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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 16


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Thus cruelly disappointed of the expected hoard, and the begums remaining firm in their refusal to produce any part of it, Middleton seized on their two chief ministers, the eunuchs, Jewar Ali Khan and Behar Ali Khan. These two old men had been the most confidential servants of Sujah Dowlah, and had, since his death, stood in the same relation to his widow, the Bhow begum. They were now thrown into prison, put in irons, and orders were given to starve and torture them till they revealed the secret of the concealment of the treasure of their mistresses. At the same time, the two ladies were placed in very rigorous confinement themselves. These proceedings, at length, produced some effect: a large sum was given up; but by no means such a sum as the English were bent upon having. Instead, therefore, of any mitigation of the duresse of the eunuchs or the ladies, this was rendered only the more severe. Middleton himself signed an order to the officer commanding the troops, that the eunuchs should be kept without food, &c., their irons should be increased in weight, and torture be menaced, till the expected sum should be extorted. To aid in the coercion and the torture, officers of the nabob, well acquainted with these devilish atrocities, were admitted to the unhappy old men in their prison.

Let it be remembered that we are not relating mere inventions of romance, but facts proved on the most unquestionable evidence; nor the dark deeds of Italian or Spanish inquisitors, whose names have filled the world with horror, but the acts of English gentlemen, high in the service of their country in the eighteenth century, and who have found many defenders of their deeds, on the simple plea that India must be saved, and that the begums had the money that could save it. If this plea be admitted, then there is nothing to be said against the most infamous transactions in history. In perpetrating these deeds Hastings was arbitrarily throwing down every solemn engagement which the British government in India had set up, and to permit the violation of which they had shortly before pronounced to the nabob to be most dishonourable, and destructive of our national character. He now took away the jaghires, and gave them to the nabob, and made him assist in robbing and torturing his own mother and grandmother. By the continuance of such means, he at length forced from the begums the sum of five hundred thousand pounds; but this was but a sixth of the riches he was hoping for; and the same system of violence was continued through the greater part of 1782. It was reported by the officer of the sepoy guard, that the health of the two old eunuchs had suffered severely, and that they implored that their irons might be taken off, and themselves be permitted to walk a little for a few days in the palace gardens, the officer asserting that there was not the slightest danger of their escape. But the request was not only refused, but orders were issued to treat them more severely. They were informed, that if they did not give information where the money was, they should undergo still more exquisite torture. They were then removed to Lucknow. and confined in the English prison there; but the English assistant resident wrote an order to the British officer in command of the sepoy guard: - " Sir, - The nabob being determined to inflict corporal punishment upon the prisoners under your guard, this is to desire that his officers, when they shall come, may have free access to the prisoners, and be permitted to do with them as they shall see proper."

It was hoped that the nabob's people being thus employed in this horrible business the cruelties would appear to be his, and not those of the EŁglish; and this system was continued till they had forced upwards of a million sterling from the begums, and found that they might kill both them and their aged ministers, but could get no more. When the begums and two old men were liberated, they were told by the resident - not now Middleton, but Bristow - that they owed this favour to the governor-general, who had determined, to have them " restored to their dignity and honour." It is impossible to decide whether in this history the atrocity or the hypocrisy is the most astounding. During the conferences at Chunar, Hastings, in open defiance of the law against receiving presents from the Indian princes, accepted a present of one hundred thousand pounds from his accomplice, the nabob of Oude. This was probably to obtain his desire, that the jaghire of Fyzoola Khan,- the Rohilla chief, which had been secured to him in the north of Rohilcund, should be seized by the nabob. Hastings readily agreed to the seizure, and it was duly made a clause of the treaty at Chunar. But Hastings, with that ready duplicity for which he was so famous, at the same time wrote to the council to say he never intended to carry it into execution; that the independence of Fyzoola Khan was more to the interests of the British than his suppression. The nabob, therefore, notwithstanding his earnest demands to be put in possession of the jaghire, never was gratified. Hastings, however, sent to the khan, to inform him that, by the payment of fifteen lacs of rupees, he could engage to guarantee his retention of the jaghire. Fyzoola replied that he did not possess any such sum of money, and that he relied on his treaty with the English government for the possession of his jaghire; and, singular enough, he was allowed to retain it during his life.

