25 MAY 1850, Page 11



THXELE is a romantic interest about tales of fighting and hair- breadth escapes in unsettled countries, of which commercial statis- tics and the work of legislation are destitute. This accounts for the greater attention which our Indian " news-writers " devote to the petty predatory warfare of some inconsiderable mountain tribes at the extreme North-western angle of our enormous dominions in the East, than to the social and economical condition of those terri- tories. The commotion among the Afreedees in the neighbour- hood of Kohat are less dangerous to the stability of government in India, than the kindred disturbances of Rob Roy and his retainers were in Scotland a hundred years ago : yet every newspaper-reader in this country is familiar with the military movements between Attock and Kalabagh, while few seem to know or care how a de- pendency of which the population is numbered by hundreds of millions is governed. There is a prevalent but an erroneous notion in this country, that the social condition of India is unvarying. But the truth is, that great changes are in progress there. The Anglo-Indian Government is often reproached with an utter neglect of the lines of communication and other public works : yet if people would take the trouble to inquire, they would find that a great trunk-road is nearly completed from Calcutta to Allahabad ; and that from Allahabad to Delhi wheeled carriages, stage-coaches we might say-, have superseded the immemorial " dawk "—the palan- gum with its relays of bearers. The advertising columns of the Calcutta journals are filled with notices of steam-boats about to start from " the city of palaces" for Benares and Delhi, for Dacca and Assam, and for the Armean and Tenasserim provinces. A re- volution in the modes of travelling and transmitting goods from place to place has occurred in India, quite-as great in its kind as railways have effected with us. By the introduction of ocean steam naviga- tion, India itself, formerly a four-months voyage from England, is now reached in little more than-one month. Our knowledge of India is increased in proportion; and the changes in the arrangements for mercantile intercourse have been commensurate. This is but a. sample of the innovations going on in British India: the exten- sion of elementary schools is silently working its way ; and Hin- doos have learned even to hold "monster ',t meetings for the redress of grievances.

The activity of the local Government in matters of legislative and administrative organization keeps pace with the development of industrial measures. What is called- the " settlement" of the North-western Provinces is materially affecting the interests of the occupants of land. A. new system of relations between the Native Princes and the Angle-Indian Government its springing up. We have some two hundred and fifty hereditary rulers bound by treaties to urnld the existing international arrangements of India in sub- ordination to the British authorities, but left free and independent in all other respects. Measures recently adopted in the instances of the Rajahs of Sattara and Colaba, and some ether potentates of Central India,, denote a desire to render the English power over the territories of those provinces more direct and extensive--te mediatize the rulers, or reduce them to a state of feudal depend- ency. Into- the policy of such a procedure we do not now enter ; but obviously its consequences must be important for good or evil.

In. matters of legislation the supreme kcal Government of India is as aetively innovating as in those of administration. During the year 1849, nearly ninety draft acts have been discussed by the Le- gislative Council at Calcutta; of which about fifty have become, or are Rely to become, law. Many of them are sufficiently trivial in. their details ; but, among the acts which still remain in an inchoate state, are four which have excited much angry discussion throughout Thildostan, inasmuch as they contemplate an equaliza- tion. of the legal status of all subjects, irrespective of race. For a long riod there have been_ two classes of law courts in India—the

or Queen's, and the Company's Courts. The Indian popula- tion were subject to the latter ; natives of England and the India- born descendants of English parents enjoyed a privileged jurisdic- tion—they were subject only to the Queen's Courts. That distinc- tion was obviously necessary while the Company continued to act as a trading association, and to be animated by its notorious jealousy of all "non-covenanted" English traders and settlers. But an impression has prevailed, that the Company having been trans- formed into a mere instrument for territorial government, the ne- cessity for exempting Englishmen not in its service from the $uris- diction of its courts has ceased. To this opinion is to be attributed the extended powers of local legislation imparted. under the last Charter Act to a Legislative Committee of the Council at Fort -William. At any rate, a principal_ aim of these legislators has been to subject Englishmen in India to the jurisdiction of the Mo- feissil (or district) Courts of the Company, and to introduce one TLIA- form code of laws for. Indians and Europeans.

The first acts or ordinances having this object in view were in- troduced under the auspices of Mr. Macaulay, the first Legislative Councillor.. They identified the legal condition of English set- tlers in. all matters of civil contract and proprietary rights with those of the Natives ; and Englishmen had been previously sub- jected to the jurisdiction of the Mofassa Courts in cases of assault and other offences not savouring of felony, by act of Parliament. The Macaulay acts gave great umbrage at the time ; they were vigorously opposed, and branded by the designation of "Black Acts." After passing them, their authors paused awhile ere they

ventured to proceed further. ,..Oryear, however, a

series of " Black Acts No. II. ;raw: IP; /posed for the adop- tion of the Legislative Council, an as created much irritation.

These draft acts are four in number. The first proposes to abo- lish all exemptions from the jurisdiction of the East India Com- pany's criminal courts ; the second, to declare what are the privi- leges of her Majesty's European subjects ; the third, to regulate trial by jury ; the fourth, to extend protection to judicial officers. It needs not be denied that the exemption of Europeans from the jurisdiction of the Company's Courts, like all special privileges in matters of jurisdiction, must have its anomalies and inconveniences. Queen's Courts exist only in the three presidential cities, and the expense and delay of bringing European offenders before them will sometimes defeat justice. But in seeking to redress evils of this kind, a wise legislation would guard against introducing worse oppressions.

The Mofussil Courts are in bad odour, and from their very con- stitution can scarcely fail to be scenes of corruption and oppression. Their presidents are in most instances civil servants of the Com-

pany; men who have had no legal education—who are engaged in the revenue department one day and called upon to act as judges

the next—who have no practical experience to compensate their want of legal knowledge. They are imperfectly acquainted with the language in which the business of the courts is transacted. They are not assisted rby an English bar. They are entirely at the mercy of the Native prhetitioners, the most unscrupulous class in an unscrupulous community. The Native jury (as it is called) consists of three or four residents chosen by ballot, and the judge is not bound by their decision. On a recent trial at Moulmein, the jury acquitted the accused, and thejudge forthwith sentenced him to ten years' imprisonment ! The third of the draft acts enu- merated above deprives the judge of the power of condemning the accused when the jury acquit him, but authorizes him, when he dissents from the verdict, to refer the ease to a superior court, which may decide on it without the intervention of a jury. It is also proposed to allow English barristers to practise in the Mo- it Courta : but this is elusory, for the business of these courts cannot support an English bar. In most districts of the liofu.ssil the European residents do net exceed one or two, and they are ob- jects of jealousy and enmity to the wealthier Hindoo traders and cultivators. Under these circumstances, the act subjecting Eu- ropeans to the jurisdiction of the Moftessil Courts becomes an act exposing them to vexatious and unfounded prosecutions by un- scrupulous rivals, in courts where pettifogging practitioners reign supreme, and where oaths (as was long ago proclaimed by Sir Wil- liam Jones) may be bought for about two shillings apiece. The dangers to whieh the Europeans are subjected by this contemplated change in their judicial status are great and notorious. The oases

of denied or deferred, justice, put forward to justify the net, do not exceed half-a-dozen for the whole of India. Moreover, the Na-

tives are too familiar with exceptional and persona/ jurisdictions to take any umbrage at the exemption of Europeans from the con- trol of these courts, to which themselves are subjected. Great and sweeping reforms are required in the judicial system of our Indian dominions; but the law reformers in the Supreme Council of India appear to aim less at practical ameliorations than at the introduction of a pedantic uniformity, that, without afford- ing any better guarantee for substantial justice, would inflict great hardships on Europeans without producing any countervailing advantages to the Indians. The draft acts, if passed into laws, would degrade Europeans to the Hindoo level, not raise Hindooe to an equality with Europeans. Mr. Macaulay, the great origina- tor of the "Black Acts," appears to have contemplated a repetition of his favourite " experiraentum in corpore vile." It is to be hoped, therefore, that the authorities in Leadenhall Street and Cannon Row will interfere to prevent these measures from being carried, at least in their present form and order ; or that Parliament will oblige them to perform their duty. Important though the subject of the preceding remarks is, and vitally affecting the comfort of parties who have relatives scattered over the whole of Great Britain, there is little room to hope that any general active interest in it can he awakened in this country. The same apathy in the home community to all colonial grievances is but too apparent ; and it affords an unanswerable argument for defining and extending the powers of local self-government in the Colonies. To India, however, the remedy of local self-government is inapplicable ; for there the population is made up of a multitude of races in widely differing stages of civilization, all, with the ex, ception of the few English who rule them, as yet incapable of self-