Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

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Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 10 of 41)
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which was laid to him. He persevered in maintaining
the innocence of Trimbakji, still promising at the
same time to arrest him, if Mr. Elphinstone could sub-


stantiate his charges against him. His Highness chiefly
dwelt on the circumstance asserted by the Resident, of
Trimbakji's having three times invited Gangadhar
Shastri to come to the temple with few attendants.
His Highness repeatedly declared, that if these sum-
monses could be proved to have been made, he was
ready to consider Trimbakji guilty, and to punish
him as such. The Peshwa's arguments were forcibly
combated by Mr. Elphinstone, by an appeal to the facts
which were within his knowledge, and of which he was
prepared to come forward with the proof whenever the
removal of Trimbakji from the Peshwa's Councils should
do away with the dread which must otherwise prevent
witnesses from coming forward to depose what they
know against a minister, to the violent consequences of
whose power and intrigues they were exposed. During
the course of these discussions it appeared evident that
the Peshwa had become so infatuated as to resolve to
make common cause with his favourite, and to stand
or fall with him.

Preparations were at one time made to facilitate the
flight of Trimbakji, who was to excite a feigned
rebellion, in which he was to receive the concealed
support of the Peshwa. At another time, several
modes of compromise were offered to Mr. Elphinstone,
which being inconsistent with the dignity and security
of the British interests at the Court of Puna, were, of
course, rejected. AVlien intelligence was received of
the commotions at Hyderabad, the Darbar assumed a
higher tone ; and it was then determined that Trim-
bakji should remain at Court, and in ofiice, and that
the demands should be resisted ; the Peshwa even went
so far as to cause a message to be conveyed to Mr.
Elphinstone, which was couched in terms approaching
to menace. This procedure, together with an attempt

y— 2


which was at the same time made to obtain false depo-
sitions relative to the circumstances of the Shastri's
mm'der, clearly evinced, on the part of the Court of
Puna, a disposition to break the alliance. Mr. Elpliin-
stone opposed to this conduct his usual firmness and
caution ; the intrigues and attempts at deception prac-
tised by the Darbar w^ere resisted firmly. Fearing that
the exaggerated accounts which the Peshwa had re-
ceived of the disturbances at Hyderabad might encourage
the Peshwa in his scheme of resistance to the demands
of the British Government, and impel him to quit
Puna, and at once to throw himself into the situation
of an enemy of the Company, Mr. Elphinstone seriously
warned his Highness against the course which he might
be advised to pursue from the violence and intrigues of
his favourite, whose interests would alone be forwarded,
while the rupture of the alliance would be rendered
inevitable, and with it the ruin of his Highness's repu-
tation and Government. Mr. Elphinstone also ordered
the subsidiary force to advance to the vicinity of Puna,
communicating this circumstance to the Peshwa, and
observing that as the tone of the Darbar appeared to be
altered, and troops were assembled from all quarters, it
became necessary on his part to adopt corresponding
measures of precaution. On the 4th September, Mr.
Elphinstone having received instructions of the Governor-
General, •' communicated to the Peshwa the decision
which his Lordship had passed, in the event, which had
now occurred, of no inquiry having been made into the
circumstances of the Shastri's murder ; again warned
his Highness of the danger whicli he was incurring by
his blind support of his unprincipled favourite, and
assured him tliat the British Government would not
desist from its demands for the surrender of Trimbakji.
* Mr. Adams's dcspatcli, dated 15th August.


After a long consultation with some of liis principal
followers, the Pesliwa sent a message to Mr. Elpliin-
stone, informing him that he had determined to imprison
Trimbakji, on condition that the British Government
should not demand his capital punishment, or his
surrender to its own officers, and that no further
inquiry should be made into the circumstances of the
transaction ; these conditions were, of course, rejected
by the Resident, who persisted in his demand for the
unqualified surrender of Trimbakji to the British
Government ; but in order to allay any fears which the
Peshwa might entertain for himself, Mr. Elphinstone
made an unofficial intimation to the Bhau,''" that when
once Trimbakji should be in our custody, no further
inquiry would be judged necessary. In the meantime
Trimbakji, after having had an interview with the
Peshwa, and received from his Highness assurance of a
nature to soothe his feelings, and promises of protection
to his family, was sent off to Wassantghar, a hill-fort
near Satara ; the judicious and persevering firmness of
Mr. Elphinstone, aided by the Peshwa's own reflections
on the risk which he was incurring of a rupture with
the British Government, prevailed on his Highness to
comply with the Eesident's demands. After a con-
ference with Major Ford, the officer commanding his
brigade of regular troops, with whom he had frequently
communicated during the course of these discussions,
and some of his principal advisers, the Peshwa at
length declared his assent to the surrender of Trim-
bakji Deugie to the officers of the British Govern-
ment, Mr. Elphinstone assuring his Highness that no
further inquiry would be considered necessary ; that
Trimbakji's life would be spared, and that he would

