Karl Marx in The New-York Tribune 1853

The Charter of the East India Company

Source: the New-York Daily Tribune, June 9, 1853;
Transcribed: by Tony Brown.


London, Tuesday, May 24, 1853

The charter of the East India Company expires in 1854. Lord John Russell has given notice in the House of Commons, that the Government will be enabled to state, through Sir Charles Wood, their views respecting the future Government of India, on the 3d of June. A hint has been thrown out in some ministerial papers, in support of the already credited public rumor, that the Coalition have found the means of reducing even this colossal Indian question to almost Lilliputian dimensions. The Observer prepares the mind of the English people to undergo a new disenchantment.

“Much less,” we read in that confidential journal of Aberdeen, “than is generally supposed will remain to be done in the new organization for the Government of our Eastern Empire.”

Much less even than is supposed, will have to be done by my lords Russell and Aberdeen.

The leading features of the proposed change appear to consist in two very small items. Firstly, the Board of Directors will be “refreshed” by some additional members, appointed directly by the Crown, and even this new blood will be infused “sparingly at first.” The cure of the old directorial system is thus meant to be applied, so that the portion of blood now infused with “great caution” will have ample time to come to a standstill before another second infusion will be proceeded upon. Secondly, the union of judge and of Exciseman in one and the same person, will be put an end to, and the judges shall be educated men. Does it not seem, on hearing such propositions, as if one were transported back into that earliest period of the Middle Ages, when the feudal lords began to be replaced as judges, by lawyers who were required, at any rate, to have a knowledge of reading and writing?

The “Sir Charles Wood” who, as President of the Board of Control, will bring forward this sensible piece of reform, is the same timber who, under the late Whig Administration, displayed such eminent capacities of mind, that the Coalition were at a dreadful loss what to do with him, till they hit upon the idea of making him over to India. Richard the Third offered a kingdom for a horse; — the Coalition offers an ass for a kingdom. Indeed, if the present official idiocy of an Oligarchical Government be the expression of what England can do now, the time of England’s ruling the world must have passed away.

On former occasions we have seen that the Coalition had invariably some fitting reason for postponing every, even the smaller measure. Now, with respect to India their postponing propensities are supported by the public opinion of two worlds. The people of England and the people of India simultaneously demand the postponement of all the legislation on Indian affairs, until the voice of the natives shall have been heard, the necessary materials collected, the pending inquiries completed. Petitions have already reached Downing-st., from the three Presidencies deprecating precipitate legislation. The Manchester School have formed an “Indian Society,” which they will put immediately into motion, to get up public meetings in the metropolis and throughout the country, for the purpose of opposing any legislation on the subject for this session. Besides, two Parliamentary Committees are now sitting with a view to report respecting the state of affairs in the Indian Government. But this time the Coalition Ministry is inexorable. It will not wait for the publication of any Committee’s advice. It wants to legislate instantly and directly for 150 millions of people, and to legislate for 20 years at once. Sir Charles Wood is anxious to establish his claim as the modern Manu. Whence, of a sudden, this precipitate legislative rush of our “cautious” political valetudinarians?

They want to renew the old Indian Charter for a period of 20 years. They avail themselves of the eternal pretext of Reform. Why? The English oligarchy have a presentiment of the approaching end of their days of glory, and they have a very justifiable desire to conclude such a treaty with English legislation, that even in the case of England’s escaping soon from their weak and rapacious hands, they shall still retain for themselves and their associates the privilege of plundering India for the space of 20 years.