Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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substitutes expediency and his own view of public
advantage, for the simple rule of right and wrong.
The facts furnished by every writer on Oude affairs,
all testify to the same point, that British interference
with that Province has been as prejudicial to its Court
and people as it has been disgraceful to the British
name. To quote the words of Colonel Sutherland,
an able and temperate writer, "there is no State in
India with whose Government we have interfered so
systematically and so uselessly as with that of Oude.''
He most justly adds, " this interference has been more
in favour of men than of measures ; a remark, by the
way, applicable to almost every case in which our
Grovernment has intermeddled with Native States.'' It
is through such measures that Moorshedabad, Tanjore,
and Arcot, have perished beneath our hands. Nagpoor
we were obliged to nurse for a time; Hyderabad is
again "in articulo mortis," and Mysore is under strict
medical treatment. At Sattara, we are obliged to put
down the puppet we had put up. Kholapore, another
principality of our fostering, has, for nearly a twelve-
month, given employment for more troops than its
revenues will pay in twenty years. Already, and
almost before the ink of the subsidiary treaty is dry,
the regular troops at Grwalior have been employed
in police duties. The Minister of our selection has
had his life threatened ; and we are, again, in the pre-
dicament of being pledged to support a Grovernment
whose misdeeds we cannot effectually control. In
short, wherever we turn, we see written in distinct
characters the blighting influences of our interference.


The only tmmixed advantage of despotism is its
energy, arising from its indivisibility. An able and
virtuous despot may dispense happiness ; the same
ruler, saddled not only with a Minister but with a
Resident, can only diffuse wretchedness. He has no
possible motive for exertion. He gets no credit for his
good acts, and he is not master in his own country.
Much casuistry was expended, some years ago, on the
defence of the Dewani and Double- government system,
which was, at best, but one of the poor cloaks of expe-
diency, and was gradually thrown off as our strength
increased. The subsidiary and protected system is,
if possible, worse. If ever there was a device for
insuring mal-government, it is that of a native ruler
and minister, both relying on foreign bayonets, and
directed by a British Eesident. Even if all three were
able, virtuous, and considerate, still the wheels of
Government could hardly move smoothly. If it be
difficult to select one man, European or Native, with
all the requisites for a just administrator, where are
three, who can, and will, work together, to be found ?
Each of the three may work incalculable mischief,
but no one of them can do good if thwarted by the
others. It is almost impossible for the Minister to be
faithful and submissive to his Prince, and at the same
time honest to the British Government ; and how
rarely is the European officer to be found who, with
ability to guide a Native State, has the discretion
and good feeling to keep himself in the background —
to prompt and sustain every salutary measure within
his reach, while he encourages the Euler and Minister
by giving them all the credit — to be the adviser and
not the master — to forget self in the good of the
People and of the protected Sovereign ! Human nature
affords few such men, and therefore, were there no


other reason, we should be chary of our interference.
From Tanjore to Grwalior the system has been tried,
and everywhere has equally failed. In Oude each nevr
reign has required a new treaty to patch up the system.
Having little legitimate scope for ambition, the sove-
reigns have alternately employed themselves in amass-
ing and in squandering treasure. The hoards of Saadut
Ally were divided among fiddlers and buffoons : the
penurious savings of the late King have been little
more creditably employed by his successor; and the
Grovernment of Oude, hke that of the Deccan, is now
as bankrupt in purse as in character. And yet there
are men who advocate interference with Native States !
Satisfied as we are of the evils of the system, and de-
sirous, by a record of the past, to offer a beacon for the
future, we shall present a brief sketch of Oude affairs,
and will then venture to suggest the policy which,
under existing circumstances, appears fittest for our
Government to adopt.

We will first briefly set before our readers a sketch of
the kingdom of Oude, as it was and as it is.

