Lower Bengal gathers in three harvests each year; in the spring, in the early autumn, and in December, the last being the great rice-crop, the harvest on which the sustenance of the people depends. Through the year 1769 there was great scarcity, owing to the partial failure of the crops of 1768, but the spring rains appeared to promise relief, and in spite of the warning appeals of provincial officers, the government was slow to take alarm, and continued rigorously to enforce the land-tax. But in September the rains suddenly ceased. Throughout the autumn there ruled a parching drought; and the rice-fields, according to the description of a native superintendent of Bishenpore, “became like fields of dried straw.” Nevertheless, the government at Calcutta made — with one lamentable exception, hereafter to be noticed — no legislative attempt to meet the consequences of this dangerous condition of things. The administration of local affairs was still, at that date, intrusted to native officials. The whole internal regulation was in the hands of the famous Muhamad Reza Ehan. Hindu or Mussulman assessors pried into every barn and shrewdly estimated the probable dimensions of the crops on every field; and the courts, as well as the police, were still in native hands. “These men,” says our author, “knew the country, its capabilities, its average yield, and its average requirements, with an accuracy that the most painstaking English official can seldom hope to attain to. They had a strong interest in representing things to be worse than they were; for the more intense the scarcity, the greater the merit in collecting the land-tax. Every consultation is filled with their apprehensions and highly-coloured accounts of the public distress; but it does not appear that the conviction entered the minds of the Council during the previous winter months, that the question was not so much one of revenue as of depopulation.” In fact, the local officers had cried “Wolf!” too often. Government was slow to believe them, and announced that nothing better could be expected than the adoption of a generous policy toward those landholders whom the loss of harvest had rendered unable to pay their land-tax. But very few indulgences were granted, and the tax was not diminished, but on the contrary was, in the month of April, 1770, increased by ten per cent for the following year. The character of the Bengali people must also be taken into the account in explaining this strange action on the part of the government.
179 This letter was accompanied by a letter from F. P. Olcott, president of the Central Trust Company, pledging his support. Inasmuch as lack of the assurances contained in this correspondence had alone prevented Drexel, Morgan & Co. from undertaking the task proposed the previous year, their prompt though conditional acceptance was not surprising. A definitive engagement to attempt the work followed on April 12.375 The enlistment of Drexel, Morgan & Co. in the reorganization provoked general satisfaction. Mr. Hollins, of the Central of Georgia reorganization committee, expressed his pleasure in having responsible parties to deal with not connected with any past differences.376 The directors of the Richmond Terminal urged all classes of securityholders to deposit, and the Clyde Committee was emphatic in its recommendation. It was recognized that the situation was the most favorable which could be hoped for. No group of Southern railroad financiers seemed capable of producing a fair reorganization plan, and it was also probable that no plan from such a source, however fair, would have received a sympathetic welcome. Drexel, Morgan & Co., on the other hand, were both capable and sure of a hearing.
Of Browning’s delicate sheaths of meaning within meaning, which must be opened slowly, petal by petal, as we seek the heart of a flower, and the spirit-like, distant breathings of his lute, familiar with the secrets of shores distant and enchanted, a sense can only be gained by reading him a great deal; and we wish “Bells and Pomegranates” might be brought within the reach of all who have time and soul to wait and listen for such!详情 ➢
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