The Marquis of Hastings assumes charge of the Government of British India – State of India from the increase of predatory power – Patans and Pindharees – Plan for improving the defensive military positions – failure of the negotiations with Bhopaul and Jeypoor – defensive alliance embraced by Appa Sahib, the regent at Nagpoor – Appa Sahib falls into the views of the Poona Court – murders Pursajee – Progress of the Pindharees – Plans of the Marquis of Hastings, for the suppression of the predatory system – political and military arrangements – Sindia is forced into the governor-general’s views – progress of the negotiations with the Rajpoots, Ulmer Khan, the chiefs in Bundelcund, and the Nabob of Bhopaul
In October 1813, the Marquis of Hastings, then Earl of Moira, assumed charge of the government of British India, as successor to Lord Minto.
In addition to affairs immediately pressed upon his notice, the new governor-general instituted inquiries into every department of the state; extending his interrogatories to the public character and services of individuals; by which he not only collected a mass of information, but awakened a lively attention in the minds of the officers throughout the vast army of British India, and inspired them, by this obvious desire to ascertain real merit, with the hope of honour and reward both for past and future exertions.
The defective nature of the political arrange intents concluded by the British authorities in 1805-6, had become very evident, from the state of anarchy existing in Malwa and Rajpootana; and the necessity of suppressing the spreading hordes of Patans and Pindharees was universally acknowledged. The numbers of these marauders had augmented to about fifty thousand men, of whom, about one half were Pindharee horse. Both the one and the other were systematic plunderers; but the Patans were associated, under Umeer Khan, for the purpose of invading and plundering such states as they could overpower or intimidate; whilst the object of the Pindharees was universal rapine.
The Patans, therefore, required infantry and guns, and in this respect, no native army in India was more efficient their artillery was excellent; and they had some of the oldest of Holkar’s battalions as the foundation of their infantry, which was estimated at about ten thousand, and their cavalry at fifteen thousand men. They were also distinguished from Pindharees by having a fixed rate of monthly pay, though it was seldom punctually received.
These plunderers, especially the Pindharees, were always gaining an accession of strength as the countries around them became exhausted; for not only did every lawless man who could command a horse and a spear join them, but the more peaceable part of the community were driven for subsistence into the same course of life; so that additional wants and accumulating strength, tended of themselves, to enlarge the sphere of Pindharee operations,
without other less apparent sources of augmentation, derived from the secret support and encouragement of various principal chiefs of the Mahratta empire.
Representations of the growth and formidable nature of this predatory power, were early made to the Court of Directors, but as the question seemed to involve a revision of their political relations with several of the native states, years had elapsed before any latitude was granted for departing from the defensive system of policy pursued since the settlement of 1805-6.
The authorities at home, however, regretting the manner in which some of the Rajpoot’s states had been thrown off, were desirous of repairing what was still in their power, by taking the Raja of Jeypoor under British protection, and orders to that effect were received at Bengal, in 1814; but as the measure was part of a plan which the Marquis of Hastings had in view, for effecting a complete arrangement, he postponed attempting it until a more favourable season.
As a prelude to the great object contemplated, it being supposed that Rughoojee Bhonslay, from his dread of the Pindharees, and from a sense of the gratuitous aid which had been more than once afforded when Nagpoor was threatened, might now be induced to enter on a defensive alliance with the British government; proposals to that effect were made to him, but a long negotiation, through the resident, Mr. Jenkins, ended in a positive rejection of the terms.
The chief end of these overtures, in the present
instance, was with a view of connecting the chain of military posts between the frontier of the British possessions in Bundelcund, and the territory of their ally the Nizam. The same object was attainable, by taking Govind Rao Nana, the chief of Sagur, and Wuzeer Mohummud, Nabob of Bhopaul, under British protection; but being by this time involved in hostility with the Goorkhas of Nepaul, Lord Hastings intended to postpone the offer of protection to the principalities in question, when he obtained information, that a negotiation for a treaty offensive and defensive, was in progress betwixt Sindia and Rughoojee Bhonslay, and also between Sindia and the ministers of Toolsee Bye Holkar156: he further learnt, that Sindia, who had made great efforts against Bhopaul, the preceding year, was determined to renew the siege; that in its exhausted state even the heroism of Wuzeer Mohummud157 must prove unavailing; and finally, that this chief earnestly solicited to be taken under British protection.
