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the criminal code ; and the number of troops and guns ; and he appears to have lost no time in setting about his task.
The morning after his arrival he visited the Maharajah, whom he describes as “a good-looking fellow, handsomely dressed, but with the appearance of the man he has been, and is, about him.' On returning Reynell Taylor's visit the Maharajah talked very pleasantly, and after a while desired that the room might be cleared. He then stated that it was his earnest desire to do everything in accordance with the wish of the Resident, and to act generously towards the people, but that he was surrounded by great difficulties, owing to the ill-managed condition of his offices. It was evident he wished to appear to advantage, and was also rather uneasy about the nature of my mission. I thought it proper to tell him fairly that, though I certainly intended to inquire carefully into all matters, he need not be the least alarmed that I should decide hastily that oppression had been practised, or that injustice had been done ; that I intended to try and understand all matters, and where I thought there was anything wrong, that I would speak to him and consult him, and then refer the matter to the Resident. He made great professions of his readiness to do anything I might seriously recommend, and I applauded his resolution. I think the old gentleman understood, and that our conversation, on the whole, was a relief to his mind.'
Melvill was almost immediately despatched on a tour of the surrounding country, and Reynell Taylor meanwhile drew up a proclamation which he circulated by sending 'six men to each of the large divisions of the province.' At this Golab Sing was somewhat alarmed, but Reynell Taylor writes: 'I begged him not to suppose that, because I had issued proclamations calling in all claimants up to the end of Imamudeen's time, that I should advise their being all released ; I merely did not wish that anything should be left uninquired into.'
It is a matter for regret that it is impossible to follow the ins and outs of Reynell Taylor's work in Cashmere, owing to the fact that his suggestions for the better government of the country were all contained in official letters and reports now no longer within reach. His diary, however, refers to the chief points, and from this it appears that one of the most serious causes of discontent in Cashmere was the condition of the shawl industry. In the oppression which had been practised against the people generally, the shalbafs had not been suffered to escape, and as the industry, it seems, was at this time under State control, the weavers had been deprived of certain dues to which they were justly entitled, and had, moreover, been compelled to work for merely nominal wages.
Reynell Taylor, by way of finding out the rights of the matter, collected some thousands of the shawl-workers together and made them appoint six of their number to answer for the interests of the remainder, and he did the same also with the dealers, 'hoping,' as he writes, “to arrange some plan by which all parties might feel their rights secured.' But the discontent appears to have been too deep seated to be easily cured, and the end of the matter was that the shalbafs ‘went out on strike.'
Received the news this morning (July 6) that the whole of the shalbafs had bolted, and intended going to
Lahore. They numbered upwards of four thousand, and the intelligence was startling enough; not that I thought they would go beyond a few miles, but I felt convinced they were not acting on their own account, and that some vicious power was at work to prevent a settlement of the case.'
The next day, when out riding, Reynell Taylor came across a large party of the weavers encamped some distance beyond the town. Making the most of his opportunity he addressed a few of them, and very soon had a large crowd round him: "I told them that I, as an English officer, was perfectly disinterested one way or the other, but that I knew very well that some people who called themselves their friends had induced them to do all this, their real and only object being to prevent a settlement now, in order that, as soon as I was gone, they might oppress them to their heart's content. I also said that I could do nothing for them until I saw them quietly at work again.'
This speech was not without its effect, for a few days later a number of the weavers came to Reynell Taylor and told him they had decided to take his advice; and it says something for the tact he had displayed, as well as for the influence he had obtained over the Maharajah, that before he left Cashmere the difficulties with the shalbafs were amicably settled and the weavers all peaceably at work again at their looms. The question of the jageers was, of course, a very complicated one, but, owing to the absence of all documents, I am unable to give any of Reynell Taylor's suggestions for the rectification of the abuses which had crept in in connection with the free tenures in land.
The administration of justice was certainly singular, and the Maharajah seems to have had very elementary ideas concerning the best modes of procedure. Thus I find him suggesting to Reynell Taylor that, by way of settling a charge of theft, it might be advisable to hand the defendant over to the tender mercies of the plaintiff! In murder cases the punishment was 'the Azhab, which consisted in cutting off the nose, arms or legs of the culprits, and then in hanging them. Conjugal infidelity was punishable in even a more barbarous manner, and Golab Sing owned to having flayed three men alive on one occasion for a minor offence.
The coinage was in a very unsatisfactory condition, no less than five different rupees, all varying in value, having been issued in the previous eleven years. Reynell Taylor's aim seems to have been to induce the Maharajah to assimilate his coinage to the currency of other parts of India, but what success attended his efforts I have been unable to discover.
There were many other matters which attracted Reynell Taylor's attention, and his work in Cashmere was no sinecure. Besides going thoroughly into the questions to which I have just referred, he collected a mass of statistics regarding the population, the taxation, and the agricultural condition of the country, and wrote out as well a sketch of the characters of almost all the chief officials of the province. How fully he appreciated the difficulties of his position is best conveyed in his own words.
'I can only say,' he writes, “that my time has been thoroughly employed during my stay in the country, and that, though the result may be small, it has taken a good deal of labour to accomplish that much. The matters arranged are of a nature that during their progress completely engrossed my attention. Had I been merely an inquirer, I should not have felt this so much, but, being to a certain extent in the responsible position of a reformer, it affected me more than I can well describe. The mani fest danger of an inexperienced man dabbling in the affairs of a kingdom, and with one word consenting to arrangements affecting the prosperity and happiness of thousands, or unfairly tying the hands of a ruler in his own country for years to come, has encountered me at every step, and to suit my own feelings and capacities it would not be on two months', but two years' acquaintance that I would willingly undertake the task.'
At the end of August he received a letter from the Resident telling him to wind up affairs as soon as he could and make his way through Huzara to Peshawur, where he was to join George Lawrence.
The press of work now became very great : 'I am nearly torn to pieces by people desirous of having their matters settled,' he writes at the end of this month ; and on September 8, when the time had arrived for him to leave Sirinuggur, he continues : 'I have a heartbreaking feeling that there is much left to be done.'
On the oth the Maharajah entertained him at dinner, the gardens and banks of the river being illuminated in his honour. The old gentleman sat near the table and did the honours very well indeed, and after a quantity of fireworks and nautching we took our leave. The king made a lot of pretty speeches about his heart not desiring my departure, &c., to which I replied in a similar strain. At length we got off, going to our boats and letting go at once.'