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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10

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Whilst Mohammed and Shitab Roy had been in prison, Hastings had been up at Moorshedabad, had abolished the office of naib in both Patna and Moorshedabad, removed all the government business to Calcutta, cut down the income of the young nabob, Muharek-al-Dowla, to one half, according to his instructions, and reduced the nabob himself to a mere puppet. His uncle, Ahteram-ul-Dowlah, had solicited, as the existing eldest male relative, to be his minister and guardian? but Hastings set him aside, and appointed a lady of the harem, called Munny or Minnee Begum, to those offices. The young nabob's own mother would have been the proper person, if a woman was to have the office; but independent of this, the giving the office to a woman at all in that country was a matter of astonishment. This Munny Begum had been a dancing-girl, and had nothing in her character to recommend her to the office, except that she was a determined enemy of Mohammed Rheza Khan.

Nuncomar was rewarded by his son Goordas, who " had no dangerous abilities," being appointed steward of the nabob's household; and Nuncomar was himself to be strictly watched that he did no mischief; for Hastings, having done all this, still wrote to the directors that he knew Nuncomar to be a traitor and a scoundrel, and had only used him because no one else could or would do the things he had done. " It is," said he, " on his abilities and on the activity of his ambition and hatred to Mohammed that I depend. And," he adds, " had I not been guided by the caution you have been pleased to enjoin me, yet my own knowledge of the character of Nuncomar would have restrained me from yielding him any trust or authority which could prove detrimental to the company's interests."

Thus had Hastings, fulfilling to the tittle the secret instructions of the secret committee of the India House, as completely swept away every engagement into which the company had entered with Meer Jaffier for the possession of Bengal as if they had never existed. He had transferred the whole government to Calcutta, with all the courts of justice, so that, writes Hastings, "the authority of the company is fixed in this country without any possibility of competition, and beyond the power of any but themselves to shake it." In all this wholesale injustice the only glimpse of a sense of it was shown in sending back Shitab Roy to Patna, clothed in a robe of state, and mounted on a richly- caparisoned elephant, to hold some nominal office there; but the high-minded man sunk and died soon after, as it was said, of a broken heart, of a feeling evidently of the injustice and ingratitude to which he had been subjected.

The manner in which Hastings had executed the orders of the directors in this business showed that he was prepared to go all lengths in maintaining their interests in India. He immediately proceeded to give an equally striking proof of this. We have seen that when the Mogul Shah Alum applied to the English to assist him in recovering his territories, they promised to conduct him in triumph to Delhi, and place him firmly on the grand musnud of all India; but when, in consequence of this engagement, he had made over to them by a public dewannee or grant, Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, they found it inconvenient to fulfil their contract, and made over to him Allahabad and Corah instead, with an annual payment of twenty-six lacs of rupees - two hundred and sixty thousand pounds. The payment of this large sum, too, was regarded by the company, now in the deepest debt, as unnecessary, and Hastings had orders to reduce it. It appears that the money was at no time duly paid, and had now been withheld altogether for more than two years. The mogul, thus disappointed in the promises of restoration by the English, and now again in the payment of this stipulated tribute, turned to the Mahrattas, and offered to make over the little provinces of Allahabad and Corah, on condition that they restored him to the sovereignty of Delhi. The Mahrattas gladly caught at this offer, and by the end of the year 1771 they had borne the mogul in triumph into his ancient capital of Delhi.

This was precisely such a case as the directors were on the watch for. Their historian, Mill, says, in their letter to Bengal of the 11th of November, 1768, they had said: "If the emperor flings himself into the hands of the Mahrattas, or any other power, we are disengaged from him, and it may open a fair opportunity of withholding the twenty-six lacs of rupees we now pay him." The opportunity had now come, and was immediately seized on by Hastings to rescind the payment of the money altogether, and he prepared to seize the two provinces of Allahabad and Corah. " Thus," adds Mill, " they had plundered the unhappy emperor of twenty-six lacs of rupees per annum, and the two provinces of Corah and Allahabad, which they sold to the vizier (the nabob of Oude) for fifty lacs of rupees, on the plea that he had forfeited them by his alliance with the Mahrattas; as though he were not free, if one party would not assist him to regain his rights, to seek that assistance from another."

This bargain was settled between the vizier and Hastings at Benares, in September, 1773.

