Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VI. - The History of British India, vol. 3
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAP. VI. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 3 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 3.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
Political State of Carnatic—Views of the Nabob on Governor of Velore, King of Tanjore, and Marawars—Treaty with Tanjore—Company’s Jaghire—War on Mahomed Issoof—Mound of the Cavery.
book iv.Chap. 6. 1763.By the final overthrow of the French in Carnatic, the British in that part of India had accomplished an object far greater than any to which, at the beginning of the contest, they had even elevated their hopes. To see Carnatic under the Government of a chief, who should have obligations to them for his elevation, and from whose gratitude they might expect privileges and favour, was the alluring prospect which had carried them into action. They not only now beheld the man, whose interest they had espoused, in possession of the government of the country, but they beheld him dependent upon themselves, and the whole kingdom of Carnatic subject to their absolute will.
It was the grand object of deliberation, and the grand practical difficulty, to settle in what proportion the powers and advantages should be divided between the nominal sovereign and the real one. Clear, complete, well-defined and unambiguous regulations, are naturally employed for the prevention of discordance, when the parties have wisdom, and are free from clandestine views. On the present occasion, according to the slovenly mode in which the business of government is usually transacted, few things were regulated by professed agreement; the final distributionbook iv.Chap. 6. 1763. was left to come out among the practical, that is, the fortuitous results of government; and of the two parties each inwardly resolved to appropriate as great a share of the good things as power and cunning would allow.
The English were not disposed to forget that upon them the whole burden of the war had devolved; that they alone had conquered and gained the country; that the assistance of Mahomed Ali had been of little or rather of no importance; and that even now he possessed not resources and talents sufficient to hold the government in his hands, unless they continued to support him.
On the other hand Mahomed Ali looked upon himself as invested with all the dignity and power of Nabob; and the absolute ruler of the country. During the whole progress of the dispute the English had represented themselves as contending only for him; had proclaimed that his rights were indisputable; and that their zeal for justice was the great motive which had engaged them so deeply in the war. The Nabob, therefore, hesitated not to consider himself the master; though a master owing great obligations to a servant who had meritoriously exerted himself in his cause.
The seeds of dissatisfaction between the rulers of Carnatic, abundantly sown in a fruitful soil, were multiplied by the penury of the country. The avidity, which made the English so long believe that every part of India abounded with riches, had filled them with hopes of a great stream of wealth, from the resources of Carnatic. And although they had already experienced how little was to be drawn, and with how great difficulty, from the districts which had come into their power; though they were also book iv.Chap. 6. 1763. aware how the country had been desolated by the ravages of war, they still expected it to yield a large supply to their treasury, and accused and complained of the Nabob when their expectations were not fulfilled.
The Nabob, who was the weakest party, and as such had the greatest occasion for the protection of well-defined regulations, had, before the surrender of the French in Pondicherry, presented a draught of the conditions to which it appeared to him expedient that the two parties should bind themselves. He offered to pay to the Company, in liquidation of the sums for which in the course of the war he had become responsible, twenty-eight lacs of rupees annually till the debts should be discharged; and three lacs of rupees annually to defray the expense of the garrison at Trichinopoly: Should Pondicherry be reduced, and the Company afford him an adequate force to extract from the renters and other tributaries of the country, the contributions which they owed, he would discharge his debt to the Company in one year: Should any of the districts between Nelore and Tinivelly, be taken or plundered by an enemy, a proportional deduction must take place, from the twenty-eight lacs which were assigned to the company: On the other side, the Nabob desired, that the Company would not countenance the disobedience of the local governors and administrators; that the English officers in the forts or garrisons should not interfere in the affairs of the country, or the disputes of the inhabitants; that the Nabob’s flag, instead of the Company’s, should be hoisted in the different forts; and that the Company should, when required, assist his officers in the collection of the revenue.
