On the 1st October, 1842, Lord Ellenborough announced in his Simla proclamation that the “Government of India, content with the limits which nature appears to have assigned to its empire, would devote all its efforts to the establishment and maintenance of peace,” and he ordered a medal to be struck to inaugurate the reign of peace with the motto, “Pax Asia:, restituta.” Before six months had elapsed, he issued another proclamation, annexing the whole kingdom of Sinde to the Company’s dominions. That country was divided into three principalities, Upper Sinde, ruled by the Ameers of Khyrpore, of whom Meer Roostum was the chief; Meerpoore, governed by Shere Mohamed, and Lower Sinde held by the Ameers of Hyderabad. They were independent of each other, almost to the same extent as the princes of Rajpootana, and Lord Auckland had entered into separate treaties with them in 1839; but in 1842 it was resolved by the officers commanding in Sinde, to treat them as one body, and to hold all the Ameers responsible for the assumed default of any one of them. The humiliating treaties dictated in 1839 had imposed on them a subsidiary force and a tribute, but it had left them their estates and their regal dignity, and they appear to have acquiesced meekly in the subordinate condition to which they were reduced. During the three subsequent years in which Afghanistan was occupied by our troops, and Sinde had become the basis of our operations beyond the Indus, their conduct was marked by good faith, if not by cordiality. Under the personal influence of Major Outram, the political Resident, they permitted a free passage to our troops and stores through their country, and assisted the steamers
with fuel. Any opposition on their part would have occasioned the most serious inconvenience, but the garrisons of Candahar and of the other posts in southern Afghanistan which were entirely dependent on the supplies received from and through Sinde, were never allowed to suffer want. This friendly aid was . gratefully acknowledged by Lord Auckland when on the eve of quitting India. After the Cabul force had been annihilated, and our military reputation had suffered a partial eclipse, the Ameers still continued to furnish supplies and carriage, which they might have withheld without any infraction of the treaties. The force at Candahar could neither have retired to the Indus, or advanced to Cabul without the assistance of Sinde, and it was solely by means of the three thousand camels sent up from that province that General Nott was enabled to march on the capital. But two or three of the Ameers were emboldened by our reverses to manifest a feeling of hostility, and Major Outram brought it to the knowledge of Lord Ellenborough in the form of distinct charges, which he represented to be of so serious a nature as to justify a demand for a revision of the treaties. Lord Ellenborough replied that he was resolved to inflict signal chastisement, even to the confiscation of his dominions, on any chief or Ameer who should have exhibited hostile designs against us during the late events, founded on a doubt of the existence of our power, but he added that there must be clear proof of the faithlessness of the Ameers, and it must not be “provoked by the conduct of the British agents, producing on the mind of any chief an apprehension that the Government entertained designs inconsistent with his interests or his honour.”
Sir Charles Napier arrived in Sinde on the 9th September, invested with full diplomatic as well as military power. He was a soldier of distinguished reputation, and of extraordinary resolution and energy; but he was new to India, and profoundly ignorant of the language, habits, and character of its princes and people, and of political life in it. He landed in Sinde with a violent
prejudice against the Ameers, and in his first interview with them at Hyderabad discarded all those amenities which had always characterized the intercourse of the Company’s functionaries with the princes of India. Lord Ellenborough had particularly enjoined on the British agents in Sinde to consider themselves the representatives of the friendship as much as of the power of the British Government, and to be mindful that all necessary acts of authority should be clothed with the veil of courtesy and regard. This generous admonition was entirely neglected by Sir Charles Napier. His menacing address created lively apprehensions in the minds of the Ameers, and all his subsequent proceedings only tended to confirm them. The investigation of the charges of disloyalty brought against the Ameers by Major Outram, was referred to him by the Governor-General, but with the distinct injunction that he should not proceed against any of them without the most complete proof of their guilt. All the charges except three were at once dismissed, and the question of their delinquency turned upon three points: whether a letter sent to a petty Boogtie chief, and another sent to the ruler of the Punjab were genuine, and whether the minister of Meer Roostum, of Upper Sinde, had favoured the escape of a malcontent. The evidence of the authenticity of the letters was considered by the best authorities in India extremely doubtful, and the seals appeared to have been forged: – in Sinde the fabrication of seals was a profession. Upon every principle of equity and fair dealing, the Ameers ought to have been heard in their own defence before they were condemned; but Sir Charles Napier called upon them for no explanation, and, relying only on his own sagacity, and on the opinion of one of his junior assistants, as ignorant of the country as himself, informed Lord Ellenborough that the letters were authentic, and the charges substantiated; and that the treaty of 1839 had been violated.
Major Outram had submitted, together with the charges against the Ameers, the draft of the
new treaty to be proposed for their acceptance. Its object was to place the relationship of the two Governments on a more satisfactory footing, to substitute a cession of territory for the annual tribute, and to punish the hostile designs which had been manifested by certain of the Ameers. They were to be deprived of some of the districts they had formerly wrested from the Nabob of Rhawulpore, and he was to be rewarded by the restoration of them for the exemplary fidelity he had manifested during the Afghan crisis. The treaties reached Sir Charles Napier on the 12th November, when Major Outram found that they prescribed the sequestration of lands to the value of nearly four lacs in excess of those which he had proposed, and which it had been determined to take as a substitute for the tribute and as the penalty of disloyalty. They likewise deprived the Ameers of the regal prerogative of coining money. He attributed these additional demands to inadvertence, and requested Sir Charles Napier to bring the subject before Lord Ellenborough again, but ten weeks were allowed to elapse before the reference was made. The Governor-General admitted the error, and directed that it should be rectified, but his despatch did not reach the camp till after the battle of Meanee and the ruin of the Ameers. With regard to the new treaties, he had expressly instructed Sir Charles Napier to negotiate them with the Ameers, and not to carry them into effect until they had been concluded and ratified. Two days after they were received, Sir Charles Napier invited Meer Roostum to discuss them at a conference, but under the insidious advice of Ali Morad, he failed to attend it. A fortnight passed without any further communication regarding them with any of the Ameers, either of Upper or Lower Sinde, but on the 1st December the General informed Meer Roostum and his associates, that he had received the draft of a treaty signed by the Governor-General, which he now presented for their acceptance and guidance, and that in obedience to his instructions, he should proceed at once to occupy the territories indicated therein. The Ameers of
Khyrpore sent their vakeels to protest against the charge of disloyalty which had been brought against them, and to express, generally, their willingness to agree to the treaty dictated by the British Government, although they considered the terms unjust and oppressive. Within three days, and before they had signed the treaty, or had been allowed an opportunity of discussing its conditions, Sir Charles Napier sequestrated the whole of the territory extending from Roree to the confines of Bhawulpore, which embraced the lands Lord Ellenborough had inadvertently included in the draft of the treaty. At the same time, he issued a proclamation forbidding the ryots to pay any rents to the Ameer after the 1st of January. These estates belonged to the feudatories of the Ameers, the Belochee chiefs, who were entirely dependent on them for their means of subsistence. Meer Roostum remonstrated against this wholesale confiscation of his territories before he had signed any treaty, and added with great simplicity that the English possessions extended over thousands of miles, while the whole of his territories would not be sufficient for the maintenance of a single sahib. An idle rumour had reached the General that the Ameers intended to make a night attack on his camp, and he immediately threatened Meer Roostum to march on his capital and destroy it and transplant the inhabitants. To this menace the Ameer meekly replied, “God knows we have no intention of opposing the English, nor a thought of war or fighting – we have not the power. Ever since my possessions were guaranteed to me and my posterity by the British Government under a formal treaty, I have considered myself a dependent of theirs, and thought myself secure.”
