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In order to preserve patronage in the Company, they needed to find a way for its shareholders to keep receiving dividends. The easiest way to do this, it turned out, was to allow it to keep selling Indian and Chinese goods in European markets. What the shareholders received under this system was not so much part of the Company’s profits as part of India’s tax revenue, since their dividends were substantially padded by export subsidies paid by native taxpayers for the sole purpose of converting rupees into gold.

One of these was the Company’s trading monopoly, which survived as a side-effect of the decision to retain its shareholders as an independent constituency. This arrangement allowed the Company to keep transferring tax revenue to its shareholders and creditors, but by blurring the line between politics and commerce it revived Smithian appeals to free trade. Smith’s criticisms of Company patronage also persisted after 1784, this time with the support of Pitt’s Indian advisers. Although Dundas could not actually deprive Company directors of patronage, he did implement many earlier suggestions for minimizing the 26 THE EAST INDIA COMPANY, 1783–1858 risk that hiring decisions would interfere with the reforms he envisioned.

Benjamin Disraeli called attention to all the “directors of insurance societies” who had been elected to govern India based on “their standing in Lombard-street” (Hansard 128 (1853):1,050); while another MP reported that “[m]any of the London bankers held large numbers of proxies, and by acting together they could almost ensure the return of any candidate; and so powerful was that interest, that it had already six representatives in the direction” (664). To Wood’s ears, such claims recalled an earlier era when Fox had waged war on the Company as a locus of City-bred corruption, and he hoped to make the most of the similarity in his opening address to Parliament.

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