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CHAP. X. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 6 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 6.
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The Nabob of Surat deposed—The Rajah of Tanjore deposed—The Nabob of Arcot deposed.
BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.The city of Surat, situated in the province of Gujrat, on the south side of the river Taptee, was by far the greatest place of maritime commerce in India, when the Europeans first discovered the passage by the Cape of Good Hope. Communicating easily with some of the richest provinces of the Mogul empire, it was conveniently situated not only for the traffic of the western coast of India, but, what was at that time of much greater importance, the trade of the Persian and Arabian gulfs. As it was the port from which a passage was most conveniently taken to the tomb of the prophet, it acquired a peculiar sacredness in the eyes of Musselmen, and was spoken of under the denomination of one of the gates of Mecca. It acquired great magnitude, as well as celebrity; for, even after it had confessedly declined, it was estimated in 1796 at 800,000 inhabitants; and though it is probable that this amount exceeds the reality, Surat may at this time be regarded as the largest city in India. When the votaries of the ancient religion of Persia, of which the Zend, and its commentary the Pazend, are the inspired and sacred books, were driven from Persia, and the tolerating policy of Akbar drew a portion of them to India; Surat, as the most celebrated landing-place from Persia, became the principal place of their BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.abode; and there, about 14,000 of their descendants still preserve their manners, and adhere to their worship.
The present fort or castle of Surat was erected about the year 1543, when Sultaun Mohammed Shah was King of Gujrat. As this kingdom soon after yielded to the Mogul arms, Surat became subject to the government of Delhi. It fell in with the Mogul policy, to separate the administration of the city, from the government of the castle. The Governor of the castle, and its garrison, were maintained by lands or jaghires, and tunkas or assignments on the revenue. The Governor of the town received the customs, or taxes on exports and imports; the taxes called mokaats, on almost all commodities; and the land revenue, subject to certain deductions for the Delhi treasury, of some surrounding districts.
For the maritime protection of the western side of India, the Mogul government established a fleet. Its expense, in whole or in part, was defrayed by assignments on the revenues of Surat. Some time after the command of this fleet had fallen into the hands of the chiefs called the Siddees of Rajahpoor, or about the year 1734, the Mahrattas, carrying their conquests over almost all the province, reduced the revenues of Surat to the taxes levied within the town, and the produce of a few remaining districts. The Nabob of Surat, thus straitened in his resources, began to fail in his payments to the fleet. Thereupon the Siddee blockaded the port; and compelled him to appropriate to those payments the revenue of the principal district from which any land revenue was now derived, as well as a considerable part of the duties collected within the town. In the year 1746, died the Nabob Teigh Beg Khan, and was succeeded BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.in the Nabobship by Sufder Khan, whose son, Vukar Khan, entered at the same time upon the government of the castle. But Mea Atchund, who had married into the family of the late Nawaub, and was supported by his widow, and some of the leading men, contrived to possess himself of the castle, to the expulsion of Vukar Khan. He also applied to the Mahratta, Damagee, the ancestor of the present Guyckwar princes; and promised him a portion of the revenues of Surat, if aided by him in expelling also the Nabob of the town. By this, commenced the Mahratta chout, which was afterwards shared with the Peshwa. An officer, as collector of chout, was established on the part of the Peshwa, and another on the part of the Gwyckwar princes, who, under the pretence of its affecting the revenues, and hence the Mahratta chout, interfered with every act of administration, and contributed to increase the misgovernment of the city. Even when the English, at a much later period, conceived the design of forcing upon the Nawaub a better administration of justice, they were restrained by fear of the Mahrattas, to whom the chout on law-suits (a fourth part of all litigated property was the fee for government) was no insignificant portion of the exacted tribute.
Mea Achund succeeded in expelling the Nabob of the city; was himself after a little time compelled to fly; but a second time recovered his authority, which he permanently retained. Amid these revolutions, however, the government of the castle had been acquired by the Siddee. But the use which he made of his power was so oppressive to the city, that several invitations were soon after made to the English to dispossess him; and take the command both of the castle and the fleet. Fear of embroiling themselves with the Mahrattas, and the danger of deficient funds, kept the English shy till 1758, when BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.an outrage was committed upon some Englishmen by the people of the Siddee, and all redress refused. The Nabob agreed to assist them in any enterprise against the Siddee, provided he himself was secured in the government of the town. A treaty to this effect, reserving to the English the power of appointing a naib or deputy to the Nawaub, was concluded on the 4th of March, 1759; and on the same day the Siddee agreed to give up the castle and the fleet. Sunnuds were granted from Delhi, vesting the Company with the command and emoluments of both; in consequence of which, the Mogul flag continued to fly on the castle, and at the mast-head of the Company's principal cruiser on the station. The annual sum, allotted by the sunnuds for the expense of the castle and fleet, was two lacs of rupees; but the sources from which it was to be derived were found to be far from equal to its production.
In 1763, the Nawaub Mea Achund died; and, under the influence of the Bombay government, was succeeded by his son. In 1777, the office of Naib was wholly abolished, by consent of the Company; and its funds transferred to the exchequer of the Nabob.
Another succession took place in 1790, when the father died, and the son, in right of inheritance, avowed by the English government, ascended the musnud. His right was exactly the same as that of the other governors, whose power became hereditary, and independent, upon the decline of the Mogul government; that of the Subahdars, for example, of Oude, of Bengal, and Deccan, or the Nawaub of Arcot, acknowledged and treated as sovereign, hereditary princes, both by the English government, and the English people.
BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.The expense which the English had incurred, by holding the castle of Surat, had regularly exceeded the sum, which, notwithstanding various arrangements with the Nabob, they had been able to draw from the sources of revenue. Towards the year 1797, the English authorities, both at home and at the spot, expressed impatience under this burthen, and the Nawaub was importuned for two things; the adoption of measures for the reform of government in the city; and an enlargement of the English receipts. The expedient in particular recommended, was, to disband a great proportion of his own undisciplined soldiery, and assign to the English funds sufficient for the maintenance of three local battalions. “The Nabob,” says Governor Duncan, “betrayed an immediate jealousy of, and repugnance to, any concession; as well on the alleged ground of the inadequacy of his funds; as of the principle of our interference with his administration; which he declared to be inconsistent with the treaty of 1759.” Notwithstanding this, he was induced, after a pressing negotiation, to consent to pay one lac of rupees annually, and to make other concessions to the annual amount of rather more than 30,000 rupees. But on the 8th of January, 1799, before the treaty was concluded, he died. He left only an infant son, who survived him but a few weeks: and his brother, as heir, laid claim to the government.
The power of the English was now so great, that without their consent it was vain to hope to be Governor of Surat; and it was resolved, on so favourable a conjuncture, to yield their consent, at the price alone of certain concessions. These were, the establishment of a judicature, and the payment of a sufficient quantity of money. The negotiation continued till the month of April, 1800. The chief difficulty regarded the amount of tribute. Importunity was BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.carried to the very utmost. The re-establishment of the naibship was the instrument of intimidation; for the right of the claimant was regarded by the Bombay government as too certain to be disputed. Governor Duncan, in his letter to the English chief at Surat, dated 18th April, 1799, describing a particular sum of money as no more than what the Nabob ought to give, to ensure his succession, and prevent the English from appointing a naib, adds, “which we have as clear a right to do, as he has to become Nabob; or to enjoy the fruits of our protection to his family and himself. Both points stand equally specified in the treaty.” With regard to the right, however, of re-establishing a naibship, after having sanctioned its abolition, the case was by no means clear. The Court of Directors, in their letter to the Bombay Presidency, dated the 17th of February, 1797, had declared, “Although it cannot be denied that the present Nabob, his father, and his grandfather, owed their elevation to the influence of the Company; we doubt our right to impose upon the Nabob an officer under this denomination; from the consideration that the first naib, nominated by the Company's representatives in 1759, was appointed under an express article of a written agreement with the then Nabob Mea Achund, and that upon the death of a second naib the office was consolidated with the office of Nabob, and was not renewed upon the succession of the present Nabob.” With regard to the right of inheritance in the present claimant, beside the declarations of Governor Duncan, of which that above quoted is not the only one, Mr. Seaton, the chief at Surat, in his letter to Mr. Duncan, of 26th of December, 1799, says, “The Supreme Government determined the musnud to be the hereditary right of his brother, BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.and from that decision consequently now his established inheritance.”