* 5th September.


unci ergo no severities which were not implied in a
strict confinement.

Accordingly a party of Major Ford's brigade received
charge of Trimbakji * and escorted him from Was-
santghar to Puna, where he was delivered over to a
detachment of British troops,! and conducted to Bombay
together with Bhagwant Eaw and Bandoji, who were
to be given up to the officers of the Gaikwar Govern-
ment. Trimbakji was immediately placed in strict
confinement in the Fort of Tanna. During the pro-
gress of these discussions there appeared, from the
reports of the several Residents, to have been frequent
communications between the Darbars of Puna, Scindia,
Holkar, and the Piajah of Nagpur. The perverse ob-
stinacy of the Peshwa was considerably encouraged by
the intrigues of these chieftains, and by the com-
motions at the time at Hyderabad.

Extract from a Letter from the Honourable


16th August, 1815 ; referred to in the preceding

I intended to have made your Lordship acquainted
with the circumstances of the Shastri's murder, by
Letter from submittlug the detailed account drawn up by
■^'V(KStr' ^1^6 Gaikwar's Vakil, and some other papers ;
but as those documents were confined to the
mere circumstances of the assassination, I find myself
obliged to trespass on your Lordship's time with a
narrative of the event, and the transactions that led to
it. Your Excellency is already well acquainted with
the hostility evinced towards the Shastri by a party in

* lOtli September. t 26th September.



the Peshwa's Darbar, which was headed by Trimbakji,
aud encouraged by the Peshwa. Their blood intrigues
at Baroda, their demand for a change in the Gaikwar's
Government, their negotiation with Bandoji, and the
reception of Bhagwant Raw, have all been submitted to
your Lordship. At that period the Shastri received
frequent intelligence of plans to murder him, which I
always encouraged him to treat with disregard, and
which for a time were attended with no visible result.
This state of things terminated in the rupture of the
Gaikwar's negotiation, and the demand for the Slias-
tri's dismission ; and it was succeeded by secret over-
tures from Trimbakji to the Shastri, and by a
negotiation between those Ministers, without my par-
ticipation, for the settlement of the Peshwa's claims.
This led to a degree of intimacy and cordiality between
Trimbakji and the Shastri, such as I have never
known between natives in their situation in life. It
was during this period of confidence that Trimbakji
avowed to the Shastri that he had, before their recon-
ciliation, been engaged in plans for cutting up his part}^
and for making awaj^ with him by assassination. It
seems impossible that such an avowal should have been
made, unless the reconciliation had been sincere ; and I
am inclined to believe it was to a certain extent. I
imagine that all intentions of acting against the Shastri
by direct force were laid aside, and that it was now
designed to gain as advantageous terms as possible from
the Gaikwar, by w^orking on the ambition and vanity of
his Minister, and at the same time to ruin the Shastri
with the Gaikwar and the English, by leading him into
a line of conduct inconsistent with his duty, or even to
get him entirely into the Peshwa's power, by engaging
him in his Highness's service. To effect this object,
W'hich the Peshwa certainly thought essential to the