These violent proceedings were evidently prompted by the nefarious intrigues and the consummate villainy of Ali Morad. The office of Rais, or lord paramount, was the highest dignity in Upper Sinde, and had long been enjoyed by Meer Roostum, then in his eighty-fifth year, who was venerated alike by the chiefs and the people, and held in high estimation by all the British officers
who had been connected with Sinde, for his invariable fidelity. The succession to this office, of which the Turban was the symbol, belonged by the usage of the country to his brother Ali Morad, who was, with the exception of Shere Mohamed of Meerpore, the ablest of the Ameers, but the personification of subtlety and perfidy. He was anxious to make sure of this honour, which Meer Roostum was desirous of bestowing on his own son, and our subsequent proceedings in Sinde may be traced in a great measure to the infamous means which he adopted to accomplish his object. On the 23rd November he obtained an interview with Sir Charles Napier, and, with that quick discernment of character for which the natives of India are distinguished, ascertained that his temper combined the elements of credulity and impulsiveness. He persuaded the General that all the chiefs were hostile to British interests, with the exception of himself and one of the Ameers of Hyderabad, and he succeeded in obtaining the promise of the Turban after the death of Meer Roostum. But he was anxious to obtain possession of it at once, and this object could be gained only by placing the old Ameer in a position of hostility to the British Government. With ingenious malignity he laboured on the one hand to draw his brother into some act of indiscretion which might compromise him, and on the other hand endeavoured to inflame the mind of the British General against him by constant misrepresentations. Through his influence three haughty and menacing messages were sent in succession to Meer Roostum by Sir Charles, and that venerable chief proposed to wait on him to offer a personal explanation. Sir Charles was induced to refuse the interview, because “it would be embarrassing,” but advised him to proceed to his brother’s residence, not without a hope that he might be prevailed on to resign the Turban without delay. “I send you this letter,” he wrote, “by your own brother; listen to his advice; trust to his care. If you go to him, you may either remain, or I will send an escort to conduct you to my camp.” This advice had all the force of a command, and Meer Roostum accordingly
repaired to Ali Morad’s fortress at Deejee, and on the 20th December wrote to Sir Charles that of his own free will he had resigned the Turban, together with the control of his army, his forts, and his country to Ali Morad. Sir Charles informed the Governor-General, on the assurance of that intriguer, that this resignation had been written in the most formal manner in a Koran before all the religious men collected to witness it; but added that he was not without a suspicion that it had been obtained by fraud and violence, and that he was resolved on a personal interview with the old Ameer. This intention he communicated to Ali Morad, who was anxious to prevent the meeting, and rode over in haste to Deejee, roused his brother at midnight, and urged him to take flight in order to avoid Sir Charles Napier, who, he said, was coming the next day to make him prisoner; the terrified old chief accordingly escaped in haste to the camp of his relations twelve miles distant. Sir Charles immediately issued a proclamation to the Ameers and people of Sinde, in which he charged Meer Roostum with having insulted and defied the Governor-General by departing from his brother’s roof, and announced his determination to maintain Ali Morad as the justly constituted chieftain of the Talpoora family Meer Roostum lost no time in sending his minister to the General to put him in possession of the truth, and to assure him that Ali Morad had placed him in durance in his fort and had extorted the resignation of the Turban, and had subsequently prompted him to escape by flight the captivity with which he was menaced. To this message Sir Charles sent an arrogant reply, charging the Ameer with subterfuge and falsehood. “I do not,” he said, “understand such double conduct, and will not allow you to take shelter under such misrepresentations. I no longer consider you the chief of the Talpooras, nor will I treat with you as such, nor with those who consider you the Rais.” The resignation said to have been written in the Koran was a forgery, and the assemblage of holy men to witness it an audacious fiction. Under this deed Ali Morad claimed lands of the value of six lacs of
rupees a-year, as belonging to the Turban, and the abstraction of this property, combined with the sequestrations of Sir Charles Napier, left an income of only six lacs, out of twenty, for the support of eighteen Ameers, and their thirty sons, and all their feudatory chiefs.
To this wholesale spoliation the Ameers of Upper Sinde could offer no resistance. Their military force consisted of about two thousand men, under the command of the son and nephew of Meer Roostum, and they had never dreamed of offering any opposition to the British General. But there was a fort in the desert, Emamgur, belonging to Meer Mohamed, who had not given any cause of offence to the British authorities. Owing to its inaccessible position, it does not appear ever to have been captured, and Sir Charles considering it to be the Gibraltar of Upper Sinde, was determined to show the chiefs, as he said, that “neither their deserts nor their negotiations could intercept the progress of the British army.” On the 5th January he commenced his march into the desert with fifty horsemen, two 24-pounders, and three hundred and fifty Europeans, mounted on camels, and after traversing the arid waste for four days without seeing the face of an enemy, reached the fort on the 9th of that month. It was abandoned on his approach, and the fortifications were blown up with the powder they contained. The Duke of Wellington pronounced the expedition “one of the most curious military feats he had ever known to be performed.” It was unquestionably a gallant exploit, but as there was no declaration of war, and as we had no differences with the chief to whom the fort belonged, it was an act of wanton aggression.
Sir Charles Napier had ordered the Ameers of Upper and Lower Sinde to meet Major Outram at Khyrpore to discuss and sign the treaties, and invested him with full powers, but directed him to listen to no remonstrance regarding the Turban, or the lands which Ali Morad had seized. Major Outram pressed the omission of
the clause regarding the coinage, because the right to coin money was the most cherished prerogative of royalty in the east, and, likewise, because the image of the Queen was an emblem forbidden by the Mohamedan creed; but Sir Charles replied that the orders of Lord Ellenborough on this subject were imperative and irreversible. By the contrivance of Ali Morad, Meer Roostum and his brother Ameers were prevented from attending the meeting, and only two of the agents of the Ameers of Lower Sinde made their appearance; with the concurrence of Sir Charles, Major Outram therefore transferred the conference to Hyderabad, and fixed it for the 28th January. Two days after, the vakeels of the Ameers of Hyderabad arrived in the camp, bearing the seals of their masters, with full authority to affix them to the treaties. If they had been allowed to carry out their instructions there would have been a peaceful solution of all differences, but Sir Charles Napier peremptorily refused them permission to execute the deed, and directed them to return to Hyderabad, in company with the Ameers of Upper Sinde, who were informed that they would be treated as enemies if they refused to proceed thither. This order was issued under the crafty advice of Ali Morad, whose object was to create embarrassments, well knowing that the Ameers of Lower Sinde dreaded the appearance of the despoiled princes at their capital, lest it should inflame the minds of the Belochee chiefs, who were flocking to it with their followers.
