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 3 of 33)
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Polo tells of similar doings in the court of Kublai
Khan ; similar proclivities have long been at work


in the present day at the court of the King of

But not with standiuii; these outward si":ns of inberent

^ ^ weakness of

intelligence, the Moghul empire in India was poll- Moguuimie.
tically weak. It was held together, not by common
loyalty, but by mutual fear. There was much
display of outward show and form ; but there was
no real strength in the body politic. It was
always exposed to rebellions from within and in-
vasions from without. These conditions are to be
found in all Moghul empires. They are not dis-
tracted by religious antagonisms ; but they are
only held together by a system of intrigue and
terrorism. They lack those bonds of patriotism
and public spirit which alone secure the permanence
of empires, whether Asiatic or European. The
empires of Chenghiz Khan and Timur were of this
type ; so is the existing Moghul rule in Upper
Burma ; and so was the Moghul empire in India.
Such empires may dazzle the world for a few-
generations ; they generally perish in wars and
revolutions. They leave nothing behind that
can be called history. Family chronicles and court
memoirs have been written to order by court scribes
and parasites for the glorification of monarchs and
their ancestors; but to this day our only reliable
knowledge of the religion and civilisation of the
Moghuls is to be derived from the testimony of
contemporary European residents or travellers.

The Moghul dominion in India was an absolute Mogimi des-
and irresponsible despotism. The will of the sove-




Land tenures.

Kcnter and

reign or Padisliah' was law, and above all law. In
theory, he was master of the life and property of
every one of his subjects. He could imprison, flog,
torture, mutilate, confiscate, or execute at will.
There was no independent force to over-ride his
whim; nothing but fear of rebellion or assassina-
tion. There were public Durbars, but no one ven-
tured to dispute the will of the sovereign. There
was no hereditary nobility, except amongst the
Hindus. There was no public opinion worthy of
the name ; the voice of the people was rarely raised
except in flattery of the Padishah. As far as the
Moghul grandees were concerned, the Padishah was
the sole proprietor of the soil, the sole inheritor of
wealth, the sole fountain of honour. Hereditary
rights were only possessed by Hindus, or by the
lower classes. When the empire was at its zenith,
all rights were often outraged or ignored; when
the empire began to decline, rights began to har-
den into institutions.

The following remarks of Robert Orme, the con-
temporary historian of British India, furnish sucli
an exact insight into the tenure of land, and nature
of property generally, under Moghul rule, that they
are extracted at length : —

" We see in those parts of Hindustan, wliieh are frequented
by European nations, the customs or laws which regard lands

1 The Moghul sovereign was known to Europeans as the King, the Em-
peror, or the Great Moghul. In India he was universally known as the Padishah.
Abul Fazl gives the following meaning to the term Padishah : " ' Pad,' " he
says, " signifies stability and possession ; ' Shah ' means ' origin or lord." Sec
preface to the Ain-i-Akhari, translated by Professor Blochmann, of Calcutta.


subject to contradictions, not easily reconcileable. The hus-
bandman who possesses a few fields has the power of selling
and bequeathing them, at the same time that the district in
which these fields are included is annually let out by the
Government to a renter who pays a certain sum of money to
the lord of the country, and receives from the cultivator a
certain part of his harvests. The renter sometimes quarrels
with the husbandman, and displaces him from his possessions.
Clamours as against the highest degree of injustice ensue.
The prince interferes and generally redresses the poor man,
who has so much need of support in such a cause of misery ;
and if he fails to give this proof of his inclination to justice,
he is held in execration, and deemed capable of any iniquity.

" In all the countries absolutely subjected, the Great Proprietory

■HT11 1 1 • IP • rniii 1 • ripht of the

Moghul styles himselt proprietor or all the lands, and gives sovereign.
portions of them at will as revenues for life to his feudatories;
but still these grants take not away from the cultivator the
right of sale and bequest. The policy of all the Indian gov-
ernments in Hindustan, as well as that of the Great Moghul,
seems to consist more in a perpetual attention to prevent any
one family from obtaining great possessions, than in the in-
tention of multiplj'ing oppressions upon the body of the peo-
ple ; for such slavery would soon leave the monarch little
grandeur to boast of, and few subjects to command. As all
acquisitions of land are subject to the inspection of the gov-
ernment, the man who should attempt to make himself pro-
prietor of a large estate in land would be refused the certi-
ficates necessary to put him in possession, and would be
marked as a victim necessary to be sacrified to the policy of
the State. From what we see in the histories of this and
other Eastern countries, the violences committed among the
great lead us to think that the man of more humble condi-
tion is subject to still greater violences, when, on the contrary,
this humility is the best (5f protections.

