Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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Alum, before Patna, cut off a small British detachment,
and might have got possession of that city had he acted
vigorously. It would be foreign to our subject to
detail the circumstances by which the English were
victorious, and Shah Alum was compelled to confirm
their creature Cossim Ali in his viceroyalty of Bengal.
The crest-fallen Emperor prepared, as soon as possible,
for his return to Delhi, on the guarantee of his new
Vizier, of Nujeeb-oo-dowlah, and other chiefs. He
was anxious also to obtain the protection of a British
escort, but though there was much desire to grant one,
he was only escorted, by Major Carnac, to the border of

In 1763, Cossim Ali was driven by the oppressions of
the English, and their disregard of all decency in the
matter of the inland trade, to abolish all duties on the
internal commerce of the country. This measure, which
should have been warmly encouraged by the British
authorities, was the main cause of the hostiHties that
followed. One outrage brought on another. Mr.
Ellis, the most violent and injudicious of the many
violent men then in authority, precipitated matters
at Patna. The result was, that Cossim Ali was
removed, and Jaffier Ali restored to the musnud.
Cossim Ali could still muster some troops, with which


lie met the British, was defeated, and, on his flight, per-
petrated that massacre of his EngHsh prisoners which
will brand his name, as long as it is remembered.
After this act of butchery, he fled for refuge to Shoojah-
oo-dowlah, taking with him three hundred and eighty-
five elephants loaded with treasure. The exile ofl:ered
Shoojah a lakh of rupees for every day's march, and half
that sum for every halt, as long as the war might last,
with three millions sterling, and the cession of the
Patna district, on the recovery of Bengal, if he would
join him against the English. But Cossim Ali, desiring
to have two strings to his bow, offered at the same time
a large bribe to the Emperor for his own appointment
to the viceroyship of Oude, in supercession of Shoojah-
oo-dowlah. The latter intercepted Cossim Ali's letter
and forthwith placed him under restraint, after gaining
over Sumroo and other military officers with their
troops. A mutiny in the English camp cramped, for a
time, the British commander, but on the 22nd October,
1764, the battle of Buxar decided the fate not only of
Bengal and Behar, but of Oude.

The immediate result of the battle was the surrender
of the unhappy Emperor, who, instead of having been
re-instated at Delhi, had been detained prisoner by his
Vizier. The latter also begged for terms, and offered
fifty-eight lakhs to the English Government and army.
The victors refused to make any terms until Cossim Ali
and Sumroo had been surrendered. The Vizier had
plundered and arrested the former, but hesitated to sur-
render him : he offered, however, to connive at his
escape, and to cause the assassination of Sumroo. As
the British commander would not accede to this propo-
sal, the negotiation with the Vizier failed ; and arrange-
ments were made with the Emperor, stipulating that
he should be placed in possession of Shoojah-oo-


dowlah's dominions, including Allahabad, and should
in return grant Benares and Ghazeepoor to the British.
Hostilities were accordingly recommenced against the
Yizier ; the British troops entered Oude, and took pos-
session of Lucknow, the capital; while Shoojah-oo-
dowlah, sending his family for refuge to Bareilly, sought
for allies in every quarter. But when the news of the
proposed arrangements reached England, the Court of
Directors were exceedingly alarmed. They sent out
posiiive orders against any such demented scheme of en-
larging the British territory, and forbade all meddling
with Delhi politics. The despatch arrived just in time
to save the Yizier, who had been defeated in a skirmish
at Korah, on the 3rd May, 1765. Deserted by his
Eohillah and Mahratta allies, he came into Greneral
Carnac's camp on the 19th of the same month, and
threw himself on British mercy. Not being behind the
scenes, the Vizier was astonished and delighted at the
moderation of the terms granted to him, which were
that he should pay fifty lakhs of rupees to the British :
that he should pledge himself not to molest Bulwunt
Singh, the Zemindar of Benares, and that he should
cede Allahabad and Korah to the Emperor. It is a
cmdous feature in this case, and a damning proof how
iniquitous had been our proceedings in Bengal, that the
Vizier, now at the mercy of his conquerors and ready to
cede all, or any portion, of his territory, yet demurred
against admitting the English to trade, free of all duties.
Government probably felt the justice of his apprehen-
sions, for in the words of Mills, "Clive agreed, in the
terms of the treaty, to omit the very names of trade and

