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 14


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

This peace was signed on the 11th of March, 1784. It was infinitely short of what it might have been to the English, had the diplomatic ability of the council at Madras been equal to the valour of the troops and the genius of the military officers. It postponed to another day the entire annexation of those great territories; but this campaign had saved the presidency of Madras and the Carnatic. These must have been lost, but for the almost unexampled exertions of Warren Hastings in furnishing troops and funds, and the admirable conduct and bravery of the English officers and their men. Unfortunately, the Hindoo chiefs of the Malabar coast, who had risen to join the English, were left to the fierce vengeance of Tippoo. The English who had been his prisoners gave such accounts of his treatment of them as excited an intense indignation throughout British India; and the horrors which he inflicted in the disaffected districts can only be paralleled by other recitals of Eastern tyranny. He visited Calicut and the neighbouring states of Malabar, perpetrated, it is said, the most vindictive atrocities on the people, men, women, and children, destroyed their pagodas, and compelled some thousands to submit to circumcision and eat flesh, the most dreadful of impieties in a Hindoo.

Such are the accounts, derived, however, be it observed, from his enemies; and it is only due to this prince, who was eventually borne down by the English, and his kingdom divided amongst themselves and their allies, to quote the opinion of Mill, the historian of the India House itself. "That the accounts which we have received from our countrymen, who hated and feared him," he says, " are marked with exaggeration, is proved by this circumstance, that his servants adhered to him with a fidelity which those of few princes in any age or country have displayed. Of his cruelty we have heard the more, because our countrymen were amongst the victims of it. But it is to be observed that, unless in certain instances, the proof of which cannot be regarded as better than doubtful, their sufferings, however intense, were only the sufferings of a very rigorous imprisonment, of which, considering the manner in which it is lavished upon them by their own laws, the English ought not to be very forward to complain, At that very time, in the dungeons of Madras or Calcutta, it is probable that unhappy sufferers were enduring calamities for debts of one hundred pounds, not less atrocious than those which Tippoo, a prince, born and educated in a barbarous country, and ruling over a barbarous people, inflicted upon imprisoned enemies, part of a nation who, by the evils they had brought upon him, exasperated him almost to frenzy, and whom he regarded as the enemies of both God and man. Besides, there is among the papers relating to the intercourse of Tippoo with the French a remarkable proof of his humanity, which, when these papers are ransacked for matters to criminate him, ought not to be suppressed. In a draught of conditions, on which he desired to form a treaty with them, these are the words of a distinct article: - ' I demand that male and female prisoners, as well English as Portuguese, who shall be taken by the French troops, or by mine, shall be treated with humanity; and, with regard to their persons, that they shall (their property becoming the right of the allies) be transported, at our joint expense, out of India, to places far distant from the territory of the allies.'"

Another feature in the character of Tippoo was his: religion, with a sense of which his mind was deeply j impressed. He spent a considerable part of every day in j prayer. He gave to his kingdom particular religious title, j Cudadak, or " God-given," and he lived under a peculiarly j strong and operative conviction of the superintendence of a divine Providence. To one of his French advisers, who urged him zealously to obtain the support of the Mahrattas, he replied, " I rely solely on Providence, expecting that I shall be alone and unsupported; but God and my courage will accomplish everything."

" He had the discernment to perceive, what is so generally hid from the eyes of rulers in a more enlightened state of society, that it is the prosperity of those who labour with their hands which constitutes the principle and cause of the prosperity of states. He therefore made it his business to protect them against the intermediate orders of the community by whom it is so difficult to prevent their being oppressed. His country was, accordingly, at least during the first and better part of his reign, the best cultivated, and his population the most flourishing in India; while under the English and their pageants, the population of the Carnatic and Oude, degenerating into the state of deserts, was the most wretched upon the face of the earth; and even Bengal iteelf, under the operation of laws ill adapted to their circumstances, was suffering almost all the evils which the worst of governments could inflict. For an Eastern prince, he was full of knowledge. His mind was active, acute, and ingenious. But in the value which he set upon objects, whether as means or as an end, he was almost perpetually deceived. Besides, a conviction appears to have been rooted in his mind, that the English had formed a resolution to deprive him of his kingdom, and that it was useless to negotiate, because no submission to which he could reconcile his mind would restrain them in the gratification of their ambitious designs."