From these circumstances, Lord Hastings determined on adopting the proposed measure, and directed certain terms to be offered, which comprehended the free ingress, egress, and residence of British troops within the nabob’s territory; and the surrender from Bhopaul of a fort as a present
depot. To support the negotiations, the troops in Bundelcund were reinforced, the Hyderabad subsidiary moved from Janina to Elichpoor, the Poona subsidiary from Seroor to Jaffeirabad, a large reserve was formed in the Deccan, and the army of Guzerat occupied a position at Soneepoor, on the right bank of the Myhie.
Wuzeer Mohummud appeared most ready to embrace the terms, and it was in consequence intimated to Sindia, by the resident in his camp, that the principality of Bhopaul was under British protection.
Sindia protested most vehemently against the measure; declared the nabob to be his dependant, and in defiance of the assembled armies, threatened an immediate attack upon him. His battalions advanced, and although under a certain assurance, that an attack on Bhopaul would occasion an immediate rupture with the English, Sindia, for a time, seemed quite determined to risk the event; but his actions fell short of his words; and ultimately, his army was withdrawn. His conduct was to be accounted for in the unfavourable commencement, and brilliant termination of the Nepaul war; but the first impressions throughout India, respecting that warfare, inspired hopes in all who wished the overthrow of the British power. Of that number, the Peishwa, from the time he was guided by the councils of Trimbukjee Dainglia, and especially after having instigated and participated in his crimes, may be considered the chief; it was, however, at one time supposed, that the plan of the general confederacy already mentioned, did not originate with the Mahrattas, but was suggested through Sindia by the Nepaulese.
The Peishwa and Rughoojee Bhonslay assented, with seeming cordiality, to the proposed connection of the British government with Bhopaul, but no agreement ever took place with Wuzeer Mohummud. As long as he was threatened by Sindia, he not only appeared to accede to the terms, but gave out that he was under the protection of the British; but when the danger subsided, he objected to the surrender of a fort, and the negotiation terminated. The descendant, however, of the Nabob of Bhopaul, who in 1779 dared, in defiance of Mahratta hostility, to befriend the English detachment under General Goddard, could be forgiven for an evasion, by which, if he refused protection, he also preserved independence. The failure of this arrangement, prevented the prosecution of any plan of settlement with Govind Rao Nana at this period.
In the ensuing year, after the termination of the war in Nepaul, the Raja of Jeypoor being much pressed by Umeer Khan, applied for protection from the British government, which Lord Hastings, with a view to the general plan of settlement, was willing to afford; but the Raja broke off the negotiation as soon as he had induced Umeer Khan to withdraw, and like Wuzeer Mohummud, showed that necessity alone prompted his application.
The nabob of Bhopaul, however, died on the 17th March 1816, and Rughoojee Bhonslay on the 22d of the same month. Wuzeer Mohummud was succeeded as
nabob of Bhopaul by his son Wuzeer Mohummud.; and Rughoojee Bhonslay was succeeded by his only son Pursajee. But Pursajee, whose intellects were always weak, fell into a state of idiotism immediately afterwards, and his cousin Moodajee, usually styled Appa Sahib, the son of Venkajee Munnya Bappoo, who commanded at the battle of Argaom, was chosen regent, although not without considerable opposition. To secure an ascendancy, by no means fully established, Appa Sahib applied to the British resident to be admitted to the defensive alliance, before proposed to Rughoojee, which was promptly acceded to, and a treaty was signed 27th May 1816. A stipulated money payment158, calculated to defray the additional expense of field charges for one regiment of cavalry and six thousand infantry, was to be paid by the Nagpoor government, and a contingent of three thousand horse, and two thousand foot was to be maintained by the terms of the alliance. A subsidiary force was immediately formed, and until Appa Sahib was secured in the government, the whole continued in the neighbourhood of the capital; it being agreed, that when the troops were required in advance, or even on ordinary occasions, two battalions only should remain at Nagpoor.
By the end of October 1816, Appa Sahib had completely established his authority, but being immediately assailed by the intrigues of the Peishwa, he very soon came into the views of the Poona Court; being however, apprehensive that if he threw off the support of the British government during
the life-time of Pursajee, a party might endanger his power, he one night caused Pursajee to be secretly strangled, and on the following morning, it was announced and believed, that he had been found dead in his bed.