The claimant consented to pay a lac of rupees annually, but perseveringly insisted that beyond that sum the revenues of the place would not enable him to go. After every mode of importunity was exhausted, and every species of inquiry was made, Mr. Seton became satisfied, that his statement was just, and on the 18th of August, 1799, wrote to the Governor of Bombay in the following words: “I have left nothing undone; and pressed him to the utmost. I am convinced he has not the means, or believe he really would pay more. Poor Mr. Farmer has been led into a false opinion of the resources of Surat; and I could almost venture to stake my life on it, that more than the lac is not to be got by any means short of military force. Take the Government from the family, and pension them (though such a measure would, in my humble opinion, be contrary to good faith), I scarce believe, after all endeavours, that the Company with these pensions, and the increased necessary establishments, would be more in pocket, than they will now with their present establishment and this donation. What were the views of the Company in possessing themselves of the castle? Whatever they were, they are not altered, and they were then satisfied with the castle, and tunka revenue, which is only diminished from a decrease of trade; and here a lac is unconditionally offered, which exceeds the amount of castle and tunka revenue by 25,000 rupees per annum; yet the present government are not satisfied therewith, and still want more; which cannot be raised, if the Nabob does not squeeze it out of the subjects.”
A dispatch from the Governor-General, dated 10th March, 1800, was in due course received, which ordered the Nawaub to be immediately displaced, BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.and the government and revenues to be wholly assumed by the English. This was the most unceremonious act of dethronement, which the English had yet performed; as the victim was the weakest and most obscure. Some of the explanations with which this command was accompanied are not much less remarkable than the principal fact. Not negotiation, but dethronement, would have been adopted from the first, except for one reason, namely, a little danger. “The exigencies of the public service,” says the Governor-General, “during the late war in Mysore, and the negotiations which succeeded the termination of it, would have rendered it impracticable for your government to furnish the military force, indispensably necessary for effecting a reform of the government of Surat, even if other considerations had not rendered it adviseable to defer that reform until the complete re-establishment of tranquillity throughout the British possessions in India.” It is here of importance, once more, to remark upon the phraseology of the Governor-General. To dethrone the sovereign, to alter completely the distribution of the powers of government, and to place them in a set of hands wholly different and new, though it constituted one of the most complete revolutions which it is possible to conceive, was spoken of as a “reform of the government.”
The reasoning, by force of which the Governor-General claims the right to make such a reform, ought to be heard. “On a reference,” says he, “to the treaty of 1759, concluded with Mayeneddien, we find that it was only a personal engagement with that Nabob, and that it did not extend to his heirs. Independent of the terms of the treaty, the discussion which passed in 1763, on the death of Mayeneddien, BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.as well as the letter from your government, dated the 25th of March, 1790, when the office of Nabob again became vacant, prove it to have been the general sense, that the operation of the treaty of 1759 ceased on the demise of Mayeneddien. The power of the Mogul having also become extinct, it follows, that the Company not being restricted, with respect to the disposal of the office of Nabob, by any specific treaty, are at liberty to dispose of it as they may think proper.”
Here two things are assumed; first, that the English of that day were not bound by the treaty of 1759; the second, that, wheresoever not bound by specific treaties, the English were at liberty to dethrone any sovereign whom they pleased; or, in the language of the Governor-General, “to dispose of the office of Nabob, as they may think proper.” Upon no part of this reasoning is any comment required.
Attention is also due to the conduct of the Bombay rulers. Governor Duncan, and Mr. Seton had, both of them, previously declared their conviction of the clear right of the Nabob, not only to the Nabobship by inheritance, but to the support and alliance of the English, by a treaty which their acts had repeatedly confirmed. Yet, no sooner did they receive the command of the Governor-General to dethrone him, than they were ready to become the active instruments of that dethronement, and, as far as appears, without so much as a hint, that in their opinion the command was unjust.
The Governor-General next proceeds to say, that the sort of government which was performed by the Nabob was exceedingly bad. Neither was the defence of the city from external enemies in a tolerable state; nor was its internal government compatible with the happiness of the people, under the prevailing BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.“frauds, exactions, and mismanagement in the collection of the revenue, the avowed corruption in the administration of justice, and the entire inefficiency in the police. It is obvious,” he continues, “that these important objects,” namely, the security and good government of Surat, “can only be attained by the Company taking the entire civil and military government of the city into their own hands; and consequently,” he adds, “it is their duty, as well as their right, to have recourse to that measure.”
Here again we see the doctrine most clearly avowed, and most confidently laid down as a basis of action, that bad government under any sovereign constitutes a right, and even a duty, to dethrone him; either in favour of the East India Company alone, if they ought to have the monopoly of dethronement; or in favour of mankind at large, if the privilege ought to be as diffusive as the reason on which it is founded.
It being deemed, by the Governor of Bombay, that his own presence would be useful for effecting the revolution at Surat, he left the Presidency in the end of April, and arrived on the 2d of May. After endeavouring to secure the co-operation of the persons, whose influence was most considerable on the mind of the Nawaub, he opened the business to that ruler himself, on the 9th, and allowed him till the 12th to deliberate upon his answer. At the interview, on that day, the Nawaub declared; that he could not survive acquiescence in the demand; not only from the sense of personal degradation; but from the odium he must incur among all Mussulmans, if he consented to place the door of Mecca in the hands of a people who had another faith. The steps necessary BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.for accomplishing the revolution without regard to his consent, were now pursued; and preparations were made for removing his troops from the guard of the city, and taking possession of it, by the Company's soldiers, the following morning. In the mean time, the reflections of the Nawaub, and the remonstrances of his friends, convinced him that, opposition being fruitless, submission was the prudent choice; he therefore communicated to the Governor his willingness to comply, and the treaty was mutually signed on the following day. It had been transmitted by the Governor-General, ready drawn; and was executed without alteration. The Nabob resigned the government, civil and military, with all its emoluments, powers, and privileges, to the East India Company. And on their part, the Company agreed to pay to the Nabob and his heirs one lac of rupees annually, together with a fifth part of what should remain, as surplus of the revenues, after deduction of this allowance, of the Mahratta chout, and of the charges of collection.
When the powers of government were thus vested in English hands, establishments were formed for the administration of justice, for the superintendence of police, for the collection of the revenue, and for the provision of the Company's investment. For this purpose, the Governor-General had given two leading directions; the first was, that each of these departments should be committed to distinct persons; and the second, that the powers vested in the several officers should correspond as nearly as possible with those of the corresponding officers in Bengal. They have, therefore, no need of description.
Though stripped of all the powers of government, and a mere pensioner of state, it was still accounted proper for Meer Nasseer ad Dien to act the farce of BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.royalty. His succession to the musnud of his ancestors was now acknowledged by the English government, and he was placed on it with the same pomp and ceremony, as if he had been receiving all the powers of sovereignty, on the day after he had for ever resigned them.
The great difficulty was, to obtain deliverance from the misery of the Mahratta chout. The Guyckwar prince expressed the greatest readiness to compliment the Company, to whom he looked for protection, with the share which belonged to him. With the Peshwa, the business was not so easily arranged.1
In the dispatch of the Court of Directors, dated “Political Department, 18th October, 1797,” and addressed “to our President in Council at Fort St. George,” they say, “We have requested Lord Mornington to make a short stay at Madras, previous to his proceeding to take upon himself the Government-General of Bengal, for the purpose of endeavouring to prevail on the Nabob of Arcot to agree to a modification of the treaty with his highness in 1792.” Lord Hobart had just been recalled, because he differed with the Government-General of that day, in regard to some of the expedients which he adopted for the attainment of this modification.2 The Directors, notwithstanding, go on to say. “It were to be wished that the zealous endeavours of Lord Hobart, for that purpose, had proved successful; and as, in our opinion, nothing short of the modification proposed is likely to answer any beneficial purpose, Lord BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.Mornington will render a most essential service to the Company, should he be able to accomplish that object, or an arrangement similar thereto. But feeling, as we do, the necessity of maintaining our credit with the country powers, by an exact observance of treaties—a principle so honourably established under Lord Cornwallis's administration—we cannot authorize his Lordship to exert other powers than those of persuasion to induce the Nabob to form a new arrangement.”1 It is sufficiently remarkable to hear ministers and directors conjunctly declaring, that “the principle of an exact observance of treaties” still remained to “be honourably established,” at the time of Lord Cornwallis's administration. It was the desire of credit with the country powers, that now constituted the motive to its observance. But if the Company when weak could disregard such credit with the country powers, they had much less reason now to dread any inconvenience from the want of it. Besides, the question is, whether the country powers ever gave them, or gave any body, credit for a faith, of which they can so little form a conception, as that of regarding a treaty any longer than it is agreeable to his interest to do so.
