Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VIII. - The History of British India, vol. 4
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAP. VIII. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Burdens sustained by the Nabob of Oude—His Complaints—How received by the English—Mr. Bristow removed from Oude—Agreement between Mr. Hastings and the Nabob—The Begums despoiled—Whether the Begums incited Insurrection—Alleged Oppressions of Colonel Hannay—The head Eunuchs of the Begums tortured—A present of ten Lacs given to Mr. Hastings by the Nabob—Governor-General accuses Middleton, and re-places Bristow—Treatment received by Fyzoolla Khan—Decision by the Court of Directors, relative to the Begums—Set at nought by Mr. Hastings—Governor-General’s new Accusations against Mr. Bristow—Governor-General’s Plan to remove the Residency from Oude—Governor-General repeats his visit to Oude—Resigns the Government—Financial Results of his Administration—Incidents at Madras.
BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.The next of the great transactions to which the presence of the Governor-General, in the upper provinces, gave immediate existence, was the memorable arrangement which he formed with the Nabob of Oude. In his payments to the Company, that Nabob had fallen deeply in arrear; and the extreme pecuniary distress endured by the Company,1 rendered it necessary to devise the most effectual means forBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. obtaining what he owed. His country, however, had, by misgovernment, fallen into the greatest disorder. The Zemindars were almost every where in a state of disobedience; the country was impoverished; and the disposition of the people, either deserting it or pining with want, threatened the evils, or promised the blessings, of a general revolt.1 Before the connexion between the English and Oude, its revenue had exceeded three millions sterling, and was levied without being accused of deteriorating the country. In the year 1779, it did not exceed one half of that sum, and in the subsequent years fell far below it, while the rate of taxation was increased, and the country exhibited every mark of oppressive exaction.
By the treaty of Fyzabad, formed with the late Nabob, at the conclusion of the Rohilla war, it was agreed, that a regular brigade of the Company’s troops should, at the expense of the Nabob, be kept within the dominions of Oude. Even this burden was optional, not compulsory; and the Court of Directors gave their sanction to the measure, “provided it was done with the free consent of the Subah, and by no means without it.”2
To the first was added, in the year 1777, a second, called the temporary brigade, because the express condition of it was, that the expense should be charged on the Nabob “for so long a time only as BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.he should require the corps for his service.” The Court of Directors were still more anxious, in this case than in the former, to determine, that the burthen should not be fastened upon the Nabob, contrary to his will: “If you intend” (say they, addressing the Governor-General and Council) “to exert your influence, first, to induce the Vizir to acquiesce in your proposal; and afterwards to compel him to keep the troops in his pay during your pleasure, your intents are unjust, and a correspondent conduct would reflect great dishonour on the Company.”
Even the temporary brigade did not put a limit to the expense for English soldiers whom the Nabob was drawn to maintain. Several detached corps, in the Company’s service, were also placed in his pay; and a great part of his own native troops were put under the command of British officers.
In the year 1779, the expense of the temporary brigade, and that of the country troops under British officers, increased, the one to the amount of more than eighty, the other of more than forty thousand pounds sterling, above the estimate. These particulars, however, constituted only the military part of his English expense. The civil expense resulted from an establishment under the resident, which, without any authority from the Court of Directors, or any record in the books of the Council, had gradually and secretly swelled to a great amount; and was encreased, by another establishment for another agent of the Company, and by pensions, allowances, and large occasional gifts, to various persons in the Company’s service.
In that year, viz. 1779, the Nabob complained that the pressure was more than he was able to endure. “During three years past,” said he, “the expense occasioned by the troops in brigade, and others commanded by European officers, has much distressedBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. the support of my household; insomuch, that the allowances made to the seraglio and children of the deceased Nabob have been reduced to one fourth of what it had been, upon which they have subsisted in a very distressed manner for two years past. The attendants, writers, and servants, &c. of my court, have received no pay for two years past; and there is at present no part of the country that can be allotted to the payment of my father’s private creditors, whose applications are daily pressing upon me. All these difficulties I have for these three years past struggled through, and found this consolation therein, that it was complying with the pleasure of the Honourable Company, and in the hope that the Supreme Council would make enquiry from impartial persons into my distressed situation; but I am now forced to a representation. From the great increase of expense, the revenues were necessarily farmed out at a high rate and deficiences followed yearly. The country and cultivation is abandoned. And this year, in particular, from the excessive droughts, deductions of many lacs1 have been allowed the farmers, who are still unsatisfied.—I have received but just sufficient to support my absolute necessities, the revenues being deficient to the amount of fifteen lacs;2 and for this reason, many of the old chieftains, with their troops, and the useful attendants of the court, were forced to leave it, and there is now only a few foot and horse for the collection of my revenues; and should the Zemindars be refractory, there is not left a sufficient number to reduce them to obedience.” BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.In consequence of these distressing circumstances, the Nabob prayed, that, the assignments for the new brigade, and the other detached bodies of the Company’s troops, might not be required, declaring that these troops were “not only quite useless to his government, but, moreover, the cause of much loss, both in the revenues and customs; and that the detached bodies of troops, under their European officers, brought nothing but confusion into the affairs of his government, and were entirely their own masters.”1
This representation, which events proved to be hardly an exaggeration, and the prayer by which it was followed, the Governor-General received, with tokens of the highest indignation and resentment. “These demands,” he said, “the tone in which they are asserted, and the season in which they are made, are all equally alarming.” In the letter which was dispatched in his words to the resident, the grounds on which the Nabob petitioned for relief are declared to be “totally inadmissible.—He stands engaged,” it is added, “to our government, to maintain the English armies which, at his own request, have been formed for the protection of his dominions, and it is our part, not his, to judge and to determine, in what manner, and at what time, these shall be reduced or withdrawn.” In his minute, in consultation, upon the subject, he says, that, by the treaty made with Asoph ul Dowla, upon the death of his father, “he became, eventually, and necessarily, a vassal of the Company.” He affirmed that “the disorders of his state, and the dissipation of his revenues, were the effects of his own conduct, which had failed, not so much from the casual effects of incapacity, as from the detestable choice which he has made of the ministers of his power, and the participatorsBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. of his confidence.”1 And to the Nabob himself he declared, “Your engagements with the Company are of such a nature as to oblige me to require and insist on your granting tuncaws for the full amount of their demands upon you for the current year, and on your reserving funds sufficient to answer them, even should the deficiency of your revenues compel you to leave your own troops unprovided for, or to disband a part of them to enable you to effect it.”2
The difficulties, under which the Governor-General was placed, were severe and distressing. It is true, that the protection of the Nabob’s dominions rested solely upon the British troops, and that without loss of time they would have been over-run by the Mahrattas, had those troops been withdrawn; it is true, that the debt due to the Company would, in that case, have been lost; that a dangerous people would have been placed upon the Company’s frontier; that the Company’s finances, always in distress, and then suffering intensely by war, could not maintain the same number of troops, if their pay was stopped by the Vizir. And the law of self-preservation supersedes that of justice. On the other hand, from the documents adduced, it is evident, that the English had no right to compel the Nabob, if not agreeable BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.to him, to maintain any part of those their troops; and the Governor-General was not entitled, as he did, to plead, at once, both the law of self-preservation, and the law of right. The truth also is, that his law of self-preservation, when examined, and brought into conformity with the facts, implies a strong convenience, and nothing more. It was very convenient for the English at that time, to have a large body of troops maintained by a different treasury from their own. But it will hardly be maintained, at any rate by the friends of Mr. Hastings, that in his hands the British empire in India must have been destroyed, had it been compelled to rely upon its own resources. It was for a great convenience, then, and for nothing else, that the English, without any claim of right, compelled the Nabob Vizir to maintain their troops; that is, treated him as the vassal which Mr. Hastings described him, and substantially seized and exercised the rights of sovereign and master over both him and his country.
Another point well deserves to be considered; whether the original brigade of the Company’s troops was not a force sufficient to protect the Nabob’s country, against all the dangers with which it was threatened. If the English, who included in their own line of defence the boundaries of Oude, did not provide their due proportion, but impose the whole upon the Nabob, they defended themselves at his expense; they delivered themselves from a burthen, which was their own, and, by compelling the Nabob to bear it, violated the laws of justice.
It is also a question, whether the troops, quartered upon him in addition to that brigade, as they were kept in idleness in his dominions, were not, with all their expense, of little use either to him or the Company. As they were not employed against the enemies of the Company, they could be of little use inBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. repelling them; and the complaint of the Vizir that they and their officers acted as the masters in his country, and as a source both of expense and of disorder, is confirmed by Mr. Francis, who, in Council, pronounced it “notorious, that the English army had devoured his revenues, and his country, under colour of defending it.”1
The Governor-General, when pressed for argument, made the following avowal: That ambiguities had been left in the treaty: And that it was the part of the strongest to affix to these ambiguities that meaning which he pleased.2 That this is a very common political procedure, every one knows. The allegation, however, in its essence, is, it is evident, only a varnish placed upon injustice by fraud. In the present case, besides, it happened, by a singular chance, that ambiguity had not existence, and the allegation of it was false. “So long only as the Nabob pleased,” was the express condition of the compact; and the moment at which the Nabob desired relief, the most exact definition was applied.
The Governor-General surmised a circumstance, which always seems to have animated him to peculiar severity; that the idea of the instability of the existing government was among the causes which emboldened the Nabob to complain. “I, for my BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.own part,” said he, “do not attribute1 the demand of the Nabob to any conviction impressed on his mind by the necessity of his affairs; but to the knowledge which his advisers have acquired, of the weakness and divisions of our own government. This is a powerful motive with me, however inclined I might be, upon any other occasion, to yield to some part of his demands, to give them an absolute and unconditional refusal in the present; and even to bring to punishment, if my influence can produce that effect, those incendiaries who have endeavoured to make themselves the instruments of division between us.”2
Under the enormous demands of the English, and the Nabob’s inability to meet them, the debt with which he stood charged in 1780 amounted to the sum of 1,400,000l. The Supreme Council continued pressing their demands. The Nabob, protesting that he had given up every thing, that “in the country no further resources remained, and that he was without a subsistence,” continued sinking more deeply in arrear: Till the time when the resolution of Mr. Hastings was adopted, to proceed to make with him a new arrangement upon the spot.
As a step preliminary to the affairs which the Governor-General meant to transact with the Nabob, he withdrew the resident, Mr. Bristow. This gentleman had been appointed by the party of General Clavering, when they removed Middleton, the private agent of Mr. Hastings: The Governor-GeneralBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. had removed him soon after the time when he recovered his superiority in the Council: The Court of Directors had ordered him to be replaced, as unjustly and improperly removed: Mr. Hastings, in disobedience of these orders, had refused to replace him, till it became a condition of the compromise into which he entered with Francis: And he now removed him again with a fresh violation of the authority of the Court of Directors, in conformity with whose orders he occupied the place. Mr. Middleton was again appointed, on the reason, notwithstanding the condemnation of the Court of Directors, again avowed, that a person in the Governor-General’s own confidence was necessary in that situation.
As the Governor-General intended to make a very short stay at Benares, and then proceed to Lucknow, the Nabob had already left his capital, in order to pay him the usual compliment of a meeting, when he received intelligence of the insurrection. Mr. Hastings, who wished not for the interview in a state of humiliation, or under the appearance of receiving protection from his ally, endeavoured by a letter to make him return to his capital. But the Nabob was eager to show the interest which he took in the fate of the Governor-General, or eager to know the situation in which he was placed; and hastened with but a few of his attendants to Chunar. The English ruler was at pains to afford him a cordial reception. And with little debate or hesitation they made a memorable arrangement. In consequence of “the repeated and urgent representations of the Nabob, that he is unable to support the expenses of the temporary brigade of cavalry, and English officers with their battalions, as well as other gentlemen who are now paid by him,” (such are the terms of the preamble to the BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.covenant) it was agreed, on the part of the Governor-General, that from the expense of the temporary brigade, and of all other English troops, except the single brigade left with Suja ul Dowlah, and a regiment of sepoys for the resident’s guard; and from the expense of all payments to English gentlemen, excepting those of the resident’s office; the Nabob should be relieved.1 According to another article, permission was granted him to resume such of the jaghires within his territories, as he himself might choose, with only this reservation, that a pension equal to the net rent should be paid to the holders of such of them as had the Company for their guarantee. An article was also inserted, according to which the Nabob was to be allowed, when the suitable time should arrive, to strip Fyzoolla Khan of his territory, allowing him only a pension in its stead.
Such was all that was seen on the face of this agreement; where no advantage to the English appeared. The circumstances, however, which constituted the real nature of the transaction were onlyBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. behind the curtain.
There were two Princesses, known by the name of the Begums; the one, the mother of Sujah Dowla, the late Nabob; the other, the widow of the late Nabob, and mother of the present. These Princesses the preceding sovereign had always treated with the highest consideration and respect; and allowed them a magnificent and expensive establishment. At the death of Sujah Dowla, those Princesses, according to the custom of India, were left in possession of certain jaghires; that is, the government portion of the produce of a part of the land, over which, for the greater certainty of payment, the holder of the jaghire was allowed the powers of management and collection. This was the fund, from which the Begums provided for their state and subsistence; and for the state and subsistence of the numerous families of the preceding Nabobs, placed under their superintendance. Sujah Dowla, at his death, had also left to the Begums the greater part of the treasure which happened to be in his hands; and imagination swelled the sum to a prodigious extent. Mr. Hastings had been disappointed in the mine which he expected to drain at Benares. His power and reputation depended upon the immediate acquisition of money. In the riches of the Begums appeared to lie an admirable resource. It was agreed between Mr. Hastings and the Nabob, that his Highness should be relieved from the expense, which he was unable to bear, of the English troops and gentlemen; and he, on his part, engaged to strip the Begums of both their treasure and their jaghires, delivering to the Governor-General the proceeds.1
BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.This transaction, however objectionable it may at first sight appear, Mr. Hastings represented as attended with circumstances which rendered it not only just but necessary. The weight of these circumstances ought to be carefully and impartially considered.
In the year 1775, not long after the death of Sujah Dowla, his widow, the mother of the reigning Nabob, complained, by letter, to the English government, of the treatment which she received from her son. She stated that various sums, to the extent of twenty-six lacs of rupees, had been extorted from her, under the plea of his being in want of money to discharge his obligations to the English chiefs; and that a recent demand had been urged for no less than thirty lacs, as absolutely necessary to relieve him, under his engagements to the Company; and to save his affairs from a ruinous embarrassment. Upon the faith of the English government, to which alone she would trust, she agreed to make this sacrifice; and it was solemnly covenanted, on the part of her son, and guaranteed on the part of the English government, that no further invasion should ever be made upon her, in the full enjoyment of her jaghires and effects, whether she resided within the dominions of Asoph ul Dowla, or chose to reside in any other place. This agreement was far from producing peace between the Nabob and the Begums. Perpetual complaints of injurious treatment were made by the Princesses, and the business of mediation was found by the English resident a difficult and delicate task.
In the beginning of the year 1778, those dissensions arose to a great height, and the aged Princess,BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. “whose residence the treatment of her grandson” (to use the words of Mr. Middleton, the resident) “seems to have rendered irksome and disgusting to her,” resolved to abandon his dominions, and repair on a pilgrimage to Mecca. To the execution of this design, the Nabob was exceedingly averse; because it would withdraw, from the sphere of his power, the great treasure which he imagined she possessed, and which at her death, if not before, he could render his own. Both the Nabob and his grandmother applied to the resident; the one for the purpose of procuring his influence to prevail upon the Begum to remain; the other for the purpose of procuring it to induce the Nabob to allow her to depart. The Begum complained that she was subject to daily extortions and insults; that the Nabob withheld the allowance which had been established by the late Vizir for the maintenance of the family of her deceased husband; that he had resumed the jaghires and emoluments of her servants and dependants; that he had made no provision for the maintenance of the women and children (a very numerous family) of the late Vizir, his own father; that the education and condition of the children were wholly neglected; and that the favourites of the Nabob were allowed, and even encouraged, to degrade his family by their oppressions and insults. The resident reported to the Governor-General and Council, that “the deportment of the Nabob toward her, his family, and relations in general, was, he could not but admit, very exceptionable; that her claims were very moderate and just, and such as it would be natural to suppose the Nabob could not in decency refuse.’ He even suggested, if the Nabob should refuse to comply with these reasonable demands, “that the influence of the English BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.government should be exerted, to secure to the Begum whatever might appear to be her rights;” in which case he doubted not that her design of departing with her treasure would be willingly abandoned.
While the resident was endeavouring, but without success, to prevail upon the Nabob to afford to his grandmother a reasonable satisfaction, he received from the second of the Princesses a representation of the violations which had been committed by her son of the conditions of the recent treaty; a treaty which she called upon the English government, in quality of its guarantee, to protect. The resident in vain endeavoured to improve the behaviour of the Nabob; and, in reporting upon his disappointment, observes, “I have on all occasions, as much as possible, avoided troubling the Honourable Board with any matters which reflect upon the conduct or government of the Nabob, wishing rather to check and obviate abuses, by friendly admonitions and remonstrances to his Excellency himself, than to correct them by an appeal to your authority. But such is his Excellency’s disposition, and so entirely has he lost the confidence and affections of his subjects, that, unless some restraint is imposed upon him, which would effectually secure those who live under the protection of his government, from violence and oppression, I am but too well convinced, that no man of reputation or property will long continue in these provinces.”1
On the 23d of March, the Council-General, in which Mr. Hastings had then the ascendant,2 took under their consideration the complaints of the Begums. With regard to the eldest of the Princesses,BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. and those of the relations and subjects of the Nabob, in favour of whom the guarantee of the Company was not interposed, they held themselves incapable, in any other way than that of remonstrance and by tokens of displeasure, to oppose the oppressions of the Nabob. But as they had become parties to a treaty for the protection of the second of the Begums, the mother of the Nabob, they determined to make use of their authority on her behalf. On the rapacity which he had practised with respect to the elder of the Begums, and some of his other relations, their instructions to the resident were in the following words, “We desire you will repeat your remonstrances to the Vizir on these points, in the name of this government; representing to him the consequences of such an arbitrary proceeding; the reproach to which his honour and reputation, as well as ours, from being connected with him, will be exposed, by such acts of cruelty and injustice; and the right which we derive, from the nature of our alliance with him, to expect that he will pay a deference to our remonstrances.” They add, “with respect to the Bow Begum (the mother of the Nabob), her grievances come before us on a very different footing. She is entitled to our protection, by an act, not sought by us, but solicited by the Nabob himself. We therefore empower and direct you, to afford your support and protection to her, in the due maintenance of all the rights she possesses, in virtue of the treaty executed between her and her son, under the guarantee of the Company.”1
BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.Such was the light in which the relative conduct of the Nabob and the Begums appeared to the Governor-General and Council, in 1778; and on the footing which was then established, matters between them remained, till the meeting between Mr. Hastings and Asoph ul Dowla at Chunar, in 1781, when the Nabob was, by treaty, allowed to seize the property of the Princesses, and of others his relations; and, on the condition of bestowing that property upon the English, actually rewarded for the seizure, by obtaining relief from a permanent and oppressive expense. The reasons which Mr. Hastings adduced for this proceeding are, that the Begums had endeavoured to excite insurrection in Oude in favour of Cheyte Sing, and that they employed their power and influence to embarrass and disturb the Nabob’s administration.
If the testimony of an accuser shall pass for proof, when that accuser derives great advantage from the supposition of guilt, and great loss from the supposition of innocence, no individual is under protection. It is further to be remarked, that the insurrection at Benares happened on the 16th of August; and the treaty by which the Nabob was authorized to resume the jaghires was signed at Chunar, on the 19th of September. The Begums, who had first to hear of the insurrection at Benares, and then to spread disaffection through a great kingdom, had, therefore, little time for the contraction of guilt. Besides, when the government of the Nabob, as the English themselves so perfectly knew, had fallen into contempt and detestation with all his subjects, it was very natural to suppose, that the servants and dependants of the Begums, who were among the severest of the sufferers, would not be the least forward in exhibiting their sentiments. And as the seclusion of the Begums rendered it impossible for them to superintendBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. the conduct of their servants abroad, they were less than other people responsible for their conduct.
But the observation of greatest importance yet remains to be adduced. What was the proof, upon the strength of which the Begums were selected for a singular and aggravated punishment? Answer; no direct proof whatsoever. Hardly an attempt is made to prove any thing, except a rumour. Mr. Hastings’s friends are produced in great numbers to say that they heard a rumour. Upon allegation of a rumour, that the Begums abetted Cheyte Sing, judgment was pronounced, and punishment followed.
Before a just judgment can be pronounced, and punishment can be justifiably inflicted, it is necessary that trial should take place, and that the party accused should be heard in his defence. Was this justice afforded the Begums? Not a tittle of it. So far from it; that Mr. Hastings, while yet in the heat of the insurrection at Chunar, when the Begums had scarcely had time to rebel, much less had he had time to make any inquiry into the imputation of guilt; at a moment when all was confusion, alarm, and hurry; when every thing was ready to be reported, and every thing to be believed; pronounced a final judgment, to supersede the guarantee of the English government, to strip the Princesses of Oude of their estates, and give them up helpless into the hands of the Nabob.
Of the evidence adduced upon this important point, it is highly requisite to give a short account. If any thing be indispensable to righteous judgment it is, that evidence should first be collected, and judgment follow after. Mr. Hastings pronounced judgment, and sent his instrument, the Nabob, to inflict punishment in the first place. Some time after all this BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.was done, he then proceeded to collect evidence. But evidence of what sort? He brought forward persons who, he knew (or might know) beforehand, would give the sort of evidence he wished; and a month after judgment had been pronounced, got them to make affidavit, before Sir Elijah Impey, of the facts, or supposed facts, of which it was useful for him to establish the belief. It is altogether unnecessary to allude to the character or credibility of the individuals who were taken into this service. It is perfectly sufficient to observe, that this is a mode of getting up a proof, by means of which there never can be any difficulty in getting a proof of any thing. Find a number of persons, even if not mendacious, with minds sufficiently partial to you, or sufficiently influenced by circumstances, to believe as you would have them, (often a very easy matter, whatsoever may be the state of the facts) and get them to set down whatever they and you think proper, exposed to no cross examination, exposed to no counter evidence; and think, whether it would not be an extraordinary case, in which, upon these terms, any man, more especially a powerful ruler, could remain without a defence.
The fact is, that recourse to such a mode of defence betrays a deep consciousness, that the conduct in favour of which it is set up, stands much in need of a defence, and seems pretty strongly to imply that no better defence can be found for it.
The behaviour of the Supreme Judge, in lending himself to this transaction, exposed him to the severest strictures from the Managers for the Commons’ House of Parliament on the trial of Mr. Hastings. He acknowledged, upon his examination, that he went from Benares, where the business was concerted between him and Mr. Hastings, to Lucknow, the capital of Oude, for the express purpose of takingBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. these affidavits, though he acknowledged that “undoubtedly he did not consider his jurisdiction as extending to the province of Oude;” and though, in taking an affidavit, there is so little occasion for any remarkable qualifications in the Judge, that all he has to do is to hear a person swear that something in a paper is true, and to testify that he has heard him do so. “What the affidavits contained,” said the Judge when examined upon the trial, “I did not know; nor do I know at present, for I have never read them.” He also declared that he did not know, whether the persons who swore to them had ever read them. He also said, “I believe Mr. Middleton, in consequence of a letter Mr. Hastings wrote to him, had communicated the subject matter of what they were to depose to.” At the time of taking the affidavits of the natives, not so much as a sworn interpreter was present. The Judge declared he never asked of one of the deponents, whether they knew the contents of their affidavits: and “had no means of knowing whether the deponents in the Persian or the Hindu language understood any thing of the depositions which they gave, except that they brought their affidavits ready drawn.” He also admitted that he had no means of knowing whether, of the affidavits which were taken before him, the whole were published by Mr. Hastings, or whether all that had been unfavourable to him had not been suppressed. In fact, the examination of Sir Elijah Impey, upon the subject of the affidavits, discloses a curious scene, in which it appears that one object alone was in view, namely, that of getting support to any allegations which Mr. Hastings had set up.1 A set of affidavits, BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.thus circumstanced, could be no proof of the guilt of an absent party.
These affidavits affirm not one criminal fact on the part of the Begums. All that they affirm with regard to these Princesses is rumour merely. The witnesses had heard that the Begums instigated that disaffection, which manifested itself in almost every part of the Nabob’s dominions. In one sense this is evidence of the fairness and honourableness of Mr. Hastings; for undoubtedly it goes a certain way to prove that no undue means were used to put matter into these affidavits.
Some of them speak directly to certain tumultuary proceedings in Goruckpore, one of the districts of Oude. But the insurrection, if such it might be called, was not against the British authority, for there was none there to oppose. The Nabob’s sepoys were refractory for want of pay. An Aumil, or renter of the Begums, showed a disinclination to permit a party of the Nabob’s sepoys to pass through his district, which he knew they would plunder, and hence impose upon him a severe pecuniary loss. And the country people in general showed a hostile disposition to these same sepoys of the Nabob. What has this to do, in the smallest degree, with the British authority? And if the sepoys had been British, which they were not, what proof is given, that the Begums were the cause of the hatred they experienced, or knew of the commotions to which that hatred gave birth?1
Rumour affirmed that the Begums promoted theBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. disaffection. If rumour, on such an occasion, were a proper ground of belief, rumour affirmed that the Nabob himself, together with his brother Saadut Ali, not only abetted the disaffection, but had entered into a deliberate plan for the extirpation of the English from the country. Why is rumour to be evidence against one, not evidence against another, just as it suits the pleasure or convenience of Mr. Hastings?
One of the deponents, who spoke most distinctly to what he reckoned symptoms of hostility on the part of the Begums, was a Major Macdonald, an English officer, in the service of the Nabob. He states that his march, at the head of a party of the Nabob’s sepoys, was opposed by Zalim Sing, a Zemindar, who had long been treated by the Nabob as a rebel. This hostile chief showed, even to Macdonald’s people, a paper purporting to be a sunnud from the Nabob, restoring him to his Zemindary, and vesting him with the government of certain districts; and he informed them he had the Nabob’s instructions to drive, says the affidavit, “the Fringies out of his districts, that he only waited for the fortunate hour, boats being already provided from Fyzabad (which the deponent knew absolutely to be the case) to cross the Gogra, and carry the Nabob’s orders into execution: Further, that his Excellency had altered his sentiments regarding the part he was to take in the present contest; that his Excellency set out with the intent of adhering to his treaty with the Company, but that Mirza Saadut Ali wrote him he was to blame if he gave any assistance; that now was the time to shake off the English yoke; that it might not be prudent to declare himself at once; BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.that he had only to stand neuter; and, under pretence of defending themselves, direct his subjects to take arms, and endeavour to prevent the junction of the English forces, when the matter would work of itself.—The deponent said, he believed the reports, as before related, at that time, and still is of opinion, the threats therein contained were intended to be carried into execution had the league been successful.”1
Of the disturbances, moreover, in Goruckpore, and the hostile disposition manifested by the people to the sepoys of the Nabob, we are presented with another and a very different account. They are said to have been the effect of oppression; of oppression, cruel, and extraordinary, even as compared with the common degree of oppression under the government of the Nabob. It was given in evidence, that the country, from a very flourishing state in which it existed under the preceding Nabob, had been reduced to misery and desolation; that taxes were levied, not according to any fixed rule, but according to the pleasure of the collector; that imprisonments and scourgings for enforcing payment, were common in every part of the country; that emigrations of the people were frequent; and that many of them were so distressed as to be under the necessity of selling their children.2
The country thus oppressed was under the management of Colonel Hannay, an officer of the Company, who had obtained permission to quit for a time the Company’s service, and enter into that of the Nabob. He was allowed to rent the provinces of Goruckpore and Baraitch; and, commanding also the military force in the district, engrossed the whole of the local government. Mr. Holt, who was appointed assistantBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. to the resident at the Vizir’s court about the beginning of the year 1780, was asked, “Did you hear that Colonel Hannay was himself in particular danger from the insurrections in 1781? I did.—What do you suppose those insurrections arose from at first—did you ever hear of any machinations or contrivances of particular persons, or did you ever hear what the cause was that they objected to? I have heard it was owing to the misconduct and misgovernment of Colonel Hannay.”1
Captain Edwards, another of the Company’s officers, who had obtained permission to accept of service with the Vizir, and who was aid-du-camp to that Prince at the time of Mr. Hastings’ quarrel with Cheyte Sing, was asked, “In what situation was Colonel Hannay,” meaning, in the service of the Vizir? “I understand that he rented a great part of the Nabob’s country, called Baraitch and Goruckpore.—Do you know what was the general fame of the country with respect to Colonel Hannay’s administration in those provinces? That the measures of his government appeared to the natives there very unjustifiable and oppressive.—Did you ever see, or know, any fact or circumstance from which you could infer in the same manner? When I accompanied his Excellency the Nabob into that country, (I believe it was the latter end of the year 1779, or early in the year 1780) the country seemed to be little cultivated, and very few inhabitants made their appearance; and the few that were in the country seemed much distressed; and I understood that the country had been better peopled, but that they had all left the country in consequence of Colonel Hannay’s administration. BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.—Was it at Lucknow that you heard the reports concerning Colonel Hannay, and his oppressions? It was both at Lucknow and at many other places: it was a general report.1
It is also a circumstance of great importance, that when Colonel Hannay entered the service of the Nabob in 1778, he was a man in debt, or what is called by the witness “involved circumstances.” Before the end of 1781, that is in a period of about three years, he was understood to have realized a fortune of 300,000l.”2
It is now, however, in justice to Colonel Hannay, to be observed, with regard both to the oppressions of which he is accused, and the vast amount of his fortune, that most of the evidence adduced is evidence rather to the rumour of these facts, than to the facts themselves. But if this be a plea, as it undoubtedly is, in behalf of Colonel Hannay, it is a plea, it must be remembered, no less availing in favour of the Begums. It appears, indeed, with strong evidence from the cross examination of Mr. Hastings’ own witnesses upon the trial, that a considerable number of the Rajah’s or ancient chiefs of the country, who till that time had remained in possession of their respective districts, paying an annual sum, as revenue, to the Vizir, were driven out during the administration of Colonel Hannay; and that they retained the country in a state of perpetual disturbance, by endless efforts for their restoration.3 This accounts for the turbulent state of the country. Whether it was injustice,BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. by which the Rajahs were expelled; or whether it was impossible to make them obedient subjects, sufficient evidence is not afforded to determine.
It is at any rate certain, that Colonel Hannay became in the highest degree odious to the Vizir; for he dismissed him from his service before the end of the year 1781, and having heard that he was using his influence to be sent back, he wrote to the Governor-General, about the beginning of September following, in these extraordinary terms:
“My country and house belong to you; there is no difference. I hope that you desire in your heart the good of my concerns. Colonel Hannay is inclined to request your permission to be employed in the affairs of this quarter. If, by any means, any matter of this country, dependant on me, should be intrusted to the Colonel, I swear by the Holy Prophet, that I will not remain here, but will go from hence to you. From your kindness let no concern, dependant upon me, be intrusted to the Colonel; and oblige me by a speedy answer which may set my mind at ease.”1
It is also a most suspicious circumstance, that the accusations of the Begums seem originally to have come from Colonel Hannay, and to have depended almost entirely upon the reports of him and his officers; who were deeply interested in finding, for the disturbances of the country, which they ruled, a cause different from their own malversations.
When the Nabob departed from Chunar, at which time, according to the statements of Mr. Hastings, the Begums were in a state of rebellion, he BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.chose to pass through Fyzabad, the place of their residence, accompanied merely by his usual attendants, and about five or six hundred horse; and, according to the opinion of Captain Edwards, probably entered the city with only a few attendants, as in general his rate of travelling far exceeded the utmost speed of a body of horse.
As every mark of suspicion that rebellion was excited or intended by the Begums was thus removed from the behaviour of the Nabob; so not a single expression ever appears to have been obtained from him, which implied that they had been guilty of any such offence; and yet if he had conceived any apprehension from them, it was to the English he must have flown for protection, and to them he would naturally have communicated his fears. His aid-du-camp, Captain Edwards, who had accompanied him to Chunar, and proceeded with the rest of the troops to Lucknow, when the Nabob left the direct road to his capital to pass through Fyzabad, was asked, “Did you hear upon the return of the Nabob, and Hyder Beg, to Lucknow, any charge, or any thing that led you to believe, that discoveries of rebellion or treason had been made by the Nabob while at Fyzabad? No, I did not.—When did you first hear of any accusation, or charge, of any rebellion or disaffection, against the Begums? Some time after I arrived at Lucknow: About a fortnight after, I heard the gentlemen in the Resident’s family mention the different accounts, that Colonel Hannay and his officers had sent.—Was the intelligence you received upon that subject confined to communications, made by Colonel Hannay and his officers, to the Resident’s office, or did you hear of any other besides? I heard that such reports prevailed at Lucknow, among the natives, which were not generally believed; and there were a few who mentioned they had heard the reports.—The questionBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. put to you is, whether you heard of any other instances than those mentioned by Colonel Hannay and his officers? I heard my own servants say, as they went through the market place, they had heard from the Resident’s servants, that they had heard such reports did prevail.—Meaning the reports from Colonel Hannay? Yes, meaning those reports.—Did the natives in general give any credit to these reports? No, I do not think they did.—Did you not hear more of this sort of report after the treasure was seized in January, 1782? I did: I heard the treasures were seized in consequence of the report, and the charge and accusation, made by Colonel Hannay and some of his officers, that the Begums had been in a state of rebellion.”1
As Colonel Hannay and his officers, white and black, were almost the only persons whose affidavits, originally taken at Lucknow, imputed any acts of disaffection to the Begums; so they were his officers, including the Paymaster of his troops, who alone, or nearly so, were called to prove the allegation in England. One or two other persons, the aid of whose testimony was required, could speak to nothing but reports, at Allahabad, or at Calcutta. And it appears, with great force of evidence, from the examination of the witnesses adduced in favour of Mr. Hastings, that the accusation rested upon the allegations of Hannay, and his officers; who, themselves, could affirm nothing but rumour, or facts of which it is more probable that they themselves were the cause than the Begums; and that the story, being taken up by Mr. Hastings, and propagated by him and his friends, with all the authority of government, was BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781.spread abroad among the English throughout the country, and by them, in the usual manner, upon no better authority, passively, but not the less fervently, and confidently, believed.1
The departure of the Nabob from Chunar, for the purpose of seizing the property of his mother and his grandmother, was urged by Mr. Hastings: upon the arrival however of that Prince in his own dominions, he manifested a great reluctance to enter upon the ungracious work. The Governor-General waited, as he himself informs us, “with much impatience.” He urged the Nabob by the strongest remonstrances. He enjoined the Resident, in the most earnest and most peremptory terms, to leave no effort unattempted for the accomplishment of this important event. The reluctance however of the Nabob continued unsubdued; and Mr. Middleton, the Resident, was instructed to supersede the authority of the Nabob, and perform the necessary measures by the operation of English power. He proceeded at last to the execution of the Governor-General’s commands; but the Nabob, shocked at the degradation which he would sustain in the eyes of his people, if acts under his government of so much importance should appear to emanate from any power but his own, undertook the melancholy task.2 The words of the resident to the Governor-General areBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1781. instructive: “I had the honour to address you on the 7th instant, informing you of the conversation which had passed between the Nabob and me on the subject of resuming the jaghires; and the step I had taken in consequence.” The step was the issuing of perwannahs or warrants to the Aumils or agents on the jaghires, to desist from acting in behalf of the Begums. “His Excellency appeared to be very much hurt and incensed at the measure: And loudly complains of the treachery of his ministers, first, in giving you any hopes that such a measure would be adopted; and, secondly, in promising me their whole support in carrying it through. But as I apprehended” (he means, expected) “rather than suffer it to appear that the point had been carried in opposition to his will, he at length yielded a nominal acquiescence, and has this day issued his own perwannahs to that effect—declaring, however, at the same time, both to me and his ministers, that it is an act of compulsion.”1
The resumption of the jaghires was not the only measure which had been conceived and resolved against the Begums. Their treasures were to be BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.seized.1 The Nabob and the resident, with a body of English troops, proceeded towards the abode of the princesses at Fyzabad, where they arrived on the 8th of January. The first days were spent in demands and negotiations. On the 12th the troops were orderedBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. to storm the town and the castle, but little or no opposition was made; for no blood was shed on either side: and the troops took possession of all the outer enclosure of the palace of one of the princesses, and blocked up the other.
Still, however, the female apartments were unviolated, and the treasure was not obtained. The difficulty was to lay hands on it without the disgrace of profaning and polluting the sacred precinct. The principal agents of the princesses were two aged personages of great rank and distinction, who had been in high trust and favour with the late Nabob; the eunuchs, Jewar Ali Khan, and Behar Ali Khan. It was resolved to put those personages in confinement, and apply to them other severities, in order that the Begums might, by their compassion, be moved to give up the treasure; or that the eunuchs themselves should be compelled, by their sufferings, to give up what was in their own custody, and use their influence with the princesses to resign what they possessed. By the torture of one party, money was to be extorted from another. The cruel lessons of Eastern despotism were well acquired by Englishmen.
The expedient was attended with success. The Begums, or rather the elder of the two, in whose possession, as head of the female department, the treasure was placed, was wrought upon by these proceedings to make a surrender; and money was paid to the English resident to the amount of the bond given to the Company by the Nabob for his balance of the year 1779–80.
The eunuchs were not yet released. Another balance BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.remained, for the year 1780–81. Money for the discharge of this remaining debt was also demanded of the Princess. “She declared with apparent truth,” says the Resident, “that she had delivered up the whole of the property in her hands; excepting goods; which from the experience,” he adds, “of the small produce of the sale of a former payment made by her in that mode, I refused, as likely to amount, in my opinion, to little or nothing.” Money, however, was absolutely required; and new severities were employed. To the officer guarding the eunuchs, the following letter was addressed by the Resident, dated the 20th of January, 1782. “Sir, when this note is delivered to you, I have to desire, that you order the two prisoners to be put in irons, keeping them from all food, &c. agreeable to my instructions of yesterday. (Signed) Nath. Middleton.”
The sufferings to which they were thus exposed drew from the eunuchs the offer of an engagement for the payment of the demanded sum, which they undertook to complete, within the period of one month, from their own credit and effects. The engagement was taken, but the confinement of the eunuchs was not relaxed; the mother and grandmother of the Nabob remained under a guard; and the Resident was commanded, by Mr. Hastings, to make with them no settlement whatsoever. In the mean time, the payment, upon the bond extorted from the eunuchs, was begun; the Begums delivered what they declared was the last remaining portion of their effects, including down to their table utensils; and the Resident himself reported “that no proof had yet been obtained of their having more.” Before the 23d of February, 1782, upwards of 500,000l. had been received by the Resident for the use of the Company; and there remained on the extorted bond a balance; according to the eunuchs of 25,000l.; and of no more than 50,000l. according to the Resident.BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. The prisoners entreated for their release; declaring their inability to procure any further sums of money while they remained in confinement; but expressing a confident hope of being able to raise the balance required, if they were allowed to go abroad among their friends, and solicit their assistance. So far from any relaxation of their sufferings, higher measures of severity were enjoined. On the 18th of May, after they had lain two months in irons, the officer who commanded the guard under which they were confined, wrote to the Resident in the following words; “The prisoners Behar Ali Khan, and Jewar Ali Khan, who seem to be very sickly, have requested their irons might be taken off for a few days, that they might take medicine, and walk about the garden of the place where they are confined. Now, as I am sure that they will be equally secure without their irons as with them, I think it my duty to inform you of this request. I desire to know your pleasure concerning it.” The nature of the orders under which the Resident acted, rendered it necessary for him to refuse the smallest mitigation of their torture. Nay, within a few days, that is, on the 1st of June, other terrors were held up to them. They were threatened to be removed to Lucknow, where, unless they performed without delay what they averred themselves unable to perform, they would not only be subjected to still severer coercion, but called upon to atone for other crimes. As these crimes were not specified, the threat was well calculated to act upon their fears. It involved the prospect of unbounded punishment; any infliction, in short, for which persons with arbitrary power in their hands could find or feign a pretence. Several expedients were offered both by the prisoners and the Begums, who were alarmed at the prospect of losing by removal their confidential BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.servants. These expedients were not treated as objectionable, on any other score except that of time. They were rejected. The prisoners were removed to Lucknow, and cruelties inflicted upon them, of which the nature is not disclosed, but of which the following letter, addressed by the assistant-resident to the commanding officer of the English guard, is a disgraceful proof. “Sir, the Nabob having determined to inflict corporal punishment, upon the prisoners under your guard, this is to desire that his officers when they shall come, may have free access to the prisoners, and be permitted to do with them as they shall see proper.”
All the measures, however, of severity which could be devised proved unavailing, though the women of the Zenana were at various times deprived of food till they were on the point of perishing for want. The rigours went on increasing till the month of December; when the Resident, convinced both by his own experience, and the representation of the officer commanding the guard by which the princesses were coerced, that every thing which force could accomplish was already performed, and that if any hope remained of further payments, it was by lenient methods alone they could be obtained, removed of his own authority the guard from the palaces of the Begums, and set at liberty their ministers. As endeavours had been used to make the severities appear the act of the Nabob, so the Resident strove to make the favour appear the bounty of the man by whom the English sceptre was swayed; declaring to the Begums, that it was the Governor-General from whom the relief had been derived, and that he “was the spring from whence they were restored to their dignity and consequence.” The letter in which the commanding officer reported the execution of the order of release, exhibits what no other words can express. “I have to acknowledge the receipt ofBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. your letter of the 2d instant; and, in consequence, immediately enlarged the prisoners, Behar Ali Khan, and Jewar Ali Khan, from their confinement, a circumstance that gave the Begums, and the city of Fyzabad, in general, the greatest satisfaction. In tears of joy, Behar, and Jewar Ali Khan expressed their sincere acknowledgments to the Governor-General, his Excellency the Nabob Vizir, and to you, Sir, for restoring them to that invaluable blessing, liberty; for which they would ever retain the most grateful remembrance; and at their request I transmit you the enclosed letters. I wish you had been present at the enlargement of the prisoners. The quivering lips, with the tears of joy stealing down the poor men’s cheeks, was a scene truly affecting. If the prayers of these poor men will avail, you will at the last trump be translated to the happiest regions in heaven.”1
Of the transactions of Mr. Hastings with the Nabob at Chunar, another feature still remains. A present was offered; a present of a sum of no less than ten lacs, or 100,000l. sterling; and notwithstanding the Company’s laws against presents, notwithstanding the acknowledged distress of the Nabob, and his inability to pay the debt which he owed to the Company, it was accepted. The Nabob was totally unprovided with the money; the gift could be tendered only in bills, which were drawn upon one of the great bankers of the country. As the intention of concealing the transaction should not be imputed to Mr. Hastings, unless as far as evidence appears,2BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.so in this case the disclosure cannot be imputed to him as virtue, since no prudent man would have risked the chance of discovery which the publicity of a banker’s transactions implied. Mr. Hastings informed the Directors of what he had received, in his letter dated the 20th of January, 1782; and in very plain terms requested their permission, as a reward for his services, to make the money his own.1
In the beginning of 1782, when little or no progress had been made in realizing the sums of money which the Governor-General expected from his arrangements with the Nabob, he began to express, in a strain of unusual severity, his disapprobation of the Resident, Mr. Middleton; either really dissatisfied with him under the failure of his efforts; or by a concerted plan, anticipating the commands of the Directors for the restoration of Bristow by removing the confidential agent, now when the confidential transactions were closed, that the restoration of Bristow might carry the appearance of his own act, and receive its completion before the commands of the Directors should arrive.2 Manifesting extreme anxiety for the acquisition of the money, on accountBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. of which he had ventured on disreputable ground, “the agreement,” he said, “which I concluded with the Vizir has yet served only to gratify revenge, or some concealed interest, and to make me odious to my own countrymen.”1 The resident had at first suggested his doubts, whether the force which he could employ in the resumption of the Jaghires would be sufficient to overcome the opposition which he anticipated. “I judged it improper,” says the Governor-General, “to expose a service of such importance, either to the hazard of a defeat, or the chance of a delay, and therefore immediately issued orders for the march of Colonel Sir John Cumming, with his entire detachment, for the performance of it.”2 The resident hastened to communicate his opinion, that the Nabob would be alarmed and disgusted at the march of this force into his dominions; that the payment of the detachment would be a breach of the immediate treaty, equivalent to an order for imposing upon him anew the expense of the temporary brigade; that a part of the Nabob’s troops were equal BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.to the service; and that a fortnight would suffice for its accomplishment. Under these representations the Governor-General ventured not to continue the march of the detachment; but he declared to the resident, that the contradictions in his statements covered them with doubts; and, if the resident could not assure him of his perfect competence to the service, that he would himself suspend his journey to the Presidency, and repair to Lucknow for the accomplishment of the business in person. The resident declared his competence; and the Governor-General departed from Benares on his way to Calcutta on the 7th of January. He departed, however, “after much hesitation, and I will confess,” says he, “with some reluctance. I dread the imbecility and irresolution which too much prevail in the Nabob’s councils, and must influence in some degree both the conduct of the resident and the minister; and I consider the impending measure of too much consequence to be exposed to the risk of a disappointment.” The resident had stated, that the Governor-General had not by him been understood as intending the reformation, this year, of the Nabob’s military establishment, or as expecting a present supply to the Company’s treasury. “These,” says the Governor-General, in his letter of 3d January, “are fresh instances of what I have had too frequent cause to complain of, your total inattention to my instructions.” He then repeats to the resident the passage in his instructions, in which he told him, that “to enable the Nabob to discharge his debt to the Company in the shortest time possible was the chief object of his negotiation:” that the jag hires should be appropriated to that purpose: and that the reform of the troops should take place immediately after the settlement of the sum to be allowed for the personal and domestic expensesBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. of the Nabob.1 But these expressions are vague, and necessarily express no more than a very eager desire for dispatch; and the resident, for aught that appears in the words, might be well justified in the conclusion which the Governor-General thought proper to condemn.
Mr. Middleton continued the exertions, and practised all the severities, which have already been described, for extorting the money which the Governor-General demanded. Yet he was formally accused by the Governor-General on the 23d of September, and pronounced guilty of remissness in his duty; when Mr. Bristow was appointed to fill the office from which, before the recent transactions, he had just been removed. In the mean time, that is, on the 6th of May preceding, Major Palmer had been sent to Oude, as the private agent of Mr. Hastings; and various new demands were urged upon the dependant Prince. The current annual claims varied, from seventy to 130 lacs per annum, previous to the time of Middleton’s appointment in 1781. The receipts of the resident, in discharge of those claims, varied from sixty to eighty lacs per annum, whence the balance of debt perpetually increased. At the time of concluding the treaty between the Nabob and Hastings at Chunar, that balance appeared to stand at 44 lacs. The resident, instead of 80 lacs, which before was the maximum of the annual payments, realized one crore and 46 lacs. By demands, however, urged by Major Palmer to the amount of eighty-two lacs, and claims of unknown balances, which appeared on adjusting the books of the Presidency, the sums, BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.of which payment in that year was required of the Nabob, exceeded considerably two crores and a half, that is, were at least equal to twice the annual revenue of the whole country.1 In vindicating himself from the charge of remissness, in seizing the treasures of the Begums, Mr. Middleton shows, that not only had he been successful in regard to the ultimate acquisition, but that no unnecessary time had intervened, and that no instrument of coercion, except the disgraceful one of violating the apartments and the persons of the Princesses, had been left unemployed. “The Nabob,” he says, “was son to the Begum we were to proceed against: A son against a mother must at least save appearances: Circumstances sufficiently marked the English as the principal movers in the business: The favourable occasion was not missed to persuade the Nabob that we instigated him to dishonour his family for our benefit: I had no assistance to expect from the Nabob’s ministers, who could not openly move in the business: In the East, it is well known, that no man, either by himself or his troops, can enter the walls of a Zenana—scarcely in the case of acting against an open enemy—much less an ally—a son against his own mother. The outward walls, and the Begum’s agents, were all that were liable to immediate attack: They were dealt with—and successfully, as the event proved.”2
The reply which is made by the Governor-General to this defence is remarkable. As usual with the Governor-General, it is mysterious and equivocal.BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. But if any thing can be gathered from it, they are the two following things: that he did intend that Mr. Middleton should have violated the Zenana: and that not having acted in that manner, Mr. Middleton, his own chosen and confidential agent, might, both by himself and by others, be suspected of having betrayed his duty for bribes. “I was pointed,” says the Governor-General, “in my orders to Mr. Middleton, that he should not allow any negotiation or forbearance, when he had once employed the Company’s influence or power in asserting the Nabob’s claims on the Begums. My principal, if not sole inducement, for this order, which, with the instructions following it, was as absolute as it could be expressed, was—to prevent the imputation which is too frequently, with whatever colour of reason, cast on transactions of this nature, begun with demands of sums of money to an enormous amount, supported with a great military parade and denunciations of vengeance for a refusal, and all relenting into the acceptance of personal submission and promise of amendment: In plainer words, I did not choose to be made the instrument of private rapacity, if any such design existed; nor to expose myself to the obloquy of it, if such a design did not exist.”1 The Governor-General, however, no where said to Mr. Middleton, you shall enter the Zenaua itself, if respect for it prove any obstruction to your designs. And it would have been equally easy for him to have condemned the resident had he understood his orders in that invidious sense, as it was, according to the sense in which he did understand them. If the resident had been guilty of the violation, and a storm of BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.odium had arisen, the political conduct of the Governor-General lays sufficient ground for the presumption that he would not have scrupled to form for himself a screen out of his own ambiguity.
Upon the intelligence received of the recall of Mr. Bristow, and the appointment of Mr. Middleton to the office of resident with the Vizir, previous to the memorable journey to Benares, the Court of Directors wrote to the Governor-General and Council, in the following terms:—"Equally extraordinary, and unwarrantable, have been your proceedings respecting Mr. John Bristow. He was appointed resident at Oude in December, 1774. In December, 1776, he was recalled without the shadow of a charge being exhibited against him. By our letter of the 4th of July, 1777, we signified our disapprobation of the proceedings against Mr. Bristow, and directed that he should be restored to his station; which direction we confirmed by our subsequent letter of the 23d of December, 1778. Mr. Bristow arrived in India in February, 1780, and in October of the same year, it was resolved by your Board, that Mr. Bristow should return to Oude; but that his appointment should be limited solely to the conduct of political negotiations, Mr. Middleton being at the same time nominated to settle pecuniary matters with the Vizir. On the 21st May, 1781, upon receiving a letter from the Vizir, expressing his desire that Mr. Bristow should be removed from his court, he was again recalled. But, without entering into the consideration of this matter, and in order to vindicate and uphold our own authority, we do hereby positively direct, that Mr. Bristow do forthwith proceed to Oude, in the station of our resident there. You are likewise to observe, that we shall not suffer any other person to proceed to Oude, for the management of the finance, one person being, in our opinion, sufficient to transactBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. our business there as principal in both those departments.”1
Along with the reprobation of the recall, and command for the restoration of Mr. Bristow, a similar reprobation and command arrived from the Court of Directors respecting Mr. Fowke, as resident at Benares. The Governor-General, claiming a latitude in disobeying the orders of the Company, when those orders were “destructive to their own affairs,” and alleging that the diminution of authority of the Governor-General, in displaying to the eyes of India the defeat of his intentions even with respect to his own agents, was so destructive; insinuating also, beside these general, some particular objections, of which he spoke in the following mysterious terms, “My present objection to his appointment I dare not put upon record, the Members of the Board individually know it;” opposed’ obedience to the Company’s injunctions. The other Members, however, of the Board, consisting of Mr. Stables, Mr. Macpherson, Mr. Wheler, and Sir Eyre Coote, were of a different opinion; they declared that, where the commands of the Directors were precise and peremptory, they conceived themselves to have no latitude of choice; and Mr. Fowke received his appointment. The arrangement which the Governor-General had made for the management of the affairs of Benares had, as usual, disappointed his pecuniary expectations; and his dread of blame on the score of the transactions, to which his journey to that district had given birth, seems upon this head to have rendered his irasciblity peculiarly keen. The storm of his indignation fell upon the person into whose BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.hands the collection of the revenue had fallen, the father of the newly-made Rajah. “I feel myself,” said Hastings, “and may be allowed on such an occasion to acknowledge it, personally hurt at the ingratitude of this man, and at the discredit which his ill conduct has thrown upon my appointment of him. He has deceived me: he was offended against the government which I then represented.” The “personal hurts” of the Governor-General seem but too frequently to have prompted the measures of his administration. If he was “personally hurt,” he was ill qualified to assume the function of a judge. The Naib had failed in raising all the money which had been imposed as tribute upon the province. Had the tribute not been, as it was, too large, dismission from his office might appear to be a sufficient visitation for his offence. He was also deprived of his lands, thrown into prison, and threatened with death, by the sole authority of Mr. Hastings, who did not so much as communicate the measures to his Council till after they were passed; while the Naib in vain represented, that the tribute exceeded the means of the country; that the ordinary receipts had been diminished by a drought; and that from a severe illness, he had, during two months, been incapable of attending to the painful and laborious duties of his office.1
Among the articles in the treaty, formed by the Governor-General with the Vizir at Chunar, one related to the Nabob Fyzoolla Khan. This was the chief who survived the ruin of the Rohilla nation in 1774, and who, having occupied a strong post on the hills, concluded a treaty, under the sanction and guarantee of the English government, by which he received in jaghire the country of Rampore and someBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. other districts of Rohilcund, estimated at a revenue of fifteen lacs of rupees. “From the month of October, 1774, to the latter end of February, 1778,” says the Governor-General, “we had no reference made to us relative to Fyzoolla Khan; but on the 25th of February, 1778, we received a letter from Mr. Middleton, in which he informed us, that reports had prevailed at Lucknow, that Fyzoolla Khan retained in his service a greater body of troops than were specified in the treaty of 1774, and that he had given protection and encouragement to Zabita Khan’s defeated army. Mr. Middleton, in the same letter, told us, that he did not pay much attention to these reports; but added—that the Nabob’s oppressive and unjust conduct, in various instances, might induce Fyzoolla Khan to form connexions, and to engage in schemes, incompatible with his duty and allegiance to the Vizir.”
The treaty which had been formed between Fyzoolla Khan and the Vizir, in 1774, commonly known by the name of the treaty of Lal Dang, had been signed by the English Commander-in-Chief, in the name of his nation, as both a party to the transaction, and guarantee of the engagement. Distrusting the faith of the Nabob, and alarmed by the preceding imputations, which he justly regarded as proofs that the wish was formed to disposses him of his country, Fyzoolla Khan endeavoured to assure himself more completely of the protection of the English; and, as if the signature of the commanding officer was not sufficiently binding, made earnest application to have the treaty ratified by the Governor-General and Council. “Upon this subject,” says Mr. Hastings, “I had frequent applications from him. But the guarantee appeared to me unnecessary, BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.except as it would afford great satisfaction to Fyzoolla Khan; for our government must have interfered, if the Nabob Vizir had attempted to encroach upon the rights which Fyzoolla Khan enjoyed under his treaty with the Vizir. Mr. Middleton deputed Mr. D. Barwell to Rampore, the residence of Fyzoolla Khan. Mr. Barwell transmitted to Mr. Middleton a very particular account of Fyzoolla Khan’s conduct, which appeared to have been in no instance contrary to his engagements; and in the month of April, his treaty with the Nabob Vizir was guaranteed by the Company, agreeably to his earnest and reiterated requests. By whose suggestions doubts were instilled into the mind of Fyzoolla Khan, as to the validity of the treaty which Colonel Champion had witnessed, I know not.” On the occasion of the guarantee a present of elephants, horses, and other articles, with a lac of rupees, or 10,000l. sterling, was made to the Nabob, and one of a similar sum, or another lac, to the Company.
This transaction was soon followed by another. In the same year intelligence was received of a war between England and France. Fyzoolla Khan, “being indirectly sounded,” displayed the greatest readiness to assist. He was under no obligation to afford a single man; but, at the suggestion of the resident at Oude, made an offer of all his cavalry, 2000 strong, and actually furnished 500. The Governor General, on the 8th of January, 1779, wrote to him, “that in his own name, as well as that of the Board, he returned him the warmest thanks for this instance of his faithful attachment to the Company and the English nation.”
In the treaty of Lal Dang, were the three following articles: “That Fyzoolla Khan should retain in his service 5000 troops, and not a single man more: That with whomsoever the Vizir should make war,BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. Fyzoolla Khan should send two or three thousand of his troops, according to his ability, to join him: And that if the Vizir should march in person, Fyzoolla Khan should attend him with his forces.”
In November, 1780, the Governor-General and Council recommended to the Vizir to demand, that is, the Governor-General and Council did themselves demand, of Fyzoolla Khan, to furnish a body of 5000 horse, “as the quota stipulated by treaty for the service of the Vizir.” The treaty, however, did not stipulate for 5000, but only for 2000, or 3000, according to his ability; and not for horse, but troops, of which not the whole, but the usual proportion in horse, equity of construction could, by any means, require: and the troops were not for the service of the Vizir, but of the Company.1 With the strongest expressions of duty and allegiance, Fyzoolla Khan represented, that his whole force was by treaty limited to 5000 men; of which 2000 were horse, and 3000 foot; that 3000 foot were required for the business of his government and collections; but the whole was at the command of the Vizir and the Company. When this answer was received, the Governor-General, who, together with Mr. Wheler, constituted the whole Board, and by his casting vote united in his own person all the powers of government, declared BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.upon record, that “The Nabob Fyzoolla Khan had evaded the performance of his part of the treaty between the late Nabob Sujah ul Dowla and him, to which the Honourable Company were guarantees, and upon which he was lately summoned to furnish the stipulated number of troops, which he is obliged to furnish on the condition by which he holds the jaghire granted to him.”
In defence of this procedure Mr. Hastings states, that the Company was environed with difficulties; the burden of the Mahratta war; the alarming progress of Hyder Ali in Carnatic; the march of the Berar army into Cuttack; and the prospect of an armament from France: That Sir Eyre Coote, before departing for Madras, recommended application to Cheyte Sing for a body of horse to cover the province of Bahar; a battalion of sepoys; 1000 of the Vizir’s infantry; and as many of Fyzoolla Khan’s troops as could be procured, for the defence of Rohilcund: That the British officer who commanded in that district complained, by letter, of having with him only 500 of that chieftain’s horse, though, “in his agreement with government, he was obliged to keep up 5000 troops for assisting in the defence of Rohilcund:” That in the hurry of business, he, and the other Members of the Board, were deceived by this letter into the belief that 5000 was the quota defined; and that horse, though not expressed in the treaty, was undoubtedly understood.1
A deception of such a kind, in matters of such importance, is not the most honourable sort of apology, even where it holds.2 The demand, however, of the Board went far beyond the erroneous words ofBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. the letter. The letter spoke of only troops, not horse; and it spoke of 5000, as only to be kept up, not sent out of the country, for deduction was necessary of those required for indispensable service at home: And the declaration of one of the parties as to what was understood in a treaty, but not expressed, when there is no reason why it should not have been expressed, is an unavailing pretence, which, if admitted, would for ever place the weaker of two contracting parties at the mercy of the stronger. As to the dangers of the British government, urged by the Governor-General on this, as they are on so many other occasions, there is only one principle which can render them applicable in his defence; viz. that they furnished sufficient grounds for taking from every prince or lord of the country, whatever any of them had not ability to prevent him from taking.
In proceeding to measures of compulsion, Hastings somewhat lowered his demand. On the 15th of February, 1781, he decreed in Council, “that a deputation to Fyzoolla Khan should be immediately recommended to be sent by the Nabob Vizir, accompanied by an agent from Mr. Middleton in behalf of the English government, as guarantees, and that in presence of proper witnesses they should demand immediate delivery of 3000 cavalry; and if he should evade or refuse compliance, that the deputies should deliver a formal protest against him for breach of treaty, and return, making their report to the Vizir, which Mr. Middleton was to transmit to the Board.” BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.The deputation was sent. Fyzoolla Khan, alleging both his inability and the express words of the treaty, offered “in addition to the 1000 cavalry already granted, to give 1000 more, when and wheresoever required, and 1000 foot;” together with one year’s pay in advance, and funds for the regular payment of them in future. The offer was rejected; and the protest made. Hastings suspended all proceedings upon this protest at the Board; met with the Nabob at Chunar; and signed the following article relative to Fyzoolla Khan: “That as Fyzoolla Khan has, by his breach of treaty, forfeited the protection of the English government, and causes, by his continuance in his present independent state, great alarm and detriment to the Nabob Vizir, he be permitted, when time shall suit, to resume his lands and pay him in money, through the resident, the amount stipulated by treaty, after deducting the amount and charges of the troops he stands engaged to furnish by treaty; which amount shall be passed to the account of the Company during the continuance of the present war.”
What comes next to be stated is a characteristic circumstance. In transmitting the treaty of Chunar to his colleagues at the Board, Mr. Hastings accompanied each article with his own explanations and remarks. Those upon the article relating to Fyzoolla Khan, were as follow: “The conduct of Fyzoolla Khan in refusing the aid demanded, though not an absolute breach of treaty, was evasive and uncandid. The demand was made for 5000 cavalry: the engagement in the treaty is literally for 5000 horse and foot: Fyzoolla Khan could not be ignorant that we had no occasion for any succours of infantry from him, and that cavalry would be of the most essential service: so scrupulous an attention to literal expression, when a more liberal interpretation would haveBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. been highly useful and acceptable to us, strongly marks his unfriendly disposition; though it may not impeach his fidelity; and leaves him little claim to any exertions from us, for the continuance of his jaghires. But I am of opinion that neither the Vizir’s, nor the Company’s interests would be promoted by depriving Fyzoolla Khan of his independency: And I have, therefore, reserved the execution of this agreement to an indefinite term; and our government may always interpose to prevent any ill effects from it.”
This imperiously calls for some observations. Mr. Hastings inserts, in an article of a solemn, public treaty, and sets his hand to the article, that a dependent of the Company has been guilty of a breach of treaty; when at the same moment, he writes to his colleagues, that he has not been guilty of a breach of treaty, and that his fidelity is unimpeached. He gives to the Vizir, by equally solemn treaty, what the Vizir anxiously solicited, as an object of great desire, permission to dispossess Fyzoolla Khan; yet he writes to his colleagues, that this was a fraudulent artifice, and that he never meant the permission to have any effect. The cause of Mr. Hastings, during a calm investigation, suffers exceedingly by his practice and skill in the arts of deceit; because the fair colours, which he himself can throw upon his conduct, become thoroughly untrustworthy, and, unless where they are supported by other evidence, cease to persuade.
When, too, Mr. Hastings informs his colleagues, that by the treaty in virtue of which Fyzoolla Khan possessed his jaghire, he was bound to afford 5000 troops, the information was glaringly incorrect; for the oppressed dependant had expressly appealed to the treaty, and offered obedience to the full extent of BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.its bonds. Nay, by the treaty, he was rigidly bound not to retain in his service any more than 5000 troops both horse and foot; and had he sent 5000 horse to the service of the English, in addition to which he must have raised horse and foot for the business of his country, he might have been punished for breach of treaty, and on this pretext, deprived of his independence.
For several months after the return of the Vizir to his own capital, the Governor-General was importuned, by applications both from him and from the resident, to permit the expulsion of Fyzoolla Khan. Towards the end of the year, 1782, a negotiation was opened for a pecuniary commutation of the military aid. Major Palmer was deputed to Rampore; and spent a month, as he himself significantly expresses it, “in order to effect by persuasion, what he could have obtained in an hour by threats and compulsions;” that is, a sum of fifteen lacs of rupees, on the condition of being exempted from all future claims of military service.
Endeavour was used to obtain from Fyzoolla Khan another sum of 15 lacs; for which his jaghire, which was only a tenure for life, was to be converted into a perpetual hereditary possession. As this change in his tenure was supposed to be of the highest importance to Fyzoolla Khan, he very much surprised the English agent by declaring his inability to advance the money required, and declining the bargain. From the improving cultivation of the country, and apparent riches of the people, the effects of the good government which that lord had maintained, the English, as usual, believed, in company with the Vizir, that his riches were immense.
Major Palmer bore his testimony, on this occasion, to the falsehood, too, of the imputations upon which the oppression of Fyzoolla Khan had been founded:BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. That he had given encouragement to the desertion of the ryots of the Vizir; and that he had a greater number of troops than 5000. The numbers of the Rohilla people in his country exceeded that amount; but Rohillas, in other than military employments, were not by the treaty forbidden. At any rate, the Major adds, “it does not appear that their number is formidable, or that Fyzoolla Khan could by any means subsist such numbers as could cause any serious alarm to the Vizir; neither is there any appearance of their entertaining any views beyond the quiet possession of the advantages which they at present enjoy.”
It was an object with the Governor-General and Council, to convince the Court of Directors that the bargain they had made with Fyzoolla Khan was a good one, and the money obtained an ample compensation for the alienated right. They now, therefore, distinctly understood and affirmed, that Fyzoolla Khan was bound not to exceed the number of 5000 troops, in horse and foot, and to send to the service of the Vizir only two or three thousand men; which, to the Vizir they said, was “a precarious and unserviceable right;” that “the rumours which had been spread of the hostile designs of Fyzoolla Khan, against the Vizir, were totally groundless; and if he had been inclined, that he had not the means to make himself formidable.”1 These expressions are to be contrasted with those made use of, on the 1st of BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.April, 1781, by the assistant resident, Johnson; who was sent for the purpose of making the protest, in case of the refusal of 3000 horse. On the hunt for appearances of guilt, he found them at every step; and the very day after his arrival, reported, that “the Rohilla soldiers, in the district of Rampore alone, were not less than twenty thousand.” With great caution should men in power receive from their agents reports by which their known wishes are flattered; because the proportion of observers is lamentably small, who, in such cases, will not deceive themselves, and without any formed intention of mendacity, yet from the very lust of pleasing the men on whose favour or disfavour their prosperity or adversity depends, give them reports which will deceive them. It is necessary, in justice to Mr. Hastings, to add, that with respect to the permission, granted by the treaty of Chunar, to resume the jaghire of Fyzoolla Khan, he afterwards allowed that his conduct was the proper object of blame.1
It appears that the Vizir relented at a period rather early in the persecution of the Begums. Before the recall of Mr. Middleton, he wrote to the Governor-General several letters, on the particular subject of the resumption of the estates, and the confiscation of the treasures of the Princesses, and appears to have severely complained of the opprobrious part which he was compelled to perform. It was one of the rules of the Governor-General, to suppress as much as possible of any correspondence, of which the appearance would give him pain. These letters, accordingly, were not entered in the Company’s records. But what he wrote to the resident on the subject of them remains, and shows, that inBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. his breast they excited the highest resentment. He chose to consider them as not the letters of the Vizir; whom he represents as too void of character, to write any thing of himself. He called them the letters of the minister, “who,” says he, “by an abuse of his influence over the Nabob—he being, as he ever must be, in the hands of some person, a mere cipher in his hands—dared to make him assume a very unbecoming tone of refusal, reproach, and resentment, in opposition to measures recommended by me, and even to acts done by my authority.”
He persisted in ascribing guilt to the Begums, and said, “the severities which have been exercised toward them, were most justly merited, by the advantage which they took of the troubles in which I was personally involved last year, to create a rebellion in the Nabob’s government;1 and to complete the ruin which they thought was impending on ours.” “If it is the Nabob’s desire to forget and forgive their past offences, I have no objection to his allowing them, in pension, the nominal amount of their jaghires; but if he shall ever offer to restore their jaghires to them, or to give them any property in land, after the warning which they have given him, by the dangerous abuse which they formerly made of his indulgence; you must remonstrate, in the BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.strongest terms, against it; you must not permit such an event to take place; until this government shall have received information of it, and shall have had time to interpose its influence for the prevention of it.” On this and on various other occasions, where the Governor-General spoke of pensions with so much ease, he well knew, that in the circumstances and with the disposition of the government of the Vizir, a pension, unless to Englishmen whom he feared, little or nothing differed from a name. Nay more; if the payment had been sure, the nominal revenue was but a portion of the actual proceeds; and the Begums of course were to be robbed of all the rest. It was in fact from this robbery, namely the revenue which the Nabob could extract from the estates of the Begums, beyond the pensions he would bind himself to pay them, that the money was to come, by which the distress of Mr. Hastings was to be relieved.
The period at last arrived for the review, by the Court of Directors, of the proceedings of their government in India relative to the Begums. In their letters of the 14th of February, 1783, “It no where,” say the Directors, “appears, from the papers at present in our possession, that the Begums excited any commotions previous to the imprisonment of Cheyte Sing, and only armed themselves in consequence of that transaction; and it is probable that such a conduct proceeded from motives of self-defence, under an apprehension, that they themselves might likewise be laid under unwarrantable contributions.” The Court of Directors, in consequence, gave their commands, that if, upon inquiry, it should appear that the Princesses had not been guilty of the practices of which Mr. Hastings accused them, their estates should be restored; and an asylum offered them within the Company’s territory. In obedience to thisBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. injunction, it was moved by Mr. Stables, a member of the Supreme Council, that the inquiry should be instituted.
The conduct pursued by the Governor-General is the next object of regard. He set himself in opposition to the inquiry; and, having a majority of the Council on his side, he prevented it. The reasons by which he supported his opposition were as follows. He asserted, “that the reasons of the Court of Directors, if transmitted with the orders for the inquiry, will prove, in effect, an order for collecting evidence to the justification and acquittal of the Begums, and not for the investigation of the truth of the charges which have been preferred against them.” Here the insinuation is, that whenever, in India, the views of government are known, all evidence tendered will be sure to coincide with those views. The Governor-General ought to have reflected, that, if this be true, all the evidence which he produced against the Begums, Cheyte Sing, or any of the other parties, whom he pretended to punish under the colour of guilt, if in other respects less devoid of the essentials of proof than it really was, ought to be counted for nothing. Besides, it was neither necessary, nor did the author of the proposal require, that “the reasons” of the Court of Directors should be transmitted with the order for inquiry. Mr. Hastings in a further Minute asserted, that the inquiry would be fraught with “evils greater than any which exist in the consequences which have already taken place, and which time has almost obliterated.” “If,” said he, “I am rightly informed, the Nabob Vizir and the Begums are on terms of mutual good will. It would ill become this government to interpose its influence, by any act which might tend to revive BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.their animosities, and a very slight occasion would be sufficient to effect it. They will instantly take fire on such a declaration, proclaim the judgment of the Court in their favour, demand a reparation of the acts, which they will construe wrongs, with such a sentence warranting that construction, and either accept the invitation (to reside under the protection of the Company), to the proclaimed scandal of the Nabob Vizir, which will not add to the credit of our government, or remain in his dominions, but not under his authority, to add to his vexations and the disorders of the country, by continual intrigues and seditions. Enough already exists to affect his peace, and the quiet of his people. If we cannot heal, let us not inflame the wounds which have been inflicted.” He added, “If the Begums think themselves aggrieved to such a degree as to justify them in an appeal to a foreign jurisdiction; to appeal to it against a man standing in the relation of son and grandson to them; to appeal to the justice of those who have been the abettors, and instruments of their imputed wrongs; let us at least permit them to be the judges of their own feelings, and prefer their complaints, before we offer to redress them. They will not need to be prompted. I hope I shall not depart from the simplicity of official language, in saying, the Majesty of Justice ought to be approached with solicitation, not descend to provoke or invite it, much less to debase itself by the suggestion of wrongs, and the promise of redress, with the denunciation of punishments, before trial, and even before accusation.” If nothing remained to stain the reputation of Mr. Hastings, but the principles avowed in this singular pleading, his character, among the friends of justice, would be sufficiently determined.
Although the commands of the Court of Directors, respecting reparation to the Begums, wereBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. strengthened by a formal application from the Vizir, “requesting” (such are the words of Mr. Hastings, introducing the subject to the Board) “that he might he permitted to restore, to his grandmother and other relations, the jaghires which were taken from them the beginning of last year,” the authority of the Governor-General was sufficient to prevent, at the present time, the adoption of any measure in their favour.1
Notwithstanding the severities practised upon the family of the Vizir, and the usurpation of his authority by Mr. Middleton, who even issued warrants upon his own authority for the resumption of the jaghires, Mr. Middleton was dismissed for want of rigour in pressing the demands of the English government; and Mr. Bristow was appointed, under the implied as well as declared expectation, that he would supply what had been remiss in the conduct of his predecessor. Nor was this all. He was furnished with a set of instructions, from the hand of the Governor-General, bearing date the 23d of October, 1782. In these instructions, in which he was particularly referred to the injunctions which Mr. Middleton had previously received, four objects were principally pointed out to his attention; 1st, “To limit, and separate the personal disbursements of the Vizir from the public accounts;” 2dly, To reform the military establishment, reducing the troops to one uniform corps, and to the form, if possible, most useful to the Company, that of cavalry; controling even the appointment of officers, may, “peremptorily opposing it,” as often as the Vizir should persist in a choice BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.which to the Resident should appear objectionable; 3dly, To control, or rather to exercise, the power of appointing Aumils and collectors in the revenue department, it being reserved to the Nabob’s ministers to appoint them, with the concurrence of the Resident; 4thly, To endeavour to reform the disgraceful state of the administration of justice.
The grand object of the English government was, to obtain from the Nabob the payment of the sums for which they had induced him to become bound. But such were the disorders of his administration, and such the effects of those disorders upon the population and produce of the country, that without great reforms this payment seemed impracticable, and without the virtual assumption of the powers of government into better hands than those of the Vizir and his agents, all reform was an object of despair. The government, accordingly, had been converted into a government of Englishmen, in fact; conducted by the instrumentality of the Vizir and his agents, and under the forms of their authority. Of this, the points of instruction to Mr. Middleton, described above, are more than adequate proof.
In the administration of the Nabob, the principal organ went by the name of the Minister. The person raised to this office by the influence of the Governor-General was Hyder Beg Khan. The character and situation of this person, as described by Mr. Hastings himself, require to be noticed. In his instructions to Mr. Bristow, in October, 1782, he says: “Immediately on your arrival, sound the disposition of Hyder Beg Khan. His conduct has, for some time past, been highly reproachable. Till within these three months he possessed, without control, both the unparticipated and entire administration, with all the powers annexed to that government; the Nabob being, as he ever must be in the hands ofBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. some person, a mere cypher in his.” To so great a degree did Mr. Hastings represent the Vizir as being the mere tool of the minister, that he treated the very letters of the Vizir, as literally the letters of the minister; and spoke of him and of them in the following terms: “He has dared to use both the Nabob’s name and even his seal affixed to letters, either dictated to the Nabob, or written from him without his knowledge.” He then proceeded to state the necessity, that this man, in whose hands the Vizir was a tool, should be merely a tool in the hands of the English resident; in other words, that the English resident should wield substantially the powers of government. “I cannot omit,” said he, “to repeat the sentiments which I expressed in the verbal instructions which I gave you at your departure, that there can be no medium in the relation between the resident and the minister, but either the resident must be the slave and vassal of the minister, or the minister at the absolute devotion of the resident.” He then describes him as the mere creature of the English government. “He exists,” said the Governor-General, “by his dependance on the influence of our government; and if he will submit to hold his office on such conditions as I require, I would prefer him to any other. At the same time, it will be necessary to declare to him, in the plainest terms, the footing and conditions on which he shall be permitted to retain his place, with the alternative of dismission, and a scrutiny into his past conduct, if he refuses. These conditions are described as follows; “In the first place, I will not receive from the Nabob, as his, letters dictated by the spirit of opposition—but shall consider every such attempt as the minister’s, and as an insult on our government. In the second place, I BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.shall expect that nothing is done, in his official character, but with your knowledge and participation; at the same time the first share of the responsibility will rest with you: the other conditions will follow distinctly in their places, because I consider you as responsible for them.” The responsibility implies the power; therefore the power was to exist in the resident; and any opposition, so much as by letter, that is, by complaint, was to be considered as an insult on the English government.
To the Minister, Hyder Beg, Mr. Hastings himself wrote in the following terms. “In answer to my letter Rajah Gobind Ram received a perwanna from the Nawab, containing complaints and reproaches at my interference in his affairs, and his unwillingness to receive any agent from me. These sentiments, and these expressions, are neither consonant to the benevolence of the Nawab’s temper, nor to the friendship which, I know, he possesses for me;—but were dictated for other purposes, known to yourself only. They are your sentiments, and your expressions; and not the Nawab’s. But my astonishment at the other parts of the perwanna is not to be expressed; for it declares all I had said respecting the disordered state of the Nawab’s government to be entirely false. Either these affirmations were dictated by the Nawab; or written without his knowledge. If they were dictated by the Nawab, they were such as would not admit of a reply from me, in an immediate address to himself; because I must have told him that he was deceived, and kept in utter ignorance of his own affairs, at the same time that the whole world, except himself, saw the condition they were in, and the destruction that was handing over him. If the letter was written in the Nawab’s name, but without his knowledge, what must have been your opinion of me, that could induce you toBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. attempt so gross a deception upon my understanding? In either case, your conduct is without excuse. Its object I plainly see. By the authority of the Nawab Vizir you mean your own. When you make the Nawab to complain of the usurpation upon that authority, and to assert his right to the uncontroled exercise of it, the plain interpretation of this is, that you yourself lay claim to the usurpation of his authority, and to the uncontroled exercise of it. And how has it been exercised? I shall not repeat particulars, having already written to you fully upon them—and the subject is unpleasant. But I must tell you that such is their notoriety, that the report of them is echoed to me from all parts of Hindostan and Deccan; and the most alarming apprehensions are expressed by my agents, employed in the remote affairs of this government, lest they should attract the hostilities of other powers.”1 —Such at the end of October, 1782, was the opinion declared by Mr. Hastings of the condition, in which the government of Oude was kept, in the hands of the Nabob, and his Minister.
In pointing out to Mr. Bristow the establishment of new offices, for the business of the revenues, for reform in the administration of justice, for the appointment of new administrators, and the coercion of rebellious Zemindars; as part of the objects, on the accomplishment of which, for the reform in the disorders in the Nabob’s government, the desires of the Governor-General were fixed; absolute performance was exacted at the hands of the resident, without any BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.other limitation to the exercise of his power, than what the rules of prudence, and “every ostensible and external mark of respect to the Nabob,” might recommend.
When the resident had as yet been but a few months in office, a letter, as written by the Vizir, dated the 28th of March, 1783, arrived, complaining, in the most bitter terms, of the assumption of his authority by the resident. Instead of treating it, according to the terms of his paper of instructions, as the letter, “not of the Vizir, but of the Minister, and as an insult on the English government,” the Governor-General received it with profound respect; and on the 21st of April presented it, with the documents by which it was attended, to the Council, as a matter deserving their most serious regard. From the delicacy of the relation, in which, on account of former oppositions, he stood to Mr. Bristow, he professed a desire to be guided in his sentiments, on this occasion, by the sentiments of the Board. On the 19th of May, consultation upon the subject took place, when the reserve of the Governor-General disappeared. He declared, that “the facts, as stated in the Nabob’s complaints, were usurpations of the authority, and even of the sovereignty of the Nabob Vizir.” But, what was more singular, he declared that his instructions to Mr. Bristow did not authorize any usurpation of that authority or sovereignty. And he proposed, even before Mr. Bristow should be heard in his defence, that certain proceedings of his, the objects of the Vizir’s complaint, should be immediately revoked. The Council, however, rejected this proposition; and only so far concurred with the Governor-General, as to send to Mr. Bristow a copy of the papers, and require his defence. The tone of the Governor-General, upon this, rose very high. “The Governor-General,”BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. such were the terms of his minute, “desires it to be recorded, that he protests against the resolution of the Board, and will assign his reasons at large hereafter.” What follows is still more remarkable. As if he had penned the instructions by his sole authority, and as if upon that authority alone their validity rested, he declared them no longer of any force. The Minute goes on; “He (the Governor-General) also desires, that as the instructions given by him to Mr. Bristow have no longer any force, and as he solemnly disavows their authority, under any construction, for Mr. Bristow to exercise any controul over the Nabob Vizir, or participation in the sovereignty of the Vizir’s dominions, the Board will be pleased to cause such new instructions to be drawn out, and transmitted to Mr. Bristow, as they shall think proper.” If the whole extent is admitted of the exaggerating language of Mr. Hastings and the Nabob, which nevertheless very far exceeded the facts, the whole of his paper of instructions not only authorized but commanded a complete control over the Nabob Vizir, and not a participation only in the sovereignty, but the substantial exercise of the whole.1
On the 24th of July, Mr. Hastings complained to the Board, that Mr. Bristow had been guilty of disrespect to the Board, in not transmitting his defence; and on this occasion could not forbear alluding to an offence, which he appears never to have surmised BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.without a purpose of punishment; “Perhaps,” said he, “Mr. Bristow may wish to avail himself of the principle, which forbids that any man should be condemned unheard, to withhold his defence until he shall have exceeded the period which has been so repeatedly portended for the close of the present government.” On the 28th of the same month, he moved, “That Mr. Bristow, for disrespect to the Board, and disobedience of the written orders to him by the Board on the 29th of May, be removed and recalled from his station and office at Lucknow.” Yet Mr. Hastings had before him a letter of Mr. Bristow dated on the 23d of June, in the following words: “Since I had last the honour to address you, I have been confined to my room by indisposition. I am now somewhat recovered, and shall not fail to expedite my reply to your commands of the 29th ult., which I have on this account been compelled to postpone.” The Board refused to acquiesce in the precipitate condemnation, recommended to them by their President; and soon after, the letter of Mr. Bristow, dated on the 30th day of July, arrived. The resident either absolutely denied the facts which were asserted in the complaints of the Vizir, or represented the actions with which he was charged, as actions to the performance of which he was by the tenor of his instructions compelled, actions absolutely necessary to accomplish the ends which the English government had in view, actions attended with beneficial effects, and performed with all the delicacy possible towards the Vizir. The complaints he represented as flowing solely from the minister, to whose interests all reform was adverse, who had opposed it, in every instance, with all the power of eastern subtlety, with all the power of a despotic influence tyrannically exercised over the helpless Vizir, and with all the effect which could be given to this power by a holdBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. upon the ear of the Governor-General. On hearing this defence, the Council-General, with the exception of Mr. Hastings, the accuser, unanimously declared, that no misconduct on the part of Mr. Bristow had been proved; and by their decision pronounced a heavy condemnation of their chief. Nothing seems better supported than the opinion which the minute of Mr. Macpherson expressed, “That Mr. Bristow has fully refuted the accusations advanced against him; and that, if they had in some degree been established, they would lie more against the Board than against Mr. Bristow, who continually advised them of his endeavours to carry his instructions into effect.”
The Governor-General meditated an important change, in the relations between the Nabob of Oude, and the English government. He moved that in conformity with the proposal of the Vizir, and of his minister, the English residency should be withdrawn, and the joint security of the Nabob and the minister taken for the discharge of the obligations which the Company held upon the government of Oude. In the instructions, to which reference has so frequently been made, of Hastings to Bristow, “The Nabob,” it was said, “has repeatedly and bitterly complained of the indignity which he suffers in his authority, by the usurpation of the Company’s residents; and has repeatedly demanded, that whenever the Company’s balance shall be completely discharged, he may be free from this vexation, that he may be permitted to pay the subsidy in ready money; and that the assignments which have been granted to satisfy that demand may be restored him.” The quarter from which this proposition proceeded, Mr. Hastings at the same time declared, was no secret to him. It BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.proceeded, he said, from Hyder Beg Khan. He added, “It may not, however, be amiss to talk with the minister on this subject; to let him know, that it is well understood to be a demand for substituting his authority in the place of the Company’s, and to invest him with the sovereignty of the Vizir’s dominions.” These words are pregnant with meaning; in the first place they declare, that the authority, exercised by the Company, embraced the sovereignty of the Vizir’s dominions, though, for the sake of criminating Mr. Bristow, he could erect every interference in that sovereignty into an act of guilt; and secondly they declare, that to withdraw the English residency from Oude, was to deliver over the Vizir and his sovereignty into the hands of Hyder Beg, whose character he painted in the blackest colours. Yet, at the very moment, when he was proposing to offer up this sacrifice of the Vizir and his sovereignty to the cupidity and tyranny of Hyder Beg Khan, he was not restrained from the glaring hypocrisy of expressing a deep concern for the indignity which he pretended the Vizir had sustained, by the part which the English resident had acted, in endeavouring to reform his government, and check the malversations of the minister by whom he was oppressed.
At the very time, however, of penning his instructions, Mr. Hastings stated that he had an inclination to the present measure. “I confess,” says he, “that I did myself give encouragement to this proposition; knowing at the same time the quarter from which it came, I mean from Hyder Beg Khan; but willing to exonerate this government from the trouble and responsibility, and the Company from the disgrace, of whatever might attend the administration of the Nabob’s government. I thought, too, that it presented a sure prospect of the regular payment of the current demands, by the penalty, which would attendBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783. the failure, in the resumption of the former system of assignments, and in the personal claims which it would lay on the minister. But his misconduct has since manifested itself in so many particular instances—besides the universal disorder of the country; and this is so alarming in its effects to our government, that I shall hesitate, until I have the surest and most satisfactory grounds, to recommend an acquiescence in such a measure.” What change there was in the grounds, except for the worse, in the few months between the time when this was written, and the date of his motion, does not appear. Another point is also remarkable. In the conversation which the Governor-General recommended to the resident to hold with the minister on this subject, he desired him to ask, provided the sovereignty of the Vizir’s dominions according to the terms of his proposition were transferred to him, “Whether, in the event of his involving our government in a new scheme of hostilities, by those which his mal-administration may produce, whether internally, or by invasion in that country, he shall think himself in justice exempt from the personal vengeance which we may be disposed to exact from him.”
In the first letter of complaint, which was received from the Vizir against Mr. Bristow, the proposition for the removal of the residency, and the appointment of Hyder Beg Khan to the entire management of the country, was renewed; and Mr. Stables, in his Minute in Council on the 19th of May, 1783, declares, that this was the “great object which the minister, and” (the cypher in his hands) “his master, had in view, in preferring their complaints against the resident.” Mr. Stables added, “In justice BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783.and candour to the Nawab Vizir and his minister, I think the Board ought explicitly to declare, that they cannot, on any account, comply with the Vizir’s request, to grant him discretional powers over his country, while such heavy debts remain due to the Company.” In the debate, too, in Council, of the 31st of July, after the proposition was formally moved by the Governor-General, it met with the opposition of all the other Members of the Board. The tone of the Governor-General, however, after the opposition had lasted for a little time, grew so high, as to intimidate his colleagues; threatening them with the inconveniences of a divided administration, and the loss of his authority in the difficulties which attended the government of Oude. They were, therefore, induced to offer on the 31st of December to acquiesce in his proposal, provided he would take the whole responsibility of the measure upon himself. This, however, was a load which the Governor-General declined. It was afterwards explained, that responsibility with his fortune, or a pecuniary responsibility, was not understood. Responsibility, thus limited, which, in fact, was no responsibility at all, leaving nothing to be affected but his reputation, which it was impossible to exempt, he had no objection to undergo. On the 31st of December, it was determined, that the residency should be withdrawn; on receiving the security of creditable bankers for the balance which the Nabob owed to the Company, and for the accruing demands of the current year.
Many grounds of suspicion are laid in this transaction. From one remarkable fact, they derive the greatest corroboration. There is great reason to believe, that the letters which were written in the name of the Nabob, complaining of Bristow, were in fact suborned by the Governor-General, written inBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783. consequence of instructions, that is, commands, secretly conveyed.
When Mr. Bristow was removed, just before the first journey of the Governor-General towards Oude, the removal was in like manner preceded by violent complaints from the Nabob. These complaints were suborned. Mr. Hastings himself, when proposing the return of Mr. Bristow in 1782, informs the Nabob’s Vakeel, that “His Highness,” meaning the Nabob, “had been well pleased with Mr. Bristow, and that he knew what the Nabob had written formely was at the instigation of Mr. Middleton.”1 The instigation of Mr. Middleton was the instigation of Mr. Hastings.
Besides, it is in evidence, that this was not a singular case. It was the ordinary mode of procedure, established between Mr. Hastings and the Nabob. There was, it appears, a regular concert, that the Nabob should never write a public letter respecting the residents or their proceedings, till he had first learned privately what Mr. Hastings wished that he should express, and that he then wrote accordingly. This appeared most fully, after the departure of Mr. Hastings, when the Nabob proposed to carry on the same practice with his successor. In a letter, received on the 21st of April, 1785, “I desire,” says the Vizir, “nothing but your satisfaction: And hope, that such orders as relate to the friendship between the Company and me, and as may be your pleasure, may be written in your private letters to me through Major Palmer, in your letters to the Major, that he may in obedience to your orders properly explain BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783.them to me, and whatever may be settled he may first, in secret, inform you of it, and afterwards I may write to you, having learnt your pleasure—in this way, the secrets will be known to your mind alone, and the advice upon all the concerns will be given in a proper manner.” The same thing is still more clearly expressed by the minister Hyder Beg Khan, on the same occasion. “I hope that such orders and commands as relate to the friendship between his Highness’s and the Company’s governments, and to your will, may be sent through Major Palmer in your own private letters, or in your letters to the Major, who is appointed from you at the presence of his Highness, that, in obedience to your orders, he may properly explain your commands, and whatever affair may be settled, he may first secretly inform you of it, and afterward his Highness may, conformably thereto, write an answer, and I also may represent it. By this system, your pleasure will always be fully made known to his Highness, and his Highness and me will execute whatever may be your orders, without deviating a hair’s breadth.” When it was the intention of Mr. Hastings that Mr. Bristow, who had been withdrawn upon complaints, which, without any dislike to Mr. Bristow, the Nabob through Middleton had been instructed to prefer, that obedient sovereign was instructed to make an application of a very different description. “The Governor,” said the Nabob’s Vakeel in the Arzee already quoted, “directed me to forward to the presence, that it was his wish, that your Highness would write a letter to him; and, as from yourself, request of him that Mr. Bristow may be appointed to Lucknow.” In his answer to the Vakeel the Nabob curiously says, “As to the wishes of Mr. Hastings, that I should write for him to send Mr. John Bristow, it would have been proper, and necessary, forBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783. you, privately to have understood what were Mr. Hastings’ real intentions; Whether the choice of sending Mr. John Bristow was his own desire: Or, whether it was in compliance with Mr. Macpherson’s—that I might then have written conformably there-to.—Writings are now sent to you for both cases. Having privately understood the wishes of Mr. Hastings, deliver which ever of the writings he shall order you.”1 —After all this, and after the threats of Mr. Hastings against all letters from the Nabob which he might dislike, the meaning of the letters complaining of Bristow cannot be misunderstood. It was a shrewd surmise of the Nabob, respecting Macpherson: who had become recently a Member of the Supreme Council, and whose support Mr. Hastings might require. The accusations, which the Governor-General afterwards aimed at Mr. Macpherson for supporting Bristow, fall in, at least, with the conjecture.
The cause which prompted so violent a desire for his recall is involved in comparative mystery. We can trace a kind of analogy. As the preceding removal of Mr. Bristow was immediately followed by the first visit of the Governor-General to the Nabob; so the present removal was immediately followed by another. This, undoubtedly, proves nothing against Mr. Hastings: But if there be any other grounds for suspicion, this tends to confirm them. If these visits were intended for any unjustifiable transactions between the Governor and Nabob, the removal of a witness, whose compliance could not be depended upon, was just the proceeding which, in such circumstances, every man would adopt.
BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1784.Before the removal of the residency was finally settled, the Governor-General had represented, that a great demand existed for his presence in Oude, to aid in settling the disorders of the country, and in making such arrangements as would enable the Vizir to fulfil his engagements. His journey was opposed by the other Members of the Board. Upon it, however, for some reason or another, the Governor-General had set his heart. A letter was procured from Major Palmer, representing the state of the country as alarming, and urgently requiring the immediate presence of Mr. Hastings; with other letters from the Vizir, and his minister, earnestly requesting to see the Governor-General at Lucknow. The consent of a majority of the Council was at last obtained; and Mr. Hastings was authorized to proceed to Lucknow, vested with all the powers of the Board, to regulate and determine the affairs both internal and external of the state, and for that purpose to command even the military resources of the English government without control. The proposition of the Governor-General was introduced on the 20th of January, 1784; the consultation was closed, and the authority of the Board conferred on the 16th of February; and on the following day, the 17th, the journey of the Governor-General began.
In proceeding to Lucknow, he passed through the province of Benares, which, in the time of Cheyte Sing and his father, manifested so great a degree of prosperity; and, there, witnessed the effects of his late proceedings. The first deputy whom he had appointed for the Rajah was dismissed for the offence of not making up his payments to the exacted amount. The second, as might well be expected, acted upon the “avowed principle, that the sum fixed for the revenue must be collected.” The consequence was, that the population were plunged into misery;BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1784. and desolation pervaded the country. “From the confines of Buxar,” says Mr. Hastings, “to Benares, I was followed and fatigued by the clamours of the discontended inhabitants. The distresses which were produced by the long-continued drought unavoidably tended to heighten the general discontent. Yet, I have reason to fear, that the cause existed principally, in a defective, if not a corrupt and oppressive administration.” “I am sorry to add, that from Buxar to the opposite boundary, I have seen nothing but traces of complete devastation in every village.” “I cannot help remarking, that expect the city of Benares, the province is in effect without a government. The administration of the province is misconducted, and the people oppressed; trade discouraged, and the revenue in danger of a rapid decline from the violent appropriation of its means.”1 It is remarkable, how few of the political arrangements of Mr. Hastings produced the effects which he expected from them; and how much his administration consisted in a perpetual change of ill-concerted measures. The arrangements for the government of Benares were his own; and for the effects of them he was responsible; but he enjoyed a happy faculty of laying the blame at any door rather than his own. He ascribed the existing evils to the deputy solely; and with the approbation of the Council removed him. The predecessor of that deputy, who transgressed in nothing but the extent of his exactions, met with a severer fate. To procure some redress of his grievances, he had even repaired in person to Calcutta, where, so far from receiving any attention, he received two peremptory orders from the Supreme Council to quit the city, BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1784.and return. Nor was this all. Upon the arrival of Mr. Hastings at Benares, he ordered him into prison again; after which his vexations and hardships soon put a period to his life. His poverty was real, and he died insolvent.
The Governor-General arrived at Lucknow on the 27th of March. He had some success in obtaining money from the minister into whose hands the government was transferred. In order still more to disburthen the revenues, of the Vizir, he agreed to withdraw the English detachment commanded by Colonel Sir John Cummings, which still was stationed on the frontiers of Oude at the Nabob’s expense; and agreed for this reason. “That the Company would gain nothing by its continuance, since the Nabob had not the means of defraying the expense; and whether it remains,” he added, “on account of the Company, or be continued to swell the Nabob’s with an accumulating debt which he cannot pay, its effects on the Company’s funds will prove the same, while it holds out a deception to the public.” Mr. Hastings had eluded inquiry into the truth of the allegations on which the confiscation of the estates and treasures of the Begums, and others, had been ordered; and the commands of the Court of Directors had till this time remained without effect. The time, however, was now come, when at least a partial obedience was deemed expedient; and Mr. Hastings reported to the Board, that the jaghires of the Begums, and of the Nabob Salar Jung, the uncle of the Vizir, had been “restored, conformably to the Company’s orders, and more so to the inclinations of the Nabob Vizir, who went to Fyzabad for the express purpose of making a respectful tender of them in person to the Begums.” The restoration, however, tardy as it was, fell greatly short of completeness; for Mr. Hastings reported that the personages, in question, hadBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785. made a voluntary concession of a large portion of their respective shares.” The Governor-General was now so far from expressing any apprehension of disorder from the possession of jaghires by the Princesses and other principal persons of the Nabob’s family, that he declared his expectation of their influence in supporting the arrangements which had taken place with the Vizir.1
The Governor-General departed from Lucknow on the 27th of August. He arrived at the Presidency on the 4th of November, resumed his seat at the Council Board on the 11th, and on the 22d reminded the Directors of his request, addressed to them on the 20th of March in the year 1783, to nominate his successor. He now began to prepare for his departure. On the 8th of February, 1785, he resigned his office, and embarked for England.2
In India, the true test of the government, as affecting the interest of the English nation, is found in its financial results. In 1772, when the administration of Mr. Hastings began, the net revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, which, being the principal branch of receipt, will suffice for that general conception which is all I can attempt to convey, were 2,373,650l.; the civil and military charges of the government of Bengal were 1,705,279l.; difference 668,371l.: The whole of the bond and other debts in India were BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785.1,850,166l.; and the debt in England, including capital stock, and the sums due to the annuitants, was 12,850,166l. In 1785, the revenues of Bengal Bahar, and Orissa, including the new revenue of Benares, and the subsidies from Oude, amounted to 5,315,197l.; the charges, deducting Clive’s jaghire, 30,000l. per annum, which ceased in 1784, one half of the allowance to the Nabob of Bengal, and the tribute to the Mogul, amounted to 4,312,519l.; the difference, 1,002,678l., is an improvement upon the year 1772, of 334,307l.; but, on the other hand, the debt in 1786, when the whole of the arrears of Mr. Hastings’ administration were brought to account, was raised to 15,443,349l. in England; and in India, including China, to 10,464,955l.; a sum of 25,908,334l.; to which should be joined 1,240,000l. the sum which was yielded by the subscription at 155 per cent. of 800,000l. added this year to the capital-stock. The administration of Mr. Hastings therefore added about twelve and a half millions to the debt of the East India Company; and the interest at five per cent, of this additional debt, is more than the amount of the additional revenue.1
Nor is this the only unhappy result in the financial administration of Mr. Hastings. The net territorial revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, instead of increasing had actually declined. In the year ending the 1st of May, 1772, they amounted to the sum of 2,126,766l., and in the year ending on the same day in 1785, to that of 2,072,963l.2 In Lord Cornwallis’s celebrated revenue letter, dated, 16th November,BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785. 1786, it is allowed, that the state of the accounts exhibits a debt in India of 8,91,25,518 rupees, and assets valued at 5,81,24,567, with a balance against the Company of 3,10,00,950. But Lord Cornwallis observes, that the account of assets is so much made up for the sake of show, that is, delusion, that it presents a result widely distant from the truth; and that the balance between the debts, and such assets as are applicable to their extinction, would not, in his BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785.opinion, fall short of 7,50,00,000 rupees. “Of this debt something more than a crore of rupees was subscribed for transference to England, leaving a debt of about 6 1/2 crore, “nearly the whole of which,” he says, “is running at an average rate of interest of 8 3/8 per cent. per annum.” “For the discharge of this,” his Lordship adds, your Bengal government alone can hereafter furnish a fund; which (under the limitations in the estimate), is stated at a gross sum of about 46,00,000 current rupees per annum. And the ordinary expenses of your different settlements, allowing for the provision of an European investment, at present exceed their resources.”1 That is to say; The revenue of the Indian government, at the close of the administration of Mr. Hastings, was not equal to its ordinary expense.
The incidents which had occurred under the Presidency of Madras, from the period of terminating the war with Tippoo, till the time when Mr. HastingsBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. surrendered his office, remain to be adduced.
The situation of the Nabob of Arcot, as it had long been, so it continued to be, a source of uneasiness and of difficulty to the English rulers in the southern Presidency. The wretched government, which that Nabob maintained, and which his want of talents, his want of virtue, and the disadvantages of his situation, disqualified him for improving, not only sunk the people into the deepest wretchedness, but cut off the resources required for the defence of the country. The impossibility, which the Presidents had experienced, of obtaining, through his hands, the means which were necessary to provide for the security of the province; or their connivance, from unworthy motives, at his unwillingness to provide them, had laid open the country to all the disasters, to which the weak and unprotected state in which it was found by Hyder Ali exposed it. When the war began, the strongest necessity existed for rendering the resources of the country available to its defence. Supplies, in the highest degree defective, had been obtained from the Nabob; nor was there any rational prospect of improvement. For the payment of particular debts, both to the Company and to individuals, it had been usual with him, according to the custom of Indian princes, to grant assignments on the revenues of particular districts; and no inconsiderable portion of the whole was under this disposition. As the exigency was peculiarly violent; nothing less being immediately at stake, than the existence, in the Carnatic, of both the Nabob and the English; Lord Macartney regarded an extension of the same expedient, namely, an assignment of all his revenues, as the only feasible plan for meeting the present difficulties; and compliance with it, as no unreasonable condition imposed BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.on the Nabob, seeing the proceeds were to be employed for his own defence, and that it was impossible he could, if defended at all, be so well defended, by any other means. Not without great difficulty the consent of the Nabob was obtained. It was an arrangement far from agreeable to that vanity and ambition, which formed a strong ingredient in his character. And there was no want of persons in his confidence who inflamed his discontent; and who excited him to employ every stratagem to obtain the surrender of the power he had given away.
It has already been observed, that the seat or durbar of the Nabob, who had taken up his residence at Madras, was one of the most corrupt and active scenes of intrigue, that had ever been exhibited in India. The Nabob, who was totally incompetent to his own defence, was necessarily in a state of abject dependance upon the Company: but, receiving directly the revenues of the country, he endeavoured, as far as possible, by the application of money, to secure the gratification of his will. His policy was, to purchase friends among the English rulers; and to excite opposition to those whose acquiescence he failed in acquiring. The effects were mischievous, in a variety of ways. The servants of the Company were too frequently taught to look to the violation, rather than the performance of their duties, as their most certain source of reward; and the business of the Presidency was in general disturbed by a violent spirit of division and counteraction.
The mind of the Nabob was of that class of minds which must, by a kind of necessity, be always governed by somebody; and in the imbecility of age, and of a constitution worn with indulgence, he now leaned more absolutely on the accustomed support, than at an earlier period of his life. The persons who at this period had acquired the entire ascendancy overBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. him were Ameer ul Omrah, his second son, and Paul Benfield. The former is described as excelling in all the arts of eastern, the latter in all the arts of western, villainy. The passion of the former was power, the passion of the latter, money; and this much, at least, appears, that both pursued their ends with much ardour, with great talents for intrigue, with great audacity, and not much of moral restraint. The immediate object of the former was to get his elder brother disinherited, and to obtain the succession for himself. For this purpose the old Nabob, whose passions and those of his favourite were one, had employed all his arts to obtain from the Company an acknowledgment, that he had the right of naming his successor, without regard to the established order of inheritance. With a view, by obtaining favour with the English, to pave the way to this and other desirable objects, the Ameer ul Omrah had acted the part of a zealous instrument in obtaining the consent of his father to the assignment of the revenues. When he found that Lord Macartney was as little subservient to his purposes, after this event as before, his disappointment and his enmity were equally strong. His endeavour was to render the assignment useless; to annul, if possible, the transaction. As he had his father’s mind complaint in all things, so he had it eager in the pursuit of an end, the hope of which served as a balm to the wound his pride had received, in ever relinquishing the management of the revenues. In Benfield he met with an able coadjutor. Benfield had been removed by Lord Macartney from some of the offices which he held as a servant of the Company. The liberalities and the views of the Nabob and his son pointed out a path to fortune as well as revenge.
The first expedient was, by practising on the renters, BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782.and other persons in charge of the revenues, to render unproductive the collections. Disordered and desolate as the country was, without a government, and ravaged by a destructive foe, the realizing of any revenue was in itself a difficult task. Lord Macartney had appointed a committee, consisting of some of the most trust-worthy of the Company’s servants at the Presidency, for conducting the business relative to the assigned revenues. They speedily discovered, that secret orders and suggestions, which counteracted all their proceedings, had been sent into the districts. The people had been taught to distrust the validity of the engagements formed with the English government; and hence to practise all the arts of delay and evasion. The greatest oppression was evidently exercised upon the unhappy cultivators: yet little could be obtained from the renters and collectors for the Company’s treasury; while large sums, it is affirmed, were privately sent to the Ameer ul Omrah.1
The known enmity of Sir Eyre Coote to Lord Macartney suggested the first stratagem for overturning the engagement with the President. A bait was offered, the attractions of which, it was supposed, the avidity of the General for power would not be able to resist. The Nabob offered to vest in his hands full authority over all the officers of his government and revenues. But the general too well knew what a frightful chaos his government was, to have any desire for the responsibility of so dangerous a trust.
As soon as it was found that the ear of the Governor-General was open to representations against the Governor of Madras, it was a channel in which the Nabob and his instruments industriously plied. LordBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1782. Macartney was accused of not having abilities to render the assignment of the revenues productive; of enhancing the disorders of the country; and, above all, of practising the utmost cruelty and oppression towards the Nabob and his family. Letters of this import were not only sent at various times in the Nabob’s name to Bengal; but one was written and transmitted to the British King.
Sufficient encouragement having been received from the Governor-General, the Nabob ventured at last to solicit the restoration of his revenues, by the surrender of the assignment: And his former agents, Assam Khan and Mr. Richard Sullivan, were sent on a second mission to Bengal in January, 1783.
Their criminative representations against Macartney were received; and not only entered on the records, but immediately sent to England; without communication to the party accused; and of course without an opportunity afforded him of obviating their effects, however undeserved, by a single word of defence. A most singular examination of the Nabob’s agents or advocates took place before the Supreme Council, on the subjects on which the Nabob prayed their interference. The agents were directed to state whatever they knew, and did state whatever they chose; matters of hearsay, as much as of perception; without a word of cross-examination, from an opposite party, to limit and correct the partial representation of interested reporters. After completing their statements, and not before, they were asked, if they would swear to the truth of what they had stated. The compulsion was almost irresistible. To have said, they would not swear, was to confess they had not spoken truth. Assam Khan, however, excused himself, on the plea that it was not honourable for a BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783.Mussulman to confirm what he said by an oath. Mr Sullivan had no such apology, and therefore he took his oath, but with a tolerable latitude; that, “to the best of his belief and remembrance, he had spoken the truth and nothing but the truth;” an oath which, if we have charity enough to believe it to be in no degree strained, affected not any part of the truth, however material, which it might have suited and pleased him to suppress.
On the strength of this information, partial and interested as it was, a resolution was passed, on the 8th of January, 1783, to surrender the assignment into the hands of the Nabob: though not only had this assignment been formerly approved and highly praised by the Governor-General and Council, as an act of equal utility and justice, but the delicacy of the Madras government, which endeavoured to accomplish the end by gentle means, had been treated as too scrupulous, and the utility of a greater severity particularly and strongly displayed.1
The interruption and disturbance, which the NabobBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783. was able to give to the government of Madras, he was emboldened to carry to the greatest height, by the encouragement which he received from so high a quarter. A viler display of hypocrisy is not upon record, than the language in which the author of the calamities of the whole Rohilla nation, of those of Cheyte Sing, and of the Begums of Oude, affected to bewail the cruelties which, he said, were practised upon the Nabobs of Carnatic and Oude, by Lord Macartney, and Mr. Bristow. “The condition,” Mr. Hastings said,1 “of both Princes is equally destitute and equally oppressed; and the humiliation of their remonstrances shows them to be equally hopeless of any redress but in the mercy of their oppressors.” Orders were despatched to Madras for the restoration of his revenues to the Nabob; of which the sixth part, which he had reserved to himself, as requisite for the maintenance of his family and dignity, had been exactly paid; and in reality yielded to him more money for his private purposes, than he had ever before enjoyed. It curiously happened, that before the orders of the Supreme Council arrived at Madras, dispatches were received from the Court of Directors, which conveyed their approbation of the assignment, and commanded the assistance of the Bengal government to render it effectual; dispatches which, at the same time, contained the condemnation of the transaction by which Mr. Sullivan was appointed an agent BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1783.of the Supreme Council at the residence of the Nabob, and a declaration that the only organ of communication with Mahomed Ali was the Governor and Council of Madras. Upon this communication from the Court of Directors, the Governor and Council applied to the Supreme Council for the assistance which they were commanded to yield. After a hesitation of a few months, the Supreme Council resolved to disobey: And informing the Governor and Council of Madras, that they assumed the right of judging for themselves, they repeated their orders of the 13th of January, and commanded the surrender of the assignment.
The consequences of obedience appeared to Lord Macartney of the most alarming description. The pay of the Madras army was at that moment seven months in arrear: from the resources of Carnatic alone was any supply to be obtained: not a single pagoda, since the death of Sir Eyre Coote, had been sent from Bengal: if the assignment was given up, the slender produce of the Circars, which Mr. Hastings would have sacrificed, would alone have remained: and neither the native, nor European troops, could be expected to bear any addition to the privations which they now endured. With a prospect of the actual dissolution of the government, if the revenues, on which every thing depended, were at so extraordinary a moment given up; and fully impressed with the conviction, that to surrender them to the Nabob was to render them unavailing to the defence of the country, defence which then fell upon the Company without any resources, and oppressed them with a burden which they were unable to bear, he resolved to maintain the assignment, which, at the close of the second year, had yielded one million sterling from those very countries, which for eighteenBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785. months after the invasion of Hyder Ali had not contributed a pagoda toward the expenses of the war.
With this disobedience, Mr. Hastings, whose administration was now so formidably assailed in England, and who was deeply concerned in the success with which he might perform the business of winding it up, found, either not leisure, or not inclination, to enter into contest.1
After the unreserved exhibition, which I have accounted it my duty to make, of the evidence which came before me of the errors and vices of Mr. Hastings’s administration, it is necessary, for the satisfaction of my own mind, and to save me from the fear of having given a more unfavourable conception than I intended of his character and conduct, to impress upon the reader the obligation of considering two things. The first is, that Mr. Hastings was placed in difficulties, and acted upon by temptations, such as few public men have been called upon to overcome: And of this the preceding history affords abundant evidence. The second is, that no man, probably, who ever had a great share in the government of the world, had his public conduct so completely explored, and laid open to view. The mode of transacting the business of the Company, almost wholly by writing; first, by written consultations in the Council; secondly, by written commands on the part of the Directors, and written statements of every thing done on the part of their servants in India; afforded a body of evidence, such as under no other government ever did or could exist. This evidence was brought forward, with a completeness never before BOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785.exemplified, first by the contentions of a powerful party in the Council in India; next by the inquiries of two searching committees of the House of Commons; in the third place by the production of almost every paper which could be supposed to throw light upon his conduct, during the discussions upon the proceedings relative to his impeachment in the House of Commons; lastly, by the production of papers upon his trial. And all this was elucidated and commented upon by the keenest spirits of the age; and for a long time without any interposition of power to screen his offences from detection. It is my firm conviction, that if we had the same advantage with respect to other men, who have been as much engaged in the conduct of public affairs, and could view their conduct as completely naked, and stripped of all its disguises, few of them would be found, whose character would present a higher claim to indulgence than his. In point of ability, he is beyond all question the most eminent of the chief rulers whom the Company have ever employed; nor is there any one of them, who would not have succumbed under the difficulties which, if he did not overcome, he at any rate sustained. He had no genius, any more than Clive, for schemes of policy including large views of the past, and large anticipations of the future; but he was hardly ever excelled in the skill of applying temporary expedients to temporary difficulties; in putting off the evil day; and in giving a fair complexion to the present one. He had not the forward and imposing audacity of Clive; but he had a calm firmness, which usually, by its constancy, wore out all resistance. He was the first, or among the first of the servants of the Company, who attempted to acquire any language of the natives, and who set on foot those liberal inquiries into the literature and institutions of the Hindus, which have ledBOOK V. Chap. 8. 1785. to the satisfactory knowledge of the present day. He had that great art of a ruler, which consists in attaching to the Governor those who are governed; his administration assuredly was popular, both with his countrymen and the natives in Bengal.
Even the pay of the troops was, every where, four and five months in arrear.
The Minute in which the Governor-General introduced the subject of his journey to the upper provinces, begins in these words; “The province of Oude having fallen into a state of great disorder and confusion, its resources being in an extraordinary degree diminished, and the Nabob Asoph ul Dowla,” &c. Tenth Report of the Select Committee in 1781, App. No. 2.
Letter of Directors to the Governor-General and Council, dated 15th December, 1775.
Stated by the resident, in his letter, dated 13th December, 1779, to amount to twenty-five lacs, 250,000l.
Tenth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 7.
The words which follow sufficiently indicate the species of companions which be meant: “I forbear to expatiate further on his character; it is sufficient that I am understood by the Members of the Board, who must know the truth of my allusions.” Lord Thurlow, the friend of Hastings, and his fierce defender on his trial, speaks out plainly, and calls them, without reserve, the instruments of an unnatural passion. See “Debates in the House of Lords, on the Evidence delivered at the Trial of Warren Hastings,” &c.; a quarto volume got up by Mr. Hastings, and distributed to his friends, but never published.
Tenth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 7.
Extract of Bengal Consultations, 15th December, 1779; Tenth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 7.
His words are these, “As no period was stipulated for the continuance of the temporary brigade, or of the troops which are to supply their place in his service, nor any mode prescribed for withdrawing them; the time and mode of withdrawing them must be guided by such rules, as necessity, and the common interests of both parties, shall dictate. These, either he must prescribe, or ourselves. If we cannot agree upon them, in such a division, the strongest must decide.” Ibid.
It would be very curious, if the Governor-General at the commencement of the year 1780, was totally ignorant of the rain of the Nabob’s finances; and in eighteen months afterwards, viz. at the time of his journey to the upper provinces, was so convinced of that rain, as to make it the principal ground of the extraordinary procedure which he adopted, when he, allowing the inability to be real, removed the brigade and other objects of complaint.
Extract of Bengal Consultations, 15th December, 1779; Tenth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 7.
See page 372, where it appears that Hastings, little more than a year before, treated as incendiaries, and threatened with punishment, those advisers, by whose suggestion he deemed it proper to assume that the Nabob implored the relief which was now granted, and so much as stated those sufferings of the country which the Governor-General now held studiously up to view. To threaten to punish the representation of grievances, as Burke justly on this passage remarks, is to endeavour to obstruct one of the most sacred duties of a dependant prince, and of his advisers; a duty in the highest degree useful both to the people who suffer, and to the governing power. It affords a curious moral spectacle to compare the minutes and letters of the Governor-General, when maintaining, at the beginning of the year 1780, the propriety of compelling the Nabob to sustain the whole of the burthen imposed upon him; and his minutes, and letters, when maintaining the propriety of relieving him from these burthens in 1781: The arguments and facts adduced on the one occasion, as well as the conclusion, are in flat contradiction to those exhibited on the other. See the Documents in the Second and Tenth Reports, ut supra; printed also for the House of Commons on the 16th of Burke’s Charges: and in the Minutes of Evidence on the Trial.
To enable the Nabob, “to discharge his debt to the Company in the shortest time possible,” that is, to get money from him; “and to prevent his alliance from being a clog instead of an aid;” that is, costing money, instead of yielding it, is declared by the Governor-General to have been “the chief object in his negotiations with the Nabob.” Letter to Mr. Middleton, 23d September, 1781.
Mr. Middleton’s Letter to Gov.-Gen. and Council, dated Fyzabad, 3d Feb. 1778. Report, ut supra.
The members were, Mr. Hastings, Mr. Barwell, Mr. Francis, Mr. Wheler.
Report, ut supra. The documents to which reference is here made, were all reprinted, both in the papers called for by the House of Commons, and in the Minutes of Evidence, taken at the Trial in West-minister Hall.
See Minutes of Evidence at the Trial, p. 622 to 651 and 838 to 848.
Contumely to the Nabob’s officers was no new thing with the Begums; nor ever treated as rebellion till it suited the Governor-General. In January, 1776, when the Begum was complaining to the English government, and when it was affording her protection, the Resident in Oude writes to the Governor-General and Council: “In making this complaint, the Begum forgets the improper conduct of her own servants, who have hitherto preserved a total independence of the Nabob’s authority; beat the officers of his government; and refused obedience to his Perwannabs.” Minutes, ut supra, p. 2048.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 259, 261.
Ibid. p. 381–390.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 391. See to the same purpose the evidence of Colonel Achmuty, p. 783.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 778, 782. Of the insurrections one principal part at least was occasioned by indignation at the confinement of a great number of persons in the Fort of Goruckpore, followed by a design to effect their rescue. See Minutes, ut supra, p. 1963, where a letter of Colonel Hannay’s is acknowledged, to the officers on the spot, stating that the release of those prisoners would quiet the country. See the Cross Examination of Captain Williams, throughout, Ibid. p. 1935–1966.
I bid. p. 390, 391.
Ibid. p. 1909–2008.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 660.
Minutes, ut supra, p. 777.
See Minutes of Evidence for the Prosecution, p. 361–951. Do. for the Defence, p. 1823–2008.
According to Mr. Hastings, the Nabob had no objection to plunder the Begums. But he had given jaghires to certain persons, whom Mr. Hastings calls his “Orderlies, and others of that stamp;"…."the companions of his looser hours.” These he wished not to resume; and therefore endeavoured to depart from his engagement of resumption altogether. But the cause appears not sufficient to account for the effect. If he had resumed the jaghires of his orderlies, which were of trifling amount, what would have hindered him from giving them something of equal or greater amount?
Letter to Mr. Hastings, dated 9th of Dec. 1781. Notwithstanding these, and the numerous other proofs, that Hastings was well aware of the reluctance of the Nabob, to proceed to the acts by which his parents were plundered, Hastings, when it suited his purpose to put on the show of a wonderful tenderness for the Nabob, wrote to his private agent, Major Palmer, viz. on the 6th of May, 1783, “that it had been a matter of equal surprise and concern to him to learn from the letters of the resident, that the Nabob Vizir was with difficulty, and almost unconquerable reluctance, induced to give his consent to the attachment of the treasure deposited by his father under the charge of the Begum his mother, and to the resumption of her jaghire, and the other jaghires of the individuals of his family:” As if he had never heard of these facts before! Such specimens of Mr. Hastings, as this, meet us often in the records of his government.
As some confusion took place, though much less than what was expected, and the servants and agents of the princesses withheld not some demonstrations of opposition, when the jaghires were taken away; this was called resistance: and Mr. Hastings was willing it should appear, that this was heinous guilt, and that only in punishment of this guilt the resolution of seizing their money was adopted. (See Letter of Governor-General and Council to the Court of Directors, 11th of February, 1782; Tenth Report, ut supra, Appendix No. 5.) He himself, however, has furnished sufficient proof, that the resolution was adopted before the resumption of the jaghires was begun. “It may be necessary,” he says, in his letter dated at Sunagegunah on the Ganges, 23d of January, 1782, “in this place to inform you, that in addition to the resolution of resuming the Begums’ jaghires the Nabob had declared his resolution of reclaiming all the treasures of his family which were in their possession, and to which by the Mahomedan laws he was entitled. This resolution I have strenuously encouraged and supported…. I have required and received the Nabob’s promise, that whatever acquisitions shall be obtained from the issue of these proceedings, it shall be primarily applied to the discharge of the balance actually due from him to the Company.” (Tenth Report ut supra, Appendix No. 6; and Minutes of Evidence, ut supra, p. 2078.) Before the acquiescence of the Nabob could be procured to the execution of the plan for resuming the jaghires, viz. on the 6th of December, 1781, the Resident writes to Mr. Hastings as follows; “Your pleasure respecting the Begums, I have learnt from Sir Elijah; and the measure heretofore proposed will soon follow the resumption of the jaghires. From both, or indeed from the former alone, I have no doubt of the complete liquidation of the Company’s balance.” These expressions apply so necessarily to the seizure of the treasures, that they can be applied to nothing else. In another letter to the Governor-General on the following day, the Resident alludes to the same measure in the following terms: “His Excellency talks of going to Fyzabad, for the purpose heretofore mentioned, in three or four days; I wish he may be serious in his intention; and you may rest assured I shall spare no pains to keep him to it.” The representation which was made, both in this letter to the Directors, and in the defence which Mr. Hastings first presented to the House of Commons, that the opposition of the Begums to the seizure of their jaghires was the cause on account of which the treasure was forcibly taken away from them, Mr. Hastings in a second defence retracted, affirming that the assertion was a blunder. See this defence, Minutes of Evidence at the Trial, p. 366. It was attempted to account for the blunder, by stating that the first defence was not written, and hardly examined by Mr. Hastings. According to this account, his blood was very cool upon the subject of his accusation, notwithstanding the loud complaints he so frequently preferred of the mental torture which it inflicted upon him.
Letter to the Resident, dated Fyzabad, 5th of December, 1782. See Tenth Report, ut supra, and Minutes of Evidence, ut supra, p. 848, 725; Appendix to 2d Art. of Charge, p. 78, 97, 43, 172.
The removal just before of the Company’s agent Mr. Bristow, and the appointment of a private agent of his own, ought constantly to be treated as a ground of suspicion; because it is exactly what a man with rapacious intentions would have performed.
Letter of the Governor-General, Eleventh Report, ut supra, Appendix, C. No. 1. Why he should have wished for his reward out of this, rather than any other portion of the Company’s money, at first strikes the mind as obscure. But a very appropriate reason may be supposed. Drawn from any of the known sources of the Company’s revenue, the money must have appeared in their accounts, and could not be given to the Governor-General without the consent of the Company at large. The assent of the Directors obtained, the gift of the Nabob might have never appeared in any account, no consent of the Company at large have been sought, and the donation appropriated by the Governor-General without the knowledge of the public.
The complaints against Middleton are exposed to the suspicion of insincerity, 1. by their unreasonableness, 2. by the conformity of the artifice to the character of Mr. Hastings, 3. by its great utility for the interest of his reputation, as well as of his pride and consequence, 4. by the continued and very extraordinary subservience of Middleton, afterwards, to the views of Hastings, notwithstanding the serious injury which he now sustained at his hands.
Letter to Middleton, dated Benares, 1st of January, 1782. Extracts from Papers (in No. 1. vol. 1.) presented to the house of Commons, 13th of March, 1786, p. 52. The Governor-General, showing a keen sensibility to the imputations on his character to which the transactions in Oude exposed him, (“I must desire,” said be, “that your letters, upon all official and public subjects, may be official: I cannot receive any as private, and my reputation and character have been too far committed to admit of an intercourse which I cannot use as authority”) seemed to think that the success of the measure, the money in hand, would sanctify the means. The rule, he well knew, too generally holds.
Letter from the Governor-General to the Council, dated 23d of January, 1782; Tenth Report, Appendix, No. 6.
Extracts from Papers, ut supra, p. 52, 53; Tenth Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 6.
“The Nabob’s net revenue,” (says Mr. Middleton, Defence to the Governor-General and Council; Extracts from Papers in No. 1, vol. ii. presented to the House of Commons, 13th March, 1786, p. 2,) “to my knowledge, never exceeded a crore and a half, but generally fell very short of that sum.” The Gov.-Gen. disavowed the demands which were made by his private agent, Palmer, and other remissions took place. Ibid.
Ibid. p. 3.
Governor-General’s Minute on Mr. Middleton’s Defence, 21st October, 1783. Ibid. p. 11.
Company’s General Letter to Bengal, 28th August, 1782; Tenth Report, ut supra, App. No. 8.
See the Minutes of Evidence upon the Benares Charge.
This was too evident to be denied by any body; but it was expressly stated to Fyzoolla Khan by the Vizir, in the letter in which he communicated the demand, that the demand was made by the direction of Mr. Hastings, and “not for his [the Vizir’s], but the Company’s service.” (See the Twenty-second Charge, moved by Mr. Burke.) Mr. Hastings himself says, (see his answer to that charge) “Fyzoolla Khan was under no engagement to furnish us with a single man, nor did I ever demand a man from him.” True, in sound, as usual with Mr. Hastings; false in substance.
Hastings’s Defence on the Charge respecting Fyzoolla Khan.
The Vizir knew the terms of the treaty better; and his letter was before Hastings, in which he admitted that the demand was a breach of that treaty. Should Fyzoolla Khan mention any thing of the tenor of the treaty, the first breach of it has been committed by him. I will reproach him with having kept too many troops, and will oblige him to send the 5000 horse.”
Secret Letter from Bengal, dated 5th April, 1783; Extracts from Papers, (in No. 2, vol. i.) presented to the House of Commons, ut supra, p. 44. In the Secret Letter from Bengal, dated 10th March, 1783, the Governor-General and Council also say, “This” (the fifteen lacs) “is a valuable compensation for expunging an article of a treaty, which was of such a tenor, and so loosely worded, that the Vizir could never have derived any real advantage from it. The money will of course be received by the Company, in part liquidation of the Vizir’s debt.”
For the passage relating to Fyzoolla see Parliamentary Papers, ut supra; the twenty-Second Article of Charge presented by Mr. Burke; the Answer of Mr. Hastings; and the Tenth Report of the Select Committee.
When it suited the Governor-General he could assign the disturbance in Oude to very different causes. In a Minute [Bengal Secret Consultations, 10th Dec. 1783; Extracts from Papers (in No. 2, vol.iv.) presented to the House of Commons, upon the 13th day of March, 1786, p. 7], he says, “The Zenundars in the provinces of Oude, and in the other dominions of the Nabob, Asoph ul Dowlah, have ever been either in a state of actual rebellion, or bordering upon it; even in the time of the Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah, they could only be restrained by a military force superior to that which they could oppose to it.” The instigations, surely, of the Begums was not then wanted to account for the little ferment which took place in Oude, upon the occasion of the explosion in Benares.
See the Fourth article of Charge, and Mr. Hastings’s Answer, with the papers printed by the House of Commons in 1786.
Governor-General to Hyder Beg Khan, dated 20th Oct. 1782. Minutes, ut supra, p. 797.
It is memorable, that there is actually in his paper of Instructions the following passage: “From the nature of our connexion with the government of Oude—from the Nabob’s incapacity—and the necessity which will for ever exist, (while we have the claim of a subsidy upon the resources of his country,) of exercising an influence, and frequently substituting it entirely in the place of an avowed and constitutional authority in the administration of his government,” &c.
Extract of an Arzee, written (27th August, 1782,) from Rajah Gobind Ram to the Vizir, by the Governor-General’s directions. Minutes of Evidence, ut supra, p.795.
Minutes of Evidence, ut supra, p. 798, 799, 796.
Letter from the Governor-General to the Council Board, dated Lucknow, 2d of April, 1784.
Letters from the Governor-General to the Council Board, dated Benares, 20th September, 1784.
For the preceding train of measures, the reader is referred to the Papers, relating to the province of Oude, presented to the House of Commons in the year 1786; to the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixteenth, and Twenty-second Articles of Charge, presented by Burke, with the Answers of Mr. Hastings, and the Appendix of Documents printed along with them; also to the Minutes of Evidence on the Trial, in which the Documents were printed again.
For these statements see the accounts exhibited in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Reports of the Committee of Secrecy in 1781; and the accounts presented to parliament for the several years. See also Bruce’s Plans for British India, p. 323.
An account presented to the House of Commons, March 30th, 1786. See also the following statement of the Bengal Revenues, taken from the printed Minutes of Evidence on Mr. Hastings’ Trial, p. 1275.
Mr. Stuart’s Minute on the Revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa; Minutes of printed Evidence of Hastings’ Trial, Appendix, Art. vi. No. 157, p. 904.
Extract from Revenue Letter, printed by order of the House of Commons, 1787.
Barrow’s Life of Macartney, i. 241.
The reader should have before him the very words. In the letter from the Governor-General and Council to the president and Select Committee of Fort St. George, dated 5th April, 1782, they “regret,” they say, “that the government of Madras should have suffered any consideration, even of delicacy towards the Nabob, or attention for those feelings which it might be natural for him to retain, to restrain them from availing themselves as effectually of the assignment as the desperate necessity which exacted such a concession inevitably demanded.” They add a great compliment, and say, “Happy would it be for the national interests and reputation, if the same disinterested and forbearing spirit should invariably dictate the conduct of their affairs.” They rise to the use of unlimited terms, instructing the Governor to assume every power necessary to render the assignment effective—"in a word, the whole sovereignty” (such is their expression) “if it shall be necessary to the exercise of such a charge, not admitting the interposition of any authority whatever, which may possibly impede it. If you continue the Nabob’s agents; or suffer them to remain, under whatever denomination, in the actual or virtual control of the revenue, they are your servants, and you alone will be deemed responsible for all their acts. And your intercourse with the Nabob may and ought to be restricted to simple acts and expressions of kindness.”
In his Minute on the 2d of November, 1783, printed among the papers presented to the House of Commons on the 13th of March, 1786. For the opinion which Mr. Hastings entertained of the mischievous character of the Nabob, and of the intrigues of which he was at once the cause and the dupe, entertained as long as since the period when he was second in council at Madras; see the records of that Presidency in Rous’s Appendix, p. 682*, 688*, 704, 717, 718, 729.
Papers presented to the House of Commons, pursuant to their orders of the 9th of February, 1803, regarding the affairs of the Carnatic, vol. ii.; Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, i. 238–80.