" The feudatory, by the acceptance of a certain title and Bights of in-
the pension which accompanies it, acknowledges the Great to"ffice*hoideM.
Moghul his heir. No man, from the Vizier downwards, has


any trust of importance reposed in him but on these terms ;
and on his decease, the whole of his property that can be
found is seized for the use of the Emperor, who gives back to
the family what portion he pleases. The estates of all who
are not feudatories descend to the natural heirs/^

Life in public. TliG Mogliul Padislialis of Hindustan spent half
their time in public ; this was the one popular
element in their rule. They received petitions and
administered justice in public. They gave audi-
ences in open Durbars. They publicly inspected
horses, elephants, troops, arms, accoutrements,
jewels, decorations, furniture, cattle and animals
of all kinds, goods and chattels of every descrip-
tion. They delighted in hunting expeditions, after
the old Moghiil fashion which has prevailed since
the days of Nimrod. They delighted in public
fights between animals and gladiators, after the
manner of the later Roman emperors. Akbar took
great pains in the administration of justice ; he was
anxious for the welfare of the people. jN' either his
son Jehangir, nor his grandson Shah Jehan, cared
anything for the people. They were greedy only
of flattery and riches. They lavished enormous
sums on harem establishments, jewels, palaces,
mausoleums, and tented pavilions. Meanwhile they
often hoarded up vast sums in the palace vaults of
Delhi and Agra.

The Moghul empire was divided into some twenty
or thirty provinces. The governors of provinces
collected revenue, administered justice, and kept the
country under military command. The governor

Oovcrnrtiont in
the provinces.


of a province was known as the Nawab or Su-
balidar. All appointments were supposed to be
made direct by the Padishah ; none were valid until
they had been confirmed by the royal letters and in-
signia of investiture. It is scarcely worth while to
map out the provinces. Their limits were sometimes
changed at the will of the Padishah. Sometimes
three or four were placed under a prince of the
blood as viceroy. All, or nearly all, comprehended
large tracts under Hindu E-ajas. Sometimes the
Moghuls invaded the territories of the Hindu Rajas.
But many Hindu princes maintained their inde-
pendence down to the last days of the empire.

The revenue system of the Moghuls was a series rcvcuuc system.
of struggles and compromises. In theory there was
order and regularity ; in practice there was disorder
and uncertainty. The cultivators were known as
Ryots ; the middle man, who farmed or rented the
land, was known as the Zemindar. Erom the Ryot
to the Nawab or Subahdar there was a constant con-
flict of interests. The Ryots were often treated as
serfs. The Ryot sought to appropriate the harvest
without the knowledge of the Zemindar. The Ze-
mindar's servants mounted guard over the Ryot and
hoodwinked the Governor. The Governor played the
same game in turn. The Padishah secured his own
share of the revenue by appointing a Dewan to
every province. The Dewan was supposed to keep the
accounts ; to remit the royal share to the imperial
treasury. The Dewan was independent of the Su-
bahdar ; so far he was a check upon the Subahdar.



Generally, the Dewan was in collusion with the
Suhahdar. At spasmodic intervals he aspired after
promotion, or reward, by a display of extraordinary
zeal in behalf of the Padishah.

Presents. Prcscnts wcrc as much an institution as the land

revenue. No man appeared without a present be-
fore a revenue collector, a magistrate, or a local
governor. Eyots made their presents to the Zemin-
dar, and bribed his servants. Zemindars made their
presents to the local Governor, and bribed his
servants. Local Governors propitiated the Suhah-
dar in like manner. On family occasions, such as
the birth of a Subahd&r's son, or the marriage of
a son or daughter, extra presents were expected and
demanded. All petitions were accompanied by pre-
sents. The gifts sent to court were enormous.
Jewels and gold mohurs in sufficient abundance
would purchase immunity from the grossest oppres-
sions and the vilest crimes.^

Moghui court. The Moghul court was nomadic. Its movements
might be compared with the " royal progresses " of
old Euglish kings ; they bore a closer resemblance
to the migrations of the old Moghul Khans between
summer and winter quarters. The Moghul Padi-
shahs wandered to and fro over the conquered pro-
vinces of India in the same fashion that Chenghiz
Khan and Timur wandered over the vast tracts

