Графични страници
PDF файл

may be drawn from it beyond what they evidently support. "I am this instant Chap. VII. favoured with yours of yesterday. Mine of the same date has before this time 7ZCT~i acquainted you with my resolutions and sentiments respecting the Rannee. I think every demand she has made to you, except that of safety and respect for her person, is unreasonable. If the reports brought to me are true; your rejecting her offers, or any negotiation with her, would soon obtain you possession of the fort, upon your own terms. I apprehend that she will contrive to defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being suffered to retire without examination. But this is your consideration, and not mine. I should be very sorry that your officers and soldiers lost any part of the reward to which they are so well entitled; but I cannot make any objection, as you must be the best judge of the expediency of the promised indulgence to the Rannee. What you have engaged for, I will certainly ratify; but, as to permitting the Rannee to hold the pergunnah of Hurlak, or any other, without being subject to the authority of the Zemindar, or any lands whatever, or indeed making any condition with her for a provision, I will never consent to it." * It was finally arranged, that the Rannee should give up the fort, with all the treasure and effects contained in it, on the express condition, along with terms of safety, that the persons of herself and of the other females of her family should be safe from the dishonour of search. The idea, however, which was suggested in the letter of Mr. Hastings, "that she would contrive to defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being suffered to retire without examination," diffused itself but too perfectly among the soldiery; and when the Princesses, with their relatives and attendants, to the number of three hundred women, besides children, withdrew from the castle, the capitulation was shamefully violated; they were plundered of their Outrage upon effects; and their persons otherwise rudely and disgracefully treated by the the Princesseslicentious people and followers of the camp. One is delighted, for the honour of distinguished gallantry, that in no part of this opprobrious business the commanding officer had any share. He leaned to generosity, and the protection of the Princesses, from the beginning. His utmost endeavours were exerted to restrain the outrages of the camp; and he represented them with feeling to Mr. Hastings, who expressed his "great concern;" hoped the offenders would be discovered, obliged to make restitution and punished; and directed that recom

* It is remarkable, that of the inferences which are drawn from this letter, by Mr. Burke, in his Third Article of Charge, no notice whatsoever is taken by Mr. Hastings, in his Answer to that Charge, or indeed of any thing relative to the surrender of Bidgegur, and the fate of the prize money.

Book V. pense should be made to the sufferer, "by a scrupulous attention to enforce the

** 'performance of the remaining stipulations in her favour." *

- The whole of the treasure found in the castle, of which the greater part did probably belong to the Rannee, and not to the Rajah, amounted to 23,27,813 current rupees. The whole, therefore, of the treasure which the exiled Prince appears to have had in hand, not only to defray the current expenses of his government, but also to advance regularly the Company's tribute, was so far from answering to the hyperbolical conceptions or representations of the GovernorGeneral, that it exceeded not the provision which a prudent prince would have thought it always necessary to possess.

The army di- The army proceeded upon the obvious import of the words of the Governorvide among ...

themselves, General in the letter in which he seemed to desire, that they should not allow Hasting^re-° the female relations of the Rajah to leave the fort, without the examination of der ofhthelun"tneir p6r80"8- They concluded, that the whole of the booty was "the reward Rajah. to which they were so well entitled," and divided it among themselves.f Of the practical conclusions deducible from his letter, it appears that this, at least, the Governor-General did not wish to receive its effect. He endeavoured to retract the permission which the army had inferred; and, by explaining away the terms which he had used, to recover the spoil for his exigencies in the government. The soldiers, however, both officers and men, refused to surrender what they had, upon the faith of the Governor-General, appropriated. Failing in this attempt, he endeavoured to prevail upon the army, in the way of loan, to aid the Company with the money, in its urgent distress. Even to this solicitation they remained obdurate. When Major Fairfax, in his examination before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, was asked, "whether the officers assigned any reason for refusing to obey the requisition of Mr. Hastings? he said, he heard it was, because the Rohilla prize-money had never been paid." \ Mr. Hastings was therefore, not only frustrated as to every portion of

* See his Letter, Tenth Report, Select Committee, Appendix, No. 3.

f In a letter to the commanding officer, without date, but supposed by the Select Committee to have been written early in November (vide Tenth Report, App. No. 3) the Governor-General's words were still more precise, with regard to the booty. "If she (the Begum) complies, as I expect she will, it will be your part to secure the fort, and the property it contains, for the benefit of yourself and detachment."

