Sunday, January 27, 2013

John Bright, House of Commons, June 3, 1853


....Mr. Marshman was a gentleman who was well known as possessing a considerable amount of information on Indian affairs, and had, he presumed, come over on purpose to give his evidence on the subject. He was editor of a newspaper which was generally considered throughout India to be the organ of the Government; and in that newspaper, the Friend of India, bearing date 1st April, 1852, the following statement appeared:—
No one has over attempted to contradict the fact that the condition of the Bengal peasantry is almost as wretched and degraded as it is possible to conceive—living in the most miserable hovels, scarcely fit for a dog-kennel, covered with tattered rags, and unable, in too many instances, to procure more than a single meal a day for himself and family. The Bengal ryot knows nothing of the most ordinary comforts of life. We speak without exaggeration when we affirm, that if the real condition of those who raise the harvest, which yields between 3,000,000£ and 4,000,000£ a year, was fully known, it would make the ears of one who heard thereof tingle. 
It had been said that in the Bengal Presidency the natives were in a better condition than in the other Presidencies; and he recollected that when he served on the Cotton Committee, the evidence taken before it was confined to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies, and it was then said that if evidence had been taken about the Bengal Presidency it would have appeared that the condition of the natives was better; but he believed that it was very much the same in all the Presidencies. He must say that it was his belief that if a country were found possessing a most fertile soil, and capable of bearing every variety of production, and that, notwithstanding, the people were in a
state of extreme destitution and suffering, the chances were that there was some fundamental error in the government of that country.