Page images
PDF

Deputy of the Worshipful Robert Earl of Warwick, ViceAdmiral for the said County, in the presence of George Smith, Notary Public. (Then follow the names of the constables of every parish within the County, who attended to make a return of the defaults justiciable by the Court.) On which day and place the precognition having been made as is customary, and the constables having been called to produce the precept and the list of those summoned by them. From among all and singular appearing these following were chosen as jurors, and were sworn by the Holy Gospels of God as is customary.” The jury made no presentments, but at a similar Court held the following year at the same place on Wednesday, the 20th day of April, 1836, the jury having been sworn as above, presented as follows: “To the fifth article we present certain ship's rigging and provision found and taken up in the sea by Roger Coeman, of Harwich, coming from Newcastle. And also we present certain ship's rigging and provision found and taken up by Edward Lee and William Lee of the same place coming from Newcastle. Also we present a fore-mast taken at sea by Hugh Paine, of St. Oseth, and now in the possession of William Lumley, of St. Oseth, carpenter, worth five shillings.” We have several others before us. By virtue of Charters, an Admiralty jurisdiction was conferred on many boroughs," the Mayor and Magistrates acting as the Admiralty Judge; this jurisdiction of boroughs was abolished in 1835, by S. 108 of the Municipal Corporations Act. The Water Court latest held was in the Borough of Saltash,t on July 27th, 1885, probably being * Admiralty rights are also enjoyed by private persons, by virtue of being Lords of Manor. Thus the family of Lord Mount Edgcumbe, as Lords of the Manor of Bodrugan (Cornwall), have a right to wreck of the sea, which extends as far as a man can ride on horseback into the sea at low water, and reach with a spear.

+ For an account of this Court, see the Law Magazine and Review for May, 1895.

held with regard to matters happening within the Liberty of the Water Tamar, without the precincts of the Borough, and thereby falling without the mischief of the Act of I835.

There is, however, nothing to prevent Water Courts from being still held by Vice-Admirals of the Coast, or rather by

their duly appointed judges. THE Enrron.

II.—FAMINE AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE LAWS IN INDIA.

A CALAMITY of incalculable magnitude has befallen

our Indian Empire, where millions of Her Majesty’s subjects are enduring the pangs of hunger, many of whom have already succumbed to their privations, while many more seem doomed to perish from the same cause during the next few months. Lord George Hamilton, addressing his constituents on the 17th February last, said :

“ There are 300 millions of people, 80 per cent. of whom derive their whole subsistence from agriculture, and the agriculture of the country is dependent on the fall of rain at certain periods of the year. If the rain does not come there arises not only the scarcity of food but the cessation of employment. The area affected by the present dearth is larger than has been similarly afliicted during the present century.”

Besides the sufferings of the people, which credible witnesses describe as literally appalling, the administration of the country becomes partially disorganised during these visitations, owing to the best officers of the Government being called away to distribute food to starving multitudes, and prevent gratuitous relief being given to those who may still be in a condition to undergo some labour in return for a pittance.

In the famine of 1877-79 the deaths exceeded six millions, and the tract of country affected by the present visitation being much more extensive, the mortality may likewise be greater. Irrespective of the mortality and the misery which famine inflicts on the people, it casts very heavy financial burdens on the State, crippling the Government in the performance of its functions and aggravating the condition of the afflicted people who have ultimately to bear those burdens through additional taxation. In 188o the Under Secretary, in his statement in Parliament, informed the House that the Indian Government had, in the recent famine, spent £13,000,ooo in famine relief, and sustained a loss of £9,4oo,ooo in land revenue rendered irrecoverable through the effects of the famine. Under these ominous circumstances it becomes imperative on Parliament to inquire into the causes of this great calamity, with a view of ascertaining if a remedy cannot be devised for averting similar visitations in future. Some years ago a notion prevailed that great irrigation works tending to counteract the effects of drought, would put an end to famine in India; and many millions of money, borrowed by the Indian Government, were spent in the construction of such works. The experiment, however, completely failed to produce the expected result, while it seriously aggravated the situation by permanently burdening the people with increased taxation for the discharge of interest on the capital sunk in the works. This lamentable result of the irrigation scheme was exposed by Lord Salisbury in 1877, in the following terms:— “If you spend money rashly in irrigation works, which will not pay and cannot be used by the inhabitants, the interest of that money must be found out of taxes, which must in the main be levied on the peasant; and the end will be that, in order to save him from famine which comes

once in twenty years, we will crush him under the increased burden of taxes which come upon him every year. Depend on it, the true remedy to famine and scarcity is the frugality of the people. The people ought, in years of plenty, to make money enough to lay up against these times of famine.”

The sound principle thus proclaimed by his lordship narrows the scope of the suggested inquiry into a single question, namely—what militates against the exercise of frugality and thrift amongqa people universally acknowledged to possess those virtues in an eminent degree, when their exercise is most powerfully called for by the danger of famine? The answer (which is doubtless known to all who have "observed events in India) is that—“the cultivator, except in the districts where the land tax has been permanently fixed, has, as a rule, no savings to lay up.” The soil he cultivates is fertile; but he is not allowed to remove the crop he has raised until fiscal demands, amounting to nearly the value of that crop, have been satisfied; and the cultivator thus finds himself compelled to seek the aid of the money—lender, and lives in chronic indebtedness and poverty. The accuracy of this statement is borne out by numberless oflicial documents, a few extracts from which may suffice to elucidate the situation.

“The margin left for the cultivator’s subsistence is less than the value of the labour he has expended on the land. This district has the benefit of water communication _by both the Ganges and the ]um__na; it is intersected by the East Indian Railway, and is partly traversed by the Ganges Canal; yet the land is only worth five years’ purchase, and the state of the average cultivator is one of hopeless insolvency and misery." (Collector of Cawnpore on the land assessments.) ,

“ This district has been much mismanaged, and unauthorised charges and illegal modes of duress have prevailed very extensively. The revision of the Settlement took place at a period when the disposition to over-assess was far from being allayed. It is impossible in districts so greatly injured by oppressive assessments that the evils which have arisen can be redressed at one operation. No slight benefit will have been gained if the Government are convinced of the actual loss of money which is certain to follow over-assessments.” (The late Mr. Bird's report

on the district of Budaon.) “ The over-estimate of the capabilities of the Deccan

acted upon by our early Collectors drained the country of its agricultural capital, and accounts for the poverty and distress in which the cultivating population has ever since been plunged.” (Blue Book on the Deccan Riots Commission, 1878, page IO.)

“The Government has read with much concern the opinion expressed by the Collector as to the undue pressure of the revised rates, in consequence of which a large quantity of land has been put up for sale in default of revenue, much of which found no purchasers.” (Government Minute on the Report of the Collector of Sholapur for 1872-73.)

“ These circumstances justify me in placing the excessive enhancement of the assessments as the special cause which has disturbed the relations of debtor and creditor in the Poona and adjoining districts." (Sir Auckland Colvin’s Report as Member of the Deccan Riots Commission.)

From these extracts (and many others equally authentic might be cited to the same effect) it will be seen that oppressive taxation has long been a characteristic of our Indian administration; and the following case shews that the sway of that immoral tendency has been powerful enough to override all sense of fairness in the Executive and the very authority of the laws enacted by ourselves.

At the periodical revision of the land assessments in the Bombay Presidency in I870, a cultivator finding that

« PreviousContinue »