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 opposition to the British authorities. Lord Lake assured
the Government in Calcutta that the peace of the province
could never be maintained without obtaining possession of
these fortresses, which might be effected by a vigorous effort
in a single campaign ; but Sir George Barlow replied that " a
certain extent of dominion, local power, and revenue, would
be cheaply sacrificed for tranquillity and security within a
more contracted circle." The sacrifice was made, but the
tranquillity and security were more distant than ever. The
chiefs who had seized the forts were left in possession of
them, and sunnuds, or deeds, were granted to them and to
some of the most notorious leaders of the freebooters, recog-
nizing their right to the lands they had usurped, upon a
vague promise of allegiance. Due respect was likewise paid
to the principle of non-interference, oy allowing them to
decide their disputes by the sword, and this fair province, en-
dowed with the richest gifts of nature, was turned into a

Lord junto's Within five weeks after Lord Minto had as-
rigorous pohcy, gume ^ fa c Government, he adopted the resolution.



that "it was essential, not only to the preservation of
political influence over the chiefs of Bundlekund, but to
the dignity and reputation of the British Government to
interfere for the suppression of intestine disorder." The
whole policy of the state was at once changed, and it was
announced throughout the province that Government was
determined to enforce obedience to its authority. The
numerous rajas, who had hitherto treated with contempt the
maudlin advice of the commissioner, hastened to make their
submission when they found the Governor- General in earnest,
and agreed at once to refer their disputes to the decision of
British officers. But it was found impossible to extirpate the
banditti which infested the country, while they could obtain
shelter in the great fortresses ; a military force was, therefore,
sent to reduce them, and Ajygur was surrendered after a
breach had been made in the walls. But one military adven-
turer, Gopal Sing, by his astonishing skill, activity, and resolu-
tion, aided by the natural advantages of a country filled with
fastnesses, contrived to evade the British troops in a series
of desultory and harassing movements, for a period of four
years. He offered his submission at length, on condition of
receiving a full pardon and a provision for his family, and the
Government, weary of a conflict which appeared to be inter-
minable, granted him a jaygeer of eighteen villages. The last
fortress to submit was the renowned Calinger, which had
baffled the efforts of Mahmood of Ghizni, eight centuries
before. It was likewise in the siege of this fort that Shore
Shah was killed, hi 1545, and the Peshwa's representative,
AJi Bahadoor, had recently besieged it in vain for two years.
It was surrendered after an arduous siege, in which the
British force was, on*one occasion, repulsed with the loss of
150 in killed and wounded. The peace and happiness of
Bundlekund were restored, to be soon, alas, destroyed again
by one of the Company's pucka, or unscrupulous collectors,
who rack-rented the province, and blighted its prosperity as
effectively as the freebooters had done before him.


The difficulty of maintaining the practice of
Kunjeet sing, non-intervention was still more clearly demon-
strated before Lord Minto had been a twelve-
month in office, in reference to the proceedings of Runjeet
Sing, whose career now claims attention. On the retire-
ment of the Abdalee from India after the battle of Paniput,
the affairs of the Punjab fell into confusion, and the half
military half religious community of the Sikhs, who had been
oppressed by all the successive rulers of the country, had an
opportunity of gradually enlarging and consolidating their
power. This country, lying in the track of every invader,
from Alexander the Great to Ahmed Shah Abdalee, and which
had been subject to greater vicissitudes and a more frequent
change of masters than any other Indian province, was now
in the hands of the Sikhs. Their commonwealth was divided
into fraternities, termed misils, the chief of each of which was
the leader in war, and the arbiter in time of peace. Of these
clans, twelve were deemed the foremost in rank. Churut
Sing, the head of one of the least considerable, had com-
menced a course of encroachments on his neighbours, which
was carried on by his son, Maha Sing. He died in 1792,
leaving an only son, Runjeet Sing, who at the early age
of seventeen entered upon that career of ambition and aggran-
disement, which, by a rare combination of cunning and
audacity, resulted in the establishment of a power as great as
that of Sevajee or Hyder. He acquired great credit for his
prowess when, in 1799, Zemaun Shah entered the Punjab,
which was still considered as an appendage of the crown of
Cabul. Runjeet Sing had the discretion to aid him in moving
his guns across the Jhelum, and was rewarded by the im-
portant grant of the town of Lahore, which was the capital of
the country even before the Mahomedans crossed the Indus,
and had always been associated with the supreme authority
in the province. From 1803 to 1806, Runjeet Sing was dili-
gently employed in extending his authority over the dif-
ferent fraternities and chiefs in the Punjab, In 1806, the


course of his conquests brought him down to the banks of the
Sutlege, and he cast a wishful eye on the plains beyond it.

