A Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, Volumes I & II
by William Sleeman
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You may freely use these my views as you think best on the Jhansi question.

As to the management, I should make as little changes possible, till the final orders arrive from the Court of Directors, that you may have nothing to undo of what you have done. I would leave the management to Ellis, under your supervision, and interfere only on references in special cases, except, of course, on emergency. I know not what the system is to be, or what system the Governor-General has recommended, except that there is to be one head, as in Rajpootana; and that all correspondence with Government is to go through that head, In this state of the matter I know not what to suggest or say.

Yours sincerely, (Signed) W. H. SLEEMAN.

To Major Malcolm, &c. &c.


Lucknow, 11th November, 1853. My Lord,

I feel grateful for your Lordship's letter of the 27th ult., but cannot say that I have any hope of discovering the instruments employed, or the employer, in the late affair. The whole power of the Government is in the hands of men who are deeply interested in concealing the truth, and making it appear that no attempt was really made. The minister has, by his intrigues, put himself so much in the power of the knave whom I suspect, that he dares not do anything to offend him. The man could at once ruin him by his exposures if he chose, and he would do so if he found it necessary for his own security. The man is biding his time, as he has often done with former ministers; and the time would have come ere this had not the King, to save himself, married one of the minister's pretty daughters.

The King's chief consort; was the niece of the minister, and her son is the heir-apparent; so that it was her interest, and that of her uncle, the minister, to get rid of the King as soon as possible. She is a profligate woman, and the King's mother is supposed to have given him a hint of his danger. He took a liking to one of the daughters, and married her, in order to make it the minister's interest to keep him alive as long as possible. He now contrives to make the King believe that neither his life nor reign can be in any danger as long as he is in his present position.

The night after this affair took place, a sipahee of the 35th Native Infantry, standing sentry at one end of the house, fell asleep while he was leaning with his right wrist on the muzzle of his musket. The musket went off; the ball passed through his wrist, grazed a large beam above him, struck against a stone in the roof of the portico, and fell down flattened by the side of the sentry, as he lay insensible and bleeding on the ground below. The wrist was sahttered,[sic] and several of the arteries cut through. He bled profusely, and when taken up he talked incoherently, declaring that some man had fired at him from behind the railing, twenty paces off. I have seen similar cases of incoherency, arising from a similar cause. As soon as day appeared the ball was found, and its marks on the beam and stone above showed the real state of the case. His right knee was probably leaning on the lock of the musket when he fell asleep. I have made no public or official report of this circumstance to Government.

I have now before me a curious instance of the difficulty of getting at the truth when it is the interest of the minister and others about this Court to prevent it. A wanton attack was made in April last by about one hundred armed men, led by one of the King's collectors, on a native British subject coming from Cawnpore to visit a brother in Oude. The man himself received a wound, from which he some days afterwards died at Cawnpore; two of his attendants were killed, and twenty thousand rupees were taken from him. I have investigated the case myself, with the aid of my assistant, Captain Hayes, and with the attendance of an assessor on the part of the King. The case is a very clear one, but they have produced about thirty witnesses to swear that no man of the poor merchant's party was hurt; and that, instead of being attacked, he invaded the Oude territory with more than one hundred armed followers, and wantonly attacked the King's party of only fifteen unoffending men, while engaged in the discharge of their duty in collecting the revenue. I have translated the depositions with the prospect of having ultimately to submit the case to Government, unless the King consents to punish the offenders and afford redress. The assessor, an old man, bewildered by the conflicting testimony, and anxious to escape from all responsibility, slept soundly through the greater part of the inquiry, which has been a very tedious one.

I remain, your Lordship's Most obedient and humble servant, (Signed) W. H. SLEEMAN.

To the Most Noble the Governor-General of India.


Lucknow, 28th December, 1853.

My Dear Mr. Colvin,

I was glad to see your handwriting again, and to find that time had made so little alteration in it. Oude affairs are, as you suppose, much as they used to be, save that the King is now persuaded by his minister and favourite that, had his predecessors had men and women about them so wise as they are, they never would have acted as if they believed that the Government of India ever really intended to carry into effect the penalty of misgovernment, so often threatened. Our Government has cried "wolf" so often that no one now listens to it. The King is an utter imbecile, from over-indulgences of all kinds; and the knaves whom he employs in his administration contrive to persuade him that the preservation of his life and throne depends entirely upon their vigilance and his doing nothing. Had I come here when the treasury was full, and Naseer-od Doon Hyder was anxious to spend his money in the manner best calculated to do good and please our Government, I might have covered Oude with useful public works, and much do I regret that I came here to throw away some of the best years of my life among such a set of knaves and fools as I have to deal with.

I think you will do much good in your present charge in the subject to which you refer. In the matter of discourtesy to the native gentry, I can only say that Robert Martin Bird insulted them whenever he had the opportunity of doing so; and that Mr. Thomason was too apt to imitate him in this as in other things. Of course their example was followed by too many of their followers and admirers; but, like you, I have been delighted to see a great many of the elder members of the civil service, in spite of these bad examples, treat the native gentry with all possible courtesy, and show them that they had their sympathy as long as they deserved it by their conduct.

It has always struck me that Mr. Thomason, in his system, did all he could to discourage the growth of a middle and upper class upon the land—the only kind of property on which a good upper and middle class could be sustained in the present state of society in India. His village republics and the Ryutwar system of Sir Thomas Munro had precisely the same tendency to subdivide minutely property in land, and reduce all landholders to the common level of impoverishment. The only difference was that the impoverished tenants in the North- Western Provinces were supposed to manage their own affairs, while those at Madras had them managed by a very mischievous class of native public officers. He (Mr. Thomason) would have forced his village republics upon any new country or jungle that came under his charge, and thereby rendered improvement impossible. I would have introduced into all such new countries a system of paternal government in imitation of our Government of India itself, which would have rendered improvement certain, and the growth of a middle and higher class no less so. He would have put the whole under our judicial courts, and thereby have created a middle class of pettifogging attorneys to swallow up all the surplus produce of the land. I would have kept the whole of the land in the hands of our fiscal courts, by making it all leasehold property, and maintaining the law of primogeniture in all estates of villages. Mr. Thomason, I am told, systematically set aside all the landed aristocracy of the country as a set of middlemen, superfluous and mischievous.

The only part of our India in which I have seen a middle and higher class maintained upon the land is the moderately-settled districts of the Saugor and Nerbudda territories; and there is no part of India where our Government and character are so much beloved and respected. You have sent Mr. Read to that part; and if he be bigoted to Mr. Thomason's system, he will upset all this, and, in my opinion, lay the foundation of much evil. We found a system of paternal government in every village, and maintained and improved it. They were all little principalities; and by the printed rules of the Sudder Board of Revenue, which are very good, all the sub-tenants were effectually secured in their rights.

In making a tour through Oude in the end of 1849 and beginning of 1850 I had a good deal of talk with the people. Many of them had sojourned in our territories in seasons of disturbance. The general impression was that they would be glad to see the country taken under British management, provided we could dispense with our tedious procedure in civil cases. They all had a very unfavourable impression of our civil courts, and of the cost and delay of the procedure. Mills and Harrington, to whom the duty, which was to have devolved on you, has been confided, may do much good, and I hope will, for there really is nothing in our system which calls so much for remedy. I am persuaded that, if it were to be put to the vote among the people of Oude, ninety-nine in a hundred would rather remain as they are, without any feeling of security in life or property, than have our system introduced in its present complicated state; but that ninety- nine in a hundred would rather have our Government than live as they do, if a more simple system, which they could understand, were promised at the same time.

In 1801, when the Oude territory was divided, and half taken by us and half left to Oude, the landed aristocracy of each were about equal. Now hardly a family of this class remains in our half, while in Oude it remains unimpaired. Everybody in Oude believes those families to have been systematically crushed. If by-and-by we can get the people to take an interest in our railroads, and outlays upon other great public works, it will tend to create the middle class upon which I set so much value, and to give that feeling of interest in the stability of our rule which we so much require. We shall then have objects of common interest to talk and think about, and become more united with them in feeling.

Maddock is in Ceylon, but intends to return by the steamer which is to leave Calcutta on the 5th proximo. His speculations there have been failures. Had he looked after his estates there instead of joining the effete party of the Derbyites he might have done well. He has made great mistakes, and he now suffers for them. His support of Lord Torrington was his first.

Believe me, Yours very sincerely, (Signed) W. H. SLEEMAN.

To Mr. Colvin.


Lucknow, 5th March, 1854. My Dear Low,

I have to-day written to Government a letter, which you will of course see, on the subject of a proposal made to me by Mr. B. Government will, I have no doubt, consider the reason assigned by me for refusing to permit him to send an European agent to Lucknow, ostensibly to collect debts, sufficient; but whether it will consent to adopt my suggestion, and empower the Resident to assure the King that it will not again consent to permit Mr. B. to return and reside at Lucknow, after he has been twice expelled for his misdeeds, I know not. One thing is certain, that his residence at Cawnpore, under the assurance from the minister that he shall come back and be made wealthy if he can aid in getting rid of the Resident, is very mischievous.

B., Wasee Allee, and the Minister, succeeded in persuading the King that Shurfod Dowla, and all the most respectable members of the Lucknow aristocracy, had signed a memorial to the Government of India, praying that it would set aside the present King as an incompetent fool, and put Mostafa Alee on the throne in his place. All this was reported by me to Government on the 2nd of March, 1853.

The seals were all forged or filched here at Lucknow, but the papers were written in Calcutta, under the agency, I believe, of Synd Jan, Sir H. E.'s moonshee, from Bilgram, where his family have long enjoyed an estate rent-free, for the aid he has given to the minister in his intrigues. I have never been able to remove this delusion from the mind of the imbecile King; and it is the "raw" on which these knaves have been ever since acting; for it enables the minister to persuade him that his vigilance-alone preserves his life and crown.

The minister is aware that I know all this, and may some day be able to show the King how he has been deluded and befooled by him; and he would give all he is worth to get rid of me in any way. He would give any sums to B. and his other agents to bribe editors to write against me; but the only editors who have yielded have been those of the "Mofussilite," before Mr. C. took the management. Mr. B. complains at Cawnpore, that he gave Mr. L. a large sum to do his dirty work at home; but that he did nothing for it. This is not unlikely. That the minister and Wasee Alee got up the attempt at the Residency, either to make away with me, or to alarm me into going away, I am persuaded; but to get judicial proof of it I shall not attempt. It would be vain here, where the minister has all the revenues of the State to work with.

All the native gentlemen whose seals were forged to this document, look to me for protection; and they have been ever since in a state of great alarm. It was to keep up this alarm that they tried to turn Shurfod Dowla out of Oude. I had rarely seen him before that time; and I have only seen him once since he went to the cantonments; and then only for five minutes during my walk in the garden, to talk about Mulki Jahan's affairs. They punish any one who ventures to approach the King; and they would ruin any one who ventured to approach the Resident if they could, lest he might open the eyes of the King to the iniquities they commit. The troops are starved, and almost all the old members of the royal family, who had no Government paper or guarantees, have been already starved or driven out. Oude has never before been afflicted by a Sovereign so utterly imbecile and regardless of his duties and the sufferings of his people; nor has there ever been a minister so utterly regardless of his own reputation and that of his master. He bribes with money, power, and patronage, every one who has access to the King, to sound his praise in prose or verse; and the King is persuaded that his life and throne depend upon his abstaining altogether, from interfering in the conduct of affairs.

