Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III. - The History of British India, vol. 4
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CHAP. III. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 4 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 4.
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Deliberations on a new Plan for collecting the Revenue, and administering Justice—Death of Culonel Monson, and recovery by Mr. Hastings of the governing Power—Plan by Mr. Hastings, for inquiring into the Sources of Revenue—The taxes levied by annual Settlements—Resignation of Hastings, tendered by an Agent, whom he disowns—Transactions of Mr. Hastings, in the Cases of Mr. Middleton, Mr. Fowke, and Munny Begum—The Directors, ordering the Transactions to be reversed, are disobeyed—Relations with the Mahrattas—A Detachment of the Bengal Army sent across India to Surat—Expedition from Bombay against Poona—Unsuccessful—Fruitless Negotiation with the Mahrattas—Goddard’s Campaign against the Mahrattas—Connexion with the Ranna of Gohud—Mr. Francis fights a Duel with Mr. Hastings, and returns to Europe.
BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1775.The state of the regulations for collecting the revenue had for some time pressed upon the attention of the government. The lease of five years, on which the revenues had been farmed in 1772, was drawing to a close, and it was necessary to determine what course should then be pursued. To remedy evils, which delayed not to make themselves perceived, in the regulations of 1772, a considerable change had been introduced in 1773: The superintendence of the collectors was abolished: The provinces (Chittagong and Tipperah remaining under the original sort of management, that of a chief) were formed into six grand divisions, Calcutta, Burdwan, Moorshedabad, Dinagepore, Dacca, and Patna: In each of these divisions (Calcutta excepted, for which two members of the council and three superior servants, under the name of a committee of revenue, were appointed) a council was formed, consisting of a chief, and four senior servants, to whom powers were confided, the same, in general, with those formerly enjoyed by the collectors: They exercised a command over all the officers and affairs of revenue, within the division: The members superintended in rotation the civil courts of justice, called Sudder Adaulut: The councils appointed deputies, or naibs, to the subordinate districts of the division: These naibs, who were natives, and called also aumils, both superintended the work of realizing the revenue, and held courts of fiscal judicature, called courts of Duanee Adaulut: The decisions of these courts were subject by appeal to the review of the provincial courts of Sudder Adaulut; which decided in the last resort to the value of 1000 rupees, but under appealBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1775. to the Court of Sudder Duanee Adaulut at Calcutta, in all cases which exceeded that amount. Even this scheme was declared to be only intermediate, and preparatory to an ultimate measure, according to which, while the local management, except in those districts which might be let entire to the Zemindars or responsible farmers, should be performed by a duan, or aumil, a committee of revenue, sitting at the Presidency, should form a grand revenue office, and superintend the whole collections of the country.1 Such were the alterations adopted in 1773.
At an early period, under the five years’ settlement, it was perceived, that the farmers of the revenue had contracted for more than they were able to pay. The collections fell short of the engagements even for the first year; and the farms had been let upon a progressive rent. The Governor-General was now accused by his colleagues of having deceived his honourable masters by holding up to their hopes a revenue which could not be obtained. He defended himself by a plea which had, it cannot be denied, considerable weight: It was natural to suppose, that the natives were acquainted with the value of the lands, and other sources of the revenue; and that a regard to their own interests would prevent them from engaging for more than those sources would afford. It was contended with no less justice on the other side, that there was a class of persons who had nothing to lose; to whom the handling of the revenues, and power over those who paid them, though for a single year, was an object of desire; and whom, as they had no intention to pay what they promised, the extent of the promise could not restrain.
BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1775.The failure of exaggerated hopes was not the only evil whereof the farm by auction was accused. The Zemindars; through whose agency the revenues of the district had formerly been realized, and whose office and authority had generally grown into hereditary possessions, comprising both an estate and a magistracy, or even a species of sovereignty, when the territory and jurisdiction were large; were either thrown out of their possessions; or, from an ambition to hold the situation which had given opulence and rank to their families, perhaps for generations, they bid for the taxes more than the taxes could enable them to pay; and reduced themselves by the bargain to poverty and ruin. When the revenues were farmed to the Zemindars, these contractors were induced to turn upon the ryots, and others from whom their collections were levied, the same rack which was applied to themselves. When they were farmed to the new adventurer, who looked only to a temporary profit, and who had no interest in the permanent prosperity of a people with whom he had no permanent connexion, every species of exaction to which no punishment was attached, or of which the punishment could by artifice be evaded, was to him a fountain of gain.
After several acrimonious debates, the Governor-general proposed that the separate opinions of the Members of the Council, on the most eligible plan for levying the taxes of the country, should be sent to the Court of Directors. And on the 28th of March, 1775, a draught, signed by him and Mr. Barwell, was prepared for transmission. The leading principle of this project was; that the several districts should be farmed on leases for life, or for two joint lives, allowing a preference to the Zemindar, as often as his offer was not greatly inferior either to that of other candidates, or the real value of the taxes to be let. The planBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776. of the other Members of the Council was not yet prepared. They contented themselves with some severe reflections upon the imperfections of the existing system, an exaggerated representation of the evils which it was calculated to produce,1 and an expression of the greatest astonishment at the inconsistency of the Governor-General, in praising and defending that system, while he yet recommended another, by which it would be wholly suppressed.
On the 22d of January, 1776, Mr. Francis entered a voluminous minute, in which he took occasion to record at length his opinions respecting the ancient government of the country, and the means of ensuring its future prosperity. Of the measures which he recommended, a plan for realizing the revenue constituted the greatest and most remarkable portion. Without much concern about the production of proof, he assumed as a basis two things; first, that the opinion was erroneous, which ascribed to the Sovereign the property of the land; and secondly, that the property in question belonged to the Zemindars. Upon the Zimindars, as proprietors, he accordingly proposed that a certain land-tax should be levied; that it should be fixed once for all; and held as perpetual and invariable.
This was the principle and essence of his plan; and the reasonings by which he supported it were the common reasonings which prove the benefit of certainty in levying contributions for the use of the state. But Mr. Francis misapplied a common term. By certainty, in matters of taxation, is not meant BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776.security for ever against increase of taxation. Taxes may be in the highest degree certain, and yet liable to be increased at the will of the legislature. For certainty it is enough, that under any existing enactment of the legislature, the sum which every man has to pay should depend upon definite, cognoscible circumstances. The window-tax, for example, is a certain tax; though it may be increased or diminished, not only at the pleasure of the legislature; but by altering the number of his windows at the pleasure of the individual who pays it. By the common reasonings to prove the advantages of certainty in taxes, Mr. Francis, therefore, proved nothing at all against the power of increasing them. The sacred duty of keeping taxation in general within the narrowest possible limits, rests upon equally strong, but very different grounds.
Into the subordinate arrangements of the scheme, it belongs not to the present purpose to enter. It is only necessary to state, that Mr. Francis proposed to protect the ryots from the arbitrary exactions of the Zemindars, by prescribed forms of leases, in India known by the name of pottahs; that he condemned the provincial councils, and recommended local supervisors, to superintend, for a time, the executive as well as judicial business of the collections; a business, which, by the arrangements made with the Zemindars and the ryots, he trusted would in a great measure soon perform itself. On opium and salt, of which the monopoly had generally been disposed of by contract, he proposed that government should content itself with a duty; and terminate a large amount of existing oppressions by giving freedom to the trade.1
That the regulations which had been adopted forBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776. the administration of justice among the natives were extremely defective, all parties admitted and complained. That robbery and other crimes so greatly prevailed, was owing, in the opinion of Mr. Francis, to the reduction of the authority of the Zemindars. These officers had formerly exercised a penal control, which Mr. Francis maintained was fully judicial; which had reference, as Mr. Hastings affirmed, to nothing but police. As a cure for the existing disorders, Mr. Francis recommended the restoration of their ancient powers to the Zemindars, who, in the case of robbery and theft, were obliged, under the ancient government, to make compensation to the party wronged; and in the case of murders and riots, were liable to severe mulcts at the hand of government. Mr. Hastings, who judged more wisely what effects zemindary jurisdiction had produced, or was likely to produce, treated this as a remedy which was far from adequate to the disease. In conjunction with Sir Elijah Impey, he formed the draught of a bill for an act of parliament, on the subject of the civil judicature of Bengal. It was communicated to the Council on the 29th of May. In this plan of the Chief Governor and Chief Judge, it was proposed, that in each of the seven divisions, into which, including Chittagong, the country had been already distributed, two courts of record should be established; that one should be denominated “The Court of Provincial Council;” that it should in each instance consist of a President and three Councillors, chosen by the Governor-General and Council, among the senior BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776.servants of the Company; and have summary jurisdiction in all pecuniary suits which regarded the Company, either directly, or through the medium of any person indebted to them or employed in their service; that the other of these courts should be called the Adaulut Dewanny Zillajaut; should consist of one judge, chosen, for his knowledge in the language and constitutions of the country, by the Governor and Council, from among the senior servants of the Company; and should have jurisdiction in cases of trespass or damage, rents, debts, and in general of all pleas real, personal, or mixed, belonging to parties different from those included in the jurisdiction of the Courts of Provincial Council. In this draught no provision was made for the criminal branch of judicature among the natives, which had been remitted to the nominal government of the Nabob, and exercised under the superintendence of Mahomed Reza Khan.1
Early in November, 1776, Colonel Monson died; and as there remained in the Council after that event, only the Governor-General and Mr. Barwell on the one part, with General Clavering and Mr. Francis on the other, the casting vote of the Governor-General turned the balance on his side, and restored to him the direction of government.
In the consultation of the 1st of November he had entered a minute, in which he proposed, as a foundation for new-modelling the plan of collection, that an investigation should be instituted for ascertaining the actual state of the sources of revenue, particularly of that great and principal source, the lands. As the mode of letting by auction, which had produced inconvenience, was meant to be discontinued, and theBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776. mode of letting by valuation to be adopted in its stead, the Governor-General was of opinion, that as accurate a knowledge as possible of the subject of valuation ought first to be obtained. He proposed that this inquiry should be assigned as an exclusive duty to particular agents; that two covenanted servants of the Company should be chosen, with an adequate appointment of native officers; and that their business should be to collect the accounts of the Zemindars, the farmers, and ryots, to obtain such information as the Provincial Councils could impart; to depute, when expedient, native officers, into the districts for the purpose of inquiry; and to arrange and digest the accumulated materials. The use of this knowledge would be to assess the lands in proportion to their value, and to protect the ryots, by equitable agreements, or pottahs, imposed upon the Zemindars. The Governor-General finally proposed, for the sake as he said of dispatch, that all orders issued from the office, in execution of such measures as had received the sanction of the Board, should be written in his name; and that the control of the office should be confided to his care.
As every proposal made by the Governor-General was an object of attack to the opposite side of the Board, this measure introduced as usual a long train of debate and altercation. Mr. Francis objected, 1. That the inquiry proposed was altogether useless; as a rate of impost, extracting from the lands their utmost value, would be cruel to the people, and ruinous to the state; while, under a moderate assessment, disproportion between the rate and the value was worthy of little regard; 2. That if an accurate valuation were useful, it ought to have been obtained through the Committee of Circuit; by whom the BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776.lands were let at auction, for the professed purpose of ascertaining their highest value; 3. That the inquiry would be unavailing, because the Zemindars, farmers, and ryots would not give true accounts; 4. That if real accounts were capable of being obtained, they would be so voluminous, intricate, and defective, as to preclude the possibility of drawing from them any accurate conclusion; 5. That a valuation of land, if accurately obtained, is only true for one particular year, not for any future one; and 6. That with regard to the ryots, while the proposed pottahs were ill-calculated to afford them protection, the interest of the Zemindars, if their lands were restored under a moderate and invariable tax, would yield the best security to the husbandman, from whose exertions the value of the land arose. A furious minute was entered by General Clavering, in which he arraigned the measure as an attempt to wrest from the Council “the ordering, management, and government of the territorial acquisitions,” and as an illegal usurpation of the powers that were vested exclusively in the Board. This accusation was founded upon the proposal about the letters and the control of the office. And it is remarkable, that, knowing the jealousy with which any proposal of a new power to himself would be viewed by the hostile party, and the imputations to which it would give birth, the Governor-General should have embarrassed his scheme with a condition, invidious, and not essential to its execution. That the objections were frivolous or invalid, it is easy to perceive. Though the inequalities of some taxes redress themselves in time, it is a mischievous notion that inequality in the imposing of taxes is not an evil: Every inequality in the case of a new imposition, is an act of oppression and injustice: And Hastings shewed that in the case of India, where the land-holder paid nine-tenths of the produce of the land toBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1776. government, inequality might produce the most cruel oppression. If the Committee of Circuit had fallen short of procuring an accurate knowledge of the sources of the revenue, that could be no reason why better information should not be obtained. Though it was acknowledged, that inquiry would be difficult, and its results defective, it is never to be admitted that, where perfect knowledge cannot be obtained, knowledge, though imperfect, is of no advantage. If it were allowed, as it was not, that the interest of the Zemindars would have been such, upon the plan of Mr. Francis, as Mr. Francis supposed; it is not true that men will be governed by their real interests, where it is certain that they are incapable of understanding those interests; where those interests are distant and speak only to the judgment, while they are opposed by others that operate immediately upon the passions and the senses. As the Governor-General had not proposed that letters from the office issued in his name should relate to any thing but services which had received the sanction of the Council, he insisted that they no more implied an usurpation of the powers of the Council than the letters written in his own name, in the discharge of his function, by any officer who was vested with a trust. The pernicious purposes to which it was in vague and general terms affirmed that such a power might be converted, it is not easy to understand. And the odium which it was attempted to cast upon the inquiry, by representing it as a preparation for exacting the utmost possible revenue from the lands, and dispossessing the Zemindars, Hastings answered, and sufficiently, by a solemn declaration, that no such intention was entertained.
By the ascendancy, now restored to the Governor-General, BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777.the office was established. Orders were transmitted to the Provincial Councils; and native officers, called aumeens, were sent to collect accounts, and to obtain information in the districts. The first incidents which occurred were complaints against those aumeens, for injurious treatment of the inhabitants; and the opposing party were careful to place these accusations in the strongest possible light. From the aumeens, on the other hand, accounts arrived of frequent refusal on the part of the Zemindarry agents, and others, to afford information; or even to show their accounts.
The five-years’ leases expired in April, 1777; and the month of July of that year had arrived before any plan for the current and future years had yet been determined. By acknowledgement of all parties, the country had been so grievously over-taxed, as to have been altogether unable to carry up its payments to the level of the taxation. According to the statement of the Accountant-General, dated the 12th of July, 1777, the remissions upon the five-years’ leases amounted to 118 lacs 79,576 rupees; and the balances, of which the greater part were wholly irrecoverable, amounted to 129 lacs 26,910 rupees. In his minute, on the office of inquiry, Mr. Barwell expressly declared that the “impoverished state of the country loudly pleaded for a reduction of the revenue, as absolutely requisite for its future welfare.”1 In the mean time dispatches arrived, by which it was declared, that the Court of Directors, after considering the plans, both that of the Governor-General for letting the lands on leases for lives, and that of Mr. FrancisBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777. for establishing a fixed, invariable rent, “did, for many weighty reasons, think it not then adviseable to adopt either of those modes,” but directed that the lands should be let for one year on the most advantageous terms; that the way of auction, however, should no more be used; that a preference should always be given to natives resident on the spot; and that no European, or the banyan of any European, should have any share in farming the revenues. On the 15th of July it was determined that the following plan should be adopted for the year; that the lands should be offered to the old Zemindars on the rent-roll or assessment of the last year, or upon a new estimate formed by the Provincial Council; that for such lands as should not in this manner find a renter, the Provincial Councils should receive sealed proposals by advertisement; that the salt farms should be let upon sealed proposals, a preference being given to the Zemindar or farmer of the lands on which the salt was made; that security should not be asked of the Zemindars, but a part of their lands be sold to discharge their balances. Mr. Francis objected to the rent-roll of last year as too high; and Mr. Hastings admitted the justice of the observation with regard to a part of the lands, where abatement would be required; but thought it good, in the first instance, to try in how many cases the high rent, for which persons were found to engage, would be regarded as not more than the taxes would enable them to pay. Instead of sealed proposals, which he justly denominated a virtual auction, Mr. Francis recommended a settlement by the Provincial Councils. And he wished the manufacture of salt to be left to the holder or renter of the lands where it was made; the government requiring nothing but a duty. With BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777.these proposals the Governor-General signified no disposition to comply; but, after fresh commands from England, the average of the collections of the three preceding years was made the basis of the new engagements.
In their letter of the 4th of July, 1777, the Directors made the following severe reflections on the institution of the Office of inquiry, and the separate authority which the Governor-General had taken to himself. “Our surprise and concern were great on finding by our Governor-General’s minute of 1st November, 1776, that after more than seven years’ investigation, information is still so incomplete, as to render another innovation, still more extraordinary than any of the former, absolutely necessary in order to the formation of a new settlement. In 1769, supervisors were appointed professedly to investigate the subject: In 1770, controlling councils of revenue were instituted: In 1772, the office of Naib Duan was abolished, natives were discarded, and a Committee of Circuit formed, who, we were told, precisely and distinctly ascertained what was necessary to be known: And now, in 1777, two junior servants, with the assistance of a few natives, are employed to collect and digest materials, which have already undergone the collection, inspection, and revision, of so many of our servants of all denominations.—We should have hoped, that when you knew our sentiments respecting the conduct of our late administration, in delegating separate powers to their President, it would have been sufficient to prevent us further trouble on such occasions; but, to our concern, we find, that no sooner was our Council reduced, by the death of Colonel Monson, to a number which rendered the President’s casting vote of consequence to him, than he exercised it to invest himself with an improper degree of power in the businessBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777. of the revenue, which he could never have expected from other authority.”1
The same mode of settlement was renewed from year to year, till 1781; when a plan destined for permanence was adopted and employed.2
When Mr. Hastings was in the deepest depression, under the ascendancy of his opponents, a gentleman, of the name of Maclean, departed for England, and was entrusted with a variety of confidential affairs, as the private agent of the Governor-General. For the measures adopted against the Rohillas, Hastings had been censured by the Courts of both Directors and Proprietors: And the Court of Directors had resolved to address the King for his removal. Upon this severe procedure, a Court of Proprietors was again convened; a majority of whom appeared averse to carry the condemnation to so great an extent; and voted, that the resolution of the Directors should be reconsidered. The business remained in suspense for some months, when Mr. Maclean informed the Court of Directors, that he was empowered to tender the resignation of Mr. Hastings. If he resigned, a mere majority of the Proprietors, who appeared to be on his side, could restore him to the service. If he was dismissed, a mere majority would not be sufficient. In the letters by which the authority of Mr. Maclean was conveyed, confidential communications upon other subjects were contained. On this account he represented the impossibility of his imparting them openly to the Court; but proposed, if they would appoint a confidential Committee of BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777.Directors, to communicate to them what was necessary for their satisfaction. The Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and another Director were named. They reported, that they had seen Mr. Hastings’s instructions in his own hand-writing; and that the authority of Mr. Maclean, for the proposed proceeding, was clear and sufficient. Mr. Vansittart, and Mr. Stewart, both in the intimate friendship and confidence of Mr. Hastings, gave evidence, that directions, perfectly correspondent to this written authority, had been given in their presence. The two Chairmen alone concurred in the report. The third Director regarded not the authority as sufficiently proved. The directors proceeded upon the report: The resignation was formally accepted: And a successor to Mr. Hastings was chosen. Mr. Wheler was named; presented to the King for his approbation; and accepted. General Clavering, as senior Member of the Council, was empowered to occupy the chair till Mr. Wheler should arrive. And on the 19th of June, 1777, intelligence of these proceedings was received in Bengal.
A scene of confusion, well calculated to produce the most fatal consequences, ensued. Mr. Hastings, who now possessed the power of the Council, refused to acknowledge the authority of his agent; and declared his resolution not to resign. General Clavering claimed the attributes of supremacy; and summoned the Members of Council to assemble under his auspices. Mr. Barwell attended upon the summons of the one, and Mr. Francis upon that of the other; and two parties, each claiming the supreme authority, were now seen in action one against the other. An appeal to arms appeared, in these circumstances, the only medium of decision; and Mr. Hastings showed his resolution to stand the result. The other party, it is probable, felt their influence inferior to his. AtBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777. any rate they declined the desperate extremity of a civil war; and finally offered to abide the award of the Supreme Court. The judges decided that Mr. Hastings had not vacated his office. This transaction was afterwards made the subject of a charge against him by those who moved for his impeachment; but he accused the Directors of rashness and injustice, in taking such important steps upon evidence which he affirmed would have been held, in a court of justice, insufficient to maintain a decision for the transference of an article of property of the smallest amount.1
The power recovered by the Governor-General, and thus strenuously retained, was exhibited in other triumphs, of slender importance. One of the first mortifications to which he had been subjected upon the arrival of the hostile councillors, was the recall of his agent, Mr. Middleton, from the office of resident with the Nabob of Oude. It was now his time to retort the humiliation; and on the 2d of December, 1776, he moved in Council, “that Mr. Bristow should be recalled from the court of the Nabob of Oude, and that Mr. Middleton be restored to the office of resident.” So far from imputing any blame to Mr. Bristow, the Governor-General acknowledged that he had commanded his esteem. As the ground of his proceeding, he stated, that Mr. Middleton had been removed from his office without allegation of fault; that he had a greater confidence in Mr. Middleton than in Mr. Bristow, and as the responsibility was laid upon him, it was but just that his agents should be chosen by himself. The measure BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777.was vehemently opposed by General Clavering and Mr. Francis; the usual violence of altercation ensued; Mr. Middleton was appointed, and Mr. Bristow recalled.
The part taken by Mr. Joseph Fowke in bringing forward the facts, whence imputations had been drawn upon the Governor-General himself, had excited a resentment, which, having formerly appeared only in bitter and contemptuous expressions, was now made manifest in acts. The son of that gentleman, Mr. Francis Fowke, had, on the 16th of August, 1775, been appointed by the Council, against the voice of the Governor-General, to proceed on a species of embassy to the new dependant of the Company, the Rajah of Benares. On the same day on which the Governor-General moved for the recall of Mr. Bristow, he moved for that of Mr. Francis Fowke, which also, after strong opposition, was carried by his own casting vote. Mr. Fowke was recalled, and his commission annulled, on the express declaration, that “the purposes thereof had been accomplished:” On the 22d of the same month, a letter of the Governor-General and Council was written to the Court of Directors, in which the recall of Mr. Fowke was reported, and in which it was stated that the commission with which he had been invested was annulled, because the purposes for which it had been created were “fully accomplished:” On the very day after the date of this dispatch, the Governor-General moved in Council, and whatever he moved was sure of acceptance, that a civil servant of the Company, with an assistant, should be appointed to reside at Benares!
Upon both of these transactions, the Directors pronounced condemnation. In their general letter to Bengal of the 4th of July, 1777, they say, “Upon the most careful perusal of your proceedings of theBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1777. 2d of December, 1776, relative to the recall of Mr. Bristow from the court of the Nabob of Oude, and the appointment of Mr. Nathaniel Middleton to that station, we must declare our strongest disapprobation of the whole of that transaction. And therefore direct, that Mr. Bristow do forthwith return to his station of resident at Oude, from which he has been so improperly removed.” And in their letter of the 30th of January, 1778, “You inform us,” they said, “in your secret letter of December, 1776, that the purposes for which Mr. Francis Fowke was appointed to proceed to Benares, being fully accomplished, you had annulled his commission, and ordered him to the Presidency. But it appears by your letter of the 6th of January, 1777, that in less than twenty days you thought proper to appoint Mr. Thomas Graham to reside at Benares, and Mr. Daniel Octavus Barwell to be his assistant. If it were possible to suppose that a saving to the Company had been your motive for annulling Mr. Fowke’s commission, we should have approved your proceedings. But when we find two persons appointed immediately afterwards, with two salaries, to execute an office which had been filled with reputation by Mr. Fowke alone, we must be of opinion that Mr. Fowke was removed without just cause; and therefore direct that Mr. Francis Fowke be immediately re-instated in his office of resident and post-master at Benares.”
On the 20th of July, 1778, the commands of the Court of Directors, with regard to Mr. Fowke, came under the deliberation of the Governor and Council, when Mr. Hastings moved that the execution of these commands should be suspended. A compliance with them, he said, “would be adequate” (meaning equivalent) “to his own resignation of the service, because BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.it would inflict such a wound on his authority, as it could not survive.” He also alleged that intelligence might daily be expected from England of resolutions which would decide upon his situation in the service; and, notwithstanding the opposition of one half of the Council, he decided, by his casting vote, that Mr. Fowke, in spite of the command of the Directors, should not be replaced.
On the 27th of May, 1779, the Court of Directors write, “We have read with astonishment your formal resolution to suspend the execution of our orders relative to Mr. Francis Fowke. Your proceedings at large are now before us. We shall take such measures as appear necessary for preserving the authority of the Court of Directors, and for preventing such instances of direct and wilful disobedience in our servants in time to come. At present we repeat the commands contained in the sixty-seventh paragraph of our letter of the 30th January, 1778, and direct that they be carried into immediate execution.”1
The place rendered vacant in the Council, by the death of Colonel Monson, had been supplied, by the appointment of Wheler, who commonly voted with Francis; but as General Clavering died in the end of the month of August, 1777, the decisions of the Council were still, by his own casting vote, at the command of the Governor-General.
Another of the transactions, which, during the ascendancy of his opponents, had most deeply offended the Governor-General, was the subversion of his regulations respecting the government and household of the Nabob. As this, however, had obtained the sanction of the Court of Directors; and the appointment BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.of Mahomed Reza Khan in particular had met with their specific approbation, some colour for reversing these measures was very much to be desired. The period, at which the Nabob would come of age, was approaching. In the secret consultations on the 23d of July, 1778, the Governor-General desired that a letter from the Nabob Mubarek ul Dowla should be read. In this letter the Nabob stated that he had now, by the favour of God, arrived at that stage of life, his twentieth year, when the laws of his country assigned to him the management of his own affairs; he complained of the severity with which he had been treated by Mahomed Reza Khan; and prayed that he might be relieved from this state of degrading tutelage, and allowed to assume the administration of his own government and affairs.
Mr. Wheler and Mr. Francis maintained, that it was not competent for the delegated government of India to subvert a regulation of so much importance, which had been directly confirmed by the Court of Directors; and that the requisition of the Nabob should be transmitted to England for the determination of the superior power. Mr. Hastings and Mr. Barwell insisted that justice admitted of no delay. It is remarkable, how these contending parties in India could reverse their pleas, as often as their interests required that different aspects of the same circumstances should be held up to view. In 1775, when the party in opposition to the Governor-General meant to alter the regulations which he had formed, they represented it as their object, “to recover the country government from the state of feebleness and insignificance, to which it was Mr. Hastings’s avowed policy to reduce it.” The Governor-General, in opposition to these pretences, declared, that “all the arts of policy cannot conceal the power by which BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.these provinces are ruled; nor can all the arts of sophistry avail to transfer the responsibility of them to the Nabob, when it is as visible as the light of the sun, that they originate from our own government; that the Nabob is a mere pageant, without the shadow of authority, and even his most consequential agents receive their appointment from the recommendation of the company, and the express nomination of their servants.”1 Notwithstanding these recorded sentiments, the Governor-General could now declare; “The Nabob’s demands are grounded on positive rights, which will not admit of discussion. He has an incontestable right to the management of his own household. He has an incontestable right to the Nizamut; it is his by inheritance; the dependants of the Nizamut Adaulut, and of the Fouzdary, have been repeatedly declared by the Company, and by this government, to appertain to the Nizamut. For these reasons I am of opinion, that the requisitions contained in the Nabob’s letter ought to be complied with.”2 In the eagerness of his passions, the Governor-General, by asserting the incontestable right of the Nabob to all the powers of the Nizamut, transferred a great part of the government. Under the Mogul constitution, the government of the provinces consisted of two parts; the Dewanee, or collection of the revenues, and the administration of the principal branches of the civil department of justice; and the Nizamut, or the military branch of the government, with the superintendance of the criminal department of judicature: And of these the Dewanee was subordinate to the Nizamut. In this exalted capacity, it was never meant to recognise the Nabob;BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778. and the language exhibits a useful specimen of the sort of arguments, to serve a purpose, which vague and imperfect notions of Indian policy have enabled those who were interested always to employ.1BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.Letters were also brought from the Nabob, which the known wish of the Governor-General could not fail to obtain, requesting that his step-mother Munny Begum, of whom he had formerly complained, “should take on herself the management of the Nizamut, without the interference of any person whatsoever.”1 Mahomed Reza Khan was accordingly removed; Munny Begum was replaced in her ancientBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778. office: subordinate to her, Gourdass was re-instated in that of controller of the household; and a person called Sudder al Hok was appointed to the superintendance of the judicial department. To these several offices, which were all included in the trust of Mahomed Reza Khan, salaries were appropriated, amounting to 18,000 rupees beyond what he had received. The incapacity of Munny Begum, when compared with Mahomed Reza, could admit of no dispute; and the pernicious influence of the eunuchs who governed her delayed not to give Hastings uneasiness. On the 10th of October of the same year (1778), he was obliged to write to the Nabob, “That the affairs both of the Phouzdary and Adaulut were in the geatest confusion imaginable, and that daily robberies and murders were perpetrated throughout the country;—that his dependants and people, actuated by selfish and avaricious views, had by their interference so impeded the business of justice, as to throw the whole country into a state of confusion.”
Meanwhile the report of this transaction was received in England; and the Court of Directors, in their letter of the 4th of February, transmit their sentiments upon it in the following terms: “We by no means approve your late proceedings on the application of the Nabob Mubarek ul Dowla for the removal of the Naib Subahdar. In regard to the Nabob’s desire to take charge of his own affairs, we find it declared by one of your own members, and not contradicted, that the Nabob is, in his own person, utterly incapable of executing any of those offices BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.which were deemed of essential importance to the welfare of the country. The Nabob’s letters leave us no doubt of the true design of this extraordinary business being, to bring forward Munny Begum, and again to invest her with improper power and influence, notwithstanding our former declaration, that so great a part of the Nabob’s allowance had been embezzled, or misapplied, under her superintendance. You have requested this inexperienced young man, to permit all the present judges and officers of the Nizamut and Phousdary Adauluts, or courts of criminal justice, and also all the Phousdars or officers appointed to guard the peace of the country, to continue in office until he the Nabob shall have formed a plan for a new arrangement of those offices: And it is with equal surprise and concern, that we observe this request introduced, and the Nabob’s ostensiable rights so solemnly asserted at this period by our Governor-General; because, on a late occasion, to serve a very different purpose, he has not scrupled to declare it as visible as the light of the sun, that the Nabob is a mere pageant, and without even the shadow of authority. No circumstance has happened, since that declaration was made, to render the Nabob more independent, nor to give him any additional degree of power or consequence; you must therefore have been well apprised that your late concessions to Mubarek ul Dowla were unnecessary, and as such unwarrantable. As we deem it for the welfare of the country, that the office of Naib Subahdar be for the present continued, and that this high office should be filled by a person of wisdom, experience, and approved fidelity to the Company; and as we have no reason to alter our opinion of Mahomed Reza Khan, we positively direct, that you forthwith signify to the Nabob Mubarek al Dowla our pleasure, that Mahomed Reza Khan be immediately restored to theBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778. office of Naib Subahdar.1
The state of the relations between the Company’s government and the Mahratta powers had for some time pressed with considerable weight upon the attention of the Council. The treaty which had been concluded by Colonel Upton, commonly distinguished by the title of the treaty of Poorunder, had left the minds of the governing party at Poonah, and those of the Bombay Presidency, in a state of mutual jealousy and dissatisfaction. The occupation of Salsette, and the other concessions which had been extorted, but above all the countenance and protection still afforded to Ragoba, rankled in the minds of the Poonah ministry; while the Bombay rulers, condemned and frustrated by the Supreme Council, but encouraged by the approbation of the Court of Directors, stood upon the watch for any plausible opportunity of evading or infringing the treaty. Colonel Upton, though he remained at Poonah till the commencement of the year 1777, departed before any of the material stipulations had been carried into effect. Futty Sing, as by the treaty it had been rendered his interest, disavowed his right to alienate in favour of the Company any portion of the Guicawar dominions; and the Poonah Council made use of the favour shown to Ragoba, as a pretext for delaying or evading the concessions they had made.
A new feature was soon added to these disputes, by the arrival of a French ship in one of the Mahratta ports, and the reception given at Poonah to some gentlemen whom she landed, as on a mission from BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.the king of France. This circumstance strongly excited the English jealousy and fears. The object at which the French were supposed to aim, was the establishment of a factory at Poonah; and the acquisition of a sea-port on the coast of Malabar. These advantages would enable them, it was apprehended, to sustain a competition with the English in matters of trade, and to annoy them seriously in a period of war. The asseverations of the Mahratta government, that nothing was in view prejudicial to the interests of the Company, gave little satisfaction. Colonel Upton, whose partiality was engaged to the treaty which he had concluded and the party whom he served, accused the Bombay Presidency, and answered for the sincerity and pacific designs of the Mahrattas. Mr. Hastings leaned to the suspicious side; his opponents urged the propriety of yielding contentment to the Mahrattas, especially by the abandonment of Ragoba. The probability of a rupture between France and England was already contemplated in India; and, as it was to be expected that the French would aim at the recovery of their influence in India, so Mr. Hastings, at least, thought that the western coast was the place where they had the best prospect of success; and that the support of the Mahrattas was the means most likely to be adopted for the accomplishment of their ends.
The progress of inquiry respecting the agent from France discovered, that his name was St. Lubin; that he was a mere adventurer, who had opened to the French Minister of Marine a project, supported by exaggerated and false representations, for acquiring an influence in the Mahratta councils, and an establishment in the Mahratta country; and that he had been entrusted with a sort of clandestine commission, as an experiment, for ascertaining if any footing or advantage might be gained. The Presidency ofBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778. Bombay represented to the Supreme Council, that St. Lubin received the most alarming countenance from the Poonah ministers; that nothing could be more dangerous to the Company, than a combined attack from the Mahrattas and French: And they urged the policy of anticipating the designs of their enemies, by espousing the cause of Ragoba; and putting an end to the power of men, who waited only till their schemes were ripe for execution, to begin an attack upon the Company. The Bombay Presidency were more emboldened in their importunity, by a letter from the Court of Directors, containing their observations on the conduct of the Supreme Council in taking the negotiation with the Mahrattas out of the hands of the Bombay government, and on the treaty which the Supreme Council had concluded with the Poonah rulers. “We approved,” said the Directors, “under every circumstance, of keeping all territories and possessions ceded to the Company by Ragoba, and gave directions to the Presidencies of Bengal and Fort St. George to adopt such measures as might be necessary for their preservation and defence. But we are extremely concerned to find, from the terms of the treaty concluded by Colonel Upton at Poonah, that so great a sacrifice has been improvidently made; and especially, that the important cession of Bassein to the Company by Ragoba, has been rendered of no effect. We cannot but disapprove of the mode of interference of the Governor General and Council, by sending an ambassador to Poonah without first consulting you, and of their determination to disavow and invalidate the treaty formerly entered into by an agent from your Presidency, and solemnly ratified under the seal of the Company. We are convinced that Bassein, which is BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.so great an object with us, might have been obtained if they had authorized you to treat either with Ragoba, or with the ministers at Poonah; reserving the final approval and ratification of the treaty to themselves. This is the precise line we wish to have drawn; and which we have directed our Governors-General and Council in future to pursue. We are of opinion, that an alliance originally with Ragoba would have been more for the honour and advantage of the Company, and more likely to be lasting, than that concluded at Poonah. His pretensions to the supreme authority appear to us better founded than those of his competitors; and, therefore, if the conditions of the treaty of Poonah have not been strictly fulfilled on the part of the Mahrattas, and if, from any circumstance, our Governor-General and Council shall deem it expedient, we have no objection to an alliance with Ragoba, on the terms agreed upon between him and you.”
While these circumstances were under the consideration of the Supreme Council at Calcutta, intelligence arrived, that the rivalship of Siccaram Baboo and Nana Furnavese had produced a division in the Council at Poonah; that a part of the ministers, with Siccaram Baboo at their head, had resolved to declare for Ragoba; that they had applied for the assistance of the English to place in his hands the powers of government; and that the Presidency of Bombay had resolved to co-operate with them in his favour. This subject produced the usual train of debate and contention in the Supreme Council; where Mr. Francis and Mr. Wheler condemned the resolution of the President and Council of Bombay, first, as illegal, because not taken with the approbation of the supreme authority; next, as unjust, by infringing the treaty; and finally, impolitic, by incurring the dangers and burdens of war: The Governor-GeneralBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778. and Mr. Barwell approved it, as authorized by the suddenness and greatness of the emergency, and the declared sentiments of the Court of Directors; as not unjust, since the principal party with whom the treaty was formed now applied for the interference of the Company; and as not impolitic, because it anticipated the evil designs of a hostile party, and gave to the Company an accession of territorial revenue, while it promised them a permanent influence in the Mahratta councils. It was resolved, in consequence, that a supply of money and a reinforcement of troops should be sent to the Presidency of Bombay. The Governor-General proposed that a force should be assembled at Calpee, and should march by the most practicable route to Bombay. This also gave rise to a warm debate, both on the policy of the plan, and the danger of sending a detachment of the Company’s army to traverse India through the dominions of princes, whose disposition had not been previously ascertained. It was finally determined, that the force should consist of six battalions of Sepoys, one company of native artillery, and a corps of cavalry; that it should be commanded by Colonel Leslie; and anticipate, by its expedition, the obstruction of the rains. That commander was instructed to take his route through the province of Berar, of which the rulers were friendly; to obtain, where possible, the consent of the princes or chiefs, through whose territories he might have occasion to pass; but even when refused, to pursue his march; to be careful in preventing injury to the country or inhabitants; to allow his course to be retarded by the pursuit of no extraneous object; and to consider himself under the command of the Bombay Presidency from the commencement of his march. That Presidency BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.were at the same time instructed to use their utmost endeavours to defeat the machinations of the French; to insist upon the execution of the treaty; to take advantage of every change of circumstances for obtaining beneficial concessions to the Company; and, if they observed any violation of the treaty, or any refusal to fulfil its terms, to form a new alliance with Ragoba, and concert with him the best expedients for retrieving his affairs.
In the mean time another change had taken place in the fluctuating administration at Poonah. The party of Siccaram Baboo had prevailed over that of Nana Furnavese without the co-operation of Ragoba; and it was immediately apprehended at Bombay, that they would no longer desire to admit as an associate, a party who would supersede themselves. The arguments, urged, upon this change, by Mr. Francis and Mr. Wheler, did not succeed in stopping the march of the troops; because the unsettled state of the government of Poonah, and the machinations of the French, rendered it highly expedient, in the opinion of the Governor-General, that the Presidency of Bombay should be furnished with sufficient power, both to guard against dangerous, and to take advantage of favourable, circumstances and events.
The detachment experienced some slight obstruction at the commencement of its march, from some of the petty Mahratta chiefs; upon which, as indicating danger if it proceeded any further, Mr. Francis renewed his importunities for its recall. Mr. Hastings opposed his arguments, on the ground, that after a few days’ march the troops would arrive in Bundelcund, which was independent of the Mahrattas; would thence pass into the territories of the Rajah of Berar, in which they would be received with friendship; that, on quitting the territories of the Rajah, more than two thirds of the march would be completed;BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778. that the consent of the Peshwa had been obtained; and that the Mahratta chiefs, whatever their inclinations, were too much engaged in watching the designs of one another, to be able to oppose the detachment.
Various were the orders by which its movements were affected. The Presidency at Bombay, having taken up hopes that the presiding party at Poonah would favour the views of the English, and dismiss the agents of the French, wrote a first letter to the detachment, requiring them to halt, and wait till subsequent directions; and presently thereafter another letter, desiring them to prosecute the march. In the mean time intelligence had reached Calcutta, that war was declared between the English and the French. Upon this, instructions were dispatched to Colonel Leslie by the supreme Council, not to advance, till further orders, beyond the limits of Berar.
According to the Governor General, the Company had nothing to dread from the efforts of the French, at either Calcutta or Madras: it was the western coast on which, both from the weakness of Bombay, and the inclinations of the Mahratta government, those enemies of the English had any prospect of success; and where it most behoved the servants of the Company to provide against their attempts. He recommended a connexion with some of the leading powers of the country; pointed out the Rajah of Berar as the prince with whom it was most desirable to combine; and mentioned two services by which the co-operation of that Prince might be ensured. One of these services was to assist him in the recovery of the dominions which had been wrested from him by Nizam Ali. The other was to support him in a pretension to the Mahratta Rajahship. The BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1778.legitimate, but impotent King of the Mahrattas, had recently died in his captivity at Sattarah, without leaving issue: And the Rajah of Berar, as a branch of the house of Sevagee, might urge a claim to the succession. In pursuance of these objects, an embassy to the court of Berar was voted by the majority, and dispatched. In the mean time another revolution had ensued in the government at Poonah. The party of Siccaram Baboo was again overthrown; and that of Nana Furnavese exalted by the powerful co-operation of Madagee Scindia. The party of Nana still appeared to favour the French. The defeated party, now led by a chief named Moraba, as the age of Siccaram Baboo in a great measure disqualified him for business, were eager to combine with the English in raising Ragoba; and the Presidency of Bombay had no lack of inclination to second their designs. A resolution to this effect was passed on the 21st of July, 1778; but it was not till the beginning of November, that any step was taken for its execution. The activity of the Presidency had been repressed by news of the confinement of the leading members of the party at Poonah, from whom they expected assistance, and by instructions from the Supreme Council not to pursue any measures which might interfere with the object of the embassy to Moodagee Bonsla, the Regent of Berar. Early, however, in November, a plan of operations was concerted; a treaty was concluded with Ragoba; a loan to a considerable amount was advanced to him; and, upon intelligence that the ruling party at Poonah had penetrated their designs, and were making preparations to defeat them, it was determined to send forward one division of the army immediately, and the rest with all possible dispatch.
The force which was sent upon this enterprise amounted in all to nearly 4,500 men. A committee,BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779. consisting of Colonel Egerton, Mr. Carnac a member of the Select Committee, and Mr. Mostyn formerly agent of the Presidency at Poonah, were appointed a Committee for superintending the expedition, and settling the government at Poonah. The army set out about the beginning of December; on the 23d completed the ascent of the mountains, and arrived at Condola. The enemy now, for the first time, appeared. From the head of the Ghaut, or pass, which they secured by a fortified post, the English, on the 4th of January, began their march toward Poonah, with a stock of provisions for twenty-five days. They were opposed by a body of troops, who retired as they advanced, but cut off their supplies, and seized every opportunity to harass and impede them. They were not joined, as they had encouraged themselves to expect, by any chief of importance, or numbers to any considerable amount. And it was in vain, as they were informed by Ragoba, to hope, that his friends and adherents would declare themselves, till the English, by some important operations and success, held out to them a prospect of safety. The army continued to advance till the 9th of January, when, at the distance of about sixteen miles from Poonah, and eighteen from the summit of the pass, they found an army assembled to oppose them. The Committee, to whom, by a strange policy, the command of a military expedition was consigned, began to despair; and, on learning from the commissary in chief, that only eighteen days’ provisions were in store, and from the officer commanding the forces, that he could not protect the baggage, without a body of horse, they made up their minds to a retreat. It commenced on the night of the 11th. But secrecy had not been preserved; and BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779.they were attacked by the enemy before day-break; when they lost a part of their baggage, and above three hundred men. It was not until four o’clock in the afternoon that the enemy desisted from the pursuit, when the English had effected their retreat as far as Wargaum. Hope now deserted not only the Committee, but the Commander of the troops; who declared it impossible to carry back the army to Bombay. An embassy was sent to the Mahratta camp to try upon what terms they could have leave to return. The surrender of Ragoba was demanded as a preliminary article. That unfortunate chief was so impressed with the danger of waiting another attack, that he had declared his intention of surrendering himself to Scindia, and had been in correspondence with that chieftain for several days; the Committee were less scrupulous therefore, in bartering his safety for their own. When this compliance was announced, and the English expected a corresponding facility on the part of the Mahrattas, the leaders of that people informed them, that the surrender of Ragoba was a matter of the utmost indifference; that the treaty, which had been concluded with Colonel Upton, had been shamefully violated; the territory of the Mahrattas invaded; and that unless a new treaty were formed upon the spot, the army must remain where it was, and abide the consequences. The declaration of the Committee, that they possessed not powers to conclude a treaty, was disregarded. The commanding officer declared, that the attempt to force a retreat could lead to nothing but the total destruction of the army. It was, therefore, agreed to submit to such conditions as the Marattas might impose; and a treaty was signed, by which all the acquisitions were relinquished, which had been made in those parts by the English, since the treaty with Madhoo Row in 1756; Baroach was given up to Scindia; RagobaBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779. placed in his hands; the detachment from Bengal was ordered to return; and two Englishmen of distinction were left as hostages for the due fulfilment of the terms.
No approbation could be more complete than that which was bestowed by the Court of Directors on the object of this expedition. In a letter from the Committee of Secrecy, dated the 31st of August, 1778, “The necessity,” they say “of counteracting the views of the French at Poonah appears to us so very striking, that we not only direct you to frustrate their designs of obtaining a grant of the port of Choul, but also to oppose by force of arms, if necessary, their forming a settlement at that or any other place which may render them dangerous neighbours to Bombay. As the restoration of Ragoba to the Peshwaship is a measure upon which we are determined; and as the evasions of the Mahratta chiefs respecting the treaty of Poonah justify any departure therefrom on our part, we, therefore, direct, that if, on the receipt of this letter, you shall be able to obtain assistance from the friends of Ragoba, and with such assistance find yourselves in force sufficient to effect his restoration without dangerously weakening your garrison, you forthwith undertake the same.” In proportion to the satisfaction which would have been expressed upon a fortunate termination of this enterprise, was the displeasure manifested upon its failure. “The first object which strikes us,” say the Directors, “is the slow progress of the army. This we deem an irreparable injury to the service; and in this respect the conduct of the Commander in Chief appears extremely defective. The consequence was obvious; the enemy had full opportunity to collect their strength; the friends of Ragoba, instead of being BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779.encouraged, by the spirited exertion of our force, to join his standard, must, as we conceive, have been deterred from declaring in his favour, by the languor of our military proceedings.” They condemn the first resolution to retreat, when “the army was so far advanced, the troops full of spirits and intrepidity, and eighteen days’ provisions in store.” And the utmost measure of their indignation and resentment is poured on the humiliating submission which was at last preferred to the resolution of a daring, though hazardous retreat; preferred, on the pretext that the troops would not again resist the enemy, though they had behaved with the utmost intrepidity on the former attack; and though Captain Hartley declared that he could depend upon his men, urged every argument in favour of resolute measures, and even formed and presented to the commanding officer a disposition for conducting the retreat. The two military officers, who had shared in the conduct of the expedition, the Directors dismissed from their service; and the only remaining member of the Field Committee, who had been selected from the civil branch of the service, for one had died during the march, they degraded from his office, as a member of the Council and Select Committee of Bombay.
The detachment which was proceeding from Bengal had wasted much time on its march. Having advanced as far as Chatterpore, a principal city of Bundelcund, early in June, it halted till the middle of August. During this season, when the rains, according to Colonel Leslie, interrupted; according to the Governor General, favoured the march; the commander of the troops engaged himself in negotiations and transactions with the local chiefs; measures severely condemned by his superiors, and very open to the suspicion of selfish and dishonourable motives. The President and Council of Bombay, on the receiptBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779. of intelligence of a rupture with France, had earnestly exhorted him by letter to accelerate his motions. They renewed their solicitations on the 21st of July, when they came to the resolution of supporting Ragoba. And they urged the delay of this detachment, and the uncertainty of its arrival, as a reason for having undertaken the expedition to Poonah, without waiting for that addition of strength which its union and co-operation would have bestowed. Dissatisfied with the long inactivity of the detachment at Chatterpore, the Supreme Council wrote to the commanding officer on the 31st of August, desiring him to explain the reasons of his conduct, and to pursue the march. He had put himself in motion about the middle of the month, aud was at Rajegur on the 17th, where a party of Mahrattas disputed the passage of the river Kane. On the 17th of September he dispatched a letter to the Supreme Council from Rajegur, where he still remained, stating, that the retardation of the detachment had been occasioned by the weather; that he had concluded friendly engagements with Gomân Sing, and Comân Sing, two Rajahs of Bundelcund; and had received satisfactory assurances from Moodajee Bonsla, the Regent of Berar, to whom the proposition of an embassy from the English rulers appeared to have yielded peculiar gratification.1
BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779.The person who had been chosen to conduct this embassy, died upon the journey, before he reached the capital of Berar. After some fluctuation of opinion, it was determined not to continue the negotiation by appointing a successor; but rather to wait in expectation of some advances from the Regent.
The party of Mr. Francis now urgently pressed for a distinct declaration of the design with which the detachment on its way to the western Presidency, was directed to continue its march. There was not only a complication, they affirmed, but a contrariety of objects; the alliance for raising Moodajee Bonsla to the throne of Sevagee being inconsistent with the scheme of establishing Ragoba in the office of Peshwa. The Governor General, without any definite explanation, alleged that the re-instatement of Ragoba had never been pursued as an end, but only as a means; that his hopes and expectations were placed on Moodajee; that the detachment, whether its services should be required for the restoration of Ragoba, or in prosecution of engagements with Moodajee, or in opposing the French, ought equally to continue its march. The opposite party once more urged in vain their reasons for its recall. But all parties agreed in condemning Colonel Leslie for the delay which he had incurred, and the engagements which he had formed; in pronouncing him unfit to be any longer entrusted with the command which he held; and in transmitting orders that he should resign it to Colonel Goddard, the officer next in command. Leslie, however, survived not to receive the intelligence of his disgrace; nor to produce, it ought to be remembered, what he might have urged in vindication ofBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779. his conduct. He was an officer of experience and reputation. It is known, that he held a high language, that he complained of the Governor-General, to whom, by his special directions, he had communicated a private journal of his transactions, and to whom he had trusted for the explanation of his proceedings. But no inference can safely be founded on the allegation that the Governor-General, who had previously defended his conduct, was informed of the deadly nature of his disease, and the hopelessness of his recovery, at the time when he condemned him and voted for his recall.
By the death of Leslie, the command devolved on Colonial Goddard on the 3d of October. On the 22d he wrote a private letter to the Governor-General, informing him of the progress which the detachment had made towards the Nerbudda, or the boundary of Berar. At the same time with the letter from Colonel Goddard, arrived dispatches from Modajee, expressing his lamentation upon the death of the late ambassador, and his hopes that such an event would not frustrate the plan of friendship which it had been the object of that embassy to establish. Upon the receipt of these letters the Governor-General moved, that the negotiation with Moodajee Bonsla should be resumed; and that powers to treat with him should be communicated to Colonel Goddard. The opposite party contended, that an alliance with the Regent of Berar would be equivalent to a declaration of war against Nizam Ali, and involve the Carnatic in misfortune; that neither did Colonel Goddard possess the qualifications of a negotiator, nor did the duties of his command enable him to devote his mind to the business which a negotiator was required to perform; and that the Presidency of Bombay, under BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779.whose orders the detachment had been placed, might take measures in favour of Ragoba, with which the instructions which might be given in regard to Moodajee would not be reconcilable.
On the 7th of December, after intelligence had arrived of the second revolution at Poonah, which the Governor-General regarded as defeating the original design upon which the assistance of the detachment had been sent to Bombay, he proposed that it should no longer act under the orders of that Presidency, lest the designs of those rulers should defeat the negotiation with Moodajee, entrusted to Colonel Goddard. While this proposition was under debate, a dispatch was received from the resident at Poonah, stating his expectation of being immediately recalled, as the Select Committee at Bombay had determined to proceed against the governing party at Poonah. After this intelligence, the proposition of the Governor-General, for retaining the detachment of Colonel Goddard under the immediate authority of the Supreme Council, received the sanction of the Board. In the mean time Moodajee Bonsla, for whose alliance so much anxiety was expressed, had written an evasive letter to Colonel Goddard, dated the 23d of November; manifesting pretty clearly a wish to embroil himself as little as possible either with the English or with the Poonah confederacy. Goddard crossed the Nerbuddah on the 1st of December; and sent an agent to Nagpore, to ascertain how far he might depend upon Moodajee. In conclusion, he inferred, that no engagement could be formed between that chieftain and the English; but that a friendly conduct might be expected toward the detachment, while it remained in his dominions.
By this time the army of Bombay was on its march to Poonah. But though Colonel Goddard had transmitted regular intelligence of his movements to Bombay,BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779. he had received no communications from that quarter; and remained in total ignorance of their designs, except from some intimations communicated by Moodajee, that an expedition against Poonah was in preparation. Uncertain as was the ground upon which he had to proceed, he had come to the determination, that the balance of probabilities required his proceeding to Poonah; when he received dispatches from the Council at Bombay, unfolding what they had done, and what they were intending to do; and pressing it upon him to march to Poonah, with the smallest possible delay. To the question why the Presidency at Bombay had not sooner made Colonel Goddard acquainted with the design of the expedition, and taken the precautionary steps for securing co-operation between his detachment and their own, the answer must be, either that they exercised not the degree of reflection necessary for that moderate display of wisdom; or that, they wished to have to themselves the glory of setting up a Mahratta government; or that, to avoid the expense of the detachment, they wished it not to arrive. Moodajee, who was afraid to embroil himself with the Poonah government, if he gave a passage to the troops of Goddard, and with the English government, if he refused it, was very earnest with him to wait till he received satisfactory letters from Calcutta. But, notwithstanding this solicitation, Goddard, on the 16th of January, began his march from the banks of the Nerbudda.
He took the great road to Boorhanpoor and Poonah, and arrived at Charwah on the 22d, where he received intelligence that the army from Bombay had advanced as far as Boraghaut, a place fifty miles distant from Poonah.
BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779.On the 24th, he received a letter dated the 11th, from the Field Committee, who conducted the Bombay expedition, representing, that in consequence of an alteration which had taken place in the state of affairs, it was not expedient he should advance; that he should either proceed to Surat, if he found himself in a condition to make his way in spite of the Mahratta horse, by whom his march would be annoyed; or remain in the territories of the Rajah of Berar, till further instructions. This letter placed him in a state of perfect uncertainty, whether the Bombay army had sustained a disaster which cut off their hopes, or had so flattering a prospect of success, that all additional force was accounted unnecessary. On the next day a letter arrived from the Council at Bombay, apparently written without a knowledge of the circumstances which dictated the letter of the Field Committee, and urging him to proceed. Under the perplexity which this lack of information, and discrepancy of injunctions, inspired, he resolved to proceed to Boorhanpoor, in hopes of obtaining intelligence, and arrived at that ancient capital on the 30th.
There, on the 2d of February, he received another letter from the Field Committee, dated on the 19th of January, more mysterious then any which had yet arrived. It shortly cautioned him against obeying the order in their letter of the 16th, which on better consideration they deemed themselves not competent to give. Goddard could ill conjecture the meaning of this warning, as he had not received the letter of the 16th; but he believed that it indicated evil rather than good; and saw well the dangers which surrounded him in the heart of the Mahratta country, if any serious disaster, which might produce a change in the mind of Moodajee himself, had befallen the army from Bombay. He waited at Boorhanpoor tillBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779. the 5th, in hopes of receiving more certain information, when he was made acquainted with the nature of the disaster pretty exactly by Moodajee. He resolved to retreat to Surat, and marched on the 6th. On the 9th a vakeel arrived from the Poonah government, bearing the letter written by the Field Committee on the 16th of January. It was the letter in which, under the dictation of the Mahrattas, they had commanded his immediate return to Bengal. This injunction it was the business of the vakeel to enforce. But Goddard replied that he was marching to Bombay in obedience to the orders of the Supreme Council; and with the most friendly intentions toward the Mahratta state. The march was conducted with great expedition. The troops were kept in such exact discipline, that the people, having nothing to fear, remained in their houses, and supplied the army by sale with many conveniences for the march. They arrived at Surat on the 30th; a distance of nearly three hundred miles in nineteen days.1
In consequence of these events, it was resolved at the Supreme Board, to vest Colonel Goddard with full powers for treating with the Poonah government; to disavow the convention concluded with the Poonah committee, but to express a desire for accommodation, on the basis of the treaty of Poorunder, if the Mahrattas, on their part, would afford encouragement, by relinquishing all claims founded on that convention, BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1779.and by a promise of forming no connexion, either commercial or political, with the French. If they should reject these proposals, Colonel Goddard, whom the Supreme Council now promoted to the rank of general, was empowered to renew the war, and if possible to form connexions with the head of the Guicawar family, and the government of Berar.
Goddard had commenced his correspondence with the Poonah ministry, when Ragoba made his escape, and repaired to Surat, where he received an asylum. Discordance prevailed among the Mahratta chiefs, and much uncertainty hung over their proceedings. Dissension broke out between Nana and Scindia, by whose united power Siccaram and Moraba had been subdued. With professions of a desire for peace, they kept aloof from definite terms; reports were received of their preparations for war; and negotiation lingered till the 20th of October, when Goddard sent his declaration, that if a satisfactory answer to his proposals was not returned in fifteen days, he should consider the delay as a declaration of war. A reply arrived on the 28th. Without the surrender of Ragoba, and the restoration of Salsette, it was declared that the Mahratta powers would make no agreement. The General upon this broke off the negotiation, and repaired to Bombay to concert with that Council the plan of hostilities.
The President and Council of Bombay had received, with considerable indignation, the intelligence of the power, independent of themselves, with which General Goddard had been invested at the Superior Board. They regarded it as an encroachment upon the rights conveyed to them, both by the act of parliament, and the commands of the Directors; and they had declared that they would sustain no responsibility for any of his acts. At first they alleged the great exhaustion of their resources, as a reasonBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780. against taking any considerable part in the war; but when the General held up, as the first object of his operations, the acquisition, on which they had long fixed their affections, of a territorial revenue adequate to all the demands of the Presidency, they agreed to supply as great a portion of their troops, as the security of Bombay would allow; and furnished him with powers and instructions to treat with Futty Sing Guicawar, whose assistance, as placing a friendly country in the rear, it was of the greatest importance to obtain. With regard to Ragoba it was proposed to feed him with such hopes, as should ensure the advantage of his name; but to engage themselves as short a way as possible for a share in the advantages of the undertaking, to the success of which it was so little in his power to contribute.
On the 2d of January, 1780, General Goddard had crossed the Tapti, with a view both to stimulate the good inclinations of Futty Sing, and to reduce the fortress of Dubhoy. On the 19th the army appeared before the place. On the next day it was evacuated by the enemy, when the whole district, yielding by estimate a revenue of two lacs of rupees, was taken possession of in the name of the Company. On the 26th, Futty Sing was at last, with some difficulty, brought to trust so far in the power of the Company, as to accede to the terms proposed; and it was agreed that the Guzerat country should be divided between the Company, and himself, the Company obtaining that proportion which had formerly accrued to the Mahrattas; and the remainder being rendered independent of the Poonah government, and freed from every exterior claim. Being joined by the cavalry of this chief, the General marched towards Ahmedabad, the capital of the province, before BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780.which he arrived on the 10th of February, and in five days carried it by storm, with inconsiderable loss. The united armies of Scindia and Holkar, amounting to 40,000 men, were in the mean time advancing towards Surat. The English General, by rapid marches, arrived in the neighbourhood of their encampment, near Brodera, on the 8th of March, and intended to attack them in the night, but was prevented by a letter from one of the gentlemen, left as hostages with Scindia, signifying that professions were made by the Mahratta chiefs of a desire to establish amity with the English government. Of this desire, Scindia afforded a favourable indication, the following day, by sending back the hostages, and along with them a vakeel, or commissioner, who acknowledged the hatred borne by his master to Nana Furnavese, and his desire of a separate arrangement with the English. Upon further explanation, it appeared, that he was anxious to get into his hands Ragoba and his son, as an instrument for aggrandizing himself in the Mahratta state; a proposition to which General Goddard would by no means accede. Scindia, at the same time, was offering terms to Govind Row, the brother and opponent of Futty Sing, and had actually received him in his camp. Not convinced of his sincerity, and suspecting his design to waste the season, till commencement of the rains, when he would return home to the business of his government, and to his intrigues, General Goddard was desirous of forcing him to a battle, which he constantly avoided, by retreating as the English army advanced. To defeat this stratagem, the General, on the 3d of April, marched silently from his camp, about two o’clock in the morning, with four battalions of Sepoy grenadiers, four companies of European infantry, and twelve pieces of field artillery. The distance was about seven miles to the camp ofBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780. the enemy, which he entered at dawn. He reached the very centre of the encampment before he was perceived. The enemy were thrown into their usual confusion; and, though some troops were collected, and made a show of resistance, they soon abandoned their camp, and occupied a neighbouring ground. The English made no delay in proceeding to charge them, when the Mahrattas dispersed, and left them masters, not only of the field, but of the country in which it was contained. A detachment from Bombay took possession also of Parsek, Bellapore, Panwel, and Callian, and extended the territory of the Presidency along the coast and towards the passes of the hills in the way to Poonah. On the 6th of April the General was joined by six companies of European infantry, and a company of artillery, which had been sent to his assistance from Madras; and about the same time five companies of Sepoys arrived for him at Surat. As the rainy season had now commenced, Scindia and Holkar withdrew into their own countries; and the General, after sending back the Bombay detachment, put his troops into cantonments, and prepared for the succeeding campaign.
Sir Eyre Coote, who had been appointed to succeed General Clavering, both as Commander in Chief, and as a member of the Supreme Council, had arrived at Calcutta in the beginning of April, 1779; and without showing an unvarying deference to the opinions of the Governor-General, commonly supported his measures. Early in November of that year, in consequence of an application from the Rajah of Gohud, commonly known by the name of the Ranna, a Hindu chieftain or prince, who governed a hilly district of considerable extent, lying on the Jumna, between the territories of Scindia and the Nabob of BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780.Oude, the Governor-General proposed a treaty, by which the Ranna might be empowered to call for the assistance of the English against the Mahrattas, of whom he stood in constant danger, and should agree to assist the English with his forces, when they should undertake any enterprise against the contiguous powers. The Governor-General, who contemplated the continuance of the war with the Mahrattas, proposed this alliance, both as a barrier against an invasion, in that direction, of the territory of the Company or their allies; and as an advantage for invading the territory of the Mahrattas, and operating a diversion in favour of the enterprises which might be undertaken on the side of Bombay. The measure was opposed by the opposite side of the Board, both on the ordinary and general ground of the importance of abstaining from war, and also in consideration of the weakness of the Ranna, who had few troops, and not revenue to pay even them; whose aid, in consequence, would be of little avail, and his protection a serious burden. In the objections of the opposing party the General concurred; and even transmitted his protest against the terms of the connexion. But, as he was absent, the casting vote of the Governor-General gave his opinion the superiority, and the treaty was formed.
In the mean time intelligence arrived by a letter from General Coote, dated the 20th of November, of an invasion of the territory of the Ranna, by a body of Mahrattas, whom his want of resources made it impossible for him to resist. Instructions were dispatched to afford him such assistance as the exigency of the case might require, and the state of the English forces permit. A detachment of the company’s army had been prepared in that quarter, under the command of Captain Popham, for the purpose of augmenting the forces of Goddard; but from theBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780. consideration, partly that they could not arrive in time on the Bombay coast, partly that they might contribute to the success of his operations by an attack upon the part which was nearest of the Mahratta frontier, they had not been commanded to proceed; and in the beginning of February, 1780, they were sent to the assistance of the Ranna of Gohud. Captain Popham found means in this service of distinguishing his enterprise and talents. With a small force, and little assistance from the Ranna, he expelled the Mahrattas from Gohud; crossed the Sind, into their own territory; laid siege to the fortress of Lahâr, the capital of the district of Cutchwagar; and having effected an imperfect breach, which the want of heavy cannon enabled him not to complete, he, on the 21st of April, successfully assaulted and took possession of the fort.
It had, however, been importunately urged, both by Coote and Goddard, and was acknowledged by the Governor-General, that the force employed on the Mahratta frontier under Captain Popham was far from adequate to any such important operations as could materially affect the result of the war. After some fluctuation of plans, and great debate and opposition at the Superior Board, in which Mr. Francis in particular vehemently opposed the extension of military efforts, it was determined that a detachment of three battalions, stationed at Cawnpore, under Major Carnac, with a battalion of light infantry, under Captain Browne, should threaten or invade the territories of Scindia and Holkar. In the mean time Captain Popham, with the true spirit of military ardour, after securing with great activity the conquest of the district of Cutchwagar, turned his attention to the celebrated fortress of Gualior, BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780.situated within the territory of the Ranna of Gohud, but wrested from his father, and now garrisoned by the Mahrattas. This fortress was situated on the summit, three coss in extent, of a stupendous rock, scarped almost entirely round, and defended by a thousand men. By the princes of Hindustan it had always been regarded as impregnable. And Sir Eyre Coote himself, in his letter to the Supreme Council, dated the 21st of April, had pronounced it “totally repugnant to his military ideas, and even absolute madness,” to attack it with so feeble a detachment, and without a covering army to keep off the Mahrattas in the field, and preserve the line of communication. Captain Popham moved to the village of Ripore, about five coss distant from Gualior, and employed his spies in continually searching if a spot fit for escalading could be found. After many and dangerous experiments, they at last brought him advice that one part only afforded any appearance of practicability. At this place the height of the scarp was about sixteen feet, from the scarp to the wall was a steep ascent of about forty yards, and the wall itself was thirty feet high. “I took the resolution,” says Captain Popham, “immediately. The object was glorious; and I made a disposition to prevent, as much as in my power, the chance of tarnishing the honour of the attempt, by the loss we might sustain in case of a repulse.” At break of day, on the 3d of August, the van of the storming party arrived at the foot of the rock. Wooden ladders were applied to the scarp, and the troops ascended to the foot of the wall. The spies climbed up, and fixed the rope ladders, when the Sepoys mounted with amazing activity. The guards assembled within, but were quickly repulsed by the fire of the assailants. The detachment entered with rapidity, and pushed on to the main body of the place. In the mean time theBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780. greater part of the garrison escaped by another quarter, and left the English masters of one of the greatest and most celebrated strong holds in that quarter of the globe. This brilliant achievement, for which Captain Popham was rewarded with the rank of Major, struck the Mahrattas with so much consternation, that they abandoned the circumjacent country, and conveyed the alarm to Scindia in his capital.1
The opposition which was made by Francis to these proceedings for pushing the war on the Jumna, brought to a crisis the animosities which the struggle between him and the Governor-General had so long maintained. On the 20th of July, 1780, Mr. Hastings, in answering a minute of Mr. Francis, declared, “I do not trust to his promise of candour, convinced that he is incapable of it. I judge of his public conduct, by my experience of his private, which I have found to be void of truth and honour.” The ground of these severe expressions, the Governor-General stated to be a solemn agreement formed between him and Mr. Francis, which Mr. Francis had broken. Of this transaction the following appear to have been the material circumstances. When the parliamentary appointment, during five years, of the Governor-General and Council, expired in 1778, the expectation of a change in the Indian administration was suspended, by the re-appointment, upon the motion of the king’s chief minister, of Mr. Hastings, BOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780.for a single year. Upon the arrival of this intelligence in India, an attempt was made by some mutual friends of Mr. Hastings and Mr. Francis, to deliver the government, at a period of difficulty and danger, from the effects of their discordance. Both parties acknowledged the demand which the present exigency presented for a vigorous and united administration; and both professed a desire to make any sacrifice of personal feelings, and personal interests, for the attainment of so important an object. On the part of Mr. Francis it was stipulated that Mahomed Reza Khan, Mr. Bristow, and Mr. Fowke, should be re-instated in conformity to the Company’s orders; and, on the part of Mr. Hastings, that the Mahratta war, the responsibility of which Mr. Francis had disclaimed, and thrown personally on the Governor-General, should be conducted in conformity with his conceptions and plans. It was this part of the agreement which Mr. Hastings accused his opponent of violating; and of depriving him, by a treacherous promise of co-operation, which induced Mr. Barwell to depart for Europe, of that authority which the vote of Mr. Barwell ensured. Mr. Francis, on the other hand, solemnly declared, that he “never was party to the engagement stated by Mr. Hastings, or had a thought of being bound by it.” His agreement with regard to the Mahratta was he explained as extending only to the operations then commenced on the Malabar coast, but not to fresh operations on another part of the Mahratta dominions. Mr. Hastings produced a paper, containing the following words: “Mr. Francis will not oppose any measures which the Governor-General shall recommend for the prosecution of the war in which we are supposed to be engaged with the Mahrattas, or for the general support of the present political system of his government.” To the terms of this agreement, presentedBOOK V. Chap. 3. 1780. to Mr. Francis in writing, he affirmed that Mr. Francis gave his full and deliberate consent. The reply of Mr. Francis was in the following words: “In one of our conversations in February last, Mr. Hastings desired me to read a paper of memorandums, among which I presume this article was inserted. I returned it to him the moment I had read it, with a declaration that I did not agree to it, or hold myself bound by the contents of it, or to that effect.” Mr. Francis added some reasonings, drawn from the natural presumptions of the case. But these reasonings and presumptions had little tendency to strengthen the evidence of his personal assertion—the ground, between him and his antagonist, on which this question seems finally to rest. With the utmost earnestness Mr. Hastings repeated the affirmation of the terms on which Mr. Francis declared his assent; and at this point the verbal controversy between them closed. Soon after, a duel ensued between Mr. Hastings and Mr. Francis, in which the latter was wounded; and on the 9th of December that gentleman quitted India, and returned to Europe.1
Sixth Report of the Select Committee, 1781, Appendix, No. 1.
“In the course of three years more, we think it much to be apprehended, that the continued operation of this system will have reduced the country in general to such a state of ruin and decay, as no future alteration will be sufficient to retrieve.” Extract of a Minute from General Clavering, Col. Monson, and Mr. Francis, March 21, 1775.
Report ut supra, and Appendix, No. 14 and 15: see also a publication entitled Original Minutes of the Governor-General and Council of Fort William, by Philip Francis, Esq. For the meaning of the terms Zemindar and Ryot, see i. 271; and for the interest which the Zemindar had in the land, see the considerations adduced on the introduction of the zemindary system during the administration of Lord Cornwallis.
See Francis’s Minute, ut supra, and the Draught of Hastings’s Bill; Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 13.
Mr. Shore (Lord Teignmouth) said in his valuable Minute on the Revenues of Bengal, dated June, 1789, printed in the Appendix, No. 1, to the Fifth Report of the Committee on India Affairs in 1810, that “the settlement of 1772, before the expiration of the leases, existed, he believed, no where, upon its original terms.”
Sixth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Minutes of the Governor-General and Council of Fort William, by Philip Francis, Esq.
Fifth Report of the Committee of Indian Affairs, 1812, p. 8.
Ninth Report, Select Committee, 1783, and Appendix, No. 107, 108, 109, 112, 113, 114, 115; See also the Charges, No. 9, and the Answer of Mr. Hastings.
The original documents respecting these transactions may be found in the Appendix to the Fifth Report of the Select Committee, 1781; and in the Minutes of Evidence on the Trial of Mr. Hastings.
Minute of the Governor-General on the 7th Dec. 1775, Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 24, and App. No. 6.
Secret consultations, 5th March, 1778. Fifth Report, p. 29. App. No. 6. (N.)
At the time, when Nuncomar accused Mr. Hastings, an indictment for a conspiracy was brought against him, Roy Radachurn, and others. Roy Rodachurn was the Vakeel of the Bengal Nabob, and claimed the privilege of an ambassador. To bring him under the power of the Court, it was thought necessary to prove that his master was in no respect a Prince. For this purpose Mr. Hastings made an affidavit, that he and his council, in 1772, had appointed Munny Begum, and all her subordinates; that they had appointed courts of laws, both civil and criminal, by their own authority, and without consulting the Nabob; that “the civil courts were made solely dependant on the Presidency of Calcutta; and that the said criminal courts were put under the inspection and control of the Company’s servants, although ostensibly under the name of the Nazim; and that the revenues were exclusively in the hands of the Company.” The inference was, that not a particle of sovereign power belonged to the Nabob. Affidavits to the same purpose were made by Mr. George Vansittart and Mr. Lane. Upon this and other evidence the judges formed their decision; that the Nabob was not a sovereign in any sense, nor his Vakeel an ambassador. The words of some of them are remarkable. The Chief Justice said, that if the Nabob was a Prince, “the exercise of their power must be an usurpation in the India Company;” but this he affirmed was not the case, for the Nabob’s treaty with the Company “was a surrender, by him, of all power into their hands.” After a long argument to show that there was in the Nabob nothingt but a “shadow of majesty,” he concludes; “I should not have thought that I had done my duty, if I had not given a full and determinate opinion upon this question. I should have been sorry if I had left it doubtful, whether the empty name of a Nabob could be thrust between a delinquent and the laws.” The language of Mr. Justice Le Maistre was stronger still. “With regard to this phantom,” said he, “this man of straw, Mobarek ul Dowla, it is an insult on the understanding of the Court, to have made a question of his sovereignty.” “By the treaty which has been read,” said Mr. Justice Hyde, “it appears that Mobareck ul Dowla deprives himself of the great ensign of sovereignty—the right to protect his own subjects. He declares that shall be done by the Company.” When this opinion was received, Mr. Francis moved at the Board, that as it would preclude them from the use of the Nabob’s name in their transactions with foreign states, the Directors might be requested, “if it should be determined by them that the Subah’s government was annihilated, to instruct the Board in what form the government of the provinces should be administered for the future.” Mr. Hastings objected to the motion, as the declaration of the judges told nothing but what, he said, was known, and acted upon, before. They had used the Nabob’s name, it was true; in deference to the commands of the Directors; “but I do not,” said be, “remember any instance, and I hope none will be found, of our having been so disingenuous as to disclaim our own power, or to affirm that the Nabob was the real sovereign of these provinces.” He next proceeds to condemn the fiction of the Nobob’s government. “In effect,” he says, “I do not hesitate to say, that I look upon this state of indecision to have been productive of all the embarrassments which we have experienced with the foreign settlements…. It has been productive of great inconveniences; it has prevented us from acting with vigour in our disputes with the Dutch and French…. Instead of regretting, with Mr. Francis, the occasion which deprives us of so useless and hurtful a disguise, I should rather rejoice were it really the case, and consider it as a crisis which freed the constitution of our government from one of its greatest defects. And if the commands of our honourable employers, which are expected by the ships of the season, shall leave us uninstructed on this subject, which has been so pointedly referred to them in the letters of the late administration, I now declare that I shall construe the omission, as a tacit and discretional reference of the subject to the judgment and determination of this Board; and will propose that we do stand forth, in the name of the Company, as the actual government of these provinces; and assume the exercise of it, in every instance, without any concealment or participation.” Minutes of Evidence on the Trial of Mr. Hastings, p. 1071–1079. When all these facts are known, the vehement zeal which Mr. Hastings, because it now suited his purpose, displayed for the fictitious authority of the Nabob, has a name which every reader will supply.
Of the mode in which such a letter was procured, nobody who knows the relative situation of the parties can entertion a doubt. The judges of the supreme court, upon a letter of the same Nabob, in July, 1775, unanimously gave the following opinion: “The Nabob’s age, his situation is such, that there is no man, either in England or India, will believe he would be induced to write such a letter, was it not dictated to him by the agents of those who rule this settlement; or unless he was perfectly convinced it would be agreeable to and coincide with their sentiments. We always have, and always shall consider, a letter of business from that Nabob, the same as a letter from the Governor-General and Council.” Minutes of Evidence on the trial, p. 1079, and Appendix, p. 547. According to this rule, the letter on which Mr. Hastings laid his superstructure was a letter from himself to himself.
Fifth Report, ut supra, p. 24–32, and App. No. 6; also the charges against Mr. Hastings, No. 17, with Mr. Hastings’s answer: see also the Evidence both for the Prosecution and Defence in Minutes of Evidence, ut supra.
The sentiments of the Court of Directors were unfavourable to this attempted alliance. In their letter of the 14th of May, 1779, to the Governor General and Council, they say, “The undertaking appears to us contrary to the Company’s former policy, to our engagements with Ragoba and Nizam Ali, and doubtful respecting any reasonable prospect of advantage.” And in another letter dated on the 27th of the same month, to the President and Select Committee of Bombay, they say, “We earnestly hope, that upon your negotiation and treaty with Ragoba being communicated to our Governor General and Council, they would concur with you in giving full effect thereto, and desist from entering into any new connexions which may set aside, or counteract, your recent agreements with Ragoba.” Sixth Report, Committee of Secrecy. 1781, p. 84.
It is worthy of remark, that Gazee ad dien Khan, formerly Vizir of the empire, and grandson of the great Nizam al Mulk, was at this time found at Surat, in the disguise of a pilgrim, and confined, till the Supreme Council, being consulted, disapproved of all acts of violence, but forbade his appearing within the territories of the Company. See the Letter from Gov. Gen. to Directors, dated 14th January, 1780. Sixth Report to the Secret Com. Appendix, No. 246.
For the transactions relative to the Mahratta war, the materials are found in the Sixth Report of the Committee of Secrecy in 1781, and the vast mass of documents printed in its Appendix; the twentieth article of the Parliamentary Charges against Hastings, and his answer; the Papers printed for the use of the House of Commons on the Impeachment; and the Minutes of Evidence on the Trial of Mr. Hastings. The publications of the day, which on this, and other parts of the history of Mr. Hastings’ Administration, have been consulted, some with more, some with less, advantage, are far too numerous to mention.
Sixth Report of the Committee of Secrecy, 1781, p. 98, and appendix, No. 288; also Fifth Report of the Select Committee, 1781, p. 14, 18, 30; Memoirs of the late War in Asia, i.301, &c.