The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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The Emperor fled the same night to Bahar, a town about ten miles from the field of battle. Here a measure of great promise suggested itself: To leave Meeran and the English behind; and, marching with the utmost expedition to Bengal, surprise Moorshedabad, and take the Nabob prisoner. It was the 29th of the month before Meeran could be prevailed upon to abandon the indulgences of Patna; when he and the English marched towards Bahar, and were surprised to learn that the enemy had already performed two marches towards Bengal. The strongest motives pressed for dispatch: The English embarked in boats, and along with Meeran’s cavalry in three days overtook the foe; who adopted a bold and politic resolution. No longer able to proceed along the river, the Emperor directed his march across the mountains; and Calliaud still resolved to follow his steps. The route was long and difficult, and it was near the end of March before the Emperor emerged on the plains of Bengal, about thirty miles west from Moorshedabad. During this interval, intelligence was in sufficient time received by Jaffier to enable him to collect an army and obtain a body of 200 Europeans from Calcutta: but the Emperor was joined by a body of Mahrattas, who had lately broken into that part of the country; and had he rapidly attacked [265] the Nabob, he still enjoyed, in the opinion of Calliaud, the fairest prospect of success. But he lingered till Meeran and the English joined the Nabob on the 4th of April; and on the 7th, when they advanced to attack him, he set fire to his camp and fled. Calliaud again urged for cavalry to pursue, and again was absolutely refused.

One object of hope was even yet reserved to the Emperor. By the precipitation with which his pursuers had followed him, Patna was left in a miserable state of defence. Could he return with expedition, and anticipate the arrival of succour, it must fall into his hands. At this very time M. Law, with his small body of Frenchmen, passing that capital, to join the Emperor who had again invited him from Chitterpore, threw it into the greatest alarm. It was almost entirely destitute of the means of defence; but Law was ignorant of its situation; and proceeded to Bahar to wait for the Emperor. At this time the Naib of Poorania took off the mask, espousing openly the cause of the Emperor; and had he seized the present opportunity of marching to Patna, nothing could have prevented it from falling into his hands. The exertions however of Ramnarain, and of the gentlemen of the English factory, had collected, before the Emperor was able to arrive, a sufficient body of defenders to secure the city against the first impression; and Colonel Calliaud, who foresaw the danger, formed a detachment of 200 chosen Europeans, and a battalion of Sepoys, of which he gave the command to Captain Knox, and commanded them to march with the utmost expedition to Patna. The Emperor had lost no time in commencing the siege; and after several days of vigorous operation, during which Mr. Fullerton, the English Surgeon, and Raja Shitabroy, had distinguished themselves peculiarly within [266] the walls, Law attempted an assault. Though repulsed, he, in two days, renewed the attempt; and part of the wall being demolished, the rampart was scaled. The enemy were still compelled to retire; but the city was now thrown into the greatest alarm; a renewed assault was expected the following night; and scarcely a hope was entertained of its being withstood; when Captain Knox with a flying party was seen approaching the walls. He had performed the march from Moorshedabad to Patna, under the burning heat of a Bengal sun, in the extraordinary space of thirteen days, himself marching on foot, as an example and encouragement to the men. That very night the Captain reconnoitred the enemy’s camp in person; and next day, watching the hour of afternoon’s repose, surprised them when asleep, and drove them from their works, to which they never returned.

While the Emperor, conscious of his weakness, withdrew to the neighbourhood of Teekaury, waiting the result of his applications to the Abdallee Shah, who was now commanding from the ancient seat of the Mogul government the whole of the upper provinces of Hindustan, the Naib or Deputy Governor of Poorania had collected his army, and was on the march to join him. To counteract his designs, the English army under Calliaud, and that of Jaffier under Meeran, rendezvoused at Raje mahl, on the 23d of May. They moved upwards on the one side of the river, the Naib advancing on the other; and orders were forwarded to Captain Knox to cross over from Patna, and harass his march till the main army should arrive; while his boats, which were not able to ascend the river so fast as he marched, were overtaken and seized. Captain Knox amazed the inhabitants of Patna by declaring his resolution, as [267] soon as the enemy appeared, of crossing the river with his handful of men and giving them battle. Part of Ramnarain’s troops were placed under his command; but as the enterprise appeared to them an act of madness, they formed a determined resolution to have no share in it. Raja Shitabroy having between two and three hundred men in his pay, with whom he had performed important services in the defence of Patna, joined the Captain with a real disposition to act. Two hundred Europeans, one battalion of Sepoys, five field-pieces, and about 300 horse, marched to engage an army of 12,000 men, with thirty pieces of cannon. Arrived within a few miles of the enemy, Knox proceeded in the dark to the quarters of Shitabroy, to communicate his design of surprising the enemy’s camp during the night: he found that gallant associate fully prepared to second his ardour; the troops were allowed a few hours for repose; and a little after midnight they began to march. The guide having missed his way from the darkness of the night, they wandered till within two hours of day-break, and having lost the time for attacking the enemy by surprise, abandoned the design. They had laid down their arms, and prepared themselves for a little repose, when the vanguard of the enemy appeared. The gallantry of Knox allowed not a moment’s hesitation. He took his ground with skill; and though completely surrounded by the enemy, repulsed them at every point; sustained a conflict of six hours, in which Shitabroy fought with the greatest activity and resolution; and having compelled them at last to quit the field, pursued them till night.1

In consequence of this defeat, the Naib postponed his resolution of joining the Emperor, and marched towards the north. In a few days Calliaud and Meeran crossed the Ganges to pursue him, and, as his army was encumbered with baggage and artillery, soon overtook him. He immediately formed his line, as if to engage; but unloading the treasure, and the most valuable part of the baggage, putting it upon camels and elephants; and skirmishing only till the English came up, he marched away with great expedition, leaving his heavy baggage and artillery behind.1 The rains were now set in with unusual violence, yet Calliaud, animated by the reports of the [269] rich treasure (the English were credulous on the subject of treasure) which the Naib carried in his train, resolved to make the utmost exertions to overtake him before he could reach the forests and mountains. The pursuit had been continued four days, when during the night of the 2d of July, which proved exceedingly tempestuous, the tent of Meeran was struck with lightning, and he, with all his attendants, were killed on the spot. The death of their leader is, to an Indian army, the signal to disband. The probability of this event, which would deliver the province of Bahar into the hands of the Emperor, struck the English commander with the utmost alarm. His whole attention was now occupied in keeping the army together, till reconducted to Patna, toward which he marched with all possible expedition; and distributed the troops in winter quarters in the 29th of July.1

The political affairs of the province were hastening to another crisis. The government of Jaffier was in a state approaching to dissolution. The English Presidency was distressed by want of pecuniary resources, and the seeds of violent discords were sown in the council.

When Jaffier got possession of the viceroyalty by the dethronement and death of his master Suraja Dowla, and when the English leaders were grasping the advantages which the revolution placed in their hands, both parties, dazzled with first appearances, overlooked the consequences which necessarily ensued. The cupidity natural to mankind, and the credulity with [270] which they believe what flatters their desires, made the English embrace, without deduction, the exaggerations of Oriental rhetoric on the riches of India; and believe that a country which they saw was one of the poorest, was nevertheless the most opulent upon the surface of the globe. The sums which had been obtained from Jaffier were now wholly expended. “The idea of provision for the future,” to use the words of a governor, “seemed to have been lost in the apparent immensity of the sum stipulated for compensation of the Company’s losses at Calcutta.” No rational foresight was applied, as the same observer remarks, to the increased expenditure which the new connection with the government of the country naturally produced; and soon it appeared that no adequate provision was made for it. “In less than two years it was found necessary to take up money at interest, although large sums had been received besides for bills upon the court of Directors.”1 The situation of Jaffier was deplorable from the first. With an exhausted treasury, an exhausted country, and vast engagements to discharge, he was urged to the severest exactions; while the profusion with which he wasted his treasure upon his own person, and some unworthy favourites, was ill calculated to soothe the wretched people, under the privations to which they were compelled. The cruelties of which he and Meeran were guilty, [271] made them objects of general detestation: the negligence, disorder, and weakness of their government, exposed them to contempt; and their troops, always mutinous from the length of their arrears, threatened them every moment with fatal extremities. When the news arrived at Moorshedabad of the death of Meeran, the troops surrounded the palace, scaled the walls, and threatened the Nabob with instant death; nor were they, in all probability, prevented from executing their menaces, otherwise than by the interference of Meer Causim, his son-in-law, who, on promise of succeeding to the place and prospects of Meeran, discharged a part of their arrears from his own treasury, and induced them to accept of Jaffier’s engagements to pay the whole within a limited time.

When Clive resigned the government of Bengal, instead of leaving the elevation to the chair in the established order of succession, his influence was successfully exerted to procure the nomination of Mr. Vansittart, who was called from Madras. Mr. Holwell, on whose pretensions there had been violent debates in the Court of Directors, was promoted to the office in virtue of his seniority, till July, when Mr. Vansittart arrived. The new governor found the treasury at Calcutta empty, the English troops at Patna, on the very brink of mutiny, and deserting in multitudes for want of pay; the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay totally dependant upon Bengal for pecuniary resources; the provision of an investment actually suspended; the income of the Company scarcely sufficient for the current expences of Calcutta; the allowance paid by the Nabob for the troops several months in arrear; and the attainment of that, as well as of a large balance upon his first agreements, totally hopeless. Some change, by which the revenue of the Company could be placed on a [272] level with their expenditure, was indispensable.1 They might retire from all concern with the government of the country, and content themselves with the protection of Calcutta, for which a small body of troops and a small expenditure would suffice. But not to speak of the golden hopes which had been so fondly cherished, fears suggested themselves (fears when they favour wishes are potent counsellors) that the place which the Company might resign in directing the government of the country would be occupied by the French or the Dutch. From the administration of Jaffier, resigned as he was to a set of unworthy favourites; old, indolent, voluptuous, estranged from the English, and without authority; no other consequences were to be expected, than those which had already been experienced. From a strong sense of the incurable vices of Jaffier and his family, Mr. Holwell, during the few months of his administration, had advised the council to abandon him; and, embracing the just cause of the Emperor, to avail themselves of the high offers which that deserted monarch was ready to make. An idea, however, of fidelity to the connexion which they had formed, though with a subject in rebellion to his king, prevailed in the breasts of the council; and a middle course was chosen. Of all the members of Jaffier’s family, whose remaining sons were young, Meer Causim, the husband of his daughter, who passed for a man of talents, appeared the only person endowed with qualities adapted to the present exigencies of the government. It was agreed that all the active powers of administration should be placed in his hands; Jaffier not being [273] dethroned in name, but only in reality. A treaty was concluded with Meer Causim on the 27th of September. He agreed, in return for the powers thus placed in his hands, to assign to the Company the revenues of the three districts of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, to pay the balance due by Jaffier, and a present of five lacks for the war in Carnatic. On the 2d of October, Mr. Vansittart, accompanied by Colonel Calliaud and a detachment of troops, proceeded to Moorshedabad to persuade or to compel the Nabob to accede to the arrangements which had been formed. Jaffier discovered intense reluctance; and Mr. Vansittart wavered. Meer Causim, who could be safe no longer in the power of Jaffier, exclaimed against the perfidy of making and not fulfilling an engagement such as that which was contracted between them: and formed his resolution of joining the Emperor with all his treasure and troops. The resolution of Mr. Vansittart was at last confirmed; and a favourable moment was chosen for occupying the palace of Jaffier with the troops. When assured that no designs against his person or authority were entertained; that nothing was proposed beyond a reform of his government in the hands of his son-in-law, who would act as his deputy; he replied, with disdain, that he was no stranger to the meaning of such language; and too well acquainted with the characters of men, particularly that of his son-in-law, to be in doubt respecting the consequences. He peremptorily refused to remain a vain pageant of royalty, and desired permission to retire to Calcutta, to lead a private life under the English protection.1

When the pecuniary distresses of the Company’s government, and the enormous disorders in that of the Nabob, were under the deliberation of the board at Calcutta, there was but one opinion concerning the necessity of some important change. To vest Meer Causim with the power requisite for reforming the government of the Nabob, was the plan approved of unanimously in the Select Committee. The force which might be necessary to subdue his reluctance was provided; and though it was not anticipated that he would resign the government rather than comply, the step which that resolution made necessary was a natural consequence; and was without hesitation decreed. When Mr. Vansittart returned to Calcutta on the 7th of November, he found there were persons by whom those measures were by no means approved. Mr. Verelst and Mr. Smyth, two members of the Council, who were not of the Select Committee, entered a minute on the 8th, in which they complained that a measure of so much importance had not been submitted to the Council at large; and laying great stress upon the engagements which had been formed with Jaffier, insinuated their ignorance of the existence of any cause why those engagements should be abandoned and betrayed. When Clive made his plan for the government of Bengal, by the irregular elevation of Mr. Vansittart, he seems to have overlooked, or very imperfectly to have estimated, the passions which it was calculated to excite. Mr. Amyatt, who was a man of merit, and next to the chair, could not behold himself postponed or superseded without dissatisfaction; and those among the Bengal servants, who stood next to him in hopes, regarded their interests as involved in his. A party thus existed, with [275] feelings averse to the Governor; and they soon became a party, opposed to his measures. Other passions, of a still grosser nature, were at this time thrown into violent operation in Bengal. The vast sums, obtained by a few individuals, who had the principal management of the former revolution, when Meer Jaffier trode down Suraja Dowla his master, were held in vivid remembrance; and the persuasion that similar advantages, of which every man burned for a share, were now meditated by the Select Committee, excited the keenest emotions of jealousy and envy. Mr. Amyatt was joined by Mr. Ellis, a person of a violent temper, whom, in some of his pretensions, the Governor had opposed; and by Major Carnac, who had lately arrived in the province to succeed Calliaud, but whom the Governor had offended by proposing that he should not take the command till the affairs at Patna, in which Calliaud was already engaged, and with which he was well acquainted, should be conducted to a close. A minute, in which Mr. Ellis and Mr. Smyth coincided, and in which the deposition of Jaffier was formally condemned, was entered by Mr. Amyatt on the 8th of January. No attempt was made to deny the extreme difficulties in which the English government was placed, or the disorders and enormities of Jaffier’s administration; it was only denied that any of these evils would be removed by the revolution of which, in violation of the national faith, the English, by the Select Committee, had been rendered the instruments.

Meer Causim, aware that money was the pillar by which alone he could stand, made so great exertions that, notwithstanding the treasury of Meer Jaffier was found almost empty, he paid in the course of a few months the arrears of the English troops at Patna; so far satisfied the troops of the Subah, both at Moorshedabad [276] and Patna, that they were reduced to order and ready to take the field; and provided six or seven lacks in discharge of his engagements with the Company, insomuch that the Presidency were enabled in November to send two lacks and a half to Madras, whence a letter had been received declaring that without a supply the siege of Pondicherry must be raised.

In the month of January, Major Carnac arrived at Patna, and took the command of the troops. The province of Bahar had suffered so much from the repeated incursions of the Emperor; and the finances both of the Nabob and of the Company were so much exhausted by the expense of the army required to oppose him, that the importance was strongly felt of driving him finally from that part of the country. The rains were no sooner at an end, than the English commander, accompanied by the troops of Ramnarain, and those which had belonged to Meeran, advanced towards the Emperor, who was stationed at Gyah Maunpore. The unhappy Monarch made what exertions he could to increase his feeble army; but Carnac reached his camp by three days’ march; forced him to an engagement, and gained a victory. The only memorable incident of the battle was, that M. Law was taken prisoner: And the British officers exalted themselves in the eyes even of the rude natives, by treating him with the highest honour and distinction.1

At this time the Zemindars of Beerboom, and Burdwan, two important districts of Bengal, not far from [278] Moorshedabad, took arms. It has been alleged that they acted in concert with the Emperor; with whom it had been arranged during his former campaign, that a body of Mahrattas should penetrate into Bengal immediately after the rains; that he himself should advance to Bahar, and, by as menacing an appearance as possible, engage the attention of the English and Nabob; that the Zemindars should hold themselves in readiness, till the Emperor, giving his enemies the slip, should penetrate into Bengal, as he had done the year before; when they should fall upon the province by one united and desperate effort. There seems in this too much of foresight and of plan for Oriental politicians, especially the weakminded Emperor and his friends: At any rate the movements of the Zemindars betrayed them: Meer Causim, attended by a detachment of English under Major Yorke, marched in haste to Beerboom, defeated the troops which were opposed to them, reduced both provinces to obedience, and drove the Mahrattas to the south.

Immediately after the battle with the Emperor, Major Carnac sent to him the Raja Shitabroy, to make an overture of peace; and to ask permission to visit him in his camp. At first, by the instigation of one of the restless Zemindars who supported him, he declined the proposal; presently afterwards, having listened to other counsels, he became eager to make his terms. He was tired of his dependence upon the rude and insolent chiefs who hitherto had upheld [279] his cause; and cherished hopes that the late revolution at Delhi might produce some turn in his favour. The Abdallee Shah, after his great victory over the Mahrattas, had acknowledged him as sovereign of Hindustan; had appointed his son to act in the quality of his deputy at Delhi; and had recommended his cause to the Afghaun chiefs, and to his vizir the Nabob of Oude. Major Carnac paid his compliments to him as Emperor, in his own camp, and, after the usual ceremonies, conducted him to Patna.

Meer Causim was not easy upon the prospect of a connexion between the Emperor and the English; and hastened to Patna, to observe and to share in the present proceedings. Upon his arrival he declined waiting upon the Emperor in his own camp; either because he was afraid of treachery, of which there was no appearance; or because (so low was the house of Timur fallen) he was pleased to measure dignities with his King. After much negotiation the English invented a compromise; by planning the interview in the hall of the factory, where a musnud was formed of two dining tables covered with cloth. The usual ceremonies were performed; and Meer Causim, upon condition of receiving investiture as Subahdar of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, engaged to pay annually twenty-four lacks of rupees to the Emperor, as the revenue of the provinces, with the government of which he was entrusted. After a short stay at Patna, where the intrigues of the Nabob had as yet prevented his being proclaimed as sovereign, Shah Aulum accepted the invitation of the Subahdar of Oude, of Nujeeb ad Dowla, and other Afghaun chiefs, to whom his cause was recommended by the Abdallee Shah, to place himself under their protection, and marched toward his capital. He was escorted [280] by Major Carnac to the boundaries of the province of Bahar; and made a tender to the English of the duanee of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, for which, and all their other privileges, he offered to grant phirmâns, whenever the petition for them should be presented in form. The intention was distinctly formed at Calcutta, to afford assistance for placing and confirming him on his paternal throne; but the want of money, and the disinclination of the Nabob, proved decisive obstructions.

Meer Causim, who had supplied his first necessities, by squeezing out of those persons, who were suspected of having made riches in the public service, all that terror or cruelty, under pretence of making them account for their balances, was calculated to extort, regarded the supposed treasures of Ramnarain, as well as the revenues of his government, with a craving appetite; and resolved to omit no effort or contrivance, to get both in his power. As Ramnarain, however, had been assured of protection by the English, it was necessary to proceed with caution and art. The pretence of calling upon him to account for the receipts of his government was the instrument employed. It was the purpose of the Nabob to accede to no accommodation which should not leave Ramnarain at his mercy: It was the purpose of Ramnarain to avoid, by every effort of chicanery, the rendering of a fair account. These endeavours, truly Oriental, of the Nabob on the one side, and Ramnarain on the other, operated to the ruin of both.

Mr. Vansittart, and the party who supported him, desirous of finding the conduct of Meer Causim, whom they had raised, of a nature to justify their choice, were disposed to interpret all appearances in his favour: The opposite party, who condemned the [281] elevation of Meer Causim, were not less disposed to interpret all appearances to his disadvantage. Unfortunately for Ramnarain, and, in the end, not less unfortunately for the Nabob, the persons at Patna, in whose hands the military power of the English at this time was placed, belonged to the party by whom the Governor was opposed. Major Carnac was indeed superseded in the chief command by the arrival of Colonel Coote soon after the Emperor was received at Patna; but Coote fell so entirely into the views of his predecessor, that Carnac, though in a subordinate station, remained at Patna, to lend his countenance and aid to measures, the line of which he had contributed to draw.

So far was Mr. Vansittart from intending to permit any injustice towards Ramnarain, that Major Carnac, in his first instructions, was particularly informed of the engagements subsisting between the English government and Ramnarain; and of the necessity of supporting his life, fortune, and government against the Nabob, should any hostile design appear to be entertained. Mr. Vansittart, however, listened to the representations which the Nabob artfully sent him, of the artifices by which Ramnarain evaded the settlement of his accounts: The exigencies of the Calcutta government urgently required the payments due from the Nabob: The Nabob declared that the recovery of the balances from Ramnarain was the only fund from which those payments could be made: And Vansittart, with the usual credulity, believed the vulgar reports, of the great treasures, as well as the vast balances, in the hands of Ramnarain; though the accounts of only three years of his government were unexamined, and though in each of those years his country had been regularly over-run by hostile armies, and he had been [282] obliged for defence to keep on foot an army greater than he was able to pay.1

Major Carnac and Colonel Coote, on the other hand, allowed their minds to be entirely engrossed by the evidence which appeared of the resolution of the Nabob to destroy Ramnarain. The proof which they possessed was indeed but too conclusive, since they have both left their declarations upon record, that the Nabob tempted them with enormous bribes to leave Ramnarain in his power.2 Their opposition to the Nabob, which was often offensive and exceptionable in the mode, appeared to Vansittart to have no better aim than vexation to himself; it lessened the care of Ramnarain to save appearances in evading the extortion with which he was threatened; and it enabled the Nabob at last to persuade Vansittart, that he was a man requiring nothing but justice, which Ramnarain was labouring to defeat; and that [283] his government was hastening to ruin from the obstinate dishonesty of one man supported by two English commanders.

So far did these altercations and animosities proceed, that on the 25th of June, Vansittart, who had a majority in the council, came to the unhappy resolution of recalling both Coote and Carnac from Patna, and of leaving Ramnarain at the mercy of the Nabob. He made that use of his power, which it was the height of weakness in Vansittart not to foresee. Ramnarain was immediately seized and thrown into prison; his very house was robbed; his friends were tortured to make confession of hidden treasures; his life was only for the moment spared, lest the indignation of the English should be too violently roused; and after all, the quantity of treasure which he was found to possess was insignificant, a sum barely sufficient for the daily expenses of his government.1

This was the fatal error of Mr. Vansittart’s administration; because it extinguished among the natives of rank all confidence in the English protection; and because the enormity to which, in this instance, he had lent his support, created an opinion of a weak or a corrupt partiality, and diminished the weight of his interference when the Nabob was really the party aggrieved. For now began the memorable disputes between the Nabob and the Company’s service about the internal trade; and, at the same time, such changes were produced in the Council at Calcutta, as impaired considerably the Governor’s [284] power. These changes constitute an incident in the history of the Company, the memory of which is of peculiar importance.

Just before Colonel Clive resigned the government in Bengal, the 147th paragraph of one of the last of the dispatches, to which he affixed his name, addressed the Court of Directors in the following terms. “Having fully spoken to every branch of your affairs at this Presidency, under their established heads, we cannot, consistent with the real anxiety we feel for the future welfare of that respectable body from whom you and we are in trust, close this address without expostulating with freedom on the unprovoked and general asperity of your letter per Prince Henry Packet. Our sentiments, on this head, will, we doubt not, acquire additional weight, from the consideration of their being subscribed by a majority of your Council, who are, at this very period, quitting your service, and consequently, independent and disinterested. Permit us to say, That the diction of your letter is most unworthy yourselves and us, in whatever relation considered, either as masters to servants, or gentlemen to gentlemen. Mere inadvertencies, and casual neglects, arising from an unavoidable and most complicated confusion in the state of your affairs, have been treated in such language and sentiments, as nothing but the most glaring and premeditated faults could warrant. Groundless informations have, without further scrutiny, borne with you the stamp of truth, though proceeding from those who had therein obviously their own purpose to serve, no matter at whose expense. These have received from you such countenance and encouragement, as must most assuredly tend to cool the warmest zeal of your servants here and every where else; as they will appear to have been only the source of general [285] reflections, thrown out at random against your faithful servants of this Presidency, in various parts of your letter now before us,—faithful to little purpose,—if the breath of scandal, joined to private pique or private or personal attachments, have power to blow away in one hour the merits of many years’ services, and deprive them of that rank, and those rising benefits, which are justly a spur to their integrity and application. The little attention shown to these considerations in the indiscriminate favours heaped on some individuals, and undeserved censures on others, will, we apprehend, lessen that spirit of zeal so very essential to the well-being of your affairs, and, consequently, in the end, if continued, prove the destruction of them. Private views may, it is much to be feared, take the lead here, from examples at home; and no gentlemen hold your service longer, nor exert themselves further in it, than their own exigencies require. This being the real present state of your service, it becomes strictly our duty to represent it in the strongest light, or we should with little truth, and less propriety, subscribe ourselves,

“May it please your Honours,

“Your most faithful servants,
“Robert Clive,
“J. Z. Holwell,
“Wm. B. Sumner,
“W. M’Guire.”

The Company were even then no strangers to what they have become better acquainted with the longer they have acted; to that which, from the very nature of their authority, and from their local circumstances, it was evident they must experience; a disregard of their orders, when contrary to the interests or passions of their servants: but as they never before had a servant of such high pretensions, and so audacious [286] a character as Clive, they had never before been treated with so much contumely in words. They were moved accordingly to resent it highly. In the very first paragraph of their general letter to Bengal, dated the 21st of January, 1761, they said, “We have taken under our most serious consideration the general letter from our late President and council of Fort William, dated the 29th December, 1759, and many paragraphs therein containing gross insults upon and indignities offered to the Court of Directors; tending to the subversion of our authority over our servants, and a dissolution of all order and good government in the Company’s affairs: To put an immediate stop therefore to this evil, we do positively order and direct, that immediately upon the receipt of this letter, all those persons still remaining in the Company’s service, who signed the said letter, viz. Messieurs John Zephaniah Holwell, Charles Stafford Playdell, William Brightwell Sumner, and William M’Guire, be dismissed from the Company’s service; and you are to take care that they be not permitted, on any consideration, to continue in India, but that they are to be sent to England by the first ships which return home the same season you receive this letter.”

The dismissals of which this letter was the signal, not only gave a majority in the Council to the party by whom Vansittart was opposed; but sent Mr. Ellis, the most intemperate and arbitrary of all his opponents, to the chiefship of the factory at Patna. He treated the Nabob with the most insulting airs of authority; and broke through all respect for his government. So early as the month of January he gave his orders to the commander of the troops to seize and keep prisoner one of the Nabob’s collectors, who had raised some difficulties in permitting a [287] quantity of opium, the private property of one of the Company’s servants, to pass duty free as the property of the Company. This outrage the discretion of the officer avoided, by suspending obedience to the order, and sending a letter to the Nabob, to redress by his own authority whatever might appear to be wrong. About the same time another servant of the Nabob, a man of high connexions and influence, purchased for the Nabob’s use a quantity of nitre. But the monopoly of the saltpetre trade had been conveyed to the Company. Though an exception in favour of the Nabob to the extent of his own consumption was, from standing usage, so much understood, that to express it had appeared altogether useless and vain, this purchase was converted by Mr. Ellis into such an invasion of the English rights, that the Nabob was not to be consulted in the punishment of his own servant. The unfortunate man was seized, put in irons, and sent down a prisoner to Calcutta to receive whatever chastisement the Council might direct. It required the utmost address and power of the President to get him sent back to be punished by his master. As to sending him back for the purpose of ascertaining whether he was guilty or innocent, that was a preliminary which it would have been absurd to propose. Some of the Council insisted that he should be publicly whipped at Calcutta; others, that he should have his ears cut off. Not many days after these violent proceedings, Mr. Ellis, having heard by vague report that two English deserters were concealed in the fort of Mongeer, dispatched a company of Sepoys, with orders to receive the deserters, or to search the fort. The Governor declared that no Europeans were there; and for ampler satisfaction carried two officers of the Company round the fort. From apprehension, however, [288] of some evil design, or from a very plain principle of military duty, he refused without orders to admit a body of armed men; shut the gates; and threatened to fire upon them if they approached the walls. This Mr. Ellis treated as the highest excess of insolence; and obstinately refused to withdraw the Sepoys till they had searched the fort. By these repeated invasions of his government, the pride of the Nabob was deeply wounded. He complained to the President in bitter terms; and with reason declared that the example, which was set by the servants of the Company, of trampling upon his authority, deprived him of all dignity in the eyes of his subjects, and rendered it vain to hope for their obedience. After a dispute of three months, during which Ellis was supported by the Council, the difference was compromised, by the Nabob’s consenting to admit any person to search the fort whom Mr. Vansittart should name; when Lieutenant Ironside, after the strictest investigation, was convinced, that no European whatsoever, except an old French invalid, whose freedom Mr. Hastings procured, had been in the fort.

Hitherto Meer Causim had conducted his government with no ordinary success. He had reduced to obedience all the rebellious Zemindars: What was of still greater importance, he had, as was declared by the President in his minute of the 22d of March, 1762, discharged the whole of his pecuniary obligations to the English; and satisfied both his own and his predecessor’s troops.1 He had extorted money with unsparing hands from the Zemindars and other [289] functionaries: In the financial department of his government, he was clear-sighted, vigilant, and severe: He had introduced a strict economy, without appearance of avarice, in his whole expenditure: And he had made considerable progress in new-modelling and improving his army; when the whole internal economy of his government became involved in disorder by the pretensions of the Company’s servants.

In India, as under most uncivilized governments, the transit of goods within the country was made subject to duties; and upon all the roads and navigable rivers, toll-houses, or custom-houses, (in the language of the country chokeys) were erected, which had power of stopping the goods, till the duties were levied. By the rude and oppressive nature of the government these custom-houses were exceedingly multiplied; and in long carriages the inconvenience of numerous stoppages and payments was very severe. As in all other departments of the government, so in this, there was nothing regular and fixed; the duties varied at different times and different places; and a wide avenue was always open for the extortion of the collectors. The internal trade of the country was by these causes subject to ruinous obstructions.

The English Company had at an early period availed themselves of a favourable opportunity to solicit exemption from such oppressive interruptions and expense; and the rulers of the country who felt in their revenues the benefits of foreign commerce granted a phirmaun by which the export and import trade of the Company was completely relieved, as both the goods which they imported were allowed to pass into the interior, and those which for exportation they purchased in the interior were allowed to [290] pass to the sea, without either stoppage or duties. A certificate, signed by the English President, or chiefs of factories, (in the language of the country a dustuck) shown at the toll-houses or chokeys, protected the property. The Company, however, engrossed to themselves the import and export trade between India and Europe, and limited the private trade of their servants to the business of the country. The benefit of this exemption therefore accrued to the Company alone; and though attempts had been sometimes made to extend the protection of the Company’s dustuck to the trade carried on by their servants in the interior, this had been always vigorously opposed by the Subahdars, both as defrauding the public revenue, and injuring the native merchants.

No sooner had the English acquired an ascendancy in the government by the dethronement of Suraja Dowla, and the elevation of Meer Jaffier, than the servants of the Company broke through the restraints which had been imposed upon them by former Subahdars, and engaged largely in the interior trade of the country. At first, however, they carried not their pretensions beyond certain bounds; and they paid the same duties which were levied on the subjects of the Nabob. It appears not that during the administration of Clive, any of the Company’s servants, unless clandestinely, attempted to trade on any other terms. According however as they acquired experience of their power over the government of the country; and especially after the fresh and signal instance of it, the elevation of a new sovereign in the person of Meer Causim, the Company’s dustuck or passport, which was only entitled to protect the goods of actual exportation and importation, was employed by the Company’s agents of all descriptions to protect their private trade in every part of the country. So [291] great was now the ascendancy of the English name, that the collectors or officers at the chokeys or tollhouses, who were fully aware of the dependance of their own government on the power and pleasure of the English, dared not in general to scrutinize the use which was made of the Company’s dustuck, or to stop the goods which it fraudulently screened. The Company’s servants, whose goods were thus conveyed entirely free from duty, while those of all other merchants were heavily burthened, were rapidly getting into their own hands the whole trade of the country, and thus drying up one of the sources of the public revenue. When the collectors of these tolls, or transit duties, questioned the power of the dustuck and stopped the goods, it was customary to send a party of Sepoys to seize the offender and carry him prisoner to the nearest factory. Meer Causim was hardly seated on the musnud, when grievous complaints of these enormities came up to him from all quarters, and he presented the strongest remonstrances to the President and Council. In his letter to the Governor, dated March 26th, 1762, he says, “From the factory of Calcutta to Cossimbuzar, Patna, and Dacca, all the English chiefs, with their gomastahs, officers and agents in every district of the government, act as collectors, renters, and magistrates, and, setting up the Company’s colours, allow no power to my officers. And besides this, the gomastahs and other servants in every district, in every market and village, carry on a trade in oil, fish, straw, bamboos, rice, paddy, beetel-nut, and other things; and every man with a Company’s dustuck in his hand regards himself as not less than the Company.” It is abundantly proved that the picture drawn by the Nabob was not overcharged. Mr. Hastings, in a letter to the President, dated Bauglepore, 25th April, 1762, [292] said, “I beg to lay before you a grievance, which loudly calls for redress, and will, unless duly attended to, render ineffectual any endeavours to create a firm and lasting harmony between the Nabob and the Company;—I mean, the oppressions committed under the sanction of the English name, and through the want of spirit to oppose them. This evil, I am well assured, is not confined to our dependants alone, but is practised all over the country, by people falsely assuming the habit of our Sepoys, or calling themselves our gomastahs. As on such occasions the great power of the English intimidates the people from making any resistance; so, on the other hand, the indolence of the Bengalees, or the difficulty of gaining access to those who might do them justice, prevents our having knowledge of the oppressions: I have been surprised to meet with several English flags flying in places which I have passed; and on the river I do not believe that I passed a boat without one. By whatever title they have been assumed, I am sure their frequency can bode no good to the Nabob’s revenues, the quiet of the country, or the honour of our nation.—A party of Sepoys, who were on the march before us, afforded sufficient proofs of the rapacious and insolent spirit of those people, where they are left to their own discretion. Many complaints against them were made me on the road; and most of the petty towns and serais were deserted at our approach, and the shops shut up from the apprehensions of the same treatment from us.”1

At first the Governor endeavoured to redress these evils by gentle means; by cautioning the servants of the Company; by soothing the irritation of the Nabob, and lending his own authority to enable the native toll-gatherers to check the illegitimate traffic of the English. The mischief however increased: The efforts of the collectors were not only resisted, and the collectors themselves punished as heinous offenders on the spot; but these attempts of theirs excited the loudest complaints; they were represented as daring violations of the Company’s rights; and undoubted evidence of a design on the part of the Nabob to expel the English from the country. As usual, one species of enormity introduced another. When the officers of government submitted to oppression, it necessarily followed that the people must submit. At the present time it is difficult to believe, even after the most undeniable proof, that it became a common practice to force the unhappy natives, both to buy the goods of the Company’s servants and of all those who procured the use of their name, at a greater; and to sell to the Company’s servants the goods which they desired to purchase, at a less, than the market price. The native judges and magistrates were resisted in the discharge of their duties; and even their functions were usurped. The whole [294] frame of the government was relaxed: and in many places the Zemindars and other collectors refused to be answerable for the revenues.1

The President, aware of the prejudices which were fostered, by a majority of the board, against both the Nabob and himself, submitted not to their deliberation these disorders and disputes, till he found his own authority inadequate to redress them. The [295] representations, presented to them, of the enormities to which the private trade of the Company’s servants gave birth in the country, were treated, by the majority of the Council, as the effect of a weak or interested subservience to the views of the Nabob; while they received the complaints of the servants and their agents against the native officers, more often in fault, according to Hastings and Vansittart, from laxity than tyranny, as proofs of injustice demanding immediate punishment, and of hostile designs against which effectual securities could not be too speedily taken. Of the Council a great proportion were deriving vast emoluments from the abuses, the existence of which they denied; and the President obtained support from Mr. Hastings alone, in his endeavours to check enormities, which, a few years afterwards, the Court of Directors, the President, the servants of the Company themselves, and the whole world, joined in reprobating, with every term of condemnation and abhorrence.

Observing the progress of these provocations and resentments, Vansittart anticipated nothing but the calamity of war, unless some effectual measures could be adopted to prevent them. Dependence upon the English, though it had been light, was a yoke which the Nabob would doubtless have been very willing to throw off. This presumed inclination the majority of the Council treated as a determined purpose; and every measure of his administration was, according to them, a proof of his hostile designs. The Nabob, aware of the strength of the party to whom his elevation was an object of aversion, naturally considered the friendship of the English as a tenure far from secure. The report was spread, that the views of his enemies would be adopted in England; and it is no wonder if, against a contingency so very probable, [296] he was anxious to be prepared. Vansittart, however, who was not mistaken as to the interest which the Nabob had in maintaining his connection with the English, and his want of power to contend with them, remained assured of his disposition to peace, unless urged by provocations too great for his temper to endure. He formed the plan, therefore, of a meeting with Meer Causim, in hopes that, by mutual explanations and concessions, there might be drawn, between the rights of the government on the one hand, and the pretensions of the Company’s servants on the other, such a line of demarcation as would preclude all future injuries and complaints. With Mr. Hastings, as a coadjutor, he arrived at Mongeer on the 30th of November, and was received with all the marks of cordiality and friendship. After some bitter complaints, the Nabob agreed that all preceding animosities should be consigned to oblivion, and that the present interview should be wholly employed in preventing the recurrence of such dangerous evils. For this purpose, he insisted that the interior trade, or that from place to place within the country, should be entirely renounced, as a trade to which the Company had no claim, and in which their servants had never been allowed to engage by any Subahdar preceding Meer Jaffier; a trade which introduced innumerable disorders into his government, and was not carried on for the benefit of the Company, but of individuals, who reaped the profit of their own offences. Mr. Vansittart, though fully aware, as he himself declares, that the interior trade, which had been grasped by the Company’s servants, was purely usurpation, was yet, he says, “unwilling to give up an advantage which had been enjoyed by them, in a greater or less degree, for five or six years.” A still stronger reason probably was, that [297] he knew himself unable to make them “give it up;” and therefore limited his endeavours to place it upon such a foundation as appeared the best calculated for the exclusion of abuse. He proposed that the interior trade should be open to the servants of the Company, but that they should pay the same duties as other merchants; and that, for the prevention of all disputes, a fixed and accurate rate of duties should be established. To this arrangement, the Nabob, who saw but little security against a repetition of the preceding evils in the assignment of duties which, as before, the servants of the Company might refuse to pay, manifested extreme aversion. At last, with great difficulty, he was induced to comply; but declared his resolution, if this experiment should fail, to abolish all duties on interior commerce, and in this way at least place his own subjects on a level with the strangers. To prevent the inconvenience of repeated stoppages, it was agreed that nine per cent., immensely below the rate exacted of other traders,1 should be paid upon the prime cost of the goods, at the place of purchase, and that no further duties should be imposed. Mr. Vansittart returned to Calcutta on the 16th of January.

The President believed that he had left Calcutta fully authorized, by the council, to settle with the Nabob the terms of an amicable arrangement; and he expected to find the Members of the Council pleased that the servants of the Company were now vested with a right to that plentiful source of gain, in [298] which they had hitherto participated only by usurpation. He was not as yet sufficiently acquainted with the boundless desires of his colleagues. Before his arrival, unlimited condemnation had passed on the whole of his proceedings; and the precipitation of the Nabob added to the disorder and combustion. The regulations which the President had formed were couched in a letter addressed to the Nabob. It was the plan of Vansittart, that, as soon as they were confirmed by the Council, instructions should be sent to the English factories and agents; and that correspondent instructions should at the same time be transmitted by the Nabob to his officers, informing them of the powers which they were authorized to exert. The Nabob, who was not sufficiently warned or sufficiently patient to observe this order of proceeding, immediately transmitted copies of Vansittart’s letter to his different officers, as the code of laws by which their conduct was to be guided. The officers, of course, began to act upon these laws immediately; and as the English had no commands to obey, they resisted. The native officers, who imagined they had now authority for retaliating some of the indignities to which they had been subject, were in various instances guilty of severity and oppression. It followed of course, that the dissatisfaction which the Members of the Council were prepared to display, was rendered more confident and loud by these transactions, and by the complaints which they failed not to produce. It was speedily resolved, that the President had no authority for forming those regulations to which he had assented; and instructions were sent to the factories and agents to trade upon the previous terms, and to seize and imprison any of the Nabob’s officers who should dare to offer any obstructions. In a solemn consultation, [299] which was held on the 1st of March, it was determined, with only two dissenting voices, those of the President and Mr. Hastings, that by the imperial phirmaun, under which the Company had traded so long, their servants had a right (which however all preceding Nabobs had disallowed) to the internal trade, and that it was out of compliment, not by obligation, that they had in any case consented to the payment of duties. It was decided, after many words, that, as an acknowledgment to the Nabob, and out of their own liberality and free choice, they would pay a duty of two and a half per cent. upon the article of salt alone, and no other; instead of the nine per cent. upon all articles for which Vansittart had agreed. It was, however, at the same time decreed, that all disputes between the gomastahs of the English, and the subjects of the native government, should be referred, not to the native tribunals, but to the heads of factories and residents: that is, should be referred to men, not only, in the great majority of cases, far too distant to receive the complaints; but, what was still more shameful, men reaping exorbitant profits from the abuses over which they were thus exclusively vested with the judicial power.
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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Part 3 of 3

When Vansittart took leave of the Nabob, he was setting out upon an expedition against the kingdom of Nepaul, a small country, completely surrounded, after the manner of Cashmere, by the northern mountains. It was a country which the Mahomedan arms had never reached; and on the subject of its riches, oriental credulity, inflamed by the report of its yielding gold, had room for unlimited expansion. The conquest of a country, abounding with gold, held out irresistible temptations to the Nabob. He ascended the ridge of mountains by which it is separated [300] from Bengal; but he was met by the Nepaulians in a dangerous pass; and, after a contest, which appalled him, abandoned the enterprise. He was met, upon his return, by accounts of the reception which the regulations of Vansittart had experienced in the Council; of the resistance which had been opposed to his officers in their attempts to execute his orders; and of the seizure and imprisonment which in various instances they had undergone. He wrote, in terms of the highest indignation; and called upon the English to relieve him from the burden of the Subahdary, since they deprived him of the powers without which the government of the country could not be carried on. His patience was nearly exhausted; he now, therefore, executed his resolution of abandoning all duties on the transit of goods, and laid the interior trade of his country perfectly open.