The President; whether he decided without reflection, or thought a promise which would keep thebook iv.Chap. 6. 1763. Nabob in good humour, and might be broken at any time, was an obligation of no importance, expressed by letter his assent to these conditions.1 In a short time however the President and Council presented to the Nabob a demand for fifty lacs of rupees. The Nabob, as this was a sum which he did not possess, endeavoured by all the means in his power to evade the contribution. Unable to resist the importunities of his allies, he was driven to his credit, which was very low; and under disadvantageous terms, which heaped upon him a load of debt, he raised by loan the money they exacted.
The expense of the war, the exhaustion of their own treasury, and their exaggerated conception of the riches of the country of which they had made him sovereign, rendered the President and Council by no means sparing in their requisitions upon the Nabob. It was stipulated that he should repay the whole expenses of the siege of Pondicherry. Even to this he agreed, upon condition of receiving all the stores which should be taken in the place. The servants of the Company, however, appropriated the stores to themselves; and they met the complaints of the Nabob, by promising to allow for them a certain sum in his account: in other words, they took for their own benefit what by their own contract belonged to the Nabob, and promised to make their masters pay him something, more or less, by way of compensation. Their masters, however, were on this occasion not less alive to their own interests than their servants had been to their’s; and no sooner heard of the sum which had been allowed to the Nabob in their books, than they ordered it to be book iv.Chap. 6. 1763. re-charged to his account; while their servants were left in undisturbed possession of the stores.1
From the mode in which the country was governed; by sub-division into local commands, with a military force and places of strength in the hands of every local commander, who withheld the revenue of his district, as often as he beheld a prospect of escaping punishment for his faults; it has frequently been seen what difficulties attended the realizing of revenue, whenever the government became disordered or weak. For a series of years, Carnatic had been subject to no regular government; the different antagonists had collected the revenues, and raised contributions, in those districts which had at any time fallen into their hands; and the commanders of districts and forts had eluded payment as often as it was in their power. From this wasted, and disordered country, with an insignificant army, and no resources for its augmentation, was Mahomed Ali required to find means for the support of his own government, for the gratification of his own taste and passions, and to satisfy the unbounded expectations of the English.
The hopes of the Nabob, who knew the poverty of the country, and with what severity every thing had been stripped from those among the district Governors who enjoyed not extraordinary means of defence, were chiefly fixed upon the supposed treasures of Mortiz Ali, Governor of Velore, the riches of Tanjore, and the two Marawars. The fort and district of Velore was an acknowledged portion of the Carnatic territory. Tanjore and the Marawars were separate principalities, which, as often as they were pressed by the strength of their neighbours, had, according to Indian practice, occasionally paid thembook iv.Chap. 6. 1763. tribute; as Bengal and Carnatic themselves had paid to the Mahrattas; but which had never been incorporated with the Mogul empire, nor regarded their dependence as more than casual, temporary, and unjust.
The strength, however, of the Nabob was altogether inadequate to the coercion of such powerful chiefs; and for the accomplishment of so important an object, he importuned the Presidency to join their forces to his. The state of the treasury at Madras, exhausted by the efforts of so tedious and expensive a war, rendered the English by no means desirous of engaging immediately in fresh adventures. And it was not without difficulty that in the summer of 1761 they were induced to lend their aid for the reduction of Velore. It resisted the exertions of the army for three months, and but ill repaid the conquerors by the treasure which it contained.
The conquest of Tanjore was an object of still greater promise. As it had not yet been ravaged by foreign armies, the ideas of Indian wealth, which so long had sparkled in the imaginations of men, were not altogether extinct. The country, though small, was undoubtedly fertile; the incompatibility between the existence of a rude government and people, and the production and accumulation of wealth, was not understood; and the expectations which had misled both the French and the English still maintained their sway in the mind of Mahomed Ali. Besides, as ruler of Carnatic, it was his interest to add a principality of some importance to his dominions, and to remove a neighbour who might on every emergency become a dangerous foe.