The conference was held on the arrival of Major Outram at Hyderabad. The Ameers denied that they had infringed the treaties. They repudiated the hostile correspondence, and maintained that they had never affixed their seals to the letters said to have been addressed to the Boogtie chief and to the ruler of the Punjab. They demanded that these documents should be produced and examined in their presence, but were informed that they were with the Governor-General. Meer Roostum again asserted that he had been placed under restraint by Ali Morad, and
that his seal had been affixed to the deed of resignation by force. Several conferences were subsequently held, at which the Ameers assured the Major that the Belochee troops now assembled at the capital were not under control, and that the continued advance of Sir Charles Napier, who was marching on Hyderabad, must inevitably lead to a collision. They assented to the conditions of the treaties, although they were deemed harsh; they were ready even to relinquish the large territory which Sir Charles had confiscated, but they required the assurance of Major Outram that the Turban and the territory seized by Ali Morad should be restored to Meer Roostum, if he could substantiate the allegation of violence. If this concession were made, they thought that they might succeed in restraining the passions of the troops. It was beyond the power of Major Outram to assent to this proposal. On the 12th February, he attended a durbar in the fort, when all the Ameers affixed their seals to the treaties. The city, however, was in a state of commotion; the sight of the fugitive and disinherited princes of Upper Sinde, and, more especially, of the venerable Meer Roostum, deposed from the chiefship and stripped of his territory by his perfidious brother, exasperated the inhabitants and the Belochee chiefs beyond endurance. On issuing from the fort after the treaties had been executed, Major Outram and his officers were surrounded by a dense crowd of citizens and soldiers pouring execrations on the British name, and they would inevitably have fallen a sacrifice to popular fury, if they had not been protected by a guard under the command of the most influential chiefs, who refused to leave them till they were safe within the gates of the Residency. The next day a deputation waited on Major Outram to state that the Belochee troops were wrought up to such a state of desperation that the Ameers were unable to restrain them, and could no longer be answerable for their conduct. “We have given you,” they said, “all that you wanted for yourselves and for the Nabob of Bhawulpore without a murmur. Promise to restore the lands which Ali Morad has seized, or permit us
to recover them ourselves;” but Major Outram could only assure them that the Ameers must be held responsible for the conduct of their subjects. They entreated him to retire from the Residency to a place of greater safety, but he replied that he should neither move an inch, nor place an additional sentry at his door. On the morning of the 15th February, masses of infantry and cavalry came down upon the Residency and assailed it with great resolution, but they were effectually repulsed by a small body of native troops, and a company of the 22nd Foot, which happened to be present. After a gallant defence of three hours against overwhelming numbers, Major Outram retired with the loss of seventeen killed, wounded, and missing, to the armed steamer anchored in the river about five hundred yards distant. It is important to the interests of historical truth to correct the groundless assertion made on the authority of Sir Charles Napier in Lord Ellenborough’s proclamation of the 5th March, that “the Ameers signed the new treaty on the 14th February, and treacherously attacked the residence of the British Commissioners with a large force on the following day.” The treaty was signed on the 12th, and for two days the Ameers continued to importune Major Outram to retire from the Residency, because they were unable to curb the indignation of their feudatories, but, true to his chivalrous feeling, he resolved to remain and brave the danger.
The attack on the Residency closed all negotiation, and rendered an appeal to arms inevitable. No course was left to Sir Charles Napier but to march to Hyderabad, and to join issue with the national force which had flocked thither in augmented numbers when it was perceived that he continued to advance after the treaties had been signed. On the morning of the 17th February he came upon the Belochee army posted at Meanee, about six miles from Hyderabad, numbering more than 20,000 men, while his own force did not exceed 2,700. The Belochees took up a strong position, with the dry bed of the Fullailee in
front, and a wood on each flank defended by fifteen guns. During three hours they maintained their ground with the greatest courage and resolution, and being excellent swordsmen, repeatedly rushed down the bank on the British ranks, after having discharged their matchlocks. The fortune of the day was at length decided by a charge of cavalry on the right of the enemy, while another body of horse fell simultaneously on their camp, spreading dismay in the rear of the masses opposed to the British infantry. The Belochees disputed every inch of ground, and gradually retired from the field, leaving their camp, their artillery, and all their military stores in the hands of the victors. Braver men never rushed on death, and never on any Indian battle-field had the gallantry of British troops, or the generalship of a British commander, been more conspicuously displayed. No quarter was asked or given, and the loss of the Belochees in killed and wounded was computed at 5,000, while that of the British force, owing to the admirable tactics of Sir Charles Napier, did not exceed 257, of whom nineteen were officers. The victory was as complete as it was brilliant, but a fresh body of 10,000 Belochees arrived the next day, and Shere Mohamed, the Ameer of Meerpore, the ablest and most martial of the princes, was in the neighbourhood with about the same number of men, who had taken no part in the engagement. Sir Charles was without the means of laying siege to the fort of Hyderabad, and would have been constrained to retire to the banks of the Indus and throw up entrenchments, while he awaited the arrival of a battering train. This appearance of weakness might have marred the prospects of the campaign. From these embarrassments he was happily relieved by the voluntary submission of the Ameers, and the surrender of the fortress. He entered Hyderabad on the 20th February, and obtained possession of the accumulated treasures and jewels of the Talpoora, family, which were distributed as prize among the captors. Major Outram refused to accept his share of the plunder, acquired in what he considered an unjust war, and
distributed it, to the extent of 30,000 rupees, among the charitable institutions of India. Lord Ellenborough, soon after receiving intelligence of the victory at Meanee, issued a proclamation annexing the kingdom of Sinde, “fertile as Egypt,” to the Company’s territories, abolishing slavery, and opening the Indus to the navigation and commerce of all nations.
