Was East India Company supremely functioning as a Colonial Trading Group till 1857?

Was British East India Company supremely functioning as a Colonial Trading Group till 1857?

Was East India Company supremely functioning as a Colonial Trading Group till 1857?

In the article Emergence of British East India Company as an Imperialist Political Power in India, we had already magnified how the colonial trading company (EIC) succeeded in solidifying its direct and indirect control over major parts of India i.e. almost 63% of the territory and 78% of the population. The diplomatic techniques of territorial expansion like Policy of Subsidiary Alliance, Dalhousie Doctrine of Lapse had also been interpreted in the previous discussion. Presently, we’d endeavoured to answer- How British Parliamentary Government controlled East India Company? Did East India Company obey the British Crown? 
After acquiring the royal charter from the ruler of England in 1600, the British East India Company attained a monopoly on trade with East. The company eliminated competition in business; asserted control over Bengal after Battle of Plassey 1757; achieved Diwani rights ( i.e. revenue collection rights over Bengal, Bihar and Orisha) after Treaty of Allahabad 1765 and emerged as a supreme political power by the middle eighteenth century. But interestingly, the company experienced financial collapse by the second half of the eighteenth century because of nepotism and persistence of corruption in company officials. ( Such corrupt officials were often referred as nabobs– an anglicised form of the nawab.)
British Parliamentary Government investigated the inherent functioning of the company and introduced several acts to induce discipline in the company officials.

Regulating Act/ Charter Act (1773):

This Act is based on the report presented by British Prime Minister Lord North. Under this act, following provisions were introduced to exert autonomy over East India Company and to induce discipline on broader level.

  • Governance under the British Parliamentary Government The Act attempted to regulate the company’s internal and external affairs under the supervision of the British Parliament.
  •  Centralisation of legislative powers in Bengal: During that time, India was sub-divided into three major presidencies- Bengal, Madras and Bombay. Under the provisions of this act, the legislative powers were centralised in Bengal and therefore Governor of Bengal was called Governor-General of Bengal. The first Governor-General of Bengal was Warren Hastings.  A 4-membered executive committee called Governor-General in Council was also structured to guide Governor-General.
  • Establishment of Supreme Court-A Supreme Court was established in Fort Williams Calcutta for judicial investigation. The first Chief-Justice of SC was Sir Elijah Impey. 

This Charter Act has undeniably a considerable significance in Indian history but it couldn’t effectively regulate the company affairs since SC’s powers were not well-specified and rigid. Therefore, it couldn’t eliminate corruption and needed to be amended in 1781.

Amending Act/ Settlement Act (1781):

This act was introduced with the intention to rectify the loopholes of previous act.
  • Amendment of Jurisdiction of Supreme Court-Under the provisions of this act, SC’s geographical jurisdiction was confined to Calcutta only. The appealate jurisdiction was shifted from Supreme Court to Governor-General in Council. In this way, judicial and executive powers were separated.
  • It also stated that Hindu laws to be applied on Hindu cases while Quranic laws on Muslim.
  • (Now East India Company turned rebellious and started non-cooperating ‘coz they are dominated by British Crown even after 173 years of establishment but British Parliamentary Government stricted the rules.)
Pitts India Act (1784):

It was named after Pitts the Younger, the British Prime Minister when the act was introduced.

  • Bifurcation of political and commercial / financial powers:In accordance to the provisions, a 6-membered committee called Board of Control was established. Board of Control broadly represents British Government. The commercial/financial and political powers were bifurcated between Court of Directors and Board of Control respectively. Therefore, EIC acquired commercial powers while British Crown attained political sovereignty.
Interestingly, there was so vague distinction between powers of two bodies that culminated disputes between British Crown and EIC.
Charter Act (1793) :
This act greatly consolidated the provisions laid out in previous acts.
  • Elevation of Indian revenue: This act highlighted the elevation of Indian revenue so that salaries of Board of Control could be charged on it.
  • Extension of Business Monopoly for 20 more years.
  • Court was empowered to analyze, interpret and codify Indian rules and regulations.
Charter Act (1813) :

  • End of Trade Monopoly of EIC except Trade on Tea and Trade with China.
  • Propagation of Christianity: Christian missionaries were allowed to preach, profess and propagate their religion in India. Britishers considered Hinduism, Muslim laws as somewhat obsolete therefore they permitted propagation of Christianity.
  • Educational Enrichment in India: The Britishers allotted Rs. 1 lakh for enriching Indian Educational System. (For broader analysis of education changes) 
    Was East India Company supremely functioning as a Colonial Trading Group till 1857?
Charter Act (1833) :
  • Complete Centralisation of legislative powers in Bengal: Under this enactment, the legislative powers were entirely centralized in Bengal. Now, the Governor-General of Bengal was renamed Governor-General of India. (The first Governor-General of India was William Bentink.)
  • Complete End of EIC’s Trade Monopoly in India: Now the company completely reduced to an administrative entity since its trading monopoly including Trade in Tea and Trade with China ended.
  • Legalization of European Colonization in India: The restrictions on European immigration and acquisition of property in India was removed, therefore legalizing European Colonization in India.
Charter Act (1853):
  • Open Civil-Services Examination: The selection procedure of Civil Servants and their recruitment was thrown open to all including Indians.
  • The number of members of Court of Directors was lessened from 24 to 18. Out of those eighteen, 6 members were nominated by British Crown.

(For post-1857 legislative and administrative acts, refer to the link: Administrative and Legislative Reforms after the Revolt of 1857)

Was East India Company supremely functioning as a Colonial Trading Group till 1857?
Summing up the intention of introduction of these Acts, we can broadly comprehend that British Parliamentary Government was dominating power over East India Company after 1773 but the Company was constantly undermining the authority of Crown and non-cooperating with them. Therefore, British Government steadily took control over Company affairs and started to exert pressure over EIC. After Revolt of 1857, EIC was permanently abolished since British Government believed EIC policies- Dalhousie Doctrine of Lapse, Ryotwari System etc. as the chief causes of rebellion.

Suchit prajapati

A person who always imagines, learner and knowledge enthusiast. My imagination is my power.

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