Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK V. - The History of British India, vol. 3
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BOOK V. - 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.
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from the first great change in the constitution of the east india company and in the government of india, in 1773; till the second great change by the act commonly called mr. pitt’s act, in 1784.
Administration of Hastings till the Time when the Parliamentary Members of the Council arrived and the Operations of the New Constitution commenced, including—arrangements for collecting the Revenue and administering Justice ostensibly as Duan—treatment of Mahomed Reza Khan and the Rajah Shitabroy—elevation of Munny Begum—destruction of the Rohillas—sale of Corah and Allahabad to the Vizir—payment refused of the Emperor’s Revenue—Financial results.
By the new parliamentary authority, Mr. Hastingsbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. was appointed Governor General, and General Clavering, Colonel Monson, Mr. Barwel, and Mr. Francis, the members of Council; not removable, except by the King, upon representation made by the Court of Directors, during the period assigned in the act. Mr. Hastings had ascended with reputation through the several stages of the Company’s service; possessed the rank of a member of council at the time of Mr. Vansittart’s administration, and generally concurred book v.Chap. 1. 1772. in the measures which the party opposed to that Governor so vehemently condemned. After a visit to his native country, to which he proceeded at the same time with Vansittart, he returned to India, in 1769, to fill the station of second in council at Madras; and in the beginning of 1772 was raised to the highest situation in the service of the Company, being appointed to succeed Mr. Cartier in the government of Bengal.
The sense which the Directors entertained of the vices which up to this time had stained their administration in India, is recorded thus: “We wish (the words of their letter to the President and Council at Fort William, dated the 7th of April, 1773,) “we could refute the observation, that almost every attempt made by us and our administrations at your Presidency, for the reforming of abuses, has rather increased them—and added to the miseries of the country we are anxious to protect and cherish. The truth of this observation appears fully in the late appointment of supervisors and chiefs—instituted, as they were, to give relief to the industrious tenants, to improve and enlarge our investments, to destroy monopolies, and retrench expenses, the end has, by no means, been answerable to the institution. Are not the tenants, more than ever, oppressed and wretched? Are our investments improved? Has not the raw silk and cocoons been raised upon us fifty per cent. in price? We can hardly say what has not been made a monopoly. And as to the expenses of your Presidency, they are at length settled to a degree we are no longer able to support. These facts (for such they are) should have been stated to us as capital reasons, why neither our orders of 1771, nor indeed any regulations whatever, could be carried into execution. But, perhaps, as this would have proved too much, it was not suggested to us;book v.Chap. 1. 1772. for nothing could more plainly indicate a state of anarchy, and that there was no government existing, in our servants in Bengal….When oppression pervades the whole country; when youths have been suffered with impunity to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over the natives; and to acquire rapid fortunes by monopolizing of commerce, it cannot be a wonder to us, or yourselves, that native merchants do not come forward to contract with the Company; that the manufactures find their way through foreign channels; or that our investments are at once enormously dear, and of a debased quality.—It is evident then, that the evils which have been so destructive to us, lie too deep for any partial plans to reach or correct. It is, therefore, our resolution to aim at the root of those evils.” Their expectation of assistance from Mr. Hastings in these reforms, was expressed in the following terms: “Our President, Mr. Hastings, we trust, will set the example of temperance, economy, and application; and upon this we are sensible, much will depend. And here we take occasion to indulge the pleasure we have in acknowledging Mr. Hastings’s services upon the coast of Coromandel, in constructing with equal labour and ability, the plan which has so much improved our investments there; and as we are persuaded he will persevere, in the same laudable pursuit, through every branch of our affairs in Bengal, he, in return, may depend on the steady support and favour of his employers.”1
The double, or ambiguous administration; in name, and in ostent by the Nabob, in reality by the Company; which had been recommended as ingenious policy by Clive, and admired as such by his employers book v.Chap. 1. 1772. and successors; had contributed greatly to enhance the difficulties in which, by the assumption of the government, the English were involved. All the vices of the ancient polity were saved from reform: and all the evils of a divided authority were superinduced. The revenues were under a complicated, wasteful, and oppressive economy; the lands being partly managed by the native agents of the collectors, partly farmed from year to year, partly held by Zemindars, and Talookdars, responsible for a certain revenue. The administration of justice, of which, under the military and fiscal Governors of the Mogul provinces, the criminal part belonged to the Nazim, or military Governor, the civil to the Duan, or fiscal Governor, was, as a heavy and unproductive burthen, left in the hands of the Nabob; who, being totally without power, was totally unable to maintain the authority of his tribunals against the masters of the country; and the people were given up to oppression.1
The Company and their servants were little satisfied, from the beginning, with the produce of the duannee; and soon began to be little satisfied with the expedients adopted by Clive for ensuring a faithful collection. In the month of August, 1769, before the close of Mr. Verelst’s administration, a supplementary security was devised: It was held expedient, that servants of the Company should be stationed in appropriate districts, throughout the whole country, for the purpose of superintending the native officers; both in the collection of the revenue, and, what was very much blended with it, the administration of justice. These functionaries received the title of Supervisors: And, in the next year, was added abook v.Chap. 1. 1772. second supplementary security; two councils, with authority over the supervisors, one at Moorshedabad, and another at Patna.
Among the duties recommended to the supervisors, one was to collect a body of information, with respect to the amount of the revenues; with respect to the state, produce, and capabilities of the great source of the revenue, the lands; with respect to the cesses or arbitrary taxes; the whole catalogue of imposts laid upon the cultivator; the manner of collecting them, and the origin and progress of all the modern exactions; with respect to the regulations of commerce; and the administration of justice. The reports of the supervisors, intended to convey the information which they collected under those heads, represent the government as having attained the last stage of oppressiveness and barbarism. “The Nazims exacted what they could from the Zemindars, and great farmers of the revenue; whom they left at liberty to plunder all below; reserving to themselves the prerogative of plundering them in their turn, when they were supposed to have enriched themselves with the spoils of the country.” The Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, quoting this passage, remark, “The whole system thus resolved itself, on the part of the public officers, into habitual extortion and injustice; which produced, on that of the cultivator the natural consequences—concealment and evasion, by which government was defrauded of a considerable part of its just demands.” With respect to the administration of justice, the supervisors reported, “That the regular course was every where suspended: But every man exercised it, who had the power of compelling others to submit to his decisions.” The Committee of the House of Commons, book v.Chap. 1. 1772. whose remark on the state of the fiscal collections has just been adduced, subjoin to this quotation that which fills up the picture; “Seven years had elapsed, from the acquisition of the duannee, without the government deeming itself competent to remedy these defects.”1
Grievously disappointed in their expectations of treasure, the Directors resolved to break through the scheme of ambiguity; so far at least as to take into their own hands the collection as well as the disbursement of the revenues. In their letter to the President and Council of Fort William, dated the 28th of August, 1771, they declared their resolution, “To stand forth as Duan” (so they were pleased to express it), “and by the agency of the Company’s servants to take upon themselves the entire care and management of the revenues.” The change was enormous, which it was the nature of this decree to produce. It was a revolution, much greater, probably, than any previous conjuncture, than even the change from Hindu to Mahomedan masters, had been able to create. The transition from Hindu to Mahomedan masters had only changed the hands by which the sword was wielded, and favours were dispensed; the machine of government, still more the texture of society, underwent feeble alterations; and the civil part of the administration was, from conveniency, left almost wholly in the hands of Hindus. A total change in the management of the revenues more deeply affected the condition, individually and collectively, of the people of India, than it is easy for the European reader to conceive: It was an innovation by which the whole property of the country, and along with it the administration of justice, were placed upon a new foundation.
Of the nature of this change, the Directors appearbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. to have had no adequate conception. As if the measure which they proposed had been without consequences, they satisfied themselves with enjoining its execution; and consigned to their servants the task (of which, however, they did not much complain) of carrying into effect a change of government so momentous without one word of instruction.1 Those servants, though more acquainted with the practical difficulties which would be met in establishing the new system of finance, appear to have thought as little nearly as their honourable masters, of the great changes, with regard to the people, which it was calculated to produce. With great alacrity, they betook themselves to the undertaking. Mr. Hastings succeeded to the chair on the 13th of April 1772; and on the 16th the Council deemed themselves ripe for the following important resolution: That they would let the lands in farm, and for long leases; because it is the most simple mode, and best adapted to a government like that of the Company, which cannot enter into the minute details of the collections; because every mode of agency by which the rents could be received would be attended with perplexed and intricate accounts, with embezzlement of the revenue, and oppression of the people; and because any book v.Chap. 1. 1772. mode of collecting the revenues which would trench upon the time of the Governor and Council, would deprive them of a portion of what was already too little for the laborious duties which they had to perform.1
On the 14th of May the operations were planned. It was decreed, That the lands should be let for a period of five years: That a Committee of the Board, consisting of the President and four members, should perform the local operations, by circuit through the country: that the servants of the Company who superintended the business of collection in the several districts, and who had hitherto been distinguished by the title of supervisors, should henceforth be denominated collectors:2 That a native, under the title of duan, should in each district be joined with the collector, both to inform and to check: That no banyan, or servant of a collector, should be permitted to farm any portion of the revenue; because with the servant of a collector no man would dare to become a competitor: And, as presents to the collectors from the Zemindars and other middlemen had been abolished, so all acceptance of presents, by such middlemen, from the ryots, and all other modes of extortion, should be carefully prevented. Some precautions were taken against the accumulation of debt, which swelled at exorbitant interest, rarely less than three, often as much as fifteen per cent. per month, uponbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. the ryots, as well as the different orders of middlemen. The collectors were forbidden to lend, or to permit their banyans or servants to lend, to the middlemen; and the middlemen or agents to lend to the ryots: But the Governor and Council express their regret, that loans and exorbitant interest were an evil which it was not in their power wholly to repress.1
The objects which in these regulations the servants of the Company professed to have in view, were; to simplify accounts; to render uniform the mode of exaction; and to establish fixed and accurate rules. The Committee of Circuit, with whom, though a Member, Mr. Hastings did not proceed, first began to receive proposals at Kishenagur: But the terms whïch were offered were in general so unsatisfactory both in form and amount, that the Committee deemed them inadmissible; and came speedily to the resolution of putting up the lands to public auction. It was necessary to ascertain with as much exactness as possible the nature and amount of the different taxes which were to be offered to sale. For this purpose a new hustabood, or schedule of the taxes, was formed. The exactions consisted of two great parts; of which the first and principal was called assall, or the ground rents; the second aboabs, which consisted of a variety of additional, often arbitrary, and uncertain imposts, established at different times, by the government, the Zemindars, the farmers, and even the inferior collectors. Some of the most oppressive of these were abolished, and excluded from the present schedule. And new leases or titles were granted to the ryots: which enumerated all the claims to which they were to be subject; book v.Chap. 1. 1772. and forbid, under penalties, every additional exaction. When the Zemindars, and other middlemen of ancient standing, offered for the lands which they had been accustomed to govern, terms which were deemed reasonable, they were preferred; when their offers were considered as inadequate, they were allowed a pension for their subsistence, and the lands were put up to sale.
While the settlement, in other words the taxation of the country, was carrying into execution upon this plan, the principal office of revenue, or Khalsa, underwent a total revolution. So long as the veil of the native government had been held up, this office had been stationed at Moorshedabad, and was ostensibly under the direction of the sort of minister of revenue, whom with the title of Naib Duan, the President and Council had set up. It was now resolved to transfer this great office from Moorshedabad to Calcutta; and to place it under the immediate superintendance of the government. The whole Council were constituted a Board of Revenue, to sit two days in the week, or if necessary, more. The Members of the Council were appointed to act as auditors of accounts, each for a week in rotation. The office of Naib Duan, which had been held by Mahomed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad, and by Shitabroy at Patna, was abolished; but a native functionary, or assistant duan, under the title of roy royan, was appointed to act in the Khalsa, as superintendant of the district duans, to receive the accounts in the Bengal language, to answer interrogatories, and to make reports.1
The fundamental change in that great andbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. leading branch of Indian administration which concerned the revenue, rendered indispensable a new provision for the administration of justice. The Zemindar, who was formerly the great fiscal officer of a district, commonly exercised both civil and criminal jurisdiction within the territory over which he was appointed to preside. In his Phousdary, or criminal court, he inflicted all sorts of penalties; chiefly fines for his own benefit; even capital punishments, under no further restraint, than that of reporting the case at Moorshedabad before execution. In his Adaulut, or civil court, he decided all questions relating to property; being entitled to a chout, or twenty-five per cent., upon the subject of litigation. His discretion was guided or restrained by no law, except the Koran, its commentaries, and the customs of the country, all in the highest degree loose and indeterminate. Though there was no formal and regular course of appeal from the Zemindary decisions, the government interfered in an arbitrary manner, as often as complaints were preferred, to which, from their own importance, or from the importance of those who advanced them, it conceived it proper to attend. To the mass of the people these courts afforded but little protection: The expense created by distance, excluded the greater number from so much as applying for justice; and every powerful oppressor treated a feeble tribunal with contempt. The judges were finally swayed by their hopes and their fears; by the inclinations of the men who could hurt or reward them. Their proceedings were not controuled by any written memorial or record. In cases relating to religion, the Cauzee and Brahmen were called to expound, the one the Moslem, the other the Brah-menical law; and their opinion was the standard of book v.Chap. 1. 1772. decision. Originally, questions of revenue as well as others belonged to the courts of the Zemindars; but a few years previous to the transfer of the revenues to the English, the decision of fiscal questions had been taken from the Zemindar, and given to an officer styled the Naib Duan, or fiscal Deputy, in each province.
Beside the tribunals of the districts; the capital was provided with two criminal courts; in one of which, called roy adaulut, the Nazim, as supreme magistrate, tried capital offences; in another, a magistrate called the Phousdar tried offences of a less penal description, and reported his proceedings to the Nazim. At the capital was also found the principal duanee or fiscal court; in which the Duan tried causes relating to the revenue, including all questions of title to land. All other civil causes were tried at the capital in the court of the Darogo adaulut al alea; except those of inheritance and succession, which were decided by the Cauzee and Muftee. An officer, with the title of Mohtesib, superintended the weights and measures, and other matters of police.
Generally speaking, the courts of justice in India were instruments by which the powerful performed oppression, at their pleasure, on the weak.
Under the ancient government, the English, as well as other European settlers, instead of demanding payment from a reluctant debtor through the courts of law, seized his person and confined it, till satisfaction was obtained. Nor was this so inconsistent with the spirit of the government, as often to excite its displeasure. It was indeed a remedy to which they were not often obliged to recur; because the profit of dealing with them generally constituted a sufficient motive to punctuality. After the power of the English became predominant, the native courts ceased to exert any authority over Englishmen andbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. their agents.1
The first attempt, which had been made by the English to remedy, in their new dominions, any of the defects in the administration of justice, was the appointment in 1769 of superintending commissioners to the several districts, with directions to inquire into the proceedings of the courts of justice, to restrain iniquitous proceedings, to abolish the chout, and, where a total change should appear desirable, to apply to government for the requisite powers. In 1770, the Naib Duan, and such of the servants of the Company as had their station of service at Moorshedabad, were formed into a Council of Control over the administration of justice. Its administration was still to conform to the ancient and established plan; but the Council of Control should interpose as they perceived occasion; every judicial proceeding which concerned the government should come under their review; the trials should be transmitted to them in all criminal cases, and execution suspended, till their opinion was known; all causes relative to the revenue and to property in land should in the first instance be tried in the native courts, but the Council should revise the proceedings of these courts, and have the power of final determination.
For supplying the place of the native courts, in a great measure superseded by the new system of revenue; and for providing a more perfect judicial establishment; the following scheme was invented and pursued. Two courts, a civil, and a penal, were appointed for each district. The criminal court, styled Phousdary Adaulut, consisted of the collector, as superintendant, with the cauzee and muftee of the book v.Chap. 1. 1772. district, and two Mohlavies, as interpreters of the law. The civil court, styled Mofussul Duanee Adaulut, consisted of the collector, as President, assisted by the provincial duan and the other officers of the native court. From the jurisdiction of this tribunal no cases were excepted, beside those of succession to Zemindaries and Talookdaries, reserved to the President and Council.
At the seat of government were also established two supreme courts of appeal. That to which the civil branch of this appellate jurisdiction was consigned received the name of Suddur Duanee Adaulut; and was composed of the President with two Members of the Council, attended by the duan of the Khalsa, and certain officers of the Cutchery, or native court of the city. That on which the penal branch was conferred, obtained the title of Nizamut Suddur Adaulut. It consisted of a chief judge, entitled Darogo Adaulut, assisted by the chief Cauzee, the chief Muftee, and three Mohlavies. This Judge was nominated by the President and Council, who in this case acted in the capacity of Nazim. All capital cases were reported to his tribunal; and, after review, were ultimately referred to the Governor General and Council. After a short experience, however, the superintendance of this court appeared to impose a labour, and to involve a responsibility, which the Governor and Council found it inconvenient to sustain; it was one of the first transactions therefore of the new government which succeeded in 1774 to restore this part of the nizamut to the nominal Nabob, and to carry back the tribunal to Moorshedabad.1
For the district of Calcutta, two courts were established,book v.Chap. 1. 1772. on the plan of the other district courts; in each of which a Member of Council presided in rotation. In all these courts, it was ordained that records of proceedings should be made and preserved. The chout, or exaction of a fourth part of all litigated property, for the benefit of the Judge, was abolished. A prohibition was issued against exorbitant fines. The discretionary power, exercised by a creditor over the person of his debtor, was no longer tolerated. And all disputes of property, not exceeding ten rupees, were referred to the head farmer of the pergunna or village precinct, to which the parties belonged.1
In the introduction of these measures, a specimen is exhibited of the regard which was paid to the feelings or honour of the natives, how great soever their rank or deservings. Under the anxious search of the Directors for the cause of their intense disappointment in the receipt of treasure from the revenues of Bengal, they, after venting the first portion of their chagrin upon their European, seem to have turned it, with still greater want of consideration, upon their native agents. In a letter from the Secret Committee to Mr. Hastings, their President, dated 28th of August, 1771, they say, “By our general address you will be informed of the reasons we have to be dissatisfied with the administration of MahometReza Cawn, book v.Chap. 1. 1772. and will perceive the expediency of our divesting him of the rank and influence he holds as Naib Duan of the kingdom of Bengal.” Mr. Hastings is then directed, “to issue his private orders for the securing the person of Mahomet Reza Cawn, together with his whole family, and his known partizans and adherents,” and for bringing them prisoners to Calcutta. For this secrecy, precipitation, and severity, (arrest and imprisonment to a man of that rank in India is one of the most cruel of all punishments) the reason assigned was, that otherwise he might “render all inquiry into his conduct ineffectual, and ill-consequences might result from his resentment and revenge.” In the endeavour to discover delinquency, they say, “Your own judgment will direct you to all such means of information as may be likely to bring to light the most secret of his transactions. We cannot, however, forbear recommending to you, to avail yourself of the intelligence which Nundcomar may be able to give respecting the Naib’s administration; and while the envy which Nundcomar is supposed to bear this minister may prompt him to a ready communication of all proceedings which have come to his knowledge, we are persuaded that no scrutable part of the Naih’s conduct can have escaped the watchful eye of his jealous and penetrating rival.”1
The opinion which the Directors entertained of the man of whom they desired to make such an instrument, had, on a former occasion, been thus expressed: “From the whole of your proceedings with respect to Nundcomar, there seems to be no doubt of his endeavouring by forgery and false accusations to ruin Ram Churn; that he has been guilty of carrying on correspondence with the country powers,book v.Chap. 1. 1772. hurtful to the Company’s interests; and instrumental in conveying letters between the Shazada and the French Governor General of Pondicherry. In short, it appears, he is of that wicked and turbulent disposition, that no harmony can subsist in society where he has the opportunity of interfering. We therefore most readily concur with you, that Nundcomar is a person improper to be trusted with his liberty in our settlements; and capable of doing mischief, if he is permitted to go out of the province, either to the northward, or to the Deccan. We shall therefore depend upon your keeping such a watch over all his actions, as may he means of preventing his disturbing the quiet of the public, or injuring individuals for the future.”1
In a letter, dated 1st September, 1772, Mr. Hastings gave the Directors a history of the operations already performed, and of the views from which they had sprung. “As your commands were peremptory, and addressed to myself alone, I carefully concealed them from every person, except Mr. Middleton, whose assistance was necessary for their execution, until I was informed by him that Mahmud Rizza Cawn was actually in arrest, and on his way to Calcutta.” Beside these alleged commands of the Directors, “I will confess,” he says, “that there were other cogent reasons for this reserve;” and giving these reasons, he describes the importance of the office which was filled by Mahomed Reza Khan, and the susceptibility of corruption which marked the situation of his fellow-servants in India. “I was yet but a stranger to the character and disposition of the Members of your administration. I knew that Mahmud Rizza Cawn had enjoyed the sovereignty of book v.Chap. 1. 1772. this province for seven years past, had possessed an annual stipend of nine lacs of rupees, the uncontrouled disposal of thirty-two lacs entrusted to him for the use of the Nabob, the absolute command of every branch of the Nizamut, and the chief authority in the Dewannee. To speak more plainly; he was, in every thing but the name, the Nazim of the province, and in real authority more than the Nazim.—I could not suppose him so inattentive to his own security; nor so ill-versed in the maxims of Eastern policy, as to have neglected the due means of establishing an interest with such of the Company’s agents as, by actual authority, or by representation to the Honourable Company, might be able to promote or obstruct his views.”1
The office of Mahomed Reza Khan consisted of two parts; the one was the office of Naib Duan, in which he represented the Company, as Duan or Master of the Revenues; the other was the office of Naib Subah, as it was called by the President and Council, more properly the Naib Nazim, in which he represented the Nabob in his office of Nazim, that department of the Subahdaree, the name and ministerial functions of which were still reserved to the native Prince. The functions of the Naib Duan were indeed supplied by the new scheme for levying the revenue. But for those of the Naib Subah, as they called him, no provision as yet was made. The duties and importance of that office, are thus described by Mr. Hastings and Committee; “The office of Naib Subah, according to its original constitution, comprehends the superintendance of the Nabob’s education, the management of his household, the regulation of his expenses, the representation of his person, the chief administration of justice; the issuing of all orders, and direction of all measures which respect thebook v.Chap. 1. 1772. government and police of the provinces; the conduct of all public negotiations, and execution of treaties; in a word, every branch of executive government.”1
Nothing can afford a more vivid conception of what I may perhaps be allowed to call the style of government which then existed in Bengal, the temper with which the difference between some performance and no performance of the duties of government was regarded, than this; that the officer on whom “every branch of the executive government“ depended, was arrested some days before the 28th of April; and that it was not till the 11th of July, that a proposition was brought forward to determine what should be done with the office he had filled.2 A letter signed by the Company’s principal servants at Moorshedabad, and received at Fort William on the 21st of May, declared; “We must also observe to you the necessity there is for speedily appointing a Naib to the Nizamut, as the business of that department, particularly the courts of justice, is suspended for want of a person properly authorized to confirm the decrees of the several courts of justice, and to pass sentence on criminals, besides various other matters of business, wherein the interposition of the Subah [Subahdar] is immediately necessary.”3 Why was not some arrangement taken; or rather, is it necessary to ask, why some arrangement was not taken, to prevent the suspension of the judicial and every branch of the executive government, before the officer was arrested on whom all these great operations depended!
book v.Chap. 1. 1772. The Rajah Shitabroy held the same office at Patna, for the province of Bahar, as was held by Mahomed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad, for that of Bengal. Because Mahomed Reza Khan was arrested, and sent to Calcutta for his trial, and because, as holding the same office, it seemed proper that they should both share the same fate, Shitabroy was in like fashion arrested, and sent to his trial.