But the nabob of Oude held out new temptations of gain I to Hastings. The Rohillas, a tribe of Afghans, had, earlier in that century, descended from their mountains and conquered the territory lying between the Ganges and the mountains to the west of Oude. They had given it the name of Rohilcund. These brave warriors would gladly have been allies of the English, and applied to Sujah Dowlah to bring about such an alliance. Dowlah made fair promises, but he had other views. He hoped, by the assistance of the English, to conquer Rohilcund and add it to Oude. He had no hope that his rabble of the plains could stand against this brave mountain race, and he now artfully stated to Hastings that the Mahrattas were at war with the Rohillas. If they conquered them, they would next attack Oude, and, succeeding there, would descend the Ganges and spread over all Bahar and Bengal. He therefore proposed that the English should assist him to conquer Rohilcund for himself, and add it to Oude. For this service he would pay all the expenses of the campaign, the English army would obtain a rich booty, and at the end he would pay the English government besides the sum of forty lacs of rupees.

Hastings had no cause of quarrel with the Rohillas, but for the proffered reward he at once acceded to the proposal. In April, 1774, an English brigade, under colonel Champion, invaded Rohilcund, and in a hard-fought field defeated the Rohillas. The old Rohilla chieftain, Hafiz, was seen with his long white beard, seated on his charger, and vainly endeavouring to recall his flying troops. When he found that he could not, he gave a great shout, and, galloping forward, was riddled by the balls of the enemy. The nabob of Oude demanded the body, that he might have it cut in pieces, and his head carried on a pike round the country, but colonel Champion had it wrapped in shawls, and sent honourably to his family.

In the whole of this campaign nothing could be more disgraceful every way than the conduct of the troops of Oude. They took care to keep behind during the fighting, but to rush forward to the plunder. The English soldiers in great disgust said, We have the honour of the day, and these bandits, these robbers, have all the profit." Hastings had made not a single stipulation with Sujah Dowlah for mercy towards the inhabitants, and the nabob and his troops committed such horrors in plundering and massacreing not only the Rohillas, but the native and peaceful Hindoos, that the English officers and soldiers denounced the proceedings with horror. It was now, however, in vain that Hastings called on the nabob to restrain his soldiers, for, if he did not plunder, how was he to pay the stimulated forty lacs of rupees? and if he ruined and burnt out the natives, how were they, Hastings asked, to pay any taxes to him as his new subjects? All this was disgraceful enough, but this was not all. Shah Alum now appeared upon the scene, and produced a contract betwixt himself and the nabob, which had been made unknown to Hastings, by which the nabob of Oude stipulated that, on condition of the mogul advancing against the Rohillas from the south of Delhi he should receive a large share of the conquered territory and the plunder. The nabob now refused to fulfil the agreement, on the plea that the mogul ought to have come and fought, and Hastings sanctioned that view of the case. One chief of the Rohillas alone stood out; Fyzoola Khan took up a strong position in the north of the province, and the nabob was glad to grant him a jaghire in Rohilcund, as the price of submission. The rest of the Rohillas returned to their own country, Sujah Dowlah remained in possession of it, and Hastings returned to Calcutta with his ill-gotten booty. This was one of the cases which excited so much indignation in England when Burke brought it against Hastings on his trial; and when some member of parliament endeavoured to excuse him on the plea that the Rohillas were not natives of Rohilcund, Mr. Wilberforce exclaimed, u Why, what are we but the Rohillas of Bengal? "

But Hastings had scarcely terminated these iniquitous proceedings, when the new members of council, appointed under the Regulations Acts, arrived. On the 19th of October, 1774, landed the three councillors, Clavering, Mon- son, and Francis; Barwell had been some time in India. The presence of the three just arrived was eminently unwelcome to Hastings. He knew that they came with no friendly disposition towards him, and that Philip Francis, in particular, was most hostile. Francis was the one who possessed by far the most able mind and the most determined will. All circumstances have ever pointed to him as the author of the " Letters of Junius." From the moment that government gave him an appointment in the War Office, George HI. announced to his friends that Junius would be heard of no more, and he never was. Assuming, therefore, that Francis was the author of Junius, you would imagine him not only a man of high ability, but of equal assumption of consequence and vindictive temperament. Such, indeed, Francis showed himself.

The letter of the court of directors recommended unanimity of councils, but nothing was further from the views of the new members from Europe. As they were three, and Hastings and Barwell only two, they constituted a majority, and from the first moment commenced to undo almost everything that he had done, and carried their object. They denounced, and with too much justice, the Rohilla war; they demanded that the whole correspondence of Middleton, the agent sent to the court of Oude by Hastings, should be laid before them. Hastings refused to produce much of it, as entirely of a private and personal nature; and they asserted that this was because these letters would not bear the light, and that the whole of Hastings' connection with Sujah Dowlah was the result of mercenary motives. In this they did the governor-general injustice, for, though he drew money sternly and by all means from the India chiefs and people, it was rather for the company than for himself. They ordered the recall of Middleton from Oude, deaf to the protests of Hastings, that this was stamping his conduct with public odium, and weakening the hands of government in the eyes of the natives. Still, Middleton was recalled, and Mr. Bristow sent in his place. Hastings wrote home in the utmost alarm both to the directors and to lord North, prognosticating the greatest confusion and calamity from this state of anarchy; and Sujah Dowlah, regarding the proceedings of the new members of council as directed against himself, and seeing in astonishment the authority of Hastings apparently at an end, was so greatly terrified, that he sickened and died.