X Second Report, ut Supra, Appendix, No. 15. "Being asked, whether this was the sole reason? he said, it was. Being asked, whether he did not hear it alleged, that a promise was claimed by the officers from Mr. Hastings, that the prize-money, in the Rohilla war, when taken, should be the property of the captors? he said, He never heard of a promise previous to the that pecuniary relief which he expected from the supposed treasures of the Chap. VII. Rajah Cheyte Sing; he added to the burden, under which the Company was v ready to sink, the expense which was incurred by subduing the revolt.

It is but justice to the Court of Directors to record the resolutions, in which Resolutions they expressed their opinion of the conduct, pursued by their principal servant in °f Directors. India, towards the unfortunate Rajah of Benares:

"That it appears to this Court, that on the death of Suja Dowlah, 1775, a treaty was made with his successor, by which the zemindary of Benares, with its dependencies, was ceded in perpetuity to the East India Company:

"That it appears to this Court, that Rajah Cheyte Sing was confirmed by the Governor-General and Council of Bengal, in the management of the said zemindary (subject to the sovereignty of the Company) on his paying a certain tribute, which was settled at sicca rupees 22,66,180; and that the Bengal government pledged itself that the free and uncontroled possession of the zemindary of Benares, and its dependencies, should be confirmed and guaranteed to the Rajah and his heirs for ever, subject to such tribute, and that no other demand should be made upon him, nor any kind of authority or jurisdiction exercised within the dominions assigned him, so long as he adhered to the terms of his engagements:

"That it appears to this Court that the Governor-General and Council did, on the 5th of July, 1775, recommend to Rajah Cheyte Sing, to keep up a body of 2,000 horse; but at the same time declared there should be no obligation upon him to do it:

"That it appears to this Court, that Rajah Cheyte Sing performed his engagements with the Company, in the regular payment of his tribute of sicca rupees 22,66,180:

"That it appears to this Court, that the conduct of the Governor-General towards the Rajah, while he was at Benares, was improper; and that the imprisonment of his person, thereby disgracing him in the eyes of his subjects and others, was unwarrantable, and highly impolitic, and may tend to weaken the confidence which the native princes of India ought to have in the justice and moderation of the Company's government."

That the conception, thus expressed by the Court of Directors, of the several Affirmations

. , . Mr. Hast

facts which constituted the great circumstances of the case, was correct, the ings in defence.

capture; but he has heard that Mr. Hastings, after the prize-money was divided, promised, that if they would deliver it up, government would distribute it, in the manner they should think most proper." • :f

Vol. II. 4 K

Book V. considerations adduced in the preceding pages appear to place beyond the reach of dispute. The sensibility which, in his answer, Mr. Hastings shows to the inferences which they present, is expressed in the following words; "I must crave leave to say, that the terms, improper, unwarrantable, and highly impolitic, are much too gentle, as deductions from such premises." History, if concealment were not one of the acts by which truth is betrayed, would, out of tenderness to Mr. Hastings, suppress the material part of that which follows, and which he gave in his defence:

"I deny, that the Bengal government pledged itself, that the free and uncontrolled possession of the zemindary of Benares, and its dependencies, should be confirmed and guaranteed to the Rajah and his heirs for ever:

"I deny, that the Bengal government pledged itself that no other demand should be made upon him, nor any kind of authority or jurisdiction, within the dominions assigned him, so long as he adhered to the terms of his engagement:

"I deny, that I ever required him to keep up a body of 2,000 horse, contrary to the declaration made to him by the Governor-General and Council, on the 5th of July, 1775, that there should be no obligation to him to do it:

"My demand (that is, the demand of the Board) was not that he should maintain any specific number of horse, but that the number which he did maintain should be employed for the defence of the general state:

"I deny, that Rajah Cheyte Sing was bound by no other engagements to the Company, than for the payment of his tribute of sicca rupees 22,66,180:

"He was bound by the engagements of fealty, and absolute obedience to every order of the government which he served.