Ajoodhya, or Oude, is celebrated in Hindoo legends
as the kingdom of Dasaratha, the father of Rama, who
extended his conquests to Ceylon, and subdued that
island. The Mahommedan invaders at an early period
conquered Oude, and it remained, with fewer changes
than almost any other province of India, an integral
portion of the Mogul empire until the dissolution of
that unwieldy Grovernment. Under the Delhi Kings,
the Soubadaree, including what are now the British
districts of Goruckpore and Azimghur, comprehended
an area about one-fourth greater than the limits of the
present kingdom. Abulfazel states, that " the length,
from Sircar Goruckpore to Kinoje, includes 135 coss ;
and the breadth, from the northern mountains of Sed-


dehpore to the Soobah of Allahabad, comprises 115


During the decadence of the Delhi empire, the
Yiziers Saadut Khan and Sufder Jung, each employed
his power, as minister of the pageant King, to increase
the bounds of the Oude viceroyalty. Both cast greedy
glances on Eohilcund, and Sufder Jung made many at-
tempts at its acquisition ; but it was not till the time
of Shooja-oo-dowlah that it became subject to Oude.
The dominions of that prince, when he first came in
contact with the British Grovernment, extended over
the greatest portion of Soubah Allahabad, including
the districts of Benares and Grhazepoor. While our
troops defended Allahabad and Oude proper, he took
advantage of the absence of the Mahrattahs in the
Deccan to seize and occupy the middle Doab, or dis-
tricts of Futtehpoor, Cawnpoor, Etawah, and Mynpoo-
ree, close up to Agra. During the ensuing year,
Colonel Champion's brigade, by the decisive battle of
Kutterah, near Bareilly, placed the province of the
Eohilcund at his feet, and enabled him to seize Eur-
ruckabad as a fief. Thus Shoojah-oo-dowlah not only
owed his existence as a sovereign to the clemency, or
perhaps to the fears, of his conquerors after the battle
of Buxar, but his subsequent accessions of territory
were the fruits of British prowess. He left his suc-
cessor a territory paying annually not less than three
millions of money, and capable of yielding double that
sum. On the conquest of Eohilcund, in 1774, he at
first rented that province at two millions ; but it yearly
deteriorated, so that not a quarter of that amount was
obtained from it when ceded to the British in 1801.
The cessions then made were estimated at 1,35,23,474
rupees, or, in round numbers, at one and a third million
of money, being above half the Oude possessions ; but.


by improvement and good management, the Ceded Dis-
tricts can scarcely yield, at the present time, less than
two and a half millions. The area of the Oude re-
served dominions is estimated to contain 23,923 square
miles. They are bounded on the North and N. E. by
the Nepal mountains ; South and S. W. by the Eiver
Granges ; East and S. E. by the British districts of
Goruckpore, Azimghur, Juanpoor, and Allahabad ; and
West by Eohilcund. The kingdom is very compact,
averaging about two hundred miles in length by one
hundred and twenty in breadth. Lucknow, the capital,
in N. latitude 26° 51', and longitude 80° 50', is admi-
rably situated on the navigable river Goomtee, nearly
in the centre of the kingdom. The Oude dominions
form an almost unbroken plain. The general flow of
the rivers is towards the south-east. The Granges, the
Grogra, the Sai, and the Goomtee, are all navigable
throughout their respective courses within the Oude
territory ; but owing to the long unsettled state of the
country, and the impositions practised on traders, the
last three are httle used ; and, even on the Ganges, few
boatmen like to frequent the Oude bank, for fear of
being plundered in one shape or another. The popu-
lation is estimated at three millions, four-fifths of
whom, perhaps, are Hindoos, and they furnish the
best-disciplined infantry in India. Three-fourths of
the Bengal Native Infantry come from Oude, and re-
cruiting parties from Bombay are sometimes seen to the
east of the Ganges.

A few remarks on the past and present capital of
Oude, the only part of their dominions which Indian
rulers much regard, will not be out of place here.

The ancient city of Ajoodhya, which either receives
its name from the province, or gives its own name to it,
must, even from present appearances, have been a place