In the mean time the aggressions of the Pindharees increased, nor could the British government defend its territory from their ravages, although large armies, at a vast expense, were annually called, into the field. During the season of 1815-16, or from October till May inclusive of those years, the Pindharees pushed their depredations to a great extent, and were very successful in eluding the parties sent in pursuit of them. In the ensuing seasons they were less fortunate in their escapes the British detachments performing extraordinary marches, frequently came up with them, sometimes fell upon them accidentally, and cut off many of their parties. The Pindharees never fought, and seldom defended themselves against British troops; but these successes, though in many instances highly creditable to the zeal and perseverance of the army, were but a mere palliative to this growing and deep-seated evil. It was observable, that for several years, the territory of the Mahrattas was in general respected, and their ravages directed principally against that of the Nizam and the British government.
To prevent suspicion from this circumstance, the Peishwa sent a party of horse to plunder in his own country, who gave themselves out as Pindharees159;
and Sindia professed the greatest desire to suppress them; but his commanders openly countenanced them, and it was manifest, that both Sindia and Holkar, were not only unwilling but unable to restrain their dependants.
The subsidiary treaty with Nagpoor, and the acquisition of the Peishwa’s rights, by the treaty of 1817, over his remaining tributaries in Bundelcund, greatly improved the defensive means hitherto adopted by the British government; but the governor-general, before receiving authority from England, had come to the resolution, as early as December 1816, of effectually suppressing the Pindharees; various reasons however induced him to defer carrying his plan into effect, until the close of the ensuing rains; and in the mean time, the Court of Directors had sanctioned offensive operations to the extent of driving the Pindharees from their haunts on the banks of the Nerbuddah and from Malwa.
The views of the Marquis of Hastings were more enlarged; he aimed at their complete suppression by eradicating the predatory system from central India, so as to carry peace to those desolated provinces, and security to the rest of the country.
Berar was supposed to be settled by the late subsidiary alliance; and the Peishwa, crippled by the treaty of Poona, might, it was hoped, see the necessity of refraining from hostilities, secret or avowed, if he wished to retain the territory still left to him. The plan, therefore, of the governor general, embraced principally the possessions of Sindia, Holkar, the Rajpoots, the nabob of Bhopaul, and the principalities of Bundelcund. The former treaties with Sindia and Holkar became virtually annulled, from the period when their dependants began to ravage the territory of the British government. Many proofs of secret hostilities, particularly on the part of Sindia, had come to the knowledge of the governor-general, besides the treaty of confederacy, by which all the Mahrattas engaged to serve and obey the Peishwa; he therefore determined on submitting a plan of a treaty of concert and alliance to those two states, – to declare the treaties of 1805 annulled, so that he might be at liberty to admit the claims of every state, tributary or otherwise, that had any pretensions to independence; and to guarantee rights and possessions in all instances, where the state or principality agreed to make common cause against the predatory system; but he resolved to admit of no neutrality. He adopted as a principle, not to disturb occupancy; but to treat with the existing government, or chiefs, who might be in possession of the country at the time. Thus Umeer Khan, though an undeserving instance of the operation of this general benefit, if he agreed to the proposals, and dismissed his Patans;
was to be guaranteed in the Jagheer which he held from Holkar. On these principles, and to the above effect, as soon as the military preparations were in sufficient progress, orders were despatched to the various political agents.
The military plan was equally simple and comprehensive. Armies were to be assembled around the territories described, to close in by simultaneous movements to a common centre, so as to hem in the Pindharees and their abettors at all points; taking care to provide efficient means, for resisting or following up any bodies of the enemy, who might pass through the advancing divisions. For this purpose five divisions were prepared in the Deccan, and placed under the orders of Sir Thomas Hislop, commander-in-chief of the Madras army. One division was held ready in Guzerat, and four divisions with two in reserve, were to co-operate from Bengal under the personal command of the Marquis of Hastings, who took the field that he might be on the scene of operations, and superintend the execution of his arrangements. Sir John Malcolm was appointed political agent of the governor-general with the army of the Deccan, and had also command of one of the divisions destined for active operations in the field. The preparations in the south, as the troops had so far to march, were necessarily public; but those to the northward of Bundelcund, were managed with secrecy, so as not to give the alarm to Sindia, until he should find himself compelled to submit to the intended propositions, or obliged to commence war under great disadvantage.
