Mountstuart Elphinstone.

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

. (page 4 of 41)
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 4 of 41)
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was turned, and they retreated. General Ochterlony
advanced to within fifty miles of the capital.
The Ghoorkas, seeing that resistance was hopeless,
signed a treaty, and peace was established. Lord
Moira, for the statesman-like manner in which he had
conducted the war, was created Marquis of Hastings,
the title by which he is better known in Indian


When the Pesliwa heard of our early disasters in
the Nepaul War, he hegan to intrigue against those to
whom he owed his throne. The Enghsh had not only
placed Baji Eao on the throne, but they had, by the
Treaty of Bassein, bound themselves to defend it
against external foes, and to protect it from rebels.
From the period of his restoration, the Peshwa had
made use of us in endeavouring to establish his
authority over his own powerful feudatories ; and Mr.
Elphinstone found much work in acting as mediator
between the Peshwa and his powerful vassals. But
Baji Eao not only wished to reduce his own vassals,
but he wished to get rid of the instrument by which he
conquered them. He was assisted in his design by
Trimbakji Dengie, a vicious man of considerable
courage and ability, who had gained complete as-
cendency over his weak and vicious master. The
Peshwa, under the advice of his Minister, took advan-
tage of our difficulties in Nepaul to establish secret
agencies at the Courts of Scindia, Holkar, and the
Kajah of Berar. Mr. Elphinstone was not unaware of
the intrigues which were being carried on, and was
preparing to act decisivel}^, when matters were brought
to a crisis by a foul and horrible murder.

Certain diff'erences had arisen between the Gaikwar
and the Pesliwa, concerning the forming of the
Peshwa's districts in Gujarat. A distinguished Brahmin,
by name Gangadhar Shastri, was sent to Puna as
the Envoy of the Baroda Government, to endeavour to
effect a settlement of the pecuniary questions at issue.
The Gaikwar asked and obtained the guarantee of the
British Government for the safety of his Ambassador.
The unfortunate Shastri was received with every
mark of outward respect by the Pesliwa ; and, to make
the friendship apparently more complete, a matrimonial


PUNA. 43

alliance between the Pesliwa's sister-in-law and the
Shastri's son w^as arranged. The Shastri, however,
feared that the marriage would give offence to his
master, and he broke off the engagement. This gave
mortal umbrage to the Puna Court. The Shastri
now made preparations for returning home ; but the
Peshwa and his Minister were afraid this might bring
them into trouble with the English. They therefore
persuaded the unfortunate Brahmin Envoy to delay
his departure ; and went so far as to invite him to
accompany the Peshwa on a pilgrimage to the annual
great festival of Pandharpur, on the Bhima. Here,
on the night of July 14th, 1816, shortly after he had
left the Peshwa, who had been unusually courteous to
him, the Shastri was attacked in the streets, and
hacked to pieces.

Mr. Elphinstone was at Ellora when the murder
took place, but on his return to Puna he received
sufficient proofs that the daring Minister had ordered
the murder. He immediately addressed an earnest
remonstrance to Baji Eao, in which lie pointed out the
gravity of the crime. ' A foreign ambassador,' he
wrote, ' has been murdered in the midst of your High-
ness's Court. A Brahmin has been massacred almost
in the temple, during one of the great solemnities of
your religion.' He called upon the sovereign to punish
the authors of the crime, and to apprehend and confine
the chief culprit — the Prime Minister — till his High-
ness and the Governor-General could have an oppor-
tunity of consulting on the subject. Baji Piao hesitated
to surrender his favourite, for he knew that the master
was implicated in the guilt of the servant. He thought
of opposing the Piesideut's demand by force, and Mr.
Elphinstone was compelled to gather troops to support
his authority. Just as hostilities were on the point of


commencing Baji Eao yielded, and surrendered to justice
his Minister. Trimbakji was confined in the fortress
of Tanna. His imprisonment was of short duration.
He effected his escape in a romantic manner, on the
12th September, 1816, and retired to the wild hills
near Nasik, where he began afresh his intrigues against
the English.