The conduct of the Company’s servants, upon this occasion, furnishes one of the most remarkable instances upon record, of the power of interest to extinguish all sense of justice, and even of shame. They had hitherto insisted, contrary to all right and all precedent, that the government of the country should exempt their goods from duty: They now insisted that it should impose duties upon the goods of all other traders; and accused it as guilty of a breach of peace toward the English nation, because it proposed to remit them.1

To enforce these conditions, and yet to maintain the appearance of omitting no effort to obtain the consent of the Nabob, it was proposed in the Council to send to him a deputation. For this purpose Mr. Amyatt and Mr. Hay volunteered their services. They departed with their instructions on the 4th of April. In the mean time, in all parts of the country, the disputes between the officers of the government, and the Company’s servants, were carried to the greatest height. Many complaints arrived at Calcutta of the resistance which the gomastahs of the English experienced in the conduct of their business, and even of the outrages to which they were sometimes exposed. On the other hand a multitude of instances were produced, in which the English sepoys had been employed to seize and bind and beat the officers of the government, and to protect the agents of the Company’s servants in all the enormities and oppressions which they exercised upon the people. At Patna, from the animosities and violence of Mr. Ellis, the flames of discord were the most vehemently fanned; the Sepoys were employed under his directions in opposing the government in bodies of 500 at a time; and blood had been shed in the disputes which ensued. Before the 14th of April, the position of the Nabob and the Company had become so threatening, that in the consultation of that day measures of war were eventually planned. The Nabob, on his part, though well acquainted with his own weakness, (for the short duration and the difficulties [302] of his government had rendered the collection of more than a very small army impossible,) yet fully persuaded of the resolution of the Council to depose him, now applied for assistance to the Emperor and the Nabob of Oude; and prepared himself for a conclusion which he deemed inevitable.

On the 25th of May some boats, laden with arms for the troops at Patna, arrived at Mongeer. This circumstance tended to confirm the Nabob in his opinion that the English were arming for war. He had the resolution to order the arms to be stopped. The deputation from the Council had already arrived; but he treated their new propositions as unreasonable; and enumerating the outrages committed upon his servants, and the disorders introduced into his government, insisted, that the resolution of the Council to protect such proceedings imported nothing less than a design to deprive him of his authority. Though he offered to let the arms proceed to Patna, if either Mr. Amyatt, Mr. M’Guire, or Mr. Hastings, were placed over the factory, he refused to send them to Ellis, as a man determined to employ them against him. He even insisted that the troops which were stationed at Patna, and for whom he paid, under the pretence of their being employed for the protection of his government, should not remain at the disposal of his enemy, but should be sent either to Calcutta or Mongeer.

The Council were unanimous in treating the detention of the arms as a very serious offence; and the deputation were instructed to take their departure, unless the boats were allowed to proceed. The Nabob wavered; and on the 19th of June, the gentlemen of the deputation wrote to the Council, that he had consented to release the boats of arms immediately; to enter upon negotiation without persisting [303] as before in his preliminary demand of removing the troops from Patna; and that they had accordingly agreed to wait upon him the following day. The hopes, which were drawn from this communication, by those Members of the Council to whom peace was really dear, were speedily destroyed. Mr. Ellis, at an early period of the disputes, had presented urgent expostulations to the Council upon the necessity of being entrusted with discretionary powers, not only to act upon the defensive if attacked by the Nabob, but even to anticipate any hostile attempt by the seizure of Patna. This demand the President had very earnestly opposed, from a strong conviction that the precipitation of Mr. Ellis would force the Company into war. By alarming representations, however, of the imminent dangers to which the factory was exposed, and of the impossibility of receiving instructions from Calcutta in time for the adoption of measures indispensable for its safety, the permission which Mr. Ellis solicited was at last conferred. After a variety of reports received by the Nabob of operations, openly carried on by this gentleman, which could have nothing in view but a state of war, a letter was brought to him from the Governor of Patna, on the 20th or 21st, informing him that Mr. Ellis had made preparations, and even constructed ladders, for attacking the fort. This seems to have put an end to the inclination, if any, which he had still retained for avoiding, by accommodation, the hazard of war. Commands were sent to stop the arms, which had already proceeded up the river: Mr. Amyatt was allowed to return to Calcutta: But Mr. Hay was detained, as a hostage for the Nabob’s aumils, imprisoned by the English. Intelligence of the departure of Amyatt reached Mr. Ellis on the 24th. On that very night, he surprised [304] and took the city of Patna. The news of this attack carried the resentment of the Nabob to that degree of violence, to which a long course of provocation, terminated by a deadly injury, was calculated to raise that passion in a half-civilized mind. He dispatched his orders to seize and make prisoners of the English wherever they were to be found; among the rest to stop Mr. Amyatt, and send him with his retinue to Mongheer. As Mr. Amyatt refused to stop his boats, and answered the command which he received for that purpose by firing upon the Nabob’s people, the boats were immediately boarded, and in the struggle he himself, with several others, was slain.

Both parties now hastened to take the field. The Nabob was speedily encouraged by tidings from Patna. After Captain Carstairs, the officer commanding the English troops, which were sent a little before day-break on the morning of the 25th to surprise Patna, had, without much difficulty, finding the guards for the most part off their duty, scaled the walls; and after the Governor of Patna, who suddenly collected a portion of the garrison, and made a very short resistance, had left the city and fled towards Mongheer; the English, masters of the whole place, except the citadel, and a strong palace, into which an officer had thrown himself, broke through the rules of prudence as much in the prosecution, as they had broken through those of caution in the commencement of their operations; The troops were allowed to disperse, and were plundering the houses of the inhabitants; when the Governor, who had only marched a few miles before he met a detachment which had been sent to reinforce him from Mongheer, receiving at the same time intelligence of the resistance made by the citadel and [305] palace, returned. The English were ill prepared to receive him. After a slight resistance they spiked their cannon, and retired to their factory. It was soon surrounded; when, fear taking place of their recent temerity, they evacuated the place during the night, and taking to their boats which were stationed at their cantonments at Bankipore they fled up the river to Chopperah, and towards the frontiers of Oude, where being attacked by the Fojedar of Sirkaur Sarun, they laid down their arms. The factory at Cossimbuzar was plundered about the same time; and all the English who belonged to it, as well as those who had fled from Patna, were sent prisoners to Mongheer.

It had some time before been determined in the Council, the President and Mr. Hastings refusing to concur, that in case of a war with Meer Causim, the door should be closed against accommodation, by divesting him of the government, and elevating another person to his throne. When the melancholy death, therefore, of Mr. Amyatt became known, a negotiation was immediately commenced with Meer Jaffier, whose puerile passion to reign made him eager to promise compliance with any conditious which were proposed. Besides confirming the grant which had been obtained from Meer Causim of the revenues of the provinces of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, for defraying the expense of the English troops employed in the defence of the country, the new Subahdar granted exemption to the trade of the Company’s servants from all duties, except the two and a half per cent. which these servants themselves, out of their own liberality, agreed to pay upon the single article of salt. He consented also to rescind the ordinance of Meer Causim for the general remission of commercial imposts, and to levy [306] the ancient duties upon all except the English dealers. He engaged to maintain 12,000 horse, and 12,000 foot; to pay to the Company thirty lacks of rupees, on account of their losses and the expense of the war; to reimburse the personal losses of individuals, and to permit no Europeans but English to erect fortifications in the country.

On the 2d of July the English army was ordered to march from Gherettee. It consisted of 650 Europeans, and 1,200 Sepoys, exclusive of the black cavalry, commanded by Major Adams, of the King’s Eighty-fourth regiment; and was afterwards joined by 100 Europeans and a battalion of Sepoys from Midnapore. After concluding the treaty on the 11th, the new Nabob proceeded to the army, which he joined at Agurdeep on the 17th.

The first defensive movement of Meer Causim was to send three of his generals, with their respective troops, to post themselves, for the protection of Moorshedabad, between that city and the English army. That army encountered them on the 19th; and gave them a total defeat. They retreated from the battle towards Geriah, where they received command to post themselves, and where they were reinforced by the principal part of Meer Causim’s army, among the rest by the German Sumroo,1 who commanded the Sepoys, or the troops disciplined in the European manner, in the service of that Nabob. On the 23d the English army advanced to Chuna Collee, and on the 24th in the morning stormed the lines at Mootejil, which gave them possession of Moorshedabad. On the 2d of August they reached the plain of Geriah, near Sootee, where the enemy waited and gave them battle. It was the severest [307] conflict which the English had yet sustained with an Indian army. Meer Causim had been very ambitious to introduce the European order among his troops; and he was now defended by a body of men better appointed and better disciplined than those which any native commander had ever brought into the field. The battle lasted four hours, during which the enemy once broke a part of the English line, took possession of two guns, and attacked the Eighty-fourth regiment in front and rear. The steadiness, however, of the English exhausted the impetuosity of their assailants, and in the end bestowed upon them a complete and brilliant victory. The enemy abandoned all their cannon, with 150 boats laden with provisions, and fled to a strong post on a small stream, called the Oodwa, where Meer Causim had formed a very strong entrenchment. On every reverse of fortune, the fears and the rage of that unhappy man appear to have inflamed him to a renewed act of cruelty; and Ramnarain, who hitherto had been retained a prisoner, with several chiefs and persons of distinction, was, upon the present disaster, ordered for execution. It was at this time only that Meer Causim, among whose qualities contempt of personal danger had no share, having first conveyed his family and treasures to the strong hold of Rotas, left Mongheer. He marched towards Oodwa, but halting at a distance, contented himself with forwarding some bodies of troops. The English approached the entrenchment on the 11th. It occupied the whole of a narrow space which extended between the river and the foot of the hills. The ditch, which was deep, was fifty or sixty feet broad, and full of water. The ground in front was swampy, and admitted no approach, except for a space of about 100 yards on the bank of the river. At this place [308] the English, harassed daily by numerous bodies of cavalry both in front and rear, were detained for nearly a month. On the 5th of September, while a feigned attack at the bank of the river engaged the attention of the enemy, a grand effort was made at the foot of the hills, and, in spite of an obstinate resistance, was crowned with success. Meer Causim, upon intelligence of this new misfortune, left his camp privately the succeeding night, and hastened to Mongheer, whither he was followed by the army in great disorder. He remained, however, only a few days, to secure some of his effects, and refresh his troops; and then proceeded towards Patna. He carried with him the English prisoners; and killed by the way the two celebrated Seets, the great Hindu bankers, whom, in the progress of his disputes with the English, he had seized and brought from Moorshedabad.

Mean time the English army advanced towards Mongheer, which they were obliged to attack regularly; but early in October they made a practicable breach, when the garrison, consisting of 2,000 Sepoys, capitulated. The loss of this place, which he had made his capital, threw Meer Causim into a paroxysm of rage; during which he ordered the English prisoners to be massacred; and Sumroo, the German, executed with alacrity the horrid command. Mr. Fullerton, the Surgeon, who, in the exercise of his profession, had gained a place in the affections of Meer Causim, was the only individual whom he spared. As the English were advancing towards Patna, Meer Causim departed to some distance from the city. The garrison defended it with spirit; even took one of the English batteries, and blew up their magazine. But the ruinous fortifications were not calculated for a prolonged resistance, and Patna was [309] taken by storm on the 6th of November. After the loss of this place Meer Causim made no further resistance. He formed his resolution to throw himself upon the protection of the Nabob of Oude the Vizir, and made haste to take refuge in his dominions. The English army followed him to the banks of the Carumnassa, which they reached early in December.

A treaty, in which the Vizir had bound himself by his oath on the Coran to support the ejected Nabob, had been concluded, before that unfortunate chief crossed the boundary of his own dominions. At that time the Emperor and Sujah Dowla were encamped at Allahabad, preparing an expedition against Bundelcund, the predatory inhabitants of which had refused to pay their revenues. Meer Causim was received by them with all the distinction due to the greatest viceroy of the Mogul empire. As the enterprise against the Bundelas threatened to retard the assistance which he was impatient to receive against the English, he offered to reduce them with his own battalions, crossed the Jumna, took one of their fortresses, and so alarmed them, by his artillery, and his Sepoys, dressed and disciplined in the European manner, that they hastened to make their submission; and Sujah Dowla who, under pretence of assisting Meer Causim, already grasped in his expectation the three provinces of the East, marched with his allies to Benares, to make preparations for his selfish enterprise.

In the mean time the English, who were ignorant of his designs, and not without hopes that he would either deliver Meer Causim into their hands, or at least deprive him of his treasures and troops, directed that the army should be cantoned on the frontiers for the purpose of watching his motions. In this situation an alarming disaffection broke out among the troops. [310] The importance and difficulties of the service which they had rendered in recovering the provinces from Meer Causim, had raised a high expectation of some proportional reward: Nor had the opportunity of acting upon them been neglected by the emissaries of the enemy. On the 11th of February, the European battalion stood to their arms, and, after loading their pieces and fixing their bayonets, took possession of the artillery parks, and marched towards the Carumnassa. The Sepoys were also in motion; but, of them, by the exertions of their officers, a great proportion were induced to return. Of the Europeans, the English, with few exceptions, desisted and came back; the rest, in number about 300, of whom some were Germans, and the greater part were French, proceeded towards Benares. At the beginning of the month of March, when Major Carnac arrived to take the command, a mutinous disposition still prevailed among the troops; provisions were in great scarcity, and the preparations making for the invasion of the province by the Nabob of Oude were no longer a secret. Though urged by the Governor and Council to act upon the offensive, and to push the war into Suja Dowla’s dominions, he agreed with all his officers in opinion, that without a greater certainty of provisions, especially in the present temper of the troops, the hazard ought not to be incurred. At the beginning of April, when the enemy crossed the Ganges, and began to advance, the English, straitened for provisions, and afraid lest by a circuitous rout a detachment of the hostile army should get between them and Patna, retreated to that city and encamped under the walls. Early in the morning of the 3d of May the enemy approached in order of battle, and began a cannonade, which before noon was converted into a general and vigorous attack. Sumroo, with [311] the choice of the infantry, supported by a large body of cavalry, assailed the English in front; while the main body of the army made an onset in the rear. The English army, and particularly the Sepoys, who bore the principal weight of the attack, behaved with great steadiness and gallantry. It was sun-set before the enemy were completely repulsed. At that time the English were too much worn-out with fatigue to be able to pursue. Their loss, at least in Europeans, was inconsiderable: the slaughter of the assailants great. From this day till the 30th the enemy hovered about Patna, continually shifting their position, and keeping the English in perpetual expectation of a renewed attack, without allowing them an opportunity, such at least as Carnac thought it prudent to seize, of acting on the offensive. During this time Suja Dowla opened a correspondence with Meer Jaffier, the new Nabob: But as the English would listen to no proposal without the preliminary condition of surrendering Meer Causim, Sumroo, and the deserters; and as the pretensions of Suja Dowla extended to nothing less than the province of Bahar, it led to no agreement. The rains being now at hand, and the treasury of the Vizir severely feeling the burden of so great an army in the field, he marched away on the 30th, with great expedition. At this time the Emperor, uneasy under the treatment which he received from the greedy and unprincipled Vizir, sent a private message, offering to form a separate connexion with the English; but Major Carnac refused to open a correspondence. Without venturing to pursue the enemy, he sent a strong detachment across the Ganges, to threaten Suja Dowla’s frontier; which had the effect of making him hasten to his own dominions.

In the month of May, Major, afterwards Sir [312] Hector Munro, arrived from Bombay with a body of troops, partly King’s and partly Company’s; and hastened with them to Patna, to take the command of the army. He found the troops, Europeans as well as Sepoys, extremely mutinous, deserting to the enemy, threatening to carry off their officers, demanding higher pay, and a large donation, promised, as they affirmed, by the Nabob.1 The Major resolved to subdue this spirit by the severest measures. He had hardly arrived when a whole battalion of Sepoys, with their arms and accoutrements, went off to join the enemy. He immediately detached a body of troops on whom he thought he could depend, to pursue them and bring them back. They overtook them in the night, when asleep, and made them prisoners. The Major, ready to receive them with the troops under arms, ordered their officers to select fifty, whom they deemed the most depraved and mischievous, and of this fifty to select again twenty-four of the worst. He then ordered a field court-martial, composed of their own black officers, to be immediately held; and addressed the Court, impressing them with a sense of the destruction which impended over an army in which crimes like these were not effectually repressed. The prisoners were found guilty of mutiny and desertion, and sentenced to suffer death in any manner which the commander should direct. He ordered four of them to be immediately tied to the guns, and blown away; when four grenadiers presented themselves, and begged, as they had always had the post of honour, that they should first be allowed to suffer. After the death of these four men, the European officers of the [313] battalions of Sepoys who were then in the field came to inform the Major that the Sepoys would not suffer the execution of any more. He ordered the artillery officers to load the field pieces with grape; and drew up the Europeans, with the guns in their intervals. He then desired the officers to return to the heads of their battalions; after which he commanded the battalions to ground their arms, and assured them if a man attempted to move that he would give orders to fire. Sixteen more of the twenty-four men were then blown away; the remaining four were sent to another place of cantonment, and executed in the same manner. Nothing is more singular, than that the same men, in whom it is endeavoured to raise to the highest pitch the contempt of death; and who may be depended upon for meeting it, without hesitation, at the hand of the enemy; should yet tremble, and be subdued, when threatened with it by their own officers.

The rains drawing to a close, Munro appointed the 15th of September as the day of rendezvous from the several places of cantonment. He then advanced towards the Soane, to which the enemy had forwarded several bodies of horse; and where they had thrown up some breast-works, to impede the passage of their assailants. Having sent a detachment to cross the river at some distance below, for the purpose of attacking the enemy at a concerted moment, and covering the passage of the troops, he gained the opposite side without molestation; and advanced toward Buxar, where the hostile armies were encamped. For the last two or three days the line of march was harassed by the enemy’s cavalry; and the Major encamped on the 22d of October within shot of the enemy’s camp, entrenched with the Ganges on its left, and the village and fort of Buxar in the rear. [314] An attack was intended the same night, but the spies not coming in till towards morning, it could not take place. About eight o’clock in the morning the enemy were seen advancing; and as the troops were encamped in order of battle, they were in a few minutes ready for action. The battle began about nine, and lasted till twelve; when the enemy gave way, and retired slowly, blowing up some tumbrils and magazines of powder as they withdrew. The Major ordered the line to break into columns and follow: but the enemy, by destroying a bridge of boats upon a stream of water two miles from the field of battle, effectually impeded the pursuit. This was one of the most critical and important victories in the history of the British wars in that part of the globe. It broke completely the force of Suja Dowla, the only Mogul chief who retained till this period any considerable strength; it placed the Emperor himself under the protection of the English; and left them without dispute the greatest power in India.

The very day after the battle, the Emperor sent his application to the English commander; who immediately wrote to the Presidency for directions; and received authority to conclude an agreement. The Emperor complained that he had been the state prisoner of Suja Dowla; and before the answer from Calcutta arrived, marched along with the English, and encamped with his guards close to them every night. When the army arrived at Benares, Suja Dowla sent his minister with overtures of peace; promising twenty-five lacks of rupees to reimburse the Company for the expenses of the war; twenty-five lacks to the army: and eight lacks to the Commander himself. The preliminary surrender of Meer Causim and Sumroo was still however demanded. The perfidious Vizir had already violated the laws of [315] hospitality and honour towards his wretched guest. A quarrel was picked, on account of the non-payment of the monthly subsidy which the Ex-Nabob had promised for the troops employed in attempting his restoration; the unhappy fugitive was arrested in his tent; and his treasures were seized. Still the Nabob dreaded the infamy of delivering him up; but, if that would satisfy the English, he offered to let him escape. With regard to Sumroo, his proposal was, to invite him to an entertainment, and have him dispatched in presence of any English gentleman who might be sent to witness the scene. As this mode of disposing of their enemies was not agreeable to English morality, the negotiation ceased: but Meer Causim, who dreaded the conclusion to which it might lead, contrived to escape with his family and a few friends into the Rohilla country, whither he had providently, before the plunder of his treasures, dispatched a dependant with some of his jewels.

The negotiation with the Emperor proceeded with less obstruction. It was proposed, and as far as mutual approbation extended, agreed and contracted; that the English, by virtue of the imperial grant, should obtain possession of Gauzeepore, and the rest of the territory of Bulwant Sing, the Zemindar of Benares; that on the other hand they should establish the Emperor in the possession of Allahabad, and the rest of the dominions of Suja Dowla; and the Emperor engaged to reimburse them afterwards, out of the royal revenues, for the whole of the expense which this service might oblige them to incur.

In the mean time, affairs of no trivial importance were transacting in the Council. They had been extremely urgent with Meer Jaffier to leave the army, and come down to Calcutta, before Major Carnac quitted the command. The treasury of the Company [316] was in a most exhausted state; and every effort was to be used to make Jaffier yield it a more abundant supply. In addition to the sums for which he had contracted in the recent treaty, a promise was drawn from him to pay five lacks per month toward the expense of the war so long as it should last. But his former engagements to the Company were not yet discharged. The payments also to individuals, stipulated under the title of compensation for losses, were swelled to an oppressive amount. When this article was first inserted in the treaty, the Nabob was informed, that the demand at the utmost would extend to a sum about ten lacks. That demand, however, was soon after stated at twenty, then at thirty, afterwards at forty, and at last was fixed at fifty-three lacks of rupees. We are assured by a Director of the Company, “That all delicacy was laid aside in the manner in which payment was obtained for this sum, of which seven-eighths was for losses sustained, or said to be sustained, in an illicit monopoly of the necessaries of life, carried on against the orders of the Company, and to the utter ruin of many thousands of the India merchants; that of the whole one half was soon extorted from him, though part of the payments to the Company was still undischarged, and though the Company was sinking under the burden of the war, and obliged to borrow great sums of money of their servants at eight per cent interest, and even with that assistance unable to carry on the war and their investment, but obliged to send their ships half loaded to Europe.”1 By the revenues of the three ceded districts, added to the monthly payment for the war, “the Company,” we are informed by Clive, “became possessed of one half of the [317] Nabob’s revenues. He was allowed, says that great informant, “to collect the other half for himself; but in fact he was no more than a banker for the Company’s servants, who could draw upon him” (meaning for presents) “as often, and to as great an amount as they pleased.”1 “To all other causes of embarrassment in the finances of Jaffier were added the abuses perpetrated in conducting the private trade of the Company’s servants, which not only disturbed the collection of the taxes, but impeded the industry of the whole country.2 In such circumstances it was to no purpose to harass the Nabob for larger payments. The importunities to which he was subjected3 only conspired, with the infirmities of age and of a body worn out with pleasure, to hurry him to his grave. After languishing several weeks [318] at Calcutta, he returned to Moorshedabad, loaded with disease, and died in January, 1765.

The making of a new Nabob, the most distinguished of all occasions for presents, was never disagreeable to the Company’s servants. The choice lay between the next surviving son of Jaffier, Nujeem ad Dowla, a youth of about twenty years of age; and the son of Meeran his eldest, a child of about six. According to the laws and customs of the country, the title of both might be regarded as equal. In point of right, the office of Subahdar was not only not hereditary, it was, like any other office under the Mogul government, held at the will of the Emperor; and, during the vigorous days of the Mogul dynasty, no Subahdar had ever been permitted to enjoy it long. In the decline of that power, the Subahdars became frequently, during their lives, too formidable to be removed; and the Emperors contented themselves with resuming their power when the provincial chief expired. But it sometimes also happened, that a son, brother, or other relative, succeeded too rapidly and too completely to the power of the deceased, to render it convenient to attempt his removal. The Emperor contented himself with a nominal, when an efficient choice was out of his power; and on these terms had the Subahdaree of the eastern provinces been held for some generations. The right of choice belonged unquestionably to the Emperor; but to this right the servants of the Company never for a moment thought of paying any regard. That unhappy, dependant sovereign, now stript of all his dominions, while great kingdoms were still governed in his name, might have recovered the immediate sovereignty of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, at the word of the English; or, despairing of so generous and self-denying a [319] policy, would gladly have bestowed the Subahdaree upon them. The duanee; or collection, receipt and disbursement of the revenue, which in the present state of the country implied all the powers of government, he had repeatedly offered to them; and very recently, through Major Munro. But the modesty of the English, still alarmed at the thought of declaring themselves sovereigns of Bengal, grasped powerfully at the reality, though it desired to shun the appearance, of power. The long minority, which would have followed the choice of the infant son of Meeran, would have placed the government, even to the minutest details, in the hands of the Company; and the present rulers were blamed by their successors for not securing so great an advantage. But they looked for some assistance in the drudgery of governing from a Nabob of mature age, and had no difficulty in believing that the shadow of power with which he was to be invested would little interfere with either the pleasure or the profits of English domination. Another motive had doubtless some weight: Nujeeb ad Dowla could give presents; the infant son of Meeran, whose revenues must be accounted for to the Company, could not.

In the treaty with the new Nabob, dated in February, 1765, it was resolved by the English, to take the military defence of the country entirely into their own hands; and to allow the Nabob to keep only so many troops as should be necessary for the parade of government, the distribution of justice, and the business of the collections. They had two motives; one was to preclude the possibility of inconvenience from the power of the Nabob; the second was to make provision for the defence of the country, which they found, by experience under Meer Jaffier, would depend almost entirely upon themselves. And we [320] may suppose that another consideration was not without its influence; that a still greater share of the revenues might pass through their hands. The civil government of the country was no less effectually transferred from the Nabob to his faithful allies. He bound himself to choose, by the advice of the Governor and Council, a Deputy, who, under the appellation of Naib Subah, should have the entire management of all the affairs of government, and not be removable without their consent. The Nabob suffered more in submitting to this condition than to all the rest; and showed extreme solicitude about the choice of the person who was to fill that important office. Mahomed Reza Khan was appointed by the Governor and Council; and appears to have been one of the best men, whom, under Indian morality, it was easy to find. The Nabob was eager for the nomination of Nuncomar, who, beyond dispute, was one of the worst. This man, who was governor of Hoogley, at the time when Suraja Dowla took Calcutta, had rendered himself conspicuous by a restless ambition, and unbounded avarice, which he sought to gratify by the vilest arts of intrigue, by dissimulation, and perfidy. He had at an early period, become odious to the English, as a deceitful and dangerous character, and was a prisoner at Calcutta for having corresponded with their enemies, while Meer Jaffier resided there, during the Nabobship of Meer Causim. During this time, he paid his court so very successfully to the dethroned Nabob, that upon his restoration, he solicited, as an object of the first importance, to be allowed to employ Nuncomar as his minister. Though Vansittart, and even some of those who in general concurred not in his views, objected to this arrangement, on account of the exceptionable character of the man, the Council, as the [321] last triumph, according to Vansittart, of a factious party, decided, that the Nabob might enjoy his choice. Nuncomar redeemed not his character with the English, while he governed the Nabob. The want of corn, under which the operations of the army were impeded at Patna, the disappointments in the receipt of monies from the Nabob, were all principally laid to the charge of Nuncomar; who was also vehemently suspected of having carried on a traitorous correspondence with the Nabob of Oude. Mr. Vansittart had, a little before this time, returned to Europe; and was succeeded in the chair by Mr. Spencer, as the oldest member of the board. As opposition to the Governor, therefore, no longer actuated the Council, the general opinion of the bad character of Nuncomar produced its proper effect; and he was peremptorily excluded from the government of the country. The other conditions of the treaty were nearly the same as those of the treaty with the old Nabob. Beside the revenues of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, the five lacks per month were to be continued during the war, and as much of them after the war as the state of the country might, to the English, seem to require. And the grand privilege to the Company’s servants of trading free from the duties which other merchants paid within the country, and of paying only two and a half per cent. upon the single article of salt, was carefully preserved. The government of the country was now so completely in the hands of the English, that the accountants of the revenue were not to be appointed except with their approbation.

During the military and political transactions which so intensely engaged their servants in India, the Courts of Directors and Proprietors remained for several years rather quiet spectators and warm expectants, [322] than keen and troublesome controulers. When they had been agitated for a while, however, by the reports of mismanagement which were mutually transmitted to them by Vansittart and his opponents; and, at last, when they were alarmed by the news, of a war actually kindled with the Nabob, of the massacre of so many of their servants, and the extensive spirit of mutiny among the troops, their sense of danger roused them to some acts of authority. Though Clive had quitted India with an act of insult towards his employers, which they had highly resented; though the Directors had disputed and withheld payment of the proceeds of his jaghire, for which he had commenced a suit against them in the court of Chancery; he was now proposed for Governor as the only man capable of retrieving their disordered and desperate affairs. Only thirteen Directors, however, were found, after a violent contest, to vote for his appointment; while it was still opposed by eleven. Yet the high powers which he demanded, as indispensable for the arduous services necessary to be performed, though strongly opposed, were also finally conferred. He was invested with the powers of Commander in Chief, President, and Governor in Bengal; and, together with four gentlemen, named by the Directors, was to form a Select Committee, empowered to act by their own authority, as often as they deemed it expedient, without consulting the Council, or being subject to its controul.

The Directors, at the same time, condemned, in the severest terms, the rapacious and unwarranted proceedings of their servants. In their letter to the Governor and Council of Bengal, dated the 8th of February, 1764, “One grand source,” they said, “of the disputes, misunderstandings, and difficulties, [323] which have occurred with the country government, appears evidently to have taken its rise from the unwarrantable and licentious manner of carrying on the private trade by the Company’s servants, their gomastahs, agents, and others, to the prejudice of the Subah, both with respect to his authority and the revenues justly due to him; the diverting and taking from his natural subjects the trade in the inland parts of the country, to which neither we, or any persons whatsoever dependent upon us, or under our protection, have any manner of right. In order, therefore, to remedy all these disorders, we do hereby positively order and direct,—That from the receipt of this letter, a final and effectual end be forthwith put to the inland trade in salt, beetle-nut, tobacco, and all other articles whatsoever, produced and consumed in the country.”1 In his correspondence [324] with the Court of Directors, on the subject of his return to Bengal, Clive expressed himself in the following manner: “The trading in salt, beetle-nut, and tobacco, having been one cause of the present disputes, I hope these articles will be restored to the Nabob, and your servants absolutely forbid to trade in them. This will be striking at the root of the evil.”1 At a general meeting, however, of proprietors, held on the 18th of May, 1764, it was urged by several active members, and urged to the conviction of the majority, that the servants of the Company in India ought not to be deprived of such precious advantages; which enabled them to revisit their native countries with such independent fortunes as they were entitled to expect. The Court therefore RESOLVED, “That it be recommended to the Court of Directors to reconsider the orders sent to Bengal relative to the trade of the Company’s servants in salt, beetel-nut, and tobacco, and to regulate this important point, either by restrictions framed at home, or by referring it to the Governor and Council of Fort William.” In consequence of this recommendation, the Court of Directors, by letter dated 1st of June, 1764, and sent by the same ship which carried out Lord Clive, instruct the Governor and Council, after “consulting the Nabob, to form a proper and equitable plan for carrying on the inland trade.”

The presents which, since their acquiring an ascendency in the government, their servants had been in the habit of receiving, sometimes to a very large amount, from the Nabobs and other chiefs of the [325] country, were another subject which now engaged the serious attention of the Company. The practice which prevails in all rude governments of accompanying any application to a man in power with a gratification to some of his ruling passions, most frequently to the steadiest of all his passions, his avarice or rapacity, has always remarkably distinguished the governments in the East, and hardly any to so extraordinary a degree as the governments of the very rude people of India. When the English suddenly acquired their extraordinary power in Bengal, the current of presents, so well accustomed to take its course in the channel drawn by hope and fear, flowed very naturally, and very copiously, into the lap of the strangers. A person in India, who had favours to ask, or evil to deprecate, could not easily believe, till acceptance of his present, that the great man to whom he addressed himself was not his foe. Besides the sums, which we may suppose it to have been in the power of the receivers to conceal, and of the amount of which it is not easy to form a conjecture, the following were detected and disclosed by the Committee of the House of Commons, in 1773.[326]

“Account of such Sums as have been proved or acknowledged before the Committee to have been distributed by the Princes and other Natives of Bengal, from the Year 1757 to the Year 1766, both inclusive; distinguishing the principal Times of the said Distributions, and specifying the Sums received by each Person respectively.

Revolution in Favour of Meer Jaffier in 1757.

Person / Rupees. / Rupees. / £


Mr. Drake (Governor) 280,000 31,500
Colonel Clive as second in the Select Committee....... 280,000
Ditto as Commander in Chief......... 200,000
Ditto as a private donation............ 1600,0001
2080,000 234,000
Mr. Watts as a Member of the Committee............ 240,000
Ditto as a private donation.............. 800,000
1040,000 117,000
Major Kilpatrick........... 240,000 27,000
Ditto as a private donation............ 300,000 33,750
Mr. Maningham............ 240,000 27,000
Mr. Becher........................ 240,000 27,000
Six Members of Council one lack each........................ 600,000 68,200
Mr. Walsh........................ 500,000 56,250
Mr. Scrafton........................ 200,000 22,500
Mr. Lushington........................ 50,000 5,625
Captain Grant........................ 100,000 11,250
Stipulation to the navy and army........................ 600,000
1,261,075
Memorandum, the sum of two lacks to Lord Clive, as Commander in Chief, must be deducted from this account, it being included in the donation to the army 22,500
Lord Clive’s jaghire was likewise obtained at this period.
1,238,575

1 “It appears, by the Extract in the Appendix, No. 102, from the evidence given on the trial of Ram Churn before the Governor and Council in 1761, by Roy Dulip, who had the principal management in the distribution of the treasures of the deceased Nabob Serajah Dowla, upon the accession of Jaffier Ally Cawn—that Roy Dulip then received as a present from Colonel Clive one lack 25,000 rupees, being five per cent on 25 lacks. It does not appear that this evidence was taken on oath.”


Revolution in Favour of Cossim, 1760.

Person / Rupees. / Rupees. / £

Mr. Sumner........................ 28,000
Mr. Holwell........................ 270,000 30,937
Mr. M’Gwire........................ 180,000 20,625
Mr. Smyth........................ 134,000 15,354
Major Yorke........................ 134,000 15,354
General Caillaud........................ 200,000 22,916
Mr. Vansittart, 1762, received seven lacks; but the two lacks to General Caillaud are included; so that only five lacks must be accounted for here........................ 500,000 58,333
Mr. M’Gwire 5000 gold mohrs 75,000 8,750
200,269


Revolution in Favour of Jaffier, 1763.

Person / Rupees. / Rupees. / £


Stipulation to the army...... 2500,000 291,666
Ditto to the navy................... 1250,000 145,833
437,499
Major Munro1 in 1764 received from Bulwan Sing........ 10,000
Ditto....... from the Nabob 3,000
The officers belonging to Major Munro’s family from ditto.. 3,000
The army received from the merchants at Banaras...... 400,000 46,666
62,666
Nudjum ul Dowla’s Accession, 1765.
Mr. Spencer..................... 200,000 23,333
Messieurs Playdell, Burdett, and Gray, one lack each......... 300,000 35,000
Mr. Johnstone.................... 237,000 27,650
Mr. Leycester.................... 112,500 13,125
Mr. Senior....................... 172,500 20,125
Mr. Middleton.................... 122,500 14,291
Mr. Gideon Johnstone............. 50,000 5,833
139,3572
General Carnac received from Bulwansing in 1765....... 80,000 9,333
Ditto .......... from the King 200,000 23,333
Lord Clive received from the Begum in 1766.............. 500,000 58,333
90,999
Restitution———Jaffier, 1757.
East India Company................. 1,200,000
Europeans.......................... 600,000
Natives............................ 250,000
Armenians...................................... 100,000
2,150,000
Cossim, 1760.
East India Company.................. 62,500
Jaffier, 1763.
East India Company................... 375,000
Europeans, Natives, &c. ................ 600,000
975,000
Peace with Sujah Dowla.
East India Company.............. 5,000,000 583,333
Total of Presents 2,169,665l.
Restitution, &c. 3,770,833l.
Total Amount, exclusive of Lord Clive’s jaghire............... 5,940,498

1 “It appears Colonel Mumo accepted a jaghire from the King, of 12,500l. a year, which he delivered to the Nabob Meer Jaffier, the circumstances of which are stated in the Journals of last year, 823.”

2 “These sums appear by evidence to have been received by the parties; but the Committee think proper to state, That Mahomed Reza Cawn intended a present of one lack of rupees to each of the four deputies sent to treat with Nudjum ul Dowla upon his father’s death; viz. Messieurs Johnstone, Leycester, Senior, and Middleton; but Mr. Middleton and Mr. Leycester affirm that they never accepted theirs, and Mr. Johnstone appears to have tendered his back to Mahomed Reza Cawn, who would not accept them. These bills (except Mr. Senior’s, for 50,000 rupees) appear to have been afterwards laid before the Select Committee, and no further evidence has been produced to your Committee concerning them. Mr. Senior received 50,000 rupees of his, and it is stated against him in this account.”


Memorandum. The rupees are valued according to the rate of exchange of the Company’s bills at the different periods.”1

That this was a practice, presenting the strongest demand for effectual regulation, its obvious consequences render manifest and indisputable. In the first place, it laid the nabobs, rulers, and other leading men of the country, under endless and unlimited oppression; because, so long as they on whom their whole power and influence depended were pleased to desire presents, nothing could be withheld which they either possessed, or had it in their power to ravage and extort. That the temptations under which the servants of the Company were placed carried them to those heights of exaction which were within their reach, is far from true. They showed, on the contrary, a reserve and forbearance, which the education received in no other country, probably in the world, except their own, could have enabled men, in their extraordinary circumstances, to maintain. Besides the oppression upon the people of the country, to which the receiving of presents prepared the way, this dangerous practice laid the foundation of perpetual perfidy in the servants of the Company to the interests of their employers. Not those plans of policy which were calculated to produce the happiest results to the Company, but those which were calculated to multiply the occasions for presents, and render them most effectual, were the plans recommended by the strongest motives of interest to the agents and representatives of the Company in India. It is still less true, in the case of perfidy to the Company, than in the case of oppression to the natives, that the interest of the Company’s servants were to the greatest practicable extent pursued. There seems not upon the most jealous scrutiny, any reason to believe that any one of the greatest transactions, or revolutions, in which the English, up to this period, were instrumental, was not sincerely regarded [331] at the time, by the men on whom the decision depended, as required by the interests of their employers and country; nor has it yet been certainly made appear, that in any of the instances in question, the circumstances of the moment admitted of a better decision.

The Company now resolved that the benefit of presents should at any rate change masters: And they ordained and commanded, that new covenants, dated May, 1764, should be executed by all their servants, both civil and military, binding them to pay to the Company the amount of all presents and gratuities in whatsoever shape, received from the natives in case the amount exceeded four thousand rupees; and not to accept any present or gratuity, though not exceeding four thousand rupees, if amounting to so much as one thousand, without the consent of the President and Council. An unbounded power was still reserved by the Honourable Company for receiving or extorting presents in benefit to themselves. But as their servants were in no danger of being so rapacious for their masters’ emolument, as their own, any effects which this regulation was calculated to produce were all naturally good.

With these powers and regulations Lord Clive (such was now the rank and title of this Anglo-Indian chief) sailed from England on the 4th of June 1764, and arrived at Madras on the 10th of April, 1765; where he received intelligence that the dangers of which the alarm had sent him to India were entirely removed; that the troops were obedient; that not only Meer Causim was expelled, but all his supporters subdued; that the Emperor had cast himself upon the protection of the English; and that the Nabob Meer Jaffier was dead. His sentiments upon [332] this intelligence were communicated in a private letter to Mr. Rous, dated seven days exactly after his arrival; “We have at last,” said he, “arrived at that critical period, which I have long foreseen; I mean that period which renders it necessary for us to determine, whether we can or shall take the whole to ourselves. Jaffier Ally Khan is dead, and his natural son is a minor; but I know not whether he is yet declared successor. Sujah Dowla is beat from his dominion; we are in possession of it, and it is scarcely hyperbole to say, To-morrow the whole Mogul empire is in our power. The inhabitants of the country, we know by long experience, have no attachment to any obligation. Their forces are neither disciplined, commanded, nor paid as ours are. Can it then be doubted that a large army of Europeans will effectually preserve us sovereigns; not only holding in awe the attempts of any country Prince, but by rendering us so truly formidable that no French, Dutch, or other enemy will presume to molest us.—You will, I am sure, imagine with me, that after the length we have run, the Princes of Indostan must conclude our views to be boundless; they have such instances of our ambition, that they cannot suppose us capable of moderation. The very Nabobs whom we might support would be either covetous of our possessions, or jealous of our power. Ambition, fear, avarice, would be daily watching to destroy us: a victory would be but a temporary relief to us; for the dethroning of the first Nabob would be followed by setting up another, who, from the same principles, would, when his treasure admitted of his keeping up an army, pursue the very path of his predecessor. We must indeed become Nabobs ourselves, in fact, if not in name;—perhaps totally so without disguise, but on this subject I cannot [333] be certain until my arrival in Bengal.” With these views of the bold and splendid measures which it was now the time to pursue; and anticipating the important effects which those dazzling transactions would have on the price of the Company’s Stock, this great man forgot not to deliberate how they might be directed to bear upon his own pecuniary interests. He wrote on the very same day to his private agent in London, as follows: “I have desired Mr. Rous to furnish you with a copy of my letter to him of this day’s date, likewise with the cypher, that you may be enabled to understand what follows: ’The contents are of great importance, that I would not have them transpire. Whatever money I have in the public Funds, or any where else, and as much as can be borrowed in my name, I desire may be, without loss of a minute, invested in East India Stock. You will speak to my Attorneys on this point. Let them know I am anxious to have my money so disposed of; and press them to hasten the affair as much as possible.’”1 The letter to Mr. Rous, and the shortness of the period which intervened between the arrival of Lord Clive in Bengal and his assuming the duanee or revenues, would leave no doubt that he commanded all the money which he possessed, or which he could borrow, to be invested in India Stock, in contemplation of the rise of price which that measure was calculated to produce; had he not, when examined on the subject of this letter by the Committee of the House of Commons, declared absolutely, “that he had not while at Madras formed the resolution to seize the duanee.”
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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CHAP. VI.