The English, however, either because they had descended in their estimate of the riches of the country, book iv.Chap. 6. 1763. or because they had ascended in their estimate of the difficulty of its subjugation, discovered an aversion, which the Nabob was unable to overcome, to embark in the conquest of Tanjore. The Governor recommended negotiation; and offered himself as mediator. To settle with the subordinate agents of his own government belonged, he said, to the Nabob himself: but the King of Tanjore was a sovereign Prince; and a tribunal, distinct from that of either party, namely, that of an independent mediator, was necessary to adjust the differences between them.1
The Nabob resisted this mode of adjustment, with great eagerness; and, rather than adopt it, would have postponed the enforcement of his claims, trusting to the chapter of accidents, and a time to come, at which the Rajah might yield at discretion. The Presidency, however, knew their power; they sent, therefore, an agent to Tanjore, to hear the allegations of both parties, and suggest the conditions of an agreement. The following were the terms which they resolved to confirm: That twenty-two lacs of rupees, at five instalments, should be paid by the Rajah to the Nabob, as arrears; four lacs as a present; and four annually as a tribute: That the districts, on the other hand, of Coiladdy and Elangad should be ceded to the Rajah; and that Arni should be restored to its former Governor or Killedar. The pecuniary exactions were greatly inferior to the claims of the Nabob; and so great reluctance did he show to the ratification of the treaty, that Mr. Pigot is said to have seized his chop or seal, and applied it to the paper with his own hand.1 Aware that the inflated conceptions diffused among their countrymen of the riches of India, and of Tanjore as a distinguished part of India, might lead the Court of Directors to regard the sum extracted from the Rajah as criminally small, the Presidency wrote, in their own defence; That, without their assistance, the Nabob was unable to extract a single rupee; that the reduction of Tanjore would have been a difficult enterprise; that they had not an army sufficient for the purpose; that the expedition would have occasioned an expense which they were unable to bear; and that a rupture with the Rajah would have tended to raise up other enemies. The inability of the country to sustain, without oppression, a heavier exaction, they were either not yet aware of, or did not care to allege. When the Directors afterwards transmitted their reflections, they said; “If four lacks were given as a present, it seems as if the Company ought to have it, for their interposition and guarantee of the treaty. We shall be glad to have this affair explained to us, that we may know the real state of the case, with respect to that donation.”2 The twenty-two lacs were directed to be paid to the Company, and credit was given for them in the Nabob’s account.
The war between the English and French, which had ceased in India with the fall of Pondicherry, was terminated in Europe by the treaty of Paris, definitively book iv.Chap. 6. 1763. signed on the 10th of February, 1763. Of this treaty the eleventh article, intended to define the rights of the two nations in India, or those advantages, in the enjoyment of which the relative strength of the two parties made them willing to engage not to molest one another, was in the following words: “That Great Britain shall restore to France, in the condition they now are, the different factories1 which that crown possessed, as well on the coast of Coromandel and Orissa, as on that of Malabar, as also in Bengal, at the beginning of the year 1749. And France renounces all pretensions to the acquisitions which she has made on the coast of Coromandel and Orissa.2 And his most Christian Majesty shall restore, on his part, all that he may have conquered from Great Britain in the East Indies during the present war, and will expressly cause Natal and Tapanouly,3 in the island of Sumatra, to be restored. And he further engages not to erect fortifications, or to keep troops, in any part of the dominions of the Subahdar of Bengal; and in order to preserve future peace on the coast of Coromandel and Orissa, the English and French shall acknowledge Mahomed Ally Khan, for lawful Nabob of the Carnatic, and Salabut Jung for lawful Subahdar of the Deccan, and both parties shall renounce all demands and pretensions of satisfaction, with which they might charge each other, or their Indian allies, for the depredation or pillage committed on either side during the war.”
In the distribution of the advantages of the Carnatic sovereignty; for such it now might truly be deemed, as scarcely even a nominal subjection was acknowledged either to the Subahdar of Deccan, orbook iv.Chap. 6. 1763. the Emperor himself; the English imagined they had as yet not appropriated to themselves the requisite share. They began accordingly to represent to the Nabob the necessity of bestowing upon the Company a jaghire; or a grant of lands, the rents and revenues of which, free from any deduction to the Nabob’s treasury, should accrue to themselves. The Nabob urged the narrowness of his own resources, the load of debt under which he laboured, the great proportion of his revenue already allowed to the Company, and the cession which he had made, not only of lands, but of the tribute which the Company owed for Madras itself.
