Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mines, Mattison. “Courts of Law and Styles of Self in Eighteenth-Century Madras: From Hybrid to Colonial Self,

Mines, Mattison. “Courts of Law and Styles of Self in Eighteenth-Century Madras: From Hybrid to Colonial Self,” Modern Asian Studies 35, 1 (2001): 33-74.

Summary: 33-“public representations of individuals and how these were affected by British East Indian Company courts judicial proceedings, and the law in Madras city during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Company records reveal that this was a period of dramatic transformation in self-representation, just as it also was in Company rule. My purpose is to trace the transformation of the manner in which individuals represented themselves and others and what this process reveals about the constitution of Madras society and Company rule by and after the establishment of an independent judiciary at the end of the eighteenth century. Most particularly, in this paper I seek to demonstrate how the transformation of E. Indian Company courts of judicature from interested courts, strictly controlled by the Company, to independent courts is associated with changes that greatly affect the manner in which individuals—both British and Indian—thought of themselves and others in Madras city public life. This transformation was of a piece with the establishment of independent judiciaries in England and North American at the time and indicates how Madras too was influenced by these political developments.”

-“the self exposes the dialogical processes of its history, which are always expressive of how a person fits and interacts within a set of relationships that sustain his or her self awareness. Self representation, therefore, voices an individual’s explanation of his or her social relations in a particular context and at a particular moment and presents that person’s perspective on the social rules that govern them. A self-representation, then, always expresses a point of view, a piece of argument uttered for a purpose, and so is, in a sense, a ‘still-life’ that pre-serves traces of co-respondents, the person or persons the individual is addressing, and of the counter interpretations that the representation is designed to address…[It is] a component of the dialogical heteroglossia [cf Bakhtin 1981] that characterizes ordinary life, including arguments about the ‘rules of the game’.”

35-article looks at 2 18th and 1 19th century representations—2 represent 2 eras—when court was administered by Company, then, after Recorder’s Court (est 1798) which was superseded by Supreme Court (est 1802), there were professional lawyers and judges and other regulations changed the Company—putting it more “in the role of an administration of law and Company employees in the role of government servants.”

-18th century portrayals are in testimony of judicial proceedings (1730 and 1790), (36) 3rd is autobiography of an Indian businessman and civic leader of the Beeri Chetty caste from 1889. All are texts of influential Indians with British of Madras

36-Says in that area, until late 18th century, “constituted a kind of frontier society, where Zamindari rule and a rough, merchant’s sense of common law combined, and where social (37) contracts allowed for a significant degree of individualization, as suited the needs of trade and manufacture. Weakly administered, society was highly personalized, antagonisms were rife, and relationships constantly in flux, a product of personal competition and opportunistic alliances between individuals rather than of Company hegemony or even local social hierarchy, although elements of these were also part of the administrative potpourri…there was no clear and consistent social divide that set British against Indian as increasingly characterized the period after 1790.” (cf Dodwell 1926)

37-“Pre-1790, the British traded, regulated the peace, and administered through the mechanism of alliances and partnerships with Indians.” (cf Brimmes 1993, Bayly 1988), “Consequently allies and enemies were where individuals and groups made them, w/ both British and Indian needing the other, and expressions of personal eminence and respect were likely to conform to Indian custom, as context and relationships required.” (cf Salmon 1744)

-prominent British usually had Indian partner (called a dubash) who helped broker deals—“no more than a few hundred” total—and Madras society was organized around them (cf Dodwell 1926); dubash was ostensibly British servant, but (38) he could do stuff in his own interest and British was depended on him—and either of their success or failure affected both—so their relationship was built on a “shared ethical sense of social order”—“preserved in understandings of self and other.”—“and the locus of much social control was located in them. Thus, what institutional power there was…was in some large part founded on such alliances, not in bureaucratic procedures and structures, nor in formal law.”

38-as the Company developed more institutional means to control city life, “it increasingly withdrew from its pragmatic alliances with local leaders”; in the 1770s Company began to develop and implement in Madras a “municipal structure including a small police force, whose early duty it was to control the prices of basic necessities such as food stuffs, tobacco, and betel” (cf Love 1913) which “competed with and undercut the personal authority and discretion of headmen”

-Acts of Parliament also changed British-Indian relations: Regulating Act of 1773—established Calcutta as a Company capital and Warren Hastings as Indian’s first Governor General; more importantly was the Pitt Act of 1784 “which settled the system of Company government as it largely was to remain to its end in 1858.” (cf Holdsworth 1938, Fawcett 1934); “These acts sought to end abuses by Company servants by curtailing the opportunities for corruption that (39) self-interested trade and British-Indian alliances were thought to engender. Central to this effort was the establishment of an independent judiciary whose design it was that no Company servant be above the law nor able arbitrarily to control its administration.”—warren hastings was even impeached

39-“in 1790 Cornwallis excluded Indians from henceforth serving in the army’s officer corps, while simultaneously, Indian civil servants were excluded from offices in government with salaries above [500 pounds] per year.” (cf Wolpert 1993); and “in 1800, the Madras government prohibited all covenanted servants except Commercial Residents from engaging in trade.”