1 Under British rule, return presents are generally given of equal value.
Under Moghul rule, the most valuable jewels were often presented to the
Padishah, whilst a piece of muslin, or an embroidered handkerchief, or a
paltry medal, were given in return. Foreign ambassadors were treated difEer-
cntly, according to circumstances.


between China and Europe. Their encampments
resembled great cities; they included streets of tents
and pavilions ; shops, bazars, fortifications, enclo-
sures, and gateways of painted canvas. Sometimes
the court left the camp, and was fixed for a while
at Agra, Delhi, Lahore, or Ajmir ; when the hot
season began, it generally moved away to the cool
mountains of Kashmir. The courts of Subahdars
and Nawabs were all of the same type. They
moved about their respective provinces in much the
same fashion.

The Moghul empire was always exposed to rebel- Rebeiuona.
lion. Iliudu Rajas rebelled against the Subahdar.
Refractory Subahdars rebelled against the Padi-
shah. The migrations of the court may have
tended to preserve the peace of the provinces. At
intervals the empire was convulsed by a war for
the succession. The Padishah always had four sons
and no more. This Moghul institution dates back
to Chenghiz Khan. Other sons might be born ; as a
rule, only four were recognised. If one of the four
died, another was taken to fill his room. The eldest
was heir-apparent; he resided at court with his father.
The three others were sent out to rule remote pro-
vinces as viceroys. When the Padishah died, or
was about to die, the four brothers marched armies
against each other ; India was deluged with blood.
When a prince had destroyed his three brothers, he
ascended the throne and massacred all the males of
the blood royal, excepting his own sons. After this
India was tranquil.


jchanprir. Jchaugii*, SOU of Akbar, was an inferior man to

Lis father. He is better known than any other
of the Moghul Padishahs. Sir Thomas Roe was
sent by James the Eirst on a mission to Jehangir.
The object was to procure the protection of the Pa-
dishah for an English factory at Surat. Ptoe saw
a great deal of Jehangir. He describes him as a
drunken sovereign, infatuated with a vindictive
woman named Nurmahal. His reign was much
disturbed by rebellions.

shahjehan, Shah Jclian, son of Jehanmr, was selfish and

1628-1658. ^

sensual. His dominion extended over the same
provinces as that of Akbar ; it included Kabul, the
Punjab, and Hindustan ; it also extended over the
Northern Dekhan.' His vices were a scandal to
Asia. His court was utterly corrupt and depraved.
There was a lax indijfference to religion, morality,
or public decency. The sons of Shah Jehan, with
one exception, were men of the same stamp. The
third son was the exception ; his name was Au-
Aurunffzeb, Aurunojzcb had little chance of the throne. He

1658 to 1707, '-'

had two brothers older than himself ; both were
popular with Moghuls and Rajputs. Ambition
fired his brain ; it stimulated his genius ; it im-

' Moghul domiuioii had been gradually encroaching upon the Dekhan
ever since the reign of Akbar. In the reign of Shah Jehan, the conquered
provinces in the Dekhan were formed into a viceroyalty, which was known as
the " Dekhan." The Mussulman kingdoms of the Southern Dekhan were
still unconquered. They were known as Bijapur and Golkonda. They
extended southward to the River Kistna, or Krishna. India south of tlie
Elver Krishna was distributed amongst a number of petty Hindu principali-
ties, the relics of tlic oKl Hindu empiiT of A'ijnyanagar.


pelled him to form a policy. He abandoned the
toleration of Akbar. He affected to be a strict
Muhammadan. He curried favour vrith Muham-
madans. He sought the support of all zealous
Muhammadans throughout India. He made his
religion a stepping-stone to the throne.

The early Padishahs were lusty men, sensual mgouj and
and jovial. Auruugzeb was lean and spare. His
eyes were sunk in his head ; they were bright and
piercing. He abstained from wine and flesh meat ;
he lived chiefly on rice aAd vegetables. He was
always talking of the Koran. He was ostentatious
in the performance of his religious duties. He was
never a sincere zealot. His religion never inter-
fered with his pleasures or policy. He had a weak
digestion ; his abstinence from wine and meat was
therefore a necessity. He was heterodox in his
marriages. His favourite wife was a Christian
from Georgia. Another favourite was a Eajput
lady. He flattered E,ajput Rajas to win them to
his cause. He flattered Sivaji, the Mahratta leader
in the Western Dekhan. Sivaji might help him
in the coming struggle for the throne. Sivaji
might give him a refuge in the event of defeat
and disaster. He ceded territory to Sivaji; he
made a treaty of friendship with tlie Mahratta.