Next year (1766), Lord Clive had an interview with
the Emperor and the Vizier at Chupra. The latter
again expressed his satisfaction at the terms of peace.


and paid up the fifty lakhs of rupees ; and the Emperor
again, vainly, requested an escort to Delhi. This first
treaty did not involve any right of internal interference
on the part of the British ; yet little time elapsed before
very stringent terms were dictated. They relinquished
Oude because they would not, or, it was supposed in
England, coicld not, keep it. They did not give it to
the Emperor, because they considered that such a gift
would imply future protection, and involve them in the
wars of Upper India, a dilemma from which Government
believed itself to have escaped by restoring the Yizier.
On the conclusion of these arrangements, a brigade of
British troops remained in the Allahabad district for the
support of the King and the Yizier against the Mali-
rattas, without any provision for the payment of the
brigade by those who benefited by its services. In the
year 1766, however, the Court of Directors wrote, "As
all our views and expectations are confined within the
Caramnassa, we are impatient to hear that our troops
are recalled from Allahabad." During the same year
the Bengal Government became alarmed at the military
schemes of the Yizier, at his " amazing improvement in
making small arms," and at the large levies of troops
entertained by him. In consequence of these suspicions,
a deputation was sent to meet the Yizier at Benares,
towards the end of 1768, when, after a warm discussion
and much opposition on his part, he agreed to reduce
his army to 35,000 men, of whom 10,000 were to be
cavalry and only ten battalions were to be trained

About this time Shoojah seized one of his principal
officers, Eajah Benee Bahadoor, and caused his eyes to
be put out. An attempt was made to procure British
interference in his favour, but the reply given was, " that
the Yizier was master within his own dominions." The


occasion was an ill-cliosen one for announcing the fact ;
but it would have been well had the law continued. In
the year 1769, three of the Oude battalions mutinied;
they were promptly put down ; but their conduct some-
what reconciled the Yizier to the late compulsory re-
duction of his troops. In 1771, the Emperor left Alla-
habad and threw himself into the arms of the Mahrattas,
after having made some secret terms with tlie Yizier for
the cession of Allahabad. The next year the Mahrattas
threatened Eohilcund and thereby Oude. Upon this
the Vizier entered into terms with the Eohillah chiefs,
and induced the Calcutta Council to allow Sir Eobert
Barker to accompany him with a British brigade. The
combined force, however, did not prevent the Mahrattas
from penetrating to the very heart of Eohilcund and
even threatening Oude. It was during this campaign
that the Yizier made the arrangement with the Eohillah
chiefs, to relieve them of their Mahratta scourge, in
return for which they were to pay him a subsidy of forty
lakhs of rupees. The failure of payment was the excuse
for the famous, or rather infamous, Eohillah war. In
the year 1773 the district of Korah was included within
the line of British defensive operations ; but Colonel
Champion, the commander of the advanced brigade, was
instructed that, " not a single sepoy was to pass the
frontiers of the Yizier' s territories." The measure was
induced by the forced grant of Korah and Allahabad by
the Emperor to his jailors, the Mahrattas, which cession
the British authorities determined to oppose, and to
reserve its ultimate destination to themselves.

Up to this time, the diplomatic relations between the

two Governments appear to have been conducted by a

Captain Harper who commanded a regiment of sepoys

in attendance on the Yizier. Mr. Hastings, however,

. desired to have a person in his own confidence at Luck-


now, and therefore recalled Captain Harper. The order
was opposed by Sir Eobert Barker the commander-in-
chief, who, on his own authority, sent the Captain back
to the Yizier. The Governor- Greneral was not a man to
be so bearded; he carried his point after some angry
correspondence, the commencement of that acrimony
which prevailed in the discussion of Oude affairs during
Mr. Hastings's administration, and which has been so
prominent a feature in most of the discussions that have
since occurred regarding that province. In September,
1773, Mr. Hastings meet Shoojah-oo-dowlah with a
view of revising the treaty, " as the latter might call
upon the Company for assistance, and yet was under no
defined obligation to defray the additional charge thrown
upon them by affording such assistance." On tlie 19th
of the same month the new treaty was concluded, mak-
ing over the districts of Allahabad and Korah to the
Vizier, on condition of his paying to the Company the
sum of fifty lakhs of rupees, and stipulating that he
should defray the charges of such portion of the British
troops as he might require ; which were fixed at two
lakhs and ten thousand rupees per month for each bri-
gade. At this meeting the Vizier felt the Grovernor-
General's pulse as to the support he was likely to receive
in his project, already contemplated, against the Eo-

