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

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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 18 of 33)
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promise I had made him. Sheldon told him that he was
as capable to employ him as I could be. Perrin answered
that he knew that, but wished that he would be as willing



too ; so Sheldon promisod that he should command his own
ship to Persia.

" But the wine still lay unsold, though it was scarce then story of the
in Beng-al ; but the name that it got, first at Fort St. George,
and afterwards in Fort William, stuck so fast to it, that
none of it would go off at any price j so I advised him to carry
it off in the night, in my boats, on board o£ one of ray
ships, and I would try if I could serve him in selling it;
■which accordingly he did, and two gentlemen of the Council,
being that season bound for England, coming one day to
dine with me, I treated them, and the rest of my company,
with that Persian wine, which they all praised, and asked me
where I got it. I told them that, knowing that good wines
would be scarce at Bengal that year, I had provided a good
quantity at Surat, from whence I had come that season.
Every one begged that I would spare them some chests,
which I condescended to do as a favour; and next day sent
them what they wanted, at double the price the owner de-
manded for it, while he had it ; and so got off above a hun-
dred and twenty chests, which enabled Mr. Perrin to satisfy
most of his creditors.^

'^ The Companv's colony is limited by a land-mark at Territory and

11 11 11- p.ipulution of

Governapore, and another near Barnagui, about six miles the Oimipauy's

Til 1 Jill 1- 111 settlement.

distant; and the salt-water lake bounds it on the land side.
It may contain, in all, about ten or twelve tliousand souls ;
and the Company's revenues are pretty good, and w^ell jiaid.
They rise from ground-rents and consulage on all goods im-
ported by British subjects ; but all nations besides are free
from taxes.

" Barnagui is the next village on the river's side, above Barnaf?ui.
Calcutta, where the Dutch have the house and garden.

" There are several other villages on the river sides, in the D.inisii colony.
way to Huglily, which lies twenty miles above Barnagui, but
none remarkable, till we come to the Danes' factory, which

1 It must be borne in mind that Cnptain Hauiiltou was an interloper,
and therefore a natural enemy of the Company, and very prone to believe
anything evil concerning them.


stands about four miles below Hughly ; but the poverty of the
Danes has made them desert it^ after having- robbed the
Moghul's subjects of some of their shipping, to keep them-
selves from starving.
Danish and " Almost ODDOsite to the Daue^s factory is Bankebanksal/

French Com. ^- ''

panies. ^ place where the Ostend Company settled a factory, but, in

the 3'ear 1723, they quarrelled with the Fouzdar or Governor of
Hughly, and he forced the offenders to quit their factory, and
seek protection from the Frencli at Chandernagore, where
their factory is, but, for want of money, are not in a capacity
to trade. They have a few private families dwelling near the
factory, and a pretty little church to hear ]\Iass in, which
is the cliief business of the French in Bengal.

Tt'cMusu!^? ''About half a league farther up is Chinsura, where

the Dutch emporium stands. It is a large factory, walled
high with brick. And the factors have a great many good
houses standing pleasantly on the river^s side; and all of
them have pretty gardens to their houses. The settlement at
Chinsura is wholly under the Dutch Company^s Government.
It is about a mile long, and about the same breadth, well in-
habited by Armenians and the natives. It is contiguous to
Hughly, and affords sanctuary for many poor natives, when
they are in danger of being oppressed by the MoghuPs Gov-
ernor, or his harpies.

Hughly. " Hughly is a town of a large extent, but ill built. It

reaches about two miles along the river's side, from Chin-
sura before mentioned to Bandel, a colony formerly set-
tled by the Portuguese, but the Moghul's Fouzdaar governs
both at present. This town of Hughly drives a great trade,
because all foreign goods are brought thither for import,
and all goods of the product of Bengal are brought hither
for exportation. And the MoghuFs custom-house is at this
place. It affords rich cargoes for fifty or sixty ships yearly.

' The term " BanksoU " has always beeu a puzzle to the English in India
It is horrowed from the Dutch. The "Soil" is the Dutch or Danish " Zoll,"
the English " Toli." The Bauk-;oll was thus the place ou the " bank " where

all tolls or duties were levied ou laudiiigf yroods.


besides wluit is carried to neig'hbouring countries in small
vessels; and tliere are vessels that bring- saltpetre from
Patna^ above fifty yards long", and five broad, and two and a
half deep, and can carry above two linndred tons. They come
down in the month of October, before the stream of the
river, but are obliged to track them up ag-aiu, with strength of
hand, about a thousand miles. To mention all the particular
species of g-oods that this rich country produces is far beyond
my skill; but, in our East India Company^s sales, all the
sorts, that are sent hence to Europe, may be found; but
opium, long- pepper and ginger are commodities that the
trading shipping in India deals in, besides tobacco, and many
sorts of piece goods that are not merchantable in Europe.