The forces of the Deccan, including, a sixth or reserve division formed at Adonee under Brigadier. General Pritzler, the Guzerat division under Brigadier-General Grant Keir, and the troops left for the protection of Poona, Hyderabad, and Nagpoor, amounted to upwards of 57,000 regulars, of which number 5,255 were cavalry. The army which took the field in Bengal, consisted of about 34,000 regulars, of which the cavalry amounted to nearly 5,000. Besides these, there were 13,000 irregular horse on the strength of the Deccan army, and nearly 10,000 with the army of Bengal, many of them good troops.
The 1st division of the army of the Deccan, under the command of Sir Thomas Hislop, preceded by the 3d division under Sir John Malcolm, was destined to advance into Malwa, and cross the Nerbuddah at Hindia. The 5th division, consisting of the Nagpoor subsidiary force, under Colonel Adams, was to advance by Hooshingabad. The 2d division under Brigadier-General Doveton, and the 4th division under Brigadier-General Smith were to occupy positions, the former in Berar, and the latter in Candeish, and to act according to circumstances. The army of Guzerat was to advance by Dohud into Malwa.
The four principal Bengal divisions were to be assembled at Rewaree, Agra, Sikundra near Kalpee, and at Kalinjer in Bundelcund. The two divisions in reserve were intended as detachments of observation; the one was stationed under Brigadier-General Toone on the upper Saone, the other, under Brigadier-General Hardyman in
Rewah, on the upper Nerbuddah. The division from Bundelcund, under the command of General Marshall, was to advance with the Deccan army against the Pindharees. The division from Rewaree, the most northern point, was under the command of Major-General Ochterlony, and was intended to expedite the arrangements with the Rajpoots, and to co-operate in overawing the Patans or attacking the Pindharees. The main body, to be assembled at Sikundra, was under the personal command of the Marquis of Hastings, and was prepared with considerable celerity and secrecy by the middle of October. It was destined to cross the Jumna by a bridge of boats a little above Kalpee, to march due west, and to occupy, in the first instance, a position south of Gwalior, whilst the division from Agra, under Major General Donkin, took up its station at Dholpoor, immediately to the northward. This judicious manoeuvre, which gave the command of Sindia’s camp with the best part of his artillery, was executed with great success; it disarmed one important member of a hostile confederacy formed against the British government, and compelled Sindia to sign a treaty, which, however unpalatable at the moment, was really ensuring his safety.
In September, it was intimated to Sindia through Captain Close, the resident in his camp, that the army of the Deccan was about to advance for the extirpation of the Pindharees, and as matter of form, passports were requested for the free ingress and egress of the British troops through his territory. At this period Sindia’s army at Gwalior was more
than usually turbulent, a circumstance principally attributable to a strong excitement, caused by reports of the Peishwa’s determination to break with the English, and a general hope that their master was about to join him. Sindia, in reply to the applications for passports, stated that he had not given up his intention of punishing the Pindharees, and requested that the troops might be stopped; but this being declared impossible after what had happened in the last two years, the passports were granted. Before the middle of October, the views of the governor-general were completely unfolded to Sindia, by a paper prepared and sent from the camp at Sikundra. It contained remonstrances on his evasive conduct, for having harboured freebooters, who had plundered the British territory at the very time when he was pledging himself to punish their depredations, and it combated the plea he had advanced of inability to suppress them; if, however, that plea were admitted, as personal exoneration, it constituted a virtual dissolution of the treaty, and more especially annulled those stipulations in regard to his dependants in Rajpootana; because, if unable to restrain such dependants, when they committed aggressions on the British government, the treaties which bound that government to regard them as the subjects of Sindia, could no longer be considered in force. The paper in question further declared, that the British government had no other view than the effectual extinction of all predatory associations; and Captain Close was authorized to communicate the mode, in which
Sindia’s aid was solicited for that purpose. He was required to place his troops at the disposal of the British government, to be stationary or employed at its option, with a British officer superintending each of the principal divisions; and any of Sindia’s officers, supporting or harbouring freebooters were to be dealt with as rebels. A contingent of five thousand horse, to be employed under the direction of British officers against the Pindharees, and funds allotted for its expenses for three years, from the pension payable by the British government and the tribute demandable from Boondee and Joudpoor. The lands recovered from the Pindharees, belonging to Sindia, to be restored to him; and to the rightful owners, in all cases where they co-operated for their suppression where they did not, the whole to be given up to Sindia. As a security for the fulfilment of the proposed terms, the forts of Hindia and Asseergurh were demanded, but Sindia’s flag was to be allowed to fly, and a few of his troops permitted to remain in each of them. The tribute due to Sindia by the Rajpoot principalities was not to be affected by any agreement’s which the British government might make with them; on the contrary, its due receipt was to be guaranteed to him. A treaty to this effect was signed by Sindia on the 5th November, and ratified by the governor-general on the following day. Hindia was given up according to the terms of the treaty; but Jeswunt Rao Lar, the Killidar of Asseergurh, refused to obey the order of surrender. The three principal divisions of Sindia’s army were thus stationed; the first at
Ajimere under Bappoojee Sindia, the same person who treacherously deserted on Monson’s retreat; the second at Jawud under Jeswunt Rao Bhow; and the third, at Bhadurgurh, under Colonel Jean Baptiste. The British officers chosen to superintend those divisions, were, in their respective order, Major Ludlow, Captain, Caulfield, and Major Bunce.