Political State of Carnatic—Views of the Nabob on Governor of Velore, King of Tanjore, and Marawars—Treaty with Tanjore—Company’s Jaghire—War on Mahomed Issoof—Mound of the Cavery.

By the final overthrow of the French in Carnatic, the British in that part of India had accomplished an object far greater than any to which, at the beginning of the contest, they had even elevated their hopes. To see Carnatic under the Government of a chief, who should have obligations to them for his elevation, and from whose gratitude they might expect privileges and favour, was the alluring prospect which had carried them into action. They not only now beheld the man, whose interest they had espoused, in possession of the government of the country, but they beheld him dependent upon themselves, and the whole kingdom of Carnatic subject to their absolute will.

It was the grand object of deliberation, and the grand practical difficulty, to settle in what proportion the powers and advantages should be divided between the nominal sovereign and the real one. Clear, complete, well-defined and unambiguous regulations, are naturally employed for the prevention of discordance, when the parties have wisdom, and are free from clandestine views. On the present occasion, according to the slovenly mode in which the business of government is usually transacted, few things were regulated [335] by professed agreement; the final distribution was left to come out among the practical, that is, the fortuitous results of government; and of the two parties each inwardly resolved to appropriate as great a share of the good things as power and cunning would allow.

The English were not disposed to forget that upon them the whole burden of the war had devolved; that they alone had conquered and gained the country; that the assistance of Mahomed Ali had been of little or rather of no importance; and that even now he possessed not resources and talents sufficient to hold the government in his hands, unless they continued to support him.

On the other hand Mahomed Ali looked upon himself as invested with all the dignity and power of Nabob; and the absolute ruler of the country. During the whole progress of the dispute the English had represented themselves as contending only for him; had proclaimed that his rights were indisputable; and that their zeal for justice was the great motive which had engaged them so deeply in the war. The Nabob, therefore, hesitated not to consider himself the master; though a master owing great obligations to a servant who had meritoriously exerted himself in his cause.

The seeds of dissatisfaction between the rulers of Carnatic, abundantly sown in a fruitful soil, were multiplied by the penury of the country. The avidity, which made the English so long believe that every part of India abounded with riches, had filled them with hopes of a great stream of wealth, from the resources of Carnatic. And although they had already experienced how little was to be drawn, and with how great difficulty, from the districts which had come into their power; though they were also [336] aware how the country had been desolated by the ravages of war, they still expected it to yield a large supply to their treasury, and accused and complained of the Nabob when their expectations were not fulfilled.

The Nabob, who was the weakest party, and as such had the greatest occasion for the protection of well-defined regulations, had, before the surrender of the French in Pondicherry, presented a draught of the conditions to which it appeared to him expedient that the two parties should bind themselves. He offered to pay to the Company, in liquidation of the sums for which in the course of the war he had become responsible, twenty-eight lacs of rupees annually till the debts should be discharged; and three lacs of rupees annually to defray the expense of the garrison at Trichinopoly: Should Pondicherry be reduced, and the Company afford him an adequate force to extract from the renters and other tributaries of the country, the contributions which they owed, he would discharge his debt to the Company in one year: Should any of the districts between Nelore and Tinivelly, be taken or plundered by an enemy, a proportional deduction must take place, from the twenty-eight lacs which were assigned to the company: On the other side, the Nabob desired, that the Company would not countenance the disobedience of the local governors and administrators; that the English officers in the forts or garrisons should not interfere in the affairs of the country, or the disputes of the inhabitants; that the Nabob’s flag, instead of the Company’s, should be hoisted in the different forts; and that the Company should, when required, assist his officers in the collection of the revenue.

The President; whether he decided without reflection, [337] or thought a promise which would keep the Nabob in good humour, and might be broken at any time, was an obligation of no importance, expressed by letter his assent to these conditions.1 In a short time however the President and Council presented to the Nabob a demand for fifty lacs of rupees. The Nabob, as this was a sum which he did not possess, endeavoured by all the means in his power to evade the contribution. Unable to resist the importunities of his allies, he was driven to his credit, which was very low; and under disadvantageous terms, which heaped upon him a load of debt, he raised by loan the money they exacted.

The expense of the war, the exhaustion of their own treasury, and their exaggerated conception of the riches of the country of which they had made him sovereign, rendered the President and Council by no means sparing in their requisitions upon the Nabob. It was stipulated that he should repay the whole expenses of the siege of Pondicherry. Even to this he agreed, upon condition of receiving all the stores which should be taken in the place. The servants of the Company, however, appropriated the stores to themselves; and they met the complaints of the Nabob, by promising to allow for them a certain sum in his account: in other words, they took for their own benefit what by their own contract belonged to the Nabob, and promised to make their masters pay him something, more or less, by way of compensation. Their masters, however, were on this occasion not less alive to their own interests than their servants had been to their’s; and no sooner heard of the sum which had been allowed to the Nabob in their books, than they ordered it to be [338] re-charged to his account; while their servants were left in undisturbed possession of the stores.1

From the mode in which the country was governed; by sub-division into local commands, with a military force and places of strength in the hands of every local commander, who withheld the revenue of his district, as often as he beheld a prospect of escaping punishment for his faults; it has frequently been seen what difficulties attended the realizing of revenue, whenever the government became disordered or weak. For a series of years, Carnatic had been subject to no regular government; the different antagonists had collected the revenues, and raised contributions, in those districts which had at any time fallen into their hands; and the commanders of districts and forts had eluded payment as often as it was in their power. From this wasted, and disordered country, with an insignificant army, and no resources for its augmentation, was Mahomed Ali required to find means for the support of his own government, for the gratification of his own taste and passions, and to satisfy the unbounded expectations of the English.

The hopes of the Nabob, who knew the poverty of the country, and with what severity every thing had been stripped from those among the district Governors who enjoyed not extraordinary means of defence, were chiefly fixed upon the supposed treasures of Mortiz Ali, Governor of Velore, the riches of Tanjore, and the two Marawars. The fort and district of Velore was an acknowledged portion of the Carnatic territory. Tanjore and the Marawars were separate principalities, which, as often as they were pressed by the strength of their neighbours, had, [339] according to Indian practice, occasionally paid them tribute; as Bengal and Carnatic themselves had paid to the Mahrattas; but which had never been incorporated with the Mogul empire, nor regarded their dependence as more than casual, temporary, and unjust.
The strength, however, of the Nabob was altogether inadequate to the coercion of such powerful chiefs; and for the accomplishment of so important an object, he importuned the Presidency to join their forces to his. The state of the treasury at Madras, exhausted by the efforts of so tedious and expensive a war, rendered the English by no means desirous of engaging immediately in fresh adventures. And it was not without difficulty that in the summer of 1761 they were induced to lend their aid for the reduction of Velore. It resisted the exertions of the army for three months, and but ill repaid the conquerors by the treasure which it contained.

The conquest of Tanjore was an object of still greater promise. As it had not yet been ravaged by foreign armies, the ideas of Indian wealth, which so long had sparkled in the imaginations of men, were not altogether extinct. The country, though small, was undoubtedly fertile; the incompatibility between the existence of a rude government and people, and the production and accumulation of wealth, was not understood; and the expectations which had misled both the French and the English still maintained their sway in the mind of Mahomed Ali. Besides, as ruler of Carnatic, it was his interest to add a principality of some importance to his dominions, and to remove a neighbour who might on every emergency become a dangerous foe.

The English, however, either because they had descended in their estimate of the riches of the country, [340] or because they had ascended in their estimate of the difficulty of its subjugation, discovered an aversion, which the Nabob was unable to overcome, to embark in the conquest of Tanjore. The Governor recommended negotiation; and offered himself as mediator. To settle with the subordinate agents of his own government belonged, he said, to the Nabob himself: but the King of Tanjore was a sovereign Prince; and a tribunal, distinct from that of either party, namely, that of an independent mediator, was necessary to adjust the differences between them.1

The Nabob resisted this mode of adjustment, with great eagerness; and, rather than adopt it, would have postponed the enforcement of his claims, trusting to the chapter of accidents, and a time to come, at which the Rajah might yield at discretion. The Presidency, however, knew their power; they sent, therefore, an agent to Tanjore, to hear the allegations of both parties, and suggest the conditions of an agreement. The following were the terms which they resolved to confirm: That twenty-two lacs of rupees, at five instalments, should be paid by the Rajah to the Nabob, as arrears; four lacs as a present; and four annually as a tribute: That the districts, on the other hand, of Coiladdy and Elangad should be ceded to the Rajah; and that Arni should be restored to its former Governor or Killedar. The pecuniary exactions were greatly inferior to the claims of the Nabob; and so great reluctance did he show to the ratification of the treaty, that Mr. Pigot is said to have seized his chop or seal, and applied it to the paper with his own [341] hand.1 Aware that the inflated conceptions diffused among their countrymen of the riches of India, and of Tanjore as a distinguished part of India, might lead the Court of Directors to regard the sum extracted from the Rajah as criminally small, the Presidency wrote, in their own defence; That, without their assistance, the Nabob was unable to extract a single rupee; that the reduction of Tanjore would have been a difficult enterprise; that they had not an army sufficient for the purpose; that the expedition would have occasioned an expense which they were unable to bear; and that a rupture with the Rajah would have tended to raise up other enemies. The inability of the country to sustain, without oppression, a heavier exaction, they were either not yet aware of, or did not care to allege. When the Directors afterwards transmitted their reflections, they said; “If four lacks were given as a present, it seems as if the Company ought to have it, for their interposition and guarantee of the treaty. We shall be glad to have this affair explained to us, that we may know the real state of the case, with respect to that donation.”2 The twenty-two lacs were directed to be paid to the Company, and credit was given for them in the Nabob’s account.

The war between the English and French, which had ceased in India with the fall of Pondicherry, was terminated in Europe by the treaty of Paris, definitively [342] signed on the 10th of February, 1763. Of this treaty the eleventh article, intended to define the rights of the two nations in India, or those advantages, in the enjoyment of which the relative strength of the two parties made them willing to engage not to molest one another, was in the following words: “That Great Britain shall restore to France, in the condition they now are, the different factories1 which that crown possessed, as well on the coast of Coromandel and Orissa, as on that of Malabar, as also in Bengal, at the beginning of the year 1749. And France renounces all pretensions to the acquisitions which she has made on the coast of Coromandel and Orissa.2 And his most Christian Majesty shall restore, on his part, all that he may have conquered from Great Britain in the East Indies during the present war, and will expressly cause Natal and Tapanouly,3 in the island of Sumatra, to be restored. And he further engages not to erect fortifications, or to keep troops, in any part of the dominions of the Subahdar of Bengal; and in order to preserve future peace on the coast of Coromandel and Orissa, the English and French shall acknowledge Mahomed Ally Khan, for lawful Nabob of the Carnatic, and Salabut Jung for lawful Subahdar of the Deccan, and both parties shall renounce all demands and pretensions of satisfaction, with which they might charge each other, or their Indian allies, for the depredation or pillage committed on either side during the war.”

In the distribution of the advantages of the Carnatic sovereignty; for such it now might truly be deemed, as scarcely even a nominal subjection was [343] acknowledged either to the Subahdar of Deccan, or the Emperor himself; the English imagined they had as yet not appropriated to themselves the requisite share. They began accordingly to represent to the Nabob the necessity of bestowing upon the Company a jaghire; or a grant of lands, the rents and revenues of which, free from any deduction to the Nabob’s treasury, should accrue to themselves. The Nabob urged the narrowness of his own resources, the load of debt under which he laboured, the great proportion of his revenue already allowed to the Company, and the cession which he had made, not only of lands, but of the tribute which the Company owed for Madras itself.

The Company, in truth, had now placed themselves in a situation of considerable difficulty. The Presidency could not help observing, that under the weakness of both the mind and the resources of the Nabob, the defence of Carnatic must rest upon them; and that they must, therefore, maintain at all times an army sufficient to oppose its enemies. This, without the revenue of the country, was a burden which they knew they could not sustain: And yet to strip of all his revenue a sovereign Prince, of whose rights they had so often proclaimed themselves the champions, was a procedure which bore a most unfavourable appearance, and from which formidable accusations against them could hardly fail to be drawn.

The Company took the course which power, though less supported by reasons, will most commonly pursue: They adopted the alternative which was most agreeable to themselves; and the revenues of Carnatic gradually passed into their hands. The President, however, was anxious that, at this time, the donation should wear the appearance of a voluntary [344] act on the part of the Nabob; and amid his efforts of persuasion assured him, if we can believe the Nabob himself, “that if four districts were given, the Company would be extremely pleased and obliged to him, and would ever assist him and his children with a proper force of Europeans, without desiring any thing further; that till he had cleared off his debts to the Company, the revenues of those districts, after defraying the expenses of the soldiers, should be placed to the credit of his account.”1 When the President began to pass from the tone of suggestion to that of requisition; and the Nabob perceived that compliance could not be escaped, he endeavoured to obtain the security of at least a written promise for those terms which had been offered in order to gain his consent. But when he transmitted the draught of an agreement, in which those terms were specified, and which he requested the Governor and Council to sign, the temper of the President broke through his policy; and he pulled off the mask with which he had hitherto endeavoured, though it must be confessed but awkwardly, to cover from the Nabob and the world the view of his real situation. He sent back the agreement unsigned, with strong marks of his displeasure; and told the Nabob by letter, that it ill became the situation in which he stood, to make conditions with the Company; since “they,” said he, “do not take any thing from you; but they are the givers, and you are a receiver.”2
It was not till the summer of 1763 that the Nabob and Presidency were enabled to turn their attention [345] to Madura and Tinivelly. Though Mahomed Issoof had been vigorously employed, from the raising of the siege of Madras till the fall of Pondicherry, in reducing the refractory Polygars and other local commanders, obedience and tranquillity were by no means established: And when that active and useful partisan proposed to take the country as renter, and to become responsible, though for a small revenue, from a region which hitherto had cost much and yielded nothing, the offer was not unwillingly embraced. Mahomed Issoof, like other renters of India, had no doubt an inclination to withhold if possible the sum which he engaged to pay out of the taxes which he was empowered to collect: and, like other Governors, contemplated, it is probable, from the very beginning, the chance of independence. It cannot, however, be denied, that the enemies with whom he had as yet been obliged to struggle, and who had heretofore rendered the country not only unproductive, but burdensome, left him no revenue to pay. It appears, accordingly, that none had ever been received. For this failure, the Nabob and the Company now proceeded to inflict chastisement, and in the month of August 1763, a combined army of natives and English marched to Madura. Mahomed Issoof endeavoured by negotiation, and the influence of those among the English whom he had rendered his friends, to ward off the blow. But when he found these efforts unavailing, he resolved to give himself the chance of a struggle in his own defence. He was not a man of whom the subjugation was to be expected at an easy price. He baffled all the efforts of the Nabob and the Company, till the month of October, 1764; when he had already forced them to expend a million sterling, and no ordinary quantity of English blood; and without a deed of treachery [346] which placed his person in their hands, it is uncertain how far he might have prolonged his resistance. Among a body of French troops whom he had received from the Raja of Tanjore was a person of the name of Marchand, by whom he was seized and delivered to his enemies.

The occasions on which the interests of the Nabob and of the Raja of Tanjore were liable to clash or to interfere became, through their jealousy and mutual hatred, a perpetual source of contention. The treaty which had been formed under the coercive authority of the English, had defined the terms of their pecuniary relation: with the usual want of foresight, every thing else was left vague and disputable. The river Cavery, about six miles to the north-west of Trichinopoly, is divided into two streams, of which the northern takes the name of Coleroon, and, by a course not far from direct, joins the sea at Devi-Cotah. The southern branch, which retains the name of Cavery, passes through the flat alluvial territory of Tanjore; and, dividing itself into a great number of smaller streams, overflows, and fructifies the country. But it so happens that the two branches of this great river, after flowing at some distance from one another, for a space of about twenty miles, again approach, forming what is called the island of Seringham, and are only prevented by a narrow neck of land, which requires continual repairs, from reuniting their streams, and falling down the channel of the Coleroon to the ocean. The kingdom of Tanjore was thus in the highest degree interested in the preservation of the mound of the Cavery, upon the waters of which its vegetative powers so greatly depended; and it must have anciently been a powerful instrument of coercion in the hands of the neighbouring kingdom of Trichinopoly, [347] within the territories of which it appears to have been always included.

The Nabob, as sovereign of Trichinopoly, now assumed authority over the mound of the Cavery; and the dispute between him and the Raja grew to importance. The Raja endeavoured to make the reparation of the mound the condition of paying the money which he owed by the treaty; and the President, after writing several letters to the Nabob, appointed a deputy to inquire into the subject and to make his reports. The rights in question were actually two. The first was the right of sovereignty in the mound; the second was the right of having the mound preserved and repaired. The first, as no one disputed, belonged to the Nabob. The second, if prescription and equity constituted any title, as undeniably belonged to the Rajah. Ignorantly and awkwardly, and not without English co-operation, they blended them together in one question; and the dispute became interminable. Who had the right of repairing the mound, was the subject about which they contended; the Nabob claiming it, as inherent in the sovereignty; and the Rajah as inherent in the title which he possessed to the waters of the Cavery. Unhappily, in the right which, as sovereign, the Nabob claimed, of permitting no one but himself to repair the mound, he tacitly included the right of omitting all repairs whenever he pleased. The Rajah, who dreaded the consequences, solicited an interview; and by making ample submission and protestations, effected a temporary compromise. It was not long, however, before he had again occasion to complain; and wrote the most pressing letters to Madras, beseeching the Presidency to lay their commands upon the Nabob for the repair of the mound. The Nabob hardly disguised his intention of allowing it to be [348] washed away; alleging the wishes of his own people, who, on account of the overflowing of the low grounds to the eastward of Trichinopoly, desired the waters of the Cavery to be turned into the channel of the Coleroon. The English at last interfered, with a determination to prevail; and the Nabob, but not before the month of January, 1765, and with great reluctance, gave his consent, that the mound of the Cavery should be repaired by the King of Tanjore.1
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

Postby admin » Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:20 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAP. VII.

Second Administration of Clive—Company’s Orders respecting the Private Trade disregarded—Arrangements with the Vizir—With the Emperor—Acquisition of the Duannee—Private Trade created a Monopoly for the Benefit of the superior Servants—Reduction of the Military Allowances—Its effects—Clive resigns, and Verelst succeeds—Proceedings in England relative to the Rate of Dividend on Company’s Stock—Financial difficulties—Verelst resigns, and Cartier succeeds.

Lord Clive, together with Mr. Sumner and Mr. Sykes, who had accompanied him from England, and were two of the persons empowered to form the Select Committee, arrived at Calcutta, on the 3d of May, 1765. The two other persons of whom that extraordinary machine of government was to be composed, were absent: General Carnac, beyond the confines of the province of Bahar, with the army; and Mr. Verelst, at the distant settlement of Chittagong. For as much as the disturbances, which guided the resolves of the Company, when they decreed that such a new organ of government should exist, were now removed; and for as much as the Select Committee were empowered to exercise their extraordinary powers for so long a time only as those disturbances should remain; it was a question, whether they were entitled to form themselves into a governing [350] body; but a question of which they speedily disposed.1 On the 7th of May, exactly four days after their arrival, Lord Clive, and the two gentlemen who accompanied him, assembled; and without waiting for communication with the rest of the destined members declared the Select Committee formed; assumed the whole powers of government civil and military; and administered to themselves and their secretaries an oath of secrecy.

The great corruption which they represented as prevailing in the government, and tainting to a prodigious degree the conduct of the Company’s servants, was the foundation on which they placed the necessity for the establishment of the Committee. The picture which they drew of these corruptions exhibited, it is true, the most hideous and the most disgusting features. But the impartial judge will probably find, that the interest of the Committee to make out the appearance of a strong necessity for investing themselves with extraordinary powers, after the original cause for them had ceased to exist, had some influence on their delineations. In the letter, addressed to the Committee, with which Lord Clive opened their proceedings, on the 7th of May, “A very few days,” he says, “are elapsed since our arrival; and yet, if we consider what has already come to our knowledge, we cannot hesitate a moment upon the necessity of assuming the power that is in us of conducting, as a Select Committee, the affairs both civil and military of this settlement. What do we [351] hear of, what do we see, but anarchy, confusion, and, what is worse, an almost general corruption.—Happy, I am sure, you would have been, as well as myself, had the late conduct of affairs been so irreproachable as to have permitted them still to continue in the hands of the Governor and Council.” Yet one would imagine that four days afforded not a very ample space for collecting a satisfactory body of evidence on so extensive a field, especially if we must believe the noble declarer, that the determination to which it led was a disagreeable one.

“Three paths,” observed his Lordship, when afterwards defending himself, “were before me. 1. One was strewed with abundance of fair advantages. I might have put myself at the head of the government as I found it. I might have encouraged the resolution which the gentlemen had taken not to execute the new covenants which prohibited the receipt of presents: and although I had executed the covenants myself, I might have contrived to return to England with an immense fortune, infamously added to the one before honourably obtained.—2. Finding my powers disputed, I might in despair have given up the commonwealth, and have left Bengal without making an effort to save it. Such a conduct would have been deemed the effect of folly and cowardice.—3. The third path was intricate. Dangers and difficulties were on every side. But I resolved to pursue it. In short, I was determined to do my duty to the public, although I should incur the odium of the whole settlement. The welfare of the Company required a vigorous exertion, and I took the resolution of cleansing the Augean Stable.”1

Another circumstance deserves to be mentioned, of which Lord Clive takes no notice in his speech, though on other occasions it is not forgotten; that without the formation of the Select Committee, he would, as Governor, have enjoyed only a shadow, or at best a small fragment of power. In his letter to the Directors, dated the 30th of February, in which he describes the transactions of the first five months of his new administration, he says, “The gentlemen in Council of late years at Bengal, seem to have been actuated, in every consultation, by a very obstinate and mischievous spirit. The office of Governor has been in a manner hunted down, stripped of its dignity, and then divided into sixteen shares,”—the number of persons of whom the board consisted.—“Two paths,” he observes, in nearly the same language as was afterwards used in his speech, “were evidently open to me: The one smooth, and strewed with abundance of rich advantages that might easily be picked up; the other untrodden, and every step opposed with obstacles. I might have taken charge of the government upon the same footing on which I found it; that is, I might have enjoyed the name of Governor, and have suffered the honour, importance, and dignity of the post to continue in their state of annihilation. I might have contented myself as others had before me, with being a cypher, or, what is little better, the first among sixteen equals: And I might have allowed this passive conduct to be attended with the usual douceur of sharing largely with the rest of the gentlemen in all donations, perquisites, &c. arising from the absolute government and disposal of all places in the revenues of this opulent kingdom; by which means I might soon have acquired an immense addition to my fortune, notwithstanding the obligations [353] in the new covenants; for the man who can so easily get over the bar of conscience as to receive presents after the execution of them, will not scruple to make use of any evasions that may protect him from the consequence. The settlement, in general, would thus have been my friends, and only the natives of the country my enemies.” It deserves to be remarked, as twice declared by this celebrated Governor, that the covenants against the receipt of presents afforded no effectual security, and might be violated, by the connivance and participation of the presiding individuals, to any amount. It follows, as a pretty necessary consequence, that independent of that connivance they might in many instances be violated to a considerable amount.

The language in which Clive describes the corruption of the Company’s government and the conduct of their servants, at this era, ought to be received with caution; and, doubtless, with considerable deductions; though it is an historical document, or rather a matter of fact, singularly curious and important. “Upon my arrival,” he tells the Directors, “I am sorry to say, I found your affairs in a condition so nearly desperate, as would have alarmed any set of men, whose sense of honour and duty to their employers had not been estranged by the too eager pursuit of their own immediate advantages. The sudden, and among many, the unwarrantable acquisition of riches, had introduced luxury in every shape, and in its most pernicious excess. These two enormous evils went hand in hand together through the whole presidency, infecting almost every member of each department. Every inferior seemed to have grasped at wealth, that he might be enabled to assume that spirit of profusion, which was now the only distinction between him and his superior. Thus [354] all distinction ceased; and every rank became, in a manner, upon an equality. Nor was this the end of the mischief; for a contest of such a nature among our servants necessarily destroyed all proportion between their wants and the honest means of satisfying them. In a country where money is plenty, where fear is the principle of government, and where your arms are ever victorious, it is no wonder that the lust of riches should readily embrace the proffered means of its gratification, or that the instruments of your power should avail themselves of their authority, and proceed even to extortion in those cases where simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity. Examples of this sort, set by superiors, could not fail of being followed in a proportionable degree by inferiors. The evil was contagious, and spread among the civil and military, down to the writer, the ensign, and the free merchant.”1 The language of the Directors held pace with that of the Governor. In their answer to the letter from which this extract is taken, they say, “We have the strongest sense of the deplorable state to which our affairs were on the point of being reduced, from the corruption and rapacity of our servants, and the universal depravity of [355] manners throughout the settlement. The general relaxation of all discipline and obedience, both military and civil, was hastily tending to a dissolution of all government. Our letter to the Select Committee expresses our sentiments of what has been obtained by way of donations; and to that we must add, that we think the vast fortunes acquired in the inland trade have been obtained by a scene of the most tyrannic and oppressive conduct that ever was known in any age or country.”1

The letters from the Court of Directors, commanding the immediate and total abandonment of the inland trade and the execution of the new covenants against the receipt of presents, had arrived on the 24th of January, 1765, previous to the formation of the treaty with Nujeem ad Dowla. Yet so far was the inland trade from being abandoned, that the unlimited exercise of it, free from all duties except two and a half per cent. upon the article of salt, and along with that unlimited exercise, the prohibition, or what amounted to the prohibition, of all other traders, the exaction of oppressive duties, from which the English were exempt, had been inserted, as leading articles, in the treaty. Again, as to what regarded the covenants, not only had presents upon the accession of Nujeem ad Dowla been received, with unabated alacrity, in defiance of them; but they remained unexecuted to that very hour. The Committee of the House of Commons could not discover from the records that the Governor had so much as brought them under the consultation of the Council Board; and it is certain that no notice whatsoever had been communicated to the other servants of the Company, that any such engagements were required.[356]

The execution of the covenants, as a very easy and simple transaction, was one of the earliest of the measures of the Committee. They were signed, first by the Members of the Council, and the servants on the spot; and afterwards transmitted to the armies and factories, where they were immediately executed by every body; with one remarkable exception. General Carnac, when they arrived, distributed them to his officers, among whom the signature met with no evasion. But general Carnac himself, on the pretence that they were dated several months previous to the time at which intimation of them was conveyed to him, forbore privately to execute his own. A few weeks afterwards, upon his return to Calcutta, he signed it, indeed, without any scruple; but, in the interval, he had received a present of two lacs of rupees from the reduced and impoverished Emperor.

The Nabob, Nujeem ad Dowla, hastened to Calcutta, upon the arrival of Clive; and being exceedingly displeased with the restraints imposed upon him, presented a letter of complaints. Mahomed Reza Khan, whose appointment to the office of Naib Subah was the most offensive to the Nabob of all the hard conditions to which he had been compelled to submit, had given presents on account of his elevation to the amount of nearly twenty lacs of rupees. There was nothing, in this, unusual or surprising; but the Nabob, who was eager to obtain the ground of an accusation against a man whose person and office were alike odious to him, complained of it as a dilapidation of his treasury. The servants of the Company, among whom the principal part of the money was distributed, were those who had the most strongly contested the authority of Clive’s Committee; and they seem to have excited, by that [357] opposition, a very warm resentment. The accusation was treated as a matter of great and serious importance. Some of the native officers engaged in the negotiation of the presents, though required only for the purpose of evidence, were put under arrest. A formal investigation was instituted. It was alleged that threats had been used to extort the gifts: And the Committee pronounced certain facts to be proved; but in their great forbearance reserved the decision to the Court of Directors. The servants, whose conduct was arraigned, solemnly denied the charge of using terror or force; and it is true that their declaration was opposed by only the testimony of a few natives, whose veracity is always questionable when they have the smallest interest to depart from the truth: who in the present case were not examined upon oath; were deeply interested in finding an apology for their own conduct, and had an exquisite feeling of the sentiments which prevailed towards the persons whom they accused in the breasts of those who now wielded the sceptre. There seems not, in reality, to have been any difference in the applications for presents on this and on former occasions, except perhaps in some little ceremoniousness of manner. A significant expression escapes from Verelst, who was an actor in the scene; “Mahomed Reza Khan,” he says, “affirms that these sums were not voluntarily given. This the English gentlemen deny. Perhaps the reader, who considers the increased power of the English, may regard this as a verbal dispute.”1
On the 25th of June Lord Clive departed from Calcutta, on a progress up the country, for the purpose [358] of forming a new arrangement with the Nabob for the government of the provinces, and of concluding a treaty of peace with Suja Dowla the Vizir.

The first negotiation was of easy management. Whatever the Committee were pleased to command, Nujeem ad Dowla was constrained to obey. The whole of the power reserved to the Nabob, and lodged with the Naib Subah, was too great, they said, to be deposited in a single hand; they resolved, therefore, to associate the Rajah Dooloob Ram, and Juggut Seet, the Hindu banker, with Mahomed Reza Khan, in the superintendance of the Nabob’s affairs. To preserve concord among these colleagues, it was determined to employ the vigilant control of a servant of the Company, resident upon the spot. The Nabob was also now required to resign the whole of the revenues, and to make over the management of the Subahdaree, with every advantage arising from it, to the Company; by whom an annual pension of fifty lacs of rupees, subject to the management of their three nominees, were to be allowed to himself. The final arrangement of these terms was notified to the Committee on the 28th of July, by a letter dispatched from Moorshedabad, whence, a few days before, Clive had proceeded on his journey.

The army had prosecuted the advantages gained over the Vizir; and at this time had penetrated far into the territories of Oude. The arrangement, however, which had been concluded with the Emperor, and in conformity with which the English were to receive the Gauzeepore country for themselves, and to bestow the dominions of Suja Dowla on the Emperor, had been severely condemned by the Court of Directors. They denounced it, not only as a violation of their repeated instructions and commands not to [359] extend the dominions of the Company; but as in itself an impolitic engagement; full of burden, but destitute of profit.1 Lord Clive, and, what is the same thing, Lord Clive’s Committee, professed a deep conviction of the wisdom of that policy (the limitation of dominion) which the Directors prescribed;2 declaring, “that an influence maintained by force of arms was destructive of that commercial spirit which the servants of the Company ought to promote; oppressive to the country, and ruinous to the Company; whose military expenses had hitherto rendered fruitless their extraordinary success, and even the cession of rich provinces.”3

After the battle of Buxar, the Vizir, who no longer considered his own dominions secure, had sent his women and treasures to Bareily, the strong fort of a Rohilla chief; and, having gained as much time as possible by negotiations with the English, endeavoured to obtain assistance from Ghazee ad dien Khan, from the Rohilla chiefs, and a body of Mahrattas, who were at that time under Mulhar Row, in the vicinity of Gualior. The Mahrattas, and Ghazee ad dien Khan, with a handful of followers, the miserable remains of his former power, had, in reality, joined him. But the Rohillas had amused him with only deceitful promises: And he had been abandoned even by Sumroo; who, with a [360] body of about 300 Europeans of various nations, and a few thousand Sepoys, was negotiating for service with the Jaats.

The English had detached two battalions of Sepoys, which took possession of Lucknow, the capital of Oude, and made an attempt upon the fortress of Chunar, the strength of which enabled the garrison to make a successful resistance; when the preparations of Suja Dowla induced Sir Robert Fletcher, on whom, till the arrival of Carnac, after the departure of Sir Hector Munro, the command of the troops had devolved, to endeavour to anticipate that Nabob by taking the important fortress of Allahabad. Nujeef Khan, as a partisan of the Emperor, had joined the English with his followers from Bundelcund, and being well acquainted with the fortress, pointed out the weakest part. It was speedily breached; and the garrison, too irresolute to brave a storm, immediately surrendered. Soon after this event General Carnac arrived, and took the command of the army. The situation of the enemy, which rendered their designs uncertain, puzzled, for a time, the General; who over-estimated their strength, and was afraid of leaving the frontiers exposed. Having received undoubted intelligence that the enemy had begun to march on the Corah road; and suspecting that an attack was designed upon Sir Robert Fletcher, who commanded a separate corps in the same direction; he made some forced marches to effect a junction with that commander; and, having joined him, advanced with united forces towards the enemy. On the 3d of May a battle was fought in the neighbourhood of Corah; or rather a skirmish, for, by the absence of the Rohillas, and the weakness of Ghazee ad dien Khan, the force of the Vizir was inconsiderable, and he was still intimidated by remembrance of [361] Buxar. The Mahrattas, on whom he chiefly depended, were soon dispersed by the English artillery. The Vizir separated from them; and they retired with precipitation towards the Jumna. Observing the English to remit the pursuit in order to watch the Vizir, who made no attempt to join his allies, they ventured a second effort to enter Corah. To stop their incursions the General resolved to drive them beyond the Jumna; crossed that river on the 22d; dislodged them from their post on the opposite side; and obliged them to retire to the hills.

The Vizir impelled, on the one side by the desperate state of his affairs, on the other by hopes of moderate treatment from the English, resolved to throw himself entirely upon their generosity, by placing his person in their hands. On the 19th of May, General Carnac received, written partly by the Nabob with his own hand, a letter, in which he informed that officer that he was on his way to meet him. The General received him with the highest marks of distinction; and all parties recommended a delicate and liberal treatment. The final settlement of the terms of pacification was reserved for the presence of Clive. As it was unanimously agreed, that it would cost the Company more to defend the country of the Vizir, than it would yield in revenue; that Suja Dowla was more capable of defending it than the Emperor, to whom it had been formerly promised, or than any other chief who could be set up; and that in the hands of the Vizir it might form a barrier against the Mahrattas and Afghauns; it was determined to restore to him the whole of his dominions, with the exception of Allahabad and Corah, which were to be reserved to the Emperor.

When the first conference was held with the Vizir on the 2d of August, he strongly expressed his [362] gratitude for the extent of dominion which his conquerors were willing to restore; and readily agreed to the payment of fifty lacks of rupees demanded in compensation for the expences of the war: But, when it was proposed to him to permit the English to trade, free from duties, and erect factories in his dominions, he represented so earnestly the abuses which, under the name of trade, the Company’s servants and their agents had perpetrated in the provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa; and expressed with so much vehemence his apprehension of disputes, and the impossibility they would create of long preserving the blessings of peace, that Clive agreed, in the terms of the treaty, to omit the very names of trade and factories.

The Raja Bulwant Sing, who held, as dependencies of the Subah of Oude, the Zemindarees of Benares and Gauzeepore, had joined the English and rendered important service, in the late wars against the Vizir. It was, therefore, incumbent upon them to yield him protection against the resentment of a chief whose power he could not resist. The Vizir bound himself not to molest the Rajah, in the possession of his former dominions; and the Rajah was held bound to pay him the same tribute as before. The Vizir and the English engaged to afford assistance, each to the other, in case the territory of the other was invaded; and the Vizir engaged never to harbour or employ Meer Causim or Sumroo.

The business with the Emperor was the next subject of negotiation which claimed the exertions of Clive. Of the annual tribute to the Emperor, contracted for in the names of Meer Jaffier, Meer Causim, and Nujeem and Dowla, as the imperial revenue from Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, thirty lacks were unpaid. Of this debt, the indigent sovereign [363] was frankly and definitively told, that not a single rupee would ever be given him. The sum which had, under the English authority, been assigned as the share due to him of the revenue of these provinces, was twenty-six lacks of rupees in money, and jaghires or land to the annual amount of five lacks and a half. The jaghires, it was now made known to him, he must henceforth renounce. He expressed warmth, and even resentment, upon the hardness of these arbitrary conditions; but the necessities of the humbled monarch left him without means of relief. The twenty-six lacks of rupees were continued as his portion of the revenues; and he was put in possession of the countries of Corah and Allahabad. On his part was required the imperial grant of the duannee, or collection and receipt of the revenues, in Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa. The phirmaun of the duannee, which marks one of the most conspicuous eras in the history of the Company, constituting them masters of so great an empire, in name and in responsibility, as well as in power,1 was dated the 12th day of August, 1765. Along with the duannee was required of the Emperor his imperial confirmation of all the territory which the Company possessed throughout the nominal extent of the Mogul empire. Among these confirmations was not forgotten the jaghire of Lord Clive; a possession, the dispute about which that powerful servant had compromised before his departure from England, by yielding the reversion to the Company, after ten years’ payment, if so long he should live.

It was in the course of this summer that, in pursuance [364] of the terms of the treaty concluded in Europe between the English and the French, the settlements of that nation at Chandernagor and other places in Bengal, were restored.

On the 7th of September, Lord Clive resumed his seat, in the Select Committee; in which the urgent questions respecting the inland trade now constituted the grand subject of consultation. The Company’s letter of the 8th of February, 1764, completely prohibiting the inland trade of their servants, was taken into consideration by the Board, on the 17th of October, in the same year. And it was resolved that all the branches of that trade, which it was worth while to carry on, should still be stedfastly retained; but that proper respect should be shown to the commands of their masters; and what was of no value to keep should be immediately and completely resigned. The grand articles of the interior trade of Bengal were salt, beetel-nut, and tobacco; of which salt was out of all proportion the most important: Tobacco in particular was so inconsiderable, that few, if any, of the Company’s servants had engaged in it. The determination was, to give up the tobacco, preserving and securing the beetel-nut and the salt. It must not, however, be forgotten that an order was now issued, prohibiting the practice of forcing the natives to buy and sell at any price which the Company’s servants thought proper to command.

On the 1st of June, 1764, a letter was written by the Court of Directors, in consequence of the resolution of the Court of Proprietors that the letter of the 8th of February should be reconsidered. In this, the Directors declared, that the terms imposed upon Meer Causim for the regulation of the private trade in the interior “appeared to them so injurious to the Nabob and the natives, that they could not, in the very [365] nature of them, tend to any thing but the producing general heart-burning and dissatisfactions: That the orders, therefore, in their letter of the 8th of February should remain in force until a more equitable and satisfactory plan could be formed and adopted; and, as it was impossible for them to frame such a plan at home, destitute as they were of the informations and lights necessary to guide them in settling such an important affair—the Committee were therefore ordered, as soon after the receipt of this letter as might be convenient, to consult the Nabob as to the manner of carrying on the inland trade, and thereupon to form a proper and equitable plan for that purpose, and transmit the same to the Directors; accompanied by such explanations, observations, and remarks, as might enable them to give their sentiments and directions thereupon in a full and explicit manner:—And in doing this, as before observed, they were to have a particular regard to the interest and entire satisfaction of the Nabob.” It was agreed, in general consultation at Fort William, on the 25th of January, 1765, to defer all proceedings on this order, till the arrival of Lord Clive; and in the mean time, in defiance of both letters, the course of the inland trade remained undisturbed.

One important circumstance in the letter of the 1st of June, the Directors themselves interpreted, one way; their servants in India chose to interpret, another. The servants inferred that the letter empowered them not only to contrive a plan, but also to put it in practice. It was maintained on the other hand, that the letter only authorized them to devise a plan, and transmit the account of it to the Directors. The letter, as usual, was vague and ambiguous; and those who had to act upon it, at so vast a distance, preferred, as might have been expected, [366] the interpretation which best suited their own interests.

It is worthy of particular remark, that Lord Clive, as he declares to the Directors themselves,1 framed the plan, which was afterwards adopted, during his voyage to India. But, as he could not then have any lights which he had not in England, he might, unless he had determined not to be governed by the Directors, have opened to them his project, before he departed; and have allowed to his masters the privilege of deciding.

It is not less worthy of remark, that Clive and the other Members of the Select Committee; Carnac excepted, who had not left the army; formed a partnership before the beginning of June, for buying up large quantities of salt; that all the purchases were made during the month of June, and that in nine months the parties realized a profit, including interest, of about forty-five per cent. In apology for Clive, it was stated, that he brought out with him three gentlemen from England, Mr. Strachey, his secretary; Mr. Maskelyne, an old friend and fellow-servant of the Company; and Mr. Ingham, his surgeon; and that for the sake of making a fortune to them he engaged in that suspicious transaction. If a proceeding, however, is in its own nature shameful; there is but little saved, when the emolument is only made to go into the pocket of a connexion.

On the 10th of August, after these purchases had for some time been completed, and after certain inquiries had been made respecting the usual prices of salt in different places; it was resolved, in a Select Committee composed of only Mr. Sumner and Mr. Verelst, That a monopoly should be formed of the [367] trade in salt, beetel-nut, and tobacco, to be carried on exclusively for the benefit of the superior servants of the Company. After several consultations, the following rules were adopted: That, deducting a duty to the Company, computed to produce 100,000l. per annum, the profits should be divided among three classes of proprietors: That, in the first class, should be allowed; to the governor, five shares; to the second in council, three shares; to the general, three shares; ten gentlemen of council, each, two shares; two colonels, each, two shares—in all thirty-five: That, in the second class, consisting of one chaplain, fourteen senior merchants, and three lieutenant-colonels, in all eighteen persons, two-thirds of one share should be granted to each, or twelve shares to the whole: In the third class, consisting of thirteen factors, four majors, four first surgeons at the presidency, two first surgeons at the army, one secretary to the council, one sub-accountant, one Persian translator, and one sub-export-warehouse-keeper, in all twenty-seven persons, one-third of a share should be distributed to each, or nine shares to the whole: That a committee of four, empowered to make bye-laws, borrow money, and determine the amount of capital, should be appointed for the entire management of the concern: That the purchases should be made by contract: That the goods should be conveyed by the agents of the association to certain fixed places, and there sold to the native merchants and retailers at established and invariable prices: That the exclusive power of making those purchases should be insured to the association for one year: And that European agents should be allowed to conduct the business of the society in different parts of the country.

