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NEW SYSTEM OF POLICY. 171
gave rise to painful feelings as to the endless duration of Indian hostility. The company, strongly influenced by public opinion, and struck by the enormous expenditure in which the campaign had already involved them, determined to change entirely the system according to which their affairs were conducted. In place of the Marquis Wellesley, who, with or without reason, had acquired completely the reputation of a war-governor, they substituted the Marquis Cornwallis. This nobleman had not, indeed, while in power, pursued a course materially different; yet his character was generally esteemed moderate and conciliatory, and he was understood to disapprove of the extent to which conquest had now been carried. His instructions were to proceed on principles every way opposite to those in operation,—to conclude peace almost at any price,—to form a defensive line beyond which British interference was not to extend; and to allow the native powers to treat and to fight with each other as if they were situated at the extremity of the globe. Admitting that the policy of Marquis Wellesley was not quite so pacific as his friends contended, it was very doubtful how far it could now with safety, or even with justice, be thus abruptly relinquished. A great power can seldom be justified in withdrawing from all concern in the contests of its neighbours; from endeavouring to protect the weak against the strong; and thereby preventing any one of them from acquiring a decided preponderance. It was perhaps chimerical to suppose that the principal native chiefs would cultivate habits of sincere peace, or entertain a solid attachment for the British government. They were for the most part usurpers, who had started up amid the ruins of one great empire, each seeking to aggrandize himself at the expense of the rest, and viewing undivided dominion as a prize at which he might aim. They had all, however, through the interposition of the company, seen their aspiring views checked or baffled, their armies vanquished, and some of the brightest gems plucked from their diadems. There could be little doubt, therefore, that when left to themselves there would be a struggle for mastery; and that either by him who should succeed in this object, or by a league of all united, an effort would be made to overthrow the ascendency of England, and regain the possessions which she had wrested from them. According to the adherents of the Wellesley policy, the system pursued by that nobleman was so far advanced towards maturity that only one short effort, of easy and assured success, was necessary to place all India in a state of tranquillity, and to keep down those discordant elements which would otherwise lay waste the country itself. By stopping short at this point, great part of the empire was involved in calamity and disorder, and the foundation laid for another expensive and even perilous struggle. Marquis Wellesley had announced the necessity, from the state of his health, of returning to Europe as soon as the contest with Sindia and the Rajah of Berar should have been brought to a termination. On learning, however, the rupture with Holkar, he intimated his willingness to remain, and bring it also to a close. The views of the government at home were different. On the 30th July, 1815, Marquis Cornwallis arrived at Calcutta; where, learning that the war was still going on, he determined to proceed immediately into the upper provinces, and make personal inquiry into the state of affairs. In his zeal for the public service, however, and to fulfil the anxious wish of his countrymen, he had undertaken this duty at a period when his age and infirmities rendered him very unequal to its performance. Under the fatigue of the voyage his illness daily increased, till on reaching the village of Gazypoor on the Ganges, he was obliged to land, and after lingering for some time died on the 5th of October. Having been unable to reach his destination, while his mind as well as body were impaired by indisposition, he had been little able to receive or consider any fresh information. His place was supplied by Sir George Barlow, the senior member of the supreme council, who had reached that station through various gradations of service, which he had filled with distinction; but his previous habits had not accustomed him to take comprehensive and statesmanlike views of public interests. Regarding with the deepest respect the views of his predecessor, and considering them as supported by the government at home, he refused to listen to any arguments, or admit any of the modifications, suggested by Lord Lake. That commander, although he disapproved of the new
TREATIES WITH SINDIA AND HOLKAR. 173
system, finding it was firmly established by the supreme power, judiciously sought to carry it into effect on the most advantageous footing. He managed, with great address, to draw the first overtures from Sindia; and as it had been determined to yield all the points in dispute, no difficulty was found in the conclusion of a treaty on the 23d November, 1805. The Mahratta leader obtained the highly important fortress of Gwalior, whichhe made his residence and capital; the Chumbul was fixed as the boundary between his possessions and those of the British, who agreed to dissolve their alliance with the Rajpoot princes and others whom he claimed as tributaries. This last measure was in accordance with the new political system j yet in the case of the Rajahs of Boondee and Jyepore, who on the ground of this connexion had performed important services, it was considered as scarcely compatible with national faith. Holkar, after being deserted by his ally, retreated with the wrecks of his army into the western provinces to seek refuge among the Seiks. They refused to receive him; and, being closely pursued by Lord Lake, he would have been reduced to extremities had he not been saved by the new policy which the military commanders were compelled to observe. No sooner did he ask for peace than it was granted, on terms so advantageous as allowed him to regain almost all that he had lost during the war. Amid this general dissolution of defensive alliances, those formed on the great scale with the nizam and the peishwa necessarily came under consideration. The connexion with the latter, founded on the treaty of Bassein, and out of which the late war had arisen, was described the company as one which they were desirous to relinquish. Yet even Sir George Barlow, when he came to consider the proposed measures, could not but view them as fraught with extreme peril. To dissolve the alliance with these potentates, and to withdraw the troops by which they were at present overawed, would have been to relieve the greater part of the powers of India from British control, while they were still animated by the most hostile feelings towards her; it would, in fact, have been to lay the foundation of a future confederacy for her downfall. The peishwa, likewise, notwithstanding his general aversion to the English, had motives connected with the internal state of his dominions, which made him desirous, for the present at least, to claim on that ground the fulfilment of the treaty of Bassein. Sir George Barlow was succeeded in 1807 by Lord Minto, a prudent and intelligent nobleman, who endeavoured in his general system to maintain the pacific policy recommended by the company, without shrinking from vigorous and even hostile demonstrations, when the conduct of the native powers appeared to render these necessary. The great states during his administration retained their position nearly unaltered; but animosities continued to ferment which were destined to burst into a violent tempest, and to involve India afresh in a sanguinary war. CHAPTER V.
