John Clark Marshman.

The history of India, from the earliest period to the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration / by John Clark Marshman (Volume 2) online

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The evils of the monopoly were daily becoming more palpable.
The trade of Calcutta was increasing beyond all example,
and forcing a passage in foreign vessels which were freighted
by English capital, the funds of the merchants, and the savings
of the services. In the previous year, the imports and exports
of American, Portuguese, and Danish vessels had exceeded a
crore and a half of rupees, and in September, 1800, there were
8,500 tons of shipping, under foreign colours, lying in the
Hooghly. By these ships the produce of India was conveyed


to Europe with great expedition and economy, and the East
India Company was thus beaten out of the markets on the con-
tinent. Lord Wellesley considered it important to secure this
valuable commerce to British interests. There were 10,000
tons of India-built shipping then anchored in Calcutta, and he
determined, as in 1798, to engage a large portion of this
tonnage to convey the produce of the country, belonging to
private merchants, to the port of London.

In his despatch to the Court of Directors on the
Court'on'the * subject, he stated that " it would be equally
Private Trade, unjust and impolitic to extend any facility to the
trade of the British merchants in India by sacri-
ficing or hazarding the Company's rights or privileges, by
injuring its commercial interests, or by departing from any of
the fundamental principles of policy which now govern the
British establishments in India ; but the increasing commercial
resources of Great Britain claimed for her subjects the largest
attainable share of the valuable and extensive commerce of
such articles of Indian produce and manufacture as were
necessarily excluded from the Company's investments." He
recorded his decided opinion that a well-organised system of
intercourse between the ports of India and London was indis-
pensable to the interests both of the Company and of the nation.
These liberal views met with the entire concurrence of
Mr. Dundas, who said " it was notorious that at no period had
the capital or commercial powers of the East India Company
been able to embrace the whole, or near the whole, of the
wealth of India, exported thence by trade to England, and he
was anxious to authorise the Government of India to licence
the appropriation of India-built shipping for the purpose of
bringing home that India trade which the means and capital of
the East India Company was unable to embrace." Far different,
however, was the feeling at the India House. The great dread
of interlopers, which had haunted it for two centuries, was
still in full vigour. Though the cream of the India trade was
still to be assured to the Company, the Directors could not


brook that others should be permitted to taste eveii the lees, .
The proceedings of Lord Wellesley were arraigned with the
greatest virulence. That " our Governor-General," as he was
usually addressed in the public despatches, should give the
slightest countenance to free trade, was not to be endured. He
lost caste at once and irretrievably in Leadenhall-street. Every
effort was made to thwart his administration and weaken
his authority, and, during the last three years of his Indian
career, the treatment he experienced from the India House was
scarcely less rancorous than that which had embittered the life
of his illustrious predecessor, Warren Hastings. The Court of
Directors passed a vote, in the teeth of the Prime Minister,
Mr. Addiiigton, condemning the liberal commercial policy of
Lord Wellesley, and the Court of Proprietors cordially adopted
it. A farther period of ten years was required to break up the
monopoly of two centuries, and open the gates of India to
British enterprize and capital.

Ecsignation of As soon as the arrangements in Oude were corn-
Lord weuesiey. pleted, Lord Wellesley sent in his resignation to
the Court of Directors, assigning no other reason for this step
but the completion of the plans he had devised for the security
of the empire, and the general prosperity of the country. To
Mr. Addington, however, he unburdened his mind, and explained
the real motives of his retirement the hostile disposition of
the Court, and the withdrawal of their confidence. They had
peremptorily ordered him to reduce the military establishments
in the Peninsula, leaving him no option between an act of direct
disobedience and the execution of measures which he considered
fatal to the vital interests of the Government. The total dis-
regard of the strong opinion he had expressed on the sub-
ject appeared clearly to intimate that they considered him no
longer competent to govern the empire which he endeavoured to
consolidate. They had issued the most positive injunctions to
reduce many of the stipends which he had considered advisable
at the close of the war. They had selected for especial censure
the additional allowances granted by the Madras Government,


with his concurrence, to his brother, General Wellesley, to de-
fray the charges of his important and expensive command in
Mysore. He considered this reduction as " the most direct,
marked, and disgusting indignity which could be devised."
The Act of 1793 had invested the Governor-General in Council
with the power of enforcing his orders on the minor Presiden-
cies, though they might happen to supersede the injunctions
of the Court of Directors. But the Court had now thought fit
to issue orders to those Presidencies to carry certain measures
into effect, notwithstanding any directions they might have re-
ceived to the contrary from Calcutta. The authority of the
Supreme Government over the subordinate Presidencies was
thus neutralized.

