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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 16

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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.

Such were the measures by which the nabob of Arcot endeavoured to relieve himself of his embarrassments with the English; but they would not avail. Their demands grew faster than he could find means to satisfy them. Their system of action was too well devised to fail them; their victims rarely escaped from their toils. He might help them to ruin his neighbours, but his own ruin was equally sure. During his life the nabob was surrounded by a host of cormorant creditors, of whom we shall immediately have some notice; his country harassed by perpetual exactions, rapidly declined; and the death of his son and successor, Omdut ul Omrah, in 1801, produced one of the strangest scenes in this strange history. The marquis Wellesley was then governor-general, and was pursuing that sweeping course which stripped away the hypocritical mask from British power in India, threw down so many puppet princes, and displayed the English dominion in Hindostan in its gigantic nakedness. The revenues of the Carnatic had been before taken into the hands of the English; but lord Wellesley resolved to depose the prince, and the manner in which this deposition was effected was singularly despotic and unfeeling. They had come to the resolution to depose the nabob, and only looked about for some plausible pretence. This they professed to have found in a correspondence between Tippoo and some officers of the nabob. They alleged that this correspondence contained injurious and even treasonable language towards the English. When, therefore, the nabob lay on his death-bed, they surrounded his house with troops, and immediately that the breath had departed from him, they demanded to see his will. This rude and unfeeling behaviour, so repugnant to the ideas of every people, however savage and brutal, at a moment so solemn and sacred to domestic sorrow, was respectfully protested against; but in vain. The will they insisted upon seeing, and it was accordingly put into their hands by the son of the nabob. Finding that the son was named as his heir and successor by the nabob, the commissioners immediately announced to him the charge of treason against his father, and that the throne was thereby forfeited by the family. This charge, of course, was a matter of surprise to the family, especially when the papers said to contain the treason were produced, and they could find in them nothing but terms of fidelity and respect towards the English government.

But the English had resolved that the charge should be a sufficient charge; and the young prince manfully resisting it, they then declared him to be of illegitimate birth - a very favourite and convenient plea with them. On this they set him aside, and made a treaty with another prince, in which, for a certain provision, the Carnatic was made over to them for ever. The young nabob, Ali Hussim, did not long survive this scene of indignity, his death occurring in the spring of the following year.

Such was the treatment by the English of their friend, the nabob of Arcot! - the nabob of Arcot, whose name was, for years, continually heard in England as the powerful ally of the British, as their coadjutor against the French, against the ambitious Hyder Ali, as their zealous and accommodating friend on all occasions. It was in vain that either the old nabob or the young one, whom they so summarily deposed, pleaded the faith of treaties, their own hereditary right, or ancient friendship. Arcot had served its turn; it had been the stalking-horse to all the aggressions on other states that they needed from it - they had exacted all that could be cxacted in the name of the nabob from his subjects - they had squeezed the sponge dry; and, moreover, the time was now come that they could with impunity throw off the stealthy, crouching attitude of the tiger, the smiling, meek mask of alliance, and boldly seize upon undisguised sovereign powers in India. That is the history of one amid a number of Indian princes that were so treated.

We have now to see the view which Burke took of these things as far as they had then gone, in 1785.

As just stated, the nabob of Arcot had not only, by the means now detailed, been fast falling into debt to the company, but, to enable him to pay the company's demands of annual revenue and interest, he had borrowed money of private individuals. These individuals, leeches of the most insatiate species, had contrived, by arts in which they were most accomplished adepts, to swell their comparatively small advances into monstrous sums. As the nabob could not pay them, they went on multiplying their amount by a system of book-keeping legerdemain till they amounted to millions. Conspicuous above them all stood one Paul Benfield, who, from a most obscure individual, had contrived to make it appear that the nabob owed him upwards of half a million of money. How a man, who had commenced as an humble clerk in the company's service, with a few hundreds a-year, and had lived in a manner so ostentatious as to more than absorb the legitimate proceeds of his office, and having no original property of his own, could have accumulated such a sum, no one pretended to explain. The company, however, who had large claims on the nabob, by no means relishing the enormous demands upon him by these private creditors, instituted a commission of inquiry to ascertain the nature and justice of these debts, which so ominously competed with their own.

But they had in Mr. Paul Benfield a rival of no mean character. This man went to Europe, and put himself in communication with Pitt and Dundas, and made himself so useful to them in bribing borough constituencies, that the government, through the board of control, put a stop to the company's inquiries; and Dundas, as speaker for the board of control, declared that the debts of the nabob were bona- fide and just debts, and must be discharged by twelve lacs of rupees being set aside annually for the purpose. This astonishing resolution was strongly opposed by the court of directors, and especially their chairman, in the house of commons. Sir Thomas Rumbold, too, who had been recalled by ministers from his three years' governorship of Madras, and an order given for his impeachment, declared that nearly the whole of the debt of the nabob was a scandalously spurious one. Sir Thomas might be supposed to know something of these Indian mysteries, for, in three years, with a salary as governor of twenty thousand pounds a-year, besides living as governor at Madras, he had remitted home one hundred and sixty-four thousand pounds!

Dundas had brought this matter before parliament; but, when all the world expected proceedings against Rumbold, the charge was suffered quietly to drop. It, no doubt, was found best, with such a man as Paul Benfield in their employment, not to inquire too closely into Indian corruption, Sir Thomas now boldly opposed ministers in his turn, and cast the most entire suspicion on the bulk of the nabob's debts.

It was in this position of things that Burke, on the 28th of February, 1785, brought forward his famous motion for a parliamentary inquiry into these debts. In one of the most extraordinary and startling speeches ever made in the house of commons, he declared the nabob's debts "a gigantic sham." He declared that any man but Pitt "would have exorcised that shapeless, nameless form, and by everything sacred would have adjured it to tell by what means a small number of eight individuals, of no consequence or situation, possessed of no lucrative offices, without the command of armies, or the known administration of resources, without profession of any kind, without any sort of trade sufficient to employ a pedlar, could have, in a few years, or, as was the case with some, even in a few months, amassed treasures equal to the revenues of a respectable kingdom? Was it not enough to put these gentlemen, in the novitiate of their administration, on their guard, and to call on them for a strict inquiry, that, when all England, Scotland, and Ireland, had for years been witness to the immense sums laid out by the servants of the company in stocks of all denominations, in the purchase of lands, in the buying and building of houses, in the securing quiet seats in parliament, or in the tumultuous riot of contested elections, in every imaginable species of prodigality, that, after all, India was still four millions in their debt!" Burke called on Pitt and Dundas to notice a letter to the court of directors written by the nabob of Arcot, stating to them how their servants were robbing them and him at the same time. " Your servants," he said, " have no trade in this country, neither do you pay them high wages, yet in a few years they return to England with many lacs of pagodas. How can you or I account for such immense fortunes acquired in so short a time without any visible means of getting them? "

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 16

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