"I deny, that the Rajah Cheyte Sing was a native Prince of India." *

• On equal grounds might the denial have been set up, that the Company held the dignity of a prince of India. They were not only the subjects of Shah Aulum, but the subjects of the Nabob of Bengal; and, according to the doctrine of Mr. Hastings, "bound by the engagements of fealty, and absolute obedience to every order of the government which they served." Hear what the Governor-General and Council themselves declare respecting their subordinate relation to that Nabob, in their secret letter (Second Report, ut supra, p. 22), 3d August, 1775. "In the treaties entered into with the late Vizir, in the years 1765, 1770, the Company's representatives acted, as plenipotentiaries from the Nabob Nujum ul Dowlah, and his successor Syef ul Dowlah." Hastings's plan of defence was this; To avail himself of the indefiniteness and uncertainty which surrounded every right, and every condition in India; and out of that to manufacture to himself a right of unbounded despotism. There is one remark, however, to which he is, in justice, entitled; that this indefiniteness, and the latitude of authority, the exercise of which was, in the

Mr. Hastings says, "I forbear to detail the proofs of these denials;" and as Chap. VII. the pleas involved in them coincide with those allegations of his which have been * ^J"""' examined above, it is only necessary to refer to what has there been adduced. * The Court of Directors, notwithstanding their condemnation of the treatment which the Rajah had received, and notwithstanding the manner in which, by a , train of unhappy circumstances the trial of arms was forced upon him, thought proper to declare, that his dethronement and proscription were justified by the war. f It was shortly after his retreat to Chunar, that the Governor-General received Double negofrom Colonel Muir the intelligence, that Mahdajee Scindia had offered terms of the1Slahrattms peace. This was an event, calculated to afford him peculiar satisfaction. One at Poonahof the ostensible objects of his journey was, to confer with the Minister of the Rajah of Berar, who was expected to meet him at Benares; and, through the influence of the government of that country, to accelerate the conclusion of a peace. That Minister, however, died before the arrival of Hastings; and the loss of his intervention rendered the pacific intentions of Scindia more peculiarly gratifying. So far back as February, 1779, the Presidency of Bombay had recommended the mediation of Scindia, as that which alone was likely to render any service. The Colonel immediately received his instructions, for a treaty, on the terms either of mutual alliance, or of neutrality; and either practice of the country, never bounded by any thing but power, constituted a snare into which it was very difficult not to fall. It is also to be remembered that it is one thing to act under the casual and imperfect information of the moment of action, agitated by the passions which the circumstances themselves produce; and a very different thing to sit in judgment upon those acts, at a future period, when all the evidence is fully before us, illustrated by the events which followed, and when we are entirely free from the disturbance of the passions which the scenes themselves excite. It is the business of history, to exhibit actions asthey really are; but the candid and just will make all the allowance for the actors, of which the case will admit. With regard to Mr. Hastings, it ought to be allowed, that the difficulties under which he acted were very great; and might be expected to betray any but a very extraordinary man into expedients for relief which would not always bear examination. Mr. Hastings deserves no hypocritical tenderness with regard to the instances in which he violated the rules of justice or of policy ; but he deserves credit, in considerable, and perhaps a large degree, for having, in his situation, violated them so rarely. * Vide supra, p. 600—607. f The official documents relative to this passage of the history of India are found, in a most voluminous state, in those parts of the Minutes of Evidence on Mr. Hastings's Trial, which relate to the Benares Charge; in the Second Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, (1781) and its Appendix; in the Third of the Articles of Charge, and Answer to it, with the Papers called for by the House of Commons, to elucidate that part of the accusation.

« ПредишнаНапред »