Page images



BOOK I. all the great empires of Asia have been overrun by Chap. iv. foreigners; and on their rights as conquerors the Sect. 1. claim of the present sovereigns to the soil rests. China, India, Persia, and Asiatic Turkey, all placed at the outward edge of the great basin of central Asia, have been subdued in their turn by irruptions of its tribes, some of them more than once. China seems even at this moment hardly escaping from the danger of another subjugation. Wherever these Scythian invaders have settled, they have established a despotic form of government, to which they have readily submitted themselves, while they were obliging the inhabitants of the conquered countries to submit to it.

The uniformity of the political system adopted by them, is a striking peculiarity; and becomes more striking, when seen in contrast with the free constitutions established by the Germanic hordes, which, in the western division of the old world, took possession of countries more wealthy and civilized than their own. It has been supposed, that the difference may be traced to the previous habits of the Tartars as pastoral tribes. But the Germans too consisted of pastoral tribes, and the difference of their institutions must be sought in some other cause than this. It may be found perhaps, in a great measure, in the different character of their original seats. Amidst the fastnesses and morasses of his native woods, the German, when not actually at war, was in tolerable security; his habits of military obedience, we know, relaxed, and he enjoyed that rude and indolent freedom, which the warlike barbarian never relinquished but from necessity. Some

Chap. iv.
Sect. 1.

of the tribes of the Affghans exhibit remarkable Boox I. instances of the different degrees of submission to authority, produced among pastoral nations under the prevalence of the different feelings of security, Roots. or of peril. They are only slowly and partially abandoning migratory habits: during part of the year they are stationary, in a country in which they feel secure; in another part of the year they move to distant pastures. While safe and tranquil, their institutions are as free as those of the ancient Germans, and in many points of detail resemble them with remarkable closeness. When they begin to move, and the approach of danger and the necessity of united exertion begin to be felt, they pass at once to a despotic form of government: a Khan, whose authority, while they are stationary and safe, is disclaimed, is at once invested with supreme power; and so helpless do they feel without him, that when from private views he has wished to remain at court, or employ himself elsewhere, he has been recalled by their clamor, to receive their submission, and to put himself at their head'. But the

1 Elphinstone's Caubul, Vol. II. p. 215. When the people are collected into camps, they are governed by their own Mooshirs, without any reference to the Khaun, and when they are scattered over the country, they subsist without any government at all: but when a march is contemplated, they immediately submit to the Khaun, and where they have to pass an enemy's country, he is appointed head of the Chelwashtees, assumes an absolute authority, and becomes an object of respect and anxiety to all the tribe. A proof of the importance of the Khaun during a march, is shewn by the conduct of the Nausser at one time, when Junus Khan, their present chief, refused


Chap. iv.
Sect. 1.



BOOK I. Tartars of central Asia inhabit vast plains, traversed every direction by mounted enemies. The task of guarding their property and lives, is a constant campaign; and their habits of military submission have no intervals of relaxation: they are born, and they die in them. It is possible that when they became masters of the fair empires of exterior Asia, they found already established, in some instances, the right of the sovereign to the soil; not as a remote or nominal superior, but as the actual and direct proprietor. Such a right may have been a relic of former conquests, or in some remoter instances, the growth of circumstances, similar to those which induced the natives of Africa, Peru, or New Zealand to acknowledge, on applying themselves to agriculture, the right of their sovereigns to dispose of the territory which the nation occupied. However this may be, it is certain that the Tartars have every where either adopted or established a political system, which unites so readily with their national habits of submission in the people, and absolute power in the chiefs: and their conquests have either introduced or re-established it, from the Black Sea to the Pacific, from Pekin to the Nerbudda. Throughout agricultural Asia, (with the

to accompany them in one of their migrations. He was anxious to remain in Damaun with 200 or 300 of his relations, to assist Surwur Khaun against the Vizeerees; but his resolution occasioned great distress in the tribe, who declared it was impossible to march without their Khaun. So earnest were their representations, that Junus was at last compelled to abandon his former design, and to accompany them on their march to Khorassaun.

Book I.

Sect. 1.

Chap. iv.


exception of Russia) the same system prevails. There
are neither capital nor capitalists able to produce,
from stores already accumulated, the maintenance
of the bulk of the people. The peasant must have Ryot
land to till or must starve. The body of the nation.
is therefore in every case dependent upon the great
sovereign proprietor for the means of obtaining
food. Of the remainder of the people, the most
important part is, if possible, more dependent: they
live in the character of soldiers or civilians, on
a portion of the revenue collected from the peasants,
assigned to them by the bounty of their chief: inter-
mediate and independent classes there are none; and
great and little are literally what they describe them-
selves to be, the slaves of that master on whose pleasure
the means of their subsistence wholly depend. The
experience of many long centuries of monotonous
oppression has sufficiently proved the tendency of
such a state of things, once established, to perpetuate
the despotism it creates.

Although a similar system prevails in all the great empires of Asia, it presents itself with distinct modifications in each; arising from differences in the climate, soil, and even government; for despotism itself has its varieties. Of these modifications a very slight sketch must suffice here.


On Ryot Rents in India.

Book I. Chap. iv.

Sect. 2.

It seems probable, that the ancient Egyptians, Indian and the Indian worshippers of the Brahminical idols Ryots.


Chap. iv.

Sect. 2.


BOOK I. had a common origin, but whence they came; or in what state of things their peculiar institutions originated, can only be dimly conjectured. In India, ryot rents have subsisted since the invasion of the people whom the Brahmins led, or accompanied; perhaps longer. The sacred books of the Hindoos found the claims of the sovereigns to the land on the rights of conquest.

"By conquest, the earth became the property of the holy Parasa Rama; by gift the property of the Sage Casyapa; and was committed by him to Cshatriyas (the military cast) for the sake of protection, because of their protective property; successively held by powerful conquerors, and not by subjects cultivating the soil. But annual property is acquired by subjects, on payment of annual revenue, and the king cannot lawfully give, sell, or dispose of the land to another for that year. But if the agreement be in this form, "you shall enjoy it for years,” for so many years as the property is granted, during so many years the king should never give, sell, or dispose of it to another, yet if the subject pay not the revenue, the grant being conditional, is annulled by the breach of the condition. But if no special agreement be made, and another person desirous of obtaining the land, stipulate a greater revenue, it may be granted to him on his application'."

With the spirit and letter of this often quoted law, the practice of the various sovereigns of India, native and foreign, has very accurately corresponded.

1 Colebroke's Dig. of Hindoo Law, Vol. I. p. 460.

« PreviousContinue »