Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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nominated by the British Grovernment, which retained
to itself the power of removing him and appointing
another. This last measure was as ineflB.cacious at
Kolapoor as it has been everywhere else.

In the year 1829, the Governor of Bombay visited
Kolapoor, and then proposed to withdraw the garrisons
from that town and Panalla; but the measure was
deferred, because the management of affairs had at that
time fallen into the hands of an inimical Dewan. This
person was removed, and his sovereign was warned, that
if it should again be found necessary to send troops to
Kolapoor, they would be permanently saddled on him.
The Eaja was a man of considerable, though misdirected,
energy and ability. He quickly threw off the shackles
of the British Government, and systematically disre-
garded every provision of the treaty. His army was
increased to nearly ten thousand men ; and, having no
funds to pay them, having lost his best districts, having
no field of plunder or piracy open to him, his finances
fell into the most deplorable disorder. The troops were
seldom mustered more than once a year ; the men lived
where they liked, and, being always a twelvemonth or
more in arrears, were permitted great license, and
became, as might have been expected, a mere mass of
marauders, dangerous only to their own Government.
In the Civil department there was the same reckless
improvidence as in the Military. All the ancient titles
and offices were kept up, and the same state affected as



when the Kolapoor family had arrogated Mahratta
sovereignty. Centralization was the order of the day.
Every chief, every official of any rank resided in the
city of Kolapoor. There were not less than twenty-
one mamlutdars to manage the revenue of a tract of
country not exceeding 2500 square miles, and scarcely
yielding a clear income of five lakhs of rupees. All
these mamlutdars constantly remained at Kolapoor,
and acted by deputy. The durbar was, therefore, a
scene of perpetual intrigue and chicanery, varied only
by the lowest debauchery. Every Indian city is more
or less a sink of iniquity ; among them Kolapoor became
a bye-word for foulness, for corruption and ill faith.
Eorgery and fawning were the steps to favour. Almost
every chief and officer was, like the sovereign, loaded
with debt : their estates and villages were mortgaged to
money-lenders, and the Eaja himself subsisted from day
to day only by squeezing his officials and by antici-
pating the revenues of the State. We have said that
the Eaja had ability; we may add that his mind seems
to have been tinged with insanity. In his saner
moments, he was intelligent and energetic ; occasionally,
even just. He daily held open durbar, where all had
admittance. Petitions were received, summarily dis-
cussed, and disposed of without appeal. The mamlut-
dars and courtiers were thus checked, and their illicit
gains generally reverted to his own coffers. The
highest officers were to be seen in chains one day, and
the next raised to greater honours : allowed their full
swing for a time, and then imprisoned, tortured, and
fined. Strange as it may appear, such practices do not
prevent scrambles for place now in India, any more
than they did in olden times in Europe. Mahrattas,
indeed, seem to enjoy such a troubled sea of politics.
It offers a fair field for their peculiar abilities. They


prefer, even more than other Indians, a mere nominal
salary with the dim prospect of perquisites, to a fair
and limited remuneration. It is astonishing how men
become accustomed to live with their heads in their
hands. It is now in India, as it was centuries ago
in Greece and Eome. The Kolapoor system, however,
had peculiarities of its own. So desperate had become
the fortunes of the Chief, and of the court myrmidons,
that the great majority were reduced to depend for their
daily bread on the palace bounty ; nearly a thousand of
these minions fed daily at the durbar, and were reduced
to the condition of mere personal retainers. Stranger
still is the fact, that with such a head and such instru-
ments, the condition of the country was not wretched.
The secret lay in the Eaja's vigorous despotism. An
open court, with summary cruel punishments, kept
down crime. "While the city and the palace were fiUed
with iniquities, the villages flourished ; few, if any, fell
into disorder, and, when the Eaja's career ended, little
waste land was to be found within his principality.
His offences thus lay in prodigality, in personal de-
bauchery, and in expending double or treble his income,
rather than in unduly squeezing his cultivators. His
last act was that of a desperate gamester. Shortly
before his death, in the year 1839, he affected to proceed
on a pilgrimage to Pundepoor; but the whole was a
mere scheme to plunder certain wealthy parties on the
Kistna. For this purpose, his ragged army was nearly
doubled; every effort was made to raise immediate funds,
and even the family jewels were pledged with this
unholy object. Death cut short the project ; and then
cannon and other munitions of war were found concealed
in the carts that were to accompany his train. On the
Eaja's death, his eldest son, the present chief, then a
minor, was placed on the guddee, and a regency was

