James Talboys Wheeler.

Early records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio online

. (page 15 of 33)
Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 15 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

take my letter of exchange to be paid at Cossimbazar. Not
but that he would have paid me my money at Dacca ; but the
Hollanders, who understood things better than I did, told
me it was very dangerous to carry money to Cossimbazar,
whither there was no going but over the Ganges by water,
the way by land being full of bogs and fens. And to go by
water is no less dangerous, by reason that the boats which
thev use are very apt to tip over upon the least storm, and


when the mariners perceive that you carry money along with
Aou it is an easy thing- for them to overset the boat, and
afterwards to come and take up the money that lies at the
bottom of the river/''

20th Javuary. — " I took leave of the Nawab, who desired
me to come and see him again, and caused a pass to be
delivered me, wherein he gave me the title of one of the
gentlemen of his house, which he had done before, when he
was Governor of Ahmedabad, when I went to him, to the
army, in the province of Deccan, into which tlie Raja Sevaji
was entered. By virtue of these passes I could travel over
all the countries of the Great Moghul, as being one of his

Hospitalities. 21st January. — " The Hollanders made a great feast for

ray sake, to which they invited the English and some
Portuguese, together with the Austin Friars of the same

22nd January. — " I made a visit to the English. The
President of the English ftictory at Dacca was Mr. Prat.'^

29th January. — " I left Dacca in the evening. The
Hollanders bore me comj)any for two leagues with their
little barques armed, nor did we spare the Spanish wine all
that time.^^

Hughii. 20i]i February. — " I arrived at Hughli, where I stayed till

the 2nd of March, during which time the Hollanders bid
rae very welcome, and made it their business to shew me all
the divertisements which the country was capable to afford.
We went several times in pleasure-boats upon the river, and
we had a banquet of all the delicacies that the gardens of
Europe could have afforded us ; salads of all sorts, colewarts,
asparagus, pease ; but our chiefest dish was Japan beans, the
Hollanders being very curious to have all sorts of pulse and
herbs in their gardens, though they could never get artichokes
to grow in that country. ^^

Tnvornioi's Tavemier had a grievance against Nawab Shaista


Khan. The hill of exchange was stopped, and pay-
ment was refused until he deducted twenty thousand


rupees from the sum total. Tavemier had also
grievances against the Emjieror Aurungzeb, and
some of the grandees at Delhi. The fact is only
■\vorth mentioning as an instance of the oppressive
conduct of the Nawab, and the difficulties in the way
of trading in India in the seventeenth century.

About 1680 Aiu'uns^zeb bcffan to persecute the Persecution of

^ _ ° -•■ Hindus, 1680.

Hindus. He was determined to make them
Muhammadans. He carried on persecuting wars,
and tiu'ned Hindu temples into Mussulman mosques.
He collected the hateful tax known as the Jezya ;
this was a capitation tax levied from all who
refused to become Muhammadans ; it had been
abolished in India by the celebrated Akbar.

Shaista Khan was ordered to carry out tliis work Jezya demanded

Irom Europeans,

of persecution in Bengal. He levied the Jezya
upon Hindus, and demanded it from Europeans.
The English and Dutch refused to pay Jezya.
Shaista Khan let them off on the condition that
they brought liim a yearly present of Persian horses.

Hitherto the English settlements in Bengal were The English


superintended by the Governor of Madras. In
1677 Governor Masters wrote to Shaista Khan from
Madras, that if he continued Ids oppressions, the
English would certainly withdraw from Bengal.
In 1681 the Directors withdrew Bengal from the
supervision of Madras, and apj^ointed the Agent at
Hughli to be Governor of aU the factories in

Mr. Job Channock "was the most noted of the Mr. job


English Governors of Hugldi. He was cruellv


treated by Shaista Khan ; on one occasion he was
scourged. At last, as abeady told in the Madras
records, he left Bengal with all the Company's
servants and effects and went away to Madras.'
Ibrahim Khan Sliortlv aftcrwards Shaista Khan left Bensral.

Nawab, 1689. ^ ^

cai"utu!°° ''^ Ihraliim Khan was appointed Nawab in his room ;
he was the same man who is glorified in the Madras
records as " the famously just and good Nawab
Ibrahim Khan." - He invited the English to retm'n
to Bengal. Mr. Channock returned, but not to
Hughli. He was resolved to keep away from
Huglili. He built a factory in the village of
Chutanuttee, about twenty miles nearer the sea.
This was the germ wliicli was afterwards to grow
into the City of Palaces.

