Quotes, Firman by Bahadur Shah and Proclamation by Queen Victoria

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1930 ed Book IV, Chapter vii) Reference from Rebellion 1857-A Symposium: Edited PC Joshi, page 4-5

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1930 ed Book IV, Chapter vii) Reference from Rebellion 1857-A Symposium: Edited PC Joshi, page 4-5

“The Government of an exclusive company of merchants is perhaps the worst of all governments for any country whatsoever. No other sovereigns ever were or, from the nature of things, ever could be, so perfectly indifferent about the happiness or the misery of their subjects, the improvements or waste of their dominions, the glory or disgrace of their administration, as from irresistible moral causes, the greater part of the proprietors of such a mercantile company are, and necessarily must be. It is a very singular government in which every member of the administration wishes to get out of the country, and consequently to have done with the government as soon as he can, and to whose interest the day after he has left it and carried his whole fortune with him, it is perfectly indifferent though the whole country was swallowed up by an earthquake.”

 “Our policy has been to encourage the growth of private property in land… (though) former governments hardly recognized the existence of  such property”…

Strachey: India its administration and progress 4th ed-1911 Reference from Rebellion 1857-A Symposium: Edited PC Joshi, page 8

“The soil in India belonged to the tribe or its subdivision —the village community, the clan or the brotherhood settled in the village—and never was considered as the property of the King…Either in feudal or imperial scheme there never was any notion of the ownership of the soil vesting in anyone except the peasantry.”
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, The causes of the Indian Revolt, Urdu ed 1858 pp-27-28  Reference from Rebellion 1857-A Symposium: Edited PC Joshi, page 60

“Under former Indian rulers, in old times, the system of buying and selling rights in landed property, of mortgage, and of transfer by gift, undoubtedly prevailed. But there was little of it, and what little there was, was due to the consent and wishes of the parties concerned. TO arbitrarily compel the sale of these rights in satisfaction of arrears in revenue, or of debt, was a practice in those days unknown.”

Henry S Cunnningham, Earl Canning, (4th ed 1899) pp 36-37 Reference from Rebellion 1857-A Symposium: Edited PC Joshi, page 23

“we must not forget that in the sky of India, serene as it is, a small cloud may arise, at first no bigger than a man’s hand, but which, growing larger and larger may at last threaten to burst, and overwhelm us with ruin.”

Lord Ellenborough observation in British Parliament on February 16, 1858 as quoted by Edward Thompson, The other side of the Medal (1930) p 107 Reference from Rebellion 1857-A Symposium: Edited PC Joshi, page 58

“..though our historian are so fond of asserting that the Mutiny was … purely a sedition, our action in hanging many thousands of citizens after travesties of trial or none at all, and burning villages of friends as well as foes, with any race but Indian would have turned the Mutiny in a general rising of the population.”

Firman issued by Bahadur Shah Zafar on May 12, 1857
The Shahi Firman issued on May 12, 1857 declared, "To all the Hindus and Mussalmans of India:
Taking my duty by the people into consideration at this hour, I have decided stand by my people. Whoever shows cowardice at this delicate hour, or whoever in innocence will help the cunning English, believing in their promises, he would stand disillusioned very soon. He should remember that the English will pay him for his faithfulness to them in the same manner as they have paid the rulers of Oudh. It is the imperative duty of Hindus and Mussalamans to join the revolt against the English. They should work and be guided by their leaders in their towns and should take steps to restore order in the country. It is the bounden duty of all people that they should, as far as possible, copy out this Firman and display it at all important places in the towns. But before doing so, they should get themselves armed and declare war on the English". In another Firman he warned the people of divisive schemes of the English, "..The English will try to raise the Hindus against Mussalamans and vice versa. Do not give heed to what they say, drive them out of them country".

In another Firman addressed to Zamindars, Sepoys and the Artisans, he said: "It is evident that the British government in making the zamindari settlements have imposed exorbitant Jammas and have disgraced and ruined several zamindars by putting up their estates to public auction for arrears or rent in so much that on the institution of a suit–the respected zamindars are summoned in court, arrested, put in jail and disgraced. In litigation regarding zamindaries the immense value of stamps and other unnecessary expenses of the civil courts which are pregnant with all sorts of crooked dealings and the practice of allowing a case to hang on for years are all calculated to impoverish the litigants. Besides this the coffers of the zamindars are annually taxed with subscriptions for schools, hospitals and roads, etc. Such extortion will have no manner of existence in the Badshahi government, but on the contrary the Jammas will be light, the dignity and honour of the zamindars will be safe—".

To the soldiers the Firman says:

"Indians in the Military Service, after having devoted the greater part of their lives attained the post of Subedar with 60-70 Rupees per mensem; and those in civil service obtained the post of Sadr-E-Alwa with a Jagir or present. But under the Badshahi government like the posts of Colonel, General and Commander in chief which the English enjoy at present, the corresponding posts of Pansadi, Panjhazari, Hafthazari, and Sipahsilar will be given to the Indians in the Military Service; and like the posts of collector, magistrate judge, sadr judge, secretary and governor which the European Civil Servants now hold, the corresponding posts of Wazir, Qazi, Safeer, Suba, Nizam and Diwan, etc. with salaries of lacs of rupees will be given to the Indians of Civil Service."

