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Journey of the Governor-General to the Upper Provinces—History of the Company's Connexions with the Rajah of Benares—Requisitions upon the Rajah—Resolution to relieve the Company's Necessities by forcible Exaction on the Rajah—The Governor-General arrives at Benares—The Rajah put under Arrest—A tumultuous Assemblage of the People—An Affray between them and the Soldiers—The Rajah escapes—War made upon him, and the Country subdued—Condemnation of Mr. Hastings by the Directors —Double Negotiation with the Mahrattas of Poonah—Treaty of Peace.
Book V. It was immediately subsequent to these great changes in the financial and v ~v~~J judiciary departments of the government, that the celebrated journey of the journey of the Governor-General to the Upper Provinces took place. Important as was the Generaito the business, which at that time pressed upon the attention of the government, when Upper Pro- war rap-ed in the Carnatic, when the contest with the Mahrattas was carried on
in two places at once, and when the Supreme Council was so greatly reduced in numbers that, upon the departure of the Governor-General, one member alone, Mr. Wheler, was left to conduct the machine of government, it was to be concluded, that matters of great concernment had withdrawn the GovernorGeneral from the principal scene of intelligence, of deliberation, and of action, its objects. The transactions which he had in view were chiefly those proceedings which he meditated with regard to the Rajah of Benares, and the Nabob of Oude. The government was distressed for money, and the intention was avowed of making those tributary Princes subservient to its supply. The Governor-General departed from Calcutta on the 7th of July, 1781, and arrived at Benares on the 14th of August. To understand the events which ensued, it is necessary to trace, from its origin, the connexion which subsisted between the English and the Rajah. History of the After the shock which the empire of the Great Mogul sustained by the invaconnexion sion of Nadir Shah, when the subahdars and other governors, freed from the of BenarM^ah restramt of a powerful master, added to the territory, placed under their command, as much as they were able of the adjacent country, the city and district of Benares were reduced under subjection to the Nabob of Oude. This city, which was the principal seat of Brahmenical religion and learning, and to the Chap. VII. native inhabitants an object of prodigious veneration and resort, appears, during —' the previous period of Mahomedan sway, to have remained under the immediate government of an Hindu. Whether, till the time at which it became an appanage to the Subah of Oude, it had ever been governed through the medium of any of the neighbouring viceroys, or had always paid its revenue immediately to the imperial treasury, does not certainly appear. With the exception of coining money, in his own name; a prerogative of majesty, which, as long as the throne retained its vigour, was not enfeebled by communication; and that of the administration of criminal justice, which the Nabob had withdrawn, the Rajah of Benares had always, it is probable, enjoyed and exercised all the powers of government, within his own dominions. In 1764, when the war broke out between the English and the Subahdar of Oude, Bulwant Sing was Rajah of Benares, and, excepting the payment of an annual tribute, was almost independent of that grasping chief, who meditated the reduction of Benares to the same species of dominion which he exercised over the province of Oude. The Rajah would gladly have seen the authority of the English substituted in Oude to that of the Vizir, whom he had so much occasion to dread. He offered to assist them with his forces; and, to anticipate all jealousy, from the idea of his aiming at independence, expressed his willingness to hold the country, subject to the same obligations under them, as it had sustained in the case of the Nabob; and so highly important was the service which he rendered to the Company, that the Directors expressed their sense of it in the strongest terms.* When peace was concluded, the Rajah was secured from the effects of the Nabob's resentment and revenge, by an express article in the treaty; upon which the English insisted, and the guarantee of which they solemnly undertook. Upon the death of Bulwant Sing, in the year 1770, the disposition of the Vizir to dispossess the family, and take the province into his own hands, was strongly displayed, but the English again interfered, and compelled the Vizir to confirm the succession to Cheyte Sing, the son of the late Rajah, and his posterity for ever, on the same terms, excepting a small rise in the annual payment, as those on which the country had been held by his father. In the year 1773, when Mr. Hastings paid his first visit to the Nabob of Oude, the preceding agreement was renewed and confirmed. "The Nabob," said Mr. Hastings, "pressed me, in very earnest terms, for my consent, that he should dispossess the Rajah of
Book V. the forts of Leteefgur and Bidgegur, and take from him ten lacs of rupees, over and above the stipulated rents; and he seemed greatly dissatisfied at my refusal." Mr. Hastings, however, insisted that all the advantages which had been secured to Bulwant Sing, and confirmed by the Nabob's own deed to Cheyte Sing, should be preserved; and he expressed, in the same letter, his opinion both of the faith of the Vizir, and the independence of the Rajah, in the following terms: "I am well convinced that the Rajah's inheritance, and perhaps his life, are no longer safe than while he enjoys the Company's protection; which is his due, by the ties of justice, and the obligations of public faith: and which policy enjoins us to afford him ever most effectually: his country is a strong barrier to ours, without subjecting us to any expense; and we may depend upon him as a sure ally, whenever we may stand in need of his services." * It was established accordingly, that "no increase of revenue should ever thereafter be demanded."
