The small reverse of the Mahrattas at Sambalka was soon followed by others, and hopes of a pacific solution became more and more faint. Gobind Pant Bundela, foraging near Meerut with 10,000 light cavalry, was surprised and slain by Atai Khan at the head of a similar party of Afghans. The terror caused by this affair paralysed the Bhao's commissariat, while it greatly facilitated the foraging of the Shah. Shortly after, a party of 2,000 Mahratta horsemen, each carrying a keg of specie from Dehli, fell upon the Afghan pickets, which they mistook for their own in the dark of night. On their answering in their own language to the sentry's challenge, they were surrounded and cut up by the enemy, and something like 200,000 in silver was lost to the Bhao. Ibrahim and his disciplined mercenaries now became very clamorous for their arrears of pay, on which Holkar proposed that the cavalry should make an immediate attack without them. The Bhao ironically acquiesced, and turned the tables upon Holkar, who probably meant nothing less than to lead so hare-brained a movement.
During the next two months constant skirmishes and duels took place between parties and individual champions upon either side. In one of these Najib lost 3,000 of his Rohillas, and was very near perishing himself; and the chiefs of the Indian Musalmans became at last very urgent with the Shah to put an end to their suspense by bringing on a decisive action. But the Shah, with the patience of a great leader, as steadily repressed their ardour, knowing very well that (to use the words of a modern leader on a similar occasion) the enemy were all the while "stewing in their own-gravy." For this is one of the sure marks of a conqueror, that he makes of his own troubles a measure of his antagonist's misfortunes; so that they become a ground, not of losing heart, but of gaining courage.
Meanwhile the vigilance of his patrol, for which service he had 5,000 of his best cavalry employed through the long winter nights, created almost a blockade of the Mahrattas. On one occasion 20,000 of their camp-followers, who had gone to collect provisions, were massacred in a wood near the camps by this vigilant force.
The Bhao's spirit sank under these repeated blows and warnings, and he sent to the Nawab Vazir, Shujaa-ud-daulah, to offer to accept any conditions that might still be obtainable. All the other chiefs were willing, and the Shah referred them to the Rohillas. But Najib proved implacable. The Pandit went to the Rohilla leader, and urged on him every possible consideration that might persuade him to agree. But his clear good sense perceived the nature of the crisis. "I would do much," he said, "to gratify, the Nawab and show my respect for his Excellency. But oaths are not chains; they are only words, things that will never bind the enemy when once he has escaped from the dangers which compel him to undertake them. By one effort we can get this thorn out of our sides."
Proceeding to the Shah's tent he obtained instant admission, though it was now midnight. Here he repeated his arguments; adding that whatever his Majesty's decision might be was personally immaterial to himself. "For I," he concluded, "am but a soldier of fortune, and can make terms for myself with either party." The blunt counsel pleased the Shah. "You are right, Najib," said Ahmad, "and the Nawab is misled by the impulses of youth. I disbelieve in the Mahratta penitence, and I am not going to throw you over whom I have all along regarded as the manager of this affair. Though in my position I must hear every one, yet I promise never to act against your advice."
While these things were passing in the Moslem camp, the Mahrattas, having exhausted their last resource by the plunder of the town of Panipat, sent all their chiefs on the same evening to meet in the great durbar-tent. It was now the 6th of January, and we may fancy the shivering, starving Southerners crouched on the ground and discussing their griefs by the wild torchlight. They represented that they had not tasted food for two days, and were ready to die fighting, but not to die of hunger. Pan was distributed, and all swore to go out an hour before daybreak and drive away the invaders or perish in the attempt.
As a supreme effort, the Bhao, whose outward bearing at durbar had been gallant and dignified, had despatched a short note to our Pandit, who gives the exact text. "The cup is full to the brim, and cannot hold another drop. If anything can be done, do it. If not, let me know plainly and at once; for afterwards there will be no time for writing, or for speech." The Pandit was with Shujaa, by the time this note arrived the hour was 3 A.M. and he handed it to his master, who began to examine the messenger. While he was so doing, his spies ran in with the intelligence that the Mahrattas had left their lines. Shujaa, at once hastened to the Shah's tent.
Ahmad had lain down to rest, but his horse was held ready saddled at the entry. He rose from his couch and asked, "What news?" The Nawab told him what he had heard. The Shah immediately mounted and sent for the Pandit. While the latter was corroborating the tidings brought by his master, Ahmad, sitting on his horse, was smoking a Persian pipe and peering into the darkness. All at once the Mahratta cannon opened fire, on which the Shah, handing his pipe to an orderly, said calmly to the Nawab, "Your follower's news was very true I see." Then summoning his prime minister, Shah Wali, and Shah Pasand the chief of his staff, he made his dispositions for a general engagement when the light of day came.
Yes, the news was true. Soon after the despatch of the Bhao's note, the Mahratta troops broke their fast with the last remaining grain in camp, and prepared for a mortal combat; coming forth from their lines with turbans dishevelled and turmeric-smeared faces, like devotees of death. They marched in an oblique line, with their left in front, preceded by their guns, small and great. The Bhao, with the Peshwa's son and the household troops, was in the centre. The left wing consisted of the gardis under Ibrahim Khan; Holkar and Sindhia were on the extreme right.
On the other side the Afghans formed a somewhat similar line, their left being formed by Najib's Rohillas, and their right by two brigades of Persian troops. Their left centre was led by the two vazirs, Shujaa-ud-daulah and Shah Wali. The right centre consisted of Rohillas, under the well-known Hafiz Rahmat and other chiefs of the Indian Pathans. Day broke, but the Afghan artillery for the most part kept silence, while that of the enemy, losing range in its constant advance, threw away its ammunition over the heads of the enemy and dropped its shot a mile to their rear. Shah Pasand Khan covered the left wing with a choice body of mailed Afghan horsemen, and in this order the army moved forward, leaving the Shah at his usual post in the little tent, which was now in rear of the line, from whence he could watch and direct the battle.
On the other side no great precautions seem to have been taken, except indeed by the gardis and their vigilant leader, who advanced in silence and without firing a shot, with two battalions of infantry bent back to their left flank, to cover their advance from the attack of the Persian cavalry forming the extreme right of the enemy's line. The valiant veteran soon showed the worth of French discipline, and another division such as his would have probably gained the day. Well mounted and armed, and carrying in his own hand the colours of his own personal command, he led his men against the Rohilkhand columns with fixed bayonets, and to so much effect that nearly 8,000 were put hors de combat. For three hours the gardis remained in unchallenged possession of that part of the field. Shujaa-ud-daulah, with his small but compact force, remained stationary, neither fighting nor flying, and the Mahrattas forebore to attack him. The corps between this and the Pathans was that of the Daurani Vazir, and it suffered severely from the shock of an attack delivered upon them by the Bhao himself at the head of the household troops. The Pandit, being sent through the dust to inform Shujaa of what was going on, found Shah Wali vainly trying to rally the courage of his followers, of whom many were in full retreat. "Whither would you run, friends," cried the Vazir, "your country is far from here."
Meanwhile, on the left of the Mohamadan line, the prudent Najib had masked his advance by a series of breastworks, under cover of which he had gradually approached the hostile force. "I have the highest stake to-day," he said, "and cannot afford to make any mistakes." The part of the enemy's force immediately opposed to him was commanded by the then head of the Sindhia house, who was Najib's personal enemy. Till noon Najib remained on the defensive, keeping off all close attacks upon his earthworks by continuous discharges of rockets. But so far the fortune of the day was evidently inclined towards the Mahrattas. The Mohamadans' left still held their own under the two Vazirs and Najib; but the centre was cut in two, and the right was almost destroyed. Victory seemed to await the Mahrattas.
Of the circumstances which turned the tide and gave the crisis to the Moslems, but one account necessarily exists. Hitherto we have had the guidance of Grant-Duff for the Mahratta side of the affair, but now the whole movement was to be from the other side, and we cannot do better than trust the Pandit. Dow, the only other contemporary author of importance if we except Gholam Hosain, who wrote at a very remote place is most irremediably inaccurate and vague about all these transactions. The Pandit, then, informs us that, during those earlier hours of the conflict, the Shah had watched the fortunes of the battle from his tent, guarded by the still unbroken forces on his left. But now, hearing that his right was reeling and his centre was defeated, he felt that the moment was come for a final effort. In front of him the Hindu cries of Har! Har! Jai Mahadeo! were maintaining an equal and dreadful concert with those of Allah! Allah! Din! Din! from his own side. The battle wavered to and fro like that of Flodden as described by Scott. The Shah saw the critical moment in the very act of passing. He therefore sent 500 of his own body-guard with orders to arise all able-bodied men out of camp, and send them to the front at any cost. 1,500 more he sent to encounter those who were flying, and slay without pity any who would not return to the fight. These, with 4,000 of his reserve troops, went to support the broken ranks of the Rohilla Pathans on the right. The remainder of the reserve, 10,000 strong, were sent to the aid of Shah Wali, still labouring unequally against the Bhao in the centre of the field. The Shah's orders were clear. These mailed warriors were to charge with the Vazir in close order, and at full gallop. As often as they charged the enemy in front, the chief of the staff and Najib were directed to fall upon either flank. These orders were immediately carried out.
The forward movement of the Moslems began at 1 P.M. The fight was close and obstinate, men fighting with swords, spears, axes, and even with daggers. Between 2 and 3 P.M. the Peshwa's son was wounded, and, having fallen from his horse, was placed upon an elephant. The last thing seen of the Bhao was his dismounting from another elephant, and getting on his Arab charger. Soon after the young chief was slain. The next moment Holkar and the Gaikwar left the field. In that instant resistance ceased, and the Mahrattas all at once became helpless victims of butchery. Thousands were cut down; other thousands were drowned in escaping, or were slaughtered by the country people whom they had so long pillaged. The Shah and his principal commanders then retired to camp, leaving the pursuit to be completed by subordinate officers. Forty thousand prisoners are said to have been slain. Among the prisoners was Ibrahim, the valiant and skilful leader of the gardis. Though severely wounded, he was taken care of in Shujaa's tents, where his wounds received surgical attention. Shujaa also endeavoured to extend protection to the head of the house of Sindhia. A subordinate member of the clan, the afterwards celebrated Madhoji who was to become in his turn master of the whole country fled from the field; and the late Colonel Skinner used to describe how this chief in whose service he at one time was would relate the mental agonies he endured on his light Deccanee mare from the lobbing paces and roaring breath of a big Northern horse, on which he was pursued for many miles by an Afghan, greedy of blood and booty.
