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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Batavia. The capital of the island was occupied without
resistance, and the military post at Weltevreden, with its
stores and ammunition, and three hundred pieces of cannon,
was surrendered, after a sharp action, and the English force
advanced against Cornelis. For some unexplained cause,
General Daendels had been recalled, and his post given to
General Jaensens, the officer who had surrendered the Caps
of Good Hope to the English squadron four years before. The
emperor, at his final audience, reminded him of this disaster,
and said " Sir, remember that a French general does not allow
himself to be captured a second time." Jaensens, after
assuming the command, made the most strenuous efforts to
render the position of Cornelis, which was strong by nature,
impregnable by art, well knowing that as soon as the rains set
in, the malaria of the Batavian marshes would constrain the
English to raise the siege and retire. Cornelis was an en-
trenched camp between two rivers, one of which was not
fordable, and the other was defended by formidable redoubts
and batteries. The entire circumference of the camp was five
miles, and it was protected by 300 pieces of cannon.

The British Commander-in-chief, Sir Samuel

The attack and ^

capture of Cor- Ahmuty, decided at first to assail it by regular
eh8 ' 18 approaches, but the attempt was soon found to

demand such laborious exertions as the men were unequal to
under a tropical sun. It was resolved, therefore, to carry it by
a coup de main, and this brought into play the daring spirit of
Colonel Gellespie, of Vellore renown, to whom the enterprise
was committed. His column marched soon after midnight on
the 26th August, and came upon the redoubt as the day began
to dawn. His rear division had not come up, but he felt that


the smallest delay would prove fatal to his plans, and he was
confident that the missing troops would be made aware of his
position and hasten to join him, by the report of the firing.
The redoubt was immediately attacked, and carried at the
point of the bayonet. Colonel Gellespie then took possession
of the frail bridge, which the enemy had unaccountably left
standing, and the demolition of which would have been a
serious, if not fatal, impediment, and, with the aid of the rear
division, which had by this time joined him, carried a second
redoubt. The overwhelming impetuosity of his troops cap-
tured all the others in succession, till he found himself in the
foreground of the enemy's reserve, and of a large body of
cavalry, posted with powerful artillery in front of the barracks
and lesser fort. They were vigorously attacked, chiefly by the
59th, and driven from their position, when the Colonel, placing
himself at the head of the dragoons and horse artillery, pur-
sued the fugitives for ten miles, and completed the defeat and
disorganisation of the whole French army. Thus was Java
won in a single morning, and by the efforts of a single officer.
The loss of the French was severe, and 6,000 of their troops,
chiefly Europeans, were made prisoners, but the victory cost
the British 900 in killed and wounded, of whom 85 were
officers. General Jaensens retired to Samarang, with about
8,000 native soldiers, but after several skirmishes with the
detachments sent in pursuit of him, he found that no depen-
dence was to be placed on his Javanese and Malay sepoys,
and, notwithstanding the warning of his master, . was con-
strained to give himself up a second time, and surrender Java
and all its dependencies.

Bevoitof Some of the native chiefs of the island mani-

Native Chiefs, fested a disposition to take advantage of the con-
fusion of the times to throw off the European yoke ;
and the Sultan of Djojekarta declared war against the English
and called upon the Javanese to rise and recover their inde-
pendence. Colonel Gellespie conducted a force against his
capital, which was protected by a high rampart and batteries,


mounted with a hundred pieces of cannon, and manned by
17,000 troops, independently of an armed population calculated
at 100,000. It was carried by storm, and another wreath was
added to the laurels of that gallant officer. The Court of
Directors had granted their sanction to the expedition with no
other object than to extinguish the power of the French, and
to obtain security for then: own ships and commerce in the
eastern seas. Hence, they gave instructions that if it proved
successful, the fortifications should be levelled with the ground,
the arms and ammunition distributed among the natives, and
the island evacuated. It is difficult to conceive that so bar-
barous a policy, which must inevitably have consigned every
European on the island to destruction, could ever have been
seriously entertained by an association of civilised men in the
nineteenth century. But Lord Minto was not disposed to put
weapons into the hands of the natives, and abandon the Dutch
colonists, without arms or fortresses, to their vindictive
passions, to undo the work of two centuries, and resign that
noble island to the reign of barbarism. He determined to
retain it, and committed the command of the army to Colonel
Gellespie, and the government to Mr. Raffles, under whose
wise and liberal administration it continued to flourish for
several years.
_ . Having thus established the power of Britain in


of Lord Minto, the eastern archipelago, and given security to her
commerce by expelling the French from every
harbour in the east, Lord Minto returned to Calcutta early in
1812, and soon after learned that he had been superseded in
the Government. The usual term of office was considered to
extend to seven years, and Lord Minto had intimated to the
Directors his wish to be relieved from the Government early in
1814. But the Prince Regent was impatient to bestow this
lucrative appointment on the favourite of the day, the Earl of
Moira, who had recently been employed, though without
success, in attempting to form a new ministry. Under the
dictation of the Board of Control, the chairman of the Court


of Directors was reluctantly obliged to move a resolution for
the immediate rccal of Lord Minto. Circumstances detained
Lord Moira in England longer than he expected ; he did not
reach Calcutta before October, 1813, and Lord Minto, who had
been intermediately honoured with a step in the peerage, did
not embark till within a few months of the period which he
had himself fixed for his departure, but the determination to
inflict on him the indignity of removal, in the midst of an
administration in which there had been no failure and no cause
of dissatisfaction, was dishonourable equally to the Ministry
and to their royal master.

On the return of Lord Minto from Java, it

The Pmdarees > '

their origin, became necessary, for the first time, to order
80 ' troops into the field to repel the Pindarees, who
had burst into the province of Bundlekund, and threatened
the great commercial mart of Mirzapore. The earliest trace
of the Pindarees, as a body of mounted freebooters, is found
in the struggles of the Mahrattas with Aurungzebe towards
the close of the seventeenth century ; but they come more
distinctly into notice under the Peshwa, the first Bajee Rao.
A large detachment of them accompanied the Mahratta expe-
dition againt Ahmed Shah Abdalee, and shared in the
disaster of Paniput. After the Peshwa had delegated the
charge of maintaining the Mahratta power in Hindostan to
his lieutenants, Sindia and Holkar, the Pindarees were ranged
nnder their standards and designated, respectively, the Sindia
Shahee and the Holkar Shahee Pindarees ; but they were not
allowed to pitch their tents within the encampment of the
Mahratta princes, nor were their leaders at first permitted to
sit in their presence. A body of these freebooters accom-
panied Tokajee Holkar into Hindostan in 1769, and he
bestowed on the leader the zuree putun, or golden flag of dis-
tinction, which served to keep his band generally faithful to
the house of Holkar. Two other hordes followed the fortunes
of Mahdajee and Dowlut Rao Sindia in their expeditions to the
Deccan and Hindostan. But the connection of the Pindaree


leaders with the Mahratta princes was ahvays loose and uncer-
tain, and regulated more by the principle of convenience than
of fealty. The princes found it useful to attach to their camp
a large body of freebooters, who received no pay, and were
content with an unlimited licence to plunder, and were always
ready to complete the work of destruction in the districts
which the Mahrattas invaded. The Pindaree leaders, on their
part, found it advantageous to enjoy a connection, however
indirect, with established governments, to whom they might
look for protection in case of emergency. But this relation-
ship did not restrain the Pindarees from plundering the districts
of their patrons when it suited their interests, nor did it
prevent the Mahratta princes from seizing the leaders after
any of their successful expeditions, and obliging them to
surrender the best part of their plunder.