In a letter in council, dated Fort William 4th July, 1798, the home authorities are told, that “immediately on his arrival at Fort St. George, the Governor-General lost no time in taking the necessary steps for opening a negotiation with the Nabob of Arcot, with a view to the accomplishment of your wishes, with regard to the modification of the treaty of 1792—The Governor-General, however, found his Highness so completely indisposed to that arrangement, as to preclude all hopes of obtaining his consent BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.to it at present.” The letter then promises, at a future day, a detailed account of the communications which had passed between the Governor-General and Nabob: but this was never sent.1
In 1799 the Governor-General, when he was again at Madras, and war with Mysore was begun, thought another favourable opportunity had arrived of urging the Nabob afresh on the subject of changes so ardently desired. The treaty of 1792 gave a right to assume the temporary government of the country on the occurrence of war in the Carnatic. To this measure the Nawaub and his father had always manifested the most intense aversion. It was hoped that the view of this extremity, and of the burthen of debt to the Company, with which he was loaded and galled, would operate forcibly upon his mind. The Governor-General accordingly proposed that he should cede to the Company, in undivided sovereignty, those territories which were already mortgaged for the payment of his subsidy, in which case he would be exempted from the operation of the clause which subjected him to the assumption of his country; while it was further proposed to make over to him, in liquidation of his debt to the Company, certain sums, in dispute between them, to the amount of 2,30,040 pagodas.
These conditions were proposed to the Nabob by letter, dated the 24th of April. The Nabob answered by the same medium, dated the 13th of May. The season for alarming him, by the assumption of his country, was elapsed, Seringapatam being taken, and the war at an end. The Nabob, therefore, stood upon the strength of his treaty, which he represented BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.as so wise, and so admirable, that no change could be made in it without the sacrifice of some mutual advantage; that, even if the assumption of his country were necessary, which, thanks to the Divine mercy, was at present far from the case; may, “were the personal inconvenience ten times greater,” the sacrifice would be cheerfully made, “rather than consent to the alteration of the treaty, even in a letter.” Besides, there were other engagements, by which the Nabob must ever hold himself inviolably bound. These were, respect for “the loved and revered personages” by whom the treaty was framed, and the dying commands of his honoured father, to which he had pledged a sacred regard. He also plied the Governor-General with an argument, which to his mind might be regarded as peculiarly persuasive—an argument drawn pure from parliamentary stores—experience against theory: “I cannot,” said he, “overlook a circumstance, which, in affairs of this sort, must naturally present itself to the mind of your Lordship; that the treaty, which is now suggested to be defective, has had a trial, my Lord, of more than seven years; and, without a single exception, has been found, for that period, not only sufficient for all common purposes, but has secured the fulfilment of every condition stipulated in it, with an harmony uninterrupted; and perhaps, I might add, almost unprecedented in any country or age.”1
The Court of Directors, in their political letter to Fort St. George, dated the 5th of June, 1799, say, “We have been advised, by the Earl of Mornington, that the Nabob continues to oppose a determined resolution to the modification of the treaty of 1792, which has been repeatedly proposed to him. At the same time, we observe, that his Highness has distinctly BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.acknowledged, that he is in the practice of raising money annually by assignments of the revenues of those districts, which form the security for the payment of the Company's subsidy.” They add, “As this practice is unquestionably contrary to the letter, and subversive of the spirit, of that treaty, we direct, that, immediately upon the receipt hereof, you adopt the necessary measures for taking possession, in the name of the Company, of the whole, or any part, of the said districts, the revenues of which shall appear to be so assigned; and that you continue to hold the same, and collect the rents thereof, in order that the Company may not in future be deprived of the only security which they possess, under the before-mentioned treaty, to answer any failure in the Nabob, in the discharging his subsidy. You will immediately communicate to the Nabob the determination we have come to, and the orders you have received relative to this point.”1
The affirmation, relative to the assignments on the districts in pledge, is contrasted with the following affirmation of the Nabob, in his letter of the 13th of May, just quoted, in which he answers the proposal and reasonings which the letter of the Governor-General had pressed upon his mind: “I do most unequivocally assure your Lordship, on the word and faith of a sovereign, that no one foot of the districts set apart by the treaty of 1792 have been, or are, in any manner or way, directly or indirectly, assigned by me, or with my knowledge, to any individual whatsoever; and, having made this solemn and unreserved declaration, I would hope, that I need not urge more.”2
BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.With respect to the command of the home authorities, to take possession of the districts, and all the rest of their expedients, the Governor of Fort St. George, on the 11th of April, 1800, writes, “Your letter to the Governor-General, dated the 16th June 1799, is still under his Lordship's consideration. But it is material for me to repeat—and with impressive earnestness, that no security, sufficiently extensive and efficient, for the British interest in the Carnatic, can be derived from the treaty of 1792; and that no divided power, however modified, can possibly avert the utter ruin of that devoted country.”1
On the 13th of June, 1799, the home authorities wrote to the Governor-General, “In the event of a war with Tippoo Sultaun, the respective countries of the Nabob of Arcot, and the Rajah of Tanjore, will of course come under the Company's management: and we direct, that they be not relinquished, without special orders from us, for that purpose; in order to afford sufficient time for the formation of arrangements for relieving those respective princes from all incumbrances upon their revenues.” Upon this subject the Governor-General writes, on the 25th of January, 1800, “The short duration of the war rendered it inexpedient for me to assume the management of the respective countries, of the Nabob of the Carnatic, and of the Rajah of Tanjore, on behalf of the Company.—The immediate effect of such an assumption would have been, a considerable failure of actual resource, at a period of the utmost exigency. I shall hereafter communicate my sentiments at large, with respect to the state of Tanjore, and the Carnatic. The latter now occupies my particular attention; and I fear that the perverse counsels of the Nabob of Arcot will prove a serious obstacle to any BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.effectual improvement of your affairs in that quarter.”1
Tuljajee, the Rajah of Tanjore, died in 1786, and was succeeded by Ameer Sing, his son. The conduct of this prince gave so little satisfaction to the English, that, after the peace of Seringapatam, which Lord Cornwallis concluded with Tippoo in 1792, they deliberated concerning the propriety of trusting him any longer with the civil administration of the country. But the supreme government “were of opinion, that, under all the circumstances in which the question was involved, it would be more suitable to the national character, to hazard an error on the side of lenity, than to expose themselves to the imputation of having treated him with excessive rigour.” Accordingly, a treaty was concluded with him, dated 12th of July, 1793, and his country, which like Carnatic, had been taken under English management during the war, was restored to him, in as full possession as before.
In the year 1798, a convenient discovery was made; that Ameer Sing was not the legal heir to the musnud of Tanjore; but Serfojee, the adopted son of Tuljajee. The question of the rights of these two princes remains in obscurity. The documents have not yet been made accessible to the public; and we know not upon what grounds the decision was formed. This only we know, that it was determined to dethrone Ameer Sing, and to set up Serfojee in his stead. Serfogee was obviously in a situation to submit implicitly to any terms which the English might think proper to prescribe. After some months, therefore, of preparation, a treaty was concluded BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.with him, dated 25th October, 1799, by which he resigned for ever all the powers of government to the English, and received a pension of one lac of star pagodas, with a fifth of the net revenues.1
On the 7th of April, 1800, the Governor-General forwarded to the Governor of Fort St. George, certain letters and papers, found by the English in the palace of Seringapatam. These documents related to a correspondence of the two Nabobs of Arcot, the father and the son, with the Sultan of Mysore. The Governor-General directed Lord Clive to proceed without loss of time in conducting an inquiry into the circumstances of which the papers appeared to afford indication, and in particular transmitted a list of witnesses whose evidence was to be carefully and zealously collected. In the mean time, he himself had completely prejudged the question; and did what depended upon him to make Lord Clive prejudge it in a similar manner. “A deliberate consideration,” says he, in the very letter which directed inquiry, “of the evidence resulting from the whole of these documents has not only confirmed, in the most unquestionable manner, my suspicions of the existence of a secret correspondence between the personages already named, but satisfied my judgment, that its object, on the part of the Nabobs Wallajah and Omdut ul Omrah, and especially of the latter, was of the most hostile tendency to the British interests.—The proofs arising from the papers would certainly be sufficient to justify the British government, in depriving that faithless and ungrateful prince, of all means of rendering any part of the resources of the territories, which he holds under the protection of the Company, subservient to the further BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.violation of his engagements, and to the prosecution of his desperate purposes of treachery and ingratitude.”1
However, the Governor-General thought, it would, notwithstanding, be more consonant with “the dignity, and systematic moderation of the British government,” not to take the country from its prince, till some inquiry had first been made. But he says, “Although it is my wish to delay the actual assumption of his Highness's government until that inquiry shall be completed, I deem it necessary to authorize your Lordship to proceed immediately to make every arrangement preparatory to that measure, which now appears to have become inevitable.”2
Nothing surely ever was more fortunate than such a discovery at such a time. This the Governor-General has the frankness to declare. “While those orders, lately conveyed by the Honourable Court of Directors relative to the Company's connexion with the Nabob, were under my consideration, a combination of fortunate circumstances revealed this correspondence.”3 When the Governor-General, and all his superiors, and all his subordinates, in the government of India, were languishing and panting for the possession of the Carnatic, but afraid, without some more plausible reason than they yet possessed, to commence the seizure, here it was provided for them in extraordinary perfection. But the very circumstance which recommended it to the eager affections of the East India functionaries will recommend it to the rigid scrutiny of those whose minds are more happily situated for appreciating the facts.