The Company, in truth, had now placed themselves in a situation of considerable difficulty. The Presidency could not help observing, that under the weakness of both the mind and the resources of the Nabob, the defence of Carnatic must rest upon them; and that they must, therefore, maintain at all times an army sufficient to oppose its enemies. This, without the revenue of the country, was a burden which they knew they could not sustain: And yet to strip of all his revenue a sovereign Prince, of whose rights they had so often proclaimed themselves the champions, was a procedure which bore a most unfavourable appearance, and from which formidable accusations against them could hardly fail to be drawn.
The Company took the course which power, though less supported by reasons, will most commonly pursue: They adopted the alternative which was most agreeable to themselves; and the revenues of Carnatic gradually passed into their hands. The President, however, was anxious that, at this time, the donation should wear the appearance of a voluntary book iv.Chap. 6. 1763. act on the part of the Nabob; and amid his efforts of persuasion assured him, if we can believe the Nabob himself, “that if four districts were given, the Company would be extremely pleased and obliged to him, and would ever assist him and his children with a proper force of Europeans, without desiring any thing further; that till he had cleared off his debts to the Company, the revenues of those districts, after defraying the expenses of the soldiers, should be placed to the credit of his account.”1 When the President began to pass from the tone of suggestion to that of requisition; and the Nabob perceived that compliance could not be escaped, he endeavoured to obtain the security of at least a written promise for those terms which had been offered in order to gain his consent. But when he transmitted the draught of an agreement, in which those terms were specified, and which he requested the Governor and Council to sign, the temper of the President broke through his policy; and he pulled off the mask with which he had hitherto endeavoured, though it must be confessed but awkwardly, to cover from the Nabob and the world the view of his real situation. He sent back the agreement unsigned, with strong marks of his displeasure; and told the Nabob by letter, that it ill became the situation in which he stood, to make conditions with the Company; since “they,” said he, “do not take any thing from you; but they are the givers, and you are a receiver.”2
It was not till the summer of 1763 that the Nabob and Presidency were enabled to turn their attention to Madura and Tinivelly. Though Mahomedbook iv.Chap. 6. 1764. Issoof had been vigorously employed, from the raising of the siege of Madras till the fall of Pondicherry, in reducing the refractory Polygars and other local commanders, obedience and tranquillity were by no means established: And when that active and useful partisan proposed to take the country as renter, and to become responsible, though for a small revenue, from a region which hitherto had cost much and yielded nothing, the offer was not unwillingly embraced. Mahomed Issoof, like other renters of India, had no doubt an inclination to withhold if possible the sum which he engaged to pay out of the taxes which he was empowered to collect: and, like other Governors, contemplated, it is probable, from the very beginning, the chance of independence. It cannot, however, be denied, that the enemies with whom he had as yet been obliged to struggle, and who had heretofore rendered the country not only unproductive, but burdensome, left him no revenue to pay. It appears, accordingly, that none had ever been received. For this failure, the Nabob and the Company now proceeded to inflict chastisement, and in the month of August 1763, a combined army of natives and English marched to Madura. Mahomed Issoof endeavoured by negotiation, and the influence of those among the English whom he had rendered his friends, to ward off the blow. But when he found these efforts unavailing, he resolved to give himself the chance of a struggle in his own defence. He was not a man of whom the subjugation was to be expected at an easy price. He baffled all the efforts of the Nabob and the Company, till the month of October, 1764; when he had already forced them to expend a million sterling, and no ordinary quantity of English blood; and without a deed of treachery book iv.Chap. 6. 1764. which placed his person in their hands, it is uncertain how far he might have prolonged his resistance. Among a body of French troops whom he had received from the Raja of Tanjore was a person of the name of Marchand, by whom he was seized and delivered to his enemies.
