The importance of the subject itself, and the respect due to the learned author, render it unnecessary to apologize for publishing the following Extract from the Preface to the Al Sirajiyyah, lately published by Sir Wil­liam Jones.”

“Unless I am greatly deceived, the work now presented to the public, decides the question which has been started, whether by the Moghul constitution, the sovereign be not the sole proprietor of all the land in his empire, which he or his predecessors have not granted to a subject and his heirs; for nothing can be more certain, than that land, rents, and goods are, in the language of all Mahomedan lawyers, property alike alienable and inheritable; and so far is the sovereign from having any right of property in the goods or lands of his people, that even escheats are never appropriated to his use, but fall into a fund for the relief of the poor. Sharif expressly mentions fields and houses as inheritable and alienable property: he says, that a house, on which there is a lien, shall not be sold to defray even funeral expences, and that if a man dig a well in his own field, and another man perish by falling into it, he incurs no guilt; but, if he had trespassed on the field of another man, and had been the occasion of death, he must pay the price of blood; that buildings and trees pass by a sale of land, though not conversely; and he always expresses what we call property by an emphatical word implying dominion. Such dominion, says he, may be acquired by the act of parties, as in the case of con­tracts, or, by the act of law, as in the case of descent; and, having observed, that freedom is the civil existence and life of a man, but slavery his death and annihilation, he adds, because freedom establishes his right of property, which chiefly distinguishes man from other animals, and from things inanimate; so that he would have considered subjects without property (which, as he says in another place, comprises every thing that a man may sell, or give, or leave for his heirs) as mere slaves without civil life: yet Sharif was beloved and rewarded by the very con­queror from whom the imperial house of Delhi boasted of their descent. The Koran allots to certain kindred of the deceased specific shares of what he left, without a syllable in the book that intimates a shade of distinctions between realty and perso­nalty; there is therefore no distinction, for interpreters must make none, where the law has not distinguished: as to Mahomed, he says in positive words, that if a man leave either property or rights, they go to his heirs; and Sharif adds, that an heir succeeds to his ancestor’s estate with an absolute right of ownership, right of possession, and power of alienation. Now I am fully persuaded that no Mussulman Prince, in any age or country, would have harboured a thought of controverting these authorities. Had the doctrine lately broached been sug­gested to the ferocious, but politic and religious Omar, he would, in his best mood, have asked his counsellor sternly, whether he imagined himself wiser than God and his Prophet, and, in one of his passionate sallies, would have spurned him as a blasphemer from his presence, had he been even his dearest friend or his ablest general: the placid and benevolent Ali would have given a harsh rebuke to such an adviser; and Aurungzebe himself, the bloodiest of assassins and the most avaricious of men, would not have adopted and pro­claimed such an opinion, whatever his courtiers and slaves might have said, in their zeal to aggrandize their master, to a foreign physician and philosopher, who too hastily believed them, and ascribed to such a system all the desolation of which he had been a witness. Conquest could have made no difference; for, either the law of the conquering nation was established in India, or that of the conquered was suf­fered to remain: if the first, the Korán and the dicta of Mahomed were fountains, too sacred to be violated, both of public and private law; if the second, there is an end of the debate; for the old Hindoos most assuredly were absolute Proprietors of their land, though they called their sovereigns Lords of the Earth; as they gave the title of Gods on Earth to the Brâhmins, whom they punished, nevertheless, for theft with all due severity. Should it be urged, that, although an Indian prince may have no right, in his executive capacity, to the land of his subjects, yet, as the sole legislative power, he is above con­troul; I answer firmly, that Indian princes never had, nor pretended to have, an unlimited legislative authority, but were always under the controul of laws believed to be divine, with which they never claimed any power of dispensing.”

“I am happy in an opportunity of advancing these arguments against a doctrine which I think unjust, unfounded, and big with ruin; for in the course of nine years, I have seen enough of these provinces and their inhabitants, to be convinced, that, if we hope to make our government a blessing to them and a durable benefit to ourselves, we must realize our hope, not by wring­ing for the present the largest possible revenue from our Asiatic subjects, but by taking no more of their wealth than the public exigencies, and their own security, may actually require; not by diminishing the interest, which landlords must naturally take in their own soil, but by augmenting it to the utmost, and giving them assurance that it will descend to their heirs: when their laws of property, which they literally hold sacred, shall in practice be secured to them; when the land-tax shall be so moderate that they cannot have a coloured pretence to rack their tenants, and when they shall have had a well-grounded confidence, that the proportion of it will never be raised, except for a time on some great emergence, which may endanger all they possess; when either the performance of every legal contract shall be enforced, or certain and adequate com­pensation be given for the breach of it; when no wrong shall remain unredressed, and when redress shall be obtained at little expence, and with all the speed that may be consistent with necessary deliberation; then will the population and resources of Bengal and Bahar continually increase, and our nation will have the glory of conferring happiness on considerably more than twenty-four millions (which is, at least, the present number) of their native inhabi­tants, whose cheerful industry will enrich their benefactors, and whose firm attach­ment will secure the permanence of our dominion.”

Among the various literary obliga­tions we owe to Sir William Jones, I had reckoned the evidence in Sacontala of the antiquity of the corn rent, stated in the Ayeen Akberry* to have been the custom of Bengal, graciously continued by the Emperor to his Hindoo subjects. When I heard that Sir William had com­mented on the revenue system of Bengal, in 1792, I flattered myself that we should, on his authority, know whether the defi­nition of Zemindar*, or Collector of the Royal or Jageer Lands, is correct?

Whether Crown lands, annexed to offices civil or military, with services specified in the Sunnuds, were in the Moghul system, or ought to be, in justice and policy, more dependant on the Sovereign, than cultivated lands held by the Reyut, with rent or tribute specified in the Pottah, or heritable lease of the cultivator of the soil?

Whether Sunnuds, or written commis­sions, grants, or leases in India, can be distinguished without inspecting them, any more than a freehold, copyhold, or annual lease can in Europe be distinguished with­out perusing the lease?

Whether reference to a public register, as in the register counties of England, would not in India be less vexatious than to abolish the public register, and refer titles to suits in a modern court Dewannee Adaulet?

In short, whether Sir John Shore’s set­tlement is preferable to Mr. Grant’s pro­posed imitation of a fixed rule, actual mea­surement, valuation, and equal assessment, for the Moghul system?