Mr. Elphinstone informed the Peshwa of Trimbakji' s
escape, and asked him to issue stringent orders for his
arrest. Baji Eao promised to do so, but took no
measure to carry his promise into effect. No exertions
were made to seize the captive, although it was a
matter of notoriety that he was collecting armed fol-
lowers within a short distance of the capital. Authentic
information reached the Kesident that the Peshwa had
had several secret interviews with his favourite, and
that large supplies of money had been conveyed to him
from Puna. Matters rapidly grew worse. Tidings
came from all quarters of gatherings of armed men, and
the insurgents grew bolder, and began to capture the
Mahratta strongholds. Mr. Elphinstone felt the time
had come for vigorous measures, and troops w^ere sent
to quell the insurrection. He referred to the Governor-
General for orders as to the course of proceedings to be
adopted towards the Peshwa. Baji Eao continued, in
spite of all remonstrance, to carry on his warlike and
threatening preparations, and at length the Ecsident
was forced to act decisively on his own responsibility.
He ordered the subsidiary force to assemble in the
vicinit}^ of Puna, and he sent a written demand for the
surrender of Trimbakji within a specified time, and the
immediate cession of three forts as pledges for the act.
The Peshwa at first absolutely refused compliance, but
on May 8, ISIG, when ho found tliat troops guarded
all the outlets of the city, he agreed to the demand.

PUNA. 45

The concession came too late. On the 10th May
Mr. Elpliinstone received instructions from the Marquis
of Hastings to require the Peshwa to promise that he
woukl neither maintain any envoys at other Courts, nor
receive any at Puna ; and that he wouhl renounce all
claims to the titular leadership of the Mahratta Empire.
He was called upon to surrender valuable territories for
the support of the military contingent ; and to acknow-
ledge on the face of the treaty his belief in the guilt of
his Minister. These were hard terms. They could not
have been harder if made at the end of a successful
campaign. No statesman could expect an independent
prince to adhere to them unless compelled by force of
arms. There was one last chance of escape for the
Peshwa. Mr. Elphiustone was instructed only to make
these demands in the event of no serious efforts having
been made to arrest Trimbakji. The Peshwa, however,
exhibited his usual vacillating conduct, and took no
measures to arrest the Minister. Then, after a few
days hesitation, Mr. Elphinstone was forced to ask
Baji Piao to sign the new treaty. The Peshwa refused.
His military adherents urged him to save honour by
an appeal to arms, but Baji Eao was lacking in the
courage of his race. Sullenly he ratified the treaty,
protesting that he submitted to the conditions solely
because he was wanting in the power to resist, and
that they had not his acquiescence.

The treaty was signed in May, and at the close of the
year the Governor-General determined to make
effective preparations for the crushing of the
Pindarics of Central India. These irregular horsemen
owed their origin and power to the anarchy produced by
Mahratta invasions, and their number had increased with
every Mahratta army. They now received secret encour-
agement from the Mahratta States, who regarded them


as useful instruments to aid in the destruction of the
English power. Towards the end of 1817 the military
preparations of Lord Hastings were completed, and
they were made on a scale to meet any open hostilities
from the greater Powers. The subsequent conduct of
the Peshwa proved that the Governor-General was
wise in his caution. After the signature of the treaty
Baji Eao went on his annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur,
and in that sacred city he had an interview with Sir
John Malcolm, whom he pretended to regard as an old
friend. He succeeded in convincing Sir John of his
peaceful intentions, but Mr. Elphinstone's suspicions
were not so easily lulled, and he viewed with serious
apprehension the march of the greater part of his troops
to their position in the general distribution of the grand
army. Only three weak battalions of Bombay infantry,
under Colonel Burr ; a battalion of the Puna Brigade of
the Peshwa's own troops, under Major Ford ; and two
companies of Bengal Sepoys, forming the Resident's
guard, were left to protect Puna. It had, however,
been arranged that a regiment of European infantry
should be sent up from Bombay.

