Page images

so strict was the surveillance held over him. Yet this was the descendant of Princes whose chief sin in the eyes of their countrymen had been their constant alliance with the Company. These expressions are taken from a private diary kept during the earlier years of a long viceroyalty, and from which many curious and suggestive admissions may be gleaned. Did we know nothing of his policy as an administrator but what might be inferred from this talk to himself, we should be led to anticipate a long epoch of tranquillity and conciliation. The first Bishop had been sent out at the same time, with an endowment, recently created, on the renewal of the Company's charter; and at the end of half a century, it was nearly time that the acts of the State should show some regard for the precepts of the Church. How little they corresponded with these, or with the opinions and designs expressed in the private journal, the military annals of India record. Lord Moira found the usual lack of money in the treasury of Calcutta, but remembering the pressure put upon him at home, he began by remitting £300,000 in pagodas. This left him very bare in resources, and led him to prolong negotiations pending with the warlike tribes of Nepaul. He succeeded in composing disputes with Scindia and the King of Ava, from neither of whom any serious mischief was to be apprehended, and with whom contentions on paltry subjects appeared to him to be sources of unmixed evil, as tending to keep alive "an inveterate spirit of animosity against us in the breasts of those whom we had overborne."

In the absence of all recognised occasions for the interchange of confidence, or for the performance of duties of political co-operation, the position of humbled, yet still proud Princes, could not but be one of perpetual oversusceptibility and tantalisation. No good reason could be.

assigned for the interchange of courtly amenities, not to speak of political views; and beyond the most mechanical contrivances to improve the physical condition of the people, there was little if anything for the Princes to do. How different would have been the case had they been gradually led to take counsel, and to make proposals at Calcutta, with a view to the development of the resources of their States, the better organisation of their internal forces, and the reciprocal development of all that goes to make up the strength of federal empire! Every Native Prince, on the contrary, whether he called himself independent or protected, believed-and believed with reason-that every act of his calculated, however remotely, to remind his nobles or his people of better days gone by, was certain to be regarded as covertly treacherous or threateningly hostile by the ill-advisers of the Paramount Power. Lord Moira had sagacity enough to discern the truth, and to himself he avowed it. "A rational jealousy of our power," he thought, "was not likely to excite half the intrigues against us, which must naturally be produced by the wanton provocations which we had been giving on trivial subjects to all the States around us." Looking, for the first time, at the anomalous state of things everywhere prevailing, it seemed to be only too evident that a community of resentment for past wrongs, and a being held at arm's length by misgivings of the future, must perennially prepare the subject-chiefs for concerted resistance to our sway whenever opportunity should occur. He imagined Runjit Singh to be the likeliest source of trouble on the frontier, and prognosticated (erroneously as it proved) that his personal influence and activity would prove to be sources of probable danger. But though he erred in this respect, he evinced true discernment in his

1 1 Private Journal, vol. i. p. 44.

general estimate of the situation, and of the perils that encompassed it. "We have not," he wrote, "simply to look at the irritation of those whom we have scourged with nettles. Each Sovereign must have brought the case home to himself, and must have secretly sympathised with the Durbars which he saw insulted and humiliated."

The Nawab-Vizier of Oude was at this time bitterly incensed against the Central Government. He had been promised complete immunity from its interference when he agreed to surrender the half of his dominions in 1801; nevertheless, he had been subjected to every species of petty and prying interference in the management of what remained of his affairs, until at length he declared, "in open Durbar, that we had driven him to desperation." The Rajah of Berar, though professing to be friendly, was not able to conceal his distrust of our intentions towards him -with what good cause he was soon to see. The Nizam, who had so early admitted a subsidiary force within his confines, "did not disguise his absolute hatred of us," although unable to make any attempt at disenthralment. Scindia found it difficult to keep his irregular forces together, and might fairly be credited with the hope of being able to quarter them in other territories than his own. Holkar was in similar case. If one day these ignitable elements should burst into flame, it would be owing, thought the Viceroy, to our own fault, in not "defining to ourselves, or making intelligible to the Native Princes, the quality of the relation which we had established with them. In our treaties we recognised them as independent Sovereigns. Then we sent Residents to their courts. stead of acting in the character of ambassadors, they assumed the functions of dictators, interfered in all private concerns, countenanced refractory subjects against them, and


made the most ostentatious exhibition of this exercise of authority."

The Nawab of Kurnool died, and his second son seized the capital and was proclaimed his successor. His elder brother happened to be in English territory at the time, and obtained the assistance of the Madras Government to place him upon the musnud. That done, his allies forthwith proposed to the Governor-General that, while their forces remained in occupation of the city, their protegé should be mediatised, and the province incorporated with the Madras Presidency. The Viceroy indignantly rejected the proposal. It did not seem to him a natural consequence of our military interposition that, without the surmise of any misconduct urged against the Nawab, he should be deprived of his authority and revenues, except as to such portion as we might munificently leave to him. This was a remnant of the old system, in which our convenience was the only influencing principle. It was evidently an unjust principle when no real necessity could be pleaded; but he was further convinced that it was a thoroughly impolitic view. "In nothing did we violate the feelings of the Native Princes so much as in the decisions in which we claimed the privilege of pronouncing with regard to the succession to the musnud." The ignorant assumption that the rule of primogeniture would be recognised among the Mussulman families as binding, if the British Government openly lent it their sanction and support, appeared to him thoroughly delusive. The eldest son would of course avail himself of our aid as far as he could; but the moment he had succeeded, he would begin to assert the same freedom of choice among his children as his father had done; and against such an impulse no sense of gratitude to us would weigh. Thus early do we find


the question seriously engaging the minds occupied with Indian affairs, which, at a later period, was destined to exercise so great an influence over the whole course of opinion and action.

The quarrel with the Goorkhas was certainly not of the Governor-General's seeking, and in a certain sense it may be said to have been forced upon him. He evinced a desire to parley until his forbearance tried the temper of most of those around him; and it cannot be doubted that, relying on the remoteness of their country, the excellence of their irregular discipline, the number of their well-armed forts, and, above all, the indomitable spirit of their people, these sturdy highlanders mistook tardiness for weakness, and prudence for irresolution. A fiercer struggle, over a wider range of country, has never been maintained in India. Upwards of 100,000 combatants of all arms were brought into the field on our side; and the numbers on the other must have been much greater. Again and again detachments were beaten back, and columns compelled to retreat. At length we triumphed; but only at a cost of life and treasure such as had never been expended before. The territorial gains, though not large, were important, extending, as they did, our sway from the Jumna to the Sutlej. Lord Moira might well have been content with these successes; but he had caught the prevalent disease in camp. He could resist neither the promptings of military ambition, or the appetite for popularity and praise. Metcalfe early gained his ear, and whispered temptations, varied and splendid, in the shape of territorial acquisition. In a confidential paper on the conduct of the war with Nepaul, and its probable extension to other regions, he laid down as propositions incapable of dispute or doubt, that our Empire in India had arisen from

« PreviousContinue »