Between the Sutlege and the Jumna lay the

The Sikh States .

of sirhind, province of Sii'Iund, occupied by about twenty in-
dependent Sikh principalities, of greater or less
extent, the most considerable of which was Putteeala, with a
revenue of about twenty lacs of rupees a-year, and a popula-
tion of a million and a quarter. The chiefs had been obliged
to bend to the authority of Sindia, which General Perron had
extended to the vicinity of the Sutlege, but two of them,
Kythul and Jheend, had rendered important services to Lord
Lake in the campaigns of 1803 and 1805, and were recom-
pensed with large grants of land. As the British power had now
superseded that of the Mahrattas in this region, these petty
princes offered their submission and fealty to it, and, although
there were no mutual engagements in writing, considered
themselves under the suzerainty of the Company, and entitled
to their protection. The ambition of Runjeet Sing, which had
as yet received no check, led him to contemplate the annexa-
tion of these states, and the extension of his dominions to the
banks of the Jumna. He proceeded with his usual caution.
A sharp dispute had arisen between the chiefs of Putteeala and
Naba, and the raja of Naba invoked the interposition of Runjeet
Sing, who crossed the Sutlege with a large body of horse,
and dictated terms of reconciliation. No notice was taken of
this encroachment by the Resident at Delhi, and Runjeet Sing
flattered himself that ho had no opposition to apprehend from
the Company's officers. In 1807, the raja of Putteeala and
his wife were again at variance regarding a settlement for
her son ; Runjeet Sing was called in, and crossed the Sutlege
a second time. He decreed an allowance of 50,000 rupees a-
year to the boy, and received as a token of gratitude a valua-
ble diamond necklace, and, what he valued still more, a cele-
brated brass gun. On his way home, he levied contributions
on some of the petty chiefs, seized their forts and lands, and
carried off all their cannon to augment his own artillery, which


was at this time the great object of his desire. These succes-
sive inroads filled the Sikh chiefs of Sirhind with alarm, and a
formal deputation proceeded to Delhi, in March, 1808, to im-
plore the protection of the British Government, whose vassals,
they said, they had always considered themselves since the
extinction of Sindia's power; but the encouragement they
received was not so decisive as they expected. JHunjeet Sing,
anxious to discover the views of the British Government in
reference to this appeal, addressed a letter to the Governor-
General, stating his wish to remain on friendly terms with the
Company, but adding, "the country on this side the Jumna,
excepting the stations occupied by the English, is subject to my
authority ; let it remain so." This bold demand of the province
of Sirhind by Runjeet Sing, as a matter of right, brought
directly before Lord Minto, the important question whether,
in obedience to the non-interference policy of the Court of
Directors, an energetic and aspiring chief, who had, in the
course of ten years, erected a large kingdom upon the ruin
of a dozen princes, should be allowed to plant his army, com-
posed of the finest soldiery in India, within a few miles of our
own frontier. The solution of this point could not brook
delay ; there was no time for consulting the Court, and Lord
Minto boldly determined to cake on himself the responsibility
of extending British protection to the Sikh chief s, and shutting
up Runjeet Sing in the Punjab.

Foreign Aiii- It had been the policy of the Court of Directors
ances, 1808. f or man y years to discourage all alliances with the
princes of India, but, at this juncture, they were driven by the
irresistible current of circumstances to seek alliances Jbeyond
its frontier, for the protection of their interests. The treaty
of Tilsit, concluded between the emperor of Russia and Napo-
leon, was supposed to include certain secret articles which had
reference to extensive schemes of conquest in the east. More
especially was it believed to provide facilities for the gratifi-
cation of Napoleon's views on the British power in India. To
anticipate these designs, it was resolved to block up his path


to India by endeavouring 1 to contract defensive alliances with

the princes whose territories lay on the route, and to dispatch

missions to Persia, Afghanistan, and Lahore.

E mbassy to 7 _'

Bunjcetsing, Mr. Charles Metcalfe, a young 1 civilian, who had
been trained up in the school of Lord Wellcsley,
and, indeed, under his own eye, was selected for the Punjab
embassy. The task assigned him was one of no ordinary
difficulty : on the one hand, he was to frustrate Runjeet Sing's
favourite project of extending his dominion across the Sutlege,
on the other, to conciliate his co-operation in opposing the
approach of a French army from the west. Runjeet Sing
received the mission with coldness and suspicion. His per-
sonal bearing towards the envoy was discourteous, all inter-
course between the camps was interdicted, supplies were
refused, and the bankers were incited to refuse to cash his
bills, while his messengers were waylaid and his letters
opened. But he was resolved to allow no hostile conduct on
the part of Runjeet Sing to damp his ardour, or turn him
aside from his object. When at length he had obtained an
opportunity of explaining the object of his mission, the Sikh
cabinet intimated that the alliance appeared to be one in which
the British rather than the Punjab Government was inte-
rested, and that as it was intended to benefit the Company, it
ought also to include some advantage for the Punjab. They
did not object to the proposed treaty, but it must recognise
the sovereignty of Runjeet Sing over all the Sikh states on both
sides the Sutlege. Mr. Metcalfe replied that he had no instruc-
tions to make this concession ; but, while the negotiation was
in progress, Runjeet Sing broke up his encampment at Kusoor,
and crossed the Sutlege a third time, and for three months
swept through the districts of Sirhind, plundering the chiefs,
and compelling them, with the exception only of Putteeala and
Thanesur, to acknowledge his authority. The British mission
was dragged in his train, but Mr. Metcalfe felt that his pre-
sence seemed to give countenance to these aggressions, as
Runjeet Sing intended it should, and after proceeding several


stages, refused to advance farther, and eventually encamped
at Umritsir, to await the return of the Lahore ruler.
Eunjeet ordered Lord Minto, finding Runjeet Sing still bent on
to retire, 1808. the subjugation of Sirhind, determined to lose no
further time in arresting his progress, if necessary, by force
of arms. By this time, moreover, Napoleon was entangled in
the affairs of Spain, and the idea of an invasion of India, if it
had ever ripened into a design, was abandoned. All anxiety
for these foreign alliances was removed, and Lord Minto,
having no longer anything to ask of Runjeet Sing, was
enabled to assume a higher and more authoritative tone. The
Commander-in-chief, then in the north-west, was directed to
hold an army in readiness to march down to the Sutlege, and
a letter was addressed to Runjeet Sing, telling him in firm
and dignified language that by the issue of the war with the
Mahrattas, the Company had succeeded to the power and the
rights they had exercised in the north of Hindostan. The
Sikh states of Sirhind were now, therefore, under the protec-
tion of the British Government, and would be maintained in
all their integrity ; the Maharaja must consequently restore all
the districts of which he had taken possession during his
late incursion, and confine his military operations in future to
the right bank of the Sutlege. Runjeet Sing, on the ter-
mination of his expedition to Sirhind, hastened back to Um-
ritsir to exchange the toils of the camp for the enjoyments
of the harem. Like Hyder Ali, he was the slave of sensual
indulgence when his mind was not absorbed in the excitement
of war. On the evening of his arrival, Mr. Metcalfe waited
on him to present the letter of the Governor-General, but he
exclaimed that " the evening was to be devoted to mirth and
pleasure," and called for the dancing girls, and then for the
strong potations to which he was accustomed, and before
midnight was totally incapacitated for business. The com-
munication from Calcutta remained for several days without
acknowledgment, and, as it afterwards appeared, even with-
out perusal. On the 12th December, Mr. Metcalfe transmitted


