OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 12


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 <12> 13 14 15 16 17 18

The death of Nuncomar put an end to all hope of procuring any further native evidence against Hastings. The natives were so terrified at this new kind of execution, that nothing could convince them but that, spite of the opposition of his colleagues, Hastings was all powerful. On the other hand, Francis and his two friends had failed to secure the good-will of the English in Bengal. Hastings, they knew, was willing to wink at their endeavours to aggrandise themselves; the new councillors, on the contrary, appeared rather disposed to call everybody and everything in question. Francis, in particular, was intolerable in his arrogance. His consciousness of being the author of " The Letters of Junius," before whose pen the highest personages in England had trembled, probably inflamed that arrogance.

His notorious profligacy also brought him into disgrace, and into fresh conflicts with Impey, the chief judge. He had been secured, as he descended a rope ladder, at night, from the chamber of Mrs. Grant, the wife of a barrister, and Impey had fined him in court, according to Indian usage, without the intervention of a jury, fifty thousand rupees as damages. Mr. Grant became Francis's mistress, and, after some other " protections," finally the wife of prince Talleyrand. Francis and Impey became mortal enemies.

When the news of this distractedly hopeless condition of the council in Calcutta reached London, lord North called upon the court of directors to send up to the crown an address for the recall of Hastings, without which, according to the late Indian bills, he could not be removed till the end of his five years. The directors put the matter to the vote, and the address was negatived by a single vote. The minority then appealed to the court of proprietors at the general election, in the spring of 1776, but there it was negatived by ballot by a majority of one hundred, notwithstanding that all the court party and parliamentary ministerialists who had votes attended to overthrow him. This defeat so enraged lord North that he resolved to pass a special bill for the removal of the governor-general. This alarmed colonel Maclean, a friend of Hastings, to whom he had written, on the 27th of March, 1775, desiring him, in his disgust with the conduct of Francis, Clavering, and Monson, and the support of them by the directors, to tender his resignation. Thinking better of it, however, he had, on the 18th of the following May, written to him, recalling the proposal of resignation. But Maclean, to save his friend from a parliamentary dismissal, which he apprehended, now handed the letter containing the resignation to the directors. Delighted to be thus liberated from their embarrassment, the directors accepted the resignation at once, and elected Mr. Edward Wheler to the vacant place in the council.

But matters had greatly changed at Calcutta before this. Maclean did not present the letter of resignation till October, 1776; but, in September of that year, colonel Monson had died, and, the members in the council being now equal, the governor-general's casting vote restored to him his lost majority. Hastings was not the man to defer for a moment the exercise of his authority. He began instantly to overturn, spite of their most violent efforts, the measures of Francis and friends. He dismissed Goordas from the chief authority in Oude, and reinstated his dear friend, Nat Middleton, as he familiarly termed him. He revived his land-revenue system, and was planning new and powerful alliances with native princes, especially with the nabob of Oude and the nizam of the Deccan, not omitting to cast a glance at the power of the Seiks, whose dangerous ascendancy he already foresaw. In the midst of these and other grand plans for the augmentation of British power in India - plans afterwards carried out by others - he was suddenly astounded by the arrival of a packet in June, 1777, containing the news of his resignation, and of its acceptance by the directors. He at once protested that it was invalid, as he had countermanded the resignation before its presentation; but general Clavering, as next in succession, at once claimed the office of governor-general, and Francis, in council, administered the oath to him. Clavering immediately demanded the keys of the fort and the treasury from Hastings; but that gentleman refused to admit his own resignation, much less Clavering's election to his post. Here, then, were two soi-disant governor-generals, as Europe had formerly seen two conflicting popes. To end the difficulty, Hastings proposed that the decision of the question should be referred to the supreme court. It is wonderful that Clavering and Francis should have consented to this, seeing that Impey, Hastings' friend, and the judge of Nuncomar, was at the head of that court; but it was done, and the court decided in Hastings' favour. No sooner was Hastings thus secured than he charged Clavering with having forfeited both Iiis place in the council, and his post as commander-in-chief of the forces, by attempting to seize on the govern or-generalship. Clavering and Francis were compelled to appeal once more to the supreme court, and this time, to his honour, Impey decided in favour of Clavering.