The gallant Shere Mohamed, of Meerpore, who, when Hyderabad was threatened by Sir John Keane and General Cotton in 1839, had come to the rescue with his coffin and his shroud, employed himself in collecting together the scattered bands of Belochees, to make another effort for the independence of his country. He appeared in the neighbourhood of Hyderabad, near the village of Dubba, on the 22nd March, and Sir Charles Napier, who had, in the meantime, received reinforcements which raised his force to 6,000, found the Ameer encamped with about 20,000 men in a strong position behind the dry bed of the Fullailee. The British artillery played on the enemy’s centre, till it began to waver, the cavalry charged the left, and the 22nd Foot rushed up the bank of the river, under a galling fire of matchlocks without returning a shot, till within forty paces of the entrenchments, which they stormed with a noble devotion. The field was gallantly contested on both sides; the Belochees fought with exemplary courage; the British officers and men emulated the example of their heroic commander, who moved about with the utmost composure where the shots were flying thickest. The victory was as complete as that of Meanee, and Shere Mohamed fled with only a small body of followers. A detachment was sent into the desert to take possession of the fortress of Omercote, famed as the birthplace of the Emperor Akbar. It was found deserted and Sir Charles Napier soon after announced to the Governor-General the complete subjugation of the country, which he made the subject of a pun, and, in reference to the charge of injustice with which the conquest was universally assailed, wrote peccavi, “I have sinned” (Sinde). During the year, there were some slight
ebullitions of discontent, but they were subdued without difficulty, and no conquered province in India has been found to acquiesce more rapidly and more completely in the establishment of British authority. Every effort to raise a local force in Afghanistan to sustain our authority had been defeated by the inveterate hostility and treachery of those who enlisted; but the Belochees entered cheerfully into the service of their conquerors, exhibited a feeling of invariable loyalty, and did not hesitate to embark on foreign service to garrison their trans-marine settlements.
The achievements of the British army in Sinde, which were naturally contrasted with the cowardice and imbecility exhibited in Afghanistan, created a feeling of just exultation in India; but it was clouded by the conviction that the rupture with the Ameers was unjustifiable, and the war unrighteous. Lord Ellenborough, at a subsequent period, drew up an elaborate vindication of these proceedings, but it only served to place the weakness of the cause in a more prominent light. There is no doubt that he was keenly sensible of the injury inflicted on British prestige in India and in Asia by our disasters in Afghanistan, and was quick to resent any manifestations of hostile or even equivocal conduct in our allies, which could be traced to a suspicion of the decay of our power. Such indications of disaffection had been exhibited at the native Courts upon every former occasion of our reverses, even far more palpably than in the present instance in Sinde: but no Governor-General had deemed it necessary to visit them with a heavy retribution. They had always disappeared when victory was again associated with our arms, and they would have died a natural death in Sinde if the management of affairs had been in other hands than those of Sir Charles Napier. Lord Ellenborough, unwisely, placed indiscriminate confidence in his judgment, and regulated his own proceedings by the information he communicated. Many extenuating circumstances and many documents which could not have failed to modify his opinions were withheld from him,
and the fullest credit may be given to the assertion of Sir John Hobhouse, the President of the Board of Control, that the conquest of Sinde would never have taken place if Lord Ellen-borough had been in full possession of the real facts, and had been cognisant of the misdeeds of Ali Morad. Sir Charles entered upon his duties with a strong prejudice against the Ameers, and he was the victim of a foregone conclusion. At the beginning of his Sinde career, he remarked, “We only want a pretext to coerce the Ameers,” and after examining the letters said to be treasonable, affirmed “they have given a pretext, they have broken treaties. The more powerful Government will at no distant period swallow up the weaker, and it would be better to come to the result at once, if it can be done with honesty.” On a subsequent occasion he wrote, “We have no right to seize Sinde, yet we shall do so, and a very advantageous, useful, and humane piece of rascality it will be.” The rascality is more apparent than the advantage, except to the captors, to whom it brought a rich draught of prize money, of which seven lacs fell to the share of the General- in-chief. On the finances of India it inflicted a loss of two crores and a-half of rupees in the course of fifteen years. The war was the result of Sir Charles’s rash and impetuous proceedings, but it must not be forgotten that he was surrounded by the creatures, and stimulated by the villainous intrigues, of Ali Morad. The conquest of Sinde admits of no vindication. It is a blot on our national escutcheon, but it stands alone among the transactions which have enlarged the boundaries of the British empire in India, and it is unjust to yield to an indolent dislike of investigation and pass a general censure on our career for an exceptional transgression. The treatment which the Ameers experienced forms one of the darkest pages in the history of British India. State policy might dictate their removal from a country where they had once been masters, but it was nevertheless an act of cruelty to inflict an indiscriminate banishment on these unhappy princes, many of whom were innocent even of a hostile thought, and
to consign them to a distant and dreary exile, separated from all those associations which form the charm of existence.
For the first time in the history of British India, the expansion of the empire led to a mutiny of the sepoys. Sinde became a British province, and they lost the extra allowances which had been granted to them while on active service in an enemy’s country. The sepoy could not comprehend why he should be deprived of any portion of his pay because he had assisted in adding a new province to the dominions of his masters, and he became insubordinate. In February, 1844, the 34th Native Infantry, which had been warned for service in Sinde, refused to march without the additional allowances granted to troops proceeding beyond the Indus. The 7th Bengal cavalry, and several companies of Bengal artillery followed the example on the line of march, and were ordered back to their former stations. The 69th and the 4th, which were ordered in their stead to the frontier, refused to embark in the boats provided for them at Ferozepore. The 64th at Loodiana exhibited equal reluctance for the service, and was countermarched to Benares. On reaching Umbala, the native officers came forward and assured the General commanding the division that the regiment had thought better of it, and was ready to proceed to Sinde. The Commander-in-chief, elated with this return of loyalty, imprudently determined to recompense it by a promise of higher pay and pension, and greater indulgences of furlough; but when the regiment arrived at Moodkee, the men broke out in open mutiny, and endeavoured to seize the colours, but were induced by the flattery of the commandant to resume their march. Two days after, the despatch of the Adjutant-General which announced the concessions made by the Commander-in-chief, under the impression that the corps was animated with a feeling of loyalty, was received in camp; but though it was then in a state of complete rebellion, the weak Colonel not only translated the letter into Hindostanee and circulated it among the sepoys, but aggravated the imprudence already committed
by promising the batta they had received under General Pollock in Afghanistan. On the arrival of the regiment at Shikarpore, the extra allowances, to which the sanction of the Government of India had never been obtained, were withheld, and the men again broke out into mutiny. The station was under the command of General Hunter, an officer held in the highest estimation throughout .the native army, but he was unable to restore discipline and was openly insulted and hustled on the parade. The sepoys affirmed that they had been allured to Sinde by false pretences, that they had been promised “Pollock’s batta “but had received eight rupees instead of twelve. As there was unfortunately too much reason for this complaint, he marched the regiment back to the Indus, and agreed to condone the offence of all but the ringleaders. The mutiny was hushed up, and the Colonel cashiered. Finding it impracticable to garrison Sinde with a Bengal force, the Government turned to the Madras army which had never manifested any hesitation to embark on foreign service. But the Madras army was not free from the taint of insubordination; and, during the previous six years, there had been repeated instances of mutiny on various occasions, and at more than one station. The 47th was under orders for Moulmein, a station across the bay on the Tenasserim coast, where the sepoys had always enjoyed extra allowances. It was determined to change their destination and embark them for Bombay on their way to Sinde, with the promise of the same additional pay they had enjoyed when crossing the sea. The assurance thus given by the Governor in ignorance of the regulations of the Bengal army, was of no validity, and the men, finding on their arrival at Bombay that their expectations were disappointed, broke out in open mutiny on parade. The leaders were placed in confinement, and a small advance of money was served out which kept down the spirit of resistance, but it was deemed hazardous again to attempt the experiment of despatching Madras regiments to Sinde.
