Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

went to India. Let us assume, then, that the average value of the exports at their destination is 15 per cent, more than at the port of shipment, and the average value of the imports 15 per cent. less, so as to get an approximation to the true balance. As the trade both ways is in English hands, this is, at all events so far as the imports are concerned, a liberal allowance. I have not added or subtracted this percentage from Government stores in making this calculation, but these are included at the official values in the totals, and the favourable 'trade balance' thus obtained is 39,920,000l. in round numbers. From this, however, we have to deduct the net import of silver, which in 1880-81 was about 7,500,00ol., so that the ultimate net balance in favour of India, on the most favourable assumption I can make, was about 32,500,000l. for that year. Is it any wonder that with this state of things the exchange is always depressed, always in need of propping up by fresh loans ? Here is the key to the fall in this exchange, to the fact that it is always dependent more or less upon the prices of silver here, not on its price in India. And the year 1880–81 was, on the whole, a favourable year. Let an unfavourable one come—a year when the opium export and price fall off, when we want less wheat or cotton, when Indian tea or indigo is cheap or bad, and India is at once plunged into the direst misery, her exchange sinks still further, her merchants are in despair, her Government as its wit's end, and all that Indian officialism can do is to sit still and rave about the fall of silver! Bad years of this kind we have seen, but their consequences are nothing compared to what the next cycle of such must be.

This trade balance includes, be it remembered, the profits of the opium traffic, and of every transaction into which Indian traders enter in any part of the world, and it almost exactly balances the amount of the dead-weight charges that India has to meet every year in London. At best the natives of India, as the result of all their labour and suffering, can only gain, it seems, the value of the silver imported plus about 500,000l., but there is no evidence whatever that the silver imported goes as profit to the working natives. It in all probability forms part of the gain of the usurers or of the English who control and profit by the foreign trade, and it is imported most heavily when India borrows most. Ston all further borrowings, and what else is there to expect under such a system than that within ten years or so not even its present cheapness would make silver a profitable commodity for India to import? She would have nothing at all to spare to exchange for it. As matters stand this import of silver is more than India wants, for it is raising prices, already combined as it is with the forcing system under which the native has to work, the rapidity with which our planters and merchants hurry off the Indian crops, and their complete power to keep down wages in nearly all parts of the country—a power springing as much from the killing of all old native industries by our new scientific methods and Manchester competition as from rapid growth

Years ago

of population. I am not indeed specially blaming the manufacturers, planters, and merchants for bringing about this sublimity of misery. They are part of the system of occupation, just like the tawdry Viceregal Court, the huge barracks, the railways or the civil officials, but nothing more.

The condition of the natives all over India, their growing misery and dependence upon the usurer, and the average higher range of prices for food, and the more frequent famines, all go to prove that silver is of less value in India now than in former years. Let Indian officials put their contrary view to the test by giving us the prices, the true value of the native crops over a series of years. a Bombay native gentleman, Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, showed them the way. In his startling pamphlet, issued four or five years since, on • The Poverty of India,' a pamphlet much sworn at by Anglo-Indians, but never in any satisfactory way refuted, he estimated the total money value of the entire products of British India in 1867-68 at 300,000,000l. That is the gross figure, and were it approximately accurate our rule of India and our manufactured progress therein means just this, that we take out of India from 25 to 30 per cent. of the year's produce of the labour of India every year as our share. But Anglo-Indians cry, “This man is all wrong. Well, prove him

' to be so.

He uses facts open to all, and, I confess, he seems to me to handle his data fairly. But add 100,000,000l, to his estimate for the increment of value to-day, and you have still only about al. per head as the gross annual income of our Indian subjects from all sources. Of that income we abstract, in one form or other, about onefourth.

There is, however, strong ground for believing that, owing to the impoverishment of soil perhaps, the money value of the produce of India is less now than it was fifteen or even ten years ago, although money itself may be cheaper. Mr. Naoroji offers, without referring to silver at all, corroborative evidence upon this point. Last year, dealing with the Punjab alone, going over its districts and its crops one by one with official papers of nine years' later date than those of his earlier essay, he came to the conclusion that the total money value of its crops, manufactures, and everything was only 35,000,000l. in 1876–77, or about 2l. per head for a population of over 17,000,000. At the same time he calculated that it would cost the people 31. 8s. per head if all taxes were to be paid and the people to live above starvation limits. In his earlier paper he reckoned the money value of the produce of the Punjab at 498.5d. per head. He says, ' Either my calculation for the years 1867-68 was too high, or the production of the province has diminished in value. The truth most likely is between both.'

