"Letters from Dehli mention that Zaman Shah, the ruler of the Abdalees, meditated an incursion into Hindustan, but had been prevented, for the present, by the hostility of his brothers. . . . . We are glad to hear the Sikhs have made no irruption into the Doab this season."
This Zaman Shah is the same who died, many years later, a blind pensioner of the English at Ludiana; and for the restoration of whose dynasty, among other objects, the British expedition to Kabul in 1839 took place.
To this period also belongs the unsuccessful attempt to revive Musalman power in the South of India, in which the Nizam of the Deccan engaged with the aid of his French General, the famous Raymond. The battle fought at Kardla, near Ahmadnagar, on the 12th March, 1795, is remarkable for the number of Europeans and their trained followers who took part on either side. On the Nizam's side, besides a vast force of horse and foot of the ordinary Asiatic kind, there were no less than 17,000 infantry under Raymond, backed by a large force of regular cavalry and artillery. The Mahrattas had 10,000 regulars under Perron, 5,000 under Filose, 3,000 under Hessing, 4,500 under du Drenec and Boyd. An animated account of this battle will be found in Colonel Malleson's excellent book, The Final Struggles of the French in India, in which, with admirable research and spirit, the gallant author has done justice to the efforts of the brave Frenchmen by whom British victory was so often checked in its earlier flights. The power of the Musalmans was completely broken by Perron and his associates on this occasion. It is further remarkable as the last general assembly of the chiefs of the Mahratta nation under the authority of their Peshwa (Grant Duff, ii. 284-8). The Moghul power in the Deccan was only preserved by the intervention of the British, and has ever since been dependent on their Government.
Early in 1796 a change was perceptible in the health of General de Boigne, which time and war had tried for nearly a quarter of a century in various regions. He had amassed a considerable fortune by his exertions during this long period, and entertained the natural desire of retiring with it to his native country. Sindhia had no valid ground for opposing his departure, and he set out for Calcutta somewhere about the middle of the year, accompanied by his personal escort mounted upon choice Persian horses who were afterwards taken into the British Governor's body-guard. In the profession of a soldier of fortune, rising latterly to almost unbounded power, de Boigne had shown all the virtues that are consistent with the situation. By simultaneous attention to his own private affairs he amassed a fortune of nearly half a million sterling, which he was fortunate enough to land in his own country, where it must have seemed enormous. He lived for many years after as a private gentleman in Savoy, with the title of Count, and visitors from India were always welcome and sure of being hospitably entertained by the veteran with stories of Mahratta warfare. On the 1st February, 1797, he was succeeded, after some brief intermediate arrangements, by M. Perron, an officer of whom we have already had some glimpses, and whom de Boigne considered as a steady man and a brave soldier. Like Thomas, he had come to India in some humble capacity on board a man-of-war, and had first joined the native service under Mr. Sangster, as a non-commissioned officer. De Boigne gave him a company in the first force which he raised, with the title of Captain-Lieut. On the absconding of Lestonneaux, in 1788, as above described when that officer was supposed to have appropriated the plunder taken by Gholam Kadir on his flight from Meerut Perron succeeded to the command of a battalion, from which, after the successes of the army against Ismail Beg, he rose to the charge of a brigade. He was now placed over the whole regular army, to which the civil administration, on de Boigne's system, was inseparably attached, and under him were brigades commanded by Colonel du Drenec and by other officers, chiefly French, of whom we shall see more hereafter. De Boigne, while entertaining a high opinion of Perron's professional ability, seems to have misdoubted his political wisdom, for both Fraser and Duff assert that he solemnly warned Daulat Rao Sindhia against those very excesses into which partly by Perron's counsel he was, not long after, led. "Never to offend the British, and sooner to discharge his troops than risk a war," was the gist of the General's parting advice.
Sindhia remaining in the Deccan, in pursuance of his uncle's plan of managing both countries at once, the ax-Sergeant became very influential in Hindustan, where (jealousies with his Mahratta colleagues excepted) the independent career of George Thomas was the only serious difficulty with which he had to contend.
For the present the two seamen did not come in contact, for Thomas confined his operations to the west and north-west, and found his domestic troubles and the resistance of the various neighbouring tribes sufficient to fully occupy his attention. Scarcely had he patched up a peace with his treacherous employer, and brought affairs in Mewat to something like a settlement, when his momentary quiet was once more disturbed by the intelligence that Appa had committed suicide by drowning himself, and that his son and successor, Vaman Rao, was showing signs of an intention to imitate the conduct of the deceased in its untruthful and unreliable character. With the exception of a brief campaign in the Upper Doab, in which the fortified towns of Shamli and Lakhnaoti had rebelled, Thomas does not appear to have had any active employment until he finally broke with Vaman Rao.
The rebellion of the Governor of Shamli (which Thomas suppressed with vigour) seems to have been connected with the movements of the restless Rohillas of the Najibabad clan, whose chief was now Bhanbu Khan, brother of the late Gholam Kadir, and an exile among the Sikhs since the death of his brother and the destruction of the Fort of Ghausgarh. Profiting by the long-continued absence of Sindhia, he re-opened that correspondence with the Afghans which always formed part of a Mohamadan attempt in Hindustan, and appealed, at the same time, to the avarice of the Sikhs, which had abundantly recovered its temporary repulse by Mirza Najaf in 1779. The grandson of the famous Abdali soon appeared at Peshawar at the head of 33,000 Afghan horse. But the Sikhs and Afghans soon quarrelled; a desperate battle was fought between them at Amritsar, in which, after a futile cannonade, the Sikhs flung themselves upon Zaman's army in the most reckless manner. The aggregate losses were estimated at 35,000 men. The Shah retreated upon Lahor; and the disordered state of the Doab began to be reflected in the only half-subdued conquests of the Viceroy of Audh in Rohilkand.
At this crisis 'Asaf-ud-daulah, the then holder of this title, died at Lucknow, 21st September, 1797, and it was by no means certain that his successor, Vazir 'Ali, would not join in the reviving struggles of his co-religionists. It must be remembered that, in virtue of its subjugation to the Sindhias, the Empire was now regarded as a Hindu power, and that Shia and Sunni might well be expected to join, as against the Mahrattas or the English, however they might afterwards quarrel over the spoil, should success attend their efforts. Furthermore it is to be noted that in this or the following year the Afghans, under Zaman Shah, were known to be advancing again upon Lahor.
This state of things appeared to the then Governor-General of the British possessions sufficiently serious to warrant an active interposition. The calm courage of Sir John Shore, who held a local investigation into what, to most politicians, might have appeared a very unimportant matter namely, whether the heir-apparent was really 'Asaf-ud-daulah's son or not; the grave decision against his claims (the claims of a de facto prince); his deposition and supersession by his eldest uncle, Saadat 'Ali the Second; and Vazir 'Ali's subsequent violence, when, too late to save his throne, he contrived, by the gratuitous murder of Mr. Cherry, the British resident at Benares, to convert his position from that of a political martyr to that of a life-convict, are all amply detailed in the well-known History of Mill, and in the Life of Lord Teignmouth by his son. Shore, at the same time, sent an embassy to Persia under Mahdi 'Ali Khan, the result of which was an invasion of Western Afghanistan and the consequent retirement of the Shah from the Panjab. The events referred to only so far belong to the History of Hindustan, that they are a sort of crepuscular appearance there of British power, and show how the most upright and moderate statesmen of that nation were compelled, from time to time, to make fresh advances into the political sphere of the Empire.
About this time died Takaji Holkar, who had lately ceased to play any part in the politics, either of Hindustan or of the Deccan. He was no relation, by blood, of the great founder of the house of Holkar, Malhar Rao; but he had carried out the traditionary policy of the clan, which may be described in two words hostility to Sindhia, and alliance with any one, Hindu or Musalman, by whom that hostility might be aided. He was succeeded by his illegitimate son Jaswant Rao, afterwards to become famous for his long and obstinate resistance to the British; but for the present only remarkable for the trouble that he soon began to give Daulat Rao Sindhia.
1798. The latter, meanwhile, as though there were no such persons as Afghans or English within the limits of India, was engaging in domestic affairs of the most paltry character. His marriage (1st March) with the daughter of the Ghatgai, Shirji Rao, put him into the hands of that notorious person, whose ambition soon entangled the young chief in the obscure and discreditable series of outrages and of intrigues regarding his uncle's widow, known as the War of the Bais. The cause of these ladies being espoused by Madhoji's old commander, Lakwa Dada, whom the younger Sindhia had, as we have seen, raised to the Lieutenant-Generalship of the Empire, a serious campaign (commenced in May) was the result. Sindhia's army (nominally the army of the Emperor) was under the chief command of Ambaji Inglia, and in 1798 a campaign of some magnitude was undertaken, with very doubtful results.
The ladies first retreated to the camp of the Peshwa's brother, Imrat Rao, but were captured by a treacherous attack ordered by Sindhia's general, and undertaken by M. Drugeon, a French officer, at the head of two regular brigades, during the unguarded hours of a religious festival. This was an overt act of warfare against Sindhia's lawful superior, the Peshwa, in whose protection the ladies were, and threw the Peshwa into the hands of the British and their partizans.