" Now this being ray farthest travels up the famous Ganges, Cossimbazar.
I must advance farther on the report of others, and so I begin
with Cossimbazaar, about hundred miles north of Hughly,
where the English and Dutch have their respective factories,
aud, by their Companies^ orders, the seconds of Council ought
to be chiefs of those factories. The town is large, and much
frequented by merchants, which never fails of making a
place rich. The country about it is very healthful and fruit-
ful, and pi-odiiees industrious people, who cultivate many
valuable manufactories.

" Murshedabad is but twelve miles from it, a place of much Murshedabad.
greater antiquity, and the Moghul has a mint there. It was,
in former times, the greatest place of trade and commerce
on the Ganges, but now its trade aud grandeur adorns

" About forty or fifty miles to the eastward of Murshedabad, Maida.
on another channel of the Ganges, is Malda, a large town,
well inhabited and frequented by merchants ; the English
and Dutch had factories there, but whether they are con-
tinued still, I know not.

" Patna is the next town frequented by Europeans, where Patua.
the English and Dutch have factories for saltpetre and raw
silk. It produces also so much opium that it serves all the
countries in India with that commodity. It is the place of


residence of the Viceroy of Bengal^ who is always of the blood
royal. The town is larg-e, but the houses built at some
distance from oue another. The country is pleasant and
fruitful ; and the town lies in 20 deg-rees of latitude to the
northward of the equator.

Benares. " Bcnarcs Hcs about a hundred miles farther up the river,

celebrated for its sanctity by all persons over India, where
paganism prevails. Here are seminaries and universities for
the education of youth, and to initiate them into the mys-
teries of their religion. Auruugzeb restrained the priests from
showing the madness of their zeal, for they found out some
weak dotards, who, for ostentation, would go to the top of a
high tower, and leap down where divers pointed weapons were
placed in the spot they were to fall on, and among them they
ended their silly lives. It is still in so much veneration that
I have known young and old Banyans go from Surat thither
overland, out of devotion, which is computed to be a distance
of four hundred miles. The priests fill brass and copper pots,
made in the shape of short-necked bottles, with Ganges water,
which they consecrate and seal up, and send those bottles,
which contain about four English gallons, all over India, to
their benefactors, who make them good returns, for whoever is
washed with that water just before they expire, are washed as
clean from their sins as a new-born babe.

Daoca. '^ I have ventured so far into this tenra-incogiiita on the

Ganges, that I dare venture no farther, but must visit Dacca,
which lies under the tropic of Cancer, on the broadest and
easterraost branch of Ganges. The city is the largest in
Bengal, and it manufactures cotton and silk the best and
cheapest. The plenty and cheapness of provisions are in-
credible, and the country is full of inhabitants, but it breeds
none of tolerable courage, for five or six armed men will
chase a thousand. Yet, about two centuries ago, Dacca had
its own Kings^ but when Jehangir,the Emperor of the Moghuls,
over-ran Bengal with a victorious army, a detachment of
twenty thousand men was sent down to Dacca, on whose
approach the poor Bengal King surrendered his kingdom.


without once drawing- his sword in its defence, and so it
easily became annexed to the ^Mojj^huFs dominions.

"That branch of the Gang-es disembogues into the sea at chittasonff.
Chittagong, or, as the Portuguese call it, Xatigara, about fifty
leagues below Dacca ; and this place confines the MoghuFs
dominions to the eastwards. The distance between Sagor, the
westernmost channel of the Ganges, and Cbittagong eastern-
most, is about a hundred leagues, the maritime coast being
divided into many small islands made by the currents of the
Ganges, but very few are inhabited, because they are so pestered
with tigers that there is little safety for other inhabitants; and
there are also many rhinoceroses on those islands, but they are
not so dangerous neighbours as the tigers, yet, when provoked,
they will assault any living thing. Nature has endued him
with two particular rarities out of her stores. One is a large
horn placed on his nose. The second is a coat of mail to defend
him from the teeth or claws of other fierce animals. His
tongue is also somewhat of a rarity, for, if he can but get
any of his antagonists down, he w' ill lick them so clean that he
leaves neither skin nor flesh to cover their bones ; but he is
seldom known to be an aggressor, except when he meets with
an elephant; then he sharpens his horn and assaults, though
he is much inferior to the elephant in bulk and strength, being
no bigger than a very large ox, yet he often overcomes in
spite of the elephant's teeth.