In defence of this scheme, it was urged, that by the prohibition of presents, and the growing share of [368] the export and import trade engrossed by the Company’s investment, the pay of their servants was reduced to the means of a bare subsistence; that besides the hardship of this policy, the wisdom was very defective, since it was absurd to suppose that men deprived of the means of enriching themselves by legitimate, would abstain from illegitimate means, when placed to a boundless extent in their power; that a too rapid enriching of their servants, by enabling them to hurry to England, and leaving none but inexperienced youths to conduct their affairs, was ruinous to their interests; and that, by the admirable arrangements of the trade society, a proper fortune was secured to those who had attained a certain station in the service, without incurring the danger of sending them home enriched at too early a period.

Upon these arguments, one reflection cannot be withheld, because the occasions for its application are exceedingly numerous, and because it appears, unhappily, to be not frequently made. It is contrary to experience, that by deriving large emoluments from an office the person who holds it will be less eager to grasp at any unlawful gains which are within his reach. The avidity for more is not in general diminished by the amount of what is possessed. A trifling sum will doubtless lose something of its apparent magnitude in the eye of a man of wealth; but the vast sums are those alone which are of much importance; and they, we find, are as resistless a temptation to the rich as to the poor. The prevalence of the idea that satiating the servants of the public with wealth is a secret for rendering them honest, only proves how little the art of government has borrowed as yet from the science of human nature. If, with immense emoluments, a door is left open to misconduct, the misconduct is but the more ensured; because [369] the power of the offender affords him a shield against both popular contempt and legal chastisement. If the servants of the Company, as Clive and his Committee so positively affirmed, had it in their power, and in their inclination, to pillage and embezzle, when their incomes were small; the mere enlargement of their incomes would add to the power, and could not much detract from the inclination.

At the time of these proceedings, the Select Committee were deprived of the shelter even of an ambiguous expression; and knew that they were acting in express defiance of the wishes and commands of their superiors. Under date the 15th of February, 1765, the Directors had written in the following terms: “In our letters of the 8th February, and 1st June last, we gave our sentiments and directions very fully in respect to the inland trade of Bengal;—we now enforce the same in the strongest manner, and positively insist that you take no steps whatever towards renewing this trade, without our express leave; for which reason you must not fail to give us the fullest information upon the subject, agreeable to our abovementioned directions.”

Having thus established the private trade Society, the Committee proceeded to introduce other regulations which the state of affairs appeared to require. It had been a common practice with members of the Council, instead of remaining at the Board for the business of the Presidency, to receive nomination to the chiefship of factories, as often as additional means of accumulating money were there placed in their hands. To this practice the Committee, on very good grounds, resolved to put an end. “We are convinced,” they said, “by very late experience, that the most flagrant oppressions may be wantonly committed [370] in those employments, by members of the Board, which would not be tolerated in junior servants; and that the dread and awe annexed to their station, as counsellors, has too frequently screened them from complaints, which would be lodged without fear or scruple against inferior servants.” Yet, with this experience before them, they recommended great emoluments as a security against corruption. The Committee further remarked, that not only the business, which was thus engrossed by the Members of the Board, could be as well transacted by a junior servant, at much less expense; but that other inconveniences, still more pernicious, were incurred; that by the absence of so many members of the board, it had been necessary to increase their numbers from twelve to sixteen; that by the regular departure to the out-settlements of those Members of the Council who had the greatest influence to procure their own appointment, there was so rapid a change of counsellors at the board, where only the youngest and most inexperienced remained, that the business of the Presidency was obliged to be conducted by men deficient in the knowledge and experience necessary for carrying it on.
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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Part 2 of 2

Another measure, productive of considerable irritation and disturbance, was promoted by Clive. The rapid acquisition of riches in Bengal had recently sent so many of the superior servants, along with their fortunes, to Europe, that few remained to fill up the vacancies in the Council, except either men very young and inexperienced, or those whom Clive described as tainted with the corruptions which had vitiated the administration. The Committee say, “It is with the utmost regret we think it incumbent on us to declare, that in the whole list of your junior merchants, there are not more than three or four [371] gentlemen whom we could possibly recommend to higher stations at present.” They accordingly forbore to supply the vacancies which occurred in the Council, and resolved upon calling a certain number of servants at the other presidencies, to supersede those in Bengal. They paid to their employers the compliment of recommending the measure to their consideration; but waited not for their decision, for, in two months from the date of their letter, four gentlemen arrived from Madras, and soon after took their seats at the Board.1

Among the circumstances most strongly recommended to Lord Clive by the Company, was the reduction of the military expenses; which absorbed all their revenues, and rendered their ascendancy in the country a burden rather than advantage. As service [372] in the field is, in India, attended with peculiar charges to the officers, the Company had at an early period of their wars, found it necessary to allow their officers, during the time of campaign, a certain addition to their daily pay, which, in the language of the country, was styled batta, or indemnity for field expenses.

When the English forces took the field with Meer Jaffier after the battle of Plassy, to cherish their good-will, on which he was so dependant, that Nabob afforded to the officers twice the ordinary sum, and this allowance was distinguished by the name of double batta. As long as the troops continued to be paid by Meer Causim, the Company felt no prevailing motive to lessen an expense, which pleased the officers, and oppressed only the Nabob. When they perceived upon the assignment of territorial revenues for the expense of the army, that what could be with held from the army would accrue to themselves, they issued repeated orders for the reduction of the batta. But the dangers of the country had rendered the exertions of the army so necessary; and they to whom the powers of government were entrusted had so little dared to venture their authority in a contest with the military, that double batta had hitherto been allowed to remain.

Upon the conclusion of the war with Suja Dowla, the troops were regimented, according to a plan proposed by Clive and sanctioned by the Company before his departure from England; divided into three brigades, each consisting of one regiment of European infantry, one company of artillery, six battalions of Sepoys, and one troop of black cavalry; and were stationed, one brigade at Mongheer, 300 miles from Calcutta; another at Bankipore, near Patna, 100 miles beyond Mongheer; and the third at Allahabad, 200 [373] miles beyond Patna; whither it had been sent as a security against the Mahrattas, whom the Emperor and Vizir were far too reduced to be able to oppose.

In this situation the Select Committee issued an order, that on the 1st of January, 1766, the double batta should cease; and that the officers in Bengal, with some exceptions in favour of the troops in the most distant and expensive stations, should be placed on the same footing with those on the coast of Coromandel; that is, receive single batta, when in the field; in garrison or cantonments, no batta at all.

The officers, who, along with the rest of their countrymen, had formed unbounded notions of the wealth of India, and whose imaginations naturally exaggerated the fortunes which were making in the civil branch of the service, had received every previous intimation of this reduction with the loudest complaints and remonstrances; and treated the peremptory decree which was now issued, as an act of the highest injustice; and as a most unworthy attempt to deprive them of a share of those rich advantages for which they had fought and bled, only that a larger stream of emolument might flow into the laps of those very men who were the instruments of their oppression.

At all times, and especially in situations in any degree resembling that of the British in India, it has been found a hazardous act to reduce the advantages of an army; and Clive appears to have greatly miscalculated either the weight of his own authority, or the delicacy of the operation. Without any endeavour to prepare the minds of the men, the order was issued and enforced; and without any care to watch its effects, the Governor remained in perfect security and ignorance, till the end of April, when he received [374] a letter informing him, that a most alarming conspiracy, embracing almost every officer in the army, was ripe for execution.

As early as the month of December a combination began. Private meetings and consultation were held, secret committees were formed, and correspondence carried on. The combustion first began in the brigade at Mongheer; but was soon, by letter, communicated to the rest, whose bosoms were perfectly prepared for inflammation. The plan concerted was, that the officers should resign their commissions in a body, and, by leaving the army totally ungoverned, make the constituted authorities submit to their terms. Nearly two hundred dommissions of captains and subalterns were in a short time collected. Besides a solemn oath of secrecy, they bound them selves by a similar obligation, to preserve at the hazard of their own lives, the life of any officer, whom a Court Martial might condemn to death. Each officer executed a penalty bond of 500l., not to accept his commission till double batta was restored. A subscription was raised among them to establish a fund for the indemnification of those who might suffer in the prosecution of the enterprise; and to this, it was understood, that the gentlemen in the civil service, and even those at the Presidency, largely contributed.

When the army was in this situation, a body of between fifty and sixty thousand Mahrattas appeared on the frontiers of Corah, about one hundred and fifty miles from Allahabad. To watch their motions, the brigade remaining in garrison at that city was ordered to encamp at Seragepore. Early in April Lord Clive, accompanied by General Carnac, had repaired to Moorshedabad, in order to regulate the collections of the revenue for the succeeding year, to receive [375] from Sujah Dowla the balance of his payments, and to hold a congress of the native chiefs or princes, who were disposed to form an alliance for mutual defence against the Mahrattas. On the 19th was transmitted to him, from the Select Committee, a remonstrance received from the officers of the third brigade, expressed in very high language, which he directed to be answered with little respect. It was not till late in the evening of the 28th; when he received a letter from Sir Robert Fletcher, the commanding officer at Mongheer; that Clive had the slightest knowledge or suspicion of a conspiracy so extensive, and of which the complicated operations had been going on for several months.

At Bankipore, a considerable part of the cantonments had been burnt down; and a Court Martial was held upon one of the officers, accused of having been the voluntary cause. The act proceeded from a quarrel between him and another officer, who attempted to take away his commission by force: and, upon exploring the reason of this extraordinary operation, the existence of the combination was disclosed. The commanding officer immediately dispatched an account of the discovery to Sir Robert Fletcher at Mongheer; who was by no means unacquainted with the proceedings in his own brigade, but was only now induced to give intimation of them to his superiors. It was the plan of the officers to resign their commissions on the 1st of June; but this discovery determined them, with the exception of the brigade at Allahabad, to whom information could not be forwarded in time, to execute their purpose a month earlier.

Clive at first could not allow himself to believe that the combination was extensive; or that any considerable number of men, the whole of whose [376] prospects in life was founded upon the service, would have resolution to persevere in a scheme, by which the danger of exclusion from it, not to speak of other consequences, was unavoidably incurred. It was one of those scenes, however, in which he was admirably calculated to act with success. Resolute and daring, fear never turned him aside from his purposes; or deprived him of the most collected exertion of his mind in the greatest emergencies. To submit to the violent demands of a body of armed men, was to resign the government. He had a few officers in his suite upon whom he could depend; a few more, he concluded, might yet be found at Calcutta, and the factories; and some of the free merchants might accept of commissions. The grand object was to preserve the common soldiers in order and obedience, till a fresh supply of officers from the other Presidencies could be obtained.

He remained not long without sufficient evidence that almost all the officers of all the three brigades were involved in the combination, and that their resignations were tendered. Directions were immediately sent to the commanding officers, to find, if possible, the leaders in the conspiracy; to arrest those officers whose conduct appeared the most dangerous, and detain them prisoners; above all things to secure the obedience of the Sepoys and black commanders, if the European troops should appear to be infected with the disobedience of their officers. Letters were dispatched to the Council at Calcutta, and the Presidency at Fort St. George, to make the greatest exertions for a supply of officers; and Clive himself hastened towards Mongheer. On the road he received a letter from Colonel Smith, who commanded at Allahabad, informing him that the Mahrattas were in motion, and that Ballagee Row was at Calpee, [377] with 60,000 men collecting boats. If reduced to extremity, but not before, Smith was instructed to promise the officers compliance with their demands.
Expecting their resignation to produce all the effects which they desired, the officers had concerted no ulterior measures. Their desperation had not led them to make any attempts to debauch the common soldiers. The Sepoys every where exhibited a steady obedience; and the commanding officers of all the brigades remained in perfect confidence of being able, in case of mutiny, to put every European soldier to death. Except, however, at Mongheer, where symptoms of mutiny, among the Europeans were quickly dispelled by the steady countenance of the Sepoys drawn out to attack them, no disturbance occurred. The officers at Mongheer submitted quietly to be sent down to Calcutta; the greater part of those belonging to the other brigades retracted: And this extraordinary combination, which, with a somewhat longer sight on the part of the officers, or less of vigour and of the awe of a high reputation on the part of the Governor, would have effected a revolution in India, produced, as ineffectual resistance generally does, a subjection more complete than what would have existed, if the disturbance had never been raised. Some of the officers, upon profession of repentance, were allowed to resume the service; others were tried and cashiered. The case of Sir Robert Fletcher was the most remarkable. He had been active in subduing the confederacy; but was found to have encouraged its formation. He apologized for himself on two grounds; that he wished, through the guilt of the conspiracy, to be able to dismiss a number of officers, whose bad conduct rendered them an injury to the service; and that he wished, through the appearance of favouring the views of the officers in some things, to have the [378] advantage of a complete knowledge of their proceedings: A Court Martial, notwithstanding, found him guilty of mutiny, of sedition, and concealment of mutiny; and he was punished by ejection from the service.

Upon the termination of this dangerous disaffection, Lord Clive proceeded to Chopprah, where he was met by Suja Dowla, by the Minister of the Emperor, and by deputies from the Mahratta Chiefs. Suja Dowla continued to express the highest satisfaction with the treaty which he had lately concluded with the Company; and cheerfully advanced the remainder of the sum which he had promised as the price of peace. The grand desire of the Emperor was to regain possession of the capital of his ancestors, and to mount the throne at Delhi. He had exhausted all his arts of negotiation and intrigue to obtain the assistance of the English; and had, without their concurrence, formed engagements with the Mahrattas, who, at his persuasion, it now appeared, and under assurances that the English would join them in escorting him to his capital, were assembled on the confines of Corah. This ambition of the Emperor was offensive to the English; who, as they had no intention to second his views, dreaded violently his connexion with the Mahrattas. The formation of a treaty for mutual defence, including the Emperor, the Company, the Jaat and Rohilla chiefs, was left to be conducted by Suja Dowla.

During these transactions died the Nabob of Bengal, Nujeem ul Dowla. He expired on the 8th of May, a few days after Clive had left him at Moorshedabad. He was an intemperate youth, of a gross habit of body; and his death had in it nothing surprising. Its suddenness, however, failed not, in a country habituated to deeds of darkness around a throne, to cover it with odious suspicions. His brother, Syeff ul Dowla, [379] a youth of sixteen, was elevated to his nominal office; a change of less importance now than that of the chief of a factory.

Upon the return of Clive to the Presidency, the private trade, so dear to individuals, demanded the attention of the Committee. The native merchants, to whom the salt had been disposed of, at the places of the society’s sales, had re-sold or retailed it at a profit which the Committee deemed extravagant. Instead of inquiring whether, if the trade, as alleged by the Committee, was monopolized and engrossed by a combination, the means could not be devised of yielding it the benefit of free competition; they contented themselves with the easy and despotical expedient of ordering the commodity to be retailed at an established price: and by an ex-post-facto law fined the native merchants to the amount of their additional gains.1

On the 3d of September the Select Committee proceeded to arrange the business of the inland trade society for another year. The Company in their letter of the 19th of February, already received, had declared that they considered the continuance of this trade “as an express breach and violation of their orders, and as a determined resolution to sacrifice the interests of the Company, and the peace of the country, to lucrative and selfish views.” Pronouncing, “that every servant concerned in that trade stood guilty of a breach of his covenants, and of their orders,” they added, “Whatever government may be established, or whatever unforeseen circumstances may arise, it is our resolution to prohibit, and we do absolutely forbid, this trade of salt, beetle-nut, and tobacco, and of all articles that are not for export [380] and import, according to the spirit of the phirmaund, which does not in the least give any latitude whatsoever for carrying on such an inland trade; and moreover, we shall deem every European concerned therein, directly or indirectly, guilty of a breach of his covenants; and direct that he be forthwith sent to England, that we may proceed against him accordingly.”

Notwithstanding these clear and forcible prohibitions, the Committee proceeded to a renewal of the monopoly, as if the orders of the Directors deserved not a moment’s regard. Clive, in his Minute, turned them carelessly aside, observing that when the Company sent them, “they could not have the least idea of that favourable change in the affairs of these provinces, whereby the interest of the Nabob, with regard to salt, is no longer immediately concerned.” As a reason against lodging the government of India in hands at the distance of half the circumference of the globe, the remark would merit attention: For the disobedience of servants to those who employed them, it is no justification at all; because, extended as far as it is applicable, it rendered the servants of the Company independent; and constituted them masters of India.

One change alone, of any importance, was introduced upon the regulations of the preceding year: The salt, instead of being conveyed to the interior, was to be sold at Calcutta, and the several places of manufacture. The transportation of the commodity to distant places, by the agents of the society, was attended with great trouble and expense: By selling it immediately at the places of manufacture, so much was saved: And by reserving the distribution to the merchants of the country, a pretended boon was granted to the natives. A maximum price was [381] fixed; and on the 8th of September a Committee of trade was formed with directions for carrying the plan into execution.

No sooner was this arrangement formed, than Clive brought forward a proposition for prohibiting all future Governors and Presidents from any concern whatsoever in trade. On the 19th of the very same month, in a Minute presented to the Select Committee, he represented, that, “Where such immense revenues are concerned, where power and authority are so enlarged, and where the eye of justice and equity should be ever watchful, a Governor ought not to be embarrassed with private business. He ought to be free from every occupation in which his judgment can possibly be biassed by his interest.” He therefore proposed, that the Governor should receive a commission of one and one-eighth per cent. upon the revenues; and in return should take a solemn and public oath, and bind himself in a penalty of 150,000l. to derive no emolument or advantage from his situation as Governor of Bengal, beyond this commission, with the usual salary and perquisites: And a covenant to this effect was formally executed by him. That good reasons existed for precluding the Governor from such oblique channels of gain, both as giving him sinister interests, and engrossing his time, it is not difficult to perceive: That the same reasons should not have been seen to be good, for precluding, also, the members of the Select Committee and the Council, might, though it need not, excite our surprise.

On the 8th of December, letters arrived from England, dated the 17th of May, addressed both to Clive and the Committee. In these documents the Directors pronounced the inland trade society to be a [382] violation of their repeated orders; declared that all those servants who had been engaged in that society should be held responsible for a breach of their covenants; and commanded that the trade should be abandoned, and should be reserved, free from European competition, to the natives. There was no longer any room for direct disobedience. The dissolution of the society was pronounced. But on the score of the contracts which had been formed and the advances made, the whole of the existing year was reserved; and the society was not abolished in fact till the 14th of September, 1768.1

Upon the 16th of January, 1767, Lord Clive declared his intention of returning immediately to Europe, on account of his health; and directed the attention of the Select Committee to the regulations which, previous to his departure, it might appear expedient to adopt. By recent instructions the Directors had empowered him, either to abolish, or continue the Select Committee, upon his departure, according as the state of affairs might to him appear to require. He felt no hesitation in deciding for its continuance; and named as members Mr. Verelst, who was to succeed him in the chair, Mr. Cartier, Colonel Smith, Mr. Sykes, and Mr. Beecher. He [383] departed in the Britannia; and on the 17th of February Mr. Verelst took his oath as successor in the chair.1

It was the interest of the servants in India, diligently cultivated, perpetually to feast the Company with the most flattering accounts of the state of their affairs. The magnitude of the transactions, which had recently taken place; the vast riches with which the new acquisitions were said to abound; the general credulity on the subject of Indian opulence; and the great fortunes with which a few individuals had returned to Europe; inflamed the avarice of the proprietors of East India Stock; and rendered them impatient for a share of treasures, which the imaginations of their countrymen, as well as their own, represented as not only vast, but unlimited. This impulse carried them in 1766 to raise their dividend from six to ten per cent. The inflated conceptions of the nation at large multiplied the purchasers of India stock; and it rose so high as 263 per cent. The proprietors called with importunity for a higher return. It was in vain that the Directors represented the heavy debts of the Company; and pointed out the imprudence of taking an augmented dividend, when money at a heavy interest must be taken up to discharge it. In a general Court held on the 6th of May, 1767, a dividend of twelve and a half per cent. was voted for the year. The public attention was vehemently roused. Even the interference of the minister was commanded. He had condemned the rapacity of the proprietors in augmenting the dividend; and recommended a Committee of the House of Commons, [384] which was actually formed in November 1766, for the purpose of inquiring into the state of their affairs. The relation between the public, and the territory now held by the Company in India, called for definition. It was maintained on the one hand, as an indisputable maxim of law, supported by the strongest considerations of utility, that no subjects of the crown could acquire the sovereignty of any territory for themselves, but only for the nation. On the side of the Company, the abstract rights of property, and the endless train of evils which arise from their infringement, were vehemently enforced; while it was affirmed that the Company held not their territories in sovereignty, but only as a farm granted by the Mogul, to whom they actually paid an annual rent. An act was passed, which directed that after the 24th of June, 1767, dividends should be voted only by ballot, in general courts summoned expressly for that purpose; and that no dividend above ten per cent. for the year should be made before the next session of parliament. The resolution of the Court of Proprietors respecting a dividend of twelve and a half per cent. was thus rescinded; and the right of parliament to control and command the Company in the distribution of their own money asserted and established. The question of the sovereignty was not pushed at that time to a direct and express decision; though a decision was virtually involved in another act, by which the Company, in consideration of holding the territorial revenues for two years, were obliged to pay annually 400,000l. into the public exchequer.

The opinion which Lord Clive had artfully raised of the high prosperity of the Company’s affairs, and of his own extraordinary share in producing it, directed the overflowings of their gratitude towards [385] himself; and a proposition was brought forward and carried, to grant him, for ten years certain, the produce of his jaghire.

Other acquisitions of Clive come subsequently to view. Notwithstanding the covenants executed by the servants of the Company, not to receive any presents from the natives, that Governor had accepted five lacks of rupees during his late residence in Bengal from the Nabob Nujeem ul Dowla. It was represented, indeed, as a legacy left to him by Meer Jaffier, though all indications pointed out a present, to which the name of legacy was artfully attached. At any rate, if any sums might be acquired under the name of legacies, the covenants against receiving presents were useless forms. Lord Clive represented; that upon the first intimation of this gift, his resolution was to refuse it; that he changed his mind, upon reflecting of what importance it would prove as a fund for the benefit of invalided officers and soldiers in the Company’s service; and that he afterwards prevailed upon Syeff ul Dowla, the successor of Nujeem ul Dowla, to bestow three lacks more for this excellent end. The Company sanctioned the appropriation; and to this ambiguous transaction the Institution at Poplar owes its foundation.

Upon this, as upon his former departure, the regulations which Clive left behind, calculated for present applause rather than permanent advantage, produced a brilliant appearance of immediate prosperity, but were fraught with the elements of future difficulty and distress. A double government, or an administration carried on in name by the Nabob, in reality by the Company, was the favourite policy of Clive;1 [386] to whose mind a certain degree of crooked artifice seems to have presented itself pretty congenially in the light of profound and skilful politics. The collection of the revenues was still made as for the exchequer of the Nabob; justice was still administered by his officers and in his name; and all transactions with foreign powers were covered with the mask of his authority. For the benefit of certain false pretexts which imposed upon nobody, the government of the country, as far as regarded the protection of the people, was dissolved. Neither the Nabob nor his officers dared to exert any authority against the English, of whatsoever injustice and oppression they might be guilty. The gomastahs, or Indian agents employed by the Company’s servants, not only practised unbounded tyranny, but overawing the Nabob and his highest officers, converted the [387] tribunals of justice themselves into instruments of cruelty, making them inflict punishment upon the very wretches whom they oppressed and whose only crime was their not submitting with sufficient willingness to the insolent rapacity of those subordinate tyrants. While the ancient administration of the country was rendered inefficient, this suspension of the powers of government was supplied by nothing in the regulations of the English. Beyond the ancient limits of the Presidency, the Company had no legal power over the natives: Beyond these limits the English themselves were not amenable to the British laws; and the Company had no power of coercion except by sending persons out of the country; a remedy always inconvenient, and, except for very heinous offences, operating too severely upon the individual to be willingly applied. The natural consequence was, that the crimes of the English and their agents were in a great measure secured from punishment, and the unhappy natives lay prostrate at their feet. As the revenue of the government depended upon the productive operations of the people; and as a people are productive only in proportion to the share of their own produce which they are permitted to enjoy; this wretched administration could not fail, in time, to make itself felt in the Company’s exchequer.1 Other sources were not wanting, whence a copious stream of evils was derived. Though the Governor and Council placed [388] the powers of the Nabob in a sort of commission, by compelling him to resign the entire management of business to one or more persons of their own choosing; and though they placed a confidential servant of the Company to watch them at the Nabob’s durbar; yet they possessed not over these depositaries of power, whom they could only punish by dismissal, sufficient means of control: Before detection, or much of suspicion, it was always possible for each of them to appropriate a treasure, and be gone; leaving his place to be filled by another who had both temptation and opportunity to repeat his crimes. With men whose interests were so little united with those of their employers, and whose situation was so very precarious, the Zemindars, Rajahs, and other agents of the revenue, might easily settle their own terms, and place the fallacy of their accounts beyond the reach of detection. The mischief was less in practice than reason would have anticipated, because in the choice of these native functionaries the English were both judicious and happy. Another, and that the most pernicious perhaps of all the errors into which Clive exerted himself to mislead the Company, was, the belief which he created, that India overflowed with riches, the expectations he raised, and on which the credulous Company so fondly relied, that a torrent of treasure was about to flow into their laps. As such expectations were adverse to the best use and improvement of their resources, they only hastened that disappointment and distress which their inconsistency with the matters of fact rendered a necessary consequence. In political affairs it is long before even experience teaches wisdom. Till the present moment incessant promises of treasure have never failed to deceive, without ceasing to delude. As often as the pain of disappointment has [389] become exceedingly severe, we have condemned a Governor, in whose conduct we believed that we had found the cause of our misery; and have begun immediately to pamper our fancy anew, with endless hopes and delusions.

Under the feebleness of Suja Dowla, and the quarrels which occupied the Mahrattas at home, the Company enjoyed profound tranquillity in Bengal for a considerable number of years; and during the administrations of Mr. Verelst and Mr. Cartier, who occupied the chair till the elevation of Mr. Hastings, and were calm, unambitious men, few events of historical importance occurred. It was during a period like this, if ever, that the Company ought to have replenished their exchequer, and to have attained financial prosperity. During this period, on the other hand, financial difficulties were continually increasing; and rose at last to a height which threatened them with immediate destruction. Doubtless, the anarchical state, in which, by the double government, the provinces were placed, contributed powerfully to impoverishment; but the surplus revenue, with which the people of England were taught to delude themselves, was hindered by more permanent causes. Though no body should believe it, India, like other countries, in which the industrious arts are in their infancy, and in which law is too imperfect to render property secure, has always been poor. It is only the last perfection of government, which enables a government to keep its own expense from absorbing every thing which it is possible to extract from the people: And the government of India, under the East India Company, by a delegation of servants at the distance of half the circumference of the globe from control, was most unhappily circumstanced for economy. On a subject like this, authority is useful. [390] “With regard to the increase of the expenses,” says Clive, “I take the case to stand thus. Before the Company became possessed of the duannee, their agents had other ways of making fortunes. Presents were open to them. They are now at an end. It was expedient for them to find some other channel: the channel of the civil and military charges. Every man now who is permitted to make a bill, makes a fortune.”1

During the year 1767, a march of the Abdalee Shah, towards Delhi, excited the attention, though not much the alarm, of the Presidency. After some contests with the Seiks, and over-running a few of the provinces, that powerful Chief returned to his own country. An expedition was undertaken for the restoration of the Rajah of Nepaul, who had been dispossessed by his neighbour of Ghurka. The motives were; that Nepaul had carried on a considerable traffic with the province of Berar; that its vicinity to the district of Bettea afforded great opportunities for the improvement of trade; that all intercourse was now destroyed; and that the accomplishment of the object was easy. On the last point, at least, the authors of the war were not very correctly informed; and found they had miscalculated the difficulties of subduing a country, surrounded by mountains, and accessible only by a few narrow and nearly impenetrable defiles. The officer sent to command the expedition was unable to proceed, and wrote for reinforcements. The Presidency were violently disappointed; and felt a strong inclination to wreak their vengeance upon the Commander. Being obliged to send assistance to Madras, they [391] were unable to afford reinforcements, and recalled the detachment.1 The war with Hyder Ali had now broken out in Carnatic; and considerable supplies, both in men and money, were demanded from Bengal. This year, financial distress began to be experienced. Complaints were first emitted of the scarcity of money; ascribed, not to impoverishment of the country, but to a drain of specie, occasioned by the annual exportation of the precious metals, chiefly to China, on account of the Company’s investment, and also in other directions; while the usual supplies of bullion from Europe (the Company providing their investment from the revenues, the Dutch and French from the fortunes of the English consigned to them for transmission) were almost wholly cut off.2

Early in the year 1768, arrived the Company’s peremptory order for abolishing entirely the trade of their servants in salt, and other articles of inferior [392] traffic; for laying it open, and confining it to the natives; and for restricting their servants entirely to the maritime branches of commerce.1

The commission of one and one-eighth per cent. upon the duanee revenues, which by the Select Committee had been settled upon the Governor as a compensation for relinquishing his share in the salt trade, was also commanded to cease. For as much, however, as the income of their servants, if thus cut off from irregular sources of gain, was represented as not sufficiently opulent, the Company granted a commission of two and a half per cent. upon the net produce of the duanee revenues, to be divided into 100 equal shares, and distributed in the following proportions: to the Governor, thirty-one shares; to the second in Council, four and a half; to the rest of the Select Committee, not having a chiefship, each three and a half shares; to the Members of the Council not having a chiefship, each one and a half; to the Commander-in-Chief, seven and a half shares; to Colonels, each, two and a half; Lieutenant-Colonels, each, one and a half; and to Majors, three fourths. An additional pay was allotted, to Captains, of three shillings, Lieutenants two shillings, and Ensigns one shilling per day.

Some uneasiness still continued with respect to the designs of Suja Dowla; between whom and the Emperor considerable discordance prevailed. The Directors [393] had forwarded the most positive orders for recalling the brigade from Allahabad; and for confining the operations of the Company’s army entirely within the limits of the Company’s territory. The Council thought it necessary to disobey; and in their letter went so far as to say that they “must express their great astonishment at such an absolute restriction, without permitting them upon the spot to judge how far, from time and circumstances, it might be detrimental to their affairs.”

The most important particular in the situation of the Company in Bengal was the growing scarcity of pecuniary means. In the letter from the Select Committee to the Court of Directors, dated 21st November, 1768, “You will perceive,” they say, “by the state of your treasury, a total inability to discharge many sums which you are indebted to individuals for deposits in your cash, as well as to issue any part of the considerable advances required for the service of every public department. And you will no longer deem us reprehensible, if a decrease in the amount of your future investments, and a debasement of their quality, should prove the consequence.”

By a correspondence between the Presidencies of Fort William and Fort St. George, in the beginning of March, 1769, the dangerous consequences to be apprehended from the exhausted state of their treasuries, and the necessity of establishing a fund against future emergencies, were mutually explained and acknowledged. In two separate consultations, held by the President and Council at Fort William, in the months of May and August, the utility, or rather the indispensable necessity of such a fund underwent a solemn discussion; and was pronounced to be without dispute. But as the expenses of the government left no resource for the creation of it, except the [394] diminution of the investment, or quantity of goods transmitted to the Company in England, they resolved upon that reduction, and limited to forty-five lacs the investment of the year.

Even this resource was in a very short time perceived to be insufficient. On the 23d of October a deficiency of 6,63,055 rupees appeared on the balance of receipts and disbursements; and the President and Council in their Minute declared, “That however the public might have been flattered, they could not flatter themselves, with any expectations from their revenue; and that the only expedient within their reach was to open their treasury doors for remittances.”1

These remittances consisted chiefly of the money or fortunes of the individuals who had grown rich in the Company’s service, and who were desirous of transmitting their acquisitions to Europe. Such persons were eager to pay their money to the Company’s government in India, upon receiving an obligation for repayment from the Company in England; in the language of commerce, for a bill upon the Company payable in England. The money thus received, in other words borrowed, was applied to the exigencies of the service; and by augmenting their resources was always highly agreeable to the servants in India. The payment however of these loans or bills in England was apt to become exceedingly inconvenient to the Directors. The sole fund out of which the payment could be made was the sale of the [395] investment, or the goods transmitted to them from India and China. If the quantity of these goods was less in value than afforded a surplus equal to the amount of the bills which were drawn upon them, they remained so far deficient in the ability to pay. And if the goods were sent in too exorbitant a quantity, the market was insufficient to carry them off.

An opposition of interests was thus created between the governing part of the servants abroad, and the Courts of Directors and Proprietors at home. For the facility of their operations, and the success of their government, it was of great importance for the servants to preserve a full treasury in India, secured by a small investment, and the receipt of money for bills. It was the interest of the Directors to have an ample supply of money at home, which on the other hand could only be produced by a large investment, and a moderate transmission of bills. The Directors, accordingly, had given very explicit instructions on this subject; and in their letter of the 11th of November, 1768, after acknowledging the growing deficiency of the funds in India, had said; “Nevertheless, we cannot suffer ourselves to be drawn upon to an unlimited amount, the state of the Company’s affairs here not yet admitting us to answer large drafts upon us from India; but should the exigency of your affairs require your receiving money into your treasury, we prefer the mode of borrowing at interest to that of granting bills upon us: We therefore permit you to take up such sums on interest, for one year certain, as will answer your various demands, which are to be paid off at the expiration of that period, or as soon after as the state of your treasury will admit of. You are therefore to confine your drafts upon us, by the ships to be dispatched from your Presidency in the season of 1769, [396] to the same amount as we allowed last year, viz. 70,000l.”1

When the amount of the sums which it was the desire of individuals to send home exceeded the amount which it was permitted to the government in India to receive, in other words to draw bills for upon the Company at home, the parties who were deprived of this channel of remittance betook themselves to the French and Dutch factories, and paid the money into their treasuries for bills upon their respective companies, payable in Europe. This, from an early period of Mr. Verelst’s administration, had constituted a heavy subject of complaint; as making these subordinate settlers to abound with money, while the English were oppressed with want. As he ascribed the financial difficulties of the Company’s government merely to a defect of currency not of revenue, so he ascribed the defect of currency to the remittances which were forced into the Dutch and French channels; though neither of these nations carried any specie out of India, and were only saved to a certain extent the necessity of importing bullion. To him it appeared surprising that the Dutch and French [397] Company should find it easy to pay the bills which were drawn upon them for money received in India; but that the English Company should find it impossible; and he ascribed the restrictions which they imposed to a timid and narrow spirit.1 One circumstance, however, which constituted a most important difference, he was ill situated to perceive. The French and Dutch Companies were chiefly commercial; and whatever money was received in India was laid out in the purchase of goods; these goods were carried to Europe, and sold before the bills became due; the bills were paid out of the proceeds; and a great trade was thus carried on upon English capital. The English Company, on the other hand, was become a regal, as well as a commercial body; the money [398] which was paid for remittance into their treasury in India was absorbed in the expense of the government; and so much only as could be spared was employed in the purchase of investment. This was one cause undoubtedly of the comparative inability of the English Directors to pay the bills which were drawn upon them.

In the Consultation of the 23d of October, in consideration of great exigency, it was resolved, that the Board would receive all monies tendered to the Company’s treasury from that day to the 1st of November, 1770; and at the option of the lenders, grant, either interest notes payable in one year; or receipts bearing interest at eight per cent. for bills to be granted at the sailing of the first ship after the 22d of November, 1770, payable with three per cent. interest, in equal proportions on each tender, at one, two, and three years sight. And as a resource to the Directors, it was resolved to enlarge the investment by purchasing, not with ready money, but with bonds at eight per cent. and one year’s credit. This was the last considerable act in which the Governor was engaged. He resigned his office on the 24th of December, and was succeeded by Mr. Cartier. A new treaty had been concluded with Suja Dowla, which allayed whatever suspicions the ambiguous conduct of that Governor had raised, and Mr. Verelst left the three provinces in profound tranquillity.1
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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CHAP. VIII.

Subahdar of Deccan dethroned by his brother—The English take possession of the Northern Circars—Make a Treaty with the Subahdar of Deccan—Which embroils them with Hyder Ali—History of Hyder Ali—Hyder’s first war with the English—New Treaty with the Subahdar—Peace with Hyder.

Carnatic remained but a short time free from the pressure of the neighbouring powers. In the superior government of Deccan, Nizam Ali, who had resumed, upon the departure of Bussy, the commanding station which he formerly occupied, made no delay in employing all his advantages to effect the dethronement of his feeble-minded brother. On the 18th of July, 1761, he committed the Subahdar to a prison; and invested himself with the full powers and insignia of the government.

The treaty, by the provisions of which the pretensions of England and France were at this time adjusted, affords a singular illustration of the obvious and neglected truth, that the knowledge requisite for good government in India cannot be possessed by rulers sitting and deliberating in Europe. By the treaty of Paris, concluded on the 10th of February, 1763, Salabut Jung was acknowledged as lawful Subahdar of Deccan, after he had been nearly two years dethroned, and another reigning in his stead. This instrument indeed, which recognised Salabut [400] Jung as a great sovereign, was the immediate cause of his death; for Nizam Ali, who had been withheld by dread of the restoration of the French power in India, no sooner received intelligence of the treaty of Paris, by which the French resigned Carnatic, and appeared to abandon the contest, than he felt himself delivered from all restraint, and ordered his brother to be murdered in September, 1763.
With little concern about Bassalut Jung, who nevertheless was elder brother of Nizam Ali, that usurper, at once a regicide and fratricide, now grasped, without a rival, the power of Subahdar of Deccan. The personal title or name of himself and his father have by the English been converted into the appellative of his sovereignty; and it is under the title of the Nizam, that the Subahdar of Deccan is commonly known.

In the beginning of the year 1765, the English and Mahomed Ali their Nabob were summoned to action, by the irruption of Nizam Ali into Carnatic. With a great army, which seemed to have no object in view but plunder and destruction, he laid waste the open country with a ferocity, even greater than the usual barbarity of Indian warfare. The troops of the English and Nabob were put in motion from Arcot, under the command of Colonel Campbell, and came in sight of the enemy at the Pagoda of Tripetti. The Nizam felt no desire to fight: His army was reduced to great distress for provisions and water: He decamped accordingly on a sudden, and marching forty miles in one day evacuated Carnatic by way of Colastria and Nelore.

It was at this time that Lord Clive, on his passage from Europe to Bengal, arrived at Madras. The ascendancy of the English over the Mogul, the unfortunate and nominal Emperor Shah Aulum, rendered [401] it extremely easy to procure from him those imperial grants which, however little respected by the sword, still gave the appearance of legal right to territorial possession within the ancient limits of the Mogul empire. A phirmaun was solicited and obtained for the maritime districts, known by the title of the Northern Circars. Like the rest of India this tract was held by renters, responsible for a certain portion of revenue. Of these some were of recent appointment; others were the ancient Rajahs and Polygars of the country; a set of men who were often found to be the most convenient renters, and who, on the regular payment of the expected revenue, were seldom displaced. The country fell within the government of the Subahdar of Deccan, and was managed by a deputy or commissioner of his appointment. After the English, however, had expelled from it the French, the authority of the Subahdar had been rather nominal than real. The English held possession of their factories and forts; the Rajahs and Polygars assumed a species of independence; Salabut Jung had offered it to Mahomed Ali at the time of his quarrel with Bussy at Hyderabad; and Nizam Ali himself had proposed to surrender it to the English, on the condition of military assistance against Hyder Ali and the Mahrattas. The advantage of possessing the whole line of coast which joined the English territories in Carnatic to those in Bengal, suggested to Clive the importance of obtaining it on permanent terms. A phirmaun was accordingly received from the Emperor, by which, as far as the formality of his sanction could extend, the Northern Circars were freed from their dependance upon the Subahdar of Deccan, and bestowed upon the English. Nor was this the only diminution which the nominal empire of the Nizam sustained; for another phirmaun was [402] procured from the Emperor, by which Carnatic itself was rendered independent of his authority; and bestowed, holding immediately of the Emperor, upon the Nabob Mahomed Ali, together with the new titles of Wallau Jau, Ummir ul Hind, which he ever afterwards used.1

To take possession of the Circars, on its new and independent footing, General Calliaud marched with the troops of Carnatic, and on the part of the Rajahs and Polygars found little opposition to subdue. The Nizam, or Subahdar, was at that time engaged in the country of Barad, making head against the Mahrattas. But he no sooner heard of the operations of the English, than he proceeded with great expedition to Hyderabad; and to avenge himself for the usurpation, as it appeared to him, of an important part of his dominions, made preparations for the invasion of Carnatic. The Presidency, whom their pecuniary weakness rendered timid, were alarmed at the prospect of a war with the Subahdar; and sent orders to [403] Calliaud to hasten to Hyderabad with full powers to negotiate a peace. A treaty was concluded on the 12th of November, 1766, by which the Company agreed to pay to the Nizam an annual tribute of five lacks of rupees for the three circars of Rajahmundry, Ellore, and Mustephanagur; and for those of Siccacole (Chicacolé) and Murtezanagur, two lacks each, as soon as they were definitively placed in their hands. Murtezanagur, commonly called Guntoor, had been assigned as a jaghire to Bassalut Jung; and the Company were pleased to suspend their occupation of it, so long as Bassalut Jung should live, or so long as he should remain a faithful subject to Nizam Ali. They further engaged to hold a body of troops in readiness, “to settle in every thing right and proper, the affairs of his Highness’s government.” And they gave him a present of five lacks of rupees, which the Nabob was ordered to find money to pay.1

This treaty has been severely condemned. But the Presidency were not mistaken in regard to their own pecuniary difficulties, though they probably overestimated the power of the Nizam, whose unpaid and mutinous troops the money which he received by the treaty scarcely enabled him for a short time to appease. The most imprudent article of the agreement was that which stipulated for the Nizam the assistance of English troops; because this had an evident tendency to embroil, and in the event did actually embroil them, with other powers. The exploit in which they were first to be employed, the reduction of the fort of Bangalore, was not, it is probable, disliked by the Presidency; because they were already upon hostile terms with Hyder Ali, to whom [404] it belonged. The Nizam, however, after availing himself of the assistance of the British troops in collecting the tribute from the Polygars, on his march, listened to the overtures of Hyder, who was too eminent a master in the arts of intrigue to let slip an opportunity of dividing his enemies. The Nizam concluded with him a treaty of alliance, in consequence of which they united their forces at Bangalore: And, in August 1767, they began to make incursions into Carnatic.

