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Evolution of the Small Cause Courts in India -- 1753-1887 with Special Reference to the Presidency Court at Calcutta
by Chittaranjan Sinha, M.A., B.L. (Patna), Ph.D. (Lond.).
Journal of the Indian Law Institute
Vol. 16, No. 1 (January-March 1974), pp. 98-108 (11 pages)



The powers exercised by the Governor or President and Council, were, in the first place, those of masters in regard to servants over all the persons who were in the employment of the Company; and as the Company were the sole master, without fellow or competitor, and those under them had adopted their service as the business of their lives, the power of the master, in reality, and in the majority of cases, extended to almost every thing valuable to man. With regard to such of their countrymen, as were not in their service, the Company were armed with powers to seize them, to keep them in confinement, and send them to England, an extent of authority which amounted to confiscation of goods, to imprisonment, and what to a European constitution is the natural effect of any long confinement under an Indian climate, actual death. At an early period of the Company’s history, it had been deemed necessary to intrust them with the powers of martial law, for the government of the troops which they maintained in defence of their factories and presidencies; and by a charter of Charles II., granted them in 1661, the Presidents and Councils in their factories were empowered to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction according to the laws of England. Under this sanction they had exercised judicial powers, during all the changes which their affairs had undergone; but at last it appeared desirable that so important an article of their authority should rest on a better foundation. In the year 1726 a charter was granted, by which the Company were permitted to establish a Mayor’s Court at each of their three presidencies, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta; consisting of a mayor and nine aldermen, empowered to decide in civil cases of all descriptions. From this jurisdiction, the President and Council were erected into a Court of Appeal. They were also vested with the power of holding Courts of Quarter Sessions for the exercise of penal judicature, in all cases, excepting those of high treason. And a Court of Requests, or Court of Conscience, was instituted, for the decision, by summary procedure, of pecuniary questions of inconsiderable amount.

This reform in the judicature of India was not attended with all the beneficial effects which were probably expected from it. Negligence was left to corrupt the business of detail. The charter is said to have been procured by the influence of an individual, for the extension of his own authority; and when his ends were gained, his solicitude expired. The persons appointed to fill the judicial offices were the servants of the Company, bred to commerce, and nursed in its details: while a manuscript book of instructions comprised the whole of the assistance which the wisdom of the King and the Company provided to guide uninstructed men in the administration of justice.

Nor was the obscurity of the English law, and the inexperience of the judges, the only source of the many evils which the new arrangements continued, or produced. Jealousy arose between the Councils, and the Mayor’s Courts. The Councils complained that the Courts encroached upon their authority; and the Courts complained that they were oppressed by the Councils. The most violent dissensions often prevailed; and many of the members of the Mayor’s Courts quitted the service, and went home with their animosities and complaints.

Besides the above-mentioned tribunals established by the Company for the administration of the British laws to the British people in India, they erected, in the capacity of Zemindar of the district around Calcutta, the usual Zemindary Courts, for the administration of the Indian laws to the Indian people. The Phousdary Court for the trial of crimes; and the Cutcherry for civil causes; besides the Collector’s Court for matters of revenue. The judges, in these tribunals, were servants of the Company, appointed by the Governor and Council, and holding their offices during pleasure; the rule of judgment was the supposed usage of the country, and the discretion of the court; and the mode of procedure was summary. Punishments extended to fine; imprisonment; labour upon the roads in chains for a limited time, or for life; and flagellation, either to a limited degree, or death. The ideas of honour, prevalent among the natives, induced the Mogul government to forbid the European mode of capital punishment, by hanging, in the case of a Mussulman. In compensation, however, it had no objection to his being whipped to death; and the flagellants in India are said to be so dexterous, as to kill a man with a few strokes of the chawbuck.

The executive and judicial functions were combined in the Councils, at the Indian presidencies; the powers even of justices of the peace being granted to the Members of Council, and to them alone. If complaints were not wanting of the oppression by these authorities upon their fellow-servants; it is abundantly evident that the Company were judge in their own cause in all cases in which the dispute existed between them and any other party.

-- The History of British India, vol. 3 of 6, by James Mill

ONE OF the many judicial institutions planted into India by the British was the small cause court. Its history dates back to the year 1753 when the East India Company directed the government at Calcutta to set up forthwith a court for the summary disposal of petty claims. [Letter of the Court or Directors to the President-in-Council at Calcutta, 24 Jan. 1753.] The necessary authority for its establishment came from the Charter of 1753, which among other things made provision for setting up a court for the trial and disposal of small causes by a summary process, at the three Presidency towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.

Courts of small causes were accordingly established at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta in 1753, under the name of 'court of requests', a title derived from the court of requests at London, [The court of requests was set up at London in 1750, see 23 Geo. II, c. 27 and 47. It was also called the "Court of Conscience'.] which was the model on which the Indian courts were initially constituted.

The purpose behind the establishment of the court of requests was to provide for the expeditious [Letter or the Court or Directors to the Company's government in Bengal, 24 Jan., 1753.] and final settlement [No appeal was to lie from the decisions of this court in order to deny the scope for prolongation of litigation.] of petty demands, omitting most of the formalities that delayed the disposal regular suits.

On a pattern somewhat similar to the London court of requests, [The London court was to be constituted by two hundred and forty commissioners to be nominated for a year by the several parishes within the city of London. Twenty commissioners were to sit each month by rotation. Three commissioners were sufficient to constitute the quorum. The entire set of commissioners had to be elected every year. Only such persons were qualified to be nominated as commissioners who held income or property of the value of £ 20. The authority or the London court extended to claims up to £ 39, 11 d., approximately equal to 20 sicca rupees.] the Calcutta court was initially to be constituted by twenty-four part-time commissioners, who were to be selected from amongst the principal European inhabitants of Calcutta, half of whom were to be changed every year. [W. Bolts, Consideration of India Affairs 78.] Even three commissioners were sufficient to constitute the quorum of the court and conduct its business. The post of commissioner was completely honorary. The power of their appointment and removal vested with the Governor-in-Council al Fort William. After its establishment in 1774, the Calcutta Supreme Court came to exercise supervisory authority over the conduct and proceedings of the court of requests.

According to the royal charter, the Calcutta court of requests was authorised to try causes up to 5 pogodas, i.e., approximately 18 Bengal rupees, in amount or value. The Calcutta court's jurisdiction was to extend to the company's settlement at Calcutta. After 1774, its jurisdiction became coterminous with the jurisdiction of the Calcutta Supreme Court established in that year.

The Calcutta court was not much of a success during the first fifty years of its existence. This is apparent from a discussion on its reform in 1802. [Notes on the defects of the court of requests at Calcutta, by Sir John Austruther, Chief Justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court, Bengal Civil Judicial Consultations, 18 March 1802, No. 12.] The fundamental defect of the court as formed in 1753, arose out of its constitution by unpaid commissioners. The court's sittings were extremely laborious and prolonged, often stretching up to five hours a day. It made the commissioners reluctant to undertake this exertion for which no monetary compensation was to be had. As a result, in spite of there being twenty-four commissioners on roll, it was always found difficult even to secure the attendance of three, the minimum required to constitute the quorum. It was only by making personal approaches to some of the younger commissioners of his acquaintance that the clerk of the court was able to procure the minimum attendance necessary to form the court. [Ibid.]

As such, commissioners who were employed otherwise by the company were unable to spare enough time for the court's business, the court gradually came to be constituted by old civilians out of employment or by young Englishmen who never had any. Devotion or responsibility towards the business of the court could be expected from neither.

Out of the irregularity and laxity in the procedure of the court arose enormous abuses which rendered it more an instrument of fraud and exploitation, than that of justice. [Ibid.] The peons, amlas and clerks of the court found it easy to indulge in all sorts of corrupt practices, much to the harassment of the parties trying to seek redress from the court. Among the many malpractices prevailing in the court that Austruther listed, were:

[T]hat many (defendants) complained that actions were brought and decrees passed against them, of which they had no notice, and by plaintiffs of whom they had never heard; others (complained) that they had attended their cause from day to day to no purpose, but the instant they were gone, the decree (was) passed against them: ... still others (complained) that the causes were (actually) decided by the Amlas after the Commissioners had gone; and that nothing was to be done without bribing the peons or their mates; that summons were issued in the names of fictitious plaintiffs, which were left in the hands of the peons for an indefinite time and were used as a means for harassing persons with names similar to that of the supposed defendants, ... and that the summons contained no definite time for appearance, with the result that the party had to keep attending every day ..., till their cause was called out by the native officers of the Court, who in fictitious suits (brought either by themselves or with their connivance), always cared to have the decree passed in the absence of the defendant. [Ibid.]

Coleman, the clerk of the court, informed Austruther, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, that of an average of about 3,000 causes instituted monthly over the preceding four years, at least one third had been entirely fictitious. [Ibid.]

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, complained that the court's decrees were of no avail, because either they were not executed in consequence of the bribe given to the peons by the debtors, or, if they were, the money obtained was fraudulently appropriated by the vakeels and peons of the court. Thus, Austruther observed:

When the amount was paid into the Court, nothing was more common than for the Vakeels to impersonate the real plaintiff and receive the money, and when the real plaintiff came, the amlas were always ready to swear that they were (sic) witness to the receipt (of the decreed amount by the plaintiff) ...... [Ibid.]

As the court of requests had been established by a royal charter (though no confirmatory parliamentary enactment had followed), only Parliament was competent to amend or reform its composition or jurisdiction. In 1797, Parliament extended the jurisdiction of the court of requests from five pagodas to eighty sicca rupees. [See 37 Geo. III, c 142, s. 30. This, incidentally, was the first "legislative" notice or the court of requests taken by Parliament.] Another parliamentary enactment followed soon after. Appreciating the need for reform in the courts of requests at Calcutta and Madras, in 1800 Parliament empowered the Governor-General of Bengal, and the Governor of Madras to "order and appoint in what manner the said Courts (of Requests) in future be formed and to what extent in value, not exceeding Rs. 400/-, the jurisdiction of the same be extended .... " [See 39 &: 40 Geo. III, c. 79, s. 17.]

After making a minute exposition of the evils attending the Calcutta court of requests, [Supra note 7.] Austruther, urged the Bengal government to make drastic changes in the court under the authority conferred upon the Governor-General. [See 39 and 40 Geo. III, c. 79.] Wellesley, the then Governor-General, was in full agreement with Austruther's suggestions. [Letter of the Governor-General to G.H. Barlow, 24 June 1801 Civ. Judl. Cons., 18 March 1802. No. 11.] On 13 March 1802, he issued a proclamation, [Civ. Judl. Cons., 18 March 1802, No. 14).]which incorporated, in toto, a plan of reform of the court earlier suggested by Austruther. By it, the old court of requests of Calcutta was abolished, and a new one set up in its place, with three whole-time commissioners, and with a jurisdiction extending to cases up to Rs. 100, in amount or value. The procedure of the court was also suitably amended to plug effectively the loop-holes which gave scope for the numerous bunglings pointed out above. Coleman, the former clerk of the court, was nominated first commissioner of the new court, while Flemming and Mctire were appointed second and third commissioners respectively.

Shortly after the constitution of the new court, Coleman, the first commissioner, had to be continuously absent from the court's business for a long time on account of protracted illness. The fact that, in spite of the continued absence of Coleman, the other two commissioners were able to clear the entire arrears of the court and carry on its business smoothly, led the Bengal government to question the necessity of having a third commissioner at all. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 16 Sept. 1802, No. 16.] After consulting Chief Justice Austruther on the point, the government abolished the office of the third commissioner with effect from 9 October 1802. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 23 Sept. 1802, No. 5.] But, Austruther, who had earlier approved the proposal for the abolition of the third commissioner's office, was persuaded to alter his opinion soon. In 1805, he recommended the revival of the third commissioner's office for the sake of greater efficiency of the court as well as for providing a deciding vote in case of a possible disagreement between two commissioners. [Letter of Austruther to the government, 6 Feb. 1805, Civ. Judl. Cons., 14 Feb. 1805, No. 1. ] The government readily responded to the suggestion. The post of third commissioner was revived and one James Bryce appointed to it. [Minute of the Governor-General-in-Council, 14 Feb. 1805, Civ. Judl. Cons., 14 Feb. 1805, No. 2.]

The court's reorganisation in 1802 proved an immediate success. Chief Justice Austruther observed in 1804 [Letter of the Chief Justice to the Governor-General, 17 June 1804, Civ. Judl. Cons., 12 July 1804, No. 2A.] that after the reforms of 1802, the court of requests had been functioning very efficiently and that the inhabitants of Calcutta were fully satisfied with its working. There were no arrears of pending cases at the time and consequently no delay in the disposal of suits. Cases were being disposed of within a month of their institution. The expense of litigation for the parties was also not very high. Austruther informed further that compared to its counterpart in Madras, both the cost of establishment and the cost of suits were less in the Calcutta court, while the amount of business done in the latter was more than four times as that in the former. [Ibid.] In the eighteen years between 1805 and 1825, a total of 4,18,281 small causes were disposed of by the Calcutta court recording a fantastic average annual disposal of 23,237 suits or an average monthly disposal of 1,936 causes. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 15 Sept. 1825, No. 32.] The above record of disposal by the Calcutta court was achieved to a large extent by a practice adopted by its commissioners ever since 1802, of sitting separately to constitute two or three courts at the same time.

Not only did the new court of requests at Calcutta work efficiently but it also turned out to be a surplus establishment, its income from fees consistently gaining over its expenses on the establishment. This was pointed out first by Austruther in 1805. [Letter of the Chief Justice to the Governor-General, 6 Feb. 1805, Civ. Judl. Cons., 14 Feb. 1805, No. 1.] During 1811, while the total charges on the court, including that on salaries, miscellaneous items and contingency, had amounted to Rs. 75,498 only, its total receipts had been Rs. 1,00,778, leaving thereby an income of Rs. 25,280, to the Bengal government from the court. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 15 Aug. 1812, No. 18.] The explanation for the court's surplus is, perhaps, not far to seek. On account of its summary process and division into several benches functioning simultaneously, the average disposal of cases by it, as noticed above, was very high, and just as in a commercial enterprise profit is related to the inverse ratio between the turnover and establishment, the court of requests too earned a surplus from a consistent lead of output over investment.

After 1802, the Bengal government issued two more proclamations to reform further the working and jurisdiction of the court. This was done under the authority vested in the Governor-General. [See 39 and 40 Geo. III, c. 79, s. 17.] The first proclamation, issued on 25 September 1813, redesignated the court as the "Court of Commissioners for the Recovery of Small Debts", and extended its jurisdiction to cases up to Rs 250 in amount or value. Civ. Judl. Cons., 25 Sept. 1813, No. 29.] The second proclamation, issued on 29 October 1819, further extended the court's jurisdiction to the maximum (authorised) limit [See 39 and 40 Geo. III. c. 79, s. 17. The Governor-General had been authorised to extend the pecuniary limit of the court's jurisdiction up to Rs. 400.] of Rs. 400, added a fourth commissioner to it, and made a substantial reduction in the fees chargeable from the suitors. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 29 Oct. 1819, No. 14.]

The extension of the court's jurisdiction to Rs. 400 was prompted by the motive of admitting more Calcutta residents to the benefit of this "cheaper and quicker mode of settlement", as well as by the government's confidence in its capability to shoulder the extra burden. [Minute of the Governor-General-in-Council, 12 March 1819, Civ. Judl. Cons., 16 April 1819, No. 11.] To illustrate, the cost of prosecuting a claim of Rs. 300 in the Supreme Court (so far the only tribunal competent to decide claims above Rs. 250, of the Calcutta residents) worked out to about Rs. 100, or thirty three per cent, while the cost of prosecuting a claim of the same amount in the Court of requests was only 18 per cent which was further reduced to only twelve per cent by the proclamation of 1819. [Letter of the Bengal government to the court of requests, 16 April 1819, para 788, Civ. Judl. Cons., 16 April 1819, No. 1.] The court's strength was raised to four commissioners in anticipation of an increase in the business before it, on account of the extension of its jurisdiction.

As stated earlier, ever since the reconstitution of the court in 1802, its commissioners had adopted a practice of sitting singly forming, in effect, several courts functioning at the same time. The Bengal government was also convinced of its necessity for assuring a requisite disposal capacity of the court to prevent any accumulation of arrears before it. In 1819, Governor-General Lord Hastings strongly favoured the continuance of this practice stating that:

[A]ll the advantages contemplated by the addition of a 4th Commissioner (under the proposed proclamation) would be completely lost if the Commissioners were to sit in joint benches .... [Minutes of the Governor-General, 12 March 1819, para 7, Civ. Judl. Cons., 16 April 1819, No. 11.]

However, no formal sanction to the above procedure could be incorporated either in the proclamation of 1813 or that of 1819, because of doubts having been felt as to the legality of it. It was argued that since the royal charter had provided for the establishment of one court of requests only at Calcutta and that even the Government of India Act, 1800 [See 39 and 40 Geo. III.] while authorising the Governor-General to modify or reform the existing Calcutta court, had postulated the existence of a single court only, the Governor-General was not competent to sanction its division into several courts. In 1819, Spankie, the Advocate-General of Bengal, held that:

[T]here is no power given to the Governor-General-in-Council by the Statutes 39 and 40 Geo. III., to affect the unity of the Court or divide its functions ... " [Letter of Spankie to the government, 29 Sept. 1819, Civ. Judl. Cons., 8 June 1824, No. 20.]

This opinion was subsequently endorsed by the Supreme Court by an observation incidentally made in a case before it, [Letter of the court of requests to the government, 1 Nov. 1823, Civ. Judl. Cons., 8 June 1824, No. 17.] as also by the succeeding Advocate-General, Herbert Compton. [Id., No. 20.] Despite the doubts raised as above, the Bengal government ordered the continuance of the practice of splitting the court for the sake of public convenience, until "either the verdict of the authorities in England, to whom the mater had been referred to some time ago, was known, or until the Supreme Court formally pronounced the practice illegal." [Letter of the government to the court of requests, 8 June 1824, Civ. Judl. Cons., 8 June 1824, No. 22.]

The Governor-General's competence to extend the jurisdiction of the court by his proclamations of 1813 and 1819 was also doubted. Advocate-General Herbert Compton interpreted that the Government of India Act, 1800 had authorised only the existing Governor-General (Lord Wellesley) to extend the pecuniary limit of the court's jurisdiction up to Rs 400, and that it granted no standing power to the succeeding Governor-Generals to make such an extension. [Letter of the Advocate-General to the government, 1 Jan. 1824, para 7, Civ. Judl. Cons., 8 Jan. 1824, No. 20. ] This contention, even if technically correct, was contrary to the spirit and purpose of the parliamentary enactment under reference. The authorities in England never objected to the proclamations of 1813 and 1819, nor did the Calcutta Supreme Court ever challenge the validity of the said proclamations extending the jurisdiction of the Calcutta court of requests.

But a power assumed at one time by the court of requests of punishing for prevarication or perjury was pronounced illegal by the Supreme Court in 1823. On being sentenced to a term of imprisonment by C.A. Robinson, one of the commissioners, on the charge of having tendered false evidence on oath, accused Madhavram Sircar appealed to the Supreme Court against the sentence. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 13 Nov. 1823, Nos. 16-18.] The latter not only set Madhavram free but also declared the proceedings of the commissioner illegal. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 8 Jan. 1824, No. 17.] On the strength of the Supreme Court's judgment, Madhavram also instituted a criminal case against Robinson in the Supreme Court for wrongful confinement.

The commissioners of the court of requests protested strongly against the action of the Supreme Court asserting that the power of punishing witnesses for prevarication or perjury, was essential for the efficient functioning of the court. [Letter of the court of requests to the government, 1 Nov. 1823, Civ. Judl. Cons., 8 Jan. 1824, No. 17.] Herbert Compton, the Advocate-General, however, informed the Bengal government that the power assumed by the court of requests had no sanction whatever, either from the Charter of 1753, or from the Acts of Parliament of 1799, or from the subsequent proclamations of 1802, 1813 and 1819. [Id., No. 20.] It was pointed out further by the Advocate-General that even the courts of conscience in England, the model on which the Indian courts of requests had been set up had no power to punish witnesses for contempt or perjury, [Ibid.] such cases being actually required to be referred to the magistrate for suitable punishment. [See 23 Geo. II, c. 47, S. 10.]

In view of the Supreme Court's judgment and the Advocate-General's opinion, the government directed the commissioners to give up forthwith the power assumed by them of punishing witnesses for perjury. [Civ. Judl. Cons., 1 Nov. 1823, No. 22.]

But the practice of the court, splitting into as many benches as the commissioners were, was considered indispensable for the efficient disposal capacity of the court, and the government ordered its continuance until such time as the Supreme Court formally ruled it to be illegal. Meanwhile, the authorities in London were approached for a parliamentary enactment legalising this practice to put an end to the controversy over this issue. [Judl. Letter from the Bengal government to the Court of Directors, 1 Feb. 1820.]

No such parliamentary enactment ever came, nor did the Supreme Court declare the practice of the court dividing itself into several benches illegal. The court of requests, therefore, continued to function in several benches. The Charter Act of 1833, [3 and 4 William IV, c. 85.] for the first time made the Governor-General-in-Council at Calcutta the central legislative authority for the whole of India. Among other things, the latter was authorised to make or repeal laws for "all courts of justice, whether established by His Majesty's Charter, or otherwise, and the jurisdiction thereof." [Id., s. 47.] It, thus, made the Bengal government competent to legislate on any matter concerning the power, jurisdiction, composition or procedure of all the courts in India including the court of requests.

Though in 1833 the Bengal government became fully competent to amend or alter the composition or powers of the court of requests, [By the Charter Act.] they did not make any legislative affirmation of the practice of the court sitting in several benches until 1848.

The Act of 1848 legalised the earlier proclamation of the Governor-General regarding the court of requests and affirmed the practice of the commissioners sitting singly exercising the full authority of the court. [Act XII of 1848, ss. I and II.]

The provision for the appointment of a fourth commissioner to the court had been made in the proclamation of 1819, to prepare the court for the anticipated increase of business on account of the extension of its jurisdiction and the reduction of its fees. A fourth commissioner was accordingly appointed following the proclamation. [Judl. Letter, 1 Feb. 1820, paras 96-98.] The Bengal government informed the Board of Directors that as a result of this addition, "greater expedition and regularity had been obtained in the Court's despatch of business, and the number of prisoners detained in confinement, in connection with the cases before the Court, had also been materially diminished." [Judl. Letter, 7 Dec. 1821, para 43.] But, on account of the existing doubts over the legality of the practice of allowing the commissioners to sit singly, the Board of Directors disapproved the appointment of the fourth commissioner. [Jud. despatch to Bengal, 20 Oct. 1824, para 116.] The fourth commissioner was, nevertheless. retained until 1827, when the post was allowed to lapse following the dismissal of one of the commissioners, C.A. Robinson, for misconduct. [Judl. Letter, 30 Aug. 1827, para 36.]

The court of requests continued to function efficiently [The average monthly disposal of cases by the court in the twenty years ending 1825 was 2087; by 1838 this average had risen still further to a fantastic figure of 2787, see Judl. Letter, 8 Jan. 1838, para 44. without any change in its constitution or jurisdiction until 1850. There was, however, one significant change in its personnel in 1842, when for the first time an Indian, Rashmy Datta, was appointed commissioner of the court. [34 India Office Parliamentary Branch Collections (1848).]

In 1835, the Law Commission was entrusted with the task of framing an Act to consolidate, confirm and, if necessary, to reform the constitution, jurisdiction and procedures of the existing courts of requests in the three Presidency towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. The Law Commission submitted a draft Act in this regard in 1842, [Legislative Cons., 11 May 1844, No. 6.] which, with certain modifications, was passed by the Legislative Council in 1850. [Act IX of 1850.] This Act rescinded all previous proclamations and enactments with regard to the court of requests and uniformly reconstituted it on a completely new footing in all three Presidency towns. The court was, henceforth, to be designated the 'Presidency Small Cause Court'. [Id., s. IV.] It was now to be constituted by a maximum of three judges one of whom had to be a barrister or an advocate of one of the Supreme Courts of India or of the court of sessions in Scotland. [Id., s. VIII.] Besides, judges of the Supreme Courts were authorised to act as judges of the small causes court under their jurisdiction, if they elected to do so and if they found time for the extra exertion. [Id., s. IX.] As heretofore, judges of the new small cause courts were allowed to sit separately or with either or both of the other judges. [Id., s. XXIII.]

The pecuniary limit of the court's jurisdiction was raised to Rs. 500, but certain types of suits, like those concerning public revenue, or those arising out of the acts done under the orders of the Governor-General-in-Council or a councillor in public capacity, or out of any act done by any judge in official capacity, or those for libel or slander, etc., were completely exempted from the court's jurisdiction. The idea was to keep the court's activity confined to simple causes for the recovery of small debts and demands, which could be settled quickly without getting involved in the intricacies of the legal processes. The Supreme Court was authorised to remove from the small cause court even suits under the value of Rs. 500, if the former were satisfied that the case involved a question of law or equity or of novelty or of general importance, which merited a more intensive deliberation of a superior judicial authority. [Id., s. LIV.]

Quantitatively, (that is, in respect of its disposal capacity), the court of requests had been a great success ever since 1802. The main intention behind the reform of 1850 had been to raise also the quality of justice available in the court. This was ensured through the nomination of judges of definite legal background and experience, as well as through a clear definition of the class of cases cognizable by it.

In the annual report of the administration of the Bengal presidency for 1859-60, the utility of the new small cause court was highly appreciated. [XIV Annual Report on the Administration of the Bengal Presidency Narrative on the Court of Legislation 351 (Bengal Secretariat Library, 1859-60).] During that year 32,287 cases were disposed of by the court giving an average monthly disposal of 2690 suits. This very nearly equalled the average of disposals by the court before its reform in 1850. A significant change, however, appears to have taken place in the proportion between the decisions for the plaintiffs and defendants. The percentage of decisions for plaintiffs appears to have gone up remarkably in the post-1850 period. To illustrate, during the twenty years ending 1825, of a total of 7,00,850 suits disposed of by the court 1,40,116 or, a little over twenty per cent had been judgments in favour of the plaintiffs, just over eleven per cent had been non-suited and the remainder, i.e., nearly seventy per cent were either lost or compromised. [Data recorded in Bengal Civ. Judl. Cons., 15 Sept. 1825, Nos. 32-33.] The proportion of judgments for plaintiffs having reduced further to about twelve per cent in 1824-25, a joint petition on behalf of one Baidyanath Roy and some others was presented to the court on 29 July 1825, complaining about the bias against plaintiffs reflected in the high percentage of decisions against the latter. [Report of R.B. Lloyd, the fourth commissioner, Bengal Civ. Judl. Cons., 15 Sept. 1825, No. 33.)] During 1859-60, however, of the 15,274 cases decided by the Calcutta small cause court on merits, 13,657 or nearly eighty nine per cent were judgments for the plaintiffs, while only 1,617 or approximately eleven per cent were judgments in favour of the defendants. [Supra note 67.] This trend appears to have continued. During 1869-70 the percentage of decisions for plaintiffs was sixty seven per cent, and during 1873-74, sixty nine per cent. [Id. vol. XVI (1873-74).] A plausible reason for this could be that with the reform and consolidation of the small cause court and the consequent growth of confidence in its efficiency, the number of frivolous and vexatious complaints lodged before it declined sharply.

The Presidency small cause courts received their final shape in 1882, [See Act XV of 1882.] By it, the local governments were authorised to appoint for their respective courts, one chief judge and as many other judges as may be considered necessary, subject to the approval of the Governor-General-in-Council. [Id., s. 7.] Of the judges, no less than one-third (including the chief judge) had to be advocates of one of the High Courts. [The Supreme Courts at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were abolished and replaced by High Courts in accordance with the Indian High Courts Act of 1861.] Besides, those who had worked as civil judges of a civil court for at least five years, were also eligible for appointment.

The pecuniary limit of the court's jurisdiction (subject to the other limitations) was raised to Rs. 2,000. Besides the judges, registrars of these courts were also empowered to try and decide suits up to Rs. 20 in amount or value.

The small cause courts which had worked so successfully in the Presidency towns were also extended to the other district towns. This was done by a series of enactments beginning with Act XLII of 1860, and culminating with the Provincial Small Cause Court Act of 1887, [Act IX of 1887.] which authorised the provincial governments to establish small cause courts at any place within their jurisdiction. These courts are to be constituted by one judge and as many additional judges as many be considered necessary. It has now become a practice to vest one or more civil judges of the district courts, with the powers of the judges of small cause courts. Under Act IX of 1887, the provincial small cause courts are authorised to try suits up to Rs. 500 in amount or value subject to certain specified exceptions. The registrar of the small cause courts is also empowered to decide cases up to Rs. 20 in amount or value.

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 2:54 am
by admin
Part 1 of 2

Problems of Violence, States of Terror
by Anupama Rao
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 36, No. 43, pp. 4125-4133 (9 pages)
Oct. 27 - Nov. 2, 2001



The impact of colonialism also evidenced itself in the attempts to establish a codified system of criminal law that differentiated and separated itself from the 'native' law that preceded it. Despite such attempts, native practices had their own uses in enforcing discipline as seen in the incidents that unfold in the 'Nassick Torture Case' and elaborated further in this paper. The paper also probes issues related to fear and suffering while also enunciating the social scientists' dilemma of needing to represent and reproduce violence without fetishising or merely re-enacting it.

The task of a critique of violence can be summarised as that of expounding its relation to law and justice [Benjamin 1978:276].

This essay considers the ambivalent and uncertain relationship between law and violence, law's violence, in fact. Through a symptomatic (and at present suggestive) reading of a case of torture that took place near the town of Hashik in 1854, I explore the larger issue of the ethics of punishment and bodily violation, the historical emergence of discourses of bodily pain and suffering, and the relationship between the homogenisation of criminal law and the stigmatisation of 'native' practices of punishment. I suggest that colonial law was undergirded by a set of racialised assumptions about native susceptibility to corporal punishment; assumptions that produced their own paradoxical results in attempts to reform native practice, while simultaneously overdetermining them as both backward and barbaric. While this paper engages with the impossible attempts to distinguish law from violence in the history of colonial law, I am equally interested in the possibility of reconstructing the experience of 'dying in custody'. Exploring the representational limit of archival sources in describing emotive states such as fear or suffering, as well as the historian's desires to reproduce them in the interest of either imagination or critique, this paper asks how we might represent violence without fetishising or re-enacting it.