-so by 1790 British and Indian lives were separated, segregated and “sense of the self were sustained within relationships that were in part defined in the law rather than largely within social relationships expressed as attributes of reputation, friendship, and enmity, trust and distrust and the strong emotions attendant on these…it meant that the criteria by which social relations were estimated and regulated were no longer internal to its constituting relationships and their concomitant emotions…Interestingly, one expression of this transition from the personal to the impersonal is that the use of strong emotion and affect such as disgust, indignation, and outrage, is a defining feature of seventeenth and eighteenth-century representations of self—British and Indian alike—but is a feature missing from nineteenth-century (40) descriptions.”

*40-this created “a new hybrid Indian subject, one that might be labeled culturally, but not racially, Anglo-Indian.”; “Ironically, much of what scholars today regard as Orientalist and racist about British colonial administration had its origins here in policies and law designed to end Company abuses and the individual corruption that private trade, Company courts, and British/Indian alliances were believed to have engendered, a law designed to be impartial, to protect individual rights, but also to regulate in part by means of racial distinction.”

-Originally British East Indian Company’s interests “were to trade and to make fortunes, not spend money on administration, defense, or conquest”

-Company leased Madras c. 1640; in 1711 Madras’ Governor in Council explicitly said “quarrels” with natives “destroy” the Company’s “ends”—(41) to it was still a “suzerain power”

41-“The Company sought to encourage what it hoped would be the self-interested involvement among the local population, Armenians, Portuguese, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and others, reasoning that a well-governed Town facilitated trade and so would be attractive to all. In pursuit of this shared government, the Company incorporated the Town in 1688 with a Mayor, Mayor’s Court, and Corporation…and all the other paraphernalia of an English municipality in the seventeenth century.” (cf Fawcett 1934)

-but the residents didn’t really want to serve, so “madras remained at best only weakly integrated by institutions of government” (cf Neild 1976), (42) police were protection for-hire

42-“Under these organizational circumstances, personal relationships and reputation were essential to success, and recognizing this, the Company was ever vigilant to maintain trust in dealings and agreements under its seal. Similarly, in interpersonal relationships a reputation for reliability in contracts was equally necessary. A man who broke his trust with a powerful other might find himself sued in the Mayor’s Court, but more importantly find his name forevermore degraded and his opportunities for contracts denied.” (cf Mines 1992)—“this is not to say that all manner of extortion and crime didn’t occur, for they did, of course. Rather, it is to say that a reputation for fulfilling one’s contracts and meeting expectations was essential within a relationship for that relationship to continue.” And “there were merchants [British and Indian] who went to great lengths, including illegal ones, to gain advantage or to ruin a rival; yet within a merchant’s own relations, whether British or other, it was essential to maintain the trust of one’s partners or be wrecked.”—(43) though some men of influence expected “gifts” from trading partners

43-and if a preeminent person died or left, the success of his friends was attacked and ended

-to reflect this, personal relations were often called friendships, and other common things in 18th century were rivalry, enmity and fear of murder (documented in Company’s records)

44-success relied on ties with London, Indians, dubash, other traders, and local aristocracy—a “big-man society par excellence”, “personalities loom large”, and reflected “The weakness and undeveloped nature of bureaucratically regulated institutionalized power”—even the Governor had to watch how he behaved (in 1721 a governor was removed)

45-Company had 3 sources of authority: English charter, local suzerains had authority over Indians, and the Company name (based on its trustworthiness)—men were linked in hierarchy of personal relationships (including castes and moieties)

46-first example: Chitteramah Chittee (a poor orphan of the dubash of a former governor), made a claim against a governor who was at that time just stepping down—James Macrae—in the Mayor’s Court; (147) which was judged by free merchants who from time to time used the Court to further their own factional and business interests to the disadvantage of the Company, the Governor, and the men of the Council’s so Chittee could have had a sympathetic ear

48-says Chittew was familiar with British through his father and living around several, and the fact that his accounts are “laced with emotion”, he probably gave the accounts, not his lawyer (and macrae’s response was “calm and concise”)—also at time “it was a lawyer’s responsibility to present a complaint and defense as his client represented it” (cf Paul 1991); concludes that view points are Chittee’s but the rhetoric is British—his self awareness includes “certain British understandings mixed with ‘native’ perspectives…”

51-in the court narrative, mines says Chittee “draws on the resource of the Mayor’s Court and on his knowledge of the rules of British daily practice in Madras to condemn the actions and so also the honor and integrity of the E. India Company’s highest officer…[his] complaint contains a skillful, economical argument in which he laid out in a seemingly natural manner the measure by which his father’s relationship with Macrae was to be judged”—friendship—“a relationship that carried with it the common expectations of the day about what constituted moral behavior between friends.”—and Chittee’s complaint has a “strong sense of indignation and condemnation”

*-“This evoking of common understandings of relational expectations, I argue, would have been in keeping with the attitude of the tiems, when social control was located more within the rules of practice governing social relations than within legal behavior and law. In fact, the Court makes no mention of legal technicalities or of any statute. Instead, common sense was the (52) standard of the Court. The Orator’s complaint, therefore, although it was designed to convict in part on the basis of what happened, more importantly was designed to persuade by demonstrating that Macrae was an immoral man…”