Loss of the The relisrious zeal of Aiu'unorzeb seems to have

saltpetre trade. ^ "

reached the ears of the Sultan of Turkey. Both
were Sunnis. The Sultan wrote to Auiamgzeb beg-
ging him to forbid his subjects from selling saltpetre
to Christians, as it was often burnt for the destruc-
tion of good Muhammadans. Aurungzeb issued
the necessary prohibition, and the English lost for
a while their saltpetre trade at Patna.
Hindu rebellion Tlic " f amouslv just aud £food Nawab Ibrahim"

iu Bt'ugal, lti96. "^ '' ~

turned out to be a very weak ruler in Bengal. In
1696 the Hindu Bajas westward of the Hughli
broke into open rebellion. The Paja of Burdwan
was at the head of the rebels. The Nawab did
nothing to stop the outbreak. He said that a civil

' Sec ante, page 90.
' Hid.


war was a dreadful evil ; that many people were
always slaug'htercd ; and that if the rebels were let
alone, they ANOiild soon disperse themselves.

The rebellion was not a formidable affair. The Azimusha..

. «-r,i Viceroy, luyo.

so-called army of the Raja ot Burdwan was routed
by fifty English soldiers in front of the factory at
Chutanuttee. But Aurungzeb was very angry at
the Hindu rebellion. He recalled the Nawab, and
appointed one of his own grandsons to be Viceroy
of the three united provinces — Bengal, Behar, and
Orissa. The name of the grandson was Azim-u-

The Hindu rebellion was lucky for the Euro- F.^rtificatiou ^


peans. The Xawab had told them to defend them-
selves, and they had run up walls and bastions round
their respective factories. This was the origin of
the three European forts or towns, namely, the
EngKsh at Calcutta, the French at Chandernagore,
and the Dutch at Chinsura. Both Chandernagore
and Cliiusura were in the immediate neighbourhood
of Huglili ; accordingly both were about twenty
miles from Calcutta.

Azim-u-shan, the new Viceroy of Bengal, was English how

the rank of

like the run of Moghul princes. He was idle, fond zemmdar.
of pleasure, and ready to grant anything for money.
By a suital)le present the English obtained a
grant of the three callages of Chutanuttee, Govind-
pore, and Kalicotta. The importance of tliis grant
is liable to be overlooked. It raised the English
to the condition of a Zemindar, similar to the posi-
tion which thev alrcadv filled at Madras. They paid



Objections over-

Murshed Kuli
Khaa Nawab,


a yearly rent of Rs. 1,195 for the three villages ;
this amount had been paid to the King's Dewan by
the Zemindars who had previously held the villages.
They administered justice amongst the natives of
the three villages after the manner of Zemindars.
In other vi^ords, they fined, whipped, and imprisoned
at will, in the same way that the Justices at Madras
punished offenders in Black Town.

The Moghul Governor at Hughli did not like to
see the English acting as Zemindars. He wanted to
send a Kazi to Calcutta to administer justice in ac-
cordance with Muhammadan law. But the English
made another present to the Viceroy, and the Gov-
ernor of Hughli was told to leave the English

Aurungzeb died in 1707. Azim-u-shan, the
young Viceroy, went away from Bengal to take a
part in the war for the succession. He left a deputy
behind to serve both as Nawab and as King's
Dewan. The new Nawab is best known by his
title of Murshed Kuli Khan. The city of Mur-
shedabad is named after him to this day.

The main object of the new Nawab was to
collect revenue and remit a large surplus to Delhi.
He hoped by so doing to gain favour with the
Moghul court. His proceedings are thus described
by Stewart : —

" Murshed Kuli Khan began to put in practice a system of
the greatest oppression upon the Zemindars or Hindu Land-
holders ; which, although it much augmented the revenue of
the State, rendered his name dreaded and detested throughout
the provinces.


" In order to make a full investigation of the value of the Empio\rapnt of

" , new collectors.

lands, he placed the principal Zemindars in close confinement, RemeaBurement
and gave the collection into the hands of expert Auniiis, or col-
lectors, who received the assessments from the farmers and paid
the amount into the public treasury. He also ordered the
whole of the lands to be re-measured ; and having- ascer-
tained the quantity of fallow and waste ground belonging
to every village, he caused a considerable proportion of it to
be brought into cultivation ; for which purpose the collectoi'S
were authorised to make advances of money to the lower order
of husbandmen, to purchase stock, and to reimburse them-
selves by a certain portion of the produce.

