Vincent Arthur Smith.

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justice was Sir Elijah Impey, an old schoolfellow and frieM 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. Barwell alone, the
other members being hostile. The Act having given him no
jDOwer 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 also its
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 of 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

^ 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, suj^posed 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 j)ower. 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 countrj^ to the aid of Sir Eyre Coote. That
exploit was second only to Goddard's wonderful march across
India to Surat.

Ultimatel}^ peace \^ith the Marathas was arranged through
the aid of Mahacjaji Sindia, the ablest of the Maratha chiefs,
who treated on their behalf with full powers and guaranteed
the execution of the treaty .^ The document, signed at Salbai
in Sindia 's territory, secured Salsette for the English at
Bombay, provided Raghoba with a pension, and in most other
respects restored the former state of affairs. The terms thus
stated may seem to be of small moment, but the Treaty of
^ The correct spelling of the name is Mahadajl (^If 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. Mahadajl 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 haj)pened 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 jdgirs, 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 Ma he
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
raiglit blow over. But it burst with awful suddenness. In
July, 1780, Haidar All's host swept down on the Carnatic
plain, slaying, maiming, burning, and ravaging with fiendish
cruelty. He overwhelmed and destroyed a gallant force of
3,720 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 corrupt acting Governor of Madras, persuaded 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 nearly a year later.

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 Ali, who lost about
10,000 men, while the Company's loss did not exceed 306.
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 All'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
m}' 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 sixtj^, and was succeeded by his
son Tippoo (Tlpu),a man much inferior in ability.^ 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
vmable 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
ferocious tyranny.,

' By his power ', writes a contemporary historian, ' mankind
were held in fear and trembling ; and from his severity God's
creatures, day and night, were thrown into apprehension and
terror. . . . No person of respectability ever left his house with
the expectation of returning safe to it.'

The English officers and soldiers who had the misfortune to

* Haidar Ali was bom in 1722, not 1702, and when he died, was not ' an
old man of eighty ', as alleged in several books.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 271

be taken prisoners suffered agonies from his unfeeling cruelt3^
He had no religion, no morals, no compassion.

The subsequent history of Mysore will be dealt with in con-
nexion with the administrations of Lord Cornwallis and Lord

Failure of promised French help. Haidar Ali had always
relied much on hopes of effective French support, and had
always been disappointed. The arrival on the coast in 1782
of a French fleet under Admiral de Suffren revived his hopes,
but the actions fought by that officer with Admiral Hughes
proved indecisive, and the Mysore government did not benefit.
Still, the British affairs seemed to be in a very gloomy
position in 1782, a year of great events.^ Good fortune, or an
overruling Providence, dispelled the clouds. A victory gained
by Rodney in the West Lidies restored the British command
of the sea, which had been endangered and for a short time
lost. In 1783 the Treaty of Versailles ended the war. France
never again attempted to attack the Indian coast.

Treaty of Mangalore. Tippoo, who was not a party to the
Treaty of Versailles, continued the war in the south and cap-
tured Mangalore, where Colonel Campbell had made a gallant
defence no less notable than the more famous defence of
Arcot by Clive. The war with Tippoo was ended in 1784 by
the Treat j^ of Mangalore, arranged by the Government of
Madras, whose officers were subjected to the most galling
insults. The basis was the mutual restitution of conquests and
the exchange of prisoners. The prisoners in Mysore had been
treated with the utmost brutality. The contemporary accounts
of their sufferings are painful reading. Hastings loathed
the treaty and the misconduct of the Madras Government,
but at the time was restrained from interference by orders
from England and a certain amount of opposition in his own

^ Other events in that year were the resignation of Lord North, who had
been Prime Minister of England from 1770 ; the repulse of the main attack
by the French and Spaniards on Gibraltar; and the establishment of
* Grattan's Parliament ' in Ireland.


