SIR CHARLES WOOD AND THE COTTON SUPPLY.
Jr has been said that sermons are stupid, because the has knows that he is exempt from answer or con- tradiction. Sharp criticism heard on the spot would soon compel him to freshen his points and bring his illustrations a little more close to the argument. That remark may be un- true about sermons, but it suggests by far the easiest apology for the dullness of Sir Charles Wood. Nobody, as he knows only too well, can contradict him at once. The House has been gutted of Indian members, and the kind of people who attend hustings' speeches seldom know more of India than that it is a long way off, and prejudicial to livers. If any- body who has studied the subject shows symptoms of oppo- sition, Sir Charles flings " ryots," "tenures," "village rights," " pottahs," " kists," and " jaghires," at his head, till the bewilderment of tho victim—who would laugh at a Colonial Minister for talking Quashes, but lets his colleague talk bad Oordoo ad libitum—enables the Secretary to beat a safe retreat. It is a very pleasant position but the very one to make a man dull ; and on Tuesday, at Halifax, Sir Charles Wood was so tedious that, Minister though he was, his audience shrieked " time " at him, and he was obliged to sit down, having talked for an hour, yet only begun his Indian _sermon.
He had something to say too, of very considerable import- ance, though Halifax electors were not exactly the people to whom it might have been most fittingly said. Influential men in Lancashire have pretty nearly made up their minds that cotton ought to be procured in India, that it can be pro- -cured, and that Sir Charles Wood is the principal reason why it has not been procured before. Sir Charles Wood, of course, says he is not the obstacle, but the very best friend the .cotton trade ever had, and was proceeding to make that clear when he was told to sit down. It is hardly fair to criticize a -speech which must have sounded to himself as a note strangled by a sneeze sounds to a prima donna, but he managed to utter a few ideas curiously characteristic of the Hehas two distinct charges to meet, —thathehas,by upsetting Lord Canning's orders, embarrassed the tenure of waste land, .and that he has neglected the means of communication. He answers both with a flat denial. He has not upset Lord Can- ning's orders, which, he added, with a curious, but characteris- tic jealousy of the prestige of the viceroyalty, were not Lord -Canning's at all, but Lord Stanley's, and sent out from -the India Board. He has not changed any principle, but -only made alterations in detail. "The alterations he had made were that the land should be surveyed before it was con- veyed, in order that the parties might know what the one was sellins.° and the other buying, and that all waste land in India should not be sold at one uniform price for reasons which must be plain to every one." Quite plain, provided no Indian happened to be amens.° the audience. there had been, he might have suggested that this litte detail of " survey " involved some years' delay, that European society in India is calculated to change its constituents every 'five years, that no European in a fever-stricken climate will • ever wait five years to begin anything, and that consequently this improvement in detail cancelled the original order. The ,Government of India has no means of employing casual surveyors, or of moving its own ma,s°nificent survey de- partment out of the district allotted year by year, and consequently a " survey " of a field cannot be attempted till that of the province has been completed. Then as to -uniform rate, unless we are greatly mistaken, Sir Charles Wood imposed a quit-rent, varyins.p with the local facilities, -quite fair in itself, but which entirely destroyed the one principle the Europeans wanted—a fee-simple tenure. They wanted to be allowed to leave their properties without risk that Government would seize them for an agent's default, and this their one necessity has been refused. We dare say Sir Charles Wood honestly thinks his changes small, but the Cal- cutta community, who comprehend their own business, thought them so great that attempts to utilize waste land were laid aside. All that has very little to do with cotton, which Europeans are not very likely to grow ; but it shows the tone in which the Secretary for India answers complaints, and which, far more than any blunders he makes, aggravates his opponents. Then, as to roads. The cotton men say they want roads from the cotton district to the coast, and Sir Charles Wood replies that he has assigned some twelve millions for public works this year. He had even sanctioned three millions more, which the Indian Government declined to accept, because they could procure neither labour nor superintendence. That is extremely favourable to the Secretary's capa- city for voting away money not asked for by the respon- sible Indian Government; but what on earth has it to do with the making of cotton roads ? India is as big as Europe within the Vistula, and is worked by five govern- ments almost as distinct as separate monarchies. Is the expenditure of vast sums for productive works all over Europe any proof that roads have been sanctioned in Fin- land ? How much, too, of the twelve millions is to be spent on railway account, and is spent, not by Sir Charles Wood's fiat, but because it has been subscribed here ? The single point required to be known is "what is the number of roads now constructing between Bombay and the cotton dis- tricts ?" When he descends to details, Sir Charles Wood can think of only one, upon which he says, with a grand air, 7,000 labourers are employed. That seems a large number to English- men, but an Indian railway contractor would explain that it did not involve the difference between a full week and a slack one, that the road was probably from 200 to 300 miles long, and that to finish it in a year would take at least double the number. The indictment against Sir Charles Wood is, not that he has neglected his regular work, but that he has not risen to the height of the present emergency, has not diverted the enormous engineer force gradually accumulating in the hands of the Government of India, from other works which can wait, to the cotton works, which cannot. That charge is certainly not answered by assertions that one road has 7,000 labourers on it. When it is done it will not drain 50 miles on each side, for there are no petty roads to act as feeders.
This is the real question at issue in the matter of Indian cotton. Sir Charles Wood says, rightly enough, the peasant will grow any quantity, provided he finds it pay. The quaint theory prevalent in England that an Indian ryot is a fool, who must be taught to understand his own pecuniary interests, is a delusion. But then the means of conveyance must first be provided, for no price in the world will extract corn out of a magazine with no door. People in England are generally tolerably willing to buy wheat, yet in 1856 seven millions of quarters were literally rotting in the Punjaub. Fifty shillings a quarter would have been a liberal repayment for freight and price ; but there were no railroads, and no sufficient river fleets, and no price could bear the waste and deterio- ration consequent on a journey of five hundred miles in bullock carts, or of three times that distance in an over- laden open boat. There was the corn, and there were the buyers, but there was no door; and it is to cut that door that the Manchester men are pressing Sir Charles Wood. They make just as many mistakes as he does ; upon the con- tract law they are far too indifferent to native rights and the horror entertained of the native police; and they seldom display sufficient consideration for the perplexities of a Minister who has to carry out their wishes by orders to indifferent sub- ordinates, who, again, must work through thousands of un- scrupulous Asiatics. But their general view is, with all these allowances, sound. Sir Charles Wood should have displayed extra-official energy in opening roads for the cotton, and he has not proved—unless, indeed, the proof were lost in the swallowed part of his speech—that he has done anything of the kind.