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Debates at the India House: August 22nd, 23rd, and September 24th, 1845, on the case of the deposed raja of Sattara, and the impeachment of Col. C. Ovans. With historical notes, and a sketch of previo online

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Online LibraryEast India CompanyDebates at the India House: August 22nd, 23rd, and September 24th, 1845, on the case of the deposed raja of Sattara, and the impeachment of Col. C. Ovans. With historical notes, and a sketch of previo → online text (page 1 of 34)
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AUGUST 22nd, 23rd, and SEPTEMBER 24tii, 1845,

















To YOU, the people of this great, enlightened, and Christian
country ; and to you who represent the British people in
the Legislature, is this volume dedicated. It contains an
accurate report of two most important discussions at the
India House on the case of the deposed Raja of Sattara.
That the subsequent speeches may be the better understood, it
has been deemed advisable to prefix some historical notes,
anc" a brief sketch of proceedings in this country, down to
the present time.


Pretaub Shean, ex-Raja of Sattara, is descended from Sivajee, the
celebrated founder of the Mahratta empire, which grew out of the
ruins of the vast Mahomedan power which, in the reign of Aurungzib,
in the early part of the last century, gave laws through the greater part
of India, Scinde, the Punjab, and a portion of Afghanistan. Sivajee
was a Rajpoot, and related to the family of the Rana (or King) of
Odeypoor, the most noble and ancient of all the Rajpoot chiefs.

The efforts made by the Mahrattas under Sivajee to wrest from the
Mahomedans the country that had been previously conquered from
the Hindus, had been arrested by Aurungzib. Sivajee was dead ;
his eldest son, Sambajee, had been ignominiously put to death by the
emperor, and Sivajee's grandson, Sahoojee, with his family, remained
a captive in the hands of the Mahomedans.

The intestine feuds that arose among the sons of Aurungzib after
his death were favourable to the enemies of the Mahomedans ; but
there were circumstances, at the moment, which rendered it politic to
release Sahoojee from his captivity, and to allow him to recover, if
possible, the territory his grandfather had conquered and lost ; on con-
dition that he should consent to retain the military office assigned to
him in the service of the emperor of Delhi. It was not without some
difficulty that Sahoojee obtained the recognition and allegiance of his
subjects. Being, however, once established on the throne, he gave
himself up to the amusements of the field, leaving the hard labour of
recovering his grandfather's conquests, and of making encroacliments
on the Mahomedans wherever opportunity afforded, to his military
chiefs. The direction of this difficult task was undertaken by his
prime minister, under the title of Peshwa, who during his sovereign's
life ruled the Mahratta dominions.

These dominions (which at tlie period when Sahoojee ascended tlie
throne, were scarcely more than those subsequently assigned by the

British Government to his descendant in 1818) were, by the vigour
and energy of the Peshwas greatly extended, and before the termina-
tion of the reign of Sahoojee, almost all India, from Tanjore on the
south, to Delhi on the north, acknowledged the Mahratta sway. Such
parts as were not actually conquered, consented to pay to the great
predominant power an annual tribute levied under various pretensions.
Sahoojee lived to an extreme old age, having survived two Peshwas,
and leaving by will the care of his government to the then Peshwa,
Ballajee Bajee Row, Sahoojee left no issue; but his minister caused
his nephew, Raja Ram, a youth brought up in obscurity, to be pro-
claimed king, and the great officers of the State recognized him as
such. From that period to the time when the Raja of Sattara was
liberated from the thraldom of the Peshwas at the victory of Ashta,
obtained by the British arms under Sir Lionel Smith, in the month of
February, 1818, the descendants of Sivajee, under the rule of the
Peshwas, were deprived of all political power ; but each was recog-
nized as the head of the Mahratta empire. Every attention was paid
to the domestic comforts of the Raja and his family. He resided in a
palace, on the hill fort of Sattara, containing an area of six or eight
acres of land, affording abundant room even for horse exercise, and
having a fish preserve for amusement. The several great officers of
state, with their extensive domains, were always maintained as an
appendage to the Raja's dignity ; and his signature and seal were re-
quired to the completion of royal grants and patents for high offices.
All official reports of military operations, the confirmation of treaties,
and the declaration of war, went forth in the Raja's name, and he is
designated up to the present period as "Chatr-Putty," the sovereign
bearing the Royal Canopy, and is addressed and announced as Hindoo-
put Raja, the King of Hindostan.