Ahteram al Dowlah was a surviving brother of Jaffier Ali Khan the deceased Subahdar, the uncle of the young Nabob, the eldest existing male, and hence the natural guardian, of the family: On this ground he presented a petition to “the Gentlemen,” praying that he might be appointed to the vacant office of Neabut Nizamut; in other words be chosen Naib under the Nazim.
The Directors, though resolved not to be any longer Duan under a cloak; were yet eager to preserve the supposed benefit of clandestinity, in the other department of the Subahdaree, the Nizamut.1 The servants in India declared their full concurrence in the wisdom of that policy.2 But they conceived that for this purpose such an officer as the Naibbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. Subah (so they styled the Naib of the Nazim) was neither necessary nor desirable; first, on account of the expense, next the delegation of power, which could never be without a portion of danger. They resolved, therefore, that the office of Naib Subah should be abolished.1 That is to say, they resolved, that the main instrument of government; that on which the administration of justice, the whole business of police, and every branch of the executive government, depended; should be taken away: And what did they substitute, for answering the same ends? The Courts of Review established at Calcutta might be expected to supply the place of the Naib of the Nazim, in respect to the administration of justice: With respect to all the other branches of government, answerable for the happiness of between twenty and thirty millions of human beings, no substitution whatsoever was made: So profound, for I acquit them on the score of intention, was the ignorance which then distinguished the English rulers of India, of what they owed to the people, over whom they ruled, and the fruit of whose labour, under the pretence of rendering to them the services of government, they took from them, and disposed of as they pleased! No doubt the duties of government, thus left without an organ, were in part, and irregularly, when they pressed upon them, and could not be avoided, performed both by the President and Council, and by the servants distributed in the different parts of the country. But how imperfectly those book v.Chap. 1. 1772. services of government must have been rendered, for which no provision was made, and which, as often as they were rendered, were rendered as works of supererogation, by those who had other obligations to fulfil, it is unnecessary to observe.
Though so little was done for rendering to the people the services of government, there was another branch of the duties of the Naib Nizam, which met with a very different sort and style of attention. That was, in name, the superintendance of the education and household of the Nabob; in reality, the disbursement of the money, allotted for his state and support. This was a matter of prime importance; and was met with a proportional intensity of consideration and care. It would be unjust, however, to impute to the individuals the defect in point of virtue which this contrast seems to hold forth. The blame is due to their education, the sort of education which their country bestows. They had been taught to consider the disbursement of a very large sum of money, as a matter of prodigious importance; they had never been taught to consider the rendering of the services of government to the people, provided the people would be quiet, as a matter of any importance at all. They must, therefore, have been superior to ordinary men; they must have belonged to that small number who rise above the mental level which their country and its institutions are calculated to form, had they displayed a higher measure, than they did, of wisdom and virtue.
This high-prized department of the functions of the Naib Nazim was even divided into two portions; the latter subject to the control of the former. One portion was made to consist, in “the guardianship of the Nabob, and the care and rule of his family;” the other in “regulating and paying the salaries of the Nabob’s servants, and keeping the account of hisbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. expenses, to be monthly transmitted to the Board, according to the orders of the Honourable Court of Directors.”1
To execute the first of these portions (the pretensions of Ahteram ul Dowla, and if a woman was to be chosen, those of the mother of the Nabob, the wife of Meer Jaffier, being set aside) Munny Begum, a second wife, or rather concubine of Meer Jaffier, a person who had been originally a dancing girl, was preferred and appointed. The reasons are thus assigned by the majority of the council, in their minute of the 11th of July, 1772: “We know no person so fit for the trust of guardian to the Nabob, as the widow of the late Nabob Jaffier Ally Cawn, Minnee Begum; her rank may give her a claim to this pre-eminence, without hazard to our own policy; nor will it be found incompatible with the rules prescribed to her sex by the laws and manners of her country, as her authority will be confined to the walls of the Nabob’s palace, and the Dewan” (meaning the person who should hold the secondary office, the paymaster, and accountant) “will act of course in all cases in which she cannot personally appear. Great abilities are not to be expected in a Zennana, but in these she is very far from being deficient, nor is any extraordinary reach of understanding requisite for so limited an employ. She is said to have acquired a great ascendant over the spirit of the Nabob, being the only person of whom he stands in any kind of awe; a circumstance highly necessary for fulfilling the chief part of her duty, in directing his education and conduct, which appear to have been hitherto much neglected.”2
book v.Chap. 1. 1772. With regard to the second of the above-described portions, a minute, in the Consultation, 11th July, 1772, signed Warren Hastings, says, “The President proposes Rajah Goordass, the son of Maha Rajah Nundcomar, for the office of Dewan to the Nabob’s household. The inveterate and rooted enmity which has long subsisted between Mahomet Reza Cawn and Nundcomar, and the necessity of employing the vigilance and activity of so penetrating a rival to counteract the designs of Mahomet Reza Cawn, and to eradicate that influence which he still retains in the government of this province, and more especially inbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. the family of the Nabob, are the sole motives for this recommendation.”1
The revenue allowed to the use of the Nabob had hitherto been so great a sum as thirty-two lacs of rupees. Of this the Directors had already complained; and agreeably to their directions, in January, 1772, on the allegation of the non-age of the Nabob, it was reduced to one half.
Mahomed Reza Khan and Shitabroy were brought prisoners to Calcutta in the month of April. In his letter of the 1st of September, to the Court of Directors, Mr. Hastings says: “It may at first sight appear extraordinary, that Mahmud Rizza Cawn and Rajah Shitab Roy have been so long detained in confinement book v.Chap. 1. 1772. without any proofs having been obtained of their guilt, or measures taken to bring them to a trial.” Among the causes of this, he first specifies the great load of business with which the time of the counsel had been consumed. He then says, “Neither Mahmud Rizza Cawn nor Rajah Shitab Roy complain of the delay as a hardship. Perhaps all parties, as is usual in most cases of a public concern, had their secret views, which, on this occasion, though opposite in their direction, fortunately concurred in the same points. These had conceived hopes of a relaxation of the Company’s orders; Mahmud Rizza Cawn had even buoyed himself up with the hopes of a restoration to his former authority by the interests of his friends and a change in the Direction. I pretend not to enter into the views of others; my own were these: Mahmud Rizza Cawn’s influence still prevailed generally throughout the country; in the Nabob’s household, and at the capital, it was scarce affected by his present disgrace; his favour was still courted, and his anger dreaded: Who, under such discouragements, would give information or evidence against him? His agents and creatures filled every office of the Nizamut and Dewannee; how was the truth of his conduct to be investigated by these? It would be superfluous to add other arguments to show the necessity of pressing the inquiry by breaking his influence, removing his dependants, and putting the directions of all the affairs which had been committed to his care, into the hands of the most powerful or active of his enemies. With this view, too, the institution of the new Dewannee obviously coincided. These were my real motives for postponing the inquiry.”1
With respect to the further progress of that inquiry, for facilitating which such extraordinary proceedingsbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. had been described as necessary, proceedings sufficient to procure the destruction, when required, of the most innocent of men; it was nevertheless, after two years’ confinement, degradation, and anxiety, judicially declared, that in Mahomed Reza Khan, and Rajah Shitabroy, no guilt had been proved. There is no proof that their destruction was at any time an object with Mr. Hastings; and their acquittal proves that certainly it was not so to the end. Of Mahomed Reza Khan, as connected with subsequent facts of great importance, we shall afterwards have to speak. But the mind of Shitabroy, who was a man of a high spirit, was too deeply wounded for his health to escape; and he died of a broken heart, a short time after his return to Patna. As some compensation for the ill-usage of Shitabroy, Mr. Hastings, on his visit to Patna, when travelling to meet the Vizir at Benares, in 1773, appointed his son Roy-royan, or chief native agent of finance, in the province of Bahar; “from an entire conviction,” as he declared, “of the merits and faithful services, and in consideration of the late sufferings, of his deceased father.”1
During the time in which this great revolution was effecting in the government of Bengal, the situation of the neighbouring powers was preparing another field of action for the ambition and enterprise of the Company’s servants. The loss which the Mahrattas had sustained in their late contest with the Abdalees, and the dissensions which prevailed among their chiefs, had for several years preserved the northern provinces from their alarming incursions. Nujeeb ad Dowla, the Rohilla, in whom, as imperial deputy, the book v.Chap. 1. 1772. chief power, at Delhi, had been vested, upon the departure of the Abdalee Shah, had, by his wisdom and vigour, preserved order and tranquillity in that part of Hindustan. The Emperor, Shah Aulum, who resided at Allahabad, in the enjoyment of the districts of Allahabad and Corah, allotted as his dominion in the treaty lately concluded with him by the English and Vizir, where his state was in some measure supported by the payment or expectation of the share which was due to him, and which the English rulers had bound themselves to pay, of the revenues of Bengal; had manifested great impatience, even before the conclusion of Mr. Verelst’s government, to march to Delhi, and to mount the throne of his ancestors. Respect for the English, who laboured to repress this fond desire, and for the power of Nujeeb ad Dowla, who might not willingly retire from his command, delayed the execution of the Emperor’s designs. Nujeeb ad Dowla died in the year 1770, about the very time when the ambition of Shah Aulum had stimulated him to the hazardous project of courting the Mahrattas to assist him in returning to Delhi.
With or without the concert of the Emperor, three powerful chiefs, Tookagee, Sindia, and Besagee, had taken a position to the northward of the river Chumbul, and hovered over the adjoining provinces with 30,000 horse. The Emperor, in the beginning of the year 1771, had dispatched his minister to Calcutta to obtain, if not the assistance, at least the approbation of the English, to his projected expedition; and was not restrained by their dissuasions. By the exertion of the Mogul nobles, and the assistance of the Vizir, who is said to have acted with more than his usual liberality,1 he was enabled, in the month of May, 1771, to march from Allahabad at the head ofbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. an army of 16,000 men. At the town of Nabbee Gunge, about thirty miles beyond the city of Furuckabad, on the high road to Delhi, where he was constrained, by the commencement of the rains, to canton his army, a Mahratta vakeel, or ambassador, waited his arrival, and presented the demands of his masters. Whatever balance of chout was due from the time of Mahomed Shah, must be discharged: Whatever plunder should be taken, must be divided equally between the Mogul and Mahratta troops: The Mahratta leaders must be confirmed in their jaghires: And five lacs of rupees,1 toward the expense of the war, must be immediately advanced to the Mahrattas from the imperial treasury. With whatever indignation these imperious terms might be heard, no reluctance was to be shown. When the season for marching returned, the Mahratta chiefs and the nobles of Delhi joined the retinue of the Emperor; and on the 25th of December he made his entrance into the capital, with all the display which his circumstances placed within the compass of his power.
The Mahrattas afforded the Emperor but a few days to enjoy the dignity and pleasures of his capital; when they hurried him into the field. The country of the Rohillas was the object of cupidity to both; to the Emperor, as an increase of his limited territory; to the Mahrattas, as a field of plunder, if not a permanent possession. Seharunpore, the jaghire of the late minister Nujeeb ad Dowla, the Rohilla chief, who book v.Chap. 1. 1772. had served the royal family with so much fidelity and talent, and, in the absence of the Emperor, had governed the city and province of Delhi for a number of years, lay most accessible. It was not, as the other possessions of the Rohillas, on the further side of the Ganges, but commenced under the Sewalic hills, at a distance of seventy miles from Delhi, and was terminated by the strong fortress of Ghose Ghur on the north, and by Sakertal on the east. The resumption of the government of Delhi, which had been possessed by Nujeeb ad Dowla, and transmitted to his son Zabita Khan, and the idea of the resentment which that chief must have conceived upon this retrenchment of his power, rendered him an object of apprehension to the Emperor, and recommended to his approbation the project of commencing operations with the reduction of Seharunpore. The Mogul forces, which the Emperor accompanied in person, were commanded by Mirza Nujeef Khan, a native of Persia, who accompanied to Delhi Mirza Mhosan, the brother of Suffder Jung, the Nabob of Oude, when he returned from the embassy on which he had been sent to Nadir Shah, after his invasion of Hindustan. Mirza Nujeef was of a family said to be related to the Sophi sovereigns of Persia, and was held in confinement by the jealousy of Nadir. He and his sister were released at the intercession of the Hindustan ambassador; when the sister became the wife of her deliverer; and the brother accompanied them on their departure to Hindustan. After the death of his benefactor, Mirza Nujeef adhered to the fortunes of his son, Mahomed Coollee Khan, Governor of Allahabad; and when that unfortunate Prince was treacherously put to death by his cousin Sujah Dowla, the son and successor of Suffder Jung, Nujeef Khan retired with a few followers into Bengal, and offered his services to Meer Causim. When that Nabob fled for protectionbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. to the Nabob of Oude, whom Nujeef Khan, as the friend of Mahomed Coollee Khan, was afraid to trust, he departed into Bundelcund, and was received into employment by one of the chiefs of that country. Upon the flight of Sujah Dowla, after the battle of Buxar, Mirza Nujeef offered his services to the English; advanced claims to the government of Allahabad; was favourably received; and put in possession of a part of the country. But when the transfer of that district to the Emperor came to be regarded as a politic arrangement, the pretensions of Nujeef Khan were set aside; and, in the way of compensation, he was allowed a pension of two lacs of rupees from the English revenues, and recommended warmly to the Emperor. His talents and address raised him to a high station in the service of that enfeebled Sovereign, whom he accompanied, as commander of the forces, on his ill-fated expedition to Delhi.
The united power of the Emperor and Mahrattas, Zabita Khan, though he made a spirited defence, was unable to withstand. He was overcome in battle; and fled across the Ganges, in hopes to defend what territories he possessed on the opposite side. He stationed parties of troops at the different fords; but this weakened his main body; Nujeef Khan gallantly braved the stream; and was followed by the Mahrattas; when Zabita Khan, despairing of success, fled to Pattirgur, where he had deposited his women and treasures. The closeness with which he was pursued allowed not time sufficient to remove them, and they fell into the hands of the enemy; while Zabita Khan himself, with a few attendants, escaped to the camp of Sujah Dowla. His country, one of the most fertile districts in India, which had flourished under the vigorous and equitable administration of Nujeeb ad Dowla, book v.Chap. 1. 1772. afforded a rich booty; which the Mahrattas wholly seized, and set at nought the outcries of the Emperor.
The Rohillas were now placed in the most alarming situation. We have already seen1 that among those soldiers of fortune from the hardy regions of the North, who constantly composed the principal part of the Mogul armies, and, according to their talents and influence, procured themselves lands and governments in India, the Afghauns had latterly occupied a conspicuous place; that a portion of this people, who took the name of Rohillas, had given several chiefs, with large bands of followers, to the imperial armies; that these chiefs had in some instances been rewarded with jaghires in that fertile district of country which lies principally between the Ganges and the mountains, on the western boundary of the Subah of Oude; that amid the disturbances which attended the dissolution of the Mogul government, those leaders had endeavoured to secure themselves in their possessions, which they had filled with great numbers of their countrymen. It is completely proved, that their territory was by far the best governed part of India; that the people were protected; that their industry was encouraged; and that the country flourished beyond all parallel. It was by these cares, and by cultivating diligently the arts of neutrality; that is, by pretending, according to the necessity of Indian customs, to favour all parties, not by conquering a larger territory from their neighbours, that the Rohilla chiefs had endeavoured to provide for their independance. After the death of Nujeeb ad Dowla, no one among them was remarkably distinguished for talents.2 Hafez Rhamet Khan, whose territories lay nearest to thosebook v.Chap. 1. 1772. of Sujah Dowla, was looked upon as the chief of the tribe; but his character had in it more of caution than of enterprise, and his prudence had stamped upon him the reputation of avarice. The united force of all these leaders was estimated at 80,000 horse and foot. But though a sense of common danger might with difficulty combine them in operations of defence, they were too independent, and their minds too little capable of a steady pursuit of their own interests, to offer, through an aggressive confederacy, any prospect of danger to the surrounding powers.1
book v.Chap. 1. 1772. The Rohillas, on their part, however, stood exposed to alarming designs, on almost every quarter. Their nearest, and for a long time their most dangerous enemy, was the Subahdar of Oude, to whom, from its first acquisition, their territory had been a constant object of envy and desire. A predecessor of Sujah Dowla, nearly thirty years before, had invited the Mahrattas to assist him in wresting it from their hands; and had given the first temptation to that dangerous people to claim a settlement in that part of Hindustan. From the character of the present Subahdar of Oude, the danger of the Rohillas on that side was increased rather than diminished; and at the same time the superior power of the Mahrattas pressed upon them with alarming violence from the south. With their own strength, they were a match for neither party; and clearly saw, that their safety could only be found in obtaining protection against both. They temporised; and endeavoured to evade the hostile designs of each, by shielding themselves with the terror which one set of their enemies kept alive in the breasts of the other.
The Rohillas were vehemently roused by intelligence of the attack upon Zabita Khan, which they regarded as the first step of a general plan of aggression. They proposed an union of counsels and of arms with the Subahdar of Oude, to whom the establishment of the Mahrattas upon his frontier was, they knew, an object equally of danger and alarm. He was thrown into great consternation and embarrassment. Early in January, 1772, he pressed for an interview with the English General, Sir Robertbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. Barker, who was then on his route to Allahabad, and met him on the 20th of the same month at Fyzabad. He remarked that “either, to prevent a total extirpation, the Rohillas would be necessitated to give up a part of their country, and to join their arms with the Mahrattas; when the whole confederacy would fall upon him; or that the Mahrattas, refusing all terms to the Rohillas, would establish themselves in the Rohilla country, and expose him to still greater danger.” To extricate himself from these difficulties, the following is the plan which he had devised. He would march with his army to his own Rohilla frontier: He would there, partly by the terror of his arms, partly by desire of his aid, obtain from the Rohillas, first, the cession of a portion of their territory for the Emperor’s support, leaving to them such a part as was best adapted to serve as a barrier to the province of Oude; and, secondly, a sum of money, with part of which he would purchase the departure of the Mahrattas, and part of which he would keep to his own use: He would thus effect an accommodation with both the Emperor and the Mahrattas, at the expense of the Rohillas; and put something in his own pocket besides. But for the accomplishment of these desirable ends, the presence of the English was absolutely necessary, without the guarantee of whom, he plainly declared that the Rohillas, who knew him, would yield him no trust. To the letter of the General, making known this proposal, the Presidency on the 3d of February wrote in reply, approving highly of the project of Sujah Dowla, and authorizing the General to lend the support which was desired.