The 'Nassick Torture Case'

In a file labelled 'Nassick Torture Case' in the Maharashtra State Archives, one can find a petition dated October 17, 1855 to governor-general M. Elphinstone signed by 1,989 inhabitants of the town of Nashik.1 The petition seeks the reinstatement of one Mohammed Sheikh, joint police officer, or 'foujdar':

We at present learn from the newspaper that the government has dismissed him (the foujdar) from his situation, and on inquiry found that last year a Coonbee had murdered his niece for her ornaments, and was apprehended by the police peons, who put a stick up his anus for extorting confession, and that the government has decided that the foujdar had ordered to do this to the above Coonbee who died while in custody -- but we feel certain that the foujdar could not have ordered to the above effect because in the deceased prisoner's deposition which was taken down before the government authorities, no mention is made about the foujdar's orders, nor did the police peons who were tried and punished say anything in their depositions concerning the foujdar's orders for putting a stick up the prisoner's anus or for doing such other evil action...

In the absence of any positive proof of the foujdar's innocence, the petitioners are ironically forced to rely on his alleged victim's dying declaration. Reading this petition today, one is tempted to accuse the petitioners of distorting the significance of the victim's last words: they take an omission as a positive indicator, and thus fabricate a version of events that seems to suppress the truth of torture. But the story at stake here cannot be so easily judged. For as I will discuss here, the truth of torture lies not simply in its opposition to the torturer's version of events, but rather, in a more complex matrix that situates the foujdar and his defenders themselves within a regime of violence. To unravel the relationship between the tortured body and the silence surrounding the practice of torture, it is necessary to real the relationship between torture and colonial law. My study aims to acknowledge the ways in which colonial law not only participated in a regime of torture but also sought to erase its own complicity in this regime.

The complexity of the relationship between colonial rule, native police, and violence emerges in the facts and documents that surround the death of the Coonbee. A young man of about 19 years, named Gunnoo, is mentioned in this petition only by his caste label, Coonbee, or 'kunbi,' a broad and inclusive category of agriculturalists.2 The significance of caste and class relations alluded to here is drawn out by the surrounding facts of the case. The chain of events began when Gunnoo was accused of taking the ornaments of his niece Syee, a young girl of five years, and then drowning her in a well. One witness's deposition testified that Gunnoo denied knowing the girl's wherabouts. However, when police peons 'gave him a slap on the turban, a silver suklee (chain) fell out -- on searching him other ornaments were found.' According to the witness, when asked about the girl again, Gunnoo pleaded that the ornaments must have been planted on him, and repeated that he did not know Syee's whereabouts. At this point in the public interrogation, the foujdar is said to have suggested that 'he (Gunnoo) is frightened in this crowd take him to one side and 'sumjao' him (make him understand.'3 Gunnoo was then taken into the cowshed of a prostitute, Lateeb, and tortured. Afterwards, he was led to the well outside the town in which the girl's body was found. There, Gunnoo confessed to the crime. He died in custody two days later, on August 13, 1854.

It is in the legal aftermath of Gunnoo's death that the particular relationship of torture to colonial rule was at stake. For although a significant body of literature maintains that cultures of terror were essential to the task of colonial governance, British rule in India also sought to oppose, at least on one level, police violence.4 Thus Gunnoo's death in custody prompted a judicial inquiry that set colonial administrators against the native police. These efforts on the part of colonial law to distance itself from, and even to condemn, excessive violence participated in a larger attempt to fashion colonial rule as a liberal 'rule of law.'

Gunnoo's death in custody and allegations of police torture, however, put the Bombay government in a difficult position. The simultaneous discovery of and efforts to contain the practice of torture produced a political contradiction. Even as they publicly investigated the charge of torture by the police, colonial administrators were animated by an anxiety about the prevalence of torture (what if it facilitated all policing?), and by a consequent reluctance to draw public attention to its practice. Although meant to exhibit the fair and efficient functioning of colonial institutions, the inquiry, therefore sought to characterise Gunnoo's death as an extraordinary event. Only a discursive separation of torture from legitimate forms of punishment would allow colonial administrators to punish the policemen guilty of torture while maintaining a commitment to the beneficent face of the colonial regime.

Gunnoo's death can serve, then, as a point of entry into a larger set of debates about the reform of penal practices during the mid-19th century. When the critical historian reads the developmental narrative of colonial law against the grain, it becomes possible to resituate the category of torture within the development of the colonial judicial-penal complex and, consequently, the narrative of colonial modernity. I show how the containment of torture by colonial authorities worked through its own self-contradiction by fashioning itself as an instrument of 'modern' legal and forensic knowledge. This liberal modernity, however, was fashioned only by positing colonial subjects as unaware of the distinction between punishment and retribution.

In what follows, I focus on this process as it becomes visible in two areas: (i) in the indictment of 'native' practices of policing as perpetuating the practice of torture. Colonial administrators distanced themselves from such practices, arguing that they illustrated the persistence of precolonial disciplinary practices. The public exposure of torture, which should have implicated the colonial state and its excesses, was in fact converted to a moral victory over a penal regime now characterised as traditional, and barbaric and (ii) in the significance of new methods of detection such as forensic medicine in overturning native practices of torture. During the latter half of the 19th century, colonial officials in Bombay and London increasingly came to focus on the perceived benefits of the nascent field of medical jurisprudence in detecting not only crime, but also the excessive use of force by the police in extracting confessions.5 Torture's crude violation of the body gave way to more rational and objective forms of discovering the truth of violence. New discourses of detection and physical examination became critical for the elaboration of a colonial judicial-penal complex that objectified the body in terms of its pain and suffering.

Colonial Governance and Native Police

In the investigation into Gunnoo's death, the structural relationship between colonial governance, police practices, and violence to native bodies is exhibited by the colonial state's attempts to brand as scapegoats the actual perpetrators of police torture; the native police. The Bombay government faced the dilemma of balancing the validity of the evidence gathered at the well regarding Gunnoo's murder of his niece, against the possibility that the confession had been extracted through torture, rendering it invalid or highly compromised at best. On one hand, the police were seen as belonging to the generic category of state servants and functionaries of the law, while on the other, the 'native' police were viewed as a special category of colonial subjects who were outside the law.

This tension is revealed in the legal documents that circulated after the sessions court sentenced the six police peons who were accused of committing the torture and murder of Gunnoo to four years hard labour, four months in solitary confinement, and the first seven and last seven days of the month on a 'conjee' diet (rice water or gruel).6 The court described the acts of these six men as 'atrocious' and truly outside the bounds of law. These crimes were therefore treated as renegade acts committed without the authority of a superior. For this reason, the foujdar himself was not named as a defendant in the case. Indeed, in arguments later made in defence of the foujdar, it was maintained that such an act, committed 'in great haste,' a 'desperate measure' of 'cruelty' done in a 'clumsy manner,' could not have been premeditated and could not therefore have taken place under the orders of a government official.7 This was buttressed by the eyewitness testimony of Alexander Bell, assistant superintendent of police, who had testified that Gunnoo had appeared in perfect health when he had seen him at the well immediately after the alleged torture.

However, further inquiry by the high court called the foujdar's innocence into doubt. A resolution from the governor in council to the registrar of the Sudder Adalut on August 30, 1855 argued that the native police had been let off too lightly; that 'the punishment is far too light to operate as a warning to the police subordinates in Nassick and throughout the presidency.' Furthermore, the letter noted that, while ignoring the foujdar's participation in extorting a confession, the sessions court marked its knowledge of the use of torture in this case by noting that '... when the Foujdar ordered the unfortunate prisoner to be taken aside he intended that a confession should be retracted from him by threats and ill-usages.' The judiciary 'knew' the settings of torture, its performance in secret, much as it attempted to ignore the initiation of the event at the behest of the foujdar. In the name of the just rule of law, the Sudder Foujdari Adalat (Supreme Criminal Court) thus initiated a case against the foujdar, arguing that 'It is not fitting the subject and active agents in this crime should be punished while their superior is held blameless because he took care to keep out of sight himself of the outrage perpetrated.'8

The possibility that the murder of Gunnoo was not simply the act of renegade police peons but perhaps a deliberately ordered, official act, moved this case onto a larger stage. For if Gunnoo's death was now not an aberration but a more general police practice, it would be necessary to conduct an inquiry into this practice on the highest levels. Thus in response to a letter dated July 20, 1855 from Elphinstone, the governor-general of Bombay presidency, the Sudder Foujdari Adalat replied that they thought the law to be sufficient in handling cases of police abuse as well as extraction in the pursuit of revenue collection.9 Reforming individual practices gave way to an inquiry into the hierarchies of command within the police, and attempts to discipline superiors who might have ordered the torture while not having actually performed it. At this point, the reform of the police as an institution confronted their relationship to the law.

It has been argued that the British imposed a rule of law in colonial India by maintaining that precolonial regimes lacked a properly autonomous domain of law, relying instead on law-like structures and modalities of caste and community-based adjudication [Gune 1953; Singha 1998]. An autonomous domain of law was also to be a homogenising one, buttressed by a large-scale ideological shift in native mentalities. Natives had to be taught to do away with categories of difference such as caste, gender, and religion that assumed that different categories of persons were inherently unequal, entitled to different forms and severity of punishment. In fact, however, the colonial state both relied on and worked through such distinctions.10

The imposition of a homogenous system of criminal law also demanded a cadre of police who would involve themselves in the pursuit of criminals, extract confessions and produce testimony, and work closely with the judiciary in punishing criminal offenders while protecting the populace.11
Because colonial officers mistrusted the native police, and considered their reliance on them a necessary evil, the native police force had to be drastically reformed and modernised if it was to implement the legal reforms contemplated by the British government.

As early as 1832, the Select Committee on East India Affairs (judicial) had discussed the prevalence of torture, and suggested that the police force had to be reformed and modernised in order to curtail the use of corporal violence.12 In response to a query from the committee -- 'Are you aware whether the practice of torture by the native officers, for the purpose of extorting confessions or obtaining evidence, has been frequently resorted to?' -- Alexander Campbell, ex-registrar of the Sudder Diwani and Faujdari Adalt (Supreme Civil and Criminal Court, respectively) in Madras replied:

Under the native governments which preceded us at Madras, the universal object of every police officer was to obtain a confession from the prisoner with a view to his conviction of any offence; and notwithstanding every endeavour of our European tribunals to put an end to this system, frequent instances have come before all our criminal tribunals of its use.13

Campbell went on to note that policemen above the rank of common peon often functioned as witnesses to crimes, which literally allowed the police to take the law into their own hands. In 1857, a member of the house of commons noted the popular conviction that 'dacoity is bad enough, but that the subsequent police inquiry is worse.'14 This had much to do with the fact that confessions in the presence of the police were seen as adequate for judicial indictment. Magistrates with a poor command over native languages were often unfamiliar with the customary and/or religious codes that regulated persons and communities. They found themselves relying on confessions taken by the police rather than conducting their own inquiries. This suggests that the police often acted in a de facto judicial capacity, taking confessions, deciding guilt, and punishing wrongdoers. This exposed the uncertain position of the police in the implementation of law: were they merely law's functionaries, or were they in fact producing the evidence that law courts relied upon in the dispensation of justice?15

The continuity between the supposed prevalence of torture in traditional repertoires of policing and their use under a colonial regime also suggested the colonial state's pedagogical failure in marking a clear separation between the rule of law and corporal punishment.
In 1857 officials were still arguing that '... there was a deficiency in the police and in the administration of justice in India.'16 Interestingly, police reform and attempts to discontinue the use of excessive corporal violence were situated on a continuum with the abolition of other 'horrible practices' such as hookswinging, infanticide, and Meriah (human) sacrifice, all 'cruelties which disgraced society in India.'17

Human sacrifice among the Khonds in India: a victim (meriah) about to be dismembered. Wood engraving by C. Krull after Fuchs, 18--. [between 1800 and 1899]

Among the Lhota Naga, one of the many savage tribes who inhabit the deep rugged labyrinthine glens which wind into the mountains from the rich valley of Brahmapootra, it used to be a common custom to chop off the heads, hands, and feet of people they met with, and then to stick up the severed extremities in their fields to ensure a good crop of grain. They bore no ill-will whatever to the persons upon whom they operated in this unceremonious fashion. Once they flayed a boy alive, carved him in pieces, and distributed the flesh among all the villagers, who put it into their corn-bins to avert bad luck and ensure plentiful crops of grain. The Gonds of India, a Dravidian race, kidnapped Brahman boys, and kept them as victims to be sacrificed on various occasions. At sowing and reaping, after a triumphal procession, one of the lads was slain by being punctured with a poisoned arrow. His blood was then sprinkled over the ploughed field or the ripe crop, and his flesh was devoured. The Oraons or Uraons of Chota Nagpur worship a goddess called Anna Kuari, who can give good crops and make a man rich, but to induce her to do so it is necessary to offer human sacrifices. In spite of the vigilance of the British Government these sacrifices are said to be still secretly perpetrated. The victims are poor waifs and strays whose disappearance attracts no notice. April and May are the months when the catchpoles are out on the prowl. At that time strangers will not go about the country alone, and parents will not let their children enter the jungle or herd the cattle. When a catchpole has found a victim, he cuts his throat and carries away the upper part of the ring finger and the nose. The goddess takes up her abode in the house of any man who has offered her a sacrifice, and from that time his fields yield a double harvest. The form she assumes in the house is that of a small child. When the householder brings in his unhusked rice, he takes the goddess and rolls her over the heap to double its size. But she soon grows restless and can only be pacified with the blood of fresh human victims.

But the best known case of human sacrifices, systematically offered to ensure good crops, is supplied by the Khonds or Kandhs, another Dravidian race in Bengal. Our knowledge of them is derived from the accounts written by British officers who, about the middle of the nineteenth century, were engaged in putting them down. The sacrifices were offered to the Earth Goddess. Tari Pennu or Bera Pennu, and were believed to ensure good crops and immunity from all disease and accidents. In particular, they were considered necessary in the cultivation of turmeric, the Khonds arguing that the turmeric could not have a deep red colour without the shedding of blood. The victim or Meriah, as he was called, was acceptable to the goddess only if he had been purchased, or had been born a victim—that is, the son of a victim father, or had been devoted as a child by his father or guardian. Khonds in distress often sold their children for victims, “considering the beatification of their souls certain, and their death, for the benefit of mankind, the most honourable possible.” A man of the Panua tribe was once seen to load a Khond with curses, and finally to spit in his face, because the Khond had sold for a victim his own child, whom the Panua had wished to marry. A party of Khonds, who saw this, immediately pressed forward to comfort the seller of his child, saying, “Your child has died that all the world may live, and the Earth Goddess herself will wipe that spittle from your face.” The victims were often kept for years before they were sacrificed. Being regarded as consecrated beings, they were treated with extreme affection, mingled with deference, and were welcomed wherever they went. A Meriah youth, on attaining maturity, was generally given a wife, who was herself usually a Meriah or victim; and with her he received a portion of land and farm-stock. Their offspring were also victims. Human sacrifices were offered to the Earth Goddess by tribes, branches of tribes, or villages, both at periodical festivals and on extraordinary occasions. The periodical sacrifices were generally so arranged by tribes and divisions of tribes that each head of a family was enabled, at least once a year, to procure a shred of flesh for his fields, generally about the time when his chief crop was laid down.

The mode of performing these tribal sacrifices was as follows. Ten or twelve days before the sacrifice, the victim was devoted by cutting off his hair, which, until then, had been kept unshorn. Crowds of men and women assembled to witness the sacrifice; none might be excluded, since the sacrifice was declared to be for all mankind. It was preceded by several days of wild revelry and gross debauchery. On the day before the sacrifice the victim, dressed in a new garment, was led forth from the village in solemn procession, with music and dancing, to the Meriah grove, a clump of high forest trees standing a little way from the village and untouched by the axe. There they tied him to a post, which was sometimes placed between two plants of the sankissar shrub. He was then anointed with oil, ghee, and turmeric, and adorned with flowers; and “a species of reverence, which it is not easy to distinguish from adoration,” was paid to him throughout the day. A great struggle now arose to obtain the smallest relic from his person; a particle of the turmeric paste with which he was smeared, or a drop of his spittle, was esteemed of sovereign virtue, especially by the women. The crowd danced round the post to music, and addressing the earth, said, “O God, we offer this sacrifice to you; give us good crops, seasons, and health”; then speaking to the victim they said, “We bought you with a price, and did not seize you; now we sacrifice you according to custom, and no sin rests with us.”

On the last morning the orgies, which had been scarcely interrupted during the night, were resumed, and continued till noon, when they ceased, and the assembly proceeded to consummate the sacrifice. The victim was again anointed with oil, and each person touched the anointed part, and wiped the oil on his own head. In some places they took the victim in procession round the village, from door to door, where some plucked hair from his head, and others begged for a drop of his spittle, with which they anointed their heads. As the victim might not be bound nor make any show of resistance, the bones of his arms and, if necessary, his legs were broken; but often this precaution was rendered unnecessary by stupefying him with opium. The mode of putting him to death varied in different places. One of the commonest modes seems to have been strangulation, or squeezing to death. The branch of a green tree was cleft several feet down the middle; the victim’s neck (in other places, his chest) was inserted in the cleft, which the priest, aided by his assistants, strove with all his force to close. Then he wounded the victim slightly with his axe, whereupon the crowd rushed at the wretch and hewed the flesh from the bones, leaving the head and bowels untouched. Sometimes he was cut up alive. In Chinna Kimedy he was dragged along the fields, surrounded by the crowd, who, avoiding his head and intestines, hacked the flesh from his body with their knives till he died. Another very common mode of sacrifice in the same district was to fasten the victim to the proboscis of a wooden elephant, which revolved on a stout post, and, as it whirled round, the crowd cut the flesh from the victim while life remained. In some villages Major Campbell found as many as fourteen of these wooden elephants, which had been used at sacrifices. In one district the victim was put to death slowly by fire. A low stage was formed, sloping on either side like a roof; upon it they laid the victim, his limbs wound round with cords to confine his struggles. Fires were then lighted and hot brands applied, to make him roll up and down the slopes of the stage as long as possible; for the more tears he shed the more abundant would be the supply of rain. Next day the body was cut to pieces.

The flesh cut from the victim was instantly taken home by the persons who had been deputed by each village to bring it. To secure its rapid arrival, it was sometimes forwarded by relays of men, and conveyed with postal fleetness fifty or sixty miles. In each village all who stayed at home fasted rigidly until the flesh arrived. The bearer deposited it in the place of public assembly, where it was received by the priest and the heads of families. The priest divided it into two portions, one of which he offered to the Earth Goddess by burying it in a hole in the ground with his back turned, and without looking. Then each man added a little earth to bury it, and the priest poured water on the spot from a hill gourd. The other portion of flesh he divided into as many shares as there were heads of houses present. Each head of a house rolled his shred of flesh in leaves, and buried it in his favourite field, placing it in the earth behind his back without looking. In some places each man carried his portion of flesh to the stream which watered his fields, and there hung it on a pole. For three days thereafter no house was swept; and, in one district, strict silence was observed, no fire might be given out, no wood cut, and no strangers received. The remains of the human victim (namely, the head, bowels, and bones) were watched by strong parties the night after the sacrifice; and next morning they were burned, along with a whole sheep, on a funeral pile. The ashes were scattered over the fields, laid as paste over the houses and granaries, or mixed with the new corn to preserve it from insects. Sometimes, however, the head and bones were buried, not burnt. After the suppression of the human sacrifices, inferior victims were substituted in some places; for instance, in the capital of Chinna Kimedy a goat took the place of the human victim. Others sacrifice a buffalo. They tie it to a wooden post in a sacred grove, dance wildly round it with brandished knives, then, falling on the living animal, hack it to shreds and tatters in a few minutes, fighting and struggling with each other for every particle of flesh. As soon as a man has secured a piece he makes off with it at full speed to bury it in his fields, according to ancient custom, before the sun has set, and as some of them have far to go they must run very fast. All the women throw clods of earth at the rapidly retreating figures of the men, some of them taking very good aim. Soon the sacred grove, so lately a scene of tumult, is silent and deserted except for a few people who remain to guard all that is left of the buffalo, to wit, the head, the bones, and the stomach, which are burned with ceremony at the foot of the stake.

In these Khond sacrifices the Meriahs are represented by our authorities as victims offered to propitiate the Earth Goddess. But from the treatment of the victims both before and after death it appears that the custom cannot be explained as merely a propitiatory sacrifice. A part of the flesh certainly was offered to the Earth Goddess, but the rest was buried by each householder in his fields, and the ashes of the other parts of the body were scattered over the fields, laid as paste on the granaries, or mixed with the new corn. These latter customs imply that to the body of the Meriah there was ascribed a direct or intrinsic power of making the crops to grow, quite independent of the indirect efficacy which it might have as an offering to secure the good-will of the deity. In other words, the flesh and ashes of the victim were believed to be endowed with a magical or physical power of fertilising the land. The same intrinsic power was ascribed to the blood and tears of the Meriah, his blood causing the redness of the turmeric and his tears producing rain; for it can hardly be doubted that, originally at least, the tears were supposed to bring down the rain, not merely to prognosticate it. Similarly the custom of pouring water on the buried flesh of the Meriah was no doubt a rain-charm. Again, magical power as an attribute of the Meriah appears in the sovereign virtue believed to reside in anything that came from his person, as his hair or spittle. The ascription of such power to the Meriah indicates that he was much more than a mere man sacrificed to propitiate a deity. Once more, the extreme reverence paid him points to the same conclusion. Major Campbell speaks of the Meriah as “being regarded as something more than mortal,” and Major Macpherson says, “A species of reverence, which it is not easy to distinguish from adoration, is paid to him.” In short, the Meriah seems to have been regarded as divine. As such, he may originally have represented the Earth Goddess or, perhaps, a deity of vegetation; though in later times he came to be regarded rather as a victim offered to a deity than as himself an incarnate god. This later view of the Meriah as a victim rather than a divinity may perhaps have received undue emphasis from the European writers who have described the Khond religion. Habituated to the later idea of sacrifice as an offering made to a god for the purpose of conciliating his favour, European observers are apt to interpret all religious slaughter in this sense, and to suppose that wherever such slaughter takes place, there must necessarily be a deity to whom the carnage is believed by the slayers to be acceptable. Thus their preconceived ideas may unconsciously colour and warp their descriptions of savage rites.

-- The Golden Bough: A study of magic and religion, by Sir James George Frazer

The problems of judicial administration could therefore be linked to native intransigence rather than the failures of colonial governance. Once again, it was the presence of native policemen, rather than the role of the police in a colonial regime, that came to be problematised. By placing police torture alongside a stream of indistinguishable acts of barbarity and violence of varying motivations, British officials confirmed to themselves that the native police were inured to the use of corporal violence in extracting confessions. The police were understood as a cultural institution compromised by the fact of being 'native', and hence fundamentally irrational and prone to excess.

The publication of the two-volume Report of the Commissioners for the Investigation of the Alleged Cases of Torture in the Madras Presidency in 1855, (henceforth the Report) drew attention to torture as a structural problem of policing, rather than an aberrant and extraordinary instance.18 The Report was initially meant to explore complaints about torture in the extraction of revenue in Madras presidency. The government of India extended the scope of the report to include the relationship between torture and policing.19 This itself is instructive of the dissonant relationship between attempts to extract revenue at all cost, (revenue demands rose at least threefold during the first few years of settlement in Madras) and the attempt to impose an equitable judicial system on native subjects.

The Company tried to eliminate the existing traders and brokers connected with the cloth trade, and establish more direct control over the weaver. For this purpose they appointed paid servants called gomasthas, who would obtain goods from local weavers and fix their prices. The prices fixed were 15 per cent lower than market price and in extreme cases, even 40 per cent lower than the market price. They would also supervise weavers, collect supplies, and examine the quality of cloth. They also prevented Company weavers from dealing with other buyers.

The Company’s agents who had the right to enforce contracts could well use the same coercive power to extort rents from the weavers. Such opportunism seems to have been common even late into the textile venture. In case weavers refused signing contracts they were subjected to torture and even awarded imprisonment. In this way the gomastas were useful in obtaining goods at a low price for the Company which made huge profits from their exports.

The Company's Board of Trade records from 1793, 1815, and 1818, state that "as a rule the Company’s gomastas and other inferior servants extracted perquisites from the weavers, and not infrequently they were whipped or beaten with rattans [canes]." There were various kinds of "perquisites." One such was an extra charge: this might be a commission (dasturi), tribute (salami), or simply "expenses" (kharcha). Another was a deduction of a portion of the capital advance. Yet another was using debased currency to pay the weaver. The gomastha and his appraisers, sometimes in collusion with Company officials, would falsely appraise cloth quality. They would charge the Company for High Quality, but pay the weaver for low quality. The gomastas' profound knowledge about a particular area and their negotiating ability with local smaller merchants would be indispensable to firms.

-- Gomastha, by Wikipedia

Though there was no comparable investigation in the Bombay presidency, the Report (which was after all a response to massive complaints about torture by natives) sensitised the bureaucracy to the power of a category such as torture that could potentially indict colonial penal practices.20 Hence the anxiety about containing torture travelled across presidencies. This is reflected, for instance, in the production of three separate judicial files on 'Torture' that can be found in the Maharashtra State Archive (MSA) in Bombay confined to the period 1855-1857, coeval with the period when the Report was released, and a general discussion of reforming the police force was also underway. The Report was as much an attempt to bureaucratise the police force and to press for the reform of criminal law, as it was an attempt to publicise the complaints about torture. In this, perhaps, it reflected the colonial conditions of its production, since discourses of improvement masked the attempts to impose more coercive forms of rule over citizen-subjects [Guha 1988].

The reliance on the native police coupled with the constant suspicion that they were ignorant or even abusive of legal norms produced the paradoxical need to 'police the police' [Arnold 1986]. In a colonial situation, natives were seen as possibly needing protection from the police, rather than being protected by them. The construction of the native police as fundamentally unreliable (because racially inferior) thus produced a problem of surveillance and control within the police force. While legal reform was pursued in tandem with the reconceptualisation of personhood and property under colonial rule, the problems with police reform suggested a split between the rhetoric of colonial improvement and its personification in the native police who were meant to enact the ideologies of rule by law. The discovery of torture represented this split in spectacular fashion, by displacing the question of colonial culpability for perpetuating the practice onto precolonial or traditional practices of policing.

The problematic discovery of torture for the extraction of confessions is symptomatic of the contradictions of a colonial rule that acknowledged customary practices (due to the political necessity of relying on natives), yet stigmatised them through the rhetorics of modernisation and improvement. While torture implicated police excess, it also produced 'false' truths, false because contaminated by their connection with corporal violence. Confessions produced under torture were understood to be worthless, since they were produced by the threat of force or even death. In this Gunnoo's case this would raise the dilemma of how far the administration could believe the admission of his guilt in drowning Syee. This raised the spectre of colonial power as merely theatrical and self-confirming, despotic rather than reasonable.

Racial assumptions about native inferiority produced a severe and intractable problem: was it impossible to maintain legitimate practices of punishment that did not run the risk of transmogrifying into the exercise of excessive force and violence in a colonial situation? The colonial state often understood itself as struggling to institute a neutral and rational 'rule of law' in a situation where ruling over the racially inferior and culturally backward often demanded the imposition of forms of physical and symbolic violence. Hence assumptions of native incompetence and barbarity were self-fulfilling prophecies that necessarily depended on colonial authorities' discovery of scandals such as the prevalence of torture practised by native police. The repeated attempts to distinguish between moderate and excessive violence become doubly significant in this context.

Colonial rule was represented as inaugurating a new relationship between the subjects and subjectifying practices. Colonial governmentality had much to do with instituting a new practice of power that could be clearly distinguished from its precolonial predecessors [Fukazawa 1991; Guha 1995; Kadam 1988]. Yet the repeated 'discovery' of torture hinted at the fundamental instability of the rule of law, and suggested that excessive force supplemented the consolidation of the legal sphere as an autonomous domain. As with Gunnoo's torture, the eagerness to produce a confession and punish him for the brutal murder of a young girl took the form of his extra-legal torture by the police. This contradiction exposed the colonial state's fundamental misrecognition of its own role in both producing and disavowing scandalous practices; in recognising the extent to which a 'new' relationship between the state and its subjects as well as among subjects had itself reorganised the relationship between law and society, between adjudication and excess. The violence at the very heart of colonial governance raises for us the possibility of understanding law as constantly haunted by its other face: naked force and violence [Benjamin 1978; Fanon 1986].

The Secret Life of Torture

Along with attempts to reform the native police, a language of bodily integrity and vulnerability became central to judicial discourses that sought to address torture's disregard for the body. If torture assumed the body as a biological fact or datum to be dismembered in order to produce a confession, the colonial judicial regime seems to have operated with another notion of the body, as one eminently available to certain forms of expert knowledge such as forensic medicine. This produced a shift in techniques for the production of truth that integrated scientific discourses of the body with changed conceptions of legal proof and criminal culpability. The affective discourse of pain and suffering animated the discussion of torture as a barbaric and uncivilised practice. I now turn to these issues that appear in the Nashik torture case under the broad rubric of medical testimony.

In Gunnoo's case, the credibility of torture came to rest on the bodily signs that could provide evidence capable of convicting the policemen of wrongdoing. Gunnoo's case was decided on December 26, 1854 by the sessions judge J.W. Woodstock, in Ahmednuggary (Ahmednagar) who acquitted the six accused policemen.21 But this decision was appealed on the grounds that the medical evidence provided before the court was faulty -- that the judge had relied on the questionable claim that Gunnoo had died due to the exacerbation of a prior condition, i.e. piles.22

Colonial officials and upper-level officers of the judiciary in Bombay suggested that part of the problem with this case was the insufficient medical knowledge available to the medical officer when he had first met Gunnoo in prison, as well as the failure of the post-mortem to reveal torture or the excessive use of force with any certainty. The medical evidence was adduced to be of a 'defective character' according to a letter submitted to the Medical Board by the Governor in Council on August 30, 1855, after the Sudder Foujdari Adalat decision.23 Debates about medical evidence had become critical to the indictment of the police. But they also indexed a new relationship between the body as the primary source of knowledge about police misdemeanour, and the problematic speech of the tortured victim who refused to reveal his experiences due to the fear of further violence. Ironically, this stood in opposition to the assumptions by the police that violence to the body produced a more trustworthy confession than verbal interrogation.