F 2


of prodigious extent, thougli we do not pledge ourselves
to the precise accuracy of the dimensions given by Abul-
fazel, who states its length at 1 48 coss, and its breadth
at 36 coss. Ajoodhya is a place of Hindoo pilgrimage,
and is situated on the south side of the river Gogra, in
N. latitude 26° 48', and E. longitude 82*^ 4'. Its ruins
still extend along the banks of the stream, till they
meet the modern, but already decayed, city of Fyzabad.
This last town, Shoojah-oo-dowlah made his capital,
and adorned with some fine buildings ; but it was
abandoned by his successor, Asoph-oo-doulah, and has
consequently fallen into decay, and bears little trace
of any former magnificence. Lucknow, the present
capital, consists of an old and a new city, adjoining
each other; the former, like other native towns, is
filthy, ill-drained, and ill- ventilated. The modern city,
situated along the south bank of the river Groomtee, is
strikingly different, consisting of broad and airy streets,
and containing the Eoyal Palaces and gardens, the
principal Mussulman religious buildings, the British
Besidency, and the houses of the various English
officers connected with the Court. This part of Luck-
now is both curious and splendid, and altogether un-
like the other great towns of India, whether Hindoo
or Mahommedan. There is a strange dash of European
architecture among its oriental buildings. Travellers
have compared the place to Moscow and to Constanti-
nople, and we can easily fancy the resemblance. Gilded
domes, surmounted by the crescent ; tall, slender pil-
lars ; lofty colonnades ; houses that look as if they had
been transplanted from Eegent Street; iron railings
and balustrades ; cages, some containing wild beasts,
others filled with "strange, bright birds;" gardens,
fountains, and cypress trees; elephants, camels, and
horses ; gilt litters and English barouches ; all these^


form a dazzling picture. We once observed at Luck-
now a royal carriage drawn by eight elephants, and
another by twelve horses. Yet, brilliant and pic-
turesque as Lucknow is, still there is a puerility and
want of stability about it, characteristic enough of its
monarchs. The Shah Nujeef, or royal Imam-bara, forms
a striking feature in the group of buildings, half Frank,
half Asiatic, that meets the eye, after passing through
the Eoom-i-durwaza,* a gateway, said to be built on
the model of one at Constantinople. The Imam-bara
is a lofty and well-proportioned building. Hamilton
gives the dimensions of the centre room as 167 feet
long, by 52 wide ; but its contents resemble those of a
huge auction room or toy-shop, where the only object
is to stow away as much incongruous splendour as pos-
sible. Mirrors, chandeliers, gigantic candlesticks, ban-
ners, manuscripts, brocades, weapons of all sorts, models
of buildings, gaudy pictures, and a thousand other
things, all bespeak a ruler w^ho possesses wealth, with-
out knowing how to employ it. That this is no mere
vague assertion our readers will believe, from the fact
that Asoph-oo-doulah expended £150,000 sterling on
double-barrelled guns, a million of money on mirrors
and cliandeliers, and 160,000 gold mohurs, or £320,000,
on a single taziah.f

The Pureed Buksh palace is a place of some interest.
In 1837 it was the scene of the only insurrection which
has occurred during our connection with Oude. The
event, though recent, is comparatively forgotten, for
the tumult was promptly crushed. With less energetic
measures there might have been a rehearsal of the
Cabul tragedy. On the night of the 7th July, 1837,
when Nusseer-oo-deen expired, the Badshahi Begum

* Gate of Room or Constanti- t Model of the Tomb of the Mar-
nople. tyr Hoossein.


forcibly placed on the throne the boy Moona Jan.
During the twelve hours' tumult that ensued, the Eesi-
dent, his suite, and the rightful heir to the throne,
were all in the hands of an infuriated mob. Armed
soldiers with lighted torches and lighted matchlocks
in their hands, held possession of the palace, stalked
throughout its premises, and spared no threats against
the British authorities, if they did not assent to the
installation of their creature, Moona Jan. The nearest
succour had to come five miles from the cantonment.
Five companies of sepoys, with four guns, however,
soon arrived. The Eesident managed to join his friends.
He then gave the insurgents one quarter of an hour's
grace. When that had expired, the guns opened, — a
few rounds of grape were thrown into the disorderly
mass, who thronged the palace and its enclosures.
Morning dawned on an altered scene; the rioters had
succumbed or dispersed ; the dead were removed ; the
palace was cleared out ; and, by ten o'clock in the fore-
noon, the aged, infirm, and trembling heir to the crown
was seated on the throne that, at midnight, had been
occupied by the usurper. The Eesident placed the
crown on the new king's head, and the event was
announced to the people of Lucknow by the very guns
which a few hours before had carried death and con-
sternation among the Oude soldiery.