The province was made over to the Bombay army, and satisfactory arrangements were made regarding the allowances of the troops. These repeated explosions clearly demonstrated that the feeling of subordination was gradually becoming relaxed in the minds of the sepoys, and afforded a premonition of that climax of mutiny which, thirteen years later, swept away the whole of the Bengal army.
Lord Ellenborough’s announcement of the victory of Meanee, and the subjugation of Sinde, was dated from the palace of Agra on the 5th March. On the same day an order was issued to concentrate a large force on the frontier of Sindia’s territories, at a little distance from that city, to support the authority of the regent, recently appointed under the auspices of the Governor-General. Before the close of the year two battles were fought which placed the whole of the Gwalior kingdom at the disposal of the British Government. Resuming the thread of events at that durbar, after the death of Dowlut Rao Sindia, we remark that his widow, Baeza Bye, adopted Junkojee Sindia in 1827, and that he died on the 7th February, 1843, without issue, and without having named a successor. In 1838 he had taken for his second wife, Tara Bye, now in her thirteenth year. Immediately upon his death she adopted a boy of the age of eight, not without the full concurrence of the chiefs and of the Governor-General, and bestowed on him the royal title of Gyajee. The durbar, comprising the most influential men in the state, lay, military and ecclesiastical, was anxious that the government of the country should continue to be administered by the existing council of ministers. Lord Ellenborough, however, considering the geographical position of the kingdom, which consisted of many straggling districts, impinging in every direction for many hundred miles on the territories of the Company and its allies, and bearing in mind also the extreme youth of the raja and his adoptive mother, deemed it important that the management of the state should rest upon the responsibility of a single individual as regent. Two candidates appeared for this dignified office, the Mama
Sahib, the uncle of the late raja, and Dada Khasjee, the hereditary chamberlain and keeper of the jewel office. The claims of the Dada were strongly supported by the young queen and the ladies of the court, but Lord Ellenborough directed the Resident to inform the durbar that he should prefer the appointment of the Mama Sahib, who was accordingly installed on the 23rd February. This interference in the appointment of the minister involved the necessity of giving him the support of the British Government, while it also rendered him an object of increasing aversion to an influential party in the state, by whom his rival was preferred. The ranee and her partisans, irritated at their disappointment, set every engine to work to thwart and harass the regent, and to throw his administration into confusion. It was in the prospect of being obliged to afford him material support, that Lord Ellenborough ordered the assembly of troops on the 5th March, but the receipt of more favourable intelligence from Gwalior induced him to countermand it three days after.
The great source of disquietude at Gwalior was the state of the army, consisting of about 30,000 infantry and 10,000 horse, with 200 pieces of cannon, commanded for the most part by Christian officers of European descent. It was not in any sense a Mahratta force corresponding with that of the first Sindia and animated with a strong feeling of national enthusiasm, but a mercenary body recruited from the martial population of the provinces of Rajpootana, Oude, and the Company’s territories. It was out of all proportion, not only to the requirements of the kingdom, which was protected from external invasion by its British alliance, but also to its revenues, of which it absorbed more than two-thirds. The Government of Gwalior had made repeated attempts to reduce its numbers with a view to the tranquillity of the country and the relief of the treasury, but the troops peremptorily refused to permit any of the corps to be paid up and disbanded, or any vacancy in their ranks to remain empty. They were, moreover, always in arrears, sometimes
to the extent of ten months’ pay, which necessarily served to increase the feeling of arrogance and insubordination. The army was in fact too large and too strong for the state. One of the battalions of a brigade of infantry under a native commandant, had recently committed great excesses in Malwa, and in consequence of a strong remonstrance from the Resident, he was ordered to repair alone to Gwalior to answer for his conduct; but he chose to march up contumaciously at the head of his battalion, and the whole brigade was immediately infected with a mutinous feeling. Lord Ellenborough pressed on the regent the importance of dealing vigorously with this spirit of rebellion, and offered him the assistance of a British force, but he prudently declined the proposal, from the conviction that the appearance of foreign soldiers in the country would raise a flame in the army, and inevitably lead to a collision.
The opposition to the regent was organized in the zenana, chiefly through the intrigues of a very clever slave girl, who had acquired a complete ascendency over the childish mind of the ranee. The slave was at length induced by a large donation to withdraw from the palace, and the Dada, who headed the adverse faction, was advised to proceed to Benares with the bones of the deceased raja, as he had conveyed the bones of Dowlut Rao Sindia sixteen years before to the same holy city; but he declined the insidious proposal, well knowing that he would not be permitted to return to Gwalior when he had once quitted it. To strengthen his influence at the court, the Regent betrothed the young raja to his own niece, but the palace confederacy assured the ranee that this alliance would completely undermine her influence, as indeed it was intended to do, and ten days after the ceremony had taken place, she sent abruptly to inform the Resident that, having various causes of complaint against the regent, she had thought fit to dismiss him from his office. The Resident energetically remonstrated with the self-willed girl on the folly of this course, but she turned a deaf ear to
all his representations. He then requested permission to call up a British detachment to support the cause of the regent, but Lord Ellenborough refused to sanction this movement, though he caused intimation to be given to the ranee, that it was indispensable to establish a Government at Gwalior capable of maintaining tranquillity along the extensive line of its frontier, and that it was impossible for him to permit “the growth of a lax system of rule generating habits of plunder.” Lord Ellenborough had lost all confidence in the regent, who ought in his opinion to have been able, with the aid of the army and the countenance of the British authorities, to baffle the machinations of the palace. “You have proved yourself,” he said, “unfit to manage men or women, and a minister at Gwalior must manage both.” The regent was violently expelled the country, and the revengeful Dada would have deprived him of his liberty, as well as of his property, as he passed through the independent state of Seronge, but for the interposition of the Governor-General. The degradation of the minister who had been supported by the Government of India was an insult which Lord Ellenborough was not disposed to overlook, and the Resident was desired to withdraw from the capital with all his establishment, and to retire to Dholpore. The durbar had not forgotten that the retirement of Colonel Collins in 1803 was immediately followed by the battle of Assye and the dismemberment of the kingdom, and every effort was made to induce the Resident to return to the capital; but the Governor-General steadily refused to give his consent.