Gunnoo's dying declaration before Turquand, joint acting magistrate, and the civil surgeon Pelly, indicted the police for having shoved a stick up his anus in a cowshed.24 But this indictment occurred when it was too late to be of any use, after Gunnoo had been seen by a native doctor as well as a British doctor, who were aware of the pain he was in, but not its origin. This was in large part because Gunnoo had been unwilling to recount his experience in the cowshed, from either shame and humiliation, or fear of further violence in police custody. On the other hand, the common knowledge of beatings by the police and of threats of torture in extracting confessions emerges at various points in the file on this case, indicating that the practice of torture was thus situated between the testimony of witnesses, and the hesitation of expert medical testimony in pronouncing that torture was the 'real' cause of Gunnoo's death. While the doctors resisted from pronouncing on torture, performing violence upon Gunnoo's truth, eyewitnesses were both necessary yet insufficient in testifying to the existence of torture as a medically quantifiable fact.

Bala Bhow, the first hospital assistant, said that when the deceased had complained of pain in his stomach he 'asked him if he had been beaten -- replied he had not -- each day deceased complained of greater pain in his stomach,' and that he (Gunnoo) had finally admitted to having been tortured by the six policemen. Bala Bhow noted that 'deceased had in one of his stools passed two ounces of pure blood unmixed with feces-blood dark and thickened.'

The Civil Surgeon Pelly deposed that:

the deceased was brought to the hospital on the 12th of August and was when we saw him suffering from great pain in the abdomen which increased by the touch of the hand and from other symptoms of acute enteritis that Gunnoo complained to him of having been kicked and beaten by the police but mentioned no names -- Had no recollection of Gunnoo's saying anything that day about a stick having been thrust up his anus. But on the Sunday morning being much worse he made a deposition to Turquand the acting joint magistrate in his (unreadable) presence accusing the police of having done so -- Gunnoo died at two o'clock the same afternoon (my emphasis).

In the prison where Gunnoo had been kept before being taken to hospital on August 12, Imam Wallud Gottee, a sweeper, deposed to having washed the dhotur (the long cloth used to wrap the lower half of the body) which had stains of dried blood upon it. Ahmed Wallud Dawood remembered '... having cleaned a pan of a prisoner confined in the Foujdar's Cutcherry (courthouse) on a charge of murder. (He said he) saw about a handful of blood in it. There was no excrement.'

Gunnoo's own dying declaration is available to us in its paraphrased version, rather than given verbatim.

(Gunnoo) said that on the day of his apprehension the first six prisoners [the police] had taken him to a cowshed belonging to a prostitute by the name of Lateeb -- shut the door forced him down with his face to the ground which prevented him from being heard and then thrust the handle of a paper or China umbrella 11/2 span up his anus twice or thrice but that he could not see who did it -- That he found his Anus bloody and that the cloth he had on was also stained with blood -- and was washed the following day by a Bhungy (an untouchable who 'traditionally' removes nightsoil) -- That on his way from the cowshed to the foujdar's Cutcherry he was beaten by the police as well as by the villagers who had assembled none of whom however could he recognise (my emphasis).

Gunnoo's dying declaration exposes the torture but he is unable to name his aggressors since he could not seem them lying face down in the cowshed.

The testimony of eyewitnesses also indicated that when the policemen had taken Gunnoo aside, the 'knew' or could imagine why Gunnoo was taken away from the crowd, without actually having witnessed the violence. The medical practitioners, for their part, focused only on visible, external symptoms that indicated the internal damage Gunnoo had suffered, further corroborated by the testimony of the prison sweeper who spoke about the presence of blood in Gunnoo's stools.
This testimony was also tallied with the physical evidence of torture immediately after Gunnoo's apprehension, where eyewitnesses and senior police officials offered their testimony.25

The deposition of witnesses and Gunnoo's dying declaration that he hadn't seen the faces of his aggressors affirmed secrecy as the precondition of torture's efficacy, while revealing the quality of the 'truth' it was capable of producing. Torture's status shuttled between its secret performance, and the means whereby it became visible and public. The above depositions mark such a movement through the reliance on Gunnoo's various injuries as evidence. Between the truth produced by Gunnoo's body (pain and suffering), the veracity of eyewitness accounts, and medical testimony lies the paradoxical logic of torture as simultaneously secret and public.

The sessions court confronted two positions on the torture: that it had occurred, and everyone knew about it, or that Gunnoo had lied.
Much of the evidence required measuring the intensity of Gunnoo's wounds, and when they had been inflicted. Witnesses mentioned the pain and suffering on Gunnoo's face. Additionally, as the sessions court argued, the post-mortem should have revealed death due to unnatural causes. Instead, the medical report showed a contradiction in the medical testimony: the medical officer, Pelly, had deposed that Gunnoo's rectum was found unlacerated during the post-mortem while Bala Bhow had given evidence that the anus was 'not usual but extended'.26 This meant that the medical evidence was unclear about whether Gunnoo had suffered from a prior condition such as piles, that might have manifest the same symptoms as his torture. This was offered as the reason why the prisoner had been taken to hospital and treated without any suspicion about his wounds, until he testified to his torture.

Pelly said that Gunnoo had first been brought to him between 7 and 8 a.m. on August 12, when Gunnoo had told him that he had been kicked and beaten by the police. Pelly had ordered him leached and fomented, and the faujdar is said to have recorded his deposition.27 The next morning, Gunnoo was worse, and Pelly, suspecting that his patient might not live long, had gone to get the magistrate Turquand and the assistant superintendent of police, Alexander Bell, who were in the presence of the prisoner when he gave his dying declaration.

Prior to this, on the morning of August 11, the native doctor, Bala Bhow had gone to the cutcherry, having been called on the night of August 10 to inspect the prisoner. The morning of the 11th, Bhow administered a purgative, and the earthen pan containing Gunnoo's bloody stools had been cleaned by the sweeper. Bhow applied leaches to Gunnoo's stomach that night at 7 p.m. when Gunnoo confessed to Bhow that the police had mishandled him. The foujdar had been informed of this, and Bhow claimed that the foujdar went to see Gunnoo that night. Gunnoo had been taken to hospital, were he met civil surgeon Pelly only on the 12th.28

Gunnoo's death on August 13 prompted an inquest. One Gangaram Bhoojaree, a member of the inquest who had seen the body at about 5 p.m. on August 13, and then again at 7 p.m. stated that he hadn't seen any marks of violence on the body, but that Gunnoo's anus was enlarged and his abdomen swollen. He had also seen '3 pieces of intestines which the doctor said were those of the deceased. These were black and in a decomposed state having marks of coagulated blood on them.' Bhoojaree thought that a stick thrust up the anus might have penetrated Gunnoo's abdomen.

When the Puisne judges of the Sudder Foujdari Adalat reconsidered the evidence gathered by the sessions court, they argued that the lower court had been unclear about whether Gunnoo's injuries were 'new' or manifestations of an older complaint of piles. Though Puisne judge M. Larken differed with A. Remington in his views on police culpability, he too argued that the medical evidence had fudged the question of where the injuries were located (rectum, intestine, peritoneum), and how old the injuries might be. W.H. Harrison, The acting Puisne judge, however, seemed to have accepted that Gunnoo was tortured, commenting that '[T]his case should be laid before government with the object of drawing their attention to the conduct of the Nassick Native Police of all grades who are concerned with this inquiry.' The medical testimony drew on ineffable qualities such as pain and suffering, and attempted to quantify them through a discussion of wounds and their severity. As with the investigation into police misconduct however, attempts to get at the truth only revealed the extent to which colonial assumptions about native bodies and mentalities compromised that quest.

Talal Asad (1998) argues that the quantification of pain -- the ability to measure incommensurable acts of suffering by making physical pain a measurable quantity -- effected a significant shift in discourses of both suffering and punishment. Understanding pain as a quantity ('more' or 'less') of undifferentiated physical suffering made it possible to under the experience of violence as something antithetical to the stature of being fully human.29 This helps explain the British focus on police torture as a native practice that disregarded the relationship between crime and its commensurable punishment. An instrumental conception of pain and the imposition of excessive suffering seemed to lie at the root of such 'native' practices of barbarism, and so confirmed the absence of 'law' as such in precolonial Maharashtra. Any infliction of unjustified force was viewed by the British as torture, regardless of its place in a 'larger moral economy' [Asad 1998: 288].

Asad argues that distinctions between ritual forms of inflicting pain on oneself or others and forms of state-sanctioned violence could be collapsed in this model, since pain was assumed to be a transcultural category, singular in its meaning. In British India early campaigns for the abolition 'Thuggee' or dacoity, which was thought to be ritually sanctioned by certain communities, or attempts to prevent hookswinging, self-flagellation and other forms of 'cruelty' that practitioners inflicted on themselves during religious events, were seen to pose the same problem for colonial governance as did the practice of 'sati' or infanticide. This meant that different idioms for legitimating the performance of certain violent or cruel acts were glossed, all in the interest of controlling the victim/patient's pain [Dirks 1997; Mani 1998; Nigam 1990; Singha 1998; Sunder Rajan 1993; Yang 1987]. The inhumanity of excessive violence and attempts to portray it as a culturally sanctioned form of punishment, meant that it increasingly stood in opposition to the rational and rehabilitative project of penal incarceration.30 However, the distinction between 'bad' and 'good' pain, between the kind of pain that was an affront to notions of humanity, on the one hand, and that which was necessarily entailed in the movement out of barbarism or primitivism into modern subjecthood on the other, was understood in a highly interested and motivated fashion in colonial settings.

As with the development of any modern technique for producing or confirming truth, medical jurisprudence was contradictory in its effects.31 On the one hand it was lauded as capable of producing a truth of the body and its interior (wounds, lacerations, injuries) more reliable than verbal testimony in cases involving physical injury. On the other hand, it carried the potential to indict the excesses of policing. The double-edged quality to the development of these technologies must be noted since they both extended and compromised the colonial state's representations of good governance.32

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Part 2 of 2


The status of torture as a threat to the smooth functioning of the judicial apparatus, and its status as an aberration, can be found in the repeated mention of the specific acts that constituted Gunnoo's torture in colonial records. The archive's reiteration of the acts of violence, the doctors' measurement of pain and the extent of violation of the body, and most importantly, the attempts to create a place for torture and its significance within the bounds of judicial knowledge, focused on the perils of policing the country, and indicted the police.

As I have suggested throughout, this had to do with the peculiar 'colonial' conditions in which the discovery of torture could be stigmatised as a precolonial traditional practice, instead of being acknowledged as a practice that had gained new salience through the initiation of colonial rule. The colonial authorities' discovery of, but distancing from, the logic of torture confirmed the superiority of a British rule of law.33 For the colonial state, questions of judicial improvement revolved around the police as an institution with an ambivalent relation to a larger regime of law.34 The police were critical to the maintenance of law and order, but they also marked people's entry into a regime of law. Colonial administrators were aware of the extent to which the police often took upon themselves the task of disciplining criminals, extracting confessions, or producing evidence, and so constantly flouted the distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate action. As the Report noted, the police seemed to inhabit a particularly problematic place, one that often exceeded the demands of modern subjectification that requires the subject to produce herself as the net result of a series of overlapping and competing discourses about the body and its insertion into forms of surveillance [Foucault 1990]. Rather, the space of terror and death produced as the result of the (mis)understanding by the police of the injunction to produce truth at all costs, meant the annihilation of the criminalised native body. The conceit of colonial law as administering a 'just measure of pain' [Ignatieff 1978] was profoundly compromised by such a scenario, since it allowed the colonial state to exercise this right through the conduit of the native police.

Foucault (1990) argues that the production of truth through confession is particularly 'modern,' since it produces subjects who fulfill their bargain to speak the truth because it is in their interest to do so. The problem with torture, however, was that it produced a truth that was never certain of its status in this network. It produced a truth, in Gunnoo's case a deposition of guilt, that was questionable precisely because it was too closely tied to an experience of the body -- pain -- that was seen as incapable of producing an uncompromised statement. Gunnoo's torture by his unknown assailants produced a problem of knowledge on two fronts. How was the instance of torture itself to be believed when, as the petition noted, neither Gunnoo nor the police peons had initially said anything about it? Secondly, given Gunnoo's status as a criminal who had committed the violent crime of stealing a young girl's ornaments and drowning her in a well, what were the conductions under which his torture could be viewed as a(n excessive) form of punishment? How was his suffering at the hands of the police to be calibrated,how was penal punishment to be distinguished from violent crime, or revenge? The aims of torture are divided in their purpose. Torture emerges as (i) a specific repertoire of corporeal violence used by the police; (ii) a method of achieving closure, of solving the mystery of Syee's death; (iii) a form of retributive action where a criminal who had murdered a young girl was himself violated as a matter of popular justice, and (iv) a form of sodomy or brutality as such that sought humiliation as the confirmation of its power.35

It is difficult to decipher whether the scandal of torture lay in its commission, or the modalities through which it was discovered and acknowledged as a public secret (publicity and awareness regarding torture as a problem through the punishment [publishing?] of the Madras Report, forms of visual medical evidence that seemed to offer incontrovertible proof of Gunnoo's suspicious death, [and] a repertoire of barbaric and violent native practices that disregarded bodily integrity). Much like the policemen who apprehended Gunnoo seemed to have known that he had committed a crime, the sessions judge as well as Bala Bhow indicate that they were not surprised that Gunnoo had been tortured before coming in to police custody. The police had already mishandled the criminal before he entered prison and courtroom. In arguing that the torturers were 'native police,' the Bombay government sought to erase any trace of the colonial government's complicity with his torture. Instead, as I have argued, attempts to refine and modernise penal practices were accompanied by the recognition of 'new' bodily states such as pain and suffering. Torture became problematic only when forms of establishing truth in the context of penal practices were shifting, when there were attempts to distinguish between a moderated or rational use of punishment, and barbaric precolonial practices.36

Ironically, it might be Gunnoo's death that lent his declaration an air of truth. It was his impending death that prompted the revelation of torture in the cowshed to be read as a 'death in custody'. The truth of torture here lay in the victim's death under questionable circumstances, and under great physical pain. The suffering and pain of the prisoner became converted into an inquiry about police procedure and the aberrant use of excessive force. This in turn closed the logic of colonial governance in upon itself, which then devoted an extraordinary amount of time and energy to the question of proper policing, the rationale of incarceration, and the value of a measured and moderated exercise of force as opposed to its illegitimate and improper use in extorting confession. I want to suggest that it was as much a problem of the quality of the truth that was produced as it was an attempt to rationalise and impersonalise police practices that created torture as a problem for the colonial government.

The place of torture in the grammar of colonial governance is one that opens up for us a consideration of the colonial body as it appears as a particularly overdetermined space for the enactment of colonialism's culture: a site upon which the irregularities and excesses of colonial governance were made visible and problematised. In the larger history that speaks of a steady rationalisation of penal practices, torture in the colonies would point to the insertion of a form of power that profoundly disturbed the 'rule of law' and the conceits of progress and improvement.



[This paper was earlier published under the same title for the special issue "Discipline and the Other Body" (editors Anupama Rao and Steven Pierce) in Interventions: A Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Volume 3, Number 2, 2001. I am grateful to Taylor and Francis. For permission to reprint the piece here. Further information on the journal is available at

Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 1998 American Anthropological Association meetings for the panel 'Colonial Punishment', and the conference "Investigating and Combating Torture: Exploration of a New Human Rights Paradigm" organised by the Human Rights Institute, University of Chicago, March 4-7, 1999. I am grateful to David Scott for comments as discussant for the 1998 AAA panel co-organised by Steven Pierce and myself; comments by Talal Asad during the workshop "The Middle East and South Asia: Exploring Comparisons," April 6, 2000, and to Steven Pierce, Jared Stark, and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan for their invaluable suggestions. Research for this paper was supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, a Junior Research Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan, and the Social Science Research Council.]

1. Judicial Department, Volume 123, 1855.

2. The term Maratha was the name given to the landed gentry who identified as a caste community during the late 17th century. O'Hanlon (1985) argues that ordinary peasant cultivators, or kunbis, claimed Maratha status during the latter half of the 19th century as a means of upward mobility. By 1870 a majority of kunbis identified themselves as Marathas.

3. Deposition of Luximan Sukrajee Chowan.

4. Taussig (1992) makes a suggestive argument from this perspective. Fanon (1986) discusses such violence as characteristic of settler societies. We might make a limited distinction between this and the 'liberal' governance of the British colonial state in India which sought to rule through tradition, while maintaining a rhetorical commitment to criminal law's 'equal' application [Singha 1998].

5. The link between the prison-judicial complex and medical technologies was critical to the attempts to codify criminal law in British India. For the purpose of medical jurisprudence in Britain, see Crawford (1994) and White (1994). For India, see Chesvers (1856) who argued that medical jurisprudence could expose the 'lies' of native truth-telling.

6. One prisoner was found guilty of aiding and assisting in the crime, and was sentenced to two years of hard labour and two months of solitary confinement. Two of the police peons were related to Gunnoo, and were described as 'enraged' by Syee's murder.

7. Letter No. 727 of 1855, A.R. Grant, Acting Joint Magistrate to H.L. Anderson, secretary to government, judicial department, September 14, 1855.

8. Minute recorded by W.H. Harrison, Acting Poison Judge, Sudder Foujdari Adalat. The foujdar was dismissed from service by an order dated September 6, 1855 and petitioned that he had been wrongly accused.

9. H.L. Anderson to secretary, government, judicial department, Letter No. 219 of 1855. Interestingly, I.G. Lumsden's Minute of September 17, 1855 noted that caste was the reason why torture and other barbarous practices were tolerated.

10. One might think in terms of the differential temporalities involved in homogenising criminal law on the one hand, while maintaining entire zones of intimate life as separate and distinct, as for instance in the recognition of religiously inflected personal laws that concerned issues pertaining to women, such as marriage, inheritance, or maintenance. Personal laws too came under the reforming zeal of the colonial state, however, when they could be removed from the sphere of the religious, and inserted into a discourse of humanity, as for instance in the attempts to categorise sati as a barbaric offense to human sensibilities. One of the most important effects of this distinction between a homogenous domain of modern Anglo-Indian law on the one hand, and personal law and customary practices on the other, was to maintain a core of the tradition or religious at the very heart of the consolidation of colonial law. See Singha (1998) for the prehistory of the 'successful' codification of criminal law by the Indian Penal Code in 1861, inaugurated by the draft penal code of 1837. For a range of arguments about the consequences of the hypostatisation of 'personal law', see Chakravarti 1998; Rao 1998; Sangari 1995; and Tharu 1996.

11. Though I don't discuss it here, precolonial regimes rarely resorted to penal incarceration. Guha (1995) notes that fines, beatings, and mutilation figured as important means of punishment. Imprisonment was rarely used by the Marathas in western India before 1818, when the area known as the Deccan came under British rule. See Yang (1987) for a discussion of the colonial prison.

12. I should note here that the use of the term 'torture' by colonial officials seems to attach itself generically to forms of corporeal discipline, to any method of inflicting excessive pain as a form of punishment.

13. Select Committee Report (Judicial), p. 114.

14. Parliamentary Debates, June 11, 1857, column 1602.

15. Benjamin (1978) suggest that it is precisely this uncertain, liminal character of the police (understood as both form and function) that implicates law in the moment of founding or originary violence. In his lectures on governmentality and elsewhere, Foucault (1991) suggest that the modern, western biopolitical state is characterised by the transformation of politics into police.

16. Column 1607, House of Commons, June 11, 1857.

17. Ibid., Column 1610. See Dirks 1997, Nigam 1990, Singha 1998, Sunder Rajan 1993.

18. See the article by Peers (1991) for details regarding the socio-political situation of Madras Presidency that prompted the report, in addition to details about the problematic position of the colonial police force in British India. Singha argues that the Report solidified racial distinctions between British and native; that the 'primary address was to the British public, to reassure them that the natives could not possibly believe that the European functionaries condoned torture' [Singha 1998: 305].

19. The Report assumes special importance when attempts at reform such as the Select Committee Report, the 1837 draft penal code, and criticisms of local policing practices can be viewed as having reconfigured the relationship of law to truth, so that evidence and confession came to occupy a radically different place in the adjudication of crime. The Report's indictment of judicial functionaries was sidelined, and the focus rested on how to produce credible evidence. As I suggest in my analysis of Gunnoo's torture, it was the quality of truth that was significant, and not the indictment of those who administered justice.

20. The Bombay government mooted the idea of a similar report for Bombay, maintaining that Regulation XII and XIII, Chapter 1, Sections 8-10 of 1827 covered cases of bribery, extortion, and other abuse of police authority. However, the Bombay government appointed a special Torture Commissioner for a short period.

21. The Sudder Foujdari Adalat deliberated the case on January 17, March 28, April 4, May 2 and May 16, 1855.

22. The testimony of Gunnoo's aunt became useful in this context. She remembered that Gunnoo had complained of stomach-ache due to piles a month earlier, and noted that he had looked weak.

23. The Medical Board argued that medical jurisprudence was part of the training of medical officers in the company's service, and there was no reason to recommend further training.

24. Turquand was commended by the government for his thorough investigation of the case, and for alerting the Sessions Court about its importance, while Woodward was characterised as remiss in conducting a thorough investigation.

25. In his minute, the Puisne Judge Remington suggested that the evidence did not clearly indict the policemen, though eyewitness had noted that:

'(After) the lapse of 10 minutes according to one witness and half an hour as deposed to be another, the whole part emerged from the premises, the accused Gunnoo resting his head on a policeman's shoulder and his hands clasped on his stomach, the seat as he said of the pain he was enduring. In that condition he was conveyed to the well; in that condition he made his confession, and he was then removed to the chowkee, still in a state of suffering.' This contrasts with Bell's statement about Gunnoo's well-being.

26. The Medical Board argued that there was no want of knowledge exhibited by the civil surgeon Pelly, who had examined the victim; that he had not been directly asked by the sessions judge about the cause of death, and had reported that Gunnoo's rectum was extended, which could have either meant that it was open, or swollen, the sessions judge not having asked Pelly which one it was in this instance. Letter of September 14, 1855.

27. This deposition was not included in the sessions court proceedings as it was said to be the same as the one recorded the next day.

28. The court noted that contrary to Bhow's claim to having been informed about Gunnoo's condition on the night of August 10, he had been informed at 4 p.m. that afternoon. He only went in the next morning to see Gunnoo. The court also faulted Bhow for waiting until the 12th to send Gunnoo to hospital.

29. This might provide us with one way of distinguishing among trials of ordeal, justice as divine intervention, and other forms of punishment that Gune (1953) mentions as prevalent in Maharashtra from 1300-1800. Guha's (1995) work on pre-colonial Maharashtra suggests that the types of punishment administered for crime more often than not bore little resemblance to the methods prescribed by Sankrit texts on 'dandaniti' or penal law. He argues for the thoroughly political and decentralised character of punishment -- i.e., the sovereign was not the only person who had the capacity to punish -- was reflected in the extent to which forms of punishment remained uncodified and therefore open to bargaining and negotiation. 'The individual lived in several penal jurisdictions apart from that of the king and his ministers; he or she might be subject to punishment in various degrees by the caste, the village community, the chief of the merchants, the preceptor (dharmadikari) and the head of the family.' (110)

30. This is Foucault's point in Discipline and Punish (1995). Rejali (1994) argues that torture is essentially modern, that it is a practice integral to the security state. He argues that this turns Foucault's argument on its head. Asad argues that Rejali misunderstands Foucault's argument for a shift in the very conception of power, rather than the sublation of one set of practices (torture) by more rational ones. Asad (1998) is right to argue that torture's power emanates from the secrecy surrounding its practice, but I would go a little further still, and argue that it is the method of making torture nevertheless visible, its status as open or public secret, from whence it derives its power.

31. The development of medical jurisprudence had much to do with the systems of justice that obtained in Britain and the continent. In the latter instance, the body occupied a critical place in the highly adversarial and inquisitorial judicial system. This made for the development of an elaborate medical knowledge of wounds and injuries supported by the state in the form of generous remuneration for medico-legal expertise. 'Indeed, continental writings on forensic medicine can be considered subspecies of the legal literature on proof and procedure' [Crawford 1994: 99] In England medical jurisprudence began to develop only after 1800. Initial developments in medical jurisprudence can be traced to Scotland, where the first chair of medical jurisprudence was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1807. A similar chair was established in Glasgow only in 1839, though medical jurisprudence was taught extra-murally at the Portland Street Medical School since 1826 [Crawford 1994].

32. Photography, first used in India in 1840, fingerprinting technology used by the police by 1891, and the pseudo-science of anthropometry extended the reach of this scopic regime even further, convinced that the capture of external traits provided a significant indication of deeper structures of vice and depravity. See Pinney (1998) on the significance of these visual signs.

33. Rejali (1994) argues that torture by police and military forces is coeval with the modern exercise of power. Documents regarding torture and other human rights abuses in Algeria, Israel, Latin America, Northern Ireland and South Africa, to name a few obvious instances, confirm both the secrecy that accompanies the practice of torture, and the extent to which police and military draw on a shared repertoire of torture instruments and methods.

34. Foucault (1991) refers to the police as a critical component in the elaboration and control of population, the primary means through which disciplinary power manifests itself in the guise of 'security.' In these instances policing functions as a concept-metaphor for thinking about the work of a disciplinary regime modelled on the police-form.

35. I am grateful to Rajeswari Sunder Rajan for alerting me to this.

36. Gune (1953) provides accounts of other forms of punishments, e.g. ordeals, which present a very different mode of getting at the truth. In Gunnoo's case, the state understood his crime as a crime against the state in taking Syee's life.


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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2020 3:19 am
by admin
from various sources

Of the commodities collected for the European market, that part, the acquisition of which was attended with the greatest variety of operations, was the produce of the loom. The weavers, like the other laborious classes of India, are in the lowest stage of poverty, being always reduced to the bare means of the most scanty subsistence. They must at all times, therefore, be furnished with the materials of their work, or the means of purchasing them; and with subsistence while the piece is under their hands. To transact in this manner with each particular weaver, to watch him that he may not sell the fabric which his employer has enabled him to produce, and to provide a large supply, is a work of infinite detail, and gives employment to a multitude of agents. The European functionary, who, in each district, is the head of as much business as it is supposed that he can superintend, has first his banyan, or native secretary, through whom the whole of the business is conducted: The banyan hires a species of broker, called a gomastah, at so much a month: The gomastah repairs to the aurung, or manufacturing town, which is assigned as his station; and there fixes upon a habitation, which he calls his cutchery: He is provided with a sufficient number of peons, a sort of armed servants; and hircarahs, messengers or letter carriers, by his employer: These he immediately dispatches about the place, to summon to him the dallâls, pycârs and weavers: The dallâls and pycârs are two sets of brokers; of whom the pycârs are the lowest, transacting the business of detail with the weavers; the dallâls again transact with the pycârs; the gomastah transacts with the dallâls, the banyan with the gomastah, and the Company’s European servant with the banyan. The Company’s servant is thus five removes from the workman; and it may easily be supposed that much collusion and trick, that much of fraud towards the Company, and much of oppression towards the weaver, is the consequence of the obscurity which so much complication implies.

-- The History of British India, vol. 3 of 6, by James Mill

Peons: Infantry.

-- India Tracts, by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.

... eighteenth century in Bengal, peon had become a derogatory term for a matchlockman [A soldier armed with a matchlock gun], such as those found in the local sebundi (revenue collector's militia).

-- Culture, Combat, and Colonialism in Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century India, by Randolf G. S. Cooper, The International History Review, XXVII. 3: September 2005, pp. 473-708

Gomastha (also spelled Gumastha or Gumasta, Persian: agent) described an Indian agent of the British East India Company employed in the Company's colonies, to sign bonds, usually compellingly, by local weavers and artisans to deliver goods to the Company. The prices of the goods were fixed by the gomasthas. The goods were exported by the Company to Europe. Earlier supply merchants very often lived within the weaving village, and had a close relationship with the weavers, looking after their needs and helping them in times of crisis. The new gomasthas were outsiders with no long-term social link with the village. They acted arrogantly, marched into villages with sepoys and peons, and punished weavers for delays. The weavers thus lost the space to bargain and sell to different buyers; the price they received from the Company was miserably low and the loans they had accepted tied them to the Company.

-- Gomastha, by Wikipedia

Holwell informed the Council in Calcutta on 6 May 1754 that as the Charter of 1753 had “put a stop to the application of Indian natives to the Mayor's Court in disputes among themselves" they had begun to follow the practice of assigning over their notes or bonds to European, Portuguese or Armenian inhabitants of Calcutta, which in his opinion was against the true “intent and meaning” of the said Charter and prejudiced the Company’s 'etlack' ["Under the Mohammadan government, fees paid by suitors on the decision of their causes; also a fee exacted from a defendant as wages for a peon stationed over him as soon as a complaint was preferred against him". Wilson A Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms, p. 346.] (itlaq) and commission....

The Armenians had established their first settlement in Bengal at Saidabad near Murshidabad in 1665, on the strength of a Mughal imperial farman, and since then they had trading concerns in different parts of the province. In 1748 two vessels of the Armenians, on their way to Bengal from [illegible] and Basra, were captured by the English. The Armenians appealed to Nawab Alivardi for redress whereupon the latter “ordered Peons on all their (English) Gomastahs at the Aurungs and stopped the boats which were bringing down their goods’’. [ Long, Selections from Unpublished Records, I, p. 12.]

-- Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Vol. I: 1748-1756, Edited by K. K. Datta, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Patna University, Patna

The Calcutta court was not much of a success during the first fifty years of its existence. This is apparent from a discussion on its reform in 1802. [Notes on the defects or the court of requests at Calcutta, by Sir John Austruther, Chief Justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court, Bengal Civil Judicial Consultations, 18 March 1802, No. 12.] The fundamental defect of the court as formed in 1753, arose out of its constitution by unpaid commissioners. The court's sittings were extremely laborious and prolonged, often stretching up to five hours a day. It made the commissioners reluctant to undertake this exertion for which no monetary compensation was to be had. As a result, in spite of there-being twenty-four commissioners on roll, it was always found difficult even to secure the attendance of three, the minimum required to constitute the quorum. It was only by making personal approaches to some of the younger commissioners of his acquaintance that the clerk of the court was able to procure the minimum attendance necessary to form the court. [Ibid.]

As such, commissioners who were employed otherwise by the company were unable to spare enough time for the court's business, the court gradually came to be constituted by old civilians out of employment or by young Englishmen who never had any. Devotion or responsibility towards the business of the court could be expected from neither.

Out of the irregularity and laxity in the procedure of the court arose enormous abuses which rendered it more an instrument of fraud and exploitation, than that of justice. [Ibid.] The peons, amlas and clerks of the court found it easy to indulge in all sorts of corrupt practices, much to the harassment of the parties trying to seek redress from the court. Among the many malpractices prevailing in the court that Austruther listed, were:

[T]hat many (defendants) complained that actions were brought and decrees passed against them, of which they had no notice, and by plaintiffs of whom they had never heard; others (complained) that they had attended their cause from day to day to no purpose, but the instant they were gone, the decree (was) passed against them: ... still others (complained) that the causes were (actually) decided by the Amlas after the Commissioners had gone; and that nothing was to be done without bribing the peons or their mates; that summons were issued in the names of fictitious plaintiffs, which were left in the hands of the peons for an indefinite time and were used as a means for harassing persons with names similar to that of the supposed defendants, ... and that the summons contained no definite time for appearance, with the result that the party had to keep attending every day ..., till their cause was called out by the native officers of the Court, who in fictitious suits (brought either by themselves or with their connivance), always cared to have the decree passed in the absence of the defendant. [Ibid.]

Coleman, the clerk of the court, informed Austruther, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, that of an average of about 3,000 causes instituted monthly over the preceding four years, at least one third had been entirely fictitious. [Ibid.]

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, complained that the court's decrees were of no avail, because either they were not executed in consequence of the bribe given to the peons by the debtors, or, if they were, the money obtained was fraudulently appropriated by the vakeels and peons of the court. Thus, Austruther observed:

When the amount was paid into the Court, nothing was more common than for the Vakeels to impersonate the real plaintiff and receive the money, and when the real plaintiff came, the amlas were always ready to swear that they were (sic) witness to the receipt (of the decreed amount by the plaintiff) ...... [Ibid.]

-- Evolution of the Small Cause Courts in India -- 1753-1887 with Special Reference to the Presidency Court at Calcutta, by Chittaranjan Sinha, M.A., B.L. (Patna), Ph.D. (Lond.).

In regard to the double fraud and exorbitant charge of repairing the roads, I have ready to lay before this Board the Banian's books, employed on this service, and the Head Peon attending him....

The 15th, Gosebeg Jemmautdaar complained to me, that he had not received a Cowrie of the wages due to him and ten Peons, that were placed as a guard at Govindpoor Gunge in March last, to look after the rice. Recollecting a charge of this kind, I turned to that month's account revenues, and found the Company debted for Rs. 232 / 10 for this service, account 20 Buckerserrias and two Ponsoys, whereas there were in truth only the Peons above mentioned, and 10 of the Company's Buckserrias from the different Chowkeys on board the Ponsways, and the expense of the Ponsways I find was paid by Moideb Huzzarah; and though the charge is continued to the Company for two months and four days, yet they were actually no longer on this service than one month and seven days, -- as Gosebeg, Sowanny, Ponswaar, and Lallmun Mangu, are now in waiting to prove...

The article Moorianoes, I believe, may need some explanation, as introductory to my observation on it. On every complaint where a Peon is ordered, he receives from the delinquent or defendant three punds of Cowries a day, one pund of which he keeps to himself, one pund 14 gundas belongs to the Company under the head of Etlack, and the remaining six gundas is daily collected apart, out of which the Etlack Mories or writers, are paid their wages, and the over-plus remains to the Company...

Under your Honor's, &c. influence and orders, the intentions of our Honorable Masters as set forth in their second paragraph, are already in part put in execution. The farms have been sold at public outcry, agreeable to their instructions, and the poor are relieved by remitting six of the lowest farms, as producing little more to the Company than discredit. The season being now arrived for measuring the ground, my utmost care and attention shall be employed in putting our Honorable Masters orders on that head in execution. In conformity to your Honor, &c. orders, I have made the strictest scrutiny into the several charges of Banians, writers, and other servants of the Cutcherry, under the denomination of Pikes, Peons, and Buckserries; also the charge of Chowkey Boats; and for the reduction made in these articles, I refer you to the several monthly accounts revenues for July, August, September and October, ready to be laid before you, as soon as the months of May and June are passed in council...

Though I have already explained what is meant by that branch of the revenues called Etlack, in my address to your Honor, &c. under date the 17th of August, 1752, I yet think it necessary to repeat here what I then said on the subject, that in this work every article of the revenues may have due regard paid to it. On every complaint registered in the Cutcherry, a Peon is ordered on the defendant, in cases of debt; or on the delinquent, in case of assaults, or other abuses. The Peon receives three Punds of Cowries per diem, one Pund, fourteen Gundas of which are brought to the credit of the Company, under the head of Etlack: one Pund is the Peon's fee, and the remaining six Gundas were set apart; out of which the Etlack Moories, or writers, were paid their wages; and the overplus, called Mooriannoes, sequestered to uses I am a stranger to. The article of Etlack has always been a heavy tax on the poor, from whom it has chiefly been collected, whilst those who could by any means obtain favor were excused, though well able to pay it. The contrary method I have pursued, as much as possible; and your Honor, &c. will observe in the Zemindary, how frequent occasions I meet with to remit this fee to the poor, as well to those who are released from the prisons, as those whose disputes are determined without imprisonment. The Cutcherry prison Etlack fees, and Catwall prison Etlack fees, amount each to three Punds of Cowries per diem, from each prisoner; the whole of which is brought to credit. The Etlack fees have, by some Zemindars, been raised to four Punds per diem, and by others reduced to two, the present establishment appears to me the most eligible medium, as the former would be a very heavy oppression on the poor, and the latter would too much tend to keep up that litigious spirit in the people, which possibly is not equaled by any race existing. What injury the Company may have sustained in this branch, I shall submit to your Honor, &c. judgment, by the following abstracts of the former and present credits....

How consistent the Suba has been in his adherence to this last counsel of his grandfather, we have woefully felt; but that we were not solely the objects of his resentment and designs, is evident: His perwanah to the French was dispatched the same day with ours: When he marched against us, he sent perwanahs to both French and Dutch, with orders to provide, and join him with ships, men, and ammunition, to attack us by water, whilst he attacked us by land: They refused; in consequence of their refusal, he invested their several forts and factories, and demanded an exorbitant sum from each. The French were glad to accommodate matters for the payment of three Lack and half of Rupees; the Dutch for four Lack and half, after having had, for a day and half, a body of the Suba's troops in their settlement, waiting orders to attack it; and a man stationed with an ax in his hands, to cut down their flag-staff and colors. The French had not money to pay the mulct laid on them, but gained Roy Doolob to become their security: The Dutch were reduced to immediate payment; and both did then, and ever since have been obliged to endure the most audacious and exasperating insults, from the lowest Peon in the service of the government.

-- Important Facts regarding the East India Company's Affairs in Bengal, from the Year 1752 to 1760. This Treatise Contains an Exact State of the Company's Revenues in that Settlement; With Copies of several very interesting Letters Showing Particularly, The Real Causes Which Drew on the Presidency of Bengal the Dreadful Catastrophe of the Year 1767; and Vindicating the Character of Mr. Holwell From Many Scandalous Aspersions Unjustly Thrown Out Against Him, in an Anonymous Pamphlet, Published March 6th, 1764, Entitled, "Reflections on the Present State of Our East-India Affairs.", from India Tracts, by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.

The zamindars too adopted drastic steps against their rytos for arrears by sending piadas or peons who either seized the ryots' effects or confined or even flogged them....

The management of so vast a zamindari as Rajshahi would have been in itself a Herculean task, even had all gone smoothly. But within a very short time of the implementation of the scheme, accusations and counter-accusations between the diwan and naibs on the one hand and the zamindari officials on the other piled up in the Council, each side accusing the other of violence and oppression. The ryots of Rajshahi also brought several allegations of extortion against Nandalal Roy and Pran Bose. In one of their petitions to the Council, on 28 April, 1778 they alleged that the two naibs had exacted considerable sums, over and above the revenue dues, and had employed armed peons in the mufassil to plunder their effects and subject them to torture. As a result cultivation had almost stopped in several parganahs, for no fewer than four thousand families had been forced to run away to neighbouring districts. These irregularities were brought to the notice of the Provincial Council but without effect. They also represented their distress to the Diwan of the Council Ganga Gobinda Singh with a request to redress their grievances. But the latter being the chief protector of Roy and Bose took no action. Failing to secure justice, the peasants marched to Calcutta to lay their grievances personally before the Council. They concluded: "Your petitioners being poor and helpless inhabitants, utterly ruined, under the yoke of the said zilladers, most humbly beg leave to lay their hardships before this Hon’ble Board, imploring justice and assistance." They requested the Council to examine the conduct of Nandalal and Pran Bose and restore such sums of money as they had unjustly extorted from them. Allegations were also received from the amils of different parganahs such as Kaliganj, Kussumby, Eusufshahi, Amrul and Pukhuria. They claimed that the zamindari servants and rebellious ryots, acting in collusion, had expelled many of them from their parganahs using such violence against the amil of Kuttermal that his life was in danger. In consequence, the collection of revenues had been greatly hampered. Hastings, who had ignored the petitions of the ryots, accepted the complaints of the amils. His displeasure with the Rani was further aggravated and he immediately warned her that if the revenues were affected by the obstruction of her servants she would be held responsible and her allowances would be forfeited to make up the Company's revenues.

-- The Land Revenue History of the Rajshahi Zamindari &1765-1793), by Abul Barakat Mahiuddin Mahmood

We at present learn from the newspaper that the government has dismissed him (the foujdar) from his situation, and on inquiry found that last year a Coonbee had murdered his niece for her ornaments, and was apprehended by the police peons, who put a stick up his anus for extorting confession, and that the government has decided that the foujdar had ordered to do this to the above Coonbee who died while in custody -- but we feel certain that the foujdar could not have ordered to the above effect because in the deceased prisoner's deposition which was taken down before the government authorities, no mention is made about the foujdar's orders, nor did the police peons who were tried and punished say anything in their depositions concerning the foujdar's orders for putting a stick up the prisoner's anus or for doing such other evil action...

Gunnoo was accused of taking the ornaments of his niece Syee, a young girl of five years, and then drowning her in a well. One witness's deposition testified that Gunnoo denied knowing the girl's whereabouts. However, when police peons 'gave him a slap on the turban, a silver suklee (chain) fell out -- on searching him other ornaments were found.' According to the witness, when asked about the girl again, Gunnoo pleaded that the ornaments must have been planted on him, and repeated that he did not know Syee's whereabouts. At this point in the public interrogation, the foujdar is said to have suggested that 'he (Gunnoo) is frightened in this crowd take him to one side and 'sumjao' him (make him understand.' Gunnoo was then taken into the cowshed of a prostitute, Lateeb, and tortured. Afterwards, he was led to the well outside the town in which the girl's body was found. There, Gunnoo confessed to the crime. He died in custody two days later, on August 13, 1854....

On one hand, the police were seen as belonging to the generic category of state servants and functionaries of the law, while on the other, the 'native' police were viewed as a special category of colonial subjects who were outside the law. This tension is revealed in the legal documents that circulated after the sessions court sentenced the six police peons who were accused of committing the torture and murder of Gunnoo to four years hard labour, four months in solitary confinement, and the first seven and last seven days of the month on a 'conjee' diet. (rice water or gruel) The court described the acts of these six men as 'atrocious' and truly outside the bounds of law. These crimes were therefore treated as renegade acts committed without the authority of a superior. For this reason, the foujdar himself was not named as a defendant in the case....

The possibility that the murder of Gunnoo was not simply the act of renegade police peons but perhaps a deliberately ordered, official act, moved this case onto a larger stage. For if Gunnoo's death was now not an aberration but a more general police practice, it would be necessary to conduct an inquiry into this practice on the highest levels...

Campbell went on to note that policemen above the rank of common peon often functioned as witnesses to crimes, which literally allowed the police to take the law into their own hands. In 1857, a member of the house of commons noted the popular conviction that 'dacoity is bad enough, but that the subsequent police inquiry is worse.' This had much to do with the fact that confessions in the presence of the police were seen as adequate for judicial indictment. Magistrates with a poor command over native languages were often unfamiliar with the customary and/or religious codes that regulated persons and communities. They found themselves relying on confessions taken by the police rather than conducting their own inquiries. This suggests that the police often acted in a de facto judicial capacity, taking confessions, deciding guilt, and punishing wrongdoers. This exposed the uncertain position of the police in the implementation of law: were they merely law's functionaries, or were they in fact producing the evidence that law courts relied upon in the dispensation of justice?...

How was the instance of torture itself to be believed when, as the petition noted, neither Gunnoo nor the police peons had initially said anything about it?...

Two of the police peons were related to Gunnoo, and were described as 'enraged' by Syee's murder.

-- Problems of Violence, States of Terror, by Anupama Rao

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2020 9:45 am
by admin
Gomastha [Gumashtah] [Gomashtah] [Gumastha] [Gumasta][Gomastaus] [Gomastah] [Gomasta]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/14/20

For the purchase, collection, and custody of the goods, which constituted the freight to England, a complicated system of operations was required. As the state of the country was too low in respect of civilization and of wealth, to possess manufacturers and merchants, on a large scale, capable of executing extensive orders, and delivering the goods contracted for on pre-appointed days, the Company were under the necessity of employing their own agents to collect throughout the country, in such quantities as presented themselves, the different articles of which the cargoes to Europe were composed. Places of reception were required, in which the goods might be collected, and ready upon the arrival of the ships, that the expense of demurrage might be reduced to its lowest terms. Warehouses were built; and these, with the counting-houses, and other apartments for the agents and business of the place, constituted what were called the factories of the Company. Under the disorderly and inefficient system of government which prevailed in India, deposits of property were always exposed, either to the rapacity of the government, or under the weakness of the government to the hands of depredators. It was always therefore an object of importance to build the factories strong, and to keep their inmates armed and disciplined for self-defence, as perfectly as circumstances would admit. At an early period the Company even fortified those stations of their trade, and maintained professional troops, as often as the negligence permitted, or the assent could be obtained, of the Kings and Governors of the countries in which they were placed.

Of the commodities collected for the European market, that part, the acquisition of which was attended with the greatest variety of operations, was the produce of the loom. The weavers, like the other laborious classes of India, are in the lowest stage of poverty, being always reduced to the bare means of the most scanty subsistence. They must at all times, therefore, be furnished with the materials of their work, or the means of purchasing them; and with subsistence while the piece is under their hands. To transact in this manner with each particular weaver, to watch him that he may not sell the fabric which his employer has enabled him to produce, and to provide a large supply, is a work of infinite detail, and gives employment to a multitude of agents. The European functionary, who, in each district, is the head of as much business as it is supposed that he can superintend, has first his banyan, or native secretary, through whom the whole of the business is conducted: The banyan hires a species of broker, called a gomastah, at so much a month: The gomastah repairs to the aurung, or manufacturing town, which is assigned as his station; and there fixes upon a habitation, which he calls his cutchery: He is provided with a sufficient number of peons, a sort of armed servants; and hircarahs, messengers or letter carriers, by his employer: These he immediately dispatches about the place, to summon to him the dallâls, pycârs and weavers: The dallâls and pycârs are two sets of brokers; of whom the pycârs are the lowest, transacting the business of detail with the weavers; the dallâls again transact with the pycârs; the gomastah transacts with the dallâls, the banyan with the gomastah, and the Company’s European servant with the banyan. The Company’s servant is thus five removes from the workman; and it may easily be supposed that much collusion and trick, that much of fraud towards the Company, and much of oppression towards the weaver, is the consequence of the obscurity which so much complication implies.1 Besides banyan, there is attached to the European agent a mohurree, or clerk, and a cash-keeper, with a sufficient allowance of peons and hircarahs. Along with the gomastah is dispatched in the first instance as much money as suffices for the first advance to the weaver, that is, suffices to purchase the materials, and to afford him subsistence during part at least of the time in which he is engaged with the work. The cloth, when made, is collected in a warehouse, adapted for the purpose, and called a kattah. Each piece is marked with the weaver’s name; and when the whole is finished, or when it is convenient for the gomastah, he holds a kattah, as the business is called, when each piece is examined, the price fixed, and the money due upon it paid to the weaver. This last is the stage at which chiefly the injustice to the workman is said to take place; as he is then obliged to content himself with fifteen or twenty, and often thirty or forty per cent. less than his work would fetch in the market. This is a species of traffic which could not exist but where the rulers of the country were favourable to the dealer; as every thing, however, which increased the productive powers of the labourers added directly in India to the income of the rulers, their protection was but seldom denied.

-- The History of British India, vol. 3 of 6, by James Mill

Watts and Collet wrote to the Court of Directors from Chandernagore on 16 July 1756 “that the Nabob never intended to drive the English out of his province but would have been satisfied with a sum of money”. They asserted that they had forwarded a letter to this effect to Drake from Hooghly through the Dutch Director, but Drake did not agree with them. It may be that the Nawab’s resentment was too intense to be removed in the manner suggested by Watts and Collet. But it can be reasonably said that complete expulsion of the English was not his deliberate and premeditated design. He wrote to Pigot, the Governor of Madras, “It was not my intention to remove the mercantile business of the Company belonging to you from out of the subah of Bengal, but Roger Drake your gomasta [gomastha] was a very wicked and unruly man and began to give protection to persons who had accounts with the Patcha in his Koatey [Kothi-factory]. Notwithstanding all my admonitions, yet he did not desist from his shameless actions. Why should these people who come to transact the mercantile affairs of the Company be doers of such actions?” [Hill, op, cit., I, p. 196.] Drake and his Council did not make sincere efforts to reach an agreement with the Nawab. The little they did was half-hearted and belated. A letter was, if the testimony of Khwajah Wajid’s Chinsura diwan Shri Babu (Shiva Babu) is to be credited, sent by Drake to the Nawab at his persuasion and through him; but it was too late, hostilities having already commenced. [Letter to Court from Watts and Collet, 17 July 1756, para 1.]...

To procure commodities, the Company sometimes advanced money to dalals, merchants and manufacturers. They were thus “invested with a prior right to the goods for which they contracted, and hence their purchase in India acquired the name of investment.” Usually at the commencement of each year the Council in Calcutta despatched to the respective factories lists of investments to be collected, musters (samples) of raw silk and cotton piece-goods to guide them in selecting goods, and also bullion or money for payment. The Company tried to keep the merchants under effective control by taking securities for the money advanced to them (dadni), exacting penalties for their failure to honour their contracts in time, duly warning them against supplying goods of inferior quality, insisting on settlement of accounts in the English factories, not admitting in this any arbitration by the “subjects of this country,” and sometimes even holding the securities responsible for payment of the dues in arrears. But, in spite of all this, the merchants often failed to supply the full quantity of goods according to the terms of their contracts, and asked for bigger advances. So in June 1753 the Company abandoned the method of procuring investments by entering into contracts with merchants and introduced the practice of getting them direct from the aurangs [Aurung: The place where goods are manufactured] through their gomashtahs or agents. [Letter to Court, 18 January, 1754.] To meet the growing demand for garhas, the Council in Calcutta permitted the Kasimbazar factory to start some new aurangs at Ilambazar, Nanur, Moortally and Kagram. [Letter to Court, 9 September 1754, para 27.] In conformity with the orders of the Court of Directors the Council in Calcutta encouraged the weavers to settle in the Company’s territory in Calcutta for manufacturing different kinds of cloth. [Letter to Court, 18 January 1754.]...

Notwithstanding its temporary success, the new method of procuring investments did not ultimately produce satisfactory results. It vested the gumashtahs and the agents of the Company with powers “which they frequently abused", as Verelst justly tells us, “to their own emolument; and an authority given to enforce a just performance of engagements, became, notwithstanding the utmost vigilance of the higher servants, a source of new oppression." During the post-Plassey period their influence “proved so destructive of industry" that the Council in Calcutta restored “the old method of forming the investment, by contracting solely with merchants, in different parts of the country.” [Verelst, A View of the Rise, Progress and Present State of he English Government in Bengal (1772), p. 85.]

-- Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Vol. I: 1748-1756, Edited by K. K. Datta, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Patna University, Patna

Gomastha (also spelled Gumastha or Gumasta, Persian: agent[1]) described an Indian agent of the British East India Company employed in the Company's colonies, to sign bonds, usually compellingly, by local weavers and artisans to deliver goods to the Company.[2] The prices of the goods were fixed by the gomasthas. The goods were exported by the Company to Europe. Earlier supply merchants very often lived within the weaving village, and had a close relationship with the weavers, looking after their needs and helping them in times of crisis. The new gomasthas were outsiders with no long-term social link with the village. They acted arrogantly, marched into villages with sepoys and peons, and punished weavers for delays. The weavers thus lost the space to bargain and sell to different buyers; the price they received from the Company was miserably low and the loans they had accepted tied them to the Company. [2] A gomastha may also be described as ‘a paid manager of the private trader’s concerns’, who claimed ‘hardly any share in the profit and loss of his employer’s business’.[3]


Main article: British East India Company

In the 18th century, the East India Company had established itself in India. Indian cotton and silk fabrics were in great demand worldwide and hence were of special interest to them. It proceeded to develop a system of management and control that would eliminate competition, control costs, and ensure regular supplies of cotton and silk goods. Given the small number of Englishmen, and their unfamiliarity with the local language and society, the Company turned to local intermediaries, and gave them legal authority to enforce contracts. The Company tried to eliminate the existing traders and brokers connected with the cloth trade, and establish more direct control over the weaver. For this purpose they appointed paid servants called gomasthas. who would obtain goods from local weavers and fix their prices.[2] The prices fixed were 15 per cent lower than market price and in extreme cases, even 40 per cent lower than the market price.[2] They would also supervise weavers, collect supplies, and examine the quality of cloth. They also prevented Company weavers from dealing with other buyers.[2]

Style of working

The Company’s agents who had the right to enforce contracts could well use the same coercive power to extort rents from the weavers. Such opportunism seems to have been common even late into the textile venture.[4] In case weavers refused signing contracts they were subjected to torture and even awarded imprisonment.

The publication of the two-volume Report of the Commissioners for the Investigation of the Alleged Cases of Torture in the Madras Presidency in 1855, (henceforth the Report) drew attention to torture as a structural problem of policing, rather than an aberrant and extraordinary instance. The Report was initially meant to explore complaints about torture in the extraction of revenue in Madras presidency. The government of India extended the scope of the report to include the relationship between torture and policing. This itself is instructive of the dissonant relationship between attempts to extract revenue at all cost, (revenue demands rose at least threefold during the first few years of settlement in Madras) and the attempt to impose an equitable judicial system on native subjects.

-- Problems of Violence, States of Terror, by Anupama Rao

In this way the gomastas were useful in obtaining goods at a low price for the Company which made huge profits from their exports.[2]

The eighteenth century marked the gradual dissolution of the Mughal Empire in India and the establishment of British rule, initially under the auspices of the East India Company. The company, in search of quick profits, assumed control of Bengal’s lucrative textile industry, which produced one-third of all cotton textiles used in Europe at the time. It appointed its own network of much-hated middlemen, the most important of whom were called gomastas, under the agency system of 1753. In the words of a former company employee, " . . . [the gomastha] makes [the weavers] sign a bond for the delivery of a certain quantity of goods, at a certain time and price, and pays them part of the money in advance. The assent of the poor weavers is in general not deemed necessary .... Rights to the production of individual weavers were freely traded among the gomastas as if their clients were slaves. Those who refused to participate in the system were flogged, and on occasion killed. The prices the weavers received were, by one estimate, 20 to 40 percent less than they could have gotten in the marketplace.

–- Passage from, Nobel Peace Prize awardee and economist Muhammad Yunus's From Vanderbilt to Chittagong[5]

The Company's Board of Trade records from 1793, 1815, and 1818, state that "as a rule the Company’s gomastas and other inferior servants extracted perquisites from the weavers, and not infrequently they were whipped or beaten with rattans [canes]." There were various kinds of "perquisites." One such was an extra charge: this might be a commission (dasturi), tribute (salami), or simply "expenses" (kharcha).Another was a deduction of a portion of the capital advance. Yet another was using debased currency to pay the weaver.

The state of currency in Bengal from the early years of the eighteenth century was complicated. Coins of different mints in India, or coins of different years struck at the same mint, differed in value. “According to the trade usage of each different market they were liable to different rates of discount, and in order to make exchanges possible the values of actual rupees of every kind were expressible in terms of an ideal rupee known as the current or nominal rupee.” [Wilson, Early Annals of the English in Bengal, II, part I, p. liii.] Thus in Bengal at the beginning of the eighteenth century, 100 sicca rupees were equivalent to 112-1/2 current rupees. Subsequently, a hundred newly struck Murshidabad sicca coins were equal in value to 116 current rupees. But after three years of circulation their value diminished to 111 current rupees and they were then known as sanwat rupees. [Verelst, View of the Rise, Progress and Present State of the English Government m Bengal (1772), pp. 94-95.]

At Madras, where the English Company had a mint of their own, variations in the value of the rupee did not prove to be as troublesome as in Bengal. 89-1/2 ounces of dollar silver could always be converted into a little “more than 218 rupees, allowing two per cent for the cost of coining”, [Wilson, op. cit., II, part I, p. liii.] and so long as the Mughal Court was in the south these passed without any difficulty in southern India and in Bengal. But after the death of Aurangzeb, when the Mughal court was transferred to the north, the Bengal Government no longer required Madras rupees for remittance of imperial revenues, and their value in Bengal consequently went down, a high rate of batta (discount) being charged on them. [Letter to Court, 2 January 1752, para 36.] The Company could not now get for its silver the same number of Bengal coins as before. In June 1752, they had to sell bullion to Jagat Seth at 201 sicca rupees for 240 sicca weight and paid to their merchants 106 Madras rupees for 100 siccas “which was the lowest batta they could take them at.” [Letter to Court, 18 September 1752, para 69.] In the beginning of 1753 siccas were not available at less than 111-1/2 Arcot rupees and 109-1/2 Madras rupees for a hundred. [Letter to Court, 1 January 1753, para 8.] A year later the Kasimbazar factory complained of “scarcity of siccas”. [Letter to Court, 4 January 1754, para 68.] In March 1755 the Council in Calcutta noted that there was no demand for bullion. [Letter to Court, 1 March 1755, para 5.]

To prevent new coins from being replaced by old ones in circulation, there was the practice of charging discount or batta on a coin according to the period of its circulation. Further, there was then absolutely no uniformity of currency in Bengal, because, besides the Madras rupees and the Bengal coins, coins of mints situated in other parts of India poured into the province as a result of its having a favourable balance of trade. These coins were very often debased either by the mints or by some interested persons. The shroffs (money-changers) availed themselves of the opportunity afforded by this debasement to charge batta at arbitrary rates for the exchange of such coins. All this must have created disadvantages for the local traders as well as for the Company.

As the proprietor of the premier banking house of the time, Jagat Seth of Murshidabad had considerable influence in the matter of currency. Watts wrote to the Council in Calcutta on 8 February 1753 that he was "the sole purchaser of all the bullion that is imported in this province by which he is annually a very considerable gainer.” For purchase of investments the Council in Calcutta not only received from Bombay and Madras whatever treasure they could spare but also occasionally borrowed money from Jagat Seth and some minor bankers, which they repaid in bullion. [Letter to Court, 22 December 1748, paras 8 and 12; 4 February 1751, paras 72-75; 20 August 1751, paras 77-78.] Cowries formed the lowest medium of exchange in Bengal and were generally used for small transactions.

To avoid the inconveniences arising out of the exchange of bullion the English Company sought the permission of the Mughal Emperors, Aurangzeb and Shah Alam I, to establish a mint near their settlement at Fort William on the ground that the mints at Rajmahal, Dacca and Satgaon were far away. [Wilson, op. cit., II, part II, pp. 263 and 276-77. There was a mint at Patna.] But the Mughal Government did not then allow this infringement of one of its sovereign rights. The Company obtained from Emperor Farrukhsiyar permission for free use of the Nawab’s mint at Murshidabad for three days in a week to coin their own bullion. But they could not avail themselves of this permission because of strong opposition from Murshid Quli Jafar Khan. [Wilson, op. cit., II, part II, p. 232; Letter to Court, 31 January 1752 para 77.]

In 1751 the Nawab’s Government ordered that “all money whether bullion or rupees” should be sent to the mint at Murshidabad “to be coined there into Siccas or disposed of to Jugutseat” [Letter to Court, 17 February 1751/2, para 2.] and that the Europeans should not make payments to their merchants in any coins except new siccas. Fearing that the enforcement of this order would prove prejudicial to their interests, the English, French and Dutch companies directed their respective chiefs at Kasimbazar to act “in concert” in this matter and to make a representation to the Nawab’s Government to grant the usual currency to bullion and the different types of coins. This joint action produced the desired effect. The English continued their efforts to obtain permission of the Nawab's Government for establishing a mint in Calcutta, [Letters from Court, 23 January 1754, No. 3, para 57 and No. 4, para 1; Letter to Court, 30 January 1755.] and they ultimately succeeded in getting it from Sirajud Daulah in February 1757.

-- Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Vol. I: 1748-1756, Edited by K. K. Datta, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Patna University, Patna

The gomastha and his appraisers, sometimes in collusion with Company officials, would falsely appraise cloth quality. They would charge the Company for High Quality, but pay the weaver for low quality.[6] The gomastas' profound knowledge about a particular area and their negotiating ability with local smaller merchants would be indispensable to firms.[3]

Complaints against Gomastas

A petition by the weavers of Santipur factory in 1801 contained various complaints regarding the gomasthas and their subordinates: "... [They] have taken a perquisite of one rupee upon every eight or nine rupees of the advances made us, before they will pay the money;" "He deducts half an anna out of every rupee as brokerage;" "We do not know what species of money they receive from the Government but when there is a batta [discount] on Gold Mohurs, they pay us in that coin ...".[7] In 1804, weavers of Golaghar submitted a petition against the Resident at the factory and his gomastas, alleging, among other things, that they classified their cloths into lower categories but gave them to the Company as higher quality.[8]


1. Markovits, 2000 & Glossary:xii
2. Datt & Sundharam 2007, p. 20
3. "Beyond market and hierarchies: Networking Asian merchants and merchant houses since the 19th century" (PDF), International Economic History Congress, 21–25 August 2006, Helsinki, retrieved 2008-04-11
4. Ghoshal 1966
5. "From Vanderbilt to Chittagong" (PDF), Wiley, retrieved 2008-04-11
6. Rachel E. Kranton and Anand V. Swamy (July 2007). "Contracts, Hold-Up, and Exports:Textiles and Opium in Colonial India" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-04-11.
7. Mitra 1978, pp. 234–35
8. Mitra 1978, p. 237


• Datt, Ruddar; Sundharam, K.P.M. (1965), Indian economy (55th ed.), New Delhi: S. Chand, ISBN 81-219-0298-3
• Ghoshal, H.R. (1966), Economic Transition in the Bengal Presidency (1793-1833), K.L. Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta
• Mitra, D.B. (1978), Cotton Weavers of Bengal, 1757-1833., K.L. Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta
• Markovits, Claude (2000), The Global World of Indian Merchants, 1750–1947, Cambridge Studies in Indian History and Society (No. 6), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Sat Nov 21, 2020 7:15 am
by admin
Part 1 of 2

A Refutation of a Letter from certain Gentlemen of the Council at Bengal, to the Honorable the Secret Committee.
from India Tracts
by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.
The Second Edition, Revised and Corrected, with Additions.

-- The Black Hole -- The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XI, Part 1, July-Sept., 1915
-- Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XII. Jan – June, 1916
-- A Genuine Narrative of the deplorable Deaths of the English Gentlemen, and Others, who were suffocated in the Black Hole in Fort-William, at Calcutta, in the Kingdom of Bengal; in the Night succeeding the 20th Day of June 1756., In a Letter to a Friend, from India Tracts, by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.
-- Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan. With a Seasonable Hint and Persuasive to the Honourable The Court of Directors of the East India Company. As Also The Mythology and Cosmogony, Facts and Festivals of the Gentoo's, followers of the Shastah. And a Dissertation on the Metempsychosis, commonly, though erroneously, called the Pythagorean Doctrine. Part II. By J.Z. Holwell, Esq.
-- Forging Indian Religion: East India Company Servants and the Construction of ‘Gentoo’/‘Hindoo’ Scripture in the 1760s, by Jessica Patterson
-- French Jesuits in India and the Lettres Edifiantes, by Jyoti Mohan
-- Claiming India: French Scholars and the Preoccupation with India During the Nineteenth Century, by Jyoti Mohan
-- Natural Theology and Natural Religion, by Andrew Chignell & Derk Pereboom
-- The Enlightenment and Orientalist Discourse on the Aryan, Excerpt from Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity, by Dorothy M. Figueira
-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher
-- Holwell's Religion of Paradise, Excerpt from The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App


I. An Address to the Proprietors of East-India stock; setting forth, the unavoidable Necessity, and real Motives, for the Revolution in Bengal, 1760.

II. A Refutation of a Letter from certain Gentlemen of the Council at Bengal, to the Honorable the Secret Committee.

III. Important Facts regarding the East India Company's Affairs in Bengal, from the Years 1752 to 1760, with Copies of several very interesting Letters.

IV. A Narrative of the deplorable Deaths of the English Gentlemen who were suffocated in the Black Hole in Fort William, at Calcutta, June 1756.

V. A Defense of Mr. Vansittart's Conduct.

ILLUSTRATED WITH: A FRONTISPIECE, representing the Monument erected at Calcutta, in Memory of the Sufferers in the Black Hole Prison.

A View of the Monument. This Horrid Act of Violence was as Amply as deservedly revenged on Surajud Dowwla, by his Majesty's Arms, under the Conduct of Vice Admiral Watson and Col! Clive. Anno, 1757.



THE following small Tracts, in consequence of unprovoked injuries, were hastily thrown together, during the late clamorous disputes between Directors, Proprietors, and Candidates for the management of East-India affairs at home and abroad.-- How they came to be so hastily produced, and as hastily published, it seems requisite I should explain a little more at large.

At the beginning of these intestine broils, I was determined to avoid engaging on either side; and, to shun solicitation, I disposed of all the stock I stood possessed of', without retaining as much as might entitle me to a single vote; so truly desirous I was to enjoy in quiet that peaceful retirement, I had dearly purchased at the expense of so many difficulties, miseries, and heavy misfortunes as fell to my lot, while in the service of the Company.

Such, I say, were my resolutions, to which I should most strictly have adhered, if I had not found my character first indirectly, afterwards openly attacked, by the basest calumnies which were levelled against me in a manner, sudden, unmerited and unexpected.

UNDER these circumstances, there was a necessity of speaking for myself, and, which was still more unpleasing, I found myself likewise constrained to enter upon my vindication without delay. -- The pungency of these accusations -- the precipitancy of the times, and a disposition to take every thing for granted that was not immediately refuted; obliged me not only to dispatch them as quickly as was possible, but also to produce them in like hurry to the public eye.

IT was from these accidents, which I could not either foresee or avoid, that they came into the world not so well digested, and with much less accuracy, than the candid part of mankind have a right to expect in every production that claims their consideration, and is submitted to their judgment.

To the same causes I may very justly refer those errors of the press, which were in some of them so numerous as scarce to to leave the sense intelligible; to say nothing of other mistakes in orthography and diction, all arising from the utter impossibility of allowing me time requisite to revise and correct the proof sheets.

IT is from a just sense of these involuntary imperfections, that I have been led to review, to reform, and to cast into somewhat a different shape, these little pieces, that were thus exposed; and to render them still clearer and more satisfactory, I have added some other Tracts, which, however reasonable, I had not the leisure to prepare, and which, from my observing the obscurity arising from their Omission, I conceived it my duty to add as soon as opportunity would permit.

My narrative of the fatal catastrophe at Calcutta, and that unexampled scene of horror to which so many subjects of Great Britain were exposed in the prison of the Black-Hole, has so close a connection with one of the pieces that precede it, has scarce to require an apology for reprinting it in this edition; prefixing, as a frontispiece to the Volume, a Print of the Monument which I erected, at my own expense, to the memory of those unhappy sufferers.

MANY, if not most of the matters contained in these sheets, are to you, Gentlemen, very well known, as having been often the subject of your deliberations; and, therefore, to whom could I so properly address them as to yourselves? -- Two of you first incited my endeavors, and directed my labors for the Company's interest. -- Mr. Payne, with the same distinguished zeal, encouraged and supported them; a zeal truly disinterested, for I was a stranger to you all; so that you could have no motive to the favor you bestowed, and the protection you so generously afforded me, except the warm and pure regard which you ever showed, rather than professed, for that respectable body, whose concerns were then committed to your care.

You have, Gentlemen, frequently done me the honor to say, I did not disgrace your patronage, or disappoint your favorable expectations: to me this was the most ample reward -- but I could not help thinking there yet remained something due on my part; and that I ought to attempt the justifying your choice to the knowing, the ingenuous, and the judicious world.

This became more especially incumbent on me, when I found Envy and Malice arraign the character of him, whom you had espoused, and whom you had so long honored with your friendship. -- This, I thought, I could not better effect than by publishing the following Pieces.

WITH all possible submission, I lay them in their new dress before you, as thereby I am favoured with what I have long and ardently wished, an opportunity of giving this public testimony of a grateful heart, for the many and repeated proofs I have received of your respectable patronage.

I am, GENTLEMEN, Your most obliged, and most obedient humble servant,


Mount Felix, Walton upon Thames, July 3, 1764.


Explanation of Certain Persian and Moorish Terms in the Following Sheets.

Amdanny and Russtanny: Imports and Exports.
Arzgee: A Peitition.
Arzdasht: Idem.
Assammees: Dealers in different Branches of Trade.

Banka Bazar: Formerly the Ostend Factory.
Begum: Princess, meaning without Care.
Buxey: A Paymaster of Troops.
Buckserrias: Foot-Soldiers whose common Arms are Sword and Target only.

Chowkeys: Guards at the Stars, or Landing-places.
Chinam: Lime.
Cossid: A Foot-messenger, or Post.
Chubdaar: An Usher.
Cooley: A Porter.
Chout: A Fourth Part.
A Coss, or Corse: A Measure from two Miles to two Miles and Half.
A Corore of Rupees: An hundred Lack, or one Million Sterling.

Dewan: King's Treasurer.
Dewanny: Superintendancy over the Royal Revenues.
Dussutary: An Impost of ten per Cent.
Durbar: Court or Council, and sometimes a Levee only.
Decoyt: A Robber.
Dummadah: A River.

Fowzdar: A Military Officer.

Gomastah: Factor or Agent.
Gwallers: Carriers of Palanquins.
Gunge: Grain Market.

Hackeries: Carts or Coaches drawn by Oxen.
Harkarahs: Spies.

John Nagore: A Village so called.
Jaggemaut: The Gentoo Pagoda.
Jemmautdaar: An Officer of the same Rank with the Roman Centurion.

Mackulka: An Obligation with a Penalty annexed.
Moonskee: A Persian Secretary.
Musnud: Throne.
Moories: Writers.
Maund: A gross Weight between 70 and 80 Pounds.

Negrai: A new Settlement at one of the Pegu Islands.
Nobut: A Drum, a mark of Royalty assumed by the Subahas of Bengal.

Perwannah: An Order or Command, sometimes a Grant.
Purranea: In the Province of Bengal; a Nabobship subordinate to the Suba.
Phirmaund: A Royal Mandate, or Grant.
Pykes: Officers relative to the Service of the Lands.
Ponsways: Guard-Boats.
Podor or Shreff: A Money-changer.
Peons: Infantry.
Pottahs: Grants.
Pondary, Foorea: Farmers distinct Allowances on Grain at the Gunge.

Rumnah: District for the Royal Game.

Seer, Chetac, Maund: Forty Seer is one Maund, and sixteen Chetac one Seer.

Telinga: The Carnatic Country on the Coast of Coromandel.
Tanksal: A Mint for Coinage.
Tanners and Buzbudgea: Forts on the River Ganges.
Tunkabs: Assignments upon Lands.
Tuzsaconna, Ginanah: Wardrobe and Seraglio.

Vaqueel: English Agent or Resident at the Nabob's Court.
Vizerut: The Grant for the Visiership.

Wazeed: A considerable Mahometan Merchant who resided at Houghley upon the Ganges.

Zemin: Ground; Zemindary; Relative to Lands.


An Address To the Proprietors of East India Stock; Setting Forth the Unavoidable Necessity and Real Motives for the Revolution in Bengal, in 1760.
by John Zephaniah Holwell, Esq.


Mr. Holwell's Refutation of a Letter from certain Gentlemen of the Council at Bengal, to the Honorable the Secret Committee. Serving As a Supplement to His Address to the Proprietors of East-India Stock.

To The Honorable The Secret Committee For Affairs of the Honorable United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East-Indies.
by Eyre Coote; P. Amyatt; John Carnac; W. Ellis; S. Batson; H. Verelst
Fort William
March 11, 1762
With Answers by J.Z. Holwell

Honorable Sirs,

1. It gives us the greatest concern to be obliged to address you, in the manner we are now under the necessity of doing; but as we have publicly declared our dissent from the late revolution in the kingdom of Bengal, and expressed our entire disapprobation of the measures pursued consequent thereto; it is our duty to acquaint you with our reasons for having differed in opinion from the gentlemen who were accessory to that revolution, lest ill-minded people should represent our opposition as a faction, instead of owing its rise, as it really does, to our strict regard to what we think conducive to the honor of our country, and the interests of our employers. Had the whole Board been consulted, we dare assert, this measure would have been rejected by the majority; and we humbly refer to you, whether the opinion of every member thereof ought not to have been taken by the president, before he ventured upon so bold a step as the subversion of a government.


1. It is very manifest, these gentlemen could be under no concern at all, upon this occasion; because they knew they were under no necessity of addressing the Secret Committee in this clandestine manner, the Board of Calcutta being always open for every remonstrance of their servants; through which channel they are conveyed to their honorable employers at home: but these gentlemen were sensible, that if this regular and usual method had been taken, it could not come home without a vindication annexed, which would have rendered this performance invalid, and have frustrated all the expectations they had from it; imagining some stain, from the dirt they throw at the revolution of 1760, must stick when there were none at hand to wipe it off. The ill-judged zeal of their friends in giving it to the Public, is a step was never intended by the Compilers; they flattered themselves it might possibly operate in the dark, but if it ever saw the light, they knew it was open to detection and confutation in all its parts. Here let it be remarked, that Messrs. Vansittart, Caillaud, Holwell, Sumner, and McGuire, were not only a majority of the Committee but of the Council also. Pray was the Council consulted in the revolution of 1757? We say -- No. -- Nor had they any right to expect it; for they could not be capable judges. -- Nor were there any public objections made to this revolution at the board, before Messrs. Amyatt and Ellis took their seats, and Major Carnac was returned to the settlement.

2. You were informed, last year, of the surprising revolution in favor of Mir Mahommed Cossim Aly Chan, which would necessarily be represented in the most favorable light, by the gentlemen who promoted it. But whatever judgment you may have been led to entertain of the measure, from their account of it, we cannot but think you will judge as ill of it as we do, when you are truly informed of the circumstances with which it was attended, the manner in which it was executed, and the steps that have been since taken to support it: Of these we will give you as succinct an account as possible.


2. The gentlemen who promoted that revolution stood in no need of false coloring to recommend it. The whole chain of events, which made the measure (of divesting Mhir Jaffier of power to do greater ills) indispensably necessary, were minutely transmitted to the Court of Directors: they examined, they saw the necessity, they approved, and showed a needful and just resentment to those who rose in opposition to it.

3. At a time, when there was not the least appearance of a rupture or disgust between us and the Nabob Jaffier Aly Chan; on the contrary, a friendship and harmony subsisted; Mir Cossim Chan, his son-in-law, came down to Calcutta, on some pretense or other, to visit Mr. Vansittart; and having stayed a short time, he returned to Morshedabad. A few days after Mir Cossim's departure, Mr. Vansittart went up to Morshedabad, on the pretence of a visit to the Nabob. Colonel Caillaud, with a party of two hundred Europeans and some Seapoys, attended him; who, to remove the suspicion which such a force would have necessarily occasioned, it was pretended were going up to Patna, to reinforce the army there. When Mr. Vansittart arrived at Moradbaug, the Nabob paid him two visits, at the last of which Mr. Vansittart, without any previous notice of his intentions, gave him the three letters, mentioned in consultation of the 10th of November, 1760; of which copies have been transmitted you. The abruptness with which these letters were presented him, one close upon the other, and the unexpected proposals contained in them, terrified the Nabob, and he was entirely at a loss how to act, but desired time to consider on what was to be done. Mr. Vansittart, seeing his perplexity, strongly insisted on his immediately naming some person, from among his relations, to take charge of the Subaship; and very particularly recommended Cossim Aly Chan, who was sent for, and the Nabob was desired to stay till he came; but Cossim Aly Chan delayed so long, and the Nabob was in such anxiety of mind, and so desirous to be released from the visit, being greatly fatigued, that Mr. Vansittart was obliged, in order to save appearances, to suffer his departure to the palace, after having detained him much longer than his inclination. That night and the day following passed in concerting measures with Cossim Aly Chan, how to put in execution the plan before agreed on in Calcutta; a treaty having been signed for this purpose, in September, 1760, while Cossim Ay Chan was down here. In consequence of these deliberations, our troops clandestinely crossed the river, the next night, under Colonel Caillaud, and being joined by Cossim Aly Chan and his party, surrounded the Nabob's palace. A letter from Mr. Vansittart was sent in to the Nabob, demanding his immediate compliance with what had been proposed to him; to which the Nabob returned for answer, "That such usage was what he never expected from the English; that whilst a force was at his gates, he would enter into no terms; and that it was his desire our troops might be returned to Moradbaug." A message was then sent, informing the Nabob, that if he did not directly comply, they should be obliged to storm the palace. Astonished and terrified by this menace, he opened the gates, exclaiming, "That he was betrayed; that the English were guilty of perjury and breach of faith; that he perceived their designs against his government; that he had friends enough to hazard at least one battle in his defence; but although no oaths were sacred enough to bind the English, yet as he had sworn to be their faithful friend, he would never swerve from his engagement, and rather suffer death than draw his sword against them." So suspicious was he of being sold, that, "He desired to know what sum of money Cossim Aly Chan was to give for the Subaship, and he would give half as much more to be continued: he hoped, however, if they intended to dethrone him, they would not leave him to the mercy of his-son-in-law, from whom he feared the worst, but rather wished, they would carry him from the city, and give him a place of safety in Calcutta." This last request of the Nabob's, the effect of his fear and despair, was immediately laid hold of, and construed in the light of a voluntary resignation. Accordingly, our troops took possession of the palace, Mir Cossim Chan was raised to the Musnud; and the old Nabob was hurried into a boat, with a few of his women and necessaries, and sent away to Calcutta, in a manner wholly unworthy of the high rank he had so lately held; as is also the scanty subsistence allowed him here by his successor.


3. With regard to this detail of the revolution; we refer to Mr. Vansittart's Memorial, published in a late Address to the Proprietors; by a candid comparing one with the other, you will be capable of judging which has the greatest appearance of truth and probability.

4. Thus was Jaffier Aly Chan deposed, in breach of a treaty sounded upon the most solemn oaths, and in violation of the national faith. A Prince of whose friendship and attachment you have had many signal proofs; in whose cause our arms have, with much honor, been employed; and by a firm adherence to whom, the English had acquired, throughout the whole country, so universal a character of fidelity and constancy, that the most perfect confidence was placed by the natives in them.


4. The misrepresentations of this paragraph, see fully confuted in the said Address.

5. The advantages to be reaped by the Company, from the revolution, were, the grant of the Zamindarries of Burduan, Midnapoor, and Chittagong; the payment of the balance due from Nabob Jaffier Aly Chan; with a present of five lack of rupees from Cossim Aly Chan, towards defraying the expenses of the war against the French, on the coast of Coromandel. Of these, Mr. Vansittart, on his return to Calcutta, acquainted the Board; and, at the same time, in justification of his proceedings, laid before them a memorial; copies of which were transmitted to you, by the ships of the last season.


See the articles of the treaty in the Address.

6. This memorial is introduced with a list of crimes laid to Jaffier Aly Chan's charge; which, to those unacquainted with the Eastern governments, will appear deserving of the highest resentment from a civilized nation. Yet such is the state of politics in every Asiatic court, that, through the apprehensions of the Sovereign, and the intrigues and artifices of the great men about him, instances of cruelty and oppression are but too frequent; and even the most beloved among them are too much to be taxed with committing, or at least conniving at, acts of violence; but it should be considered, that many of these are done by persons in power, without their knowledge; and that, as there are no regular punishments for criminals of station, and who may be so powerful that it would be dangerous proceeding openly against them, recourse is often had to the dagger or poison to punish the guilty. This was the case in most of the instances alleged against Jaffier Aly Chan; none of which show greater proofs of cruelty, than that which Cossim Aly Chan discovered when, being in possession of the palace, he was desirous of making the first act of his power the assassination of Jaffier Aly Chan therein, and was very much displeased, when he found we intended to give him protection at Calcutta. Since his accession to the Subadary, we could produce to you numberless instances of his extortions and cruelties, but that it would run us into an exorbitant length; and he seems to have made the more immediate objects of his ill usage, those who have been the most avowed friends of the English. We shall only particularise Ramnarain, whom dispossessed of the Nabobship of Patna, in which it was always thought sound policy in us to support him, on account of his approved faith: and he now keeps him in irons, till he has been fleeced to the utmost, when there is no doubt he will be dispatched. Most, if not all those who espoused the English interest, have been laid under the heaviest contributions, and many have died under the force of torture to exact money from them; others have been either basely murdered, or (which is a common practice among Gentoos) unable to survive the loss of honor, have made away with themselves.


6. Suppose this to be the case in most Asiatic states, which we believe may be true; is it not equally true that most of Mhir Jaffier's cruelties were carried into execution from the confidence he had in our protection? And shall we not blush for this protection being granted to him so long? Surely if we do not, we ought; for in the truest sense, his cruelties were our own. As to Cossim Aly Khan's being desirous of assassinating Mhir Jaffier, it is a charge we much doubt the truth of, as we never before heard the fact mentioned. But that Mhir Jaffier made two attempts to murder Mhir Cossim, was a truth well known, and never even doubted; therefore supposing this charge to be really true, we will not say revenge and resentment will justify the desire he is said to express; but surely it will bear some extenuation, when the provocation is considered. Touching Rajah Ram Narain, the address before referred to will show, that Mhir Jaffier had resolved to remove that officer from the government of Patna, (as a person not trustworthy, nor equal to so great a charge) long before Mhir Cossim had any power or influence at the Durbar, it is very well known that Ram Narain was in treaty to deliver the city of Patna to the Shaw Zadda, when Col. Clive's extraordinary forced marches prevented him, and saved the city and the province. With respect to Cossim Aly Khan's putting him in irons, it is very well known that for some years he had rendered no account of the revenues of the provinces of Bahar, on which head Mhir Jaffier often complained to Mr. Holwell, who believes Col. Clive received complaints of the same kind from him, before he left India. These gentlemen know nothing is more common than to put an officer of the revenues in irons, until he delivers in his accounts; nothing further being meant by it than that he should not escape with his embezzlements. That he was not trustworthy, nor equal to that post, will appear from this very striking circumstance: That when Col. Clive was on his departure, he strongly recommended Mhir Cossim to Mr. Holwell's protection, and at the same time mentioning his distrust of Ram Narain, told Mr. Holwell that Mhir Cosstm was the man whom he ought to put into the government of Patna. The rest of the accusations against Mhir Cossim in this paragraph are vague and general, and without one single instance of proof; consequently unworthy notice.

7. It is insinuated in the memorial, that the Nabob's avarice and cruelty had made him the detestation of all good men, and that he was in the hands of bad ministers, under whose mal-administration the country was greatly oppressed: as an instance whereof, the scarcity of grain in the city is produced. To these ministers are ascribed the great difficulties the Nabob labored under, for want of money to answer the expenses of the government, and to pay the army, rendered mutinous for want of their arrears; besides which intestine danger, the provinces were threatened with an invasion by the Shahzadah with a powerful army, and several of the Rajahs and Zamindars, were on the point of revolting, to encounter all which there was nothing but a disaffected army. Mr. Vansittart appeals to every bystander for the truth of these facts, and of the imminent peril to which the country was exposed; he declares his intentions were only to remove the bad ministers, for which purpose he carried up with him the party of Europeans and Seapoys. He proceeds to set forth the manner in which the old Nabob was removed from the government, and Cossim Aly Chan raised. He says, People in general were pleased with the revolution and makes a merit of its being effected without the least disturbance in the city, or a drop of blood spilt. He concludes with representing the anxiety the Nabob expressed to get from the city, through fear of Cossim Aly Chan; and observes, that he appeared pretty easy and reconciled to the loss of his power, which he owned to be rather a burden than a pleasure, and too much for his abilities to manage since the death of his son: and that the enjoyment of the rest of his days in security, under the English protection, seemed to be the chief object of his wishes.


7. See Mr. Vansittart's Memorial, and the proofs in various parts of the address in support of it.

8. It is very natural for any person who takes an uncommon step, to endeavor to vindicate himself by the most specious arguments, and the most plausible reasoning he can devise; and nothing less could be expected from Mr. Vansittart, after having brought about so unprecedented a revolution. He has told his story with all the aggravations the nature of it would admit: notwithstanding which, we do not imagine the reasons he has given in support of so violent a measure will prove satisfactory to the world. He takes great pains to blacken Mhir Jaffier's character, in order to prejudice men's minds against him; and lays great stress upon the scarcity of grain in the city; but we apprehend Mr. Vansittart does not judge so harshly from that circumstance, after what he himself experienced last year; for notwithstanding all the care, we are not to doubt, he has taken, grain was never known so scarce in Calcutta before, insomuch that numbers daily perished.


8. Not worthy any particular notice.

9. Want of money was the great difficulty the Nabob labored under, but this did not proceed from any fault of his, but from the distracted state in which the country had been ever since Colonel Clive's departure; so that a very small part of the revenues came into his treasury. The Burdwan and Nuddea countries were assigned over to the Company for the payment of the Nabob's debt. [1] Midnapoor, the grontier to the southwest, was over-run by the Marattas; [2] Beerboon, and other Zamindaries, with the province of Purea, under Kuddum Hossein Chan, were affected towards the Shahzadah, who had under contribution the whole province of Bahar, except the city of Patna and a small district round it. Chittagong, the eastern barrier, did little more than defend itself against the incursions of the Muggs, inhabitants of Aracan, who used every year to come into Bengal for plunder. There remained only the Dacca province, the districts round Morshedabad, the Radshy and Dinagepoor countries, to supply the immense expense of the war. And here lay the Nabob's distress, that with one fourth part, if so much, of the accustomed revenues, he was obliged to maintain an army greater than any Nabob did before him; and the English army was not the least considerable part of the burthen; for trusting most to them, he paid them first; [3] which preference was the cause of discontent to the country troops. And though the force we had in the field, against an enemy whom Colonel Clive had, but a very short time before, drove out of the country, far exceeded those the Colonel had with him, yet no material advantage was gained over them, but the country was over-run and ravaged by them, and by frequent marches and counter-marches, our own armies became as destructive as those of the invaders. [4] No wonder then at the perilous condition to which Mhir Jaffier was reduced; to extricate him from which, it behoved us to exert our utmost abilities; instead whereof, he was treated with the greatest indignity by us, and basely turned out of his government.


9. 1. And were-obstructed in the receipts of them by every artifice and finesse in Mhir Jaffier's power.

2. To what was this owing, but Jaffier Khan's irresolution and pusillanimity? -- See the Address.

3. How he paid them, see the Address. --

4. The sole cause very well known to these Gentlemen, to wit, defection, cowardice and treachery in Mhir Jaffier and his son, set forth in the Address in three remarkable instances, in any of which, a period might have been put to the troubles, as well as distresses of himself, his allies and his country.

10. To remove bad Counsellors from a Prince is certainly meritorious; but it does not seem to us that any thing was ever designed against the Nabob's ministers; on the contrary, that the sole intent was to displace the Nabob himself, is pretty evident, by the treaty before-mentioned, made in Calcutta. [1] Had there been the least attempt to convince him in a friendly manner of any errors in his administration, or of the necessity of dismissing from his presence those who ill-advised him, it is not to be doubted that he would have hearkened to reason. That he was not obstinate against good advice, may be concluded from the extraordinary influence which Colonel Clive had over him; in proof whereof we need only call to mind how violently he was incensed against Rajah Ram Narrain, and Roy Dulub; yet the Colonel, by gentle methods, without having recourse to any other force than that of persuasion, perfectly reconciled him to the former, and obtained his permission for the latter to reside at Calcutta, and bring thither with him his family and effects.


10. 1. See the treaty in the Address, by which it will be pretty evident it never was intended to displace him, but to divest him only of power to bring on the entire ruin of the country -- and us his allies. --

11. The people in general, very far from being pleased with the revolution, (as alleged in the Memorial) were extremely dissatisfied thereat. Had Cossim Aly Chan been before in esteem among them, or possessed any share of influence or power, they might perhaps have overlooked the circumstance of his rise, and a series of popular actions might in time have reconciled them to the usurpation. But he was despised and disliked before he came to the Musnud, and his behavior since has been so oppressive and tyrannical, that it could not fail confirming the public hatred of him.


11. This man who is said to be in no esteem, but despised and hated, had a Nabobship in the province, was deemed worthy of the Subah's daughter, and by Colonel Clive of the government of Patna; and surely we may, without any offence to these Gentlemen, say that Colonel Clive was a superior judge in this matter. On the whole, we may justly say, the insinuations thrown out in this paragraph are without foundation, and reflect more dishonor on the authors themselves, than on Mhir Cossim.

12. The little disturbance at Morshedabad upon the occasion, proceeded from the apprehensions all degrees of people were under, from so large a force being brought into the city in the dead of night; and Mhir Jaffier, no ways suspicious of the faith of the English, had taken no precautions for his own security. Such is the superiority of our arms, and so great the dread of our forces in this country, that had we gone openly to work, we should have met with little or no difficulty; which renders our having proceeded by stealth and treachery the more inexcusable: and we are truly sorry to have occasion to observe, that the means by which this measure was brought about, have thrown an indelible stain upon our national character, and injured us as much in the opinion of the natives, as it has of all the European colonies in this part of the world.


12. Let Mr. Vansittart's Memorial reply to this.

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13. It is asserted in the Memorial, that Mhir Jaffier was easy under the loss of his power, which he is said to have owned to have been rather a burden to him: but it is evident, on the contrary, from his declarations since, and his letters to the Company and Colonel Clive, that he was very unwilling to part with his government; and that he greatly regrets the deprivation of it. He was necessitated, indeed, to submit; and in hopes of being redressed some time or other by the Company, judging that such a step could never be approved at home, he very wisely chose, rather than trust himself with his son-in-law, to wait patiently for that redress in safety at Calcutta. So far he might appear resigned to his fate; yet this can never be construed as an abdication of his government, though it has been industriously endeavored to make the world look upon it in that light.