Two of the leaders, Heerun and Burrun, in the
i7ad d ers ee i808 8u ite of Sindia, 'offered their services, soon after
the death of Mahdajee, to the raja of Bhopal to
plunder the territories of the raja of Nagpore, with whom he
was at war. Their offer was prudently declined, on which
they proceeded to Nagpore in quest of professional employ-
ment, and were readily engaged by the raja to lay waste the
lands of Bhopal, which they accomplished so effectively that it
was a quarter of a century before the country recovered from
the effect of their ravages. On their return to Nagpore, the
raja did not scruple to attack their encampment and completely
despoil them of the rich booty they had collected in this expedi-
tion. Burrun was thrown into confinement, which he did not
survive. Heerun took refuge with Sindia, and died soon after,
when his two sons, Dost Mahomed and Wassil Mahomed,
collected his scattered followers and reorganized the band.
The leadership of Burrun's Piudarees devolved on Cheetoo, by
birth a Jaut, who was purchased when a child, during a famine,
by a Pindaree, and trained up to the profession. His superior
abilities and his daring spirit of enterprize gave him the fore-
most rank in the troop, and recommended him to the notice of


Dowlut Rao Sindia, who took a large body of his followers
with him in the expedition to Hindostan in 1805, which has
been already alluded to. He was rewarded with a jageer, and
the title of nabob, which he engraved on his seal, in the pomp-
ous style of an oriental prince. He fixed his head-quarters
at Nimar, amidst the rugged hills and wild fastnesses which
lie between the Nerbudda and the Vindya range. From this
point, his Pindarees were dispatched in every direction on
plundering expeditions, from which even the territories of
Sindia were not always exempted. His armies were con-
sequently sent in succession to reduce the Pindaree bands,
but were as constantly baffled as the Mogul armies had been
by the Mahrattas, at the beginning of their career. Sindia,
at length deemed it convenient to patch up a peace with
Cheetoo, and to cede five districts to him to preserve the rest
of his dominions from plunder.

Kureem Khan, another Pindaree leader of note,
Kureem Khan, wag a j^u^ or p a tan, who entered the service
of Sindia at an early age, and at the battle of
Kurdla acquired a rich harvest of plunder in the Nizam's
camp, which enabled him to increase the strength of his pre-
datory band. In the course of time, he obtained an assign-
ment of lands from Sindia, together with a title, and married
into the noble family of Bhopal. He was bold, active, and
ambitious, and by the gradual encroachments which the distrac-
tion of the times enabled him to make on the dominions both
of Sindia and Holkar, he had, by 1806, acquired possession of
a little principality, yielding sixteen lacs of rupees a-year. He
enlisted infantry, cast cannon, formed a body of household
troops, and increased his Pindarees to 10,000 and for the first
time a Pindaree chief appeared likely to become a territorial
prince. But Sindia had no idea of permitting this develop-
ment, and resolved to crush his rising- power. He accordingly
proceeded to his capital on the pretence of a friendly visit, and
Kureem Khan advanced to meet him with a state little inferior
to his own, and presented him with a throne composed of a lac


and a quarter of rupees. Sihdia treated him with the utmost
condescension and engaged to grant all his requests. The
Pindaree was completely' thrown off his guard, and was
persuaded to pay his parting visit to Sindia for the confirma-
tion of these promises with a very slender retinue. He was
received with distinction, but after the first compliments had
passed, Sindia withdrew from the tent, under some excuse,
when a body of armed men rushed in and secured Kureem
Khan, who was hurried off to Gwalior, where he was detained
in confinement for four years. Meanwhile, Sindia's territories
were devastated without mercy by his Pindaree adherents,
under the command of his nephew. An offer of six lacs of
rupees was at length 1 made for the release of Kureem Khan,
which was, after much discussion, accepted, and the freebooter
obtained his liberty. But it was not long before Sindia had
cause to repent of an act dictated only by avarice. The
Pindarees flocked to Kureem Khan's standard in such num-
bers that he speedily acquired more extensive territories and
power than he had enjoyed before his captivity. Cheetoo was
induced to join him with the whole of his force, and an alli-
ance was likewise formed with Ameer Khan, then in the
Bpring-tide of his career. Their united force did not fall short
of 60,000 horse, and from the palace to the cottage, every one
in Central India was filled with consternation at this portentous
association of men whose only vocation was plunder. Happily,
the union was short lived. Cheetoo, who had always cherished
the hostility of a rival towards Kureem Khan, was prevailed
on to desert him, and Sindia, whose territories he was laying
waste with fire and sword, sent one of his ablest generals
against him. His camp was assaulted and broken up, and he
sought an asylum with Ameer Khan, who made him over to
his nephew, Guffoor Khan, and Toolsee-bye, at Indore, by whom
he was detained three years.