On the expulsion of the regent, the ranee assumed the ostensible management of the state, and held durbars daily, but all real power was in the hands of the Dada, who had secured the females of the zenana by lavish gifts of money and land. He manifested his hostility to the Government of India by expelling from office those who were favourable to it, and installing those who were known to regard it with aversion. The most influential nobles held aloof
from him, and he never moved out of the palace, where he considered himself secure, without the protection of a strong guard. In this state of political confusion, the army, which was concentrated at the capital and courted by all parties, became more arrogant and overbearing than ever, and the soldiers of the artillery insulted their officers and expelled them from the camp. The ranee continued to importune the Resident to return, but he was instructed to inform her that until the Dada, the author of all these complications, and the only obstacle to the restoration of friendly relations between the two states, was removed from her counsels, he was not at liberty to resume his functions at the capital. This communication was delivered, in common with all others, to the Dada, but he improperly withheld it from the ranee. Considering, however, that he was the chief minister of the state, and the sole medium of communication with her, the transgression will appear very venial, but the Governor-General thought fit to regard it as an “offence of the most criminal character against the state of Gwalior,” and peremptorily demanded that he should be committed to the custody of the Resident. The ranee replied that she was prepared to deprive him of his office and authority, and to place him under restraint within the Gwalior territories, but that it would be derogatory to the dignity of the crown to surrender him at the dictation of a foreign power. Three of the ablest and most influential of the nobles, anxious to preserve the alliance and friendship of the British Government, formed a junction with one of the brigades hostile to the Dada, and, after having besieged the palace for three days, obtained possession of his person. The capital presented the appearance of two hostile encampments. The rival parties were equally balanced in numbers and strength, but the command of the treasury gave the ranee a preponderating influence. They came at length to an open rupture, which resulted in the loss of fifty or sixty lives. Soon after, the Dada contrived to effect his escape, and again assumed the management of affairs, issued eight months’ pay to the troops, and made preparations
to oppose any movement of British troops which the Governor-General might order.
On the 1st November, Lord Ellenborough recorded a Minute on the state of affairs at Gwalior, which furnishes a key to his subsequent proceedings. It was exceptionally free from paradox and eccentricity, and, if viewed either with reference to the soundness of its political views, or to the vigour of its style, may be considered one of the ablest state papers on the records of the Council. Whether forced on us, he said, by circumstances, or the settled object of our arms and policy, our position in India is that of the paramount and controlling power, and it is therefore impossible to take a partial and insulated view of our relations with any one state within that limit. To recede from that position would endanger our own existence, and bring upon all the states now dependent on us the most afflicting calamities. It would let loose all the elements of confusion, and lead the several states to seek redress for daily occurring grievances against each other, not from the superintending justice of the British Government, but from the armed reprisals of the injured; and the countries which, under our protection, have enjoyed many of the advantages of peace would again be exposed to devastation. He then passed in review the transactions of the year at Gwalior where the expulsion of the regent, nominated with our concurrence, and the elevation of his rival, was an affront of the gravest character, and where, moreover, an army of 30,000 men, with a very numerous artillery, under the direction of a person who had obtained his post and could only retain it in despite of the British Government, lay within a few marches of the capital of the north-west provinces. “Still, under ordinary circumstances, we might perhaps have waited upon time, and trusted to the disunion manifest among the chiefs, and the usual vicissitudes of an Indian court, to restore our influence at Gwalior. But the events which have recently occurred at Lahore will not permit the resort to a policy
suited only to a state of general tranquillity in India.” In the Punjab both the sovereign and his son had been murdered in the month of September at the instigation of Dhyan Sing, who was himself slain on the same day by the assassin he had employed to destroy his master. Heera Sing, the son of Dhyan Sing, revenged the death of his father, proclaimed Duleep Sing sovereign, and endeavoured to gain over the army by the addition of two rupees and a-half to the monthly pay of each soldier. Amidst these convulsions and massacres the army had become the dominant power in the state, and Lord Ellenborough justly remarked that “with an army of 70,000 men within three marches of the Sutlege, confident in its own strength, proud of its various successes against its neighbours, desirous of war and of plunder, and under no discipline or control, it would be unpardonable were we not to take every possible precaution against its hostility, and no precaution appears to be more necessary than that of rendering our rear and our communications secure, by the re-establishment of a friendly Government at Gwalior.” It will admit of no controversy that while this large army, composed of the bravest soldiers in India, and its three hundred guns, complete masters of the Government, and eager to pour down on our territories, lay across the Sutlege, and another powerful army with two hundred guns, trained by European officers and equally beyond the control of the state, lay within sixty-five miles of Agra, the British empire was in a position of extreme peril. The Governor-General would have incurred a serious responsibility if he had been indifferent to the importance of reducing the Gwalior army before the collision with the Sikhs, which was evidently inevitable, came on. Lord Ellenborough had continued for two months to press the surrender of the Dada on the ranee, and the Resident had assured her that nothing short of it would satisfy the British Government. “If,” he said, “the Governor-General, who is now on his way to Agra, should not find the Dada there on his arrival, God alone knows what orders may be issued.”
Lord Ellenborough arrived at Agra on the 11th December, and finding that the Dada had not quitted Gwalior, wrote the next day to inform the ranee that it would have been gratifying to him if her conduct had enabled him to look forward to a long continuance of friendship between the states, but her Highness had unfortunately listened to other counsels and the British authorities could neither permit the existence within the territories of Sindia of an unfriendly Government, nor allow those territories to remain without a Government willing and able to maintain order, and to preserve the relations of amity with its neighbours. Compelled by the conduct her Highness had been advised to adopt, he was obliged to look to other means than those of friendly remonstrance to maintain the relations of the two states in their integrity. He had directed the British armies to advance, and would not arrest their movements till he had full security for the future tranquillity of the common frontier. The Commander-in-chief, Sir Hugh Gough, accordingly, commenced his march towards Gwalior, and the Dada was immediately sent to Dholpore with a letter from the ranee to request that as the wishes of the Governor-General had been complied with, the progress of the army might be arrested. On the 18th December, Lord Ellenborough replied to her communication, repeating his former remarks on the necessity of a strong Government able to control its own subjects, and he required that the Gwalior army, which was to all intents the master of the Government it pretended to serve, should be reduced within reasonable limits, and that the strength of the British contingent should be increased. The completion of this measure in a satisfactory manner by the Maharanee and the durbar, would render the advance of the British armies no longer requisite, but they would be at hand to give aid to her Highness, if necessary, in effecting this purpose. Instead, however, of resting the justification of these proceedings on the undeniable argument of an imperative necessity, Lord Ellenborough
adopted the feeble plea of the duty he owed “the Maharaja, whose person and whose rights as the successor of Dowlut Rao Sindia were placed by treaty under the protection of the British Government.” The treaty thus unexpectedly brought forward was that of Boorhanpore, forced on Sindia by Lord Wellesley in 1804, and negotiated by Colonel Malcolm. It provided that a subsidiary force of 6,000 men should be organized on Sindia’s behalf, and that “it should be ready at all times, on the requisition of the Maharaja, to execute services of importance, such as the care of his person, his heirs, and successors, and the overawing and chastisement of rebels, or exciters of disturbance in his dominions “But as this subsidiary force was not to be paid from his treasury, or even stationed within his territories, it was never called into existence. The treaty itself became a dead letter from the day it was signed, and no reference was subsequently made to it, either by the Mahratta court, or by the Government of India. When a new treaty was formed with Sindia by Lord Hastings, in 1817, although previous and succeeding treaties were recapitulated and confirmed, that of Boorhanpore was unnoticed. It was this obsolete treaty which Lord Ellenborough now restored to life, after it had lain in the grave for forty years, and on the strength of it ordered two armies into the Gwalior territories, not only without the requisition of the raja, but in spite of the remonstrances of his Government.