13. What letters Mhir Jaffier might subsequently be influenced to write, we know not -- Mr. Holwell, the day after Mhir Jaffier arrived at Calcutta, paid him a visit, and had a private conference of two hours with him, -- in the course of which "he often lamented pathetically the loss of his son; that since he received that stroke, he found himself incapable of government, or the things of this world; that the exemplary manner in which God had deprived him of a son and successor, had convinced him their sins were great, and required expiation; that he was resolved to expiate them at the Tomb of the Prophet, and begged Mr. Holwell would intercede with Mr. Vansittart for a passage to Judda. -- At times, he said his enemies had injured him in the opinion of the English, from whom he thought he had met with hard treatment." In short, the man who was so lately and justly the object of detestation, was now as real an object of commiseration. -- Mr. Holwell applied to Mr. Vansittart for his passage to Judda, and in the strongest terms enforced the propriety of complying with his request; foreseeing that if he remained in Bengal, he would ever be an object for a disaffected party to work with. Mr. Vansittart gave his assent; -- but some time after, on a representation from the Judda Supra-cargoes, that complaints from him to the Bashaw might involve their ship in troubles, the assent was unhappily withdrawn.

14. We have now, Honorable Sirs, laid before you a true account of the revolution. The projectors perhaps thought the advantages it was to bring the Company, would be a sufficient atonement for the measure, and ensure them the approbation of their masters. It is true the Company have a considerable addition of territory, and do now receive a large yearly revenue; but as great, if not greater advantages might have been procured by more honorable means: and the present tranquil state of the country, which secures to the Company, as well as the Nabob, the full enjoyment of their revenues, is not the effect of Mhir Cossim Chan's Nabobship, but of an event which would equally have happened, had Jaffier Aly Chan been continued on the Musnud, as can be easily made to appear.


14. There appears a mystery at the close of this paragraph totally unintelligible: possibly we may have it explained by and by .-- We will not attempt it here.

15. Soon after Cossim Aly Chan was fixed in the Nabobship, the Company were nominally invested with the Zamyndaries of Burdwan, Midnapoor and Chittagong: and only nominally; for our first demands upon the two former of these, for the payment of the revenues, were refused.


15. This paragraph seems to be a flat contradiction of part of the 14th -- for if the Company "now receive a large yearly revenue," it cannot be properly called a nominal investiture; besides, we know the Company, at the last dispatch of their ships from Bengal, had received for two years revenues from Burdomaan only, 70 lack, or eight hundred seventy-five thousand pounds.

16. So bad an impression of us did the revolution create in the minds of the country people, that the Burdwan Rajah, who, in Jaffier Aly Chan's time, had often expressed his earnest desire that the Company might continue to collect the revenues of his district, as they had all along done, on account of the Tunckaws, and that they would procure the Zamyndarie for themselves from the Nabob; yet after the breach of our faith to the old Nabob, concluding no reliance was to be placed in our engagements, he immediately flew off from his former declarations, and instead of acquiescing under our government, he began to act in open rebellion; he stopped our trade, raised a large force, invited the Marattas into his country, withheld the payment of his revenues, and acting in conjunction with the Beerboon Rajah, he espoused the cause of the Shah Zaddah, with whom he entered into correspondence.


16. The Burdwan Rajah was yearly fleeced by Mhir Jaffier, therefore no wonder he wished to be rather under the jurisdiction of the English. -- His rebellion was of short continuance, being presently reduced, as well as the Beerboon Rajah, by our troops under the command of Major Yorke; -- but these two Rajahs defection proceeded from a cause very remote from what it is here ascribed to; and which these Gentlemen seem wholly strangers to, as we shall make appear presently.

17. Several other Zamyndars who had remained quiet whilst Jaffier Aly Chan was Nabob, now finding the government overset, thought themselves at liberty to withdraw their allegiance, and would not acknowledge Mhir Cossim, but joined the Shah Zaddah; whose party, by these frequent defections, was strengthened with supplies both of troops and money, and whose followers were greatly encouraged by his having been able to maintain his ground, and continue in our dominions the whole preceding campaign, in defiance of the English army.


17. Here it is but just to apologize for these Gentlemen's' ignorance in affairs, for Messrs. Coote, Ellis and Carnack were not in Bengal, during the progress of those events which occasioned the unavoidable necessity of divesting Mhir Jaffier of further power; -- and coming to the board with an unhappy disposition to oppose every thing that had been done, because they had no hand in the doing them, they had no methods to pick up materials but from the Bazars and public reporters of detraction. As for Messrs. Batson and Verelst, they were not of the Committee, and consequently could know nothing of the political system, so that amongst the six Gentlemen who sign this letter, one only of them could possibly know any thing of the matter; and he but imperfectly, by being so far absent from the center of our councils. --

18. The Nabob's troops were rendered quite mutinous by the news of the revolution. They declared they knew nothing of Cossim Aly Chan, and that now they had lost their old master, they were without hopes of being paid any part of the immense arrears due to them; and nothing less than the extraordinary assiduity and influence of Mr. Amyatt, who was then chief at Patna, could have prevented them from proceeding to extremities.


18. No wonder the troops grew mutinous on the news, -- though not out of affection for their old master, as is here unjustly insinuated; for it is very well known his troops would have taken his head long before this, if he had not been protected by ours. The truth is, Mhir Jaffier was in large arrears to them, which they imagined they should lose by the revolution; but as they were soon satisfied in this point, all disturbance subsided. --

19. In this situation were things when Colonel Caillaud left Patna, and Major Carnac received the command of the army from him. The Major saw it was impossible for the country to support itself against such a combination of difficulties, and that if a decisive blow was not soon struck, the Shah could not fail to have immediate possession of all. He therefore determined to bring the Prince to an action as speedily as possible; and after securing Patna by a garrison, to prevent its being plundered by that rabble of troops whose duty it was to defend it, he pushed on with the English army as fast as he could towards the Prince. He came up with him three days march from the city, the consequence of which brought on an action wherein he gained a complete victory, [This battle was the most remarkable of any which has lately been fought in India, Plassy not excepted; and may even be compared to that of Alexander against Porus.] and reduced the Shah in a few days after to the necessity of putting himself under the protection of the English. The Major's success, as it put an end to the hopes of all the rebellious Rajahs and Zamyndars, so it at once quelled all commotions, and established the so long wished for tranquility in the country; and the different provinces were now brought into order, and rendered in a condition to pay their respective revenues; the Nabob's treasury was enriched, and he was enabled to discharge the arrears of his army, and to advance the money he had engaged to pay the Company.


This paragraph seems big with importance: -- We have seen, in many parts of this letter, unjust insinuations thrown out to the prejudice of the then commander in chief of your troops, as if all had not been done which ought, and might have been done with the force he had under his command. We have already, in the Address so often referred to, pointed out the miscarriages of the campaign he commanded, as in truth owing to the cowardice and treachery of the two Nabobs, when, at three critical junctures, a decisive stroke might have been given; but you see it was necessary to depreciate and lessen one character, as introductory to the exaltation of another. Let us see how it will answer the purpose: Major Carnack received the command of the troops from Colonel Caillaud, and with great penetration, "saw it was impossible for the country to support itself, unless a decisive stroke was soon struck. He pushed on the English army towards the Prince, came up with him, brought him to an action, and -- obtained a complete victory." -- We have marched ourselves out of breath, and will pause a little to let you enjoy the victory." -- Though your enjoyment will be short; for know, that when the Shah retreated from Burdomaan by the way of Beerboon and the hills, he passed some days with the Rajah of the former, and there concerted the operations of the next campaign, as follows: The Prince was to march to Bahar, and settle himself if possible there, to draw the greatest part of the English forces that way; early in the next season the Morattors were to enter the province of Bengal, and the Rajah of Burdwan and Beerboon were to rise at the same time, and join the Morattors; the Prince was to take the field something earlier, to amuse the English, to avoid coming to any pitched action with them, and watch his opportunity of slipping by them, as he did the year before, and by forced marches (having only horse) join his friends in the Burdomaan; the rendezvous being fixed at Burdwan the capital: -- but unfortunately for the unhappy Prince, the two Rajahs premature motions frustrated this well laid plan; for intelligence arriving at the city of this defection, the Subah Mhir Cossim, in conjunction with Major Yorke and the troops under his command, immediately took the field, marched to Boodgaam the frontier of Beerboon, drove a body of the Rajah's troops from thence, and took the place. Here the Subah stayed, and detached Major Yorke to reduce Beerboon, which was soon accomplished, and Nagur the capital taken; -- the Burdomaan country reduced also to obedience, and the Morattors drove to the southward. -- Whilst these strokes were given, almost as soon as thought of, the Prince was amusing our army in Bahar; and just as he was meditating his sudden march to the southward, a spy who had made incredible speed (from Major Yorke's camp at Nagur,) reached the Prince, and gave him a particular detail of the disasters attending his friends in that quarter; he immediately retreated from the neighborhood of our troops, and advanced towards the Sone. Before his retreat he stood a few minutes cannonading, and this was the only semblance of an action, that is to "vie with the most brilliant of antiquity, and compared with that of Alexander against Porus." -- So far was this from a battle, that it was not even a skirmish; the armies were not within musket shot of each other, nor a musket fired on either side, nor a single man killed or wounded, but about eight or nine poor lascars killed by the blowing up of a tumbril. The Prince, the night after his retreat, called a council of war of his ministers and chief officers; and debating on the deplorable state of his affairs, came to a resolution to treat with the English, which he accordingly did; induced to it chiefly, by the information he had received of Mhir Jaffier's being deposed, to whom he had so fixed a hatred, that he swore by his Prophet, he would never quit the pursuit of him whilst he had strength to draw a sword; and in a Phirmaund he wrote upon the young Nabob's death by lightning -- he had this remarkable expression, -- " that the wickedness of the father and son was so great, God would not trust their punishment to any hand but his own." Thus you have seen, that the defection of the two Rajahs, &c. and the Prince throwing himself under our protection, were due to other causes than of this boasted victory without a battle; causes which these Gentlemen did not or would not know, as they did not make for their purpose. It is also pompously set forth -- "That the Major determined to bring the Prince to an action as soon as possible." Is there is any merit in this determination, it was due to the board of Calcutta, who had sent peremptory orders to fight him at all events.

20. Whatever merit there is then in the present tranquility, is to be ascribed to our success against the Prince, which, by putting an end to the war in the country, reduced it to a state of perfect obedience. And as all the old Nabob's difficulties proceeded from his dominions being the seat of war, and the default of his revenues on that account, there is not the least doubt, had our arms met with the same success during his government, but that he would have extricated himself with equal ease.


20. That there is no truth in the whole of this paragraph, is proved in the last remark.

21. After what has been set forth, we believe few will imagine that Mhir Jaffier was deposed by reason either of a want of ability to rule, or of his bad principles. We would willingly indeed suppose, that it proceeded rather from the want of a true knowledge of the country policy, and from an error of judgment, than from lucrative views, had not Mr. Vansittart, and others of the projectors, made no secret that there was a present promised them by Cossim Aly Chan of twenty lack: 'tis true, they make a merit that this was not to be delivered till the Company's debt was paid, and his army satisfied. We have to observe on this occasion, that several of us have had offers from the Nabob of very considerable sums to join in his measures, which we have constantly made public, as well as refused; and if we, who have always opposed those measures, have been thus tried with pecuniary temptations, what may be concluded of those Gentlemen who have supported the Nabob on every occasion?


21. The malicious insinuations of this paragraph, are unworthy Gentleman. -- We allow this offer (not promise) was made, and unanimously rejected by Mr. Vansittart, and the Committee. -- Mr. Holwell was charged with the delivery of this refusal, in these terms -- "That we were laboring for the peace and safety of the country only; and could not, in honor, receive the offer; but that when the-country was settled, the Company's debt paid off, and the arrears paid to his troops, if he then thought there was aught due from him, he was at liberty to gratify his friends in what manner he pleased." -- This is a fact, which we were not ashamed should have a place on the Committee proceedings. -- As to the offers made, and refusal of these Gentlemen, we have their ipse dixit only; and we may choose whether we will believe it.

22. If the Nabob has purchased the power he is invested with, it is to be expected he will of course make the most of it, by extorting money from his subjects, and oppressing every province as much as he can; and as the fate of Jaffier Aly Chan must have convinced him how little we regard the most sacred engagements, he will of necessity endeavor to establish himself on a foundation less precarious than the friendship of the English. That he already begins to do so, is evident from his still increasing the number of his troops (notwithstanding the present tranquility) and to render them the more formidable, he is arming and disciplining as many Seapoys as he can procure, in the European manner: and to secure himself as much as possible from us, esteeming his capital Morshedabad (the scene of his predecessor's fall) too near our settlements, he is about erecting a large fort at Rajahmaul, which he proposes to make his place of residence, where he hopes to be out of our reach.


22. This paragraph first begs the question, and proceeds to draw conclusions not warranted by it. -- Is it to be wondered at, that he should think of securing himself, when he saw a formed opposition in our Committee and Council, from the beginning of his government, which hourly showed a disposition to affront and insult him, contrary to the repeated remonstrances of Mr. Vansittart, for observing more temperate and pacific measures? -- Is it not a known truth, that at the tables of the leaders in this opposition, the very boys in your service were taught to huzza, "Jaffier Aly Khan forever;" and did not Amyatt publicly declare, "that the moment the breath was out of Mr. Vansittart's body (who then lay dangerously ill) he would proclaim Mhir Jaffier?" -- Could these things be notorious, -- and Mhir Cossim not be alarmed for his safety?

23. When any Member of the Board suggests, that the Nabob's behavior argues a suspicion of us, for that if he really confided in, and sincerely regarded us, he would not put himself to the unnecessary expense of keeping so large an army in pay, nor treat so ill those who are avowedly our friends; it is replied, "That the Nabob is master of his country; and being independent of us, is at liberty to rule and act as he pleases." But surely Cossim Aly Chan cannot be more so than his predecessor was: and if it be true that the Nabob of Bengal is independent of the English, and master of his own actions, how can the Gentlemen justify their proceedings against Mhir Jaffier, whom they called to so severe an account for the administration of his own government, as to depose him, though he had not been guilty of any offence to our nation, nor ever deviated from his treaty?


23. Not worthy notice. See it confuted in a hundred places of the said Address.

24. Instead of checking the overgrowing power of the present Nabob, it is daily promoted; and he has even the absolute command of our army at Patna, the Chief there having directions to let him have what number of out troops he pleases to demand, without being allowed to judge of the nature of the service for which they are demanded. This you will observe, Honorable Sirs, in the instructions given to Mr. Ellis, dated the 22nd September last, and in the consultation of the same day, where some of our opinions on that procedure are entered. We cannot help expressing how much we fear that an ill use will be made by him of this power over our forces, and that they will sooner or later be employed for such purposes as will render us more odious to the whole country, bring greater discredit upon our arms, and reflect farther dishonor upon our nation.


24. If the assertions are true that are set forth in this paragraph, we will not attempt to justify what the Gentlemen here complain of; but if Mr. Vansittart had seen this accusation, we must suppose he had it in his power to give sufficient reasons for the measure.

25. Notwithstanding this zealous attachment to Cossim Aly Chan, there can be no reason to hope he will act the part of a faithful ally towards us. What dependence can be had on a person who so readily entered into the scheme of deposing not only his lawful master, but his patron, under whose immediate care he was brought up? who showed so much disloyalty to his natural Sovereign, [Formerly the Shaw Zadda who was defeated by Major Carnac [[The Shaw Zadda never was defeated by Major Carnac, nor was there any famous battle between them, or any battle at all, as related above.]], in that famous battle near Patna, as related above, and who, on the death of his father, became King of Indostan, and consequently Sovereign of Bengal, which is one of the Provinces of his empire.] the King of Indostan, as to evade even acknowledging him, till he was in a manner obliged to it by our repeated desires? and who betrays a continual distrust of those who have appeared any way attached to us?


25. The insinuation, inference and charge against Mhir Cossiin, in this paragraph, are equally extraordinary. Surely they here forget the man whose cause they have all along been defending, or they would never have laid themselves open in so palpable a blot. Pray, gentlemen, did not Mhir Jaffier betray his master in the treaty of 1757, and at the battle of Plassey; not only his lawful master, but the grandson of his patron, who had raised him from obscurity to the first posts in the Subaship? Did he not also draw his sword against his sovereign, and infamously project the assassinating him?

26. The Nabob's undutiful behavior to the King, proceeded in great measure from his jealousy of the regard we professed for him, and his fears that we should reduce his authority, by subjecting the Subaship to its primitive dependency on the Mogul, and obliging him to pay the royal revenues. He therefore set every engine to work to create a rupture between us; he endeavored to make the King uneasy, and to instill notions into him of his being in danger from us, in order to get him out of the country. He excited a mutiny in the King's camp, which, had it not been for the timely assistance sent by Major Carnac, might have proved fatal to his Majesty. He repeatedly urged Mr. Vansittart to dismiss him; and forged letters to himself and the President, as from the King, complaining of being forcibly detained by the Major, and expressing his anxiety by not being allowed to leave the country. That these letters were forged, his Majesty hath solemnly declared, by an attestation under his own hand; and testified his abhorrence of so infamous a proceeding. The Nabob, however, at last, so far prevailed, by corruption and intriguing with some of the courtiers, as to bring about what he had so much at heart, the King's being sent away without receiving any assistance from us, or being paid any part of the revenues of this Subaship. This rebellious behavior of the Nabob justly incensed the King, who declared that he would not suffer him to continue in his Subaship, whenever he had power sufficient to prevent it.


26. That the Nabob should be anxious to get the King out of the provinces as soon as possible, we can account for, and justly vindicate, from causes very obvious. But how this labored paragraph will agree with the violent behavior of Major Carnac, upon his imagining there was too great and suspicious an intimacy between the King and the Nabob, you shall judge from the following recital. When the King was on his visit of leave at the Suba's tent, where a grand entertainment was made for him, some little time before his departure, he withdrew with the Suba into the inner tent, where they held a private conference, and, as afterwards appeared, wrote interchangeably in each other's Koran; which, by the bye, is the strongest and most solemn engagement of amity and friendship in the world amongst Musselmen. The Major, on their coming out, expressed in most loud and vehement terms his dissatisfaction at this private conference, and ordered the interpreter to tell the King his high displeasure; insomuch that the Suba thought necessary to check his passion, and desired him to recollect he was speaking to the King: To which he replied, that when he was offended, Kings and Nabobs Were to Him the Same.

27. His Majesty, before his departure, gave the most unquestionable proof of his hatred to Cossim Aly Chan, and of his esteem for the English, by the voluntary offer he made them of the Dewanny of Bengal. This post is the collection of the revenues of all the provinces subject to the Nabob, which are to be accounted for with the court of Delhy. It differs from the Subadaree; the latter being the command of the troops, and the charge of the jurisdiction in the provinces, the expenses whereof are paid out of the revenues by the Dewan. It was formerly a separate office, but the Nabobs of Bengal, taking advantage of the late Commotions in the empire, have assumed it to themselves. From the nature of the office, it is evident that the King, distrusting the Nabob, intended that we should be a check upon him, and be answerable for the revenues, no account of which he could get from Cossim Aly Chan, who detained them for his own use. This appointment would have brought the Company about fifteen lacks yearly, exclusive of the lands of Burdwan, Midnapoor, and Chittagong, which his Majesty also offered to confirm to them; and to establish their interest and influence, not only in these provinces, but as far as the city of Delhy itself, to which place our Commerce might then, with the utmost safety, have been extended.


27. Touching the first part of this paragraph, we refer to our last remark. With regard to the offer of the Dewanee, the objections against receiving it were strong and unanswerable, unless we could have been invested with the Subadaary likewise.

28. It is hard to conceive why so honorable and advantageous an offer should be rejected: it is alleged it would be the source of continual disputes between us and the Nabob, and occasion too great a diminution of his power; but surely this consideration, admitting it to be true, ought not to stand in competition with the honor and interests of the Company, which would be greatly promoted by such an appointment; what renders this refusal the more extraordinary is, that it is well known application was made to the King, soon after Mr. Vansittart's arrival, in Jaffier Aly Chan's time, for the sunads or grants of the province of Bengal, which were actually drawn out to be sent to us; but the revolution, in favor of Cossim Aly Chan, taking place in the interim, an entire stop was put to the negotiation.


28. The first part of this paragraph is spoken to above. Concerning the last part, we can only say, no grant of that kind was solicited for, whilst Mr. Holwell had a seat at the Board of Calcutta, though it certainly would have been pushed for, and doubtless obtained, if his remonstrances on that head had been hearkened to.

29. The Nabob was so inveterate against all those natives who were known to be in our interest, that he used his utmost endeavors to prevail on Colonel Coote and Major Carnac, to consent to his proceeding to the most unjustifiable severities against them, particularly against Rajah Ramnarain, having offered the Colonel five lack of rupees, provided he would concur in the destruction of that unhappy man, who has since been given up to him by the Board. The Colonel's refusal of this money, we are well convinced, was the motive of his (the Nabob's) unjust suspicion and resentment against him, which appears not only by the Colonel's letters on the face of the proceedings of the Board, but also by Cossim Aly Chan's own declaration to him, that he could not be his friend unless he received his present.


29. Not one single or particular instance of these inveteracies against the natives in our interest, but that of Ram Narain, already exploded.

30. The same spirit of resentment, which actuated the Nabob against Colonel Coote, was equally strong against Major Carnac, whom he also endeavored to buy over to serve his ends, but in vain. The Nabob saw, with a jealous eye, the many distinguishing marks of favor the King conferred on him, and would fain have made a breach between them, which not being able to effect, he wrote several letters of complaint against him to the President, who from prejudice was too much inclined to believe them, and sought all opportunities of blaming his conduct at the Board, and of putting the worst construction upon all his endeavors for the public service, of which many instances could be produced.


30. These large offers and conscientious refusals speak an exalted integrity: they are possibly true too, at least for ought we know: but we think it would have been better if so much had not been said about it; for though we may have implicit faith in these assertions, the wicked world may not.

31. A flagrant injustice was done Major Carnac in calling him away from Patna, when the detachment still left there, was large enough to render the command adequate to his rank, and where he might have been of service: whereas his presence was unnecessary at Calcutta, as the Colonel was going down.

32. A very signal insult offered by Cossim Aly Chan to the English nation, was the intercepting, by his order, a letter which Major Carnac, when commanding the army, had wrote to the King, which the Nabob opened and sent to the President. This letter, with others from the Nabob, was minuted in consultation of the 5th of August, and it was insinuated to contain proof of a plot, concerted between the Colonel, Major, Ramnarain and Shitabray, to create a fresh revolution. Much pains were taken to find out mysterious meanings in the letter, and hints were thrown out to prepossess the Board, that such a combination was actually on foot; however, after the closest scrutiny into the letter, and the strictest examination of Shitabray, who was called down from Patna for that purpose, the Board gave it unanimously as their opinion, that there were not the least grounds to suppose any such combination, the ridicule whereof was so conspicuous, that we do not imagine even those who so seriously promoted the enquiry could ever have believed it.

33. The material part of this letter related to an application, which the Major (by Col. Coote's directions) made to the King, to be put in possession of some fort in Shuja Dowlah's country upon the Ganges; which, had our troops attended his Majesty, as we must have marched through Shuja Dowla's territories, would have been absolutely necessary for a place of arms, and to keep up our communication. The stopping such a letter, or indeed any one from a person in so public a character as the Major then was, might be of the most fatal consequence, was also a public affront, and one that never was before offered by any Nabob; yet no satisfaction has ever been obtained from him, although wrote to publicly on that head.


31, 32, and 33. To these paragraphs Mr. Vansittart must answer, when he has it in his power. Until then, we hope the world will suspend their judgment: but if they cannot stay so long, they may form a verdict on the veracity of these, and various other parts of this performance, we believe pretty justly, from [be manner in which it has been transmitted hither.

34. You will now, Honorable Sirs, be able to compare the present with the preceding government. So momentous a step as subverting the former one, we conceive, ought not to have been undertaken till after the most mature deliberation, and from a thorough knowledge of the country, its connections and interests. But this was far from being the case. Mr. Vansittart had only been three months in Bengal, and in so short a space of time can hardly be supposed to have acquired so perfect a knowledge of matters as to be able to determine, that it was absolutely necessary to annul a treaty which had been ratified, in the most solemn manner, by Admiral Watson, and Colonel Clive, together with a regularly-authorized select Committee, guaranteed by the credit of the Company, and the honor of the nation.


34. The credit of the Company, and honor of the nation, would have been sunk, the one to ruin, and the other to prostitution, if protection had been longer granted to that monster of iniquity, Mhir Jaffier. See the Address.

35. The gentlemen, who were the promoters of this revolution, have coincided remarkably in each others opinion during the last year's consultations: in return, the President has not failed to show them partiality, of which we will give you a remarkable instance: notwithstanding, in your letter to this presidency, dated 21 Jan. 1761, you were pleased, in the most positive terms, to order the dismissal of Messieurs Sumner, Playdell and Mac Guire; yet, on the 10th of August, when, in consequence of Mr. Mac Guire's dismissal, Mr. Ellis was appointed chief at Patna, Mr. Vansittart proposed in Council, that Mr. Mac Guire should remain in the chief-ship till Mr. Ellis's arrival, which could not be effected in less than two months. The question was absolutely put to the Board, but carried in the negative; the other gentlemen not choosing to be guilty of so glaring a deviation from their masters orders: and at Mr. Vansittart's desire, this proposal of his own was not entered on the face of that consultation. Here it will be necessary also to observe, that Mr. Holwell, after the Honorable Company had shown him so plain a mark of their displeasure, as to remove him from the Chair to seventh in council, at first wavered whether to continue in the service or not, till (as he declared) he had a private conference with Mr. Vansittart; after which he remained in both council and select Committee till the very day on which Mr. Vansittart took leave of the Board, to proceed to Morshedabad, in order to execute the plan which had been formed; and then Mr. Holwell resigned.


35. Why it was necessary to bring Mr. Holwell in upon this occasion may not be quite clear: We will therefore elucidate this passage -- It was not enough that Mr. Holwell was included in the many dirty insinuations thrown out in different parts of this elaborate work, against the projectors of this revolution, &c. but it was thought necessary that be should be particularly pointed at, with some invidious mark of their malice; though they had not art enough among them to make it at all poignant. -- Mr. Holwell thanks them for affording him this first favorable occasion of acknowledging all they say (of him) in this paragraph is most strictly true.

Mr. Holwell confesses, that, stimulated by resentment at the ingratitude of his employers, he resolved to quit the service immediately, on Mr. Vansittart's arrival -- but pressed by him and the Committee to alter his resolves for some time at least -- he wavered -- and soon after seeing an appearance of some salutary turn to the Company's affairs, he determined to remain, and give his helping hand to it. --This was accomplished -- and then Mr. Holwell resigned.

36. The Armenian ministers of the revolution, Cojah Petruce and Kojah Gregory, are in the highest degree of favor with the Nabob and his adherents; the former resides in Calcutta, retained by Cossim Aly Chan, a known spy upon every transaction of the English, of which he never fails to give his master the most regular intelligence, as was too apparent to both Colonel Coote and Major Carnac, when they were at Patna. The latter of these Armenians has posts of the greatest trust near the Nabob's person; and through the means of these men, the Armenians in general are setting up an independent footing in the country, are carrying on a trade greatly detrimental to our investments in all parts, and commit daily acts of violence, which reflect no small odium on the English, who are supposed to encourage their proceedings.


36. This paragraph requires no answer from us.

37. It is this system of administration which we have constantly opposed, as thinking your affairs could not possibly prosper under it. And you will now be able to account for many differences at the Board, which will appear through the course of our consultations, and which will doubtless surprise you till the real cause is known. As we have hitherto denied our assents to measures, because we deemed them contrary to your interests, though the adopting them would have turned out greatly to our private emoluments; so you may rest assured it shall ever continue an invariable maxim with us, to make your honor and advantage the sole object of our attention.


37. Nor this.

38. You have been acquainted, Honorable Sirs, that the King has applied for your assistance, to settle him on the throne, and to recover such parts of his territories as are still in the hands of rebels. It is our opinion, that we have troops enough to form an army for the enterprise; and as we have no European enemy to fear, the forces requisite for this service can without danger be spared. The Nabob's large army, which is now a burden upon the provinces, and only kept up to screen him from the King's power, and through his jealousy of us, would afford a considerable addition, and at the same time ease the country of an immense expense. Shujah Dowlat, one of the most powerful men of the empire, would join with his forces; besides many other considerable powers, friends to the King, from different parts, would flock to the royal standard, should we ever take the field; and our army most probably (as the King himself has frequently declared) would march to the gates of Delhy without opposition. We most humbly submit to you, whether so glorious an opportunity of aggrandizing the Company in Indostan should not be embraced; and leave it to yourselves to judge of the reputation and advantages which would result to them, if through the means of the British arms, his Majesty should be established on his throne. For want of our aid, he is now actually at a stand, and unable to prosecute his journey to his capital.

But should you be unwilling to extend your connections further up the country, and instead of accepting the Dewanny of Bengal, choose to confine your views to your new acquisitions, and to the trade of Bengal alone, we beg leave to offer it as our opinion, that we ought to maintain an interest in the country, independent of the Nabob, by supporting in power such men as have proved themselves our friends: This will serve as a balance against him, should he entertain evil designs against us.


38. This has been already spoken to, in a detached Piece, by another hand, entitled, A supplement, &c.

39. We have now given you a fair relation of things, and, conscious of the goodness of our intentions, we cannot but flatter ourselves, we shall meet with your approbation in the part we have taken. We shall therefore conclude with the assurance, that our endeavors shall never be wanting to promote the honor and interests of our Employers, their succe being the object of our most fervent wishes.

We are, with the greatest respect,
Honored Sirs,
Your most faithful
And dutiful Servants,

(Signed) Eyre Coote.
P. Amyatt.
John Carnac.
W. Ellis.
S. Batson.
H. Verelst.

Fort William, 11th march, 1762.


39. We will close our remarks with one Reflection only. -- If the matters and things here set forth were facts, and essential for the knowledge of their employers, why were they so long concealed from them? And why has the whole of it so much the appearance of pretenses framed a priori, to extenuate a conduct and opposition, they have (at least five of them) subsequently carried into action? and for which their friends, at this critical juncture, thought an apology absolutely necessary?