The occasions on which the interests of the Nabob and of the Raja of Tanjore were liable to clash or to interfere became, through their jealousy and mutual hatred, a perpetual source of contention. The treaty which had been formed under the coercive authority of the English, had defined the terms of their pecuniary relation: with the usual want of foresight, every thing else was left vague and disputable. The river Cavery, about six miles to the north-west of Trichinopoly, is divided into two streams, of which the northern takes the name of Coleroon, and, by a course not far from direct, joins the sea at Devi-Cotah. The southern branch, which retains the name of Cavery, passes through the flat alluvial territory of Tanjore; and, dividing itself into a great number of smaller streams, overflows, and fructifies the country. But it so happens that the two branches of this great river, after flowing at some distance from one another, for a space of about twenty miles, again approach, forming what is called the island of Seringham, and are only prevented by a narrow neck of land, which requires continual repairs, from reuniting their streams, and falling down the channel of the Coleroon to the ocean. The kingdom of Tanjore was thus in the highest degree interested in the preservation of the mound of the Cavery, upon the waters of which its vegetative powers so greatly depended; and it must have anciently been a powerful instrument of coercion in the hands of the neighbouring kingdom of Trichinopoly, within the territories of which it appears to have beenbook iv.Chap. 6. 1764. always included.
The Nabob, as sovereign of Trichinopoly, now assumed authority over the mound of the Cavery; and the dispute between him and the Raja grew to importance. The Raja endeavoured to make the reparation of the mound the condition of paying the money which he owed by the treaty; and the President, after writing several letters to the Nabob, appointed a deputy to inquire into the subject and to make his reports. The rights in question were actually two. The first was the right of sovereignty in the mound; the second was the right of having the mound preserved and repaired. The first, as no one disputed, belonged to the Nabob. The second, if prescription and equity constituted any title, as undeniably belonged to the Rajah. Ignorantly and awkwardly, and not without English co-operation, they blended them together in one question; and the dispute became interminable. Who had the right of repairing the mound, was the subject about which they contended; the Nabob claiming it, as inherent in the sovereignty; and the Rajah as inherent in the title which he possessed to the waters of the Cavery. Unhappily, in the right which, as sovereign, the Nabob claimed, of permitting no one but himself to repair the mound, he tacitly included the right of omitting all repairs whenever he pleased. The Rajah, who dreaded the consequences, solicited an interview; and by making ample submission and protestations, effected a temporary compromise. It was not long, however, before he had again occasion to complain; and wrote the most pressing letters to Madras, beseeching the Presidency to lay their commands upon the Nabob for the repair of the mound. The Nabob hardly disguised his intention of allowing it to be book iv.Chap. 6. 1765. washed away; alleging the wishes of his own people, who, on account of the overflowing of the low grounds to the eastward of Trichinopoly, desired the waters of the Cavery to be turned into the channel of the Coleroon. The English at last interfered, with a determination to prevail; and the Nabob, but not before the month of January, 1765, and with great reluctance, gave his consent, that the mound of the Cavery should be repaired by the King of Tanjore.1
Mr. Pigot’s Letter to the Nabob, June 28, 1760. Nabob’s Papers, iii. 24.
Sir John Lindsay’s Narrative, Oct. 13, 1770, Secretary of State’s Office. Quoted by the author of The History and Management of the East India Company, p. 116.
This is evidently the meaning of Mr. Pigot’s letter to the Nabob, of May 31, 1762; from which, by a misinterpretation, the author of the Hist. and Management of the E. I. C. draws an accusation, p. 124.
This is stated on the authority of the Nabob’s Letter to Mr. Palk, October 8, 1776. The author of the Hist. and Management, &c. says, “General Laurence, Mr. Bouchier, and particularly Colonel Call, and Mr. Palk, were either present at this transaction, or were convinced of the truth of it, from the incontestable information, given by others as well as by the Nabob; who made heavy complaints to them of the President’s conduct:” p. 127.
Letters from the Court of Directors to the President and Council of Fort St. George, 30th December, 1763.
Fort St. David and its dependencies.
Rous’s Appendix, p. 161. This declaration is made in a subsequent correspondence between the Nabob and the Governor and Council, and not denied by the Governor and Council, though such a bargain, they say, was a bad one for the Company.
Mr. Pigot’s Letter to the Nabob, August 13, 1763.
Official Papers in Rous’s Appendix, No. vi. x. xii. xiii.