Hyder Ali, who began to occupy the attention of the English, and who proved the most formidable enemy whom they had ever encountered in India, had now rendered himself entiré master of the kingdom of Mysore. The principality of Mysore, a region of considerable magnitude, had formed one of the dependencies of the great Hindu Government of Bijanuggur, which was broken up by the formation of the Mahomedan kingdoms in Deccan. When the declining power of the sovereigns of Bijanuggur enabled Mysore to throw off its dependence upon that ancient monarchy, its distance and other local circumstances saved it from subjection to any of the Mahomedan powers. It continued, therefore, till the period of Hyder’s usurpation, under a pure Hindu government, and afforded a satisfactory specimen of the political institutions of the native Hindus. The arts of government were less understood in that, than in the Mahomedan districts of India. Hardly ever have mankind been united in considerable societies under a form of polity more rude, than that which has every where been found in those parts of India which remained purely Hindu.1 At a period considerably [405] prior to the rise of Hyder, the government of Mysore had assumed that state, which, if we may judge by its own example, and that of the Mahrattas, Hindu governments had a general tendency to assume. The Rajah, or Monarch, was stripped of all power, while a minister kept him a prisoner, and governed absolutely in his name. At the time when the wars of the English in Carnatic commenced, the powers of the Rajah of Mysore were usurped by two brothers, named Deoraj, and Nunjeraj. It was this same Nunjeraj, whom the French were enabled to bring to their assistance at Trichinopoly; and who there exhibited so many specimens of the rudeness of his people, and of his own ignorance and incapacity. And it was in the station of a subordinate officer in the service of this commander, that Hyder Ali began his career.

Mahomed Beloli, the great grandfather of Hyder, was a native of Punjab, who came into Deccan in the character of a fakir, and, settling in the district of Calburga, about 110 miles in a north-west direction from Hyderabad, acquired considerable property by the exercise of his religious talents. Mahomed Beloli had two sons, Mahomed Ali, and Mahomed Wéllee. They left their father’s house, and travelling southward became, at Sera, revenue peons, or armed men, employed, according to Indian practice, in the forced collection of the taxes. Mahomed Ali died at Colar, and Mahomed Wéllee, for the sake of his property, expelled his widow and son, and drove them from his doors. The name of the son was Futtee Mahomed, the father of Hyder. He obtained, along with his mother, protection from a petty officer, called a naik of peons, by whom he was brought up, and employed as a peon, or common foot soldier, in the party under his command. Futtee [406] Mahomed found means to distinguish himself, and, in the service of the Nabob of Sera, became, first a naik of peons, and afterwards the fojedar, or military superintendant of a district. But misfortune overtook his master. The Nabob was dethroned, his family plundered; and Futtee Mahomed lost his life in their defence. He left two sons, the elder Shabas, the youngest Hyder, and a widow, who had a brother, the naik of a few peons, in the service of a Killedar of Bangalore. With this man, the mother of Hyder sought, and, together with her sons, obtained protection. When Shabas, the elder of the brothers, grew towards manhood, he was recommended by his uncle to an officer in the service of the Rajah of Mysore. The youth quickly rose to distinction; and obtained the command of 200 horse and 1,000 peons. Hyder, till the age of twenty-seven, could be confined to no serious pursuit, but spent his life between the labours of the chase, and the pleasures of voluptuous indolence and riot. He joined, however, the troops of Mysore, as a volunteer at the siege of Deonhully, the castle of a Polygar, about twenty-four miles north-east from Bangalore, which, in 1749, Nunjeraj undertook to reduce. On this occasion the ardour, the courage, and the mental resources of Hyder, drew upon him the attention of the General; and, at the termination of the siege, he was not only raised to the command of fifty horse, and 200 peons, or foot, but was entrusted with the charge of one of the gates of the fortress.

He continued to recommend himself with so much success to Nunjeraj, that, when the efforts of the English to establish their authority in Madura and Trinivelly, in 1755, rendered precarious the possession of the fort of Dindigul, Hyder was chosen as the man on whom its defence could, with greatest security, [407] repose. It was situated on a high rock in the middle of a plain, at nearly an equal distance, of about fifty miles, from Madura and Trichinopoly; and amid the confusions of Carnatic had fallen into the hands of the Mysoreans about ten years before. This elevation added fuel to the ambition of Hyder; and from this period his exertions in its gratification became conspicuous and incessant.

The depredations upon which all Indian, and other barbarous warriors, are so much accustomed to subsist, he reduced to a system. There are in India, and in particular in that part of it to which he belonged, a species of troops, or of men bearing the title of soldiers, who are particularly skilled in all the arts of plunder and of theft; who receive, indeed, no pay in the armies of most of the Indian states, but are understood to provide for themselves by the devastations which they commit. A body of these men Hyder engaged in his service; and employed in the business of depredation. Hyder had never learned either to write or to read; but he valued himself upon the faculty of performing exactly by memory arithmetical calculations, with greater velocity than the most expert accountants. He agreed with his depredators to receive from them one half of the spoil; and so skilfully, we are told, were his checks contrived, that it was nearly impossible for any part of it to be concealed. It was of little importance to Hyder, or to his gang, when the convenience and safety were equal, whether the property which they acquired was taken from friends or from foes. Valuables of every description were their prey; “from convoys of grain,” says Mr. Wilks, “cattle and sheep, which were among the most profitable heads of plunder, down to the clothes, turbans, and earrings of travellers and villagers, men, [408] women, and children.” Thus it was, that Hyder acquired the sinews of war; and before he left Trichinopoly, to which he had repaired in the army of Nunjeraj, he was a commander of 1,500 horse, 3,000 regular infantry, 2,000 peons, and four guns. Having enlisted the most select of the men discharged by Nunjeraj, he departed for Dindegul at the head of 2,500 horse, 5,000 regular infantry, and 2,000 peons, with six guns. He employed against the polygars of his district and its neighbourhood the arts of fraud and of force, with equal success. His vigilant eye discovered, and his activity drained, every source of revenue. He excelled in deceiving the government with false musters and accounts; and the treasures of Hyder were daily augmented. The distracted state of Madura, in 1757, encouraged him to make an effort to gain possession of that country; but Mahomed Issoof marched against him at the head of the English Sepoys, and gave him a severe defeat at the mouth of the narrow pass of Natam.

The weak and distracted state of the government of Mysore afforded opportunity to Hyder of ascending gradually to higher and higher situations and power. The Rajah, who was uneasy at the state of insignificance in which he was held, harassed the ministers with perpetual intrigues; and the brothers themselves were so little united, that Deoraj, who had most of years and of prudence, retired from the scene in disgust, and left Nunjeraj alone to sustain the weight of affairs. The treasury had been exhausted by repeated exactions of the Mahrattas; and in 1758 the troops of Nunjeraj mutinied for payment of arrears.

This was an occasion on which Hyder conceived that he might interpose his authority with advantage. [409] He marched from Dindegul with the whole of his disposable troops; exerted himself with success in effecting a reconciliation between the brothers, and between the brothers and the Rajah; with his strict and experienced eye he examined and reduced the false accounts of the army; and, by effecting a partial payment of arrears, restored the troops to obedience. In this transaction he had sustained the character of a friend to all; and took care to be rewarded in proportion. An assignment was made to him of the revenues of a track of country for sums due by the government; and the fort and district of Bangalore were bestowed upon him in personal jaghire. The moment looked favourable for securing what he probably deemed a greater advantage. Herri Sing was one of the most powerful chiefs in the service of Mysore, and the declared enemy of Hyder. Under pretence of forwarding part of his troops to Dindegul, Hyder sent a large detachment to attack the camp of Herri Sing, who, reposing in careless security, was surprised, with a large portion of his troops, and massacred in the middle of the night.

An invasion of the Mahrattas, which immediately followed, in the beginning of 1759, contributed more remarkably to the elevation of Hyder. Though several of the principal commanders disdained to serve under a man whom they had so lately seen in a very subordinate station, he was appointed to the chief command against this formidable enemy; and acquitted himself with so much vigour and success, that before the end of the campaign he reduced them to an inclination for peace; and concluded a treaty on what were deemed favourable terms.

Hyder was now advanced to the rank and power of commander-in-chief, and had only his friend [410] and patron Nunjeraj, for Deoraj was dead, between him and the entire control of the resources of the state. Hyder’s impatience admitted little delay. To secure the countenance of the Rajah against a man who was at once his robber and his gaoler, was an easy intrigue; and the troops, whose arrears had not been fully paid, and had again increased, were artfully incited to mutiny against Nunjeraj, and to place Hyder, by compulsion, at their head. The Rajah now interposed, and offered to procure pay for the troops, as soon as Hyder should take an oath to be obedient, and to renounce his connexion with the usurping minister. Hyder failed not to exhibit reluctance; but at last allowed himself to be constrained; and Nunjeraj, who could not any longer misunderstand the game, and whose courage was not remarkable, consented to retire, upon the condition of receiving an honourable provision. The Rajah was complimented with the show of greater liberty; but Hyder, to be enabled to provide for the arrears, and the regular pay of the troops, took care to procure the assignment of the revenues of so many districts, that what was now in his direct possession exceeded half the territory of the state.

In March, 1759, Hyder received overtures from Lally, inviting him to his assistance against the English; and, amid the contentions of the rival strangers, looked forward to acquisitions in Carnatic. To pave the way for the share which he proposed to take in determining the fate of that important region, he resolved to obtain possession of the territory which separated Mysore from the confines of Carnatic, and which consisted first of the territory of Anicul, situated on the eastern verge of the tract of woody hills, between Savendy Droog and the Cavery, and next of the Baramahal, a province situated on [411] the intermediate level between the first and second ranges of hills. Immediately after the termination of the stratagem against Nunjeraj, a part of the troops, with a confidential general, were detached to occupy this intermediate territory, which opened a safe communication into the very centre of the province of Arcot. Anicul and Baramahal were secured; and the General proceeded to Pondicherry, under orders from Hyder, to settle the terms of co-operation with the French. These were speedily adjusted; and, on the 4th of June, 1760, a detachment of the Mysorean army arrived at Thiagar, which was surrendered to them by the treaty. The defeat which was sustained by a detachment of the English army, sent to intercept the Mysoreans on their march to Pondicherry, greatly elevated the spirits of Hyder; and inspired him with a resolution to exert his strength in the war of Carnatic. Several divisions of his troops were ordered to assemble in Baramahal, and the affairs of Carnatic might have undergone a revolution, had not a storm arisen in another quarter which it required all the address and power of Hyder to elude.

The distant employment of the troops of Hyder, and his own position, with a small detachment, under command of the guns of the palace, and surrounded by the river, which, being now full, it was impossible to pass, suggested to the queen-mother the possibility of cutting him off, and delivering her son from the thraldom in which it was the evident intention of Hyder to retain him. The assistance was secured of a Mahratta chief, who was at the head of an army in a neighbouring territory; and a cannonade began. Hyder soon discovered that his situation was desperate: but the main attack being deferred till the arrival of the Mahrattas, night came on, when [412] Hyder, with the assistance of a few boats, crossed the river unperceived, with a small body of horse, leaving his family behind him; and having travelled ninety-eight miles in twenty hours, the first seventy-five on the same horse, he arrived at Bangalore. He was just in time to precede the orders of the Rajah, by which the gates of the fort would have been shut against him; and he now hastened to collect his forces, of which those serving with Lally constituted a principal part.

The fortunes of Hyder tottered on the verge of a precipice. The troops, which were hastening towards him from Carnatic and Baramahal, were intercepted by the Mahrattas, who had joined the Rajah; and besieged in their camp. The utmost efforts of Hyder were ineffectual to relieve them; and his power was ready to drop from his hands; when the Mahrattas agreed to march off, upon receiving the cession of Baramahal, and the payment of three lacks of rupees. They had engaged their services to Lally, now besieged in Pondicherry; but had afterwards accepted the promise of a large sum from the English Nabob, on condition of returning immediately to Poonah. It was in consequence of this stipulation, so fortunate for Hyder, that they accepted his additional bribe; and the man, who was destined to bring the English interests to the brink of ruin, was saved by a stroke of English politics.

Hyder took the field against the forces of the Rajah, but still perceiving himself to be inferior to his enemies, he took a resolution, which it required Oriental hypocrisy and impudence to form, and of which nothing less than Oriental credulity could have been the dupe. Unexpected, unarmed, and alone, he presented himself as a suppliant at the door of Nunjeraj, and, being admitted, prostrated himself at [413] his feet. He acknowledged, in terms of bitter anguish, the wrongs of which he was guilty toward the first and greatest of his friends; vowed to devote his future life to their reparation; and entreated a firm and sincere union, that he might establish Nunjeraj in the station of honour and power in which he had formerly beheld him. It requires a high degree of improbability to prevent the greater part of mankind from believing what they vehemently wish. Nunjeraj was gained; and lent his troops, his exertions, his name, and his influence, to give ascendancy to the cause of Hyder. Fraud was an operative instrument in the hands of this aspiring general. Finding himself intercepted with the small detachment which had accompanied him on his sudden journey to the retreat of Nunjeraj, and his junction with the main body of his army which he had left to hang during his absence upon the rear of the enemy, rendered difficult, and his situation dangerous, he forged letters, in the name of Nunjeraj, to the principal commanders in the hostile army, letters purporting to be the result of a conspiracy into which these commanders had already entered to betray their General to Nunjeraj. The bearer was seized of course; and the letters delivered into the hands of the General, who fulfilled the fondest wishes of Hyder, by taking the panic, and running away from the army. During its confusion it was assailed by the main body of Hyder’s forces in the rear, by the detachment with himself in front; and yielded an easy and decisive victory. The triumph of Hyder was now secured. He delayed, only till he augmented his army, and took possession of the lower country; when he ascended the Ghauts, and early in the month of May, 1761, arrived at the capital. He sent to the Rajah a message; “That large sums were due to Hyder by the State, and [414] ught to be liquidated: After the payment of these arrears, if the Rajah should be pleased to continue him in his service, it was well; if not, Hyder would depart, and seek his fortune elsewhere.” The meaning of this humble communication no one misunderstood. It was arranged, that districts should be reserved to the amount of three lacks of rupees for the personal expenses of the Rajah, and one lack for those of Nunjeraj; and that of the remainder of the whole country the management should be taken by Hyder, with the charge of providing for the expenses, civil and military, of the government. From this period Hyder was undisputed master of the kingdom of Mysore.

Hyder was fortunately cast at one of those recurring periods in the history of Oriental nations; when, the springs of the ancient governments being worn out, and political dissolution impending, a proper union of audacity and intrigue has usually elevated some adventurer to the throne. The degraded situation of the Rajah, and the feeble and unskilful administration of the two brothers, opened an avenue to power, of which Hyder was well qualified to avail himself: The debilitated and distracted government of the Subahdar of Deccan; the dreadful blow which the Mahrattas had just received at the battle of Paniput; and the fierce and exhaustive contentions which the rival strangers in Carnatic were waging against one another, left all around a wide expanse, in which, without much resistance, he might expect to reap an opulent harvest: And had it not happened, by a singular train of circumstances, that he was opposed by the arms of a people, whose progress in knowledge and in the arts was far superior to his own, he, and his son, would probably have extended their sway over the greater part of India.

In prosecution of the design which Bassalut Jung had formed to render himself independent of Nizam Ali, he proceeded, about the month of June in 1761, to the reduction of Sera. This was a province, formerly governed by a Nabob, or deputy, of the Subahdar of Deccan. It was now possessed by the Mahrattas. But the shock which the Mahratta power had sustained by the disaster of Paniput, inspired Bassalut Jung with the hope of making a conquest of Sera. By his approach to the territories of Hyder, that vigilant chief was quickly brought near to watch his operations. Bassalut Jung was, by a short experience, convinced that his resources were unequal to his enterprise; and as his elder brother was imprisoned by Nizam Ali, on the 18th of July, his presence at the seat of his own government was urgently required. That the expedition might not appear to have been undertaken in vain, he made an offer to Hyder of the Nabobship of Sera, though yet unconquered, for three lacks of rupees; and formally invested him with the office and title, under the name of Hyder Ali Khan Behauder, which he afterwards bore. The allied chiefs united their armies, and, having speedily reduced the country to the obedience of Hyder, took leave of each other about the beginning of the year 1762.

Hyder continued to extend his conquests over the two Balipoors; over Gooti, the territory of the Mahratta chieftain Morari Row; received the submission of the Polygars of Raidroog, Harponelly, and Chittledroog; and early in 1763 he marched under the invitation of an impostor, who pretended to be the young Rajah of Bednore, to the conquest of that kingdom. The territory of Bednore includes the summit of that part of the range of western hills, which, at a height of from four to five thousand feet [416] above the level of the sea, and for nine months of the year involved in rain and moisture, which clothe them with the most enormous trees, and the most profuse vegetation, overlook the provinces of Canara and Malabar. The capital and fort of Bednore situated in a basin surrounded by hills, extended its sway over the maritime region of Canara, and on the eastern side of the mountains, as far as Santa Bednore and Hoolalkera, within twenty miles of Chittledroog. This country had suffered little from the calamities of recent war, and the riches of the capital, which was eight miles in circumference, are represented as having been immense. Hyder made the conquest with great ease, and confessed that the treasure which he acquired in Bednore was the grand instrument of his future greatness.1

Hyder devoted his mind with great intensity to the establishment of a vigorous and efficient administration in this country; which opened to him a new scene of conquest. He took possession of Soonda, a district on the northern frontier of Bednore: He reduced to submission and dependance the Nabob of Savanoor, a territory which formed a deep indentation between his recent acquisitions of Sera and Soonda: And he rapidly extended his northern frontier across the rivers Werda, Malpurba, and Gutpurba, almost to the banks of the Kistna.

This daring progress, however, again brought the Mahrattas upon his hands. Since the battle of Paniput, they had, in this quarter of India, been pushed with some vigour by Nizam Ali, the new Subahdar, who, at the commencement of his reign, gave some signs of military ardour and talent. He had constrained them to restore the celebrated fortress of Dowlatabad, in 1762; and, in 1763, carried his arms to Poona, the capital; which he reduced to ashes. The accommodation which succeeded this event, and the occupation which the Nizam was now receiving by the war for the reduction of his brother Bassalut Jung, seemed to present an opportunity to the Mahrattas of chastising the encroachments of a neighbour, whom as yet they despised. Madoo Row, who, third in order of time, had, under the title of Peshwa, or Prime Minister, succeeded to the supreme authority among the Mahratta states, crossed the Kistna in May, 1764, with an army which greatly outnumbered that which Hyder was able to bring into the field.1 He sustained a tedious, unequal conflict, which greatly reduced and disheartened his army, till 1765; when the Mahrattas agreed to retire, upon condition that he should restore the districts wrested from Morari Row, relinquish all claims [418] upon the territory of Savanoor, and pay thirty-two lacks of rupees.

He hastened to give order to his recent conquests in the east, which the late interruption of his prosperity had animated into rebellion. As his forts and garrisons had remained firm, these disturbances were speedily reduced, and he immediately turned his eye to new acquisitions. Having employed the greater part of the year 1765 in regulating the affairs of his government, and repairing his losses, he descended into Canara in the beginning of 1766, with the declared intention of making the conquest of Malabar. After an irregular war of some duration with the Nairs, the whole country submitted; and a few subsequent struggles only afforded an opportunity for cutting off the most refractory subjects, and establishing a more complete subjection. He had accomplished this important enterprise before the end of the year 1766, when he was recalled to Seringapatam, by intelligence of the utmost importance. Madoo Row had issued from Poona; Nizam Ali, with an English corps, was advancing from Hyderabad; the English had already sent to attack some of his districts which interfered with Carnatic; and all these powers were joined, according to report, in one grand confederacy for the conquest of Mysore. Nizam Ali, however, and the English, were the only enemies whom it was immediately necessary to oppose; and the Nizam, as we have already seen, he easily converted into an ally. In this state of his kingdom and fortunes, he began his first war with the English, in 1767.1

He was exasperated, not only by the readiness [419] with which, in the late treaty with the Nizam, the English had agreed to join in hostilities against him, but by an actual invasion of his dominions. Under the pretence that it formerly belonged to Carnatic, but chiefly induced, we may suppose, by the consideration of the passage which it afforded an enemy into the heart of that country, the English had sent a Major, with some Europeans and two battalions of Sepoys, into Baramahl, who, unhappily, were just strong enough to overrun the open territory, and enrage its master; but were unable to make any impression upon the strong forts, much less to secure possession of the country.

It was by means of Maphuz Khan, the brother of the English Nabob, who had acted as an enemy of the English from the period of his recall as renter of Madura and Tinivelly, that Hyder effected his alliance with the Nizam. The English corps, under Colonel Smith, which had followed the Nizam into Hyder’s dominions, had separated from his army, upon intimation of the design which that faithless usurper was supposed to entertain. The Nabob Mahomed Ali, who had early intelligence of the views of the Nizam, urged the Presidency to attack his camp before the junction of the Mysorean. The advice, however, was neglected, and, in the month of September, Colonel Smith was attacked on his march, near Changamal, by the united forces of the new allies. He sustained the attack, which, for the space of an hour was vigorously maintained; and for that time repelled the enemy. He found himself, however, under the necessity of flight; and marching thirty-six hours, without refreshment, he arrived at Trinomalee. He here enclosed himself within the walls of the fort, from which he soon beheld the surrounding [420] country covered by the troops of the enemy, and desolated with fire and sword.

He remained not long an idle spectator, though his weakness compelled him to act with caution. He encamped for a few days under the walls of Trinomalee, and afterwards near a place called Calishy-Wâcum, about ten miles further to the north. While the army lay in this situation, Hyder planned an expedition, from which important consequences might have ensued. He detached into Carnatic 5000 horse, who marched without opposition to the very precincts of Madras. The place was completely taken by surprise. The President and Council were at their garden houses, without the town; and had not the Mysoreans been more eager to plunder, than to improve the advantages which their unexpected arrival had procured, the seizure of the English chiefs might have enabled them to dictate the terms of peace.

Before the rains compelled the English army to retire into cantonments at Wandewash, Colonel Smith attacked the enemy, with some advantage, before Trinomalee. In the mean time Nizam Ali, whose resources could ill endure a protracted contest, or the disordered state of his government a tedious absence, grew heartily sick of the war; and during the period of inactivity signified to the English his desire of negotiation. As a security against deception Colonel Smith insisted that he should first separate his troops from those of Hyder. But in the mean time the period of operations returned; and the English commander, now respectably reinforced, marched towards the enemy, who in the month of December had taken the field on the further side of Velore. The two armies met, and came to action, [421] between Amboor and Wanumbaddy, when Hyder and his ally were defeated, and fled to Caverypatnam. This disaster quickened the decision of the Nizam, who now lost not any time in separating his troops from the Mysoreans; and commencing his negotiation with the English. A treaty was concluded between the Subahdar, the Nabob, and the English, in February 1768; by which the titles of the Nabob, and the grants which he had received were confirmed; the former conditions respecting the Northern Circars were renewed; the duanee, or revenues, in other words the government of Carnatic Balagaut, a country possessed by Hyder, was in name consigned to the English, subject to a payment of seven lacs per annum to the Nizam, and the tribute or chout to the Mahrattas; the English agreed to assist the Nizam with two battalions of Sepoys, and six pieces of cannon, as often as required; and the tribute due to the Nizam for the Circars was reduced from nine lacs perpetual, to seven lacs per annum, for the space of six years.1

The victory gained over the united forces of the allies, and their final separation by treaty, elevated the Madras government to a high tone of ambition. They resolved not only to carry their arms into Mysore, but to make the conquest and acquisition of the country. They pressed Mahomed Ali to join the army, that the war might as far as possible appear to be his. “They pompously” (as the Directors afterwards reproached them) “appointed him Phousdar of Mysore,” and afterwards accused him, for accepting that very title, “of an insatiable desire of extending his dominions.”1 To bring the conduct of the war still more under the control of the Presidency, they sent to the army two members of council, as field deputies, without whose concurrence no operations should be carried on. These members compelled the commander of the troops to renounce his own scheme of operations, that he might act offensively against Mysore. The English army, however, too feeble for the enterprise, acted without energy; and the summer of 1768 passed in unavailing movements and diminutive attempts. Hyder, the newness of whose government could not long dispense with his presence, was well inclined to postpone his struggle with the English, and made in September an overture towards [423] peace. It was received, however, with great haughtiness by the Presidency, whose persuasion of the weakness of their enemy, and hopes of a speedy conquest of his realm, it only tended to increase and inflame. In the mean time Hyder was by no means inattentive to the war. He took the considerable fort of Mulwaggle; and gained some advantages over Colonel Wood, who attempted in vain to recover the place. The Presidency, dissatisfied with the progress of the war, under Colonel Smith, who was highly exasperated by the control of the field deputies, recalled that respectable officer; and Mahomed Ali, whom they had in some measure forced to join the army, but who was now unwilling to leave it, they commanded, under pain of deprivation, to return. The army became weak and despondent, through sickness and desertion. Hyder displayed increasing vigour. He attacked Colonel Wood, who was unable to save his baggage. Before the end of the year he had recovered all the conquered districts; and in January, 1769, carried his usual ravages into Carnatic. He penetrated into the district of Trichinopoly; and detached one of his Generals into the provinces of Madura and Tinivelly, which he plundered and laid waste. The English army were unprovided with horse, and could neither overtake the march of Hyder, nor interrupt his devastations. No part of the southern division of Carnatic escaped his destructive ravages, except the dominions of the Rajah of Tanjore, who saved himself by a timely accommodation, and whose alliance Hyder was solicitous to gain. Colonel Smith was again placed at the head of the English forces, and by judicious movements straitened the operations of Hyder. He even interposed with dexterity a detachment between Hyder and his own country, which was of the less [424] importance, however, to that warrior, as he drew his resources from the country in which he fought.

Hyder now meditated a stroke, which he executed with great felicity and address. Sending all his heavy baggage and collected plunder home from Pondicherry, which during this incursion he had twice visited to confer with the French, he drew the English army, by a series of artful movements, to a considerable distance from Madras, when, putting himself at the head of 6000 cavalry, and performing a march of 120 miles in a space of three days, he appeared suddenly on the mount of San Thomé, in the immediate vicinity of the English capital. From this he dispatched a message to the Governor, requiring that a negotiation for peace should immediately be opened; and that in the mean time the approach of the army in the field should be forbidden. The Presidency were struck with consternation. The fort might undoubtedly have held out till the arrival of Smith; but the open town, with its riches, the adjacent country, and the garden houses of the President and Council, would have been ravaged and destroyed. The Presidency were now seriously inclined to peace; and notwithstanding the unfavourableness of their situation, they agreed to negotiate upon Hyder’s terms. A treaty was concluded on the 4th of April, 1769, consisting of two grand conditions; first, a mutual restitution of conquests, including the cession to Hyder of a small district, which had formerly been cut off from the Mysorean dominions; and secondly, mutual aid, and alliance in defensive wars.

The disasters of the war in Carnatic, with the disorders which pervaded the government of Bengal, excited the most violent apprehensions in the Company; and reduced sixty per cent. the price of East [425] India Stock. The treaty with Hyder was the bed on which the resentments of the Directors sought to repose. It is very observable, however, that their letters on this subject abound much more with terms of vague and general reproach, than with any clear designation of mischief to which the conditions of the treaty were calculated to give birth. They accuse the Presidency of irresolution, and incapacity; and tell them that by the feebleness with which they had carried on the war, and the pusillanimity with which they had made peace at the dictation of an enemy, “they had laid a foundation for the natives of Hindustan to think they may insult the Company at pleasure with impunity.” Yet they pretended not, that a mutual renunciation of conquests was not better than a continuation of the war; or that the vain boast of driving Hyder’s light cavalry from the walls of Madras would not have been dearly purchased with the ravage of the city of Madras, and the surrounding country. The Presidency affirm that they “were compelled to make peace for want of money to wage war.”1 And the only imprudent article of the treaty, in which, however, there was nothing of humiliation or inconsistency with the train of the Company’s policy, was the reciprocation of military assistance; because of this the evident tendency (a circumstance however which seemed not ever to be greatly deprecated,) was, to embroil them with other powers.2
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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CHAP. IX.

Public opinion in England, Proceedings in the India House, and in Parliament—Plan of Supervisors—Plan of a King’s Commissioner—Increase of pecuniary Difficulties—Dividend raised—Company unable to meet their Obligations—Parliamentary Inquiry—Ministerial Relief—An Act, which changes the Constitution of the Company—Tendency of the Change—Financial and Commercial State

The affairs of the Company excited various and conflicting passions in England; and gave rise to measures of more than ordinary importance. The act of parliament having expired which limited the amount of dividend in 1767, the Directors exclaimed against a renewal of the restriction, as transferring the powers of the Company to parliament, subverting the privileges of their charter, and rendering insecure the property of every commercial and corporate body in the kingdom. They even presented to parliament a petition, in which these arguments were vehemently enforced; and so well by this time were they represented in that assembly, that a sufficiency of orators was not wanting, who in both Houses supported their claims. Opposite views, notwithstanding, prevailed; and an act was passed to prevent the increase of the dividend beyond ten per cent. till the 1st day of February, 1769.

Before the expiration of this term, the Company, [427] who were anxious to evade the question respecting the public claim to the sovereignty of the Indian territory, very assiduously negotiated with the minister a temporary arrangement. After a great deal of conference and correspondence, an act was passed, in April, 1769, to the following effect: That the territorial revenues in India should be held by the Company for five years to come; that in consideration of this benefit they should pay into the exchequer 400,000l. every year; that if the revenues allowed, they might increase the dividend, by augmentations not exceeding one per cent. in one year, to twelve and a half per cent.; that if, on the other hand, the dividend should fall below ten per cent., the payment into the exchequer should obtain a proportional reduction, and entirely cease if the dividend should decline to six per cent.; that the Company should, during each year of the term, export British merchandise, exclusive of naval and military stores, to the amount of 380,837l.; and that when they should have paid their simple contract debts bearing interest, and reduced their bonded debt to an equality with their loans to government, they should add to these loans the surplus of their receipts at an interest of two per cent.1 This agreement between the public and the Company, was made, it is obvious, upon the same supposition, that of a great surplus revenue, upon which succeeding agreements have been made, and with the same result.

In the mean time, the grievous failure in the annual treasures, which they had been so confidently promised; and which, with all the credulity of violent wishes, they had so fondly and confidently promised themselves; excited, both in the Company, [428] and in the nation, the most vehement complaints against the managers in India, to whose misconduct was ascribed the disappointment of hopes which no conduct could have realized.1 A grand investigation and reform were decreed. And for the performance, after great consultation, it was resolved; that three persons should be chosen, whose acquaintance with Indian affairs, and whose character for talents, diligence, and probity, should afford the best security for the right discharge of so important a trust; and that they should be sent out, in the name and with the character of Supervisors, and with powers adapted to the exigence of the case. Mr. Vansittart, the late Governor of Bengal, Mr. Scrafton, and Colonel Ford, were recommended as the three commissioners; and it was proposed to invest them with almost all the powers which the Company themselves, if present in India, would possess; a power of superseding the operations and suspending the authority of the Presidents and Councils, of investigating every department of the service, and establishing such regulations as the interests of the Company might seem to require. The scheme was indeed opposed with great vehemence, by all those who favoured the persons now invested with the governing powers in India; by all those who had any pique against the individuals proposed; and by all those who disliked the accumulation of exorbitant authority in a small number of hands. But though they formed no inconsiderable party, the disappointment [429] of the golden dreams of the Proprietors prevailed, in the General Court; and supervisors with extraordinary powers, it was resolved, were the very remedy which the maladies of the Indian government required.

But the pretensions of the ministry again interfered. Not only was the legality disputed of the commission by which the supervisors were appointed; but a share was claimed in the government of India, which the Directors regarded with alarm and abhorrence. As an accession to their power and influence in India, which they imagined would be of the utmost importance, they had applied to government for two ships of the line, and some frigates. No aversion to this proposition was betrayed by the ministry; but when the Company were elated with the hopes which a compliance was calculated to inspire, they were suddenly informed that the naval officer whom the Crown should appoint to command in India, must be vested with full powers to adjust all maritime affairs; to transact with the native princes; and, in short, to act the principal part in the offensive and defensive policy of the country. The Directors represented this proposal as affecting the honour, and the very existence of the Company. The General Court was adjourned from time to time to afford sufficient space for the consideration of so important a subject; and the Proprietors were entreated to consider the present moment as the very crisis of their fate; and to devote to the question a proportional share of their attention. To vest the officers of the Crown in India with powers independent of the Company, was in reality, they said, to extrude the Company from the government; to lay the foundation of endless contests between the servants of the King and those of the Company; and to prepare the [430] ruin of the national interests in that part of the world; If the Company were incapable of maintaining their territorial acquisitions, to surrender them to the powers of the country, upon terms advantageous to their commerce, was better, it was averred, than to lie at the mercy of a minister: And the fatal effects of the interference of the servants of the Crown in the affairs of a Company, formed for upholding a beneficial intercourse with India, were illustrated by contrasting the ruin of the French East India Company, the affairs of which the ministers of the French King had so officiously controled, with the prosperity of the Dutch East India Company, the affairs of which had been left entirely to themselves. The grand argument, on the other side, was furnished by Clive and the Directors themselves; who had used so many and such emphatical terms to impress a belief that the unprosperous state of their government was wholly produced by the rapacity and misconduct of those who conducted it in India. In the first place, the authority of a King’s officer was held up as an indipensable security against the vices of the Company’s servants; and in the next place the dignity of the master whom he served was represented as necessary to give majesty to the negotiations which a company of merchants might be required to conduct with the potentates of India.1 After long and acrimonious debates, the [431] powers demanded for an officer of the Crown were condemned in a Court of Proprietors; and the ministers were not disposed to enforce, by any violent procedure, the acceptance of their terms. The Company would agree to sanction the interference of the officer commanding the ships of the King only within the Gulf of Persia, where they were embroiled with some of the neighbouring chiefs; the demand of two ships of the line for the Bay of Bengal was suspended; and the legal objection to the commission of the supervisors was withdrawn. In this manner, at the present conjuncture, was the dispute between the Government and the Company compromised. Two frigates, beside the squadron for the Gulf of Persia, were ordered upon Indian service. In one of them the supervisors took their passage. Their fate was remarkable. The vessel which carried them never reached her port; nor was any intelligence of her or her passengers ever received.

Mr. Cartier assumed the government of Bengal at the beginning of the year 1770.

The first year of his administration was distinguished by one of those dreadful famines which so often afflict the provinces of India; a calamity by [432] which more than a third of the inhabitants of Bengal were computed to have been destroyed.1

On the 10th of March, 1770, the Nabob Syef al Dowla died of the small-pox; and his brother Mubarek al Dowla, a minor, was appointed to occupy his station. The President and Council made with him the same arrangements, and afforded the same allowance for the support of his family and dignity, as had been established in the time of his predecessor. But this agreement was condemned in very unceremonious terms by the Directors. “When we advert,” say they, “to the encomiums you have passed on your own abilities and prudence, and on your attention to the Company’s interest (in the expostulations you have thought proper to make on our appointment of commissioners to superintend our general affairs in India), we cannot but observe with astonishment, that an event of so much importance as the death of the Nabob Syef al Dowla, and the establishment of a successor in so great a degree of nonage, should not have been attended with those advantages for the Company, which such a circumstance offered to your view.—Convinced, as we are, that an allowance of sixteen lacks per annum will be sufficient for the support of the Nabob’s state and rank, while a minor, we must consider every addition thereto as so much to be wasted on a herd of parasites and sycophants, who will continually surround him; or at least be hoarded up, a consequence still more pernicious to the Company. You are therefore, during the non-age of the Nabob, to reduce his annual stipend to sixteen lacks of rupees.”2

By the last regulations of the Directors, the inland trade in salt, beetle-nut, and tobacco, was reserved to [433] the natives, and Europeans were excluded from it. By a letter of theirs, however, dated the 23d of March, 1770, it was commanded to be laid open to all persons, Europeans as well as natives, but without any privileges to their countrymen or servants beyond what were enjoyed by natives and other subjects. These regulations were promulgated on the 12th of December.

In the mean time financial difficulties were every day becoming more heavy and oppressive. On the 1st of January, 1771, when the President and Council at Fort William had received into their treasury 95,43,855 current rupees, for which they had granted bills on the Court of Directors, the cash remaining in it was only 35,42,761 rupees. At the same period the amount of bond debts in Bengal was 612,628l. And at the beginning of the following year it had swelled to 1,039,478l.

Notwithstanding the intelligence which the Directors had received of the inadequacy of their revenues, and the accumulation of their debts in all parts of India; and notwithstanding their knowledge of the great amount of bills drawn upon them, for which they were altogether unable to provide, they signalized their rapacity on the 26th of September, 1770, by coming to a resolution for recommending it to the General Court, to avail themselves of the permission accorded in the late act, by making a dividend at the rate of twelve per cent. per annum. The approbation of the General Court was unanimous. On the 14th of March and 25th of September, 1771, it was resolved, by the Court of Directors, to recommend to the General Court an augmentation of the dividend to six and a quarter per cent. for the six months respectively ensuing: approved in the General Court, by ninety-four voices against five in the first [434] instance, and 374 against thirty in the second. On the 17th of March, 1772, the Directors again resolved to recommend a dividend of six and a quarter per cent. for the current half year, which the Court of Proprietors in a similar manner confirmed.

These desperate proceedings hurried the affairs of the Company to a crisis. On the 8th of July, on an estimate of cash for the next three months, that is, of the payments falling due, and the cash and receipts which were applicable to meet them, there appeared a deficiency of no less than 1,293,000l. On the 15th of July the Directors were reduced to the necessity of applying to the Bank for a loan of 400,000l. On the 29th of July they applied to it for an additional loan of 300,000l. of which the Bank was prevailed upon to advance only 200,000l. And on the 10th of August the Chairman and Deputy waited upon the Minister to represent to him the deplorable state of the Company, and the necessity of being supported by a loan of at least one million from the public.1

The glorious promises which had been so confidently made of unbounded riches from India, their total failure, the violent imputations of corrupt and erroneous conduct which the Directors and the agents of their government mutually cast upon one another, had, previous to this disclosure, raised a great ferment in the nation, the most violent suspicions of extreme misconduct on the part of the Company and their servants, and a desire for some effectual interference on the part of the legislature. In the King’s speech, on the 21st of January, at the opening of the preceding session, it had been intimated that one branch of the national concerns which, “as well from remoteness [435] of place, as from other circumstances, was peculiarly liable to abuses, and exposed to danger, might stand in need of the interposition of the legislature, and require new laws either for supplying defects or remedying disorders.” On the 30th of March a motion was made by the Deputy Chairman for leave to bring in a bill for the better regulation of the Company’s servants, and for improving the administration of justice in India. The grand evil of which the Directors complained was the want of powers to inflict upon their servants adequate punishment either for disobedience of orders, or any other species of misconduct. The Charter of Justice, granted in 1753, empowered the Mayor’s Court of Calcutta, which it converted into a Court of Record, to try all civil suits arising between Europeans, within the town or factory of Calcutta, or the factories dependant upon it: it also constituted the President and Council a Court of Record, to receive and determine appeals from the Mayors; it further erected them into Justices of the Peace, with power to hold quarter sessions; and into Commissioners of oyer and terminer, and general gaol-delivery, for the trying and punishing of all offences, high treason excepted, committed within the limits of Calcutta and its dependant factories. This extent of jurisdiction, measured by the sphere of the Company’s possessions at the time when it was assigned, deprived them of all powers of juridical coercion with regard to Europeans over the wide extent of territory of which they now acted as the sovereigns. They possessed, indeed, the power of suing or prosecuting Englishmen in the Courts at Westminster; but under the necessity of bringing evidence from India, this was a privilege more nominal than real.

One object, therefore, of the present bill was to obtain authority for sending a chief justice with some [436] puisne judges, and an attorney-general, according to the model of the Courts of England, for the administration of justice throughout the territory of the Company.

The next object was, the regulation of the trade. The author of the motion, the Deputy Chairman of the Company, represented it as a solecism in politics, and monstrous in reason, “that the governors of any country should be merchants; and thus have a great temptation to become the only merchants, especially in those articles which were of most extensive and necessary consumption, and on which, with the powers of government, unlimited profits might be made.” It was, therefore, proposed that the Governors and Councils, and the rest of the Company’s servants, should be debarred from all concern in trade. But it neither occurred to the Deputy Chairman, nor was it pressed upon his notice by any other member of the legislative body, that the argument against the union of trade and government was equally conclusive, applied to the Company, as applied to their servants; to those who held the powers of government in the first instance, as to those who held them by delegation and at will.

It was in the debate upon this motion that Lord Clive made the celebrated speech, in which he vindicated his own conduct, against the charges to which, as well from authority as from individuals, it had been severely exposed. He spared not the character either of his fellow-servants, or of the Directors. “I attribute the present situation of our affairs,” he said, “to four causes; a relaxation of government in my successors; great neglect on the part of administration; notorious misconduct on the part of the Directors; and the violent and outrageous proceedings of general courts.” To hear his account, no one would believe that any [437] creature who had ever had any thing to do with the government had ever behaved well but himself. It was much easier for him, however, to prove that his conduct was liable to no peculiar blame, than that it was entitled to extraordinary applause. With great audacity, both military and political, fortunately adapted to the scene in which he acted, and with considerable skill in the adaptation of temporary expedients to temporary exigencies, he had no capacity for a comprehensive scheme, including any moderate anticipation of the future; and it was the effects of his short-sighted regulations, and of the unfounded and extravagant hopes he had raised, with which the Company were now struggling on the verge of ruin, and on account of which the conduct both of them and of their servants was exposed to far more than its due share of obloquy and condemnation.

The suspicions of the nation were now sufficiently roused to produce a general demand for investigation; and on the 13th of April a motion was made and carried in the House of Commons for a select Committee to gratify the public desire. The bill which had been introduced by the Deputy Chairman was thrown out on the second reading, to afford time for the operations of the Committee, and parliament was prorogued on the 10th of June.

During the recess, took place the extraordinary disclosure of the deficiency of the Company’s funds, their solicitation of loans from the Bank, and their application for support to the Minister. He received their proposals with coldness; and referred them to parliament. That assembly was convened on the 26th of November, much earlier, as the King from the throne informed them, than had been otherwise intended, to afford them an opportunity of taking cognizance of the present condition of the East India Company. The Minister had already [438] come to the resolution of acceding to the request of the Directors; it therefore suited his purpose to affirm that how great soever the existing embarrassment, it was only temporary; and a Committee of Secrecy was appointed, as the most effectual and expeditious method for gaining that knowledge of the subject from which it was proper that the measures of parliament should originate.

Among the expedients which the urgency of their affairs had dictated to the Company, a new commission of supervision had been resolved upon during the recess; and six gentlemen were selected for that important service. The measure, however, was not approved by the ministry; and on the 7th of December the Committee of Secrecy presented a report, stating, that notwithstanding the financial difficulties of the Company, they were preparing to send out a commission of supervisors at a great expense, and that, in the opinion of the Committee, a bill ought to be passed to restrain them from the execution of that purpose for a limited time. The introduction of this bill excited the most vehement remonstrances on the part of the Company, and of those by whom their cause was supported in the two houses of parliament. It was asserted to be a violation of property, by curtailing the powers which the Company possessed by charter of managing their own affairs; and all the evils which can arise from shaking the security of property were held up in their most alarming colours to deter men from approbation of the threatened restraint. The Company’s claims of property, however, so frequently, during the whole course of their history, brought to oppose the interposition of parliament in their affairs, proved of as little force upon this as upon other occasions; and their privileges, they were told, to which the term property, in its unlimited sense, could not without sophistry be [439] applied, were insufficient to set aside that for which all property is created—the good of the community; now in one important article so formidably threatened in their mismanaging hands.

After this decisive act of control, the next ostensible proceeding was the petition for a loan, presented by the Company to parliament on the 9th day of March. The propositions urged by the Directors were: that they should receive a loan of 1,500,000l. for four years, at four per cent. interest; that they should make no dividend of more than six per cent. per annum until the loan should be reduced to 750,000l.; that the dividend in that event should rise to eight per cent.; that the surplus of receipts above disbursements in England should be applied to the reduction of the Company’s bond debts to 1,500,000l.; that after such reduction, the surplus should be divided equally between the public and the Company; and that the Company should be released from payment of the annual 400,000l. to the public, for the remainder of the five years specified in the former agreement, and from the payments to which they were bound in consequence of the late acts for the indemnity on teas. In lieu of these, the following were the propositions offered by the Minister: to lend the Company 1,400,000l. at an interest of four per cent.; to forego the claim of 400,000l. a-year from the territorial revenue till that debt is discharged; to restrict them from making any dividend above six per cent. till that discharge is accomplished, and from making any dividend above seven per cent. till their bond debt is reduced to 1,500,000l.; after that reduction to receive from them, in behalf of the public, three-fourths of the surplus receipts at home, the remaining fourth being appropriated either for the further reduction of the bond debt, or the [440] formation of a fund to meet contingent exigencies; and, under these conditions, to permit the territorial acquisitions to remain in their possession for six years, the unexpired term of their charter.

The Company treated these conditions as harsh, arbitrary and illegal; petitioned against them in the strongest terms; and were supported with great vehemence of language by their own friends, and the enemies of the Minister, in both houses of parliament. The restriction of the dividend after payment of the debt, the exaction of so great a proportion of the surplus receipts, and in particular the appropriation even of that part which it was proposed to leave as their own, they arraigned as a violent disposal of their property without their own consent, equalling the most arbitrary acts of the most despotical governments, and setting a precedent which lessened the security of every right of a British subject. These considerations, however vehemently urged, produced but little effect: the ministerial influence was predominating; the Company were odious; and it was felt, perhaps, rather than distinctly seen, that the rules of individual property were not applicable, without great restrictions, to an artificial body, whose proceedings were of such a magnitude as deeply to affect the interests of the nation at large. Of all these pretensions, however, that which seemed most to alarm the Company was the claim now distinctly asserted by the government to the territorial acquisitions; and though a definitive discussion was still waved by the Minister, the Company expostulated against the limitation of their possession to six years, as involving in it a decision of the question at issue.

A more important exercise of power over their affairs was still meditated by the Minister; an entire [441] change in the constitution of the Company. On the 3d of May he introduced a series of propositions, as the foundation for a law, which should raise the qualification to vote in the Court of Proprietors from 500l. to 1,000l., and give to every proprietor possessed of 3,000l. two votes, possessed of 6,000l. three votes, and of 10,000l. four votes; which should change the annual election of the whole number of Directors to that of six new ones, or one-fourth of the whole number each year; vest the government of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, in a governor-general, with a salary of 25,000l., and four counsellors of 8,000l. each; render the other Presidencies subordinate to that of Bengal: establish at Calcutta a supreme court of judicature, consisting of a chief justice with 8,000l. a-year, and three other judges, with each 6,000l. a-year, appointed by the Crown.

As subsidiary articles it was proposed; that the first governor-general, and counsellors, should be nominated by parliament in the act, and hold their office for five years, after which the patronage of those great offices should revert to the Directors, but still subject to the approbation of the Crown; that every thing in the Company’s correspondence from India, which related to the civil or military affairs, to the government of the country, or the administration of the revenues, should be laid before the ministry; that no person in the service, either of the King or of the Company, should be allowed to receive presents; and that the governor-general, the counsellors, and judges, should be excluded from all commercial profits and pursuits.

If the alarm and indignation of the Company, Directors and Proprietors, were excited before; that body were now struck with the highest terror and resentment. They exclaimed, that the very constitution [442] was threatened with subversion, and the rights conferred by charter treated as dust. They tendered a direct application to the city of London, to join them with its influence in resisting a measure; which destroyed the principle on which its own privileges and those of every chartered body in the nation depended; and threatened the very freedom of the people, both by setting a conspicuous and prolific example of the arbitrary violation of law, and by adding the whole of the revenue and government of India to the power and influence of the Crown. They represented, that by the clause which raised the qualification of the voters, above twelve hundred Proprietors were disfranchised; violently, and without compensation, robbed of an important right, and excluded from all share, direct or indirect, in the management of their own immediate property: That by destroying the annual election of Directors, those Trustees for the Company were placed above the control of their constituents, and vested with new powers to gratify their own ease or corruption, at the expense of those whose interests were lodged in their hands: That by reducing to a small number the votes of the Proprietors, the ministerial management of that body became more easy: That, by rendering the situation of Director permanent for so great a number of years, under the incapacitation of the Proprietors either to punish or reward, and under the great power of the Minister to do both, the subserviency of the Court of Directors to all ministerial purposes was perfectly secured; and that, from these sources combined, the power of the Minister over the Company was rendered hardly any thing inferior to absolute: That the whole government of the settlements in India was taken from the Company, and, in effect, transferred to the Crown, by establishing a [443] general presidency over all their affairs, of which the agents were in the first instance named by parliament, and ever after, in reality, under the condition of its approbation, named by the Crown: And that, “notwithstanding the Company were thus deprived of their franchise in the choice of their servants, by an unparalleled strain of injustice and oppression they were compelled to pay such salaries, as ministers might think fit to direct, to persons in whose appointment, approbation, or removal, the Company were to have no share.”1

These considerations were frequently urged, with the utmost vehemence and asperity, in both assemblies of Parliament. Every question, every clause, was warmly debated, and pressed to a division. The city of London, the Company themselves, and those stockholders who were deprived of their votes, presented strong and earnest petitions. In behalf of the Company, and the disfranchised Proprietors, counsel, at their prayer, were heard. And two protests, couched in censorial language of extraordinary strength, obtained a numerous signature in the upper house.

All this opposition, however, and all this ferment were of little avail. The propositions of the ministry were all carried by great and decisive majorities, and being reduced into two acts, the one relating to the financial relief of the Company, the other to the establishment of their new constitution, received the royal assent on the 21st of June and the 1st of July. The arrangements which concerned the business at home were appointed to commence from the 1st of [444] October, 1773; those which concerned the foreign administration not till the 1st of August, 1774.1

Practical statesmen, so apt to assume to themselves the monopoly of political wisdom, are commonly shortsighted legislators.

In one respect the present experiment fulfilled the purpose very completely for which it was intended. It followed the current of that policy, which for many reasons has run with perfect regularity and considerable strength, diminishing the influence of numbers in affairs of government, and reducing things as much as possible to the oligarchical state.

For the rest; it had not so much as a tendency to remove the principal evils to which it pretended to find a remedy; and it created some, of the greatest magnitude, which previously had no existence.

The evils in question were—I. Such as had their operation in India; and—II. Such as had their operation in England.

I. Those which had their operation in India might all be ranked under two heads; 1. The absorption of more than the revenues by expense; and 2. The plunder and oppression of the people.

The only parts of the new constitution which had a direct influence upon the government in India were—1. The new appointment and powers of the Governor-general and Council; and 2. The Supreme Court of Judicature.

1. The mode of appointing public functionaries, and the extent of their power, distinct from the motives to good or evil conduct which operate upon them in the discharge of their functions, are evidently of no avail. Upon the Governor and Council in India the motives to evil conduct, and the scope for [445] its exercise, were, if not augmented by the new regulations, at any rate not impaired.1 As ingenuity may be challenged to refute this proposition, it follows, that from this branch of the arrangement no good was derived.2

2. The Supreme Court of Judicature was intended to supply the limited powers of criminal jurisdiction, which, in their ancient commercial capacity, had been committed to the Company. The terrors of law, brought nearer home to the inferior servants of the Company, and those who enjoyed their protection, might have restrained in some degree their subordinate oppressions. But it was easy to see that the operations of the supreme functionaries in India must remain exempt from the control of the Supreme Court; otherwise, that court became itself the government. This consequence was not sufficiently foreseen; and the vague and indefinite powers assigned to the judicatory, introduced immediately, between the Governor General and the Judges, those struggles which threatened the existence of English authority.

So long, on the other hand, as the Governor General and Council remained exempt from the control of law, the great oppressors were safe; and, from the community of interests, and the necessity of mutual compliance and mutual concealment, between the high offenders and the low, impunity was pretty well secured to the class.

The grand source, however, of mischief to the natives, in the jurisprudential plan, was the unfortunate inattention of its authors to the general principles of law, detached from its accidental and national forms. As the vulgar of every nation think their language the natural one, and all others arbitrary and artificial; so, a large mass of Englishmen consider English law as the pure extract of reason, adapted to the exigencies of human nature itself; and are wholly ignorant that, for the greater part, it is arbitrary, technical, and ill-adapted to the general ends which it is intended to serve; that it has more of singularity, and less capacity of adaptation to the state of other nations, than any scheme of law, to be found in any other civilized country. The English law, which in general has neither definition nor words, to guide the discretion or circumscribe the license of the Judge, presented neither rule nor analogy in cases totally altered by diversity of ideas, manners, and pre-existing rights; and the violent efforts which were made to bend the rights of the natives to a conformity with the English laws, for the purpose of extending jurisdiction, and gratifying a pedantic and mechanical attachment to the arbitrary forms of the Westminster courts, produced more injustice and oppression and excited more alarm, than probably was experienced, through the whole of its duration, from the previous imperfection of law and judicature.1[447]

II. If, towards the amelioration of the government in India, the new effort in legislation performed no more than this; it injured, rather than improved, the condition of both the Company and the natives. Against the government at home, the only objection, of any real moment, was, its inefficiency, as the ruling power, to produce, by means of its servants, a good government in India, or, what in this case was meant by good government, a large surplus of revenue or treasure to England, without oppression to the natives. The total change which was effected in the Constitution of the Company pretended to have for its End the improvement and perfection of the Company in that respect: And it employed as its whole and only Means, dependance upon the Minister.

If the Minister had more knowledge of the affairs of India, more leisure to devote to their management, and more interest in their being well managed, this was an improvement. If he had less knowledge; less leisure; and, far above all, if his interest was likely to be most promoted by that system of patronage which creates dependance, and which is at irreconcilable enmity with the very principle of good government, the change was wholly the reverse. [448] How dependance upon the Minister was to render the agents of government more faithful and economical stewards of the revenues in India, or less disposed to accumulate wealth at the expense of the prostrate natives, it is not easy to make appear: In regard to responsibility, or eventual punishment, the only caution was, to act in concert with the minister; and then they were out of all comparison more assured of impunity than before.

From dependance upon the Court of Proprietors, by annual elections, to render the Directors in a great degree independent of their constituents by elections in four years, gave them greater powers, and hence motives, to pursue their own interests at the expense of the Proprietors; but that it should increase their interest in the good government of India, and hence their motives for exertion to procure it, is impossible.

To diminish the number of votes in the Court of Proprietors, and confine the power to the rich, was contrived, it was said, to render that assembly less tumultuous. But tumultuousness, in itself, is not an evil. It is evil only when it has a tendency to produce evil effects. What is more tumultuous than a public market, a theatre, or a church? To know the merit then of a reform of tumultuousness, we ought to know the specific evils which the tumultuousness in question produced. In the case of the East India Company, the authors of the measure failed in exhibiting any mischievous effects; though by their reform they unquestionably created a field for other effects of a very pernicious description. “If tumult and disorder,” as was well remarked by an illustrious Committee of the Commons House, “were lessened by reducing the number of Proprietors, private cabal and intrigue were facilitated at least in an equal degree; [449] and it is cabal and corruption, rather than disorder and confusion, that are most to be dreaded in transacting the affairs of India;”1 that are most to be dreaded in transacting the affairs of every country under the sun.

The virtues of a Court of Proprietors, as of every political body, are intelligence and probity. The owner of 500l. stock was just as likely to be intelligent as the owner of 1000l. But a small number of men are much more easily corrupted than a large; and, where the matter of corruption operates, much more sure of being corrupt.2

To the grand complaint against the Court of Proprietors, that, being filled by the servants of the Company who had returned loaded to Europe with illgotten wealth, it proved a barrier against exposure and punishment, the amount of the qualification provided no sort of remedy, but rather facilitated and confirmed the abuse.

As soon as the management of the East India Company’s affairs became a source of great patronage and power, it necessarily followed that stock was generally held for the promotion of interests of much greater value than the dividend. It was distributed mostly among three great classes of Proprietors; 1. Those who aspired to a share in the Direction, and who were careful to possess themselves of whatever share of stock was calculated to strengthen their influence; 2. The large class of those who were competitors for the Company’s favours and employment, [450] all those concerned in the immense supply of their shipping and goods, constituting a considerable proportion of the ship-owners and tradesmen in London, who strengthened their influence with the great customer, by the number of votes which they could assure to the Directors in the General Court; 3. Those who aspired to contracts with the Treasury, Admiralty, and Ordnance, and clerks in public offices, who discovered that one ground of influence with the Minister was, to have votes at his disposal in the East India Proprietary Court.1

By every thing which tended to lessen the number of voting Proprietors, the force of all these sinister interests was increased. The only expedient which had a tendency to counteract them was, to render such Proprietors as numerous as possible. This would have promoted the interests of the public, but not those of the minister; the interests of the many, but not those of the few.2

One part of the ancient constitution, for the preservation of which the authors of the present reform [451] were condemned by the Select Committee of 1783, was the ballot; “by means of which, acts,” they said, “of the highest concern to the Company and to the state, might be done by individuals with perfect impunity.” There are occasions on which the use of the ballot is advantageous. There are occasions on which it is hurtful. If we look steadily to the end, to which all institutions profess to be directed, we shall not find it very difficult to draw the line of demarcation.

A voter may be considered as subject to the operation of two sets of interests: the one, interests rising out of the good or evil for which he is dependent upon the will of other men: the other, interests in respect to which he cannot be considered as dependent upon any determinate man or men.

There are cases in which the interests for which he is not dependent upon other men impel him in the right direction. If not acted upon by other interests, he will, in such cases, vote in that direction. If, however, he is acted upon, by interests dependent upon other men, interests more powerful than the former, and impelling in the opposite direction, he will vote in the opposite direction. What is necessary, therefore, is, to save him from the operation of those interests. This is accomplished by enabling him to vote in secret; for in that case, the man, who could otherwise compel his vote, is ignorant in what direction it has been given. In all cases, therefore, in which the independent interests of the voter, those which in propriety of language may be called his own interests, would dictate the good and useful vote; but in which cases, at the same time, he is liable to be acted upon in the way either of good or of evil, by men whose interests would dictate a base and mischievous vote, the ballot is a great and invaluable security. In this set of cases is [452] included, the important instance of the votes of the people for representatives in the legislative assembly of a nation. Those interests of each of the individuals composing the great mass of the people, for which he is not dependent upon other men, compose the interests of the nation. But it is very possible for a majority out of any number of voters to be acted upon by the will of other men, whose interests are opposite to those of the nation. It is, therefore, of the highest importance that they should be protected from that influence.

There is, however, another set of cases, in which those interests of the voter, which have their origin primarily in himself, and not in other men, draw in the hurtful direction; and in which he is not liable to be operated upon by any other interests of other men than those which each possesses in common with the rest of the community. If allowed, in this set of cases, to vote in secret, he will be sure to vote as the sinister interest impells. If forced to vote in public, he will be subject to all the restraint, which the eye of the community, fixed upon his virtue or knavery, is calculated to produce: and in such cases, the ballot is only an encouragement to evil. If it cannot be affirmed that the interests of the individuals, composing the court of proprietors of the East India Company, are incapable of being promoted at the cost of the British and Indian communities, it cannot be denied that the case of these proprietors belongs to this latter description.

At the very time when the discussions upon the new regulations were taking place, the Chairman of the Select Committee of the House of Commons came forward with a motion for enquiry into the circumstances of the deposition and death of Suraja Dowla; into the imposture, by a fictitious treaty, [453] practised upon Omichund; the elevation of Meer Jaffier; and the sums of money, in the shape of presents, obtained at the time of that revolution. Crimes of the blackest dye, rapacity, treachery, cruelty, were charged upon the principal actors in that suspicious scene; and the punishment, even of Clive, as the first and principal delinquent, was represented as a necessary act of justice and policy. On the 10th of May, the following resolutions were moved; 1. “That all acquisitions, made under the influence of a military force, or by treaty with foreign Princes, do of right belong to the state; 2. That to appropriate acquisitions so made, to the private emolument of persons entrusted with any civil or military power of the state, is illegal; 3. That very great sums of money, and other valuable property, have been acquired in Bengal, from Princes and others of that country, by persons entrusted with the military and civil powers of the state, by means of such powers; which sums of money and valuable property have been appropriated to the private use of such persons.” These resolutions were warmly adopted by the house. But when the application of them came to be made to individuals; and especially when the ruin was contemplated which that application would draw down upon Clive; compassion for the man, and the consideration of his services, blotted by offences, yet splendid and great, operated with effect in the breasts of the assembly, and put an end to the enquiry. According to the style, which the spirit of English laws renders predominant in English councils, inquiry was rejected ostensibly upon a subterfuge, of the nature of a legal shuffle; incompetence, to wit, in the reports of the Select Committee to be received as evidence. As if that were true! As if no other evidence had been to be found! On the other hand, the considerations which fairly recommended [454] the rejection, or at least a very great modification of the penal proceeding, were not so much as mentioned; That the punishment threatened was more grievous than the offence; that it was punishment by an ex-post-facto law, because, however contrary to the principles of right government the presents received from Meer Jaffier, and however odious to the moral sense the deception practised upon Omichund, there was no law at the time which forbid them; that the presents, how contrary soever to European morals and ideas, were perfectly correspondent to those of the country in which they were received, and to the expectations of the parties by whom they were bestowed; that the treachery to Omichund was countenanced and palliated by some of the principles and many of the admired incidents of European diplomacy; that Clive, though never inattentive to his own interests, was actuated by a sincere desire to promote the prosperity of the Company, and appears not in any instance to have sacrificed what he regarded as their interests to his own; and that it would have required an extraordinary man, which no one ought to be punished for not being, to have acted, in that most trying situation in which he was placed, with greater disinterestedness than he displayed.

The inquiry into the financial and commercial state of the Company exhibited the following results. The whole of their effects and credits in England, estimated on the 1st day of March, 1773, amounted to 7,784,689l. 12s. 10d.; and the whole of their debts to 9,219,114l. 12s. 6d.; leaving a balance against the Company of 1,434,424l. 19s. 8d. The whole of their effects and credits in India, China, and St. Helena, and afloat on the sea, amounted to 6,397,299l. 10s.6d. The whole of their debts abroad amounted [455] to 2,032,306l.; producing a balance in their favour of 4,364,993l. 10s. 6d. Deducting from this sum the balance against the Company in England, we find the whole amount of their available property no more than 2,930,568l. 10s. 10d.; so that of their capital stock of 4,200,000l., 1,269,431l. 9s. 2d. was expended and gone.1

From the year 1744, the period to which in a former passage2 is brought down the account of the dividend paid annually to the Proprietors on the capital stock, that payment continued at eight per cent. to the year 1756, in which it was reduced to six per cent. It continued at that low rate till Christmas, 1766, when it was raised by the General Court, repugnant to the sense of the Court of Directors, to five per cent. for the next half year. On the 7th of May, 1767, it was resolved in the General Court, that for the following half year the dividend should be six and a quarter per cent. But this resolution was rescinded by act of parliament, and the dividend limited, till further permission, to ten per cent. per annum. It was continued at ten per cent. till the year commencing at Christmas, 1769, when, in pursuance of the new regulations, it was advanced to eleven per cent. The next year it rose to twelve per cent. The following year it was carried to its prescribed limits, [456] twelve and a half per cent.; at which it continued for eighteen months, when the funds of the Company being totally exhausted, it was suddenly reduced to six per cent. per annum, by a resolution passed on the 3d of December, 1772.1

In the interval between 1774 and 1772, the sales at the India House had increased from about 2,000,000l. to 3,000,000l. annually; their annual exports, including both goods and stores, had fully doubled. In the year 1751, the total amount of shipping in the service of the Company was 38,441 tons, in the year 1772 it was 61,860.2[457]
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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Part 1 of 2

BOOK V.

From the first great change in the constitution of the east india company and in the government of india, in 1773; till the second great change by the act commonly called mr. pitt’s act, in 1784.

CHAP. I.

Administration of Hastings till the Time when the Parliamentary Members of the Council arrived and the Operations of the New Constitution commenced, including—arrangements for collecting the Revenue and administering Justice ostensibly as Duan—treatment of Mahomed Reza Khan and the Rajah Shitabroy—elevation of Munny Begum—destruction of the Rohillas—sale of Corah and Allahabad to the Vizir—payment refused of the Emperor’s Revenue—Financial results.

By the new parliamentary authority, Mr. Hastings was appointed Governor General, and General Clavering, Colonel Monson, Mr. Barwel, and Mr. Francis, the members of Council; not removable, except by the King, upon representation made by the Court of Directors, during the period assigned in the act. Mr. Hastings had ascended with reputation through the several stages of the Company’s service; possessed the rank of a member of council at the time of Mr. Vansittart’s administration, and generally concurred [458] in the measures which the party opposed to that Governor so vehemently condemned. After a visit to his native country, to which he proceeded at the same time with Vansittart, he returned to India, in 1769, to fill the station of second in council at Madras; and in the beginning of 1772 was raised to the highest situation in the service of the Company, being appointed to succeed Mr. Cartier in the government of Bengal.

The sense which the Directors entertained of the vices which up to this time had stained their administration in India, is recorded thus: “We wish (the words of their letter to the President and Council at Fort William, dated the 7th of April, 1773,) “we could refute the observation, that almost every attempt made by us and our administrations at your Presidency, for the reforming of abuses, has rather increased them—and added to the miseries of the country we are anxious to protect and cherish. The truth of this observation appears fully in the late appointment of supervisors and chiefs—instituted, as they were, to give relief to the industrious tenants, to improve and enlarge our investments, to destroy monopolies, and retrench expenses, the end has, by no means, been answerable to the institution. Are not the tenants, more than ever, oppressed and wretched? Are our investments improved? Has not the raw silk and cocoons been raised upon us fifty per cent. in price? We can hardly say what has not been made a monopoly. And as to the expenses of your Presidency, they are at length settled to a degree we are no longer able to support. These facts (for such they are) should have been stated to us as capital reasons, why neither our orders of 1771, nor indeed any regulations whatever, could be carried into execution. But, perhaps, as this would [459] have proved too much, it was not suggested to us; for nothing could more plainly indicate a state of anarchy, and that there was no government existing, in our servants in Bengal….When oppression pervades the whole country; when youths have been suffered with impunity to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over the natives; and to acquire rapid fortunes by monopolizing of commerce, it cannot be a wonder to us, or yourselves, that native merchants do not come forward to contract with the Company; that the manufactures find their way through foreign channels; or that our investments are at once enormously dear, and of a debased quality.—It is evident then, that the evils which have been so destructive to us, lie too deep for any partial plans to reach or correct. It is, therefore, our resolution to aim at the root of those evils.” Their expectation of assistance from Mr. Hastings in these reforms, was expressed in the following terms: “Our President, Mr. Hastings, we trust, will set the example of temperance, economy, and application; and upon this we are sensible, much will depend. And here we take occasion to indulge the pleasure we have in acknowledging Mr. Hastings’s services upon the coast of Coromandel, in constructing with equal labour and ability, the plan which has so much improved our investments there; and as we are persuaded he will persevere, in the same laudable pursuit, through every branch of our affairs in Bengal, he, in return, may depend on the steady support and favour of his employers.”1

The double, or ambiguous administration; in name, and in ostent by the Nabob, in reality by the Company; which had been recommended as ingenious policy by Clive, and admired as such by his employers [460] and successors; had contributed greatly to enhance the difficulties in which, by the assumption of the government, the English were involved. All the vices of the ancient polity were saved from reform: and all the evils of a divided authority were superinduced. The revenues were under a complicated, wasteful, and oppressive economy; the lands being partly managed by the native agents of the collectors, partly farmed from year to year, partly held by Zemindars, and Talookdars, responsible for a certain revenue. The administration of justice, of which, under the military and fiscal Governors of the Mogul provinces, the criminal part belonged to the Nazim, or military Governor, the civil to the Duan, or fiscal Governor, was, as a heavy and unproductive burthen, left in the hands of the Nabob; who, being totally without power, was totally unable to maintain the authority of his tribunals against the masters of the country; and the people were given up to oppression.1

The Company and their servants were little satisfied, from the beginning, with the produce of the duannee; and soon began to be little satisfied with the expedients adopted by Clive for ensuring a faithful collection. In the month of August, 1769, before the close of Mr. Verelst’s administration, a supplementary security was devised: It was held expedient, that servants of the Company should be stationed in appropriate districts, throughout the whole country, for the purpose of superintending the native officers; both in the collection of the revenue, and, what was very much blended with it, the administration of justice. These functionaries received the title of [461] Supervisors: And, in the next year, was added a second supplementary security; two councils, with authority over the supervisors, one at Moorshedabad, and another at Patna.

Among the duties recommended to the supervisors, one was to collect a body of information, with respect to the amount of the revenues; with respect to the state, produce, and capabilities of the great source of the revenue, the lands; with respect to the cesses or arbitrary taxes; the whole catalogue of imposts laid upon the cultivator; the manner of collecting them, and the origin and progress of all the modern exactions; with respect to the regulations of commerce; and the administration of justice. The reports of the supervisors, intended to convey the information which they collected under those heads, represent the government as having attained the last stage of oppressiveness and barbarism. “The Nazims exacted what they could from the Zemindars, and great farmers of the revenue; whom they left at liberty to plunder all below; reserving to themselves the prerogative of plundering them in their turn, when they were supposed to have enriched themselves with the spoils of the country.” The Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1810, quoting this passage, remark, “The whole system thus resolved itself, on the part of the public officers, into habitual extortion and injustice; which produced, on that of the cultivator the natural consequences—concealment and evasion, by which government was defrauded of a considerable part of its just demands.” With respect to the administration of justice, the supervisors reported, “That the regular course was every where suspended: But every man exercised it, who had the power of compelling others to submit to his decisions.” The Committee of the House of Commons, [462] whose remark on the state of the fiscal collections has just been adduced, subjoin to this quotation that which fills up the picture; “Seven years had elapsed, from the acquisition of the duannee, without the government deeming itself competent to remedy these defects.”1

Grievously disappointed in their expectations of treasure, the Directors resolved to break through the scheme of ambiguity; so far at least as to take into their own hands the collection as well as the disbursement of the revenues. In their letter to the President and Council of Fort William, dated the 28th of August, 1771, they declared their resolution, “To stand forth as Duan” (so they were pleased to express it), “and by the agency of the Company’s servants to take upon themselves the entire care and management of the revenues.” The change was enormous, which it was the nature of this decree to produce. It was a revolution, much greater, probably, than any previous conjuncture, than even the change from Hindu to Mahomedan masters, had been able to create. The transition from Hindu to Mahomedan masters had only changed the hands by which the sword was wielded, and favours were dispensed; the machine of government, still more the texture of society, underwent feeble alterations; and the civil part of the administration was, from conveniency, left almost wholly in the hands of Hindus. A total change in the management of the revenues more deeply affected the condition, individually and collectively, of the people of India, than it is easy for the European reader to conceive: It was an innovation by which the whole property of the country, and along with it the administration of justice, were placed upon a new foundation.

Of the nature of this change, the Directors appear to have had no adequate conception. As if the measure which they proposed had been without consequences, they satisfied themselves with enjoining its execution; and consigned to their servants the task (of which, however, they did not much complain) of carrying into effect a change of government so momentous without one word of instruction.1 Those servants, though more acquainted with the practical difficulties which would be met in establishing the new system of finance, appear to have thought as little nearly as their honourable masters, of the great changes, with regard to the people, which it was calculated to produce. With great alacrity, they betook themselves to the undertaking. Mr. Hastings succeeded to the chair on the 13th of April 1772; and on the 16th the Council deemed themselves ripe for the following important resolution: That they would let the lands in farm, and for long leases; because it is the most simple mode, and best adapted to a government like that of the Company, which cannot enter into the minute details of the collections; because every mode of agency by which the rents could be received would be attended with perplexed and intricate accounts, with embezzlement of the revenue, and oppression of the people; and because any [464] mode of collecting the revenues which would trench upon the time of the Governor and Council, would deprive them of a portion of what was already too little for the laborious duties which they had to perform.1

On the 14th of May the operations were planned. It was decreed, That the lands should be let for a period of five years: That a Committee of the Board, consisting of the President and four members, should perform the local operations, by circuit through the country: that the servants of the Company who superintended the business of collection in the several districts, and who had hitherto been distinguished by the title of supervisors, should henceforth be denominated collectors:2 That a native, under the title of duan, should in each district be joined with the collector, both to inform and to check: That no banyan, or servant of a collector, should be permitted to farm any portion of the revenue; because with the servant of a collector no man would dare to become a competitor: And, as presents to the collectors from the Zemindars and other middlemen had been abolished, so all acceptance of presents, by such middlemen, from the ryots, and all other modes of extortion, should be carefully prevented. Some precautions were taken against the accumulation of debt, which swelled at exorbitant interest, rarely less than three, [465] often as much as fifteen per cent. per month, upon the ryots, as well as the different orders of middlemen. The collectors were forbidden to lend, or to permit their banyans or servants to lend, to the middlemen; and the middlemen or agents to lend to the ryots: But the Governor and Council express their regret, that loans and exorbitant interest were an evil which it was not in their power wholly to repress.1

The objects which in these regulations the servants of the Company professed to have in view, were; to simplify accounts; to render uniform the mode of exaction; and to establish fixed and accurate rules. The Committee of Circuit, with whom, though a Member, Mr. Hastings did not proceed, first began to receive proposals at Kishenagur: But the terms whïch were offered were in general so unsatisfactory both in form and amount, that the Committee deemed them inadmissible; and came speedily to the resolution of putting up the lands to public auction. It was necessary to ascertain with as much exactness as possible the nature and amount of the different taxes which were to be offered to sale. For this purpose a new hustabood, or schedule of the taxes, was formed. The exactions consisted of two great parts; of which the first and principal was called assall, or the ground rents; the second aboabs, which consisted of a variety of additional, often arbitrary, and uncertain imposts, established at different times, by the government, the Zemindars, the farmers, and even the inferior collectors. Some of the most oppressive of these were abolished, and excluded from the present schedule. And new leases or titles were granted to the ryots: which enumerated all the claims to which they were to be subject; [466] and forbid, under penalties, every additional exaction. When the Zemindars, and other middlemen of ancient standing, offered for the lands which they had been accustomed to govern, terms which were deemed reasonable, they were preferred; when their offers were considered as inadequate, they were allowed a pension for their subsistence, and the lands were put up to sale.

While the settlement, in other words the taxation of the country, was carrying into execution upon this plan, the principal office of revenue, or Khalsa, underwent a total revolution. So long as the veil of the native government had been held up, this office had been stationed at Moorshedabad, and was ostensibly under the direction of the sort of minister of revenue, whom with the title of Naib Duan, the President and Council had set up. It was now resolved to transfer this great office from Moorshedabad to Calcutta; and to place it under the immediate superintendance of the government. The whole Council were constituted a Board of Revenue, to sit two days in the week, or if necessary, more. The Members of the Council were appointed to act as auditors of accounts, each for a week in rotation. The office of Naib Duan, which had been held by Mahomed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad, and by Shitabroy at Patna, was abolished; but a native functionary, or assistant duan, under the title of roy royan, was appointed to act in the Khalsa, as superintendant of the district duans, to receive the accounts in the Bengal language, to answer interrogatories, and to make reports.1

The fundamental change in that great and leading branch of Indian administration which concerned the revenue, rendered indispensable a new provision for the administration of justice. The Zemindar, who was formerly the great fiscal officer of a district, commonly exercised both civil and criminal jurisdiction within the territory over which he was appointed to preside. In his Phousdary, or criminal court, he inflicted all sorts of penalties; chiefly fines for his own benefit; even capital punishments, under no further restraint, than that of reporting the case at Moorshedabad before execution. In his Adaulut, or civil court, he decided all questions relating to property; being entitled to a chout, or twenty-five per cent., upon the subject of litigation. His discretion was guided or restrained by no law, except the Koran, its commentaries, and the customs of the country, all in the highest degree loose and indeterminate. Though there was no formal and regular course of appeal from the Zemindary decisions, the government interfered in an arbitrary manner, as often as complaints were preferred, to which, from their own importance, or from the importance of those who advanced them, it conceived it proper to attend. To the mass of the people these courts afforded but little protection: The expense created by distance, excluded the greater number from so much as applying for justice; and every powerful oppressor treated a feeble tribunal with contempt. The judges were finally swayed by their hopes and their fears; by the inclinations of the men who could hurt or reward them. Their proceedings were not controuled by any written memorial or record. In cases relating to religion, the Cauzee and Brahmen were called to expound, the one the Moslem, the other the Brah-menical law; and their opinion was the standard of [468] decision. Originally, questions of revenue as well as others belonged to the courts of the Zemindars; but a few years previous to the transfer of the revenues to the English, the decision of fiscal questions had been taken from the Zemindar, and given to an officer styled the Naib Duan, or fiscal Deputy, in each province.

Beside the tribunals of the districts; the capital was provided with two criminal courts; in one of which, called roy adaulut, the Nazim, as supreme magistrate, tried capital offences; in another, a magistrate called the Phousdar tried offences of a less penal description, and reported his proceedings to the Nazim. At the capital was also found the principal duanee or fiscal court; in which the Duan tried causes relating to the revenue, including all questions of title to land. All other civil causes were tried at the capital in the court of the Darogo adaulut al alea; except those of inheritance and succession, which were decided by the Cauzee and Muftee. An officer, with the title of Mohtesib, superintended the weights and measures, and other matters of police.

Generally speaking, the courts of justice in India were instruments by which the powerful performed oppression, at their pleasure, on the weak.

Under the ancient government, the English, as well as other European settlers, instead of demanding payment from a reluctant debtor through the courts of law, seized his person and confined it, till satisfaction was obtained. Nor was this so inconsistent with the spirit of the government, as often to excite its displeasure. It was indeed a remedy to which they were not often obliged to recur; because the profit of dealing with them generally constituted a sufficient motive to punctuality. After the power of the English became predominant, the native courts [469] ceased to exert any authority over Englishmen and their agents.1

The first attempt, which had been made by the English to remedy, in their new dominions, any of the defects in the administration of justice, was the appointment in 1769 of superintending commissioners to the several districts, with directions to inquire into the proceedings of the courts of justice, to restrain iniquitous proceedings, to abolish the chout, and, where a total change should appear desirable, to apply to government for the requisite powers. In 1770, the Naib Duan, and such of the servants of the Company as had their station of service at Moorshedabad, were formed into a Council of Control over the administration of justice. Its administration was still to conform to the ancient and established plan; but the Council of Control should interpose as they perceived occasion; every judicial proceeding which concerned the government should come under their review; the trials should be transmitted to them in all criminal cases, and execution suspended, till their opinion was known; all causes relative to the revenue and to property in land should in the first instance be tried in the native courts, but the Council should revise the proceedings of these courts, and have the power of final determination.

For supplying the place of the native courts, in a great measure superseded by the new system of revenue; and for providing a more perfect judicial establishment; the following scheme was invented and pursued. Two courts, a civil, and a penal, were appointed for each district. The criminal court, styled Phousdary Adaulut, consisted of the collector, as superintendant, with the cauzee and muftee of the [470] district, and two Mohlavies, as interpreters of the law. The civil court, styled Mofussul Duanee Adaulut, consisted of the collector, as President, assisted by the provincial duan and the other officers of the native court. From the jurisdiction of this tribunal no cases were excepted, beside those of succession to Zemindaries and Talookdaries, reserved to the President and Council.

At the seat of government were also established two supreme courts of appeal. That to which the civil branch of this appellate jurisdiction was consigned received the name of Suddur Duanee Adaulut; and was composed of the President with two Members of the Council, attended by the duan of the Khalsa, and certain officers of the Cutchery, or native court of the city. That on which the penal branch was conferred, obtained the title of Nizamut Suddur Adaulut. It consisted of a chief judge, entitled Darogo Adaulut, assisted by the chief Cauzee, the chief Muftee, and three Mohlavies. This Judge was nominated by the President and Council, who in this case acted in the capacity of Nazim. All capital cases were reported to his tribunal; and, after review, were ultimately referred to the Governor General and Council. After a short experience, however, the superintendance of this court appeared to impose a labour, and to involve a responsibility, which the Governor and Council found it inconvenient to sustain; it was one of the first transactions therefore of the new government which succeeded in 1774 to restore this part of the nizamut to the nominal Nabob, and to carry back the tribunal to Moorshedabad.1

For the district of Calcutta, two courts were established, on the plan of the other district courts; in each of which a Member of Council presided in rotation. In all these courts, it was ordained that records of proceedings should be made and preserved. The chout, or exaction of a fourth part of all litigated property, for the benefit of the Judge, was abolished. A prohibition was issued against exorbitant fines. The discretionary power, exercised by a creditor over the person of his debtor, was no longer tolerated. And all disputes of property, not exceeding ten rupees, were referred to the head farmer of the pergunna or village precinct, to which the parties belonged.1

In the introduction of these measures, a specimen is exhibited of the regard which was paid to the feelings or honour of the natives, how great soever their rank or deservings. Under the anxious search of the Directors for the cause of their intense disappointment in the receipt of treasure from the revenues of Bengal, they, after venting the first portion of their chagrin upon their European, seem to have turned it, with still greater want of consideration, upon their native agents. In a letter from the Secret Committee to Mr. Hastings, their President, dated 28th of August, 1771, they say, “By our general address you will be informed of the reasons we have to be dissatisfied with the administration of MahometReza Cawn, [472] and will perceive the expediency of our divesting him of the rank and influence he holds as Naib Duan of the kingdom of Bengal.” Mr. Hastings is then directed, “to issue his private orders for the securing the person of Mahomet Reza Cawn, together with his whole family, and his known partizans and adherents,” and for bringing them prisoners to Calcutta. For this secrecy, precipitation, and severity, (arrest and imprisonment to a man of that rank in India is one of the most cruel of all punishments) the reason assigned was, that otherwise he might “render all inquiry into his conduct ineffectual, and ill-consequences might result from his resentment and revenge.” In the endeavour to discover delinquency, they say, “Your own judgment will direct you to all such means of information as may be likely to bring to light the most secret of his transactions. We cannot, however, forbear recommending to you, to avail yourself of the intelligence which Nundcomar may be able to give respecting the Naib’s administration; and while the envy which Nundcomar is supposed to bear this minister may prompt him to a ready communication of all proceedings which have come to his knowledge, we are persuaded that no scrutable part of the Naih’s conduct can have escaped the watchful eye of his jealous and penetrating rival.”1

The opinion which the Directors entertained of the man of whom they desired to make such an instrument, had, on a former occasion, been thus expressed: “From the whole of your proceedings with respect to Nundcomar, there seems to be no doubt of his endeavouring by forgery and false accusations to ruin Ram Churn; that he has been guilty of carrying [473] on correspondence with the country powers, hurtful to the Company’s interests; and instrumental in conveying letters between the Shazada and the French Governor General of Pondicherry. In short, it appears, he is of that wicked and turbulent disposition, that no harmony can subsist in society where he has the opportunity of interfering. We therefore most readily concur with you, that Nundcomar is a person improper to be trusted with his liberty in our settlements; and capable of doing mischief, if he is permitted to go out of the province, either to the northward, or to the Deccan. We shall therefore depend upon your keeping such a watch over all his actions, as may he means of preventing his disturbing the quiet of the public, or injuring individuals for the future.”1

In a letter, dated 1st September, 1772, Mr. Hastings gave the Directors a history of the operations already performed, and of the views from which they had sprung. “As your commands were peremptory, and addressed to myself alone, I carefully concealed them from every person, except Mr. Middleton, whose assistance was necessary for their execution, until I was informed by him that Mahmud Rizza Cawn was actually in arrest, and on his way to Calcutta.” Beside these alleged commands of the Directors, “I will confess,” he says, “that there were other cogent reasons for this reserve;” and giving these reasons, he describes the importance of the office which was filled by Mahomed Reza Khan, and the susceptibility of corruption which marked the situation of his fellow-servants in India. “I was yet but a stranger to the character and disposition of the Members of your administration. I knew that Mahmud Rizza Cawn had enjoyed the sovereignty of [474] this province for seven years past, had possessed an annual stipend of nine lacs of rupees, the uncontrouled disposal of thirty-two lacs entrusted to him for the use of the Nabob, the absolute command of every branch of the Nizamut, and the chief authority in the Dewannee. To speak more plainly; he was, in every thing but the name, the Nazim of the province, and in real authority more than the Nazim.—I could not suppose him so inattentive to his own security; nor so ill-versed in the maxims of Eastern policy, as to have neglected the due means of establishing an interest with such of the Company’s agents as, by actual authority, or by representation to the Honourable Company, might be able to promote or obstruct his views.”1

The office of Mahomed Reza Khan consisted of two parts; the one was the office of Naib Duan, in which he represented the Company, as Duan or Master of the Revenues; the other was the office of Naib Subah, as it was called by the President and Council, more properly the Naib Nazim, in which he represented the Nabob in his office of Nazim, that department of the Subahdaree, the name and ministerial functions of which were still reserved to the native Prince. The functions of the Naib Duan were indeed supplied by the new scheme for levying the revenue. But for those of the Naib Subah, as they called him, no provision as yet was made. The duties and importance of that office, are thus described by Mr. Hastings and Committee; “The office of Naib Subah, according to its original constitution, comprehends the superintendance of the Nabob’s education, the management of his household, the regulation of his expenses, the representation of his person, the chief administration of justice; the issuing of all [475] orders, and direction of all measures which respect the government and police of the provinces; the conduct of all public negotiations, and execution of treaties; in a word, every branch of executive government.”1

Nothing can afford a more vivid conception of what I may perhaps be allowed to call the style of government which then existed in Bengal, the temper with which the difference between some performance and no performance of the duties of government was regarded, than this; that the officer on whom “every branch of the executive government“ depended, was arrested some days before the 28th of April; and that it was not till the 11th of July, that a proposition was brought forward to determine what should be done with the office he had filled.2 A letter signed by the Company’s principal servants at Moorshedabad, and received at Fort William on the 21st of May, declared; “We must also observe to you the necessity there is for speedily appointing a Naib to the Nizamut, as the business of that department, particularly the courts of justice, is suspended for want of a person properly authorized to confirm the decrees of the several courts of justice, and to pass sentence on criminals, besides various other matters of business, wherein the interposition of the Subah [Subahdar] is immediately necessary.”3 Why was not some arrangement taken; or rather, is it necessary to ask, why some arrangement was not taken, to prevent the suspension of the judicial and every branch of the executive government, before the officer was arrested on whom all these great operations depended!