Council. The peace concluded at Mangalore lasted for six

Two disputable incidents. From 1778 to 1782 the burden
cast upon Hastings was almost more than a man could bear.
It is not surprising, therefore, that some of his actions in that
critical time, when submitted to close scrutiny, should be open
to hostile criticism. The critics forget that his conduct should
be judged as that of a sovereign beset by unscrupulous enemies,
and not as that of a private person or subordinate official. In
those days the Governor-General was obliged to bear his own
burdens and to act on his own responsibility. Modern
financial facilities were not available, and when war was on,
a supply of ready cash was indispensable. That urgent need
of cash for public purposes, not for private gain, gave rise to
the two incidents — the affair of Raja Chait Singh and the
transactions with the Begams of Oudh — which furnished
much material to the accusers of Hastings, and must be
regarded as blots on his reputation.

The affair of Raja Chait Singh. In 1775 the fief of Raja
Chait Singh of Benares, illegitimate son of an upstart chief,
had been transferred by his suzerain, the Nawab-Vazir of
Oudh, to the Company and the Raja thus became bound to
render customary service to his new lords When called upon
in 1778 to pay a contribution of five lakhs for military purposes
he complied grudgingly. The similar demands made in the
next two years were partially evaded, and in 1781 Hastings,
being pressed for money, determined to make an example of
the Raja, who had given him offence in other ways. A fine
of forty or fifty lakhs, about half a million sterling, was decided
on, and Hastings went to Benares, intending to impose and
levy it. Although escorted by an inadequate force, he rashly
and without sufficient reason arrested Chait Singh, whose
people rose, slew the Governor-General's sepoys, and forced
Hastings to flee for his life to Chunar. The Raja raised an
army of 40,000 men, but Hastings never lost his head, and
quickly made arrangements which resulted in the total defeat

FROM 1761 TO 1858 273

of the enemy. The main purpose of the dangerous adventure,
however, failed, because the victorious army appropriated as
prize-money the forty lakhs of rupees taken in the Raja's
stronghold. The Company gained no direct advantage except
a nearly doubled assessment on the estates of Chait Singh,
which were made over to his nephew and are still held by
a descendant, His Highness the Maharaja of Benares, a much
respected and loyal prince. It is impossible either to deny
a certain amount of har.shness in the proceedings of Hastings
against Chait Singh, or to acquit him of rashness in the
execution of his plans.

The affair of the Begams of Oudh, 1782. The second
incident arose out of the failure to secure Chait Singh's cash.
At that time the Nawab-Vazir of Oudh, Asaf-ud-daula, was
deeply in debt to the British Government for the pay of the
auxiliary troops supplied to him, and was unable to raise the
money required, unless he could lay hands on the treasures
held adversely to him by his mother and grandmother, known
as the Begams of Oudh. Those treasures undoubtedly should
have been treated as State property, but Hastings's hostile
Councillors had guaranteed them to the Begams as personal
belongings, and had rejected the just claims of the Nawab-
Vazir. The Begams having actively supported the cause of
Chait Singh, Hastings felt justified in revoking the guarantee
given by the Council improperly and against his opinion.
Troops were sent to Fj^zabad, where the ladies resided, the
palace eunuchs were thrown into chains and half-starved,
and seventy-six lakhs of rupees were extracted. At the
trial of Hastings in England these censurable facts were
enormously exaggerated by the rhetoric of his accusers, made
familiar to all readers in Macaulay's brilliant but untrustworthy
essay. The seventy-six lakhs did not nearly exhaust the
accumulations of the Begams, the 3^ounger of whom was ' alive
and hearty and very rich ' twenty-one years later, when one
of the roughly treated eunuchs also was still living, ' well, fat,
and enormoush^ rich.' Sir Alfred Lyall's judgement may be


accepted, that ' the employment of personal severities, under the
superintendence of British officers, in order to extract money
from women and eunuchs, is an ignoble kind of undertaking' ;
but his award ©f ' serious blame ' to Hastings is partly met by
the remark that Hastings did not directly order the severities.

Close of the career of Hastings. The conclusion of the
treaties of Versailles and Mangalore left Hastings free to
return to England, after thirteen years of rule, as Governor of
Bengal for two years and a half, and as Governor-General for
the rest of the time. His activity was so incessant and his
services to the country so many that it is impossible to present
a really fair picture of his work in small compass. But what
has been said may suffice to satisfy the junior student that
Warren Hastings was one of the greatest of men and a true
friend of India, notwithstanding his rare errors.