The documents on which so extraordinary a value BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.was set by the Governor-General consisted almost entirely of certain things picked out from a mass of correspondence which purported to have passed between the “Presence” (the title which Tippoo bestowed upon himself), and the two vakeels, Goolam Ali Khan, and Ali Reza Khan, who accompanied, in 1792, the hostage sons of the Sultaun to Madras. Besides these, only two letters were produced; one from a subsequent vakeel of Tippoo at Madras; another, supposed to be from Omdut ul Omrah, but under a fictitious name.
It is proper to ascertain the value of one circumstance, on which those who are not partial to the British character will not fail to animadvert. As the British government was situated with respect to the papers of Tippoo, it was, it may be affirmed, the easiest thing in the world to procure evidence for any purpose which it pleased: And I wish we could say, that civilization and philosophy have made so great a progress in Europe, that European rulers would not fabricate a mass of evidence, even where a kingdom is the prize. The time is so very recent, when such expedients formed a main engine of government, and the progress in political morality appears to be so very slow, that it would be utterly unsafe to proceed upon the supposition that forgery is exploded as an instrument of government. Yet in the case of the British government, so much the greater number of those employed in carrying it on would probably refuse to share in the fabrication of a mass of evidence, that the small number of individuals who might have no insuperable objection to it would find it, in few cases, easy; in most, impossible, to accomplish their purpose. With regard to Lord Wellesley, even his faults bear so little affinity with this species of vice, and his most conspicuous virtues are so directly opposed to it, that we may safely BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.infer it to be as unlikely in his case, as in any which can well be supposed, that he would fabricate evidence to attain the objects of his desire, notwithstanding the violence with which he was apt to desire, and the faculty which he possessed of persuading himself, that every thing was righteous by which his desires were going to be fulfilled.
But an argument, more conclusive than any argument from character, either national or individual, can almost ever be, at any rate to strangers, and those whose partiality one has no reason to expect, is this: That the papers prove nothing; which most assuredly would not have been the case, had they been fabricated for the purpose of proving. On the other hand, if they had exhibited a proof which was very strong and specific, it would have been no easy task, after the very exceptionable manner in which they were examined to have proved that all suspicion of them was utterly groundless.
Among the objects recommended to the vakeels who accompanied the sons of Tippoo to Madras, one, very naturally, was, to communicate to him useful intelligence of every description. They had even a particular commission with regard to secret intelligence, in which a delineation of the defensive works of Fort St. George was particularly included; and they were furnished with a cipher for carrying it on.
With other articles of intelligence, which the vakeels availed themselves of their situation to transmit to their royal master, an account was given of the deportment of the Nabob of Arcot, towards the princes, and towards themselves; and of the conversations which took place between them. The letters relating to this subject were those which were regarded BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.as affording evidence against Wallajah, the deceased, and Omdut ul Omrah, the reigning, Nabob.
It is to be remarked, that Lord Cornwallis, after he had reduced Tippoo to a situation, in which he regarded him as too weak to be any longer formidable, adopted the liberal design of conciliating his mind, and gaining it, if possible, by a respectful, generous, and even flattering style of intercourse, to a state of good will toward the English nation. The same course he recommended to the Nabob Wallajah, who had suffered so deeply by the raising of Tippoo's house, and towards which he had often manifested so great a degree of contempt and aversion.
There were various circumstances which just at that time induced the Nabob to follow these injunctions of the Governor-General with great alacrity. The fame and authority of Tippoo were now sufficiently high to render his friendship an object of importance. The Nabob of Arcot, on the other hand, felt himself in a state of degradation, and reduced to a cipher among the princes of India. It soothed his vanity to hold some intercourse with as many of them as possible; and not least with one who now occupied so large a space in the eye of the world as the Sultaun of Mysore. It increased his dignity and consequence, when he induced other princes to use towards him the language of friendship, and to treat him as a prince upon a level with themselves. This rendered it more difficult for the English to accomplish their design of divesting him, as he dreaded, of all his sovereign powers, and reducing him and his family to the condition of mere pensioners of state. He seems, accordingly, to have been very eager, to add the forms of a confidential intercourse with Tippoo, to the other circumstances which held him forth to the world as a sovereign prince, and which he regarded with justice as the only barrier between BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.him and dethronement.
Attentions to the princes while at Madras, with assurances of his favourable sentiments towards the Sultaun, and of his ardent desire of a suitable return, were the expedients of which he made use. Oriental expressions of compliment are all extravagant, and hyperbolical; and we cannot, on such an occasion, suppose, that the Nabob would use the most feeble and cold. Another circumstance of great importance to be remembered was, that the letters contained not the expressions of the Nabob, but only the expressions of the vakeels reporting them; and that Indian agents reporting to their principals seldom pay any regard to realities, but, as far as they can go with advantage to themselves, heighten whatsoever they think will be agreeable to their master, extenuate whatsoever they think he will dislike. Now, when all the expressions which the vakeels of Tippoo report to have been used by the Nabob and his son are tortured to the utmost, nothing can be extracted from them but declarations of friendly sentiments, in an hyperbolical style. Even the Persian translator of the English government, who drew up a report upon the documents, highly praised by the Governor-General, and in which every effort is made to draw from them evidence of guilt, has the candour to say, “The accuracy of reports from agents, natives of India, to their principals, cannot, under any circumstances, be implicitly relied on; and, in one of the reports of the vakeels which contains the substance of a conference between themselves, the princes, and the Nabob, at which Colonel Doveton was present, a speech is ascribed to that gentleman which is evidently fabricated; a circumstance which tends to weaken the validity of all their reports;—and BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.if the evidence of the Nabob's conduct rested solely upon them, the proofs might be considered as extremely defective and problematical.”1
Thus far, then, the ground is clear. But, beside the reports of the vakeels, what further proof is alleged? There are the letters of Tippoo, and the key to the cipher. The letters of Tippoo contain no more than a return to the civil expressions of the Nabob; vague declarations of good will, couched in a similar style. The key to the cipher shows that Wallajah was designated by the term Well-wisher of mankind, the English by that of New Comers, the Nizam by that of Nothingness, the Mahrattas that of Despicable; and so on. And this is the whole matter of evidence which the papers contained.
To establish still further the dark designs which the Governor-General firmly concluded that a few hyperbolical expressions had already proved, a list of nine witnesses was transmitted to Madras, of whom the two vakeels, Golam Ali Khan, and Ali Reza Khan, were the chief. A commission consisting of two of the most approved servants of the Company, Mr. Webbe, the secretary to the Madras government, and Colonel Close, were selected to conduct the investigation. Every precaution was taken, such as that of preventing communication between the witnesses, to get from them either the evidence pure, or the means of detecting its impurity.
It was resolved to begin with the two vakeels, who of course could best elucidate their own correspondence. To form a proper judgment of their testimony, several circumstances ought to be remarked. In the first place, they were Orientals; that is, men, accustomed, in the use of language toward those on whom their hopes and their fears depended, to regard BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.very little the connexion between their words and the corresponding matters of fact, but chiefly the connexion between those words, and the impression, favourable or unfavourable, which they were likely to make on the minds of the great persons, on whose power the interests of the speaker most remarkably depended. In the second place, it is impossible to conceive any dependance more abject, than was, at this time, the dependance of the Khans, Golam Ali, and Ali Reza, upon the English government. The government, under which they had found employment, was totally destroyed. Every source of independent subsistence was cut off; they lived upon a pension which they received from the English government, and which it was only necessary to withhold to plunge them into the deepest abyss of human misery. They had every motive which interest could yield to affirm what would be agreeable to the English government. They could have no interested motive to speak what would be agreeable to Tippoo, Wallajah, or Omdut ul Omrah. In these circumstances, if they had given a testimony in every respect conformable to the wishes of the English government, what depended upon their affirmation would have been regarded as of little or no value by any impartial judge. But in as far as they gave a testimony in opposition to those wishes, that is, in opposition, as they must have believed, to their own interests, their testimony has some of the strongest possible claims upon our belief.
Every thing was done to remove any obstructions which might exist in the minds of the witnesses to the production of such evidence as was expected. They were given to understand that no blame would be attached to them, who only acted under legitimate BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.orders, for their instrumentality in the designs of their master. And they were assured in the strongest language, that any appearance of a design to conceal the truth, and they well knew what eastern rulers were accustomed to call the truth, would be visited upon them with all the weight of English indignation.
Of the two vakeels, Ali Reza was residing at Velore, Golam Ali at Seringapatam. As least remote, Ali Reza was examined first. In him, the examining commissioners say, in their report to the Governor, “we think it necessary to apprize your Lordship that we discovered an earnest disposition to develop the truth.” Golam Ali they accused of base endeavours at concealment. The evidence of both, taken together, tends not to confirm one single suspicion, if any could have been justly derived from the papers, but to remove them, every one.