Sindhia, for his part, entered into negotiations with the famous usurper of Mysore, Tippu Sultan, who was the hereditary opponent of the British, and who soon after lost his kingdom and his life before the Mahrattas could decide upon an open espousal of his cause.
1799. The glory of the coming conquerors now began to light up the politics of Hindustan. The Afghans retired from Lahor in January, and were soon discovered to have abandoned their attempts on Hindustan for the present. But it was not known how long it might be before they were once more renewed. The celebrated treaty of "subsidiary alliance" between the British and the Nizam (22nd June, 1799), occupied the jealous attention of Sindhia, who had accommodated matters with the Peshwa, and taken up his quarters at Punah, where his immense material resources rendered him almost paramount. Still more was his jealousy aroused by the knowledge that, as long as the attitude of the Afghans continued to menace the ill-kept peace of the Empire, the British must be of necessity driven to keep watch in that quarter, in proportion, at least, as he, for his part, might be compelled to do so elsewhere. To add to his perplexities, Jaswant Rao Holkar, the hereditary rival of his house, about this time escaped from the captivity of Nagpur. to which Sindhia's influence had consigned him. Thus pressed on all sides, the Minister restored Lakwa Dada to favour, and by his aid quelled a fresh outbreak in the Upper Doab, where Shimbunath, the officer in charge of the Bawani Mahal, had called in the Sikhs in aid of his attempts at independence. Shimbunath was met and repulsed by a Moghul officer, named Ashraf Beg; and, hearing that Perron had sent reinforcements under Captain Smith, retired to the Panjab.
At the same time the Mahratta Governor of Dehli rebelled, but Perron reduced him after a short siege, and replaced him by Captain Drugeon, the French officer already mentioned in reference to the war of the Bais.
Thomas was for the present quite independent; and it may interest the reader to have a picture, however faint, of the scene in which this extraordinary conversion of a sailor into a sovereign took place. Hansi is one of the chief towns of the arid province curiously enough called Hariana, or "Green land," which lies between Dehli and the Great Sindh Deserts. When Thomas first fixed on it as the seat of his administration, it was a ruin among the fragments of the estates which had belonged to the deceased Najaf Kuli Khan. His first care was to rebuild the fortifications and invite settlers; and such was his reputation, that the people of the adjacent country, long plundered by the wild tribes of Bhatiana, and by the Jats of the Panjab, were not slow in availing themselves of his protection. Here, to use his own words, "I established a mint, and coined my own rupees, which I made current (!) in my army and country . . . . cast my own artillery, commenced making muskets, matchlocks, and powder.....till at length, having gained a capital and country bordering on the Sikh territories, I wished to put myself in a capacity, when a favourable opportunity should offer, of attempting the conquest of the Panjab, and aspired to the honour of placing the British standard on the banks of the Attock."
His new possessions consisted of 14 Pargannas, forming an aggregate of 250 townships, and yielding a total revenue of nearly three lakhs of rupees, Thomas being forced to make very moderate settlements with the farmers in order to realize anything. From his former estates, acquired in the Mahratta service, which he still retained, he derived nearly a lakh and a half more.
Having made these arrangements, Thomas consented to join Vaman Rao, the son of his former patron, in a foray upon the Raja of Jaipur; and in this was nearly slain, only escaping with the loss of his lieutenant, John Morris, and some hundreds of his best men. He then renewed his alliance with Ambaji Sindhia's favourite general, who was about to renew the war against Lakwa Dada in the Udaipur country.
This new campaign was the consequence of Lakwa having connived at the escape of the Bais, a trait of conduct creditable to his regard for the memory of Madhoji Sindhia, his old master, but ruinous to his own interests. For the moment, however, the Dada was completely successful, routing all the detachments sent against him, and taking possession of a considerable portion of Rajputana.
Thomas did not join this campaign without undergoing a fresh danger from the mutiny of his own men. This is a species of peril to which persons in his position seem to have been peculiarly open; and it is related that the infamous Sumroo was sometimes seized by his soldiers, and seated astride upon a heated cannon, in order to extort money from him. In the gallant Irishman the troops had a different subject for their experiments; and the disaffection was soon set at rest by Thomas seizing the ringleaders with his own hands, and having them blown from guns on the spot. This is a concrete exhibition of justice which always commands the respect of Asiatics; and we hear of no more mutinies in Thomas's army.
1800. In 1800 the sailor-Raja led his men once more against their neighbours to the north and northwest of his territories, and gathered fresh laurels. He was now occupied in no less a scheme than the conquest of the entire Panjab, from which enterprise he records that he had intended to return, like another Nearchus, by way of the Indus, to lay his conquests at the feet of George the Third of England. But the national foes of that monarch were soon to abridge the career of his enterprising subject, the Irish Raja of Hansi. For the present, Perron marched into the country of the Dattia Raja, in Bandelkhand, and entirely defeated Lakwa Dada, who soon after cried of his wounds. His success was at first balanced by Holkar, who routed a detachment of the Imperial army, under Colonel Hessing, at Ujain. Hessing's four battalions were completely cut up; and of eleven European officers, seven were slain and three made prisoners. This event occurred in June, 1801. But it was not long before the disaster was retrieved at Indor (the present seat of the Holkar family), by a fresh force under Colonel Sutherland. Holkar lost ninety-eight guns, and his capital was seized and sacked by the victors, about four months after the former battle.
The French commander of the regular troops was indeed now master of the situation. Victorious in the field, in undisturbed possession of the Upper Doab, and with a subordinate of his own nation in charge of the metropolis and person of the sovereign, General Perron was not disposed to brook the presence of a rival and that a Briton in an independent position of sovereignty within a few miles of Dehli. The French sailor and the English sailor having surmounted their respective difficulties, were now, in fact, face to face, each the only rival that the other had to encounter in the Empire of Hindustan.
NOTE. Thomas describes the Begam as small and plump; her complexion fair, her eyes large and animated. She wore the Hindustani costume, made of the most costly materials. She spoke Persian and Urdu fluently, and attended personally to business, giving audience to her native employee behind a screen. At darbars she appeared veiled; but in European society she took her place at table, waited on exclusively by maid-servants. Her statue, surmounting a group in white marble by Tadolini, stands over her tomb in the Church at Sardhana.
Feuds of the Mahrattas Perron attacks Thomas End of Thomas Treaty of Bassein Lord Wellesley Treaty of Lucknow Wellesley supported Fear of the French Sindhia threatened Influence of Perron - Plans of the French The First Consul Wellesley's Views War declared Lake's Force Sindhia's European Officers, English and French Anti-English Feelings and Fall of Perron Battle of Dehli Lake enters the Capital Emperor's Petition No Treaty made.
1801. THE end was now indeed approaching. Had the Mahrattas been united, it is possible that their confederacy might have retrieved the disasters of 1760-1, and attained a position in Hindustan similar to that which was soon after achieved by the Sikhs in the Panjab. But this could not be. The Peshwa still assumed to be Vicegerent of the Empire, as well as head of the Mahrattas, under the titular supremacy of Satara, and Sindhia affected to rule in Hindustan as the Peshwa's Deputy. But the new Peshwa, Baji Rao having dislodged the usurping minister Nana Farnavis had proceeded to provoke the Holkars. Jeswant Rao, the present head of that clan, took up arms against the Peshwa, whose side was espoused by Sindhia; and Sindhia consequently found himself constrained to leave the provinces north of the Narbadda to the charge of subordinates. Of these the most powerful and the most arrogant was the promoted Quarter-Master Sergeant, now General Perron.
As long as the last-named officer was in a subordinate position, he evinced much honourable manhood. But the extremes of prosperity and adversity proved alike the innate vulgarity of the man's nature.
When every hereditary prince, from the Satlaj to the Narbadda, acknowledged him as master, and he enjoyed an income equal to that of the present Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief of India combined; at this climacteric of his fortunes, when he was actually believed to have sent an embassy to the First Consul of the French Republic, instead of seriously and soberly seeking to consolidate his position, or resign it with honour, his insolence prepared the downfall which he underwent with disgrace.
Not content with openly flouting his Mahratta colleagues, and estranging such of the Europeans as were not his connections or his creatures, he now summoned George Thomas to Dehli, and called upon him to enter Sindhia's service in other words, to own his (Perron's) supremacy. The British tar repudiated this invitation with national and professional disdain; upon which a strong Franco-Mahratta army invaded his territories under Louis Bourquin, one of Perron's lieutenants. Judgment formed no part of Thomas's character; but he acted with his wonted decision. Sweeping round the invading host, he fell upon the detachment at Georgegarh one of his forts which was being beleaguered and having routed the besiegers with great loss, threw himself into the place, and protected his front with strong outworks, resolving to await assistance from Holkar, or to seize a favourable opportunity to strike another blow.