When the Company's new government, established in 1774, resolved upon forming a new arrangement with the son and successor of the Vizir, lately deceased; the interest, whatever it was, which was possessed by the Vizir in the territory of the Rajah Cheyte Sing, was transferred from that chief to the Company. Upon this occasion, it was resolved, not only that no infringement should take place of the previous rights and privileges of the Rajah, but that other advantages should be annexed. Mr. Hastings took the lead in this determination; and earnestly maintained the policy of rendering the Rajah totally independent in the government of Benares, under nothing but the payment of a fixed and invariable tribute. To this, with only a nominal modification, the Council agreed. It was a primary object, professed by all, that the Rajah should be completely secured from all future encroachments, either upon his revenue, or his power; and an unanimous resolution was passed, that, so long as he discharged his engagements, "no more demands should be made upon him, by the Honourable Company, of any kind; nor, on any pretence whatsoever, should any person be allowed to interfere with his authority." To preclude all ground for such interference, the right of coining money, and of admiAgreement nistering penal justice, was transferred to him. Mr. Hastings proposed that the fofat?11 Rajah should pay his tribute, not at his own capital of Benares, but at Patna, tribute, and whjch was the nearest station for the business of government, within the terri
* Secret Consultations, Fort William, 4th Oct. 1773; Extract of the Governor-General's Report; Second Report of the Select Committee, 1782, p. 12. tory of the Company. And the reason which he suggested is worthy of record: Chap. VII."If a resident was appointed to receive the money, as it became due, at' Benares; such a resident would unavoidably acquire an influence over the Rajah, from any other and over his country; which would, in effect, render him master of both. This clmm' consequence might not, perhaps, be brought completely to pass, without a struggle; and many appeals to the Council, which, in a government constituted like this, cannot fail to terminate against the Rajah: And, by the construction, to which his opposition to the agent would be liable, might eventually draw on him severer restrictions; and end in reducing him to the mean and depraved state of a mere zemindar." * The chain of acknowledgments is instructive and memorable; 1st. That a resident of the Company, at the court of a native Prince, though for ever so confined and simple a purpose, no more than that of receiving periodical payment of a definite sum of money, would engross the power of the Prince, and become, in effect, the master of the country; 2dly, That in any disputes which might arise with the agent, in the resistance offered by the Prince to these encroachments, the Prince is sure of injustice from the Company's government, sure that all appeals to it will terminate against him, and that even his attempts to oppose the encroachments of the agent will be liable to such constructions, as may induce the Company's servants to plunge him into the lowest state of oppression and degradation; and, 3dly, That this state of "meanness and depravity" is the ordinary state of a zemindar, f
* Minute in Council of the Governor-General on the 12th of June, 1775.
