John William Kaye.

Lives of Indian officers : illustrative of the history of the civil and military service of India (Volume 1) online

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ther the Governor- General were or were not moved by him,
it is very certain that the course pursued was in accordance
with the views and recommendations of Charles Metcalfe.

And it is certain that such were the clearness and compre- Diplomacy in
hensiveness of Metcalfe's views, and such the precision with Ra JP otana '
which he expressed them, that the Governor- General saw
plainly that it would be to his advantage to have such a states-
man at his elbow. But there was some active diplomatic
business yet to be done by the Delhi Resident. In the great
political and military transactions which distinguished the
administration of Lord Hastings, Metcalfe played an im-
portant part. The task which was set him did not in the
sequel involve the rough work wjiich fell to the share of

VOL. i. 2 D


1817 1819. Elphinstone and Malcolm ; but it demanded the exercise of
no little address. It was his to bring the great Patan chief,
Ameer Khan, to terms ;* to induce him to disband his levies
and restore the tracts of country which he had taken from the
Rajpoots. It was his also to bring all the great Rajpoot chiefs
into friendly alliance with us ; and though the conduct of one
or two of them was of a slippery and evasive character, they
were all finally persuaded that it was really to their interest
that they should be brought under British protection. This
done, and the war concluded, Charles Metcalfe accepted the
offer of a place in the Executive Government, which had been
made to him by Lord Hastings, and prepared, in the cold
weather of 1818-19, to assume the office of Political Secre-
tary, in succession to Mr. John Adam, who had been elevated
to a seat in Council.

Departure He turned his back upon Delhi with a sigh. He left behind

him many dear friends. He loved the work that had been en-
trusted to him, because there was great scope for beneficent
action, and he felt that he had not exerted himself in vain. In
after years, he looked back with pardonable pride at the results
of his administration. " Capital punishment," he said, " was
almost wholly abstained from, and without any bad effect.
Corporal punishment was discouraged, and finally abolished.
Swords and other implements of intestine warfare, to which
the people were prone, were turned into ploughshares, not
figuratively alone, but literally also ; villagers being made to
give up their arms, which were returned to them in the shape
of implements of agriculture. Suttees were prohibited. The
rights of Government were better maintained than in other
- provinces, by not being subjected to the irreversible decisions
of its judicial servants, with no certain laws for their guidance
and control. The rights of the people were better preserved,
by the maintenance of the village constitutions, and by avoid-
ing those pernicious sales of lands for arrears of revenue,
which in other provinces have tended so much to destroy the
hereditary rights of the mass of the agricultural community."

Th Po/ifi" i ^ e P u fcical Secretaryship of the Indian Government is a


* This was the chief on whose pre- Holkar's camp in 1805, the young civi-

tentious, insolent manner towards Met- Han commented in a letter quoted at

calfe. on the occasion of his visit to page 390.


high and important office ; one that had been, and lias since 1819.
been, held by men second to none in the public service.
Barlow, Edmonstone, and John Adam had been Metcalfe's
predecessors, and had each in turn passed on from the Secre-
taryship to a seat in the Supreme Council. But those who
knew Metcalfe best, doubted whether the place would suit
him ; and he soon came to doubt it himself. Among others,
Sir John Malcolm wrote to him, saying : " Had I been near
you, the King of Delhi should have been dissuaded from be-
coming an executive officer, and resigning power to jostle for
influence. But you acted with high motives, and should not
be dissatisfied with yourself." But Metcalfe was dissatisfied
with himself. He had no reason to complain of anything
in his intercourse with Lord Hastings, who was always
thoroughly a gentleman, with unfailing kindliness of heart
and courtesy of manner. Their ministerial relations were of
the most friendly, and to Metcalfe of the most flattering,
kind ; for if the Governor- General did not always adopt the
suggestions, or if he sometimes altered the work of his Secre-
tary, he explained his reasons, with such urbane consideration
for the feelings of his subordinate, that the most sensitive mind
could not be hurt. Officially he was not tried, as some men
are tried, sorely ; and socially his position was all that could
be desired. He had many dear friends in Calcutta. He re-
newed his pleasant intimacy with some old companions of his
youth, and he formed some new connexions, which were a
solace to him to the end of his days. But still he did not like
this ministerial employment. He had been King so long that
it was irksome to him to be dwarfed into a Wuzeer.

So he longed to escape from Calcutta, from the Council-
Chamber, and from the elbow of the Go vernor- General ; and
he looked wistfully into the Future. " I recognise in all your
letters," said Sir John Malcolm, " the unaltered Charles Met-
calfe with whom I used to pace the tent at Muttra and build
castles ; our expenditure on which was subject neither to the
laws of estimate nor the rules of audit." And now, though at
a distance from each other, they began castle-building again.
Malcolm was meditating a return to England, and he was
eager to make over the administration of Central India to his
friend. Another high civil officer, who had the charge of a



1819. contiguous tract of country, was also about to retire from his
post ; and it was considered whether those two great adminis-
trative fields might not be conjoined and placed together in
Metcalfe's hands. " The union of Malcolm's charge and Mar-
joribanks'," he wrote in a rough pencil note on the face of a
letter from Mr. Adam, " would be grand indeed, and make me
. King of the East and the West."

So, full of this thought, Charles Metcalfe sat down and
wrote a long letter to Lord Hastings, in which, after describing
the arrangement which might be made, on the resignation
by Malcolm and Marjoribanks of their several charges, he
April, 1820. said : " When I reflect on the respectability, emoluments,
luxury, comforts, and presumed prospects of my present
situation, on the honour of holding a place so near your Lord-
ship's person, combined with the enjoyment of continual in-
tercourse with your Lordship, and on the happiness conferred
by your invariable kindness, I cannot satisfy myself that I
act wisely in seeking to be deprived of so many advantages in
order to undertake arduous duties of fearful responsibility. It
is very possible, I think, that if your Lordship should indulge
my wishes, I may hereafter repent of them ; but at present I
am under the influence of the following considerations. After
a sufficient experience, I feel that the duties of the Secretary's
Office are not so congenial to me as those which I have here-
tofore performed. I see reasons to doubt my qualifications for
this line of service. I think that many persons might be
found who would fill the office more efficiently ; and I fancy
that I could serve your Lordship better in a situation, such as
I have described, nearly resembling that which I formerly
held." The project was favourably received by the Governor-
Greneral, and Metcalfe became so sanguine that ere long it
would receive definitive approval, that he wrote to his friend
Mr. Jenkins, saying that Lord Hastings designed that it should
take effect, and inquiring " the best way of getting speedily
to Mhow in November or December."

But this " Kingship of the East and the West" was not in
store for him. A few weeks passed away, and a new field of
labour began to expand itself before him. " I have given up,"
he again wrote to Mr. Jenkins, " the idea of succeeding Mal-
colm and erecting my standard on the Nerbudda, in order to


go to another field, not so extensive, more compact, and more 1820.
comfortable, and offering a prospect of greater leisure. It is
a bad sign, I fear, that for these reasons I think it preferable.
I look upon it as a sort of retirement for the rest of my service
in India. I have seen enough of the Secretaryship to know
that the respectability and satisfaction of those stations depend
upon circumstances beyond one's control ; and though under
some circumstances I should prefer my present situation to
any other, I shall quit it without any desire of returning to it,
and without much wish of ever having a seat in Council
were it not for the name of the thing, I should say without
any wish. This state of feeling I have gained by coming to
Calcutta ; and it is fortunate that it is so, for I have no chance
whatever of a seat in Council at any time."

There was in all this a great deal of erroneous forecast;
not the least error of all that he was going to a comfortable
appointment. The situation before him was that of Resident
at Hyderabad, in the Deccan. It was a first-class Political
Office, equal in rank and emolument to that which he had
quitted in Hindostan. The present incumbent, Mr. Henry
Russell,* was one of the ablest officers in the service. He was
a friend, connected too by marriage with Metcalfe, and had
been for some time endeavouring to persuade the Political
Secretary to succeed him. " I always thought," wrote Mr.
Russell, u that you would regret the change from Delhi to
Calcutta. It can hardly be long before you are placed in
Council ; but if this should not be the case, and you should
continue desirous of returning to your own line, I should be
delighted to deliver this Residency into your hands. You will
find an excellent house, completely furnished; a beautiful
country, one of the finest climates in India; and when the
business which now presses has been disposed of, abundance
of leisure to follow your personal pursuits." In another letter
the same writer said : "In point of magnitude your situation
in Malwah will certainly be superior to this Residency ; but
you may do as much real good, and acquire as much real
importance here, as you could there. The office now proposed
will be great, by adding many things together ; at Hyderabad

* Afterwards Sir Henry Russell. Metcalfe's elder brother had married Mr.
Russell's cousin.


1820. it will be compact and considerable in itself, and will afford,
for several years to come, an ample field for the exertions of a
man of talent and benevolence. As to personal convenience,
there can be no comparison. In Malwah you will have no
time to yourself, and you will either be wandering about the
country, which is always irksome when it is perpetual, or you
will have to build and furnish a house, at the expense certainly
of not less than a lakh of rupees, out of your private fortune.
At Hyderabad, after the first six months, when you have
looked thoroughly into everything, you will find, compared
with what you have been accustomed to, little to give you
trouble ; at least half of your time will be at your disposal,
and you will step at once, without care and expense, into a
house completely furnished, and provided with every accom-
modation." These many-sided arguments prevailed. Look-
ing on this picture and on that, Metcalfe began to incline
towards the Hyderabad Residency. When Mr. Russell re-
signed, the appointment was offered to him; and he ac-
cepted it without much hesitation.

He parted from Lord Hastings on the best possible terms.
The Governor- General wrote him a letter, expressive both of
public and private friendship. " And now, my dear sir, for
yourself," he said, after dwelling on political business, " let
me assure you that I have been duly sensible of your kind
and cordial attachment, and that it is with earnest prayers for
your welfare that I wish you all possible prosperity and com-
fort. We shall not meet again in Lidia, and the chances for
it in Europe must, considering my age, be small ; but I shall
rejoice in hearing from you, and you will believe that I re-
main yours, faithfully, HASTINGS."

The Hyderabad Towards the end of the year 1820, accompanied by a few
Residency. . .

young friends who had been appointed his assistants, Charles

Metcalfe set out for Hyderabad. His correspondence with
his predecessor had supplied him with good substantial in-
formation relating to the state of the country. But he found,
upon the spot, that the disorders of which he had heard were
more deeply seated than he had imagined. The Nizam had
borrowed from an extensive banking-house at Hyderabad
large sums of money at high interest, for the payment of his
troops and other current expenses of his Government. The


result was, that his ministers were compelled to resort to many 1821.
acts of oppression and injustice to wring money from the
people to keep the machinery of the State from altogether
suspending its action. It was plain that the interference of
the British Government had long been imperatively demanded.
Something had already been done ; but something also re-
mained to be done. " The more I see of the Nizam's country," June 14.
wrote Metcalfe, after some six months' experience, " the more
I am convinced that, without our interposition, it must have
gone to utter ruin, and that the measures which have been
adopted were indispensably necessary for its continued exist-
ence as an inhabited territory. As it is, the deterioration has
been excessive; and the richest and most easily cultivated
soil in the world has been nearly depopulated, chiefly by the
oppressions of Government. It will require tender nursing.
The settlements are advancing. The moderate revenue, which
it has been found necessary to receive in many instances, has
greatly disappointed the Government, which, not convinced
by the depopulation of villages in consequence of ruinous ex-
tortion, would have persisted in the same unprincipled course
until the rest were depopulated also. The loss of revenue, if
confidence be established by the settlement, will be but tem-
porary. In some of the settlements, on which the assessments
for the first year are the lowest, they are doubled and trebled,
and in some instances quadrupled and quintrupled, in the
period generally five years for which the settlements are
concluded. Such are the productive powers of the soil, that
I have no doubt of the propriety of the increase where it
occurs to that extent, the assessments for the first year having
been made uncommonly low from local circumstances affecting
the particular cases. After the conclusion of the settlement,
one measure more, and I think only one, will be necessary,
and to that I conceive our interference ought to be limited.
We must preserve a check on the native officers of the Go-
vernment, to provide that they do not violate the settlement,
otherwise they certainly will; in which case it would be
better that it had never been concluded, as it would then, by
giving false confidence, furnish the means of additional ex-
tortion, and would effectually destroy the very foundation of
our probable success, which is the reliance put on our faith