Events showed the imprudence of this plan. No aid came; the French being reinforced, invested his camp, so as to produce a blockade: corruption from the enemy joined with their own distress to cause many desertions of Thomas's soldiers, till at length their leader saw no alternative but flight. About 9 P.M. therefore, on the 10th November, 1801, he suddenly darted forth at the head of his personal following, and succeeded in reaching Hansi by a circuitous route, riding the same horse a fine Persian upwards of a hundred miles in less than three days. But his capital was soon invested by his relentless foes as strictly as his camp had been; and although the influence of his character was still shown in the brave defence made by the few select troops whom neither hope nor fear could force from his side, he was at last obliged to see the cruelty of taxing their fidelity any farther. M. Bourquin was much incensed against this obstinate antagonist; but the latter obtained terms through the mediation of the other officers, and was allowed to retire to British territory with the wreck of his fortune, on the 1st of January, 1802. He died in August, on his way down to Calcutta, and was interred at Barhampur. He left a family, of whom the Begam Sumroo at first took charge, but their descendants have now become mixed with the ordinary population of the country.
This extraordinary man was largely endowed by Nature, both morally and physically. During the time of his brief authority he settled a turbulent country, and put down some crimes, such as female infanticide, with which all the power of Britain has not always coped successfully. It would have been profitable to the British Government had they supported him in his manful struggles against Mahratta lawlessness, and against French ambition and ill-will.
1802. The overthrow of Thomas was nearly the last of Sindhia's successes. Having made a final arrangement with the Bais (from whom we here gladly part), he confined his attention to the politics of the Deccan, where he underwent a severe defeat from Holkar, at Punah, in October, 1802. The Peshwa, on whose side Sindhia had been fighting, sought refuge with the British at Bassein, and Holkar obtained temporary possession of the Mahratta capital. On the 31st of December the celebrated treaty of Bassein was concluded with the Peshwa. It appears from the Wellington Dispatches, published by Mr. Owen in 1880, that this treaty was certainly not conceived in a spirit of hostility to Daulat Rao. He was a party directly, to the preceding negotiations and, by the agency of his minister, "to the whole transaction." (Owen's Selection, p. 30.) Still, as Mr. Wheeler has pointed out, this instrument tended to substitute the British as the paramount power in Hindustan (Short History, p. 433), and "shut Sindhia out from the grand object of his ambition, namely, to rule the Mahratta empire in the name of the Peshwa." One of the articles of the treaty debarred the Mahrattas from entertaining French officers. Grant Duff had seen a secret letter written shortly after the date of the treaty by the Peshwa in which he summoned Sindhia to Punah. (II. Grant Duff, p. 384.) Then, not only supplanted by the British as Protector of the Mahratta State, but alarmed on the score of his position in Hindustan, Sindhia began to intrigue with the hitherto inactive Mahratta chief, Raghoji, the Bhonsla Raja of Nagpur.
Aided by the British under the already famous Arthur Wellesley, the Peshwa soon regained his metropolis, which Sindhia was preparing to occupy. That chief was still further estranged in consequence of the disappointment.
Holkar now held aloof, wisely resolving to remain neutral, at least until his rival should be either overthrown or irresistible. The Governor- General, Marquis Wellesley, apprised by his brother and other political officers of the intrigues of Sindhia, demanded from the latter a categorical explanation of his intentions. And this not being given, General Wellesley was ordered to open the campaign in the Deccan, while General Lake co-operated in the Doab of Hindustan.
In order to appreciate the grounds of this most important measure, it will be necessary to break through the rule by which I have been hitherto guided of keeping nothing before the reader besides the affairs of Hindustan proper. The motives of Lord Wellesley formed part of a scheme of policy embracing nearly the whole inhabited world; and whether we think him right or wrong, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the virtual assumption of the Moghul Empire at this time was due to his personal character and political projects.
As far back as February, 1801, the Governor-General had co-operated in European affairs by sending a contingent to Egypt under General Baird; though the force arrived too late to participate actively in a campaign by which the French were expelled from that country. A twelvemonth later the Marquis received official intimation of the virtual conclusion of the negotiations on which was based the Peace of Amiens. In the interval he had sent his brother, Mr. Henry Wellesley, to Lucknow, and had concluded through that agency the famous treaty of the 10th November, 1801, by which British rule was introduced into Gorakpur, the Eastern and Central Doab, and a large part of Rohilkand. The immediate result of this will be seen ere long.
Having inaugurated these important changes in the position of British power in the East, Lord Wellesley now notified to the Court of Directors (by whom he had conceived himself thwarted), his intention to resign his office, and to return to Europe in the following December. At the same time he issued to General Lake, the Commander-in-Chief, instructions for a substantial reduction of the forces. He added however the following remarkable words: "It is indispensable to our safety in India that we should be prepared to meet any future crisis of war with unembarrassed resources;" words whereby he showed that even reduction was undertaken with an eye to future exertions. In a similar spirit he rebuked the naval Commander Admiral Rainier, for refusing to employ against the Mauritius the forces that had been set free by the evacuation of Egypt; laying down in terms as decided as courtesy permitted the principle that, as responsible agent, he had a right to be implicitly obeyed by all His Majesty's servants.
And that bold assertion received the approbation of King George III., in a despatch of the 5th May; the further principle being communicated by the writer, Lord Hobart, in His Majesty's name, "that it should be explicitly understood that in the distant possessions of the British empire during the existence of war, the want of the regular authority should not preclude an attack upon the enemy in any case that may appear calculated to promote the public interest."
Thus fortified, the Governor-General was persuaded to reconsider his intention of at once quitting India, the more so since the terms in which the Court of Directors recorded their desire that he should do so, displayed an almost equal confidence, and amounted, if not to any apology for past obstruction, at least to a promise of support for the future. In his despatch of 24th December, 1802, Lord Wellesley plainly alluded to the opening for extending the British power in India which he considered to be offered by the then pending treaty of Bassein, though at the same time he records, apparently without apprehension, the intention of Sindhia to proceed from Ujan towards Punah to counteract the machinations of Holkar. On the 11th February, 1803, Lord Wellesley signified his willingness to remain at his post another year, though without referring to any military or political prospects.
But the direction in which his eye was constantly cast is soon betrayed by a despatch of the 27th March, to General Lake, conveying instructions for negotiating with General Perron, who, from motives we shall briefly notice lower down, was anxious to retire from the service of Sindhia. In this letter Lord Wellesley plainly says, "I am strongly disposed to accelerate Hr. Perron's departure, conceiving it to be an event which promises much advantage to our power in India."
It appears, nevertheless, from the Marquis's address to the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors of 19th April, 1803, that, up to that time, he still entertained hopes that Sindhia would remain inactive, and would see his advantage in giving his adhesion to the treaty of Bassein, if not from friendship for England, from hostility to Holkar, against whom that settlement was primarily and ostensibly directed. Meanwhile, advices continued to arrive from Europe, showing the extremely precarious nature of the Peace of Amiens, and the imminent probability of a renewal of hostilities with France, thus keeping awake the Governor-General's jealousy of Sindhia's French officers, and delaying the restoration of French possessions in India, which had been promised by the treaty.
In May the Marquis proceeded explicitly to forbid the crossing of the Narbadda by Sindhia, and to warn the Bhonsla Raja of Berar or Nagpur against joining in the schemes of the former chief, to whom a long and forcible despatch was sent, through the Resident, Colonel Collins, in the early part of the following month (vide W. Desp. p. 120). In this letter Colonel Collins while vested with much discretionary power was distinctly instructed to "apprise Scindiah (Sindhia) that his proceeding to Poonah, under any pretext whatever, will infallibly involve him in hostilities with the British power." The Resident was also to require from him "an explanation with regard to the object of any confederacy" with the Bhonsla chiefs of Berar and Nagpur, or with Holkar. Sindhia met all these approaches with the Oriental resources of equivocation and delay; apparently unable either to arrange with due rapidity any definite understanding with the other Mahratta leaders, or to make up his mind, or persuade his chief advisers to give a confident and unconditional reception to the friendship offered him by the British ruler. Whether the latter course would have saved him is a question that now can only be decided by each person's interpretation of the despatches above analysed.
Those who desire to study the subject further may refer to the first volume of Malcolm's Political History, to Mill's History, and to Grant Duff's concluding volume, but will hardly obtain much result from their labour. On the one hand, it may be presumed that, had the British Government really been ambitious of extending their North-Western frontier, they would have assisted Thomas in 1801; on the other hand, it is certain that they supplanted Sindhia at Punah soon afterwards, and that they had for some years been exceedingly jealous of French influence in India. In this connection should also be mentioned the invasion planned by the Czar Paul, in concert with the First Consul, in 1800, of which the details were first made public in English by Mr. Michell (Rawlinson's England and Russia in the East, p. 187). The general fact of Paul's submission to the ascendancy of Napoleon was, of course, well known to British statesmen at the time. There was also the fear of an Afghan invasion, which led to the mission of Malcolm to Persia, and which was, perhaps, not the mere bugbear which it now appears. A masterly statement of Lord Wellesley's political complications will be found in his brother's Memorandum, given as an Introduction to Professor Owen's Selection, published in 1880. It is quite clear, again, that Sindhia, for his part, was not unwilling to see the British espouse the Peshwa's cause as against Holkar; while it is highly probable that his mind was worked upon by Perron when the latter found himself under combined motives of self-interest and of national animosity.
