Goldsmid, Henry Edward (DNB00)

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GOLDSMID, HENRY EDWARD (1812–1855), Indian civil servant, born on 9 May 1812, was son of Edward Goldsmid of Upper Harley Street, London. He was educated privately, and in 1829, on nomination to a writership by Robert Campbell, one of the directors of the East India Company, went to Haileybury College, where he twice obtained the Persian prize, and also distinguished himself in Hindustani and law. Proceeding to the Bombay presidency in 1832, he served in the districts of Ahmednagar and Tanna till he became, in 1835, assistant to the revenue commissioner, Mr. Williamson. While in this post he devised the revenue survey and assessment system. He was employed in its organisation in the Poona, Ahmednagar, and Nasik districts, and the Southern Mahratta country, from 1835 till 1845, when he visited England on furlough. He there married Jessy Sarah Goldsmid, daughter of Lionel Prager Goldsmid, and sister of Major-general Sir F. J. Goldsmid, K.C.S.I., C.B., by whom he had four sons and a daughter. Returning to India in 1847 as private secretary to Sir George Clerk, the governor of Bombay, he became in the following year secretary to the Bombay government in the revenue and financial departments, and chief secretary in 1854. His health broke down under his unsparing labours in the public service, and he died at Cairo on 3 Jan. 1855.

The tenure of Western India generally is ryotwari, that is, the state is universal landlord, and the peasantry hold under it direct. But, owing to the obsoleteness of the assessments and system of former native governments, and a general fall of prices, the rents had become exorbitant, even in favourable seasons. Annual remissions, determined on annual crop inspections made by ill-paid native officials, had thus become the rule. Arrears nevertheless accumulated, corruption, extortion, and even torture, were fostered, the rates fixed on the better soils were gradually lowered, while those on the poorer became enhanced, and these rates were chargeable on areas which, through corruption or loss of record, were generally incorrect. Agricultural stock and capital were thus depleted, thousands emigrated, the residue were poverty-stricken and despairing, while the revenue barely covered the cost of collection. Goldsmid's insight and energy introduced a system the details of which were perfected by the able young men whom he drew round him, including Lieutenant (afterwards Sir George) Wingate, Bartle Frere [q. v.], Lieutenants (now Generals) Davidson, Francis, and Anderson. The ‘survey’ comprised all the lands in every village, which were divided into separate ‘fields’ of a size to be tilled by one pair of bullocks, defined by boundary marks, which it was made penal to remove, and clearly indicated upon readily obtainable maps. Each field was then classified accord- ing to the intrinsic capabilities of its various portions, and placed in one of nine or more classes, the whole work being carried out by a trained native staff under strict European test and supervision. The final ‘assessment’ was the personal work of Goldsmid, Wingate, or some other of the ‘superintendents’ whom they instituted. Individual villages were not separately dealt with, but, after careful appraisement of climate, agricultural skill, distance of markets, means of communication, and past range of prices, a maximum rate was fixed for groups of villages, from which the rent for each field could be deduced by means of the classification. The assessment was then guaranteed against enhancement for thirty years, and all improvements effected during the term were secured to the holder. He could relinquish or increase his holding, and had a right to continue his tenure at the end of the term upon accepting the revised assessment to be then imposed.

This system, formulated in ‘Joint Reports’ by Goldsmid and Wingate in 1840, and by them and Davidson in 1847, was firmly established by acts of the Bombay legislature in 1865–8 and incorporated in the Bombay revenue code of 1879. It has long since been applied to the whole of the lands in the Bombay presidency which pay assessment to government, and has been extended to innumerable ‘exempted’ landholders and chiefs at their own request. The Berars and the native state of Mysore have also adopted it. Everywhere the rents have been made less burdensome, cultivation has extended, the revenue has improved, and content has been diffused among the people.

In 1865 Sir Bartle Frere inaugurated a memorial rest-house, erected by subscription, at Decksal, near where Goldsmid's survey had been begun. He spoke emphatically of Goldsmid's nobility of character, ‘playful fancy,’ and ‘inexhaustible wit,’ and asserted that neither Sir James Outram nor General John Jacob had a more absolute control over the affections of the natives. With reference to the survey and assessment, he said ‘the name of Mr. Goldsmid will live, in connection with that great work, in the grateful recollections of the simple cultivators of these districts long after the most costly monument we could erect to his memory would have perished.’

[Official correspondence on the Revenue Service and Assessment of the Bombay Presidency, 1850; Survey and Settlement Manual, compiled by order of the Government, Bombay, 1882; Land Assessments of India, Bombay Quarterly Review, July 1855; The Deccan Ryots, by H. Green, 1852; Bombay Times, 20 Feb. 1855; Speech by Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Bombay, 4 Oct. 1864; personal knowledge.]

T. C. H.