The war between the four brothers began whilst warbefwcmthe
Shah Jehan was still alive. In the end Aurungzeb
obtained the mastery. His brothers were slaugh-
tered or poisoned with all their male descendants.
His father Shah Jehan was deposed and imprisoned



Kei^ of

Rise of the


in the palace at Agra. Aurungzeb ascended the
throne at Delhi. He began his reign with caution.
He disguised his hatred of Hindus. He trimmed
between Muhammadans and E-ajputs. Occasion-
ally he sent armies against the Mahrattas ; but many
years passed away before he waged war against
Hinduism and Hindus.

The reign of Aurungzeb lasted from 1658 to
1707. It covered half a century, — the interval
between the death of Oliver Cromwell and the
opening years of Queen Anne. The great cha-
racteristic of the reign was the restoration of the
Koran as the supreme law throughout Hindustan.
Apart from this revival of Islam, there are three
prominent events in his reign, namely : the rise
and growth of the Mahratta power ; the persecut-
ing wars against the Hindus ; the development
of three English factories into presidency towns.

Aurungzeb became alarmed at the growing power
of Sivaji and the Mahrattas. Sivaji was becoming
a thorn in the side of the Moghul empire. He was
thirty years of age when Aurungzeb became
Padishah. He had been brought up amongst the
precipices and defiles of the Western Ghats. His
head-quarters were at Poena. He had numerous
fortresses on the mountains. He had founded a
kingdom on a basis of plunder. Every year during
the dry season his Mahratta horsemen scoured the
plains in search of booty. When the rains began
they carried off the spoil to their mountain for-
tresses. Sivaji established a system of black mail ;


it consisted of one-fourth of the revenue ; it was
known as cliout. Whenever the inhabitants paid
the chout, their district or village was spared.
Whenever they withheld the chout, they were
plundered every year until they yielded to the

Sivaji was unscrupulous and perfidious. In his sivaji, ihe

. . Mahratta.

early years he inveigled a Muhammadan general
into a private interview ; he slaughtered him with a
secret weapon ringed to his fingers,, known as
" tigers' claws. " When Aurungzeb came to the
throne, he broke his treaty with Sivaji ; he took
back the territory he had ceded to Sivaji. In
revenge, Sivaji plundered Surat. He tried to
plunder the English factory at Surat, but the Eng-
lish beat him off.

Aurungzeb regarded Sivaji with contempt. He war against
referred to Sivaji as " the mountain rat." He sent
his uncle Shaista Khan to subdue " the mountain
rat," Shaista Khan captured Poena, and Sivaji
retked to his hill fortresses. One night, whilst
Shaista Khan was asleep at Poena, his house was
attacked by Mahrattas. His eldest son was slaugh-
tered on the spot. He himself escaped through a
window with the loss of a finger. Amidst the
panic, Sivaji and his Mahrattas went out of the
city. They were seen in the distance ascending a
hill fortress amidst the glare of torches.

Aurungzeb next set a trap for " the mountain sivaji at dcim.
rat." Sivaji was invited to Delhi under pre-
tence of being appointed viceroy of the Moghul



takes the field.

conquests in tlie Deklian. He went to Delhi ; lie
found himself deceived, insulted, and a prisoner.
He was in danger of assassination, but escaped
out of the city in an empty hamper. He was
fortunate enough to reach Poona in safety.
Death of sivaji, It Is necdlcss to dwell on the wars of Aurungzeb


against the Mahrattas. It will suffice to say that
Sivaji escaped from every toil and danger ; he
founded a kingdom and a dynasty. He died about

When Sivaji was dead, Aurungzeb took the field.
Possibly he had been afraid of Sivaji ; afraid that
Sivaji would circumvent him or assassinate him.
Henceforth, and until his last illness twenty-seven
years afterwards, Aurungzeb remained in. camp.
Throughout this period he was constantly warring
against the Hindus. He began the war in the vain
hope that he could dethrone the Hindu gods and
establish the Koran from sea to sea.