Jankoji, the then head of the family, was killed next day, a victim to the enmity of Najib, whose policy included relentlessness. Ibrahim Gardi was taken from Shujaa by a mixture of force and fraud. He was put into the charge of the Afghan Vazir, and died in that charge a week after. A headless body, supposed to be that of the Bhao, was found some twenty or thirty miles off. The body, with that of the Peshwa's son, received the usual honours of Hindu cremation at the prayer of the Nawab Shujaa. Several pretenders to the name of this Oriental Sebastian afterwards appeared from time to time; the last was in captivity in 1782, when Warren Hastings procured his liberation.
After these things the allies moved to Dehli; but the Daurani troops became mutinous and quarrelsome; and they parted on ill terms. Shujaa marched back to Mahdi Ghat, whence he had come six months before, with the titular appointment of Vazir of the Empire. The Shah, having written to the fugitive Shah Alam, to salute him as emperor, got what money he could out of the exhausted treasury and departed to his own country. Najib Khan remained at Dehli under the title of Najib-ud-daulah, with a son of the absent emperor as ostensible regent. Having made these dispositions, Ahmad the Abdali returned to his own country, and only once again interposed actively in the affairs of the Indian peninsula.
Such was the famous Campaign of Panipat, the first disaster, on a great scale, of the power of the Mahratta confederacy, and the besom which swept the land of Hindustan for the advent of the British.
It appears that, at this period, the Shahzada had applied to Colonel Clive for an Asylum in Calcutta, while the Colonel was at the same time in receipt of a letter from the minister at Dehli the unscrupulous Ghazi-ud-din calling on him to arrest the prince as a rebel and forward him to Court in custody. Clive contented himself by sending him a small present in money. About the same time, however, Clive wrote to Lord Chatham (then Prime Minister, and Mr. Pitt), recommending the issue of orders sanctioning his demanding the Viceroyship of the Eastern Subahs on behalf of the King of England; an application which he guaranteed the Emperor's granting on being assured of the punctual payment of fifty lakhs a year, the estimated fifth of the revenues. "This," he says, "has of late been very ill-paid, owing to the distractions in the heart of the Moghul Empire, which have prevented the Court from attending to their concerns in those distant provinces." Although nothing came of these proceedings, they are here noted as the presage of future events.
The English Shujaa-ud-daulah Shahzada enters Bihar; his character Ramnarayan defeated M. Law Battle of Gaya March towards Hindustan Massacre of Patna Flight of Kasim and Sumro Battle of Buxar Treaty with British Text of Treaty Establishment at Allahabad Emperor's establishment Authorities cited Broome's Bengal Army Legal position.
THE events related in the foregoing introductory chapters had led to a complete obscuration of the Timuride family and power. Whether or no that dynasty was to resume its sway once more depended entirely on the turn that events were to take at this crisis; and chiefly on what might happen in the eastern provinces of Bihar and Bengal, where a new power was rapidly making itself felt. To that quarter, therefore, general attention was henceforth drawn; and the new power the English began to be, by common consent, treated as arbiter of the future. The Nawab of Audh was also an important element in the problem, as it then appeared; and the return of the ruler of Kabul to the plains where he had so lately struck a blow that seemed decisive, was a matter of almost daily expectation.
1759. When in 1759 the heir to what was left of the empire of Hindostan had gallantly cut his way through the myrmidons sent against him by the ruthless Minister, he crossed the Jamna and took refuge with Najib-ud-daulah, the Afghan, who was then at Saharanpur in the Fifty-Two Parganas. But finding that noble unable to afford him material support, and still fearing the machinations of his enemy, he gradually retired to Lucknow, intending perhaps to wait there until the return of the Abdali leader might afford him an opportunity of turning upon the Mohamadan and Hindu rebels.
The present viceroy of Audh was Shujaa-ud-daulah, the son of the famous Safdar Jang, whom he equalled in ability, and far exceeded in soldierly qualities. On his first succession to his father's now almost independent fief he was young, and content with the unbounded indulgence of those bodily faculties with which he was largely endowed. He is described as extremely handsome, and above the average stature; with an acute mind, somewhat too volatile; and more prone by nature to the exercises of the field than to the deliberations of the cabinet. But neither was the son of Safdar Jang likely to be brought up wholly without lessons in that base and tortuous selfishness which, in the East even more than elsewhere, usually passes for statecraft; nor were those lessons likely to be read in ears unprepared to understand them. Shujaa's conduct in the late Rohilla war had been far from frank; and he was particularly unwilling to throw himself irredeemably into the cause of a ruined sovereign's fugitive heir. Foiled in his application to the Viceroy of Audh, the Shahzada (Prince) then turned to a member of the same family who held the Fort and District of Allahabad, and was named Mohammad Kuli Khan. To this officer he exhibited an imperial patent in his own name for the lieutenancy of Bahar, Bengal, and Orissa, which were then the theatre of wars between the British traders of Calcutta and the family of the usurping Viceroy of those Subahs, Aliverdi Khan. The Prince proposed to Mohammad Kuli that they should raise the Imperial standard and reduce both competitors to their proper level. The governor, a man of ambition and spirit, was warmly encouraged to this scheme by his relation, the Viceroy of Audh (for reasons of his own, which we shall speedily discover, Shujaa highly approved of the arrangement); and a powerful official, named Kamgar Khan, promised assistance in Bihar. Thus supported, the Prince crossed the frontier stream (Karamnassa) in November, 1759, just at the time that his unfortunate father lost his life in the manner related above. (Part I. chapter v.)
1760. In the distracted state of the country it was more than a month before the news of this tragedy arrived in camp, which was then pitched at a village called Kanauti, in Bihar. The Prince immediately assumed the succession, and, as a high aim leads to high shooting, his title was to be nothing short of "sovereign of the known world," or SHAH ALAM. He is recorded to have ordered that his reign should be reckoned from the day of his father's "martyrdom"; and there are firmans of his patent-office still forthcoming in confirmation of the record. He was at once recognised as emperor by all parties; and, for his part, he wisely confirmed Shujaa-ud-daulah as Vazir; while he intrusted the command of the army in Hindustan, in the room of the assassin Ghazi, to Najib-ud-daulah, the Abdali's nominee.
Having made these arrangements he proceeded to collect revenue and establish himself in Bihar. He was at this time a tall, portly man, forty years old, or thereabout, with the constitutional character of his race, and some peculiarities of his own. Like his ancestors, he was brave, patient, dignified, and merciful; but all contemporary accounts support the view suggested by his whole history, and debit him with defects which more than balanced these great virtues. His courage was rather of the nature of fortitude than of that enterprising boldness which was absolutely necessary in his situation. His clemency did great harm when it led him to forgive and ignore all that was done to him, and to lend his ear and his hand to any person of stronger will who was nearest to him at the moment. His patience was of a kind which ere long degenerated into a simple compromise with fortune, in which he surrendered lofty hopes for the future in exchange for immediate gratifications of sense. In a word, writers unacquainted with English history have combined to produce a picture which bears a strong likeness, both in features and position, to that of Charles the Second of Britain, after the death of his father.
The Eastern Subahs were at this time held by Clive's nominee, Mir Jafar Khan, known in English histories as Meer Jaffier, and the Deputy in Bihar was a Hindu man of business, named Raja Ramnarayan. This official, having sent to Murshidabad and Calcutta for assistance, attempted to resist the proceedings of his sovereign; but the Imperial army defeated him with considerable loss, and the Hindu official, wounded in body and alarmed in mind, retired into the shelter of Patna, which the Moghuls did not, at that time, think fit to attack.
Meantime, the army of the Nawab having been joined by a small British contingent, marched to meet the Emperor, who was worsted in an engagement that occurred on the 15th of February, 1760. On this the Emperor adopted the bold plan of a flank march, by which he should cut between the Bengal troops and their capital, Murshidabad, and possess himself of that town in the absence of its defenders. But before he could reach Murshidabad, he was again overtaken and repulsed by the activity of the English (7th April), and, being by this time joined by a small body of French under a distinguished officer, he resolved to remain in Bihar and set about the siege of Patna.
These French were a party of about one hundred officers and men who had refused to join in the capitulation of Chandarnagar three years before, and had since been wandering about the country persecuted by their relentless victor Clive. Their leader was the Chevalier Law, a relation of the celebrated speculator of the Regency; and he now hastened to lay at the feet of the Royal adventurer the skill and enterprise of his followers and himself. His ambition was high and bold, perhaps more so than his previous display of abilities might well warrant. But he soon saw enough of the weakness of the Emperor, of the treachery and low motives of the Moghul nobles, to contract the hopes his self-confidence had fostered. To the historian Gholam Hossain Khan he said:
"As far as I can see, there is nothing that you could call government between Patna and Dehli. If men in the position of Shujaa-ud-daulah would loyally join me, I could not only beat off the English, but would undertake the administration of the Empire."
The very first step in this ambitious programme was never to be taken. Whilst the Emperor with his new adherents (and a hundred Frenchmen under even such a leader as Law were as strong as a reinforcement of many thousand native troops under a faithless Moghul)whilst these strangely matched associates were beleaguering Patna, Captain Knox, at the head of a small body of infantry, of which only 200 men were European, ran across the 300 miles between Murshidabad and Patna in the space of thirteen days, and fell upon the Imperial army, whom he utterly routed and drove southward upon Gaya. The Imperial army was now commanded by Kamgar Khan; for Mohammad Kuli had returned to Allahabad, and been murdered by his unscrupulous cousin Shujaa, who seized upon the province and fort. The Emperor, as is evident from his retreating southward, still hoped to raise the country in his favour, and his hopes were so far justified that he was joined by another Moghul officer, named Khadim Hossain. Thus reinforced, he again advanced on Patna opposed by Knox, who in his turn had been joined by a Hindu Raja named Shatab Rai. Another defeat was the result, and the baffled sovereign at length evacuated the country, and fled northward, pursued by the whole united forces of the British and the Bengal Nawab. The son of the latter, however, being killed in a thunderstorm in July, the allied armies retired to cantonments at Patna, and the pertinacious Imperialists once more posted themselves between that place and the capital, at their old station of Gaya.
1761. Early next year, therefore, the Anglo-Bengali troops once more took the field, and encountering the Imperialists at Suan, near the city of Bihar, gave them a fresh overthrow, in which Law was taken prisoner, fighting to the last, and refusing to surrender his sword, which he was accordingly permitted to retain.
Next morning the British commander paid his respects to the Emperor, who was now quite weary of the hopeless struggle he had been maintaining for nearly two years, and who willingly departed towards Hindustan. He had by this time heard of the battle of Panipat, and of the plans formed by the Abdali for the restoration of the empire; and there is reason to believe that, but for the jealousy of Mir Kasim, whom a late revolution (brought about by the English) had placed in the room of Mir Jafar, the Emperor would have been at once reinstated at Dehli under British protection. Before he went he created Mir Kasim Subahdar; and the fiscal administration also vested in him, the English having so determined. The Emperor was to have an annual tribute of 240,000.
1762. As affairs turned out there was much to be done and suffered by the British before they had another opportunity of interfering in the affairs of Hindustan; and a strange series of vicissitudes impended upon the Emperor before he was to meet them in the palace of his fathers. On his way to the northwest he fell into the hands of the ambitious Nawab Vazir of Audh, who had received the Abdali's orders to render the Emperor all assistance, and who carried out the letter of these instructions by retaining him for some two years in an honourable confinement, surrounded by the empty signs of sovereignty, sometimes at Benares, sometimes at Allahabad, and sometimes at Lucknow.
1763. In the meanwhile the unscrupulous heroes who were founding the British Government of India had thought proper to quarrel with their new instrument Mir Kasim, whom they had so lately raised to the Masnad of Bengal. This change in their councils had been caused by an insubordinate letter addressed to the Court of Directors by Clive's party, which had led to their dismissal from employ. The opposition then raised to power consisted of all the more corrupt members of the service; and the immediate cause of their rupture with Mir Kasim was about the monopoly they desired to have of the local trade for their own private advantage. They were represented at that Nawab's Court by Mr. Ellis, the most violent of their body; and the consequence of his proceedings was, in no long time, seen in the murder of the Resident and all his followers, in October, 1763. The scene of this atrocity (which remained without a parallel for nearly a century) was at Patna, which was then threatened and soon after stormed by the British; and the actual instrument was a Franco-German, Walter Reinhardt by name, of whom, as we are to hear much more hereafter, it is as well here to take note.
This European executioner of Asiatic barbarity is generally believed to have been a native of Treves, in the Duchy of Luxemburg, who came to India as a sailor in the French navy. From this service he is said to have deserted to the British, and joined the first European battalion raised in Bengal. Thence deserting he once more entered the French service; was sent with a party who vainly attempted to relieve Chandarnagar, and was one of the small party who followed Law when that officer took command of those, who refused to share in the surrender of the place to the British. After the capture of his ill-starred chief, Reinhardt (whom we shall in future designate by his Indian sobriquet of " Sumroo," or Sombre) took service under Gregory, or Gurjin Khan, Mir Kasim's Armenian General.
Broome, however, adopts a somewhat different version. According to this usually careful and accurate historian, Reinhardt was a Salzburg man who originally came to India in the British service, and deserted to the French at Madras, whence he was sent by Lally to strengthen the garrison of the Bengal settlement. The details are not very material: Sumroo had certainly learned war both in English and French schools.
After the massacre of the British, Kasim and his bloodhound escaped from Patna (which the British stormed and took on the 6th of November), and found a temporary asylum in the dominions of Shojaa-ud-daulah. That nobleman solemnly engaged to support his former antagonist, and sent him for the present against some enemies of his own in Bundelkand, himself marching to Benares with his Imperial captive, as related in the preceding page.
1764. In February, 1764, the avenging columns of the British appeared upon the frontier, but the Sepoys broke into mutiny, which lasted some time, and was with difficulty and but imperfectly quelled by Colonel Carnac. Profiting by the delay and confusion thus caused, the allies crossed into Bihar, and made a furious, though ultimately unsuccessful attack upon the British lines under the walls of Patna on the 3rd of May. Shujaa-ud-daulah, the Nawab of Audh, temporarily retiring, the Emperor resumed negotiations with the British commander; but before these could be concluded, the latter was superseded by Major (afterwards Sir Hector) Monro. This officer's arrival changed the face of affairs. Blowing from guns twenty-four of the most discontented of the sepoys, the Major led the now submissive army westward to Buxar (Baksar), near the confluence of the Karamnassa with the Ganges, where the two Nawabs (for Kasim and the Audh Viceroy had now united their forces) encountered him to be totally routed on the 23rd October, 1764.
The Emperor, who had taken no part in the action, came into the camp on the evening of the following day. By the negotiations which ultimately ensued, the British at last obtained a legal position as administrators of the three Subahs, with the further grant of the Benares and Ghazipur sarkars as fiefs of the Empire. The remainder of the Subah of Allahabad was secured to the Emperor with a pecuniary stipend which raised his income to the nominal amount of a million a year of our money.
But the execution of these measures required considerable delay, and some further exercise of that pertinacious vigour which peculiarly distinguished the British in the eighteenth century.
Shujaa-ud-daulah fled first to Faizabad in his own territories; but, hearing that Allahabad had fallen, and that the English were marching on Lucknow, he had recourse to the Pathans of Rohilkand, whose hospitality he afterwards repaid with characteristic ingratitude. Not only did the chiefs of the Rohillas harbour the Nawab Vazir's family at Bareilly, but they also lent him the aid of 3,000 of their troops. Further supported by the restless Mahrattas of Malhar Rao Holkar, a chief who always maintained relations with the Musulmans, Shujaa returned to the conflict.
1765. It may be easily imagined that what he failed to do with the aid of Mir Kasim and his own territory, he did not effect with his present friends as an exile; and Kasim having fled, and Sumroo having entered the service of the Jats of Bhartpur, the Vazir consented to negotiate with the English; the latter, under strong pressure from Clive, who had lately returned to India, showing themselves perfectly placable, now that it had become impossible for them to insist upon the terms, so distasteful to an Eastern chief, which required the surrender of his infamous guests. General Carnac, who had resumed the command, gave the Nawab and his allies a final defeat near Cawnpore, and drove the Mahrattas across the Jamna. The treaty confirming the terms broached after the battle of Buxar was now concluded, and Audh, together with part of the Doab, made over to the Nawab Vazir Shujaa-ud-daulah, who, being thus reinstated as a feudatory of the British Diwans, returned to his own country, leaving Shah 'Alam at Allahabad as a British pensioner.
The terms accorded to the Emperor will be seen from the counterpart issued by him, part of which is subjoined:
" + + + Whereas, in consideration of the attachment and services of the high and mighty, the noblest of nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and loyal well-wishers, worthy of royal favour the English Company, we have granted to them the Diwani of the Soobahs of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, from the beginning of the spring harvest of the Bengal year 1171, as a free gift and fief (Al tumgha), without the association of any other person, and with an exemption from the payment of the tribute of the Diwan which used to be paid to this court; it is therefore requisite that the said Company engage to be security for the sum of twenty-six lakhs of rupees a year for our revenue (which sum has been imposed upon the Nawab), and regularly remit the same.
"Given on the 8th Safar, in the sixth year of our reign."
The Nawab was to continue Subahdar, the Company was to be his colleague for purposes of civil and fiscal administration, they were to support the Nawab's (Nizamat) expenses, and to pay the tribute (Nazarana) in his name.
The Emperor's establishment during the next few years is thus described by a British officer who enjoyed his intimacy: "He keeps the poor resemblance of a Court at Allahabad, where a few ruined omrahs, in hopes of better days to their prince, having expended their fortunes in his service, still exist, the ragged pensioners of his poverty, and burden his gratitude with their presence. The districts in the king's possession are valued at thirty lakhs, which is one-half more than they are able to bear. Instead of gaining by this bad policy, that prince, unfortunate in many respects, has the mortification to see his poor subjects oppressed by those who farm the revenue, while he himself is obliged to compound with the farmers for half the stipulated sum. This, with the treaty payment from the revenues of Bengal, is all Shah Alum possesses to support the dignity of the Imperial house of Timor. [Dow. ii. 356, A.D. 1767.]
The following further particulars respecting Shah 'Alam's Court at this period are furnished by Gholam Hossain, and should be noted here as relating to personages of some of whom we shall hear more anon.
Mirza Najaf Khan, the Imperial General, was a Persian noble of high, even of royal, extraction, and destined to play a conspicuous part in the events related in a large portion of the remainder of this history. It will suffice, for the present, to state that, having been a close follower of Mohammad Kuli, he joined the British after that Chief's murder (Vide Sup. p. 68) and was by them recommended to the Emperor for employment. He received a stipend of one lakh a year, and was nominated Governor of Kora, where he occupied himself in the suppression of banditti, and in the establishment of the Imperial authority. Under the modest state of steward of the household, Manir-ud-daulah was the Emperor's most trusted councillor and medium of communication with the English. Raja Ram Nath, whom we saw accompanying the prince in his escape from Dehli, continued about him; but the chief favourite was an illiterate ruffian called by the title Hissam-ud-daulah, who stooped to any baseness whereby he could please the self-indulgent monarch by pandering to his lowest pursuits. The duties of the office of Vazir were delegated by Shujaa to his son Saadat Ali, who afterwards succeeded him as Nawab of Audh.
Fallen as the Emperor truly was, and sincerely as we may sympathize with his desire to raise the fortunes of his life, it might have been well for him to have remained content with the humble but guaranteed position of a protected Titular, rather than listen to the interested advice of those who ministered, for their own purposes, to his natural discontent.
In this chapter I have been partly referring to Mill. Not only is that indefatigable historian on his strongest ground when describing battles and negotiations of the British from civil and military despatches recorded at the India House, but in treating of the movements of the native powers he has had access to a translation of the very best native work upon the subject the Siar-ul-mutakharin which was written by Ghulam Hossain Khan, a Musalman gentleman of Patna, himself an eye-witness of many of the scenes described. His account of the capture of Law, for example, given at length in a foot-note to Mill's short account of the action of Gaya after which the affair occurred, is full of truthfulness and local colour.
Since, however, the events were already amply detailed, and the best authorities exhausted in a standard work accessible to most English readers; and since, moreover, they did not occur in Hindustan, and only indirectly pertained to the history of that country, I have not thought it necessary to relate them more minutely than was required to elucidate the circumstances which led to the Emperor Shah Alam becoming, for the first time, a pensioner on British bounty, or a dependent on British policy.
Those who require a complete account of the military part of the affair will find it admirably given in Broome's Bengal Army, a work of which it is to be regretted that the first volume alone has hitherto been made public. Of the value of this book it would be difficult to speak too highly. Coming from the pen of an accomplished professional man, it sets forth, in a manner no civilian could hope to rival, the early exploits of that army of which the author was a member. It may be well to note, in concluding this chapter, what appears to have been at this time the legal relation of the British settlers in Bengal towards the Government of the Empire. In 1678 the Company's Agents had obtained a patent conferring upon them the power of trading in Bengal. In 1696 they purchased from the Nawab the land surrounding their factory, and proceeded to protect it by rude fortifications. A number of natives soon began to settle here under the protection of the British; and when the Nawab, on this account, was desirous of sending a judicial officer to reside among them, the factors staved off the measure by means of a donation in money. The grant of land and permission of a formal kind for the fortifications followed in 1716 on Mr. Hamilton's cure of the Emperor Farokhsiar. During all this period tribute continued to be paid (nominally at least) to the Emperor; but in 1759, by espousing, as stated in the beginning of this chapter, the cause of Mir Jafar, the British committed acts of open rebellion against the Sovereign. By the treaty of Benares, however, they returned to their nominal allegiance, and became once more subjects, tenants and even subordinate officials of the Great Moghul ( Vide Judgment of Lord Brougham in the case of the Mayor of Lyons v. East India Company). Elphinstone (Rise of Brit. Power, 438) finds this "treaty difficult to explain." But the fact is that all the contemporaneous powers concerned looked upon the Empire as the legitimate source of authority; and not only then but for many years after. The British had no legal status until they received the Emperor's grant; and to think of the arrangement as "a treaty" may be a source of misapprehension.
Najib-ud-daulah and Jawan Bakht The Jats Bhartpur State Suraj Mal Najib attacks Jats Negotiations Death of Suraj Mal Jats attack Jaipur Return of the Mahrattas They attack Bhartpur Rohillas yield Death of Najib State of Rohilkand Zabita Khan Mahrattas invite Emperor to return to Dehli.
AT the conclusion of Part I. we saw that the Abdali ruler of Kabul had returned to his own land, soon after the battle of Panipat, in 1761, having recognized the legitimate claims of the exiled heir to the throne (1764), and placed that prince's eldest son, Mirza Jawan Bakht, in the nominal charge of affairs, under the protection of Najib-ud-daulah, the Rohilla (Indian Afghan). A better choice could not have been made in either case. The young regent was prudent and virtuous, as was usual with the men of his august house during their earlier years, and the premier noble was a man of rare intelligence and integrity. Being on good terms with his old patrons, Dundi Khan Rohilla, and the Nawab of Audh, Shujaa-ud-daulah, and maintaining a constant understanding with Malhar Rao Holkar, whom we have seen deserting the cause of his countrymen, and thus exempted from their general ruin at Panipat, Najib-ud-daulah swayed the affairs of the dwindled empire with deserved credit and success. The Mahratta collectors were expelled from the districts of the Doab, while Agra admitted a Jat garrison; nor did the discomfited freebooters of the southern confederacy make any farther appearance in Hindustan for eight years, if we except the share borne by Malhar Rao, acting on his own account in the disastrous campaign against the British in 1765.
The area on which these exertions were made was at first but small, and the lands directly swayed by Najib-ud-daulah were bounded, within 100 miles south of the capital, by the possessions of the Jats, who, however, were at the time friendly.
Of the rise of this singular people few authentic records appear to exist. It is, however, probable that they represent a later wave of that race, whether true Sudras, or a later wave of immigrants from Central Asia, which is found farther south as Mahratta; and perhaps they had, in remote times, a Scythian origin like the earlier and nobler Rajputs. They affect Rajput ways, although the Rajputs would disdain their kinship; and they give to their chiefs the Rajput title of "Thakur," a name common to the Deity and to great earthly lords, and now often used to still lower persons. So much has this practice indeed extended, that some tribes use the term generically, and speak of themselves as of the "Thakur" race. These, however, are chiefly pure Rajputs. It is stated, by an excellent authority, that even now the Jats "can scarcely be called pure Hindus, for they have many observances, both domestic and religious, not consonant with Hindu precepts. There is a disposition also to reject the fables of the Puranic Mythology, and to acknowledge the unity of the Godhead." (Elliot's Glossary, in voce "Jat.") Wherever they are found, they are stout yeomen; able to cultivate their fields, or to protect them, and with strong administrative habits of a somewhat republican cast. Within half a century, they have four times tried conclusions with the might of Britain. The Jats of Bhartpur fought Lord Lake with success, and Lord Combermere with credit; and their "Sikh" brethren in the Panjab shook the whole fabric of British India on the Satlaj, in 1845, and three years later on the field of Chillianwala. The Sikh kingdom has been broken up, but the Jat principality of Bhartpur still exists, though with contracted limits, and in a state of complete dependence on the British Government. There is also a thriving little principality that of Dholpur between Agra and Gwalior, under a descendant of the Jat Rana of Gohad, so often met with in the history of the times we are now reviewing (v. inf. p. 128.) It is interesting to note further, that some ethnologists have regarded this fine people as of kin to the ancient Get, and to the Goths of Europe, by whom not only Jutland, but parts of the south-east of England and Spain were overrun, and to some extent peopled. It is, therefore, possible that the yeomen of Kent and Hampshire have blood relations in the natives of Bhartpur and the Panjab.
The area of the Bhartpur State is at present 2,000 square miles, and consists of a basin some 700 feet above sea level, crossed by a belt of red sandstone rocks. It is hot and dry; but in the skilful hands that till it, not unfertile; and the population has been estimated at near three-quarters of a million.
At the time at which our history has arrived, the territory swayed by the chiefs of the Jats was much more extensive, and had undergone the fate of many another military republic, by falling into the hands of the most prudent and daring of a number of competent leaders. It has already been shown (in Part I.) how Suraj Mal, as Raja of the Bhartpur Jats, joined the Mahrattas in their resistance to the great Musalman combination of 1760. Had his prudent counsels been followed, it is possible that this resistance would have been more successful, and the whole history of Hindustan far otherwise than what it has since been. But the haughty leader of the Hindus, Sheodasheo Rao Bhao, regarded Suraj Mal as a petty landed chief not accustomed to affairs on a grand scale, and so went headlong on his fate.
Escaping, like his friend Holkar, from the disaster of Panipat though in a less discreditable way, for he did not profess to take the field and then fly in the midst of battle, as the other did Suraj Mal took an early opportunity of displacing the Mahratta Governor of the important fort of Agra, and at the same time, occupied some strong places in the Mewat country. The sagacious speculator, about the same time, dropped the falling cause of Ghazi-ud-din, whose method of statesmanship was too vigorous for his taste, and who, as has been above shown, retired soon after from a situation which he had aided to render impracticable. But a criminal of greater promise, about the same time, joined Suraj Mal. This was none other than the notorious Sumroo, who had wisely left his late protector the Nawab of Audh, at the head of a battalion of Sepoys, a detail of artillery, and some three hundred European ruffians of all countries.
Thus supported, the bucolic sagacity of the Jat Raja began for the first time to fail him, and he made demands which seemed to threaten the small remains of the Moghul Empire. Najib-ud-daulah took his measures with characteristic promptitude and prudence. Summoning the neighbouring Musalman chiefs to the aid of Islam and of the empire, he took the field at the head of a small but well-disciplined Moghul army, and soon found the opportunity to strike a decisive blow.
In this campaign the premier was so fortunate as to obtain solid assistance from the Biloch chiefs of Farokhnagar and Bahadurgarh, who were in those days powerful upon both banks of the Jamna up to as far north as Saharanpur on the eastern, and Hansi on the western side. The actual commencement of hostilities between Suraj Mal and the Moghuls arose from a demand made by the former for the Faujdarship (military prefecture) of the small district of Farokhnagar. Unwilling to break abruptly with the Jat chief, Najib had sent an envoy to him, in the first instance, pointing out that the office he solicited involved a transfer of the territory, and referring him to the Biloch occupant for his consent. The account of the negotiation is so characteristic of the man and the time, that I have thought it worth preserving. The Moghul envoy introduced himself in conformity with Eastern custom by means of a gift, which, in this instance, consisted of a handsome piece of flowered chintz, with which the rural potentate was so pleased that he ordered its immediate conversion into a suit of clothes. Since this was the only subject on which the Jat chief would for the present converse, the Moghul proposed to take his leave, trusting that he might reintroduce the subject of the negotiations at a more favourable moment. "Do nothing rashly, Thakur Sahib," said the departing envoy; "I will see you again to-morrow." "See me no more," replied the inflated boor, "if these negotiations are all that you have to talk of." The disgusted envoy took him at his word, and returned to Najib with a report of the interview. "Is it so?" said the premier. "Then we must fight the unbeliever; and if it be the pleasure of the Most High God, we will assuredly smite him."
But before the main body of the Moghuls had got clear of the capital, Suraj Mal had arrived near Shahdara on the Hindan, within six miles of Dehli; and, had he retained the caution of his earlier years, he might have at once shut up the Imperialists in their walled city. But the place being an old hunting-ground of the Emperor's the Thakur's motive in coming had been chiefly the bravado of saying that he had hunted in a royal park, and he was therefore only attended by his personal staff. While he was reconnoitring in this reckless fashion, he was suddenly recognised by a flying squadron of Moghul horse, who surprised the Jats, and killed the whole party, bringing the body of the chief to Najib. The minister could not at first believe in this unhoped-for success, nor was he convinced until the envoy who had recently returned from the Jat camp identified the body by means of his own piece of chintz, which formed its raiment. Meanwhile the Jat army was marching up in fancied security from Sikandrabad, under Jowahir Singh, the son of their chief, when they were suddenly charged by the Moghul advanced guard, with the head of Suraj Mal borne on a horseman's lance as their standard. In the panic which ensued upon this ghastly spectacle, the Jats were thoroughly routed and driven back into their own country. This event occurred towards the end of the year.
Foiled in their unaided attempt, they next made a still more signal mistake in allying themselves with Malhar Rao Holkar, who, as we have seen, was secretly allied to the Musalmans. At first they were very successful, and besieged the premier for three months in Dehli; but Holkar suddenly deserted them, as was only to have been expected had they known what we know now; and they were fain to make the best terms that they could, and return to their own country, with more respectful views towards the empire and its protector.
But the young Thakur's thirst of conquest was by no means appeased, and he proceeded in 1765 to attack Madhu Sing, the Rajput ruler of Jaipur, son of the Kachwaha Raja Jai Singh, who had lately founded a fine city there in lieu of the ancestral site, Amber. Descended from Kusha, the eldest son of the Hindu demigod Rama, this tribe appears to have been once extensive and powerful, traces of them being still found in regions as far distant from each other as; Gwalior and the Northern Doab. (Vide Elliot, in voc.) In this attempt Jowahir appears to have been but feebly sustained by Sumroo, who immediately deserted to the victors, after his employer had been routed at the famous Lake of Pokar, near Ajmir. Jowahir retreated first upon Alwar, thence he returned to Bhartpur, and soon after took up his abode at Agra, where he not long afterwards was murdered, it is said at the instigation of the Jaipur Raja. A period of very great confusion ensued in the Jat State; nor was it till two more of the sons of Suraj Mal had perished one certainly by violence that the supremacy of the remaining son, Ranjit Singh, was secured. In his time the Jat power was at its height; he swayed a country thick with strongholds, from Alwar on the N.W. to Agra on the S.W., with a revenue of two millions sterling, and an army of 60,000 men.
Meantime the Mahrattas, sickened by their late encounter with Carnac (p. 73), and occupied with their own domestic disputes in the Deccan, paid little or no attention to the affairs of Hindustan; and the overtures made to them by the Emperor in 1766, from Allahabad, were for the time disregarded, though it is probable that they caused no little uneasiness in the British Presidency, where it was not desired that the Emperor should be restored by such agency.
At this period Najib, as minister in charge of the metropolis and its immediate dependencies, though skilfully contending against many obstacles, yet had not succeeded in consolidating the empire so much as to render restoration a very desirable object to an Emperor living in ease and security. Scarcely had the premier been freed from the menace of the Eastern Jats by his own prowess and by their subsequent troubles, than their kindred of the Panjab began to threaten Dehli from the west. Fortunately for the minister, his old patron, the Abdali, was able to come to his assistance; and in April, 1767, having defeated the Sikhs in several actions, Ahmad once more appeared in the neighbourhood of Panipat, at the head of 50,000 Afghan horse.
He seems to have been well satisfied with the result of the arrangements that he had made after crushing the Mahrattas in the same place six years before; only that he wrote a sharp reprimand to Shujaa-ud-daulah for his conduct towards the Emperor. But this, however well deserved, would not produce much effect on that graceless politician, when once the Afghan had returned to his own country. This he soon after did, and appeared no more on the troubled scene of Hindustan.
Profiting by the disappearance of their enemy, the Mahrattas, having arranged their intestine disputes, crossed the Chambal (a river flowing eastward into the Jamna from the Ajmir plateau), and fell upon the Jaipur country towards the end of 1768. Hence they passed into Bhartpur, where they exacted tribute, and whence they threatened Dehli in 1769. Among their leaders were two of whom much will be seen hereafter. One was Madhoji Sindhia"Patel" the other was Takuji Holkar. The first of these was the natural son of Ranoji Sindhia, and inherited, with his father's power, the animosity which that chief had always felt against Najib and the Rohillas. The other was a leader in the army of Malhar Rao Holkar (who had lately died), and, like his master, was friendly to the Pathans. Thus, with the hereditary rivalry of their respective clans, these foremost men of the Mahratta army combined a traditional difference of policy, which was destined to paralyze the Mahratta proceedings, not only in this, but in many subsequent campaigns.
1770. Aided by Holkar, the Dehli Government entered into an accommodation with the invaders, in which the Jats were sacrificed, and the Rohillas were shortly after induced by Najib-ud-daulah to enter into negotiations. These led to the surrender to the Mahrattas of the Central Doab, between the provinces held by the Emperor to the eastward, and the more immediate territories administered in his name from Dehli. These latter tracts were spared in pursuance of the negotiations with the Emperor which were still pending.
Soon after these transactions the prudent and virtuous minister died, and was succeeded in his post by his son, Zabita Khan. It is not necessary to enlarge upon the upright and faithful character of Najib-ud-daulah, which has been sufficiently obvious in the course of our narrative, as have also his skill and courage. It would have been well for the empire had his posterity inherited the former qualities. Had Zabita, for instance, followed in his father's steps, and had the Emperor at the same time been a man of more decision, it was perhaps even then possible for a restoration to have taken place, in which, backed by the power of Rohilkand, and on friendly terms with the British, the Court of Dehli might have played off Holkar against Sindhia, and shaken off all the irksome consequences of a Mahratta Protectorate.
The preceding record shows how superior Najib-ud-daulah's character and genius were to those of the native Hindustani nobles. It may be interesting to see how he impressed a European contemporary, who had excellent opportunities of judging:
"He is the only example in Hindustan of, at once, a great and a good character. He raised himself from the command of fifty horse to his present grandeur entirely by his superior valour, integrity, and strength of mind. Experience and abilities have supplied the want of letters and education, and the native nobleness and goodness of his heart have amply made amends for the defect of his birth and family. He is now about sixty years of age, borne down by fatigue and sickness." (Mr. Verelst, to the Court of Directors, March 28th, 1768, ap. Mill.)
Since this prominent mention has been made of the Rohillas, and since they are now for a short time to play a yet more conspicuous part in the fortunes of the falling empire, it will be well to give a brief description of their situation at the time.
It has been seen how Ali Mohammad rose in the reign of Mohammad Shah, and had been removed from Rohilkand by the aid of Safdar Jang, the Viceroy of Audh. On the latter falling into disgrace, Ali Mohammad returned to his native province about A.D. 1746. In the next two or three years he continued successfully to administer the affairs of the fair and fertile tract, but, unfortunately for his family, died before his heirs were capable of acting for themselves. Two relations of the deceased chief acted as regents Dundi Khan, the early patron of Najib, and Rahmat Khan, known in India by the title of Hafiz, or "Protector." Safdar Jang continued to pursue them with relentless purpose; and although the important aid of Ahmad, their foreign fellow-clansman, and the necessity of combining against the Mahrattas, prevented the Audh Viceroy's hostility from taking any very active form, yet there can be no doubt but that he bequeathed it to his successor, Shujaa, along with many other unscrupulous designs. The Rohilla Pathans, for their part, were as a race determined fighters, but generally false, fickle, and dissolute.
In 1753 the elder son of Ali Mohammad had made an attempt to remove the Protector and his colleague from their post. It was not successful, and its only result was to sow dissensions among the Rohillas, which caused their final ruin. In 1761, however, they bore a part in the temporary overthrow of the Mahrattas at Panipat; and during the next seven years the Rohilla power had passed the frontier of the Ganges, and overflowed the Central Doab, while the Najibabad family (who had a less close connection with local politics, but were powerful kinsmen and allies) had possession of the Upper Doab, up to the Siwalik Hills, above Saharanpur. Nevertheless, this seeming good fortune was neither permanent nor real.
In 1769, as we have just seen, Najib, though well disposed, was unable to prevent the Central Doab from passing under the Mahratta sway, and he died soon after its occupation occurred. Dundi Khan also passed away about the same time; and the Protector Rahmat was left alone in the decline of his ever-darkening days, to maintain, as best he might, an usurped authority menaced by a multitude of foes.
Zabita Khan, the son and successor of the late minister, and himself an Afghan or Pathan by race, did nevertheless for a time contribute to the resources of the Protector, his co-religionist and quasi countryman.
He may, therefore, be reckoned amongst the Rohillas at this period; and, as far as extent of territory went, he might have been an ally of some importance. But territory in imbecile hands and with foes like the Mahrattas was anything but a source of strength. While these indefatigable freebooters spread themselves over the whole Upper and Central Doab, and occupied all Rohilkand excepting the small territory of Farakhabad, to the south of the latter and north of the former Zabita khan, instead of endeavouring to prepare for the storm, occupied himself in irritating the Emperor, by withholding the tribute due at Allahabad, and by violating the sanctity of the Imperial zenana at Dehli by intrigues with the Begams.
Thus passed the winter of 1770-71, at the end of which the Mahrattas swarmed into the Doab, and occupied the metropolis; only respecting the palace, where the Prince Regent and the Imperial family continued to reside. Zabita, having organized no plan, could offer no resistance, and escaped towards his northward possessions.
By the connivance of his hereditary ally, Takuji Holkar (as Grant Duff supposes), he left the field open for the Deccani marauders to treat directly with Shah Alam for his restoration to the throne of his father.
NOTE. The authority chiefly followed in the portion of this chapter that relates to Rohilla affairs, has been Hamilton's "History of the Rohillas," a valuable collection of contemporaneous memoirs, although not always quite impartial. Captain Grant Duff's research and fairness are beyond all praise, wherever transactions of the Mahrattas are concerned. The sketch of Jat politics is derived from the Siar-ul-Mutakharin and the Tarikh-i-Mozafari; but it is as well to state, once for all that the native chroniclers seldom present anything like complete materials for history. A credulous and uncritical record of gossip combined with a very scanty analysis of character and motive characterizes their works, which are rather a set of highly-coloured pictures without proportion or perspective, than those orderly annals from which history elsewhere has chiefly been compiled.
Agency of Restoration Madhoji Sindhia - Zabita attacked Mirza Najaf Khan Flight of Zabita Treaty with Rohillas Zabita regains office Mahrattas attack Dehli Desperation of Mirza Najaf Mahrattas attack Rohilkand Opposed by British Advance of Audh Troops Re-employment of Mirza Abdul Ahid Khan Suspicious conduct of Hafiz Rahmat and Rohillas Tribute withheld by Hafiz Rahmat - Battle of Kattra Death of Shujaa-ud-daulah Campaign against Jats Najaf Kuli Khan Successes of the Imperial Army Zabita and Sikhs Death of Mir Kasim.
IT would be interesting to know the exact terms upon which the Mahrattas engaged to restore the Emperor to his throne in the palace of Shahjahan. But, since they have even escaped the research of Captain Grant Duff, who had access to the archives of Punah, it is hopeless for any one else to think of recovering them. The emissary employed appears to have been the person of indifferent character who, like the Brounker and Chiffinch of the English restoration of 1660, had been usually employed in less dignified agencies. Unacquainted with this man's name, we must be content to take note of him by his title of Hissam, or Hashim Ud Daula. The Mahrattas were, amongst other rewards, to receive a present fee of ten lakhs of rupees (nominally expressible at 100,000 sterling, but in those days representing as much, perhaps, as ten times that amount of our present money), nor would they stir in the matter until they received the sum in hard cash. It is also probable that the cession of the provinces of Allahabad and Korah formed part of the recompense they hoped to receive hereafter.
Though the Emperor, if he guaranteed this latter gift, was parting from a substance in order to obtain a shadow, yet the very receipt of that substance by the others depended upon circumstances over which they had (as the phrase is) no control. Early in the year 1771 the Emperor had sent to the authorities in Calcutta, to consult them on his proposed movements; and they had strongly expressed their disapprobation. But Shujaa-ud-daula, for reasons of his own, earnestly, though secretly, encouraged the enterprise. The Emperor set out in the month of May, at the head of a small but well-appointed army, amongst whom was a body of sepoys drilled after the European fashion, and commanded by a Frenchman named Medoc, an illiterate man, but a good soldier. The command-in-chief was held by Mirza Najaf Khan. A British detachment, under Major-General Sir Robert Barker, attended him to the Korah frontier, where the General repeated, for the last time, the unwelcome dissuasions of his Government. The Emperor unheedingly moved on, as a ship drives on towards a lee shore; and the British power closed behind his wake, so that no trace of him or his Government ever reappeared in the provinces that he had so inconsiderately left.
From this date two great parties in the Empire are clearly defined; the Musalmans, anxious to retain (and quarrel over) the leavings of the great Afghan leader, Ahmad Abdali; and the Mahrattas, anxious to revenge and repair the losses of Panipat. The Audh Viceroy acts henceforth for his own hand ready to benefit by the weakness of whichever party may be worsted; and the British, with more both of vigour and of moderation, follow a like course of conduct.
Arrived at Farrukhabad, the Imperial adventurer confirmed the succession of that petty state to the Bangash chief, whose father was lately dead, and received at the investiture a fine (peshkash) of five lakhs of rupees. He then cantoned his army in the neighbourhood, and awaited the cessation of the periodical rains. The Mahratta army, some 30,000 strong, was still encamped at Dehli, but Madhoji Sindhia, the Patel, waited upon the Emperor in his cantonments, and there concluded whatever was wanting of the negotiations. The Emperor then proceeded, and entered his capital on Christmas Day.
At that time of year Dehli enjoys a climate of great loveliness; and it may be supposed that the unhappy citizens, for their parts, would put on their most cheerful looks and the best remnants of their often plundered finery, to greet the return of their lawful monarch. The spirit of loyalty to persons and to families is very strong in the East, and we can imagine that, as the long procession marched from Shahdara and crossed the shrunk and sandy Jamna, Shah Alam, from the back of his chosen elephant, looked down upon a scene of hope and gaiety enough to make him for the moment forget both the cares of the past and the anxieties of the future, and feel himself at last every inch a king.
1772. Whatever may have been his mood, his new allies did not leave him to enjoy it long. Within three weeks of his return to the palace of his forefathers, he was induced to take the field; and he set out northward at the head of 90,000 men, the greater number of whom were Mahratta horsemen. It has already been shown that Zabita Khan had escaped to his own estates a year before. The Bawani Mahal (comprising fifty-two pergunnahs, now included in the districts of Saharanpur and Muzaffarnaggar) contained three strongholds: Pathargarh on the left, Sukhartal on the right of the Ganges, and Ghausgarh, near Muzaffarnagar. The first two had been built by the late minister, Najib-ud-daulah, to protect the ford which led to his fief in the north-western corner of Rohilkand, for the Ganges is almost always fordable here, except in the high floods. The last was the work of Zabita Khan himself, and its site is still marked by a mosque of large size and fine proportions. Upon these points the first attacks of the Imperialists were directed. Ghausgarh was hurriedly evacuated at their approach to be completely plundered; and Zabita was soon driven to take refuge in his eastern fort of Pathargarh, nearest to any aid that the Rohilkand Pathans might be able and willing to afford. The open country, and minor strongholds and towns were left to the mercy of the invaders.
Although this campaign was dictated by a Mahratta policy, yet the small Moghul nucleus bore a certain part, being ably commanded by the Persian, Mirza Najaf Khan, who has been already mentioned as Governor of Korah, and of whom we shall hear frequently during the account of the next ten years.
This nobleman, who bore the title "Mirza" in token of belonging to the late royal family of Persia, evinced the same superiority over the natives of India which usually characterized the original immigrants. He had married his sister to a brother of the former Viceroy, Safdar Jang, and attached himself to the late unfortunate Governor of Allahabad, Mohammad Kuli Khan, a son of his brother-in-law (though whether his own nephew or by another mother does not appear). On the murder of the Governor by his unscrupulous cousin Shujaa, Najaf Khan succeeded to his place in the favour of the Emperor, and commanded, as we have seen, the force which accompanied the Emperor on his restoration.
To the combined armies Zabita opposed a spirited resistance; but the aid of the Rohilla Afghans (or Pathans, as they are called in India) was delayed by the menacing attitude of Shujaa; and the Mahratta and Moghul armies having crossed the Ganges by a mixture of boldness and stratagem, Zabita Khan fled to the Jat country, leaving his family and the greater part of the treasures amassed by his father to fall into the hands of the enemy.
This occasion is especially memorable, because among the children of Zabita was his eldest son, a beautiful youth, named Gholam Kadir Khan, whom the Emperor is said, by tradition, to have transmuted into a haram page, and who lived to exact a fearful vengeance for any ill-treatment that he may have received.
At the approach of the monsoon the Emperor, dissatisfied at not receiving the whole of the share of the spoils promised him by his covetous allies, returned to the metropolis. The Mahrattas (who even during his presence in the camp had paid him but scanty respect) now threw off the last shreds of disguise, and appropriated all the profits of the campaign. They at the same time restored to Zabita Khan whom they hoped hereafter to make into a serviceable tool the members of his family taken at Pathargarh; receiving in exchange a ransom of a lakh and a half of rupees, which was advanced to them on Zabita's account, by the Viceroy Shujaa-ud-daulah.
The rainy season of 1772 was spent by the Emperor at Dehli; by the Mahrattas at Agra and in the neighbourhood. They would willingly have proceeded to complete the reduction of all Rohilkand, but that Mirza Najaf flatly refused to join or sanction such a course; seeing clearly that it must involve a collision with Shujaa-ud-daulah, who was supported by the British alliance, and of whose traditional policy the annexation of the province formed an essential part. The Rohillas, on their part, occupied themselves in negotiations with the Audh Viceroy, in the hope of reconstructing the Mohamadan League, which had once been so successful.
The result of which was a treaty, drawn up under the good offices of the British general, Sir R. Barker, by which the protector, Hafiz Rahmat Khan, bound himself to join Shujaa in any steps he might take for the assistance of Zabita Khan, and pay him forty lakhs of rupees, in four annual instalments upon condition of the Mahrattas being expelled from Rohilkand. This treaty, which proved the ruin of the Rohillas, was executed on the 11th of July, 1772.
The next step in the destruction of these brave but impolitic Pathans was the outbreak of several violent quarrels, in which brother fought against brother and father against son. Zabita Khan, meanwhile, being secretly urged by the faithless Shujaa, had made terms for himself with the Mahrattas, who engaged to procure not only his pardon but his investiture with the office of Premier Noble, formerly held by his father, Najib-ud-daulah. Their barefaced boldness in restoring Zabita Khan's family and appropriating the ransom paid to the Emperor's account for them has been already mentioned.