The Fureed Buksh palace is built close to the Groom-
tee, and, viewed from the opposite side of that river, has
a very pleasing efiect. But within, there is nothing to
satisfy the eye or the mind. Enormous sums have
been expended in decorating the rooms, but all these
luxuries give the idea of having been collected from
the love of possessing, not from the desire of using,
them. The apartments are so crammed that there is
no judging of their height or proportion. The room


containing the throne is long and has a dismal appear-
ance. It is laid out after the European fashion, with
glass windows and scarlet cloth curtains, but these are
dirty, musty, and moth-eaten. The throne itself must
be of great value ; it is a large, square seat, raised several
steps from the ground. The sides are, if we remember
rightly, of silver, richly chased, and gilt, set with a pro-
fusion of precious stones. Of these, many were plun-
dered during the insurrection mentioned above ; as they
have not been replaced, the throne, with all its splen-
dours, partakes of the prevailing air of incompleteness.
The neighbourhood of Lucknow, still more than its
interior, differs from other cities of Hindoostan. At
Delhi, Agra, and elsewhere, one is struck with the bleak,
desolate aspect of the country, up to the very walls.
Lucknow, on the contrary, is surrounded by gardens,
parks, and villas, belonging to the King and his nobles.
Besides these, there is the fine park and house of Con-
stantia, the property of the late General Martine. The
life and death of this soldier of fortune, are illustrative
of Indian, and especially of Oude, politics. He be-
queathed £100,000 to found a school at Calcutta to be
called La Martiniere, and a sum nearly equal in amount
for a like institution at Lucknow. Martine's will shows
his estimate of Saadut All's conscience. He dreaded
lest his estate of Constantia, where he intended the
school to be built, should be seized by the Nawab after
his death. A*Mussulman might violate property, and
even frustrate charitable intentions, but he would re-
verence a grave. The General, therefore, ordered that
his own body should be interred in one of the under-
ground apartments of his house, thus consecrating the
whole building as a tomb. The buildings intended for
the Lucknow charitable institution are now, after the
lapse of nearly half a century, in progress of erection;


and we hope ere long to see tlie Lucknow Martiniere
diffusing the blessings of education through the Oude

The soil of Oude is generally fertile, though light ;
when properly cultivated and watered, it is capable of
producing all crops. Not only are rice, wheat, barley,
with the many kind of vetches and oil plants, grown,
but opium, sugar-cane, and indigo are produced. From
the numerous large rivers and numberless small streams,
as well as the proximity of water in wells, irrigation,
that first necessary to the Indian farmer, is easy and
cheap. Indeed, in no division of India has nature done
more for the people ; in none has man done less. Else-
where, famine, cholera, and the invaders' swords have
reduced gardens to wastes ; but to no such causes can
the progressive deterioration of Oude be attributed.
For eighty years the country has not known foreign
war ; the fertility of the soil and its facilities of irri-
gation have usually averted from this province the
famines that have desolated other parts of the country ;
and its general salubrity is not to be surpassed by any
portion of India. What then has laid waste whole
districts, driven the inhabitants to emigration, or, still
worse, compelled them, like beasts of prey, to take
refuge in the forests, and abandon their habitations to
the stranger and to the hcensed plunderer ? The answer
is easily given. A double Grovernment. An irrespon-
sible ruler, ridden by a powerless pro-consul.

It may seem that we are exaggerating the evils of the
system. Theoretically, it might be argued that a King,
freed from all fear of foreign aggression, secured from
domestic insurrection, and commanding a large, and
what might be an unencumbered revenue, would have
leisure for the duties of a good ruler, and would make
it his ambition to leave some record of himself in the