him a note, repeating the statements contained in the Governor-
General's letter, pressing the demands of Government on his
attention, and pointing out the danger of refusing to accede to
them, stating, however, that the British Government was
anxious to maintain the most amicable relations with him.
This letter, which seems to have given him the first monition
of the hazard he was incurring of a serious collision with
British power, staggered his mind, and brought him to re-
flection. Other perils had also beset him. At Umritsir, his
favourite Mahomedan mistress had caused a Hindoo to be
circumcised. That holy city, the Benares of the Punjab, was
thrown into a state of religious frenzy ; all the shops were
closed, and the priests threatened to excommunicate any who
should venture to open them. Runjeet Sing, terrified by this
storm of fanaticism, escaped to Lahore, but was pursued by
the devotees and brahmins, who sat dhurna at his palace gate.
This practice consisted in sitting night and day, fasting and
praying, at the gate of the victim, till the demand was granted.
If persisted in, it might involve the death of a brahmin, and it
was therefore generally successful. So effective is this mode
of intimidation, that it has been found necessary to prohibit it,
under severe penalties by a special Regulation.
Mr. Metcaife's Eunjeet Sing contrived to pacify the priesthood
firmness, 1809. an( j IQ^J o f Umritsir, but continued from day to day
to evade any explanation with Mr. Metcalf e, who peremptorily
demanded an audience on the 22nd December, and announced
to him that a British, force was on the point of advancing to
the Sutlege, which would sweep his garrisons from Sirhind.
He bore the communication for some moments with apparent
composure, but unable, at length, to control his feelings
any longer, rushed out of the room, mounted his horse, and
galloped about the courtyard for some time with frantic vehe-
mence, followed by his body guard, while his ministers con-
tinued the conference with Mr. Metcalf e. It would be tedious
to detail the various interviews which took place between
them and Mr. Metcalfe for two months, or the constant


attempts which were made to overbear or to overreach him, or
the endless postponements and delays of this oriental . court.
Mr. Metcalfe was proof against all cajolery, and continued with
invincible firmness to insist on the restoration of ah 1 the conquests
which Kunjeet Sing had made on his late incursion. It was a
bitter pill for him to swallow, but he was constrained in the
end to submit. In all the range of British Indian history
there are few incidents to be found more remarkable than the
arrest of this young and haughty prince, in the full career of
ambition and victory, by the mandate of a youth of twenty-
four. Runjeet's lingering reluctance to relinquish his con-
quests was effectually removed by the arrival of Colonel
Ochterlony with a British army on the banks of the Sutlege,
and the issue of a proclamation declaring the states lying
between that river and the Jumna under British protection.
Treaty with On the 25th April, 1809, a treaty was concluded
Eunjeet, 1809. a ^ Umritsir to " establish perpetual amity between
the British Government and the State of Lahore." It provided
that the British Government should have no concern with the
territories and subjects of the raja north of the Sutlege ; and
that the raja should not commit any encroachments, or suffer
any to be committed on the possessions or rights of the chiefs
under British protection south of it. The treaty, which con-
sists of only fifteen lines, is one of the shortest on our records, and
is, perhaps, the only one which was never infringed. Runjeet
Sing subsequently became the most formidable native power
in India, and organised an army under European officers,
which, after his decease, shook the British empire to its
foundation, but for thirty years, up to the period of his death,
he maintained the " perpetual amity " with scrupulous fidelity.
Colonel Ochterlony, on withdrawing the army from the pro-
vince left a garrison in Loodiana, and that fort became our
frontier station in the north-west; and thus the British
standard, which Lord Wellesley had planted on the Jumna,
was six years after erected by Lord Minto on the banks of
the Sutlege.


