Shore, Sir John

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Shore, Sir John (1751-1834) Governor General (1793-1798) and an expert of Bengal revenue system, John Shore came to Calcutta as a writer (apprentice clerk) of the English east india company in 1768 when the Colonial State of the company was just being formed.

Shore worked with warren hastings in the Secret Political Department of the company. It was while working in Secret Political Department that Shore learnt Persian and Bangla. His love for Persian and Bangla led him to marry an Indian woman. During Hastings regime (1772-1785) Shore was his principal revenue adviser. His vast knowledge about Bengal revenue administrations and institutions, customs and habits of Bengal people influenced the Court of Directors to appoint him a member of the Council of the Governor General in 1787. As a member of the Council, he was also holding the post of president of the board of revenue, the highest administrative body.

The reforms in the revenue administration in 1786 and 1790 were mostly initiated and executed mostly according to the ideas of Shore. On the question of permanent settlement Shore differed with lord cornwallis. He was against the idea of concluding Permanent Settlement before sufficient knowledge and information was gathered as regards resources of land and capabilities of raiyat. Shore's ideas were first formulated in his Council minute of May 1785 entitled 'Remarks on the Mode of Administering Justice to the Natives in Bengal and on the Collection of the Revenues'. In his minute, Shore censured the existing system of government, criticised the mode of operation of the Calcutta Supreme Court of Judicature and gave suggestions as to how the government ought to be organised in the interest of the duration of the company rule and welfare of the people of Bengal. He recommended that a permanent settlement should be made with the zamindars, but the revenue payable by them should be fixed after detailed investigation of the resources of the country. His recommendation was that the revenue on zamindars should be moderate. His view was that the permanent government should be concluded only when the government would have got the fullest knowledge about the land resources of the country.

But the Governor General Lord Charles Cornwallis differed with him and wrote a long minute supporting the conclusion of the permanent settlement immediately. The minutes of both Shore and Cornwallis were sent to the Court of Directors for their opinion. The Court however supported Cornwallis and thus the Permanent Settlement was concluded in March 1793. But Shore got his reward for his commitment. The Court was so impressed by Shore's reasoning and knowledge and his genuine concern about the interests of the company as well of the people that he was made the Governor General on the departure of Cornwallis immediately after the conclusion of the Permanent Settlement in 1793. The hasty conclusion of the Permanent Settlement proved to be catastrophic. Most of the zamindars were overrated and consequently they failed to pay government revenue in time. The public revenue was realised by selling the lands of the defaulting zamindars. Within ten years of the operation of the permanent settlement almost half of the zamindari property of Bengal were sold out to the highest bidders under the operation of the revenue sale law what came to be known as Sunset Law among the victims.

As Governor General John Shore avoided war and confrontation. His policy was to consolidate and govern well the colonial state without indulging in avoidable foreign adventures. Peace continued for five years during his administration. Though he differed with Cornwallis as regards Permanent Settlement and many of his enactments, Shore followed the cornwallis code scrupulously when he became the Governor General.

Shore is particularly renowned for his absolute honesty at a time when the company officials were generally corrupt. Making quick fortune by plundering the subject people became the norm among company officials. Shore was an exception. He loved oriental culture and thus he maintained closest contact with Sir william jones- the orientalist and pusne judge of the supreme court, and gave him all support he needed to implement his orientalist projects including strengthening his Asiatick Society (asiatic society) after Jones's death in 1794. It was under his presidency that it got Royal recognition and a plot of land for the construction of a building for the Society. Many have attempted to write the life and works of Sir William Jones, but it was Shore who wrote his biography first. Shore's Memoirs of Sir William Jones (1804) is still considered to be the most authentic and illuminating. Shore was immensely religious. On religious canons he possessed independent views. He identified himself with the philosophical Clapham Sect, which was well known for its original religo-philosophical views. Shore was honoured with the baronet in 1792 and made an Irish Peer in 1798. [Sirajul Islam]