There was another name connected with these events, and with almost equal disadvantage, that of Sir Elijah Impey, the chief-justice. We have seen how this old schoolfellow of Hastings had supported him against the opposition of Francis and his party; how he had condemned and hanged Nuncomar, the mortal enemy of the governor-general; and how, though, for a time, he, with the other justices, were in hostility to Hastings regarding their own authority; all this was forgiven, and Impey was rewarded with a new judgeship, with a salary of five thousand pounds a-year, in addition to his old one of eight thousand pounds a-year. Impey, who had no jurisdiction in Oude, was found, however, up there in the midst of these transactions, volunteering his assistance in getting up charges against the begums. These charges were supported by a host of venal witnesses, such as were brought forward to swear away the life of Nuncomar, and affidavits of their evidence were made out, and sent down to Calcutta, to justify the dark doings of Hastings.

But the violent proceedings of Hastings and his council, partly against each other, and still more against the natives, did not escape the authorities at home. Two committees were appointed in the house of commons in 1781, to inquire into these matters. One of them was headed by general Richard Smith, and the other by Dundas, the lord-advocate of Scotland. In both of these the conduct of Hastings, especially at that time in the war against the Rohillas, was severely condemned, and the appointment of Impey to the new judicial office was greatly disapproved. In May, 1782, general Smith moved an address praying his majesty to recall Sir Elijah Impey, which was carried unanimously, and he was recalled accordingly. Dundas also moved and carried a resolution declaring it to be the duty of the court oi directors to recall Warren Hastings, on the charge of his " having, in sundry instances, acted in a manner repugnant to the honour and policy of the nation." The court of directors complied with this suggestion; but lord Rockingham dying, his ministry being dissolved, and Burke, the great opponent of Indian oppressions, being out of office, in October the court of directors, through the active exertions of the friends of Hastings, rescinded his recall. The succeeding changes of administration, and their weakness, first that of the Shelburnc, and then that of the coalition ministry, enabled Hastings to keep his post in India, and finish the war in Madras. It was the India bill of Pitt in 1784, which, by creating the board of control, and enabling the government to take immediate cognisance of the proceedings of the governor-generals, and other chief officers in India, which broke the power of Hastings, and which led him to resign, without, however, enabling him to escape the just scrutiny which his administration needed. In the India bill of Pitt there was a clause calling on the court of directors to inquire into the state of the debts of the nabob of Arcot. Of these debts, the most extraordinary accounts were in circulation; the most wonderful stories of the peculations and inventions of Englishmen, by which they had arrived at their monstrous dimensions. As the fate of the nabob of Arcot - that great friend of the English - was the fate of so many of the English allies - the nabobs of Oude, Tanjore, Benares, Surat, and others - we will give a rapid sketch of his history, from first to last, though we have incidentally noticed one or two of the events in the details of proceedings against Hyder Ali.