Mr. Hastings took the opportunity to arrange for the
reception of a permanent British Eesident at Lucknow,
telling the Vizier at a private conference that, " he de-
sired it himself; but unless it was equally the Vizier's
wish, he would neither propose nor consent to it.".
Shoojah declared he would be delighted, and Mr. Mid-
dleton was accordingly appointed. Scarcely had the
Grovernor joined his Council when the Vizier wrote that
he understood Hafiz Euhmut and the other Eohillah


sirdars were about to take possession of Etawah and the
rest of the middle Doab, which he would never allow,
especially " as they had not made good a daum of the
forty lakhs of rupees, according to their agreement." The
Yizier added, " On condition of the entire expulsion of
the Eohillahs, I will pay to the Company the sum of
forty lakhs of rupees in ready money, whenever I shall
discharge the English troops ; and until the expulsion
of the Eohillahs shall be effected, I will pay the expenses
of the English troops ; that is to say, I will pay the sum
of rupees 2,10,000 monthly." The Council affected some
squeamishness about the Doab, which, however, they did
not prevent the Yizier from seizing. Eespecting the
operations against Eohilcund, they gave a half-and-half
sort of answer, hut held a brigade in readiness to await
the requisition of the Yizier.

The tale of the Eohilcund campaign has been often
told; we shall not add to the number of narratives.
Suffice it to say that the brunt of the battle of Kuttera
fell on the British detachment ; Colonel Champion re-
porting that the Yizier had evinced the most " shameful
pusillanimity." The English commander was however
not an unprejudiced judge. Shoojah-oo-dowlah, what-
ever were his faults, was never before accused of
cowardice, and on several occasions, especially at Buxar,
evinced great courage. It is to the credit of Colonel
Champion that he did not like the work in which he
was employed ; and looking with abhorrence at the de-
solation caused by the Oude troops, who had ill sup-
ported him in the fight, he was not chary of his re-
marks on them or on their Prince. But it is no proof
that a Native chief is a coward because he does not fight.
He often looks on to await the result of the day. The
British brigade were Shoojah's mercenaries ; they were
hired to fight his battles. He let them do so, and we


are by no means certain that if the battle of Kuttera
had gone against the British, and Colonel Champion
had fallen instead of Hafiz Euhmat, that the isolated
English brigade would not have found a foe instead of
friend in^Shoojah-oo-dowlah. This campaign, with all
its concomitant circumstances, forms the darkest spot
in Indo-British history. Little can be said in behalf
of the Vizier, and no sophistry can extenuate the con-
duct of a Grovernor and his Council, wdio hired out their
troops for butcher work, openly avowing that they did
so because they required the offered subsidy to meet the
pressure on the local finances and to answer the demands
of the home Grovernment. Having given this unquali-
fied opinion, it is just to add that report greatly exagge-
rated the virtues of the Eohillahs as well as the atrocities
of their destroyers. Warren Hastings' conduct was
made a party question both in India and England, and
his deeds were accordingly misrepresented by enemies
and slurred over by friends. *

The Eohillah war was scarcely concluded, when the
new arrangements for the Grovernment of India gave
Mr. Hastings' opponents a majority in Council. They
lost no time in pronouncing their disapproval of his
measures ; they recalled Mr. Middleton, the Eesident he
had placed at Lucknow, and gave the appointment to a
Mr. Bristow, notwithstanding his being personally ob-
noxious to the Governor- General. The men, however,
who thus stigmatized Hastings' measures carried their
zeal for reform no further than words. They scrupled
not to receive the wages of iniquity. They not only
pressed the Yizier for payment of the subsidy, but took
advantage of the critical state of his affairs to raise their
demand on him. The earthly career, however, of Shoo-
jah-oo-dowlah drew near its close. He obtained Mr.
Hastings' sanction for his return to Fyzabad, that he


might make arrangements for liquidating his engage-
ments to Grovernment. On reaching his capital, he was
seized with a violent illness which terminated his life.
He expired on the 26th January, 1775, and was sue-
ceeded by his eldest son, Mirza Amanee, who assumed
the name of Asoph-ood-dowlah.