Tippoo was right. The great design of the English, from their first secure footing in India, was to establish their control over the whole peninsula, and we shall soon see that, in prosecuting that object, no cruelties of Tippoo could exceed theirs.

Warren Hastings had saved Madras and the Carnatic, but only at a cost of crime and extortion, which have scarcely any parallel in the history of the earth. To obtain the necessary money, he began a system of robbery and coercion on the different princes of Bengal and Oude, who were in the power of the British government, which was truly astonishing. The first experiment was made on* Cheyte Sing, the rajah of Benares, who had been allowed to remain as a tributary prince, when that province was made over to the British by the nabob of Oude. The tribute had been paid with a regularity unexampled in the history of India; but when the war broke out with France, Hastings suddenly demanded an extraordinary addition of fifty thousand pounds a-year, and as it was not immediately paid, the rajah was heavily fined into the bargain. This was rendered still more stringent in 1780, when the difficulties in Madras began. Cheyte Sing sent a confidential agent to Calcutta, to assure Hastings that it was not in his power to pay so heavy a sum, and he sent him two lacs of rupees (twenty thousand pounds), as a private present to conciliate him. Hastings accepted the money; but no doubt feeling the absolute need of large sums for the public treasury, he, after awhile, paid this into the treasury, and then said to Cheyte Sing that he must pay the contribution all the same. In fact, Hastings could not afford to be bribed; he must have every possible farthing that he could force from the rajahs for the public needs. He compelled the rajah to pay the annual sum of fifty thousand pounds, and ten thousand pounds more as a fine, and then demanded two thousand cavalry. After some bargaining and protesting, Cheyte Sing sent five hundred horsemen and five hundred foot. Hastings made no acknowledgment of these, but began to muster troops, threatening to take vengeance on the rajah. In terror, Cheyte Sing then sent, in one round sum, twenty lacs of rupees, two hundred thousand pounds, for the service of the state; but the only answer he obtained for the munificent offering was, that he must send thirty lacs more, that is, altogether, half a million.

Following his words by acts, he set off himself, attended only by a few score sepoys, for Benares. He appeared so confident of his safety, that he took Mrs. Hastings with him as far as Monghir. Cheyte Sing came out as far as Buxar to meet the offended governor, and paid him the utmost homage. Hastings received it with the stern silence of an incensed master. The rajah expressed his sorrow at Hastings' displeasure, declared the whole zemindary at his command, and, as a sign of the most decided submission, laid his turban on the governor's knee. Nothing moved the man who wanted the last farthing that the rajah had, and was determined to come at it. He continued his journey with the rajah in his train, and entered the rajah's capital, the great Mecca of India, the famed city of Benares, on the 14th of August, 1781. He then made more enormous demands than before; and the compliance of the rajah not being immediate, he ordered Mr. Markham, his own- appointed resident at Benares, to arrest the rajah in his palace. Cheyte Sing was a timid man, yet the act of arresting him in the midst of his own subjects, and in a place so sacred, and crowded with pilgrims from every part of the East, was a most daring deed. The effect was instantaneous. The people rose in fury, and pouring headlong to the palace with arms in their hands, they cut to pieces Markham and his sepoys. Two other companies were dispatched to their aid, but these were cut to pieces in the streets. Had Cheyte Sing had the spirit of his people in him, Hastings and his little party would have been butchered in half an hour. Hastings says this himself, that he and the thirty English gentlemen with him must have perished at Once.

But Cheyte Sing only thought of his own safety. He got across the Ganges, and whole troops of his subjects flocked after him. Thence he sent protestations of his innocence of the emdute, and of his readiness to make any conditions. Hastings, though surrounded and besieged in his quarters by a furious mob, deigned no answer' to the suppliant rajah, but busied himself in collecting all the sepoys in the place. Before night, he had assembled four hundred, and had sent messengers to Mirzapore, on the other side of the Ganges, to another small knot of sepoys, to march to the palace of Ramnagur, opposite to Benares, whither Cheyte Sing had betaken himself, and secure him. Natives as these men were, and many of them subjects of Cheyte Sing, they duly obeyed orders; and Hastings then dispatched a message to his wife at Monghir, assuring her that he was safe. He wrote to other quarters, ordered troops to march to his aid, and, as if to show his perfect coolness, addressed a dispatch to the officer who was negotiating with the Mahrattas, giving him some instructions. The means by which he sent his messages through the furious crowd which besieged his house, were ingenious. The hircarrahs, or couriers of India, when they travel, lay aside their enormous ear-rings, and put a quill or bit of paper, rolled like a quill, into the orifice, to prevent it growing up. These rolls, on this occasion, were the besieged governor's dispatches. Some of them were detected, but more passed safely.

But the situation of Hastings was at every turn becoming more critical. The sepoys, sent to seize Cheyte Sing in the palace of Ramnagur, were repulsed, and many of them, with their commander, killed. The multitude were now more excited than ever, and that night would probably have seen the last of Warren Hastings, but he contrived to make his escape from Binares, and to reach the strong fortress of Chunar, situated on a rock several hundred feet above the Ganges, and about seventeen miles below Benares. Cheyte Sing, for a moment, encouraged by the flight of Hastings, put himself at the head of the enraged people, and, appealing to the neighbouring princes on his treatment, declared he would drive the English out of the country. But troops and money were speedily sent to Hastings from Lucknow, others marched to Chunar from their cantonments, and he found himself safe amid a sufficient force commanded by the brave major Popham, the conqueror of Gwalior, to defy the thirty thousand undisciplined followers of Cheyte Sing. From the 29th of August to the 20th of September, there were different engagements betwixt the English and the forces of Cheyte Sing; but on every occasion, though the Indians fought bravely, they were worsted, and on the last- named day, utterly routed at Pateeta. Cheyte Sing and his family fled to the fortress of Bidjegur, about fifty miles from Benares. Thither Hastings sent Popham to besiege him, having in his letters intimated to that officer that the treasures of the rajah would serve to pay the troops, who had long been in arrears of their pay.

Cheyte Sing did not wait for the arrival of the English troops: he fled into Bundelcund, and never returned again to Benares. He was supposed to have carried the greater part of his wealth with him in jewels, but in the fortress he left his wife - a woman of amiable character - his mother, all the other women of his family, and the survivors of the family of his father, Bulwant Sing. The ladies capitulated on condition of safety to the men, and safety and freedom from search for the women. Three hundred women, besides children, then came out of the castle; but no sooner were they without the gates, than the capitulation was violated. The ladies were plundered of everything valuable, and their persons otherwise rudely and disgracefully treated by the soldiers and followers of the camp. Major Popham exerted himself to defend the unhappy women from the insulting outrage, but Hastings had himself sanctioned it in a note, suggesting that, without examination, the women might- contrive to carry off the treasure. The sum of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, which the ranee, the mother of Cheyte Sing, claimed as her own, was seized, and which she in vain demanded to be restored, as her own private property, guaranteed by the terms of the capitulation. She implored in vain, Popham and the officers divided the whole amongst themselves and the army. Hastings was confounded! He had run all these dangers, and created all these troubles, in the hope of securing this booty, but the army had taken him at his word, and paid themselves with the whole. It is the only consolation in this detestable affair, that he missed the plunder of the rajah, and received the severe censure of the court of directors, and afterwards of parliament, for this monstrous conduct. Hastings afterwards endeavoured to compel Popham and the officers to disgorge the treasure by law, but in vain.

Deeply chagrined, he now returned to Benares at the head of his victorious force, where he soon restored order, and set up another puppet rajah, a nephew of Cheyte Sing, but raised the annual tribute to forty lacs of rupees, or our hundred thousand pounds a-year, and taking the mint and the entire jurisdiction of the province into the hands of his own officers.

<<< 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 14

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

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About