Nor were these honours merely nominal. In the year 1781, the
agent of the Peshwa residing with the Raja writes to Nana Furnevis,
(the Regent at Poonah) — " It is right we should know exactly what
is to be expended on the kreea (funeral ceremony) of the late Raja
Ram, deceased : ten or twelve thousand rupees (£1000 or £1200)
will be required at least; meanwhile we have elephants, horses, and
cloths, that we can give away as presents, but not enough money ; I
only brought with me five thousand rupees, which I have still got,

but we shall ctTtiiiiily want ciglit or niiio tliuusaud ru[)ceb more."
Again, on the espousal of the Kaja's daughter, we tiiid ilie same
Regent writuig to the Agent at Saltura, to limit the ex|)enses at the
marriage of the Raja's daugiiter to fifty thousand rupees, or X'5U00.

Two more striking instances of tlie respect observed towards the
Raja occurred on the election of tlie last Peshwa, now living in exile
at Bittoor. In describing an interview between the Kaja (the present
Raja's father) and the Regent minister. Nana Furnevis, in the year
1796, at Sattara, the agent writes as follows : — " His Highness the
Maharaj then replied, that the Court establishment being on so limited
a scale, and no measures having been adopted to remove this cause ot
complaint, it was strange that he (the Regent) should come to him and
request favours." His Highness then inquired as to the fitness of
Bajee Row for managing the aflfairs of state, and as to his integrity.
Nana Furnevis having satisfied him on these points, his Highness
eventually gave his sanction to the appointment.

We subsequeutly find a letter from Bajee Row himself, to the present
Raja's father, acknowledging the patent of office.

"December 31, 1796.
" May it please your Highness —

"By your Highness's favour I am at present in theenjoyment of health,
and beg to present my most grateful and humble thanks for the khilut
(robes of office) and seals, together with the patent of office as Peshwa
to the State. I am your Highness's slave, and live in tlie hope 1 shall
ever deserve your Highness's favour.

" Your Highness's dependants have none to look to for protection
but their master. It is with this feeling that I lay my services at your
Highness's feet.

(Signed) " Bajee Row Ragonat."

It is true that at a subsequent period, the same Peshwa, having
formed an independent treaty with the British government in his own
name, did not continue to pay the same respect to his sovereign, and
even deprived him altogether of the use of his own money, causing
him and his family to be provided with all necessary wants ; he still,
however, maintained towards him the outward forms of respect, and
the Raja, to the last day of his connexion with the ex-Peshwa, Bajee
Row, addressed him personally as his servant, and always spoke of


him as such. The Raja meanwhile retained, as he still does, the title
of Maharaja Chatr-Putty, or, " His Majesty of the Imperial Canopy,"
and is addressed by his subjects and proclaimed as Hinduput Padsha,
*' Emperor of Hindostan ;" and these titles and distinctions have been
sanctioned during the twenty-seven years of his alliance with the British

At the commencement of the Mahratta war in 1817, the present
ex-llaja of Sattara was a state prisoner in the hands of Bajee Rao,
the then Peshwa; and, on the conquest of the Mahratta empire, which
was completed on the 20lh of February, 1818, the power of the
Peshwa was entirely annihilated, and the British Government proceeded
to carry into effect the terms of a previous proclamation to the Mahratta
people and chieftains, that the Raja, on being released, should be
placed at the head of an independent sovereignty, of such an extent as
might maintain him and his family in comfort and dignity. On the
20th of May, the Raja made his public entry into Sattara, escorted by
the British troops, and most of the officers, and was formally placed
upon the gadee (or throne) in full durbar. The motive avowed by the
Governor-General of India, in thus establishing the Raja on the throne
of his ancestors, with a limited territory, was to aflbrd an honourable
maintenance to the representative of the ancient Princes of the country,
and to establish among the Mahrattas a counterpoise to the remaining
influence of the former Brahmin Government. On the 25th of Sep-
tember, 1819, a treaty was concluded with the Raja of Sattara, by
which the British Government ceded to his Highness, his heirs and
successors, in perpetual sovereignty, certain districts specified in a
schedule annexed. This territory was to be held in subordinate co-
operation to the British Government, and the Raja was to be guided
in all matters by the British political Agent or Resident at his Highness's