grateful remembrance of his people. Experience, how-
ever, proves that slavery, even though its fetters may be
concealed or gilded, works the same mischievous effects
on nations as on individuals. Independent freedom of
action is as necessary to develope the powers of the
mind as those of the body. The Eoman system very
much resembled that which has hitherto prevailed in
British India. The Eoman Provinces were gradually
broken into the yoke. The subject Kings, shorn of
their independence, and bereft of all means of good go-
vernment, were continued for a time, until each volun-
tarily surrendered his load of care, or until the outraged
people called aloud for absorption. That which was the
result of a systematic plan with Eome, has arisen chiefly
from a fortuitous combination of circumstances with
Great Britain. During our weakness, we made treaties
that have been a dead weight on our strength. These
original arrangements have often dishonoured us, and
have generally proved grievous to our proteges.
Human nature is much the same in the East as in the
West. The same principle holds good with nations as
with individuals. The man, whether king or servant,
who has no fears, has no hopes. The man who is not
called on for exertion must be almost more than mortal
if he bestir himself. We see the principle daily exem-
plified : the child born to competence seldom distin-
guishes himself in life, while the beggar stripling often
reaches the top of the ladder. Subject States and gua-
ranteed rulers, now as of old, verify the same remark ;
and no better example can be offered than that of Oude.
It has had men of more than average ability, and of at
least average worth, as rulers and ministers, who, if left
to themselves, would have been compelled in self-defence,
to show some consideration for the people they governed.
Failing to do so, their exactions would have called into


play the rectifying principle of Asiatic monarchies, and
the Dynasty of Saadut Khan would long since have be-
come extinct. But, protected by British bayonets, the
degenerate rulers have felt secure to indulge in all the
vices generated by their condition ; sacrificing alike the
welfare of their subjects and the character of the lord

Our arrangements, in Oude as elsewhere, have been
the more mischievous because they have been invariably
incomplete. Lord Wellesley's great measure was a most
arbitrary one, but, if thoroughly carried out, in the
spirit in which it was conceived, would only have in-
jured one individual. Saadut Ali, alone, would have
suffered; his subjects would have gained by it. But
unhappily, in Oude, as in other parts of India, one Go-
vernor-General and one Agent decrees and others carry
out, or rather fail to carry out, their views. Not only
does no systematic plan of action prevail, but no such
thing as a general system of policy is recognised. The
only portion of Lord Wellesley's treaty that was
thoroughly carried out, was that of increasing the sub-
sidy to 135 lakhs, and seizing territory to cover this
enormously-increased subsidy. In all other points, we
played fast and loose, going on the usual seesaw
practice which depends so much on the digestion of the
local Eesident and the policy of the Governor- General
of the day. Saadut AH, according to all report, was an
extremely able, and naturally by no means an ill-disposed,
man. Learned, intelligent, and studious, he was one of
the few rulers of Oude who have been personally capable
of managing their country, and yet, practically, he was
more meddled with than even his silly predecessor, and
very much more so than the silliest of his successors.

The British Government came to the reformation of
Saadut All's administration with dirty hands. They


commenced by depriving him of half his dominions, and
could therefore hardly expect that their advice regard-
ing the remainder should be kindly taken. Nor was it
SO; Saadut All's talents were henceforth employed in
obtaining all the advantage he could from the Eesident's
presence, and in procuring from him the use of British
troops to collect his revenues, while, at the same time,
he treated him and his advice with all the neglect and
dislike that he dared to show. The consequence was,
that the British Government and its Agent were wearied
out, and failed to enforce the very provision of the treaty
which, at all hazards, should have been primarily at-
tended to. In the acquisition of one-half the Oude ter-
ritory we seemed to forget that we had become respon-
sible for the good management of the other half. Hav-
ing secured our subsidy, we not only abandoned the
people of the reserved Oude dominions, but lent our
bayonets to fleece them ; and Saadut Ali, who, under a
different system, might have consecrated his energies to
the improvement of his country, lived merely to extract
every possible rupee from his rack-rented people. It is
hardly a stretch of imagination to conceive him delibe-
rately blackening the British character by the use he
made of their name in revenge for his wrongs, real
and supposed. Mr. Maddock has recorded, that ''His
temper was soured by the perpetual opposition (thus)
engendered, and his rule, though vigorous and efficient,
was disfigured by cruelty and rapacity."

Such is the present misrule of Oude that, odious as
was the revenue system of Saadut Ali, it is now remem-
bered with considerable respect. Doctor Butter re-
peatedly refers to his reign as the period when there
was some law in the land, "but since his death, no
court of justice has been held by the Nawabs, and
the Chuckledars attend to nothing but finance/'


Further on lie says, " During the reign of Saadut Ali,
a single cannon-shot could not be fired by a Chuckledar
without being followed by immediate enquiry from
Lucknow as to its cause : now a Chuckledar may
continue firing for a month without question." Again,
"Since the death of Nawab Saadut Ali, in 1814, no

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 6 of 39)