With the view of paving the way for the removal from power of Mirza Najaf, they next addressed themselves to creating disturbances in the country around Dehli. For they knew that this would at once alarm the Emperor and involve the Mirza in difficulty and danger; and they foresaw in the result of such intrigues an easy method of ruining one whom they justly regarded as an obstacle to the recall to office of their protege Zabita. They accordingly instigated Ranjit Singh, the ruler of the Bhartpur Jats, to prefer a claim to the fief of Balamgarh, held by a petty chieftain of his own nation. This chief solicited aid from the Emperor against his powerful rival; and in the end of the year 1772 Mirza Najaf Khan, who henceforth figures in the native histories by his newly-acquired title of Zulfikar-ud-daulah, sent a force under a Biloch leader to the aid of the Balamgarh man. The Mahrattas, on the other hand, sent a force from Agra, which joining with the Bhartpur Jats, forced the Imperialists to retreat towards the capital; but the Patel, disapproving of the Rohilla element contributed to this confederacy by the presence of Zabita Khan, retired towards Jaipur, where he occupied himself in plundering the Rajputs. Takuji Holkar and the other Mahratta chiefs, feeling strong enough to dispense with his aid, and anxious, for reasons of their own, to fulfil their promise to Zabita, advanced towards Dehli, but were met at a place called Baddarpur, ten miles south of the city, by a force under the minister himself. In the action which ensued, the Moghul force which, though well disciplined and well led by Mirza Najaf, seconded by M. Medoc and some efficient native officers, was numerically weak, fell back upon Humayun's tomb, within four miles of the palace of New Dehli. Here ensued a series of skirmishes, which lasted four days; till the Mirza having had a nephew slain, retreated to the new town by way of Daryaoganj, followed by a strong detachment of the enemy. He still obstinately defended the palace and its environs; but Hissam-ud-daulah (whose backstair influence has been already mentioned) went in person to the Mahratta camp the following day, and informed them, as from his master, that the brave minister would be sacrificed by his weak and ungrateful master. Holkar and his train of black and unkempt pygmies swarmed insolently into the palace, where they dictated their own terms. The Mahrattas, who were anxious to return to the Deccan, were not disposed to make difficulties; their main terms were the restoration to the office of premier noble of Zabita Khan, and the cession of those provinces in the Lower Doab which had been under the direct sway of the Emperor, while he enjoyed British protection. These terms being granted, they picked a quarrel with Mirza Najaf Khan, about a payment which he was alleged to have guaranteed them during the Sukhartal campaign, and obtained an order from the Emperor banishing him the court. These events occurred at the end of December, just a twelvemonth after the unfortunate monarch's restoration.
1773 Finding Zabita Khan in office, and the pander Hisam in high favour, the heroic ax-minister, having still with him a strong and faithful escort of Moghul horse, together with the remains of the trained infantry, and having sent to Saharanpur for his adopted son, Afrasyab Khan, who had some squadrons with him for the protection of that district, threw himself into a fortified house outside the Kabul Gate of the city. The forces of the new Minister surrounded him, while the Mahrattas looked on with curiosity, which seems to have been tempered by admiration for his heroism; and the next day he formed one of those desperate resolutions which have so often been known to influence the course of Asiatic politics. Putting on all his armour, and wearing over it a sort of shroud of green, in the fashion used for the grave-clothes of a descendant of the Prophet, Najaf Khan rode out at the head of his personal guards. As the small band approached the Mahratta camp, shouting their religious war-cries of "Allah Ho Akbar," and "Ya Hossain," they were met by a peaceful deputation of the unbelievers who courteously saluted them, and conducted them to camp in friendly guise.
It can only be supposed that the news of the Peshwa's death, which had recently arrived from Punah, and the unsettled state of the Rohilla quarrel combined to render the Mahrattas indisposed to push matters to extremity against a man of Najaf Khan's character and influence, and thus gave rise to this extraordinary scene. The result was that the ex-minister's excitement was calmed, and he agreed to Join the Mahrattas in an attack on Rohilkand. One cannot but remark the tortuous policy of these restless rievers. First they move the Emperor upon the Rohillas; then they move the Rohilla, Zabita Khan, upon the Emperor; and then, having united these enemies, they make use of a fresh instrument to renew the original attack. With this new ally they marched upon Rohilkand by way of Ramghat, below Anupshahar, where the Ganges is fordable during the winter months; and at the same time parties of their troops devastated the Doab.
Meanwhile the British, finding that the Emperor was unable to protect the provinces about Allahabad, which they had put into his charge, made them over to the Viceroy of Audh, to whose management they had been attached previous to the negotiations that followed the battle of Buxar, and between whose dominions and those of the British they formed the connecting link. They had been abandoned by the Emperor when he proceeded to Dehli, contrary to the remonstrance of the Bengal Council, and though his own lieutenant had reported, and with perfect accuracy, that he could not regard the order to give them up to the Mahrattas as a free act of his master's. It would, indeed, have been an easy step towards the ruin of the British to have allowed the Mahrattas to take possession of this tract, and so form a permanent lodgement upon the borders of the possessions in Bihar and the Eastern Subahs which the British held by the indefeasible and twofold tenure of conquest, and of an Imperial grant. And it so happened that the necessary transfer could not be carried out without an armed demonstration for the expulsion or coercion of the usurping Mahrattas. The expenses of this expedition were naturally met by the Viceroy. Judged even by modern standards, this cannot but be regarded as a perfectly legitimate act of self-defence. It is, however, thus characterized by Macaulay: "The provinces which had been torn from the Mogul were made over to the government of Audh for about half a million sterling.'' The British having joined their forces to those of the Vazir-Viceroy Shujaa, accordingly marched to meet the invaders. Hafiz Rahmat, whom we have lately seen treating with those powers, now became anxious about the money-payments for which he had engaged, in the usual reckless Oriental way, and entered into negotiations with the Mahrattas. In this scheme, the sudden arrival of the British and Audh armies surprised him and he was forced to abandon it for the present and join the allies in an advance against the Mahrattas, who precipitately retired on Etawa, and thence to their own country in May, 1773.
It has been already seen that Mirza Najaf Khan was a family connection of Shujaa-ud-daulah, and an old friend of the British general; and, on the retreat of his Mahratta supporters, he came over to the allied camp, where he met the reception due to his merits.
The allied armies moved on to Anupshahar, accompanied by the ex-minister, who was attended by his faithful Moghuls. This town, which had, as we have seen, been a cantonment of Ahmad the Abdali, was particularly well situated for the advanced post of a power like the British, seeking to hold the balance among the native states of Hindustan. To the north were the fords of Sukhartal, by which the Najibabad Rohillas passed from one part of their dominions to another; to the south was the ford of Ramghat, leading from Aligarh to Bareilly. It remained a British cantonment from this time until some time subsequent to the occupation of the country in general, in 1806; after which the town of Meerut was found more central, and Anupshahar ceased to be a station for troops. It is a thriving commercial entrepot in our days, though much menaced by the Ganges, on whose right bank it stands. The only memorial of the long-continued presence of a British force is now to be found in two cemeteries, containing numbers of tombs from which the inscriptions have disappeared.
At this station Najaf Khan took leave of his patrons, having received from Shujaa-ud-daulah the portfolio (or, to use the Eastern phrase, the pencase), of Deputy Vazir, and from the British General a warm letter of recommendation to the Emperor. It was especially magnanimous on the part of the Vazir to let bygones be bygones, since they included the murder, by himself, of his new Deputy's kinsman and former patron Mohammad Kuli Khan, the former Governor of Allahabad; and it was not an impolitic, though probably unintentional, stroke on the part of Sir R. Barker to lend his assistance towards introducing into the direction of the Imperial councils a chief who was as strongly opposed to the Rohillas as to the Mahrattas.
Armed with these credentials, and accompanied by a small but compact and faithful force, the Mirza proceeded to Court to assume his post. The newly-created premier noble, Zabita Khan, took refuge with the Jats; but Hisam-ud-daulah, who had been for some time in charge of the local revenue (Diwan-i-Khalsa) was dismissed, put under arrest, and made to surrender some of his ill-gotten wealth. An inadequate idea may be formed of the want of supervision which characterized Shah Alam's reign, by observing that this man, who had not been more than two years in charge of the collections of a small and impoverished district, disgorged, in all, no less than fifteen lakhs of rupees. He was succeeded in his appointment by Abdul Ahid Khan (who bears henceforth the title of Majad-ud-daulah), while Manzur Ali Khan, another nominee of the minister's, became Vazir, or Controller of the Household. Of these two officers it is only necessary here to observe, that after events showed the former who was a Musalman native of Kashmir as a character marked by the faithlessness and want of manly spirit for which the people of that country are proverbial in India. The latter was to turn out either a very blundering politician, or a very black-hearted traitor.
Title and lucrative office were now conferred upon the Kashmirian, Abdul Ahid, whose pliant manners soon enabled him to secure a complete influence over his indolent master. Najaf Khan seems to have been equally deceived at the time; but after-events showed the difference between the undeceiving of a worn-out voluptuary, and that of a nature unsuspicious from its own goodness.
Such were the first fruits of Najaf's alliance with the Viceroy of Audh; the price was to be paid in the bestowal of the Imperial sanction upon the final destruction of the Rohilla Pathans. It has been already seen how this province, which ran up between the personal domains of the crown and the fief of the Viceroy of Audh, had been seized, first by Ali Mohammad, and latterly by his son's guardian, the Protector Rahmat Khan. But ever since Ali Mohammad's wars with the late Vazir, Safdar Jang, the rulers of Audh had probably coveted the province, and the retreat of the Mahrattas and their occupation in domestic pursuits in the Deccan afforded just the occasion for which Shujaa-ud-daula was waiting. Much eloquent indignation has been vented by Macaulay and Mill on the subject of the accession to this campaign of the British Governor, Mr. Hastings. As I am not writing a history of British administration, I shall only observe that the Emperor, whose servants the British professed themselves, had conferred the authority usurped by Rahmat Khan upon the Vazir, with whom they had been for some years in alliance. As allies of both parties they were clearly at liberty to throw in their help against the common enemies of both, especially when these chanced to be their own enemies also. The Mahrattas were the foes of all rulers on that side of India; and the Rohillas were either in collusion with the Mahrattas or unable to oppose them. It was essential, if not to the safety of the possessions of the Vazir-Viceroy, at least to British interests in Bengal, that a band of faithless usurpers should not be allowed to hold a country which they could not, or would not, prevent from affording a high road for the Mahrattas at all seasons of the year. That view, perhaps, commended itself to the House of Lords when they finally acquitted Mr. Hastings, after a protracted trial, in which some of the ablest of the Whig orators had been engaged against the accused. It is easy for historians, writing long after the passions, the temptations, the necessities of the moment have ceased to press, to criticize the acts of the past by the "dry light" of pure reason and abstract morality. But the claims of necessity should not be ignored in delivering what is intended to form a sort of judicial award.
It is perhaps a mark of the good sense and justice of the English nation that, when they had considered the matter calmly, they should have come to the conclusion that to condemn Hastings would be to condemn their own existence in India. Such a conclusion would logically require their retirement from the country _ a step they did not feel at all called upon to take. This appears the moral of the acquittal. Even Macaulay, who objects to the decision of the Peers acquitting Hastings as inadmissible at the bar of history nevertheless confesses that it was generally approved by the nation. At all events, this particular affair was dropped out of the charges even before the impeachment began.
But, however important to the existence of the British in India might be the possession of this frontier territory by the strongest ally they could secure, the conduct of the Emperor (or rather of Mirza Najaf, in whose hands he was not quite a free agent) remains the special subject of inquiry in this place. I think, however, that both the minister and his master were quite justified in wishing to transfer the province of Rohilkand from the hands of Rahmat to those of the Vazir. It has been already seen that the Pathan usurpers of that province had always been foes of the Moghul power, since the first rebellion of Ali Mohammad, with the solitary exception of the campaign of 1761, when they joined their Abdali kinsman at Panipat. It has also been seen that the fords by which the Ganges could be crossed in the cold weather were in their country, but that they could never hold them; and that, lastly, they were known to have been lately in treaty with the Mahrattas, without reference to the interests of the Empire. Eastern politicians are not usually or especially scrupulous; but, when it is remembered that the Rohillas were feudatories who had neither the will nor the power to be faithful, it must follow that here were substantial considerations of vital importance to the Dehli Government, sufficient to give them a fair inducement to sanction the enterprise of one who was their chief minister and most powerful supporter.
Of Shujaa's own motives there is not so much palliation to offer. He had often received aid from the Rohillas, and was under personal obligations to them, which ought to have obliterated all earlier memories of a hostile character; and, whatever grounds the Emperor may have had for consenting to an attack upon the Pathans, or the British for aiding the same, none such are likely to have seriously actuated the Vazir in his individual character. If he thought the Rohillas were inclined to negotiate with the Mahrattas, he must have seen how those negotiations had been broken off the instant he came to their assistance; and if he wished to command the movements of the Mahrattas, he might first have endeavoured to strengthen the hands of the Imperial Government, and to cordially carry out his share of the treaty of 1772.
It must, however, be added although the Vazir's character was not such as to render him altogether entitled to such justifications that the latter of those engagements had been better fulfilled by himself than by the Pathans. For while, on the one hand, he had driven the Mahrattas out of the country, the Protector Rahmat Khan, on his part, had neither collected the wage of that service from the other chiefs, nor paid it himself. Moreover, the Vazir's proceedings were only directed against the usurping Protector and his actual adherents; and he was joined by Zabita and some Rohilla chiefs, while others, among whom were the sons of the late Dundi Khan, held aloof altogether, and Faizula Khan, the son of the first founder of the Rohilla power, Ali Mohammad, and in every way the most respectable of the clan, though he would not desert an old friend in his hour of need, yet strongly disapproved of his proceedings, and urged him to fulfil his compact and pay the Vazir's claim. The bribe by which Zabita had been detached from the confederacy, was an assignment of the district in the neighbourhood of Meerut, which had cleared itself of Mahratta occupation under the late Vazir's rule.
1774. In October, 1773, the fort of Etawa fell, and the last Mahratta forces were driven from the Doab. The next two or three months were occupied in vain negotiations on the part of the Vazir with the Rohillas; and in more serious combinations with the Imperial Government, and with the British. And in January, 1774, the allied armies moved forward. On the 12th of April the British entered Rohilkand; the Protector, when finally summoned to pay what he owed, having replied by a levee en masse of all who would obey his summons. At the same time, the Emperor ordered out a column which he accompanied for a few marches; and issued patents confirming the Vazir Shujaa-ud-daula in his Doab conquests, as also in the grant already made by the British of Korah and Allahabad. This latter circumstance removes all ground for calling in question the cession of those provinces by their temporary masters, and shows that the Emperor was conscious of his own inability to hold them, or to grant them to enemies of Audh and of England.
On the 23rd of the same month (April) the British army completely surprised the camp of the Protector, who was defeated and slain, after a brave but brief resistance at Kattra. Faizula was pardoned and maintained in his own patrimonial fief of Rampur (still held by his descendants), while the rest of the province was occupied, with but little further trouble, by the Vazir, in strict conformity to an Imperial firman to that effect.
The army of the Empire, under Mirza Najaf Khan, the Deputy Vazir, had not arrived in time to participate actively in this brief campaign; but the Vazir acknowledged the importance of the moral support that he had received from the Empire by remitting to court a handsome fine, on his investiture with the administration of the conquered territory. He also gave the Mirza some reinforcement, to aid him in his pending operations against the Jats of Bhartpur. Zabita Khan was at the same time expelled from his lately acquired fief at Meerut, but was again put in charge next year; a proof, were proof required, of the weakness of the Home administration of Majad-ud-daulah, who (it need hardly be said) received a bribe on the occasion.
Anticipating a little, we may notice that the Viceroy of Audh, at the very climax of his good fortune, met the only enemy whom neither force can subdue nor policy deceive. Shujaa-ud-daulah died in January, 1775; and as it was not possible for so conspicuous a public character to pass away without exciting popular notice, the following explanation of the affair was circulated at the time; which, whether a fact or a fiction, deserves to be mentioned as the sort of ending which was considered in his case probable and appropriate. It was believed that, the family of Rahmat Khan having fallen into his hands, Shujaa-ud-daulah sent for one of the fallen chief's daughters, and that the young lady, in the course of the interview, avenged the death of her father by stabbing his conqueror with a poisoned knife. "Although," says the author of the Siar-ul-Mutakharin, who is the authority for the story, "there may be no foundation of truth in this account, yet it was at the time as universally believed as that God is our Refuge."
The editor of the Calcutta translation of 1789 asserts that he had satisfactory proof of the truth of this story. The Viceroy died of a cancer in the groin; and the women of his Zanana, who were let out on the occasion, and with one of whom he (the translator) was acquainted, had made a song upon the subject. They gave full particulars of the affair, and stated that the young lady she was only seventeen had been put to death on the day the Viceroy received the wound. (S. U. M., III. 268.)
The death of the Viceroy-Vazir, however occasioned, was a serious blow to the reduced Empire of Dehli, which was just then beginning to enjoy a gleam of sunshine such as had not visited it since the day when Mir Mannu and the eldest son of Mohammad Shah defeated the Abdali, in 1743. Had the career of Shujaa-ud-daulah been prolonged a few years, it is possible that his ambitious energy, supported by British skill and valour, and kept within bounds by Mirza Najaf Khan's loyal and upright character, would have effectually strengthened the Empire against the Mahrattas, and altered the whole subsequent course of Indian history.
But Shujaa's son and successor was a weak voluptuary, who never left his own provinces; and although the Mirza, his deputy in the Vazirship and real locum tenens, received for his lifetime the reward of his merits, yet he was unable of himself to give a permanent consolidation to the tottering fabric.
It has been seen that he was meditating a campaign against the Jats, whom Zabita's recent fall had again thrown into discontent, when summoned to Rohilkand, in 1774. In fact, he had already wrested from them the fort of Agra, and occupied it with a garrison of his own, under a Moghul officer, Mohammad Beg, of Hamadan. Not daunted by this reverse, Ranjit Singh, the then ruler of that bold tribe the Jats, advanced upon the capital, and occupied Sikandrabad with 10,000 horse. The forces left in Dehli consisted of but 5,000 horse and two battalions of sepoys; but they sufficed to expel the intruder. He shortly afterwards, however, returned, reinforced by the regulars and guns under Sumroo; but by this time the Mirza was returned from Rohilkand, and after the rains of 1774, marched against them, aided by a chief from Hariana, named after himself Najaf Kuli Khan, who brought into the field some 10,000 troops. This man, who was a good soldier and a faithful follower of the minister, was a converted Hindu, of the Rathur tribe; a native of the Bikanir country bordering on Rajputana Proper to the south, and to the north on Hariana and other states immediately surrounding the metropolis. Having been in service at Allahabad, under the father of Mohammad Kuli, the connection and early patron of the Mirza, he became a Mohammadan under the sponsorship of the latter, and ever after continued a member of his household. At the time of which I write, he had been appointed to the charge of districts returning twenty lakhs a year, with the title of Saif-ud-daulah.
The departure of the Mirza for this campaign was extremely agreeable to the Diwan, Majad-ud-daulah, for he never lost an opportunity of prejudicing the Emperor's mind against this powerful rival, in whose recent appointment to the office of Naib Vazir, moreover, he had found a special disappointment. Indeed, Shah Alam, between these two ministers, was like the hero of medival legend between his good and evil angels; only differing in this, that in his case the good influence was also, to a great extent, the most powerful. What the wily Kashmirian might have done in the way of supplanting the Mirza, if the latter had been signally worsted, and he himself had been otherwise fortunate, cannot now be certainly conjectured, for a fresh revolt of Zabita's summoned the Diwan to the northward, whilst his rival was successfully engaged with the Jats. In this expedition Majad-ud-daulah displayed a great want of spirit and of skill, so that Zabita became once more extremely formidable. Fortunately at this crisis Dehli was visited by an envoy, soliciting investiture for the new Viceroy of Audh, Asaf-ud-daulah. Accompanying the embassy was a force of 5,000 good troops, with a train of artillery, the whole under command of the deceased Shujaa's favourite general, Latafat Khan. This timely reinforcement saved the metropolis, and allowed of a settlement being made with the incorrigible Zabita, which preserved, to some extent at least, the dignity of the Government (Vide next chapter).
Meanwhile the Imperialists had found the Jats, under their chieftain, intrenched near Hodal, a town sixty miles from Dehli, on the Mathra road. Dislodged from this, they fell back a few miles, and again took up a position in a fortified village called Kotban, where the Mirza endeavoured to blockade them. After amusing him with skirmishes for about a fortnight, they again fell back on Dig, a stronghold, to become the scene of still more important events a few years later. Dig the name is perhaps a corruption of some such word as Dirajgarh is a strong fort, with a beautiful palace and pleasure-grounds adjoining, on the shores of an artificial lake, fed by the drainage of part of the Alwar Highlands. Observing that the sallies of the Jats had ceased, the Mirza left their camp at Dig in his rear, and marched to Barsana, where a pitched battle was fought.