These were the acknowledged leaders of the Pin-

Their system

of plunder, darce association, to whose encampment the minor
chiefs flocked with their adherents when the season


arrived for their annual forays. The ranks of the Pindarees
were constantly replenished by horsemen discharged from the
service of regular Governments, or in want of employment and
subsistence ; by miscreants expelled from the community for
their crimes, or men pursued by the importunity of their credi-
tors, or who were weary of a peaceable life and of regular
occupation. The Pindaree system thus afforded to every crimi-
nal not only a safe asylum, but active employment of the most
exciting character, to the utter destruction of all the wholesome
restraints of society. The predatory standard was generally
raised at the Dussera festival, towards the end of October,
when the rains ceased and the rivers became fordable. A
leader of experience and acknowledged courage was selected,
tinder whom a body of four or five thousand was ranged for
the expedition. They were all mounted, two-fifths of them on
good horses, armed with a spear from twelve to eighteen feet
in length, and the remainder with a variety of weapons of in-
ferior quality. Each horseman was provided with a few cakes
for himself and a bag of grain for his horse, and these supplies
were replenished as they proceeded, plundering from village to
village. They were not encumbered with tents or baggage,
and moved often at a speed of forty or fifty miles a-day, and
even of sixty in case of emergency, and were thus enabled to
baffle all pursuit. Neither were they fettered by any preju-
dices of caste, or any compunctions of tenderness, or any
scruples of conscience. Their vocation was to plunder, and not
to fight, and they fled whenever they encountered any resist-
ance. They were the most dastardly brigands on record, and
the history of their career is not relieved by a single humane, or
even romantic action. The atrocities they committed on man
and woman almost exceed belief. Unable to remain long in
any one spot, the greatest despatch was required to complete
the plunder of the village, and the most horrible tortures were
inflicted to hasten the discovery of property. On their arrival
in any locality terror and dismay at once seized upon the help-
less inhabitants ; villages were to be seen in a blaze, wounded


and houseless peasants flying 1 in every direction, fortified places
shutting their gates, and keeping up a perpetual fire from their
walls. Their progress through the country was a stream of
desolation, for what they could not carry off they invariably
destroyed. Their numbers, moreover, were swelled by the
very miseries they inflicted, inasmuch as those who were thus
reduced to destitution by their extortion were in too many
cases obliged to join their ranks for a mere subsistence.

Theu 1 depredations were for several years con-
British teni- fined to the neighbourhood of the Nerbudda and
ory, 1812. ^ e f ron tj ers O f ^he p e ghwa, the Nizam and the
raja of Nagpore. As these districts became exhausted they
were obliged to enlarge the sphere of their expeditions, and, in
one instance, swept through four hundred miles of country
south of the Nerbudda, to the extremity of the Peshwa's and
Nizam's territories, and returned laden with booty, which
served to attract additional numbers to their body. In 1811,
the Dussera was celebrated by an assemblage of 25,000
Pindaree horse, besides some battalions of foot ; and a detach-
ment of 5,000 plundered up to the gates of Nagpore, and burnt
down one of the suburbs of the city. The next year, a large
body under Dost Mahomed penetrated through the native prin-
cipality of Rewah, and plundered the Company's district of
Mirzapore. They then proceeded towards Gya, within seventy
miles of Patna, and having realized an extraordinary amount
of spoil in this new and untrodden field, disappeared up the
sources of the Soane before a British soldier could overtake
them. This was their first aggression on British territory,
and, coupled with the periodical devastation of the countries
north and south of the Nerbudda, constrained Lord Minto to
bring the subject before the Court of Directors, and entreat
them to consider whether it was expedient " to observe a strict
neutrality amidst these scenes of disorder and