Soon, after Sindia had signed the treaty, General Donkin’s division proceeded to the westward, for the purpose of co-operating in the general plan, but the Marquis of Hastings continued to move about to the southward of Gwalior, to observe the Motions of Sindia, who, though compelled to accept the terms imposed, was watching the progress of events in the Deccan, intriguing with the Peishwa, and endeavouring to stir up the Goorkhas of Nepaul to make common cause with the Mahrattas.
In the meantime the political agents of the British government were actively engaged in negotiations with the petty states. The Raja of Kerowlee, a dependant of the Peishwa, to whom the Raja had paid a small tribute of 25,000 rupees a-year, was the first to accept the proffered protection. He acknowledged the supremacy of the British government, was guaranteed in his possessions, and in his particular case the tribute was remitted. He agreed to furnish troops to the extent of his means. This agreement was signed on the ninth November, and on the same day, Umeer Khan’s agent at Delhi accepted, the, terms offered for his master. His Jagheer was guaranteed
and taken under British protection, on condition of disbanding his followers, except a small number for the internal management of his Jagheer, which were to attend on the requisition of the British government; he was also to relinquish all connection with freebooters, and to give up his artillery for an equitable pecuniary compensation. After the conclusion of the treaty with Sindia, Captain Tod, assistant to the resident in Sindia’s camp, was sent on a political mission to the Rajpoot states. The Raj Rana, Zalim Sing of Kotah, who governed the principality in the name of his imprisoned sovereign, with all the prudence and vigour of the ablest of the Mahratta Peishwas, immediately acceded to the terms proposed; blocked up the passes in his country, and furnished a contingent to act with the British troops. A treaty was afterwards concluded with him on the 26th December.
In Bundelcund, Govind Rao Nana had signed a treaty on the first November, by which his tribute and military service, transferred from the Peishwa to the British government by the treaty of Poona, was commuted for the cession of a part of the district of Mahabuk, which lay within the British frontier in Bundelcund. Winaek Rao, the chief who had possession of Sagur, refused the proffered terms. The Raja of Simpthur and the Soobehdar of Jhansee readily accepted the terms of protection and guarantee, and the nabob of Bhopaul not only accepted them, but entered most heartily into the cause. The political arrangements in Bundelcund were conducted by Mr.
Wauchope; those already mentioned as concluded with the Rajas of Kerowlee, Kotah, and Umeer Khan, were framed by Mr. Metcalfe the resident at Delhi; but that of Umeer Khan, though signed by his agent on the ninth November, was not ratified by himself for some time, as the crafty Patan was then engaged in other negotiations with the Peishwa’s agent in his camp, and, like Sindia, was watching the important events which were passing at Poona and Nagpoor160.
156. These negotiations, of which the governor-general had obtained intelligence, were the prelude to the treaty of confederacy, of which the first article, expressed the determination of these princes, to serve and obey the Peishwa.
157. See Sir John Malcolm’s central India, for an interesting and animated account of the defence of Bhopaul.
158. Of seven and a half lacks of rupees annually.
159. The fact here recorded is stated on good authority, but it was not suspected or known till after the war; the party was sent by Trimbukjee in the end of 1816, or very early in 1817, into the southern Concan, where they plundered and committed very great excesses. Having dispersed, they afterwards reassembled in the neighbourhood of Nattapoota. They halted one night in Satara, on their way down, of which place some of them I believe were natives, at all events, they were afterwards oven known there.
160. In addition to the authorities quoted for the preceding chapter, I have to acknowledge my obligations to Mr. Prinsep’s narrative.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage