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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 15

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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.

Having failed in his attempt to screw sufficient money from Cheyte Sing, and undeterred by the perils he had run, he next determined to experiment on the nabob of Oude. This nabob, Asoff-ul-Dowlah, was an infamously dissipated prince, spending his own money in licentious pleasures, and extorting what he could from the begums, his mother and grandmother. The old ladies lived at the palace of Fyzabad, or the " Beautiful Residence," situated in a charming district, amid hills and streams, about eighty miles from Lucknow. The nabob's father had left them large sums of money and extensive jaghires, so that they kept a handsome court, and yet had the reputation of having accumulated about three million pounds sterling. The nabob had compelled them, by coercive means, to let him have, at different times, about six hundred thousand pounds, and he thirsted exceedingly for more. To defend themselves from his rapacity, the begums appealed earnestly to the English governor-general, who, in conjunction with the council, Francis, Barwell, and Wheler, in 1778, compelled the nabob to enter into a solemn engagement not to violate any further the rights of these ladies, either in their money or their jaghires. The council expressed their lively sense of the disgraceful conduct of the nabob in thus extorting their property from these ladies, and talked much of the honour and reputation of the company being implicated by it.

But there is no doubt that the existence of this wealth being thus brought to the knowledge of Hastings, had determined him, spite of his moral vows to the nabob, to seize it for the purposes of conducting the war in Madras. There was nothing so easy as to frame reasons why he should have this money, notwithstanding his own affected sense of indignation at the idea of the son and grandson getting it by pressure. The nabob had requested the service of a brigade of British troops to secure him against his own people, whose disaffection he had excited by his oppressions. Hastings had most readily granted it, seeing at once that it would be the means of putting him completely in his power. The nabob, in addition to the heavy tribute under which he lay, was to pay a heavy price for the brigade, besides maintaining it. By these means, by the time that Hastings had resolved to seize the money of the begums, he had swelled up an account of arrears against Asoff-ul-Dowlah of nearly a million and a half sterling. This enormous amount Hastings himself admitted to the nabob, when he afterwards wanted his co-operation in coming at the money of the begums, was run up by extravagant charges of all kinds; and that he had, moreover, been unmercifully squeezed by the British officers in Oude. In fact, the nabob had for years been earnestly imploring that the brigade should be recalled, as he was quite unable to pay for it, or that the charge for it should be dropped. But Hastings had taken no notice of his demand, but had gone on, keeping the brigade at Lucknow, still running up the account.

It was one part of his original plan, on going to Benares, to go on to Oude, and to employ his claims on the nabob as a lever to wrench the money bags from the begum. The failure of his cash anticipations at Benares had made Hastings all the more desperate. He sent for the nabob of Oude while he was still in the fortress of Chunar, and there reminding him of his debts, proposed to him coolly the robbery of his mother and grandmother. He was ready to give up the million and a half on condition that he got the three millions of the begums. He therefore offered to take the jaghires from these ladies - lands, let it be understood, as fully and completely left to them by the late Soujah Dowlah, as the sovereignty of Oude had been left by him to the nabob, and on which neither the nabob nor Hastings had any claim whatever, for it is not pretended that the princesses were in any debt or arrears to the nabob, or to the British government. But as India, according to Hastings, can and must be saved, there must be money for it; the begums had money, and he was resolved to have it. He agreed, therefore, to give up to the nabob the jaghires of his mother and grandmother, as though they had been his own, and the nabob was to take the odium of forcing the money from the ladies and handing it to Hastings! '

The proposal was so barefaced, that, when Hastings came to propose it to the nabob, he felt that he really required some pretended reason for thus arbitrarily laying hands on the property of these innocent women, and therefore un- blushingly asserted that they had been concerned in stirring up the insurrection at Benares - a matter, besides that it was so notoriously the result of Hastings own daring arrest of Cheyte Sing, the begums had neither motive for meddling in nor time for doing it. They till now regarded the British as their own only protectors. They were living quietly at Fyzabad, one hundred and fifteen miles from Benares, when the insurrection broke out from very obvious causes. This infamous bargain being concluded at Chunar, Hastings relying on his agent at Lucknow, Mr. Middleton, compelling the nabob to carry it out, retreated to Benares, and thence to Calcutta. The nabob returned to Lucknow to enforce the diabolical scheme; but he found his mother and grandmother determined to resist the iniquitous order, and so shameful was it, that even the needy and debauched nabob felt compunctions in proceeding with it. He left it to Middleton to execute, but Middleton, in his turn, recoiled from the odious business. Not so Hastings; cold and resolute, he wrote to Middleton, that if he could not rely upon his firmness he would free him from his charge, and himself proceed to Lucknow and enforce his own orders. To induce Middleton to abandon his scruples of conscience and honour, the ever-ready friend of Hastings, the chief-justice of Bengal, Sir Elijah Impey, it appears, wrote to Middleton, and inculcated the necessity of obedience. Middleton and the nabob, therefore, seized on the jaghires of the begums, and suddenly surrounded Fyzabad and the palace with troops, and made themselves masters of both. But the old ladies had not been so inattentive to the approaches of the storm as to neglect the secretion of their treasures; they could not be found. The nabob, who was familiar with all the modes of hiding and finding such possessions, assisted Middleton and his officers, but the money could not be traced. The whole palace was filled with terror by the soldiers hunting through every room, even the very apartments of the alarmed and shrieking women.

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