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of a trading company with an army and a diplomacy of
its own, making wars and alliances without much refer-
ence to the king's government, which, nevertheless, was
compromised; while reports of gross misdoings found
their way to England and were confirmed by the sinister
wealth of the " nabobs." In 1773, after a wrangle of the
government with the directory, which had a tower of
strength in British respect for charters, a Regulating Act 1773
was passed establishing a governor-general, whose authority
was to extend over all the Indian possessions of Great
Britain, with an advisory council of four, each of whom
was to have a vote; an impolitic division of the com-


mand. At the same time was established a supreme court
of justice for the administration of English law, better
than lawlessness but ill suited to the meridian of Hindostan.
1774 The first governor-general was Warren Hastings, to
whom it fell to organize and preserve what Clive had
won. With consummate ability he performed both tasks ;
the second with the calmest courage in face of gathering
perils, aggravated by the extremity to which the conflict
with the American colonists had brought the mother-
country, and by a coalition of the great maritime powers
against her which endangered her indispensable supremacy
at sea. At the same time he was contending, not merely
with factious opposition, but with the bitterest personal
enmity in his council, and could carry his vital measures
only by his own casting vote. Out of his ebbing revenues
he had at once to meet his own political necessities and to
satisfy the commercial cravings of his company. This was
his excuse for hiring out a British force to the Vizier of
Oude to serve against the Rohillas, though there were
also reasons of British policy for the measure, and the
Rohillas, instead of being an idyllic and poetic race, were
a dominant tribe of Afghan free-booters, whose overthrow
and partial eviction would be a relief to the subjugated
Hindoo. The same dire necessity dictated the exaction
at a crisis of extreme peril of what would otherwise have
been an exorbitant aid from a feudatory, Cheyt Sing, the
Rajah of Benares, and the impounding of a treasure which
had been appropriated by the Begums of Oude, but to
which, it seems, they had no title, while for the force
applied by native cruelty to them and their attendants
Hastings was at most indirectly responsible. Not one of
the acts taken at the worst could warrant Burke in saying


that Hastings had in his whole course " manifested a heart
dyed deep in blackness, a heart gangrened to the very-
core." In all Burke's torrent of invective nothing is more
unjust than his assertion that Hastings' ruling motive
was thirst of money. Hastings had, at all events, a soul
above sordid gain. He saved British dominion in India,
for which a life of impeachment was a poor reward.
The abandonment of Hastings to his enemies, whatever
was the motive, is a blot upon Pitt's fame.

The coalition government of Fox and North, inspired no
doubt by Burke, whose generous heart had been wrung,
and whose vivid imagination had been fired almost to
frenzy, by the wrongs done to ancient dynasties and fanes,
had brought in a pair of Bills, drawn probably by 1783
Burke's hand, by which, if they had passed, the whole
government and management of the territorial posses-
sions, revenues, and commerce of the Company would
have been vested in seven directors named in the Act,
that is, by the leaders of the majority in parliament, for
a term of four years. There was to be a subordinate
board of nine directors qualified by holding two thousand
pounds of the Company's stock for the special direction of
commerce. All monopolies were to be abolished, accept-
ance of presents was to be prohibited, a state of inheritance
was to be secured to the native land-holders, and servants
of the Company and agents of native princes were to be
excluded from the House of Commons. A cry at once
arose that the coalition was grasping the dominion of
India with patronage which would seat it permanently
in power on the ruins of the constitution. The Company
appealed to reverence for charters; an argument futile
when the subject was not a private privilege but a public

VOL. 11 вАФ 27


trust, yet telling, and driven home by the imprudent
words of that advocate of the Bill who scoffed at a charter
as a parchment with a piece of wax dangling from it, a
description not less applicable to the title-deeds of estates.
To the assumption of commercial management by a
government there was a manifest objection. But the
Bill in reality was killed by the unpopularity of the
coalition, which enabled the king to defeat it, to trip up
the ministry which had framed it, and to call the youthful
Pitt to power.