The Court had not only taken upon themselves
ference in ap- to displace officers who enjoyed the full confidence
pomtments, o f t } ie Governor-General, but to nominate others in
opposition to his judgment. For example, he had
placed Colonel Kirkpatrick, one of the ablest and most experi-
enced officers in the service, in the important post of political
secretary. The Court cancelled the appointment, to the great
detriment of the public interests, and the injury of the Governor-
General's character and influence. They had likewise forced
on him the nomination of Mr. Speke, an ex-member of Council,
as officiating president of the Board of Trade, though he
had no higher recommendation than the favour of the Prince of
Wales. At Madras, the Court had removed from the office of
chief secretary Mr. Webbe, the most eminent statesman of that
Presidency, and the unflinching enemy of that system of in-
trigue and conniption which had for more than thirty years
disgraced the public service. This removal was the more
offensive as it was to be traced to the base insinuation of
some informer that Mr. Webbe exercised a strong influence on
the mind of Lord Clive, which, if true, was equally honourable
to both. Mr. Cockburn, the ablest financial officer at the
Madras Presidency, was likewise displaced to make room for
some nominee of Leadenhall-street. Lord Wellesley was well


known to have approved of both these appointments, and indeed
of all the proceedings of Lord Clive, and he considered the
conduct of the Court of Directors in these instances as a reflec-
tion also on himself. This nomination to offices in India of
those who could secure the smiles of the Directors had been
checked by Lord Cornwallis, who threatened to throw up his
office if it were persisted in, " that he might preserve his own
character, and avoid witnessing the ruin of the national inte-
rests." By the subsequent Act of 1793, the power of appoint-
ing to official situations in India was vested in the local
Governments, subject only to the general control of the home
authorities. The interference with this patronage by the India
House was therefore not only highly injurious to the public
interests, but altogether unconstitutional. Lord Wellesley
justly remarked that if the Government of India was thus to
be thwarted in every subordinate department, deprived of all
local influence, and counteracted in every local detail by a
remote authority, interfering in the nomination of every public
servant, it would be impossible to conduct the government
under such disgraceful chains. It was a singular anomaly that
the Court of Directors should thus have grasped at appoint-
ments in India at the time when they themselves were de-
nouncing the appointment of Mr. Henry Wellesley, even for a
twelvemonth, as an invasion of their own rights. Lord Castle-
reagh, the President of the Board of Control, was anxious that
Lord AVellesley should remain another year in the government,
and he placed this letter to Mr. Addington, confidentially, in
the hands of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Court.
They did not disguise from him that great dissatisfaction and
jealousy was felt by the Company with regard to certain mea-
sures of Lord Wellesley's government, which had been in-
creased by the employment of Mr. Henry Wellesley. Lord
Wellesley had, in fact, touched the two privileges on which
the India House was most sensitive, its commercial monopoly
in the matter of the private trade, and its patronage in the ap-
pointment given to his brother, and the indignation of the


Directors rose to fever heat. But the Chairs assured Lord
Castlereagh that they were not unmindful of his eminent ser-
vices, and were alive to the importance of retaining them for
Lord weiiesie an thev year. A despatch was sent out, officially
asked to remain commending his zeal and ability, and requesting

12 months. 1803. -, . \ -i T i n/-\ <

mm to postpone his departure to January, 1804.
Little did they dream of the momentous results of this request,
and of the great revolution to which it would lead, in the irre-
trievable prostration of the Mahratta powers, to whose history
we now return.



