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health had suffered, and he was afflicted by sleeplessness. In
November, 1774, weary of an ungrateful world, he cut his
throat with a penknife, in his fiftieth year.

Character of Clive. Throughout his brief life of action
(1751-67) Clive retained the qualities which he had dis-
played as a young man in the defence of Arcot. No danger
could daunt his calm courage, no difficulties could exceed his
resources, no resistance could shake his will. In his youth,
although absolutely untaught in the science of war, he had
proved himself to be ' a heaven-born general ', and in the
maturity of his powers he displayed the gifts of a far-seeing
statesman. Posterity has endorsed the verdict of the House of
Commons that he ' did render great and meritorious services to
his country ', and the rider may now be added that during his
second administration he did his best to serve India as well as
England, to protect the weak and restrain the strong. 1

Misgovernment and famine, 1767-72. The interval of five
years between the departure of Clive in 1767 and the appoint-
ment of Warren Hastings as Governor of Bengal in 1772 was
marked by shocking misgovernment, due to the division of
authority, the rapacity of the Company's officials when freed
from the strong controlling hand, and general demoralization.
In 1769 and 1770 an awful famine, still remembered, desolated
the land, and is believed to have destroyed at least one-third
of the population. In all ages India has been familiar with
the horrors of famine, and several visitations of the kind have
been alluded to in previous pages, but, so far as is known, none

1 The story of Clivo is most agreeably read in Macaulay's well-known
essay, which is trustworthy on the whole. Certain minor errors are corrected
in the notes, by the author of this history, appended to the edition published
by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1911.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 259

of them surpassed, or perhaps equalled, the famine of 1770,
which extended far beyond the limits of Bengal. 1 The ill-
compacted system of ' double government ' then existing was
not competent to deal with a tremendous emergency. Neither
the English nor the native authorities held the knowledge
requisite for working adequate measures of relief, which were
not seriously attempted. The effects of the calamity were
still felt forty years later.

The Company sovereign of Bengal. Having thus traced
the process by which the East India Company acquired the
sovereignty of Bengal, Bihar, Ghazipur, Benares, Orissa, and
the ' Northern Circars ', with a controlling influence over the
politics of all Northern India, we proceed to narrate the steps
by which Warren Hastings, the first and, perhaps, the greatest
of the Governors-General, laid the foundations of a regular
system of government.


Bengal affairs : the Regulating Act ; Warren Hastings, the first Governor-
General ; the first Maratha war.

Confusion in Bengal. When Clive quitted India in 1767,
only eleven years had elapsed since the English had been
expelled from Calcutta with contumely. During that short
interval the East India Company was surprised to find that
it had become the actual sovereign of Bengal, Bihar, the
' Northern Circars ', and Orissa, in the limited sense meaning
Midnapur and part of Hughli, with a commanding influence
over the policy of the ruler of Oudh. 2 The Company was not
prepared for this sudden increase of responsibility. Its officials
were merchants ill qualified to undertake the duties of

1 The best printed account is that in Sir William Hunter's Annals of
Rural Bengal, first published in 1866.

2 Ghazipur and Benares had been restored to Oudh in 1765 by order of the
Directors. The rest of Orissa was not annexed until 1803.


government. Clive, as we have seen, tried to administer the
country on the old Mughal lines, but the experiment failed, and
the consequent disorder made new arrangements absolutely
necessary. The Directors sought for a strong man who could
be trusted to remedy the miseries of Bengal and to introduce
the elements of civilized government. They found him in the
person of Warren Hastings, who took over charge of the office
of Governor of Bengal in April 1772.

Early life of Warren Hastings. Warren Hastings, the son
of an impoverished member of an ancient English family, had
joined the Company's service as a lad eighteen years of age in
1750, and afterwards had done good work under Clive, enjoying
a high reputation for ' great ability and unblemished char-
acter ', as certified by the Directors. Early in 1765 he re-
turned to England, where he stayed until the beginning of
1769. The Directors then sent him out to Madras as member
of Council at that settlement, where he conducted himself with
such discretion in difficult circumstances that he was selected
to fill the more arduous position of ruler of Bengal. He en-
joyed his employers' ' perfect confidence ' and was given secret
orders expressing their ' singular trust and dependence upon '
his impartiality and prudence.