Embassy to The embassy sent to Cabul to form a defensive

Cabui, 1808. alliance against a French invasion, was fitted out
on a scale of magnificence intended to impress the Afghans
with an idea of the power and majesty of the Company, and
it was entrusted to Mr. Mount Stuart Elphinstone, one of the
Wellesley school of Indian statesmen. The ruler of Afghan-
istan, Shah Soojah, the brother of Zemaun Shah, held his court
at Peshawur, which the envoy reached on the 5th March, 1809.
His reception was marked with the greatest courtesy, but the
ministers did not fail to observe that the object of the mission
was to promote the interests of the Company rather than those
of Afghanistan. They had nothing to dread from the arrival
of the French, and desired to know what benefit the Governor-
General intended to bestow on them for preventing the passage
of a French army through their passes ; they were anxious, more-
over, to ascertain what arguments or allurements the French
had to offer, before they committed themselves. It appears
unaccountable that the members of the Supreme Council in
Calcutta, thoroughly acquainted as they were with the oriental
character, should have fitted out a costly and pompous embassy
to a native court to solicit an alliance, without proposing any
reciprocal benefit. But, while the negociations were pending,
the expedition which Shah Soojah had imprudently sent to
Cashmere to regain possession of that province, was entirety
defeated. His brother Mahmood took advantage of this
disaster to seize Cabul and Caudahar, and to threaten Pesh-
awur. Shah Soojah, whose army was annihilated, and whose
treasury was empty, earnestly solicited pecuniary aid from the
British Government, and Mr. Elphinstone strongly recom-
mended a grant of ten lacs of rupees. As all Afghan soldiers
are mercenaries, this sum would have brought a sufficient
number of adherents to his standard to restore and consolidate
his power. But the dread of a French invasion had died out,
and it was no longer deemed important to conciliate the ruler
who held the " gate of India," as Cabul was then deemed.
The request was refused, and the embassy recalled. It is no


improbable conclusion that if this aid of ten lacs of rupees had
been granted to Shah Soojah in this emergency, and he had
thereby been enabled to maintain himself in Afghanistan, the
Company would have been spared the fifteen hundred lacs
of rupees which were wasted, thirty years after, in the
abortive attempt to restore him permanently to his throne, and
enable him to keep the " gate " shut against the Russians,
who were supposed to be knocking at it. Shah Soojah, how-
ever, gave his consent to a treaty stipulating that any attempt
of the French to advance through Afghanistan should be
opposed, at the cost of the Company's treasury ; but when it
arrived with the ratification of the Governor-General on the
9th June, 1810, there was neither king nor ambassador to
receive it. Shah Soojah was totally defeated by his rival, and
fled across the Indus, and Mr. Elphinstone was returning to
Hindostan ; and of this expensive embassy there remained no
other result but the noble history of it compiled by the
envoy, which gave Europe the first authentic description of the
region rendered memorable by the achievements of Alexander
the Great.

Affairs of The third embassy to counteract the supposed

Persia, 1808. projects of Napoleon was sent to the court of
Persia. At the commencement of 1806, the king of Persia
wantonly involved himself in a war with Russia, which proved
highly disastrous, and ended in depriving him of several of
his valuable provinces. In his exigency he applied to the go-
vernment of Calcutta, and, on the strength of the treaty con-
cluded by Colonel Malcolm in 1800, demanded aid against the
encroachments of Russia. But England was in alliance with
the emperor, and the assistance was necessarily refused, on
which the king made application to Napoleon, who eagerly em-
braced the proposal, and sent General Gardanne as his envoy
French em- to Teheran, which he reached in December, 1807,
bassy, 1807. w jth a large military suite. He was also accom-
panied by a body of engineer and artillery officers, some of
whom were dispersed over the country, to investigate its re-


sources and to make professional surve3 r s, while others were
employed in drilling the Persian levies, and introducing the
system of European tactics and discipline. A treaty was
speedily concluded, which provided thatj the Emperor should
regain from Russia, and restore to Persia, Georgia and other
frontier provinces which had been alienated ; that any French
army marching through Persia towards India should be supplied
with provisions and joined by a Persian force ; that the island
of Karrack should be ceded to France ; and that, if the em-
peror desired it, all Englishmen should be excluded from the
king's dominions. The English Ministry, who considered the
French embassy the advanced guard of a French army, deter-
mined to counteract these hostile designs, and to plant an
ambassador at Teheran as the representative of the Crown,
the Company, however, bearing all the expense of the mission.
Sir Arthur Wellesley and Lord Minto, before he left England,
earnestly recommended Colonel Malcolm for this duty, for
which he was preeminently qualified by his skill in oriental
diplomacy, his knowledge of the Asiatic character, and, more
especially, by the popularity he had formerly acquired at the
Persian court. But the Court of Directors could not forget
the lavish expenditure of his mission in 1800, amounting to
seventeen lacs of rupees, and there were little minds among
them who could not forgive his being a disciple of Lord Wel-

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 21 of 38)