Death of Nana ^he destruction of Tippoo's power, and the com-
Fumuvese, plete ascendency established at Hyderabad, left the
Company with no antagonist but the Mahrattas,
and the two rival powers now stood front to front. It was
the firm conviction of Lord Wellesley that the peace and tran-
quillity of India could be secured only by the extension of British
supremacy over all its princes, by means of defensive and sub-
sidiary alliances, which recognized the British Government as
the arbiter in every dispute. But nothing could be more un-
palatable to the Mahrattas chiefs than this policy. The peace
and tranquillity of India implied the termination of that system
of plunder and aggression which was the foundation and
element of their power. They believed, and not without reason,
that these subsidiary alliances would extinguish their inde-
pendence, and deprive them of the respect of their subjects.
The offer of such an alliance, which was made in the first
instance to the Peshwa, in July, 1799, was therefore declined,


under the prudent advice of Nana Furnuvese. In March,
1800, that great statesman closed his long and chequered
career. For more than a quarter of a century he had been the
mainspring of every movement in the Mahratta empire. By
the vigour of his character and the wisdom of his councils, he
had controlled the disorders of the times, and he wanted only the
addition of personal courage to render him supreme. He was
distinguished by the rare, and among the Mahrattas of that
age, the incredible qualities of humanity, veracity, and honesty
of purpose. While he admired the English for their sincerity
and their energy, he had a patriotic jealousy of the increase of
their power, which it was his constant endeavour to restrain.
*' With him," wrote Colonel Palmer, the Resident, " has de-
parted all the wisdom and moderation of the Mahratta govern-
ment." He had been the only check on the growing ascen-
dency of Sindia at Poona, who was left by his death without
a rival and without control, and now ventured so far to indulge
his spirit of domination, as on one occasion, when he feared
that Bajee Rao meditated an escape, to surround his palace
and place him temporarily under restraint. It was not, there-
fore, without secret delight that the Peshwa contemplated the
rising power of Jeswunt Rao Holkar, by whose assistance he
hoped to free himself from the tyranny of Sindia. In propor-
tion as this hope increased, his inclination towards the alterna-
tive of a British alliance, which Lord Wellesley continued to
press on him with great importunity, was slackened.
The Holkar To elucidate the rise of this celebrated chief, who

family. played an important part in the transactions of the

next five years, it is necessary to bring up the history of the
Holkar family. Mulhar Rao Holkar, who raised himself from
the condition of a shepherd to the dignity of a prince, died at
the age of seventy-six, after a brilliant career of forty years.
His only son died soon after the battle of Paniput, leaving his
widow Aylah-bye, with a son and a daughter. The son died in
1766, and his widow, a woman of extraordinary powers,
steadfastly resisted all the entreaties of the chiefs to adopt a


son and retire into obscurity, and resolved to undertake the
government of the state herself, in the capacity of regent.
With singular discernment she selected Tokajee Holkar, a
chief of the same tribe as Mulhar Rao, though not of his
kindred, to take the command of the army. It was scarcely
to be expected that in a country like India, and in a period of
unexampled turmoil, an arrangement which placed the military
power in the hands of a great soldier, while the civil govern-
ment was administered by a female, would be of long con-
tinuance. But the gratitude and moderation of Tokajee, and"
the commanding genius of the Bye combined to perpetuate it
for thirty years. He never failed in the homage due to her
position, and was never known to encroach on her authority.
She sat daily in open durbar, and gave public audiences without
a veil, and dispensed justice in person to all suitors. She laid
herself out to promote the prosperity of the country by the
encouragement of trade and agriculture. She acquired the
respect of foreign princes by the weight of her character, and
in an age of extreme violence succeeded in maintaining the
security of her own dominions. She raised Indore from a
mere village to the rank of a noble capital. Like all wealthy
Hindoo females, she fell under the dominion of the priesthood,
and expended large sums on religious edifices and establish-
ments in every part of India, from Ramisseram to Hurdwar.
Relays of porters were daily employed at her expense in con-
veying the water of the Ganges to the sacred shrines in the
Deccan, however remote, and she was rewarded by the
brahmins with the title of an avatar, or incarnation of the deity.
Whatever opinion may be formed of these acts of superstitious
devotion, she was in other respects the purest and most exem-
plary of rulers, and added one more name to the roll of those
illustrious females who have adorned the native history of
India with their genius and virtues.