When I was in the Governor-Generals camp at Futtehgur, M. H., the son of S. A. K., came there armed, I knew, with four lacs of rupees. He was an old acquaintance of E.'s, and he (E.) told me that he had asked for an interview, and asked me whether he ought to consent to see him. I told him that, if he did see him, he must make up his mind to the man's persuading the King that he had given him the greater part of the money, though the man himself kept all that he did not give to his moonshee. He refused to see the man; but he has ever since been with Mr. L. at Allahabad, intriguing with his people to chouse men out of their ancient possessions; or with the Oude people, to keep up the raw they have established on the King's mind. The King, by over-indulgence, has reduced his intellect below the standard of that of a boy of five years of age. It is painful to talk to a man with a mind so utterly emasculated.

Our Government would be fully authorized at any time to enforce the penalty prescribed in your treaty of 1837, and it incurs great odium and obloquy for not enforcing it. But Lord D. has, no doubt, solid reasons for not taking such responsibility upon himself at this time. I do all I can to save the people, and the people are sensible of what I do, and grateful for it; for the Resident is the only person they can look up to with any hope. If Government can comply with my wish to have the King assured that it will not permit Mr. B. to return and reside at Lucknow again, it will be of great use to me and to the people, for the hopes held out to him are like a premium offered for my head, or for my ruin; and one never feels very comfortable under such offers, at any time or in any country. The reckless lies which this man gets adventurers at Cawnpore to write for him, and careless or corrupt editors to publish, are apt to stagger those who do not know the vile character of the individual, or the true nature of the facts referred to.

I am glad you saw W. He is a man of high character and first-rate ability, and has abundance of sagacity and energy. I miss him very much. He will be a credit to his regiment if engaged on active service.

Yours sincerely, (Signed) W. H. SLEEMAN.

To Colonel Low, C.B.

P.S.—I shall say nothing in this of your domestic bereavement, though I have felt much for you.

W. H. S.

In my public letter, I have referred to that of the Marquess of W. to L., when he was Resident. Do refer to it Page 388, Vol. 1., "Despatches."


Lucknow, 1st June, 1854.

My Dear Low,

In my letter of the 10th of November, 1853, I solicited permission to retain Weston with me for reasons stated therein. In reply, I was told, in Mr. Dalrymple's letter of the 2nd of December, "that the Governor-General in Council had every wish to consult my views, but, for the present at least, his Lordship in Council thinks that Lieutenant Weston must in fairness be required to join his regiment, like other officers."

I am so very anxious to have his services again in the office he filled, that I have to-day ventured, in a public letter to the Foreign Secretary, to request that he will submit my wishes to the Governor-General in Council, should they deem the state of affairs in Burmah at present to be such as to admit of his being withdrawn from his regiment I have said, in my public letter, that should any exigency arise he could, of course, quickly join his regiment on service again.

If you can give me any assistance in obtaining his services, I shall feel very much indebted to you, for I have that confidence in his abilities and high-mindedness which I cannot feel in those of his locum tenens; and I am very anxious to keep things in good train here till the end of the cold weather, when I must go on leave to recruit. I am really in a very difficult position here, not with regard to the King, for he has, I believe, entire confidence in me; but he has become so entangled with his minister, that he is afraid of him; and the minister would give all he has (and he has all the revenues of the country) to get me out of the way.

I carried the Government orders regarding Shurfod Dowla into effect, and he is now, with his family, quiet and safe. The King behaved very well, and resisted all the attempts of the minister to persuade him to remonstrate. I am to-day to submit Shurfod Dowla's letter of grateful thanks to Government. I hope Government will not write to him in reply, as this might mortify and vex the King, since he is not written to by the Governor-General.

I think I told you of the raw the minister, Wasee Alee and Co., had established on the King's mind—the belief that a party of the members of the royal family and native gentlemen at Lucknow had been trying to persuade Government to set him aside, and put his reputed brother, Mostafa Alee, on the throne. Whenever they want to make the King angry with any one, they tell him that he is a leader in this cabal. But the King is, by degrees, growing out of this folly. There never was on the throne, I believe, a man more inoffensive at heart than he is; and he is quite sensible of my anxious desire to advise him rightly, and see justice done in all cases. But I am a sad stumbling-block to the minister and the other bad and incompetent officers employed in the administration.

If you wish it, I will be more circumstantial about Weston's locum tenens, Lieut. B., of the 1st Cavalry. For his own repute, and that of the Government, I think the less he has to do with the political department the better. He would be better in a military staff appointment than a political one.

Yours sincerely, (Signed) W. H. SLEEMAN.

To the Hon. Colonel Low, C.B.


Lucknow, 11th September, 1854.

My Lord,

The post which this morning brought me your Lordship's letter of the 6th instant brought me also one from Bombay, which I enclose for your Lordship's perusal. Should you think it worth while, Colonel Outram will be able to sift the matter to which it refers. I have long been aware of the intrigue, and have taken care to let the King know that I am so; but as I knew, at the same time, that the object was merely to get money out of him, and to strengthen his confidence in his minister, which had begun to give way, I did not think it necessary to trouble your Lordship with any reference on the subject. I knew that letters had been forged as from the King of Persia to the King of Oude, proposing to divide Hindoostan between them, and I thought it to be my duty to tell him so, in order to warn him; but, as he denied ever having received such letters, I told him that I should take the word of a King, and say no more about it. He is certainly not of sound mind, and things must, ere long, come to a crisis. His mind may have been of an average kind when he was young, but it has long become emasculated by over-indulgence; and the minister and his minions can make him believe or do what they please. They know that it cannot last long, and they have agents in Bombay and Calcutta to assist them in fleecing the King of money on all manner of false pretences.

The minister, a consummate knave, and one of the most incompetent men of business that I have ever known, has all the revenues and patronage of the country to distribute among those who have access to the King exclusively—they are poets, fiddlers, eunuchs, and profligate women; and every one of them holds, directly or indirectly, some court or other, fiscal, criminal, or civil, through which to fleece the people. Anything so detestable as the Government I have nowhere witnessed, and a man less competent to govern them than the King I have never known.

Had your Lordship left the choice of a successor to me, I should have pointed out Colonel Outram; and I feel very much rejoiced that he has been selected for the office, and I hope he will come as soon as possible. There are many honest men at Lucknow, and a finer peasantry no country can boast. But no honest man can obtain or retain office under Government with the present minister and heads of departments.

But where the whole revenues of a fine country are available to suborn witnesses to prove the King to be a Solomon, no Resident would be able to find judicial proof of his being a fool; but that he is so I have had abundance of, to me, satisfactory evidence ever since I have been here. It must soon, however, become clear, without the Resident's efforts to make it so. Where the Government of India is so solemnly pledged to see justice done to the people of a country, it cannot fairly permit them to be reigned over much longer by so incompetent a Sovereign. Proofs enough of bad government and neglected duties were given in my Diary; and a picture more true was, I believe, never drawn of any country. The duty of remedying the evils, and carrying out your Lordship's views in Oude, whatever they may be, must now devolve on another.

No one of my present assistants knows anything whatever about Oude, its Government, or its people; and Colonel Outram will, therefore, labour under great disadvantages. I hope, therefore, that your Lordship will pardon the liberty I take in suggesting that he be allowed the aid of Captain Weston. He went over the whole of Oude with me, and knows almost all who have made themselves prominent for good or for evil within the last five years. I know that, as soon as I go, some of the most atrocious villains whom I have kept out of office will try to purchase their way back; and there is no man too bad for the minister, provided he pays for his restoration.—The murderer of the banker, mentioned in my Diary, vol. i., p. 131, and the murderer of thousands mentioned in the same volume. Captain Weston is high minded, sagacious, energetic, hard-working, conciliatory and, to Colonel Outram, his services in the new charge would be invaluable.

I have the honour to remain, Your Lordship's faithful and obedient servant, (Signed) W. H. SLEEMAN.

To the Most Noble The Marquis of Dalhousie, K.T. Governor-General.



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