Then addressing the artisans and merchants he says: "It is evident that the Europeans by the introduction of the English articles into India have thrown the weavers, cotton dressers, carpenters, blacksmiths and shoemakers, etc. out of employ and have engrossed their occupations so that every description of native artisan has been reduced to beggary. But under Badshahi government, the native artisans will exclusively be employed in the services of the Badshah, the Rajas and the Amirs; and this will no doubt ensure their prosperity".

This Firman was described by the English as the most ‘invaluable contribution to the history of rebellion’ at his trial for obvious reasons.

In this Firman he addressed all the problems that all the sections of the Indian society were facing at the hands of the British, and he also proposed a solution to these problems and a method to do it. For him a pre-condition for any solution was the expulsion of the British from India, and then after that, the Indians themselves establish their power and decide. For him the most important and crucial problem facing the Indian people was Najat or Mukti from Qaid-E-Firang. Unless the Indians solve this problem, they will not be able to solve other problems and to achieve his aim, his prescription was the unified struggle of all the Indian people.

Proclamation by Queen Victoria to the Princes, Chiefs, and the People of India
on 1 November 1858

VICTORIA, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Colonies and Dependencies thereof in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australasia, Queen, Defender of the Faith.
Whereas, for divers weighty reasons, we have resolved, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, to take upon ourselves the government of the territories in India, heretofore administered in trust for us by the Honourable East India Company.
Now, therefore, we do by these presents notify and declare that, by the advice and consent aforesaid, we have taken upon ourselves the said government; and we hereby call upon all our subjects within the said territories to be faithful, and to bear true allegiance to us, our heirs and successors, and to submit themselves to the authority of those whom we may hereafter, from time to time, see fit to appoint to administer the government of our said territories, in our name and on our behalf.

And we, reposing especial trust and confidence in the loyalty, ability, and judgement of our right trusty and well-beloved cousin Charles John, Viscount Canning, do hereby constitute and appoint him, the said Viscount Canning, to be our first Viceroy and Governor-General in and over our said territories, and to administer the government thereof in our name, and generally to act in our name and on our behalf, subject to such orders and regulations as he shall, from time to time, receive through one of our Principal Secretaries of State.
And we do hereby confirm in their several offices, civil and military, all persons now employed in the service of the Honourable East India Company, subject to our future pleasure, and to such laws and regulations as may hereafter be enacted.

We hereby announce to the native princes of India, that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the East India Company are by us accepted, and will be scrupulously maintained, and we look for the like observance on their part.

We desire no extension of our present territorial possessions; and, while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our rights to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachment on those of others.
We shall respect the rights, dignity, and honour of native princes as our own; and we desire that they, as well as our own, subjects should enjoy that prosperity and that social advancement which can only be secured by internal peace and good government.

We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects, and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fill.

Firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise favoured, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under is that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects on pain of our highest displeasure.

And it is our further will that, so far as maybe, our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to office in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity duly to discharge.

We know, and respect, the feelings of attachment with which the natives of India regard the lands inherited by them from their ancestors, and we desire to protect them in all rights connected therewith, subject to the equitable demands of the State; and we will that generally, in framing and administering the law, due regard be paid to the ancient rights, usages, and customs of India.

We deeply lament the evils and misery which have been brought upon India by the acts of ambitious men, who have deceived their countrymen by false reports, and led them into open rebellion. Our power has been shown by the suppression of that rebellion in the field; we desire to show our mercy by pardoning the offences of those who have been misled, but who desire to return to the path of duty.

Already, in one province, with a desire to stop the further effusion of blood, and to hasten the pacification of our Indian dominions, our Viceroy and Governor-General has held out the expectation of pardon, on certain terms, to the great majority of those who, in the late unhappy disturbances, have been guilty of offences against our Government, and has declared the punishment which will be inflicted on those whose crimes place them beyond the reach of forgiveness. We approve and confirm the said act of our Viceroy and Governor-General, and do further announce and proclaim as follows:
Our clemency will be extended to all offenders, save and except those who have been, or shall be, convicted of having directly taken part in the murder of British subjects. With regard to such the demands of justice forbid the exercise of mercy.

To those who have willingly given asylum to murderers, knowing them to be such, or who may have acted as leaders or instigators of revolt, their lives alone can be guaranteed; but, in apportioning the penalty due to such persons, full consideration will be given to the circumstances under which they have been induced to throw off their allegiance; and large indulgence will be shown to those whose crimes may appear to have originated in too credulous acceptance of the false reports circulated by designing men.

To all others in arms against the Government we hereby promise unconditional pardon, amnesty, and oblivion of all offences against ourselves, our crown and dignity, on their return to their homes and peaceful pursuits.
It is our royal pleasure that these terms of grace. and amnesty should be extended to all those who comply with these conditions before the first day of January next.

When, by the blessing of Providence, internal tranquillity shall be restored, it is our earnest desire to stimulate the peaceful industry of India, to promote works of public utility and improvement, and to administer the government for the benefit of all our subjects resident therein. In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security, and in their gratitude our. best reward. And may the God of all power grant to us, and to those in authority under us, strength to carry out these our wishes for the good of our people.

(From: A. Berriedale Keith, ed. Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750-1921. Vol. I. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1922, 382-386).

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