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THE RIGHT HON.
JOHN SHORE, BARON TEIGNMOUTH,
IN THE PEERAGE OF IRELAND, AND A BARONET; A PRIVY
COUNCILLOR, F.S. A.; AND PRESIDENT OF THE BRITISH
AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY.
There have been few lives passed in the laborious and honourable duties of the East India Company's service in India more deserving of commemoration than that of Lord Teignmouth. The executive administrators of India, amidst the records of the Bengal government, for a long and eventful series of years, have before them ample testimonies of his public services: the few surviving friends who lived in familiar intercourse with him will attest his private and social virtues.
His Lordship was descended from a Derbyshire family, but, we believe, was born in Devonshire. His father, Thomas Shore, Esq., was sometime of Melton, in Suffolk; he died in 1759, leaving issue by Dorothy Shepherd, the late Lord Teignmouth, and the Rev. Thomas William Shore, vicar of Sandal in Yorkshire, and of Otterton in Devonshire, who died in 1822.
Mr. Shore went early in life to India in the civil service of the East India Company. On his arrival at Calcutta, in May, 1769, the young civilian was stationed at Moorshedabad, as an assistant under the council of revenue; and, in 1772, served as an assistant to the resident of Rajeshaye. He devoted himself with considerable assiduity to the Persian language, and obtained, by means of his proficiency in it, the office of Persian translator and secretary to the pro
vincial council of Moorshedabad. In 1774 he obtained a seat at the Calcutta Revenue Board, where he continued till its dissolution in 1781, when he was appointed second member of the general commitee of revenue. In January, 1785, he came to England with Mr. Hastings, with whom he had contracted an intimacy, and in the April of the following year returned to Calcutta, having been appointed by the Court of Directors to a seat in the Supreme Council, as an acknowledgment of his distinguished talents and integrity.
The most prominent feature of Mr. Shore's early life in India was his participation in the financial and judicial reforms of Lord Cornwallis. In 1787 that nobleman, on his departure for the government of India, received from the Court of Directors a code of instructions relative to the improvements they sought to introduce into the financial administration of the country. In fact, these instructions authorised, or rather enjoined, a new arrangement. The failure of the revenue, and of every successive attempt to enhance it, the frequent changes, and the substitution of farmers for the permanent zemindars, and the exclusion of the collectors from all interference with the assessments of their several districts, above all, the heavy arrears outstanding for the four preceding years, and the consequent impoverishment of the provinces, were the evils to be redressed. For this purpose an equitable settlement was directed to be made with the zemindars; and the experiment, in the first instance, was to be made for ten years, and to become permanent should it be successful. The collectors were also to be invested with ju
Mr. Mill, perhaps in too severe a tone of reprehension, remarks that, at this time, the grossest ignorance prevailed upon every subject relative to revenue among the civil servants of Bengal. They understood neither the nature of the land-tenure, nor the respective rights of the different classes of cultivators, and those who enjoyed the produce; the whole of their knowledge being the actual amount annually collected : of the resources of the country they knew nothing. Lord Cornwallis, therefore, determined to
suspend the arrangements prescribed by the Court of Directors till he had collected information from every accessible source, promulgating only certain regulations, which vested the collectors with the twofold functions of revenue agents and magistrates.
It was to Mr. Shore that Lord Cornwallis chiefly looked for the information he required; and the result of his observations appears in the important document he furnished on that occasion. In this paper, Mr. Shore pointed out the errors of the financial system, emphatically dwelling on its entire incapability of modification or improvement in its existing shape. “ The form of the British government in India,” he remarks, “is ill calculated for amendment. Its members are in a constant state of fluctuation, and the period of their residence often expires before any experience can be acquired. Official forms necessarily occupy a large portion of time, and the pressure of business leaves little leisure for study and reflection, without which, no knowledge of the principles and detail of the revenues can be attained.” * It is worth remarking, that the Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, not only inserted the whole of this interesting minute, but laid so much stress upon this particular passage as to incorporate it with the report itself.
In 1789, the Governor-general had matured his plan of revenue, and prepared to carry it into instant execution. It is now generally acknowledged that Lord Cornwallis was influenced by a generous (which is always an enlightened) policy, in conferring a permanent property in the soil upon a certain class; but the fault was, that of establishing a species of aristocracy upon the feudal principle of Europe. The zemindars became thus hereditary proprietors of the soil, upon payment of a land-tax, not to be increased, of the sum actually assessed. Another error, which infected and vitiated the whole system, was the utter oblivion of the ryots,
a class in whom all the wealth of the country was in reality vested.
The zemindars were empowered to make any terms they pleased with their ryots, with the exception of a pottah, which the zemindar was bound to give him, - in other words, a fixed interest in his estate, such as it was. It was proposed in council to give notice, that it was intended to make the decennial settlement permanent and unalterable, so soon as it received the approbation of the authorities at home. Mr. Shore, though a zealous advocate for the zemindary system, opposed the proposal, insisting strongly on leaving a door open for the introduction of such improvements as the experience of the probationary ten years might suggest. Lord Cornwallis, on the other hand, was so enamoured of the permanence of the settlement, that he persisted in his purpose, declaring that he would use all his influence with the Court of Directors to carry it into effect. It was not, however, till 1793 that the settlement was established in every district; and it was in the early part of that year that authority arrived in India to proclaim its permanence throughout the country. Besides his share in the completion of this momentous system, almost amounting to a revolution in the affairs of British India, Mr. Shore was mainly instrumental in the framing of the code of laws published in Bengal in the year 1793, — a compilation constituting an era in the history of that country, as well as a most hazardous experiment in the science of human legislation.
After the long experience the Court of Directors had had of the judgment and integrity of Mr. Shore, it is not at all strange that they should have chosen him for the immediate successor of Lord Cornwallis. Economical promises were made at home, and who so able to execute them as a man who had mastered all the intricacies of Indian finance, and whose policy, in relation to the native powers, was decidedly pacific? Upon this occasion, Mr. Shore was created a baronet of England, with the title of Sir John Shore of Heathcote. Four years afterwards, he was raised by patent to an Irish peerage, with the title of Baron Teignmouth.
On his first accession to the chair of government, Sir John
Shore had to steer between no ordinary perplexities. The