work came a new and conscious alternative to an anglicized form of
administration. They need to be studied closely because they were the
dominant school in the formation of Indian policy, when liberalism first
began to exercise an influence on internal administration after 1818. Despite
differences of age and temperament, there is a unity of thought in founders of
a political tradition. Their great work was in different forms, to counter the
spirit of the Cornwallis system.
Though most of them spent the major part of their careers in military and
diplomatic activities, their concrete and visible achievement was the
Ryotwari System of land settlement and general administration, first evolved
by Munro, and extended by him throughout the Madras Presidency in the
period of his governorship from 1819 until 1827.
Mountstuart Elphinstone, who was rewarded in 1819 for his diplomatic
achievements against the Marathas, with the governorship of the Bombay
Presidency, adopted the Ryotwari System for the large area of western India
that was annexed to the Bombay Presidency as a result of the Maratha defeat;
and his work was maintained by his successor, John Malcolm, Governor from
1827 until 1830.
In the north, Metcalfe, the youngest and the last to leave India, threw all the
weight of his influence (as Resident of the Delhi Territory and later as
member of the Governor General’s Council) against the extension of the
Cornwallis system to the Ceded and Conquered (afterwards North-Western)
Provinces. He ensured that the “village communities” there were made the
basis of the revenue settlement, and the executive and magisterial functions
permanently reunited in the person of the collector.
The attitude of Munro, Elphinstone, Malcolm and Metcalfe towards the
Cornwallis school is of particular importance, because it blends almost
imperceptibly, into their attitude to the movement of reform, which picked up
momentum in the eighteen-twenties.
As the “Romantic” generation in British-Indian history, they rebelled against
what they thought to be the cold, lifeless, mechanical principles informing the
Cornwallis system, which would impose English ideas and institutions on
Indian society. They did not deny the theoretic virtue of the rule of law and
division of the powers, but they denied that these could be introduced
unmodified into India.