The proposals of the Subahdar, in regard especially to the division of their territory, were odious to the Rohillas; and time was spent in negotiation, while book v.Chap. 1. 1772. 30,000 Mahrattas ravaged the country beyond the Ganges, and their main body subdued the territory of Zabita Khan. The English General, Sir Robert Barker, strongly urged upon Sujah Dowla, the necessity of protecting the Rohillas, the weakness of whom became the strength of the Mahrattas, and enabled them, if their departure were purchased, to return to the seizure of the country whenever they pleased. In the mean time the Subahdar was eager to conclude a treaty with the Mahrattas; the prospect of which alarmed the English General, and called forth his exertions to prevent so dangerous a confederacy. The Mahrattas, however, treated the overtures of the Subahdar with so little respect, that they varied their terms at every conference; and forced him at last to break off the negotiation. In their instructions to the General, on the 30th of April, the Select Committee declare: “We are confirmed in the opinion we have for some time past entertained, that the Mahrattas will not make any stay in the Rohilla country; but that they will be obliged to quit it even before the rains set in; and every day’s intelligence renders the probability of this event the more apparent.” Their opinion was grounded upon the knowledge which they possessed of the revolution which had taken place in the Mahratta government, and which could not, as they supposed, and as the event turned out, fail to recall their armies. The Committee add, “We therefore so far concur in opinion with you, that any concessions made to the Mahrattas to promote their departure would be superfluous and highly improper.”
The defeat of the negotiation with the Mahrattas, and the knowledge with which the Subahdar was already furnished of the events which summoned home the Mahrattas, brought about that alliance between him and the Rohillas, which Sir Robert hadbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. laboured so eagerly to effect. The Subahdar was very keen for an arrangement, from which he expected to derive money, now when he hoped by the voluntary departure of the Mahrattas to have nothing to do in return for it. The Rohillas, on the other hand, it is observable, entered into the engagement with the utmost reluctance: in compliance solely, as it would appear, with the importunities of the English. Sir Robert Barker had sent Captain Harper to the camp of the Rohillas to negotiate; and on the 25th of May, from the Nabob’s camp at Shawabad, he writes to the Presidency, in the following remarkable terms. “Gentlemen, on the 21st instant, Captain Harper, returned from the Rohilla Sirdars [commanders] having at length prevailed on Hafez Rhamet Khan to proceed with him to Shawabad the second day’s march. The jealousy of Hindustaners has been very particularly evinced in this visit; for notwithstanding Hafez Rhamet has been encamped within three coss since the 23d of the month, until this morning, he could not prevail on himself to perform the meeting.—I hope, in a few days, to have the satisfaction of communicating to you the final conclusion of this agreement with the Rohilla Sirdars.”
It was not, however, before the 17th day of the following month, that all difficulties were borne down, or removed, and a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, was signed by the respective parties. Of the articles, that which was attended with the most memorable consequences, that to which the Rohillas, it is probable, assented only from that rashness and negligence in forming pecuniary obligations which is universal in Indian governments and which their universal practice of fulfilling none which they can violate or evade unavoidably engenders, was the promise to book v.Chap. 1. 1772. pay to the Vizir forty lacs of rupees, on condition that he should expel the Mahrattas from the Rohilla territories; ten of these lacs to be furnished on the performance of the service, the rest in the space of three years.1
No effort whatsoever, in consequence of this agreement, was made by the Subahdar for the expulsion of the Mahrattas; in a little time he returned to his capital; and the Mahrattas, after ravaging the country, crossed the Ganges of their own accord, at the commencement of the rains. They encamped, however, between the Ganges and the Jumna, with too evident an intention of renewing their operations as soon as the favourable season should return. During the period of inaction, the Rohillas importuned the Vizir to make such arrangements with the Emperor and Mahrattas, as might prevent them from crossing the Ganges any more. But no such arrangements were attempted. As soon as the termination of the rains approached, the Mahrattas drew near to the river, and, again threatening the Rohillas, demanded a sum of money, of which, after temporising, a portion was, by Hafez Rhamet, most reluctantly paid.
Upon the accomplishment of the enterprise against Zabita Khan, the Emperor returned to Delhi, disgusted with his new allies, and eagerly desirous of an opportunity to dissolve the connexion. The Mahrattas on their part, who disdained the restraint of obligation, whenever it might be violated with profit, had entered into correspondence with Zabita Khan, and had engaged for a sum of money to compel the Emperor, not only to restore his territory, but to bestow upon him the office of Ameer al Omra, whichbook v.Chap. 1. 1772. his father had enjoyed. To these commands the Emperor could not prevail upon himself quietly to yield; and the Mahrattas thought proper to march towards Delhi, to enforce submission. The Emperor prepared himself for resistance; and, by the vigour and foresight of Nujeef Khan, was enabled to make a respectable defence. Incapable, however, of long supporting the weight of the Mahratta host, he opened the gates of Delhi, on the 22d of December, exactly one year, wanting three days, from the period of his inaugural entry. From this time, he was no better than an instrument in the hands of the Mahrattas. Of their power the first use was to extort from their prisoner a grant of the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, in which he had been established by the English. Having accomplished these events, they returned to the banks of the Ganges, which they made preparations to cross.
The Subahdar was now thrown into a state of the most violent alarm; and wrote repeated letters to the Bengal government to send a military force to his protection. He had neglected, or had been unable, to take any measures for placing the country of the Rohillas in a state of security. That people were now laid at the mercy of the Mahrattas; and would, he foresaw, be compelled to join them, to avoid destruction. Zabita Khan had already thrown himself upon their mercy; and he violently feared that the other chiefs would speedily follow his example. The Mahrattas, indeed, made great offers to the Rohillas. They would remit the greater part of the sums of which they had extorted the promise. They engaged to pass through the country without committing any depredations or molesting the ryots, and to grant all sorts of advantages; provided the Rohillas would book v.Chap. 1. 1773. yield a free passage through their dominions into the territory of the Vizir.1 The Subahdar of Oude exerted himself to prevent that union of the Mahrattas and Rohillas; the effects of which he contemplated with so much alarm. He moved with his army into that part of his country which was nearest to that of the Rohillas; and held out to them whatever inducements he conceived most likely to confirm their opposition to the Mahrattas. He engaged to make effectual provision both for their present and future security; and to remit, as Hafez Rhamet affirms, the forty lacs of rupees. Difficult as was the choice, the Rohillas thought it still less dangerous to rely upon the faith of the Subahdar, than upon that of the Mahrattas; and gaining what they could, by temporizing with that formidable people, they, however, declined all engagements with them, and actually joined their troops to those of the English and Subahdar.2
On the 7th of January, 1773, the Secret Committee at Calcutta entered into consultation on intelligence of these events; and thus recorded their sentiments. “Notwithstanding the alarms of the Vizir, expressed in the foregoing letters, it does not clearly appear that the Mahrattas have acquired any accession of power, since, whatever advantage they derived from the sanction of the King’s name, when he was independent, must now be either lost, or very much diminished, by their late rupture with him, by their having violently possessed themselves of his person, and their usurpation of his dominions.” On the subject of the Rohillas, whom the Vizir, to increasebook v.Chap. 1. 1773. the ardour of the English to send an army to his support, represented as actually connected with the Mahrattas, though he only dreaded that event, they remark, that instead of joining with the Mahrattas in an invasion of the territories of the Vizir, “It is still more probable that the Rohilla chiefs, who have sought their present safety in a treacherous alliance, to which necessity compelled them, with the Mahrattas, will, from the same principle, abandon their cause, or employ the confidence reposed in them to re-establish their own independence, rather than contribute to the aggrandizement of a power, which in the end must overwhelm them.” With regard to the unhappy Shah Aulum, the humiliated Emperor of the Moguls, they remark; “It is possible he may solicit our aid; and, in point of right, we should certainly be justified in affording it him, since no act of his could be deemed valid in his present situation, and while he continues a mere passive instrument in the hands of the Mahrattas: But whether it would be political to interfere, or whether, at this time especially, it would be expedient, must continue a doubt with us.”1 It is remarkable, that with regard to the most important of his acts, the surrender of Corah and Allahabad, so little did any one regard it as binding, that his deputy, in these provinces, instead of delivering them up to the Mahrattas, applied to the English for leave to place them under their protection, “as the King, his master, whilst a prisoner in the hands of the Mahrattas, had been compelled to grant sunnuds in their favour.”2 The English, in consequence, threw a garrison into Allahabad, and sent a member of council to take charge of the revenues.3
book v.Chap. 1. 1773. The obligation under which the English were placed to aid the Vizir in the defence of his own territory, and their opinion of the advantage of supporting him against the Mahrattas, induced them to send Sir Robert Barker, with a part of the army. The importance of preventing the Mahrattas from establishing themselves on the northern side of the Ganges, and the facility which they would possess of invading Oude if masters of Rohilcund, disposed the English to include that district also within the line of their defensive operations. But, though the combined forces of the English and Vizir passed into the territories of the Rohillas, and encamped near the river, opposite to the main army of the Mahrattas, which threatened at once the territories of Oude and the province of Corah, a large body of Mahrattas, crossed the Ganges, over-ran a great part of Rohilcund, destroyed the cities of Moradabad and Sumbul, and continued to ravage the country till the end of March.
No operation of any importance ensued. The English General was restrained by peremptory orders from passing the river, to act on the offensive; the Mahrattas were afraid of crossing it in the face of so formidable an opponent. And in the month of May, the situation of their domestic affairs recalled that people wholly to their own country.
The departure of the Mahrattas opened a field to the ambition of the Subahdar, which he was eager to cultivate. A meeting was concerted between him and the Governor, which took place at Benares at the beginning of September. The terms are memorable in which the cause and object of this interview are mentioned by the English chief. In his Report to the Council at Calcutta, on the 4th of October, 1773, he says, “The Vizir was at first very desirous of the assistance of an English force to put him in possession of the Rohilla country, lying north of hisbook v.Chap. 1. 1773. dominions and east of the Ganges. This has long been a favourite object of his wishes; and you will recollect that the first occasion of my last visit was furnished by a proposal of this kind.”1 The Governor-General was so far from revolting at this proposition, or hesitating to close with it, that he stimulated the Vizir to its execution.2Money was the motive to this eager passion for the ruin of the Rohillas. “As this had long,” says the English ruler, “been a favourite object of the Vizir, the Board judged with me that it might afford a fair occasion to urge the improvement of our alliance, by obtaining his assent to a more equitable compensation for the expense attending the aid which he occasionally received from our forces.”3 The situation of the Company he says, urged it upon them, “as a measure necessary to its interest and safety. All our advices,” he continues, “both public and private, represented the distresses of the Company at home, as extreme. The letters from the Court of Directors called upon us most loudly for ample remittances, and a reduction of our military expenses. At the same time, such was the state of affairs in this government, that for many years past the income of the year was found inadequate to its expense; to defray which, a heavy bond debt, amounting at one time to 125 lacs of rupees, had accumulated.”4 It was accordingly stipulated that book v.Chap. 1. 1773. forty lacs of rupees, upon the accomplishment of the enterprise, should be advanced to the English by the Vizir, and a monthly allowance, equivalent to the computed expense, be provided for the troops engaged in that service. By this, says the Governor, “a saving of near one third of our military expenses would be effected during the period of such a service; the stipulation of forty lacs would afford an ample supply to our treasury: the Vizir would be freed from a troublesome neighbourhood, and his dominions be much more defensible.”
In all this, we may allow, there was enough for convenience and profit, both to the President and the Vizir. But to bring ruin upon a large body of our fellow-creatures for our own convenience and profit, unless where the most cogent reasons of justice and necessity impel, is to perform the part of the most atrocious oppressors. In this case, the pleas of justice and necessity are, to an extraordinary degree, defective and weak. The unhappy Rohillas, it seems, procrastinated, and evaded, with respect to the demand which was now violently made upon them for payment of the formerly stipulated price of defence; a payment which had not been earned, since they had never been defended; which they were not able to pay, since their country had been repeatedly ravaged and stript; of which the exaction was in reality a fraud, since the return for it was never intended to be made; which it was no wonder they were reluctant to pay, to the man who was impatient to assail them, and whom the use of their money would only strengthen for their destruction. At the worst a failure in a pecuniary obligation can never justify a war of extermination; it even authorized hostilities, as the Directors, when they condemned this employment of their forces, remarked, so far only, as might be necessary to compel the fulfilment of the contract.book v.Chap. 1. 1773. It was also alleged, that the Rohillas assisted the Mahrattas. But this is by no means true. They temporized with the Mahrattas, as it was highly natural they should do; but the whole power of the nation was exerted to keep and to drive the Mahrattas from their own side of the Ganges.1 With regard to necessity for the extirpation of the Rohillas, there was not so much as prudence to justify the deed; Hastings himself confessing, “that the dependance of the Vizir upon the Company (in other words his weakness) would, by that extension of his possessions, be increased, as he himself was incapable of defending even his ancient possessions without the English support.”2
Another object of great importance was to be settled between the Governor and Vizir. The provinces of Corah and Allahabad, of which a forced surrender had been obtained by the Mahrattas, but which the deputy of the Emperor, declaring the act involuntary, had, to save them for his master, placed under the protection of the English, were to be disposed book v.Chap. 1. 1773. of. At first, if no resolution was taken to restore them to the Emperor, it appears, at least, that none was adopted to take them from him. As soon as the idea was begotten of making money out of the present situation of affairs, the provinces of Corah and Allahabad naturally fell into the crucible. It had long been a decided principle in the Company’s policy, not to retain those provinces under their own administration; because the expense of governing them, at so great a distance, would exceed the utmost revenue they could yield. The choice lay between preserving them for the Emperor and making them over to the Vizir. Generosity, had it any place in such arrangements, pleaded with almost unexampled strength in behalf of the forlorn Emperor, the nominal sovereign of so vast an empire, the representative of so illustrious a race, who now possessed hardly a roof to cover him. Justice, too, or something not easily distinguished from justice, spoke on the same side: considering that, in the first place, the Emperor had a right to the provinces, both by his quality of sovereign of India, and also by the peculiar concession and grant of the English Company, if not in express terms for, most certainly in consideration of, his not absolutely necessary but highly useful grant of the duanee of the three great and opulent provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa; And that, in the second place, he could not, by any fair construction, be deemed to have forfeited any right by the surrender of the provinces, an act which was in the highest degree involuntary, and therefore not his own. But these considerations were a feeble balance against the calls of want, and the heavy attractions of gold. To secure Allahabad and Corah against the possession of so dangerous a power as the Mahrattas was the acknowledged policy of the British government; and it was alleged, that the Emperorbook v.Chap. 1. 1773. was unable to protect them. But it is certainly true, that the Emperor was not less able at that time than he was at the time when they were first bestowed upon him; or than he was at any point of the time during which they had been left in his hands. It is equally true, that the inability of the Vizir to secure them was just as certain as that of the Emperor; since there is the confession of the Governor, that he was unable to protect even his own dominions, without the assistance of the English; and that every extension of his frontier rendered him more vulnerable and weak. There was, however, one difference; the Vizir could give money for them, the Emperor could not; and in this, it is probable, the whole advantage will be found to consist. That the English strengthened their barrier by giving to a crude native government a vast frontier to defend, instead of combining against the Mahrattas the forces of the Rohillas, the Emperor, and the Vizir, will hardly be affirmed by those who reflect how easily the balance among those powers might have been trimmed, or who know the consequences of the arrangement that was formed. For a sum of money, Corah and Allahabad were tendered to the Vizir. That he was delighted with the prospect of regaining a territory, for which, a few years before, we have seen him incurring the infamy and guilt of perfidy and murder, perpetrated against a near kinsman, we need not doubt. About terms there appears to have been no dispute. For the sum of fifty lacs of rupees, of which twenty lacs were to be paid in ready money, and the remainder in two years by payments of fifteen lacs at a time, the provinces in question were added to his dominions.
The acquisition of those provinces made an apparent book v.Chap. 1. 1773. change with regard to the Rohillas in the views of the Vizir. If we may believe the representation of the President; whose representations, however, upon this subject, are so full of management, and ambiguity, that they are all to be received with caution; the Nabob represented himself unable to meet the pecuniary obligations under which the acquisition of both territories would lay him to the English Company; and desired for that reason to suspend his attack upon the Rohillas. It was agreed, however, between him and the President, that whenever the time convenient for the extirpation of that people should arrive, the assistance of the English should not be wanting. The difficulty of fulfilling his pecuniary engagements with the Company, if they were ever alleged, did not detain him long.
From the meeting at Benares, the Vizir and President parted different ways; the former to the Dooab, and Delhi, to reduce, during the absence of the Mahrattas, some forts and districts which were still held for that people; the latter to lay before his colleagues, and to transmit to his employers, such an account of the transactions at this interview, as was most likely to answer his ends.
In his report to the Council at Fort William, the President confined himself to the agreement respecting Corah and Allahabad, and the allowance for such troops as might hereafter be employed in the service of the Vizir. The agreement respecting the Rohillas, which it had been settled between the President and Vizir might be conveniently kept out of the ostensible treaty, was wholly suppressed. With a view to the future, it was politic however to explain, that the Vizir showed at first a desire to obtain English assistance for the seizure of the Rohilla country; it was politic also to state the pretexts by which the expediency of that assistance might best appear to bebook v.Chap. 1. 1773. established. Adding, that for the present, however, the Vizir had laid aside this design, the President subjoined the following declaration: “I was pleased that he urged the scheme of this expedition no further, as it would have led our troops to a distance.”1 Yet we have it from his pen, that he “encouraged” the Vizir to the enterprise, as what promised to be of the greatest advantage to the Company.
In the letter of the President dispatched from Benares to the Directors, announcing the result of his arrangements with the Vizir, all intelligence of the project for exterminating the Rohillas is surpressed.
Upon the return of Mr. Hastings to Calcutta, he effected an object, of which, from the important consequences with which it was attended, it is necessary to give some account. The correspondence with the country powers had frequently been carried on through the military officers upon the spot. The power thus conveyed to the military, Mr. Hastings had represented as inconvenient, if not dangerous; and one object of his policy had been to render the head of the civil government the exclusive organ of communication with foreign powers. He now stated to the Council the concurrence in opinion of the Vizir and himself, that an agent, permanently residing with the Vizir for the communication and adjustment of many affairs to which the intercourse of letters could not conveniently apply, would be attended with important advantages: And he urged the propriety of granting to himself the sole nomination of such an agent, the sole power of removing him, and the power of receiving and answering his letters, without communication either to the Committee book v.Chap. 1. 1773. or Council. To all these conditions the Council gave their assent; and Mr. Nathaniel Middleton, with an extra salary, was sent as private agent to attend the residence of the Vizir, and to communicate secretly with Mr. Hastings.1
The Vizir in the mean time had made himself master of several places in the Dooab. He advanced towards Delhi with a show of great friendship to the Emperor; assisted him with money; sent a force to assist his army in wresting Agra from the Jaats; and having thus laid a foundation for confidence, began to intrigue for his sanction to the intended attack upon Rohilcund. A treaty was negociated, and at last solemnly concluded and signed, by which it was agreed that the Emperor should assist with his forces in the reduction of the Rohillas, and in return should receive a share of the plunder, and one half of the conquered country.2
On the 18th of November, about two months after their interview, the Vizir wrote to the President, demanding the promised assistance of the English for the destruction of the Rohillas. Mr. Hastings appears to have been thrown into some embarrassment. The suddenness and confidence of the call corresponded but indifferently with the terms on which he had given his colleagues to understand that the communication on this subject rested between him and the Vizir. His abilities in making out a case, though singularly great, were unable to produce unanimity; and it was not till after a long debate, that a decision in favour of the expedition was obtained. The assistance was promised, on the very terms concertedbook v.Chap. 1. 1774. and settled between him and the Vizir; and yet this President had the art to persuade his colleagues, and joined with them in a declaration to their common masters, that these terms were so favourable to the English, and so burdensome to the Vizir, as to render his acceptance of them improbable, and therefore to leave but little chance of their involving the English government in a measure which the principal conductors of that government were desirous to avoid.1
In the month of January, 1774, the second of the three brigades into which the Company’s army in Bengal was divided, received orders to join the Vizir; and Colonel Champion, now Commander-in-Chief, proceeded about the middle of February to assume the command. On the 24th of February the brigade arrived within the territory of the Vizir; and on the 17th of April the united forces entered the Rohilla dominions. On the 19th Col. Champion wrote to the Presidency, that the Rohilla leader “had by letter expressed earnest inclinations to come to an accommodation with the Vizir; but that the Nabob claimed no less than two crore of rupees.” After this extravagant demand, the Rohillas posted themselves on the side of Babul Nulla, with a resolution of standing their ground to the last extremity. And early on the morning of the 23d, the English advanced to the attack. “Hafez,” says the English General, with a generous esteem, “and his army, consisting of about 40,000 men, showed great bravery and resolution, annoying us with their artillery and rockets. They made repeated attempts to charge, but our guns, being so much better served than theirs, kept so constant and galling a fire, that book v.Chap. 1. 1774. they could not advance; and where they were closest, was the greatest slaughter. They gave proof of a good share of military knowledge, by showing inclinations to force both our flanks at the same time, and endeavouring to call off our attentions by a brisk fire on our centre. It is impossible to describe a more obstinate firmness of resolution than the enemy displayed. Numerous were their gallant men who advanced, and often pitched their colours between both armies, in order to encourage their men to follow them; and it was not till they saw our whole army advancing briskly to charge them, after a severe cannonade of two hours and twenty minutes, and a smart fire of musketry for some minutes on both flanks, that they fairly turned their backs. Of the enemy above 2,000 fell in the field and amongst them many Sirdars. But what renders the victory most decisive is the death of Hafez Rhamet, who was killed whilst bravely rallying his people to battle. One of his sons was also killed, one taken prisoner, and a third returned from flight to day, and is in the hands of Sujah Dowla.”
In passing to another character, the General changes his strain. “I wish,” says he, “I could pay the Vizir any compliment on this occasion, or that I were not under the indispensable necessity of expressing my highest indignation at his shameful pusillanimity; indispensably, I say, because it is necessary that administration should clearly know how little to be depended on is this their ally. The night before the battle, I applied to him for some particular pieces of cannon, which I thought might prove of great service in the action; but he declined giving the use of them. He promised solemnly to support me with all his force, and particularly engaged to be near at hand with a large body of cavalry, to be used as I should direct. But instead of being nigh me, hebook v.Chap. 1. 1774. remained beyond the Gurrah, on the ground which I had left in the morning, surrounded by his cavalry and a large train of artillery, and did not move thence till the news of the enemy’s defeat reached him.” Then, however, his troops began to be active, and effectually plundered the camp; “while the Company’s troops, in regular order in their ranks, most justly” (says their commander) “observed, We have the honour of the day, and these banditti the profit.”1
This action, in reality, terminated the war. Though Fyzoolla Khan, with his treasures and the remains of the army, had made good his flight toward the mountains, the whole country, without opposition, lay at the mercy of the Vizir; and never probably were the rights of conquest more savagely abused. Not only was the ferocity of Indian depredation let loose upon the wretched inhabitants, but as his intention, according to what he had previously and repeatedly declared to the English government, was to exterminate the Rohillas, every one who bore the name of Rohilla was either butchered or found his safety in flight and in exile.2
book v.Chap. 1. 1774. Shortly after this decisive affair, the army marched to the city of Bissouly, which was near the centre of the Rohilla country, with the intention of passing in quarters the season of the rains. At this place had arrived before them Nujeef Khan, with the army of the Emperor. In obedience to the treaty between the Emperor and Vizir, they had marched from Delhi to assist in the reduction of the Rohillas; but before they reached the scene of action the rapidity and vigour of the English had terminated the war. Nujeef Khan demanded partition of the country and of the plunder, according to the conditions on which the countenance and co-operation of the Emperor hadbook v.Chap. 1. 1774. been procured. The Vizir did not dispute the treaty, a copy of which the Emperor had sent to Col. Champion; he alleged, however, that the counterpart, which was in his own possession, expressed a condition that his Majesty should take the field in person; and that the breach of that article annulled the contract. “But when the counterpart,” says Col. Champion, “which he put into the hands of my interpreter, came to be examined, it appeared there was no such stipulation, nor indeed did it ever exist even verbally.”1 The decision of the English government is the next incident in the scene. Instructing on this subject the commander of their troops, when he had as yet sent them only a surmise, and the treaty had not been produced, “our engagements (they say) with the Vizir are to aid him in the conquest of the Rohilla country; and if he is opposed by Nujeef Khan, or the King himself, you are to pay no regard to either. We cannot” (they add) “entertain so bad an opinion of the Vizir as to suppose him capable of acting in avowed breach of a treaty; but if any plea of that kind should be made for contesting our right to occupy any part of the Rohilla country yet unconquered, it will be proper to put to him the question, whether such treaty does exist or not? If he should acknowledge such a treaty, you must undoubtedly abstain from further hostilities in abetment of his breach of faith.” Yet after they were fully satisfied of the existence of such a treaty; and not only of the capability, but the resolution of the Vizir to act in avowed breach of it, they laid their commands upon the English general, to abet and support him, because “it is our intention,” say they, “to persevere in pursuit of the object which book v.Chap. 1. 1774. originally engaged us in the present enterprise, and to adhere strictly to our engagements with the Vizir, without suffering our attention to be diverted by foreign incidents or occurrences,”1 that is, by solemn treaties, or the breach of them.
From Fyzoolla Khan an early application arrived, offering to come to the camp upon the faith of the English, and to hold the district which had belonged to his family as a dependent or renter of the Vizir. His offers, variously modified, were frequently repeated, with great earnestness. But the Vizir persisted in his declaration, that he would allow no Rohilla chief to remain on the further side of the Ganges; and only offered him one of the districts in the Dooab, which had been recently conquered from the Mahrattas. Fyzoolla Khan, with justice, observed, that this the Mahrattas would take from him the first time they returned to the country.
Towards the end of July, the united forces of the English and Vizir marched towards Fyzoolla Khan, who occupied a strong post on the skirts of the mountains, near Pattir Gur. At the beginning of September they came near the enemy, and as the Vizir began to exhibit a strong desire of an accommodation with the Rohillas, an active intercourse of letters and messengers ensued. Whether his mind was operated upon by the approaching arrival of the new counsellors at Calcutta, or the dread which he pretended of assistance to Fyzoolla Khan from the Mahrattas and Afghauns, he now made offer of terms to which a little before he would not so much as listen. He proposed to make Fyzoolla collector of the revenues, or Zemindar, of the whole territory of Rohilcund, allowing six lacs of rupees per annum for his own expenses. But this offer, and even thatbook v.Chap. 1. 1774. of a jaghire of ten lacs of rupees in the Rohilcund country, were rejected. The Rohillas were so advantageously posted, with works thrown up in their front, that it was necessary to advance by regular approaches, and the army were so discontented, on account of hardship, arrears of pay, and ill-usage, either real or supposed, that the General was doubtful of their steadiness and order. After several days, in which the approaches were carried on, and the scouting parties of both armies were frequently engaged, it was at last agreed that, Fyzoolla Khan should receive a jaghire of fourteen lacs and seventy-five thousand rupees in the Rohilcund territory, and should surrender one half of all his effects to the Vizir. Thus terminated the first Rohilla war.1
Before closing the account of the events to which the visit of Mr. Hastings to Benares gave birth, it is necessary to mention its effects with regard to the deserted Emperor. Upon receiving from him the grant of the duannee, or the receipt and management of the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, it was agreed that, as the royal share of those revenues, twenty-six lacs of rupees should be annually paid to him by the Company. His having accepted of the assistance of the Mahrattas to place him on the throne of his ancestors was now made use of as a reason for telling him, that the tribute of these provinces should be paid to him no more. Of the honour or the discredit, however, of this transaction, the principal share belongs not to the Governor, but to the directors themselves; book v.Chap. 1. 1774. who, in their letter to Bengal of the 11th of November, 1768, had said, “If the Emperor flings himself into the hands of the Mahrattas, or any other power, we are disengaged from him, and it may open a fair opportunity of withholding the twenty-six lacs we now pay him.”1 Upon the whole, indeed, of the measure, dealt out to this unhappy sovereign; depriving him of the territories of Corah and Allahabad; depriving him of the tribute which was due to him from those provinces of his which they possessed; the Directors bestowed unqualified approbation. And though they condemned the use which had been made of their troops in subduing the country of the Rohillas; they declare frankly, “We, upon the maturest deliberation, confirm the treaty of Benares.”2
The circumstance upon which, in summing up the account of his administration to his honourable masters, Hastings advanced the strongest claim to applause, was the alleviation of the pecuniary difficulties of the Indian government, and the improvement of the revenues. In the letters from the Bengal administration to the Court of Directors, under date 22d August, and 17th October, 1774, after presenting the most flattering picture of the financial situation to which the government was happily exalted, they advance a confident prediction, that in the course of the ensuing season, the whole of the bond debt would be discharged.3 And in that representation of the state of Bengal, which was published by Mr. Hastings in 1786, he declares, “When I took charge of the government of Bengal in April 1772, I found it loaded with a debt at interest of nearly the same amount as the present; and in less than two years I saw that debt completely discharged, and a sum in ready cashbook v.Chap. 1. 1774. of the same amount actually accumulated in store in the public treasuries.”1 This boasting exhibits some remarkable features, when the facts are sufficiently ascertained. No improvement had been made in the productive powers of the country, which is the only permanent and satisfactory source of an improved revenue. The gross revenues of the year ending in April 1772 were 3,13,63,894 current rupees; the gross revenues of that ending in April 1774 were only 2,76,10,556. Hardly had any improvement been made in the nett receipt. That for the year ending in April 1772, was 2,16,88,538 rupees equal to 2,373,650l.; that for the year ending 1774, was 2,20,56,919 rupees, or 2,481,404l.2 In the next great department of financial administration, the expense of the civil and military services, instead of any retrenchment there had been an increase. In the year ending in 1772, the civil service is stated at 154,620l., the marine at 52,161l., the military at 1,164,348l., and the total expense, exclusive of buildings and fortifications, at 1,371,129l.3 In the year ending in 1774, the civil service is stated at 159,537l., the marine at 53,700l., the military at 1,304,883l., and the total at 1,518,120l.4 In the year 1772, the proportion of the military expense, defrayed by the Nabob of Oude, was 20,766l.5 In the year 1774, the proportion defrayed by him was 131,430l.6 In the following year, that ending in April 1775, there was a slight improvement in the collections, which may in part be ascribed to the measures of the preceding book v.Chap. 1. 1774. administration; and there was a total cessation of war which produced a reduction of the military expenditure, remarkable only for its minuteness. The gross collections amounted to 2,87,20,760 rupees, the nett receipt to 2,51,02,090, or 2,823,964l.; the civil service to 231,722l., the marine to 36,510l., and the military to 1,080,304l.; total, 1,349,836l.: and the proportion this year borne by the Nabob of Oude was 240,750l.1 It thus abundantly appears that nothing so important as to deserve the name of improvement had arisen in the financial administration of the Company. A pecuniary relief had indeed been procured, but from sources of a temporary and very doubtful description; partly from the produce of the bills drawn in such profusion upon the Company, by the predecessor of Hastings; partly from the reduction of the allowance to the Nabob of Bengal, from thirty-two to sixteen lacs; but chiefly from the plunder of the unhappy Emperor of the Moguls, whose tribute of twenty-six lacs per annum for the duannee of Bengal was with held, and whose two provinces Corah and Allahabad were sold for fifty lacs to the Vizir; from the sale of the Rohillas, the extirpation of whom was purchased at forty of the same eagerly coveted lacs; and from the pay and maintenance of a third part of the troops, which were employed in the wars and dominions of the Vizir. With regard even to the payment of the debt, an inspection of the accounts exhibits other results than those presented by the declarations of the President.
Upon this statement, if we compare the year in whichbook v.Chap. 1. 1774. Mr. Hastings began his administration, with that in which it ended, we see a prodigious deterioration. If we compare it even with that which follows, the total amount of debt in 1772 was 1,60,30,000 rupees; in 1775 it was 1,77,68,584, which is an increase of 17,41,455. The only improvement appears in the balance of cash, which in 1775 exceeded the balance in 1772 by 58,86,557 rupees. Deducting from this a sum equal to the increase of debt, there remains 41,45,102 rupees, by which alone the state of the exchequer, after all the calamity which had been produced to supply it, was better in 1775 than it had been in 1772.
Commencement of the New Government—Supreme Council divided into two Parties, of which that of the Governor-General in the Minority—Presidency of Bombay espouse the Cause of Ragoba, an ejected Peshwa—Supreme council condemn this Policy, and make Peace with his Opponents—Situation of the Powers in the Upper Country, Nabob of Oude, Emperor, and Nujeef Khan—Pecuniary Corruption, in which Governor-General seemed to be implicated, in the cases of the Ranee of Burdwan, Phousdar of Hoogley, and Munny Begum—Governor-General resists Inquiry—Nuncomar the great Accuser—He is prosecuted by Governor-General—Accused of Forgery, found guilty, and hanged—Mahomed Reza Khan, and the office of Naib Subah restored.
book v.Chap. 2. 1774.The operation of the new constitution framed by the Parliament of England, was ordained to commence in India after the 1st of August, 1774. The new counsellors, however, General Clavering, Mr. Monson, and Mr. Francis, who, along with Mr. Hastings and Mr. Barwell, were elected to compose the board of administration, did not arrive at Calcutta until the 19th of October. On the following day the existing government was dissolved by proclamation, and the new council took possession of its powers. On the proposal of the Governor-General, who stated the necessity of a few days, to prepare for the council a view of the existing state of affairs, and to enable Mr.book v.Chap. 2. 1774. Barwell, who was then absent, to arrive; the meeting of the Board was suspended until the 25th. On the very day on which its deliberations began, some of the discord made its appearance, which so long and so deeply embarrassed and disgraced the government of India. The party who had arrived from England, and the party in India, with whom they were conjoined, met not, it should seem, with minds in the happiest frame for conjunct operations. Mr. Hastings, upon the first appearance of his colleagues, behaved, or was suspected of behaving, coldly. And with jealous feelings this coldness was construed into studied and humiliating neglect. In the representation which the Governor-General presented of the political state of the country, the war against the Rohillas necessarily attracted the principal attention of the new councillors; and, unhappily for the Governor-General, presented too many appearances of a doubtful complexion not to excite the desire of elucidation in the minds of the most candid judges. An obvious objection was, its direct opposition to the frequent and urgent commands of the Court of Directors, not to engage in offensive wars of any description, and to confine the line of defensive operations to the territorial limits of themselves and allies. The reasons, too, upon which the war was grounded; a dispute about the payment of an inconsiderable sum of money, and the benefit of conquest, to which that dispute afforded the only pretext; might well appear a suspicious foundation. When the new government began the exercise of its authority, the intelligence had not arrived of the treaty with Fyzoolla Khan; and an existing war appeared to demand its earliest determinations. To throw light upon the field of deliberation, the new Councillors required that the book v.Chap. 2. 1774. correspondence should be laid before them, which had passed between the Governor-General (such is the title by which the President was now distinguished), and the two functionaries, the commander of the troops, and the agent residing with the Vizir. And when they were informed that a part indeed of this correspondence should be submitted to their inspection, but that a part of it would also be withheld, their surprise and dissatisfaction were loudly testified, their indignation and suspicions but little concealed.
As reasons for suppressing a part of the letters Mr. Hastings alleged, that they did not relate to public business, that they were private confidential communications, and not fit to become public.
It is plain that this declaration could satisfy none but men who had the most unbounded confidence in the probity and wisdom of Mr. Hastings; and as the new Councillors neither had that confidence, nor had been in circumstances in which they could possibly have acquired it on satisfactory grounds, they were not only justified in demanding, but their duty called upon them to demand a full disclosure. The pretension erected by Mr. Hastings, if extended into a general rule, would destroy one great source of the evidence by which the guilt of public men can be proved: And it was calculated to rouse a suspicion of his improbity in any breast not fortified against it by the strongest evidence of his habitual virtue.1 Nothing could be more unfortunate for Mr. Hastingsbook v.Chap. 2. 1774. than his war against the Rohillas, and the suppression of his correspondence with Mr. Middleton. The first branded his administration with a mark, which its many virtues were never able to obliterate, of cruel and unprincipled aggression; and the second stained him with a natural suspicion of personal impurity. Both together gave his rivals those advantages over him which rendered his subsequent administration a source of contention and misery, and involved him in so great a storm of difficulties and dangers at its close.
Of the Council, now composed of five Members, the three who had recently come from England joined together in opposing the Governor-General, who was supported by Mr. Barwell alone. This party constituted, therefore, a majority of the Council, and the powers of government passed in consequence into their hands. The precipitation of their measures called for, and justified, the animadversions of their opponents. Having protested against the suppression of any part of Middleton’s correspondence, they were not contented with commanding that, as at least a temporary expedient, his letters should be wholly addressed to themselves: they voted his immediate recall; though Hastings declared that such a measure would dangerously proclaim to the natives the distractions of the government, and confound the imagination of the Vizir, who had no conception of power except in the head of the government, and who would consider the annihilation of that power as a revolution in the state. The governing party, not book v.Chap. 2. 1774. withstanding their persuasion of the injustice and cruelty of the Rohilla war, and notwithstanding their ignorance whether or not it was brought to a close, directed the Commander-in-Chief, in the first place, immediately upon receipt of their letter, to demand payment from the Vizir of the forty lacs of rupees promised for the extirpation of the Rohillas,1 and of all other sums which might be due upon his other engagements. Provided a real inability was apparent, he might accept not less than twenty lacs, in partial payment, and securities for the remainder, in twelve months. And they directed him in the second place, to conduct the troops within fourteen days out of the Rohilla country, into the ancient territory of Oude; and in case the Vizir should refuse compliance with the prescribed demands, to withdraw the troops entirely from his service, and retire within the limits of the Company’s dominions. Before the dispatch of these instructions, intelligence arrived of the treaty with Fyzoolla Khan; of the payment of fifteen lacs by the Vizir, from the share of Fyzoolla Khan’s effects; of his return to his capital, for the declared purpose of expediting payment to the Company of the sums which he owed; and of the intention of the English army to march back to Ramgaut, a Rohilla town near the borders of Oude. Inbook v.Chap. 2. 1774. consideration of these events the Governor-General proposed to suspend the peremptory demands of money, and the order for the recall of the troops; and to proceed with more leisure and forbearance. But every motion from that quarter in favour of the Vizir was exposed to the suspicion of corrupt and interested motives; and the proposal was rejected. The directions to the Commander were no further modified, than by desiring him to wait upon the Vizir at his capital, and to count the fourteen days from the date of his interview. The Governor-General condemned the precipitation of the pecuniary demand; as harsh, impolitic, and contrary to those rules of delicacy, which were prescribed by the directors for their transaction with the native princes, and which prudence and right feeling prescribed in all transactions: And he arraigned the sudden recall of the troops as a breach of treaty, a violation of the Company’s faith, tantamount to a declaration that all engagements with the Vizir were annulled, and affording to him a motive and pretence for eluding payment of the debts, which, if his alliance with the Company continued, it would be his interest to discharge. Both parties wrote the strongest representations of their separate views of these circumstances to the Directors; and the observations of one party called forth replies from the other, to a mischievous consumption of the time and attention, both in England and in India, of those on whose undivided exertions the right conducting of the government depended.1
book v.Chap. 2. 1775. Shortly after his return from the expedition against the Rohillas, Sujah Dowla, the Vizir, whose health was already broken, began to show symptoms of a rapid decay, and expired in the beginning of 1775, when his only legitimate son, who assumed the title of Asoff ul Dowla, succeeded without opposition to the Subahdaree of Oude. Mr. Middleton had already returned, and Mr. Bristow was now sent to supply his place at the residence of the new Nabob. The majority in Council resolved to obtain from the son, with all possible dispatch, the sums of money due by the father, but to consider all engagements by which they were bound to the late Nabob as dissolved by his death, and to make any assistance, which they might hereafter afford his successor, the result of new purchases and payments. A treaty was at last arranged on the 21st of May, by which it was agreed, that the Company should guarantee to Asoff ul Dowla, the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, which had been sold to his father; but that the Nabob in return should cede to the Company the territory of the Rajah Cheyte Sing, Zemindar of Benares, yielding a revenue of 22,10,000 rupees; that he should raise the allowance for the service of the Company’s brigade to 2,60,000 rupees per month; and should pay, as they fell due, the pecuniary balances upon the engagements of the late Vizir. Mr. Hastings refused his sanction to the imposition of these terms, as inconsistent with any equitable construction of the treaty with the late Vizir, extorted from the mere necessities of the young Nabob, and beyond his power to fulfil. The conduct of the Directors was peculiar. In their letter of the 15th December, 1775, remarking upon the resolution of the Council to disregard the treaties concluded with the late Nabob of Oude, they say, “Although the death of Sujah Dowla may render it necessary to make new arrangements with hisbook v.Chap. 2. 1775. successor, we cannot agree with our Council, that our treaties with the State of Oude expired with the death of that Nabob.” When they were made acquainted however with the new grant of revenue, and the new allowance on account of the troops, they say, in their letter of the 24th of December, 1776, “It is with singular satisfaction we observe at any time the attention paid by our servants to the great interests of their employers; and it is with particular pleasure we here signify our entire approbation of the late treaty concluded with Asoff ul Dowla, successor of Sujah Dowla, by which such terms are procured as seem to promise us solid and permanent advantages.”1
The new Board of Administration had early announced to the distant Presidencies, that it had assumed the reins of government, and was vested with controuling power over all the British authorities in India. It had also required from each of the Presidencies a representation of its political, financial, and commercial situation; and found a scene opened at Bombay, which it requires a notice of some preceding circumstances rightly to unfold.
The Mahratta Sovereigns, or Rajahs, were assisted, according to the Hindu institution, by a council of eight Brahmens, who shared among them the principal offices of the state. The official name of the chief of this council was Peshwa, upon whom the most important parts of the business of government devolved. According as the pleasures, the indolence, or the incapacity of the sovereign withdrew him from the management of affairs, the importance of this principal servant was increased; and a proportionable share of the dignity and power of the sovereign passed book v.Chap. 2. 1775. into his hands. In a rude state of society it appears not to be difficult for the influence and dignity of the servant to outgrow that of the master, who becomes too weak to resume the power which he has imprudently devolved. The minister leaves his office and ascendancy to his son; the son makes it hereditary; and the sovereign, divested of all but the name of king, sinks into an empty pageant. Such was the course of events in the case of the mayor of the palace in France, in that of the Chu-vua in Tunquin,1 and such it was, besides other cases, in that of the Peshwa, among the Mahrattas. In the reign of the Rajah Sahoo, who was but third in succession from Sevagee, Kishwanath Balajee had raised himself from a low situation in life to the rank of Peshwa. Sahoo was a prince devoted to ease and to pleasure; and the supreme powers were wielded, with little check or limitation, by Kishwanath Balajee. He assumed the name of Row Pundit, that is, chief of the Pundits, or learned Brahmens, and made the Rajah invest him with a sirpah, or robe of office, a ceremony which ever since has marked the succession of the Peshwas, and appeared to confer the title. Kishwanath was able to leave his office and power to his son Bajerow, who still further diminished the power of the sovereign; and finally allowed him not so much as liberty. The Rajah was confined to Satarah, a species of state prisoner; while the Peshwa established his own residence at Poona, which hence-forth became the seat of government. The brother of Bajerow, Jumnajee Anna, though a Brahmen, led the forces of the state; he attacked the Portuguese settlements in the neighbourhood of Bombay; and added Salsette and Bassein to the conquests of thebook v.Chap. 2. 1775. Mahrattas. The family of the Peshwa prided themselves in these acquisitions; affected to consider them as their own, rather than the property of the state; and showed a violent attachment to them, as often as, either by force or negotiation, the alienation of them was attempted. The vicinity of these territories to the British settlements at Bombay, brought the interests of the Company in contact with those of the Mahrattas; and the terms of a commercial and mari-time intercourse were somewhat inaccurately framed. Bajerow left a son, named Bow, who was slain in the battle of Paniput; and Jumnajee Anna, his brother, left two sons, Nanah, called also Bajee Row, and Ragonaut Row, with the former of whom, as Peshwa, the Presidency of Bombay, in 1756, concluded a treaty. The Mahrattas agreed to exclude the Dutch from all intercourse with their dominions, and to give up fort Vittoria, Hematgur, and Bancote, in exchange for Gheriah, which the English had taken from Angria the pirate. In 1761, Bajee Row, or Nanah, died, of grief, it is said, for the death of Bow, and left two sons, the eldest Madhoo Row, the other Narrain Row, both minors. The hereditary succession of the Peshwas had now so firm an establishment, that the title of Madhoo was not disputed; and the burden of government, during the minority of his nephew, devolved upon Ragonaut Row, more commonly known by the name of Ragoba.
It had fared with the Mahratta government, as it commonly fares with extended dominion under the rude policy of the East. The government of the provinces was confided to the chief military leaders, and the more distant and powerful of them, as the vigour of the central government relaxed, acquired independence. Of these independencies, the most book v.Chap. 2. 1775. important by far was that of the Bhonslas, which, together with Cuttack, a part of Orissa, included the whole of the vast province, or region of Berar. The next in point of magnitude, of the separate Mahratta kingdoms, was the province of Guzerat, which had been wrested from the Mogul empire by Pillagee Guicawar, or the herdsman, and its government rendered hereditary in his family. Besides these independent princes, two chiefs, Holkar and Scindia, possessed extensive dominions in the province of Malwa, and in the regions bordering on the territories of the Rajah of Berar and the Nabob-vizir. And there were inferior adventurers, who in other parts had acquired a sort of independence, among whom the most remarkable was Morari Row, who had acted a considerable part in the long struggle between the French and English in Carnatic, and possessed the fort of Gooti with a considerable district on the frontier of the Nizam. All these powers acknowledged a nominal dependence upon the government founded by Sevagee; and a sort of national feeling was apt to unite them against a foreign enemy. But their connection was voluntary, and they scrupled not to draw their swords against one another, and even against the Peshwa, upon any provocation or prospect that would have engaged them in hostilities with a different foe.
The Brahmen council of eight, known also by the name of Mutseddies, or ministers, had been reduced to a low station in the government, during the vigour of the preceding Peshwas. The weak and divided councils of a minority and regency offered a tempting opportunity to endeavour the recovery of the influence which they had lost. By intriguing with Gopicaboy, the mother of Madhoo, they succeeded in creating jealousies between the nephew and the uncle; and in the end the uncle was stripped of his power. Thebook v.Chap. 2. 1775. Mutseddies and Gopicaboy ascribed to Ragonaut Row a design to elevate himself to the office of Peshwa, and treacherously to deprive his nephews of their dignity or their lives. The Regent described his opponents as an ambitious confederacy, leagued with a dissolute intriguing woman for the purpose of grasping the powers of the state. The account of the transaction which the ministers themselves drew up for the English government1 is marked with strong improbabilities. Hitherto, moreover, the members of the Peshwa family, instead of supplanting, had acted with the greatest harmony in supporting, their head. And if Ragonaut Row had aimed at the supremacy, of which no other token appears than the accusation of his enemies, prudence would have taught him, either to usurp the authority from the beginning; or to leave but little time for his nephew to gather strength. After the fall of Ragoba, the power of the Mutseddies, during the nonage of Madhoo, was without control; and they employed it, after the manner of Hindus, for the acquisition of enormous riches. As the years however of the Peshwa increased, he displayed some vigour of mind, and began to restrict the power of this cabal; but died at an early age in 1772. At his death he bore a testimony to the fidelity of Ragoba, or his distrust of the ministerial confederacy, by releasing that relation from confinement; giving him the guardianship of Narrain Row; and vesting him with the regency during the nonage of that prince. A short time elapsed before the intrigues of the Mutseddies with Gopicaboy, and the influence of Gopicaboy with her son, stripped Ragoba a second time of his power and book v.Chap. 2. 1775. his liberty. Dissensions, however, arose among the Mutseddies themselves. Siccaram Baboo, who had been raised by Ragoba from a menial service in his household, to the office of Duan, or financial minister of the state, had taken the lead in all the preceding intrigues against his former master, and had acted as chief of the ministerial combination. Another of the ministers, however, Nanah Furnavese, now attained the foremost place in the favour of Gopicaboy and her son; and the principal share of the power appeared ready to fall from the hands of Siccaram Baboo. In these circumstances a conspiracy was formed against the life of the young Peshwa, who is said to have rendered himself odious by his follies and cruelty. The commander of the guards was gained; who forced his way into the palace with a body of men, and cut down the prince in the apartment of Ragoba to whom he had fled for protection. It was believed in Poona, at the time, according to the report of Mr. Mostyn, the English resident, who was upon the spot; that a party of the ministers were engaged in this transaction; and that Siccaram Baboo was at their head. It is to them that Ragoba himself ascribed both the conception and execution of the plot. But when the party of Siccaram Baboo regained the ascendancy, and chased Ragoba from the throne, they accused him of having alone been the author of his nephew’s murder, and repelled or shifted the accusation from themselves.
Upon the death of Narrain Row, Ragoba was immediately acknowledged Peshwa; received the sirpah, or robe of office, from the pageant Rajah; and was complimented by the ministers of foreign states, among others by the English resident, in the same form as was usually observed on the accession of a Peshwa. From the beginning of his administration, the new Peshwa acted with a visible distrust of thebook v.Chap. 2. 1775. Mutseddies. He forbore appointing Siccaram Baboo to the office of Duan, and performed the duties of it himself. This conduct insured him the hatred of the ministers. An army seemed the best security against their ambition and malice; and under the pretext of avenging the encroachments which the Subahdar of Deccan, the Nizam according to the English phrase, had made upon the Mahratta territories during the confusions of the government, he levied an army against that neighbouring prince. An union however was formed between the two hostile parties of the Mutseddies; his principal officers were debauched from their allegiance; and through their treachery, he sustained, in an engagement with the Subahdar, a total defeat. To supply his pecuniary necessities, which were extremely urgent, he marched towards the south, to exact a long arrear of Chout from Hyder, and from the Nabob of Arcot. With Hyder he had compromised his claim, by accepting twenty-five lacs of rupees, and ceding to him in return the three provinces of Mudgewarry, Hanscootah, and Chunderdroog. But he was recalled from prosecuting his design against Mahomed Ali, by intelligence, that the ministerial confederacy had raised an army; that they were joined by the forces of the Subahdar; that they had proclaimed the widow of Narrain Row to be with child; and under pretence of securing her offspring, had carried her to the fort of Poorunder. Ragoba met, and, by a well-concerted stratagem, gained a decisive victory over his foes. But after he was within a few miles of Poona, he was struck with a panic, upon intelligence, that the two chiefs, Holkar and Scindia, were gained by the ministerial party; and, quitting his army in secret with a small body of men, he fled to Guzerat, where Govind Row Guicawar book v.Chap. 2. 1775. engaged to support him. His army dispersed; Holkar and Scindia, whether previously engaged, or now led to the determination, joined the Brahmen cabal; the widow of Narrain Row was said to have been delivered of a son; and the confederacy agreed to support the pretensions of the infant.
The fact of the birth was immediately disputed; and it is evident that the affirmation of the ministers ought to have been for ever disregarded; because, whether or not a child was born of the widow, and whether a male or a female, their conduct and pretences would have still been the same. By withdrawing the pretended mother from the perception of disinterested witnesses; and by shutting up with her, as was generally affirmed and believed, a number of pregnant women in the same fort, they rendered it impossible that evidence of the reality of the pretended birth could ever be obtained; and for that reason it ought never to have been believed.
At the time when Ragoba fled to Guzerat, the country was distracted by the rival pretensions of the two brothers, Futty Sing Guicawar, and Govind Row Guicawar. In the time of the Peshwa, Madhoo Row Futty Sing, by means it was said of bribes, to the ministerial junto, obtained, through the authority of the Peshwa, succession to the Musnud of Guzerat, in prejudice of his elder brother Govind Row. When the office of Peshwa, however, devolved upon Ragoba, he acknowledged the title of Govind Row. Govind Row proceeded to levy war upon his brother; had gained over him various successes in the field; and was actually besieging him in his capital city of Broderah, when Ragoba came to claim his protection.1
It so happened that a similar contention at thebook v.Chap. 2. 1775. same moment divided the kingdom of Berar, and ranged one of the rivals on the side of Ragoba, the other on that of his adversaries. Jannajee, the late Rajah, died without issue. He had two brothers, Shabajee the elder, Moodajee the younger. Jannajee, before his demise, adopted the son of Moodajee, then a minor, and named him his successor. Shabajee and Moodajee disputed to whom the guardianship of the minor, and the regency of the kingdom, should belong. Shabajee claimed, as the elder brother; Moodajee, as the parent of the Rajah. And to determine their pretensions they involved their country in a violent and destructive war.
In looking therefore to the neighbouring powers, there was none from which Ragoba could expect so much support as from the English at Bombay. To them, accordingly, he offered terms of alliance: And there existed circumstances, in the state of that Presidency, which induced the members of the government to lend a favourable ear to his proposals. Salsette, and Bassein, with their dependencies, had been strongly coveted for some years. In the letter to the President and Council of Bombay, dated the 18th of March, 1768, the Directors said, “We recommend to you, in the strongest manner, to use your endeavours, upon every occasion that may offer, to obtain these places, which we should esteem a valuable acquisition.—We cannot directly point out the mode of doing it, but rather wish they could be obtained by purchase than war.”1 In the following year they expressed high approbation of an attempt to obtain them by negotiation; and add; “Salsette and Bassein, with their dependencies, and the Mahrattas’ proportion book v.Chap. 2. 1775. of the Surat provinces, were all that we seek for on that side of India. These are the objects you are to have in view, in all your treaties, negotiations, and military operations,—and that you must be ever watchful to obtain.”1 In more earnest prosecution of the same design, Mr. Mostyn arrived from England, in 1772, with instructions from the Court of Directors, that he should be sent immediately to negotiate with Madhoo Row, the Peshwa, for certain advantages to the settlements on the coast of Malabar, and above all for the cession of the island and peninsula of Salsette and Bassein, which added so much to the security and value of Bombay. The result of this negotiation tended only to show that, pacifically at least, the coveted spots were very unlikely to be obtained.
In the mean time the Presidency had engaged themselves in a dispute with the Nabob of Baroach, upon whom they advanced a demand for the phoorza, a species of tribute, formerly yielded by Baroach to the government of Surat;2 and for indemnification of an overcharge in the customs, which for the six preceding years had been levied on the merchants trading under the Company’s protection. The more effectually to enforce the demand, a body of troops was sent to invade the Nabob’s territory; but after proceeding so far as so attack his capital, they were obliged to abandon the enterprise, and return to Surat. This expedition the Directors condemned in the severest terms; as involving the Presidency in expense, when it was under the greatest pecuniary difficulties; as unskilfully conducted; as disgracing the Company’s arms; and, even if successful, promising no proportional advantage. The supreme authority,book v.Chap. 2. 1775. weakened by its distance, prevented not the subordinate from raising a new expedition out of the first. The Nabob of Baroach, despairing of his power to resist the arms of the Company, repaired to Bombay, and represented his inability to comply with their heavy demand, amounting to thirty-three lacs of rupees. Among the various expedients to which he had recourse for conciliating the favour of the Bombay administration, and obtaining a mitigation of their claims, he recommended with great assiduity the conquest of Guzerat; which he represented as easy, and promised to assist them with all his resources. The Presidency lent him a very favourable ear. After great discussion, an arrangement was concluded at the end of November, 1771. A species of military alliance; a sum of four lacs of rupees to be paid by instalments; the privilege of levying all duties on those who trade under the protection of the Company in the territory of Baroach; the erection of an English factory; and exclusion of all other Europeans excepting the Dutch, who had a previous establishment; were the advantages which the treaty promised to the English. Before the lapse of a year the Presidency began to accuse the Nabob of an intention to elude his agreement. After the question was left undetermined in the Committee, it was decided in the Council, with the censure of the Court of Directors on the former expedition lying before them, to send an armament to chastise the Nabob, and wipe off the former disgrace of their arms. Now indeed the enterprise succeeded; the Nabob was ruined; and the Presidency settled the division of the revenues with Futty Sing on the same terms on which they had formerly been shared between the government of Guzerat and the Nabob.
book v.Chap. 2. 1775. The assassination of Narrain Row, and the succession of Ragoba, announcing a weak and distracted government, appeared to the Council to present a favourable opportunity for accomplishing an object which their honourable masters had so much at heart, the possession of Salsette and Bassein: In their select consultations, on the 17th of September, 1773, they agreed to instruct Mr. Mostyn, their resident at Poonah, to improve diligently every circumstance favourable to the accomplishment of that event; and on no account whatever to leave the Mahratta capital: Baroach, and several of the recent acquisitions, as Fort Vittoria, and Rajapore, were offered in exchange: But in their letter to the Directors, of the 12th of January, 1774, the Council declare the disappointment of all their endeavours; and their opinion that no inducements would prevail upon the Mahrattas willingly to part with those favourite possessions, so justly the object of the Company’s desire. They next represent the violent distractions of the Mahratta government; and the opinion, which they had received from Mr. Mostyn, that Ragoba would be either assassinated, or deposed. With this event, say they, “our treaties with the present government may be deemed at an end.” The violent competitions for the throne, and consequent weakness of the state, might afford them, released as they would be from all engagements, an opportunity of acquiring those important possessions by what appeared to be the only means of acquiring them, force of arms; and they signify to the Court of Directors their determination not to let the occasion be lost, provided their pecuniary situation would permit, and the circumstances of Ragoba, which some recent intelligence represented as not yet desperate, should be found to be such as the Resident described.
After the dispatch of this letter, Ragoba had returnedbook v.Chap. 2. 1775. upon his enemies; gained the victory, already mentioned,1 over their forces in the field; fled from his army to Guzerat; and opened a negotiation with the Presidency; when, towards the end of November, 1774, intelligence was received at Bombay from the Company’s resident at Goa, that great preparations were making by the Portuguese for the recovery of their lost possessions; and, in particular, of Salsette and Bassein. The accomplishment of this project appeared to the Presidency not only to cut off all chance of making this favourite acquisition for the Company, but to give to the Portuguese the command of the passes into the interior country, and the power of harassing, by what imposts and restrictions they pleased, the trade of the English. They came therefore to the resolution of preventing, at all events, the fall of Salsette and Bassein into the hands of the Portuguese; and for that purpose regarded no expedient so good as taking possession themselves. It was agreed to signify to Ragoba, with whom they were treating, that it was a measure purely of precaution, and in no respect intended to interfere with his rights. To avoid an immediate rupture with the Mutseddies, the Resident was instructed to make to them a similar declaration; and to renounce all intention of holding Salsette and Bassein in opposition to the will of the existing government at Poona. On the 12th of December a considerable force set out from Bombay; it carried by assault the principal fort in Salsette on the 28th; and without further opposition took possession of the island.2
The negotiation was not interrupted with Ragoba. The Presidency regarded him as the rightful Peshwa. book v.Chap. 2. 1775. They expected, and with good reason, that their assistance would place him, without much difficulty, on his throne; and though he adhered with obstinacy to the possession of Salsette and Bassein, he offered territorial dominion and revenue to a large amount in the neighbourhood of Surat. Amid these proceedings, arrived, on the 7th of December, the letter from the Supreme Council in Bengal, announcing the accession of the new government, and requiring an account of the state of the Presidency of Bombay. It was answered on the 31st, when accounts were rendered of the acquisition of Salsette and Bassein, of the negotiation with Ragoba, the intention of the President and Council to grant him their assistance, and the reasons which guided them in these acts and determinations. In the interval between the adjustment and execution of the treaty with Ragoba, he was brought to an action by the army of the Ministers; deserted in the battle by a body of Arabs, on whom he depended, and obliged to fly from the field with a small body of horse. This disaster the majority of the Bombay Council deemed it an easy matter to retrieve; as Ragoba still had powerful adherents; as the Ministers were neither united, nor strong; and the union of the English troops with his army would render him more than a match for his opponents. They resolved, therefore, “not to give up the great advantages which they were to reap by the treaty, when so fair an opportunity occurred.” Ragoba made his way to Surat, and a treaty was concluded on the 6th of March, 1775, by which he now yielded up Salsette and Bassein, with the Mahratta share of the revenues of Baroach and other places in the district of Surat, to the amount, upon the whole, of a revenue of twenty-two and a half lacs of rupees. His army, with that of Govind Row, made good their retreat to the fort of Copperwange, about fifty coss frombook v.Chap. 2. 1775. Cambay, and were joined by the English, under the command of Colonel Keating, on the 19th of April. The detachment consisted of eighty European artillery, and 160 artillery Lascars, 500 European infantry, and 1,400 Sepoys, with a field train of twelve pieces, besides two mortars and several howitzers. The whole amounted to about 25,000 men in arms.1
The army of the Mutseddies had been deserted by Scindia, with 12,000 of the best horse; Shabbajee Bonsla, who favoured their cause in Berar, had been cut off by his brother, who befriended Ragoba; the fidelity of Holkar was held in doubt; and the Nizam, though he received their concessions, and promised assistance, always evaded performance; but they were still superior in numbers to Ragoba and his allies.
As soon after conjunction as possible the English commander proposed to advance toward the enemy, who were encamped on the banks of the Sabermatty. After a few indecisive rencounters, finding they could not bring the enemy to a general action, the English, in concert with their allies, resolved to march toward the south, and, penetrating to the Deccan, arrive at Poona before the setting in of the rains. The enemy, as soon as they discovered their intention, laid waste the country in front and destroyed the wells. At last on the 18th of May, having reached the plain of Arras, on which they had given Ragoba his recent defeat, they advanced and commenced a cannonade upon the rear of the English and their ally. The enemy were received with great gallantry; but an officer of Ragoba having treacherously introduced as partizans a body of hostile cavalry, between the advanced book v.Chap. 2. 1775. party of the British army and the line, some confusion ensued, and the first company of European grenadiers, by a mistake of the officer commanding them, began to retreat, and were followed in a panic by the rest of the party. Considerable execution was then performed by the enemy’s horse; but so destructive a fire of grape and shells was immediately poured upon them from the British line, as compelled them to seek their safety by quitting the field. The loss of Europeans, seven officers and eighty men, mostly grenadiers, beside 200 Sepoys, rendered this an expensive victory; while the want of horse, and the backwardness occasioned or excused by the want of pay of the troops of Ragoba, made it impossible, by an active pursuit, to derive from it the advantages it might otherwise have given. The rear of the enemy was attacked in crossing the Nerbuddah, on the 11th of June, where they lost many lives and were obliged to sink a part of their guns. After this rencounter, they hasted out of the province of Guzerat. And as Ragoba’s troops refused to cross the Nerbuddah, till they obtained satisfaction in regard to their long arrears, it was resolved, as the season of the rains was at hand, to suspend the progress of the expedition. Dhuboy, a fortified city about fifty miles from Baroach, convenient for receiving reinforcements and supplies, was selected for quartering the English; while Ragoba encamped with his army at Bellapoor, a pass on the river Dahder at ten miles distance. The favourable complexion of Ragoba’s affairs produced among other consequences the alliance of Futty Sing. His overtures were made through the English; and, Govind Row being previously satisfied by the promises of Ragoba, the terms of a treaty were agreed upon in the month of July. To the English, he consented to confirm all the grants within thebook v.Chap. 2. 1775. Guicawar dominions, which had been yielded by Ragoba; and to make further concessions in perpetuity to the annual amount of about one million seventy-eight thousand rupees: To Ragoba he engaged himself for the usual tribute and aid to the Poona durbar; and what was of unspeakable importance on the present emergency, for the sum of twenty-six lacs of rupees, to be paid in sixty days. The English and Ragoba had thus a prospect of marching to Poona in the next campaign, with a great augmentation of resources, and a friendly country in their rear.1
We have seen that the Presidency of Bombay informed the Directors by letter, on the 12th of January, 1774, that the Mahratta government was in a peculiar crisis, and that such an opportunity now occurred of acquiring Salsette and Bassein, as they had very little intention of letting escape. The Directors, as if anxious to allow time for the conquest, replied not till the 12th of April, 1775, when their answer could not be received at Bombay, in much less than two years from the time when the measure was announced as on the verge of execution. Nearly six months after the place was reduced by their arms, and governed by their authority, they sat down to say, “It is with much concern we learn from your records, that we are not likely to obtain Salsette from the Mahrattas by negotiation. We, however, disapprove your resolution to take possession of the island by force, in case of the death or deposition of Ragoba; and hereby positively prohibit you from attempting that measure, under any circumstances whatever, book v.Chap. 2. 1775. without our permission first obtained for that purpose.”1
The letter, containing the account of the capture of Salsette, and the negotiation with Ragoba, written by the Bombay Presidency to the supreme Council, on the 31st of December, was not received at Calcutta till the beginning of March. Before that time, however, intelligence from various quarters had reached them of the fate of Salsette; and they had written letters to Bombay, reprehending the Council, in severe terms, for delaying to send more complete information. Vested with a control over the other presidencies, not well defined, and, by consequence, ill-understood, the Supreme Council were jealous of every appearance of an attempt to originate important measures independently of their authority. This jealousy, and a desire to carry their own importance high, distinguished the party in the new Council, which now, by force of numbers, engrossed the powers of the government. They looked, therefore, with a very evil eye upon the audacity which, in a subordinate Presidency, so near the time when the Supreme Council were to assume the reins of government, ventured upon so great a measure as the conquest of Salsette, without waiting to be authorized by their sanction, or deterred by their prohibition. The letter from Bombay was answered on the 8th of March, with a dry remark, that all observations on the capture of Salsette were rendered useless by the tardiness of the information: The Council, however, declared their express disapprobation of the connexion with Ragoba; and two days after the treaty with that chieftain was signed, commanded that all negotiation with him should be suspended, till further instructions were received. On the 31st of May,book v.Chap. 2. 1775. arrived from the President and Council of Bombay a letter dated the 31st of March, with information of the conclusion of the treaty with Ragoba, and the departure of the troops for his support. On this occasion the Governor-General took the lead in the condemnation of the President and Council of Bombay; denouncing their procedure as “unseasonable, impolitic, unjust, and unauthorized;” and he proposed, that they should be peremptorily enjoined to cancel the treaty, and to withdraw the troops immediately from assisting Ragoba, except in the three following cases: “1. That they should have obtained any decisive advantages over the enemy; 2. That they should be in such a situation as might render it dangerous to retreat; 3. That a negotiation should have taken place between Ragoba and his opponents.” The Governor-General afterwards professed that he had gone beyond his real sentiments in these terms of condemnation, in hopes to moderate by that means the violence of the opposite party. In this expectation, if ever formed, he found himself deceived. The majority passed two resolutions, which form as singular a combination as the history of practical politics presents. They voted the condemnation of the treaty with Ragoba, and the immediate recall of the troops, subject to no consideration whatever but that of their safety: And they voted that a negotiation should be immediately opened with the Mutseddies, to arrange a treaty of peace, and obtain confirmation of Salsette and Bassein. They condemned the President and Council of Bombay, for taking part in the quarrels of the Mahrattas, and declaring for one party in opposition to another: They themselves performed what they themselves condemned, and were most effectually and irresistibly declaring in favour of the ministers book v.Chap. 2. 1775. against Ragoba. Other negotiators proceed to discussion with as fair a colour on their pretensions as they can, and as much power in their hands as they are able to retain; not that honourable men will aim at advantages which are unreasonable and unjust; but that they may be secure from the necessity of submitting to any thing which is unreasonable and unjust. The English rulers began with declaring themselves to be in the wrong, and stripping their hands of power; as preliminaries to a negotiation with a people, uniformly insolent and rapacious in proportion to their strength; who never heard the proposal of a concession but as an avowal of weakness; and could not conceive that any government ever yielded any thing which it was able to retain. Of all the courses which it was in the power of the Supreme Council to pursue, they made choice of that which was decidedly the worst. By fulfilling the treaty with Ragoba, they would have easily established his authority, and obtained the important concessions to which he had agreed: If they resolved, as they did, to countenance the ministers, they might, at any rate, have made their terms, before they exalted their pretensions by the annihilation of the power which would have made them compliant: And if they had inclined to act the part of really useful and pacific neighbours, they might have arbitrated between the parties with decisive and happy effect.
The Supreme Council resolved to treat with the ministers at Poona by an agent of their own, without the intervention of the Presidency of Bombay, in whose department the Mahratta country was situated, and who were best acquainted with the character and circumstances of the people.1 Colonel Upton, who was selected for the service, departed on the 17th ofbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. July, with letters to Siccaram Baboo, as head of the ministerial party; and with instructions to insist upon Salsette and Bassein, as indispensable conditions in the agreement which was proposed. It is worthy of remark, that he was furnished also with a letter to Ragoba, which was to be presented to that Prince, in case of his success; and then to form an introduction to a negotiation.
A letter from the Governor and Council of Bombay, dated the 22d of August, reached the Supreme Council in the beginning of October. These rulers complained severely of the disgrace which was thrown upon their Presidency, by compelling them to violate a solemn treaty, and depriving them of the power of negotiating with the neighbouring states. Such a loss of dignity in a great branch of the government could not fail, they said, to affect injuriously the interests of the Company. They denied, that they had been guilty of any wilful disrespect to the Supreme Council. The nature of the circumstances required that they should act without delay; the possession of Salsette and Bassein, required that they should declare in favour of one of the Mahratta parties; and many considerations induced them to give the preference to Ragoba. They pointed out the unhappy effects, even upon the negotiation with the ministers, which would result from the recall of the troops, and the ruin of Ragoba; and stated that they had deputed to Calcutta a member of their board, upon whose representations they still hoped, that their treaty would be executed, and that the great advantages of the connexion with Ragoba would not be thrown away. Their deputy displayed both zeal book v.Chap. 2. 1776. and ability, in his endeavours to make an impression upon the Council. But the majority adhered to their first determinations. Colonel Upton was, however, instructed to make some stipulations in favour of Ragoba; and the Presidency at Bombay was authorized to afford a sanctuary, in case of personal danger, to himself, his family and attendants. That Presidency was also directed, notwithstanding the breach of the treaty with Ragoba, to retain possession of the districts which had been yielded by Futty Sing, till the conclusion of a definitive treaty of peace.
The Council had for some time been waiting with impatience for the account of the arrival of their negotiator at Poona. In the beginning of January, 1776, they received letters from the ministers, which contained a commentary on the policy of annihilating Ragoba, at the moment of commencing a negotiation with his enemies. These letters displayed a high tone of complaint, and even of menace. They expressed a disinclination, on the part of the ministers, to submit their pretensions to discussion; and threatened a renewal of hostility, unless the places which had been taken were immediately restored.
Letters, dated the 5th of January, received from Colonel Upton on the 12th of February, announced his arrival at Poona, and a favourable reception. Other letters received on the 6th of March, and dated on the 2d of February, brought information of difficulties impeding the negotiation. The ministers imagine, says Colonel Upton, “that I must treat with them at any rate:—And that I have vastly exceeded my instructions, by asking a surrender of Salsette and Bassein.” “They ask me,” says he, “a thousand times, Why we make such professions of honour? How disprove the war entered into by the Bombay government; when we are so desirous of availing ourselves of the advantages of it?” Despairingbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. of compliance with all his demands, the Colonel proposed to relax in the affair of Bassein, and to ask for something else in its stead.1
On the 7th of March, a letter dated the 7th of February arrived; and announced that the negotiation was broken off. The ministers insisted upon an immediate renunciation of Salsette, and would not allow so much as time for consulting the government. “In five or six days more,” says the Colonel, “I am to leave Poona Dhur, and they will then fix the time for the expiration of the cessation of arms. I told them, I expected time to advise all our settlements before the renewal of the war; but I suspect them of taking every advantage.” He added, which confirmed the representations made in defence of the connexion with Ragoba, “If three or four companies of Europeans, a small detachment from the corps of artillery, and two or three battalions of Sepoys, were embarked from Bengal to join the army from Bombay, we might soon command peace on our own terms. For the chiefs of this country are quite at a loss which side to take; and are waiting to see what the English do.”2
Upon this intelligence the Council hastened to prepare for war on the largest scale. They resolved, “to support the cause of Ragoba with the utmost vigour; and with a general exertion of the whole power of the English arms in India; to act in all quarters at once; and, by the decision and rapidity of their proceedings, to bring the war, if possible, to a speedy conclusion:” And all this, (namely, a war with the ministers, and alliance with Ragoba, the very measures for which they condemned the Presidency book v.Chap. 2. 1776. at Bombay), rather than restore Salsette, the capture of which, and the alliance for its support, they had denounced as both impolitic and unjust!
At the conclusion, however, of the month, another letter from Colonel Upton was received. This letter brought intelligence of the final compliance of the ministers on the subject of Salsette. Warlike preparations were then suspended, and a treaty was at last arranged. The English renounced Bassein, and agreed to renounce the cessions in Guzerat, provided it appeared, as the ministers maintained, that Futty Sing was not entitled to make them. The Mahrattas yielded Salsette, and the small adjacent islands, of 3,500,000 rupees revenue; the Mahratta chout, or share of the revenues of Broach, amounting to an equal sum; and a country of three lacs in the neighbourhood of Broach. The members of the Bombay government compared these with the terms which they had obtained from Ragoba; and proclaimed their disapprobation. The concession with respect to Broach, they said, was pretended and delusive, as the Mahrattas had no right to any share of its revenues: The ceded territory, not being jaghire, or free from Mahratta burthens, would be a source of continual disturbance: The relinquishment of the cessions in Guzerat was weakly made upon an unfounded pretence, which actually gave the Guicawars an interest to disclaim the right in dispute: And, upon the whole, the treaty was highly injurious to the reputation, honour, and interests of the Company. The majority in the Supreme Council grounded the defence of their measures upon the utility of peace; and the frequent commands of the Directors to abstain from aggressive war.1
It had been stipulated that Ragoba should disbandbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. his army within one month; receive an establishment of 1,000 horse, to be paid and relieved at the pleasure of government, and, of course, to act as his gaolers and guards; enjoy a pension of three lacs of rupees per annum, and reside at an appointed place of abode. With these terms, which he represented as placing him in the hands of his enemies, Ragoba declared his resolution not to comply; and having requested an asylum in one of the Company’s settlements, he was promised, under the licence formerly granted, a sanctuary for himself and his attendants, by the Governor and Council of Bombay. The Mutseddies complained of this act of protection to Ragoba; and alarmed the ruling party in the Supreme Council with menaces that they would renounce the treaty, and betake themselves to war. After violent debates in the Supreme Council, and great diversity of opinion, it was decided by the majority, to condemn the offer made by the President and Council of Bombay of their protection to Ragoba; and to forbid them to receive that chieftain at any of the settlements within the limits of their government. The apprehensions of his enemies were soon after allayed by the defection of his troops. And he retired to Surat with only 200 attendants.
After considerable delay, and a variety of mutual complaints on the part of the Bombay Presidency and the ministers at Poona, the treaty was signed, and transmitted by Colonel Upton to Calcutta, on the 3d of June, 1776. It is peculiarly worthy of notice and remembrance, that intelligence of the conclusion of this affair had not reached the Supreme Council, when letters arrived from the Court of Directors applauding the treaty which the Presidency of book v.Chap. 2. 1776. Bombay had formed with Ragoba; and commanding their government of Bengal to co-operate for its fulfilment and confirmation. “We approve,” they say, “under every circumstance, of the keeping of all the territories and possessions ceded to the Company by the treaty concluded with Ragoba; and direct that you forthwith adopt such measures as may be necessary for their preservation and defence.”1
During these transactions, the attention of the Supreme Council was not attracted by any great event, towards the powers on the north-western frontier of the Company’s empire. In Oude, Asoff ul Dowla, the New Nabob, had entered upon his government with an exhausted treasury; he was oppressed by the debts due to the Company, and by their importunate demands of payment; his troops were mutinous for want of pay; his inability to maintain them had produced a reduction of his army; he had dismissed the ministers of his father, and surrounded himself with favourites; distraction prevailed in his family and his government; his character was vicious and weak; and every commotion on his frontier alarmed the Supreme Council for the safety of his dominions. Flying parties of the Mahrattas harrassed the neighbouring countries; and reports of more formidable enterprises excited the apprehensions of both the Nabob and his English friends. During the summer of 1776 it was rumoured, that a league had been formed by the Emperor, the Mahrattas, the Seiks, and the Rohillas, to invade the dominions of Asoff ul Dowla. And the Governor General urged the expediency of forming an alliance with Nujeef Khan, to lessen the danger of such an association. After the expedition against Zabita Khan, and thebook v.Chap. 2. 1776. admission of the Mahrattas into Delhi, this leader, through the artifice of a favourite, had fallen into disgrace with his master, and been reduced to the brink of ruin. The necessity of the Emperor’s affairs, and even the recommendation of Sujah Dowla and the English, again restored him to favour; and, in 1773, he engaged in a war with the Jaats, under an understanding that he should retain one half of the territory he should conquer, and resign the other to the Emperor. He had prevailed over the Jaats in the field, and recovered the fort and city of Agra, at the time when the agreement was made, between the Emperor and Vizir, to join in the war against the Rohillas. After his return from Rohilcund, he prosecuted his war with the Jaats; and having driven them, though he was exceedingly distressed for pecuniary means, from the open country, he was besieging the strong fortress of Deig; which, after an obstinate resistance, yielded to his arms; at the time when the situation of the neighbouring powers recommended a connexion with him to the English rulers. The discharge, however, of Sumroo, and a few Frenchmen, from his service, was made an indispensable preliminary; and as he alleged the danger at that moment of sending them to increase the power of his enemies, though he professed the strongest desire to comply with the wishes of the Company, the alliance was for the present obstructed and postponed. The anxiety of Asoff ul Dowla to receive from the Emperor, what still, it seems, was a source of illustration and an object of ambition; the office, though now only nominal, of Vizir; was kept on the rack by various interruptions, by competitors strongly supported, particularly the Nizam, and by the disinclination of the imperial mind. The pescush, book v.Chap. 2. 1776. however, or appropriate offering, with five thousand men and some artillery, which the Nabob sent to attend the Emperor, arrived at a critical moment, when Zabita Khan had not only evaded payment of the revenue for the country which he possessed, but had taken up arms to support his disobedience; had gained a victory over the Emperor’s forces; and was upon the point of becoming master of Delhi, and of the fate of its lord. The troops of Asoff ad Dowla appeared in time to save this catastrophe; and an imperial representative, in requital of this service, was soon after dispatched to invest the Nabob with the Kelât. By interference, however, of the commander of the Nabob’s detachment, whom Zabita Khan had duly bribed, the helpless Emperor was obliged to confirm that disobedient chief in the territory which he held, and even to remit those arrears of tribute which formed the subject of dispute.1
During the period of those transactions, affairs of a different description had deeply engaged the attention of the Supreme Council, and excited the most violent dissensions. So early as the month of December, 1774, a petition had been presented by the Ranee of Burdwan. This was the title of the widow of Tillook Chund, lately deceased, who, under the title of Rajah, had enjoyed the Zemindary of the district, and whose ancestors, as the representatives of its ancient Rajahs, had enjoyed it in succession through the whole period of Mahomedan sway. Her son, a minor of only nine years of age, had been nominated to the office upon the death of his father; and a considerable share of the power had at first passed into her hands. Afterwards, by the authority of the English government, the young Rajah wasbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. withdrawn from the guardianship of the Ranee, and the affairs of the Zemindary were entrusted to administrators of English appointment. She now complained of corrupt administration on the part of the Duan, or chief agent of the Zemindary, and accused the English Resident of supporting him in his iniquity, for the sake of the bribes with which the Duan took care to engage him. The more numerous party in the Council decreed that the Duan should be compelled to render an account of his administration; that the Ranee, agreeably to her petition, should be allowed to repair to Calcutta with her son; and as no inquiry into the conduct of the Duan could be successfully performed, while he retained power over the persons and papers of his office, that a temporary substitute should occupy his place. These resolutions the Governor-General, accompanied by Mr. Barwell, opposed. The Governor-General said, that the presence of the Ranee at Calcutta, whom he described as a troublesome, violent woman, would be not only unnecessary, but inconvenient; that the removal of the Duan from his office before any guilt was proved, would be a violation of justice;1 and the appointment to that office of persons whose qualifications had not been tried, a total departure from policy and prudence. On the 6th of January, 1775, a letter was received from the Resident, against whom the accusations of the Ranee were directed. It was drawn up in a very lofty style; the writer celebrated his own virtues; ascribed a bad character to the Ranee; and expressed the highest indignation, that she had the audacity to prefer an accusation book v.Chap. 2. 1776. against him. He professed his readiness to submit his conduct to examination; but required, that security should first be demanded of the Ranee to pay an equivalent penalty, in case she failed in the proof of her charges. The pretext for this condition was, its alleged conformity to the laws of the country. To stifle complaint, and to screen misrule, was its natural effect; and upon this consideration the majority of the Council refused to impose it. A variety of accounts were presented to the Board, in which were entered several sums of considerable amount, as paid by the Duan to the servants of the Company and their dependants, not only upon the appointment of the young Rajah, but also upon that of his Duan. Not less than 3,20,975 rupees were charged to the account of the Resident, his banyan, and cash-keeper. Mr. Hastings himself was accused of receiving 15,000 rupees, and his banyan, or native secretary, 4,500; and the whole of the sums represented as thus distributed among the Company’s servants, since the death of the deceased Rajah, amounted to 9,36,497 rupees. The authenticity of these accounts was called in question by the parties whom they affected; and every thing is doubtful which rests upon the authority of Indian witnesses, under strong temptations to depart from truth. Enough does not appear to condemn any individual. Enough appears to render it not doubtful that money was upon this occasion received by the Company’s servants; and enough does not appear to exculpate any individual against whom the charge was advanced. Mr. Hastings now lost his tone of calmness and forbearance. He accused the party in the council, by whom he was opposed, of a design to supersede him in his authority, and to drive him from his office. He pronounced them to be his accusers, parties to the cause against him; and therefore disqualified to sit asbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. judges upon his conduct. He declared that he would not summon or hold councils for “a triumph over himself.” He proposed that whatever inquisition they might choose to make into his conduct, they should make it in a committee; where his absence would save his station and character from degradation and insult; and he declared it to be his resolution to dissolve the council, as often as they should enter upon any criminating inquiry against himself. An occasion soon presented itself for putting his threat in execution. The resolution to compliment the Ranee with the usual insignia of office, he pronounced an insult to himself; declared the Council dissolved, and quitted the chair. The majority resolved that a vote of adjournment could, as all other votes, be passed only by a plurality of the voices present; that if this was not the law, the Governor-General was despotic; and that the right which he claimed was a right of impunity. They voted the first member of the Council into the chair, and continued their proceedings.
On the 30th of March, 1775, another accusation occupied the attention of the Board. In a representation received from one of the natives, it was set fourth, that the Phouzdar of Hoogly was paid by the Company 72,000 rupees as the annual salary of his office; that out of this sum, however, he paid annually to Mr. Hastings 36,000 rupees, together with 4,000 to Mr. Hastings’ native secretary, reserving only 32,000 rupees to himself; and that the author of this representation would undertake the duties of the office for this reduced allowance, producing an annual saving to the Company of 40,000 rupees, now corruptly received by Mr. Hastings and his banyan. The first debate which rose upon this book v.Chap. 2. 1776. information regarded the competence of the board to entertain such complaints. Mr. Hastings’ party, consisting of Mr. Barwell and himself, opposed the reception of any accusations against any individual of the board; and referred to the courts of justice. The major party deemed it an important article of the duty of the Supreme Council to control abuses, and not least in the hands of those who had the greatest power to commit them. It is no sufficient check, upon those who are entrusted with power, to be amenable for legal crimes in a court of justice. The analogies of the most vulgar trust shed light upon the highest. Who would endure a servant, pretending that his conduct ought not to be challenged but in a court of justice; his trust modified, or withdrawn, till after the judicial proof of a legal crime? When this plea was over-ruled, and the council were about to enter upon the investigation, Mr. Hastings declared that “he would not sit to be confronted with such accusers, nor to suffer a judicial inquiry into this conduct, at the board of which he is President.” As formerly, he pronounced the Council dissolved; and the majority continued their proceedings in his absence. Two letters of the Phouzdar in question were produced in evidence; and two witnesses were examined. The Phouzdar himself was summoned to answer. At first he alleged excuses for delay. When he did appear, he declined examination upon oath; on the pretence that to persons of his rank it was a degradation to confirm their testimony by that religious ceremony. In this scrupulosity, he was strongly supported by Mr. Hastings; but the majority construed it into a contempt of the Board; and dismissed the Phouzdar from his office, which they conferred, not upon the accusing petitioner, but another individual, at one half of the preceding salary, 36,000 rupees. The majority of thebook v.Chap. 2. 1776. Council esteemed the evidence of the charge complete. The party of the Governor-General, representing the testimony of the natives of India when they have any motive to falsify, as little worthy of trust, and the known disposition of the leading party in the Council as holding forth inducement to accuse, affirmed that the evidence had no title to regard. The eagerness of the Governor-General to stifle, and his exertions to obstruct inquiry, on all occasions where his conduct came under complaint, constituted in itself an article of proof, which added materially to the weight of whatever came against him from any other source.
Another ground of charge presented itself in the following manner. On the 2d of May, 1775, Mr. Grant, accountant to the provincial council of Moorshedabad, produced to the board a set of accounts, relating to the affairs of the Nabob; and stated that he had received them from a native, now in his own service, who had till lately been a clerk in the treasury office of the Nabob. From these accounts it appeared that Munny Begum, since her appointment to the superintendence of the Nabob’s person and affairs, had received 9,67,693 rupees, over and above what she appeared to have disbursed or had accounted for. Upon examination of Mr. Grant, and of the clerk from whom the accounts were received, the majority of the council were induced to regard them as authentic. Among other circumstances it was stated by the clerk, that the head eunuch of the Begum, the person who stood highest in her confidence, had endeavoured, upon hearing of such accounts in the hands of the clerk, to prevail upon him, by the prospect of rewards and advantages, to restore the papers, and return to the service of the book v.Chap. 2. 1776. Begum; and Mr. Grant was ready to state upon his oath that similar attempts had been made upon himself. The party opposed to the Governor-General thought the circumstances sufficiently strong to render inquiry necessary, and to authorise the steps which inquiry demanded. They proposed, that a servant of the Company should immediately be sent to Moorshedabad, invested with a proper commission and powers; and that the Begum, for the investigation of whose conduct no satisfactory evidence could be procured, while she retained authority over the officers and servants of the Nabob, should be divested of her power. The Governor-General, on the other hand, questioned the authority of the papers, resisted the proposal to inquire into the accounts of the Begum, and protested against removing her from her office, while no proof of her misconduct was adduced.1 By decision however of the majority, Mr. Goring was dispatched for the investigation; the power of the Begum was withdrawn; and Rajah Gourdass, the son of Nuncomar, Duan, or principal Minister of the Begum, received the temporary charge of the Nabob’s affairs. Inquiry seemed to establish the authenticity of the papers. The Begum, when pressed to account for the balance with which she was charged, stated, among other circumstances, that 1,50,000 rupees had been given to Mr. Hastings, under the name of entertainment money, when he went to Moorshedabad in 1772, and placed her at the head of the Nabob’s establishment. She also represented that on the same occasion 1,50,000 rupees had been given by her as a present to Mr. Middleton. Of the sum thus delivered to Mr. Middleton (for the receipt of it was never denied), no account was ever rendered, and no defence was ever set up. Mr. Hastingsbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. justified the receipt of what was bestowed upon himself, on the several pleas, that the act of parliament which prohibited presents was not then passed, that such allowances were the common custom of the country, that a Nabob of Bengal received on the same account 1000 rupees a day as often as he visited the Governor in Calcutta, that he added nothing to his fortune by this allowance, and must have charged to the company a sum as large, if this had not been received.1 Upon part of this it is necessary to remark, that custom, the custom of a country, where almost every thing was corrupt, affords but a sorry defence; that if a visit to the Nabob was a thing of so much expense it ought not to have been made without an adequate cause; that no adequate cause, if the receipt of the present be excluded, can any where be found; that for the necessity of a great expense on such a visit, or indeed of any extraordinary expense at all, we have barely the assertion of the Governor-General, which being the assertion of a party making out a case in his own defence, and an assertion opposed to probability, possesses but little of the force of proof. Besides, the amount is enormous; 2000 rupees per day; 7,30,000 rupees, or 73,000l. per annum. What should have made living at Moorshedabad cost the Governor-General at the rate of 73,000l. per annum? And why should the Nabob, whose allowance was understood to be cut down to the lowest point, have been oppressed by so enormous a burden? Another consideration of importance is, that when Mr. Hastings received the sum of one lac and a half of rupees for entertainment money, he at the same time charged to the Company a large sum, book v.Chap. 2. 1776. 30,000 rupees and upwards, as travelling charges, and a great additional amount for his colleagues and attendants.1 The complaints of severe usage to the Begum, advanced both by herself and by Hastings, appear to have had no other foundation than the loss of her office; an office which the majority considered her sex as disqualifying her to fill; and to which they treated her appointment as one of the errors or crimes of the preceding administration.
Of the different charges, however, brought against the Governor-General, those which were produced by the Rajah Nuncomar were attended with the most remarkable circumstances. From this personage, whom we have seen Phouzdar of Hoogly, minister of the Nabob Jaffier Khan, the agent of Mr. Hastings in the prosecution of Mahomed Reza Khan, and whose son was appointed Duan of the household to the Nabob, which son it was regulated and ordained that he should guide, a paper was delivered on the 11th of March, which, beides accusing the Governor-General of overlooking the proof of vast embezzlements committed by Mahomed Reza Khan and Shitabroy, and of acquitting them in consideration of large sums of money by which he was bribed, exhibited the particulars of a sum amounting to 3,54,105 rupees, which, it affirmed, the Governor-General accepted, for the appointment of Munny Begum, and Goordass, to their respective dignities and powers. In prosecution of the opinion of the majority that it was the duty of the Supreme Council to inquire into the charges which were brought against the members of the government, and to control the conduct even of the highest officers of state, it was on the 13th proposed, that Nuncomar should be summoned to appear before them, and called uponbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. to produce the grounds of his accusation. Mr. Hastings, instead of choosing to confront his accuser, and to avail himself of the advantage of innocence, in hearing and challenging the pretences of a false accusation, resisted inquiry. “Before the question is put,” says his Minute, “I declare that I will not suffer Nuncomar to appear before the Board as my accuser. I know what belongs to the dignity and character of the first member of this administration. I will not sit at this Board in the character of a criminal. Nor do I acknowledge the members of this Board to be my judges. I am reduced on this occasion to make the declaration that I regard General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, as my accusers.” The Governor-General, with Mr. Barwell, again recommended prosecution at law, not inquiry before the Council, as the mode of investigating his conduct. Again he pronounced the Council dissolved, and, together with Mr. Barwell, quitted the Board. Again the majority voted this form of dissolution void, and continued the inquiry. Nuncomar made positive declaration as to the sums which he himself had paid to the Governor; gave in the names of several persons who were privy to the transactions; and presented a letter, in purport from Munny Begum to himself, of which the seal, upon comparison, by the Persian translator and his moonshee, was declared to be authentic; and in which a gift was stated of two lacs to the Governor from himself. Upon this evidence the Governor was called upon to refund to the Company the money which he had thus illegally received. But he refused to acknowledge the majority as a council, and returned no answer.
Nothing surely can be more inadmissible than the pretences of the Governor-General for stifling inquiry book v.Chap. 2. 1776. What he alleged was, the dignity of the accused, and the baseness of the accuser. If dignity in the accused be a sufficient objection to inquiry, the responsibility of the leading members of every government is immediately destroyed; all limitation of their power is ended; and all restraint upon misconduct is renounced. If the character of the accuser is bad, so much the greater is the advantage of the accused; because so much the more easy it is to counterbalance the evidence of his testimony. So great may be the improbability of a charge, and so little the value of an accuser’s testimony, that the first may outweigh the latter, and preclude the propriety of any further research. But where the case is in any degree different from this, the character of the informer is not a sufficient objection to inquiry. It is often from men of the worst character that the most important intelligence is most likely to be received; and it is only necessary in receiving it to make those abatements of belief which the character of the informant may appear to require. Perpetual reference to the courts of law, as the only place where inquiry into the conduct of an officer of government could fitly be made, merits the highest condemnation; because the conduct of a member of government may be evil to almost any degree, may involve his country in ruin, and yet may be incapable of being touched by courts of law, constituted and conducted as those of England. It is another species of superintendance and control which must ensure good conduct in those who are vested with great public trusts. In disclaiming the majority for his judges, the Governor availed himself of an ambiguity in the word. They did not undertake the office of judgment. They only held it their duty to inquire, for the benefit of those who might afterwards judge.
In this case, the Governor-General was not satisfiedbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. with crying out against inquiry. He took the extraordinary resolution of prosecuting with all the weight of his authority the man by whom he was accused. An indictment, at the instance of the Governor-General, of Mr. Barwell, of Mr. Vansittart, of Mr. Hastings’ Banyan, and of the Roy Royan or head native agent of finance, was preferred against Nuncomar, together with Messrs. Joseph and Francis Fowke, for a conspiracy to force a man named Commaul ad dien Khan, to write a petition against the parties to the prosecution. After an examination before the judges, Mr. Francis Fowke was discharged; and Mr. Barwell, the Roy Royan, and the Governor’s Banyan, withdrew their names from the prosecution. The Governor and Mr. Vansittart persevered; and Nuncomar and Mr. Joseph Fowke were held to bail at their instance. “The truth is, as we,” says the minute of Clavering, Monson, and Francis, on the 16th of May, “have reason to believe, that there never existed such a paper as has been sworn to; and that every particular said to be contained in it is an imposition invented by Commaul ad Dien.” A few days after this suspicious, but ineffectual proceeding, a new prosecution was instituted against Nuncomar. At the suit of a native, he was taken up on a charge of forgery, and committed to the common gaol. He was tried before the Supreme Court, by a jury of Englishmen, convicted, and hanged. No transaction perhaps of this whole administration more deeply tainted the reputation of Hastings than the tragedy of Nuncomar. At the moment when he stood forth as the accuser of the Governor-General, he was charged with a crime, alledged to have been committed five years before; tried, and executed; a proceeding which could not book v.Chap. 2. 1776. fail to generate the suspicion of guilt, and of an inability to encounter the weight of his testimony, in the man whose power to have prevented, or to have stopped (if he did not cause) the prosecution, it is not easy to deny. As Hastings, aware of the sinister interpretations to which the destruction of an accuser, in circumstances so extraordinary, would assuredly expose him, chose rather to sustain the weight of those suspicions, than to meet the charges by preventing or suspending the fate of the accuser; it is a fair inference, though mere resentment and spite might hurry some men to as great an indiscretion, that from the accusations he dreaded something worse than those suspicions. Mr. Francis, in his examination before the House of Commons, on the 16th of April, 1788, declared that the effect of this transaction upon the inquiries carried on by the Board into the accusations against the Governor, was, “to defeat them; that it impressed a general terror on the natives with respect to preferring accusations against men in great power; and that he and his coadjutors were unwilling to expose them to what appeared to him and these coadjutors, as well as themselves, a manifest danger.”
The severest censures were very generally passed upon this trial and execution; and it was afterwards exhibited as matter of impeachment against both Mr. Hastings, and the Judge who presided in the tribunal. The crime for which Nuncomar was made to suffer, was not a capital offence, by the laws of Hindustan, either Moslem or Hindu; and it was represented as a procedure full of cruelty and injustice, to render a people amenable to the most grievous severities of a law with which they were unacquainted, and from which, by their habits and associations, their minds were totally estranged. It was affirmed; That this atrocious condemnation and execution werebook v.Chap. 2. 1776. upon an ex post facto law, as the statute which created the Supreme Court and its powers was not published till 1774, and the date of the supposed forgery was in 1770: That the law which rendered forgery capital did not extend to India, as no English statute included the colonies, unless where it was expressly stated in the law: That Nuncomar, as a native Indian, for a crime committed against another Indian, not an Englishman, or even a European, was amenable to the native, not the English tribunals: That the evidence adduced was not sufficient to warrant condemnation: And that although the situation in which the prisoner was placed with regard to a man of so much power as the Governor-General should have suggested to the Judge peculiar circumspection and tenderness, there was every appearance of precipitation, and of a predetermination to find him guilty, and to cut him off. In the defence which was set up by Sir Elijah Impey, the Chief Judge, in his answer at the bar of the House of Commons on the 12th of December, 1787, he admitted that a native inhabitant of the provinces at large was not amenable to the English laws, or to the English tribunals: and it was not as such, he affirmed, that Nuncomar was tried. But he maintained that a native inhabitant of the English town of Calcutta, which was English property, which had long been governed by Englishmen, and English laws, was amenable to the English tribunals, and justly, because he made it his voluntary choice to live under their protection; and that it was in this capacity, namely that of an inhabitant of Calcutta, that Nuncomar suffered the penalties of the English laws. If the competency of the jurisdiction was admitted, the question of evidence, where evidence was complicated and contradictory, could not book v.Chap. 2. 1776. admit of any very clear and certain decision; and the Judge opposed the affirmation of its insufficiency by that of the contrary. He denied the doctrine that an English penal statute extended to the colonies, only when that extension was expressed. The allegation of precipitation and unfairness, still further of corruption, in the treatment of the accused, he not only denied with strong expressions of abhorrence, but by a specification of circumstances endeavoured to disprove. It was, however, affirmed, that Nuncomar was not an inhabitant of Calcutta at the time when the offence was said to have been committed; but a prisoner brought and detained there by constraint. The Chief Justice, on the other hand, maintained that not only was no evidence to this fact exhibited on the trial, but evidence to the contrary, and that not opposed. It does indeed appear that an omission, contrary to the intent of the framers, in the Charter of Justice granted the Company in 1753, had afforded a pretext for that extension of jurisdiction over the inhabitants of Calcutta, under which Impey sheltered himself. In establishing the civil court for the administration of the English laws, this charter expressly excepted “such suits as shall be between Indian natives, which shall be determined among themselves, unless both parties consent.” In establishing the penal court, the reservation of the natives, having once been expressed, was not repeated; and of this opening the servants of the Company had availed themselves, whenever they chose, to extend over the natives the penalties of English law. That the intention of the charter was contrary, appeared by its sanctioning a separate court, called the Phousdary, for the trial of all offences of the native inhabitants; a court which, under the intention of rendering natives as well as English amenable to the English criminal laws, would have been totally withoutbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. a purpose.1 Of the evidence it may fairly be observed, that though the forgery was completely proved by the oaths of the witnesses to the prosecution, it was as completely disproved by the oaths of the witnesses to the defence; that there was no such difference in the character of the parties or their witnesses as to throw the balance greatly to either of the sides; and that the preponderance, if any, was too weak, to support an act of so much importance and delicacy, as the condemnation of Nuncomar. Even after the judgment, the case was not without a remedy; the execution might have been staid till the pleasure of the King was known, and a pardon might have been obtained. This too the Court absolutely refused; and proceeded with unrelenting determination to the execution of Nuncomar; who, on the 5th of August, with a tranquillity and firmness that never were surpassed, submitted to his fate, not only amid the tears and lamentations, but the cries and shrieks of an extraordinary assemblage of his countrymen.
There was, perhaps, enough to save the authors of this transaction, on the rigid interpretation of naked law. But that all regard to decorum, to the character of the English government, to substantial justice, to the prevention of misrule, and the detection of ministerial crimes, was sacrificed to personal interests, and personal passions, the impartial inquirer cannot hesitate to pronounce.2
book v.Chap. 2. 1776. Among the regulations of the financial system, formed and adopted in 1772, under the authority of Mr. Hastings, the seventeenth article was expressed in the following words; “That no Peshcar, Banyan, or other servant of whatever denomination, of the collector, or relation or dependant of any such servant, be allowed to farm lands, nor directly or indirectly to hold a concern in any farm, nor to be security for any farmer; and if it shall appear, that the collector shall have countenanced, approved, or connived at a breach of this regulation, he shall stand ipso facto dismissed from his collectorship.” These regulations had the advantage of being accompanied with a running commentary, in a corresponding column of the very page which contained the text of the law; the commentary proceeding from the same authority as the law, and exhibiting the reasons on which it was founded. The commentary on the article in question, stated, that, “If the collector or any persons who partake of his authority, are permitted to be farmers of the country, no other persons will dare to be their competitors. Of course they will obtain the farms on their own terms. It is not fit that the servants of the Company should be dealers with their masters. The collectors are checks on the farmers. If they themselves turn farmers, what checks can be found for them? What security will the Company have for their property? Or where are the ryots to look for protection?”1 Notwithstandingbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. this law, it appeared that Mr. Hastings’s own Banyan had, in the year 1773, possessed, or was concerned in the farm of no less than nineteen pergunnahs, or districts, in different parts of Bengal, the united rent-roll of which was 13,33,664 rupees; that in 1774, the rent-roll of the territory so farmed was 13,46,152 rupees; in 1775, 13,67,796 rupees; that in 1776, it was 13,88,346 rupees; and in 1777, the last year of the existing or quinquennial settlement, it was 14,11,885 rupees. It also appeared that, at the end of the second year, he was allowed to relinquish three of the farms, on which there was an increasing rent. This proceeding was severely condemned by the Directors; and Mr. Hastings himself, beyond affirming that he had no share in the profits, and that little or none were made, alleged but little in its defence.2
For the affairs of the Nabob, and that part of the business of government, still transacted in his name, a substitute to Munny Begum, and to the plan superseded by her removal, was urgently required. In their letter of the 3d of March, 1775, the Directors had declared Mahomed Reza Khan to be so honourably cleared of the suspicions and charges with which he had been clouded, and Nuncomar to be so disgraced by his attempts to destroy him, that they directed his son, who was no more than the tool of the father, to be removed from his office; and Mahomed Reza Khan to be appointed in his stead. It is remarkable, that book v.Chap. 2. 1776. the Directors were so ignorant of the government of India, which it belonged to them to conduct, that they mistook the name of the office of Gourdass, who was the agent for paying the Nabob’s servants, and the substitute for Munny Begum, when any of the affairs was to be transacted to which the fiction of the Nabob’s authority was still applied, for that of the officer who was no more than the head of the native clerks in the office of revenue at Calcutta. When they directed Gourdass to be replaced by Mahomed Reza, they distinguished him by the title of Roy Royan; and thence enlarged the ground of cavil and dispute between the contending parties in the Council. Clavering, Francis, and Monson, decided for uniting in the hands of Mahomed Reza Khan the functions which had been divided between Munny Begum and Rajah Gourdass; and as Rajah Gourdass, notwithstanding the prejudices against his father, was recommended by the Directors to some inferior office, the same party proposed to make him Roy Royan, and to remove Rajah Bullub, the son of Dooloob Ram, by whom that office had hitherto been held.
As the penal department of justice was ill administered in the present Fousdary courts (that branch of the late arrangements had totally failed); and as the superintendance of criminal justice, entrusted to the Governor-General, as head of the Nizamut Adaulut, or Supreme Penal Court of Calcutta, loaded him with a weight of business, and of responsibility, from which he sought to be relieved, the majority agreed to restore to Mahomed Reza Khan, the superintendence of penal justice, and of the native penal courts throughout the country; and for that purpose to remove the seat of the Nizamut Adaulut from Calcutta back to Moorshedabad. The Governor-General agreed that the orders of the Directors required the removal of Gourdass from the office whichbook v.Chap. 2. 1776. he held under Munny Begum, and the appointment to that office of Mahomed Reza Khan; but he dissented from all the other parts of the proposed arrangement; and treated the renewal of the title of Naib Subah, and the affectation of still recognizing the Nabob’s government, as idle grimace. “All the arts of policy cannot,” he said, “conceal the power by which these provinces are ruled, nor can all the arts of sophistry avail to transfer the responsibility to the Nabob; when it is as visible as the light of the sun, that every act originates from our own government, that the Nabob is a mere pageant without the shadow of authority, and even his most consequential agents receive their express nomination from the servants of the Company.”1 The opposing party, however, thought it would be still political, to uphold the pretext of “a country government,” for managing all discussions with foreign factories. And if ultimately it should, they say, “be necessary to maintain the authority of the country government by force, the Nabob will call upon us for that assistance, which we are bound by treaty to afford him, and which may be effectually employed in his name.” That party possessed the majority of votes, and their schemes, of course, were carried into execution.2
end of vol. iii.
Minutes of Evidence on Mr. Hastings’ Trial, p. 966.
This is expressly stated by Hastings, and the Committee of Revenue, in their letter of the 3d of Nov. 1772, in the sixth Report of the Committee of Secrecy, in 1773.
Fifth Report of the Select Committee, 1810, p. 5.
The Committee of Circuit, in entering upon their task, remark a still more extraordinary failure in the sagacity of the Directors, who did not even foresee, that while their new resolution was totally inconsistent with their former regulations they gave no authority for abolishing them. “They have been pleased,” say the Committee, “to direct a total change of system, and have left the plan and execution of it to the discretion of the Board, without any formal repeal of the regulations which they had before framed and adapted to another system—the abolition of which necessarily includes that of its subsidiary institutions, unless they shall be found to coincide with the new.” Extract, Proceedings of the Committee of Circuit, dated Cossimbuzar, 28th July, 1772, inserted in the Sixth Report, Committee of Secrecy, 1773, p. 21.
These reasons are assigned in the Consultation 14th May, Report, ut supra.
The reason they assign for this change of title is worth transcribing. “The term ’Supervisor’ was properly suited to the original commission, which was to examine, inspect, and report. This office has been long since annulled; but we apprehend that the continuance of the name, and of many of the residents, in the same stations which they now fill as collectors, may have misled even our Honourable Masters, who were never regularly advised of the change, into the opinion that the first commission still subsisted.” So much for the care of instructing, and the accurate information of the Honourable Directors.
Consultation, 14th May, ut supra.
Extract of Proceedings, Sixth Report, ut supra. See also Sixth Report of the Select Committee of 1782, Appendix, No. i.; Colebrooke’s Supplement to Digest of Bengal Regulations, p. 174—190; and the Fifth Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, p. 4, 5.
For this sketch of the state of the administration of justice in Bengal, see the Seventh Report of the Committee of Secrecy in 1773.
Fifth Report, Committee 1810, p. 6. It would appear however, from Hastings’ Minute, 21st November, 1775 (Fifth Report of Committee of Secrecy in 1782, Appendix, No. clvii) that Hastings was averse to the entrusting of a native with the uncontrouled administration of criminal justice, and that it was the act of that hostile majority of the Council, by whom Mahomed Reza Khan was in 1775 raised to the office of Naib Nazim. It is necessary at the same time to state, that the gentlemen of the majority (see their letter of the same date, Ibid.) declare that previous to this measure of theirs, “the administration of criminal justice throughout the country was at a stand.”—It was at a stand, while under the superintendance of the English rulers: What was it likely to be, under a creature, without one atom of power, having the name of a Nabob?
Seventh Report, ut supra; General Regulations, dated 15th August, 1772; Colebrooke’s Supplement, p. 1; Fifth Report from the Select Committee on India Affairs, 1810, p. 6.
See the Letter, Minutes of Evidence on the Trial of Warren Hastings, Esq., p. 993.
Company’s Letter to their President and Council, dated 22nd February, 1764; Minutes, ut supra, p. 996.
Committee of Secrecy, 1781, Fifth Report, Appendix, No. iv.
Consultation, 11th July, 1772, Minutes of Evidence, ut supra, p. 972.
Comp. Consultation, 28th April, 1772, Minutes, ut supra, p. 972; and Consultation, 11th July, 1772, Ibid. p. 978, 994.
See the Letter, Minutes, ut supra, p. 974.
“Though we have not a doubt but that by the exertion of your abilities, and the care and assiduity of our servants in the superintendancy of the revenues, the collections will be conducted with more advantage to the Company, and ease to the natives, than by means of a Naib Duan; we are fully sensible of the expediency of supporting some ostensible minister in the Company’s interest at the Nabob’s court, to transact the political affairs of the Circar, and interpose between the Company and the subjects of any European power, in all cases wherein they may thwart our interest, or encroach on our authority.” Letter from the Court of Directors to the President and Council at Fort William, 28th August, 1771; Minutes, ut supra, p. 973.
“The Committee are fully sensible of the expediency remarked by the Honourable Court of Directors, of holding out the authority of the country government to the European powers, in all cases wherein their interests may interfere with those of the Company.” Consultation, 11th July, 1772, Minutes, ut supra, p. 978. Mr. Hastings in his letter, 24th March, 1774, seems to have questioned altogether the wisdom of clandestinity: “There can be but one government, and one power in this province. Even the pretensions of the Nabob may prove a source of great embarrassment, when he is of age to claim his release from the present state of pupillage which prevents his asserting them.” Ibid. p. 999.
Ibid. p. 978.
Consultation, 11th July, 1772, Minutes, ut supra, p. 978.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 979. It is curious enough that Hastings, in his letter to the Nabob, calls her “The rightful Head of his Family;” and tells him, that “She stands in the place of his deceased Father.” Ib. 980. In a private account to the Secret Committee of Directors, Mr. Hastings states other reasons: the first was, that she was “the declared enemy of Mahomed Reza Khan,” and that it was necessary, in order to obtain evidence of his guilt, to fill every department with the enemies of that prisoner, who was arrested without warning, and whose papers were secured. He adds, “the only man,” he says nothing of a woman, “who could pretend to such a trust was the Nabob Yeteram O’Dowla, the brother of Meer Jaffier; a man indeed of no dangerous abilities, nor apparent ambition, but the father of a numerous family; who, by his being brought so nigh to the Musnud, would have acquired a right of inheritance to the Subahship; and if only one of his sons, who are all in the prime of life, should have raised his hopes to the succession, it would have been in his power at any time to remove the single obstacle which the Nabob’s life opposed to advancement of the family. The guardian, at least, would have been the Nazim, while the minority lasted; and all the advantages which the Company may hope to derive from it, in the confirmation of their power, would have been lost, or could only have been maintained, by a contention hurtful to their rights, or by a violence yet more exceptionable. The case would be the same were any other man placed in that station. The truth is, that the affairs of the Company stand at present on a footing which can neither last as it is nor be maintained on the rigid principles of private justice: You must establish your own power, or you must hold it dependant on a superior, which I deem to be impossible.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 994: The President goes on, “These reasons will justify the nomination of a man to supply the place of the late Naib Soobah, who is known to be his most violent opponent, and most capable of opposing him. It is not pretended that these ends are to be obtained merely from the abilities of Rajah Gourdass; his youth and inexperience render him, although unexceptionable in other respects, inadequate to the real purposes of his appointment; but his father hath all the abilities, perseverance, and temper, requisite for such ends, in a degree, perhaps, exceeding any man in Bengal. These talents, heretofore, made him obnoxious to government itself, and therefore it might be thought unsafe to trust him with an authority so near the Nabob;….it is therefore proposed to confer it upon his son, who is of himself incapable of making a very bad use of it, and to allow of his acting under the influence and instruction of his father, who, holding no office under the Nabob, and being a subject of our government, may be removed without eclat, or the least appearance of violence, whenever he shall be proved, or even suspected, to abuse his trust.” Messrs. Dacres, Lawrel, and Graham, dissented from the President and the majority, and objected to the appointment of Rajah Goordass, “Because,” say they, “we esteem it, in effect, the appointment of Nundcomar, who, with respect to the various accusations against his political conduct, and the orders which have been in consequence received, stands in such a predicament as to preclude, in our opinion, an acquiescence in the President’s proposition.” Ib. 996. In his answer, the President vindicates the political conduct of Nundcomar, which he affirms to be without blemish, though he says he will “not take upon him to vindicate his moral character.” Ib. 996, 997.
Committee of Secrecy, 1781, Fifth Report, Appendix, No. iv.
For the above scenes, beside the documents already quoted, see Scott’s Hist. of Bengal, p. 453; and Seer Mutakhareen, ii. 418.
Francklin’s Shah Aulum, p. 36. In the Seer Mutakhareen the Vizir is said to have exerted himself to deter the Emperor. The truth is, he acted insidiously; in appearance dissuading the Emperor from the projected expedition, to keep fair with the English; secretly encouraging him to it, from the hopes of profiting, as he did, by this improvident adventure.
Scott (Aurungzebe’s Successors, p. 249) mentions ten lacs of rupees, without any other conditions or exactions.
Book iii. chap. iv.
This chief had impressed, both on Indians and Europeans, the highest opinion of his character. Mr. Verelst, giving an account of the surrounding powers, at the conclusion of his government, thus describes him. “As a man, and a prince, he is perhaps the only example in Hindostan of, at once, a great and good character. He raised himself from the command of fifty horse to his present grandeur, entirely by his superior valour, integrity, and strength of genius; and has maintained himself in it with universal applause, by a spirited and well-grounded system of policy. Experience and abilities have supplied the want of letters and education; and the native nobleness and goodness of his heart have amply made amends for the defect of his birth and family. He is a strict lover of justice, a most faithful subject to his Emperor; and has long been the sole defence and support of the royal family at Delhi. His wisdom and conduct were no where more manifest than in his transactions last year with the Shah Abdalla. He found himself obliged to join him, or expose his country to an immediate invasion, and therefore complied with the necessity; but, at the same time, so protracted their councils, and threw so many secret obstacles in the way of their designs, that, after several months, the Shah finding his troops mutiuous for want of pay or plunder, himself harassed by the Seiks, the heats begun, and the rains approaching, was obliged to return home with disgrace, and rest contented with a sum of money infinitely inferior to what his expedition had promised. Another man in such a situation would probably have lost his life or liberty; but Nujeeb ad Dowla, by his prudence, at once saved his dominions, and extricated himself. He is now about sixty years old, and his constitution much worn down by fatigue and sickness; so that it is probable he will soon be succeeded by his eldest son Zabita Khan, aged near thirty-five, who, to all his father’s virtues, joins the improvements of a liberal education.” Verelst to the Courts of Directors, March 28, 1768.
Of this, Mr. Verelst had left his decided conviction upon record. “There is something in the constitution of the Rohillas which must ever make them weak and inconsiderable as aggressors. Their government is divided into chiefships: but no one chief has singly troops or resources to enterprise a foreign war. When attacked, their national affection will unite, the common cause will animate them. A private contest will not rouse them; nor is it practicable to engage their voice on any other motive than the general safety.” Verelst, Appendix, No. 28.
For the preceding facts, see the Papers in the Appendix, No. 21 of the Fifth Report of the Committee of Secrecy in 1781.
This is distinctly asserted in a letter of Hafez Rhamet himself, addressed to the Gov. General; and it is too conformable to the state of the circumstances to be liable to any reasonable doubt. Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 19.
See Sir Robert Barker’s Letter, 23d March, 1773, Ibid. App. No. 18.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App No. 18.
Ibid. App. No. 12.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 19. See also his Minute, addressed to the New Government, Ibid. No. 45; and his Answer to the first of the Charges of Burke.
“I found him,” (says he, in his Appeal to the Directors, dated 3d Dec. 1774, Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 45,) “still equally bent on the design of reducing the Robillas, which I encouraged, as I had done before, by dwelling on the advantages which he would derive from its success.”
Appeal, ut supra.
See the official letters of Sir Robert Barker, who commanded the British forces upon the spot, Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 18. He condemned the assistance given to the destruction of the Rohillas, but less on the score of justice, than expediency. See his Minute, ut supra, App. No. 23. The Rohillas, among other reasons, alleged with truth, that merely driving the Mahrattas across the river was no deliverance, as they would return the very next campaign. See Barker’s Evidence, in Minutes of Evidence before the House of Commons, May 2d, 1786. Sir Robert was asked; “Were the Mahrattas in fact prevented from invading the Rohillas, by any acts of Sujah Dowla, or by his protection of that country?—No.”
Appeal, ut supra. This is a contradiction to his former assertion, that the acquisition of the Rohilla country made his territories more defensible. True. But having a bad cause to defend, his apology is full of contradictions. There can be no doubt that the Rohillas, whose troops were among the best and bravest of Hindustan, were a barrier against the Mahrattas. But the desire of territory and plunder blinded the Vizir; that of money, the Governor.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 19.
Hastings’ Report, App. No. 19, ut supra; Letter of 17th June, 1744, App. No. 25.
Francklin’s Shah Aulum, p. 54. Letter of Col. Champion; Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 45; and the treaty itself, App. No. 27. Scott’s Aurungzebe’s Successors, p. 259, 260.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App. Nos. 22, 23, 24, 25.
Letter of Col. Champion to the Hon. Warren Hastings, &c. 24th April, 1774; Fifth report, ut supra, App. No. 26.
“The inhumanity and dishonour,” says Col. Champion, in his letter of June 12, 1774, “with which the late proprietors of this country and their families have been used, is known all over these parts; a relation of them would swell this letter to an immense size. I could not help compassionating such unparalleled misery; and my requests to the Vizir to show lenity were frequent, but as fruitless as even those advices which I almost hourly gave him, regarding the destruction of the villages, with respect to which I am now constrained to declare, that though he always promised as fairly as I could wish, yet he did not observe one of his promises, nor cease to overspread the country with flames, till three days after the fate of Hafez Rhamet was decided.”—In another letter he says, “Above a lack of people have deserted their abodes in consequence of the defeat of Hafez.” Ibid. App. No. 27. In another, “The whole army were witnesses of scenes that cannot be described.” That the President was perfectly aware of the designs of the Vizir, before his engagement to assist in them, sufficiently appears from his own letter to that chief, dated the 22d of April, 1773. “I have received,” says he, “your Excellency’s letter, mentioning…. that if, should the Rohillas be guilty of a breach of their agreement [viz. about the forty lacs], we will thoroughly exterminate them, and settle your Excellency in the country, you will in that case pay the Company fifty lacs of rupees, and exempt them from the King’s tribute.” Ibid. App. No. 21. In the nabob’s own letter to the President, of the 18th November, 1773, he says, “During our interview at Benares, it was agreed that I should pay, &c…. and that I should, with the assistance of the English forces, endeavour to punish and exterminate the Rohillas out of their country.” Ibid. App. No. 22. Mr. Hastings only admits the atrocities in part, and then defends them in a curious manner; that is to say, not only by the example of Indian barbarity in general, but by the example of British barbarity, on the subjects of the Vizir. “I believe it to be a truth,” says he, “that he [the Vizir] begun by sending detachments to plunder. This I pronounce to have been both barbarous and impolitic. But too much justified by the practice of war established among all the nations of the East; and I am sorry to add by our own; in an instance (which the Vizir has a right to quote in vindication of the charge against him), of a detachment employed in the war in which we were engaged with him in the year 1764 to burn and ravage his country.” He then quotes a letter from Major Champion, who commanded the detachment, which says, “Two separate parties have been sent into the enemy’s country, the one of which was as high up as Buxar, and (according to the directions given me) there are destroyed upwards of a thousand villages. Had not the rains, &c. prevented, we should have done very considerably more damage.” Minute of the Governor-General, dated 10th Jan. 1775, in the Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 45.
App. No. 45, ut supra.
Letter of 23d May, and 14th July, App. ut supra, No. 27.
See the correspondence, Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 27, and Col. Champion’s long defensive letter, Ibid. App. No. 45. See also No. 28, of the Bengal Treaties, in the Collection of Treaties, &c. with the native Princes, printed in 1812. Rampore, and some dependent districts, formed the territory bestowed upon Fyzoolla Khan.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No 12.
Company’s Letter to Bengal, 3d March, 1775, Ibid. App. No. 46.
Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 37, and App. No. 43.
Memoirs relative to the state of India, by Warren Hastings, Esq p. 21.
Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 7 and 35.
Ibid. p. 8.
Ibid. p. 35.
Ibid. p. 8.
Ibid. p. 35.
Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 41.
The Directors not only condemned the retention of the correspondence, and sent repeated orders for its disclosure, which were never obeyed; but arraigned the very principle of a private agent. “The conduct of our late Council,” say they, “in empowering the President to prepare instructions for Mr. Middleton as agent at the court of Sujah Dowla, without ordering them to be submitted to the Board for their inspection and approbation, was very improper. And it is our express direction, that no such independent or separate authority be ever delegated, to any Governor, or Member of Council, or to any other person whatsoever; but that all instructions to public agents be laid before the Council, and signed by a majority of the Members, before they be carried into execution.” Letter to Bengal, 15th December, 1775, Fifth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 46.
On the supposition of the injustice of the Rohilla war, these forty lacs ought to have been paid not to the Company, but to the sufferers: Sujah Dowla ought to have been compelled to restore the unhappy refugees to their homes; and to make compensation. But neither the party, who now possessed all the powers of government, though they reprobated the Rohilla war, nor the Court of Directors, though they solemnly condemned it, ever uttered a wish for the restoration of the expatriated and plundered Rohillas; for a farthing of compensation for their loss, or alleviation to their miseries, either out of their own revenues, or those of the Vizir. The cry about justice, therefore, was a cheap virtue to them; and they were so much the less excusable than the Vizir and Mr. Hastings, that these actors in the scene denied its injustice, and were consistent: the Directors, and the condemning party, were inconsistent; if conscious of that inconsistence, hypocritical; if not conscious, blind.
See the Documents in the Appendix, Nos. 44, 45, and 46 of the Fifth Report, ut supra. They are also to be found in the Minutes of Evidence, exhibited to the House of Commons on the Oude charge; and once more in the Minutes of the Evidence exhibited on the trial of Mr. Hastings in Westminster Hall.
Fifth Report, ut supra, with Appendix, No. 44 and 45.
See the Exposé Statistique du Tunkin, published in London, in 1811, from the papers of M. de la Bissachere, a French Missionary, who had spent twenty-six years in the country.
See Fifth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 35.
To the documents adduced in the Fifth Report, ut supra, add the anecdotes related by a man who had access to the conversation of the best informed of his countrymen, Mr. James Forbes, in his Oriental Memoirs, the fifteenth and two subsequent chapters.
Fifth Report, Appendix, No. 47.
Fifth Report, p. 60. Extract of a general Letter, dated 31st March, 1769.
Surat was still governed nominally by a Mogul Nabob, who was however now, in a great measure, dependant upon the Company.
Vide supra, p. 531.
Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 69.
Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, ii. 32.
Mr. Forbes, who was private secretary to the commanding officer of the British detachment, gives us, though less of the campaign than of other objects, our best particulars, in the chapters xvi. to xx. of his Oriental Memoirs.
Fifth Report, App. No. 54. They, notwithstanding, failed not to approve of the acquisition when made. See p. 550, below.
The ignorance respecting the Mahrattas, of the Supreme Council, at this time, even of Mr. Hastings, not to speak of Mr. Francis and his party is very conspicuous in the Minutes of their consultations.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 102.
Ibid. No. 105.
See Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 24–29, and 60–88, with the corresponding articles in the Appendix.
Fifth Report, ut supra, App. No. 137. Compare p. 541, above.
Report, ut supra, p. 97, 98, and App. No. [Editor: Illegible Number], 168. Also Scott’s Aurungzebe’s Successors, p. 249–267.
Wherein lay the difference between this case, and that of Mahomed Reza Khan, and the Rajah Shitabroy?
Another contrast to the case of Mahomed Reza Khan.
See Defence of Mr. Hastings at the Bar of the Lords.
Minutes of Evidence on the Trial, p. 1048.
Accordingly this jurisdiction had hitherto been exercised with great timidity; and the consent of the government was always asked before the sentence was executed. In one case, and but one, there had been a conviction for forgery, but the prisoner was not executed—he received a pardon. See the Seventh Report of the Committee of Secrecy, in 1773, p. 17.
For the preceding charges against Mr. Hastings, and the proceedings of the Council, see the Eleventh Report of the Select Committee, in 1781, with its Appendix; Burke’s Charges against Hastings, No. 8, and Hastings’s Answer to the Eighth Charge, with the Minutes of Evidence on the Trial, p. 953–1001; and the Charges against Sir Elijah Impey, exhibited to the House of Commons by Sir Gilbert Elliot, in 1787, with the Speech of Impey in reply to the first charge, printed, with an Appendix, by Stockdale, in 1788. For the execution and behaviour of Nuncomar, see a very interesting account, written by the sheriff who superintended, and printed in Dodsley’s Annual Register for 1788, Historical part, p. 157.
Sixth Report of the Committee of Secrecy, in 1773; Bengal Consultations, 14th May, 1772, p. 18.
Extract of Bengal Revenue Consultations, 17th March, 1775; Parliamentary Papers, printed in 1787; see also the Fifteenth of the Charges exhibited to Parliament against Warren Hastings, Esq. and his Answer to the same.
How strange a language this from the pen of the man, who, but a few months before, had represented the power of the shadow of this shadow, the Naib Subah, as too great to exist with safety to the Company in the hands of any man !
Fifth Report of the Select Committee in 1781; and the Bengal Consultations in the Appendix, No. 6.