The Rajah Shitabroy held the same office at Patna, for the province of Bahar, as was held by Mahomed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad, for that of Bengal. Because Mahomed Reza Khan was arrested, and sent to Calcutta for his trial, and because, as holding the same office, it seemed proper that they should both share the same fate, Shitabroy was in like fashion arrested, and sent to his trial.

Ahteram al Dowlah was a surviving brother of Jaffier Ali Khan the deceased Subahdar, the uncle of the young Nabob, the eldest existing male, and hence the natural guardian, of the family: On this ground he presented a petition to “the Gentlemen,” praying that he might be appointed to the vacant office of Neabut Nizamut; in other words be chosen Naib under the Nazim.

The Directors, though resolved not to be any longer Duan under a cloak; were yet eager to preserve the supposed benefit of clandestinity, in the other department of the Subahdaree, the Nizamut.1 The servants in India declared their full concurrence in the wisdom of that policy.2 But they conceived [477] that for this purpose such an officer as the Naib Subah (so they styled the Naib of the Nazim) was neither necessary nor desirable; first, on account of the expense, next the delegation of power, which could never be without a portion of danger. They resolved, therefore, that the office of Naib Subah should be abolished.1 That is to say, they resolved, that the main instrument of government; that on which the administration of justice, the whole business of police, and every branch of the executive government, depended; should be taken away: And what did they substitute, for answering the same ends? The Courts of Review established at Calcutta might be expected to supply the place of the Naib of the Nazim, in respect to the administration of justice: With respect to all the other branches of government, answerable for the happiness of between twenty and thirty millions of human beings, no substitution whatsoever was made: So profound, for I acquit them on the score of intention, was the ignorance which then distinguished the English rulers of India, of what they owed to the people, over whom they ruled, and the fruit of whose labour, under the pretence of rendering to them the services of government, they took from them, and disposed of as they pleased! No doubt the duties of government, thus left without an organ, were in part, and irregularly, when they pressed upon them, and could not be avoided, performed both by the President and Council, and by the servants distributed in the different parts of the country. But how imperfectly those [478] services of government must have been rendered, for which no provision was made, and which, as often as they were rendered, were rendered as works of supererogation, by those who had other obligations to fulfil, it is unnecessary to observe.

Though so little was done for rendering to the people the services of government, there was another branch of the duties of the Naib Nizam, which met with a very different sort and style of attention. That was, in name, the superintendance of the education and household of the Nabob; in reality, the disbursement of the money, allotted for his state and support. This was a matter of prime importance; and was met with a proportional intensity of consideration and care. It would be unjust, however, to impute to the individuals the defect in point of virtue which this contrast seems to hold forth. The blame is due to their education, the sort of education which their country bestows. They had been taught to consider the disbursement of a very large sum of money, as a matter of prodigious importance; they had never been taught to consider the rendering of the services of government to the people, provided the people would be quiet, as a matter of any importance at all. They must, therefore, have been superior to ordinary men; they must have belonged to that small number who rise above the mental level which their country and its institutions are calculated to form, had they displayed a higher measure, than they did, of wisdom and virtue.

This high-prized department of the functions of the Naib Nazim was even divided into two portions; the latter subject to the control of the former. One portion was made to consist, in “the guardianship of the Nabob, and the care and rule of his family;” the other in “regulating and paying the salaries of the [479] Nabob’s servants, and keeping the account of his expenses, to be monthly transmitted to the Board, according to the orders of the Honourable Court of Directors.”1

To execute the first of these portions (the pretensions of Ahteram ul Dowla, and if a woman was to be chosen, those of the mother of the Nabob, the wife of Meer Jaffier, being set aside) Munny Begum, a second wife, or rather concubine of Meer Jaffier, a person who had been originally a dancing girl, was preferred and appointed. The reasons are thus assigned by the majority of the council, in their minute of the 11th of July, 1772: “We know no person so fit for the trust of guardian to the Nabob, as the widow of the late Nabob Jaffier Ally Cawn, Minnee Begum; her rank may give her a claim to this pre-eminence, without hazard to our own policy; nor will it be found incompatible with the rules prescribed to her sex by the laws and manners of her country, as her authority will be confined to the walls of the Nabob’s palace, and the Dewan” (meaning the person who should hold the secondary office, the paymaster, and accountant) “will act of course in all cases in which she cannot personally appear. Great abilities are not to be expected in a Zennana, but in these she is very far from being deficient, nor is any extraordinary reach of understanding requisite for so limited an employ. She is said to have acquired a great ascendant over the spirit of the Nabob, being the only person of whom he stands in any kind of awe; a circumstance highly necessary for fulfilling the chief part of her duty, in directing his education and conduct, which appear to have been hitherto much neglected.”2

With regard to the second of the above-described portions, a minute, in the Consultation, 11th July, 1772, signed Warren Hastings, says, “The President proposes Rajah Goordass, the son of Maha Rajah Nundcomar, for the office of Dewan to the Nabob’s household. The inveterate and rooted enmity which has long subsisted between Mahomet Reza Cawn and Nundcomar, and the necessity of employing the vigilance and activity of so penetrating a rival to counteract the designs of Mahomet Reza Cawn, and to eradicate that influence which he still retains in the [481] government of this province, and more especially in the family of the Nabob, are the sole motives for this recommendation.”1

The revenue allowed to the use of the Nabob had hitherto been so great a sum as thirty-two lacs of rupees. Of this the Directors had already complained; and agreeably to their directions, in January, 1772, on the allegation of the non-age of the Nabob, it was reduced to one half.

Mahomed Reza Khan and Shitabroy were brought prisoners to Calcutta in the month of April. In his letter of the 1st of September, to the Court of Directors, Mr. Hastings says: “It may at first sight appear extraordinary, that Mahmud Rizza Cawn and Rajah Shitab Roy have been so long detained in confinement [482] without any proofs having been obtained of their guilt, or measures taken to bring them to a trial.” Among the causes of this, he first specifies the great load of business with which the time of the counsel had been consumed. He then says, “Neither Mahmud Rizza Cawn nor Rajah Shitab Roy complain of the delay as a hardship. Perhaps all parties, as is usual in most cases of a public concern, had their secret views, which, on this occasion, though opposite in their direction, fortunately concurred in the same points. These had conceived hopes of a relaxation of the Company’s orders; Mahmud Rizza Cawn had even buoyed himself up with the hopes of a restoration to his former authority by the interests of his friends and a change in the Direction. I pretend not to enter into the views of others; my own were these: Mahmud Rizza Cawn’s influence still prevailed generally throughout the country; in the Nabob’s household, and at the capital, it was scarce affected by his present disgrace; his favour was still courted, and his anger dreaded: Who, under such discouragements, would give information or evidence against him? His agents and creatures filled every office of the Nizamut and Dewannee; how was the truth of his conduct to be investigated by these? It would be superfluous to add other arguments to show the necessity of pressing the inquiry by breaking his influence, removing his dependants, and putting the directions of all the affairs which had been committed to his care, into the hands of the most powerful or active of his enemies. With this view, too, the institution of the new Dewannee obviously coincided. These were my real motives for postponing the inquiry.”1

With respect to the further progress of that inquiry, [483] for facilitating which such extraordinary proceedings had been described as necessary, proceedings sufficient to procure the destruction, when required, of the most innocent of men; it was nevertheless, after two years’ confinement, degradation, and anxiety, judicially declared, that in Mahomed Reza Khan, and Rajah Shitabroy, no guilt had been proved. There is no proof that their destruction was at any time an object with Mr. Hastings; and their acquittal proves that certainly it was not so to the end. Of Mahomed Reza Khan, as connected with subsequent facts of great importance, we shall afterwards have to speak. But the mind of Shitabroy, who was a man of a high spirit, was too deeply wounded for his health to escape; and he died of a broken heart, a short time after his return to Patna. As some compensation for the ill-usage of Shitabroy, Mr. Hastings, on his visit to Patna, when travelling to meet the Vizir at Benares, in 1773, appointed his son Roy-royan, or chief native agent of finance, in the province of Bahar; “from an entire conviction,” as he declared, “of the merits and faithful services, and in consideration of the late sufferings, of his deceased father.”1

During the time in which this great revolution was effecting in the government of Bengal, the situation of the neighbouring powers was preparing another field of action for the ambition and enterprise of the Company’s servants. The loss which the Mahrattas had sustained in their late contest with the Abdalees, and the dissensions which prevailed among their chiefs, had for several years preserved the northern provinces from their alarming incursions. Nujeeb ad Dowla, the Rohilla, in whom, as imperial deputy, the [484] chief power, at Delhi, had been vested, upon the departure of the Abdalee Shah, had, by his wisdom and vigour, preserved order and tranquillity in that part of Hindustan. The Emperor, Shah Aulum, who resided at Allahabad, in the enjoyment of the districts of Allahabad and Corah, allotted as his dominion in the treaty lately concluded with him by the English and Vizir, where his state was in some measure supported by the payment or expectation of the share which was due to him, and which the English rulers had bound themselves to pay, of the revenues of Bengal; had manifested great impatience, even before the conclusion of Mr. Verelst’s government, to march to Delhi, and to mount the throne of his ancestors. Respect for the English, who laboured to repress this fond desire, and for the power of Nujeeb ad Dowla, who might not willingly retire from his command, delayed the execution of the Emperor’s designs. Nujeeb ad Dowla died in the year 1770, about the very time when the ambition of Shah Aulum had stimulated him to the hazardous project of courting the Mahrattas to assist him in returning to Delhi.
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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With or without the concert of the Emperor, three powerful chiefs, Tookagee, Sindia, and Besagee, had taken a position to the northward of the river Chumbul, and hovered over the adjoining provinces with 30,000 horse. The Emperor, in the beginning of the year 1771, had dispatched his minister to Calcutta to obtain, if not the assistance, at least the approbation of the English, to his projected expedition; and was not restrained by their dissuasions. By the exertion of the Mogul nobles, and the assistance of the Vizir, who is said to have acted with more than his usual liberality,1 he was enabled, in the month of [485] May, 1771, to march from Allahabad at the head of an army of 16,000 men. At the town of Nabbee Gunge, about thirty miles beyond the city of Furuckabad, on the high road to Delhi, where he was constrained, by the commencement of the rains, to canton his army, a Mahratta vakeel, or ambassador, waited his arrival, and presented the demands of his masters. Whatever balance of chout was due from the time of Mahomed Shah, must be discharged: Whatever plunder should be taken, must be divided equally between the Mogul and Mahratta troops: The Mahratta leaders must be confirmed in their jaghires: And five lacs of rupees,1 toward the expense of the war, must be immediately advanced to the Mahrattas from the imperial treasury. With whatever indignation these imperious terms might be heard, no reluctance was to be shown. When the season for marching returned, the Mahratta chiefs and the nobles of Delhi joined the retinue of the Emperor; and on the 25th of December he made his entrance into the capital, with all the display which his circumstances placed within the compass of his power.
The Mahrattas afforded the Emperor but a few days to enjoy the dignity and pleasures of his capital; when they hurried him into the field. The country of the Rohillas was the object of cupidity to both; to the Emperor, as an increase of his limited territory; to the Mahrattas, as a field of plunder, if not a permanent possession. Seharunpore, the jaghire of the late minister Nujeeb ad Dowla, the Rohilla chief, who [486] had served the royal family with so much fidelity and talent, and, in the absence of the Emperor, had governed the city and province of Delhi for a number of years, lay most accessible. It was not, as the other possessions of the Rohillas, on the further side of the Ganges, but commenced under the Sewalic hills, at a distance of seventy miles from Delhi, and was terminated by the strong fortress of Ghose Ghur on the north, and by Sakertal on the east. The resumption of the government of Delhi, which had been possessed by Nujeeb ad Dowla, and transmitted to his son Zabita Khan, and the idea of the resentment which that chief must have conceived upon this retrenchment of his power, rendered him an object of apprehension to the Emperor, and recommended to his approbation the project of commencing operations with the reduction of Seharunpore. The Mogul forces, which the Emperor accompanied in person, were commanded by Mirza Nujeef Khan, a native of Persia, who accompanied to Delhi Mirza Mhosan, the brother of Suffder Jung, the Nabob of Oude, when he returned from the embassy on which he had been sent to Nadir Shah, after his invasion of Hindustan. Mirza Nujeef was of a family said to be related to the Sophi sovereigns of Persia, and was held in confinement by the jealousy of Nadir. He and his sister were released at the intercession of the Hindustan ambassador; when the sister became the wife of her deliverer; and the brother accompanied them on their departure to Hindustan. After the death of his benefactor, Mirza Nujeef adhered to the fortunes of his son, Mahomed Coollee Khan, Governor of Allahabad; and when that unfortunate Prince was treacherously put to death by his cousin Sujah Dowla, the son and successor of Suffder Jung, Nujeef Khan retired with a few followers into Bengal, and offered his services to [487] Meer Causim. When that Nabob fled for protection to the Nabob of Oude, whom Nujeef Khan, as the friend of Mahomed Coollee Khan, was afraid to trust, he departed into Bundelcund, and was received into employment by one of the chiefs of that country. Upon the flight of Sujah Dowla, after the battle of Buxar, Mirza Nujeef offered his services to the English; advanced claims to the government of Allahabad; was favourably received; and put in possession of a part of the country. But when the transfer of that district to the Emperor came to be regarded as a politic arrangement, the pretensions of Nujeef Khan were set aside; and, in the way of compensation, he was allowed a pension of two lacs of rupees from the English revenues, and recommended warmly to the Emperor. His talents and address raised him to a high station in the service of that enfeebled Sovereign, whom he accompanied, as commander of the forces, on his ill-fated expedition to Delhi.

The united power of the Emperor and Mahrattas, Zabita Khan, though he made a spirited defence, was unable to withstand. He was overcome in battle; and fled across the Ganges, in hopes to defend what territories he possessed on the opposite side. He stationed parties of troops at the different fords; but this weakened his main body; Nujeef Khan gallantly braved the stream; and was followed by the Mahrattas; when Zabita Khan, despairing of success, fled to Pattirgur, where he had deposited his women and treasures. The closeness with which he was pursued allowed not time sufficient to remove them, and they fell into the hands of the enemy; while Zabita Khan himself, with a few attendants, escaped to the camp of Sujah Dowla. His country, one of the most fertile districts in India, which had flourished under the vigorous and equitable administration of Nujeeb ad Dowla, [488] afforded a rich booty; which the Mahrattas wholly seized, and set at nought the outcries of the Emperor.

The Rohillas were now placed in the most alarming situation. We have already seen1 that among those soldiers of fortune from the hardy regions of the North, who constantly composed the principal part of the Mogul armies, and, according to their talents and influence, procured themselves lands and governments in India, the Afghauns had latterly occupied a conspicuous place; that a portion of this people, who took the name of Rohillas, had given several chiefs, with large bands of followers, to the imperial armies; that these chiefs had in some instances been rewarded with jaghires in that fertile district of country which lies principally between the Ganges and the mountains, on the western boundary of the Subah of Oude; that amid the disturbances which attended the dissolution of the Mogul government, those leaders had endeavoured to secure themselves in their possessions, which they had filled with great numbers of their countrymen. It is completely proved, that their territory was by far the best governed part of India; that the people were protected; that their industry was encouraged; and that the country flourished beyond all parallel. It was by these cares, and by cultivating diligently the arts of neutrality; that is, by pretending, according to the necessity of Indian customs, to favour all parties, not by conquering a larger territory from their neighbours, that the Rohilla chiefs had endeavoured to provide for their independance. After the death of Nujeeb ad Dowla, no one among them was remarkably distinguished for talents.2 Hafez Rhamet Khan, [489] whose territories lay nearest to those of Sujah Dowla, was looked upon as the chief of the tribe; but his character had in it more of caution than of enterprise, and his prudence had stamped upon him the reputation of avarice. The united force of all these leaders was estimated at 80,000 horse and foot. But though a sense of common danger might with difficulty combine them in operations of defence, they were too independent, and their minds too little capable of a steady pursuit of their own interests, to offer, through an aggressive confederacy, any prospect of danger to the surrounding powers.1[490]

The Rohillas, on their part, however, stood exposed to alarming designs, on almost every quarter. Their nearest, and for a long time their most dangerous enemy, was the Subahdar of Oude, to whom, from its first acquisition, their territory had been a constant object of envy and desire. A predecessor of Sujah Dowla, nearly thirty years before, had invited the Mahrattas to assist him in wresting it from their hands; and had given the first temptation to that dangerous people to claim a settlement in that part of Hindustan. From the character of the present Subahdar of Oude, the danger of the Rohillas on that side was increased rather than diminished; and at the same time the superior power of the Mahrattas pressed upon them with alarming violence from the south. With their own strength, they were a match for neither party; and clearly saw, that their safety could only be found in obtaining protection against both. They temporised; and endeavoured to evade the hostile designs of each, by shielding themselves with the terror which one set of their enemies kept alive in the breasts of the other.

The Rohillas were vehemently roused by intelligence of the attack upon Zabita Khan, which they regarded as the first step of a general plan of aggression. They proposed an union of counsels and of arms with the Subahdar of Oude, to whom the establishment of the Mahrattas upon his frontier was, they knew, an object equally of danger and alarm. He was thrown into great consternation and embarrassment. Early in January, 1772, he pressed for an [491] interview with the English General, Sir Robert Barker, who was then on his route to Allahabad, and met him on the 20th of the same month at Fyzabad. He remarked that “either, to prevent a total extirpation, the Rohillas would be necessitated to give up a part of their country, and to join their arms with the Mahrattas; when the whole confederacy would fall upon him; or that the Mahrattas, refusing all terms to the Rohillas, would establish themselves in the Rohilla country, and expose him to still greater danger.” To extricate himself from these difficulties, the following is the plan which he had devised. He would march with his army to his own Rohilla frontier: He would there, partly by the terror of his arms, partly by desire of his aid, obtain from the Rohillas, first, the cession of a portion of their territory for the Emperor’s support, leaving to them such a part as was best adapted to serve as a barrier to the province of Oude; and, secondly, a sum of money, with part of which he would purchase the departure of the Mahrattas, and part of which he would keep to his own use: He would thus effect an accommodation with both the Emperor and the Mahrattas, at the expense of the Rohillas; and put something in his own pocket besides. But for the accomplishment of these desirable ends, the presence of the English was absolutely necessary, without the guarantee of whom, he plainly declared that the Rohillas, who knew him, would yield him no trust. To the letter of the General, making known this proposal, the Presidency on the 3d of February wrote in reply, approving highly of the project of Sujah Dowla, and authorizing the General to lend the support which was desired.

The proposals of the Subahdar, in regard especially to the division of their territory, were odious to the Rohillas; and time was spent in negotiation, while [492] 30,000 Mahrattas ravaged the country beyond the Ganges, and their main body subdued the territory of Zabita Khan. The English General, Sir Robert Barker, strongly urged upon Sujah Dowla, the necessity of protecting the Rohillas, the weakness of whom became the strength of the Mahrattas, and enabled them, if their departure were purchased, to return to the seizure of the country whenever they pleased. In the mean time the Subahdar was eager to conclude a treaty with the Mahrattas; the prospect of which alarmed the English General, and called forth his exertions to prevent so dangerous a confederacy. The Mahrattas, however, treated the overtures of the Subahdar with so little respect, that they varied their terms at every conference; and forced him at last to break off the negotiation. In their instructions to the General, on the 30th of April, the Select Committee declare: “We are confirmed in the opinion we have for some time past entertained, that the Mahrattas will not make any stay in the Rohilla country; but that they will be obliged to quit it even before the rains set in; and every day’s intelligence renders the probability of this event the more apparent.” Their opinion was grounded upon the knowledge which they possessed of the revolution which had taken place in the Mahratta government, and which could not, as they supposed, and as the event turned out, fail to recall their armies. The Committee add, “We therefore so far concur in opinion with you, that any concessions made to the Mahrattas to promote their departure would be superfluous and highly improper.”

The defeat of the negotiation with the Mahrattas, and the knowledge with which the Subahdar was already furnished of the events which summoned home the Mahrattas, brought about that alliance between [493] him and the Rohillas, which Sir Robert had laboured so eagerly to effect. The Subahdar was very keen for an arrangement, from which he expected to derive money, now when he hoped by the voluntary departure of the Mahrattas to have nothing to do in return for it. The Rohillas, on the other hand, it is observable, entered into the engagement with the utmost reluctance: in compliance solely, as it would appear, with the importunities of the English. Sir Robert Barker had sent Captain Harper to the camp of the Rohillas to negotiate; and on the 25th of May, from the Nabob’s camp at Shawabad, he writes to the Presidency, in the following remarkable terms. “Gentlemen, on the 21st instant, Captain Harper, returned from the Rohilla Sirdars [commanders] having at length prevailed on Hafez Rhamet Khan to proceed with him to Shawabad the second day’s march. The jealousy of Hindustaners has been very particularly evinced in this visit; for notwithstanding Hafez Rhamet has been encamped within three coss since the 23d of the month, until this morning, he could not prevail on himself to perform the meeting.—I hope, in a few days, to have the satisfaction of communicating to you the final conclusion of this agreement with the Rohilla Sirdars.”

It was not, however, before the 17th day of the following month, that all difficulties were borne down, or removed, and a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, was signed by the respective parties. Of the articles, that which was attended with the most memorable consequences, that to which the Rohillas, it is probable, assented only from that rashness and negligence in forming pecuniary obligations which is universal in Indian governments and which their universal practice of fulfilling none which they can violate or evade unavoidably engenders, was the promise to [494] pay to the Vizir forty lacs of rupees, on condition that he should expel the Mahrattas from the Rohilla territories; ten of these lacs to be furnished on the performance of the service, the rest in the space of three years.1

No effort whatsoever, in consequence of this agreement, was made by the Subahdar for the expulsion of the Mahrattas; in a little time he returned to his capital; and the Mahrattas, after ravaging the country, crossed the Ganges of their own accord, at the commencement of the rains. They encamped, however, between the Ganges and the Jumna, with too evident an intention of renewing their operations as soon as the favourable season should return. During the period of inaction, the Rohillas importuned the Vizir to make such arrangements with the Emperor and Mahrattas, as might prevent them from crossing the Ganges any more. But no such arrangements were attempted. As soon as the termination of the rains approached, the Mahrattas drew near to the river, and, again threatening the Rohillas, demanded a sum of money, of which, after temporising, a portion was, by Hafez Rhamet, most reluctantly paid.

Upon the accomplishment of the enterprise against Zabita Khan, the Emperor returned to Delhi, disgusted with his new allies, and eagerly desirous of an opportunity to dissolve the connexion. The Mahrattas on their part, who disdained the restraint of obligation, whenever it might be violated with profit, had entered into correspondence with Zabita Khan, and had engaged for a sum of money to compel the Emperor, not only to restore his territory, but to [495] bestow upon him the office of Ameer al Omra, which his father had enjoyed. To these commands the Emperor could not prevail upon himself quietly to yield; and the Mahrattas thought proper to march towards Delhi, to enforce submission. The Emperor prepared himself for resistance; and, by the vigour and foresight of Nujeef Khan, was enabled to make a respectable defence. Incapable, however, of long supporting the weight of the Mahratta host, he opened the gates of Delhi, on the 22d of December, exactly one year, wanting three days, from the period of his inaugural entry. From this time, he was no better than an instrument in the hands of the Mahrattas. Of their power the first use was to extort from their prisoner a grant of the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, in which he had been established by the English. Having accomplished these events, they returned to the banks of the Ganges, which they made preparations to cross.

The Subahdar was now thrown into a state of the most violent alarm; and wrote repeated letters to the Bengal government to send a military force to his protection. He had neglected, or had been unable, to take any measures for placing the country of the Rohillas in a state of security. That people were now laid at the mercy of the Mahrattas; and would, he foresaw, be compelled to join them, to avoid destruction. Zabita Khan had already thrown himself upon their mercy; and he violently feared that the other chiefs would speedily follow his example. The Mahrattas, indeed, made great offers to the Rohillas. They would remit the greater part of the sums of which they had extorted the promise. They engaged to pass through the country without committing any depredations or molesting the ryots, and to grant all sorts of advantages; provided the Rohillas would [496] yield a free passage through their dominions into the territory of the Vizir.1 The Subahdar of Oude exerted himself to prevent that union of the Mahrattas and Rohillas; the effects of which he contemplated with so much alarm. He moved with his army into that part of his country which was nearest to that of the Rohillas; and held out to them whatever inducements he conceived most likely to confirm their opposition to the Mahrattas. He engaged to make effectual provision both for their present and future security; and to remit, as Hafez Rhamet affirms, the forty lacs of rupees. Difficult as was the choice, the Rohillas thought it still less dangerous to rely upon the faith of the Subahdar, than upon that of the Mahrattas; and gaining what they could, by temporizing with that formidable people, they, however, declined all engagements with them, and actually joined their troops to those of the English and Subahdar.2

On the 7th of January, 1773, the Secret Committee at Calcutta entered into consultation on intelligence of these events; and thus recorded their sentiments. “Notwithstanding the alarms of the Vizir, expressed in the foregoing letters, it does not clearly appear that the Mahrattas have acquired any accession of power, since, whatever advantage they derived from the sanction of the King’s name, when he was independent, must now be either lost, or very much diminished, by their late rupture with him, by their having violently possessed themselves of his person, and their usurpation of his dominions.” On the [497] subject of the Rohillas, whom the Vizir, to increase the ardour of the English to send an army to his support, represented as actually connected with the Mahrattas, though he only dreaded that event, they remark, that instead of joining with the Mahrattas in an invasion of the territories of the Vizir, “It is still more probable that the Rohilla chiefs, who have sought their present safety in a treacherous alliance, to which necessity compelled them, with the Mahrattas, will, from the same principle, abandon their cause, or employ the confidence reposed in them to re-establish their own independence, rather than contribute to the aggrandizement of a power, which in the end must overwhelm them.” With regard to the unhappy Shah Aulum, the humiliated Emperor of the Moguls, they remark; “It is possible he may solicit our aid; and, in point of right, we should certainly be justified in affording it him, since no act of his could be deemed valid in his present situation, and while he continues a mere passive instrument in the hands of the Mahrattas: But whether it would be political to interfere, or whether, at this time especially, it would be expedient, must continue a doubt with us.”1 It is remarkable, that with regard to the most important of his acts, the surrender of Corah and Allahabad, so little did any one regard it as binding, that his deputy, in these provinces, instead of delivering them up to the Mahrattas, applied to the English for leave to place them under their protection, “as the King, his master, whilst a prisoner in the hands of the Mahrattas, had been compelled to grant sunnuds in their favour.”2 The English, in consequence, threw a garrison into Allahabad, and sent a member of council to take charge of the revenues.3

The obligation under which the English were placed to aid the Vizir in the defence of his own territory, and their opinion of the advantage of supporting him against the Mahrattas, induced them to send Sir Robert Barker, with a part of the army. The importance of preventing the Mahrattas from establishing themselves on the northern side of the Ganges, and the facility which they would possess of invading Oude if masters of Rohilcund, disposed the English to include that district also within the line of their defensive operations. But, though the combined forces of the English and Vizir passed into the territories of the Rohillas, and encamped near the river, opposite to the main army of the Mahrattas, which threatened at once the territories of Oude and the province of Corah, a large body of Mahrattas, crossed the Ganges, over-ran a great part of Rohilcund, destroyed the cities of Moradabad and Sumbul, and continued to ravage the country till the end of March.

No operation of any importance ensued. The English General was restrained by peremptory orders from passing the river, to act on the offensive; the Mahrattas were afraid of crossing it in the face of so formidable an opponent. And in the month of May, the situation of their domestic affairs recalled that people wholly to their own country.

The departure of the Mahrattas opened a field to the ambition of the Subahdar, which he was eager to cultivate. A meeting was concerted between him and the Governor, which took place at Benares at the beginning of September. The terms are memorable in which the cause and object of this interview are mentioned by the English chief. In his Report to the Council at Calcutta, on the 4th of October, 1773, he says, “The Vizir was at first very desirous of the assistance of an English force to put him in [499] possession of the Rohilla country, lying north of his dominions and east of the Ganges. This has long been a favourite object of his wishes; and you will recollect that the first occasion of my last visit was furnished by a proposal of this kind.”1 The Governor-General was so far from revolting at this proposition, or hesitating to close with it, that he stimulated the Vizir to its execution.2 Money was the motive to this eager passion for the ruin of the Rohillas. “As this had long,” says the English ruler, “been a favourite object of the Vizir, the Board judged with me that it might afford a fair occasion to urge the improvement of our alliance, by obtaining his assent to a more equitable compensation for the expense attending the aid which he occasionally received from our forces.”3 The situation of the Company he says, urged it upon them, “as a measure necessary to its interest and safety. All our advices,” he continues, “both public and private, represented the distresses of the Company at home, as extreme. The letters from the Court of Directors called upon us most loudly for ample remittances, and a reduction of our military expenses. At the same time, such was the state of affairs in this government, that for many years past the income of the year was found inadequate to its expense; to defray which, a heavy bond debt, amounting at one time to 125 lacs of rupees, had accumulated.”4 It was accordingly stipulated that [500] forty lacs of rupees, upon the accomplishment of the enterprise, should be advanced to the English by the Vizir, and a monthly allowance, equivalent to the computed expense, be provided for the troops engaged in that service. By this, says the Governor, “a saving of near one third of our military expenses would be effected during the period of such a service; the stipulation of forty lacs would afford an ample supply to our treasury: the Vizir would be freed from a troublesome neighbourhood, and his dominions be much more defensible.”

In all this, we may allow, there was enough for convenience and profit, both to the President and the Vizir. But to bring ruin upon a large body of our fellow-creatures for our own convenience and profit, unless where the most cogent reasons of justice and necessity impel, is to perform the part of the most atrocious oppressors. In this case, the pleas of justice and necessity are, to an extraordinary degree, defective and weak. The unhappy Rohillas, it seems, procrastinated, and evaded, with respect to the demand which was now violently made upon them for payment of the formerly stipulated price of defence; a payment which had not been earned, since they had never been defended; which they were not able to pay, since their country had been repeatedly ravaged and stript; of which the exaction was in reality a fraud, since the return for it was never intended to be made; which it was no wonder they were reluctant to pay, to the man who was impatient to assail them, and whom the use of their money would only strengthen for their destruction. At the worst a failure in a pecuniary obligation can never justify a war of extermination; it even authorized hostilities, as the Directors, when they condemned this employment of their forces, remarked, so far only, as might be [501] necessary to compel the fulfilment of the contract. It was also alleged, that the Rohillas assisted the Mahrattas. But this is by no means true. They temporized with the Mahrattas, as it was highly natural they should do; but the whole power of the nation was exerted to keep and to drive the Mahrattas from their own side of the Ganges.1 With regard to necessity for the extirpation of the Rohillas, there was not so much as prudence to justify the deed; Hastings himself confessing, “that the dependance of the Vizir upon the Company (in other words his weakness) would, by that extension of his possessions, be increased, as he himself was incapable of defending even his ancient possessions without the English support.”2

Another object of great importance was to be settled between the Governor and Vizir. The provinces of Corah and Allahabad, of which a forced surrender had been obtained by the Mahrattas, but which the deputy of the Emperor, declaring the act involuntary, had, to save them for his master, placed under the protection of the English, were to be disposed [502] of. At first, if no resolution was taken to restore them to the Emperor, it appears, at least, that none was adopted to take them from him. As soon as the idea was begotten of making money out of the present situation of affairs, the provinces of Corah and Allahabad naturally fell into the crucible. It had long been a decided principle in the Company’s policy, not to retain those provinces under their own administration; because the expense of governing them, at so great a distance, would exceed the utmost revenue they could yield. The choice lay between preserving them for the Emperor and making them over to the Vizir. Generosity, had it any place in such arrangements, pleaded with almost unexampled strength in behalf of the forlorn Emperor, the nominal sovereign of so vast an empire, the representative of so illustrious a race, who now possessed hardly a roof to cover him. Justice, too, or something not easily distinguished from justice, spoke on the same side: considering that, in the first place, the Emperor had a right to the provinces, both by his quality of sovereign of India, and also by the peculiar concession and grant of the English Company, if not in express terms for, most certainly in consideration of, his not absolutely necessary but highly useful grant of the duanee of the three great and opulent provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa; And that, in the second place, he could not, by any fair construction, be deemed to have forfeited any right by the surrender of the provinces, an act which was in the highest degree involuntary, and therefore not his own. But these considerations were a feeble balance against the calls of want, and the heavy attractions of gold. To secure Allahabad and Corah against the possession of so dangerous a power as the Mahrattas was the acknowledged policy of the British [503] government; and it was alleged, that the Emperor was unable to protect them. But it is certainly true, that the Emperor was not less able at that time than he was at the time when they were first bestowed upon him; or than he was at any point of the time during which they had been left in his hands. It is equally true, that the inability of the Vizir to secure them was just as certain as that of the Emperor; since there is the confession of the Governor, that he was unable to protect even his own dominions, without the assistance of the English; and that every extension of his frontier rendered him more vulnerable and weak. There was, however, one difference; the Vizir could give money for them, the Emperor could not; and in this, it is probable, the whole advantage will be found to consist. That the English strengthened their barrier by giving to a crude native government a vast frontier to defend, instead of combining against the Mahrattas the forces of the Rohillas, the Emperor, and the Vizir, will hardly be affirmed by those who reflect how easily the balance among those powers might have been trimmed, or who know the consequences of the arrangement that was formed. For a sum of money, Corah and Allahabad were tendered to the Vizir. That he was delighted with the prospect of regaining a territory, for which, a few years before, we have seen him incurring the infamy and guilt of perfidy and murder, perpetrated against a near kinsman, we need not doubt. About terms there appears to have been no dispute. For the sum of fifty lacs of rupees, of which twenty lacs were to be paid in ready money, and the remainder in two years by payments of fifteen lacs at a time, the provinces in question were added to his dominions.

The acquisition of those provinces made an apparent [504] change with regard to the Rohillas in the views of the Vizir. If we may believe the representation of the President; whose representations, however, upon this subject, are so full of management, and ambiguity, that they are all to be received with caution; the Nabob represented himself unable to meet the pecuniary obligations under which the acquisition of both territories would lay him to the English Company; and desired for that reason to suspend his attack upon the Rohillas. It was agreed, however, between him and the President, that whenever the time convenient for the extirpation of that people should arrive, the assistance of the English should not be wanting. The difficulty of fulfilling his pecuniary engagements with the Company, if they were ever alleged, did not detain him long.

From the meeting at Benares, the Vizir and President parted different ways; the former to the Dooab, and Delhi, to reduce, during the absence of the Mahrattas, some forts and districts which were still held for that people; the latter to lay before his colleagues, and to transmit to his employers, such an account of the transactions at this interview, as was most likely to answer his ends.

In his report to the Council at Fort William, the President confined himself to the agreement respecting Corah and Allahabad, and the allowance for such troops as might hereafter be employed in the service of the Vizir. The agreement respecting the Rohillas, which it had been settled between the President and Vizir might be conveniently kept out of the ostensible treaty, was wholly suppressed. With a view to the future, it was politic however to explain, that the Vizir showed at first a desire to obtain English assistance for the seizure of the Rohilla country; it was politic also to state the pretexts by which the [505] expediency of that assistance might best appear to be established. Adding, that for the present, however, the Vizir had laid aside this design, the President subjoined the following declaration: “I was pleased that he urged the scheme of this expedition no further, as it would have led our troops to a distance.”1 Yet we have it from his pen, that he “encouraged” the Vizir to the enterprise, as what promised to be of the greatest advantage to the Company.

In the letter of the President dispatched from Benares to the Directors, announcing the result of his arrangements with the Vizir, all intelligence of the project for exterminating the Rohillas is surpressed.

Upon the return of Mr. Hastings to Calcutta, he effected an object, of which, from the important consequences with which it was attended, it is necessary to give some account. The correspondence with the country powers had frequently been carried on through the military officers upon the spot. The power thus conveyed to the military, Mr. Hastings had represented as inconvenient, if not dangerous; and one object of his policy had been to render the head of the civil government the exclusive organ of communication with foreign powers. He now stated to the Council the concurrence in opinion of the Vizir and himself, that an agent, permanently residing with the Vizir for the communication and adjustment of many affairs to which the intercourse of letters could not conveniently apply, would be attended with important advantages: And he urged the propriety of granting to himself the sole nomination of such an agent, the sole power of removing him, and the power of receiving and answering his letters, without communication either to the Committee [506] or Council. To all these conditions the Council gave their assent; and Mr. Nathaniel Middleton, with an extra salary, was sent as private agent to attend the residence of the Vizir, and to communicate secretly with Mr. Hastings.1

The Vizir in the mean time had made himself master of several places in the Dooab. He advanced towards Delhi with a show of great friendship to the Emperor; assisted him with money; sent a force to assist his army in wresting Agra from the Jaats; and having thus laid a foundation for confidence, began to intrigue for his sanction to the intended attack upon Rohilcund. A treaty was negociated, and at last solemnly concluded and signed, by which it was agreed that the Emperor should assist with his forces in the reduction of the Rohillas, and in return should receive a share of the plunder, and one half of the conquered country.2

On the 18th of November, about two months after their interview, the Vizir wrote to the President, demanding the promised assistance of the English for the destruction of the Rohillas. Mr. Hastings appears to have been thrown into some embarrassment. The suddenness and confidence of the call corresponded but indifferently with the terms on which he had given his colleagues to understand that the communication on this subject rested between him and the Vizir. His abilities in making out a case, though singularly great, were unable to produce unanimity; and it was not till after a long debate, that a decision in favour of the expedition was obtained. The assistance [507] was promised, on the very terms concerted and settled between him and the Vizir; and yet this President had the art to persuade his colleagues, and joined with them in a declaration to their common masters, that these terms were so favourable to the English, and so burdensome to the Vizir, as to render his acceptance of them improbable, and therefore to leave but little chance of their involving the English government in a measure which the principal conductors of that government were desirous to avoid.1

In the month of January, 1774, the second of the three brigades into which the Company’s army in Bengal was divided, received orders to join the Vizir; and Colonel Champion, now Commander-in-Chief, proceeded about the middle of February to assume the command. On the 24th of February the brigade arrived within the territory of the Vizir; and on the 17th of April the united forces entered the Rohilla dominions. On the 19th Col. Champion wrote to the Presidency, that the Rohilla leader “had by letter expressed earnest inclinations to come to an accommodation with the Vizir; but that the Nabob claimed no less than two crore of rupees.” After this extravagant demand, the Rohillas posted themselves on the side of Babul Nulla, with a resolution of standing their ground to the last extremity. And early on the morning of the 23d, the English advanced to the attack. “Hafez,” says the English General, with a generous esteem, “and his army, consisting of about 40,000 men, showed great bravery and resolution, annoying us with their artillery and rockets. They made repeated attempts to charge, but our guns, being so much better served than theirs, kept so constant and galling a fire, that [508] they could not advance; and where they were closest, was the greatest slaughter. They gave proof of a good share of military knowledge, by showing inclinations to force both our flanks at the same time, and endeavouring to call off our attentions by a brisk fire on our centre. It is impossible to describe a more obstinate firmness of resolution than the enemy displayed. Numerous were their gallant men who advanced, and often pitched their colours between both armies, in order to encourage their men to follow them; and it was not till they saw our whole army advancing briskly to charge them, after a severe cannonade of two hours and twenty minutes, and a smart fire of musketry for some minutes on both flanks, that they fairly turned their backs. Of the enemy above 2,000 fell in the field and amongst them many Sirdars. But what renders the victory most decisive is the death of Hafez Rhamet, who was killed whilst bravely rallying his people to battle. One of his sons was also killed, one taken prisoner, and a third returned from flight to day, and is in the hands of Sujah Dowla.”

