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Davis, Samuel


Davis, Samuel (1760-1819) author of the famous fifth report 1812, came to India as an officer of the east india company's Engineers Corps. Absorbed into the company's civil service subsequently, Davis became District Collector (of Burdwan) after the permanent settlement. He worked as an agent of the Governor General at the Court of the Raja of Benares in 1799. He enjoyed a considerable reputation as a painter, an astronomer and a mathematician.

While a district collector Davis made many observations to the Council as regards the administrative anathema of the new colonial state. His ideas about the landlord-tenant relations under the Permanent Settlement led to the enactment of Regulation VII of 1799 under which the zamindars were armed with summary powers against the defaulting raiyats. The Regulation is known in Bengal legal history as the first 'black law' under the company rule. But the lasting contribution of Samuel Davis is possibly the Fifth Report that he prepared almost single handed for the consideration of the parliamentary Select Committee. This is a massive public document elaborating on the origins, development and early working of the colonial state in Bengal and later in India.

Davis is also known for his gallantry. On 14 January 1799, Wazir Ali, the deposed nawab of Oudh kept in house arrest in Benares, attempted desperately a general massacre of the English in Benares and having killed the military guards of the house, preceded towards the house of Davis, where he met with resistance. Davis defended his family with his gun until the arrival of the military from Secrole Cantonment. Davis was a Director of the east india company from 1809 to 1819. He died on 16 June 1819. [Sirajul Islam]