The council now recalled the English troops from Rohilcund; and Bristow demanded, in the name of the council, from Asoff-ul-Dowlah, the young nabob, a full payment of all arrears; and announced that, Sujah Dowlah being dead, the treaty with him was at an end. Under pressure of these demands, Bristow, by instructions from the new regnant members of the council, compelled the young nabob to enter into a fresh treaty with them; and in this treaty they introduced a clause to the full as infamous as anything which Hastings had done. In return for renewing the possession of the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, they compelled him to cede to them the territory of Cheyte Sing, the rajah of Benares, though this did not at all belong to the nabob of Oude, and was, moreover, guaranteed to Cheyte Sing by Hastings, in solemn treaty. The revenue of Cheyte Sing, thus lawlessly taken possession of, amounted to twenty-two million of rupees; and the nabob of Oude was also, on his own account, bound to discharge all his father's debts and engagements to the company, and to raise greatly the pay to the company's brigade. Hastings utterly refused to sanction these proceedings; but the directors at home, who cared not how or whence money came, warmly approved of the proceedings.

Nor did the new councillors confine their overbearing conduct to the presidency of Bengal. The new act gave them authority over the other presidencies, and they proceeded to exercise it without any regard to their own ignorance of the affairs of those other distant presidencies, or the real acquaintance with them of the respective councils. The council of Bombay was just then engaged in a transaction which, had the new members at Calcutta contemplated it justly, would have done them honour. The council of Bombay had long coveted the rich island of Salsette, lying near Bombay. A great confusion had arisen amongst the Mahrattas, in Consequence of the assassination of Narrain Row, the peishwa, and the contending claims of different competitors for his throne, and the council of Bombay took advantage of the opportunity to send out a force, which seized the fort and island of Salsette. Once in possession of it, and desirous of obtaining other possessions in Surat, the council entered into treaty with Ragoba, the competitor whom, for the time, they chose to consider the rightful peishwa, who yielded Salsette, Bassein, and other places, on condition that the English should support him against the claimants. Accordingly, colonel Keating was sent with a force to assist Ragoba; and at this point the affair had arrived when the new councillors at Calcutta interfered. They first sharply reprimanded the council of Bombay, and then dispatched colonel Upton thither to decide the matter. Instead of ordering him, however, to see that justice was done, he was instructed to take part with the stronger of the Mahratta factions, and, finding that Salsette, Bassein, and the rest of the territory, had been obtained by treaty from Ragoba, he decided for Ragoba. Ragoba was to be supported by all the power of the English in India; but, unfortunately for him, his opponents, seeing that the English would side with those whom they gained most by, consented to confirm the transfer of these territories, and colonel Upton immediately discovered that not Ragoba but his rivals were the legitimate parties, and a treaty was made with them; and Ragoba, trembling for his life in the Mahratta territory, prayed for an asylum in Bombay, but was refused by the council of Calcutta, lest it should give umbrage to their new allies, his opponents 1 > Whilst Hastings was contending against his trio of hostile colleagues, and they were making alliance with the Mahrattas in the west, another branch of that great and martial race were forming combinations to revenge themselves on the English, and divide amongst them the territories of the young nabob of Oude. The late nabob had indulged his ambition in grasping at the domains of his neighbours through English help. By that help, he had been able to draw away the mogul into Rohilcund, and then deceive him. But now the English had appeared disposed to oppress rather than support the nabob; and they were themselves torn by divisions at Calcutta. Encouraged by these circumstances, the Mahrattas poured down the valley of the Ganges, from Agra and Delhi, and invaded the northern parts of the young nabob's country. They proposed, moreover, a great coalition of Malirattas, Rohillas, Seiks, and other mountain tribes, to conquer the whole of Oude. The young nabob, in turn, appealed to the English for aid; but such was the condition of wrangling and anarchy at Calcutta, that Oude must have been overrun had it depended on them. Fortunately for the nabob, the proposed allies fell to quarrelling amongst themselves, and the mogul, who was the instigator of the enterprise, was utterly incapable of such an undertaking himself.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10

Dunbrody Abbey
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Church of Dungannon
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Calcutta >>>>
Fort of Allahabad
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Futtehpoor >>>>
Great Mogul
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Banks of the Ganges
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Tippoo Saib
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View near Agra
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Warden Hasting
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Taje Mahal
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Rohilla Chief
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French and English cruisers off Ceylon
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Defeat of Hyder Ali
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Bundelcund >>>>
Cheyte >>>>
Brahmin >>>>

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