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possessed of rare intellectual endowments. Even those who deny him the credit of being the author of the "Letters of Junius," must admit that he showed in his acknowledged productions a grasp of thought and vigour of conception, a power of illustration and striking idiosyncrasy of style, rarely to be met with either in politics or literature. The new Governor-General, elated with past success and new promotion, could ill brook the shackles Parliament had imposed on him. He regarded his new associates from the outset as men whose ignorance he was fitted to instruct, but who could teach him nothing he did not already know. He understood the purpose for which they had been chosen, and from the first resolved to baffle it, while they distrusted him too deeply to throw over it a veil. Nor were they long in discovering ample grounds for their distrust. The exchequer was low, the Company's debt was increasing, and the demands from home were more importunate than ever. Hastings was a man full of expedients, and not particular as to their nature. The Vizier of Oude was rich and covetous, and might be tempted by the loan of British troops to pay handsomely for territory to be filched from a weaker neighbour. The project was kept a profound secret from the new members of Council, and its execution was prepared before they were made aware of its scope and aim.
Upon the confines of Oude, where the deep waters of the Caramnassa wind their way through many valleys, dwelt the freest race in all that land. They were girded in on almost every side by rocky hills, and, unambitious of augmenting their wealth by injury of their neighbours, they lived on the fruit of their own toil, and Heaven blessed them. Like the people of other districts, the Rohillas were locally ruled by their own chiefs and magistrates, but they
enjoyed more than ordinary freedom, and consequently more prosperity than many other communities. "They are never to be feared," said Governor Verelst in 1768, "from the nature of their government. When attacked, their natural affection will unite, the common cause will animate them; but it is not practicable to engage their voice on any other motive than their general safety." And of the result of their steady adherence to this traditional policy we are thus informed: "Their territory was one of the best governed in Asia; the people were protected, their industry encouraged, and the country flourished steadily. By these cares, and by cultivating diligently the arts of neutrality, and not by conquering from their neighbours, they provided for their independence." The Vizier of Oude had never been able either to subdue their military spirit, nor yet to seduce it into schemes of suicidal aggression. While so many of the Governments of Hindustan were perpetually encroaching on each other's territories, in much the same wise and useful manner that the monarchs of Europe amused themselves in times past, the Rohillas, like the Swiss, sedulously cultivated the arts of peace, and such a spirit of self-defensive war as could alone secure them its enjoyment.
During the war of 1772, they had faithfully adhered to their alliance with the Vizier. Their territory lay between Oude and the recent conquests of the Mahrattas; and when that restless people in the following year menaced the dominions of the Vizier, and offered advantageous terms to the brave mountain clans, if they would allow them a passage through their country, the offer was steadily and repeatedly refused. By this they exposed themselves to the whole tempest of the Mahratta inroads-a danger whose greatness the haughtiest sovereigns in Hindustan were not ashamed 2 Mill, book V. chap. i. Mill, book V. chap. i.
1 Verelst's account.
to avert by great concessions. The treaty of mutual alliance by which these noble people deemed it their duty thus to abide had been entered into at the express instance of the English, and under their solemn guarantee;1 and when the forfeit of their fidelity had been incurred, and Rohillcund was ravaged by the Mahrattas, in 1773, the allied forces of the English and of Oude were employed to co-operate in opposing the common enemy. No sooner however, were the western invaders repelled, than the Vizier secretly devised with the Governor-General a plan for annexing their territory. This project, says Hastings, writing confidentially to the Directors on 3d December 1774, “I encouraged as I had done before." 2
For we are come to the period when a so-called Viceroy, with more by far than kingly power, was to wield at will the stolen sceptre of the East,—a man trained in the school of Clive, and who, if inferior to his master in personal daring and military genius, was perhaps more than his equal in political craft and far-sighted rapacity. His account of the transaction in question is too instructive to be given in any other words than his own. "As this had been a favourite object of the Vizier, the Board judged with me that it might afford a fair occasion to urge the improvement of our alliance by obtaining his assent to an equitable compensation for the aid he had occasionally received from our forces." The meaning of this sleek villany was this:-Hastings had induced the Vizier to employ a subsidiary force within his dominions, on the plan afterwards prescribed for the acceptance of other princes. This force was professedly to defend the Soubahdar against foreign enemies, but it was officered and com
1 Mill, book V. chap. i.
2 Fifth Parliamentary Report, written by Edmund Burke.
manded exclusively by the Company. Once introduced, there were always reasons why it could not be withdrawn ; but as yet this part of the design was not perceived by the cunning but outwitted Soubahdar. Meanwhile the sums
stipulated for its support were such as to yield an overplus, and to be systematically relied on as a source of profit and revenue; and it was with a view to the increase of this profit, and to supply deficiencies in other departments, that the sale of Rohillcund was agreed to. All advices represented the distress of the Company at home as extreme. For a long time the income of the year had been found inadequate to its expenditure, to defray which a heavy bond debt had been gradually accumulating. A secret treaty was therefore entered into between the Soubahdar and the Governor-General, whereby the Company engaged, whenever a suitable pretence should be found or made, in consideration of a sum of forty lacs of rupees, and payment of all expenses to be incurred in the business, in concert with the troops of Oude to crush the Rohillas, and to add their country to the dominions of the Vizier. The impolicy of this seems manifest enough. The Rohillas were, as they proved themselves to be, the best soldiers in the East, and they formed a permanent outguard and defence against the Mahrattas. But the insane desire of territorial acquisition blinded the Vizier to his interest as well as to his honour; and the ambition of duping him into pecuniary and military relations with the Company, from which it was clearly foreseen he would never be able to get free, seared the conscience of Hastings to all remorse or shame. By him was the precedent set of hiring out to the princes of Hindustan, permanent bodies of British troops under the designation of subsidiary forces, and thereby was a means established of sapping the authority
1 Fifth Report.
and independence of every one of them. Hastings avows that in establishing such a force in Oude, he designed to weaken the native Government, and reduce it to dependency; and how soon his accomplice found that he had sold himself with his prey, subsequent events clearly set forth.
The treaty of Benares was signed in September 1773; but the article for the destruction of the Rohillas was not disclosed till January 1774. Various pretences of claims unsatisfied had been duly made in the interval; and if any one is curious on the matter, he may on inquiry satisfy himself that they were not even colourably true; such, at least, was the verdict of Parliament and of the Directors at home some years afterwards. Why waste words upon them here? On the 17th April the allies in iniquity entered Rohillcund. In vain the brave but outnumbered people sued for mercy; in vain they proffered bitter and miserable submissions. The Vizier feared that they might live for vengeance, and insisted that nothing but their entire dispossession from their homes could give him security. him security. Sooner than submit to this, they chose rather to abide the fate of battle. Ranged on the steep sides of the Babul Nulla, they awaited the murderous onslaught. "It were impossible," said the English commander, Colonel Champion, "to describe a more obstinate firmness of resolution than they displayed. Numerous were the gallant men who advanced, and pitched their colours between the two armies to encourage their men to follow them. Two thousand fell upon the field, among them many Sirdars and Hafiz Rahmet, their commander, who was killed whilst bravely rallying his people." The memorable battle of Rampûr took place on 23d April, and may be said to have determined the issue of the war. 1 Fifth Parliamentary Report.