The ranee and raja, finding that the Governor-General was moving down with a large force to the Chumbul, the boundary of the two states, determined to advance to the frontier town of Dholpore to meet him; and a deputation of three of the most influential chiefs of the durbar, friendly to the Company’s Government, was sent forward to arrange the interview. They suggested that the queen and the prince, who were then on the eve of leaving the capital, should wait on Lord Ellenborough in his present encampment, which was the spot where all former Governors-General had awaited the visit of the Gwalior rajas. Lord
Ellenborough replied that he could not wait their arrival, and that the army would advance as soon as the whole of the troops had joined it. The chiefs entreated him to reconsider this determination. It was, they said, a question of vital importance, affecting the honour of the house of Sindia, which would be eternally disgraced if, contrary to all precedent, the Governor-General should cross the frontier before the raja had paid his respects to him on British territory. It was in his hands to uphold or to destroy the dynasty of their master; the treaty which had been propounded would occasion no difficulty; it was for him to dictate the terms, it was for them to obey; but they implored him with joined hands to weigh the serious consequences which might result from his crossing the Chumbul with a large force before the interview with the raja. The only reply vouchsafed to this entreaty by the Governor-General was a repetition of the assertion that it was impossible to suspend the progress of the army. The chiefs then proposed that the queen and the prince should meet him at Hingona, about twenty-three miles distant from Gwalior, and sign the treaty, and Lord Ellenborough consented to fix the 26th for the meeting; but the Gwalior troops did not fail to perceive that the advance of the British army was a hostile movement, and would result in depriving them of the power and the position they had acquired, and in consigning them to beggary. All party animosities were hushed before the danger which equally menaced the independence of the state and the existence of the army, and chiefs and soldiers made common cause against the designs of the Governor-General. The Gwalior battalions prevented the ranee and the prince from keeping their appointment at Hingona, and marched out of the capital with exultation, assuring the Resident as they passed, that they were going to drive the English back across the Chumbul.
The Governor-General waited in vain two days at Hingona for the royal party, and on the 28th December directed the army to advance upon
Gwalior. Sindia’s troops had taken up a strong position at Chounda, and the arrangements of Sir Hugh Gough were directed to this point, but, during the night seven battalions of infantry, with twenty guns of heavy calibre, advanced to the village of Maharajpore and entrenched themselves, with their formidable batteries in its front. The Commander-in-chief and the officers of his staff had fallen into the usual error of despising the enemy, and considered them a contemptible rabble, ready to take to flight on the first shot. General Churchill, the Quartermaster-General, who fell gallantly in the action, observed on the day preceding it that the only weapon her should require was a good horsewhip. The progress of the British army was regarded in the light of a military promenade. The Governor-General and the ladies of the chief officers accompanied it on elephants. There was no reconnaissance in the morning, and the enemy’s change of position was unknown to Sir Hugh. The cavalcade advanced gaily to Maharajpore where it was intended to breakfast, when a sudden discharge from the masked batteries of the Mahrattas, gave the first intimation of the proximity of Sindia’s army. One of the balls struck the ear of the elephant on which the wife of a General was mounted. The Commander-in-chief was required to alter his dispositions in haste, and the battle which ensued was justly characterized as one in which everybody and everything was out of place. The British force numbered about 12,000; that of the enemy amounted to 14,000, but there was no General-in-chief to direct their movements. Each brigade marched out of Gwalior and took up its own position, which it maintained with extraordinary courage and resolution. After the surrender of the Dada, our siege train had been sent back, the heavy guns which accompanied our force were unaccountably left in the rear, and the light field pieces were soon upset by the heavy ordnance of the enemy. Our troops were therefore at once launched on their batteries, which were served with a frantic desperation, as long as there was a gunner left. Even after the capture of the guns the infantry
continued to maintain its ground with great determination. Victory was at length secured, not by any professional skill, but simply by the irresistible gallantry of our soldiers, of whom a thousand fell killed and wounded. Lord Ellenborough won his spurs on the field, and was seen moving about with the greatest intrepidity amidst a shower of bullets, distributing money and oranges among the wounded.
On the same day, another battle was fought with another portion of the Gwalior force at Punniar, by the troops under the command of General Grey, who had been directed to advance against the capital from the south, while Sir Hugh Gough advanced from the north. It ended in a complete victory.