Hastings as Governor of Bengal ; internal reforms, 1772-4.
The new Governor lost no time in carrying out his instructions,
and in taking measures to introduce effective government
under the avowed authority of the Company. The two Indian
officials, Muhammad Raza in Bengal and Raja Shitab Rai in
Bihar, who had despotically managed the revenue affairs of
the two provinces as deputies of the Nawab, were removed,
and a Revenue Board was created at Calcutta, which became
the capital. British officers were appointed as Collectors of
Districts and Divisional Commissioners, the foundation thus
being laid of the administrative system which exists to this day.
Hastings found himself obliged to construct a government
from top to bottom. He had practically no foundations on
which to build. He had to create every department, and do

FROM 1761 TO 1858 261

the best possible with the few ill-trained men at his disposal.
The collections were farmed for five years, an unsatisfactory
settlement of the revenue difficulty, but the best that could be
made at the time. Civil and criminal courts were established
at Calcutta and in the provinces, and arrangements were made
for translating works on Indian law. Large economies were
effected by reductions in the allowances paid to the titular
Nawab of Bengal, residing at Murshidabad, and severe
measures were taken to check the ravages of the dacoits or
gangs of robbers. During this period Hastings usually enjoyed
the support of his colleagues, and was able to carry out his
reforms without factious opposition. His zeal, industry, and
integrity deserve all the praise that can be given. Through-
out his long life he felt a warm interest in literature, art, and
science, and was eager to take any possible measures for the
moral, intellectual, and material advancement of India. It
is impossible to go into details here, but we may note that
he was a good Persian scholar, encouraged the study of the
Indian languages, patronized artists liberally, promoted Major
Rennell's scientific surveys, opened up intercourse with Tibet,
and established for a time overland communication with
Europe. All such matters engaged his sympathies from the

Oudh and the Emperor Shah Alam. Clive in 1765 had
made over to the Emperor Shah Alam the districts of Allahabad
and Kara in the hope that he would be able to hold them and
keep out the Marathas. But the Marathas, although hit hard
by the disaster of Pampat, soon began to recover power, and at
the close of 1770 Mahadaji Sindia occupied Delhi. He per-
suaded Shah Alam to quit Allahabad and return to the capital.
The emperor thus became a dependant of the Marathas, and
Hastings was justified in withholding payment of the Bengal
tribute, and in treating Allahabad and Kara as abandoned by
the emperor. He was not at liberty to take over the govern-
ment of those provinces, being bound by strict orders to abstain
from annexation. He came, therefore, to the conclusion that


FROM 1761 TO 1858 263

the best thing he could do was to assign them for payment to
the Nawab-Vazir of Oudh, who had formerly held them. In
1773, accordingly, Allahabad and Kara were made over to
that potentate in exchange for fifty lakhs of rupees, and
arrangements were made for supplying a British brigade as an
auxiliary force whenever needed by the Oudh Government.
When the necessities and difficulties of Hastings's position are
realized and the urgency of the Maratha menace is rightly
estimated, these transactions were fully justified, as the
Directors held them to be. In 1774, when the Rohilla war was
undertaken, the emperor gave formal sanction to the transfer
of Allahabad and Kara to Oudh.

The Rohilla war, 1773-4. The provinces of Katehar and
Sambhal, north of the Ganges, which were then, and had been
for about thirty-five years, ruled by the Rohillas, a clan of
Afghan adventurers, consequently had become known as
Rohilkhand. The country, being fertile, was an object of
desire to both the Marathas and the ruler of Oudh. The
Marathas already had begun to make raids in it, and the
Nawab-Vazir was eager to annex it. Hastings, who had long
regarded the Rohillas as being dangerous to the Vazir, the only
useful ally of the Company, had reason to fear that they might
join the Marathas, and then destroy the buffer state of Oudh.
He therefore held that the threatened danger could be averted
only by the conquest of Rohilkhand, and when his ally of Oudh
asked for help in that undertaking, Hastings lent him a brigade
under the command of Colonel Champion. The enterprise
succeeded in its purpose. Rohilkhand was annexed to Oudh,
and the Bengal frontier was secured against Maratha invasion.
But the transaction was criticized severely because troops
under a British commander were placed in exchange for a
money payment at the disposal of an Indian ruler, whose
forces were alleged to have permitted themselves a degree of
licence forbidden by the customs of civilized warfare. Many
of the Rohillas quitted the province, but one chief was per-
mitted to retain his fief, now the small state of Rampur, near