A change, however, there had to be. Burke, if he had
failed as a legislator, had been magnificently successful as
a preacher ; and such a reign of corruption and extortion
as was presently revealed by his immortal speech on the
Nabob of Arcot's debts no statesman could permit to con-
tinue. One of the first measures of Pitt was an India

1784 Bill, leaving the commercial management in the hands
of the Company, but placing the government, with all its
functions, political, diplomatic, military, and fiscal, under
the control of a board of six members of the Privy Council
appointed by the crown, with a cabinet minister for that
department at its head. The appointment of the governor-
general remained, in accordance with the Regulation Act,
legally vested in the court of directors, but he was practi-
cally selected by the crown. The patronage generally was
left to the Company, though by amicable understanding
much of it went to the government, and, being adminis-
tered by Dundas, helped largely to keep Scotland Pittite.
The Bill having passed. Lord Cornwallis wen^ out, the

1786 first of a line of governors-general invested with the full
authority of parliament and with the delegated dignity of
the crown. Cornwallis was an excellent man and a noble


example of the class of statesmen formed in the service
not of party but of the empire. He found the Indian
civil service still in a degraded and corrupt state ; freed
its members from temptation by raising salaries to the
proper mark, and by his influence and example improved
its social tone. Less happy, though not less well inten-
tioned was his "permanent settlement" of the vital 1793
questions of land ownership and taxation. Bent on
conferring upon India the blessings of a squirarchy, he
thought to find squires in the zemindars, who were really
collectors of the revenue, though often with a permanent
interest, and made them proprietors in fee, only paying a
quit rent to the government. There was no such tie
between these men and the cultivator as there was in
England between landlord and tenant, and the result was
the oppression and impoverishment of the peasantry of
Bengal. Warned by the failure, later legislators have
recognized in the cultivator the proprietor of the soil.

Pitt's Act of 1784 embodied the declaration that to
"pursue schemes of conquest and extension of dominion
in India were measures repugnant to the will, the honour,
and the policy of the nation." It prohibited the governor-
general in council from declaring war, entering into any
treaty for making war, or guaranteeing the possessions
of any native princes or states, except where hostilities
against the British nation in India had been actually
commenced or prepared, without express command and
authority from the home government. With these injunc-
tions Cornwallis, himself moderate and cautious, would
gladly have complied. But compliance in that seething
and tossing element of anarchy, usurpation, and rapine
was beyond his power. In Mysore, among a population


then warlike, a plundering sultanate had been founded
by Hyder Ali, an able and unscrupulous adventurer who
had formed a powerful army, and at one time had inflicted
a serious defeat on the British and threatened the exist-
ence of their power. The conflict was renewed with

1784 Hyder's heir Tippoo, a frantic despot spurred on not
only by his own rapacity and pride, but by the inspira-
tions of Bonaparte, who ceased not himself to hanker for
a career of Oriental conquest, and hoped here to strike
England by land as he could not strike her by sea. Corn-
wallis conquered, and showed his respect for the rule of
moderation by leaving to Tippoo half his territories and
his fortress capital of Seringapatam.

England was now in India a great power. She was not
yet paramount. For a paramount power capable of main-
taining a general peace, such as in his day Akbar had
maintained, the torn and distracted country yearned.
Gravitation towards a new centre had begun. Wellesley,

1798 who succeeded Cornwallis as governor-general, was a
" glorious little man " of a thoroughly imperial cast of
mind, fond even of the trappings of empire, brimful of
energy and daring, regardless of the commerical objects
in comparison with the political objects of his government,
and somewhat scornful of "the cheese-mongers of Leaden-
hall Street," who, on their side, watched the play of his
genius with alarm. He distinctly resolved to make Eng-
land not only a great but the paramount power, extending
her peace over the continent, rendering the native princi-
palities subsidiary to her military force, and bringing them
under her diplomatic control. To effect this he had to
overthrow the sultanate of Mysore and the Mahratta
confederacy, which alone of the native powers retained


formidable force. Grounds of war in both cases were
given or easily found. Mysore, he overthrew by the 1799
hand of General Harris, the Mahratta confederacy by the 1805
hand of his brother, Arthur Wellesley, the conqueror of
Napoleon that was to be. A set of subsidiary treaties
ranged the native principalities as military dependencies
under the British government; the British peace was
established over India ; and Great Britain as a paramount,
though not as an indigenous, power filled the vacant
throne of the Mogul. In the train of the Mahratta con-
federacy had prowled a jackal horde of Pindarees, free-
booters of the vilest kind, whose extinction followed in 1817
due course.

Nothing in the exploits of Cortez and Pizarro, or even
those of Alexander, is more wonderful than the victories
of the British armies in India. Plassey was won by four
thousand men against sixty thousand; Assaye by four
thousand five hundred against fifty thousand in a strong
position with a hundred pieces of cannon. The arms
were equal ; the natives had sometimes been trained by
European officers; the British soldier had to fight and
march, soihetiraes to make forced marches, in pursuit of
a nimble enemy, beneath the Indian sun, probably in the
old-fashioned accoutrements and without the palliatives
which he has now. Most Englishmen still know little
of the achievements or the heroes. They have heard the
names of Clive, Lake, and Wellington, perhaps those of
Lawrence and Eyre Coote, but not those of Pattinson and
Pottinger. Wellesley affected to doubt whether the re-
ward of a policy so little in accord with the golden rule
of moderation would be requited with honour or with the
gallows. Whatever the cheese-mongers of Leadenhall


Street would have done, the national government requited
it with honour. Resolutions condemning him were moved
by the party of moderation in both houses, but were over-
whelmingly defeated.

By the circumstances of his reign Wellesley had been
deeply impressed with the necessity of a trained civil
service. Merchants' clerks, educated only for the count-
ing house, could not be fit instruments of government for
the paramount power of Hindostan. Wellesley set up a
training institution at Calcutta. The measure was re-
garded with an evil eye by the Company, which perhaps
scented a transition from commercial to political interests
and aims. The upshot, however, was the college at

1806 Haileybury, of which Wellesley, a fine classical scholar
and a first-rate writer of Latin verses, selected the motto,
Redit a nobis aurora diemque reducit. By this combination
of special training with adequate salaries and early re-
sponsibilities was formed by far the greatest civil service
that the world had ever seen.

So far the Company had retained its monopoly of the
Eastern trade and the spirit of the trader therewith. Its
dividends had been uppermost in its mind, and in their
interest it had been interfering with the action of the
governor-general even in his hour of peril. It had jeal-
ously excluded European settlers from the country. It
had prohibited Christian missions, lest a shock should be
given to the religious prejudices of the Hindoo, so that it
might be said that the only religion which could not
be preached in India was that of the ruling race. But

1813 in 1813, on the renewal of the charter for twenty
years, the monopoly of the Indian trade was abolished,
and that of the trade with China alone was left. The


India House, through its forty members in the House of
Commons, struggled hard, and of course predicted ruin.
Its predictions were, of course, signally falsified by the
growth of a free trade. Lord Grenville would have gone
further ; he would have made over India entirely to the
crown, obviating the danger to the constitution from the
increase of crown patronage by throwing the civil service
open to competition. Governments, he held, were always
bad hands at trade, and traders were always bad hands
at government. Public sentiment prevailed over India
House prejudices, mistaken, though not unnatural. India
was opened to European settlers and to the missionaries,
without bad effects in either case. The Hindoo, though
intensely jealous of his caste, is tolerant of religious specu-
lation. Christianity presently made its appearance in the 1822
angelic form of Heber.

In passing from the control of the Company to that
of parliamentary ministers, India became exposed to the
influences of political party. From these, however, it has
suffered little, governors-general having doffed the party
politician when they donned the viceroy, retaining at most
their general tendencies, progressive or cautious. Conserva-
tive or Liberal. The Marquis of Hastings, who was an
ex-governor-general, had, as Lord Moira, been a fighting
Liberal in the British parliament and a resolute opponent
of the policy of coercion for Ireland. As governor-general
he remained Liberal, perhaps to as great an extent as a
government of conquest could bear. He gave India a free
press, which the European settlers, now admitted, were
ready to set on foot, proclaiming that " it was salutary for
government, even when its intentions were most pure, to
look to the control of public opinion." Leadenhall Street


quaked, and might perhaps have argued that these princi-
ples were suited to the British meridian, and that it was
not upon public opinion that the power of a conqueror
was based. Hastings also flouted the belief that much
light was not good for the conquered by striving to pro-
mote education, though Leadenhall Street might still
have its misgivings as to what, by the light afforded it, a
conquered population might see.

1833 In 1833, among the fruits of parliamentary reform, came,
with the renewal of the charter, an Act which took
away from the Company its remaining monopoly, that
of the China trade, discharged the magnificent fleet of
clippers which had been its pride, finally divested it of its
commercial character, leaving only the mercantile names,
and made it simply the administration of the Indian
empire under the board of control. It is not denied that
from that time the policy of the Company was liberal, and
directed entirely to the maintenance of the empire and
the welfare of the people of Hindostan. Lord William

1828- Bentinck, who at this time was governor-general, could
enter on a bold course of social reform with a perfectly
free hand. He ventured to abolish suttee, and no convul-
sion followed. He took measures for the education of a
class of natives in Western literature and science. He
. advanced natives to official positions. He promoted the
settlement of Europeans in India, the investment of Euro-
pean capital, and the extension of steam communication.
In his time, with the aid of Macaulay, was framed a code
which combined the principles of European justice with
regard for Hindoo custom. By the acting governor-gen-
eral, who after him held the reins, unrestricted free-
dom was given to the press. Bentinck's rule was marked


also by the suppression of Thuggee, a hideous brotherhood
of murder, the existence of which, with the fiend goddess
of its worship, was almost enough in itself to prove that
conquest was a blessing.

At the Sutlej it was believed that the empire had
reached its Rubicon. Beyond it, in the Punjaub, was the
domain of the Sikhs, a sect of religious purists formed into
an army, dissenters from Brahminical caste, and at the
same time deadly enemies to Mahometanism, which perse-
cuted them to the death. Under the able and unscrupu-
lous leadership of Ranjit Singh, they had become a formi-
riable force, trained by European officers, with a powerful
artillery. After the death of Ranjit, who left no strong
successor, anarchy ensued, and the Khalsa, as the Sikh
brotherhood was called, inflamed with fanaticism, pride,
and lust of conquest, crossed the Sutlej and hurled itself 1845
on the British dominions. There ensued a series of des-
perate battles in which the empire fought for its life,
while England waited with throbbing heart for tidings of
the war. Nothing in our military history is more impres-
sive than the night of Ferozeshah, when, after the doubt- 1846
ful struggle of the day, the British regiments lay down
almost under the Sikh guns; while Lord Hardinge, who,
with a noble sense of supreme duty, had laid aside the
governor-general, went to and fro over the field reviving
the spirits of the troops for the renewal of the battle on
the morrow. Having measured their strength with the
Englishman and found him their master, the Sikhs took his
pay and became the best of his native soldiers.

By the annexation of the Punjaub, marvellously organ- i849
ized under the hand of Lawrence, the empire reached its
final boundary. Invasion no longer threatened from the



mountains on the north. The settled and strong, though
rude, confederacy of the Afghans had barred that gate.
But though Moguls were no more to be dreaded, Russia,
in nervous apprehensions, took their place. Russian do-
minion had grown in central, like British dominion in
southern Asia, by collision with a series of barbarous
powers which were successively annexed, and there was
nothing to prevent the two empires from resting in peace-
ful neighbourhood with the wall of independent tribes
between them. Yet there were British statesmen who
always imagined that they saw an invading army of Rus-
sians issuing from Herat. The result was the ill-starred
1837- expedition to Cabul, ending in the most disastrous of those
defeats of the British, the memory of which, it seems, is
ominously cherished by the Hindoo. Neither from inva-
sion nor from insurrection among a people, long disarmed,
and divided among themselves into Mahometans and Hin-
doos, did danger thenceforth impend over British empire
in India. If danger now impends, it is from the impossi-
bility of acclimatizing the ruling race ; from the diffi-
culty of holding open the road to India in the face of
all the maritime powers; from the financial difficulty of
administering a poor though gorgeous country on the
footing demanded by European opinion ; above all, from
the growing pressure of multiplying myriads of human
sheep, helpless and reckless, with their plagues and fam-
ines, upon the energies and resources of a paternal govern-

The conqueror's moderation had left a fifth of Hindo-
stan under native princes, whose position was that of feuda-
tories of the empire, bound to aid it in war, to respect its
peace, to contract no alliances without its sanction, to


receive each of them at his court a Resident as the organ
of imperial authority and supervision. To the prince the
empire guaranteed his throne so long as he governed well
or not intolerably ill. For intolerable misgovernment the
native remedy was dynastic revolution. The power, which
by its protectorate deprived the people of that remedy,
was bound to provide a remedy in its place. Lord Dal-
housie, as governor-general, was probably disposed to ter-
ritorial extension; but he was only doing his duty in
deposing the imbecile despot whose foul train of syco-
phants, buffoons, and harpies was holding a reign of the
most insufferable misrule in Oude. That he was equally
wise in proceeding to the annexation of Oude is less cer- 1856
tain. He thereby at all events helped to charge the mine,
of which a terrible explosion followed.

The great mutiny of the native army of the Company, 1857
which shook the empire to its foundations, was the last
of a series caused by suspected attacks on caste. The
great mutiny at Vellore, in which the native troops massa- 1806
cred their European officers, had been caused by a sus-
pected attack on caste in the regulation of the soldier's
headgear. Brahmin regiments had mutinied on being
ordered to cross the sea, which their caste forbade. Of
the great mutiny the immediate cause appears to have
been a suspicion that caste was being furtively attacked
by the introduction of the fat of cows into the cartridges.
But the Bengal army of the Company, recruited from the
higher castes, had become too confident in its own strength,
while the proportion of British troops was too small, and
too many European officers were withdrawn to the general
staff. The circle of the deposed tyrant and those who had
subsisted by the tyranny in Oude were prepared for mis-


chief, if not actually plotting, while in the people of Oude
at large there may have been some dislike of annexation.
The opportunity was seized by the outcast Nana Sahib of
avenging a wrong which he fancied he had received in the
disallowance of his claim to an inheritance by the Hindoo
title of an adopted son. The feudatory princes, on the
other hand, when the crash came, remained faithful to the
hand which held them on their thrones. The newly-
conquered Sikhs fought not only well but savagely on the
British side. The people in general did not stir; they
had long lost warlike tendencies or qualities and probably
regarded almost with apathy the struggle for dominion.
The outbreak in this case, therefore, has been truly de-
scribed as a mutiny, not a rebellion. At the same time
caste was the immediate cause, and caste is the nationality
of the Hindoo.

Horrible atrocities were committed in the rising, atroci-
ties not less horrible in its suppression. England paid in
the effexit upon her own character the worst of all the
penalties of conquest. The panic rage of the dominant
race and its hatred of the conquered broke forth with fear-
ful violence. " It is a terrible business," says Lord Elgin,
who witnessed the scene, "this living among inferior
races. I have seldom from man or woman since I came to
the East heard a sentence which was reconcilable with the
hypothesis that Christianity had ever come into the world.
Detestation, contempt, ferocity, vengeance, whether China-
men or Indians be the object. There are some three or
four hundred servants in this house. When one first
passes by their salaaming one feels a little awkward. But
the feeling soon wears off, and one moves among them
with perfect indifference, treating them, not as dogs,


because in that case one would whistle to them and pat
them, but as machines with which one can have no com-
munication or sympathy. Of course those who can speak
the language are somewhat more en rapport with the
natives, but very slightly so, I take it. When the pas-
sions of fear and hatred are engrafted on this indifference,
the result is frightful ; an absolute callousness as to the
sufferings of the objects of those passions, which must be

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 77 of 84)