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Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official eBook

William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 897 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.

To this concentration of capital in great commercial and manufacturing establishments, which forms the grand characteristic of European in contradistinction to Asiatic societies in the present day, must we look for those changes which we consider desirable in the social and religions institutions of the people.  Where land is liable to eternal subdivision by the law and the religion of both the Muhammadan and Hindoo population; where every great work that improves its productive powers, and facilitates the distribution of its produce among the people, in canals, roads, bridges, &c., is made by Government; where capital is nowhere concentrated in great commercial or manufacturing establishments, there can be no upper classes in society but those of office; and of all societies, perhaps that is the worst in which the higher classes are so exclusively composed.  In India, public office has been, and must continue to be, the only road to distinction, until we have a law of primogeniture, and a concentration of capital.  In India no man has ever thought himself respectable, or been thought so by others, unless he is armed with his little ‘hukumat’; his ‘little brief authority’ under Government, that gives him the command of some public establishment paid out of the revenues of the State.[7] In Europe and America, where capital has been concentrated in great commercial and manufacturing establishments, and free institutions prevail almost as the natural consequence, industry is everything; and those who direct and command it are, happily, looked up to as the source of the wealth, the strength, the virtue, and the happiness of the nation.  The concentration of capital in such establishments may, indeed, be considered, not only as the natural consequence, but as the prevailing cause of the free institutions by which the mass of the people in European countries are blessed.[8] The mass of the people were as much brutalized and oppressed by the landed aristocracy as they could have been by any official aristocracy before towns and higher classes were created by the concentration of capital.

The same observations are applicable to China.  There the land all belongs to the sovereign, as in India; and, as in India, it is liable to the same eternal subdivision among the sons of those who hold it under him.  Capital is nowhere more concentrated in China than in India; and all the great works that add to the fertility of the soil, and facilitate the distribution of the land labour of the country are formed by the sovereign out of the public revenue.  The revenue is, in consequence, one of office;[9] and no man considers himself respectable,[10] unless invested with some office under Government, that is, under the Emperor.  Subdivision of labour, concentration of capital, and machinery render an Englishman everywhere dependent upon the co-operation of multitudes; while the Chinaman, who as yet knows little of either, is everywhere independent, and able to work his way among strangers.  But this very dependence of the Englishman upon the concentration of capital is the greatest source of his strength and pledge of his security, since it supports those members of the higher orders who can best understand and assert the rights and interests of the whole.[11]

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