o 2


formed by order of the British Government, consisting
of his mother, his maternal annt, and four Karbarees.
The two ladies, of course, quarrelled. The British poli-
tical agent, on paying a hasty visit to Kolapoor from
Belgaum, finding them in warm contention, judged
it politic to leave them so, considering that he should
most effectually hold the durbar in check by counte-
nancing both. Within six months of the agent's
departure, the aunt, who went by the title of Dewan
Sahib, being the most energetic and most unscrupulous
of the two, got the better of her kinswoman and
assumed the whole powers of government. Her supre-
macy, thus acquired, was acknowledged by the British
authorities, though the step excluded the mother of the
minor sovereign from all authority.

We return to our sketch of Sawunt-waree affairs.
The measures taken in 1819 were soon found ineffectual
to protect the British frontier from plunder. The Waree
Government was unable to subdue or restrain its own
turbulent chiefs ; and the British authorities were con-
stantly annoyed by the distractions of this petty chief-
ship. In the year 1822, the Dessaee, then in his twen-
tieth year, was ousted from all authority by his Eanees,
supported by an influential minister. So great, at length,
became the disorganization of the country that, in the
year 1836-37, the British Government was obliged to
interfere, and to send a force to occupy the forts of
Mahdogurh and Naraingurh, and the town of Waree.
The Dessaee, thus relieved from his domestic persecutors,
was delivered over to a guaranteed minister. He, of
course, soon quarrelled with his monitor ; but his com-
plaints being attributed to the influence of disreputable
favourites, he vainly appealed to the British agent (the
collector of Kutnagirry). A formidable rebellion en-
sued, which it required a British detachment to quell.


In 1838, troops were again called out, being the fourth
time that armed interference had been employed in
Sawunt-waree within nine years. Phoond Sawunt, who
has within the last twelve months* again given so much
trouble, was then in arms, plundering the Waree villages
and threatening the British frontier. The Dessaee
thwarted all the efforts of this rough-riding minister to
put down the rebellion, and accused him of being in
league with the rebels. The British Government, tired
at length of fighting the Dessaee' s battles, assumed the
direct management of the country, until such time as
there should be a probability of his governing it well.
Mr. Spooner, a Bombay civil servant, was placed in
charge of the territory ; but had a very up-hill game
to play. The country, one of the very strongest in all
India, and in many parts believed to be inaccessible to
regular troops, teemed with malcontents. While many
had real grievances, some feared the indispensable re-
ductions incidental on the new arrangements ; and
others dreaded the substitution of a strong Government
for their old system of misrule. All could plot, and
even fight confidently, having their friendly jungles to
fly to — a sure refuge in the sympathizing neutrality of
the border State of Goa. On one occasion, the rebels
acquired temporary possession of Waree ; another time,
they captured the fort of Humuntghar, blockaded the
passes, plundered travellers, and attempted to levy the
Government revenue. They were not only recruited
from the Goa territory, but one of the leaders at the
capture of Aumuntghar was a Goa Dessaee. A Sawunt-
waree local corps was, at length, raised; and a new
governor having arrived at Goa, who was less friendly
to the malcontents, they were finally put down. Nine
of the leaders were condemned to death ; but their sen-

* That is, about 1844-45.


tences were commuted to banishment for life. The
execution of a number of prisoners also took place,
under the orders of Lieutenant Gibbard, the adjutant
of the local corps. He pleaded the orders of the po-
litical agent; but was made to answer for the deed
before a military tribunal. Sawunt-waree was thus,
as the phrase runs, settled ; but the flame was only
smothered; and no sooner did disturbances break out
in Kolapoor, than the Waree people were again up, and
the son of the Dessaee was himself in arms.