Surely it ought to be the easiest thing in the world to refute Mr. Naoroji if he be wrong, and as this is a question vital to our position as rulers of India, I respectfully submit that he ought to be refuted, or that at all costs the truth should be reached. Let us have hard

[ocr errors]

facts—not highly-spiced fictions à la Strachey. It is a horrible thing that every other year some millions of our fellow-subjects in India should die literally of starvation, and that men like the Stracheys, like Indian bureaucrats generally, should din into our ears, amid the very groans of the dying, that all is well. All cannot be well with the trade of India oppressed by the overweight of debt and home charges, with relief bills for usury-ridden landowners, with reports from nearly every part of India, except Burmah, of a people stricken to the very dust with hunger, a people, to quote Mr. O'Conor's description-Mr. O'Conor is an Indian official-applied to the population of Madras, “universally poor, always insufficiently clad and fed, and very often overstepping the line which separates chronic insufficiency of food from actual starvation. Is this the product of our rule ? —this the work we went to India to do? What are all the chatterings about progress against a damning fact like that? Does not such a description fit the Bombay gentleman's statistics and make the heart grow sick with horror ? Let the question, I say, be put to the proof. Indian officials can do it if they are made to, as easily as they can write reports denying famines with people dying around them in heaps. The last statistical abstract for British India contains indeed the basis upon which the necessary calculations can be made in an elaborate set of statistical tables, showing the acreage under cultivation, the crops grown, and so forth, throughout India. If the Government is able to do so much, it might also add the average yield per acre of each kind of produce over a score of

years, and the average prices obtained by the cultivators of each district. Going still further in imitation of our home statisticians, it might, without trying to count things twice over, supply some data as to the number of cattle, horses, asses, and camels possessed by the peasantry, and the value of them, together with their annual increment or decrease, and their current local prices. Being as it is the landlord of all India, and as such in constant and intimate relations with the people, the Government should have all the materials within reach, and a task of this kind ought to mean no more than the labour of a few well-supervised clerks in compiling the returns sent in by local collectors. Once possessed of an honest inventory of this kind for a series of years, it might be possible for people here to know with a certain approach to accuracy how the natives of India live, or what the burden is they have to bear. Let us know whether they are always half starved in order to maintain our costly Government. Reveal to us in a form we can grasp what Indian famines mean.

I could write much more upon this subject, and have left untouched all direct investigation of the public works' delusion, as well as of the famine taxation, the famine reserve fund—which consists of money spent, not saved,-and so on. These and such like subjects would have carried me too far away from the points upon which I wished to insist, viz. (1) the fact that India never has true surpluses of revenue over expenditure, but always deficits; and

6

6

(2) the fact that these deficits are, by adding to the debt, steadily and surely plunging the people of India into deep and ever deeper misery, and hurrying the alien Government of India towards irretrievable bankruptcy. I have also tried to brush aside the sophistries by which these—the most important of all questions surrounding our position in India—are obscured, and to show that all the elaborate calculation of profit' upon this public work, and reduction of charge for guaranteed interest is as thorough nonsense, when the Indian people are in question, as a wrangle about the way a wounded man is dying, whether by the severance of an artery or the gradual stoppage of the heart. Let me repeat once more : all expenditure—for all public works, for all guaranteed interest and railway dividends, as well as for State loan interest and State civil and military charges—the labour of the ryot pays for as certainly and completely, without abatement or deduction, as if the recipients of the money thus taken out of the country went from door to door and collected every penny of it. Besides what he pays in India to our high officials, our Governors and Governor-General, our Supreme Council,' with its mock deliberative attributes, our generals and military organisation, our judges and collectors, he pays outside his country more than 30,000,000l. a year. And what does he get for it? Hunger, starvation, death by famine, even on the optimist's own admission. If only these hideous truths could be driven home to the consciousness of the people here a something would have been gained. But I fear the voice that does not prophesy smooth things is still the voice to which no one gives heed. It is pleasanter to live on with flattering delusions, so long as the starving millions of India do not die on our doorsteps, so long as interest and dividends somehow come home. When they cease, then those that live to suffer the loss can grieve for the follies and crimes that from first to last have marked the career of the English in India.

A. J. WILSON.

NOTICE TO CORRESPONDENTS. Communications to the Editor should be addressed to him at 39 Paternoster Row, E.O.

As the Magazine has an ample staff of Contributors, MSS. are not invited without previous correspondence, and uninvited MSS. cannot be returned except at the convenience of the Editor. No copies of Verses can be returned.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Y this time the sun was very low, the wind almost gone, the sea

of a fine in the

sky. After Hunter returned with the kettle from the well, he followed Tripshore down into the creek, where they buried the two bodies in the sand. Before they came back the sun had vanished, and the night had closed upon the sea; but happily for us, who were without artificial light, there was a bright moon in the south-west, which, though only half the orb was visible, flashed a silver glory upon the water, and was strong enough to give sharp black shadows to the

trees.

6

When Tripshore returned, he held out some object to me, which, on first viewing it in his hands, I had taken to be a piece of spar; but it proved to be one of the telescopes belonging to the Lady Maud,' the one that had stood on brackets in the after-companion. He whispered to me that he had found it close against the body of Jim Wilkinson.

This was a grand discovery, though its most significant value did not immediately occur to me. All that I thought of was how useful it would be to search the horizon with, and examine the coast, which Mrs. Stretton was the first to see. I called to Sir Mordaunt that Tripshore had found one of the telescopes, and everybody came running to look at it, whilst I sat down to unscrew the lenses and dry them; which done, I pointed the glass at the moon, and was overjoyed to discover that the sea had done no injury whatever to the telescope.

'Can you see through it all right, sir?' inquired Tripshore.
'Ay,' said I. 'Look for yourself.'

But, instead of putting the glass to his eye, he stood like a man musing, and then said, 'Can't ye guess a fine use for this glass, Mr. Walton, in the day-time, when the sky's clear?'

"What do you mean, Tripshore?' said I.

6

'Why,' said he, 'here's a toobe full o' burning glasses. When No. 633 (No. CLIII. N. s.)

X

« AnteriorContinuar »