The French General had been losing favour on account of his increasing unpopularity among the native chiefs of the army; and had been so contumeliously treated by Daulat Rao Sindhia at Ujain, in the beginning of the year 1803, that he had resigned the service. But hardly was the treaty of Bassein communicated to Sindhia, when Perron consented to remain at his post, and even, it is believed, drew up a plan for hostilities against the British, although the latter had shown as yet no intention of declaring war, but, on the contrary, still maintained a minister in Sindhia's camp. These facts, together with the statistics that follow, are chiefly derived from the memoirs of an Anglo-Indian officer of Perron's, the late Colonel James Skinner, which have been edited by Mr. Baillie Fraser. "Sindhia and Raghoji together" (Raghoji was the name of the Bhonsla of Nagpur) "had about 100,000 men, of whom 50,000 were Mahratta horse, generally good, 30,000 regular infantry and artillery, commanded by Europeans; the rest half-disciplined troops. Sindhia is understood to have had more than 300 pieces of cannon. The army of Hindustan, under Perron, consisted of 16,000 to 17,000 regular infantry, and from 15,000 to 20,000 horse, with not less than twenty pieces of artillery." It may be added, on the authority of Major Thorn, that his army was commanded by about three hundred European officers, of whom all but forty were French. In this estimate must be included the forces of the Begam Sumroo.
The French plans, as far as they can now be learned, were as follows: The blind and aged Shah Alam was to be continued upon the Imperial throne, under the protection of the French Republic. "This great question being decided," proceeds the memorial from which I am extracting, "it remains to consider whether it is not possible that the branches of that unfortunate family may find protectors who shall assert their sacred rights and break their ignominious chains. It will then follow that mutual alliance and a judicious union of powers will secure the permanent sovereignty of the Emperor, to render his subjects happy in the enjoyment of personal security and of that wealth which springs from peace, agriculture, and free trade. The English Company, by its ignominious treatment of the great Moghul, has forfeited its rights as Deewan of the Empire." ("Memoir of Lieutenant Lefebre," 6th August, 1803.)
Lord Wellesley himself records this document, which was found in Pondicherry, it does not appear exactly how or when; he may have had an inkling of the policy previously, but the date is sufficient to show that he had not seen it before going to war with Sindhia. Lord Wellesley refers, about the same time, to the magnitude of the establishment sent out to take possession of the settlements which the French were to recover in India by the Peace of Amiens, an establishment obviously too large for the mere management of Pondicherry and Chandarnagar.
Perhaps the memoir in question (which was drawn up by an officer of the staff sent out on that occasion) may have expressed correctly the intentions which the First Consul held at the time; for nobody appears to have been very sincere or much in earnest on either side at the Peace of Amiens. And it is not impossible that the paper expresses intentions which might have been more thoroughly carried out had not the terrible explosion in St. Domingo subsequently diverted the attention of the French Government to another hemisphere. At all events it is a thinly-veiled pretext of aggression; and the accusations against the English are scandalously false, as will be clear to those who may have perused the preceding pages. Considering that it was Perron's own employer who kept the Imperial House in penury and durance, it was the extreme of impudence for one of Perron's compatriots to retort the charge upon the English, to whom Shah Alam was indebted for such brief gleams of good fortune as he had ever enjoyed, and whose only offence against him had been a fruitless attempt to withhold him from that premature return to Dehli, which had been the beginning of his worst misfortunes. It was, moreover, a gross exaggeration to call the British the Diwans of the empire now, whatever may have once been their titular position in Bengal. On the 6th of July Lord Wellesley received from the ministry in England a hint that war with France would be likely to be soon renewed; and on the 8th of the same month he addressed to his commander-in-chief a short private letter, of which the following extract shows the purport: "I wish you to understand, my dear Sir, that I consider the reduction of Sindhia's power on the north-west frontier of Hindustan to be an important object in proportion to the probability of a war with France. M. de Boigne (Sindhia's late general) is now the chief confident of Bonaparte; he is constantly at St. Cloud. I leave you to judge why and wherefore." (Desp. III. 182.)
The Governor-General here shows his own views, although his sagacity probably overleaped itself in the imputation against de Boigne, for which I have found no other authority. Ten days later he sends Lake more detailed instructions, closing his covering letter with a sentence especially worthy of the reader's attention: "I consider an active effort against Scindhia and Berar to be the best possible preparation for the renewal of the war with France." There is little doubt of this being the key-note of the policy that led the British to the conquest of Hindustan. Vide App. E.
On the 31st July, General Wellesley wrote to the Resident at the court of Sindhia (Colonel Collins) stating that the reasons assigned by the confederates for not withdrawing their troops were illusory, and ordering Collins to leave their camp at once. On the 15th August Lord Wellesley received a packet, which the collector of Moradabad had transmitted nearly a month before, containing translation of a letter from the Nawab of Najibabad, Bhanbu Khan, brother of the late Gholam Kadir, covering copy of a circular letter in which Sindhia was attempting to stir him and the other chiefs against the English as "that unprincipled race"; and begging them to co-operate with General Perron. War, however, had already been declared, and a letter addressed by the Governor-General to Shah Alam.
The force with which General Lake was to meet the 35,000 Franco-Mahrattas in Hindustan, consisted of eight regiments of cavalry, of which three were European, one corps of European infantry, and eleven battalions of Sepoys, beside a proper complement of guns, with two hundred British artillerymen, making a total of 10,500, exclusive of the brigade at Anupshahar.
The assembling of this force on the immediate frontier of the dominion occupied by Sindhia and the French, had been facilitated by the treaty of the 10th November, 1801, by which Saadat Ali Khan, whom the British had lately raised to the Viceroyship of Audh, had ceded to them the frontier provinces above named. This cession was made in commutation for the subsidy which the Nawab had been required to pay for the maintenance of the force by which he was supported against his own subjects. The Peshwa had previously ceded a portion of Bundelkand by the treaty of Bassein, and the red colour was thus surely, if slowly, creeping over the map of India. Perron resisted the cession of the new frontier under the treaty of Lucknow. The "Old Resident" makes the following note on the subject: "When the British came to Sasnee, which was ceded by the Nawab Wuzier of Lucknow by a treaty in 1802 to Government, the Pergunnahs of Sasnee, Akberabad, Jellalee, and Secundra came under British rule, but not without much bloodshed in the sieges of Sasnee, Bijey Gurh and Kuchoura fortresses; in all these places we buried the remains of British officers who first shed their blood for their King and country. At Sasnee the masonry graves in a decayed condition are still to be seen. At Bijey Gurh they are in the low 'Duhur' lands apart from the Fort, and at the Kuchoura in Locus Kanugla, lies the tomb of Major Naivve, Commanding the 2nd Cavalry, who was shot whilst leading his men to the assault. A surviving relation of the above officer had a monument built in 1853 at Bhudwas, on the Trunk Road, with the original tablet which was torn off from the tomb by the villagers, and by chance discovered by a European overseer of the roads after a lapse of fifty years."
In Sindhia's armies there were, as we have seen, a number of officers who were not Frenchmen. These were mostly half-castes, or (to use a term subsequently invented) Eurasians, Europeo-Asiatics, or persons of mixed blood; in other words, the offspring of connections which British officers in those days often formed with native females. Nearly all these officers, whether British or half-British, were upon this occasion discharged from the service by Perron, who had probably very good reason to believe that they would not join in fighting against the army of their own sovereign. Carnegie, Stewart, Ferguson, Lucan, two Skinners, Scott, Birch, and Woodville, are the only names recorded, but there may have been others also who were dismissed from the army at Perron's disposal. The prospects of those who were absent on duty in the Deccan, and elsewhere, soon became far more serious. Though not at present dismissed, they were mostly reserved for a still harder fate. Holkar beheaded Colonel Vickers and seven others; Captain Mackenzie and several more were confined, and subsequently massacred, by orders of Sindhia; others perished "in wild Mahratta battle," fighting for money in causes not their own, nor of the smallest importance to the world. General Wellesley complained, after the battle of Assai, of "Sindhia's English officers." He says that his wounded men heard them give orders for their massacre as they lay upon the field, and promises to send up a list of their names after full inquiry (Owen, 311). No such list has ever been heard of; and it appears, from Lewis F. Smith's memoir, that the European officers there present were all French, or Italian, or German. It is barely possible that they used English in conversing, certainly not probable; but the story was very likely prompted by the imagination of the wounded men who saw white faces among the enemy and concluded that they must be their own countrymen. The only European officers known to have been engaged on the Mahratta side are Pohlmann and Dupont (both named by Wellesley) and Saleur of the Begam's service who commanded the baggage-guard; with perhaps, J. B. da Fontaine.
Although the French officers were now without any Christian rivals, it does not appear that their position was a satisfactory one. The reader may refer to Law's remarks on this subject, during the Emperor's unsuccessful attempts to the eastward. The isolation and impossibility of trusting native colleagues, of which that gallant adventurer complained, were still, and always must be, fatal to the free exercise of civilized minds serving an Asiatic ruler. All the accounts that we have of those times combine to show that, whoever was the native master, the condition of the European servant was precarious, and his influence for good weak. On the 24th of June, 1802, Colonel Collins, the British Resident at the Court of Sindhia, had written thus to his Government in regard to Perron whom he had lately visited at Aligarh: "General Perron has been peremptorily directed by Sindhia to give up all the Mahals (estates) in his possession not appertaining to his own jaidad (fief); and I understand that the General is highly displeased with the conduct of Sindhia's ministers on this occasion, insomuch that he entertains serious intentions of relinquishing his present command."