Lord Minto s

representations, outrage, or to listen to the calls of suffering

humanity, and interfere for the protection of the

weak and defenceless states who implored our assistance


against the ravages of the Pindarees and the Patans." Before
he quitted the Government he again addressed the Court,
pointing out that the augmented numbers, the improved or-
ganization, and , the increased boldness of the Pindarees,
arising from the success of their inroads, rendered the adop-
tion of an extensive system of measures for their suppression
a matter of pressing importance. If Lord Wellesley's purpose
of establishing the paramount influence of the British Govern-
ment throughout India had not been thwarted in England, the
growth of this predatory confederacy would have been effec-
tually checked, but the fatal policy adopted by the Court of
Directors fostered it into a formidable power, the suppression
of which, after eight years of impunity, as Lord Minto ob-
served, would require much "laborious arrangement and com-
bination, both political and military." It was the misfortune
of his administration to be cast between the vigorous adminis-
trations of Lord Wellesley and Lord Hastings, one of whom
organized, and the other consummated, the system of main-
taining the tranquillity of India through British supremacy.
It fell unhappily to his lot to act upon the neutral policy of the
home authorities, of which he entirely disapproved, though he
had to bear the odium of it. The boldness with which he re-
pressed the ambition of Kunjeet Sing, and the irruption of
Ameer Khan into Nagpore, when he had an opportunity of
acting on his own impulse, shows that, notwithstanding his
constitutional caution, he would have dealt vigorously with
the Pindarees if he had not been restrained by the India
House. But his Government was, nevertheless, of essential
service to the interests of India by demonstrating to the autho-
rities in England the impracticability of their system of non-
interference, and by preparing them to abandon it under his

Minto's administration


Permanent Set- twenty years had elapsed since the introduction of

eat, 1813. Lord Cornwallis's permanent settlement and judi-

cial institutions, which formed an important era in the history


of India, and it becomes necessary to review the effect they
produced on the welfare of the country. After twenty-five
years of unsatisfactory experiments in revenue settlements,
the Government in England, and Lord Cornwallis in India, by
a generous and noble inspiration, resolved at once to constitute
the zemindars who had to this time been the simple collectors
of the revenue, or rather the " hereditary administrators of
the revenue, with a beneficial interest in the land," the actual
proprietors of every estate in Bengal and Behar, and to make
a permanent and irrevocable settlement with them, when only
two-thirds of the land were under culture. But the great boon
thus conferred was saddled with one condition, which proved
fatal to the great majority of them. Under the Mahomedan
government the zemindar, when he fell into arrears, was
summoned either to Dacca, or Moorshedabad, and subjected
to great indignities, and sometimes even to torture, till he
made provision for paying them up ; but he was rarely de-
prived of his zemindaree. This system of coercion was
repugnant to the British character, and the penalty of eviction
was adopted in its stead. The zemindar was required to
discharge every instalment of revenue on the day on which it
fell due, and, on the first failure, his estate was put up to sale
by auction, and knocked down to the highest bidder; but
punctuality is not, in 1 any circumstances, an oriental virtue,
least of all in pecuniary matters. The zemindars had been
brought up in prodigality and improvidence ; they fell rapidly
into arrears, and were inexorably sold up. In the course of
seven years, dating from 1793, most of the great zemindars
who had survived the commotions of more than a century,
were ejected from the estates of which they had been recently
declared the sole proprietors. It was a great social revolution,
affecting more than a third of the tenures of land in a country
the- size of England. In some respects this eviction was inju-
rious to the people, for the old zemindars had lived in the
bosom of their tenantry for generations, and being almost exclu-
sively Hindoos, had laid themselves out to promote their social


and religious festivities. They maintained large households, and
expended with a lavish hand, in their circle, the sums which
had been drawn, probably by extortion, from the ryots. The
estates thus brought to the hammer were bought by the new
aristocracy of wealth, which had grown up in the political, the
commercial, and the judicial service of the Company, and with
the growth of trade and the security of property. They were
often absentees, and in every case strangers to the ryots, and
all the beneficial ties which had associated the agricultural
population with the old zemindars were thus dissolved. But
the breaking up of these unwieldy zemindarees, equal in some
cases to entire districts, was by no means unfavourable to the
extension of cultivation, and the general improvement of the

condition of the ^e settlement of 1793, however, made no

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 24 of 38)