accomplishment of his views on Gujarat, every means
were taken to gain over the Shastri. His Highness
offered his sister-in-law in marriage to the Shastri's
son, and Trimbakji persuaded the Shastri that it was
the Peshwa's wish to invest him with the principal
conduct of his affairs, an offer with which the Shastri,
being a native of this place, was dazzled, though
I do not imagine that he had made up his mind to
accept it. At this time it was agreed by the Shas-
tri and Trimbakji that the Peshwa should forego his
claims on the Gaikwar for a territorial cession worth
seven lacs of rupees, and that as soon as the Gaikwar
should consent to this arrangement, the marriage already
alluded to should take place. I imagine the Peshwa's
Government was sincere in wishing for this arrange-
ment, which would have afforded a present profit and a
prospect of further advantages consequent to the ruin
of the Shastri. If these plans were really entertained,
I imagine they were overturned by an accident that took
place at Nasik. At that time the Gaikwar's consent
to the proposed cession was hourly expected, and as the
marriage was to take place as soon as the news arrived,
both parties took their families to Nasik, and much
expense was incurred for the purpose of celebrating the
ceremony with splendour ; but when it appeared that
the Gaikwar's consent was not likely to arrive while
the Court was at Nasik, the Shastri became anxious
to avoid a connection which would have had an appear-
ance of neglecting his master's interests to provide for
his own ; and accordingly he desired that the marriage
might be put off for the present. About the same time
the Shastri declined engaging in the Peshwa's negotia-
tions with me in consequence of my rejecting his inter-
ference, and pointing out in the strongest light the
imprudence of his making himself a minister of the


Pesliwa. This failure of liis designs must have irritated
Trimbakji ; but, above all, the rejection of the marriage
which had been negotiated by Trimbakji, and which
could not be broken off or suspended, after the bride had
been brought and the preparations had been made,
without great disgrace to the Peshwa. Unfortunately
the Shastri heightened this feeling by starting other
objections to the connection. These affronts, as I
understood at the time, made a deep impression on
Trimbakji, while his conduct on the occasion was in-
consistent and unaccountable. He mentioned the Shas-
tri's conduct to me as an instance of gross breach of
faith, and as involving him in the utmost disgrace ; but
at the same time he professed his entire forgiveness of
it, and, in fact, he said little on the subject to the
Shastri, but continued to treat him with more apparent
kindness and affection than ever. During this journey
to Nasik, reports were widely circulated at Puna that
the Shastri had been seized by Trimbakji ; and as I
treated them with entire disregard, I could not but be
surprised at the earnestness wdth which Trimbakji and
his agent, Harri Aba, endeavoured to convince me
that they were mere popular rumours, and were not
founded on any measures or designs of theirs. The
journey to Pandharpur soon followed that to Nasik.
On this occasion the Shastri peremptorily refused to
allow his colleague, Bapu Mairal, to accompany him to
Pandharpur, although the latter expressed great fears of
his safety. This was naturally attributed to Trimbakji's
influence, as that person had all along shown a dread of
the wary and circumspect character of Bapu Mairal,
and had insisted on his exclusion from the conferences
with his colleague. His interposition was more open
in prevailing on the Shastri to leave behind the best
part of his escort, and in dissuading me from accom-


panying- him in his pilgrimage, and that his Highness
wished me not to go on this occasion. On the journey
to Paudharpur, Trimbakji was followed by Govind
Kaw Bandoji, who had been neglected during the time
when the plan w^as to conciliate the Shastri, but who
was still connected with Trimbakji, and who had a
person, on his part, stationed with him for his protection.
This man came to Paudharpur with great secrecy, but
his arrival was discovered by the Shastri immediately
before his death. Two days preceding that event,
guards w'ere posted and great precautions taken about
the temple and the Peshwa's house, and the alarm of
the Punnee assassins was once more set on foot. The
existence of this conspiracy, of the name of which so
much use has been made, has lately been fully disproved
by Mr. Piussell's inquiries at Hyderabad, and it may
therefore be fairly assumed that the Peshwa's alarms
on the subject of it are either feigned, or inspired by
those about his Highness, to cover any measures the
motive of which it is inconvenient to avow. In this
case the alarm afforded a pretext for increasing the
guards, and a way of accounting for the Shastri's
murder. Strict orders were also issued against bringing
armed men to the temple. The following account of
the occurrences on the day of the Shastri's death is
extracted from a narrative which was drawn up by
Bapu Mairal, and translated by Captain Pottinger,
immediately after the return of the party who had
accompanied the Shastri to Paudharpur, and was
transmitted to me on my journey from Ellora.

' On the 14tli the Shastri went to an entertainment
given by Pamchauda Gosai Patankar to the Pesliwa,
and on his return home complained of fever, and
desired that if any person came to request him to
go to the temple, they might be told that he was in-


(lisposeil. In the course of half au hour one Laxuman
Pant came, on Trimbakji's behalf, to invite him to
join him in his devotions ; and he said, " I am unwell,
and will not go out to day." Shortly after Trimbakji
sent a second messenger to acquaint the Shastri that
the Peshwa was to go to the temple next morning, and
that he, the Shastri, ought to take advantage of this
circumstance and attend prayers, but not to bring many
attendants. He returned the former answer. Bapu
Chiplonkar, a friend of the Shastri's, and Pu'iwji
Mahratta, a relation, then left the Shastri and walked
to the great temple, where they met Trimbakji Dengle,
w^io observed, " I have sent twice to the Shastri
to come to prayers ; he declines doing so, but I wish
you would try him again." Kawji Mahratta came
back to the house occupied by the Shastri, and told
him what Dengle had said. He at first observed: " I
am unwell ;" but on reflection, he became apprehensive
of offending Dengle by not complying with his different
messages, and therefore he agreed to go. He accord-
ingly set off wdth two Mashaljis,* two personal ser-
vants, three Harkar;'is,t ^'lud a KArkun]. of Trimbakji.
As he passed among the shops, one of his attendants over-
heard a man in the crowd ask, " Which is the Shastri ?"
and another repty, " He who wears the necklace ;" but he
did not think of observing these people. The Shastri
entered the temple, performed his devotions, chatted a
few minutes with Trimbakji Dengle, and then pro-
ceeded towards his house. He desired three of his
people to stay behind with one Cheytun Dass Bava, a
kind of preceptor of the Shastri, and a very old man ;
and he advanced himself, accompanied by Trimbakji

* A link-boy. f A messenger.

X Officers under the Zemindars, -who keep accounts of the


Dengle's Sepoys, who were in front ten or twelve
paces ; next came two of the Shastri's own Harkaras,
then two Mashaljis with hghted torches, and about
four paces behind them was the Shastri ; one Kam-
chander Barwe, an inhabitant of Pandharpur and a
priest of the temple, had hold of the Shastri's left hand,
and Bapn Chiplonkar, the Shastri's friend, was on
the opposite side, but a step or two in the rear ; these
three were followed by the Shastri's two personal
servants ; and when the party had walked some little
way from the temple, three men came running
up behind them, as if they were clearing the road for
some person by calling out " Pais ! Pais !" (Make way !
make way !) : their left hands were folded up in a cloth,
probably intended as a shield, and in each of their right
hands there seemed to be a twisted cloth, which is usual
for striking people in a crowd, to made them stand
aside. One of the assassins struck the Shastri a very
violent blow, apparently with the cloth, when it was
discovered that he had a sword also in his hand ;
another seized him by the lock of hair on the crown of
his head, to throw him down, and when he was falling
the third assassin cut him over the head. Two more
men at this juncture rushed from the front of the party,
and three of the attendants who attempted to stay by
the Shastri were wounded ; on which his friends,
Mashaljis, and followers ran away and left him in
the hands of the murderers, who mangled him in the
most shocking manner, and one of them exclaimed,
" We have now finished him !" This was overheard by
one of the wounded men. The assassins then threw
down two sword-scabbards and made their escape ; and
the Shastri's people, who v^ere following with the old
man already alluded to, saw five men with naked swords
running towards the temple ; they also observed the