Baji Piao, finding the Mahratta capital denuded of
our force, began to levy more troops, and call in
feudatories under the shallow pretence of acting in
concert with the British in their operations against the
Pindarics ; but the insolence of his men showed
their master's real intentions. He also began to tamper
with the fidelity of our Sepoys. These proceedings
were well known to Mr. Elphinstone, but he did not
like to take any active steps to counteract them ' for
fear of interfering with our negotiations at Gwalior by
any appearance of a rupture here.' Tlic Resident
knew that Scindia was well acquainted with Baji
Rao's vacillating and treacherous nature, and that the

PUNA. 47

sovereign of Gwalior would not commence hostilities
against the English until the Peshwa had committed
himself. There was grave danger that Baji Rao would
strike the first blow before the European regiment
could reach Puna. Mr. Elphinstone wrote to the
European regiment to come on as fast as possible,
without regard to anything except the health of the
men. On the 30th October, the British battalion
marched into Puna ; Mr. Elphinstone now took a bold
and decisive step. He ordered the regular troops to
leave the cantonments, and to march to Kirkee, a
village two miles north of Puna, and near to Dapuri,
the station of the Puna Brigade. Others were sent to
hasten the arrival of the battalion stationed at Sirur.
General Smith, who commanded the Puna Division of
the grand army, having heard of the threatening aspecl
of affairs at Puna, halted his forces at Pultamba, on
the Godavari, and promised to march immediately on
Puna if communications should be interrupted. The
Peshwa now saw that the time had come when he must
throw off the mask, and hostilities could no longer be
delayed. Accordingly, he sent a bullying message to
desire the Resident to remove the cantonment to such
place as he should direct, reduce the strength of the
Native Brigade, and send away the Europeans. This
was, of course, refused. Within an hour the Resident
was a fugitive from the Residency, which was set in
flames by the Mahrattas. He got safely to the Kirkee
troops, and the battle of Kirkee followed. We had
2,800 in all, while the Peshwa had 18,000 horse,
8,000 foot, and 14 guns. This is the history of nearly
all our Indian battles. The courage shown in brilliant
attack — courage shown in coolness under danger, pre-
sence of mind, and fertilit}^ of resource in the most
terrible emergencies, were the means by which ^ve won


our Indian Empire. The most graphic description of
the battle is that written by the chief actor, Moiiutstuart
Elphinstone, a few days after the victory was won. It
is characteristic of the man that he says so httle of
himself in the letter. But Mountstuart Elphinstone
fought the battle of Kirkee, and won it. He urged the
folly of acting on the defensive with an Asiatic foe,
ordered an instant attack, and this gained the day.

' To Captain Eobert Close. (Private.)

'Camp Kirkee, Noveiithev 11, 1807.

'My dear Close,

' I make no doubt you are astonished at my
long silence, and perhaps think I am murdered, or that
the communication is quite cut off. The truth is, I
did not like to trust your dawk with my secrets, for
fear of their being intercepted, and so influencing
Scindia's resolutions. Now they are no longer secret,
so I sit down to write to you.

' The Peshwa, under cover of Malcolm's desire that
he should raise troops, got together a large army at
Puna — about 25,000 horse, and half as many foot.
These he encamped at Ghorpare, pressing on and almost
surrounding our brigade ; he had long since set to
work to corrupt our Sepoys, and pushed on with in-
creasing vigour and publicity. In short, everything
tended to a rupture ; and it was necessary to watch
the moment when it would break out.

' On arrival of the Bombay European regiment, I
moved the cantonment to this delightful position, and
felt quite relieved when I saw it was established here ;
but the impression made on the town and diligently
encouraged by Gokhle was, that the Firangies had fled
before the invincible arms of Srimant, and would soon
be clear out of the country.

PUNA. 49

"■These feelings were shown with great insolence.
Oar cantonments were plundered ; a gentleman was
wounded and robbed of his horse at Ganesh Khind,
and it was unsafe for an officer to ride even between
our old camp and our new. Moro Dixit warned
Ford of an approaching attack in which all our Sepoys
were to leave us, and offered to save his life if he would
remain quiet in Dapori.

' The Pesliwa treated every application I made to
him with contempt, although I had complained of
troops coming near in our old ground. We were
scarcely out when the Vinchurkar sent 1,500 horses
to skirmish and have a sham fight between the Sangam
and the Saits Grarden.

' Maddu Sing Pindare came out with 700 or 800
horse to the place where the dead are buried, and sat
for an hour examining the Sangam at his leisure, while
we were at breakfast; and Grokhle pushed on 2,000
men, and threatened to form a camp on the river in
front of Ghorpuri.

' All this could not be borne with, without leading to
more insult ; so I very moderately remonstrated, and
ordered on the Light Battalion from Sirur. About tlie
same time General Smith, of his own accord, concen-
trated on Fort Camba. The Pesliwa, who perhaps had
been flattered by Gokhle that all his preparation should
be made without his getting into a scrape, now saw that
he must throw ofi' the mask ; accordingly he sent a
very bullying message to desire I would move the
cantonments to such place as he would direct, reduce
the strength of the Native Brigade, and send away the
Europeans. If I did not comply, peace could not last.
I refused, but said I was most anxious for peace, and
should not cross the river towards Puna ; but if his
army came towards ours, wc should attack it.



' Within an hour after, out they came with such readi-
ness that we had only time to leave the Sangam with
the clothes on our back, and crossing the river at a
ford under Chilando, march off to the bridge with the
river between us and the enemy. A little firing, but
no real fighting. The Sangam, with all the records,
all my books, journal, letters, and manuscripts, was
soon in a blaze ; but we got safe to the Kirkee Bridge,
and soon after joined the line. While the men and
followers were fording, we went ourselves to observe
the enemy. The sight was magnificent as the tide rolled
out of Puna. Grant, who saw it from the heights over
the Powder cave, describes it as resembling the Bore at
Cambay. Everything was hushed except the trampling
and neighing of the horses, and the whole valley was
filled with them like a river in flood. I had always
told Colonel Burr that when war broke out he must
recover our character by a forward movement that
should encourage and fire our own troops, while it
checked our enemies ; and I now by a lucky mistake,
instead of merely announcing that the Peshwa was at
war, sent an order to Captain Grant to move down at
once and attack him. Without this, Colonel Burr has
since told me he certainly would not have advanced.
However, he did advance ; we joined, and after some
unavoidable delay the Dapori Battalion joined.

' When opposite to the nullah, where there used to be
a plantain-garden, we (injudiciously, I think) halted to
cannonade, and at the same moment the enemy began
from twelve to fifteen guns. Soon after the whole mass
of cavalry came on at speed in the most splendid style ;
the rush of horses, the sound of earth, the waving of
flags, the brandishing of spears were grand beyond
description, but perfectly ineffectual. One great body,
however, under Goklile and Moro Dixit and some others.

PUNA. 51

formed on our left and recar ; and when the 1 7th were
drawn off by its ardour to attack, Major Pinto, who
appeared on our left, and was quite separated from the
European regiment, this body charged it with great
vigour, broke through between it and the European
regiment. At this time the rest of the line were pretty
well occupied with shot, matchlock, and above all with
rockets ; and I own I thought there was a good chance
of our losing the battle.

' The 1 7th, however, though it had expended all its
ammunition, survived, and was brought back to the
line by Colonel Burr, who showed infinite calmness and
courage, and after some more firing and some more
advancing together, with detaching a few companies to
our right towards the little hill of Ganesh Khind, we
found ourselves alone in the field, and the sun long set. I
was at first for advancing to the water at the Salts Garden,
but was persuaded it was better to return to camp, which
it was. If we had not made this move forward, the
Peshwa's troops would have been quite bold, ours quite
cowed, and we doubtful of their fidelity. We should have
been cannonaded and rocketted in our camp, and the
horse would have been careering within our pickets. As
it is, the Peshwa armj^ has been glad to get safe behind
Puna, and have been almost as quiet as if encamped
on the Pirti* of Delhi. We did not lose 100 men alto-
gether; and we have quite set our name up again. Our
life here is delightful — no plots or cares, but idling,
looking through spy-glasses, and expecting another field-
day. That the Peshwa should not give us one before
General Smith comes in, which he will by the 14th,
is incredible ; but the Mahrattas are unaccountable.'

The Peshwa did not give them another field-day. On

the 12tli, General Smith arrived at Puna. The Mahrattas

* Plain.