Hastings professed to feel no further enmity against Clavering, and strongly solicited his presence at his wedding, which took place soon after. The wedding of the governor-general was to a Marian Imhoff, the wife of a baron Imhoff, with whom Hastings had been living by consent of the baron. A divorce having now been obtained in the courts of Germany, her native country, the governor- general married her, the baron meantime having returned to that country with an equivalent in money, after, in plain terms, selling his wife to the rich English governor of India. Mrs. Hastings, on the return of Hastings to England, was well received by her countrywoman, queen Charlotte, to the great scandal of the public.

Clavering, who, notwithstanding his consenting to appear at Hastings' wedding-feast, had been deeply mortified by his defeat, died a few days after this occurred, in August, 1777. By this event the authority of Hastings in the government was sufficiently restored, notwithstanding that Wheler generally sided with Francis, for him to carry his own aims.

It was at this crisis, when Hastings was just recovering his authority in the council, that the riews arrived in India, and spread amongst the native chiefs, that in Yenghi Dunia, or the New World, the Coompany Sahib - for the East Indians could never separate the ideas of the East India Company and England itself - there had been a great revolution, and the English driven out. This, as might be expected, wonderfully elated the native chiefs, and especially those in the south. There the French of Pondicherry and Chandernagore boasted of the destruction of the English power, and that it was by their own hands. Hastings, who was as able and far-seeing as he was unprincipled in carrying out his plans for the maintenance of the British dominion in India, immediately set himself to counteract the mischievous effects of these diligently-disseminated rumours, and of the cabals which the French excited. These were most to be feared amongst the vast and martial family of the Mahrattas. The Mahrattas had risen on the ruins of the great Mogul empire. They now extended their tribes over a vast space of India from Mysore to the Ganges. The peishwa, as head of these nations, held his residence at Poonah. Besides his, there were the great houses of Holkar and Scindiali; the Guicowar, who ruled in Guzerat; the Bonslah, or rajah of Berar, a descendant of Sivajee. These Mahratta chiefs were all Brahmins, as the naboo of Oude and the nizam of the Deccan were Mohammedans. The Mahrattas were, for the most part, a rude, warlike race, rapacious and ambitious, and living in the most primitive style. To destroy the confidence of these fierce warriors in the French, Hastings gave immediate orders, on receiving the news of the proclamation of war in Europe, for the seizure of the French settlements. This was on the 7th of July, 1778; on the 10th he had taken Chandernagore, and ordered Sir Henry Munro to invest Pondicherry. That was soon accomplished, and the only remaining possession of France, the small one of Mahe, on the coast of Malabar, was taken the next spring.

Hastings then mustered fresh regiments of sepoys; demanded and received three battalions from Cheyte Sing, the rajah of Benares; armed cruisers; laid up stores of ammunition and provisions for three months in Fort William; enrolled one thousand European militia at Calcutta, and stood ready for any French invasion from sea. He then dispatched colonel Leslie with a strong force into the very heart of the Mahratta country. Leslie appeared to have lost his energy, made four months' delay in the plains of Bundelcund, and the next news was that he was dead. Colonel Goddard was sent to take his command, and advanced into Berar; but there hearing that successive revolutions were taking place at Poonah, he waited the result of them. Meantime, the presidency of Bombay, desirous of anticipating the expeditions from Calcutta, now undertook to reinstate Ragoba, whom they had lately left to his fate, and taking him along with him, their commander, colonel Egerton, marched into the Mahratta country with four thousand men. The Bombay council, however, had adopted the Dutch plan of sending field deputies, which had proved so fatal in the case of colonel Smith, the Madras commander. The experiment was equally disastrous here. The army, when it had reached within sixteen miles of Poonah, was surrounded by hosts of Mahratta cavalry, and was compelled to surrender. The Mahrattas, as conditions - which the English were in no position to decline - insisted on the restoration of all the territory won from them by the English since 1756, and that they should give up to them Ragoba. These ignominious terms, and especially the surrender of Ragoba to his enemies, spread consternation and indignation throughout all India. Wargaum, where the disgraceful convention was signed, was named th Saratoga of the East. The nizam and Hyder Ali prepared to fall on the British provinces.