In passing to another character, the General changes his strain. “I wish,” says he, “I could pay the Vizir any compliment on this occasion, or that I were not under the indispensable necessity of expressing my highest indignation at his shameful pusillanimity; indispensably, I say, because it is necessary that administration should clearly know how little to be depended on is this their ally. The night before the battle, I applied to him for some particular pieces of cannon, which I thought might prove of great service in the action; but he declined giving the use of them. He promised solemnly to support me with all his force, and particularly engaged to be near at hand with a large body of cavalry, to be used as I [509] should direct. But instead of being nigh me, he remained beyond the Gurrah, on the ground which I had left in the morning, surrounded by his cavalry and a large train of artillery, and did not move thence till the news of the enemy’s defeat reached him.” Then, however, his troops began to be active, and effectually plundered the camp; “while the Company’s troops, in regular order in their ranks, most justly” (says their commander) “observed, We have the honour of the day, and these banditti the profit.”1

This action, in reality, terminated the war. Though Fyzoolla Khan, with his treasures and the remains of the army, had made good his flight toward the mountains, the whole country, without opposition, lay at the mercy of the Vizir; and never probably were the rights of conquest more savagely abused. Not only was the ferocity of Indian depredation let loose upon the wretched inhabitants, but as his intention, according to what he had previously and repeatedly declared to the English government, was to exterminate the Rohillas, every one who bore the name of Rohilla was either butchered or found his safety in flight and in exile.2

Shortly after this decisive affair, the army marched to the city of Bissouly, which was near the centre of the Rohilla country, with the intention of passing in quarters the season of the rains. At this place had arrived before them Nujeef Khan, with the army of the Emperor. In obedience to the treaty between the Emperor and Vizir, they had marched from Delhi to assist in the reduction of the Rohillas; but before they reached the scene of action the rapidity and vigour of the English had terminated the war. Nujeef Khan demanded partition of the country and of the plunder, according to the conditions on which the [511] countenance and co-operation of the Emperor had been procured. The Vizir did not dispute the treaty, a copy of which the Emperor had sent to Col. Champion; he alleged, however, that the counterpart, which was in his own possession, expressed a condition that his Majesty should take the field in person; and that the breach of that article annulled the contract. “But when the counterpart,” says Col. Champion, “which he put into the hands of my interpreter, came to be examined, it appeared there was no such stipulation, nor indeed did it ever exist even verbally.”1 The decision of the English government is the next incident in the scene. Instructing on this subject the commander of their troops, when he had as yet sent them only a surmise, and the treaty had not been produced, “our engagements (they say) with the Vizir are to aid him in the conquest of the Rohilla country; and if he is opposed by Nujeef Khan, or the King himself, you are to pay no regard to either. We cannot” (they add) “entertain so bad an opinion of the Vizir as to suppose him capable of acting in avowed breach of a treaty; but if any plea of that kind should be made for contesting our right to occupy any part of the Rohilla country yet unconquered, it will be proper to put to him the question, whether such treaty does exist or not? If he should acknowledge such a treaty, you must undoubtedly abstain from further hostilities in abetment of his breach of faith.” Yet after they were fully satisfied of the existence of such a treaty; and not only of the capability, but the resolution of the Vizir to act in avowed breach of it, they laid their commands upon the English general, to abet and support him, because “it is our intention,” say they, “to persevere in pursuit of the object which [512] originally engaged us in the present enterprise, and to adhere strictly to our engagements with the Vizir, without suffering our attention to be diverted by foreign incidents or occurrences,”1 that is, by solemn treaties, or the breach of them.

From Fyzoolla Khan an early application arrived, offering to come to the camp upon the faith of the English, and to hold the district which had belonged to his family as a dependent or renter of the Vizir. His offers, variously modified, were frequently repeated, with great earnestness. But the Vizir persisted in his declaration, that he would allow no Rohilla chief to remain on the further side of the Ganges; and only offered him one of the districts in the Dooab, which had been recently conquered from the Mahrattas. Fyzoolla Khan, with justice, observed, that this the Mahrattas would take from him the first time they returned to the country.

Towards the end of July, the united forces of the English and Vizir marched towards Fyzoolla Khan, who occupied a strong post on the skirts of the mountains, near Pattir Gur. At the beginning of September they came near the enemy, and as the Vizir began to exhibit a strong desire of an accommodation with the Rohillas, an active intercourse of letters and messengers ensued. Whether his mind was operated upon by the approaching arrival of the new counsellors at Calcutta, or the dread which he pretended of assistance to Fyzoolla Khan from the Mahrattas and Afghauns, he now made offer of terms to which a little before he would not so much as listen. He proposed to make Fyzoolla collector of the revenues, or Zemindar, of the whole territory of Rohilcund, allowing six lacs of rupees per annum [513] for his own expenses. But this offer, and even that of a jaghire of ten lacs of rupees in the Rohilcund country, were rejected. The Rohillas were so advantageously posted, with works thrown up in their front, that it was necessary to advance by regular approaches, and the army were so discontented, on account of hardship, arrears of pay, and ill-usage, either real or supposed, that the General was doubtful of their steadiness and order. After several days, in which the approaches were carried on, and the scouting parties of both armies were frequently engaged, it was at last agreed that, Fyzoolla Khan should receive a jaghire of fourteen lacs and seventy-five thousand rupees in the Rohilcund territory, and should surrender one half of all his effects to the Vizir. Thus terminated the first Rohilla war.1

Before closing the account of the events to which the visit of Mr. Hastings to Benares gave birth, it is necessary to mention its effects with regard to the deserted Emperor. Upon receiving from him the grant of the duannee, or the receipt and management of the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, it was agreed that, as the royal share of those revenues, twenty-six lacs of rupees should be annually paid to him by the Company. His having accepted of the assistance of the Mahrattas to place him on the throne of his ancestors was now made use of as a reason for telling him, that the tribute of these provinces should be paid to him no more. Of the honour or the discredit, however, of this transaction, the principal share belongs not to the Governor, but to the directors themselves; [514] who, in their letter to Bengal of the 11th of November, 1768, had said, “If the Emperor flings himself into the hands of the Mahrattas, or any other power, we are disengaged from him, and it may open a fair opportunity of withholding the twenty-six lacs we now pay him.”1 Upon the whole, indeed, of the measure, dealt out to this unhappy sovereign; depriving him of the territories of Corah and Allahabad; depriving him of the tribute which was due to him from those provinces of his which they possessed; the Directors bestowed unqualified approbation. And though they condemned the use which had been made of their troops in subduing the country of the Rohillas; they declare frankly, “We, upon the maturest deliberation, confirm the treaty of Benares.”2

The circumstance upon which, in summing up the account of his administration to his honourable masters, Hastings advanced the strongest claim to applause, was the alleviation of the pecuniary difficulties of the Indian government, and the improvement of the revenues. In the letters from the Bengal administration to the Court of Directors, under date 22d August, and 17th October, 1774, after presenting the most flattering picture of the financial situation to which the government was happily exalted, they advance a confident prediction, that in the course of the ensuing season, the whole of the bond debt would be discharged.3 And in that representation of the state of Bengal, which was published by Mr. Hastings in 1786, he declares, “When I took charge of the government of Bengal in April 1772, I found it loaded with a debt at interest of nearly the same amount as the present; and in less than two years I saw that [515] debt completely discharged, and a sum in ready cash of the same amount actually accumulated in store in the public treasuries.”1 This boasting exhibits some remarkable features, when the facts are sufficiently ascertained. No improvement had been made in the productive powers of the country, which is the only permanent and satisfactory source of an improved revenue. The gross revenues of the year ending in April 1772 were 3,13,63,894 current rupees; the gross revenues of that ending in April 1774 were only 2,76,10,556. Hardly had any improvement been made in the nett receipt. That for the year ending in April 1772, was 2,16,88,538 rupees equal to 2,373,650l.; that for the year ending 1774, was 2,20,56,919 rupees, or 2,481,404l.2 In the next great department of financial administration, the expense of the civil and military services, instead of any retrenchment there had been an increase. In the year ending in 1772, the civil service is stated at 154,620l., the marine at 52,161l., the military at 1,164,348l., and the total expense, exclusive of buildings and fortifications, at 1,371,129l.3 In the year ending in 1774, the civil service is stated at 159,537l., the marine at 53,700l., the military at 1,304,883l., and the total at 1,518,120l.4 In the year 1772, the proportion of the military expense, defrayed by the Nabob of Oude, was 20,766l.5 In the year 1774, the proportion defrayed by him was 131,430l.6 In the following year, that ending in April 1775, there was a slight improvement in the collections, which may in part be ascribed to the measures of the preceding [516] administration; and there was a total cessation of war which produced a reduction of the military expenditure, remarkable only for its minuteness. The gross collections amounted to 2,87,20,760 rupees, the nett receipt to 2,51,02,090, or 2,823,964l.; the civil service to 231,722l., the marine to 36,510l., and the military to 1,080,304l.; total, 1,349,836l.: and the proportion this year borne by the Nabob of Oude was 240,750l.1 It thus abundantly appears that nothing so important as to deserve the name of improvement had arisen in the financial administration of the Company. A pecuniary relief had indeed been procured, but from sources of a temporary and very doubtful description; partly from the produce of the bills drawn in such profusion upon the Company, by the predecessor of Hastings; partly from the reduction of the allowance to the Nabob of Bengal, from thirty-two to sixteen lacs; but chiefly from the plunder of the unhappy Emperor of the Moguls, whose tribute of twenty-six lacs per annum for the duannee of Bengal was with held, and whose two provinces Corah and Allahabad were sold for fifty lacs to the Vizir; from the sale of the Rohillas, the extirpation of whom was purchased at forty of the same eagerly coveted lacs; and from the pay and maintenance of a third part of the troops, which were employed in the wars and dominions of the Vizir. With regard even to the payment of the debt, an inspection of the accounts exhibits other results than those presented by the declarations of the President.

Year ending in April / Balances in the Treasuries. / Debts at interest. / Other debts.

1772...... / C. R. 65,09,041..... / 1,07,84,520... / 52,48,480.
1774.......... / 21,62,994.......... / 1,17,71,486... / 95,41,795.
1775........ / 1,23,95,598..... / 90,68,584... / 87,05,871.2

2 Ibid. p. 8, 36, 42.


Upon this statement, if we compare the year in which Mr. Hastings began his administration, with that in which it ended, we see a prodigious deterioration. If we compare it even with that which follows, the total amount of debt in 1772 was 1,60,30,000 rupees; in 1775 it was 1,77,68,584, which is an increase of 17,41,455. The only improvement appears in the balance of cash, which in 1775 exceeded the balance in 1772 by 58,86,557 rupees. Deducting from this a sum equal to the increase of debt, there remains 41,45,102 rupees, by which alone the state of the exchequer, after all the calamity which had been produced to supply it, was better in 1775 than it had been in 1772.
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. III, by James Mill

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Part 1 of 2

CHAP. II.

Commencement of the New Government—Supreme Council divided into two Parties, of which that of the Governor-General in the Minority—Presidency of Bombay espouse the Cause of Ragoba, an ejected Peshwa—Supreme council condemn this Policy, and make Peace with his Opponents—Situation of the Powers in the Upper Country, Nabob of Oude, Emperor, and Nujeef Khan—Pecuniary Corruption, in which Governor-General seemed to be implicated, in the cases of the Ranee of Burdwan, Phousdar of Hoogley, and Munny Begum—Governor-General resists Inquiry—Nuncomar the great Accuser—He is prosecuted by Governor-General—Accused of Forgery, found guilty, and hanged—Mahomed Reza Khan, and the office of Naib Subah restored.

The operation of the new constitution framed by the Parliament of England, was ordained to commence in India after the 1st of August, 1774. The new counsellors, however, General Clavering, Mr. Monson, and Mr. Francis, who, along with Mr. Hastings and Mr. Barwell, were elected to compose the board of administration, did not arrive at Calcutta until the 19th of October. On the following day the existing government was dissolved by proclamation, and the new council took possession of its powers. On the proposal of the Governor-General, who stated the necessity of a few days, to prepare for the council a [519] view of the existing state of affairs, and to enable Mr. Barwell, who was then absent, to arrive; the meeting of the Board was suspended until the 25th. On the very day on which its deliberations began, some of the discord made its appearance, which so long and so deeply embarrassed and disgraced the government of India. The party who had arrived from England, and the party in India, with whom they were conjoined, met not, it should seem, with minds in the happiest frame for conjunct operations. Mr. Hastings, upon the first appearance of his colleagues, behaved, or was suspected of behaving, coldly. And with jealous feelings this coldness was construed into studied and humiliating neglect. In the representation which the Governor-General presented of the political state of the country, the war against the Rohillas necessarily attracted the principal attention of the new councillors; and, unhappily for the Governor-General, presented too many appearances of a doubtful complexion not to excite the desire of elucidation in the minds of the most candid judges. An obvious objection was, its direct opposition to the frequent and urgent commands of the Court of Directors, not to engage in offensive wars of any description, and to confine the line of defensive operations to the territorial limits of themselves and allies. The reasons, too, upon which the war was grounded; a dispute about the payment of an inconsiderable sum of money, and the benefit of conquest, to which that dispute afforded the only pretext; might well appear a suspicious foundation. When the new government began the exercise of its authority, the intelligence had not arrived of the treaty with Fyzoolla Khan; and an existing war appeared to demand its earliest determinations. To throw light upon the field of deliberation, the new Councillors required that the [520] correspondence should be laid before them, which had passed between the Governor-General (such is the title by which the President was now distinguished), and the two functionaries, the commander of the troops, and the agent residing with the Vizir. And when they were informed that a part indeed of this correspondence should be submitted to their inspection, but that a part of it would also be withheld, their surprise and dissatisfaction were loudly testified, their indignation and suspicions but little concealed.

As reasons for suppressing a part of the letters Mr. Hastings alleged, that they did not relate to public business, that they were private confidential communications, and not fit to become public.

It is plain that this declaration could satisfy none but men who had the most unbounded confidence in the probity and wisdom of Mr. Hastings; and as the new Councillors neither had that confidence, nor had been in circumstances in which they could possibly have acquired it on satisfactory grounds, they were not only justified in demanding, but their duty called upon them to demand a full disclosure. The pretension erected by Mr. Hastings, if extended into a general rule, would destroy one great source of the evidence by which the guilt of public men can be proved: And it was calculated to rouse a suspicion of his improbity in any breast not fortified against it by the strongest evidence of his habitual virtue.1 [521] Nothing could be more unfortunate for Mr. Hastings than his war against the Rohillas, and the suppression of his correspondence with Mr. Middleton. The first branded his administration with a mark, which its many virtues were never able to obliterate, of cruel and unprincipled aggression; and the second stained him with a natural suspicion of personal impurity. Both together gave his rivals those advantages over him which rendered his subsequent administration a source of contention and misery, and involved him in so great a storm of difficulties and dangers at its close.

Of the Council, now composed of five Members, the three who had recently come from England joined together in opposing the Governor-General, who was supported by Mr. Barwell alone. This party constituted, therefore, a majority of the Council, and the powers of government passed in consequence into their hands. The precipitation of their measures called for, and justified, the animadversions of their opponents. Having protested against the suppression of any part of Middleton’s correspondence, they were not contented with commanding that, as at least a temporary expedient, his letters should be wholly addressed to themselves: they voted his immediate recall; though Hastings declared that such a measure would dangerously proclaim to the natives the distractions of the government, and confound the imagination of the Vizir, who had no conception of power except in the head of the government, and who would consider the annihilation of that power as a revolution in the state. The governing party, not [522] withstanding their persuasion of the injustice and cruelty of the Rohilla war, and notwithstanding their ignorance whether or not it was brought to a close, directed the Commander-in-Chief, in the first place, immediately upon receipt of their letter, to demand payment from the Vizir of the forty lacs of rupees promised for the extirpation of the Rohillas,1 and of all other sums which might be due upon his other engagements. Provided a real inability was apparent, he might accept not less than twenty lacs, in partial payment, and securities for the remainder, in twelve months. And they directed him in the second place, to conduct the troops within fourteen days out of the Rohilla country, into the ancient territory of Oude; and in case the Vizir should refuse compliance with the prescribed demands, to withdraw the troops entirely from his service, and retire within the limits of the Company’s dominions. Before the dispatch of these instructions, intelligence arrived of the treaty with Fyzoolla Khan; of the payment of fifteen lacs by the Vizir, from the share of Fyzoolla Khan’s effects; of his return to his capital, for the declared purpose of expediting payment to the Company of the sums which he owed; and of the intention of the English army to march back to Ramgaut, [523] a Rohilla town near the borders of Oude. In consideration of these events the Governor-General proposed to suspend the peremptory demands of money, and the order for the recall of the troops; and to proceed with more leisure and forbearance. But every motion from that quarter in favour of the Vizir was exposed to the suspicion of corrupt and interested motives; and the proposal was rejected. The directions to the Commander were no further modified, than by desiring him to wait upon the Vizir at his capital, and to count the fourteen days from the date of his interview. The Governor-General condemned the precipitation of the pecuniary demand; as harsh, impolitic, and contrary to those rules of delicacy, which were prescribed by the directors for their transaction with the native princes, and which prudence and right feeling prescribed in all transactions: And he arraigned the sudden recall of the troops as a breach of treaty, a violation of the Company’s faith, tantamount to a declaration that all engagements with the Vizir were annulled, and affording to him a motive and pretence for eluding payment of the debts, which, if his alliance with the Company continued, it would be his interest to discharge. Both parties wrote the strongest representations of their separate views of these circumstances to the Directors; and the observations of one party called forth replies from the other, to a mischievous consumption of the time and attention, both in England and in India, of those on whose undivided exertions the right conducting of the government depended.1[524]

Shortly after his return from the expedition against the Rohillas, Sujah Dowla, the Vizir, whose health was already broken, began to show symptoms of a rapid decay, and expired in the beginning of 1775, when his only legitimate son, who assumed the title of Asoff ul Dowla, succeeded without opposition to the Subahdaree of Oude. Mr. Middleton had already returned, and Mr. Bristow was now sent to supply his place at the residence of the new Nabob. The majority in Council resolved to obtain from the son, with all possible dispatch, the sums of money due by the father, but to consider all engagements by which they were bound to the late Nabob as dissolved by his death, and to make any assistance, which they might hereafter afford his successor, the result of new purchases and payments. A treaty was at last arranged on the 21st of May, by which it was agreed, that the Company should guarantee to Asoff ul Dowla, the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, which had been sold to his father; but that the Nabob in return should cede to the Company the territory of the Rajah Cheyte Sing, Zemindar of Benares, yielding a revenue of 22,10,000 rupees; that he should raise the allowance for the service of the Company’s brigade to 2,60,000 rupees per month; and should pay, as they fell due, the pecuniary balances upon the engagements of the late Vizir. Mr. Hastings refused his sanction to the imposition of these terms, as inconsistent with any equitable construction of the treaty with the late Vizir, extorted from the mere necessities of the young Nabob, and beyond his power to fulfil. The conduct of the Directors was peculiar. In their letter of the 15th December, 1775, remarking upon the resolution of the Council to disregard the treaties concluded with the late Nabob of Oude, they say, “Although the death of Sujah Dowla may render [525] it necessary to make new arrangements with his successor, we cannot agree with our Council, that our treaties with the State of Oude expired with the death of that Nabob.” When they were made acquainted however with the new grant of revenue, and the new allowance on account of the troops, they say, in their letter of the 24th of December, 1776, “It is with singular satisfaction we observe at any time the attention paid by our servants to the great interests of their employers; and it is with particular pleasure we here signify our entire approbation of the late treaty concluded with Asoff ul Dowla, successor of Sujah Dowla, by which such terms are procured as seem to promise us solid and permanent advantages.”1

The new Board of Administration had early announced to the distant Presidencies, that it had assumed the reins of government, and was vested with controuling power over all the British authorities in India. It had also required from each of the Presidencies a representation of its political, financial, and commercial situation; and found a scene opened at Bombay, which it requires a notice of some preceding circumstances rightly to unfold.

The Mahratta Sovereigns, or Rajahs, were assisted, according to the Hindu institution, by a council of eight Brahmens, who shared among them the principal offices of the state. The official name of the chief of this council was Peshwa, upon whom the most important parts of the business of government devolved. According as the pleasures, the indolence, or the incapacity of the sovereign withdrew him from the management of affairs, the importance of this principal servant was increased; and a proportionable share of the dignity and power of the sovereign passed [526] into his hands. In a rude state of society it appears not to be difficult for the influence and dignity of the servant to outgrow that of the master, who becomes too weak to resume the power which he has imprudently devolved. The minister leaves his office and ascendancy to his son; the son makes it hereditary; and the sovereign, divested of all but the name of king, sinks into an empty pageant. Such was the course of events in the case of the mayor of the palace in France, in that of the Chu-vua in Tunquin,1 and such it was, besides other cases, in that of the Peshwa, among the Mahrattas. In the reign of the Rajah Sahoo, who was but third in succession from Sevagee, Kishwanath Balajee had raised himself from a low situation in life to the rank of Peshwa. Sahoo was a prince devoted to ease and to pleasure; and the supreme powers were wielded, with little check or limitation, by Kishwanath Balajee. He assumed the name of Row Pundit, that is, chief of the Pundits, or learned Brahmens, and made the Rajah invest him with a sirpah, or robe of office, a ceremony which ever since has marked the succession of the Peshwas, and appeared to confer the title. Kishwanath was able to leave his office and power to his son Bajerow, who still further diminished the power of the sovereign; and finally allowed him not so much as liberty. The Rajah was confined to Satarah, a species of state prisoner; while the Peshwa established his own residence at Poona, which hence-forth became the seat of government. The brother of Bajerow, Jumnajee Anna, though a Brahmen, led the forces of the state; he attacked the Portuguese settlements in the neighbourhood of Bombay; and [527] added Salsette and Bassein to the conquests of the Mahrattas. The family of the Peshwa prided themselves in these acquisitions; affected to consider them as their own, rather than the property of the state; and showed a violent attachment to them, as often as, either by force or negotiation, the alienation of them was attempted. The vicinity of these territories to the British settlements at Bombay, brought the interests of the Company in contact with those of the Mahrattas; and the terms of a commercial and mari-time intercourse were somewhat inaccurately framed. Bajerow left a son, named Bow, who was slain in the battle of Paniput; and Jumnajee Anna, his brother, left two sons, Nanah, called also Bajee Row, and Ragonaut Row, with the former of whom, as Peshwa, the Presidency of Bombay, in 1756, concluded a treaty. The Mahrattas agreed to exclude the Dutch from all intercourse with their dominions, and to give up fort Vittoria, Hematgur, and Bancote, in exchange for Gheriah, which the English had taken from Angria the pirate. In 1761, Bajee Row, or Nanah, died, of grief, it is said, for the death of Bow, and left two sons, the eldest Madhoo Row, the other Narrain Row, both minors. The hereditary succession of the Peshwas had now so firm an establishment, that the title of Madhoo was not disputed; and the burden of government, during the minority of his nephew, devolved upon Ragonaut Row, more commonly known by the name of Ragoba.

It had fared with the Mahratta government, as it commonly fares with extended dominion under the rude policy of the East. The government of the provinces was confided to the chief military leaders, and the more distant and powerful of them, as the vigour of the central government relaxed, acquired independence. Of these independencies, the most [528] important by far was that of the Bhonslas, which, together with Cuttack, a part of Orissa, included the whole of the vast province, or region of Berar. The next in point of magnitude, of the separate Mahratta kingdoms, was the province of Guzerat, which had been wrested from the Mogul empire by Pillagee Guicawar, or the herdsman, and its government rendered hereditary in his family. Besides these independent princes, two chiefs, Holkar and Scindia, possessed extensive dominions in the province of Malwa, and in the regions bordering on the territories of the Rajah of Berar and the Nabob-vizir. And there were inferior adventurers, who in other parts had acquired a sort of independence, among whom the most remarkable was Morari Row, who had acted a considerable part in the long struggle between the French and English in Carnatic, and possessed the fort of Gooti with a considerable district on the frontier of the Nizam. All these powers acknowledged a nominal dependence upon the government founded by Sevagee; and a sort of national feeling was apt to unite them against a foreign enemy. But their connection was voluntary, and they scrupled not to draw their swords against one another, and even against the Peshwa, upon any provocation or prospect that would have engaged them in hostilities with a different foe.

The Brahmen council of eight, known also by the name of Mutseddies, or ministers, had been reduced to a low station in the government, during the vigour of the preceding Peshwas. The weak and divided councils of a minority and regency offered a tempting opportunity to endeavour the recovery of the influence which they had lost. By intriguing with Gopicaboy, the mother of Madhoo, they succeeded in creating jealousies between the nephew and the uncle; and in [529] the end the uncle was stripped of his power. The Mutseddies and Gopicaboy ascribed to Ragonaut Row a design to elevate himself to the office of Peshwa, and treacherously to deprive his nephews of their dignity or their lives. The Regent described his opponents as an ambitious confederacy, leagued with a dissolute intriguing woman for the purpose of grasping the powers of the state. The account of the transaction which the ministers themselves drew up for the English government1 is marked with strong improbabilities. Hitherto, moreover, the members of the Peshwa family, instead of supplanting, had acted with the greatest harmony in supporting, their head. And if Ragonaut Row had aimed at the supremacy, of which no other token appears than the accusation of his enemies, prudence would have taught him, either to usurp the authority from the beginning; or to leave but little time for his nephew to gather strength. After the fall of Ragoba, the power of the Mutseddies, during the nonage of Madhoo, was without control; and they employed it, after the manner of Hindus, for the acquisition of enormous riches. As the years however of the Peshwa increased, he displayed some vigour of mind, and began to restrict the power of this cabal; but died at an early age in 1772. At his death he bore a testimony to the fidelity of Ragoba, or his distrust of the ministerial confederacy, by releasing that relation from confinement; giving him the guardianship of Narrain Row; and vesting him with the regency during the nonage of that prince. A short time elapsed before the intrigues of the Mutseddies with Gopicaboy, and the influence of Gopicaboy with her son, stripped Ragoba a second time of his power and [530] his liberty. Dissensions, however, arose among the Mutseddies themselves. Siccaram Baboo, who had been raised by Ragoba from a menial service in his household, to the office of Duan, or financial minister of the state, had taken the lead in all the preceding intrigues against his former master, and had acted as chief of the ministerial combination. Another of the ministers, however, Nanah Furnavese, now attained the foremost place in the favour of Gopicaboy and her son; and the principal share of the power appeared ready to fall from the hands of Siccaram Baboo. In these circumstances a conspiracy was formed against the life of the young Peshwa, who is said to have rendered himself odious by his follies and cruelty. The commander of the guards was gained; who forced his way into the palace with a body of men, and cut down the prince in the apartment of Ragoba to whom he had fled for protection. It was believed in Poona, at the time, according to the report of Mr. Mostyn, the English resident, who was upon the spot; that a party of the ministers were engaged in this transaction; and that Siccaram Baboo was at their head. It is to them that Ragoba himself ascribed both the conception and execution of the plot. But when the party of Siccaram Baboo regained the ascendancy, and chased Ragoba from the throne, they accused him of having alone been the author of his nephew’s murder, and repelled or shifted the accusation from themselves.

Upon the death of Narrain Row, Ragoba was immediately acknowledged Peshwa; received the sirpah, or robe of office, from the pageant Rajah; and was complimented by the ministers of foreign states, among others by the English resident, in the same form as was usually observed on the accession of a Peshwa. From the beginning of his administration, [531] the new Peshwa acted with a visible distrust of the Mutseddies. He forbore appointing Siccaram Baboo to the office of Duan, and performed the duties of it himself. This conduct insured him the hatred of the ministers. An army seemed the best security against their ambition and malice; and under the pretext of avenging the encroachments which the Subahdar of Deccan, the Nizam according to the English phrase, had made upon the Mahratta territories during the confusions of the government, he levied an army against that neighbouring prince. An union however was formed between the two hostile parties of the Mutseddies; his principal officers were debauched from their allegiance; and through their treachery, he sustained, in an engagement with the Subahdar, a total defeat. To supply his pecuniary necessities, which were extremely urgent, he marched towards the south, to exact a long arrear of Chout from Hyder, and from the Nabob of Arcot. With Hyder he had compromised his claim, by accepting twenty-five lacs of rupees, and ceding to him in return the three provinces of Mudgewarry, Hanscootah, and Chunderdroog. But he was recalled from prosecuting his design against Mahomed Ali, by intelligence, that the ministerial confederacy had raised an army; that they were joined by the forces of the Subahdar; that they had proclaimed the widow of Narrain Row to be with child; and under pretence of securing her offspring, had carried her to the fort of Poorunder. Ragoba met, and, by a well-concerted stratagem, gained a decisive victory over his foes. But after he was within a few miles of Poona, he was struck with a panic, upon intelligence, that the two chiefs, Holkar and Scindia, were gained by the ministerial party; and, quitting his army in secret with a small body of men, he fled to Guzerat, where Govind Row Guicawar [532] engaged to support him. His army dispersed; Holkar and Scindia, whether previously engaged, or now led to the determination, joined the Brahmen cabal; the widow of Narrain Row was said to have been delivered of a son; and the confederacy agreed to support the pretensions of the infant.

The fact of the birth was immediately disputed; and it is evident that the affirmation of the ministers ought to have been for ever disregarded; because, whether or not a child was born of the widow, and whether a male or a female, their conduct and pretences would have still been the same. By withdrawing the pretended mother from the perception of disinterested witnesses; and by shutting up with her, as was generally affirmed and believed, a number of pregnant women in the same fort, they rendered it impossible that evidence of the reality of the pretended birth could ever be obtained; and for that reason it ought never to have been believed.

At the time when Ragoba fled to Guzerat, the country was distracted by the rival pretensions of the two brothers, Futty Sing Guicawar, and Govind Row Guicawar. In the time of the Peshwa, Madhoo Row Futty Sing, by means it was said of bribes, to the ministerial junto, obtained, through the authority of the Peshwa, succession to the Musnud of Guzerat, in prejudice of his elder brother Govind Row. When the office of Peshwa, however, devolved upon Ragoba, he acknowledged the title of Govind Row. Govind Row proceeded to levy war upon his brother; had gained over him various successes in the field; and was actually besieging him in his capital city of Broderah, when Ragoba came to claim his protection.1

It so happened that a similar contention at the same moment divided the kingdom of Berar, and ranged one of the rivals on the side of Ragoba, the other on that of his adversaries. Jannajee, the late Rajah, died without issue. He had two brothers, Shabajee the elder, Moodajee the younger. Jannajee, before his demise, adopted the son of Moodajee, then a minor, and named him his successor. Shabajee and Moodajee disputed to whom the guardianship of the minor, and the regency of the kingdom, should belong. Shabajee claimed, as the elder brother; Moodajee, as the parent of the Rajah. And to determine their pretensions they involved their country in a violent and destructive war.

In looking therefore to the neighbouring powers, there was none from which Ragoba could expect so much support as from the English at Bombay. To them, accordingly, he offered terms of alliance: And there existed circumstances, in the state of that Presidency, which induced the members of the government to lend a favourable ear to his proposals. Salsette, and Bassein, with their dependencies, had been strongly coveted for some years. In the letter to the President and Council of Bombay, dated the 18th of March, 1768, the Directors said, “We recommend to you, in the strongest manner, to use your endeavours, upon every occasion that may offer, to obtain these places, which we should esteem a valuable acquisition.—We cannot directly point out the mode of doing it, but rather wish they could be obtained by purchase than war.”1 In the following year they expressed high approbation of an attempt to obtain them by negotiation; and add; “Salsette and Bassein, with their dependencies, and the Mahrattas’ proportion [534] of the Surat provinces, were all that we seek for on that side of India. These are the objects you are to have in view, in all your treaties, negotiations, and military operations,—and that you must be ever watchful to obtain.”1 In more earnest prosecution of the same design, Mr. Mostyn arrived from England, in 1772, with instructions from the Court of Directors, that he should be sent immediately to negotiate with Madhoo Row, the Peshwa, for certain advantages to the settlements on the coast of Malabar, and above all for the cession of the island and peninsula of Salsette and Bassein, which added so much to the security and value of Bombay. The result of this negotiation tended only to show that, pacifically at least, the coveted spots were very unlikely to be obtained.

In the mean time the Presidency had engaged themselves in a dispute with the Nabob of Baroach, upon whom they advanced a demand for the phoorza, a species of tribute, formerly yielded by Baroach to the government of Surat;2 and for indemnification of an overcharge in the customs, which for the six preceding years had been levied on the merchants trading under the Company’s protection. The more effectually to enforce the demand, a body of troops was sent to invade the Nabob’s territory; but after proceeding so far as so attack his capital, they were obliged to abandon the enterprise, and return to Surat. This expedition the Directors condemned in the severest terms; as involving the Presidency in expense, when it was under the greatest pecuniary difficulties; as unskilfully conducted; as disgracing the Company’s arms; and, even if successful, promising [535] no proportional advantage. The supreme authority, weakened by its distance, prevented not the subordinate from raising a new expedition out of the first. The Nabob of Baroach, despairing of his power to resist the arms of the Company, repaired to Bombay, and represented his inability to comply with their heavy demand, amounting to thirty-three lacs of rupees. Among the various expedients to which he had recourse for conciliating the favour of the Bombay administration, and obtaining a mitigation of their claims, he recommended with great assiduity the conquest of Guzerat; which he represented as easy, and promised to assist them with all his resources. The Presidency lent him a very favourable ear. After great discussion, an arrangement was concluded at the end of November, 1771. A species of military alliance; a sum of four lacs of rupees to be paid by instalments; the privilege of levying all duties on those who trade under the protection of the Company in the territory of Baroach; the erection of an English factory; and exclusion of all other Europeans excepting the Dutch, who had a previous establishment; were the advantages which the treaty promised to the English. Before the lapse of a year the Presidency began to accuse the Nabob of an intention to elude his agreement. After the question was left undetermined in the Committee, it was decided in the Council, with the censure of the Court of Directors on the former expedition lying before them, to send an armament to chastise the Nabob, and wipe off the former disgrace of their arms. Now indeed the enterprise succeeded; the Nabob was ruined; and the Presidency settled the division of the revenues with Futty Sing on the same terms on which they had formerly been shared between the government of Guzerat and the Nabob.

The assassination of Narrain Row, and the succession of Ragoba, announcing a weak and distracted government, appeared to the Council to present a favourable opportunity for accomplishing an object which their honourable masters had so much at heart, the possession of Salsette and Bassein: In their select consultations, on the 17th of September, 1773, they agreed to instruct Mr. Mostyn, their resident at Poonah, to improve diligently every circumstance favourable to the accomplishment of that event; and on no account whatever to leave the Mahratta capital: Baroach, and several of the recent acquisitions, as Fort Vittoria, and Rajapore, were offered in exchange: But in their letter to the Directors, of the 12th of January, 1774, the Council declare the disappointment of all their endeavours; and their opinion that no inducements would prevail upon the Mahrattas willingly to part with those favourite possessions, so justly the object of the Company’s desire. They next represent the violent distractions of the Mahratta government; and the opinion, which they had received from Mr. Mostyn, that Ragoba would be either assassinated, or deposed. With this event, say they, “our treaties with the present government may be deemed at an end.” The violent competitions for the throne, and consequent weakness of the state, might afford them, released as they would be from all engagements, an opportunity of acquiring those important possessions by what appeared to be the only means of acquiring them, force of arms; and they signify to the Court of Directors their determination not to let the occasion be lost, provided their pecuniary situation would permit, and the circumstances of Ragoba, which some recent intelligence represented as not yet desperate, should be found to be such as the Resident described.[537]
After the dispatch of this letter, Ragoba had returned upon his enemies; gained the victory, already mentioned,1 over their forces in the field; fled from his army to Guzerat; and opened a negotiation with the Presidency; when, towards the end of November, 1774, intelligence was received at Bombay from the Company’s resident at Goa, that great preparations were making by the Portuguese for the recovery of their lost possessions; and, in particular, of Salsette and Bassein. The accomplishment of this project appeared to the Presidency not only to cut off all chance of making this favourite acquisition for the Company, but to give to the Portuguese the command of the passes into the interior country, and the power of harassing, by what imposts and restrictions they pleased, the trade of the English. They came therefore to the resolution of preventing, at all events, the fall of Salsette and Bassein into the hands of the Portuguese; and for that purpose regarded no expedient so good as taking possession themselves. It was agreed to signify to Ragoba, with whom they were treating, that it was a measure purely of precaution, and in no respect intended to interfere with his rights. To avoid an immediate rupture with the Mutseddies, the Resident was instructed to make to them a similar declaration; and to renounce all intention of holding Salsette and Bassein in opposition to the will of the existing government at Poona. On the 12th of December a considerable force set out from Bombay; it carried by assault the principal fort in Salsette on the 28th; and without further opposition took possession of the island.2

The negotiation was not interrupted with Ragoba. The Presidency regarded him as the rightful Peshwa. [538] They expected, and with good reason, that their assistance would place him, without much difficulty, on his throne; and though he adhered with obstinacy to the possession of Salsette and Bassein, he offered territorial dominion and revenue to a large amount in the neighbourhood of Surat. Amid these proceedings, arrived, on the 7th of December, the letter from the Supreme Council in Bengal, announcing the accession of the new government, and requiring an account of the state of the Presidency of Bombay. It was answered on the 31st, when accounts were rendered of the acquisition of Salsette and Bassein, of the negotiation with Ragoba, the intention of the President and Council to grant him their assistance, and the reasons which guided them in these acts and determinations. In the interval between the adjustment and execution of the treaty with Ragoba, he was brought to an action by the army of the Ministers; deserted in the battle by a body of Arabs, on whom he depended, and obliged to fly from the field with a small body of horse. This disaster the majority of the Bombay Council deemed it an easy matter to retrieve; as Ragoba still had powerful adherents; as the Ministers were neither united, nor strong; and the union of the English troops with his army would render him more than a match for his opponents. They resolved, therefore, “not to give up the great advantages which they were to reap by the treaty, when so fair an opportunity occurred.” Ragoba made his way to Surat, and a treaty was concluded on the 6th of March, 1775, by which he now yielded up Salsette and Bassein, with the Mahratta share of the revenues of Baroach and other places in the district of Surat, to the amount, upon the whole, of a revenue of twenty-two and a half lacs of rupees. His army, with that of Govind Row, made good their retreat [539] to the fort of Copperwange, about fifty coss from Cambay, and were joined by the English, under the command of Colonel Keating, on the 19th of April. The detachment consisted of eighty European artillery, and 160 artillery Lascars, 500 European infantry, and 1,400 Sepoys, with a field train of twelve pieces, besides two mortars and several howitzers. The whole amounted to about 25,000 men in arms.1

The army of the Mutseddies had been deserted by Scindia, with 12,000 of the best horse; Shabbajee Bonsla, who favoured their cause in Berar, had been cut off by his brother, who befriended Ragoba; the fidelity of Holkar was held in doubt; and the Nizam, though he received their concessions, and promised assistance, always evaded performance; but they were still superior in numbers to Ragoba and his allies.

As soon after conjunction as possible the English commander proposed to advance toward the enemy, who were encamped on the banks of the Sabermatty. After a few indecisive rencounters, finding they could not bring the enemy to a general action, the English, in concert with their allies, resolved to march toward the south, and, penetrating to the Deccan, arrive at Poona before the setting in of the rains. The enemy, as soon as they discovered their intention, laid waste the country in front and destroyed the wells. At last on the 18th of May, having reached the plain of Arras, on which they had given Ragoba his recent defeat, they advanced and commenced a cannonade upon the rear of the English and their ally. The enemy were received with great gallantry; but an officer of Ragoba having treacherously introduced as partizans a body of hostile cavalry, between the advanced [540] party of the British army and the line, some confusion ensued, and the first company of European grenadiers, by a mistake of the officer commanding them, began to retreat, and were followed in a panic by the rest of the party. Considerable execution was then performed by the enemy’s horse; but so destructive a fire of grape and shells was immediately poured upon them from the British line, as compelled them to seek their safety by quitting the field. The loss of Europeans, seven officers and eighty men, mostly grenadiers, beside 200 Sepoys, rendered this an expensive victory; while the want of horse, and the backwardness occasioned or excused by the want of pay of the troops of Ragoba, made it impossible, by an active pursuit, to derive from it the advantages it might otherwise have given. The rear of the enemy was attacked in crossing the Nerbuddah, on the 11th of June, where they lost many lives and were obliged to sink a part of their guns. After this rencounter, they hasted out of the province of Guzerat. And as Ragoba’s troops refused to cross the Nerbuddah, till they obtained satisfaction in regard to their long arrears, it was resolved, as the season of the rains was at hand, to suspend the progress of the expedition. Dhuboy, a fortified city about fifty miles from Baroach, convenient for receiving reinforcements and supplies, was selected for quartering the English; while Ragoba encamped with his army at Bellapoor, a pass on the river Dahder at ten miles distance. The favourable complexion of Ragoba’s affairs produced among other consequences the alliance of Futty Sing. His overtures were made through the English; and, Govind Row being previously satisfied by the promises of Ragoba, the terms of a treaty were agreed upon in the month of July. To the English, [541] he consented to confirm all the grants within the Guicawar dominions, which had been yielded by Ragoba; and to make further concessions in perpetuity to the annual amount of about one million seventy-eight thousand rupees: To Ragoba he engaged himself for the usual tribute and aid to the Poona durbar; and what was of unspeakable importance on the present emergency, for the sum of twenty-six lacs of rupees, to be paid in sixty days. The English and Ragoba had thus a prospect of marching to Poona in the next campaign, with a great augmentation of resources, and a friendly country in their rear.1

We have seen that the Presidency of Bombay informed the Directors by letter, on the 12th of January, 1774, that the Mahratta government was in a peculiar crisis, and that such an opportunity now occurred of acquiring Salsette and Bassein, as they had very little intention of letting escape. The Directors, as if anxious to allow time for the conquest, replied not till the 12th of April, 1775, when their answer could not be received at Bombay, in much less than two years from the time when the measure was announced as on the verge of execution. Nearly six months after the place was reduced by their arms, and governed by their authority, they sat down to say, “It is with much concern we learn from your records, that we are not likely to obtain Salsette from the Mahrattas by negotiation. We, however, disapprove your resolution to take possession of the island by force, in case of the death or deposition of Ragoba; and hereby positively prohibit you from attempting that measure, under any circumstances whatever, [542] without our permission first obtained for that purpose.”1
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