Bareilly, and still governed by a Rohilla Nawab, a prince of
approved loyalty. The villagers of the province, Hindus for
the most part, once the storm of war had passed, simply had
to accept a change of masters, a matter of little concern to
them. They went on tilling their lands as usual, and the
province suffered little injury, although some villages were
burned in the course of the operations. Hastings's conduct in
the affair of the Rohilla war, which offers no real occasion
for blame, was grossly misrepresented by his enemies in
Parliament, and subsequently by Macaulay.

The Regulating Act, 1773. The irregular acquisition of
a wide dominion in India by a mercantile company necessarily
engaged the attention of Parliament and the King's Govern-
ment in England, and all parties were agreed that the pro-
ceedings of the East India Company must be regulated by law.
Discussion resulted in the passing by Lord North's Govern-
ment of the measure known as the Regulating Act. This
statute, the foundation of the existing system of government,
limited the powers of the proprietors of the Company, required
the submission of dispatches to the King's ministers for infor-
mation, transformed the Governor of Bengal into a Governor-
General in Council with partial controlling powers over all
British establishments in India, and constituted a Supreme
Court of Judicature consisting of a chief justice and three
judges. The council, which under Clive's government had
consisted of eleven or twelve members, was reduced to four
only, or five including the Governor-General.

Hastings first Governor-General, 1774. Warren Hastings
was appointed the first Governor-General of Bengal, with ill-
defined powers of control over other settlements, in matters of
peace, war, and alliances, retaining his position also as Governor
of Bengal. The councillors appointed to assist him were
Richard Barwell, a servant of the Company and a member of
the old Bengal council, General Clavering, Colonel Monson,
and Philip Francis. The Governor-General and his councillors
were appointed by name for five years certain. The new

FROM 1761 TO 1858 265

Government took over charge in October, 1774. The chief
justice was Sir Elijah Impey, an old schoolfellow and friend of
Hastings, and at one time counsel to the East India Company.

Hostile Councillors. When the council met, Hastings found
that he could rely on the support of Mr. Banvell alone, the
other members being hostile. The Act having given him no
power to overrule his colleagues, the Governor-General was
always in a minority. This state of affairs resulted in constant
friction and some scandalous scenes, which lasted for nearly two
years, until Colonel Monson died and Hastings became master
in his own house by means of his casting vote as president.
A year later General Clavering passed away, and the subse-
quent official changes did not seriously limit the power of the
Governor-General, who was able during the eight subsequent
years of his government to give effect to his far-seeing policy
without much official opposition.

Raja Nandkumar. The most famous and disputed incident
of the personal struggle between the Governor-General and his
councillors is that of the death of Raja Nandkumar (Nun-
comar), a clever and influential Brahman, who had long been
an enemy of Hastings, while intimate with his opponents. In
1775 Hastings instituted a charge of conspiracy against the
Raja. While that was pending a private person accused
Nandkumar of uttering a forged bond. The forgery case,
which was tried with exceptional care by the full Supreme
Court and a jury, resulted in the conviction and execution of
the Raja, in accordance with the stern English law of the time,
under which forgery was treated as a capital crime. The re-
sult of the trial was so advantageous to Hastings that naturally
he has been suspected of influencing it. But he denied on oath
that he had any concern in the business, and no particle of
evidence connecting him with it has been discovered. The
Nandkumar affair, which occupies so much space in the
biographies of Hastings, was of little importance as an event
of Indian history, the course of which was not materially
affected by either the life or the death of the Brahman.



Conflict with the Supreme Court. The prolonged struggle
between the Governor -General and his council revealed one
fault of the Regulating Act, in that it allowed the responsible
head of the administration to be overruled by his colleagues.
The second defect of the statute was its failure to define either
the powers of the Supreme Court or its relations with the
Executive. The court asserted extravagant claims to juris-
diction, which if allowed would have made the Government
powerless, and the unseemly contest which followed was not
stilled until Hastings hit on the device of appointing Sir Elijah
Impey to be head of the Company's courts as well as Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court. The arrangement, although
disallowed by the Home Government, put an end to the scandal
of open conflict between the Court and the Executive. An
amending Act of Parliament passed in 1781 duly defined the
duties of the Supreme Court as limited to Calcutta and the
jurisdiction over British subjects elsewhere. The same Act
legalized the Company's courts. The modern High Court
possesses the powers of both the Supreme Court and the
tribunal of the Company.