No public man, not Cromwell himself, has ever been
painted in more opposite colours than Shoojah-oo-dow-
lah. Taking Colonel Duff's version, the Vizier was
" the infamous son of a still more infamous Persian
pedlar," ^ ^ " cruel, treacherous, unprincipled, deceit-
ful; possessing not one virtue except personal courage."
Yet the same writer shows that when danger gathered
round, Shoojah had sufficient resolution to relinquisli
the pleasures of the harem, and the field sports to which
he was addicted, that he might set himself to reform the
discipline of his troops, and retrieve the embarrassments
of his finance. On the other hand, Francklin describes
the Yizier as " an excellent Magistrate, a lover of justice,
and anxiously desirous of the prosperity of his country."
Still stronger is the praise bestowed by Jonathan Scott.
He says of Shoojah-oo-dowlah that, " as a prince he was
wise and dignified in character, as a private man, affable,
humane, and generous." * * - " Sincerely beloved by
his own subjects, even the sons of Hafiz Ehamat wept
at his death." From these discordant materials, and
the fact that after having virtually lost his sovereignty
at Buxar, he not only recovered his position, but left to
his son an inheritance nearly double what he had re-
ceived from his own father; it may be inferred that
Shoojah-oo-dowlah was an able, energetic, and intelli-
gent prince, and that he possessed at least the ordinary
virtues of Eastern rulers.

Asoph-ood-dowlah lost no time in sending a peshcush,
or offering, to the Emperor, with five thousand men ;



they arrived just in time to relieve the unfortunate mo-
narch from the hands of Zabita Khan, and the op-
portune aid secured for their sender the post of Yizier,
in succession to his father. The province of Oude had
now descended to the fourth generation, and the office of
Vizier to the third. On the accession of Asoph-ood-
dowlah, the Calcutta Council affected to consider that
the treaty with his father died with his death. After
much discussion, the new Eesident, Mr. Bristow, ne-
gotiated fresh terms, on the 21st May, 1775, the chief
clauses of which were, that the Yizier should cede
Benares and Grhazepoor, worth 23 lakhs annually, to
the Company ; raise the monthly subsidy from rupees
2,10,000 to 2,60,000 for the service of a British brigade,
and agree to dismiss all foreigners from his service, and
to deliver up Cossim Ali and Sumroo, if they should
ever fall into his hands. He further consented to pay
up all arrears due by his father. In return for these
advantages, the English undertook to defend Oude, in-
cluding Corah and Allahabad, as also the late conquests
in Eohilcund and the Doab. The services of a second
brigade, entitled "the temporary brigade" were, at the
same time, placed at the disposal of the Yizier.

Another affair was now transacted, important at
the time, and pregnant with future evil. The British
Agent, supported by the anti-Hastings majority at
the Council table, made over the treasures of the late
Yizier to his widow, the Baho (Bhow) Begum, who
was likewise put in possession of a princely jageer.
To her this wealth proved a fatal possession, leading to
the atrocities afterwards practised on herself and her
servants. On the part of our Government the bestowal
of it was both unreasonable and unprecedented. Shoojah
had died largely their debtor, and the sum now made
over to his widow effectually barred the settlement of


their claims. The Begum, it is true, claimed the
money as a legacy from her husband ; but it is almost
needless to say that under no native Government would
such a bequest, even if effectually made, have been
carried into effect. TJninterfered with, Asoph-ood-
dowlah would have assumed possession of his father s
wealth as naturally as of his place, and his mother
would have been satisfied with whatever jageer or
pension he assigned her. But party spirit in Calcutta
divided the house of Oude against itself, and involved
the ruler in difficulties which issued in crimes per-
petrated by him against his mother, at the instigation
of a British Grovernor-Greneral.