Impeachment and death of Hastings. His proceedings, some
of which undoubtedly were open to adverse criticism, had
raised up njany enemies. The opposition to his policy, stimu-
lated by motives of English party politics, resulted in the
impeachment of the ex-Governor-General by the House of
Commons at the bar of the House of Lords. ^ The court sitting
only for a few days in each year, the trial dragged on for seven
years. At last, in April 1795, Hastings was acquitted on all
the charges which had been pressed. The Directors having
made the necessary provision for his expenses and support, he
lived at Daylesford as a benevolent country gentleman until
1818, when he died in his eighty-sixth year.

Character of Warren Hastings. The character of Warren
Hastings has given rise to so much bitter controversy that even
now it is difficult to pass a judgement likely to command
universal assent. Perhaps a general agreement may be assumed
that his acquittal was right, and that his errors were not of the
kind deserving of judicial penalties. Undoubtedly he was

^ la an impeachment the House of Commons orders and directs the
prosecution, while the House of Lords sits as a court and judges the case.
The process is now obsolete. The last case was that of Lord Melville in 1806.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 275

a great Englishman, devoted to the service of his country, and
not unmindful of his duty to the land in which he did so much
to make his nation supreme. In labour he was unwearied, in
resolve inflexible, in adversity patient, in danger imperturbable,
and in policy far-seeing. If he displayed at times somewhat
of arrogance, or intolerance of opposition^ his consciousness of
superior knowledge and capacity must be his excuse. In a
greedy age and surrounded by men whose god was money, he
was distinguished by clean hands which scorned to grasp
polluted riches. In private life he was a well-bred gentleman,
of amiable manners, refined taste, and generous beyond the
bounds of prudence.

British India in 1785. Annexation was not in favour with
Hastings, whose acquisitions were limited to the Ghazlpur and
Benares districts on the Ganges, and the small islands of
Salsette and Elephanta, close to Bombay. When he went home,
British India comprised Bengal, Bihar, a small area of Orissa,
Ghazipur, Benares, the ' Northern Circars ' (except. Guntur),^
Madras, and a limited area adjoining, with Fort St, David and
some other little settlements on the east, besides Bombay,
Surat, and a few other places on the west coast. Orissa
(excluding Midnapur and part of Hugli) although included in
the imperial grant of the Dlwani, was held bj^ the Marathas of
Nagpur, and did not come into the Comjoany's effective posses-
sion until 1803.


Mr. Macpherson ; Lord Cornwallis ; Pitt's India Act ; Permanent Settle-
ment and reforms ; the third Mysore war ; Sir John Shore.

Mr, Macpherson ; Lord Cornwallis. Pending the arrival of
a permanent successor, Warren Hastings made over charge
to Mr. Macpherson (afterwards Sir John), the senior member of
Council, as acting Governor General. The Home Government
deeming it necessary to appoint a statesman of reputation^
unconnected with the East India Company, to take charge of
^ Ceded by the Nizam to Lord Cornwallis.


the now extensive British dominions in India, selected Earl
Cornwallis. A special Act was passed in 1786 conferring ujion
the Governor-General that power of overruling his Council
which Hastings had so much missed.

Pitt's India Act, 1784. The system of the Home Govern-
ment was changed by Mr. Pitt's India Act of 1784, which
])laced Indian affairs in the hands of a secret committee con-
sisting of the chairman, vice-chairman, and senior member of
the Court of Directors, acting under the supervision of a board
of six commissioners, commonly called the Board of Control,
appointed by the Crown. The Directors were allowed to
retain the patronage, but the real power now passed to the
King's ministers, of whom the President of the Board was one.
Mr. Dundas was appointed the first salaried President, and
practically became the Minister for Indian Affairs. After
a short time the Board never met, the President taking action
in its name. That system lasted without substantial change
until 1858, when the Crown assumed the direct administration,
and a Secretary of State for India was substituted for the
President of the Board of Control.

Administrative reforms of Lord Cornwallis. Lord Cornwallis,
when he assumed charge at Calcutta in September, 1786, was
vested with full authority as both Governor-General and

Online LibraryVincent Arthur SmithThe Oxford student's history of India → online text (page 20 of 30)