" When he had thus entirely dispossessed the Zemindars of subsistence
all interference in the collection, he assigned to them an allow- zemindars.
ance, either in land or money, for the subsistence of their
families, called nanhar ; to which was added the privilege of
hunting, of cutting wood in the forests, and of fishing in the
lakes and rivers : these immunities are called hunkar and

" The only persons who were exempted from these despotic zemindars of

, . 1 rr • ^ p m • 1 1 i t;' • i Bhirbhum and

regulations were the Zemindars or Bhirbhum and Kishna- Kishnaj-hur,

■,,.-, , exempted.

ghur. The first was a popular and virtuous character, named
Assud Allah, an Afghan chief, who, with his followers, under-
took to defend this territory against the wild Hindu moun-
taineers of Jeharcund. This person dedicated half his income
to charitable purposes, either in supporting the religious and
learned, or in relieving the distresses of the poor and needy :
he was besides attentive to all the duties of his religion, and
deviated not from the ordinances of the law. To have attack-
ed such a character would have exposed the Nawab to great
opprobrium, and would have incited against him the popular
clamour, and possibly would have injured him in the esteem
of every devout Mussulman.

" The other Zemindar owed his security to the nature of his
country, which was full of woods, and adjoining to the

1 The literal meauing of these three words is, the business of bread, wood,
and water.


mountains of Jeliarcund^ whitber, upon any invasion of the
district^ be retired to places inaccessible to bis pursuers, and
annoyed tbem severely in tbeir retreat : tbe country was
besides unproductive ; and tbe expenses of collection, and of
maintaining it, would have exceeded tbe amount of tbe revenue.
" Tbese two Zemindars, tberefore, baving refused tbe sum-
mons to attend at tbe court of Mursbedabad, were permitted
to remain on tbeir own estates, on condition of regularly
remitting tbeir assessment tbrough an agent stationed at
Submission of " The Rajas of Tipperab, Cooeb Bebar, and Assam, whose
arand^'"°''' countries, although they bad been overrun by tbe Mubam-
■^^*''"'' madan arms, had never been perfectly subdued, and who

therefore continued to spread the umbrella of independence
and to stamp the coin in tbeir own names, were so impressed
with the idea of the power and abilities of Murshed Kuli
Khan, that they forwarded to him valuable presents, con-
sisting of elephants, wrought and unwrought ivory, musk,
amber and various other articles, in token of their submis-
sion : in return for which, the Nawab sent tbem dresses of
honour, known as kbilluts, by the receipt and putting on of
which they acknowledged his superiority. This interchange
of presents and compliments became an annual custom during
the whole time of bis government, without either party
attempting to recede from, or advance beyond, tbe implied
line of conduct.
Administration " Mursbed Kuli Khan devoted two days in the week to the
ofjusuce. administration of justice, presiding in person in court: and

so impartial was be in bis decisions, and so rigid in the
execution of the sentence of the law, that he put bis own
son to death for an infraction of its regulations ; and his
decisions thereby became celebrated throughout Hindustan.
This, however, must be considered as respecting Muham-
madans ; for in the collection of the revenues be allowed bis
officers to be guilty of great cruelty and oppression; and
wherever any person opposed his will, he marked him as tbe
victim of bis reventje.


^' Murslied Kuli Khaii continued to make the collections Despotic powers,
through his Aumils by displacing the Zemindars, with
a few exceptions^ where he found the latter worthy of trust
and confidence. He admitted no charges for troops, but
those paid and mustered by himself. Two thousand cavalry
and four thousand infantry, under the command of Nazir
Ahmad, who had been originally a, private soldier, were found
sufficient to enforce the payment of all the revenues of
Bengal : for so severe were his regulations, and such the
dread of his power and resolution, that his commands were
implicitly obeyed; and it was sufficient for him to send a
single messenger to sequester a Zemindari, or to seize on a
culprit at the greatest distance.

'^ Such were the respect and dignity kept up by the Rajas refused
Nawab at his court, that, in his presence, no person was
allowed to salute or speak to another; nor were any of his
officers or Rajas allowed to sit before him.

"He prohibited the Zemindars, and other Hindus of Zemindars pro-
opulence, from riding in palanquins ; obliging them to make quins,
use of an inferior kind of conveyance, called a dooly, or
chowpaleh. Whoever deviated, in the smallest degree, from
his general regulations was certain to experience the effects
of his resentment.

