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English merchants used to depute members of their firms, or confidential clerks, to proceed to the Presidencies to establish commercial houses, and there to purchase and transmit produce to England, China, Australia, and the East Indian Archipelago, and to obtain a market for English produce and manufactures. These gentlemen were assisted in duties by a class of natives called Banyans.

The term BANYAN (bn: বেনিয়া) implies a Hindu merchant, shopkeeper, or confidential cashier and broker. The term was used in Bengal to designate the native who manages the money concerns of the European, and sometimes served him as an interpreter. At Madras the same description of person were called a Dubashi, one who can speak two languages. The banyans were invariably Hindus, possessing, very large property, with most extensive credit and influence. So much was their influence that Calcutta was once absolutely under the control of about 20 or 30 banyans, who managed every concern in which they could find means to make a profit.

It was inconceivable what property was in their hands. They were the ostensible agents in every line of business, placing their dependents in the several departments over which they themselves had obtained dominion. If a contract was to be made with Government by any gentlemen not in the Company's service, the banyans became the securities, under the condition of receiving a percentage. When a person in the service of the Company was desirous of deriving benefit from some contract; in the disposal of which he had a vote, and which; consequently, he could not obtain in his own name, then the banyan became the principal, and the donor either received a share or derived advantage from loans. The same person frequently was banyan to several European gentlemen, all of whose concerns were, of course, accurately known to him, and thus became the subject of conversation.