flambeau lying extinguished and smoking on the
ground, and became much ahirmed ; but not knowing
what had taken phice, two or three of them ran home
to tlie Shastri's house, and learning he was not there,
they returned to search for him, and found his corpse in
the road almost cut to bits. They took the pieces and
carried them home ; this was about half-past eight at
night. The intelligence was immediately carried to the
Peshwa, who ordered additional precautions " about
his own person," and shortly one of Trimbakji's
people came to inquire what had happened. The
police officer also attended to see the corpse, and re-
turned to report to the Peshwa, observing that one of
the assassins had been seen near the river, and had
thrown down his sword, and had escaped in the crowd ;
but that the sword had been carried to Trimbakji.
The news shortly reached the Gaikwar camp ; and
some of the principal Sardars came to the town to take
measures for burning the Shastri's remains, and ob-
tained permission from Trimbakji to that effect, and
likewise an order from his Highness the Peshwa for
the Shastri's people to have free ingress and egress to
and from the city. The following day some of the
Shastri's Karkuns went to Trimbakji, and told him
it behoved him, as the friend of the deceased, and also
the Minister of the Peshwa, to make inquiries towards
ascertaining the cause of the Shastri's murder ; to
which Trimbakji answered, "I am doing so; but on
whom can I breathe suspicion ? I have no clue to
guide me." The Karkuns again observed : " It is due
to the Shastri, and also to the honour of your Govern-
ment, to discover the origin of what has happened."
Trimbakji replied in terms of civility, and declared
that the Peshwa was greatly grieved by the event that
had happened ; but that the Shastri was wrong to


venture abroad without a number of attendants, fifty or
a hundred. The Kilrkims replied : " He considered
himself in the house of his friend, and besides, it was
not usual to bring many people on such an occasion.
You know," added they, "who are the Shastri's enemies;
the assassins appeared to be Karnatik men," He re-
plied : " What you say is true; but how could I avert
what fate had decreed ? There is the Purool Sitaram,
and you have placed one of the Gaikwar's Kannoji in
the Karnatik, though I cannot take the name of any
enemy. You must now look to yourselves, but depend
on my friendship. He who protected you all is now no
more, and I will do so to the utmost of my power."
The Shastri's Karkuns then left the place, and the
following day they obtained, through Trimbakji, the
Peshwa's private permission for the Baroda people to
return to Puna. It was at the same time intimated to
them that they need not attend again at either Trim-
bakji's quarters or the Peshwa's house.

' The murderers appeared to be dressed in short
breeches, such as are worn in the Karnatik, but spoke
in the Mahratta language when they exclaimed, as
already stated, " We have now finished him !" '

In this narrative it is impossible not to be struck
with Trimbakji's solicitude, so disproportionate on the
occasion, about the Shastri's coming to the temple,
and with the proof that he was expected by the
murderers, which, in all the circumstances of the case,
was almost impossible to have happened, had they not
been acquainted with what was passing between him
and Trimbakji. By the question asked in the streets,
the murderers appeared to have been posted before he
left Jiis house, or they must have been so soon after, for
his whole absence up to his death did not exceed three-
quarters of an hour. The want of inquiry is also very


remarkable ; it might have been expected that Trim-
bakji would have hastened to the spot where the
murder was committed, or at all events that he would
have sent people to make inquiries from the passengers,
to trace out which way the assassins had taken ; that
he would have summoned the neighbouring shopkeepers
and the Shastri's attendants to ascertain the dress and
appearance of the murderers ; that he would have
offered a reward to discover the murderers, and that
their detection would have been the principal object of
his attention for a considerable time : instead of which
he neglected every sort of inquiry, and contented him-
self with stopping all letters and all news for the first
day, after which he arrested several persons for reflect-
ing on him. He allowed the men on whom suspicion
would most naturally fall to go unquestioned, and exer-
cised his ingenuity in finding out other persons likely
to have committed the murder, and reasons why it
should have happened as a matter of course. He then
employed himself in writing despatches to his turbulent
deputy at Ahmedabad, of which we have yet to hear
the effect, and afterwards forbade the Shastri's name
to be any longer mentioned. This conduct is the more
remarkable from the extraordinary exertions which are
made by the police of native Governments, in all cases
where the chief has an interest, and the success with
which acts of violence are generally kept under in the
Peshwa's cities. Bandoji, respecting whom the
Peshwa's Minister long affected entire ignorance, is
now returned to Puna, wdiere both he and Bhagwant
Raw reside at large ; one of the two was, I under-
stand, secretly received on the night before last by
Trimbakji, on his way to the temple, from which he
this day returned.


' To his Excellenc}^ the Earl of Moh'a, K.G., etc., etc.

'My Lokd,

' 1. In my last despatch I had the honour to
report to your Excellency that Trimbakji Dengle
Letter from ^^^^ asscmbled a bod}^ of plunderers about
'''uthMaS'' fifty miles from Puna ; that a detachment of

Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 10 of 41)