1821. and guarantee. I therefore propose, with the assent of the
Nizam's Government, to employ the assistants of the Resi-
dency and some of the best qualified of the Nizam's officers
in different divisions of the Nizam's territory, for the purposes
of checking oppression and violation of faith on the part of the
officers of Government, securing adherence to settlements,
taking cognisance of crimes, and looking after the police,
especially on the frontiers, on which point I receive continual
complaints from the neighbouring Governments. These offi-
cers should take no part in the collection of the revenues, nor
in the general administration of the country ; neither should
the farms of the Nizam's Government be invaded. The offi-
cers should not have any peculiar official designation, founded
on their duties, lest it should be considered as a partial intro-
duction of our rule ; and if at any time, from good schooling
or rare goodness, there should be reasonable ground of hope
that a district could be managed safely without such a check,
I should think it a duty to withdraw the officer from that
district, though I have no expectation, I confess, that such is
likely to be the case. In order to save expense to the Nizam's
Government, the number of divisions should be small six or
seven in all. This would make each of them very extensive,
but not, I hope, too much so for the performance of the duty.
They ought to be continually in motion (the officers, I mean),
and the Resident ought to be frequently in motion also, to
observe the state of the several divisions. I hope that this
measure will be approved, for on it all my hopes of successful
reform in the Nizam's country are built. Without it they will
fall to the ground. It appears to me to be the only way of
preserving the Nizam's Government in all its parts entire,
with the addition of the check of European integrity, which
can at any time be removed without damaging any other part
of the edifice, if at any time it can be dispensed with. If the
Nizam's officers were allowed to go on without some such
check, it would soon end, I think, in our being compelled to
take the country entirely into our own hands."

question!* ^ ^^ ^ ^ e nursm g m * ne wor ld could do nothing, so long
as there remained the great cancer of the debt to eat into the
very life of the State. The English money-lenders had got
fast hold of the Nizam and his minister. They were friends


of the Eesident and friends of the Governor-General ; but the 1821.
former determined to rescue the country from their grasp.
He knew that it could not be done without sore travail ; he
knew that he would lose many friends and make many
enemies ; and that the cordial support of the Government
was little likely to be obtained. Sir John Malcolm had
written to him, saying : " Every step that you take to ame-
liorate the condition of the country will be misrepresented by
fellows who have objects as incompatible with public virtue
and good government as darkness is with light. . . . You
have to fight the good fight, and to stand with the resolute
but calm feelings such a cause must inspire against all species
of attacks that artful and sordid men can make, or that weak
and prejudiced men can support. ... I am quite confident
in your ultimate triumph, though I expect that you will have
great vexation and annoyance."

And truly he had ; but much as it cost him, he was reso-
lute to go through it to the end. It was the sorest task that
he ever set himself, for he was a man of warm affections, and
it cut him to the heart to array himself against the personal
interests of his friends. But he felt that, in the emergency
that had then arisen, the very life of the Hyderabad State
hung upon his independent action. He was determined to
inquire, where inquiry must of necessity have been exposure,
and to cut off the stream from which so much had been
poured into the coffers of his friends. It is a long story.
The great banking-house of William Palmer and Company
suffered greatly by Metcalfe's sturdy uncompromising con-
duct; and for a while he fell under the displeasure of the
Governor- General. But Lord Hastings had too many good
qualities of head and heart not at last to do justice to a public
servant who had striven only for the public good.

The history of these transactions is recorded in many folio
volumes. Never, perhaps, was a greater flood of controversy
let loose to bewilder the judgments of men ; never did par-
tisanship stream forth in more heady currents than when the
subject of the Hyderabad Loans was discussed in public
papers, in private pamphlets, and on the proprietary platform
of the East India Company. This is not the pleasantest part
of the story of Metcalfe's life ; but there is nothing in the


1821. whole of it more illustrative of the sturdy independence and
honesty of his character. His private correspondence with
Lord Hastings has been published. It cannot be given here
in detail ; but in the following passage of a letter to the Go-
vernor-General, there is so much that bears undoubted wit-
ness to the fact that it was a sore trial and travail to the
Hyderabad Resident to undermine and to fire the train that
was to explode the prosperity of so many of his friends. He
was accused of hostility to the house of William Palmer and
Company. To this he replied : " I am at a loss what to say
to this, for I know not whence such an idea can have arisen.
Excepting Mr. W. Palmer, the European partners of that firm
were my friends before I came to Hyderabad. Mr. W. Pal-
mer's brother, Mr. John Palmer, has been my much esteemed
and warm friend for the last twenty years ; and Mr. William
Palmer himself is one of those men so amiably constituted by
nature, that it is impossible to know ever so little of him with-
out feeling one's regard and esteem attracted. There is no
family at Hyderabad with which I have so much intercourse
as Sir William Bmnbold's. Mr. Lambe, one of the partners,
accompanied me in his medical capacity as acting-surgeon of
AurungabacL the Residency during my tour from Hyderabad to this place,
and in every respect on the most intimate and confidential
footing. Since I came to this place I have accepted, without
hesitation, as a personal favour from Mr. Hastings Palmer,
the head of the branch established at this place, the loan of a
house which I occupied till I could otherwise accommodate
myself. I may add, that I have lately given my assent to
extraordinary exactions, proposed by the Minister, for the
purpose of meeting the demands of that firm on the Govern-
ment, which the Minister would not attempt without my
concurrence. All these circumstances, I venture to say,
would naturally indicate to the public mind feelings the very
reverse of hostile ; and I am so unconscious of any appear-
ances that could have justified, in Shroffs or any others, an
inference of adverse sentiment, that, notwithstanding the ap-
parent presumption of disputing the accuracy of Sir William
Rumbold's apprehension on a point on which he ought to be
so well informed, I am much inclined to doubt the existence
of such an impression ; to ascribe whatever losses the house


may have sustained to other causes, and to attribute Sir 1822.
William Rumbold's persuasion on the subject to artful mis-
representations industriously conveyed to him, for purposes
distinct from the concerns or interest of the firm. I could
conscientiously deny the existence, on my part, of a shadow
of ill will ; but I might deceive your Lordship were I to stop
here. I cannot help entertaining sentiments regarding the
transactions of that firm, which, as being adverse to their
own views of their interests, they might possibly charge to
the account of ill will. Those sentiments have been slow in
growth, but strengthen as I see more of the state of affairs in
this country. I lament that Messrs. W. Palmer and Com-
pany have grasped at such large profits in their negotiations
with the Nizam's Government as place his interests and theirs
in direct opposition. I lament that they have succeeded in
conveying to your Lordship's mind an exaggerated impression
of services to the Nizam's Government, which obtains for
them on public grounds your Lordship's support, in a degree
to which they do not seem to others to be entitled support
which for any ordinary mercantile transactions would be wholly
unnecessary. I lament that they are so sensible or fanciful
of their weakness on every other ground as to be drawing on
your Lordship's personal favour on every occasion in which
they apprehend the most distant approach of danger, extend-
ing their sensitiveness to the smallest diminution, from what-
ever cause, of their immediate profits thus repeatedly forcing
on the public the name of your Lordship as the patron of their
transactions, whilst these are likened by the world in general
to former pecuniary dealings in Oude and the Carnatic. I
lament the connexion between them and Rajah Chundoo-
Lall, because it tends to draw them quite out of their sphere

Online LibraryJohn William KayeLives of Indian officers : illustrative of the history of the civil and military service of India (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 51)