had taken up a strong position in our old cantonments,
and it was expected a great battle would be fought. On
the evening of the 16th, the English army crossed the
river in tw^o principal divisions ; and next morning
having united, they advanced on the Peshwa's camp,
but found it deserted. Measures were now taken for
reducing the city, and for securing it, if practicable,
from the fury of our troops. ' This,' Mr. Elphinstone
writes, ' had long been an object of great anxiety to
General Smith, and the consideration of it had entered
into all his plans for the defeat of the army. The
plunder and destruction of our Kesidency and canton-
ments, the lives of many of the Sepoys, the disgraceful
circumstances of the murder of the officers at Fort
Mallegaum, the massacre of the wives of the Sepoys
that had fallen into the enemy's hands on the 5th, the
mutilation of a Sepoy who had been taken prisoner
while straggling from General Smith's line of march,
and many other acts of impotent rage on the part of the
Peshwa's Court, had raised the indignation of the
men to the highest pitch, and they did not conceal
their eager desire to revenge themselves by sacking and
plundering the enemy's capital. Through the exertions
of the Resident, Puna was taken possession of without
bloodshed. The capture of the capital did not close the
war. Baji Rao fled to Purandhar, and the campaign
which followed consisted in the pursuit of a beaten foe.
On the 9th February Satara, the stronghold of Sivaji,
surrendered after a show of resistance, and the flag of
the founder of the Mahratta Empire was again hoisted
on the citadel. The descendants of Sivaji were, how-
ever, released from their dependence on their Mayors
of the Palace only to be made dependent on the power
of the English.

Baji Rao had destroyed the empire which Sivaji


founded. After the fall of Satara, Mr. Elpliinstone,
actiug under the instructions of the Governor-General,
issued a Mahratta proclamation to the people of the
Deccan. The document points out that Baji Rao was
restored to power hy the English ; that ' at Baji Eao's
restoration the country was laid waste by war and
famine, the people were reduced to misery, and the
Government derived scarcely any revenue from its
lands.' ' Since then, in spite of the farming system
and the exactions of Baji Rao's officers, the country
has completely recovered, through the protection
afforded it by the British Government ; and Baji Rao
has accumulated those treasures which he is now
employing against his benefactors. The British Govern-
ment not only protected the Peshwa's own possessions,
but maintained his rights abroad.' The proclamation
then dwells on the murder of the Ambassador ; the
demand for the punishment of Trimbakji ; the
Peshwa's refusal ' until the British Government had
marched an army to support its demand. Yet it made
no claim on the Peshwa for its expenses, and inflicted
no punishment for his protection of a murderer. It
simply required the surrender of the criminal ; and on
Baji Rao's compliance, it restored him to the un-
diminished enjoyment of all the benefits of the alliance.
Notwithstanding this generosity, Baji Rao immediately
commenced a new system of intrigues, used every
exertion to turn all the powers of India against the
British Government. At length he gave the signal of
disturbance, of fomenting an insurrection in his own
dominions, and preparing to support the insurgents by
open force. The British Government had then no
remedy but to arm in turn. The troops entered Baji
Rao's territories at all points, and surrounded him in
his capital before any of those with whom he had


intrigued could strike. Baji Eao's life was now in the
hands of the British Government; but that Government,
moved by Baji Rao's professions of gratitude for past
favours, and of entire dependence on its moderation,
once more resolved to continue him on his throne,
after imposing such terms on him as might secure it
from his future perfidy. And on this being agreed to,
the British Government restored Baji Rao to its friend-
ship, and proceeded to settle the Pindarics, who had so
long been the pest of the peaceful inhabitants of India,
and of none more than the Peshwa's own subjects.
Baji Rao affected to enter with zeal into an enterprise
so worthj^ of a great Government, and assembled a
large army on pretence of cordially assisting in the
contest. But in the midst of all his professions he spared
neither pains nor money to engage the powers of Hin-
dustan to combine against the British ; and no sooner
had the British troops marched towards the hordes
of Pindaries, than he seized an opportunity to com-
mence war without a declaration, and without even an
alleged ground of complaint. He attacked and burnt
the house of the British Resident, contrary to the laws
of nations and the practice of India, plundered and
seized on peaceable travellers, and put two British
officers to an ignominious death. Baji Rao himself
found the last transaction too barbarous to avow ; but
as the perpetrators are still unpunished, and retain
their command in his army, the guilt remains with
him. After the commencement of the war, Baji Rao
threw off the mask regarding the murder of Gangadhar
Shastri, and avowed his participation in the crime by
uniting his cause with that of the murderer. By these
acts of perfidy and violence, Baji Rao has compelled
the ]3ritisli Government to drive him from his Musnad
and to conquer liis dominions.' The proclamation then
put forward the intention of Government of setting

PUNA. 55

apart a portion of the Peshwa's territory for the llajah
of Satara. ' The rest of the country will be held by
the Honourable Company. The revenues will be col-
lected for the Government, but all property, real or
personal, will be secured. All Wattan and Inam

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 4 of 41)