" In the affairs of government he showed favour to no one ; Reasons for
and always rewarded merit wherever he found it. He em- Bengaiiis.
ployed none but Bengalli Hindus in the collection of the
revenues, because they were most easily compelled by
threats, or punishment to disclose their malpractices and
their confederates; and their pusillanimity secured him from
any insurrection or combination against the State. In the
few instances in which he found that they had defrauded
him, or had made away with the revenue and were unable to
make good the deficiency, he compelled the offender, with his
wife and children, to become Muhammadans.

" Raia Oudy Narain, whose family had long enjoyed the story of Raja

_ .,. [, , T . pr»-ii- T'-i ^"^y Narain.

Zemmdari or the district oi Kajeshalii, was so distmguished
by his abilities and application, that the Nawab entrusted



Zernindari of

Daily audit of

Torture of

Cruelties of the
Deputy Dewan.

him with the superintendence of the greater portion of tho
collections, and placed under his orders Gholam Muhammad
Jemadar, with two hundred horse, who in a short time
became a great favourite of his principal ; but in consequence
of his jiay having been kept back for many months, the
Jemadar's people mutinied, and the Nawab, without in-
quiring minutely into the matter, ordered a chosen detach-
ment to quell the disturbance. A conflict ensued in the
vicinity of the Raja's house, in which the Jemadar was
killed and many of his people put to death. This circum-
stance so hurt and terrified Oudy Narain, that he pat an end
to his own existence.

*' The Zemindari of Rajeshahi was in consequence taken
away from the family, and conferred on Ramjewun and
Kanoo Kenoor, two Zemindars who resided on the eastern
side of the river, in consideration of their having been more
punctual in the payment of their rents than the other
Zemindars of Bengal.

"The Nawab, however, never placed confidence in any
man ; he himself examined the accounts of the exchequer every
day ; and, if he discovered any of the Zemindars or others
remiss in their payment, he placed either the principal or his
agent in arrest, with a guard over him, to prevent his either
eating or drinking till the business was settled : and" in order
to prevent the guards from being bribed or negligent in
their duty, he placed spies over them, who informed him
of the smallest deviation from his orders.

" A principal instrument of the Nawab's severity was
Kazir Ahmad, to whom, when a district was in arrear, he
used to deliver over the captive Zemindar to be tormented by
every species of cruelty, as hanging up by the feet, bastinado-
ing, setting them in the sun in summer ; and by stripping
them naked, and sprinkling them frequently with cold water
in winter.

" But all these acts of severity were but trifles compared
with the wanton and cruel conduct of Sayyid Reza Khan, who
was married to Nufiisah Begum, the grand-daughter of the


Nawab, and who had been appointed Deputy Dewan of the
province. In order to enforce the payment of the revenues,
he ordered a pond to be dug", which was filled with every-
thing disgusting, aud the stench of which was so offensive
as nearly to suffocate whoever approached it : to this shocking
place, in contempt of the Hindus, he gave the name of
BiUoont, which, in their language, means Paradise; and
after the Zemindars had undergone the usual punishments,
if their rent was not forthcoming, he caused them to be
drawn, by a rope tied under the arms, through this infernal
pond. He is also stated to have compelled them to put on
loose trowsers, into which were introduced live cats. By
such cruel and horrid methods he extorted from the unhappy
Zemindars everything they possessed, and made them weary
of their lives."

The proceedings of Mursliecl Kuli Khan as regards
the English are also described by Stewart. The
following extracts are interesting : —

" Murshed Kuli Khan was sensible that Bengal owed Demands of
much of its wealth to its external commerce : he therefore ichau npou'the
gave every encouragement to foreign merchants, especially to °^ '^
the Moghuls and Arabians, from whom he only exacted the
prescribed duties of 2 per cent., and did not permit the
custom house officers to take more than their regulated fees;
but he was too keen a politician not to observe with jealousy
the fortified factories of the Europeans, and the great advan-
tages which the English had over the merchants, in con-
sequence of the firman and uishans, which they had obtained
(he said) by means of bribery aud corruption, and which
permitted them to trade, either duty free, or for the paltry
consideration of 3,000 rupees per annum.'

" When, therefore, Murshed Kuli Khan felt himself per- The Governor
fectly secure in his government, he set at nought the privUeges onhe
orders of the prince Siiuja, aud of the emperor Aurungzeb; inV^ '
and demanded from the English, either the same duties

' See ante, page 154.


that were paid by Hindu suLjects, or a constant renewal
of presents, both to himself and to all inferior depart-
ments. Such conduct, of course, irritated the Eng-lish
agents, who wrote a detail of their grievances to the Directors
of the Company in England, and solicited permission to send
an embassy to Dehli, to complain to the emperor Farrukh Siyar
of the Nawab^s conduct. Their suggestion was approved of
by the Company ; and orders were sent to the governors of
Madras and Bombay to unite their grievances in the same
petition with those of Bengal.

