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which they know to be hopeless. The situation of the British Government with regard to the Native Powers is entirely changed within the last twenty years. It formerly brought very small armies into the field, with hardly any cavalry. It now brings armies into the field superior to the enemy, not only in infantry, but also in cavalry, both in quality and number. The superiority is so great, that the event of any struggle is no longer doubtful. It has only to bring forward its armies, and dictate what terms it pleases, either without war, or after a short and fruitless resistance.' He argues against extending the system of subsidiary forces, and recommends instead, "compelling Scindia to cede the districts restored to him in 1805-6." Whenever the subsidiary system is introduced, unless the reigning Prince be a man of great abilities, the country will soon bear the marks of it, in decaying villages and decreasing population. This has long been observed in the dominions of the Peishwa and the Nizam, and it is now beginning to be seen in Mysore. He states, however, that "its inevitable tendency is to bring every Native State, sooner or later, under the exclusive dominion of the British Government. It has already done this completely in the case of the Nawab of the Carnatic. It has made some progress in that of the Peishwa and the Nizam; and the whole of the territory of those Princes will unquestionably suffer the same fate as the Carnatic. The Peishwa will probably again commit a breach of the alliance. The Nizam will do the same. Even if the Prince himself were disposed to adhere rigidly to the alliance, there will always be some amongst his principal officers who will urge him to break it. As long as there remains in the country any high-minded independence, which seeks to throw off the control of strangers, 1 Life of Sir T. Munro, pp. 461, 462.
such counsellors will be found. I have a better opinion of the Natives of India than to think this spirit will ever be completely extinguished, and I can have no doubt that the subsidiary system must everywhere run its course, and destroy every Government which it undertakes to protect. . . . Even if we could be secured against every internal convulsion, and could retain the country quietly in subjection, I doubt much if the condition of the people would be better than under their Native Princes. The consequence of the conquest of India by British arms would be, in place of raising, to debase the whole people. There is, perhaps, no example of any conquest in which the Natives have been so completely excluded from all share of the government of their country, as in British India. . . . Among all the disorders of the Native States, the field is open for every man to raise himself; and hence among them there is a spirit of emulation, of restless enterprise and independence, far preferable to the servility of our Indian subjects. . . . The power of the British Government is now (1817) so great that it has nothing to fear from any combination, and it is perfectly able to take satisfaction for any insult without any extension of the subsidiary system." He concludes this letter to Lord Hastings, which was written on the eve of the war, by dissuading him from pushing the subsidiary system further. But his expostulations were disregarded, and the campaign began.
1 Life of Sir T. Munro, p. 466.
"The English join the most resolute courage to the most cautious prudence. If they showed as much concern for the circumstances of the farmers and landowners, and exerted as much solicitude in relieving and easing the people of God as they do in whatever concerns their military affairs, no nation would be worthier of command. But such is the little regard they show to the inhabitants of these kingdoms, and such their indifference to their welfare, that the people under their dominion groan everywhere, and are reduced to poverty and distress."
T needed little sagacity on the part of the Mahrattas to divine what was contemplated, as we have seen, by the advisers of the Governor-General. So long as they submitted mutely or passively to be lectured for their indiscretions, and browbeaten whenever they betrayed any lingering pride or ambition, they might be suffered to escape further sacrifices. Under the fret and worry of incessant petty provocations, it was not in human nature that they should not sometimes forget the demeanour of prudence, and overstep the limits of deferential submission. In their camps and durbars, ill-educated and irritable men were ever ready to take umbrage at what they regarded, if it was not intended, as an overweening tone of dictation on the part of British Residents; and it would have been marvellous if the weak and irresolute Princes who overheard
A Native chronicler of the English invasion.
malcontent mutterings, had not drifted into the dangerous condition of doubtful fidelity to existing engagements. At Poona especially, uneasiness at the threatening forces on the frontier early showed itself, the pacifying language of Mr Elphinstone having small effect. Trimbuckjee, an intriguing, reckless and cruel man, exercised unbounded influence over the Peishwa, and helped eventually to precipitate his ruin. As if such secrets could be kept, under the lynx-eyed vigilance of well-paid espionage, he had striven to negotiate, with Holkar, Bhonsla, and Scindia, the formation of an offensive and defensive alliance; and when charged with the fact, he denied it with an equanimity which in European diplomacy would be recognised as natural and legitimate, but which was stigmatised at the time as the climax of semi-barbarous mendacity.
Since Dowlat Rao Scindia had lost the custody of the Mogul, he ceased to believe, perhaps, in the prudence of asserting, against superior odds, the guardianship of the Peishwa; and he entered into engagements by which, in effect, he severed himself from the other Chiefs of his race, and agreed to help in hunting down the Pindharries. Baji Rao wrote to him expostulating. "Your father, Madhajee Scindia, served us heart and soul. When you became his successor you entered into alliance with the English; thus you govern in Hindustan, and thus you show your gratitude. It is befitting you to put bangles on your arms and sit down like a woman. After my power is destroyed, is it possible that yours should stand?" should stand?" He might have answered, that by the Treaty of Bassein, the Peishwa himself had first made separate terms with the conquerors; yet he was deeply moved by the reproachful appeal thus made to him, and might have yielded had he not already gone too far to hesitate. By the overpowering presence of the invading armies,
"he was forced," says Malcolm, "to become, at the very moment he was recognised as its most powerful Chief, the marked deserter of the cause of his nation." In truth, however, the struggle against foreign ascendancy could have been prolonged by him to little purpose, and he confided in the assurance that if he would enter into permanent engagements, he might combine local freedom with imperial union. Peace and safety would be the lot of his people, and all anxiety for the future of his dynasty and dominion would be at an end. He made the bargain, and he kept it. For half a century he and his successors have remained faithful to British connection, and in the worst of times they have proved true to their treaty obligations.
But what if the terms of these obligations should one day be eaten away by vermiculate questions as to their meaning in point of law? What if the vital spirit of the compact may be evaporated in the alembic of a capricious and unscrupulous experimentalist? What if public faith should one day be declared to be like a tenant's improvement, whereof the benefit is held to expire by the efflux of time? This, and nothing less, is the gist of the doctrine of lapse to the Crown, on default of heirs in tail male, recently set up and acted on, with regard to other governing families in India. Threatening notice has not yet, indeed, been served at Gwalior, and the instinct of self-preservation forbids the utterance of misgiving. But after what we have seen done and attempted elsewhere, it would be idle to affect disbelief in the existence of cankerous fears, in every Native State of sufficient importance to be coveted as food for annexation.
In 1817, Holkar's numerous and irregular forces, during the long minority of their Prince, had become mutinous, 1 Memoirs of Central India, vol. i. p. 141.