Page images
PDF
EPUB

a great deal.

Munro was sent from Canara to the ceded districts, which, by the former partition treaty, had been taken from Tippoo, and for a time given nominally to the Nizam, but which now without disguise were taken possession of by their real owners, the Company. Munro was desired to raise the public taxes in the provinces placed under his authority. They had been described as unable to yield more than the tribute which they paid formerly to Tippoo, by reason of their great sufferings in the war, and during the famine which was its consequence.

To see whether they had suffered as much as they were reported to have done, Munro tells how he made a circuit of inspection, and says—“There was no doubt some exaggeration, but not

Most of the houses were in ruins, scarce one-fourth of them were inhabited. But he had little doubt that in seven years the full amount of the schedule " (or proposed standard of English taxation) “ might be realised. The principal obstacle was that the desire men at the head of affairs usually had, of seeing the public income flourishing under their auspices, would probably compel him to proceed too rapidly. He had no thought of precipitating matters for the present, though he should, for the sake of the public want of money, press the ryots rather more than he ought to do.”? The Polygars, or armed nobles, offered considerable resistance to the fiscal designs of their new masters. Munro (alls them robbers and banditti opposed to the establishment of order, whom it was necessary to get rid of without delay. Notwithstanding all his enlightened efforts to win them over to increased taxation, two of these chieftains still held out in 1802, so that it became advisable to move large bodies of troops into the neighbourhood. “It might also be necessary,"

Munro, vol. i. p. 334.

1

[ocr errors]

"1

he thought, “to proceed against the Zemindar of Panganore, because he was not sure that he would submit to an addition to his peshcush or tribute, which must be laid on in order to reduce his power.

Not much philosophical indifference on the part of the conquered here.

Far other thoughts and dreams filled the brain of the egotistic Governor-General. A step in the peerage had been granted him in acknowledgment of his services above narrated. The desire to accomplish something more notable is betrayed by the newly-made Marquis in every act of his memorable career, and in every line of his ambitious correspondence. He was in the highest sense of the term an actor. He always took care to look the character. His attention to the state toilet was minute as that of a woman of fashion. He had a deep belief in the doctrine that the world is governed to a great degree by the shows and semblances of power; and loving the reality of power as he did, he would have thought it mere quixotism to discard any means so harmless for maintaining the personal consideration which is one ingredient of it. In the East, the display of magnificence was, in his day, considered a maxim of state policy. The sovereigns we had supplanted had never been seen but in gorgeous array, and surrounded with glitter and pomp. The transition to simplicity of costume and equipage would have been, it was supposed, a needless and injudicious violence to popular habits; and accordingly we find successive Governors-General sorely puzzled how to be grand enough without being too grand, and how to be high and mighty looking without being lost in the clouds of impalpability. Lord Wellesley had an instinct for this kind of thing. No man was ever more beloved by those about him ; and yet there was not one of them who ever

Munro, vol. i. p. 337.

1

thought of asking him an impertinent question. Although constitutionally irritable and impatient, his nature was so full of courtesy and generosity, that those who thought him oftenest unreasonable and wilful could not but love and honour him. When the prize-money came to be divided after the campaign of 1799, £100,000 would, according to rule, have fallen to his share; but though his patrimony was small and his habits expensive, he waived his right in favour of the troops, preferring to purchase praise rather than landed property. His talents, which were not inconsiderable, hardly equalled his aspirations; and had he been placed in other circumstances, they might have met with as mortifying results in India as they were subsequently doomed to undergo elsewhere. But owing to a rare coincidence of fortune, the civil and military establishments, at the period in question, contained a combination of talents apt for the purposes of the Governor-General such as they had never known before. Beside Malcolm, Close, Harris, and Munro, there were Edmonstone and Stewart, and above all, that younger brother, whose views of Indian as of Home policy throughout life differed from his so widely. The times were singularly favourable from other circumstances for the gratification of that thirst of distinction, which was the leading trait in his character.

The century opened in peace. The Viceroy's policy had proved successful in all respects but one, and was everywhere extolled for its vigour in contending with difficulties, and its magnanimity when they were overcome. His personal friends rejoiced; his flatterers applauded ; his baffled enemies silently succumbed. Vr Pitt was well satisfied with his choice; and his choice was intensely proud of himself. But he had not paid his way, and his merchant-masters qualified their compliments and thanks with regrets and grumblings at the augmented debt occasioned by the war. They could not be made to understand at the outset why it was necessary at all, or why at its conclusion it had not been made to recoup its cost.

In Leadenhall Street, aggression and absorption were viewed but as means to one great end; viz., the increase of the dividend upon East India stock. Glory might be all very well for a venturous peer riding the Company's white elephant; but the keep of the voracious and unmanageable creature was the paramount thought of the Board of Directors. If he could be guided into fresh pastures, and set to browse there with impunity at any neighbour's expense, well and good; but grand marches up the hill of distant conquest and then down again, no matter with what amount of flags flying, tom-toms beating, and salvos of artillery stunning the amazed multitude, did not seem to the prudent rulers of the Company to be a game worth the candlc. The Board of Control might be delighted at the check given to French influence in the East, and the disciples of Mr Burke in Parliament might commend the picturesque air of generosity which was thrown over the re-settlement of Mysore ; but the Directors persistently continued to press the viceregal victor to explain how he proposed to pay the bill.

Disgusted with their want of appreciation of his genius, and their parsimony as partners in the lordship of the East, he replied haughtily that he knew best what the necessities of the case required; and then, in his grand manner, he proceeded to expound all the advantages which were certain to come as the fruits of his policy at some future time. These promises of profit to come did not content them or still their fears lest he should go on as he had begun. The King had made their enterprising Earl a Marquis, as a reward for the annexation of Mysore—who could tell what he might be tempted to do next? News came that he had availed himself of a disputed succession to the Musnud of Surat, to exact terms from the competitor he favoured, which virtually annexed that principality to the other provinces subject to the Presidency of Bombay. The Nawab was to retain the title and income his predecessors had enjoyed ; but the responsibilities of governing and defending the country were henceforth to be borne by its new masters. Then followed similar intelligence regarding Tanjore, where a subsidiary force was permanently stationed at the cost of the Rajah, and the British Resident invested not only with an absolute veto, but the right of initiation in all matters of revenue and expenditure, the same liabilities being undertaken on the part of the Company. The Nawab of Arcot had long been mediatised, but henceforth even the semblance of local jurisdiction was to be taken away, and the Carnatic treated in form and in fact as an incorporated portion of the English dominions. Leadenhall Street grew still more uneasy, and much more querulous with the Viceroy ; but, supported by the Cabinet, and delighted with a sense of supreme power, he was not to be weaned from his purpose, or worried into relinquishing his post by treatises on the duty of forbearance, or financial interrogatories, which he believed were contrived only to perplex and annoy him. As he looked in the glass of his fame, he saw reflected there the builder of England's empire in the East. The ground plan had been traced by Clive, the elevations and the estimates had been left by Warren Hastings. He would execute them.

The state of Oude was reported to be especially propitious for interference. By the modifications of the subsidiary treaty, made with Sir John Shore in 1797, the Vizier

« PreviousContinue »