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Pitts India Act of 1784


The company's licences expired in 1780, but this occurred during the American Revolutionary War crisis, postponing a British government decision until 1784. Due to King George III's influence, Charles James Fox proposed a bold effort to shift power from British India to seven commissioners, but it was rebuffed in the House of Lords.

However, the next year, the youngest Prime Minister William Pitt's proposed an India Act of 1784 to resolve the situation.

Key Features

Dual System of Government

Pitt's India Act (1784) established a dual system of control between the British government and the East India Company, under which the company maintained control over commerce and day-to-day administration while the British government assumed control over important political matters.

This system lasted until 1858. It established a dual administration between the company (represented by the directors) and the Crown (represented by the Board of Control).

Board of Control

This legislation established a six-member Board of Control, consisting of two members of the British Cabinet and four members of the Governor, one of whom served as President of the Board and essentially became the minister for the East India Company's affairs.

The board exercised complete authority and control over all acts and activities relevant to the company's civil, military, and revenue elements.

The Council was reduced to three members, and the Governor-General was given the authority to veto a majority vote.

The governors of Bombay and Madras were similarly deprived of their autonomy. Calcutta was given more authority on issues of military, revenue, and diplomacy, thereby becoming the capital of the company's Indian territories.

Way Forward

The directors retained control of trade and served as effects of the changes, but they were politically superintended by a new Board of Control. The head of the board of control, Henry Dundas, quickly assumed the role of India's minister.

The directors communicated with the board through a secret committee of three, but their dispatches to India were subject to change, veto, and dictated by the board.

The Crown may recall the Governor-General. In India, the governor's council was reduced to three members, including the Commander in Chief, who had the veto by an act, which Warren Hastings greatly missed. a correction.

A provision was made that a Parliamentary enquiry would be held before each twenty-year renewal of the company's charter.

Important Provisions of the Act

  • The Court of Directors was to form a secret committee to act as a channel between the Board of Directors and the Court.

  • The Governor General's council would be composed of three members, one of whom would be the King's commander-in-chief in India. If the members present at a council meeting were ever evenly divided in their opinions, the Governor-General would have two votes (one his own and the other casting vote).

  • The government will halt future revenue management trials and go on with concluding a permanent settlement with zamindars with a moderate rate of revenue demand.

  • The government would create permanent judicial and administrative mechanisms to supervise the new kingdom's rule.

  • Within two months of taking up their postings, all civilians and military officers were required to submit to the Court of Directors an inventory of their property in India and the United Kingdom.

  • Any civilian or military officer found guilty of corruption faces a severe penalty, including invasion of property, dismissal, and imprisonment.

  • Receiving gifts, awards, and presents in kind or cash from rajas, zamindars, and others was strictly banned, and anyone found guilty had to face corruption charges.

Lord Cornwallis was named the first Governor-General in 1786 by a supplemental bill, and he thereafter became the effective ruler of British India under the authority of the Board of Control and the Court of Directors.

Assessment of the Pitt's India Act

  • Pitt's India Act set a pattern by granting the British government authority over Indian affairs.

  • With growing skill, influence, and power, the intricate dual system evolved into a seesaw structure of giving and taking, with the government side becoming increasingly powerful.

  • The inquiry clause required a national investigation of Indian matters every two decades, with each subsequent stage indicating a further erosion of the company's political authority.

Church Missionary Society, 1799

The company successfully resisted an effort to compel it to sponsor Christian missionary activity during the first such investigation, in 1793; this episode resulted in the establishment of the Church Missionary Society in 1799.

In 1813, Parliament forced the company to allow missionaries and seized its commercial control.

By the Act of 1833, it had ceased to be a trading company and had become a governing corporation subject to increased official monitoring.

A Change in Company's Rule

In 1853, when competitive examinations were introduced, the company lost the majority of its patronage and was forced to admit nominated directors.

Policies were increasingly determined by an indifferent and moody board of directors.

The company's final recall of a Governor-General occurred in 1844, thereby ending the company's participation in making key decisions about Indian affairs. As a result, the company was reduced to serving as the British government's management agency.

The system established by Pitt's India Act remained mostly unchanged during the Company's rule in India.

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