Page images

The substitution of an exotic system of jurisprudence for that which was indigenous, and had its roots in the ideas, traditions, and manners of the people, had ever since the transfer of the Dewanny been steadily going on. . Under the advice of Hastings it was completed by the Regulation Act in 1773, the third clause of which constituted the High Court of judicature at Calcutta, with a Chief-Justice and three puisne Judges, clothed with plenary powers, both of first instance and of appeal in all cases, whether civil or criminal. Four English lawyers took their places the following year on the new judgment-seat, their chief being the early friend of Hastings, Sir Elijah Impey.





“ The object of Hastings diplomacy was at this time simply to get money. His

finances were in an embarrassed state, and this he was determined to relieve by some means, fair or foul. He laid it down as a maxim that when he had not as many lacs of rupees as the public service required, he was to take them from anybody who hal. The Directors never enjoined or applauded any crime. Whoever examines their letters will find an admirable code of political ethics. But every exhortation is nullified by a demand for money. “Govern leniently, and send more money; ' Practise strict justice and moderation towards neighbouring powers, and send more money.' Being interpreted, these instructions simply mean, “ Be the father and the oppressor of the people ; be just and un'ist, moderate and rapacious.' He correctly judged that the safest course would be to neglect the sermons and to find the rupees."

-Lord Macaulay.' WHEN Lord North and his colleagues determined to

confer the chief place in the remodelled system on Dr Hastings, they secured, as they believed, the services of the ablest man on the spot, and the benefits of the greatest administrative experience ; but they chose along with him three men of a wholly different stamp, who might, it was hoped, curb his ambition, and temper his exercise of power. General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr Philip Francis were named in the Act as members of Council. They were all persons of high political character, and Francis, though still unrecognised as the author of the work which has become identified with his name, was confessedly

* Critical and Historical Essays, vol. iii. p. 244.

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


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

2 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

3 tempest of the Mahratta inroads—a danger whose greatness the haughtiest sovereigns in Hindustan were not ashamed 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 ;' 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

i Verelst's account. Mill, book V. chap. i. Mill, book V. chap. i.

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.” 3 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. · Fifth Parliamentary Report, written by Edmund Burke.

3 Fifth Parliamentary Report.

« PreviousContinue »