The first Maratha war. The war known as the first Maratha
war arose out of a disputed succession to the office of Peshwa.
Madho (Madhava) Rao, the fourth Peshwa, died in 1772, the
year in which Hastings became Governor of Bengal, and was
replaced by his brother Narayan Rao, who, nine months later,
was murdered by his uncle Raghoba (Raghunath). The
succession was contested between the murderer and the sup-
porters of his victim's posthumous child, who set up a regency.
The English authorities at Bombay promised their support
to Raghoba at the price of the cession of Salsette and Bassein,
and an agreement to that effect, the Treaty cf Surat (1775),
was concluded without the knowledge of the Governor-
General. 1 But he found himself obliged to support the Bombay
President in the war which ensued. In 1779 Commissioner

1 The Treaty of Purandhar, substituted for the Treaty of Surat by Hastings
and his colleagues, never took effect, and need not be noticed in detail.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 267

Carnac concluded with the Marathas, guided by Nana Farnavis,
an arrangement known as the Convention of Wargaon, the pro-
visions of which were considered so disgraceful that Carnac and
other officers concerned were dismissed the service. Hastings
saved the Bombay settlement from destruction by the dispatch
of an expedition under Colonel Goddard, which marched right
across India from Bengal to Surat, a remarkable achievement
in those days. The alliance then concluded between the
British Government and the Gaikwar of Baroda has never
been broken. In the following year (1780) the fortress of
Gwalior, supposed to be impregnable, was taken by Major
Popham without the loss of a single man. This brilliant feat
did much to wipe out the disgrace of the ' infamous ' Con-
vention of Wargaon.

Treaty of Salbai. Towards the close of 1779 the Nizam
had organized a coalition embracing all the Maratha princes,
except the Gaikwar, and including Haidar Ali of Mysore, for
the purpose of destroying the growing British power. War
followed, in which the principal Maratha army was defeated.
The Raja of Nagpur was cleverly bought off without fighting.
Haidar Ali, who had attacked the Carnatic fiercely in 1780,
was menaced by the dispatch of a Bengal force under Colonel
Pearse, which marched by land through seven hundred miles
of unknown country to the aid of Sir Eyre Coote. That
exploit was second only to Goddard's wonderful march across
India to Surat.

Ultimately peace with the Marathas was arranged through
the aid of Mahadaji Sindia, the ablest of the Maratha chiefs,
who treated on their behalf with full powers and guaranteed
the execution of the treaty. 1 The document, signed at Salbai
in Sindia's territory, secured Salsette for the English at
Bombay, provided Raghoba with a pension, and in most ether
respects restored the former state of affairs. The terms thus
stated may seem to be of small moment, but the Treaty of
1 The correct spelling cf the name is Mahadajl (*?T^T?^)- The forms
Madho and Madhava, given in some books, are incorrect.


Salbai in 1782 deserves to be remembered as one of the land-
marks of Indian history, because it secured peace with the
formidable Maratha power for twenty years, and plainly
signified that the East India Company had already become
the leading authority in the country.

Mahadaji Sindia. Mahadaji Sindia, who took such a pro-
minent part in bringing about the peace so much needed by
Hastings, was the illegitimate son of a village headman named
Ranoji, who had begun life as slipper-bearer to the Peshwa,
but had risen in the world, as often happened in those stirring
times. Mahadaji had taken part in the battle of Panlpat and
was one of the few Maratha chiefs who escaped with life from
that field of death. He succeeded to his father's jaglrs, and
quickly became the most prominent of the Maratha chieftains.
In those days the glory of the Peshwa had become obscured,
and the real power of the Maratha confederacy was shared
mostly by four territorial princes : Sindia of Gwalior, Holkar
of Indore, the Raja of Nagpur or Berar, and the Gaikwar of
Baroda. In 1771, when Shah Alam, the titular emperor, had
quitted British protection and returned to Delhi, he came
under the control of Mahadaji Sindia, whose importance
was thus increased. Mahadaji was so much impressed by the
military successes gained by the officers under Hastings in
1780 and 1781 that he thought it safer to treat with the British
than to fight them. That was the reason which induced him
to take so much trouble in carrying through the Treaty of
Salbai. He died in February, 1794.