The nabob of Arcot, or properly of the Carnatic, "was one of the earliest of the allies of the English. The English, in the first place, obtained a grant of land from him surrounding Madras, in 1750. They were then too happy to assist the nabob against the French. For these aids, in which Clive distinguished himself, the English took care to stipulate for their usually monstrous payments. Mahomet Ali, the nabob, soon found that he was unable to satisfy the demands of his allies. They urged upon him the maintenance of large bodies of troops for the defence of his territory against the French and other enemies. This threw him more inextricably into debt, and therefore more inextricably into their power. He became an unresisting tool in their hands. In his name the most savage exactions were practised on his subjects. The whole revenues of his kingdom, however, proved totally inadequate to the perpetually accumulating demands upon them. He borrowed money where he could, and at whatever interest, of the English themselves. Where this interest could not be paid, he made over to them, under the name of tuncans, the revenues of some portion of his dominions. These assignments directly decreasing his resources, only raised the demands of his other creditors more violently, and the fleecing of his subjects became more and more dreadful. In this situation he began to cast his eyes on the neighbouring states, and to incite his allies, by the assertion of various claims upon them, which would give him an opportunity of paying them. This exactly suited their views. It gave them a prospect of money, and of conquest, too, under the plausible colour of assisting their ally in urging his just claims. They first joined him in falling on the rajah of Tanjore, whom the nabob claimed as a tributary, indebted to him in a large amount of revenue. The rajah was soon reduced to submission, and agreed to pay thirty lacs and fifty thousand rupees, and to aid the nabob in all his wars. Scarcely, however, was this treaty signed, than they repented of it; thought they had not got enough; hoped the rajah would not be exact to a day in his payments, in which case they would fall on him again for breach of treaty. It so happened; and, as we have seen, they rushed out of their camp, seized on parts of Vellum, and the districts of Coiladdy and Elangad, and retained them.

This affair being so fortunately adjusted, the nabob of Arcot called on his willing allies to attack the Marawars, as we have related. They too, he said, owed him money, and money was what the English were always in want of. They readily assented, though they declared that they believed the nabob had no real claims on the Marawars whatever. But then, they said, the nabob has made them his enemies, and it is necessary for his security that they should be reduced. They did not pretend that it was just; but then, it was politic. The particulars of this war are barbarous and disgraceful to the English. The nabob thirsted for the destruction of these states; he and his Christian allies soon reduced Ramnadaporam, the capital of the great Marawar, seized the polygar, a minor of twelve years old, his mother, and the dwan; they came suddenly upon the polygar of the lesser Marawar, while he was trusting to a treaty just made, and killed him; and pursued the inhabitants of the country with severities, which only can be represented by the language of one of the English officers, addressed to the council. Speaking of the animosity of the people against them, and their attacking the baggage, he says: - " I can only determine it by reprisals, which will oblige me to plunder and burn the villages, kill every man in them, and take prisoners the women and children. These are actions which the nature of this war will require." (" Tanjore Papers; " " Mill's History.")

And this was done in a war which they themselves admitted had no just foundation. Such were the unholy deeds into which the nabob and the great scheme of acquisition of territory had led our countrymen in 1773, but this was only the beginning of these affairs. The bloody campaign ended, and large sums of money levied, the nabob proposed another war on the rajah of Tanjore. There was not the remotest plea of injury from the rajah, or breach of treaty. He had paid the enormous sum demanded of him before, by active levies on his subjects, and by mortgaging lands and jewels; but the nabob had now made him a very dangerous enemy - he might ally himself with Hyder Ah, or the French, or some force or other - therefore it was better that he should be utterly destroyed, and his country put into the power of the nabob! " Never," exclaims Mr. Mill, " I suppose, was the resolution taken to make war upon a lawful sovereign, with the view of reducing him entirely, that is, stripping him of his dominions, and either putting him and his family to death, or making them prisoners for life, upon a more accommodating reason. We have done the rajah great injury - we have no intention of doing him right; this is a sufficient reason for going on to his destruction."

But it was not only thought so, but done; and this was the bargain: the nabob was to advance money and all due necessaries for the war, and to pay ten thousand instead of seven thousand sepoys. The unhappy rajah was speedily defeated, and taken prisoner with all his family; and his country put into the hands of his mortal enemy. There were men of honour and virtue enough among the directors at home, however, to feel a proper disgust, or, at least, regard for public opinion at these unprincipled proceedings; and the rajah, through the means of lord Pigott, was restored, not, however, without having a certain quantity of troops quartered upon him, a yearly payment of four lacs of pagodas imposed, and being bound not to make any treaty, or assist any power, without the consent of the English. He was, in fact, put into the first stage of that process of subjection which would, in due time, remove from him even the shadow of independence.

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