" Sundiva is an island four leagues distant from the rest, suudiva.
and so far it lies in the sea; it is about twenty leagues in circum-
ference, and has three fathoms water within a mile of the
shore, and it may serve to shelter small ships from the
raging seas, and winds of the south-west monsoons. I was
credibly informed by one that wintered there, that he bought
580 pounds weight of rice for a rupee, or half a crown,
eight geese for the same money, and sixty good tame poultry
for the same, and cloth is also incredibly cheap. It is but
thinly inhabited, but the people simple and honest.

" The religion of Bengal by law established, is Mahometan : a hundred
yet ior one Mahometan there are above a hundred Pagans, Musauimaa.



Lia;htnesB of
Jloghul taxa-




Death of Mnr-
blied Kiili Khau.

Rise of Aliverdi

aud the public offices and posts of trust are filled promis-
cuously with men of both persuasions.

" The Hindus are better contented to live under the Mog-hul's
laws than under pag-an Princes, for the jNIoghul taxes them
gently, and every one knows what he must pay, but the
pagan Kings or Princes tax at discretion, making their own
avarice the standard of equity ; besides there were formerly
many small Rajas, that used, upon frivolous occasions, to
pick quarrels with one another, and before they could be made
friends again, their subjects were forced to open both their
veins and purses to gratify ambition or folly."

Such were the European settlements in Bengal
as they appeared to a ship captain in tlie early-
years of the eighteenth century. Of the Moghul
government of the Nawah, Hamilton knew no-
thing. He says that a prince imperial resided at
Patna as Viceroy of Bengal. But there had heen
no Viceroy of Bengal resident in the province since
the death of Aurungzeh in 1707. At the time of
Hamilton's voyages up the Biver Hughli, Murshed
Kuli Khan, or one of his successors, must have
been Nawah of Bengal, residing at Murshedahad.

Murshed Kuli Khan died in 1724. He was
succeeded in turn by a son-in-law and grandson.
Neither of these two Nawahs were men of any cha-
racter. In 1712 the grandson was overthrown hy
a rebel, named Aliverdi Khan. This man is a type
of the adventurers who were abroad in those days.

Aliverdi Khan is said to have been originally
a hookah-bearer to the Nawab. He was ultimately
made deputy governor of Behar. At this period
he conquered most of the Hindu Bajas in Behar,


eitlicr by force or treachery. One story will serve
as an illustration of his administration.

There was a once famous Raia in Behar, known K..,iaoMh«


as the Eaja of the Chukwars. He had a town,
named Samba over against Monghyr. The English
knew him well, for he levied duties on all goods
going up or down the river between Calcutta and
Patna, and there had been many a fight between
the English escort and the Raja and liis followers.
He was, in fact, one of those petty Rajas who col-
lected, or tried to collect, arbitrary imposts on all
goods i^assiug through their neighbourhood. No
doubt these imposts were a kind of black mail.

This Raia of the Chukwars had always set the independent of

•^ '' the old Raja :

Moghuls at defiance ; he would pay neither tribute the jouDrRak
nor homage to Aliverdi Khan. He died about
1730 ; his son succeeded to the Raj. The son sub-
mitted to Aliverdi Khan and paid a yearly tri-
bute. Both sides feared treachery. Accordingly it
was agreed that when the Raja paid his yearly
tribute, he should be accompanied by tliirty fol-
lowers and no more. In like manner it was asrreed
that the ofiicer who received the tribute should also
have only thirty followers. This rule was strictly
observed for four years in succession.

On the fifth year, when the tribute was about Treachd j of


to be 2^aid, the Company s servants at Calcutta '^''^•
w^ere sending goods and treasure to Patna under
the charge of an escort of soldiers. The goods
were in charge of a yomig merchant named llol-
wcll. llolwell and the Major conmiandiug the


escort saw a boat passing by, and called on it to stop
as they wanted some fish. The boat came up
with six baskets on board. Instead of fish, they
contained the bleeding heads of the Raja and liis
thirty followers. All had been murdered by the
treachery of the officer of Aliverdi Khan. It
turned out that an ambuscade had been set by the
order of Aliverdi Khan ; that the Haja and his
thirty followers had all been treacherously attacked,
murdered, and beheaded ; that the heads had been
sent away to Patna to satisfy Aliverdi Khan. That
same night the Haja's town of Samba was sacked
and burnt by the forces of Aliverdi Klian.^
Persian invasion Mcanwhilc tlic forcc of tlic Moo'liul empire was