The fire of persecution began with the destruc-
tion of pagodas in Hindustan. A large pagoda was
burnt down near Delhi. Orders were issued to the
governors of provinces to destroy all heathen temples
throughout the empire. Idols were cast down;
temples were converted into mosques. Hindu peni-
tents, known as Yogis and Sauiasis, at ere driven
out of Hindustan. All the great ofiicers of the
Crown, who refused to become Muhammadans, were
deprived of their posts. The celebration of Hindu
festivals was prohibited. Worst of all, the hate-
ful poll-tax, known as the Jezya, was levied on all

wars agaiust


who refused to embrace Islam. Tliis tax pressed
heavily upon the Hindus. Merchants paid a yearly
Jezya of thirteen rupees and a half per head ; artizans
paid six rupees and a quarter ; the poorer classes
paid three rupees and a half. It is difficult to con-
ceive how such a tax could have been levied with-
out a rebellion.

There was dansrer in Raiputana. Auruncrzeb wars iu

^ "J- '-' Kajputana"

moved all the forces of the empire against Raj-
putana. Jaipur consented to pay the Jezya. Marwar
refused at first, but afterwards came to a compro-
mise ; the tax was redeemed by the cession of ter-
ritory. The Rana of Udaipur resolutely set his
face against the demand. Most of his territory
was walled in by mountains. He abandoned
all the country outside the mountains. The whole
nation was in arms ; strong guards were posted in
every gorge and defile. Aurungzeb was bafiied.
At one time he was lost in a labyrintli of defiles.
His favourite wife was taken prisoner. His force
was nearly starved out. At last he retired to
Ajmir. The remainder of his reign is devoid of
all interest. It was wasted in wars with Rajputs,
Mahrattas, and Afghans. He died in 1707.'

Havinsf thus reviewed the condition of the Mosrhul
empire during the seventeenth century, it may be
advisable to glance at the early history of the Eng-
lish settlements in India during the same period.

' Elliot's History, Vol. VII. Catron's Moghuls.

Early settlement
at Surat.



rjlHE early history of the English in India is a
-^ tedious detail of voyages, personal adventures,
fights with the Portuguese, or quarrels with the
Moghul Governor of Surat. In the first instance the
English effected a lodgment at Surat. This town is
seated on the western coast of India, the side nenrest
to Europe. The port of Surat had been famous
from a remote antiquity. It was situated about
a hundred and eighty miles to the north of Bombay.
It was the first place in India where the English
and Dutch established a trade.
Hostility of the Thc PortusTucse had alreadv been a century in

Portuguese. . ^ '' ''

India. The Pope had given them the sovereignty
of the East. They denied the right of the English
to come there at all. They hated the English as
heretics. They told the Moghul Governor of Surat
that the English were pirates. The details of such
squabbles have lost all their interest. It will sufiice
to say that between the years 1610 and 1620 both
English and Dutch were permitted to establish
factories at Surat.
Pomp of the The trade with India must have been most pro-
fitable. In 1623, the English and Dutch Presidents
were living in state in large houses like palaces;
the senior merchants were furnished with chambers


in the same mansion. Whenever the President
went ahrofid, a banner was carried before him, and
he was followed by merchants on horseback, as well
as by native attendants armed with swords, buck-
lers, and bows and arrows/

In 1638 a youn 2^ gentleman of Holstein paid a visit of
visit to Surat. His name was Albert de Mandelslo."
He has left a curious account of his visit ; it fur-
nishes a graphic picture of the English factory : —

" Within a league of the Road we entered into the river smat custom
upon which Surat is seated, and which hath on both sides
a very fertile soil, and many fair g-ardens, with pleasant
country-houses, which being" all white, a colour it seems the
Indians are much in love with, afford a noble prospect amidst
the greenness whereby they are encompassed. But this river,
which is the Tapte, called by others Tjnide, is so shallow at
the mouth of it, that barks of 70 or 80 ton can hardly come
into it. We came ashore near the Sulthan's Palace,* and
went immediately to the Custom-house to have oiu- things
searched by the officers there : which is done with such ex-
actness in this place, that they think it not enough to open
chests and port man ties, but examine people^s clothes and
pockets. The Sulthan or Governour, nay the Customers *
themselves, oblige merchants and passengers to part with, at
the price they shall think fit to put upon them, those goods and
commodities which they had brought for their own private use.

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 3 of 33)