revenue applicable to the public service. This commodity being indispensable to the natives of India, whose simple food would be not only unpalatable but unwholesome without this condiment, it has always been an object of taxation, a small impost raising a large revenue. Under the Mahomedan rulers of India, it was levied by a tax upon the privilege of manufacture, and duties on the transport of salt into the interior. During the earlier part of our connection with the country, the monopoly of salt constituted one of the very objectionable sources of remuneration enjoyed by the Company's senior civil servants. In 1772, the manufacture and wholesale trade of salt were farmed out to individuals by Government, which thus obtained a revenue therefrom.
In 1780, Mr. Hastings introduced a plan for supplying salt by means of Government agency, which has continued in operation, with slight modifications, ever since. At first, the salt was sold by Government at fixed prices, but in 1793, Lord Cornwallis adopted the plan of disposing of it by auction at public monthly sales, which continued till 1836, when the old system (which was adhered to at Madras) of selling at fixed rates was reverted to. The revenue derived from this source has fluctuated at different periods, but it has increased from 80ļ lacs, in 1793, to 145 lacs, in 1840. It is a branch of the revenue open to much censure upon principle, and has been frequently condemned with great severity; but the Parliamentary Committee, in their Report of 1832, were of opinion that the revenue upon salt (then yielding £1,600,000) was too large to be given up, and they had “ to think that it could be commuted for any other tax less onerous to the inhabitants ;" trusting, however, that, though“ it would be very inexpedient at once to abandon the home manufacture," by encouraging the importation of salt, “a material reduction might be effected in the price, which would prove of the greatest advantage to the native population of India, to whom a cheap supply of this necessary of life is of the utmost importance.” Previous to the ill-fated expedition into Affghanistan, the Indian revenue ex
ceeded the expenditure by about £1,500,000 annually. This was somewhat more than the then net produce of the salt tax, which might consequently have been abandoned altogether! The prodigious charges of the Affghan war converted our excess of income into a large excess of charge, and the abolition of the transit duties at Madras (yielding four lacs per annum) furnished a convenient pretext* for increasing the salt tax at Bombay, and accordingly by an Act passed in July last (No. XVI. of 1844), the excise and import duties payable to Government on salt manufactured within, or imported into, the territories subject to the presidency of Bombay, were raised from half a rupee to one rupee per maund (80 lbs.). This increase of about half a farthing a pound seems insignificant; but when we are toldt that it is equal to a capitation-tax which takes one week's earnings of the majority of the tax-payers, or to about two per cent. on the whole annual income of the very poorest class of the community, such an increase of price in a commodity which is described as a necessary of life,” is of great importance, and it, moreover, adds seventeen lacs to the public treasury.
The tax was to come into operation on the 1st September. On the 29th August, a meeting of natives took place at Surat (where the greater part of the inhabitants are weavers, who do not earn more than 8s. a month), at the residence of one of the principal inhabitants, whence they proceeded, accompanied by a large body of the poorer classes, to the Adawlut, to make known their objections to the new imposition. On the following day a serious commotion took place; the populace attacked the gaol, and committed other acts of violence; the troops were called out, but the rioters were dispersed without the use of force. The Bombay government, on the receipt of this intelligence, despatched troops and artillery to Surat ; but in the meantime Sir Robert Arbuthnot, the collector and agent at that place, took upon himself to suspepo the operation of the law till a reference had been made to the Government. This is said to have been a measure of prudence, considering the excited state of the natives and the pancity of the troops; but it is supposed to have been condemned by the Bombay government. At this critical period it appears that the government of India had received the instructions of the Court of Directors I
* It is stated as a reason for raising the duty in the preamble to the Act.
Bombay Times. # The Act raising the duty was passed on the 27th July, 1844; the despatch from the Court of Directors is dated 3rd July, 1844, and the orders of the government of India consequent thereon were published on the 14th September. When they were received does not appear. Asiat.Journ.N.S. VOL.IV.No.20.
to reduce the intended tax from one rupee to three-quarters of a rupee (an addition of one-half to the former tax), and the Bombay authorities further suspended the town duties, taxes on trade and professions, and those levied upon fishermen—a boon, it is said, which will not affect 99 per cent. of the salt-tax payers. The consequence of this measure is, that a violent ferment was excited in the native mind, and strong memorials have been prepared, praying for the entire abolition of the tax.