This intention, as we have already seen, was at one time on the point of being carried out, and Perron was evidently at the time sincere in his complaints.
It is not however possible to use, as Mill does, these discontents alleged by Perron in conversation with a British political officer as a complete proof of his not having had, towards the British, hostile views of his own. The whole tenor of Colonel Skinner's Memoir, already frequently cited (the work, be it remembered, of a person in the service at the time), is to show an intense feeling of hostility on Perron's part towards the British, both as a community of individuals and as a power in India. It is more than probable that but for the Treaty of Bassein, which gave the British in India the command of the Indian Ocean and the Western Coast, and but for the contemporaneous successes of Abercromby and Hutchinson in Egypt, Perron, supported by the troops of the French Republic, might have proved to the British a most formidable assailant. Skinner gives a graphic account of his vainly attempting to get reinstated by Perron, who said: "Go away, Monsieur Skinner! I no trust." He would not trust officers with British blood and sympathies.
But such was the fortune, and such were the deserts of those by whom England was at that time served, that they were able, without much expense of either time or labour, to conquer the half-hearted resistance of the French, and the divided councils of the Mahrattas. Holkar not only did not join Sindhia, but assisted the British cause by his known rivalry. Arthur Wellesley gave earnest of his future glory by the hard-fought battle of Assai, in which the Begam Sumroo's little contingent, under its French officers, gave Sindhia what support they could; and General Lake overthrew the resistance of M. Perron's army at Aligarh, and soon reduced the Fort, in spite of the gallant defence offered by the garrison. Mention has been made of this Fort in the account of the overthrow of Najaf Khan's successors by Sindhia (sup. p. 145). Since those days it had been much improved. The following is the account of the Dehli Gazette's "old Resident." "The Fort of Allyqurh was made by the Jauts while the place was under the Delhi Kings. Nawab Nujjuff Khan, the Governor, improved the fortification, and de Boigne brought it into a regular defensive state according to the French system. Perron and Pedron subsequently added their skill in strengthening the fortress, which commanded a wide open plain, the most part being under water during the heavy rains on account of the lands being low." The gate was blown in and the place rapidly stormed by the 76th, piloted by a Mr. Lucan, who was made a captain in the British service for his treachery. He was afterwards taken prisoner during Monson's retreat and put to death by Holkar's orders. The enemy were commanded by natives, having withdrawn their confidence from Perron's French Lieutenant, Colonel Pedron, who was on that occasion made prisoner by the troops. Perron himself, having first retreated upon Agra, and thence on Mathra, came over to the English with two subordinates, and was at once allowed a free passage to Chandarnagar with his family and his property. Bourquien, who commanded the army in Dehli, attempted to intrigue for the chief command, but was put under arrest by his native officers; and the Mahratta army, like sheep without a shepherd, came out to meet the advancing British on the Hindan, a few miles to the east of the capital, on the old road from the town of Sikandrabad, so often mentioned in this narrative. After they had killed six officers and about 160 men by a furious cannonade, their obstinacy was broken down by the undeniable and well-disciplined pertinacity of the 27th Dragoons and the 76th Foot; and they suffered a loss of 3,000 men and sixty-eight pieces of artillery, mounted in the best French style. This decisive victory was gained on the 11th September, 1803; when on the 14th the army crossed the Jamna, and General Bourquien, with four other French officers, threw themselves upon British protection. Their example was soon after followed by the Chevalier du Drenec and two other officers from the army of the Deccan; and shortly after by Hessing and other European officers in command of the garrison at Agra, which had at first confined them, but afterwards capitulated through their mediation.
No sooner did the ill-starred Emperor hear of the sudden overthrow of his custodians, than he opened formal negotiations with the British General, with whom he had been already treating secretly. The result was that on the 16th, the Heir Apparent, Mirza Akbar, was despatched to wait upon General Lake in camp, and conduct him to the presence of the blind old man, who was the legitimate and undoubted fountain of all honour and power in Hindustan. The prince vindicated his dignity in a manner peculiar to Asiatics, by keeping the conqueror waiting for three hours. The cavalcade was at last formed, and, after a slow progress of five miles, reached the palace as the sun was setting. Rapid motion was rendered impossible by the dense collection of nearly 100,000 persons in the narrow ways; and even the courts of the Palace were on this occasion thronged with spectators, free at last. A tattered awning had been raised over the entrance to the famous Diwan-i-Khas, and underneath, on a mockery of a throne, was seated the descendant of Akbar and of Aurangzeb. It would be interesting to know what was the exact manner of General Lake's reception, and what were the speeches on either side; but the inflated enthusiasm of the "Court-Newsman," and the sonorous generalities of Major Thorn and the Marquess Wellesley, are all the evidence which survives. According to the latter, the people of Dehli were filled with admiring joy, and the Emperor with dignified thankfulness; according to the former, so great was the virtue of the joyful tears shed on this occasion by the Monarch, that they restored his eyesight the eyesight destroyed fifteen years before by Gholam Kadir's dagger. Such is the nature of the stones offered by these writers to the seeker for historical nourishment.
What is certain is, that the British General received the title of Khan Dauran, which was considered the second in the Empire, and which implied perhaps a recognition of the claims of the Audh Nawab to be hereditary Vazir; while the British Government "waived all question of the Imperial prerogative and authority" in other words virtually reserved them to itself. The Emperor was only sovereign in the city and small surrounding district; and even that sovereignty was to be exercised under the control of a British Resident, who was to pay his Majesty the net proceeds, besides a monthly stipend of 90,000 rupees.
These conditions received the sanction of Government, and are recorded in despatches. No treaty is forthcoming; although native tradition asserts that one was executed, but afterwards suppressed; the copy recorded in the palace archives having been purloined at the instigation of the British. This suspicion is entirely unfounded; no treaty was ever concluded with Shah Alam, though his Majesty formed the subject of a clause in the treaty with Sindhia. This is of importance, as serving to show the position to which the Court of Directors was supposed to have succeeded; namely to that of Vakil-mutlak or Plenipotentiary Vicegerent of the Empire, in the room of the Mahratta Peshwa and his once all-powerful Deputy. They were subjects of George III., no doubt, but servants of Shah Alam; money continued to be struck in the Emperor's name, and the laws then prevailing in Hindustan remained in force. The very disclaimer of all intention to usurp the royal prerogative or assert "on the part of His Majesty (Shah Alam) any of the claims which, as Emperor of Hindustan he might be considered to possess upon the provinces composing the Moghul Empire," is full of significance.
On the 1st November Lake overthrew the brigade of du Drenec in the bloody battle of Laswari; and Arthur Wellesley having been equally victorious a second time in the Deccan, Sindhia consented to the Treaty of Sarji-Arjangaon. By that instrument Daulat. Rao Sindhia ceded, besides other territories, all his conquests in the Doab.
Thus passed into the hands of British delegates the administration of the sceptre of Hindustan: a sceptre which had been swayed with success as long as it protected life, order, and property, leaving free scope to conduct, to commerce, and to conscience; nor failed in discharging the former class of obligations until after it had ceased to recognize the latter.
Effects of climate Early immigrants French and English Mohammedan power not overthrown by British Perron's administration Changes since then The Talukdars - Lake's friendly intentions Talukdars' misconduct Their power curbed No protection for life, property, or traffic Such things still dependent on foreign aid Conclusion.
AFTER many blunderings and much labour, the judgment of history appears to have formed the final conclusion that the physical conditions of a given country will always be the chief determining agents in forming the national character of those who inhabit it; and that the people of one country, transplanted into another, where the soil and the sun act in a manner to which they have not been accustomed, will, in the course of a few generations, exhibit habits of mind and body very different to what characterized them in their original seats.
It is therefore without legitimate cause for surprise that we hear from scholars that the feeble folk of Hindustan are the direct and often unmixed representatives of the dominant races of the world. To begin with the Hindus: the Brahmans and some of the other classes are believed to be descended from the brave and civilized peoples of ancient Asia, of whom sacred and profane writers make such frequent mention, of some of the founders of Nineveh and Babylon, and of the later empire of the Medes and Persians, which was on the eve of subjugating Europe when stopped by the Greeks at Marathon and Salamis. Nay, more, the ancient Greeks and Romans themselves, together with the modern inhabitants of Europe, are alike descended from the same grand stock.
The Mohamadans, again, are mainly of three noble tribes. The earlier Mohamadan invaders of India belonged to the victorious Arabian warriors of the Crescent, or to their early allies, the bold mountaineers of Ghazni and of Ghor; and their descendants are still to be found in India, chiefly under the names respectively of Shaikh and Pathan. A few Saiyids will also be found of this stock.
In later days came hordes of Turks and Mongols (Tartars as they are generically though inaccurately called by Europeans), the people of Janghiz and of Timur, terrible us the locusts of prophecy the land before them like the garden of Eden, and behind them a desolate wilderness.
To these, again, succeeded many Persians, chiefly Saiyids, or so-called descendants of the Prophet; a later race of Afghans, also called Pathans, and a fresh inroad of Tartars (converted to Islam) who finally founded the Moghul Empire. Under the regime thus established the civilization of India assumed a Persian type; and the term "Moghul" in the present day, in India signifies rather a Persian than a Turkman or Tartar. They add the word "Beg" to their names, and are usually of the Shiah denomination; as also are the descendants of the Persian Saiyids. The Saiyids of Arab origin take the title of "Mir;" the Pathans are commonly known by the affix "Khan." All but the offspring of converted Hindus represent foreign invasions by races more warlike than the people of India.
All these mighty conquerors, one after another, succumbed to the enervating nature of the climate of Hindustan, with its fertile soil and scanty motives to an exertion which, in that heat, must always be peculiarly unwelcome.
It is not, however, the heat alone which causes this degeneracy. Arabia is one of the hottest countries in the world, but the Arabs have at one time or another overthrown both the Roman Empire of Byzantium and the Gothic monarchy of Spain. On the other hand, the lovely climate of Kashmir produces men more effeminate than the Hindustanis, some of whom indeed, notably the peasantry of the Upper Doab, are often powerful men, innured to considerable outdoor labour; their country is far hotter. But the curse of Hindustan, as of Kashmir, and more or less of all countries where life is easy, lies in the absence of motives to sustained exertion; owing to which emulation languishes into envy, and the competitive instincts, missing their true vent, exhibit themselves chiefly in backbiting and malice. Whatever advantage may be derived by Kashmiris from their climate is shown in the superiority of their intellects.
Hence, after the battle of Panipat, 1761, which exhausted the victors almost as much as it exhausted the vanquished, and left Hindustan so completely plundered as to afford no further incitements to invasion, little other immigration took place; and the effete and worn-out inhabitants were left to wrangle, in their own degenerate way, over the ruined greatness of their fathers. The anarchy and misery to the mass of the population that marked these times have been partly shown to the reader of these pages.
But there was fresh blood at hand from a most unexpected quarter. Bred in a climate which gives hardness to the frame (while it increases the number of human wants as much as it does the difficulty of satisfying them), the younger sons of the poorer gentry of England and France, then (at least) the two most active nations of Europe, began to seek in both hemispheres those means of sharing in the gifts of fortune which were denied to them by the laws and institutions of their own countries. Their struggles convulsed India and America at once. Still the empire of Hindustan did not fall by their contests there; nor were the valour and ambition of the new comers the only causes of its fall when at last the catastrophe arrived. But when, to predisposing causes, there was now added the grossest incompetence on the part of nearly all natives concerned in the administration, it became inevitable that one or other of the competing European nations should grasp the prize. Any one who wishes to study this subject in its romantic details should refer to Colonel Malleson's two works on the French in India. Living under a better Home Government, and more regularly supported and supplied, the English prevailed.
In sketching a part of the process of substituting foreign rule for anarchy, it has been my task to exhibit the main events which caused, or accompanied the preparation of the tabula rasa, upon which was to be traced the British Empire of India. It has been shown that the occupation of the seaboard, and a few of the provinces thereto contiguous, long constituted the whole of the position; and that it was only in self-protection, and after long abstinence, that the "Company of Merchants" finally assumed the central power. Upper India, in the meanwhile, stood to their Calcutta Government in a very similar relation to that occupied, successively, by the Panjab and by Afghanistan in later times towards its successors. This, though absolutely true, has been popularly ignored, owing to the accident of Calcutta continuing to be the chief seat of the Supreme Government after the empire had become British; but the events of 1857 are sufficient to show that, for the native imagination, Hindustan is the centre, and Dehli still the metropolis of the Empire. The idea, however, that the British have wrested the Empire from the Mohamadans is a mistake. The Mohamadans were beaten down almost everywhere except in Bengal before the British appeared upon the scene; Bengal they would not have been able to hold, and the name of the "Mahratta Ditch" of Calcutta shows how near even the British there were to extirpation by India's new masters. Had the British not won the battles of Plassey and Buxar, the whole Empire would ere now have become the fighting ground of Sikhs, Rajputs, and Mahrattas. Except the Nizam of the Deccan there was not a vigorous Musalman ruler in India after the firman of Farokhsiar in 1716; the Nizam owed his power to the British after the battle of Kurdla (sup. p. 229), and it was chiefly British support that maintained the feeble shadow of the Moghul Empire, from the death of Alamgir II. to the retirement of Mr. Hastings. Not only Haidarabad but all the other existing Musalman principalities of modern India owe their existence, directly, or indirectly, to the British intervention.
It only now remains to notice, as well as the available materials will permit, what was the social condition of these capital territories of the empire when they passed into the hands of the ultimate conquerors.
Perhaps the best picture is that presented in a work published by order of the local Government, more than half a century later, upon the condition of that portion of the country which was under the personal management of the French general.
This record informs us that, having obtained this territory for the maintenance of the army, Perron reigned over it in the plenitude of sovereignty. "He maintained all the state and dignity of an oriental despot, contracting alliances with the more potent Rajahs and overawing by his military superiority, the petty chiefs. At Dehli, and within the circuit of the imperial dominions, his authority was paramount to that of the Emperor. His attention was chiefly directed to the prompt realization of revenue. Pargannahs were generally farmed; a few were allotted as jaidad to chiefs on condition of military service; [of the lands in the neighbourhood of Aligarh] the revenue was collected by the large bodies of troops always concentrated at head-quarters. A brigade was stationed at Sikandrabad for the express purpose of realizing collections. In the event of any resistance on the part of a land-holder, who might be in balance, a severe and immediate example was made by the plunder and destruction of his village; and life was not unfrequently shed in the harsh and hasty measures which were resorted to. The arrangements for the administration of justice were very defective; there was no fixed form of procedure, and neither Hindu nor Mohamadan law was regularly administered. The suppression of crime was regarded as a matter of secondary importance. There was an officer styled the Bakshi Adalat, whose business was to receive reports from the Amils [officials] in the interior, and communicate General Perron's orders respecting the disposal of any offenders apprehended by them. No trial was held; the proof rested on the Amil's report, and the punishment was left to General Perron's judgment.
"Such was the weakness of the administration that the Zamindars tyrannized over the people with impunity, levying imposts at their pleasure, and applying the revenues solely to their own use." The "Old Resident" thus compares the past and present of Aligarh: "Under the native rule no one attempted to build a showy masonry house for fear of being noticed as one possessing property, and thus become subject to heavy taxations. Even in de Boigne and Perron's time it was the same as before, people lived in a very low state both as regards their food and clothes, their marriages were not costly, and none of their females dared to put jewels on. In such a state of things, the well-to-do accumulated money and could not enjoy it, they buried it under ground, and often from death and other causes the wealth got into other hands by the sudden discovery of the place. What a mighty change in the space of seventy years the city of Coel bears now to what it did before? elegant houses now stand in the city everywhere, and the market is well stocked with articles of trade and consumption. Bankers and money changers have their shops open, free from any apprehension of danger, and the females go about with their trinkets and jewels, all enjoying the wholesome protection of law. The bazar street of the city of Coel was very narrow in Perron's time, and neither he nor de Boigne ever paid any attention to the improvement or welfare of the people. Their time was principally occupied in military tactics and preserving order in the country. They knew and were told by their own officers that their rule was only for the time being, and that a war with Scindhia would change the state of affairs, and with it eventually these provinces."
From a report written so near the time as 1808 confirmation of these statements is readily obtained. The Collector of Aligarh, in addressing the Board formed for constructing a system of administration in the conquered provinces, recommended cautious measures in regard to the assessment of the land tax or Government rental. He stated that, in consequence of former misrule, and owing to the ravages of famine in 1785, and other past seasons, or to the habits induced by years of petty but chronic warfare, the land was fallen, in a great measure, into a state of nature. He anticipated an increase in cultivation and revenue of thirty-two per cent., if six years of peace should follow.
The great landholders, whether originally officials, or farmers who had succeeded in making good a position before the conquest, were numerous in this neighbourhood. The principal persons of importance were, to the westward, Jats, from Bhartpur; the eastward, Musalmans descended from converted Bargujar Rajputs. The long dissensions of the past had swept away the Moghul nobility, few or none of whom now held land on any large scale.
These Jats and these Musalmans were among the ancestors of the famous Talukdars of the North-West Provinces; and as the limitation of their power has been the subject of much controversy, justice to the earlier British administrators requires that we should carefully note the position which they had held under the Franco-Mahratta rule, and the conditions under which they become members of British India.
We have already seen that the Talukdars (to use by anticipation a term now generally understood, though not applied to the large landholders at the time) were in the habit of making unauthorized collections, which they applied to their own use. Every considerable village had its Sayar Chabutra (customs-platform), where goods in transit paid such dues as seemed good to the rural potentates. Besides this, they derived a considerable income from shares in the booty acquired by highwaymen and banditti, of whom the number was constantly maintained by desertions from the army, and was still further swollen at the conquest by the general disbandment which ensued.
Both of these sources of emolument were summarily condemned by General Lake; though he issued a proclamation guaranteeing the landholders in the full possession of their legitimate rights. But the rights of fighting one another, and of plundering traders, were as dear to the Barons of Hindustan as ever they had been to their precursors in medival Europe; and, in the fancied security of their strong earthen ramparts, they very generally maintained these unsocial privileges.
So far back as the beginning of 1803, before war had been declared upon Sindhia, the whole force of the British in Upper India, headed by the Commander-in-Chief himself, had been employed in the reduction of some of the forts in that portion of the Doab which had been ceded by the Nawab of Audh during the preceding year. The same course was pursued, after long forbearance, towards the Musalman chiefs of the conquered provinces. In December, 1804, they had rebelled in the neighbourhood of Aligarh, and occupied nearly the whole of the surrounding district. Captain Woods, commanding the fort of Aligarh, could only occasionally spare troops for the collector's support; and the rebellion was not finally suppressed until the following July, by a strong detachment sent from headquarters. They again broke out in October, 1806, after having in the interim amassed large supplies by the plunder of their tenantry; the whole of the northern part of the Aligarh district, and the southern part of the adjoining district of Bolandshahar were overrun; the forts of Kamona and Ganora were armed and placed in a state of defence; and the former defended against the British army under Major-General Dickens, on the 19th November, 1807, with such effect that the loss of the assailants, in officers and men, exceeded that sustained in many pitched battles. The subjugation of the tribe shortly followed.
The Jat Talukdars of the Aligarh district were not finally reduced to submission for nearly ten years more; and there is reason to believe that during this long interval they had continued to form the usual incubus upon the development of society, by impeding commerce and disturbing agriculture. At length the destruction of the fort of Hatras and the expulsion of Daya Ram the contumacious Raja, put the finishing stroke to this state of things in March, 1817.
It may be fairly assumed that the protection of life and property, and that amount of security under which merchants will distribute the productions of other countries, and husbandmen raise the means of subsistence from the soil, are among the primary duties of Government. But in the dark days of which our narrative has had to take note, such obligations had not been recognized.
"It is a matter of fact," say the authors of the "Statistics" before me, "that in those days the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through by-ways. The facility of escape into the Begam Sumroo's territories, the protection afforded by the heavy jungles and numerous forts which then studded the country, and the ready sale for plundered property, combined to foster robbery."
A special force was raised by the British conquerors, and placed under the command of Colonel Gardner, distinguished Mahratta officer. His exertions were completely successful, as far as the actual gangs then in operation were concerned; but unfortunately they were soon encouraged to renewed attempts by the countenance which they received from Hira Sing, another Jat Talukdar. This system also was finally concluded by the destruction of the Raja of Hatras; nor will fourteen years appear a long time for the reorganization of order, which had been in abeyance for more than forty.
The following extract from Vol. I. of Forbes's Oriental Memoirs, is the result of observations made in a more southern part of the country between 1763 and 1783, and published, not with a purpose, or in controversy, but in the calm evening of retirement, and at least thirty years later. "Marre was the nearest Mahratta town of consequence to the hot wells; by crossing the river it was within a pleasant walk, and we made frequent excursions to an excavated mountain in its vicinity. Marre is fortified, large, and populous; the governor resided at Poona, inattentive to the misery of the people, whom his duan, or deputy, oppressed in a cruel manner; indeed the system of the Mahratta government is so uniformly oppressive that it appears extraordinary to hear of a mild and equitable administration; venality and corruption guide the helm of State and pervade the departments; if the sovereign requires money the men in office and governors of provinces must supply it; the arbitrary monarch seldom inquires by what means it is procured; this affords them an opportunity of exacting a larger sum from their duans, who fleece the manufacturers and farmers to a still greater amount than they had furnished; thus the country is subjected to a general system of tyranny. From the chieftains and nobles of the realm to the humblest peasant in a village, neither the property nor the life of a subject can be called his own. When Providence has blessed the land with the former and the latter rain, and the seed sown produces an hundredfold, the Indian ryot, conscious that the harvest may be reaped by other hands, cannot like an English farmer behold his ripening crop with joyful eyes; his cattle are in the same predicament; liable to be seized, without a compensation, for warlike service or any other despotic mandate; money he must not be known to possess; if by superior talent or persevering industry he should have accumulated a little more than his neighbours, he makes no improvements, lives no better than before, and through fear and distrust buries it in the earth, without informing his children of the concealment." And again at Vol. II. p. 339 "Of all Oriental despots the arbitrary power of the Mahrattas falls perhaps with the most oppressive weight; they extort money by every kind of vexatious cruelty, without supporting commerce, agriculture, and the usual sources of wealth and prosperity in well-governed States." We have further pictures of native rule, drawn in 1807, by the collectors of the newly-acquired districts of Etawah and Koel, and to be found at pages 314 and 337 of the North-West Provinces Selections from Revenue Records, published in 1873. Says the Collector of Etawah; "The warlike tribes of this country, from disposition and habit, prefer plunder to peace, and court the exchange of the ploughshare for the sword. Foreign invasion and intestine tumults had materially checked population; whilst the poverty of the country, and the rapacity of its governors had almost annihilated commerce or had confined it, for the most part, to a few wealthy residents from the Lower Provinces" (to the Babu "Zemindar"). But he of Koel is even more bold: "The consequences of the various revolutions which have taken place are sufficiently evident in an impoverished country and a declining population; the form of government which has existed has not operated to relieve the necessities of the subjects, or to improve the resources of this extensive empire, by the encouragement of husbandry and commerce; and military life has been embraced by a large body of the people. Habits of peace and industry have been neglected for the profession of arms, which was more suited to the disposition of the people and to the character of the times, and which has also tended to affect the revenue and to thin the population. The system of rent-oppression and extortion likewise, which has prevailed, has operated with the most injurious influence upon the country. The exertions of the landholders have been discouraged, and means of cultivation denied them by depriving them of the fair profits of their industry. They have found every attempt at improvement, instead of being beneficial to themselves, to have been subservient only to the rapacity of the Government, or of farmers; and without any inducement to stimulate their labours, agriculture as a natural consequence has languished and declined."
Aligarh (Koel) details are the more noticeable because they relate to the part of the country which had been first occupied by the conquering British, and still more because, having been under the immediate management of General Perron, that part may be supposed to have been a somewhat more favourable specimen than districts whose management had not had the advantage of European supervision. In districts administered exclusively by Asiatics, or which were more exposed to Sikh incursions, or where the natural advantages of soil, situation and climate were inferior, much greater misery, no doubt, prevailed; but what has been shown was perhaps bad enough. An administration without law, an aristocracy without conscience, roads without traffic, and fields overgrown by forest such is the least discreditable picture that we have been able to exhibit of the results of self-government by the natives of Hindustan, immediately preceding British rule.
On the whole record of the past there emerge clearly a few indisputable truths. Setting apart the community of colour, and to a less degree of language, the British are no more foreigners to the people of India than the people of one part of India may be, and often are, to the people of another. Demoralized by the hereditary and traditional influence of many generations of misgovernment and of anarchy, none of these populations have as yet shown fitness for supreme rule over the entire peninsula, vast and thickly inhabited as it is. For example, the Brahmans and their system fell before the fury of the early Muslims, as these, again, were subdued by the Moghuls. When the Pathans and Moghuls in their turn became domesticated in Hindustan they formed nothing more than two new castes of Indians, having lost the pride and vigour of their hardy mountain ancestry. The alliance of a refugee, like M. Law, or of a runaway seaman, like George Thomas, became an object of as much importance as that of a Muslim noble with a horde of followers.
Nor is it to be overlooked that, in the best days of Muslim rule in Hindustan, however much the governing class had the chief attributes of sovereignty, the details of administration were, more or less, in the hands of the patient, painstaking natives of the land. And the immediate decay of the Muslim Empire was preceded by an attempt to centralize the administration in the Imperial Durbar, and to cashier and alienate the Hindu element. But the Hindus remained, as indeed we still see them, indispensable to the conduct of administrative details.
None the less is it certain that the real, if overbearing, superiority of the Muslim conquerors had emasculated the Hindu mind and paved the way for anarchy, which was reached as soon as immigration ceased and degeneration set in. Holding now the position once abused and lost by the Muslims, the British in India are bound alike by honour and by interest to mark the warning. Called and chosen by fortune and their own enterprise to rule so many tribes and nations in a stage of evolution so unlike their own, they have to be wary, gentle, and firm. Their office is to advance the natives and fit them for a true and noble political life.
It does not follow that the result will be to tempt the natives to demand Home Rule. Difficulty there will no doubt always be, and the end is hidden from our eyes. Moreover, that difficult will be increased by the unavoidably secular character of State-education. When races lacking in material resources are also in a very submissive and very ignorant condition they may be kept on a dead level of immobility; and that has perhaps been the ideal of many not incompetent rulers. But it is not one which will satisfy the spirit of the day in England. Modern Englishmen have recognized that it is their bounder duty to impart knowledge in India. On the other hand, their relations towards the people forbid them to attempt religious instruction. Thus the students in British-Indian schools and colleges are in a fair way to lose their own spiritual traditions without gaining anything instead. It is likely enough that such a system may lead to discontent.
Men who lose their hopes of compensation in another state of being, will be the more anxious about securing the good things of that state in which they find themselves placed.
Nevertheless, of discontent there are, plainly, two sorts; and one sort tends to exclude the other. The multitude may hanker after the flesh-pots of Egypt, or they may long for the milk and honey of a Promised Land. In the one case they will be inclined to obey their leaders, in the other to murmur against them. It cannot be necessary to dwell upon the application. Let the rulers of India persuade the people that they are being conducted to light and to liberty. Let us hold up before those laborious and gentle millions the picture of a redeemed India moving in an orderly path among the members of a great Imperial system. That ideal may never be completely realized in the days of any of the existing generation. But it is one that may still be profitably maintained for the contemplation of all who aspire and work for the strength and welfare of Greater Britain.
NOTE. The following list of Perron's possessions is taken from the schedule annexed to the treaty of Sarji Anjangaum (dated 30th December, 1803):
Resumed Jaigirs, seven, yielding an annual income of ... ... ... ... 3,75,248
Talukas in the Doab, four ... ... ... 84,047
To the west of the Jamna, three districts ... 65,000
Subah of Saharanpur, eighteen ... ... 4,78,089
Formerly held by General de Boigne in the Doab, twenty-seven .. 20,83,287
To the west of the Jamna, nine ... ... 10,31,852
Grand Total, Rs. 41,12,523
IN the foregoing pages I have endeavoured to steer a middle path between obliterating all trace of my materials and encumbering the margin with references that appeared superfluous. Wherever I have decided a disputed point, I have endeavoured to indicate the chief sources of information at least throughout the portions which form the actual history and to give my reasons for following one authority rather than another.
Besides the authorities English and Persian which have been thus cited, the following works have been occasionally consulted:
1. Amad us-Saudat. A history of the Viceroys of Lucknow from the death of Farokhsiar to the accession of Saadat Ali II., in 1797.
2. Jam-i-Jum. Genealogical tables of the House of Timur.
3. Tasallat-i-Sahiban Anqriz. An account of the rise of British power in Hindustan and Bengal. By Munshi Dhonkal Singh; originally written for the information of Ranjit Singh, Thakur of Bhartpur, about the end of the last century.
4. Hal-i-Begam Sahiba. A little Persian memoir of Begam Sumroo, full of vagueness and error, written four years after her death, and from traditional sources.
Much information as to the views of the British chiefs of those days lies at present inaccessible at the Calcutta Foreign Office; and it is to be hoped that the Record Commission will ultimately make public many useful and interesting papers.
Other information perhaps exists, very difficult to be got at, in the private archives of old native families at Dehli. But the events of 1857 broke up many of these collections. A continuation of the Tarikh-i-Mozafari, down to the taking of Dehli by Sir A. Wilson, would be a most valuable work, if there be any native author possessed of the three requisites of leisure, knowledge, and a fearless love of truth.
Some account of the Siar-ul-Mutakharin has been already given (vide Note to Part II. Chap. i.). The author was a Saiyid of the noble stock of Taba-Taba, whose father had been employed by Safdar Jang, in Rohilkand, during that minister's temporary predominance. The family afterwards migrated to Patna. This celebrated history which has been twice translated into English, and of which an edition in the original Persian has been likewise printed is a work of suprising industry, and contains many just reflections on the position of the English and the feelings of the people towards them, which are almost as true now as they were when written. The translation of the S. u. M.. which has been mentioned in the text, was made by a French creole, styling himself Mustafa, but whose true name, it is relieved, was Raymond. The notes are often interesting.
But my chief guide, where no other authority is cited, has been the Tarikh-i-Mozafari, the work of an Ansari of good family, some of whose descendants are still living at Panipat. He was the grandson of Latfula Sadik, a nobleman who had held high office under the Emperor Mohammad Shah. The historian himself was in civil employ in Bihar, under the Nawab Mohammad Raza Khan, so famous in the history of Bengal during the last century. To him the work was dedicated, and its name is derived from his title of "Mozafar Jang." The work is laborious, free from party bias, and much thought of by the educated natives of Hindustan. For access to Persian MSS. I was indebted to the late Colonel Hamilton, formerly Commissioner of Dehli, and of his friendly assistance and encouragement I take this opportunity to make thankful acknowledgment.
REFERENCE has been made in the text, p. 130, to the tomb of Sumroo, in Padretola, or Padresanto, at Agra. This is one of the most ancient Christian cemeteries in Eastern Asia, consisting of a piece of land situated to the north of the Courts of Justice, and forming part of the original area attached to the neighbouring township of Lashkarpur. The estate was conferred upon the Roman Catholic Mission by the Emperor Akbar, or early in the reign of his son and successor. It contains many tombs, with Armenian and Portuguese inscriptions, more than two hundred years old, and promises, with ordinary care, long to continue in good preservation, owing to the great dryness of the air and soil. The mausoleum of the Sumroo family is a handsome octagon building, surmounted by a low dome rising out of a cornice, with a deep drip-stone, something in the style of a Constantinople fountain. The inscription is in Portuguese a proof, most likely, that there were no French or English in Agra at the time of its being made. The following is its text: AQVI IAZO WALTER REINHARD, MORREO AOS 4 DE MAYO, NO ANNO DE 1778. ("Here lies Walter Reinhard, died on the 4th May, in the year 1778.") There is also a Persian chronogram.
The tomb of John Hessing, hard by, is a still more splendid edifice, being a copy, in red sandstone, of the famous Taj Mahal, and on a pretty extensive scale too, though far smaller than the original. The tomb, which was completed in or about the year of the British conquest, bears an inscription in good English, setting forth that the deceased colonel was a Dutchman, who died Commandant of Agra, in his 63rd year, 21st of July, 1803, just before Lake's successful siege of the place.
THE following additional particulars regarding M. de Boigne are the last that the writer has been able to obtain from an eyewitness; they are from the enthusiastic pages of Colonel Tod, who knew the general at Chamberi, in 1826.
"Distinguished by his prince, beloved by a numerous and amiable family, and honoured by his native citizens, the years of the veteran now numbering more than four score, glide in agreeable tranquillity in his native city, which, with oriental magnificence, he is beautifying by an entire new street, and a handsome dwelling for himself."
His occupation consisted chiefly in dictating the memoirs of his eventful life to his son, the Comte Charles de Boigne, by whom they were published in 1829. This statement is also made on the authority of Tod; but the memoir in my possession - though a second edition lays claim to no such authority, but is a modest compilation, derived in great measure from Grant Duff, and originally, as appears from the "Advertissement sur cette edition," produced during the General's lifetime. The Royal Academic Society of Savoy of which the veteran was honorary and perpetual President gives the most extraordinary account of his munificence to his native city, which comprised the complete endowment of a college, a fund of over 4,000 sterling towards the relief of the poor, a hospital for contagious diseases, an entire new street leading from the Chateau to the Boulevard, and the restoration of the Hotel de Ville, besides minor projects full of wise benevolence. He died on the 21st June, 1830, and his remains received a magnificent military funeral.
LOVERS of detail may like the following view of Begam Sumroo's fief, as it appeared when it lapsed on her death. The facts and figures are from the report furnished to the Revenue Board in 1840, by the officer deputed to make the necessary fiscal settlement. This gentleman begins by saying that the assessments on the land were annual, but their average rates about one-third higher than those which prevailed on the neighbouring British district. In those days, the British took two-thirds of the net rental, so we see what was left to the Begam's tenants. The settlement officer at once reduced the total demand of land revenue from nearly seven lakhs (6,91,388) to little more than five. But, he did more than that, for he swept away the customs duties, which he thus describes: "They were levied on all kinds of property, and equally on exports and imports; animals, wearing apparel, and clothes of every description; hides, cotton, sugar-cane, spices, and all other produce; all were subjected to a transit duty, in and out. Transfers of lands and houses, and sugar works, also paid duty; the latter very high."
The good side of this system has been already glanced at (Part III. Chap. ii.). It was strictly patriarchal. The staple crop (sugar) was grown on advances from the Begam: and, if a man's bullocks died, or he required the usual implements of husbandry, he received a loan from the Treasury, which he was strictly compelled to apply to its legitimate purpose. The revenue officers made an annual tour through their respective tracts in the ploughing season; sometimes encouraging, and oftener compelling the inhabitants to cultivate. A writer in the Meerut Universal Magazine stated about the same time, that the actual presence in the fields of soldiers with fixed bayonets was sometimes required for this purpose.
The settlement officer adds that the advances to agriculturists were always recovered at the close of the year, together with interest at 24 per cent. The cultivators were, in fact, rack-rented up to the minimum of subsistence. but this much was insured to them; in other words, they were predial serfs. "To maintain such system," he proceeds, "required much tact; and, with the energy of the Begam's administration, this was not wanting: but when her increasing age and infirmities devolved the uncontrolled management on her heir, the factitious nature of her system was clearly demonstrated." The result of these last few years was, that one-third of the estate of which the fief consisted fell under "direct management;" the plain meaning of which is that they were, more or less, abandoned by their owners, and by the better class of the peasantry, and tilled by a sort of serfs.
"Nothing, in fact," concludes this portion of the Report "could more satisfactorily have shown the estimation in which the British rule is held by those who do not enjoy its blessings than the rapid return of the population to their homes, which followed immediately on the lapse." (Trevor Plowden, Esq., to Board of Revenue, Reports of Revenue Settlement, N. W.P., vol. i.)