J.Z. Holwell.

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2020 2:50 am
by admin
Peace of Utrecht [Treaty of Utrecht]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/22/20

"Treaty of Utrecht" redirects here. For other uses, see Treaty of Utrecht (disambiguation).

Peace(or the Treaty) of Utrecht
First edition of the Anglo-Spanish treaty
First edition of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht between Great Britain and Spain in Spanish (left) and a later edition in Latin and English.
Context: End of the War of the Spanish Succession
Signed: 1713–15
Location: Utrecht, United Provinces
Signatories: Kingdom of France Louis XIV of France; Philip V of Spain; Anne of Great Britain; John V of Portugal; Victor Amadeus I of Sardinia; William IV of the United Provinces
Languages: English; Spanish; Latin

The Peace of Utrecht is a series of peace treaties signed by the belligerents in the War of the Spanish Succession, in the Dutch city of Utrecht between April 1713 and February 1715. The war involved three contenders for the vacant throne of Spain, and involved much of Europe for over a decade. The main action saw France as the defender of Spain against a multinational coalition. The war was very expensive and bloody and finally stalemated. Essentially, the treaties allowed Philip V (grandson of King Louis XIV of France) to keep the Spanish throne in return for permanently renouncing his claim to the French throne, along with other necessary guarantees that would ensure that France and Spain should not merge, thus preserving the balance of power in Europe.

The treaties between several European states, including Spain, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Savoy and the Dutch Republic, helped end the war. The treaties were concluded between the representatives of Louis XIV of France and of his grandson Philip on one hand, and representatives of Anne of Great Britain, Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia, John V of Portugal and the United Provinces of the Netherlands on the other. Though the king of France ensured the Spanish crown for his dynasty, the treaties marked the end of French ambitions of hegemony in Europe expressed in the continuous wars of Louis XIV, and paved the way to the European system based on the balance of power.[1] British historian G. M. Trevelyan argues:

That Treaty, which ushered in the stable and characteristic period of Eighteenth-Century civilization, marked the end of danger to Europe from the old French monarchy, and it marked a change of no less significance to the world at large, — the maritime, commercial and financial supremacy of Great Britain.[2]

Another enduring result was the creation of the Spanish Bourbon Dynasty, still reigning over Spain up to the present while the original House of Bourbon has long since been dethroned in France.


Europe in 1701 at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession

The War of the Spanish Succession was occasioned by the failure of the Habsburg king, Charles II of Spain, to produce an heir. Dispute followed the death of Charles II in 1700, and fourteen years of war were the result.

France and Great Britain had come to terms in October 1711, when the preliminaries of peace had been signed in London. The preliminaries were based on a tacit acceptance of the partition of Spain's European possessions. Following this, the Congress of Utrecht opened on 29 January 1712, with the British representatives being John Robinson, Bishop of Bristol, and Thomas Wentworth, Lord Strafford.[3] Reluctantly the United Provinces accepted the preliminaries and sent representatives, but Emperor Charles VI refused to do so until he was assured that the preliminaries were not binding. This assurance was given, and so in February the Imperial representatives made their appearance. As Philip was not yet recognized as its king, Spain did not at first send plenipotentiaries, but the Duke of Savoy sent one, and the Kingdom of Portugal was represented by Luís da Cunha. One of the first questions discussed was the nature of the guarantees to be given by France and Spain that their crowns would be kept separate, and little progress was made until 10 July 1712, when Philip signed a renunciation.[4]

With Great Britain, France and Spain having agreed to a "suspension of arms" (armistice) covering Spain on 19 August in Paris, the pace of negotiation quickened. The first treaty signed at Utrecht was the truce between France and Portugal on 7 November, followed by the truce between France and Savoy on 14 March 1714. That same day, Spain, Great Britain, France and the Empire agreed to the evacuation of Catalonia and an armistice in Italy. The main treaties of peace followed on 11 April 1713. These were five separate treaties between France and Great Britain, the Netherlands, Savoy, Prussia and Portugal. Spain under Philip V signed separate peace treaties with Savoy and Great Britain at Utrecht on 13 July. Negotiations at Utrecht dragged on into the next year, for the peace treaty between Spain and the Netherlands was only signed on 26 June 1714 and that between Spain and Portugal on 6 February 1715.[5]

Several other treaties came out of the congress of Utrecht. France signed treaties of commerce and navigation with Great Britain and the Netherlands (11 April 1713). Great Britain signed a like treaty with Spain (9 December 1713).[5]

Principal provisions

Western Europe in 1714, after the Treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt

The Peace confirmed the Bourbon candidate as Philip V of Spain to remain as king. In return, Philip renounced the French throne, both for himself and his descendants, with reciprocal renunciations by French Bourbons to the Spanish throne, including Louis XIV's nephew Philippe of Orléans. These became increasingly important after a series of deaths between 1712 and 1714 left the five year old Louis XV as his great-grandfather's heir.[6]

Britain was the main beneficiary, Utrecht marking the point at which it became the primary European commercial power.[7] In Article X, Spain ceded the strategic ports of Gibraltar and Minorca, giving Britain a dominant position in the Western Mediterranean. Britain also received a monopoly over the asiento or slave trade between Africa and Spanish America.

The importance placed by British negotiators on commercial interests was demonstrated by their demand for France to "level the fortifications of Dunkirk, block up the port and demolish the sluices that scour the harbour, [which] shall never be reconstructed".[8] This was because Dunkirk was the primary base for French privateers, as it was possible to reach the North Sea in a single tide and escape British patrols in the English Channel.[9] This ultimately proved unenforceable.

North America c. 1750; some French forts listed here were not built until thirty years after 1713.

Under Article XIII, Spain agreed to a British demand they preserve Catalan historical rights, in return for Catalan support for the Allies during the war. Spanish territories in Italy and Flanders were divided, with Savoy receiving Sicily and parts of the Duchy of Milan. The former Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, Sardinia, and the bulk of the Duchy of Milan went to Emperor Charles VI. In South America, Spain returned Colónia do Sacramento in modern Uruguay to Portugal and recognised Portuguese sovereignty over the lands between the Amazon and Oyapock rivers, now in Brazil.

In North America, France recognised British suzerainty over the Iroquois, and ceded Nova Scotia and its claims to Newfoundland and territories in Rupert's Land.[10] The French portion of Saint Kitts in the West Indies was also ceded in its entirety to Britain.[10] France retained its other pre-war North American possessions, including Cape Breton Island, where it built the Fortress of Louisbourg, then the most expensive military installation in North America.[11]

The successful French Rhineland campaign of 1713 finally induced Charles to sign the 1714 treaties of Rastatt and Baden, although terms were not agreed with Spain until the 1720 Treaty of The Hague.[12]

Responses to the treaties

North America in 1760, immediately before the Treaty of Paris. Note that New England was at this time depicted as bordering the St. Lawrence River, that the Province of New York occupied the geographic area of Upper Canada or Ontario, that Pennsylvania occupied much of the region to the south of Lake Erie and that Nova Scotia had not yet been divided by New Brunswick.

The treaty's territorial provisions did not go as far as the Whigs in Britain would have liked, considering that the French had made overtures for peace in 1706 and again in 1709. The Whigs considered themselves the heirs of the staunch anti-French policies of William III and the Duke of Marlborough. However, in the Parliament of 1710 the Tories had gained control of the House of Commons, and they wished for an end to Great Britain's participation in a European war. Queen Anne and her advisors had also come to agree.

The party in the administration of Robert Harley (created Earl of Oxford and Mortimer on 23 May 1711) and the Viscount Bolingbroke proved more flexible at the bargaining table and were characterised by the Whigs as "pro-French"; Oxford and Bolingbroke persuaded the Queen to create twelve new "Tory peers"[13] to ensure ratification of the treaty in the House of Lords. The opponents of the treaty tried to rally support under the slogan of No Peace Without Spain.

Although the fate of the Spanish Netherlands in particular was of interest to the United Provinces, Dutch influence on the outcome of the negotiations was fairly insignificant, even though the talks were held on their territory. The French negotiator Melchior de Polignac taunted the Dutch with the scathing remark de vous, chez vous, sans vous,[14] meaning that negotiations would be held "about you, around you, without you". The fact that Bolingbroke had secretly ordered the British commander, the Duke of Ormonde, to withdraw from the Allied forces before the Battle of Denain (informing the French but not the Allies), and the fact that they secretly arrived at separate peace with France was a fait accompli, made the objections of the Allies pointless.[15] In any case, the Dutch achieved their condominium in the Austrian Netherlands with the Austro-Dutch Barrier Treaty of 1715.[16]


Main article: Balance of power in international relations

Allegory of the Peace of Utrecht by Antoine Rivalz

The Treaty stipulated that "because of the great danger which threatened the liberty and safety of all Europe, from the too close conjunction of the kingdoms of Spain and France, ... one and the same person should never become King of both kingdoms".[17] Some historians argue this makes it a significant milestone in the evolution of the modern nation state and concept of a balance of power.[18]

First mentioned in 1701 by Charles Davenant in his Essays on the Balance of Power, it was widely publicised in Britain by author and Tory satirist Daniel Defoe in his 1709 article A Review of the Affairs of France. The idea was reflected in the wording of the treaties and resurfaced after the defeat of Napoleon in the 1815 Concert of Europe that dominated Europe in the 19th century.

For the individual signatories, Britain established naval superiority over its competitors, commercial access to Spanish America, and control of Menorca and Gibraltar; it retains the latter territory to this day. France accepted the Protestant succession, ensuring a smooth transition when Anne died in August 1714 and ended support for the Stuarts under the 1716 Anglo-French Treaty.[19] An often overlooked benefit was that while the war left all participants with unprecedented levels of government debt, only Britain successfully financed it.[20]

Ensuring the succession of Maria Theresa reduced Austria's gains from the war and ultimately led to the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740

Spain retained the majority of its Empire and recovered remarkably quickly; the recapture of Naples and Sicily in 1718 was only prevented by British naval power and a second attempt was successful in 1734. The 1707 Nueva Planta decrees abolished regional political structures in the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia and Majorca, although Catalonia retained some of these rights until 1767.[21]

Despite failure in Spain, Austria secured its position in Italy and Hungary, allowing them to continue expansion into areas of South-East Europe previously held by the Ottoman Empire. Even after paying expenses associated with the Dutch Barrier, increased tax revenues from the Austrian Netherlands funded a significant upgrade of the Austrian military.[22] However, these gains were diminished by various factors, chiefly the disruption of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 caused by Charles disinheriting his nieces in favour of his daughter Maria Theresa.[23]

Attempts to ensure her succession involved Austria in wars of little strategic value, much of the fighting in the 1733–1735 War of the Polish Succession taking place in their maritime provinces in Italy. Austria had traditionally relied on naval support from the Dutch, whose own capability had been severely degraded; Britain prevented the loss of Sicily and Naples in 1718 but refused to do so again in 1734.[24] The dispute continued to loosen Habsburg control over the Empire; Bavaria, Hanover, Prussia and Saxony increasingly acted as independent powers and in 1742, Charles of Bavaria became the first non-Habsburg Emperor in over 300 years.[25]

The Dutch Republic ended the war effectively bankrupt, the Barrier Treaty that cost so much proving largely illusory.[26] The forts were quickly overrun in 1740, Britain's promise of military support against an aggressor proving to be far more effective.[27] The damage suffered by the Dutch merchant navy permanently affected their commercial and political strength and it was superseded by Britain as the pre-eminent European mercantile power.[28]

While the final settlement at Utrecht was far more favourable than the Allied offer of 1709, France gained little that had not already been achieved through diplomacy by February 1701. It remained strong but concern at their relative decline in military and economic terms compared to Britain was an underlying cause of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740.[29]

See also

• Disputed status of Gibraltar
• French Shore
• Herman Moll


1. R.R. Palmer, A History of the Modern World 2nd ed. 1961, p. 234.
2. G.M. Trevelyan, A shortened history of England (1942) p 363.
3. The staunch Tory Strafford was hauled before a committee of Parliament for his part in the treaty, which the Whigs considered not advantageous enough.
4. James Falkner (2015). The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714. Pen and Sword. p. 205.
5. Randall Lesaffer, "The Peace of Utrecht and the Balance of Power", Oxford Public International Law.
6. Somerset, Anne (2012). Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion. Harper Press. p. 470. ISBN 978-0007203765.
7. Pincus, Steven. "Rethinking Mercantilism: Political Economy, The British Empire and the Atlantic World in the 17th and 18th Centuries" (PDF). Warwick University: 7–8. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
8. Moore, John Robert (1950). "Defoe, Steele, and the Demolition of Dunkirk". Huntington Library Quarterly. 13 (3): 279. doi:10.2307/3816138.
9. Bromley, J. S. (1987). Corsairs and Navies, 1600–1760. Continnuum-3PL. p. 233. ISBN 978-0907628774.
10. George Chalmers, Great Britain (24 January 1790). "A Collection of Treaties Between Great Britain and Other Powers". Printed for J. Stockdale – via Internet Archive.
11. Royle, Trevor (2016). Culloden; Scotland's Last Battle and the Forging of the British Empire. Little, Brown. p. 148. ISBN 978-1408704011.
12. "Treaties of Utrecht – European history". Encyclopedia Britannica.
13. The twelve peers consisted of two who were summoned in their father's baronies, Lords Compton (Northampton) and Bruce (Ailesbury), and ten recruits, namely Lords Hay (Kinnoull), Mountjoy, Burton (Paget), Mansell, Middleton, Trevor, Lansdowne, Masham, Foley, and Bathurst. David Backhouse, "Tory Tergiversation In The House of Lords, 1714–1760" Archived 28 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
14. Szabo, I. (1857). The State Policy of Modern Europe from the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time. Vol. I, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, p. 166
15. Churchill, W. (2002). Marlborough: His Life and Times, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-10636-5, pp. 954–955
16. Israel, J. I. (1995), The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806, Oxford University Press,ISBN 0-19-873072-1 hardback, ISBN 0-19-820734-4 paperback, p. 978
17. Article II, Peace and Friendship Treaty of Utrecht.
18. Lesaffer, Randall. "The peace of Utrecht and the balance of power". OUP Blog. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
19. Szechi, Daniel (1994). The Jacobites: Britain and Europe, 1688-1788 (First ed.). Manchester University Press. pp. 93–95. ISBN 978-0719037740.
20. Carlos, Ann; Neal, Larry; Wandschneider, Kirsten (2006). "The Origins of National Debt: The Financing and Re-financing of the War of the Spanish Succession" (PDF). International Economic History Association: 2. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
21. Vives Vi, Jaime (1969). An Economic History of Spain. Princeton University Press. p. 591. ISBN 978-0691051659.
22. Falkner, James (2015). The War of the Spanish Succession (Kindle ed.). 4173–4181: Pen and Sword Military. ASIN B0189PTWZG.
23. Kann, Robert A (1974). A History of the Habsburg Empire 1526–1918 (1980 ed.). University of California Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-0520042063.
24. Anderson, M. S. (1995). The War of Austrian Succession 1740–1748. Routledge. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0582059504.
25. Lindsay, J. O. (1957). The New Cambridge Modern History. Volume 7: The Old Regime, 1713–1763. Cambridge University Press; New edition. p. 420. ISBN 978-0521045452.
26. Kubben, Raymond (2011). Regeneration and Hegemony: Franco-Batavian Relations in the Revolutionary Era 1795–1803. Martinus Nijhoff. p. 148. ISBN 978-9004185586.
27. Ward, Adolphus William (1922). The Cambridge History of British Foreign Policy, Volume 2 (2011 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-1108040136.
28. Elliott, John (2014). Dadson, Trevor (ed.). The Road to Utrecht in Britain, Spain and the Treaty of Utrecht 1713–2013. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 978-1909662223.
29. Lynn, John (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667–1714. Modern Wars In Perspective. Longman. pp. 361–362. ISBN 978-0582056299.


• Bruin, Renger and Cornelis Haven, eds. Performances of Peace: Utrecht 1713 (2015). online
• Churchill, Winston (2002). Marlborough: His Life and Times, Bk. 2, vols. iii & iv. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-10635-7 online abridged edition
• Gregory, Desmond: Minorca, the Illusory Prize: A History of the British Occupations of Minorca Between 1708 and 1802 (Associated University Press, 1990)
• Lesaffer, Randall. "The peace of Utrecht and the balance of power", Oxford Historical Treaties 10 Nov 1914 online
• Lynn, John A (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667–1714. Longman. ISBN 0-582-05629-2
• Mowat, Robert B. History of European diplomacy, 1451–1789 (1928) pp 141–54; online pp 165–82.
• Sichel, Walter. Bolingbroke And His Times, 2 vols. (1901–02) Vol. 1 The Reign of Queen Anne
• Stanhope, Philip: History of England, Comprising the Reign of Queen Anne until the Peace of Utrecht (London: 1870)
• Trevelyan, G. M (1930–34). England Under Queen Anne. 3 volumes. Longmans, Green and co.

External links

• "The Treaties of Utrecht (1713)" Brief discussion and extracts of the various treaties on François Velde's Heraldica website, with particular focus on the renunciations and their later reconfirmations.

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2020 6:29 am
by admin
Mir Jafar [Mhir Jaffier Khan] [Meer Jaffeir Ally Cawn] [Murshid Quli Jafar Khan] [Syed Mir Muhammad Jafar Ali Khan Bahadaur]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/24/20

Mir Jafar (left) and his eldest son, Mir Miran [Mhiran] (right).
Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur, Nawab of Bengal
6th Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
1st reign: 2 July 1757 – 20 October 1760
Predecessor: Siraj ud-Daulah
Successor: Mir Qasim [Cossim Aly Khan]
2nd reign: 25 July 1763 – 5 February 1765
Predecessor: Mir Qasim [Cossim Aly Khan]
Successor: Najimuddin Ali Khan
Born: 1691
Died: 5 February 1765 (aged 73–74), Bengal
Burial: Jafarganj Cemetery, Murshidabad
Spouse: Shah Khanum Sahiba (m. 1727, d. August 1779); Munni Begum (noble) (m. 1746, d. 10 January 1813); Rahat-un-nisa Begum (Mut'ah wife); Babbu Begum (d. 1809)
Issue: Sadiq Ali Khan Bahadur (Mir Miran) [Mhiran]; Najimuddin Ali Khan; Najabut Ali Khan (Mir Phulwari); Ashraf Ali Khan; Mubaraq Ali Khan; Hadi Ali Khan Bahadur; Fatima Begum Sahiba; Misri Begum; Roshan-un-nisa Begum Sahiba (Nishani Begum); Husaini Begum and 2 more daughters.
Full name: Syed Mir Muhammad Jafar Ali Khan Bahadaur
House: Najafi
Father: Sayyid Ahmed Najafi (Mirza Mirak)
Religion: Shia Islam[1][2][3]

Syed Mir Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur (Bengali: সৈয়দ মীর জাফর আলী খান বাহাদুর, Persian: سید میر جعفر علی خان بہادر‎; c. 1691 – 5 February 1765) was a military general who became the first dependent Nawab of Bengal of the British East India Company. His reign has been considered by many historians as the start of the expansion of British control of the Indian subcontinent in Indian history and a key step in the eventual British domination of vast areas of modern-day India.

Mir Jafar served as the commander of the Bengali army under Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, but betrayed him during the Battle of Plassey and succeeded Daulah after the British victory in 1757. Mir Jafar received military support from the East India Company until 1760, when he failed to satisfy various British demands. In 1758, Robert Clive discovered that Jafar had made a treaty with the Dutch East India Company at Chinsurah through his agent Khoja Wajid. Dutch ships of the line were also seen in the River Hooghly. Jafar's dispute with the British eventually led to the Battle of Chinsurah. [SEE BELOW] British company official Henry Vansittart proposed that since Jafar was unable to cope with the difficulties, Mir Qasim [Cossim Aly Khan], Jafar's son-in-law, should act as Deputy Subahdar. In October 1760, the company forced him to abdicate in favor of Qasim. However, the East India Company eventually overthrew Qasim [Cossim Aly Khan] as well due to disputes over trade policies. Jafar was restored as the Nawab in 1763 with the support of the company. Mir Qasim, however, refused to accept this and went to war against the company. Jafar ruled until his death on 5 February 1765 and lies buried at the Jafarganj Cemetery in Murshidabad, West Bengal. Mir Jafar remains a controversial figure in Indian history and has become a symbol of intimate betrayal and treachery among Bengalis.

Subedar of the Nawab of Bengal

In 1747 the Maratha Empire led by Raghoji I Bhonsle, began to raid, pillage and annex the territories of the Alivardi Khan, the Nawab of Bengal. During the Maratha invasion of Odisha, its subedar Mir Jafar and Ataullah the faujdar of Rajmahal completely withdrew all forces until the arrival of Alivardi Khan and the Mughal Army at the Battle of Burdwan where Raghoji I Bhonsle and his Maratha forces were completely routed. The enraged Alivardi Khan then dismissed the shamed Mir Jafar.[4]

Nawab of Bengal

Jafar and his son Miran delivering the Treaty of 1757 to William Watts

Jafar initially showed loyalty to Alivardi Khan's successor Siraj Ud Daulah, but betrayed him to the British in the battle of Plassey.[5] After Siraj Ud Daulah's defeat and subsequent execution, Jafar achieved his long-pursued dream of gaining the throne, and was propped up by the East India company as a puppet Nawab. Jafar paid Rs. 17,700,000 as compensation for the attack on Calcutta to the company and traders of the city. In addition, he gave bribes to the officials of the company. Robert Clive, for example, received over two million rupees, and William Watts received over one million.[6] Soon, however, he realized that company's expectations were boundless and tried to wriggle out from under them; this time with the help of the Dutch. However, the British defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Chinsurah in November 1759 and retaliated by forcing him to abdicate in favor of his son-in-law Mir Qasim. Qasim proved to be both able and independent-minded, although he soon came into dispute with the company over their refusal to pay taxes to Qasim. Mir Qasim formed an alliance to force the East India Company out of East India. The company soon went to war with him and his allies. The Battle of Buxar was fought on 22 October 1764 between the forces under the command of the East India Company led by Hector Munro, and the combined armies of Mir Qasim the Nawab of Bengal, Shuja-ud-Daula the Nawab of Awadh, and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. With the defeat in Buxar, Mir Qasim was eventually overthrown. Mir Jafar managed to regain the good graces of the British; he was again installed Nawab in 1764 and held the position until his death in 1765.

Bengal War

Main article: Treaty of Allahabad

The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, reviewing the British East India Company's troops, painted in 1781.

"Some ill-designing people had turned his brain, and carried him to the eastern part of the Mughal Empire, which would be the cause of much trouble and ruin to our regimes."

-- Imad-ul-Mulk's letter to Mir Jafar, after the escape of the Mughal crown prince Ali Gauhar.[7]

In 1760, after gaining control over Bihar, Odisha and some parts of the Bengal, the Mughal Crown Prince Ali Gauhar and his Mughal Army of 30,000 intended to overthrow Jafar, Imad-ul-Mulk after they tried to capture or kill him by advancing towards Awadh and Patna in 1759. But the conflict soon involved the increasingly assertive East India Company. The Mughals were led by Prince Ali Gauhar, who was accompanied by Muhammad Quli Khan, Hidayat Ali, Mir Afzal and Ghulam Husain Tabatabai. Their forces were reinforced by the forces of Shuja-ud-Daula and Najib-ud-Daula. The Mughals were also joined by Jean Law and two hundred Frenchmen and waged a campaign against the British during the Seven Years' War.[8]

Although the French were eventually defeated, the conflict between the British East India Company and the Mughal Empire would continue to linger and ended in a draw, which eventually culminated during the Battle of Buxar.


Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, meeting with Jafar after Plassey, by Francis Hayman.

The breakup of the centralized Mughal empire by 1750, led to creation of a large number of independent kingdoms in Northern, Central and Western India, as also North-Western India (now Pakistan) and parts of Afghanistan (all provinces of the former Mughal empire). Each of them were in conflict with their neighbor. These kingdoms bought weapons from the British and French East India companies to aid their wars. Bengal was one such kingdom. The British and French supported whichever princes ensured their trading interest. Jafar came to power with support of British East India Company. After the defeat of Sirajuddoula and later Mir Qasim the British strengthened their position in Bengal and in 1793 abolished the nizamat (referring to the Mughal suzerainty) and took complete control of the former Mughal province. The word "mirjafar" in Bengali and the phrase "meer jafar" in Urdu, are used much as quisling is used in English, and Jaichand of Kannauj in North Indian history.[9]

Tomb of Mir Jafar, Jafarganj Cemetery, Murshidabad

See also

• Namak Haram Deorhi
• Great Britain in the Seven Years War


• "Riyazu-s-salatin", Ghulam Husain Salim – a reference to the appointment of Mohanlal can be found here
• "Seir Muaqherin", Ghulam Husain Tabatabai – a reference to the conspiracy can be found here
• A website dedicated to Mir Jafar


1. S. A. A. Rizvi, A Socio-Intellectual History of Isna Ashari Shi'is in India, Vol. 2, pp. 45–47, Mar'ifat Publishing House, Canberra (1986).
2. K. K. Datta, Ali Vardi and His Times, ch. 4, University of Calcutta Press, (1939)
3. Andreas Rieck, The Shias of Pakistan, p. 3, Oxford University Press, (2015).
4. Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A-E. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313335372.
5. Mohammad Shah (2012), "Mir Jafar Ali Khan", in Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal (ed.), Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.), Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
6. Modern India by Dr. Bipin Chendra, a publication of National council of Educational Research and Training
7. Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1852). Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 13. University Press. pp. 123–.
8. O`malley, L.S.S. (1924). Bihar And Orissa District Gazetteers Patna. Concept Publishing Company, 1924. ISBN 9788172681210.
9. Ahsan, Syed Badrul (31 October 2005). "Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, and October 1958". New Age. Dhaka. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007.

External links

• "Riyazu-s-salatin", A History of Bengal, Ghulam Husain Salim (translated from the Persian): viewable online at the Packard Humanities Institute
• Mir Jafar Ali Khan in Banglapedia
• Humayun, Mirza (2002). From Plassey to Pakistan. Washington D.C.: University Press of America; Revised edition (28 July 2002). ISBN 0-7618-2349-2.
• Murshidabad History-Mir Muhammad Jafar Ali Khan
• Descendant of Mir Jafar fights to erase stamp of treachery from family name


Mir Jafar
Accessed: 11/24/20

Mīr Jaʿfar, in full Mīr Muḥammad Jaʿfar Khan, (born 1691?—died Feb. 5, 1765, Bengal, India), first Bengal ruler (1757–60; 1763–65) under British influence, which he helped bring about by working for the defeat of Mughal rule there.

An Arab by birth, Mīr Jaʿfar assisted his brother-in-law, Gen. ʿAlī Vardī Khan, in seizing the government of Bengal in 1740. Discontented, he conspired with others in 1756 to depose Sirāj al-Dawlah, the grandson and successor of ʿAlī Vardī. In 1757 he assured Robert Clive, British governor of Madras (now Chennai), that he would enter into an alliance with the British to exclude the French from Bengal and pay £500,000 to the East India Company and £250,000 to the European inhabitants of Calcutta (now Kolkata) to compensate them for the loss of the city to Sirāj the previous year, provided that the British support his bid to be ruler of Bengal. He also promised large gratuities to British military and naval forces and to the Calcutta city council members. He and his fellow conspirators took no active role in the Battle of Plassey (June 1757), in which Sirāj was overthrown, but he was installed afterward as the nawab (Muslim ruler) of Bengal.

Mīr Jaʿfar found the Bengal treasury unexpectedly small, but he undertook the fulfillment of his financial promises and issued free passes for the private trade of the English merchants, policies that led to the state’s financial ruin and a demoralization of the East India Company’s servants that marked the early years of British rule. After Clive’s departure in 1760, Mir Jaʿfar was deposed in favour of his son-in-law Mīr Qāsim. Reinstated in 1763 on the outbreak of war between the English and Mīr Qāsim, he made concessions to the English that led to his financial and political downfall. At his death he was addicted to opium and suffered from leprosy.


Battle of Chinsurah
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/24/20

Battle of Chinsurah
Part of the Seven Years' War
Date: 24–25 November 1759
Location: Chinsurah, Bengal (22.9000°N 88.3900°E)
Result: British victory
Belligerents: British East India Company / Dutch East India Company / Nawab of Bengal
Commanders and leaders: Colonel Francis Forde; Captain Charles Wilson / Colonel Jean Baptiste Roussel / Mir Jafar
Strength: 300 European infantry; 800 local infantry; 50 European cavalry; 200 local cavalry; 3 naval vessels / 150 Europeans (Chinsurah garrison); 300 locals (Chinsurah garrison); 700 Europeans (arriving troops); 800 Malays (arriving troops) / 100 cavalry
Casualties and losses: -- / 320 killed; 300 wounded; 550 captured; 6 ships surrendered; 1 grounded / --

Third Carnatic War
Chandannagar / Plassey / Cuddalore/ Negapatam/ Condore/ Madras/ Masulipatam/ Pondicherry (naval) / Chinsurah / Wandiwash/ Pondicherry (siege)

The Battle of Chinsurah (also known as the Battle of Biderra or Battle of Hoogly[1]) took place near Chinsurah, India on 25 November 1759 during the Seven Years' War between a force of British troops mainly of the British East India Company and a force of the Dutch East India Company which had been invited by the Nawab of Bengal Mir Jafar to help him eject the British and establish themselves as the leading commercial company in Bengal. Despite Britain and the Dutch Republic not formally being at war, the Dutch advanced up the Hooghly River. They met a mixed force of British and local troops at Chinsurah, just outside Calcutta. The British, under Colonel Francis Forde, defeated the Dutch, forcing them to withdraw. The British engaged and defeated the ships the Dutch used to deliver the troops in a separate naval battle on 24 November.