Having now seen the Raja placed on liis throne — that throne secured
to him by solemn treaty, ratified, sealed, and delivered, let us look
back for a moment to the still earlier history of this interesting Prince.
His father had died in the year 1808, leaving two sons : himself, then
four years old, and iiis brother, Appa Sahib, now his successor, and
tlien an infant in arms. Their mother was a woman of high family, of
great spirit, and of coubiderable natural talent. She was proud of her

elevated rank, devoted to the interests of her children, a hater of the
Brahmins, who had usurped the power originally wielded by the Mah-
ratta princes, and was bent on giving her sons an education which
should render them, in some respects, equal to cope with the monopo-
lized learning of the priesthood. She, besides, carefully instilled into
their minds the dislike which she herself cherished to the whole Brah-
minical race ; and, as will be seen in the sequel, the ex-Raja was not
slow to profit by her lessons. It had been the policy of the Brahmins
to prevent the Satlara princes from being taught to read and write, and
to confine their accomplishments chiefly to skill in horsemanship, and
the use of the bow. Tlie Dowager Ranee, however, contrived to have
her sons instructed in letters, after midnight, while their attendants
slept ; and the result was, that they were both tolerably educated before
they were released from the Peshwa's power. The conduct of the
Raja, when placed on his throne, evinced so much gratitude and fidelity
to the British ; so much talent and aptitude for public business ; so
much enlightened liberality and zeal for the interests of his people, that,
in three years from the time of his installation, the entire management
of the principality was placed in his hands, and the designation of
Political Age7it, to whose advice he had been required to yield sub-
mission, was changed to that of Political Resident, whose advice was
only to be enforced, when the Raja's conduct was likely to lead to
inconvenience or injustice, or to a positive breach of the treaty. Left
to himself, he displayed a laudable, and in India, extraordinary desire
for the education of the people. He was most anxious to fit tlie Mah-
rattas for business, that they might supply the places hitherto filled by
the Brahmins. For his own connexions, and the sons of the great
officers of his government, he set apart a suite of rooms, in his own
palace, as a college. On one occasion, when it was deemed necessary
to ascertain what was the state of education in Sattara, a town contain-
ing 10,000 souls, it was found that it contained no fewer tlian forty
schools. He manifested the deepest respect for the advice of those
who had placed him on his throne, and superintended liis early adminis-
tration ; and rigidly fulfilled the parting promise which he gave to
Captain Grant Duff, the Political Agent, on his quitting Sattara for
England, in 1823, that he would never depart from the laws established
for him by that gentleman, and confirmed by the Hon. Mountsluart

Nor was it on the subject of education alone, that the Raja displayed
his zeal for the welfare and improvement of liis people, and his fitness
to rule over the portion of his ancestors' dominions conferred upon
him. lie made Sattara, from being a small and insignificant place, a
handsome and populous town. He planned and laid out broad streets
in every direction. He supplied the want of water by an aqueduct,
brought from the neighbouring hills, a distance of two miles ; and with
so much skill, that a well-known civil engineer in this country, who
saw and examined the work while in progress, declared that he was per-
fectly astonished at the science which had been displayed in every part
of its construction, whether as to the knowledge of hydraulics, or the
ingenuity in discovering and leading to the main trunk the several
small streams of water which were conducted into it; and he even
carried with him the recipe for forming the cement which was used in
laying the pipes. The Raja also laid out considerable sums in the
formation of roads and bridges, and set aside other large sums, annually,
out of his revenues, for that purpose.

Such was the Raja of Sattara, as he appeared every day in the eyes
of the men appointed to watch his conduct. From year to year he
received the lavish praises of the Bombay Government, and from year to
year he was complimented by the authorities at home upon the wisdom
and beneficence of his sway. At last, in the latter end of the year
1835, seventeen years from the date of his elevation to the throne, six-
teen from the signing of the treaty, and fourteen from the period when
he assumed the entire management of the affairs of his kingdom, the
Court of Directors, desirous of bestowing upon him the highest and
most gratifying mark of their admiration and respect, resolved that he
should be presented with a sword, and at the same time with a suitable
letter. In the letter, which received the signature of every one of the
twenty-four Directors, they complimented the Raja upon the exemplary
fulfilment of the duties of his elevated situation ; they declared that
the whole course of his conduct reflected the highest credit on his cha-
racter—that he had won their unqualified approbation — that his liber-
ality in executing, at his own cost, various public works of great
utility, had justly raised his reputation in the eyes of the princes and
people of India ; and that, therefore, they had sent him a present of a
sword, in testimony of their admiration and high esteem. Such was
the Raja of Sattara in 1835. The sword and letter went out in 1836,

but never readied tlie Prince. Before they arrived, he had incurred
the displeasure of the Bombay Government, and engines were already
at work to effect his ruin. Unhappily, they succeeded, and this
exemplary Prince is now — the ex-Raja of Sattara. We proceed to
sketch the story of his downfal — a story reflecting the deepest and
most indelible disgrace upon all the parties concerned in effecting it.

The treaty which placed the Raja on the throne, secured to him the
absolute sovereignty over certain estates, or jagheers, as they are in
India called, which, on the death of their then occupants, were to lapse
to the Raja of Sattara. It may be proper to observe, that it is the
practice in India to reward services rendered to the State, by the be-
stowment of jagheers, or certain portions of territory, over which the
parties to be rewarded are empowered, during their lives, to collect the
revenue. These jagheers stand in the place of pensions. The sove-
reignty over several such jagheers was secured to the Raja of Sattara,
by the same treaty which placed him on the throne. If any power
was competent to deprive him of these jagheers, the same power was
competent to take from him his entire dominion. It became a matter
of the utmost importance, therefore, that the Raja should assert his
right in this matter, and claim the fulfilment of the treaty. He did so,
and was evaded. He offered to submit the point in dispute to Mr.
Elphinstone, the framer of the treaty, then in England, and gave his
word that he would abide by Mr. Elphinstone's decision, whatever it
might be. This was never done. He prayed that the matter might
be referred home, for the opinion of the Court of Directors. This was
done. The decision of the Court was in his favour ; but that decision
was concealed from him by Sir Robert Grant. The disagreement about
the jagheers took place in 1832 and 1833. After a promise of the
Bombay Government that the subject should be again submitted to the
Court of Directors, the Raja rested for some time contented ; but, at
the end of a year, he discovered that he had been deceived — that no
reference of his case had been made to the home authorities. He was
displeased — he lost his confidence in the Bombay Government — he
became disquieted in his mind, and declared he could not take his food,
so deeply had the conduct of the local authorities affected him. He
announced his intention of sending an agent to this country to repre-
sent his case, and to claim the fulfilment of tiie treaty. Tliis openly

avowed intention of appeal, the Bombay Government construed into
an infraction of the treaty, and, still more, into an insult to themselves ;
and they retaliated, by rejecting the Raja's customary annual present
and letter, thus breaking off all amicable relations with him. Tliey also
withheld the sword and the Directors' letter. Let it be here observed,
that these alleged infractions of the treaty on the part of the Company,
in the matter of the jagheers, are now admitted. Mr. Elphinstone,
who was always at hand to be appealed to, and whose word would have
settled the point at once, has never been appealed to. Lord Clare, the
Governor of Bombay at the time of the dispute, and who was at first
inclined to sanction the resumption of the jagheers, has since confessed
tiiat lie was wrong, and the Raja right. The treaty has been again and
again produced in the presence of the Directors; and the three suc-
cessive Residents at the Raja's Court, Generals Robertson, Briggs, and
Lodwick, have all declared their unqualified opinion in favour of the
entire justice of the Raja's claims. His right to appeal to the home
authorities, by means of Vakeels or native agents, has never been dis-
puted in open Court. The right is undoubted ; but it suited the pur-
pose of the wholesale violators of treaties in India, to pervert a respect-
ful application to the superior authorities in England, into a breach of

The loss of the favour and good opinion of the Bombay Government,
was the signal for the rising of a host of enemies of the Rija, who
found the local authorities but too willing to listen to every accusation
they could invent.

The first charge, gravely preferred against him, was that of seeking
to corrupt two native officers in the service of the British Government.
The throne of the Raja, who is a Maliratta, had been raised upon the
ruin of the Peshwa, who was a Brahmin. The Raja had been guided
for years by a policy, which led him to adopt every legitimate
means of destroying the influence of the Brahmins, and of raising the
intellectual standard and political importance of the Mahrattas, He
had, despite all opposition and all denunciation, prosecuted the work
of educating the mass of the people ; and he had filled up the measure
of his offences, in the eyes of the Hindoo priests, by refusing to appoint
to the office of prime minister a talented Brahmin, who, from the com-
mencement of his reign, iiad aspired to that high situation. He had.

therefore, many powerful, malignant, and unscrupulous foes, who,
though awed and held in fear during the period that the Raja was the
favoured child of tlie Bombay Government, took immediate advantage
of his quarrel with the British authorities, and determined to make it
subserve the ends of their baffled ambition, their deep hatred, and their
inextinguishable revenge. Accordingly, Untajee (one of the most pro-
fligate of Brahmins) accused the Raja of tampering with the allegiance
of two of the native officers, or soobadars. This charge was first gone
into before a Commission sent up to Sattara, to try the Raja at his own
capital, but behind his back. The Commission consisted of one of
the Secretaries of the Bombay Government, a Colonel in the British
army, and the Resident at the Raja's Court, General Lodwick. The
last-named gentleman was appointed the president of the Commission,
and has since declared, that the originator of the plot avowed himself
actuated by revenge, and to be unworthy of belief; that while looking
about for the means of revenging himself upon the Raja, Heaven threw
these soobadars in his way. He said, too, that one of these soobadars
declared, that, to promote the plot, he took an oath which he had no
intention to keep ; and General Lodwick also openly stated that the
Commissioners, with whom he was associated, would not allow these
criminators of the Raja to be cross-examined ; although their oral tes-
timony was in many important particulars irreconcilable with their
previous depositions.

A second charge was brought forward — that of conspiring with Don
Manoel de Portugal, the Viceroy of a petty, poverty-stricken, power-
less Portuguese settlement, on the southern confines of the Sattara
territory, some two hundred miles below Bombay ; a conspiracy to
raise 30,000 troops in Europe, bring them to India, and, with this
splendid army, to drive the English for ever out of Hindostan ! The
witnesses brought forward to support this monstrous, wicked, and con-
temptibly ridiculous charge were almost to a man Brahmins. Several
among them were gang robbers, whom the Bombay Government par-
doned. The evidence obtained of a written character, consisted of a
bundle of Mahratta and Portuguese letters, found in pawn with an
indigent inhabitant of an obscure village in the Goa territory, and
purported to have belonged to two Brahmins, who had died ten months
before, and are declared to have been the agents of the Raja of Sattara;

but it is admitted that tliese same persons had for years been in the
service of a man who was regarded as the Pope of tlie Bralimins, known
by the name of the Swamee of Sunkeshwur, and a known enemy of
the Raja. These documents, which have been pronounced satisfactory
evidence of the Raja's guilty intentions, and which, if genuine, might
have made their possessors rich for ever, were purchased by the British
Government for the astounding sum of £40 sterling. The Portuguese
papers thus found, and affirmed to be signed by Don Manoel, have
been declared by that nobleman to be utter forgeries, and his alleged
correspondence with the Raja a gross fabrication and falsehood. But
it will naturally be supposed that the British authorities, both in India
and at home, took the earliest opportunity of calling upon our ancient
ally, the Portuguese Government, to explain the conduct of the high
functionary thus directly implicated in a charge of cherishing, through
twelve years, the design of subverting the British power in India. How
great will be the surprise of our readers when we tell them that, while
pretending to hold the proof of the Viceroy's guilt under his own hand
and seal, there has not been, down to this hour, the slightest reference
made to the subject in any correspondence between the British Govern-
ment and the Government of Portugal. We are equally ignorant if
there has ever been any correspondence on the subject between any
person connected with the executive of the East India Company, and
the Viceroy himself. But there has been between that ex- Viceroy and
oMer parties. A friend of the Raja proceeded, in April, 1841, to
Lisbon, where Don Manoel resides, and fills a high situation in the

Online LibraryEast India CompanyDebates at the India House: August 22nd, 23rd, and September 24th, 1845, on the case of the deposed raja of Sattara, and the impeachment of Col. C. Ovans. With historical notes, and a sketch of previo → online text (page 1 of 34)