But Hastings refused for a moment to recognise this treaty. He ordered colonel Goddard to advance. The title of general was conferred on him, and he well justified the promotion. In that and the succeeding campaign he won victory on victory; stormed Alimedabad; took the city of Bassein; gained a great victory over forty thousand of the i combined forces of Holkar and Scindiah, and, in a great measure, retrieved all the losses, and restored the fame of: the British arms. Ragoba managed to escape into Surat; and thus was the shameful convention of Wargaum almost wholly obliterated.

In another quarter the success against the Mahrattas was equally decisive. The rana of Gohud, a hilly district lying south of Agra, who was an ally of the British, being attacked by the Mahrattas, applied to Hastings for help. He sent captain Popham thither with a small body of troops, who, with little assistance from the rana, soon cleared Gohud of the enemy, and pursued them into their own country; stormed and took the city of Lahore, and the great fortress of Gualior, which the Mahrattas deemed impregnable.

To assist the governor-general, the British government had sent out Sir Eyre Coote to the scene of his former fame, not only as commander of the forces in place of general Clavering, but also as member of council. Coote generally supported Hastings in the council, but he greatly embarrassed him by the insatiable spirit of avarice which had grown upon him with years; and in making arrangements with the nabob of Oude and others to supply the means of accommodation to the old commander, Hastings greatly augmented the grounds of his future persecutions. He likewise relaxed in his resentment towards Francis, and showed a disposition to promote the interests of him and his adherents. He appointed Mr. Fowke, and others of them, to lucrative posts, and, calculating on the promises of Francis to desist from annoyance, he allowed Barwell, his stanch supporter, to return to Europe with his large fortune. But scarcely was he gone when the haughty spirit of Francis again broke out, and Hastings, in his indignation, declared that he would no longer put faith in Mr. Francis's candour, convinced that he was incapable of straightforward conduct; that, judging him both by his public and private conduct, he found him devoid of truth and honour. These words were never forgotten, and continued to stimulate the vengeance of Francis after his return to Europe. Their immediate effect was a duel between him and Hastings, in which Hastings shot him in the side. This took place on the 17th of August, 1780; and Francis, on his recovery, resigned his office, and returned to England in December.

A still more painful contest now distracted the governor-general. This was no other than with his old school-fellow and stanch friend of so many years, Sir Elijah Impey. Hastings considered that the supreme court unnecessarily violated the customs and wounded the feelings of the natives, by adhering too strictly to their ideas of English law. Disputes arose betwixt himself and the judges on this head, and grew to such a pitch of animosity, that in 1780 they burst into open flame. The supreme court had decided a law-suit against the rajah of Cossijurah, and issued a writ to sequester his lands. To enforce the writ they sent a serjeant of the court, attended by a troop of armed bailiffs. The rajah was absent, and these men not only burst into his house, but into the zenana, or chamber of the women, always held sacred by the people of the East. They were accused of having not only abused his servants, but plundered his palace, and even stripped his place of worship of its ornaments.

The rajah complained loudly to the council, and Hastings issued a circular to the landholders of Bengal, informing them, that except in certain specified cases, they owed no obedience to the mandates of the supreme court. This was denounced by the judges as a clear contempt of his majesty's laws and courts. They arrested and imprisoned the attorney of the council because he issued this proclamation, and they summoned every member of the council to appear at their bar and answer for their acts. To what issue this might have come is doubtful, but the suitor, it was supposed, under sufficient inducement from the governor, suddenly abandoned the action at law, and thus put an end to the immediate quarrel. To prevent a recurrence of it, Hastings determined to erect a court of appeal from the provincial courts, connected with the supreme council, which the acts of 1773 warranted him in doing, and, to put an end to the resentment of his old friend Impey, he appointed him judge of it, with the proposed salary of eight thousand pounds a-year. Impey accepted the office, but the council finally settled the salary at five thousand pounds, and not eight thousand pounds; and Impey declared that he would not even touch any of that till the lord chancellor in England had approved of it. In the end, Sir Elijah never received any of this salary. The office removed the. immediate quarrel, but it was made one of the future charges both against Hastings and Impey.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 <12> 13 14 15 16 17 18

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 12


Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About