Following the British capture and destruction of the French outpost at Chandernagore in 1757, Mir Jafar, the Nawab of Bengal, opened secret negotiations with representatives of the Dutch East India Company to bring troops into Dutch holdings in the area with the goal of using against the British. Britain and the Dutch Republic were at peace, although tensions were high due to the Seven Years' War, and British East India Company administrator Robert Clive was preoccupied with fighting the French. The Dutch directors of the outpost at Chinsurah, not far from Chandernagore, seeing an opportunity to expand their influence, agreed to send additional troops to Chinsurah. A fleet of seven ships, containing more than fifteen hundred European and Malay troops, came from Batavia and arrived at the mouth of the Hooghly River in October 1759, while the Nawab was meeting with Clive in Calcutta.

The Nawab had been forced to ask the British for assistance against threats on his northern border in the interim, and told Clive that he would return to Hooghly, summon the Dutch directors, and demand the departure of their ships. After meeting with the Dutch, he informed Clive that he had granted the Dutch some privileges, and that they would leave as soon as circumstances permitted. This news, combined with reports that the Dutch were recruiting in and around Chinsurah, led Clive to treat the situation as a real military threat.

Of four ships he had available, Clive sent one out in an attempt to request assistance from Admiral Cornish, who was patrolling the coast. The Dutch captured this ship when they seized several smaller British vessels on the Hooghly River. Clive called out the militia and put out calls for volunteers, increased the fortifications on the river batteries, and sent Colonel Francis Forde with five hundred men toward Chandernagore with an eye toward capturing the Dutch outpost at Barnagore and intercepting the Dutch should they try to take Chandernagore.

The Dutch landed their troops on the northern shore of the Hooghly on 21 November, just beyond the range of the English river batteries, and marched for Chinsurah.


Naval battle

The three remaining British ships had followed the Dutch ships up the river at some distance. When the Dutch had finished landing the troops, the Dutch ships began moving down the river. On 23 November, Commodore Charles Wilson, commander of the British flotilla, indicated that he wanted to pass the Dutch, who threatened to fire on the British if they did. The next day, after the rejection of an ultimatum from Clive demanding restitution for the earlier Dutch seizures, the two fleets engaged. In a two-hour battle, the Duke of Dorset forced the Dutch flagship Vlissingen to strike her colours, while Hardwicke and Calcutta chased off two ships and grounded a third before the remaining ships also struck their colours. (Other British ships arriving at the mouth of the river eventually captured the two remaining fleeing Dutch ships.)

Chandernagore (Now Chandannagar)

On the night of 23 November, Forde and his men encamped near Chandernagore, having successfully taken control of Barnagore (Now Baranagar). The Dutch, hoping to trap Forde between the arriving troops and the Chinsurah garrison, sent their arriving troops out to camp in the ruins of Chandernagore that night. The following morning the two forces engaged.

Forde's men routed the Dutch, forcing them back to Chinsurah, and captured the Dutch field artillery. There additional troops sent from Calcutta joined Forde, raising the size of his force to about 1200 men. The Nawab also sent 100 cavalry to the British camp, ostensibly to assist the British; these were likely placed to observe the battle and side with the victors.

With reports from prisoners that the Dutch reinforcements would be arriving the next day, Forde rushed a message to Clive in Calcutta requesting advice, as attacking the Dutch force could be viewed as an act of war. Clive responded by writing on the back of Forde's message, "Dear Forde—Fight them immediately", and sending it back.


Forde chose as his location the plain of Biderra, between Chinsurah and Chandernagore. His troops occupied the village of Biderra on the right and a mango grove to the left; a wide ditch secured the center. At about 10 on the morning of 25 November, the Dutch force arrived. As soon as they came within range, Forde ordered his field artillery to fire. The Dutch continued to advance in spite of the British fire until they reached the ditch, something they had not apparently been aware of. When the front of the Dutch lines stopped, the rear continued to press forward, throwing the Dutch forces into confusion. As their position was then within range of British musket fire, they suffered significant casualties before managing to turn retreat. At this point Forde sent out his cavalry, inviting the nawab's men to join the charge. However, the nawab's men held back and did not join the British until the second charge, when it seemed clear they would be victorious.


The British victory was so complete that, of the Dutch troops sent, only sixteen Europeans successfully reached Chinsurah.

In the wake of their victory, the British overthrew Mir Jafar and replaced him with his son-in-law Mir Kasim Ali Khan. Along with the Battle of Plassey, the battle helped establish British supremacy in Bengal. The battle did not affect Dutch neutrality and they remained one of the few European states not involved in the war.

See also

• Great Britain in the Seven Years War


1. Spectrum Modern History Of India, Rajiv Ahir, page 41.


• Harvey, Robert. Clive: The Life and Death of a British Emperor. Sceptre, 1999.
• Keay, John. The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. Harper Collins, 1993
• McLynn, Frank. 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. Pimlico, 2005.
• Malleson, George Bruce. The decisive battles of India: from 1746 to 1849 inclusive

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2020 6:30 am
by admin
Henry Vansittart
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/25/20

Henry Vansittart
Portrait, oil on canvas, of Henry Vansittart (1732–1770) by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792)
Governor of the Presidency of Fort William
In office: 1762–1764
Preceded by: Robert Clive [John Zephaniah Holwell]
Succeeded by: Robert Clive
Personal details
Born: 3 June 1732, Bloomsbury, Middlesex, England
Died: 1770 (aged 37), Presumed to have died at sea in the Mozambique Channel
Nationality: British
Alma mater: Reading School; Winchester College

Henry Vansittart (3 June 1732 – 1770) was the English Governor of Bengal from 1759 to 1764.


Vansittart was born in Bloomsbury in Middlesex, the third son of Arthur van Sittart (1691–1760), and his wife Martha, daughter of Sir John Stonhouse, 3rd Baronet.[1] His father and his grandfather, Peter van Sittart (1651–1705), were both wealthy merchants and directors of the Russia Company.

The Muscovy Company (also called the Russian Company or the Muscovy Trading Company Russian: Московская компания, romanized: Moskovskaya kompaniya) was an English trading company chartered in 1555. It was the first major chartered joint stock company, the precursor of the type of business that would soon flourish in England and finance its exploration of the world. The Muscovy Company had a monopoly on trade between England and Muscovy until 1698 and it survived as a trading company until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Since 1917 the company has operated as a charity, now working within Russia.

-- Muscovy Company, by Wikipedia

Peter, a merchant adventurer, who had migrated from Danzig to London about 1670, was also a director of the East India Company. The family name is taken from the town of Sittard in Limburg, the Netherlands. They settled at Shottesbrooke in Berkshire.

Educated at Reading School and at Winchester College, Henry Vansittart joined the society of the Franciscans, or the Hellfire Club, at Medmenham. His elder brothers, Arthur and Robert, were also members of this fraternity.[2]

Hellfire Club was a name for several exclusive clubs for high society rakes established in Britain and Ireland in the 18th century. The name is most commonly used to refer to Sir Francis Dashwood's Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe. Such clubs were rumoured to be the meeting places of "persons of quality" who wished to take part in socially perceived immoral acts, and the members were often involved in politics. Neither the activities nor membership of the club are easy to ascertain, for the clubs were rumoured to have distant ties to an elite society known only as The Order of the Second Circle....

In the second circle of Hell are those overcome by lust. These "carnal malefactors" are condemned for allowing their appetites to sway their reason. These souls are buffeted back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow needlessly and aimlessly: "as the lovers drifted into self-indulgence and were carried sway by their passions, so now they drift for ever. The bright, voluptuous sin is now seen as it is – a howling darkness of helpless discomfort." Since lust involves mutual indulgence and is not, therefore, completely self-centered, Dante deems it the least heinous of the sins and its punishment is the most benign within Hell proper.

-- Inferno (Dante), by Wikipedia

Lord Wharton, made a Duke by George I,[9] was a prominent politician with two separate lives: the first a "man of letters" and the second "a drunkard, a rioter, an infidel and a rake"...

At the time of the London gentlemen's club, where there was a meeting place for every interest, including poetry, philosophy and politics, Philip, Duke of Wharton's Hell-Fire Club was, according to Blackett-Ord, a satirical "gentleman's club" which was known to ridicule religion, catching onto the then-current trend in England of blasphemy...The supposed president of this club was the Devil...

According to at least one source, their activities included mock religious ceremonies and partaking in meals containing dishes like "Holy Ghost Pie", "Breast of Venus", and "Devil's Loin", while drinking "Hell-fire punch". Members of the Club supposedly came to meetings dressed as characters from the Bible...

After his Club was disbanded, Wharton became a Freemason, and in 1722 he became the Grand Master of England...

Dashwood founded the Order of the Knights of St Francis in 1746, originally meeting at the George & Vulture.

The club motto was Fais ce que tu voudras (Do what thou wilt), a philosophy of life associated with François Rabelais' fictional abbey at Thélème and later used by Aleister Crowley...

The first meeting at Sir Francis's family home in West Wycombe was held on Walpurgis Night, 1752...

According to Horace Walpole, the members' "practice was rigorously pagan: Bacchus and Venus were the deities to whom they almost publicly sacrificed; and the nymphs and the hogsheads that were laid in against the festivals of this new church, sufficiently informed the neighborhood of the complexion of those hermits." Dashwood's garden at West Wycombe contained numerous statues and shrines to different gods; Daphne and Flora, Priapus and the previously mentioned Venus and Dionysus...

Legends of Black Masses and Satan or demon worship have subsequently become attached to the club, beginning in the late Nineteenth Century. Rumours saw female "guests" (a euphemism for prostitutes) referred to as "Nuns". Dashwood's Club meetings often included mock rituals, items of a pornographic nature, much drinking, wenching and banqueting...

The Phoenix was established in honour of Sir Francis, who died in 1781, as a symbolic rising from the ashes of Dashwood's earlier institution. To this day, the dining society abides by many of its predecessor's tenets. Its motto uno avulso non deficit alter (when one is torn away another succeeds) is from the sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid and refers to the practice of establishing the continuity of the society through a process of constant renewal of its graduate and undergraduate members.

-- Hellfire Club, by Wikipedia

In 1745, at the age of thirteen, he entered service of the East India Company as a writer and sailed for Fort St David in Madras.[3] Here he showed himself very industrious, made the acquaintance of Robert Clive and rose rapidly from one position to another, although he spent three years back in England from 1751.

He returned to India in 1754 and became a member of the Council of Madras in 1757. He helped to defend the city against the French in 1759,[2] and was appointed to replace Clive, on Clive's recommendation, as President of the Council and Governor of Fort William in Bengal in November 1760.[3]

Governor Clive departing for Europe the 8th of February, 1760, Mr. Holwell succeeded by his rank to the government; the established committee entrusted with the conduct of all political occurrences, with the country government, consisted of the President, Peter Amyatt, Esq; Major Caillaud, W. B. Sumner, Esq; and W. Macguire, Esq. The Major and Mr. Amyatt absent, the one in the field, the other chief at Patna...

To the Honorable J. Z. Holwell, Esq; President and Governor of Fort William

Camp Sbabsadapore, Feb. 27, 1760. H


I been honored with your obliging favor of the 15th instant; you may be assured of finding in me a punctual correspondent, both from inclination and duty. T

The part of your letter, Sir, with regard to Roy Doolub, I have answered fully in the general letter which accompanies this. -- I should have first wrote on the subject, had you not prevented me; and am almost convinced, that, on further examination, we shall find that both your suspicions and mine are true and just: indeed the Letter to the Shaw Zadda, of which I send the copy, would be quite sufficient to condemn him, were it not that there is a possibility of its being formed by the Nabob on purpose; who is, from principle, very capable of doing that, or any other infamous action to gain his ends. -- I shall, however, suspend my judgment, until your examination is over. -- The precautions you have taken were highly judicious; for though the proofs against him may not, on trial, appear so clear as we could with for our satisfaction; yet he is still a person to be suspected, and of consequence cannot be too narrowly or strictly watched.

Your opinion, with regard to the Nabob's return to the Capital, agreed perfectly with mine; I had advised him to that step before the receipt of your letter, and have since enforced it on your judgment: -- he may easily, if he pleases, put an end to this beginning of trouble, if he will pursue the proper methods, and pay them their chout; but indeed, so dilatory is his conduct in every respect, and particularly where payments of money are to be made, that I suppose he will put it off, until they come with such a force as will oblige him to it, but that not until they have done as much damage to the country as will amount to double their tribute regularly paid.

The more I see of the Nabob, the more I am convinced, that he must be ruined in spite of all our endeavors, if he doth not alter his present measures. -- He is neither loved nor feared by his troops or his people; he neglects securing the one by the badness of his payments, and he wants spirit and steadiness to command the other. -- As no one knows him better than you, Sir, no one is more proper to give him the necessary advice on the occasion; nor can you too forcibly or frequently represent to him, the fatal consequences, if he persists in his folly. Believe me, Sir, with truth and respect,

Your obedient and obliged humble Servant,


To the Honorable John Z. Holwell, Esq; President and Governor of Fort William.

Camp at Burpore, 6th April, 1760.


My last was dated the 24th Inst. Yesterday we marched about five corse, and this day three; which brought us so near the enemy as to expect they would come and give us battle; but finding about noon they did not advance, I desired the Nabob to march on towards them, but he said the day was too far spent, and his people too much fatigued. The Prince is encamped near the Damoudah river, about three corse from us and I hope tomorrow we shall bring him to an engagement. The Maharattas are encamped very near him. I have the honor to subscribe myself, with the most perfect respect and esteem, Sir,

Your most obedient and most humble servant,

J. C....

To the Honorable J. Z. Holwell, Esq; President and Governor of Fort William.

Camp at Dignagur, April 15, 1760.


In order to come at the truth, with regard to the Nabob's Arzgee to the Prince, Mr. Hastings had recourse to the Nabob's Persian writer; a man who hath, on many occasions, given him proofs of attachment and fidelity. The moment he set his eyes on the paper, he declared it to be a forgery. May I beg leave to refer you to Mr. Hastings for the reasons he gave for it; as that Gentleman's knowledge in the language will enable him to give you a clearer idea of these distinctions in address and style of their letters, than I can pretend to. For my part, I own, after Mr. Hastings had repeated them to me, they were so satisfactory as to convince me the probability of its being a forgery was greatly in the Nabob's favor.

Two days before I received your letter, Sir, the Nabob and his son were with me, and I found the old man big with something that he did not know well how to begin breaking to me. I helped him forward all I could by those kind of assurances which often open the hearts of men; and he then told me he had wrote to the Prince, and had received an answer, such a one as gave him hopes, with other circumstances, that the Prince might be inclinable to treat and put himself perhaps in his power; but that he knew he (the Prince) would not do this, without I would be security for his safety. The Nabob was desirous to know, in such a case, how I would act; but the main drift of the discourse was, to find out how far I would be consenting to give him an opportunity of displaying the true eastern system of politics, by cutting him off. You may easily, Sir, guess my answer, that I was ready to do every thing for his service consistent with the honor of my country, and the sacred regard we gave to our word; and besides, if the Prince made any address to me on this subject of security, I must first have your orders and instructions in this affair. And thus the conversation ended.

I made it my business afterwards to enquire among some of the Nabob's people, on what grounds he founded these hopes of getting the Prince in his power? but they all assured me, as I suspected, that they were no more than the idle reports of some of his minions, who knew such stories would be well received and credited, and so found advantage in flattering his foolish hopes.

It is a very unfortunate circumstance that we have to do with a weak man, who neither from principle nor merit deserves the dignity of the station in which we have put him, and in which he would not remain twenty-four hours, if we were to withdraw our protection from him, and on which he so much depends, that I am obliged to give him a guard of Seapoys for the safety of his person. It doth not appear to me, however, in justice or in reason, that we ought to support him in the pursuit of unjustifiable measures; such as he follows in regard to not discharging the vast arrears due to his troops, who to a man have publicly declared, they will not draw their swords in his cause, and that only their fears of us prevent their using them against him. The consequence will be, as to his part, that while he is not afraid of his head he never will satisfy them; and to us, that though we may protect him from immediate danger to his person, we must relinquish the hopes of seeing the country free from troubles, while he keeps a body of troops that he will not pay regularly, and over whom he consequently hath no command. This rotten system still we might in some measure support, were we always assured none but the country powers would disturb us: but it is more than probable that the French or Dutch, if not both, may some time or other renew their attempts to be concerned, and with how much the more probability of success from the distracted state of the country while the Nabob continues to govern it so ill.

The first opportunity I propose representing all this to him in the strongest light I possibly can; and should our opinions agree, I should take it as a favor if you would enclose a letter from yourself to him, on the subject; I will deliver it, and take that opportunity as the best to try what can be done by working on his fears, the only way indeed I am convinced of managing him to our own advantage and his good. In particular, Sir, you will be pleased to enforce the payment of his troops, by hinting, that if he delays it, I have your orders not to prevent them taking their own measures.

To-morrow Captain Knox's detachment marches. The Prince is certainly gone back, and we talk of nothing but the pleasures of the great Rumnah first, and then of an expedition against the Purnea Nabob to conclude the campaign. As this last step is absolutely necessary, I shall do all in my power to prevent the former obstructing it; with what success, we shall soon know. I am, Sir,

Your most obedient and most humble servant,

J. C....

To the Honorable J. Z. Holwell, Esq; President and Governor of Fort William.

Camp at Balkissens Gardens, 29th May, 1760.


I am honored this day with your favor of the 24th instant. My last letters of the 24th, and those of yesterday, of the 28th, contain all I can urge in favor of our return to Patna with the young Nabob -- you seem also convinced of the necessity of it, since the receipt of Mr. Amyatt's letters: I shall be glad to find it further confirmed by the sentiments of the Select Committee.

I am not master enough of the subject, to know how the Company's investment of Salt-petre will be so much hurt this year; and that you fear succors will arrive too late, to prevent much mischief; but this I am very confident of, that if we do not send succors, the whole province may be lost, and many years investments to come.

I will endeavor now, Sir, to reply as fully as I can to the subject on which you desire so earnestly to know my sentiments; and hope what I have to say will so fully satisfy you, that I need not at least leave the army, until the campaign is quite concluded, as I think it cannot be done without prejudice to our affairs.

Bad as the man may be, whose cause we now support, I cannot be of opinion that we can get rid of him for a better, without running the risk of much greater inconveniencies attending on such a change, than those we now labor under. -- I presume, the establishing tranquility in these provinces would restore to us all the advantages of trade we could wish, for the profit and honor of our employers; and I think we bid fairer to bring that tranquility about, by our present influence over the Suba, and by supporting him, than by any change which can be made. -- No new revolution can take place without a certainty of troubles; and a revolution will certainly be the consequence, whenever we withdraw our protection from the Suba: -- we cannot in prudence neither, I believe, leave this revolution to chance -- we must in some degree be instrumental to bringing it about. -- In such a case, it is very possible we may raise a man to the dignity, just as unfit to govern, as little to be depended upon, and in short, as great a rogue as our Nabob, but perhaps not so great a coward, nor so great a fool, and of consequence much more difficult to manage. -- As to the injustice of supporting this man, on account of his cruelties, oppressions, and his being detested in his government, I see so little chance, in this blessed country, of finding a man endued with the opposite virtues, that I think we may put up with these vices, with which we have no concern, if in other matters we find him fittest for our purpose.

As to his breach of his treaty, by introducing the Dutch last year, that was never so clearly proved, I believe, but as to admit of some doubt; -- Colonel Clive, before he left the country, seemed satisfied that what was suspicious in his conduct in that affair, proceeded not from actual guilt, but from the timidity of his nature. -- But if we still suspect him from further circumstances, we always have it in our power to put it to the test at once, by making him act as he ought, whether he will or no.

With regard to drawing our swords against the lawful Prince of the country; no man can more pity his misfortunes than I have done, nor would any one be more willing and happy to be instrumental in assisting him to recover his just right; -- but such a plan is not the thought of a day, nor the execution of it the work of a few months; -- there is a powerful party still remains; -- the Vizier, with the Maharattas and Jutes, who, notwithstanding the constant success of Abdallah against them, still make head against him; and such are their resources and their numbers, that I believe they will at last oblige the Patans to leave the country; for though they cannot beat them fairly out of the field, they bid fair to starve them out of the country.

You have, no doubt, received advice from Mr. Hastings, that Abdallah hath sent orders to the several powers, to acknowledge the Prince King of Indostan, by the name of Shaw Allum; -- rupees are struck by his order at Bannarras and Lucknow, in that name; -- orders are also given to Sujah Dowlatt, to accept the post of Vizier; and our Nabob hath got, it is said, instructions to acknowledge him, and pay him the obeisance due to the King of Kings, as he is styled.

If we were perfectly sure Abdallah would remain, as he says, until he saw the Prince well fixed on the throne, and the peace and tranquility of the country restored, we might, I think, all joined together, be a match for the Maharattas; -- but we must be well assured that Abdallah will heartily enter, and when entered, will firmly support the cause: -- for should this appointment of his be no more (as it is possible) than a finishing stroke, to end his expedition with the eclat of having given us a Mogul, and when a certain number of the country powers had entered into the alliance, he should think of a return to his own country, and leave us to fight it out with the other contending party, I fear the Vizier and the Maharattas would be too strong for those who remained of the alliance, supposing them to be the Ruellahs, and Sujah Dowlatt, and the Nabob of Bengal. -- However, supposing all this should take place, why may it not be done with our Nabob in our hand, still his friends and his protectors?

I am this instant favored with yours of the 25th; and I find by your postscript, that your opinion and mine, with regard to the Prince, do not differ much. I have no objections to follow the plan you propose: -- let Mr. Hastings sound the old Nabob, and I will go to work with the young one, who joins me this day.

We may continue our march on to Patna. -- The rains will give us time to negotiate, to see we go on sure grounds, and make such a plan of the alliance, as will do us honor, and be an advantage to our country and our employers; -- but let us not abandon the Nabob. -- Besides the reasons I have urged above, one more still remains, which I believe will have some weight, and make us cautious how we attempt, without very strong and urgent reasons, any change in the present system.

You are well acquainted, Sir, with the cause which first gave rise to the present share of influence which we enjoy in this part of the Mogul's empire: -- a just resentment for injuries received, was the first motive which induced us to make a trial of our strength; -- the case with which we succeeded enlarged our views, and made us cheerfully embrace all opportunities of increasing that interest and influence, both on account of the advantages which accrued from it to the Honorable Company, as likewise the hopes that it might in time prove a source of benefit and riches to our country. -- Such were, 1 believe, the motives of Colonel Clive's actions during his administration; such, I believe, were the views of the Honorable Company, when they solicited and obtained Colonel Coote's regiment from the Government; and such, I am certain, is the plan which the Colonel proposes, on his return, to pursue and to support, in hopes to convince the Ministry and the Company, as he is convinced himself, that if they please to support his project, it will prove of the greatest advantage to the public.

If I have stated our situation right, it follows, I believe, of course, that we are bound with vigor to work on the same plan, to act on the same principles, and to keep up the system as perfect and entire as it was left in our hands; that whatever resolutions the Nation or the Company may come to, on Col. Clive's representations, they may not be disappointed, by finding here (at least through our faults) any very material change in our situation, power, or credit.

One word more. All we can wish to do is, not to suffer the Nabob to impose on us, and to check every beginning of an independence he may endeavor to assume: -- let us consult and improve on every occasion that offers, the honor and advantage of our employers, and the increase of their trade and credit; and not let them suffer any additional expense, on account of pursuing any plan, or supporting any system whatever. -- By acting thus, I think we cannot err; we run at least no risk; and I believe the Company's affairs may be conducted by us under this Suba, as much to their advantage and credit, as any other whom a revolution may place in the government.

Enclosed, I have the honor to send Mr. Amyatt's last letter, received this morning. We have had, as you will see, another brush with the Prince's troops, and with great success: however, if the other plan goes on, we must put an end to this fighting system, and talk coolly on affairs. -- I shall expect the favor of your opinion with great impatience; and have the honor to assure you that I am, with perfect respect and esteem,

Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,


-- India Tracts, by Mr. J. Z. Holwell, and Friends.

After the departure of Colonel Clive, the delicacy that he had used towards him was entirely thrown aside. His successor in the government [John Zephaniah Holwell], who had been particularly instrumental in bringing down Sou Rajah Dowla, and consequently in occasioning the first revolution in Bengal, had arrived at his new dignity contrary to the intention of his constituents, and entirely through the accident of a number of his seniors going home at this time in disgust. Being blessed with a genius uncommonly fertile in expedients for raising money, and further unclogged by those silly notions of punctilio [a fine or petty point of conduct or procedure], which often stand in the way betwixt some people and fortune, he had projected and put in practice several inferior maneuvers; but this Chef d'Ouevre [Masterpiece], this master scheme, though formed almost as soon as he came to power, time did not allow him to have the honor of executing. Being formed, however, we may imagine, that under such a governor, daily mortifications, and in various shapes, were not wanting to this ill-starred Nabob. The prince who depends on the will of a superior, ungenerous and incapable of humane or delicate sentiments, is in a more mean and wretched state, than he who depends on a common prostitute for his daily food. Our Nabob quickly found himself reduced to less than the name of prince, insulted by the most contemptuous flights of those whom he called his allies, and who, to pave the way to the projected change, embroiled his affairs, and used all other means in their power to render him odious; despised, reviled, and cursed even to his face by his own subjects, who laid to his charge all the miseries they suffered by war, all the hardships and injuries to which they had been subjected by foreigners, into whose hands he had resigned the substance, on condition he might enjoy the shadow of government; his very domestics treated him with contempt and neglect. His son, who had acted as his general, was suddenly taken from him. This active young prince in the midst of his own, and the English camp, was most singularly struck by lightening. [!!!]

About four months after the departure of colonel Clive, a gentleman from Madrass arrived at Calcutta, to take upon him, by order of the directors, the government of their affairs in Bengal. It must here again be acknowledged, that the gentlemen in the direction, showed they had so little intention, that the accidental governor [John Zephaniah Holwell] should have ever come to that trust, that they now removed him to be the seventh in council. Being endued however in a very high degree with what in some is called address, enforced by a great share of plausibility in argument, he found these talents of singular use to him on this occasion. His grand plan being now almost ripe for execution, could not be concealed from his successor [Henry Vansittart]. He wavered some days about continuing in the service of his masters in that degraded rank. During this space it may be imagined, that he was employed in using his influence to prevail on the new governor, who was a stranger there, to adopt his views. At last this person [John Zephaniah Holwell], who had been hitherto but slightly esteemed by his successor, was by him taken into the most intimate favor and confidence, and admitted into the secret committee, which is composed of a few select members of the council there. This was but a bad omen for the unfortunate Nabob, as from this very symptom we may conclude, that the scheme and measures of the former, were now embraced by the present governor. But it does not redound much to the honor of this degraded governor [John Zephaniah Holwell], nor plead greatly in favor of the disinterestedness of his views, that after such a stigma, such a mark put upon him by his superiors, he could, (though during his short government he had acquired a handsome fortune) submit to serve them in the seventh place, after having been in the first. However, he had the spirit to remain in it no longer, than till he had fairly packed off the then governor on the execution of his plan, and on that very day he resigned.

-- Reflections on the Present State of our East-India Affairs; With Many Interesting Anecdotes Never Before Made Public, by Gentleman Long Resident in India

He arrived in Bengal in July 1760, finding himself in a difficult political position, including a serious lack of funds. He deposed the Nawab of Bengal, Mir Jafar, and replaced the Nawab with the Nawab's son-in-law, Mir Kasim, which increased the influence of England in the province. Vansittart was, however, less successful in another direction. Practically all the company's servants were traders in their private capacity, and as they claimed various privileges and exemptions this system was detrimental to the interests of the native princes and gave rise to an enormous amount of corruption. Vansittart sought to check this, and in 1762 he made a treaty with Mir Kasim, but the majority of Vansittart's council were against him and in the following year this was repudiated. Reprisals on the part of the subadar were followed by war and, annoyed at the failure of his pacific schemes, Vansittart resigned on 28 November 1764 and returned to England.[3]

To defend his conduct in Bengal, Vansittart published three volumes of papers as A Narrative of the Transactions in Bengal from 1760 to 1764 (London, 1766).[2] His conduct was attacked before the board of directors in London, but events seemed to prove that he was in the right, and in 1769 he became a director of the company. In 1768 he had been elected to a seat in Parliament for Reading.[3]

Clive had returned to India and exposed the rampant corruption. Vansittart, Luke Scrafton, and another official, Francis Forde, were sent to India to examine the administrative problems and reform the whole government in India. The mission left England in September 1769, visited Cape Town where they were last reported, embarking, on 27 December 1769, but the ship in which they sailed, the frigate Aurora, was lost at sea, apparently foundered with all hands.[2][3][4] The captain had decided to navigate the Mozambique Channel, despite bad weather.[5]

Sailing from Madagascar to South Africa is technically challenging. The Mozambique Channel separating them is famously dangerous, in particular for the effect of gales blowing up from the Southern Ocean against the south-setting Agulhas current. For a reference point that may translate better to sailors in North America, I’m told it’s comparable to experiencing a northerly gale in the Gulf Stream. There’s the very real possibility of some unpleasant weather, and big seas (20 meters!), and grief.

-- Passage Hindsight: Sailing From Madagascar To South Africa, by


Vansittart married Emilia Morse (died 1819), daughter of Nicholas Morse, Governor of Madras, in 1754. They had five sons (Henry, Arthur, Robert, George, and Nicholas), and two daughters, Emilia and Sophie.[1] They resided in England at Foxley's Manor in Bray, Berkshire.

Of the sons:

• Henry, the eldest (1756–1787), married Catherine Maria Powney.[4]
• Robert Vansittart, scored the first recorded cricket century in India, 102 for Old Etonians v. Rest of Calcutta in 1804.[6]
• The youngest, Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley, was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 12 May 1812 to 31 January 1823.

See also

• List of people who disappeared


1. Embree, Ainslie T. "Vansittart, Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28103. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
2. Chisholm 1911.
3. Mason, Philip (1985). "4". The Men Who Ruled India. ISBN 81-7167-361-9.
4. Burke, Bernard (1866). A Genealogical History of the Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire. Harrison. p. 546. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
5. Prior, D. L. (2004). "Scrafton, Luke". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 49 (online ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 534. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/63538. ISBN 0-19-861399-7. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
6. Some dates in Indian cricket history, Wisden, 1967.


This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Vansittart, Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.