Death of Ayiah- Aylah-bye died in 1795, and Tokajee in 1797,
bye and an( } the reign of anarchy began, not to close but

Tokajee, ~ *

1795-97. in the entire submission of the state to British


authority, twenty years later. Tokajee left two sons by
his wife, Kashee Rao and Mulhar Rao, and two by a con-
cubine, Jeswunt Rao and Wittoojee. Kashee Rao was
weak hi mind and deformed in body, and his brother Mulhar
Rao assumed the command of the army, and the government
of the state. Kashee Rao repaired to Sindia at Poona, and
he espoused his cause, and made a treacherous attack on the
army of Mulhar Eao, who fell in the engagement. The house
of Holkar, which had long been the rival of Sindia, was thus
enfeebled and brought into complete subordination to his
power, and another step was gained in his ambitious endea-
vours to obtain the universal control of the Mahratta common-
wealth. Jeswunt Rao, who had taken part with Mulhar
Rao, fled from the field of battle to Nagpore, but the raja,
anxious to conciliate Sindia, placed him in confinement. He
c jntrived. however, to make his escape, and sought refuge at
the court of Anund Rao, the chief of the ancient principality
of Dhar, to whom he was enabled to afford material assistance
in coercing some of his refractory subjects. The enmity of
Sindia still pursued him, and the raja was constrained to dis-
card him, but, to compensate for this breach of Rajpoot hos-
pitality, bestowed on him a parting gift of 10,000 rupees. He
quitted Dhar with seven mounted followers, and about a hun-
dred and twenty ragged, half-armed infantry, with the resolu-
tion to trust his future fortunes to his sword. Fully aware of
the strong prejudice which existed against him on account of
his illegitimacy, he announced himself as the champion and
minister of his nephew, Khundeh Rao, the youth-
ful son of Mulhar Rao, and called upon all the

Hottar, 1796. adherents of the house of Holkar to rally round
him, and resist the encroachments of Sindia. The freebooters,
who swarmed in Central India, Bheels and Pindarees, Af-
ghans and Mahrattas, hastened to join his standard, and thus
commenced the career of this predatory chieftain. Soon after,
he was joined by Ameer Khan, a Rohilla adventurer, then
about thirty-two years of age, who had just taken service


with the Chief of Bhopal, but quitted it in 1798 with a body
of free lances to traverse the country, and levy contributions
on his own account. For eighteen months the combined forces
of the two chiefs spread desolation through the districts on
the Nerbudda, but were obliged to separate when they were
completely exhausted. Ameer Khan proceeded eastward to
the opulent city of Sagor, belonging to the Peshwa, where he
subjected the inhabitants to every species of outrage, and
acquired incredible booty. Jeswunt Rao entered the pro-
vince of Malwa, which had enjoyed repose and prosperity for
thirty years, and dispersed his predatory bands in every direc-
tion, and the country was half ruined before Sindia could take
measures to protect it. That chief was now obliged to quit
Poona, where he had continued to reside for eight years, ever
since his accession to the throne of his uncle, domineering
over the unfortunate Peshwa, from whom he extorted the sum
of forty-seven lacs of rupees on taking his departure. The
notorious Sirjee Rao Ghatkay was left as his representative
to maintain his authority with five battalions of foot, and
10,000 horse.

Nothing can give the mind a clearer idea of the

Holkar defeats

Sindia's army, anarchy and misery which prevailed in Hindostan
at this period than the ease with which Jeswunt
Rao was able, by the allurement of plunder, to organise an
army of 70,000 men within two years. With this force he laid
waste the districts of Malwa, and then advanced against the
capital, Oojein. To this city the widows of the deceased
Mahdajee Sindia had fled with a large military force and their
treasures, to avoid the violence of Dowlut Rao. Under the
pretence of espousing their cause, Holkar contrived to lull
them into security, and in the dead of night opened his guns
on their encampment, and constrained them to fly for their
lives, while he took possession of all their property, and of
their valuable park of artillery. Two bodies of Sindia's troops
were immediately pushed forward from the south to avenge
this insult, and expel Jeswunt Rao. One of these armies
n. L