The first year of the new Nawab's authority had not
passed before he was surrounded by perplexities. The
arrears of subsidy not coming in, tunkhwas or orders
on the revenue, were obtained for four lakhs per
annum, and the Baho Begum was induced, at the
intercession of the Eesident, to assist the necessities
of the State with fifty-six lakhs of rupees, on condition
however of Mr. Bristow's ratifying her son's engage-
ment not to molest her with further demands. The
Nawab had at length leisure to attend to the state
of his army. Desiring to introduce discipline among
his troops, he applied for, and obtained, the services
of several European officers. They were not ill received
by the soldiery, but soon after, on the discharge of
some Irregulars, a mutiny broke out. An engagement
took place between the Eegulars and the Match-
lockmen; 2,500 of the latter supported an engagement
for some time with great spirit against 15,000 regulars,
repeatedly repulsing them. The fight was only brought
to an end by the explosion of a tumbrel. The mutineers
lost six hundred men and the Nawab's Sepoys three

H 2


While such was the condition of the army, the Nawab
gave himself up to drunkenness and dissipation. All
authority fell into the hands of the minister, Moortaza
Khan, whose rule was, however, brief. Kwajah Busunt,
a eunuch, but the bravest soldier in the service, took
advantage of the general dissatisfaction to encourage
a party in favour of Saadut Ali, the second and favourite
son of the late Yizier. Kwajah Busunt invited the
minister to a banquet. In the midst of the feast,
making some excuse for quitting the guest-chamber,
he gave the signal for the slaughter of the unwary
Moortaza Khan in the midst of the nautch girls and
singers. Asoph-ood-dowlah himself had been invited
to the entertainment, probably that he too might be
got rid of; the murderer, however, reeling from the
effects of the debauch in which he had participated,
came boldly into the presence, and boasted of the deed
he had performed. The Nawab ordered him to be
executed on the spot. Saadut Ali, hearing of what had
occurred, and alarmed for his own safety, immediately
took horse and fled beyond the frontier. Thus, in
one day, the Yizier lost his Minister, his Greneral, and
his Brother.

The troops were stiU in a very unsettled state, and
discontent regarding the new arrangements and the
introduction of British officers daily increased. Some
of the European officers were so maltreated by their
own men that they fled to the nearest English camp ;
others braved the storm, but it was only by the timely
arrival of two of the Company's battalions that the
mutineers were reduced or disbanded.

Such was the state of the army. The finances were
in scarcely less disorder. The regular subsidy was
originally 25i lakhs, the Francis junto raised it to 3 If,
but what with the expense of the temporary brigade,


extra troops, and numerous officers employed with the
Oude army, as well as various miscellaneous accounts,
the demands during seven years of Mr. Hastings'
administration averaged 100 lakhs annually, while, in
spite of constant screwing, the receipts only averaged
70 lakhs ; leaving in 1781 a deficit of 2iV* crores of
rupees. To meet this frightful item, there was a
materially-decreased revenue.

Another point here requires remark. We have said
that Mr. Middleton was recalled hy the majority in
Council, as one of their first measures. Mr. Hastings
no sooner recovered his ascendancy hy the death of
Colonel Monson in 1776, than he removed Bristow and
reinstated Middleton. The former restored in
1780, in obedience to repeated and positive orders from
the Court of Directors, which, however, were only
obeyed on a compromise with Mr. Francis. Mr. Bristow
was displaced a second time in 1781, by the Grovernor-
General, who said that he required to have a confidential
Agent at Lucknow, To complete the story of the
bandying about of Agents, we may here mention that
Mr. Bristow was again restored by orders from home in
1782, and, finally, again ousted by Mr. Hastings in

* Ou Oude financial questions 70 to 130 lakhs, and the receipts
Mr. Mill is both ambiguous and having averaged only seventy lakhs,
contradictory. At page 629, vol. ii. there needed no "claims of unknown
(4to edition), he states "the debt balances" to swell the amount of de-
with which he (the ' Nawab ') stood ficit. The last portion, moreover, of
charged in 1780, amounted to the the quotation making the total re-
sum of ^1,400,000," but at page 650 venue to be only one and a quarter
remarks that although when the crore, dovetails ill with IVIr. Mill's
treaty of Chunar was concluded (in own showing at page 493, vol. iii.,
1781), "the balance appeared to stand that the revenue in 1801 was about
at forty-four lakhs," the demand Ks. 2,30,12,929. An increase of more
next year (1782) "by claims of un- than a million of money during
known balances, exceeded consider- twenty years of progressive deteri-
ably two crores and a half, that is, oration ! Mr. Mill quotes Middle-
were at least equal to twice the an- ton for his first statement, and
nual revenue of the whole country." "Papers" for the second, but ap-
In the text we have shown that the pears to have overlooked their dis-
cui-rent demand having been from crepancy.


1783. The Governor-Greneral affected to have acted
only for the public good in these several transfers. He

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 8 of 39)