f Mr. Barwell even went so far, as to record it in his minute as his opinion and desire, that the Rajah should be exempt even from tribute, and rendered in all respects an independent Sovereign. His words are these; "The independence of Gauzeepore (the Rajah's country) on Oude, is a great political object, and ought to be insisted on; and whatever may be resolved respecting the revenue paid by the Rajah of that country, the English government ought not to stand in the same relation to it as the late Vizir, because the country of Benares and Gauzeepore is a natural barrier to these provinces, and the Rajah should have the strongest tie of interest to support our government, in case of any future rupture with the Subah of Oude.—To make this his interest, he must not be tributary to the English government; for, from the instant he becomes its tributary, from that moment we may expect him to side against us, and, by taking advantage of the troubles and commotions that may arise, attempt to disburthen himself of his pecuniary obligations." Bengal Consultations, 13th Feb. 1775. As a specimen of the changes to which the sentiments of these rulers were liable, compare the words of the Minute of this same Mr. Barwell, not three years and five months afterwards, viz. in his Minute in Council, 9th of July, 1778; "I have long regarded the military establishment of Benares, under the Rajah's native officers, as a defect: I therefore most heartily agree to the present proposal for three disciplined battalions to be kept up and paid by the Rajah, and sincerely hope the Company will direct, that the
VOL. II. 4 G
It was in the end arranged, that the payment of the tribute should be made at Calcutta, a commission being allowed for the additional expense: And Mr. Francis was anxious that the independence of the Rajah should be modified no farther than by an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the English; a condition not practically affecting his government, and conducive no less to his security, than to the dignity of those to whom the compliment was paid.*
Upon these terms the settlement was concluded; and the Rajah continued to pay his tribute with an exactness rarely exemplified in the history of the tributary princes of Hindustan. Unhappily for him, he was not an indifferent spectator of the disputes which agitated the Supreme Council. "It is a fact," says the Governor-General, "that when the unhappy divisions of our government had proceeded to an extremity bordering on civil violence, by the attempt to wrest from me my authority, in the month of June, 1777, f he had deputed a man named Sumboonaut, with an express commission to my opponent; and the man had proceeded as far as Moorshedabad, when, hearing of the change of affairs, he stopped, and the Rajah recalled him." \ It is somewhat wonderful that a circumstance, no greater than this, should have made so deep an impression upon the mind of the Governor-General, as to be enumerated, after the lapse of years,
whole force of Benares and Gauzeepore, under the Zemindar, be placed upon the same footing as the regular military force of the Presidency." It is to be observed, that the three battalions were a mere pretence. The Rajah was only required to give money; and the battalions were never raised.
* The third paragraph of his Minute in Council, on the 13th of Feb. 1775, was in these words; "The present Rajah of Benares to be confirmed in the Zemindary, which may be perpetuated in the family under a fixed annual tribute, and a fixed fine at each future investiture; the Rajah's authority in his own country to be left full and uncontrouled." And this he further explained in a Minute, dated the 4th of March, in the following words; "In agreeing to the proposed independence of the Rajah of Benares, my meaning was, to adhere strictly to the third paragraph of my Minute of the 13th of February, that the Zemindary may be perpetuated in his family on fixed and unalterable conditions. It is highly for his own advantage, to be considered as a vassal of the Sovereign of these kingdoms, holding a great hereditary fief by a fixed tenure, and acknowledging the Sovereign of Bengal and Bahar to be his lord paramount. Speaking my sentiments without reserve, I must declare, that in settling this article, I look forward to the assertion or acceptance of the sovereignty of these provinces, plenojure, on the part of his most Gracious Majesty, the King of Great Britain."
f What he calls the attempt to wrest from him his authority, was his own refusal to obey the appointment of the Company, when Sir John Clavering was nominated to the place of GovernorGeneral, upon the resignation which Mr. Hastings disowned.
% The Governor-General's Narrative of the Transactions at Benares, App. No. 1; Second Report of the Select Committee, 1781.