One of the most remarkable, and at the same time agreeable, features in the domestic incidents of British India, is the countenance which appears to be given to the project of establishing railroads throughout the Bengal presidency. A correspondence has been opened with the Government of India, to ascertain how far it would be disposed to assist (not by pecuniary aid, but by legislative encouragement) private capitalists in laying down lines of railway, and the reply was as follows:
That, in the present state of the law, it would not be in the power of the Bengal Government to authorize a railroad company to treat for the purchase of land, as for a public object, under Reg. 1, of 1824; but he would have no objection, in the event of the formation of a company with sufficient capital to accomplish the object in view, to apply to the legislature to make the provisions of that enactment applicable to such purposes. In regard to a charter, or act of incorporation, his Honour would likewise feel no hesitation in recommending, in favour of a well-constituted company, that the same should be granted, under the usual provisions and conditions; and in respect to the appointment of a superintending committee, Government will, of course, make arrangements, through the medium of its own officers, both for the furtherance of the undertaking as far as may be consistent with a due regard for the rights and interests of the different parties concerned, and for the sake of the community at large. The Deputy-Governor is deeply sensible of the advantages to be gained by the construction of railroads along the principal lines of communication throughout the country, and is anxious to afford to any well-considered project for that purpose his utmost support.
This is the utmost to which the Government of Bengal could pledge itself, and we may, therefore, now expect that some of the superabundant capital which is seeking employment in unnecessary or impracticable enterprises of this nature at home will, at length, introduce into India one of the great desiderata, good communications, the want of which has, more than any thing else, delayed the progress of amelioration in India.
“JOTTINGS FROM MY JOURNAL.”
BY A MEDICAL OFFICER OF THE BENGAL ESTABLISHMENT.
CHAPTER VI. A MONTH IN THE MOUNTAINS.
The season I have just recorded was an especially unhealthy one. The May of another year came round, and the Indian hot winds did not fail. The weary exile from a European clime could not stir abroad scathless from the catalogue of sun diseases; and, anxious to obtain & cheering sight of the hills, previous to the busiest season for the “faculty,” a kind friend took my duty between musters. A short palanquin trip carried me to Mussoorie, but, unwilling to devote the few days of my leave to the heartless society of the Sanatarium, I left its falsity and folly behind me, and with impatience urged my longing steps far from these haunts. I dipped into the mountain fastnesses, where all was solitude, if solitude consists in an absence from one's kind; but I thought it not solitude,it was a change, and such a change, from the arid grassless flats I had for several seasons languished in. Solitude ! no; it was far from that, for, from morning's dawn to evening's sunset, nature's most imposing aspects were constantly before me, and in winding up tiny paths, along giddy ledges, and fir-fringed mountain tops, and at times sitting down to rest on arriving at a spot where the prospect was most inviting, the day passed over like an hour.
It was the season when the climate of the Himalayas is peculiarly inviting; the sky is ever blue, the wind from the regions of snow invigorating, the atmosphere so clear, that minute objects can be discerned a thousand feet in the ravines below, and standing on a peak, probably surrounded by that splendid fir, the deodara, and casting the eye downwards, every leaf seems visible upon the inountain side ; and from the bottom of each ravine-and there may be many at one time within the vision's scopema hillock juts up like an oasis, and three or four greyslated huts—and oh, so Swiss-like-are clustered together upon it; and over these huts, with their sloping roofs and little gables, the mountain oak thrives, and round the least steep portion of the rising ground the simple hill-men who dwell there have terraced it for rice-growing. Whilst gazing upon this, and not fifty feet below the spectator, unannounced by noisy pinion, the golden eagle of the hills sails silently round the point from the neighbouring ravine, and as the rifle bullet. whistles through his outstretched wing, he dips his golden head and scoffs at the erring shot.
On such a promontory I had been sitting ; my shikaree, or native hunter, upon the ground beside me, with his long cumbrous matchlock, powder-flask of horn, and deer-skin vest,-a veritable Robinson Crusoe ; the splashing sound of a little cascade just reached the ear, although it. could not be seen; the sky was bounded in the north and west by the great Himalaya, and here and there their ever-resting snows glistened in the lowered sun-rays. It was time to think of our evening encampment,