These victories placed the kingdom of Sindia at the feet of the Governor-General, but he left it entire, and simply suppressed its independence. Two days after the engagement, the young ranee and raja proceeded to the British encampment together with the principal chiefs and the officers of the court. The boy was in a state of great perturbation throughout the interview. The litter of the ranee, closely veiled, was conveyed to a private tent, and Lord Ellenborough seated himself beside it, while the two Mahratta ministers squatted on the carpet and explained his address to her as it was interpreted by Colonel Sleeman, the Resident. Considering that she was not thirteen, she behaved with remarkable self-possession. After alluding to her extreme youth and inexperience, she said she had come out with her adopted son to implore forgiveness for what had occurred, which she attributed to the arrogance of her licentious soldiery. The Governor-General replied that measures must be taken to restore order, and to establish an efficient Government, and he held out a hope of her being permitted to take a share in it; but when the treaty came to be settled she found herself deposed from the office of regent, and consigned to oblivion on a pension of three lacs of rupees a-year. The majority of the raja was fixed at eighteen, and the
administration was in the meanwhile committed to a council of regency, consisting of six sirdars, who were required to act implicitly on the advice of the Resident whenever he might think fit to offer it. The turbulent army of the state was reduced to 9,000 men, with thirty-two guns, and so completely had the two battles broken its spirit that it was disbanded in ten days without any appearance of tumult. Many of the soldiers enlisted in the British contingent, which was increased to the number of 10,000, and became, in fact, a compact little army of all arms, with an admirable artillery. In the splendour of its uniform and the superiority of its discipline and efficiency, it eclipsed every other corps, and was called the model force of India. The sepoys were high caste brahmins and Rajpoots from the Dooab and Oude, men of athletic forms and lofty carriage, and boundless assumption, and the European officers, selected for their merits, took a pride in maintaining the high standard of their regiments. During the mutiny of 1857, the men butchered their officers, crossed the Jumna, and proceeded to join their rebellious relatives of the Bengal army; and it was this body of troops which boldly encountered General Windham at Cawnpore in November, 1857, and inflicted a severe reverse on our arms; while Sindia and his illustrious minister, the raja Dinkur Rao, remained faithful in their allegiance to the British Government. The policy of breaking up this insubordinate force at Gwalior was abundantly vindicated two years after, when the 70,000 Sikh soldiers alluded to in the Minute of Lord Ellenborough, poured down upon the British territories and shook our power to its foundation. If at that crisis, when our military resources were taxed to their utmost strength to stem the tide of invasion on the Sutlege, the Gwalior army had been in existence, both anxious and ready to co-operate with the Sikhs, the empire of India could scarcely have been saved without a miracle.
Lord Ellenborough returned to Calcutta in March, and, on the 15th June, India was astounded
by the intelligence that the Court of Directors had revoked his appointment. The causes of displeasure and anxiety he had given them were not few. His correspondence with the India House had been marked by the absence of that deference which was due to the high position assigned to them in the government of the empire, and his proceedings had often exhibited a contumelious disdain of their authority. He had twice been their superior at the Board of Control in England, and he scarcely realized the fact that in India he was their subordinate, and that it was his duty to obey and not to dictate. He had concentrated his sympathies on the army and treated the civil service, the favourites of Leadenhall Street, with undisguised contempt. The vagary of the Gate Proclamation had exposed the Government of India to the derision of England and Europe, and destroyed all confidence in the sobriety and soundness of Lord Ellenborough’s judgment. Since his arrival in India he had dismissed that solicitude for the pursuits of peace in which he once took a pride, and contracted an extreme fondness for warlike exploits and military glory. His administration had presented only a succession of wars and battles. He appeared to the Directors to be without any fixity of purpose, or any definite principles of action, and they were in constant dread of the new embarrassments in which his eccentricities might involve them. They ceased to consider the empire safe in his hands, and, in spite of the remonstrances of his friends in the Ministry, determined to exercise the power they had refused to part with during the recent Charter discussions, and to recall him. His removal was regarded by the army he had caressed with feelings of deep regret, amounting almost to indignation. The community in general, while duly appreciating his many noble qualities, the total absence of nepotism, the patriotic distribution of his patronage, his indefatigable industry, his indomitable resolution, and his great energy and talent, still regarded his removal as an act of unquestionable wisdom. The feelings of the native princes were facetiously,
but accurately, described by Sir Henry Lawrence, when he remarked that after hearing of his recall, they ceased, on waking in the morning, to feel their necks to be sure that their heads were still on their shoulders. He embarked for England on the 1st August, and the Sikh war was postponed for a twelvemonth.
Lord Ellenborough’s attention was so completely absorbed in war and politics as to leave him little leisure or inclination for the moral, intellectual, or material improvement of the country. But there is a vital principle of progression in the British Government in India which the caprice or indifference of those in authority, either there or in England, can interrupt only for a season. It was during the Government of Lord Ellenborough that the police of the lower provinces was rendered efficient, and two important measures of social improvement, the extinction of slavery, and the abolition of state lotteries, were achieved, chiefly through the exertions of the Vice-President in Council, Mr. Wilberforce Bird. The department of police had long been the opprobrium of the administration. It was a just subject of complaint that while the collectorate, which guarded the pecuniary interests of the state, received every attention from Government, the magistracy and the police, which concerned the interests of the people, were disgracefully neglected and inadequately remunerated. One Magistrate was considered sufficient for a population of a million, and the largest scope was thus afforded for the venality and oppression of the native police officers, whose allowances for half a century had been barely sufficient to cover their travelling expenses. Mr. Bird, following up the liberal views of Lord William Bentinck, established the office of Deputy Magistrate, to which men of every class, caste, and creed were made eligible, and thus indefinitely increased the strength and efficiency of the department. He was likewise successful in his efforts to establish four grades of police darogas, the highest of which was endowed with 100 rupees a-month – a wretched pittance at
the best – but it was all that could be obtained at the time. State lotteries had been established in the Presidency towns after the example of England, but they were continued long after they had been abandoned at home. The proceeds were appropriated to the material improvement of the towns, though at the expense of their morals. In Calcutta, the profits of the lottery had been hypothecated for many years to the state in payment of the very large advances made to the municipal body for various improvements. Happily, the debt was liquidated, and the money reverted to the treasury during Mr. Bird’s tenure of office. It was the province of the local government of Bengal to sanction the half-yearly scheme of the lotteries; and in 1843 Mr. Bird availed himself of his position to suspend the usual order, pending a reference to the Court of Directors, well knowing that when a noxious system of this character, long since condemned in England, had once been intermitted in India, it would be impossible to revive it. He also drafted an Act which, after describing lotteries as detrimental to the interests of society, abolished them throughout India, except where they might be authorized by the Government; but this condemnation rendered any state lottery impossible. Lord Ellenborough was busy with the Ferozepore pageantry when the draft reached him, and, though the enactment was not exactly in accordance with his own opinion, gave his immediate consent to it, and the country was at once relieved from this prolific source of evil. The question of slavery had been referred to the Law Commission appointed by the Charter Act of 1833, who drew up an elaborate report, to which were attached the Minutes of the individual members, all of whom were opposed to its immediate abolition. When the question was brought before the Supreme Council, Mr. Bird stood up for its entire and peremptory prohibition, but was not supported by his colleagues. In the able Minute which he drew up on the subject, he said, “It is proposed to postpone this grand measure to some future period, when it can be carried into effect with greater safety. This is exactly
the course which was pursued with regard to suttees; certain detailed rules and regulations were passed with a view to restrict within the narrowest possible bounds the performance of that rite, but which were found on trial to be attended with the exact contrary effect; and we were obliged to do at last what might have been done twenty years sooner with equal facility.” Some time after, having been appointed Vice-President in Council, and seeing the tide of official opinion turning against the toleration of the evil, he ventured to introduce the draft of an Act for the total and immediate abolition of it throughout India, to which Lord Ellenborough, then in the north-west, gave his hearty concurrence, and soon after extended it to the province of Sinde upon its annexation.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage