Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VII. - The History of British India, vol. 4
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CHAP. VII. - 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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Journey of the Governor-General to the Upper Provinces—History of the Company’s Connexions with the Rajah of Benares—Requisitions upon the Rajah—Resolution to relieve the Company’s Necessities by forcible Exaction on the Rajah—The Governor-General arrives at Benares—The Rajah put under Arrest—A tumultuous Assemblage of the People—An Affray between them and the Soldiers—The Rajah escapes—War made upon him, and the Country subdued—Condemnation of Mr. Hastings by the Directors—Double Negotiation with the Mahrattas of Poonah—Treaty of Peace.
BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.It was immediately subsequent to these great changes in the financial and judicial departments of the government, that the celebrated journey of the Governor-General to the Upper Provinces took place. Important as was the business, which at that time pressed upon the attention of the government, when war raged in the Carnatic, when the contest with the Mahrattas was carried on in two places at once, and when the Supreme Council was so greatly reduced in numbers that, upon the departure of the Governor-General, one member alone, Mr. Wheler, was left to conduct the machine of government, it was to be concluded, that matters of great concernment had withdrawn the Governor-General from the principal scene of intelligence, of deliberation, and of action. The transactions which he had in view were chieflyBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. those proceedings which he meditated with regard to the Rajah of Benares, and the Nabob of Oude. The government was distressed for money, and the intention was avowed of making those tributary Princes subservient to its supply. The Governor-General departed from Calcutta on the 7th of July, 1781, and arrived at Benares on the 14th of August. To understand the events which ensued, it is necessary to trace from its origin, the connexion which subsisted between the English and the Rajah.
After the shock which the empire of the Great Mogul sustained by the invasion of Nadir Shah, when the subahdars and other governors, freed from the restraint of a powerful master, added to the territory placed under their command, as much as they were able of the adjacent country, the city and district of Benares were reduced under subjection to the Nabob of Oude. This city, which was the principal seat of Brahmenical religion and learning, and to the native inhabitants an object of prodigious veneration and resort, appears, during the previous period of Mahomedan sway, to have remained under the immediate government of an Hindu. Whether, till the time at which it became an appanage to the Subah of Oude, it had ever been governed through the medium of any of the neighbouring viceroys, or had always paid its revenue immediately to the imperial treasury, does not certainly appear. With the exception of coining money in his own name; a prerogative of majesty, which, as long as the throne retained its vigour, was not enfeebled by communication; and that of the administration of criminal justice, which the Nabob had withdrawn, the Rajah of Benares had always, it is probable, enjoyed and exercised all the powers of government, within his BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.own dominions. In 1764, when the war broke out between the English and the Subahdar of Oude, Bulwant Sing was Rajah of Benares, and, excepting the payment of an annual tribute, was almost independent of that grasping chief, who meditated the reduction of Benares to the same species of dominion which he exercised over the province of Oude. The Rajah would gladly have seen the authority of the English substituted in Oude to that of the Vizir, whom he had so much occasion to dread. He offered to assist them with his forces; and, to anticipate all jealousy, from the idea of his aiming at independence, expressed his willingness to hold the country, subject to the same obligations under them, as it had sustained in the case of the Nabob; and so highly important was the service which he rendered to the Company, that the Directors expressed their sense of it in the strongest terms.1 When peace was concluded, the Rajah was secured from the effects of the Nabob’s resentment and revenge, by an express article in the treaty, upon which the English insisted, and the guarantee of which they solemnly undertook. Upon the death of Bulwant Sing in the year 1770, the disposition of the Vizir to dispossess the family, and take the province into his own hands, was strongly displayed, but the English again interfered, and compelled the Vizir to confirm the succession to Cheyte Sing, the son of the late Rajah, and his posterity for ever, on the same terms, excepting a small rise in the annual payment, as those on which the country had been held by his father. In the year 1773, when Mr. Hastings paid his first visit to the Nabob of Oude, the preceding agreement was renewed and confirmed. “The Nabob,” said Mr. Hastings, “pressed me, in very earnest terms, for my consent,BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. that he should dispossess the Rajah of the forts of Leteefgur and Bidgegur, and take from him ten lacs of rupees over and above the stipulated rents; and he seemed greatly dissatisfied at my refusal.” Mr. Hastings, however, insisted that all the advantages which had been secured to Bulwant Sing, and confirmed by the Nabob’s own deed to Cheyte Sing, should be preserved; and he expressed, in the same letter, his opinion both of the faith of the Vizir, and the independence of the Rajah, in the following terms: “I am well convinced that the Rajah’s inheritance, and perhaps his life, are no longer safe than while he enjoys the Company’s protection; which is his due, by the ties of justice, and the obligations of public faith; and which policy enjoins us to afford him ever most effectually: his country is a strong barrier to ours, without subjecting us to any expense; and we may depend upon him as a sure ally, whenever we may stand in need of his services.”1 It was established accordingly, that “no increase of revenue should ever thereafter be demanded.”
When the Company’s new government, established in 1774, resolved upon forming a new arrangement with the son and successor of the Vizir, lately deceased; the interest, whatever it was, which was possessed by the Vizir in the territory of the Rajah Cheyte Sing, was transferred from that chief to the Company. Upon this occasion it was resolved, not only that no infringement should take place of the previous rights and privileges of the Rajah, but that other advantages should be annexed. Mr. Hastings took the lead in this determination; and earnestly BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.maintained the policy of rendering the Rajah totally independent in his government of Benares, under no condition but the payment of a fixed and invariable tribute. To this, with only a nominal modification, the Council agreed. It was a primary object, professed by all, that the Rajah should be completely secured from all future encroachments, either upon his revenue, or his power; and an unanimous resolution was passed, that so long as he discharged his engagements, “no more demands should be made upon him, by the Honourable Company, of any kind; nor, on any pretence whatsoever, should any person be allowed to interfere with his authority.” To preclude all ground for such interference the right of coining money, and of administering penal justice, was transferred to him. Mr. Hastings proposed that the Rajah should pay his tribute, not at his own capital of Benares, but at Patna, which was the nearest station for the business of government, within the territory of the Company. And the reason which he suggested is worthy of record: “If a resident was appointed to receive the money, as it became due, at Benares; such a resident would unavoidably acquire an influence over the Rajah, and over his country; which would, in effect, render him master of both. This consequence might not, perhaps, be brought completely to pass, without a struggle; and many appeals to the Council, which, in a government constituted like this, cannot fail to terminate against the Rajah: And, by the construction, to which his opposition to the agent would be liable, might eventually draw on him severe restrictions; and end in reducing him to the mean and depraved state of a mere zemindar.”1 The chain of acknowledgments is instructive and memorable; 1st, That a resident ofBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. the Company, at the court of a native Prince, though for ever so confined and simple a purpose, no more than that of receiving periodical payment of a definite sum of money, would engross the power of the Prince, and become, in effect, the master of the country; 2dly, That in any disputes which might arise with the agent, in the resistance offered by the Prince to these encroachments, the Prince is sure of injustice from the Company’s government, sure that all appeals to it will terminate against him, and that even his attempts to oppose the encroachments of the agent will be liable to such constructions, as may induce the Company’s servants to plunge him into the lowest stage of oppression and degradation; and, 3dly, That this state of “meanness and depravity” is the ordinary state of a zemindar.1
BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.It was in the end arranged, that the payment of the tribute should be made at Calcutta, a commission being allowed for the additional expense: And Mr. Francis was anxious that the independence of the Rajah should be modified no farther than by an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the English; a condition not practically affecting his government, and conducive no less to his security than to the dignity of those to whom the compliment was paid.1
Upon these terms the settlement was concluded; and the Rajah continued to pay his tribute with an exactness rarely exemplified in the history of the tributary princes of Hindustan. Unhappily for him, he was not an indifferent spectator of the disputes which agitated the Supreme Council. “It is a fact,” says the Governor-General, “that when the unhappy divisions of our government had proceeded to an extremity bordering on civil violence, by the attempt to wrest from me my authority, in the month of June, 1777,1 he had deputed a man named Sumboonaut,BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. with an express commission to my opponent; and the man had proceeded as far as Moorshedabad, when, hearing of the change of affairs, he stopped, and the Rajah recalled him.”2 It is somewhat wonderful that a circumstance, no greater than this, should have made so deep an impression upon the mind of the Governor-General, as to be enumerated, after the lapse of years, in a laboured apology, among the causes which justified the prosecution of the Rajah to his ruin.
In the year, 1778, the Governor-General proposed, that a requisition should be made upon the Rajah Cheyte Sing, for the maintenance of three battalions of sepoys, estimated at five lacs of rupees per annum, during the continuance of the war. In settling the terms of the connexion of the Rajah with the Company, in 1775, it had been proposed, for consideration, by the Governor-General, whether the Rajah should not engage to keep a body of 2,000 cavalry constantly on foot, which should be consigned to the service of the Company, receiving an additional pay or gratuity, as often as the public interest should require. But this proposition was rejected by the rest of the Council, even by Mr. Barwell, on the score of its being a mere enhancement of the tribute of the Rajah, under a different name. And the Governor-General then declared, that “it was far from his intention to propose this, or any other article, to be imposed on the Rajah by compulsion; he only proposed it as an article of speculation.” Mr. Francis and BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.Mr. Wheler, in 1778, consented that an aid, to the amount which the Governor-General proposed, should be requested of the Rajah, but demurred as to the right of enforcing any demand beyond that of the stipulated tribute; and Mr. Hastings agreed to reserve the question of right to their superiors.1 Professing a strong desire to show his friendship to the Company, the Rajah, as was to be expected, endeavoured to obtain an abatement of the sum; and when he gave his consent to the whole, expressly declared that it was only for a single year. In resentment of these endeavours to limit the amount of the contribution, the Governor-General proposed, that no time should be allowed for the convenience of payment; but the whole should be exacted immediately. “I acquiesce,” were the words of Mr. Francis’s Minute; “though, in my own opinion, it would answer as well to us, and be less distressing to the Rajah, if the subsidy were added in equal proportions to the monthly receipts of the tribute.”
The Rajah pleaded poverty; and, praying for indulgence in point of time, engaged to make good the total payment in six or seven months. The Governor-General treated the very request as a high offence; and added the following very explanatory words; “I will not conceal from the Board, that I have expected this evasive conduct in the Rajah, having been some time past well informed, that he had been advised in this manner to procrastinate the payment of the five lacs, to afford time for the arrival of dispatches from England, which were to bring orders for a total change in this government; and this he was given to expect would produce a repeal of the demand made upon him by the present government.”BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. A delay, founded upon the hope that the Governor-General would be stript of power, might sting the mind of the Governor-General, if it was a mind of a particular description; but a delay, founded upon the hope of remission (even if it had been ascertained to be the fact) would not by any body, unless he were in the situation of the Governor-General, be regarded as much of a crime. Mr. Francis and Mr. Wheler were over-ruled, and the resident at Benares was commanded immediately to repair to the Rajah, to demand, that in five days the whole of the money should be paid, to denounce to him that a failure in this respect would be treated as equivalent to an absolute refusal, and to abstain from all intercourse with him till further instructions, if the requisition was not obeyed.
In the following year, the demand was renewed. The Rajah now more earnestly represented the narrowness of his circumstances; the hardship which was imposed upon him, by so heavy an exaction; his exemption, by the terms of his treaty, from all demands, beyond the amount of his tribute, which was most regularly paid; and his express stipulation, annexed to his former payment, that it was not to be for more than a year. The Governor-General replied in terms more imperious and harsh than before; threatening him with military execution, unless he paid immediate and unconditional obedience to the command. The Rajah repeated his remonstrance, in the most earnest, but the most submissive, and even suppliant terms. The troops were ordered to march. He was compelled to pay not only the original demand, but 2,000l. as a fine for delay, under the title of expence of the troops employed to coerce him.
BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.In the third year, that is, in 1780, the exaction was renewed; but several new circumstances were, in this year, annexed to the transaction. The Rajah sent his confidential minister to Calcutta, to mollify the Governor-General, by the most submissive expressions of regret for having incurred his displeasure, even by confessions of error and of fault, and by the strongest protestations of a desire to make every possible exertion for the recovery of his favour. This however included not the payment of the five lacs, of which the agent was instructed to use his utmost endeavours to obtain a remission. For the better accomplishment of this object, he was furnished with a secret compliment to the Governor-General, of the amount of two lacs of rupees. At first, as we are told by Mr. Hastings, he absolutely refused the present, and assured the agent of the Rajah that the contribution must be paid. Afterwards, however, he accepted the present; with a view, as he himself informs us, to apply the money to a peculiar exigency of the public service. Be it so. The money of the Rajah however was tendered, for a purpose which it was impossible to mistake: And that money, with all the obligation which the receipt of it imported, was in fact received.1 The contribution, nevertheless, was exacted. The remonstrances of the Rajah, andBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. his renewed endeavours to gain a little time, were treated as renewed delinquency; and for these endeavours the Governor-General imposed upon him a mulct or fine of 10,000l.;1 and the troops were ordered to march into the Rajah’s country, on the same errand, and on the same terms, as in the preceding year.
The Rajah again submitted, and the money was again discharged. But these submissions and payments were no longer regarded as enough. An additional burthen was now to be imposed. A resolution was passed in the Supreme Council, that the Rajah, besides his tribute, and the annual contribution of five lacs of rupees, should be required to furnish to the Bengal Government such part of the cavalry entertained in his service, as he could spare: And the resident was instructed by the Governor-General to make a peremptory demand of 2,000. The Rajah BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.represented that he had only 1,300 cavalry in his service, and that they were all employed in guarding the country, or in collecting the revenues. The Governor-General reduced his demand, first to 1,500, and at last to 1,000. The Rajah collected 500 horse, as he himself, and without contradiction, affirmed, and 500 matchlock men as a substitute for the remainder: He sent word to the Governor-General that this force was ready to receive his commands; but never obtained any answer.
The Governor-General had other views. He wanted money, and he was resolved that the plunder of the unhappy Rajah, whom he disliked, should be the source from which it was to flow. “I was resolved,” says the Governor-General, “to draw from his guilt the means of relief to the Company’s distresses. In a word, I had determined to make him pay largely for his pardon, or to exact a severe vengeance for his past delinquency.”1 The confession has the merit of frankness, be the other virtues belonging to it such as they may. The guilt, as it is called, consisted, exclusively, in a reluctance to submit to the imposition of a very heavy burthen, from which the Rajah considered that he ought to be free.
The Rajah was informed of the hostile designs which were entertained against him, and, in order to mitigate the fury of the storm, sent an offer to the Governor-General of twenty lacs of rupees for the public service. The offer was scornfully rejected. A sum of not less than fifty lacs, was the peremptory demand. From the Governor-General’s information we learn, that he was at this time offered a large sum of money for the dominions of the Rajah, by the Nabob of Oude; that he was resolved to extort the obedience of the Rajah; otherwise to reduceBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. his forts, and seize the treasure which they were supposed to contain; or to conclude a bargain for his dominions with the Nabob Vizir.
It is necessary to be remarked, that Mr. Fowke, who had been replaced in the office of resident at Benares by the express command of the Court of Directors, the Governor-General removed about six months before his journey to Benares, on the sole pretence that “he thought the resident there should be a man of his own nomination and confidence;” though the Court of Directors had decreed the contrary, and issued to that effect their most peremptory commands. It is also requisite to be stated, that though the Governor-General departed for Benares with the intention of inflicting a severe vengeance on the Rajah, a design which he communicated in trust to some of his confidential friends, he entered no intimation of this design in the consultations, or records of the Deliberative Council, but on the contrary a minute, importing nothing beyond an amicable and ordinary adjustment, and desiring powers for nothing but to make such arrangements, and perform such acts, for the improvement of the Zemindary “as he should think fit and consonant to the mutual engagements subsisting between the Company and the Rajah.” The aptness of the expression consisted in its having sufficient laxity to stretch around all that the actor had in view, while its more obvious signification led not the mind of the hearer to any but ordinary transactions.
Upon the approach of the Governor-General to the boundary of the Rajah’s dominions, that Prince went out to meet him, and, to render the compliment still more respectful, with a retinue unusually great. Not contented with a mere interview of form, the Rajah BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.pressed for a more confidential conversation. “He professed,” says Mr. Hastings, “much concern to hear that I was displeased with him, and contrition for having given cause for it, assuring me that his Zemindary, and all that he possessed, were at my devotion; and he accompanied his words by an action, either strongly expressive of the agitation of his mind, or his desire to impress on mine a conviction of his sincerity—by laying his turban on my lap.” Mr. Hastings, according to his own account, treated the declarations of the Rajah as unworthy of his regard, and dismissed him.
Mr. Hastings arrived in the capital of the Rajah on the 14th of August; earlier by some hours than the Rajah himself. The Rajah commmunicated his intention of waiting upon him in the evening. But the Governor-General sent his prohibition; and at the same time directed him to forbear his visits, till permission should be received. The resident was next morning sent to the Rajah with a paper of complaints and demands. The Rajah in reply transmitted, in the course of the day, a paper in which he endeavoured to make it appear that his conduct was not liable to so much blame as the Governor-General imputed; nor deserved the severity of treatment which was bestowed. The Governor-General, without any further communication, put him under arrest the following morning; and imprisoned him in his own house with a military guard.
This is the point, at which the reader should pause, to examine, by the rules of justice, the conduct of the parties; since to this time their actions were the offspring of choice; afterwards, they became more the result of necessity on both sides.
Suppose the justice of the demand to have been ever so clear and certain; suppose that the Rajah had procrastinated, and endeavoured to evade the paymentBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. of his defined and established tribute, which on the contrary he always paid with singular exactness; suppose that importunity on each occasion had been requisite, and the delay of a few months incurred; even in this case, where blame, if inability hindered not, might without dispute have been due, it will be acknowledged, that the behaviour of the Governor-General would have been harsh, precipitate, and cruel. Even the fines, and the soldiers, would have been too hastily and vindictively applied to an offence, so common in India, and to which any consequences of importance are so little attached. The arrest, which to a man of rank is the deepest disgrace and injury, would have been an excess of punishment to a very considerable degree beyond the line of justice and humanity. If so, how much must be supposed to be added to that excess, when it is considered that the demand itself was extraordinary, irregular, and liable to the imputation of injustice; that some even of Mr. Hastings’ colleagues disputed the right of the Company to enforce any such demand; and that Mr. Hastings, though he declared that his opinion was in favour of the right, dared not to decide upon it, but in express terms left the question doubtful, and reserved the decision for his superiors?
Mr. Hastings imposes a heavy burthen upon a native Prince: His right, in point of law or justice, is a matter of doubt: The Prince shows reluctance to submit to what he very naturally regards as oppression; and by some little and ordinary artifices he endeavours to elude the demand: To this reluctance and these little artifices, Mr. Hastings attaches the name of guilt: Having sufficiently attached to them the name of guilt, he holds it requisite that BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.guilt should meet with punishment; And as it is the dignity of the state against which the offence has been committed, the dignity of the state, which is infinite, requires that the punishment should be adequately severe. If this be justice, a way may be found for inflicting any punishment justly, at any time, upon any human being.
There are considerations, on the opposite side, which must not be forgotten. Mr. Hastings, in his present exigency, might naturally expect assistance from the Rajah. It was common for the tributary Princes of the country to be compelled to assist their superiors in war. And it is probable that Mr. Hastings counted upon that assistance, when, in 1775, the agreement with the Rajah was formed. It is, however, not a matter of doubt, that by the terms of that solemn compact, the Governor-General and his colleagues, whether they so intended or not, did surrender and renounce all right to make any demand upon the Rajah of such assistance, or of any emolument or service whatsoever beyond the amount of his annual tribute.
Mr. Hastings, in contest with his accusers, endeavoured to lay the burthen of his defence upon the duties which in India a dependant ruler owes to the authority on which he depends. But if these duties, whatever they may be, are solemnly remitted by him to whom they are due, and the right to exact them is formally given up, the obligation is destroyed, and becomes as if it never had existed. That the words of the grant to the Rajah Cheyte Sing barred every demand beyond that of his tribute, and by consequence that which was now made, Hastings no where directly controverts.1 He meets not the argument, because it could not be answered; he endeavours toBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. defeat it by other means; by hiding it from observation, while he sedulously directs the attention to different points.
We must also be allowed to examine the rights which the custom of India gave to the Prince who received, over the Prince who afforded, the tribute. BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.Far were they, indeed, from being of such a nature, as Mr. Hastings, for the benefit of his own exculpation, affirmed. By whose construction? By the habitual construction, by the public acts, of Mr. Hastings himself. The East India Company were the dependants of the Emperor Shah Aulum, and paid him a tribute. Did the East India Company hold themselves bound to obey every demand which the Emperor might choose to make upon them for assistance in his wars? Did they not treat him as a person to whose commands, or most urgent supplications, not the smallest attention was necessary? Did they not even treat him as a person toward whom they had no occasion to fulfil even the most solemn engagements? Did they not, as soon as they pleased, refuse to pay him even his tribute for that part of his dominions which they continued to hold in his name? Did not their ally, the Nabob of Oude, in like manner depend upon the Emperor, and owe him tribute, which he never paid? Was he not even his Vizir; in other words, his chief minister and servant, and therefore bound by a double duty to obey, to aid, and to protect him? Did he, on these accounts, perform towards him the smallest act of service, or obedience? No one, than Mr. Hastings, better knew, that in India the obligation of the person who pays tribute to the person who receives it is deemed so very slight, as scarcely to be felt or regarded; and no man was more ready to act upon that principle, when it suited his purposes, than Mr. Hastings. The law of the strongest, indeed, was in perfect force; and whenever any party had the power to enforce obedience, it had no limit but that of his will.
The relation in which the Company stood to the Rajah, the one as sovereign, the other as subject, Mr. Hastings represented as conferring “an inherentBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. right to impose such assessments as the Company thought expedient.” But, in that case, the compact into which the Company entered with the Rajah, that on no pretence whatsoever should any demand whatsoever be made upon him, beyond the amount of his tribute, were a form of words totally destitute of meaning, or rather a solemn mockery, by which the Company gave security and assurance to the mind of the Rajah, that they would take from him nothing beyond his tribute, excepting just as much, and just as often, as they pleased.1
Mr. Hastings, in his own justification, and after the time when his conduct had produced the most alarming events, alleged the previous existence of designs, and even preparations, on the part of the Rajah, traitorous and hostile to the Company. For the evidence of these designs, Mr. Hastings presents his own naked assertion. But to that, in such circumstances, little value is to be attached. The assertion was also contradicted; and by the man who best knew on what grounds it was made; by Mr. Hastings himself. It was contradicted, by his actions, a better testimony than his words. So far from repairing to the capital of the Rajah, as to a place where any danger was to be apprehended, he repaired to it BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.as a place where he might commit the greatest outrage upon its sovereign without the smallest dread of opposition or revenge.1
By Mr. Hastings the Rajah was represented as having vast riches, which he ungratefully desired toBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. withhold from the Company in their greatest distress. If the fact had corresponded with the assertion, it is not very allowable, for a mere debt of gratitude, to prosecute a man to his ruin. Of the riches of the Rajah, however, we look in vain for the proof; and the fancy of those riches was, in all probability, nothing more than a part of that vain imagination of the unbounded opulence of India, which the experience of our countrymen might at a very early period have extinguished in their minds, but which their cupidity has, in spite of their experience, kept alive, to hurry them into many of the weakest and most exceptionable of their acts. Of the Princes of India, there has not been one whom, after experience, they have not found to be poor; scarcely has there been any whom, before experience, they have not believed to be rich.
Mr. Hastings endeavoured to strengthen his justification by chicaning about the quality of the Rajah, or his dignity and rank. Mr. Hastings denied that he was a sovereign prince: he was only a Zemindar. Did this, however, change the nature of the compact, by which the Company had bound themselves to exact from this man, whether Prince or Zemindar, no more than his annual tribute? Would Mr. Hastings have asserted, that, being a Zemindar, the Company had any better right to plunder him, than if he was a dependant Prince? Had he been a subject, in the most unlimited sense of the word, would it have been any thing else than plunder, not to have taxed him along with the rest of his fellow-subjects, but to have gone to him personally, and singly, and have taken from him by compulsion, whatever it was the pleasure of the exactor to take? Would Mr. Hastings have undertaken to point out where the line of distinction BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.between a Zemindar, and a dependant Prince, was to be found? Was not every Zemindar that had a large extent of territory and power, a dependant Prince; and was not every Prince of a small extent of territory and power, a mere Zemindar? What could constitute any man a sovereign Prince, if all the powers of government secured, without participation, to him and his heirs for ever, over a country surpassing the extent of considerable kingdoms, did not constitute the Rajah of Benares a Prince?—But the father of the Rajah, Bulwant Sing, said Mr. Hastings, rose from the condition of a petty Zemindar.—What had this to do with the question? Did any one, better than Mr. Hastings, know, that those who acquired the station of dependant Princes in India almost uniformly ascended from the lowest origin? Did the birth of Aliverdi Khan prevent him from being the Subahdar of Bengal, and leaving his heir in the state of a tributary Prince?1
Another of the allegations, upon which the defence was attempted of the demands which Mr. Hastings made upon the Rajah and of the arrest of him for evasions of payment, was; that the police of the Rajah’s dominions was very defective. It would have beenBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. difficult for his accuser to show in what part of India it was good. Three instances are adduced, on the complaint of Major Eaton, the English officer commanding at Buxar, in which the people of the country had behaved without respect to the English authority, and in one instance with violence to English sepoys, and even English officers. Upon this, remonstrance had been made to the Rajah, and, though it is not alleged that he abetted his officers or people, yet he had not made redress, to the satisfaction of the offended party. On the 14th of December, 1780, the Supreme Council wrote, commanding the Rajah to make inquiry into one of the cases: which, as there is no complaint to the contrary, except that an answer had not been received on the 17th of next month, it would appear that he did. And just seven months after the date of this letter Mr. Hastings set out on the journey to inflict that punishment on the Rajah which led to his ruin.1
Another extraordinary declaration of Mr. Hastings remains to be considered. “I will suppose,” says he, “for a moment, that I have erred, that I have acted with an unwarranted rigour towards Cheyte Sing, and even with injustice: Let my motive be consulted.” Then follows the account of this motive, in the following words: “I left Calcutta, impressed with the belief, that extraordinary means, and those exerted with a strong hand, were necessary to preserve the Company’s interests from sinking under the accumulated weight which oppressed them. I saw a political necessity for curbing the overgrown power of a great member of their dominion, and to make it contribute to the relief of their pressing exigencies. BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.If I erred, my error was prompted by an excess of zeal for their interests, operating with too strong a bias on my judgment.”1 Here some portion of the truth comes forth. The Company were in want of money. The Rajah was supposed to possess it. And since he would not give what was demanded willingly, the resolution was formed to take it from him by force. The pretence, however, that his power was overgrown, that is, from its magnitude an object of danger, was utterly groundless. In what respect had that power increased, during the short period of five years, from the time when Mr. Hastings and his colleagues confirmed and established his power, and when Mr. Hastings was so far from dreading it, that he wished to make it still more independent than it was really made? By a small body of troops hastily collected together, and wretchedly provided both with provisions and pay, the whole power of the Rajah was in a few days, and with little bloodshed, completely subdued. And the military officers declared, that, even if the country had deliberately rebelled, a single brigade of the Company’s army would have sufficed for its reduction.2
Nor was the Governor-General so perfectly disinterested, as he was desirous to make it appear. The whole power and emoluments of his office, over which he watched with so much jealousy and desire, were the powerful interests by which he was stimulated. He knew, under the sentiments which prevailed atBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. home, by what a slender and precarious tenure he enjoyed his place. He knew well that success or adversity would determine the question. He knew that with those whom he served, plenty of money was success, want of that useful article, adversity. He found himself in extreme want of it. The treasure to which he looked was the fancied treasure of the Rajah; and he was determined to make it his own. If under such circumstances as these a zeal for the government which he served could sanctify his actions, then may Jefferies be regarded as a virtuous judge.1
BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.On the very evening of the first day after the arrival of the Governor-General in the capital of the Rajah, he gave his commands to Mr. Markham, the Resident; who proceeded the next morning, with a few of his orderlies, to the palace of the Rajah; and he thus reported to his employer the result of his mission. “The Rajah submitted quietly to the arrest; and assured me, that whatever were your orders, he was ready implicitly to obey: he hoped that you would allow him a subsistence; but as for his Zemindary, his forts, and his treasure, he was ready to lay them at your feet, and his life, if required: He expressed himself much hurt at the ignominy which he affirmed must be the consequence of his confinement, and entreated me to return to you with the foregoing submission, hoping that you would make allowance for his youth and inexperience, and, in consideration of his father’s name, release him from his confinement, as soon as he should prove the sincerity of his offers, and himself deserving of your compassion and forgiveness.”
This conversation had only been a few minutes ended, when a guard of two companies of sepoys arrived; the servants of the Rajah were disarmed; and he was left in charge of the officers. The sensation which this event produced in the minds of the people was immediately seen. The government of the Rajah, and of his father Bulwant Sing, had for many years afforded the people an uncommon portion of justice and protection; and they had prospered under its beneficent care. Captain Harper, an officer of the Company, who had performed a great deal of service in that part of Hindustan, was asked in evidence by the Select Committee, “How the provinces of Benares and Gazeepoor were cultivated, compared with those parts of Bahar which adjoin, and are only separated by the river Caramnassa? He said, TheBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. provinces of Benares and Gazepoor were more highly cultivated than any he ever passed through; and far superior to the adjoining one of Bahar; and that he attributed this comparative prosperity of those provinces to the industry of the inhabitants, and to the secure and lenient government they lived under.”1 In consequence, the family of the Rajah was naturally beloved; and it sufficiently appears, from the affidavits2 adduced by the Governor-General, that the English were by the natives, in those parts, in a peculiar manner detested. The confinement of their Prince was an act, which, under the ignominious light in which imprisonment is regarded by the Indians, they viewed as an outrage of the most atrocious description. The passions of the people were inflamed; and they flocked in crowds to the spot where their sovereign was confined. So little had any conception of resistance been entertained, that the two companies of sepoys, who were placed on guard, had come without ammunition. As the concourse of people increased, two additional companies, with a supply of ammunition, were ordered to their support. But before they arrived at the palace, all the avenues were blocked up, and a tumult arose, which soon led to bloodshed, and at last to a furious engagement between the people and the troops. The unfortunate consequence was, that the sepoys and their officers were almost all destroyed. On which side the acts of provocation and violence began, does not sufficiently BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.appear.1 The Rajah, during this confusion, escaped by a wicket which opened to the river; and, letting himself down the bank, which was very steep, by turbans tied together, he escaped to the other side. The multitude immediately followed him across the river, and left the palace to be occupied by the English troops.
That this assemblage of the people, and the attack which they made upon the guard, was the fortuitous result of the indignation with which they were inspired, by the indignity offered to their prince, and that it was in no degree owing to premeditation and contrivance, was amply proved by the events. The Rajah knew that Mr. Hastings was unattended by any military force; and, if he had acted upon a previous design, would not have lost a moment in securing his person. The Governor-General himself declares; “If Cheyte Sing’s people, after they had effected his rescue, had proceeded to my quarters, instead of crowding after him in a tumultuous manner, as they did, in his passage over the river, it is probable that my blood, and that of about thirty English gentlemen of my party, would have been added to the recent carnage: for they were about two thousand, furious and daring from the easy success of their last attempt: nor could I assemble more than fifty regular and armed sepoys for my whole defence.”2 Nothing was it possible to have said, more decisive of the character of a casual mob, led by the mere contingency of the moment, without foresight, and without an end.
It was by no means worthy of a man of prudenceBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. and experience to have proceeded deliberately to a measure so likely to make a violent impression upon the minds of the people, without having made any provision whatsoever for preventing the unhappy effects which it tended to produce. Mr. Hastings, at first, was able to assemble for his defence only six companies of Major Popham’s regiment, about sixty sepoys which he had brought with him from Buxar as a guard to his boats, and a few recruits newly enlisted for the Resident’s guard; in all, about four hundred and fifty men; and without provisions even for a single day.
Ramnagur was a fortified palace of the Rajah, on the opposite side of the river, close to Benares. It was not expected that it could for any length of time resist the effect of artillery; and the resolution was taken of reducing it with all possible dispatch. The remaining four companies of Major Popham’s regiment of sepoys, with one company of artillery, and the company of French rangers, lay at Mirzapoor; and were ordered to march to Ramnagur. Major Popham was destined to assume the command, as soon as all the troops intended for the service had arrived. But the officer, who in the mean time commanded the troops, was stimulated with an ambition of signalizing himself; and, without waiting for the effects of a cannonade, marched to the attack of the palace through the narrow streets of the town by which it was surrounded. In this situation the troops were exposed to a great variety of assaults, and after a fruitless opposition were compelled to retreat. The commanding officer was killed; a considerable loss was sustained; and an unfavorable impression was made at the commencement of the struggle, which would have been a serious evil in a less trifling affair.
BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.The Governor-General now regarded himself as placed in imminent danger. Letter upon letter was written to the commanding officers at all the military stations from which it was possible that timely assistance could be received. Few of these letters reached their destination; for all the channels of communication were interrupted; and so greatly were the people of the country animated against the English, that it was extremely difficult for any agent of theirs to pass without discovery and prevention. The contagion of revolt and hostility flew with unusual rapidity and strength. Not only did the whole of the district which owned the sway of the Rajah fly to arms, the very fields being deserted of the husbandmen, who voluntarily flocked to his standards and multiplied his ranks; but one half of the province of Oude is by the Governor-General affirmed to have been in a state of as complete rebellion as Benares. Even the British dominions themselves afforded cause of alarm; many of the Zemindars of Bahar had exhibited symptoms of disaffection: and the Governor-General received reports of actual levies, in that province, for the service of Cheyte Sing. The danger was exceedingly augmented from another source. The Governor-General was entirely destitute of money; and affirms, that the whole extent of both his treasure and his credit exceeded not three thousand rupees; while the troops were all four months, and some of them five months, in arrear.1
He was alarmed with the prospect of an attack from Ramnagur, which report described as about to take place in the night. His situation at Benares was regarded, by himself, and by his military officers, as not defensible; and he resolved to make his escape to the strong fortress of Chunar. He secretly quittedBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. the city, after it became dark, leaving the wounded sepoys behind; and arrived in safety at the place of his retreat.
Though the letters of the Governor-General reached not Colonel Morgan who commanded at Cawnpore, yet some intelligence traveled to him of the disorder which had arisen; and with promptitude and decision he ordered the principal part of the force which he commanded to march. The requisition both for money and for troops, which had been dispatched to Lucknow, was happily received; and was promptly obeyed. About the middle of September, one lack and a half of rupees had been received, and a force was now collected, deemed sufficient for the accomplishment of the enterprise.
The Rajah had endeavoured to make his peace from the moment of his escape. He had written letters, in which he declared his sorrow for the attack which had been made upon the soldiers of the guard, and for the blood which had been spilt; protested his own innocence with regard to the effects which had taken place, and which he affirmed to have arisen solely from the casual violence of the multitude, inflamed by the insolence of an English agent; and professed his readiness to submit with implicit obedience to whatever conditions the Governor-General might think fit to impose. Not contented with repeating his letters, he made application, through every person on whose influence with the English ruler he thought he might depend; through one of the gentlemen of his party; through Cantoo Baboo, his confidential secretary; and through Hyder Beg Khan, one of the ministers of the Nabob Vizir. All his applications Mr. Hastings treated as unsatisfactory and insincere; and deigned not to make to them so BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.much as a reply. The Rajah collected his forces, and appealed by a manifesto to the princes of Hindustan. He was reported, truly or falsely, to be also venting the most extravagant boasts of the ruin which he meant to bring down upon the English; though he totally abstained from all operations not purely defensive, and in his letters to the Governor-General appealed to his forbearance, as a proof of his desire to retain his obedience. In the mean time he sustained several partial attacks. On the 29th of August a considerable body of his troops, who occupied a post at Seeker, a small fort and town within sight of Chunar, were defeated, and a seasonable booty in grain was procured. On the 3d of September a detachment was formed to surprise the camp at Pateeta, about seven miles distant from Chunar. But the enemy were on their guard, and received the party in good order, at the distance of a mile beyond their camp. They fought with a steadiness and ardour which disconcerted the sepoys, and were beginning to produce disorder, when an attack, made with great gallantry upon their guns, by the two companies of grenadiers, induced them to leave the field with four of their cannon to the victors.
Pateeta was a large town, surrounded by a rampart of earth, which extended a considerable way beyond the town, to the adjoining hills. It had also a small square fort, built of stone, fortified with four round towers, a high rampart, and a great ditch. The principal force of the enemy was collected at this place, and at Lutteefpoor, a large stone fort surrounded with hills and a wood, at the distance of about fourteen miles from Chunar. The strength of both consisted mostly in the difficulty with which they were approached. According to the plan of operations, which the English had arranged, Ramnagur was first to be assailed, both as it was the place whereBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. their arms had met with a disgrace, and because reduction of it would restore possession of the capital, and redeem their credit with the public. Several days were spent, in conveying battering cannon and mortars, with other preparations for a siege, to the camp of Major Popham, which was placed before the town. In the mean time one of the natives represented, that it would be extremely dangerous to allow time to the enemy to strengthen themselves at Pateeta and Lutteefpoor; that the approaches to both were strongly guarded; and that those to Lutteefpoor, in particular, could not be forced but with a serious loss; that even if Lutteefpoor were reduced the object would not be attained, because the enemy could immediately gain the pass of Sukroot, which was behind, and there maintain themselves against any force which could assail them: He, therefore, recommended an attempt to gain possession of the pass by surprise, to which he undertook to conduct a part of the army by an unknown road; and the more to distract the enemy, he advised that an attack should at one and the same time be conducted against Pateeta. His representation was favourably received; Major Popham, with the quick discernment and decision, on which so much of military success depends, immediately acknowledging the excellence of the plan. The army was divided into two parts, of which that which was destined for Sukroot began their march, under command of Major Crabb, about an hour before midnight, on the 15th of the month; and that for Pateeta, conducted by the commanding officer, Major Popham, about three o’clock on the following morning.
He found the works of Pateeta strong, and the approach more hazardous than he had anticipated, BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.He had marched without his battering cannon or mortars. They were sent for, but made little impression. Apprehensive lest further delay should frustrate the attempt at Sukroot, he resolved to make an assault on the morning of the 20th. On that very morning the other division of the army arrived, through ways nearly impracticable, at a village, about two miles from the pass. Major Roberts led the storming party at Pateeta, which hardly met with any resistance. After a slight stand at the outer intrenchment, the enemy fled through the fort, and the English soldiers followed without opposition. The pass at Sukroot was guarded by a body of men with three guns, who made a stout defence, but after a considerable loss fled through the pass, in which the English encamped for the remainder of the day. The intelligence of the loss of Pateeta, and of the pass, was carried, at nearly the same time, to Lutteefpoor, to the Rajah. He now, it is probable, began to despair. About four o’clock on the same day he fled from Lutteefpoor, and proceeded with a few followers to the fort of Bidgegur, which was his last resource. His army disbanded themselves; and “in a few hours, the allegiance of the country,” says the Governor-General, “was restored as completely, from a state of universal revolt, to its proper channel, as if it had never departed from it.”
The Governor-General made haste to return to Benares, where the formation of a new government solicited his attention. To quiet the minds of the people, a proclamation was issued, offering pardon to all, with the exception of Cheyte Sing and his brother. A grandson of the Rajah Bulwant Sing, by a daughter, was selected as the future Rajah; and as his years, nineteen, or his capacity, appeared to disqualify him for the duties, his father, under the title of Naib, was appointed to perform them in his name.BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. Two important changes, however, were produced in the condition of the Rajah. His annual tribute was raised to forty lacs of rupees: and the police, with the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the city of Benares, and the criminal jurisdiction of the whole country, was taken out of his hands. It was alleged, that they had been wretchedly administered under his predecessor: and it was either not expected, or not desired, that he should be the author of an improvement. A separate establishment was erected for each, and the whole was placed under the superintendance of a native officer, who was denominated the Chief Magistrate of Benares, and made responsible to the Governor-General and Council. The power of the mint was also withdrawn from the Rajah, and entrusted to the resident at his court.
After possession was taken of Lutteefpoor, the army lost no time in marching to Bidgegur. The Rajah did not wait for their arrival, but fled for protection to one of the Rajahs of Bundelecund, “leaving,” says Mr. Hastings, “his wife, a woman of an amiable character, his mother, all the other women of his family, and the survivors of the family of his father Bulwant Sing, in the fort.” Mr. Hastings cuts very short his narrative of the transactions at Bidgegur, and only remarks, that it yielded by capitulation on the 9th of November. These transactions were not omitted by him, because they were devoid of importance. The Rannee, that is, the widow of the deceased Rajah, Bulwant Sing, endeavoured, before she opened the gates of the fort, which had been her own peculiar residence, to stipulate for some advantages, and among them for the safety of her own pecuniary and other effects; representing her son, as having carried along with him whatever belonged to BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.himself.1 Mr. Hastings manifested a desire to have her despoiled. What is more remarkable, in his letters to the commanding officer, he employed expressions which implied that the plunder of those women was the due reward of the soldiers; expressions which suggested one of the most dreadful outrages, to which, in the conception of the country, a human being could be exposed. The very words of the letter ought to be produced, that no inference may be drawn from it beyond what they evidently support. “I am this instant favoured with yours of yesterday. Mine of the same date has before this time acquainted youBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. with my resolutions and sentiments respecting the Rannee. I think every demand she has made to you, except that of safety and respect for her person, is unreasonable. If the reports brought to me are true; your rejecting her offers, or any negotiation with her, would soon obtain your possession of the fort, upon your own terms. I apprehend that she will contrive to defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being suffered to retire without examination. But this is your consideration, and not mine. I should be very sorry that your officers and soldiers lost any part of the reward to which they are so well entitled; but I cannot make any objection, as you must be the best judge of the expediency of the promised indulgence to the Rannee. What you have engaged for, I will certainly ratify; but, as to permitting the Rannee to hold the pergunnah of Hurlak, or any other, without being subject to the authority of the Zemindar, or any lands whatever, or indeed making any condition with her for a provision, I will never consent to it.”1 It was finally arranged, that the Rannee should give up the fort, with all the treasure and effects contained in it, on the express condition, along with terms of safety, that the persons of herself and of the other females of her family should be safe from the dishonour of search. The idea, however, which was suggested in the letter of Mr. Hastings, “that she would contrive to defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being suffered to retire without examination,” diffused itself but too perfectly among the soldiery; BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.and when the Princesses, with their relatives and attendants, to the number of three hundred women, besides children, withdrew from the castle, the capitulation was shamefully violated; they were plundered of their effects; and their persons otherwise rudely and disgracefully treated by the licentious people and followers of the camp. One is delighted, for the honour of distinguished gallantry, that in no part of this opprobrious business the commanding officer had any share. He leaned to generosity, and the protection of the Princesses, from the beginning. His utmost endeavours were exerted to restrain the outrages of the camp; and he represented them with feeling to Mr. Hastings, who expressed his “great concern;” hoped the offenders would be discovered, obliged to make restitution and punished; and directed that recompense should be made to the sufferer, “by a scrupulous attention to enforce the performance of the remaining stipulations in her favour.”1
The whole of the treasure found in the castle, of which the greater part did probably belonged to the Rannee, and not to the Rajah, amounted to 23,27,813 current rupees. The whole, therefore, of the treasure which the exiled Prince appears to have had in hand, not only to defray the current expenses of his government, but also to advance regularly the Company’s tribute, was so far from answering to the hyperbolical conceptions or representations of the Governor-General, that it exceeded not the provision which a prudent prince would have thought it always necessary to possess.
The army proceeded upon the obvious import of the words of the Governor-General in the letter in which he seemed to desire, that they should not allow the female relations of the Rajah to leave theBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. fort, without the examination of their persons. They concluded, that the whole of the booty was “the reward to which they were so well entitled,” and divided it among themselves.1 Among the practical conclusions deducible from his letter, it appears that this, at least, the Governor-General did not wish to receive its effect. He endeavoured to retract the permission which the army had inferred; and, by explaining away the terms which he had used, to recover the spoil for his exigencies of the government. The soldiers, however, both officers and men, refused to surrender what they had, upon the faith of the Governor-General, appropriated. Failing in this attempt, he endeavoured to prevail upon the army, in the way of loan, to aid the Company with the money, in its urgent distress. Even to this solicitation they remained obdurate. When Major Fairfax, in his examination before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, was asked, “whether the officers assigned any reason for refusing to obey the requisition of Mr. Hastings? he said, he heard it was, because the Rohilla prize-money had never been paid.”2BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.Mr. Hastings was, therefore, not only frustrated as to every portion of that pecuniary relief which he expected from the supposed treasures of the Rajah Cheyte Sing; he added to the burden, under which the Company was ready to sink, the expense which was incurred by subduing the revolt.
It is but justice to the Court of Directors to record the resolutions, in which they expressed their opinion of the conduct, pursued by their principal servant in India, towards the unfortunate Rajah of Benares:
“That it appears to this Court, that on the death of Sujah Dowlah, 1775, a treaty was made with his successor, by which the zemindary of Benares, with its dependencies, was ceded in perpetuity to the East India Company:
“That it appears to this Court, that Rajah Cheyte Sing was confirmed by the Governor-General and Council of Bengal, in the management of the said zemindary (subject to the sovereignty of the Company) on his paying a certain tribute, which was settled at sicca rupees 22,66,180; and that the Bengal government pledged itself that the free and uncontroled possession of the zemindary of Benares, and its dependencies, should he confirmed and guaranteed to the Rajah and his heirs for ever, subject to such tribute, and that no other demand should be made upon him, nor any kind of authority or jurisdiction exercised within the dominions assigned him, so long as he adhered to the terms of his engagements:
“That it appears to this Court that the Governor-General and Council did, on the 5th of July, 1775, recommend to Rajah Cheyte Sing, to keep up a body of 2000 horse; but at the same time declared there should be no obligation upon him to do it:
“That it appears to this Court, that Rajah CheyteBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. Sing performed his engagements with the Company, in the regular payment of his tribute of sicca rupees 22,66,180:
“That it appears to this Court, that the conduct of the Governor-General towards the Rajah, while he was at Benares, was improper; and that the imprisonment of his person, thereby disgracing him in the eyes of his subjects and others, was unwarrantable, and highly impolitic, and may tend to weaken the confidence which the native princes of India ought to have in the justice and moderation of the Company’s government.”
That the conception, thus expressed by the Court of Directors, of the several facts which constituted the great circumstances of the case, was correct, the considerations adduced in the preceding pages appear to place beyond the reach of dispute. The sensibility which, in his answer, Mr. Hastings shows to the inferences which they present, is expressed in the following words: “I must crave leave to say, that the terms, improper, unwarrantable, and highly impolitic, are much too gentle, as deductions from such premises.” History, if concealment were not one of the acts by which truth is betrayed, would, out of tenderness to Mr. Hastings, suppress the material part of that which follows, and which he gave in his defence:
“I deny, that the Bengal government pledged itself, that the free and uncontroled possession of the zemindary of Benares, and its dependencies, should be confirmed and guaranteed to the Rajah and his heirs for ever:
“I deny, that the Bengal government pledged itself that no other demand should be made upon him, nor any kind of authority or jurisdiction, within the BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.dominions assigned him, so long as he adhered to the terms of his engagement:
“I deny, that I ever required him to keep up a body of 2000 horse, contrary to the declaration made to him by the Governor-General and Council, on the 5th of July, 1775, that there should be no obligation to him to do it:
“My demand (that is, the demand of the Board) was not that he should maintain any specific number of horse, but that the number which he did maintain should be employed for the defence of the general state:
“I deny, that Rajah Cheyte Sing was bound by no other engagements to the Company, than for the payment of his tribute of sicca rupees 22,66,180:
“He was bound by the engagements of fealty, and absolute obedience to every order of the government which he served.
“I deny, that the Rajah Cheyte Sing was a native Prince of India.”1
Mr. Hastings says, “I forbear to detail the proofsBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781. of these denials;” and as the pleas involved in them coincide with those allegations of his which have been examined above, it is only necessary to refer to what has there been adduced.1 The Court of Directors, notwithstanding their condemnation of the treatment which the Rajah had received, and notwithstanding the manner in which, by a train of unhappy circumstances the trial of arms was forced upon him, thought proper to declare, that his dethronement and proscription were justified by the war.2
It was shortly after his retreat to Chunar, that the Governor-General received from Colonel Muir the intelligence, that Mahdajee Scindia had offered terms of peace. This was an event, calculated to afford him peculiar satisfaction. One of the ostensible objects of his journey was, to confer with the Minister of the Rajah of Berar, who was expected to meet him at Benares; and, through the influence of BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1781.the government of that country, to accelerate the conclusion of a peace. That Minister, however, died before the arrival of Hastings; and the loss of his intervention rendered the pacific intentions of Scindia more peculiarly gratifying. So far back as February, 1779, the Presidency of Bombay had recommended the mediation of Scindia, as that which alone was likely to render any service. The Colonel immediately received his instructions, for a treaty, on the terms either of mutual alliance, or of neutrality; and either including the Peshwa, or with Scindia individually. If it included the Peshwa, the Colonel was authorized, to cede every acquisition, made during the war, except the territory of Futteh Sing Guicowar, Lahar, and the fortress of Gualior; and to renounce (but without the surrender of his person) the support of Ragonaut Row. He was instructed to retain Bassein, if it were possible, even with the surrender, in its stead, of all the territory (Salsette with its adjacent islands and the moiety of Baroach excepted,) ceded by the treaty of Colonel Upton; but not to allow Bassein itself to be any obstruction to the conclusion of peace.
When the separate treaty was concluded with Scindia, who undertook to mediate with the Mahratta powers, the Governor-General who had not yet departed from Benares, sent Mr. Anderson and Mr. Chapman; the former to the court of Scindia, with full powers to negotiate and conclude a peace with the Poonah government; the latter to the court of the Rajah of Berar, to perform what was in his power towards the accomplishment of the same object.
The business was not very speedily, nor very easily concluded. The Poonah ministers, solicited for peace by the three English Presidencies at once, though they were somewhat shaken in their opposition, by the defection of Scindia from the war, by the steadinessBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1782. with which the English sustained themselves against Hyder, by the facility with which they had subdued the Rajah of Benares, and the vigour with which they carried the war almost to the gates of Poonah, were yet encouraged by the pressure which the English sustained, and still more, perhaps, by the eagerness which they manifested for peace.
Colonel Goddard, not yet informed of the steps which had been taken by Mr. Hastings for urging the business of peace with the Poonah ministers, deemed it necessary, in pursuance of the powers for treating and concluding, with which he was invested, to commence a formal negotiation. And he gave the requisite commission to Mr. Watherstone, who arrived at Poonah on the 14th of January, 1782.
The cunning of the Poonah Ministers taught them the advantage of negotiation with two ambassadors, acting under separate commissions; who, by the desire of attaining the object for which they were sent, might be expected to bid against one another, and give to the Mahrattas the benefit of an auction in adjusting the terms of peace. They pretended therefore, to be puzzled with two sets of powers; though they laboured to retain Col. Watherstone, after he was recalled. They put on the forms of distance; and stood upon elevated terms. Scindia, too, who meant to sell his services to the English very dear, was displeased at the commission sent to solicit the interference of the government of Berar. The extensive sacrifices, however, which the English consented to make, the unsteadfast basis on which the power of the leaders at Poonah was placed, and the exhausted state of the country, from the long continuance of its internal struggles, as well as the drain produced by the English war, triumphed over all difficulties; a BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1782.cessation of hostilities was effected early in March; and a treaty was concluded on the 17th of May.
Not only the other territories which the English had acquired during the war, but Bassein itself, the city also of Ahmedabad, and all the country in Guzerat which had been gained for Futty Sing, were given up; and the two brothers, the Guicowars, were placed in the same situation, both with respect to one another, and with respect to the Peshwa, as they stood in previous to the war. Even of the territory, which had been confirmed to them by the treaty of Colonel Upton, the English agreed to surrender their pretensions to a part (yielding annually three lacs of rupees), which had not yet come into their possession when the war was renewed. And all their rights in the city and territory of Baroach, valued at 200,000l. a year, were resigned, by a separate agreement, to Scindia and his heirs for ever. To Scindia was also given up, by the liberty of seizing it, the territory, including the fort of Gualior, of the Rana of Gohud; who had joined the English, but, as usual in India with the petty princes, who choose their side from the hope of protection on the one hand and the dread of plunder on the other, had been neither very able nor very willing, to lend great assistance. Having given offence by his defect of service, and created suspicions by his endeavours to effect a separate reconciliation with Scindia; he was, in adjusting the terms of the treaty with Scindia, left to his fate. The amity of Scindia was purchased, by still further sacrifices, which evince but little foresight. The project of Scindia for invading the territories of the Mogul Emperor, those of Nujeef Khan, and those of other chiefs in the province of Delhi and the adjoining regions, was known and avowed: And it was, intentionally, provided, that no obstruction, by the treaty with the English, should be offered to the executionBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1782. of those designs.1
All that was stipulated in behalf of Ragonaut Row was a period of four months, in which he might choose a place for his residence. After that period the English agreed to afford him neither pecuniary nor any other support. The Peshwa engaged, on the dangerous condition of his residing within the dominions of Scindia, where he was promised security, to allow him a pension of 25,000 rupees per month.
An article was inserted respecting Hyder Ali, to which we have scarcely information to enable us to attach any definite ideas. The Mahrattas engaged, that within six months after the ratification of the treaty, he should be compelled to relinquish to the English, and their allies, all the places which he had taken from them during the war: But neither did the Mahrattas perform, nor did the English call upon them to perform, any one act toward the fulfilment of this condition. The English, on their part, engaged that they would never made war upon Hyder till he made war upon them; an engagement to which they BOOK V. Chap. 7. 1782.as little expected that the Mahrattas would call upon them to adhere.1
The Mahrattas also agreed, and to this the imaginations of the English attached a high importance, that, with the exception of the ancient Portuguese establishments, they would permit no other nation, except the English, to open with them any friendly intercourse, or to erect a factory within their dominions.
The terms of this agreement, the gentlemen of the Presidency of Bombay arraigned as inadequate, nay humiliating; and declared, that had the negotiation been left to them and to Goddard, who best knew the state of the Mahratta government, and with whatBOOK V. Chap. 7. 1782. facility it might have been induced to lower its tone, a far more favourable treaty might have certainly been obtained.
In their Bengal Letter, 26th May, 1768.
Secret Consultations, Fort William, 4th Oct. 1773; Extract of the Governor-General’s Report; Second Report of the Select Committee, 1782, p. 12.
Minute in Council of the Governor-General on the twelfth of June, 1775.
Mr. Barwell even went so far, as to record it in his minute as his opinion and desire, that the Rajah should be exempt even from tribute, and rendered in all respects an independent Sovereign. His words are these; “The independence of Gauzeepore (the Rajah’s country) on Oude, is a great political object, and ought to be insisted on; and whatever may be resolved respecting the revenue paid by the Rajah of that country, the English government ought not to stand in the same relation to it as the late Vizir, because the country of Benares and Gauzeepore is a natural barrier to these provinces, and the Rajah should have the strongest tie of interest to support our government, in case of any future rupture with the Subah of Oude.—To make this his interest, he must not be tributary to the English government; for, from the instant he becomes its tributary, from that moment we may expect him to side against us, and by taking advantage of the troubles and commotions that may arise, attempt to disburthen himself of his pecuniary obligations.” Bengal Consultation, 13th Feb. 1775. As a specimen of the changes to which the sentiments of these rulers were liable, compare the words of the Minute of the same Mr. Barwell, not three years and five months afterwards, viz. in his Minute in Council, 9th of July, 1778; “I have long regarded the military establishment of Benares, under the Rajah’s native officers, as a defect: I therefore most heartily agree to the present proposal for three disciplined battalions to be kept up and paid by the Rajah, and sincerely hope the Company will direct, that the whole force of Benares and Gauzeepore, under the Zemindar, be placed upon the same footing as the regular military force of the Presidency.” It is to be observed, that the three battalions were a mere pretence. The Rajah was only required to give money: and the battalions were never raised.
The third paragraph of his Minute in Council, on the 13th of Feb. 1775, was in these words; “The present Rajah of Benares to be confirmed in the Zemindary, which may be perpetuated in the family under a fixed annual tribute, and a fixed fine at each future investiture; the Rajah’s authority in his own country to be left full and uncontrouled.” And this he further explained in a Minute, dated the 4th of March, in the following words; “In agreeing to the proposed independence of the Rajah of Benares, my meaning was, to adhere strictly to the third paragraph of my Minute of the 13th of February, that the Zemindary may be perpetuated in his family on fixed and unalterable conditions. It is highly for his own advantage, to be considered as a vassal of the Sovereign of these kingdoms, holding a great hereditary fief by a fixed tenure, and acknowledging the Sovereign of Bengal and Bahar to be his lord paramount. Speaking my sentiments without reserve, I must declare, that in settling this article, I took forward to the assertion or acceptance of the sovereighty of these provinces, pleno jure, on the part of his most Gracious Majesty, the King of Great Britain.”
What he calls the attempt to wrest from him his authority, was his own refusal to obey the appointment of the Company, when Sir John Clavering was nominated to the place of Governor-General, upon the resignation which Mr. Hastings disowned.
The Governor-General’s Narrative of the Transactions at Benares, App. No. 1; Second Report of the Select Committee, 1781.
The expressions in his Minute in Council (9th July, 1778), are these…."wishing to avoid the question of right"…. “I wish to leave the decision of future right to our superiors.”
For the circumstances of this present, see Hastings’s Answer to Burke’s Eighth Charge; the Eleventh Report of the Select Committee, 1781; and the Minutes of the Evidence taken at the Trial of Warren Hastings. These circumstances are remarkable, and characteristic; At first, perfect concealment of the transaction: such measures, however, taken, as may if afterwards necessary appear to imply a design of future disclosure: when concealment becomes difficult and hazardous, then disclosure made The Governor-General, on the 29th of June, offered to apply 23,000l., which, as he described it, appeared to be, though not asserted to be, money of his own, to the support of the detachment under Colonel Carnac, destined to act in the country of Scindia: Whether the accommodation was meant to be a loan or a gift did not appear. Of the receipt of this money as a present no intimation was made to the Court of Directors before the 29th of November following; when he only alludes to it, but expressly withholds explanation. Stating the reason of mentioning the matter at all to be a desire of “obviating the false conclusions or purposed misrepresentations” which might be made of his offer to defray the expense of Carnac’s detachment, as if that offer were “either an artifice of ostentation, or the effect of corrupt influence,” he tells them, “that the money, by whatever means it came into his possession, was not his own; that he had himself no right to it, nor would or could have received it, but for the occasion which prompted him to avail himself of the accidental means which were at that instant afforded him, of accepting and converting it to the property and use of the Company.” Even here, he represents his converting it to the use of the Company, as a voluntary favour he conferred upon the Company, when the money was in reality the money of the Company, and when every thing received in presents was theirs. He had given no further explanation up to the end of 1783; and the first knowledge obtained in England of the source whence the money was derived, was drawn from Major Scott by the interrogatories of the Select Committee. See Eleventh Report, p. 7.
The payment of this mulet is stated as doubtful, in Burke’s Charges; but as it is passed without mention in the Answer, the silence must, in this, as in other cases, be taken for confession.
Governor-General’s Narrative, K., supra.
The form of the words was affirmative and negative; the first clause defining that which he was to pay; the latter clause excluding by express declaration whatever was not defined and specified in the former. Ambiguity could not more effectually be excluded. The first clause included his tribute, and nothing else; the latter negatived whatever was not in the first clause, that is, whatever was not his tribute. The words to which reference is always made, are the words of the resolution of the Council. It is true, that the words of the sunnud, which was afterwards actually granted, and which ought to have been exactly correspondent to the words of the resolution, were too indefinite to fix any thing whatsoever in favour of the Rajah. But this is one of the injuries which the Rajah sustained; and cannot be employed to justify the oppression which was grounded upon it: it is on the contrary a heinous fraud, for which the authors were justly accountable. And the words of the resolution ought to be the explanation and the standard of what is left undefined in the sunnud. It is remarkable, that there was a great deal of irregularity, and some suspicious circumstances, in the mode of making out the deeds, and performing the investment. The Rajah objected to the first forms. They were altered. Other forms were adopted. And in the charges against Mr. Hastings, voted by the House of Commons, it is stated, that neither the first set of deeds, nor the second set of deeds, were entered in the records, or transmitted to the Court of Directors. In fact, there is so much of the appearance of improper design in these proceedings, that Mr. Burke scruples not to say, they “give, by that complicated, artificial, and fraudulent management, as well as by his (Mr. Hastings) omitting to record that material document, strong reason to presume that he did even then meditate to make some evil use of the deeds which he thus withheld from the Company, and which he did afterwards in reality make, when he found means and opportunity to effect his evil purpose.” The design was, however, probably, no worse than to leave himself a latitude of power with regard to the Rajah. But the indefiniteness of the sunnud very ill agreed with the solicitude expressed in Council by the Governor-General, in 1775, to exempt the Rajah from dependance, and all chance of encroachment on his power. It is also necessary to state, that Mr. Hastings avers he had no concern in making out the sunnuds, or omitting to record them; that these practical operations belonged to the Secretary of the Board, under the superintendance of the majority, of which at this time he was not a part; and that if there was any misconduct, that majority are to answer for it. See his Defence on the Third Charge.
Mr. Francis at the time remarked; “I did, from the first, express a doubt, whether we had strictly a right to increase our demands upon the Rajah beyond the terms which we originally agreed to give him; which he consented to; and which, as I have constantly understood it, were made the fundamental tenure by which he held his Zemindary. If such demands can be increased upon him at the discretion of the superior power, he has no rights; he has no property; or at least he has no security for either. Instead of five lacs, let us demand fifty: whether he refuses, or is unable, to pay the money, the forfeiture of his Zemindary may be the immediate consequence of it, unless he can find means to redeem himself by a new treaty.” Minute in Council, 28th September, 1778; Second Report, ut supra, p. 30.
The affidavits, appended to Mr. Hastings’ Narrative, instead of proving that any design of rebellion was on foot, prove the contrary; by showing the total want of a foundation for the pretended suspicions. Much testimony was given in defence to this point on the trial. It amounted however to nothing but a statement of rumours, or of equivocal appearances, or of the opinions of witnesses who believed that which they wished. (See printed Minutes of Evidence on the Benares Charge, p. 1601 to 1616 and 1664–1788.) Lieutenant-Colonel Crabb, on the subject of the reports respecting the disaffection of the Rajah—(after the treatment which he had received, the known existence of a cause for disaffection was very likely to be confounded with the supposed existence of disaffection itself)— was asked by the Select Committee (Second Report, Appendix, No. 11), “Whether there were any circumstances in the Company’s situation at that time to consider those reports probable? He said, Not that he knew of; reports were circulated one half hour, and contradicted the next; and no one can trace the origin.” Among the alleged proofs, was given, a recent augmentation of his troops; of cavalry, to the amount of 5000; (see the Evidence of Major Fairfax, Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 15); yet all the horse in his service, when he was obliged to take the field, amounted only to about 2000; see Hastings’ Narrative, ut supra, Dd. The same sort of suspicions, and the same sort of reports, existed against the Nabob of Oude; and with more probability, and with more danger, because he had greater power. The Governor-General himself says, “I had received several intimations, imputing evil designs to the Nabob, and warning me to guard myself against them, and especially be careful that I did not expose myself to the effects of concealed treachery, by visiting him without a strong guard. Many circumstances favoured this suspicion. No sooner had the rebellion of this Zemindary (Benares) manifested itself, than its contagion instantly flew to Fyzabad—and the extensive territory lying on the north of the river Dewa, and known by the names of Goorucpoor and Bareech. In the city of Fyzabad, the mother and grandmother of the Nabob openly espoused the party of Cheyte Sing, encouraging and inviting people to enlist for his service, and their servants took up arms against the English. Two battalions of regular sepoys in the Vizir’s service, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hannay, who had been entrusted with the charge of that district, were attacked and surrounded in various places, many of them cut to pieces, and Colonel Hannay himself, encompassed by multitudes, narrowly escaped the same fate. The Nabob Vizir was charged with being privy to the intrigues which had produced and fomented those disturbances; and the little account that he seemed to make of them served to countenance the suspicion.” (Narrative, ut supra, Cc.)
What was the condition of the Zemindars of the province of Benares, whose obedience as subjects was due to Cheyte Sing? The fact is, that nothing was so indefinite as the title of Zemindar. Mr. Hastings himself says, “The expulsion of Cheyte Sing was indisputably a revolution. I have always called it so.” A revolution, consisting in the mere change of a land-renter, removeable at pleasure! It is curious to contrast the words of Mr. Hastings’s own agent, Major Scott, who had occasion to exalt the situation of the Rajah: “Mr. Fowke, as Resident at Benares, appears to him, and certainly is, as an ambassador at a foreign though dependant court; From that Rajah, the Company receive 300,000l. sterling a year: Benares is the seat of politics; vackeels, or ambassadors, from every power in India reside constantly there.” Evidence of Major Scott, in the Fifth Report (p. 7) of the Select Committee, 1781. Yet no small portion of the evidence adduced for the defence on Mr. Hastings’s trial went to prove that the Rajah was a mere Zemindar. Vide Minutes of Evidence, ut supra.
Vide Minutes of Evidence on the Trial, p. 1601.
Governor-General’s Narrative, ut supra, O. No. 1.
See the evidence of Lieutenant Colonel Crabb, Second Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 11. Observe the words of Mr. Hastings himself: “The treachery of Rajah Cheyte Sing has compelled me to retreat to this place, where I wait to reduce this Zemindary; a work I trust of no great difficulty or time…. Troops are assembling daily, to which he can afford no opposition.“ Governor-General’s Letter to Colonel Muir, dated Chunargur, 29th August, 1781, ut supra, No. 4. Evidence was adduced on the trial, however, to prove this point with the rest. Vide Minutes, ut supra, on the Banares charge.
Mr. Hastings represented his animosity as inflamed by the danger, to which the detachment of Colonel Carnac in Scindia’s country was exposed. The money expected from the Rajah was, according to the statement of Mr. Hastings, destined to that service. But, in the first place, Mr. Hastings was inexcusable, if he left the subsistence of an army, in a dangerous situation, to depend upon a supply which he knew to be precarious. Besides, it is, by the Select Committee, in their Second Report, shown, from a comparison of the dates, that the distress of the army was not an effect of delay in the payments of the Rajah. And it is still further shown by that Committee in their Eleventh Report, that the present of two lacs of rupees (23,000l. sterling), which the Governor-General took from the Rajah, he actually proposed to the Council on the 26th of June, 1780, to employ, (not representing it as money not his own) in supporting the detachment under Carnac. The following are a few of the words of the Committee. “If the cause of Colonel Carnac’s failure had been true, as to the sum which was the object of the public demand, the failure could not be attributed to the Rajah, when he had on the instant privately furnished at least 23,000l. to Mr. Hastings; that is, furnished the identical money which he tells us (but carefully concealing the name of the giver) he had from the beginning destined, as he afterwards publicly offered, for this very expedition of Colonel Carnac’s. The complication of fraud and cruelty in this transaction admits of few parallels. Mr. Hastings, at the Council Board of Bengal, displays himself as a zealous servant of the Company, bountifully giving from his own fortune; and in his letter to the Directors (as he says himself), as going out of the ordinary roads for their advantage; and all this on the credit of supplies, derived from the gift of a man, whom he treats with the utmost severity, and whom he accuses, in this particular, of disaffection to the Company’s cause and interests.” Ibid. p. 7.
Report on the petition of Touchot, &c. p. 56. And the Governor-General himself, in his Minute in Council, 12th of June, 1775, declared that the Zemindary of the Rajah consisted of “as rich and well cultivated a territory as any district, perhaps, of the same extent in India.”
Appended to his Narrative.
The Rajah asserted, and Mr. Hastings has no where contradicted, that the provocation was given by the violence and insolence of the English and their agents. But his assertion, unless supported by circumstances, should not in such a case go far towards proof.
Narrative, ut supra.
See his letter to Mr. Wheler, Appendix to his Narrative, No. 127.
The allegation, though it was possible that it might not be true, was at any rate highly probable. What he took away, Mr. Hastings describes in the following pompous terms; “As much treasure as his elephants and camels could carry, which is reported to me to have consisted of one lac of mohrs, and fifteen or sixteen of silver, besides jewels to an unknown amount.” There could be no reason for his leaving behind any part of what belonged to him. “If he took as much as his elephants and camels could carry;” and if it amounted only to what the Governor-General is pleased to represent, the Rajah must have been badly provided with beasts of burthen. As the value of his jewels was “unknown,” that is to say, no estimate was put upon them by rumour, it was probably known to be small; since rumour seldom fails to give a name to the amount of any portion of wealth, which, from its magnitude, it is led to admire. Besides, it has never been found, when the exaggerations of the fancy were suppressed, by the real discovery of the facts; that the value of the jewels of these eastern princes was very great. And, moreover, the Rajah of Benares was but a petty Prince; according to Mr. Hastings, a mere middle man, for collecting the Company’s rents; no prince at all; and, therefore, could have had no great superfluity of wealth to bestow upon jewels. Over and above all which, his family had enjoyed their state only for some years of his father’s life, and five or six of his own. But any great accumulation of jewels in any family was seldom the purchase of a few years, but the collection of several generations. And still further, it is to be considered, that neither the Rajah nor his father had ever enjoyed the whole of their revenues; but had always paid a large tribute, either to the Nabob of Oude, or to the English; and were subject moreover to the drain, both of wars and of exactions. It ought likewise to be taken into the account, that they had contented themselves with moderate imposts upon the people, who were rich; that is, had never been oppressed by rents severely screwed up. It is further evident, that if the Rajah had carried much wealth away with him, it must have somewhere afterwards appeared.
It is remarkable, that of the inferences which are drawn from this letter, by Mr. Burke, in his Third Article of Charge, no notice whatsoever is taken by Mr. Hastings, in his Answer to that Charge, or indeed of any thing relative to the surrender of Bidgegur, and the fate of the prize money.
See his Letter, Tenth Report, Select Committee, Appendix, No. 3.
In a letter to the commading officer, without date, but supposed by the Select Committee to have been written early in November (vide Tenth Report, App. No. 3) the Governor-General’s words were still more precise, with regard to the booty. “If she (the Begum) complies, as I expect she will, it will be your part to secure the fort, and the property it contains, for the benefit of yourself and detachment.”
Second Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 15. “Being asked, whether this was the sole reason? he said, it was. Being asked, whether he did not hear it alleged, that a promise was claimed by the officers from Mr. Hastings, that the prize-money, in the Robilla war, when taken, should be the property of the captors? he said, He never heard of a promise previous to the capture; but he has heard that Mr. Hastings, after the prize-money was divided, promised, that if they would deliver it up, government would distribute it, in the manner they should think most proper.”
On equal grounds might the denial have been set up, that the Company held the dignity of a prince of India. They were not only the subjects of Shah Aulum, but the subjects of the Nabob of Bengal; and, according to the doctrine of Mr. Hastings, “bound by the engagements of fealty, and absolute obedience to every order of the government which they served.” Hear what the Governor-General and Council themselves declare respecting their subordinate relation to that Nabob, in their secret letter (Second Report, ut supra, p. 22), 3d August, 1775. “In the treaties entered into with the late Vizir, in the years 1765, 1770, the Company’s representatives acted, as plenipotentiaries from the Nabob Nujum ul Dowlah, and his successor Syef ul Dowlah.” Hastings’s plan of defence was this: To avail himself of the indefiniteness and uncertainty which surrounded every right, and every condition in India; and out of that to manufacture to himself a right of unbounded despotism. There is one remark, however, to which he is, in justice, entitled; that this indefiniteness, and the latitude of authority, the exercise of which was, in the practice of the country, never bounded by any thing but power, constituted a snare into which it was very difficult not to fall. It is also to be remembered that it is one thing to act under the casual and imperfect information of the moment of action, agitated by the passions which the circumstances themselves produce; and a very different thing to sit in judgment upon those acts, at a future period, when all the evidence is fully before us, illustrated by the events which followed, and when we are entirely free from the disturbance of the passions which the scenes themselves excite. It is the business of history, to exhibit actions as they really are; but the candid and just will make all the allowance for the actors, of which the case will admit. With regard to Mr. Hastings, it ought to be allowed, that the difficulties under which he acted were very great; and might be expected to betray any but a very extraordinary man into expedients for relief which would not always bear examination. Mr. Hastings deserves no hypocritical tenderness with regard to the instances in which he violated the rules of justice or of policy; but he deserves credit, in considerable, and perhaps a large degree, for having, in his situation, violated them so rarely.
Vide supra, p. 330–40.
The official documents relative to this passage of the history of India are found, in a most voluminous state, in those parts of the Minutes of evidence on Mr. Hastings’s Trial, which relate to the Benares Charge; in the Second Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, (1781) and its Appendix; in the Third of the Articles of Charge, and Answer to it, with the Papers called for by the House of Commons to elucidate that part of the accusation.
The letter of instructions of the Governor-General to Col. Muir says, “We are under no engagements to protect the present dominions of the King, or those of Nudjiff Khan, and the Rajah of Jaynagur; and if peace is settled betwixt Madajee Scindia and us, I do not desire that he should be restrained in carrying into execution any plans which he may have formed against them; at the same time, I think it necessary to caution you against inserting any thing in the treaty, which may expressly mark either our knowledge of his views or concurrence in them. It will be sufficient for us (and Scindia ought to be satisfied with the latitude implied in it) if he is only restricted in the treaty from making encroachments on our own territory and those of our allies.” Second Report, ut supra, App. No. I. By the way, we may here remark, how enormous a difference exists, between the obligations of fealty which Mr. Hastings imposed upon himself (as representative of the Company) towards his undoubted Sovereign the Mogul; and the obligations which, as supposed sovereigu of Cheyte Sing, he exacted (on the same ground) from that unfortunate chief. Vide supra, p. 356.
In the twentieth article of charge, we have Mr. Burke’s view of the case. He says, that Mr. Hastings did wish to engage with the Mahrattas in a plan for the conquest and partition of Mysore; that in order to carry this point, he exposed the negotiation to many difficulties and delays; that the Mahrattas, who were bound by an engagement with Hyder to make no peace with the English in which he was not included, pleaded this sacred obligation; but Hastings undertook to instruct even the Mahrattas in the arts of crooked faith by showing how they might adhere to the forms of their engagement, while they violated the substance; and what is most heinous of all, that Hastings, having effected the assent of the Mahrattas to the article which is inserted in the treaty, and led by his desire of conquest, opposed obstructions to the conclusion of a peace with the son and successor of Hyder Ali; that it was for this reason he endeavoured to bind the hands of the Presidency of Fort St. George, by withholding his authority from the negotiation; and that it was not till after a long experience of the total absence of any intention on the part of the Mahrattas, to engage with him in his schemes upon Mysore, and till he was assured of the fact by his agent at the court of Scindia, that his late and reluctant assent to the negotiation was obtained; and that, after the peace was concluded, and ratified by the Supreme Council, from which, he was absent, and of which, by reason of his absence, he formed not a part, he endeavoured to break it, or at least exposed it wantonly to the greatest danger of being broken, by insisting that its formal conclusion and ratification should be of non effect, and that it should be opened again for the purpose of inserting the useless, if not mischievous, formality of an article, admitting as a party the Nabob of Arcot. These imputations receive all the confirmation conveyed by an answer, which, passing them over in silence, appears to admit them.