muiiT Nadir '^ ^

shai,. 1738-39. ^^^^ wastlug away. Parrukh Siyar was little better
than a pageant. His successors fooled away their
time with concubines and bufi;oons, and left the
administration in the hands of corrupt and unscru-
pulous ministers. The empire of Akbar and Au-
rungzeb was only held together under their feeble
successors by the force of old routine and the
prestige of a name. In 1738-39, the empire received
a mortal blow. Nadir Shah of Persia advanced
with a large army upon Delhi. The story of the
invasion of Nadir Shah reveals the fact, that the
Moghul empire was rotten to the core. It fur-
nishes such a terrible picture of the defenceless
state of Hindustan, and is so often referred to in

' Holwell's Tracts. Mr. Holwell states that he himself was an eye-wit-
iiess, haviuj; been with the English boats at the time.


tlic later records, that it cannot be passed over in

The Persian empire was founded by the Sufi Afghan conquest

■•• "of Persia ; rise

dynasty in the beginning of the sixteenth century, ''' ^'-"^^ ^^''^^
on the ruins of the great Tartar empire created
in the fourteenth century by Timur. The Sufi
dynasty lingered on for two centuries, and was
then overthrown by an Afghan invasion shortly
after the death of Aurungzeb in the beginning
of the eighteenth century. The Afghan conquest
of Pei*sia is one of the most horrible stories of
rapine and outrage in the annals of the world.
Amidst the general anarchy, a freebooter assumed
the sovereignty of Persia, under the name of Nadir
Shah. He founded a new Persian empii'e which
threatened to rival that of Darius. He conquered
all the region to the eastward, — Bokhara, Kabul, and

It was natural that Nadir Shah should have ca„scs of the

Persian invasion

overrun Kabul and Kandahar. He scarcely wanted '"^ ^"'''''•
to invade India ; he was drawn into it by the sense-
less conduct of the Moghul and his ministers. He
sent ambassadors to Delhi ; he received no con-
gratulations, and no replies. His aml)assadors were
not even dismissed ; they were kept waiting on at
Court. He was surprised ; he grew exasperated.
The way was open before him; the passes had
ceased to be guarded. In former times, a yearly
subsidy of twelve lakhs of rupees had served to
block up the passes. Part of the money was dis-
tributed to the hill tribes ; the remainder was spent


on garrisons. The worthless Vizier at Delhi kejit
back the money for his own use. The posts were
abandoned. The army of Nadir Shah moved on
unchecked towards Delhi. Meanwhile no reports of
the threatened danger reached the doomed capital ;
or if any warnings were received, they were wholly
disregarded until there was no possibility of repelling
the invasion.
Incapacity, At last tlic ucws arrlved at the Moghul Court that

corruption, and , ,

treachery. Nadir Shall was coming. A vast mob of Hindu-
stanis was gathered together to resist the Persian
invaders. Nadii* Shah gained an easy victory. There
was no real opposition. The two leading Moghul
grandees were quarrelling for the post of Amir-ul-
Umra, literally Amir of Amirs, otherwise the chief
of all the grandees. One bribed Nadir Shah to
return to Persia by a payment of two millions ster-
ling ; and was rewarded for his success by being ap-
pointed to the coveted post. The disappointed rival
Avas so exasperated that in sheer revenge he opened
up a communication with Nadir Shah ; told him
that the two millions sterling was a mere drop in the
ocean when compared with the vast riches wliicli
were accumulated in the city and palace at Delhi.
In this manner, out of the meanest spite and malice
against the Emperor and his ministers, he prevailed
ou Nadir Shah to advance and plunder Delhi. ^

' This is the story told by the Mussulman author of the Siyar-ul-
Mutakheriu. Chiii Kulich Khau, the Nizam of the Dekhan, is said to have
been the man who purchased the return of Nadir Shah j whilst Sadut Khan,
the Nawab of Oudo, is said to have been the traitor.