Pindarec War, and Conquest of the MdhratUn.
Progress of the Pindarees—Their Character—Ameer Khan—Arrangements with the Peishwa—Trimbuckjee—He murders the Guzerat Minister—Is delivered up to the English—Escapes—Concessions required from the Peishwa—Marquis of Hastings arrives in India—Rupture with Nepaul—Death of General Gillespie—Successes of Ochterlony—Negotiations—Renewal of the War—Final Treaty—Alliance formed with Berar—Irruptions of the Pindarees—Opening of the Campaign against them—Treaties with Sindia and Ameer Khan—The Cholera attacks the Grand Army—Rise and Diffusion of that Malady in India—Alarming Accounts from Poonah—Operations against the Pindarees—The Adherents of Holkarjoin them—Battle of Mehidpoor —treaty—Final Catastrophe of the Pindaree Chiefs—Movements of the Peishwa—He attacks the English—His Repulse and continued Flight—Repeated Defeats—Surrender—Intrigues at Nagpore—The Rajah attacks the English—Issue of the Contest—His Escape—Subsequent Transactions—Contest with Bhiutpore—Conclusion.
In the aspect which India at this period exhibited, the most remarkable feature consisted in the marauding habits of the people by whom so large a portion of it was occupied. A new power which rose without any basis to rest upon, without country or territory to claim for its own, and without any regular place in the political system, was chiefly
CHARACTER OF THE PINDAREES. 175
supported by the roving tribes named Pindarees, who carried to an extreme all the predatory usages characteristic of Mahrattas. The latter, indeed, regarded plunder as an essential part of their policy; still they had a country and a home to which they were fondly attached; and they had regular occupations which they followed in the intervals, independent of their more violent pursuits. Their chiefs aimed, not merely to enrich themselves by booty, but also to attain political power. The Pindarees, on the contrary, were nothing more than robbers, elevated by their number into armies; and their boast was, not that they were able to encounter disciplined troops, but that they could elude them. If overtaken or surprised, the point of honour was, who should fly swiftest. No barrier arrested them; they penetrated the closest chain of military posts, and found a way even between the divisions of an army drawn up to oppose them ; they desolated the countries in the rear; after which, making an immense circuit, they returned home by a different route. Their aim was, not to possess a district, but to sweep away all that was in it. Obliged to pass with a celerity almost preternatural, and to employ expeditious modes of extracting treasure, they inflicted the most merciless tortures to compel the owners to yield up their concealed hoards. Red-hot irons were applied to the soles of the feet; oil was thrown on the clothes, and inflamed; the head was tied into a bag filled with hot ashes and dust. The proudest exploit of a Pindaree was to steal a horse; and this operation was conducted with a dexterity which might put to shame the most skilful of their fraternity in Europe. They could carry one off from amid a crowded camp: stretched on their bellies they crept to the spot, and lay concealed till a favourable moment, when they cut the cords, mounted, and galloped off among the bushes with a rapidity that defied pursuit. When an enemy was distant, they divided into small parties, moving in a circular direction, so as to sweep the whole country. Their numbers were continually augmented by disbanded soldiers, and by persons of idle and desperate characters. The chiefs annually raised their standard on the northern bank of the Nerbudda at the termination of the rains, that they might be ready, as soon as the rivers should become fordable, to commence a general movement.