They both distinctly and constantly affirmed, that the expressions of good will towards Tippoo, made use of in their hearing by Wallajah or his son, were never understood by them in any other sense than that of vague compliments. Ali Reza gave testimony to another point, with regard to which the Persian translator, commenting on his evidence, thus declares: “In the report of the Persian translator,” namely, the report on the documents, “it has been observed, that the expressions of attachment and devotion, ascribed by the vakeels to the Nabob Wallajah, and Omdut ul Omrah, are probably much exaggerated; and that little dependance ought to be placed upon the existence of facts, inferred merely from such expressions; This conjecture is confirmed by Ali Reza Khan, who acknowledges they were much exaggerated, and that it was customary with the vakeels to heighten the expressions of regard, which fell from Lord Cornwallis, or the Nabob Wallajah, for the BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.purpose of gratifying the Sultaun; and observed very justly that the people of this country constantly exaggerate their expressions of regard to an extravagant degree.”1
The vakeels reported certain expressions of the Nabob, complimenting the Sultaun as a pillar of the faith, and admiring the union of mussulmen; certain articles of intelligence which he was described as conveying; and expedients of secrecy which he was described as having employed. All this, however, is only the report of the vakeels, which is acknowledged to be incapable of proving any thing, and which, as it forged a speech for Colonel Doveton, would just as probably forge for the Nabob and his son. But the circumstances, even if the statement of them is supposed to be just, afford no ground for an inference of guilt. To call Tippoo a pillar of the Moslem faith, one of the most flattering of all compliments to his bigoted mind, was not criminal; nor to speak with approbation of the union of Moslems, which might be an exhortation to the Sultaun to favour the Nabob, that is, the English, who always represented their interests as the same with his.
The articles of intelligence which he is said to have conveyed are exceedingly trifling; and have at any rate the appearance of having been conveyed for a good, not for an evil purpose; for the preservation of that harmony between Tippoo and the English, which at that time the English had very earnestly at heart. Having learned, that suspicions were caused, by some intercourse which appeared to take place between the Mysore and Mahratta Durbars, the BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.Nabob sent him his advice, that it would be better he should desist, and suspend his negotiations, at least during the administration of Marquis Cornwallis. Again, having learned the existence of a French war, and that Pondicherry was about to be attacked, the Nabob sent his advice to the Sultaun to withdraw his vakeel from Pondicherry, and to intermit all correspondence with the French. This is the whole of the intelligence, the conveyance of which was construed into direct acts of hostility.
A few expressions of want of regard for the English, mixed in the reports of the vakeels, hardly deserve attention; both because nothing was more likely to be inserted by the vakeels, they knowing nothing much more likely to be agreeable to their master; and because, if the attachment of the Nabob to the English had been ever so entire, it was perfectly in character with oriental sincerity, to affect to despise and abhor them, in order to conciliate a mind by which it was known they were disliked.
As to the appearance of a concern about secrecy, it is well known to be a feature of the human mind in the state of civilization under which the Sultaun and Nabob were educated, and in India to a singular degree, to make a great affectation of secrecy on very trifling occasions; and, for the shew of importance, to cover every thing as much as possible with a veil of mystery. Under the designation of “the affair you know of,” something was mentioned in the letters of Tippoo and the vakeels; and under this mysterious appellation the deepest villainy was supposed to be couched. On this, after examining their witnesses, the commissioners report, “We have the honour to inform your Lordship, that the expression of ‘the affair known of,’ so frequently repeated in the correspondence, appears to refer to the subject of a proposed connection by marriage BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.between the families of Tippoo Sultaun and the Nabob Wallajah.”1
On two occasions, while the vakeels remained at Madras, the Nabob made appointments for meeting with them secretly. But both of them persisted in steadily affirming, as witnesses, that nothing passed beyond general professions of regard. The affectation of a wish to conceal from the English the warmth of the attachment he professed, might well be one of the artifices made use of by the Nabob for extracting those appearances of regard from the Sultaun, which it was at this moment his interest to obtain. In exact conformity with this idea, he made offer, upon the departure of the vakeels from Madras, to establish a cipher for the purpose of secret communication. But so little value did the Sultaun attach to any expected communication from the Nabob, that he treated this proposal with total neglect; than which a stronger proof can hardly be expected of the innocence of all the communications which from that quarter he had ever received.
The commissioners say, “We examined Gholam Ali Meer Suddoor, the Dewan Purniah, and the Moonshee Hubbeeb Olla,” that is, the men above all others acquainted with the secrets of Tippoo's government; “but as their testimony did not establish any fact, we thought it unnecessary to record their evidence.”2
Not only does this evidence afford no proof of a criminal correspondence with Tippoo, on the part of BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1800.the Nabob; but the total inability of the English to produce further evidence, with all the records of the Mysore government in their hands, and all the living agents of it within their absolute power, is a proof of the contrary; since it is not credible that a criminal correspondence should have existed, and not have left more traces of itself.
It is just to bewail the unhappy situation, in which the minds of Englishmen in India are placed. Acted upon by circumstances which strongly excite them, their understandings are dragged, like those of other men, towards a conformity with their desires; and they are not guarded against the grossest illusions of self-deceit by those salutary influences which operate upon the human mind in a more favourable situation. The people of India among whom they live, and upon whom the miserable effects of their delusions descend, are not in a situation to expose the sophistry by which their rulers impose upon themselves. They neither dare to do it, nor does their education fit them for doing it, nor does their education fit them for doing it, nor do they enjoy a press, the instrument with which it can be done. Their rulers, therefore, have no motive to set a guard upon themselves; and to examine rigidly the arguments by which they justify to themselves an obedience to their own inclinations. The human mind, when thus set free from restraint, is easily satisfied with reasons for self-gratification; and the understanding waits, an humble servant, upon the affections. Not only are the English rulers in India deprived of the salutary dread of the scrutinizing minds, and free pens, of an enlightened public, in the regions in which they act; they well know, that distance and other circumstances so completely veil the truth from English eyes, that, if the case will but bear a varnish, and if they take care to stand well with the minister, they have in England every BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.thing to hope, and seldom any thing to dread, from the successful gratification of the passion of acquiring.
It is most remarkable, that of all the Englishmen in India, of whose sentiments upon the occasion we have any record, the Governor-General and his council, the Governor of Fort St. George and his council, the examining commissioners, and the Persian translator, the very foremost men in India, not one appears to have doubted, that the evidence we have examined established undeniably the facts which they so eagerly desired to infer.
The examination of the witnesses was closed, and the report of the commissioners drawn up, and signed at Seringapatam, on the 18th of May, 1800. It was not till the 28th of May, 1801, that any further instructions of the Governor-General were dispatched. In the memorable document of that date, addressed to Lord Clive, he states one reason of delay, as follows: “The critical situation of the negotiation depending with the Nizam appeared to me to render it adviseable to postpone the adoption of measures required for the security of the Carnatic. The successful issue of that negotiation appeared likely to facilitate the arrangements which became indispensably necessary in the Carnatic; while a premature prosecution of these arrangements might have impeded, and perhaps frustrated, the successful issue of the negotiation at Hyderabad.” Another reason was, that for some time he indulged the hope of being able to employ the weight of his own presence, in removing the obstacles which he expected to oppose the intended revolution in Carnatic. When that hope was relinquished, he desired that Mr. Webbe, the chief secretary to the government at Madras, might join him in BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.Bengal, to communicate a more minute knowledge of circumstances than he could otherwise acquire.
“The delay,” says the Governor-General, “which has occurred, has enabled me to receive the sentiments of the President of the Board of Commissioners for the affairs of India, and of the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, on the subject of the correspondence of the late and present Nabob of Arcot with Tippoo Sultaun: Those sentiments entirely accord with your Lordship's, and with mine, on the same subject.”
He proceeded to declare, that from the evidence which we have examined, he confidently inferred the existence of a criminal correspondence between the Nabob and Tippoo; and that the measure which, in consequence, he resolved to adopt, was the dethronement of the Nabob, and the transfer of his sovereignty to the Company.
An attempt, however, was still to be made, to obtain an appearance of the Nabob's consent to his own degradation. “I consider it,” says the Governor-General, “to be extremely desirable, that the Nabob should be induced to accede to the proposed arrangement, in the form of a treaty. In order to obtain his Highness's acquiescence in this mode of adjustment, it will be proper for your Lordship, after having fully apprized the Nabob of the nature of the proofs which we possess of his correspondence with Tippoo Sultaun, to offer the inducement of the largest provision to be made for his Highness's personal expenses, and in that event I authorize your Lordship to insert in the treaty the sum of three lacs of pagodas.”