Second Mysore war ; defeat of Baillie. We must now turn
our attention to the south, where the rapid growth of Haidar
All's power had become a constant menace. The rise of the
Mysore adventurer up to 1772 has been narrated in brief
(ante, p. 246). When the war with France began in 1778,
Hastings, acting under orders from home, and against the
advice of Sir Thomas Rumbold, the Governor of Madras,
seized the French settlements, including the little port of Mahe
on the Malabar coast, which Haidar Ali had used for the entry

FROM 1761 TO 1858 269

of supplies, and claimed as his. He, being deeply offended at
that act and for other reasons, prepared a mighty force of
about 90,000 men, with 100 guns, directed by Europeans, to
drive out the English. Hastings was then busy with the
Marathas and hoped that the threatened storm in the south
might blow over. But it burst with awful suddenness. In
July, 1780, Haidar Ali's host swept down on the Carnatic
plain, slaying, maiming, burning, and ravaging with fiendish
cruelty. He overwhelmed and destroyed a gallant force of
2,500 men under Colonel Baillie near Conjeeveram, and so
inflicted on the English the greatest disaster which they had
yet suffered in India. Sir Hector Munro, the victor at Buxar
in 1764 (ante. p. 253), who was no longer as competent as he
had been when younger, shut himself up with the few troops
remaining in Madras, and did nothing. An urgent appeal
for help was sent to Calcutta.

Energy of Hastings. This calamity was a terrible addition
to the heavy load of trouble already resting on the shoulders
of Hastings. His spirit rose to the occasion. He super-
seded the acting Governor of Madras, persuaded old Sir Eyre
Coote to resume command, sent every available soldier and
rupee from Bengal, and abandoned all other plans in order to
meet the urgent danger. He succeeded, but not until a year

Battle of Porto Novo. The incompetence of the Madras
Government put difficulties of all sorts in the way of Sir Eyre
Coote, who was in bad health, but at last he was able to venture
on a general engagement. On July 1 , 1781 , at Porto Novo on the
coast, he decisively defeated Haidar AH, who lost about
10,000 men, while the Company's loss did not exceed 300.
The brigade under Colonel Pearse which Hastings had sent
overland from Bengal joined Coote, who gained some further
minor successes.

Effect of command of the sea. Notwithstanding another
British disaster, the defeat of Colonel Braithwaite and a force
of 2,000 men by Haidar Ali's son Tippoo, Haidar Ali began to


feel that the war was too much for him. Shortly before his
death he acknowledged in remarkable words the effect of
England's command of the sea.

' I have committed ', he said ' a great error ; I have pur-
chased a draught of spirits at the price of a lakh of pagodas ;
I shall pay dearly for my arrogance ; between the English
and me there were perhaps mutual grounds of dissatisfaction,
but not sufficient cause for war, and I might have made them
my friends in spite of Muhammad Ali [Nawab of the Carnatic],
the most treacherous of men. The defeat of many Braith-
waites and Baillies will not destroy them. I can ruin their
resources by land, but I cannot dry up the sea ; and I must
be the first to weary of a war in which I can gain nothing by

Death and character of Haidar Ali. In December, 1782,
Haidar Ali died, at the age of sixty, and was succeeded by his
son Tippoo (Tipu),a man much inferior in ability. 1 Haidar Ali,
by far the most remarkable man evolved from the chaos of the
eighteenth century in Southern India, possessed abilities and
fertility of resource which enabled him to overcome the caprices
of fortune and build up a military state strong enough to
threaten the stability of the growing British Empire. Although
unable to read or write beyond signing his initial upside down,
he spoke five Indian languages fluently, and his conduct of
business was a model of regularity and dispatch.

He is described as being never for a moment idle from
morning to night. He relied for success on strict personal
supervision of every act of government and on a system of

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Online LibraryVincent Arthur SmithThe Oxford student's history of India → online text (page 20 of 27)