We have now brought our sketch down to the period
of the late disturbances in Kolapoor and Sawunt-waree.
The united area of these two States does not exceed
four thousand square miles, and their joint nett revenue,
after deducting jaghirs and rent-free lands, scarcely
amounts to seven lakhs of rupees. But, as already ob-
served, the whole tract, especially Sawunt-waree, is a
remarkably strong country, combining within a small
area all the strong points of mountain and jungle fast-
nesses. The inhabitants, moreover, though poor, are
hardy and lawless, and still bear in mind the exploits of
Sivajee's favourite Mawulees and Hetkurees.

Predatory habits, formed during centuries of anarchy,
are not to be changed in a day. British supremacy,
has, throughout India, restricted the field of plunder
and of warfare ; but sufficient time has not j^et elapsed
materially to alter the feelings and associations of the
marauding times. We have taken from the lawless
their hunting grounds ; we have prohibited their spoil-
ing their neighbours ; but we have neither given them
an equivalent, nor allowed them an outlet for their
energies. We have not even rendered their own homes
secure. The guaranteed princes, who can no longer
array their followers for foreign raids, must turn their
hungry energies against those very followers. Money


tliey must have to feed their own luxiirions lusts. If
they cannot plunder strangers, they must harry their
own people. The rule holds good throughout India.
The instances among native States, where the cultivator
is certain of reaping what he has sown, and of being
called on to pay only what has been previously agreed,
are most rare. Indeed, they are to be found only in
some few States of very limited extent, where the reign-
ing chief, being a man of probity as well as of ability,
sees with his own eyes, hears with his own ears, and,
setting aside ministers and agents, looks after his own

The southern Mahratta States afford a good illustra-
tion of our argument. They have experienced all the
inconveniences of a strong supremacy, without partici-
pating in its advantages. The British segis has been
thrown over the rulers and ministers of Kolapoor and
Sawunt-waree, while no effectual measures have been
taken to enforce their doing their duty to the governed.
It cannot, indeed, be denied that these territories have
been most egregiously mismanaged. Countries that
have been repeatedly in arms within a short term of
years must have grievances. Half-armed, hungry men
do not give their throats to the sword for mere amuse-
ment. Men do not, for ever, love to struggle in a
hopeless cause. We may then fairly infer that there has
been abuse; and as both Kolapoor and Sawunt-waree
have, during several years, been in a manner directly
governed by British agents, we are obhged to attribute
the maladministration which has entailed so much ex-
pense of blood and treasure, to our own ill-digested
Schemes ; to the affectation of holding aloof, while we
were daily and hourly interfering in the most essential
manner, through native agents, by placing in the hands
of native underlings, powers that no native of the


present generation has head or heart to bear. With a
British superintendent in Sawunt-waree, and a native
agent in Kolapoor, acting as minister, as regent, as fac-
totum, under the political agent at Belgaum, neither of
the disaffected States can be considered as having been
under a domestic administration ; but our Government
is as distinctly responsible for their bad, as it would
have been entitled to the credit of their good manage-

Sawunt-waree offers a notable proof, that the sword
alone cannot sustain an Anglo-Indian administration.
Martial law had long prevailed ; the country had been
harried ; some malcontents had been justly condemned,
other unfortunate men had been butchered. The native
Grovernment was wholly suspended; the management
was entirely in our own hands ; and yet, no sooner had
troubles arisen in Kolapoor than it became certain that
Sawunt-waree would rise. The worst expectations were
realized. With scarcely an exception, every chief in
the country took up arms, and forty of them, with
their personal followers, driven from their fastnesses,
are now in the dungeons of Goa, rather than surrender
to British clemency. There is something very lament-
able in all this, and it calls for no ordinary inquiry.

The circumstances of the Kolapoor outbreak are
different. We have already noticed the dissensions
among the members of the regency. The supremacy
of the Eaja's aunt was not of long continuance, and
more than one change preceded the late outbreak. At
length, a few months before the insurrection commenced,
Dajee Krishen Pundit, a Brahman, who had risen from
a subordinate position in one of our civil offices, wa^
placed at the head of the regency. Within a month of
his accession to power, his two coadjutors were dis-
missed by the political agent for peculation; and the


Pundit monopolized the combined powers of minister
and regent. Dajee conld not have been a notoriously
bad man ; the probability is, he was both able and
moderate. But unlimited power has turned wiser heads
than are to be found among the underlings of an
Anglo-Indian cutchery. We accordingly find that Dajee
neither bore himself meekly, nor was content to follow
those two golden maxims, to let well alone, and to
endeavour to make the best of local, even though bad,
materials. He seems to have forgotten that he was a
foreigner among a wild and a proud people, who could
only be managed peaceably by and through their own
countrymen; that if he did not employ the natives,
they must and would oppose him ; and that they could
not remain neutral, and indubitably would be either
his coadjutors or his enemies. Nevertheless, Dajee did
make many changes, and did provide for his Brahman
kinsmen.* He, moreover, not only checked the abuses
and illicit gains of the Mankurees and other chiefs, but
by touching their dignity made himself personally of-
fensive : there can, therefore, be little doubt that, though
few of them openly engaged in the insurrection, the
majority instigated and encouraged the acts of the rebel
Gurhkurees and refractory Sebundees. The former, we
have already explained, were the hereditary holders of

* We have no desire to run down a native agent are immeasurably
Dajee ; on the contrary, we look on greater than what would face a Euro-
him as a favourable specimen of an pean officer. An ordinary English-
Anglo-Native agent. Had he been man may do a hundred things that
hetter or worse^ matters would have the best and purest native dare not
turned out differently. Had he attempt. The latter, too, has his
leagued with local oppressors, had peculiar advantages. Each has his
he gone hand in hand with the fitting place ; and the grand point of
plunderers and tyrants he found skilful Anglo-Indian administration
around him, his reign would at least turns on the judicious blending of
have been longer. Had he been a the double agency. Europeans and
" faultless monster " he might have natives may, conjointly, build up
saved the State. But in all such what either, acting singly, would
cases, the difficulties in the way of mar. — H. M. L.


the Hill forts that dot the Kolapoor conntry. From
father to son, they had lived and died at their posts,
and were supported by certain lands dependant on their
respective charges. To interfere with arrangements
which had existed since the days of Sivajee, if not
before his time, was anything bnt prudent; nor can we
perceive the policy, any more than the justice, of irri-
tating the hereditary soldiery of this wild country.
The immediate cause of offence was the appointment
of mamlutdars (revenue officers) to manage the Gurh-
kuree lands. Perhaps it would be more correct to say
that the Gurhkurees resented the removal of their own
immediate agents, and the doubling up of appointments
by which the charge of their affairs was made over to
mamlutdars who managed the adjoining districts. This
measure, as they supposed, affected their honour, and
placed them at the mercy of strangers. We are far
from believing that the Bombay authorities had any
design to mulct the Hill garrisons ; there was, therefore,
the less excuse for trifling with their feelings, it may
be their prejudices, by appointing people to do for
them what they preferred doing themselves. We need
hardly add that no stranger mamlutdar could have been
appointed, to whose fingers a portion of the proceeds of
the Gurhkuree lands would not have adhered.

In July, 1844, the flame broke out; the garrisons of
the strong forts of Bhoordurgurh and Samungurh re-
fused to admit the mamlutdar appointed to manage
their lands. Dajee Pundit for a long time endeavoured
to cajole the recusants, and eventually sent two of the
principal officers of the State to cajole them into sub-
mission. The Gurhkurees were firm, and refused not
only to admit any mamlutdar except of their own
selection, but required the guarantee of the naiks
(chiefs) of the five regiments of Sebundees at Kolapoor


as security for their future good treatment. The very
positiveness of the poor creatures seems to bear testi-
mony to their having experienced wrong, and their fear
of further injury. Dajee Pundit was desirous of grant-
ing their demands ; but the political agent forbad any
concession to men with arms in their hands ; and hear-
ing, in September, that the malcontents had levied con-
tributions in their neighbourhood, recommended that a
force should be sent against them.

It is to be regretted that, before the British func-
tionary counselled recourse to arms, he had not done
something more than communicate with the malcon-
tents through native agents ; that, in short, he had not
himself visited the scene of disorder. We have little
doubt that he might have entered either Samungurh or
Bhoordurgurh with perfect safety, the former being only
a long morning's ride from Belgaum. Or, supposing
that he could not have proceeded thither in person, why
not have called in a deputation from the recusants to
state their grievances? This question may rouse the
yells of fire-and-faggot politicians. "Yisit or receive
men with arms in their hands?" they will say. We
reply, yes, decidedly so, as long as no overt act of
hostility has been committed, and while there is reason
to believe that the disaffected are moved by real, or
even supposed, wrongs. It is not the fashion, we know,
to argue thus, — the more the pity, — and the greater the
necessity that our voice, feeble though it be, should
be raised in the cause of humanity and of truth.
Unfortunately, British Indian history abounds with in-
stances where the neglect of so simple an act of justice
has cost us dear, both in blood and credit. Whether,
we ask, is it more creditable to grant terms to men in
arms before or after they have used those arms ? The
historical reader will be familiar with cases of civil and


military revolt ; and will have observed, that in the great
majority of instances, all that was at first humbly
craved, and forcibly demanded only when redress had
been refused, was finally conceded after blood had been
shed. Are we always to slay in order to prove our
strength? Far better to relinquish so sanguinary a
dominion ! This is one view of the case, — that justice
should first be fully done, and that we should enter on
no quarrel with dirty hands. We may, however, meet
the coercives on their own ground, and entirely deny
the necessity, at the present day, of brute force to
vindicate our honour. Whatever may have been the
case fifty years ago, a preliminary fusilade is not now
requisite to prove that our measures of mercy are
voluntary. Who, in his senses, ever doubted that the
British Grovernment could coerce the Grurhkurees and
capture their forts ? Who ever denied that the Barrack-
poor division could annihilate the unhappy 47th Ben-
gal ]Sr. I. ? There have been instances where prompt
and rigid austerity was perfectly justifiable; but, for
one such emergency, a dozen have occurred where early
moderation, combined with firmness, would have been
the true course of policy.

Acting on the agent's recommendation, the Bombay
Government issued instructions that a detachment,
amply sufficient to effect the pacification of the dis-
turbed districts, should move from Belgaum, the head-
quarters of the southern division of the Bombay army.
With whom the selection and strength of the field force
rested, we are not exactly aware. It consisted of 1200
men, including two companies of European Infantry,
one company of Native Eifles, a few Irregular Horse ;
and sixty artillery-men with four mortars, two howitzers,
and two nine-pounders. One hundred labourers also
accompanied the engineer officer as pioneers. The


whole were placed under command of Lieut. -Colonel
Wallace, 20tli Madras N. I. This small detachment,
though in division orders on the 12th September, did
did not march till the 16th, and arrived opposite the
fort of Samungurh, thirty miles distant, on the 19th
of the same month. The strength of the fort lay
chiefly in its position on the summit of a scarped rock ;
its walls were found to be from twenty to sixty feet
high, and between one and two miles in circuit. The
hill on which the fort stands is, however, commanded
by an adjoining rock; the place was wretchedly equipped,
and garrisoned by only three hundred men, and might,
probably, have been seized by coiip-de-main, the first
day. Tt is obvious, however, that if the fort was not
thus to be captured by a sudden attack, there was not
much hope of the success of a detachment scarcely
exceeding 1000 bayonets, and unaccompanied by bat-
tering guns, rifty mortars might have settled the
matter in a few hours : the fire of four could only have
afibrded amusement to the garrison of so extensive a
position. On the 20th, Colonel Wallace took posses-
sion of the hill, commanding the fort, and the next day
commenced shelling, but with little or no effect. On
the 24th, the pettah was carried by storm, and no effort
was wanting, on the part of the British commander to
reduce the fort ; but he soon found himself helpless,
and applied for reinforcements and battering guns.
The distance from Belgaum does not exceed thirty
miles, and yet the guns, being impeded by heavy rain,
did not arrive for more than three weeks, by which time
much of the moral effect of the military movement had
been lost, and the Gurhkurees had received confidence
and recruited their numbers.

On the 22nd September the garrison of Bhoordurgurh

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 16 of 39)