though commanded by European officers, was constrained to
lay down its arms, and the other, under Colonel Hessing, was
attacked with such vigour as to lose a fourth of its number.
Of eleven European officers attached to it, seven fell in action,
and three were made prisoners. The city of Oojein was thus
placed at the mercy of Holkar, but so absolute was the control
which he had acquired over his troops that he was enabled to
restrain them from plundering it, even in the excitement of
victory ; but he exacted the heavy ransom of fifteen lacs of
rupees, which he transferred to his own military chest. Mean-
while the Peshwa, liberated for the first time from the des-
potism of Sindia by his departure from the capital, gave full
scope to his natural disposition, and, instead of strengthening
his throne by conciliating his feudatories, subjected them to
the most wanton insult and plunder. His oppressive govern-
ment became the object of universal hatred. Bands of
brigands sprung up in eveiy direction, and laid the villages
under contribution. Wittoojee, the brother of Jeswurit Rao,
was driven by necessity to join one of these bodies, and was
taken prisoner. Bajee Rao sentenced him to be trampled to
death by an infuriated elephant, and seated himself in the
verandah of his palace to enjoy the revolting spectacle, and
the yells of the unfortunate youth. A universal feeling of
execration rose throughout the country at this atrocious
murder of a son of Tokajee, who had for thirty years
zealously maintained the interests of the Mahratta power.
Jeswunt Rao, who, with all his ferocity, was really attached to
his brother, vowed vengeance on his murderer, and it was not
not long before he had an opportunity of wreaking it.

Sindia, alarmed by the defeat of his armies,

Sindia defeats ' . .

Hoikar, 14 Octo- and the increasing power of Holkar, summoned
ber, 1801. Sirjee Rao Ghatkay to join him with the troops
under his command. That miscreant, after the departure of
his master from Pooua, proceeded to the Peshwa's southern
provinces, which he ravaged without mercy, and, when thus
called away, was encamped on his return within a mile of


the capital which he was on the point of giving up to plunder.
Sindia's army thus reinforced, and comprising fourteen of
De Boigne's battalions, met Holkar on the 14th October, 1801,
and totally routed him, capturing ninety-eight guns. This de-
feat was generally ascribed to the absence of Holkar's European
officers whom he had injudiciously left behind. Sirjee Kao
entered Indore in triumph, and gave it up to spoliation, to
avenge the plunder of Sindia's capital. His ruthless troops
were let loose on the city which Aylah Bye had spent a life in
embellishing, and the noblest edifices were sacked and reduced
to ashes. Those who were supposed to possess property were
tortured to disclose it, and the wells were choked up with
the bodies of females who destroyed themselves to escape
dishonour. If Sindia had followed up his victory with vigour,
the career of Jeswunt Rao would probably have been
brought to a close ; but, after expelling him from Malwa, he
thought fit to enter into negotiations with him, under the
impression that he was crushed beyond redemption. Holkar,
however, either from mistrust of Sindia, or under encourage-
ment from the Peshwa, or perhaps from an overweening con-
fidence in his own fortune, advanced the most extravagant
demands, and the negotiation fell to the ground. He was
not long recovering from the blow. His wild and daring spirit
was precisely suited to the character of the times and of the
country. His standard again became the rallying point of
the unquiet spirits who were hanging loose on society in
Central India, and not a few even of Siudia's soldiers deserted to
it. With this force he proceeded northward, plundering every
village and town in his route, and, to the horror of his own
lawless but superstitious soldiery, not sparing the renowned
shrine of Nath-dowrah. He then crossed the Nerbudda, and
laid waste the province of Candesh, while one of his cojri-
manders was sent to ravage the Southern Mahratta pro-
vinces. General Wellesley soon after marched up through this
territory, and remarked that Holkar's troops had cut all the
forage, consumed the grain, and burnt the houses for fuel ;

L 2


that the wretched villagers had taken to flight, with their
cattle ; and that, except in one village, not a human being
was left between Meritch and Poona. Meanwhile, Jeswunt
Rao, who had been encamped at Chandore, moved down
upon Poona, with the object, as he asserted, of claiming the

Online LibraryJohn Clark MarshmanThe history of India, from the earliest period to the close of Lord Dalhousie's administration / by John Clark Marshman (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 38)