53-“in the context of the Mayor’s Court, clearly what mattered were British sentiments”

54-Ft. St. George was divided into what was called the “white” and “black” side of town and Chittee lived in the “white” part, “and it is no surprise, therefore, that his sense of self incorporated British relationships and ideas about social rules, including friendship.”, though he also noted “an Indian subaltern’s view” in calling the relationship a “tie between client and patron”; “From an Indian perspective, this embodies an ethic almost as compelling as that of friendship” [this is all PROBLEMATIC—assumes he’s not lying; assumes these ethics are not felt on both sides, assumes only Indian sees patron/client relationship, assumes b/c he lives in white town that he must think white, does not take into account indv personality or class]

-Since we know british also expressed honor in Indian terms (like having Indian leader style entourages), “The evidence suggests, therefore, that the elite expressed honor according to situation in the manner appropriate to the public context in which they find themselves.”

54-originally ruled in favor of chittee, but was overturned “without consideration of a point of law or a question of new evidence”

55-1746-49, France captured and occupied Madras; around that time Madras was placed under control of the administration of Bengal; the India Act of 1784 (from England) “removed ultimate authority from the Company’s court of Directors and transferred it to the Crown’s new Board of Control, had begun the process of turning the Company Merchants into government servants.”, and Company government in Madras was much bigger than in 1730, “and was poised at the ledge of a dramatic shift from mercantile hybridity of interests and relations to colonial separation” though still (56) “Madras was a city of personalities, alliances, and reputation; and the dominant style of leadership was still the hybrid form of the Indian big-man, seemingly little different from sixty or even one hundred years before.”

-Example 2: in 1790 Suncoo was “one of the leading Indian businessmen of the city” who, with an agreement from the Company, rented tobacco and betel farm and supplied those at a “fixed price”, also was a headman of the Komati business caste, and caste’s properties were held in his name, (57) was supposed to keep supplied warehouses for distribution

57-accused of not meeting any of his obligations, selling bad product, charging too high of prices, rarely having good warehouses, and bribing the Governor and other Board members—so petition was made to indict him

58-he said charges were trumped up

59-investigators found out the guys who started the petition wanted to take control of the beetle and tobacco trade, and petitions were dismissed, but not the charges

60-at trial, Suncoo gave no evidence besides his character: “He did not attempt to disprove the allegations against him. Such an approach would have indicated his understanding that his actions were to be judged by legal standards that were independent of constituting relationships and motivations.” (what he thought the social order was based on)

-but was found guilty, opponents and judges were “Exasperated by his weak defense”, though they did not have “solid evidence” either; and he was imprisoned for 9 years (61) until his death, and Company took his property and that of the caste “which it mistook for his personal property. All this was done illegally according to the Company’s own assessment made some thirty years later”—and the governor that dealt with Suncoo resigned

-Mines says “this case marks London’s new policy designed to quash what the new Board of Control saw as the corrupting influence of Company servants engaged in trade and personalized ties these entanglements generated”; removing Governor from being the “principal merchant of Madras and his Council members all traders”, and the criticism of the action 30 years later (62) was in the time of the “high colonial period of Company Raj” with a “well-established” independent court system

62-“In Madras, the effects of the 1784 Act become readily apparent only after 1802 when the establishment of the Supreme Court and Company records reveal that relations with Indians were now increasingly routinized by bureaucratic codes enforced by an independent court of law.”

-Suncoo’s rival had 2 examples of self representation that showed a mixture of Indian and British forms—especially by establishing public acknowledgement that he would be the patron of the Hindu social god—public, government acknowledgement was a new british institution

*65-“In fact, this new kind of society could not allow for racial mixing without obscuring its distinction between Indian subject and British ruler.”—gone were the ethical standards of personal relationships, “now Indians were to be judged by the British who from their position of institutionalized superiority could reward or ruin them.”

-Example 3: in an auto-biography written by P. Somoosoonthrum Chetty in 1889, (66) he never “addresses the British as if he and they shared the same ethical space and so could judge one another by the same criteria.”, and relationships are seen as employee/employer and heated emotions aren’t explicit though they “do seethe beneath [his] words”

69-his account stresses justice and law—not trust and friendship, emotions or enmity

70-Conclusions: in 18th century there is “a shared notion of what is appropriate”—compared to 19th ce which are “emotions are suppressed beneath a routinized order of law and public civility” (they are there, but “no outpouring” of it), and in Hindu temples where personalities still rueld, there was much corruption, and the identity of a “big-man” was limited to temple patronage

*71-“sense of self was of course still sustained in social relationships, but now these were publically regulated not by personal moral obligation and emotions, but by the impersonal rule of law and bureaucratic structures—even, we see, extending to the protection of individual rights against the collective interests of family”

*-“the self is not a fixed understanding…it is a dialogical historical process, importantly configured by the ruels of relationships and so by changes in public law and government administration.”, “the individual has a diminished role in construing social order.”

72-concludes: “Here was a clear motivation for seeking independence.”

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