English embassy " The nomination of the ambassadors was left to Mr.
Hedges, the governor of Calcutta, who selected, for this
pui-pose, Mr. John Surman and Edward Stephenson, two of
the ablest factors in the Bengal service, joining to them an
Armenian named Khoja Serhaud, who understood both the
English and Persian languages, and who had been for many
years the principal merchant in Calcutta. Mr. William
Hamilton also accompanied the embassy as surgeon.

Delhi unknown " At that period the government of Calcutta were very

to the English ^ . . ... „ o i ^ ^^

•It Calcutta. ignorant of the politics and intrigues or the court oi Dehli ;
and the ambassadors had no other lights to direct their pro-
ceedings, than such as they obtained from the Armenian, who,
although he had never been at Dehli, had procured a certain
degree of information from some of his countrymen, whose
extensive commercial concerns led them over every part of
India ; and w^ho was very solicitous to be admitted into this
honourable commission in hopes of acquiring a large profit
by the goods he should carry, free of charges and duties, in
the train of the embassy. The presents designed for the
emperor and his officers consisted of curious glass-ware,
clock-work, brocades and the finest manufactures of woollen-
cloths and silks, valued, altogether, at 30,000^., which Khoja
Serhaud, in his letters to Dehli, magnified to 100,000/., and
gave such a description of the varieties which were coming,
that Farrukh Siyar ordered the embassy to be escorted by the
governors of the provinces through whose territories it might
pass. The train proceeded on the Gauges from Calcutta to


Patna, and thence by land to Dehli, where they arrived on
the 8th of July, 1715, after a inarch of three months/^

Copies of all the letters received by the Governor Rfrords of the
of Calcutta from the envoys at Delhi have been ^'^ ^' '''''''"•
preserved at Madras. Before selecting extracts, it
may be as well to offer a few explanations.

Famikh Siyar was reiarnin^ as Padishah, or em- Farrukh siyar,

" ^ made emperor by

peror at Dellii. He was fretting under the domination *^*^ ^'''° sayyids.
of two brothers, his Yizier and Chief Amir, who had
placed liim on the throne. Their names were
Abdulla and Husain, but they are best known as
the two Sayyids.

A powerful sjrandee, named Khan Dauran, was Khan Daumn

X o ' ' hostile to the

hostile to the two brothers, and was consequently ^^^^ ^'^y^'is-
intriguing against them.

The first extract from the letters describes the Extracts from

tlie Madiaa

reception of the envoys at Delhi, and their being '■^''"'■^'•
presented with certain nondescript vestments and
ornaments, called seerpaws, culgees, and congers.
It will be seen from what follows that they courted
both the Vizier Abdulla and Khan Dauran : —

" Delhi, 8th July 1715 . — We passed the country of the Reception of the

, \ Enghsli embassy

Jauts with success, not meeting- with much trouble, except at Deiw.
that once in the night rogues came on our camp, but, being
repulsed three times, they left us. We arrived at Furrukabad
the 3rd instant (July), where we were met by Padre Stephanus,
bringing two seerpaws, which were received with the usual
ceremony by John Surman and Khoja Serhaud. The 4th,
we arrived at Baorapoola, three coss from the city, sending
the Padre before to prepare our reception, that, if possible,
we might visit the King the first day, even before we went to
the house wdiich was got for us. Accordingly the 7th, iu the
morning, we made our entry with very good order ; there

172 Early records of British india.

being sent a Munsubdar of two thousand, with about 200
horse and peons, to meet us ; bringing likewise two elej^hants
and flags. About the middle of the city, we were met by the
Sallabut Khan Bahadur, and were by him conducted to the
palace, where we waited till about twelve o^clock till the King
came out. Before which time we met with Khan Dauran
Bahadur, who received us very civilly, assuring us of his pro-
tection and good services. We prepared for our first present,
viz., 1,001 gold mohurs, the table clock set with precious
stones, the unicorn's horn, the gold escritoire, the large piece

Online LibraryJames Talboys WheelerEarly records of British India; a history of the English settlements in India, as told in the government records, the works of old travellers, and other contemporary documents, from the earliest perio → online text (page 15 of 33)