The Governor-General had no very sanguine hopes, that the Nabob would smooth all difficulties by resigning the dignity to which he clung. He gave directions therefore on the contrary supposition, and BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.said, “If the Nabob, Omdut ul Omrah, by refusing to acquiesce in the proposed arrangements, should compel the British government, contrary to its wishes and intentions, to exercise its rights and its power to their full extent, I authorize and direct your Lordship to assume the civil and military government of the Carnatic.”
The Governor-General anticipated even another contingency. “It is possible,” says he, “that in the actual state of his Highness's councils and temper, the Nabob may be disposed to appeal to the authority of the Honourable the Court of Directors.” Well, and what was his Excellency's determination in that event? “Being already,” said he, “in possession of the sentiments of the Secret Committee, founded on the discovery of the Nabob's faithless conduct, I shall consider it to be injudicious and unnecessary to admit the appeal; and by that admission to enter upon a formal trial of his Highness's criminal conduct.”1
Now, finally, the case stood, therefore, as follows. In a dispute, in which the Company, or their representatives, the rulers in India, on the one hand, and the Nabob on the other, were parties, and in which a great kingdom was at issue, the first of the parties not only resolves upon deciding in its own cause, which in the case of disputes about kingdoms can seldom be avoided, but, upon a mass of evidence of its own providing, evidence altogether ex parte, evidence which it examined by itself and for itself, and upon which it put any construction which it pleased, did, without admitting the opposite party to a hearing, without admitting it to offer a single article of counter evidence, to sift the evidence brought to BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.condemn it, or so much as to make an observation upon that evidence, proceed to form a decision in its own favour, and to strip the opposite party of a kingdom. It is perfectly obvious, that, upon principles of judicature such as these, a decision in favour of the strongest will seldom be wanting.
Had the actions of the Nabob corresponded with the inference which the English rulers so eagerly drew, their conduct would still have implied a most extraordinary assumption. The principle of their conduct was, that, if an Indian prince did any injury, or but showed that he meditated injury, to the English, that moment the English were entitled to dethrone him, and take his kingdom to themselves. If the Nabob had actually contracted an alliance offensive and defensive with Tippoo, he was not a subject of the British government; he was a sovereign prince; and the utmost such an action implied was a violation of the treaty which subsisted between the English and him. But all that is necessarily done by the violation on one side of a treaty between sovereign states, is only to relieve the party on the other side from all the obligations which it imposed; to leave the two parties, in short, in the same situation, in which they would have been, if the treaty had not existed. It may happen, that, in such a case, it would be improper, in the obeying, so much as to make war upon the infringing party. That would entirely depend upon other questions, namely, the refusal of redress for injury, or of security against indubitable danger. But, even when war takes place, and two princes stand in the relation of active enemies, it is not the principle of just and polished nations to push the warfare to dethronement; nor can it ever be any thing but the height of injustice to carry hostilities beyond the line of redress for indubitable injury, and security against indubitable danger. How the assumption BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.of the English, in the case before us, can be reconciled with these established principles, it is not difficult to determine.
As if aware, after all, how little all other pleas were qualified to support the measure which he was eager to pursue, the Governor-General forgot not his standard reason for the dethronement of princes; namely, the badness of their government. He affirmed, that no other expedient, but the dethronement of the Nabob of Arcot, and the total transfer to the English of the government of Carnatic, afforded any chance for that reform which the impoverishment of the country, and the misery of the people, so forcibly required. Here, at last, he obtained a ground, on which, if the end for which government was instituted, and for which it ought to be upheld, is worthy of being regarded, he might stand with perfect assurance. Though we may suspect the servants of the Company of some exaggeration, when they describe the horrible effects of the Nabob's administration, there is no doubt that they were deplorable: It is equally certain, that no considerable improvement could be introduced, while the powers of civil administration remained at the disposal of the Nabob: And, though what the Company had attempted for improving the condition of their subjects, where they possessed the undivided powers, had hitherto displayed but little either of skill or success, some efforts had been nobly intended, and will doubtless be followed by more judicious expedients. Even under the bad system of taxation, and the bad system of judicature which the English would employ, the people would immediately suffer less than under the still more defective systems of the Nabob; and they would reap the benefit of all the improvements which BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.a more enlightened people may be expected to introduce. On this ground, we should have deemed the Company justified, in proportion as the feelings of millions are of more value than the feelings of an individual, in seizing the government of the Carnatic long before; and, on the same principle, we should rejoice, that every inch of ground within the limits of India were subject to their sway. In matters of detail, I have more frequently had occasion to blame the Company's government than to praise it; and, till the business of government is much better understood, whoever writes history with a view solely to the good of mankind, will have the same thankless task to perform; yet I believe it will be found that the Company, during the period of their sovereignty, have done more in behalf of their subjects, have shown more of good-will towards them, have shown less of a selfish attachment to mischievous powers lodged in their own hands, have displayed a more generous welcome to schemes of improvement, and are now more willing to adopt improvements, not only than any other sovereign existing in the same period, but than all other sovereigns taken together upon the surface of the globe.
When the instructions for assuming the government of Carnatic arrived at Madras, the Nabob Omdut ul Omrah was labouring under an illness which he was not expected to survive. In these circumstances, the Governor forbore to agitate his mind with the communication of intelligence, which he was expected to receive with agony. On an occasion, when the whole family would naturally wish to be assembled, the younger son of the Nabob arrived from Trichinopoly with his attendants, who are not described as being either more numerous, or better armed, than those who usually escorted a person of similar condition. Upon a report to the BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.Governor, that some of these attendants had been, or had been proposed to be, admitted into the palace of the dying Nabob, the Governor immediately concluded, that this was for some evil purpose unknown, and resolved to anticipate the effects, by taking possession of the palace immediately with an English force. Communication was made to the Nabob, with all the delicacy of which the circumstances admitted, prevention of confusion at his death being the motive assigned; and the troops took a position commanding all the entrances into the palace without resistance or commotion. The commanding officer was directed “to exert his vigilance in a particular manner, to prevent the removal of treasure from the palace, sufficient grounds of belief existing that a considerable treasure, a large sum of money, had been accumulated by their Highnesses, the late and present Nabob.”1 The English, even yet, were but ill cured of their old delusion, that every Indian prince was enormously rich. Of this supposed treasure we perceive not another trace.
On the 15th of July, 1801, the Nabob Omdut ul Omrah died. Immediately a commission was given to the two gentlemen, Webbe and Close, to state to the family the crimes which were charged upon the two Nabobs deceased, and to demand, with information that a due provision would be made for their support, that their consent should be given to the destined transfer of the Carnatic government.
The business was urgent, and without permitting the lapse of even the day on which the sovereign had expired, the gentlemen repaired to the palace. They BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.were met by some of the principal persons in the service of the late Nabob. They first requested to know, if any particular arrangement had been traced by Omdut ul Omrah. Having been informed, that a will existed, they desired that it might be produced. Being informed that, without the violation of all decorum, the son and heir of the deceased could not be called upon to attend to ordinary business, before the ceremonies due to his royal father were performed, they replied that on ordinary occasions it was the principle of the English to respect the feelings of individuals, but, where this respect interfered with the business of a great government, the less must, in propriety, yield to the greater interest. The personages, who received their commands, retired to deliberate; and had not long returned with a declaration of submission, when the young Nabob was introduced, bearing the will of his father in his hand. The will directed, that Ali Hoosun, his eldest son, should succeed to all his rights, all his possessions, and “the sovereignty of the Carnatic:” and that the Khans, Mohammed Nejeed, Salar Jung, and Tuckia Alia, the individuals now present, should rbe regents, to assist the young Nawaub in the affairs of government, till his arrival at competent maturity of years.
The Nabob retired, and the commissioners desired, that the rest of the conversation should be private, between the regents and themselves. The pretended discoveries were described. The following passage, in the report of the commissioners, is memorable: “Nejeeb Khan expressed the greatest degree of surprise at this communication; professed his entire ignorance of the subject; and protested that it was impossible for the Nabob Omdut ul Omrah to cherish the intentions imputed to his Highness. Some of the principal documents having been BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.produced, Nejeeb Khan asserted, that they contained none but expressions of civility and compliment; that the Marquis Cornwallis had repeatedly enjoined the Nabobs, Mahomed Ali, and Omdut ul Omrah, to cultivate a friendly intercourse with Tippoo Sultan; that the whole tendency of the correspondence produced was directed to that object, in conformity to the injunctions of Lord Cornwallis; and that the Nabob Omdut ul Omrah had recently addressed himself to Lord Cornwallis on the subject of these communications. The particular warmth of the expressions used by Omdut ul Omrah, in his letter addressed to Gholam Ali Khan on the 14th Mohurum, 1209, having been pointed out to Nejeeb Khan—he observed that it was nothing more than an expression of civility, which might have been used on any ordinary occasion.” On the cipher, of which a proposal appeared to have been made to the Sultan, and which proposal he entirely disregarded, the Khan observed, “that the moonshee of the Nabob was present, and could be examined with respect to the authenticity of the hand-writing, that the cipher might have been conveyed into the archives of Tippoo Sultaun by the enemies of Omdut ul Omrah;” and concluded by a most important request, that the family should be furnished with the evidence, stated to exist, of the supposed criminal intercourse; have an opportunity of offering such explanations as they might be able to give, and of presenting such counter-proofs as they might have to furnish; when, said he, “the proofs being compared, the Company might form a complete judgment.”
A more moderate proposition, on such an occasion, was certainly never advanced. He did not so much as appeal from the judgment of an opposite party; BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.he only requested that party to look first at both sides of the question. If the object had been to explore the truth of the accusation, it would have been easy to secure the papers of the late Nabob, in which, if no marks of a criminal correspondence existed, it would not be very probable that it had ever taken place.
“This discourse,” say the commissioners, “being apparently intended to confound the object of our deputation”—yes, that object, to be sure, was a very different thing—“we stated to the two Khans, that the British government, being satisfied of the sufficiency of its proofs, had no intention of constituting itself a judge of the conduct of its ally.” There is here one of the most astonishing instances, which the annals of the human mind can exhibit, of that blindness, which the selfish affections have a tendency to produce, when, unhappily, power is possessed, and all prospect both of shame and of punishment is removed. The British government had taken evidence upon the conduct of its ally, had pronounced a sentence of condemnation, and was proceeding, with impetuosity, to carry its decision into execution, yet it would not “constitute itself a judge of the conduct of its ally!” As if one was not a judge, so long as one abstained from hearing both sides of the question; as if, to all intents and purposes, saving only those of justice, it was not easy to be a judge upon very different terms!
The whole of the conference of this day, it appears, was spent, on the part of the Khans, in “asserting their disbelief of the hostile intercourse with Tippoo; and insisting on the reasonableness of their entering into the defence of Omdut ul Omrah's conduct in regard to the several points in which he was accused.” When the day was far advanced, they were permitted, on their earnest request, to retire BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.for the purpose of making the necessary preparations for the funeral of the deceased Nabob, and a second interview was appointed for the evening of the following day.
At this meeting, the evils of a divided government, the abuses which prevailed, and all the other arguments, which had been so often urged to prevail upon the Nabobs to resign their authority, were stated to the regents; they were assured that no remedy would suffice, except the revolution proposed; and they were asked, whether they were prepared to enter into an amicable negotiation for that purpose. They remarked, that, “if the entire government of the Carnatic should be transferred to the hands of the Company, the station of Nabob of the Carnatic would be annihilated.” The answer of the commissioners is memorable. It seems to prove, that the English in India have so long, and successfully, made use of fiction, that they take their own fictions for realities. The commissioners had the confidence to tell the regents, “that the rank and dignity of the Nabob of Carnatic could not be injured,” by actual dethronement. Nay, what is more, they state, in their report, that the argument, which they made use of to prove it, for they did not leave it without an argument, “was admitted by the Khans to be conclusive.” The Khans, notwithstanding, declined giving any answer, on a proposition of so much importance, till they got the benefit of consultation with the different heads of the family; and they were allowed till the next day to prepare for a final declaration.
On this occasion, they began by representing, that the whole family, and the ministers of the late Nabob, having been assembled to deliberate, had come BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.to certain conclusions. All these persons were convinced, that the British government would not insist upon the utmost severity of the terms which had been recently announced; and they had ventured to propose a different plan, by which, in their opinion, the security, which was the professed aim of the Company, would be completely attained. Their proposition was, to give up the reserved sovereignty over the Polygars, and the right of collecting the revenues in the assigned districts, and along with this to make some better regulations in regard to the debts. The commissioners repeated that “the proposition for vesting exclusively in the hands of the Company the entire administration of the civil and military government of the Carnatic contained the basis on which alone the proposed arrangement could be founded.” After strong expostulation, on both sides, the Khans declared, “that they were prepared to give a decided answer; and that the propositions which they had offered, and of which they delivered a written statement, contained finally, and unequivocally, the only terms on which they could accede to an arrangement of the affairs of the Carnatic by negotiation.”
The commissioners resolved to accept of an ultimate refusal from no lips but those of the Nabob himself. Upon their request, that he should be introduced, the Khans manifested considerable surprise; and expostulated against the proposition, on the ground both of decorum, from the regency of his father's death, and the immaturity of his judgment, at eighteen years of age. “It was not,” say the commissioners, “without a very long and tedious conversation, that we obtained from the Khans the appointment of a time for our receiving, from the reputed son of Omdut ul Omrah, his own determination BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.on the proposition communicated to the two Khans.”
On the second day, which was the 19th of July, the projected interview took place. The proposition was re-stated, to which the acquiescence of the young prince was required; and the consequences held up to his view; the title of Nabob, with the dignity and emoluments of the head of the family, if he complied; the loss of all these advantages, if he refused. “He replied, the Khans, being present, that he considered them to have been appointed by his father for the purpose of assisting him; and that the object of his own counsels was not separate from that of the Khans.” He was then given to understand that Lord Clive, the Governor, required an interview with him. To this proposition also the Khans manifested reluctance, but they were immediately informed that it was altogether useless. During a short absence of the Khans, for the purpose of preparing the equipage of the prince, “the young man,” say the commissioners, “with much apparent anxiety in his manner, whispered in a low tone of voice, that he had been deceived by the two Khans. Ali Hussain, accordingly, proceeded, without further communication with the two Khans, to the tent of the officer commanding the troops at Chepauk, at which place we had the honour of a personal interview with your Lordship.” The attendants of the Prince, including even the regents, were ordered to withdraw. At this meeting, it appears that the prince was even forward to declare his disapprobation of the refusal given by the Khans to the proposition of his Lordship; and “proposed that a treaty should be prepared, upon the basis of vesting the entire civil and military government of the Carnatic in the hands of the Company; and BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.stated, that he would be ready to execute the instrument, with, or without, the consent of the Khans, at another separate conference, which was appointed, for the next day, within the lines of the British troops.”
At that interview, however, Ali Hussain withdrew his acquiescence of the former day, which he described as the sudden and inconsiderate suggestion of the moment. He was again conveyed to a tent, to meet with Lord Clive, apart from his attendants and advisers. Being informed, that his sentiments of yesterday were understood to be still his real sentiments; that his altered declaration might be the offspring of fear; that he was at present, however, within the British lines; and, if it was necessary, should receive the effectual protection of the British power; he said that he acted under no constraint, and that the determination he had now expressed was that of his own deliberate, clear, and unalterable judgment. “It was then explained to him,” say the commissioners, “that no pains had been omitted, which could warn him of the consequences he was about to incur; that the duties of humanity towards him, and the duties of attention to the national character of the British government, had been satisfied; that he had himself determined the situation in which he would hereafter be placed; and that your Lordship, with concern for himself individually, now apprized him that his future situation would be that of a private person, hostile to the British interests, and dependant on the bounty of the Company.—This declaration Ali Hussain received with a degree of composure and confidence, which denoted that he acted from no impression of fear; and a smile of complacency which appeared on his countenance, throughout this discussion, denoted an internal satisfaction at the line of conduct he was pursuing. Being asked BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.if he wished to make any further observation, he said that he did not; and being also asked whether he had any objection to the introduction of the Khans into the tent, he said that he had none; which being accordingly done, he was directed by your Lordship to leave the tent.”
The British rulers had all along reserved to themselves an expedient against Ali Hussain, to wit, chicanery about his birth, and had regularly denominated him the reputed son of Omdut ul Omrah; though all that is stated is, that his mother, which, according to the muscleman law, is a matter of indifference, was not the principal among the women in the zenana; and though, at last, too, they precluded themselves from this pretence, by choosing him as the man with whom, in preference to all the rest of his family, they wished to negotiate, and at whose hands to accept the grant of the sovereignty.
Negotiation being in this manner closed, on the part of Ali Hussain, the son of Omdut ul Omrah; the English rulers directed their attention to Azeem ul Dowlah, a son of Ameer ul Omrah, who since the death of his father, had been kept in a state of great seclusion and indigence. To make known the intention of dealing with him as successor to the Nabob might shorten his days. But the English soon found an occasion of delivering themselves from this difficulty. The family resolved to place the son of Omdut ul Omrah on the musnud, to which they held him equally entitled by his birth, and by the will of his deceased father. The English held it necessary to prevent that ceremony; for which purpose the troops, already commanding the entrance, took possession of the palace; and placed a guard of honour about Azeem ul Dowlah. He was not long kept ignorant BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.of what was to be done with him. The forfeiture of the government by Omdut ul Omrah; and “that satisfaction and security,” as they expressed it, which the English rulers “deemed to be necessary to the preservation of their interests in the Carnatic,” were explained to him; and he was asked whether, if acknowledged as head and representative of the family, these were terms to which he would submit. He made as little difficulty in expressing his compliance, as the circumstances in which he was placed gave reason to expect.1 A reflection, however, suggests itself, which, at the time, the English rulers were probably too full of their object to make. If Azeem ul Dowlah had to the inheritance of the family any title whatsoever, beside the arbitrary will of the English rulers, his title stood exempt from that plea of forfeiture on which the measure of dethronement was set up. It was not so much as pretended that his father, Ameer ul Omrah, had any share in the pretended criminal correspondence of the late and preceding Nabob; and to punish a man for the sins of his grandfather, however it may be reconcileable with some systems of law, will not be denied, it is presumed, to be utterly irreconcileable with the essential principles of justice. Besides, though in a certain sense of the word, a prince may forfeit his crown to his subjects, it was not in the relation of subject and prince, that the British Company and the Nabob of Arcot stood; and in what sense it can be said that one prince forfeits his crown to another, it would not be easy to explain.
A treaty was immediately drawn up and signed, according to which all the powers of government were delivered over in perpetuity to the English, and totally BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.and for ever renounced by the Nabob. Yet such is the memorable harmony, between the language which the English rulers desired to employ, and the actions they performed, that the first article of the treaty stands in the following words; “The Nabob Azeem ul Dowlah Behauder is hereby formally established in the state and rank, with the dignities dependant thereon, of his ancestors, heretofore Nabobs of the Carnatic; and the possession thereof is hereby guaranteed by the Honourable East India Company to his said Highness Azeem ul Dowlah Behauder, who has accordingly succeeded to the subahdarry of the territories of Arcot.”
As a provision for the new Nabob, including the maintenance of the female establishment, or Mhal, of his father, one fifth part of the net revenues of the Carnatic were pledged. The Company engaged to make a suitable maintenance for the rest of the family, and took upon itself the whole of the debts of the preceding Nabobs.1
Against this revolution there was transmitted to the home authorities a remonstrance in the name of the regents. A letter, as from the rejected Nabob, setting forth, in vehement and pathetic language, the proceedings which had taken place, and the cruel effects as regarded himself, with which they were attended, was transmitted to two gentlemen in England, of the names of Hall and Johnstone, who acted there as agents of the deceased Nabob. The rest of the family continued to vent their indignation, in acts of disrespect to the new Nabob, and in such other demonstrations as they dared to risk. The displays of their dissatisfaction were sufficiently active and manifest to BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.give not only displeasure, but some degree of disturbance to the government. In due time, the approbation of the Honourable the Court of Directors, a favour as often as acquisitions were made, not often denied, arrived in proper form. “We have been induced,” said the Secret Committee, “to postpone expressing our opinion on the late important transactions in the Carnatic, from a desire to be previously furnished with every information which could bear in any material degree upon the question; and we have accordingly waited with impatience for a review of the circumstances which led to the late arrangement in the Carnatic, which the Governor-General, in his letter of the 28th of September, 1801, to the Secret Committee, acquainted us he was then preparing, and which he proposed to forward by the Mornington packet.” The Mornington packet arrived, and the promised review was not received. It never was sent. The Directors accordingly were compelled to approve without it. “We do not,” they say, “feel ourselves called upon to enter into a detail of the circumstances connected with this case; or to state at length the reasoning upon those circumstances which had led to the conclusion we have come to, after the fullest and most deliberate consideration. It is enough to state to you, that we are fully prepared upon the facts, as at present before us, to approve and confirm the treaty in question; and we are of opinion, that, acting under the instructions of the Governor-General, you stand fully justified, upon the evidence, written as well as oral, on which you proceeded, in deeming the rights of the family of Mahomed Ali, as existing under former treaties, to have been wholly forfeited by the systematic perfidy and treachery of the late Nabobs of the Carnatic, Wallajah, and Omdut ul Omrah, in breach of their solemn treaties with the Company. The claims of the family having been BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.thus forfeited, and right having accrued to the Company of making provision, at their discretion, for the future safety of the Carnatic, we are further of opinion that the nature of the security which has been provided by the treaty, for the defence and preservation of our interests in that quarter, is of a satisfactory description.”1
One expression alone, in this quotation, appears, on the present occasion, to require any comment. The Directors say, that the Nabob Mahomed Ali forfeited the rights which he enjoyed “under treaties with the Company.” But surely his right to the throne of the Carnatic was not created by any treaty with the Company. It had, for a long series of years, been acknowledged, and proclaimed by the English, as resting on a very different foundation. At the commencement of their political and military operations in the Carnatic, the right of Mahomed Ali by inheritance, to the musnud of his ancestors, was the grand plea which they made use of against the French; and a zeal for the rights of the lawful Prince, was one of the colours with which they were most anxious to adorn their conduct. If, by the violation of a treaty, an hereditary sovereign incurs the forfeiture of his sovereignty, how would the case stand, not to speak of other sovereigns, with the East India Company itself? At a previous epoch, the Directors themselves had vehemently declared, that the treaty was violated; namely, by the assignments which the Nabob had granted on the districts set apart for securing the subsidy. All the rights, therefore, which a violation BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1802.of the treaty could forfeit, were of course forfeited, on that occasion. Yet the Directors by no means pretended that they had a right to dethrone the Nabob on that occasion.1
In the letter of Ali Hussain to the agents of the family in England, “Being informed,” he says, “on the 29th, that a public notification had been made through the different streets of Madras, that the Ameer's son would be placed on the musnud on the 31st instant, under the influence of government, I immediately addressed the Governor with the advice of the regents, on the suggested measure, and proposed to accept the terms which had been at first offered; a measure which my mind revolted at, but which seemed to be demanded by the trying exigencies of the moment: and I felt confidence within myself, that, if my offer had been accepted, the liberality of the British nation would have never held me bound by conditions which had been so compulsorily imposed on me; or would have ameliorated a situation, that had been produced by means, which neither honour, nor justice could bear to contemplate. My address was wholly and totally disregarded.”2
Of this offer no mention whatsoever appears in the correspondence of the Company's servants with their employers.
On the 6th of April, 1802, the deposed Nawaub died. He was residing in the apartments of the Sultana Nissa Begum, his paternal aunt, when the malady, supposed a dysentery, began; and, in display of the resentments of the family, his situation was concealed from the English government, and the medical assistance of the English refused, till the case was desperate. Nearly at the same time, died Ameer BOOK VI. Chap. 10. 1801.Sing, the deposed Rajah of Tanjore.1
Pondicherry having been restored to the French, agreeably to the treaty of Amiens, Bonaparte alarmed the English by sending out a great list of military officers; seven generals, and a proportional number in the inferior ranks, with 1,400 regular troops, and 100,000l. in specie. The speedy renewal of the war gave them relief from their fears. Possession of Pondicherry was resumed by the English in 1803; but the French Admiral, Linois, had intelligence sufficiently prompt, to enable him to escape with the fleet.2
See a folio volume of 535 pages, of papers relating to this transaction solely, printed by order of the House of Commons, dated 14th July, 1806, and furnished with a copious table of contents, by which every paper, to which the text bears reference, will be easily found.
Vide, supra, p. 62.
Papers relating to the affairs of the Carnatic, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, in August, 1803, i. 243.
Papers, ut supra, p. 204.
Papers, ut supra, p. 213–216.
Papers, ut supra, p. 216.
Ibid p. 214.
Papers, ut supra, p. 216.
Papers, ut supra, p. 217.
See certain documents in the Second Report of the Select Committee, 1810, p. 234–242.
Papers, ut supra, p. 2.
Ibid. p. 3.
Ibid. p. 4.
Papers, ut supra, p. 14.
Papers, ut supra, p. 47.
Papers, ut supra, p. 36.
Ibid. p. 39. The papers from Seringapatam, and the examination of the witnesses, are in a collection of House of Commons “Papers concerning the late Nabob of the Carnatic, ordered to be printed 21st and 23d of June, 1802;” the rest of the documents are in the volume of papers quoted immediately above.
For the above extracts, see Papers, vol, i. ut supra, p. 42–47.
Such are the words of the Governor of Fort St. George, in a letter to Lord Wellesley, 7th of July, 1801; papers, ut supra, p. 65.
The report from which the above particulars and quotations are taken, is in the volume of papers (p. 8–25), ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 21st and 23d of June, 1801.
See the Treaty and Papers, ut supra, i. 74.
Letter from the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, dated 29th of September, 1802, to the Governor in Council of Fort St. George; papers, ut supra, i. 153.
Papers, ut supra, ordered to be printed 21st and 23d of June, 1802.
Papers, ut supra, i. 95, 96, 145, 146.
Papers, ordered to be printed in 1806, No. 25, p 192.