The story of what followed is horrible. Nadir Massacre,

outra(?o, and

Shah went to Delhi. lie took up his quarters in ^po'iat'on.
the palace. His Persian troops were scattered over
the city. Suddenly it was noised abroad that Nadir
Shah was killed. The Hindustanis rose up and
began to murder the Persians. Hundreds were
slaughtered in the panic. The news reached Nadir
Shah. He called together his forces. He ordered
a general massacre. The mosque is still pointed
out in the principal street of Delhi, known as the
Chandni Chouk, where Nadir Shah took his seat
wliilst the massacre was going on. The murders
and outrages that were perpetrated in Delhi, imder
the eye of the conqueror, are beyond description.
Whenever the Persians found a dead comrade, thev
desolated the whole neighbourhood, butchered the
people, and committed unspeakable atrocities. In
the evening Nadir Shah proclaimed a general par-
don. The dead bodies were thrown up in vast
heaps with the beams and rafters of the ruined
houses, and the whole was set on fire. There was
no distinction between Mussulman and Hindu.
The spoil was beyond all computation. Besides the
general plunder, the hoarded wealth of generations
was carried off from the imperial palace at Delhi.
The peacock throne vanished for ever.

The capture and sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah nreakin^n pot

" the Moghul

heralded the downfall of the Moghul empire. The ^"^p""^-
governors of provinces asserted their independence
of the Moghul Emperor, and ceased to remit reve-
nue to Delhi. The Mahrattas had long ceased to


fear the Mogliul power ; they had established do-
minions in Malwa and Berar. But hitherto they
had been kept toleraljly quiet, as far as Dellii was
concerned, by the yearly payment of stipulated
shares of the imperial revenue, under the name of
chout. After the sack of Delhi by the Persians,
there Avas no cliout forthcoming, to keep the Mah-
rattas quiet, and they soon began to help them-
selves. They began to plunder the Dekhan and
the Carnatic, and they soon began to plunder
Behar, Bengal, and Orissa.

state of Bengal. Whcu Nadir Shah invaded Hindustan, the grand-
son of Murshed Kuli Khan was Nawab of Bengal,
Behar, and Orissa. The court of Murshedabad
was a sink of iniquity and centre of oppression.
There was no hope of redress from Delhi ; the court
and capital of the Moghul were so prostrate that no
heed was paid to Bengal. At last a conspiracy was
formed asrainst the Nawab at Murshedabad ; and
the conspirators opened up a secret communication
with Aliverdi Khan, the deputy Nawab of Behar,
who was residing at Patna.

The seits, or It would bc dlfficult for any European pen to

Hiudu bankers. . e -n r

describe the open and avowed depravity or Mur-
shedabad during the generation which preceded the
rise of British power. One incident is told, wiiich
was said to have driven the conspirators into
rebellion; but it fails to convey an idea of the
open and flagrant debauchery of the Nawab. The
Seits or Setts were Hindu bankers settled at Mur-
shedabad. Thev were the Rothschilds of India.

EXGUSll IX r.EN(!AT.. 207

Their enormous wealth gave them unbounded influ-
ence. If there was one man more than anotlier
who might hope to escape from the oppression of
the Nawab, it was Jugget Seit, the head of the

A son or grandson of Juc^s^ut Seit was married Lawlessness .,[

^ ^ ^ the Nawab.

in great state at Murshedabad. There were ru-
mours about the beauty of the bride; and the
Nawab demanded that she should be sent to the
X^alace and her face unveiled in his presence. The
old Hindu banker prayed to be spared this terrible
indignity. The Nawab was deaf to all his prayers ;
threatened to surround his house with horsemen and
carry off the bride by force. The banker submitted
to the shame; he revenged the affront by promot-
ing the conspiracy in favour of Aliverdi Khan.

It would be useless to dwell on the progress of conspiracy.
the intrio-ue between Murshedabad and Patna. It
was reported at the time that the Nawab had sent
his submission to Nadir Shah ; that the conspiracy
was undertaken under a show of punishing the
Nawab for his want of fidelity to the Moghul ; and
it is very probable that the return of Nadir Shah
to Persia, and utter prostration of Delhi, encou-
raged Aliverdi Khan to make an attempt on the
government of Bengal.

In 1741-42, Aliverdi Khan marched an army Rebellion an

_^ usurpation of

fi'om Patna to Murshedabad. The N awab came A^ivmu Khan.
out to meet the rebel, but his generals were trai-
tors. His artilleiy would have sufficed to crush the
rebellion ; but the guns were only loaded Avith




powder. Under such circumstances the Nawal)
was soon killed, and then all the generals and
grandees went over to Aliverdi Khan.
usnrpatinn of In tlus fashlon, Aliverdi Khan usurped the throne

Aliverdi Khan, -•-

*'^- of Bengal. The Moghul Court at Delhi had been

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 18 of 33)